Saturday, June 26, 2010

One night, Hubby and I went to dinner after the bar one night in China. We sat out on the street at a folding table, laughing,drinking, and eating wonderful Chinese food. Later, I had to pee. I was pointed towards the bathroom.. and the photos above are what I came upon. A squat toilet (which is almost always the case)... right alongside the produce pantry.


So busy... so busy.

Geez. It seems like I just don't have enough time in the day, lately! My posts are few and far between.

Well, I've turned a corner. This past monday I weighed in at 209 lbs. After hitting a low of 198, I'm done creeping up. I've been good this past week - lots of fruit, veggies, brown rice, lean protein. I'm hoping for a better weight this coming monday!

Today is a family day. Dinner at Mom's... for Father's Day. My dad lives in Chicago, and visits every month or so (he and my mom are still great friends). So I'm doing Father's Day a week late. Lil' sister is making steak and red potatoes. I am bringing bread and salad w/all the fixin's. Hopefully I'll behave!

Sundays are turning into date days. I like it. Hubby said we could each pick 2 things to do tomorrow. He chose a walk on the nature center paths, and an episode of our favorite show, Babylon 5. I chose dinner and movie, so the day can just keep giving! I'm trying to find a new restaurant with healthy fare.

I'm leaning towards ethiopian though, because I'm craving me some lentils. *wink*

Anyway, I've gotta chop salad veggies. Have a fabulous weekend. And behave!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Perfect Weekend. Perfect.

Saturday, Hubby worked all day. I cleaned up a storm. It's so therapeutic sometimes - wiping down baseboards, sweeping hard wood, polishing hardware... the stuff that doesn't get done often, you know? My place looked brand spankin' new! (well, except that the house is 80 years old).
Saturday night, Hubby went to a brewery/pub with his dad and bro for Father's Day. Me and the sister-in-law sat on my couch, chatted, and... yes... watched Little Women. The Winona Ryder version. GEEZ I love that movie. It's my very favorite.
Sunday was Date Day. We've been so busy, and decided it was time for a day together. We took a road trip to a zoo an hour and a half away. They have baby giraffes! So cute. We wandered the zoo, and nature paths. I'm betting at least 3 miles altogether? We also ate out. I wasn't so good there. But I think with the walking and lunch, it was a wash. We drove home and went to see the new Karate Kid movie. It takes place in Beijing. Hubby and I both had tears in our eyes at certain points..when the kids do their morning exercises, when it showed a shot of the Forbidden City from a spot we stood, seeing the kids running and playing, and speaking in Chinese.
I used to think Chinese was a really harsh language... not fluid and pretty like French or Italian. I love it now, though. The tones are so interesting to listen to. It even sounds pretty!
Today I behaved myself food-wise. I need to... because I'm up to 209 lbs. Eek. Here is what I ate today...

cilantro hummus
brown rice
stir fry (carrots, cabbage, chickpeas, snap peas, peas)

I may just treat myself to a piece of the banana bread my mom gave me today....

Anyway, life is good. I'm watching Babylon 5, petting my kitten, and relaxing. aaahhhh.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Drooling... drooling...

These are amazing, no? The lil' baby oranges are true, grown-in-my-city Mandarin oranges during my time in China. You have never tasted an orange until you've tasted these. The peel comes off in one easy flick, and the juice is just HEAVENLY.

And that spiky torture device? That's a rambutan. I don't know how to explain the taste, unless you've had a longan before... I guess it may taste similar to a lychee? You peel it and the spiky skin comes off, leaving a clearish/cloudy flesh that tastes like nothing you've ever had before. These are COMPLETELY addicting. I am told that sometimes you can find these in asian markets in the U.S. I found longans here, so who knows!

