Friday, January 23, 2015

Weight Watchers Update - Three Years at Goal....Sort Of - January 23, 2015

I had this post planned in my head for a few days, and then when I checked my blog archives I saw that it actually is perfect timing. I first reached my WW goal in January 2012 (I lost a bit more weight over the next few months before settling into a comfortable zone, but January 2012 is when I first hit a very specific number). Then I updated at a year, but it looks like I then let the second year go by without noting it.

For the first half of 2014, I still managed to stay at my goal. And then, well, I finally started to lose interest in the program. (If you know me at all, you probably know that I get VERY VERY EXCITED about things and then at some point later, I tend to taper off - not with everything but with some things. So sticking with WW like I did for nearly three years from the first day I walked into a meeting, well, I think that's pretty good.) I got sick of tracking (and I honestly hadn't been tracking for the past year anyway, but I got good at estimating and keeping things in my head). And then I started going to meetings just once a month instead of every week - or just popping in and weighing in once a month (that keeps your membership active) and not staying at all. (The support of the people at the meetings with whom I'd become friendly - and my amazing leader, always - was an invaluable part of my journey - without it...I got lost.)

And then my old habits crept in.

For me, the reason that Weight Watchers worked so well was that I was not eating mindfully until I joined the program. I would eat at a restaurant, feel stuffed, and still order dessert. Just because. I also would finish everything on my plate, or everything in the box/container/whatever from the grocery store because I didn't want to waste it. Or because, as I justified it in my head, if I eat it now, it will be gone, and I can stop thinking about it. And I'd eat an entire pint of ice cream, all at once. Every weekend. I've told this story before. You know how it goes. Off the program? Off being mindful.

I also stopped avoiding the purchase of certain trigger foods, like chocolate chips and M&Ms. I literally cannot stop eating those things (and a few others) if they are in the house. I can portion them out and put the rest in a sealed bag and then hide that bag, and I will still go back, find that bag, open it, and eat the rest. And feel gross. (but not GUILTY. Food shame is absurd. Associating the word "guilt" with food just doesn't work for me at all. I just felt physically bloated, ill, and overfull.)

And suddenly the scale was not my friend. I was at the top of my goal weight, when I'd hovered a pound or two below it. Then I was one pound above. Then I was at two - and that's what's "allowed" if you want to be an active Lifetime member and continue to go to meetings for free. I know that for some people this doesn't work. I know that for some people, this is shaming or problematic. That's fine. For me, the entire program worked, including this part of the journey.

I skipped a month of meetings, feeling embarrassed. I'd been such a vocal cheerleader at the meetings - and now I'd have to go back and admit I'd faltered? I hid. Then I ran into two women I know from WW - they were heading home from a meeting while I was walking home from Starbucks and taking the long way so I wouldn't have to walk by that very same meeting. They were so kind and friendly and sweet - asking how I'd been and being all around supportive and positive. I realized that I really shouldn't hide anymore.

So I went back to a meeting the next week and I faced what was going on. I weighed in and, as I already knew, I was more than two pounds over my goal weight. And because of that, I had to hand over the weekly fee after being a solid Lifetime member for over two years and, therefore, not needing to pay. Ouch. But I did it. I paid, and I stayed for the meeting, and I recommitted to the program and yes this sounds sooooo culty. I laugh every time I talk about it in these terms. I hear it. I get it.

This isn't actually where things got better, either. Because I had the confirmation that I was above goal on the official WW scales (which I've always suspected are calibrated to account for clothing weight), I skipped another month while I brooded. The last time this had happened, years ago, I started a bad pattern of "well, as long as i don't get to X...as long as clothing item Y still fits...as long as I'm not at Z...." I could easily have thrown up my hands and said, "Fine, I did it for two years, that's great, I'm done, pass the pint of ice cream." Instead, this time, I had the tools to catch myself before I went there thanks to all I'd learned while going through the WW program. While I wrapped my head around the idea of needing to track/be mindful all over again, I changed up my routine and my home to shake things up by doing the following:

  • For Black Friday I bought a FitBit One, which gave me the shiny-new-toy motivation to start moving again after months on the couch. I regularly get 10,000 steps, and I make sure I get at least 5,000, even if that means jogging in place while watching TV or walking around the kitchen table a few times. In short: I love love LOVE my FitBit One. (that is my referral link, OK?)
  • I also bought a Paderno spiralizer (that is ALSO my referral link, OK?), and now I eat spiralized zucchini, daikon radish, carrot, cucumber, sweet potatoes...you name it. I also eat pasta - yummy, yummy pasta - but this is such a great way to get extra vegetables into my diet and it's SO FUN TO USE too. I use it at least once a week.
  • And I also bought a Tim3 Machin3 through Kickstarter. (That is not a referral link.) It's a rice/quinoa/slow cooker/steamer/yogurt maker. I love it. It makes the best quinoa I have ever had as well as the best brown rice, the most amazing sticky rice, and on and on. I haven't yet tried the yogurt function but I will sooooon. New kitchen toys (those two things plus a new coffee maker and a new eco-friendly nonstick pan) helped me get excited about healthy eating again.
  • I opened the WW website and started tracking my food again. (Ugh.)
  • I installed the app on my phone (by the way? the app is terrible) and tracked that too.
  • And I stopped buying trigger food. I didn't stock up after Christmas on candy (I did that in 2013, after stopping).