Anyway, hey there! Congratulations on making it to the weekend. :) I called in sick two days this week. I've been having some seriously funky health issues lately, and I was getting pretty darn worried. My parents both have digestive diseases (Mom has Crohn's disease, Dad has ulcerative colitis). I've been having some troubling symptoms, according to my mommy. After a trip to the doctor, it's been decided that I will be going off of dairy for a month. My doctor thinks that after a year of pretty much NO dairy, I may have developed lactose intolerance. I think I'd like to go with that one over the other possibilities! I'm instructed to keep away from it from a month and see if my symptoms go away. Me? No milk? No cheese?!

I've stocked up on a lil' soy milk and soy yogurt, and I'm going to have to become more inventive. It shall be an adventure!

In other news, I'm now the proud owner of a full-time fall college schedule. I have the summer to relax, and then things get crazy - full time work, full time school, part time play :)

Today, I embarrassed myself like never before.

I missed a mass email at my office yesterday since it was sick. It said that any sandals that "flip-flop" are now outlawed. Well, I din' know! I wore my cute white flip-flop heels today and flopped everywhere until I met the CEO at the door. We entered at the same time and walked beside each other.

I don't know what came over me.

I walked like a duck.

Seriously. I tried to stop the sound, and ended up walking like a duck. She looked over, gave me a little smile, and then turned towards the break room and went on her way.

What did I do? Slink back to my cubicle and let my cube-mates in on my debacle. Did it end there? No.

CEO was standing in the middle of the office as I walked towards the lunch room. I looked up, saw her, and fell right back into it. No thinking. Just doing. She looked at my supervisor, who was snickering at me, and asked "Is she okay?" I just hightailed it out. No explanation.

This is so unlike me. I have no explanation. None. But now she thinks I'm crazy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Crazy Thoughts...

I'm havin' em! I haven't blogged much - my mind has been preoccupied. And this isn't gonna be a weight loss post. Or a China post.

I've been trying to pick apart the emotions and thoughts I've been having recently. I am not content where I am. Hubby and I are better than we've been in years, we have a nice new apartment, full of good things, and good jobs... and I'm getting restless.

My insides are being torn up and thrown around daily. What is it I'm looking for? What do I want out of life? Out of the next ten years? The next five?

I don't want to work at my office forever. I've tried to tell myself for years that I'll do whatever it takes to get Hubby through school. I've worked full time while he's slowly chipped away at it. But now, I'm feeling antsy.

I'm enrolling in classes again. How many? Depends on what financial aid I get. We're both bored already. We are young, healthy, and adventurous. We just don't belong here yet! Maybe after 5 more years... but for now, we're gonna crank that school out. After that...

Peace Corps?
A big move?
jobs we actually love?

Who knows. But I've had enough of telling myself that what I've got is good enough. It just isn't for me anymore. Not when I know that if I put in some dedication and effort, I can actually find fulfillment and meaning in what I am doing with my life. Do I want to have a comfortable life making decent money, but doing something I can't stand? I don't do a good thing at work. I send people who are sick or poor a step closer to collections. I ruin people's financial lives for the sake of a little money.

I want to like my job. I want to make a difference. I want to believe in what I'm doing.

Thus begins a massive overhaul of my life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

China, Love. I miss you.

Long day.

Today was long. long. long. I'm plum tuckered out, and fighting a SERIOUS case of the munchies. I ate up all my strawberries, and all the leftover carrots. So I'm left with the things I'm avoiding, because they are NO GOOD for me. But I'm staying strong. Strong. Strong... strong? *bleh*

After work today, I picked up my kitty from the vet. Her poor little white paws are tinged red from her declawing surgery, and her belly is shaved, with a wound down the middle. How could I do that to my poor baby? But she'll be fine. She's konked out next to me.

After getting the kitten, I picked up my mom from school. Yes, I realize that sounds odd. But she's hit a rough patch. After losing her house a couple years ago, she had a huge flare up with her Crohn's disease. That has finally gotten better due to a great new treatment, but then she lost her job. She's now going to school for medical assisting, something she's always wanted to do. Last week, her car broke down. Living on unemployment and paying her Cobra so she can keep her prescriptions covered means there's no room for a new car in the budget. So for awhile, I'll be helping her out. That's what any daughter would do for her favorite mom, right? :)

Upon arriving home at 7:00, I found the hubby wandering outside - he was locked out! He's now sound asleep (he's working 2 jobs this summer, and one of them is 11:00pm - 3:00am) and I'm finally relaxing. I don't know what's up with me... I'm feelin' stressed!

I had some good eats today. An apple, strawberries, carrots, snap peas, rice and beans, a smoothie, a whole grain waffle, and a cup of half chocolate soymilk/half skim milk. The chocolate is just too much.

I checked my email today and found that I had a new one from a student. It almost brought me to tears...

Dear Amy
I very miss you every day. Today I am happy. I am going to Shanghai. What are you doing? I miss you are my teacher. I miss your pretty hair. I miss you every day.


How sweet is that? Coming from a 4th grader? She is so limited in her language, but her thoughts and feelings show through. I didn't expect to miss China as much as I do. Homesickness for the U.S was nothing compared to what I feel when I think about China. I cry at least every other day when I think about a student, or a friend, or a special place. I hope this gets easier.

You don't realize how crazy the U.S is until you've been away. I had no bills. Here, I HAVE to have a phone. I have to have gas, electric, a car, an apartment, student loans, etc. Everything revolves around money. Money I need to spend, money I don't have.... it puts so much stress on life. I miss being care free. I miss not worrying about "things" and simply taking in life. I need to find a balance here in Michigan. I need to find something... more.

I'm going to post some pics. I'm not going to post explanations... because I think they speak for themselves. If you take some time, and study them, I know you will find in them at least a little of what I find so special.

Happy wednesday.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Chinese Food!

This dish was soo deliciously simple. Just pea pods and oil with fresh garlic. Yum!

Isn't the purple beautiful? This is Chinese eggplant, cooked in a bean sauce with ground pork. It's one of my top 3 favorite dishes from Fuyang. So savory and soft!

The last picture is at the BBQ restaurant. There's chicken eggplant, beef, and lots of other good stuff. I'm sooo craving this right now..

Farmers Markets Rock.

Today I took the day off of work so I could bring Mei Mei (my kitten) to the vet. She's getting her shots, as well as being spayed and having her front claws taken out. I felt cruel. First, I had to take their food away last night. Hubby said that he caught both of them in the shower at 3:00 A.M. licking the floor. Crazy kitties. Second, she cried the whole ride there in her lil' box. Third, I can pick her up anytime tomorrow, but I can't REALLY, because I have to work until 3:30. So she'll have to sit there all day. Oh well, I guess. Maybe she'll make some friends (yeah right... she's a bully).

I also drove my mom to class because Agatha has finally croaked. Agatha was her 1992 Olds Ciara. That thing had close to 300,000 miles on it - but now the bottom is going to fall out if she goes over another bump.

RIP, Agatha.

Afterwards, I went to the Farmer's Market. OH MY GOSH! I wanted to spend a fortune. Instead, I spent $9. I got everything local - a huge tomato, strawberries, asparagus, and snap peas. I plan on using the veggies tonight!

Scale says: 206.5. I'm on my way back down!

I don't much feel like blogging today. I wanna MOVE! I'm going to do some cleaning, maybe a little dancing around the apartment. I'll leave you with this story:

One day, Amy Jo was feeling antsy. She decided to put the feeling to good use, and dance her jitters away. She pulled down the shades and blared her new Abba CD, flailing around wildly. She did random squats, with a little wiggle in her butt. She flopped her arms around with a can of soup in each hand. The weight counts, right? With wild abandon, she sang at the top of her lungs and threw her arms up in the air as the song hit it's crescendo.

Then she felt something odd; almost as if she was being watched. Glancing at the front door, she spied a woman peaking through a gap in the shade. Amy Jo's mouth dropped open and she stood, frozen in mortification. The woman knocked weakly and stared at the ground.

Putting down her cans of soup and pausing the music, Amanda gathered her dignity and opened the door.

"May I help you, Ma'am?" She asked. The woman wouldn't raise her eyes from the ground.

"I represent the U.S. Census, Ma'am. Do you have a moment to complete our questionnaire?"

Amy Jo opened her mouth, but no words came out. She thought for a moment, then replied.

"Actually, I was in the middle of something."

The census woman lost control and burst out laughing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Festival of the Arts

Today was a good day. I didn't have a rockstar day diet-wise, but it wasn't a total bust!

Here's what I ate today:

breakfast: Carnation instant breakfast and an apple
lunch: spinach pie (at the Bosnian stand at the festival)
dinner: protein shake (banana, strawberries, whey protein powder, soy silk yogurt, milk, and flax seed)
snacks: cherries, carrots, whole wheat pita with hummus, jr. mints. That last one was my downfall - I went to the movies, and slipped.

This morning I woke up and went grocery shopping. I bought some good, healthy stuff while I was there; I'm actually excited to eat it all. Let's hope I pace myself.

This afternoon we went to the festival. We watched some bands, wandered, and had lunch. Mostly, I enjoy the people watching. We walked to and from the festival, which was probably about 3 miles total (almost all uphill one way!). It began to rain, so we went to a movie, "Letters to Juliet". It was cutesy, but a bit cheesy. Nice and light!

I decided I'm going to post a picture from China each time I write on my blog. We're starting with the food, though, because I wanna. The first one I posted (in my last post) was one of my very favorite dishes. In this post, I'm going to add julienne cut potatoes. It's spicy-sour due to the peppers and vinegar. It always settled my stomach somehow. I love love LOVE it!

I am craving this.

eggs and tomatoes. Deeeeeliiiisssh.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blood Tofu and Goat Testicles

How's that for a gripping title for today's post? Anyway, happy Friday!! I’m thoroughly excited for this weekend – although if it rains, I’ll be bumming. This weekend is “Festival of the Arts” in Grand Rapids. Now that we live downtown (WEST SIDE ROCKS!) we’re within walking distance of the festivities. 1/5 miles each way. If the clouds don’t dump on us, it’ll be great. Hubby and I both have Saturday off of work, so we’re planning on doing a cheap date day at the festival. Live music, food kiosk, art exhibits… look how cultural I’m being this weekend!

I’ve already been there once today. Today was not a great food day. Instant breakfast and an apple for breakfast. Chinese take out for lunch. I know, I know. The people at work were ordering and I caved. I ate less than half though, because it was kinda nasty. For dinner I had some leftover macaroni and cheese with broccoli mixed in. Then, we went to the festival. We looked through the art booths, listened to some music, and did some eating. I had corn on the cob and a sate skewer. Nom nom nom! Overall, I didn’t have the best balance of foods today – heavy on the carbs, light on the veggies and fruit.

Sunday is another story – I have to work  I’ve returned to work at the office I was at before China, but I also picked up a part time job at the mall working for my favorite clothing store. Due to privacy issues, I can’t share the name on the blog… but anyway, I thought it’d be awesome. I’d get sweet discounts, the “in” with what new things are coming in, and some fun money to spend. But, alas, it’s been nothing but trouble so far. Scheduling issues, missing family functions, etc. We’ll see how long this lasts!

I think each day I’ll post a little bit of info on my year in China. I have tons of stories stocked up in my head. I spend all day thinking about it; what I ate, where I went, the friends I made. I have some serious home sickness for my Chinese home in Fuyang.

I was homesick when I got to China, but it was nothing like this. I knew that I had 11 months, then I’d be back at home in the U.S. Now I’m facing the fact that I’ll never see most of my friends again. I’ll never play badminton at DongWu Park, or sit next to the West Lake doing cross stitch, or sitting at the Music House playing dice and drinking a Tsing Tao beer with friends.

Geez, that’s depressing! I’m trying to focus on the joy I was able to experience while I was there, and the experiences I had. When I think about it deeper, I know that I don’t want to move back. But that doesn’t mean that the transition home hasn’t been hard.

I’ll share today about the food in China, since y’all know I’m a little obsessed with food. I LOVED the food in China. I tried things I never would have here! Here’s just a snippet of the unusual things I ate…

Duck tongue, chicken feet, chicken heads, tripe, goat testicles, taro, dragon fruit, durian, crab lungs, river snails, fish eyes, blood tofu, stinky tofu, “rope” beans, sesame breakfast cereal, dragon well tea

Some of those things were absolutely wonderful. Some were downright foul. The fruit was amazing. Chinese people LOVE fresh produce. Every day I would buy something new from a street vendor. My favorite sweet treat? I would by a whole stalk (5-7 feet) of sugarcane for $1.00. They would take a machete, slice the outside skin off, then chop it into 3-inch segments. You chew on it and then spit out the fibrous stuff. I’d bring a bag of it into work and share with all of my co-workers. What a way to make friends! Other easily acceptable/delicious fruits were apples, longans, dragon fruit, watermelon, grapes, jujubes, breadfruit, bananas, and various random melons.

AND durian. In China, some people cal it “rotting flesh melon”. It’s an apt description. The fruit smells like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. Some people love it. I, however, HATE HATE HATE it. In some areas of Asia there are laws against eating it in public places. Last summer we spent 3 weeks in Malaysia on vacation. A sign on the door of one of the hostels we stayed at said “No durian beyond this point”. It was very considerate of them to watch out for the people like me, who get nauseous at the very mention of durian.

Our city was right on the river. We were fairly close to the coast as well, so our town was big on seafood. I am not. I branched out a little bit – ate some fish, squid, shrimp. But its all prepared a little different in China. Shrimp are cooked whole – head, veins, legs, and all. You pull off the parts you don’t want during the consumption process. Fish are almost always served whole. They taste delicious, but as an honored guest, you are often offered the eyes. It’s the best part, you see.

My favorite part of the Chinese diet is the veggies. OOOOOOHHH they were good. Sautéed bok choy, eggplant, beans, edamame, cabbage, carrots, wintermelon, squash… I’m drooling just thinking about it.

We had two restaurants that we frequented the most. Eating out for us was just about as cheap as cooking for ourselves, so we ate out just about every evening.
Restaurant # 1: The Hunan restaurant. They had a few dishes that we ordered religiously. Bandit chicken (a dry dish with chicken, hot peppers, and garlic that was so hot my mouth would burn for 24 hours), julienne potatoes (sliced potatoes, Szechuan peppers, garlic, and spring onions stir-fried in oil and vinegar), pork and cabbage, and eggs and tomatoes. Eggs and tomatoes are the easiest thing in the world to make – just chop up fresh tomatoes, simmer with a little salt and sugar, then add someeggs and a little vinegar, and cook until done. Mmm mmm good! Also good as a soup with chicken broth and bok choy added.

I also LOVED their green beans/eggplant dish, and Ma Po Tofu

Restaurant #2: Harbin ShaoCao BBQ). This was a MAN restaurant… but I also loved it, because of the veggies. Everything was served on skewers, and coated with a seasoning of cumin/red pepper/msg. OH MY GOSH this was good. They would stick anything on those skewers. The boys like the meat. Chicken wings, mutton, beef, fish, squid, goat testicles (you heard me), chicken hearts, pork, etc. I loved me some veggies – cauliflower, potatoes, green beans, seaweed, broccoli, bok choy, eggplant. Throw in a can of diet coke and I was in HEAVEN. And best of all? I felt good afterwards. It was dangerous going here with a group of the guys, though. Our good friend Jarvis and my hubby would sit down and say “hm… what do we want to start with? 20 skewers of chicken wings… 20 mutton… 20 beef… make that 30 beef…”

What food did I crave most from home? Good cheese, milk, and beef. Beef there wasn’t too great. Oh, and whole wheat bread. The bread there was all sweetened somehow – ick!

I’ve picked up a lot of new ideas and habits from my eating in China. One thing I’ve started doing more is stir-frying or simmering veggies without spices. This sounds bland, but they have it down to a science! If you get the right fresh ingredients to flavor the dish (ginger, garlic, spring onions, cilantro, etc) then you can really make a flavorful dish that lets the flavors of the veggies or meat shine through. I’ve also become addicted to edamame (soy beans). I buy it in the pod (either in the frozen section of the supermarket, or fresh at the Asian market) and I steam it in my rice cooker. Then, when it’s done, I lightly salt it and eat it as a snack.

The Chinese way of life is so interesting to me. Breakfast is usually similar to the other meals in your day. It could be fried rice, a boiled egg (baby chicken included!), noodles, red bean porridge, or what have you. Lunch is veggies, meat, and steamed rice, along with some basic broth for fluids. Dinner is more of the same. They snack all day long, but on good stuff. Veggies, fruit, rice cakes, etc. I never saw the Chinese teachers without their containers of green tea.

I need to get a’moving. My nightly episode of SVU awaits me. Until tomorrow!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Feeling like a Victim.

It wasn't my fault - I swear.

I was behaving myself.

Instant breakfast and an apple for... breakfast.

A huge salad for lunch - chickpeas, spinach, peppers, black beans, broccoli, cauliflower, salsa...

afternoon snack - two pieces of whole wheat toast with egg salad and some carrots.

Then it happened. Hubby came home with a gift card for Red Lobster. I had a light dinner planned of veggies and an omelet. Instead, we hopped in the car and away we went.

Actual dinner? A baked potato with sour cream, butter, and salt and pepper. Asparagus. And - count 'em - 4 cheddar biscuits. Needless to say, I feel defeated. I feel like there is something inside of me that fights against what I'm trying to do. I felt so good about my eating all day long, then BAM!

When I really think about it, though, I know that I can't blame it on some fantastic "being" that is pushing me away from what I want. I wanted those biscuits. I wanted the extra extra butter.

I know, it doesn't exactly sound like a binge. But that's exactly the problem. I have days where I completely give in. Days where I eat whole boxes of mac and cheese; a whole box of instant pudding; a pint of ice cream. Those days, though, I know I'm guilty. I just wallow in my weakness. Days like today, though, I feel strong. I feel proud. And still, I fall. *sigh* This will be a fight for the rest of my life.

In other news, I've started this blog! People are always telling me I should start one. Something about me being funny or something. Anyway, now I've done it. What kind of blog is this going to be? I honestly don't know. What I DO know is that I love food blogs. I love learning about nutrition. And that I'm a woman who struggles with her weight. After living in China for a year, I've returned home to Michigan with a new outlook on life. I am woman. Hear me roar!

Today was a good one. Watched some SVU on netflix. Man, I have a sick addiction to that show. I just WANT TO BE A PROSECUTOR! *Insert snapping of whip*. I have a desire for power.

Spent the obligatory 8 hours at the office, did some dishes, did some playing with the evil kitten, did some reading of the current book (The Lost Symbol).

The most heartbreaking part of the day? Calling the vet. Yes, indeed, my kitten is ready to get her shots, have her baby-makin' parts removed, and her front claws. I know people don't approve; but they aren't in my situation. They don't see Mei Mei scratching the eyes out of my helpless clawless adult kitty (she was declawed when I adopted her). They don't know what it's like to have a crazy kitten come flying from one end of the house and throwing herself at my bare legs, grabbing on with her claws. Yes, I feel bad for my baby; but it must be done. Her first physical is tuesday. If she's ready, we'll make an appointment for her surgeries. My lil'
guppy is growing up!

Oh, one last thing. This is the place I'm just gonna be brutally honest, because I need to be.

Scale says - 211 lbs. Dang it.