I did not - and I will not - stop eating things I enjoy. I go to Jeni's Ice Cream quite often, thank you very much, and I get a trio, and it is amazing. I had a big plate of hand-cut french fries just last night. But I went back to mindfulness. Am I hungry? Am I bored? Am I full? Do I really want that? I ate half of that plate of fries and then offered them to friends and then put them aside, realizing that I was full, had enjoyed the fries very much (OH THEY WERE GOOD), and was only eating them because they were there.

Then this month, I went back to a meeting (and had to pay again because I skipped a month - ouch again!) and stepped on the scale, and found myself back at goal. No wonder those jeans finally fit again...

So that's my update. This is, as always, about me and not you. About how this particular program - all of its moving parts, including an amazing leader, interesting meetings, a financial obligation, the "points" vs. calories concept, the "free fruit and vegetables" angle - all of this came together to work for me to make me feel good, strong, and healthy again. I don't know if it will work for you and I don't know what will work for you. I have no answers, explanations, or advice. I'm also lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I don't know whether that's going to work for you either. I am only chronicling my personal journey and that's it.

Here's hoping I can stay on track this time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Accountability List aka Not New Year's Resolutions But They Are - January 6, 2015


2015! Is! Here!
  • At least a post a month here. 
    • Possibly including some of the stacked up posts in the queue. Trying to be brave.
  • 5,000 steps minimum/day. 7,500 would be ideal. (I have almost finished Serial, which was my carrot. I have a few other podcasts to check out, or I may start to delve into audio books.) (I currently love my FitBit, so perhaps I can KEEP LOVING MY FITBIT for more than a few months....)
  • A recommitment to (sigh) tracking via Weight Watchers. I'm the tiniest bit off track but I learned through WW that this is when it's time to get back ON track.
  • I've set a challenge of reading 30 books this year, which feels reasonable. You can see how I'm doing on my Goodreads page. I've finished one book so far - plus a cookbook, but I'm not counting that. 
  • Keeping track privately of things going on in my life so at the end of the year I'm not scrambling to remember January-September.
  • And a new job (in a pear tree). 

Friday, December 26, 2014

End of 2014 Meme List Thing

I haven't abandoned this blog, I swear. I just keep writing posts I don't publish. This one will be different. I did this in 201320122011, and 2010, so here we go!

(I am publishing this for the first time on December 26, 2014, but I may revisit as I remember more things.)

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?

Got a pedicure. Tried a bunch of new restaurants and cuisines. Recovered from two different surgeries within about a month of one another. Became a Level II Reiki practitioner (Komyo Reiki Kai). Briefly worked in a midtown office building with a glorious view. Got hooked on a podcast. Got hooked on Hannibal. Became a Binder. SHOUTYCAPS. Created a craft corner (and almost a year later, it is STILL organized!).

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't make any.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My cousin!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

5. What countries did you visit?

Only in my imagination....

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

More money.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

2014 was just one giant blur. I'll have to get back to you.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Despite it being brief, I did hold a freelance gig at a company I liked and got my work published on the site. Also continuing to manage my freelance work, my kid, and the rest of my life.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Didn't drive enough. Didn't read enough. Didn't make enough money. 2014 was shit, basically.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing major this year, just recovering from 2013.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My FitBit. Even though it's not here, I'm very excited about the Tim3 Machin3 that I bought on Kickstarter (it's a rice cooker! it's a yogurt maker! it's a slow cooker! it's all the things!). My new coffee maker.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My kid.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Dude. Where do I even start? I have a lot of grievances to air....

14. Where did most of your money go?

More medical bills, which created a pretty deep hole out of which we have yet to climb.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The new Tori album and then the Tori show. The Throwing Muses show. Basically, music and going out. Also the note from the kid's speech therapist.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

The Daniel Tiger theme song and also 16 Shades of Blue, which made me cry the first time I heard it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Sadder.

II. Thinner or fatter?

I don't like how this is phrased. I am a bit over my WW goal at the moment but am hoping to pull that back in soon by being more active (with the FitBit).

III. Richer or poorer?

Poorer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

The same as last year: Travel. Running. Reading.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Worrying about everyyyyyyyything.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

This year we did Super H-Mart again. We also had a very fun dinner with friends at a Chinese-Indian restaurant and I ended it with wine and cheesecake.

21. What, if any, insight did you gain about yourself in 2014?

That I know I can make this work.

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?

11 years married, 19 years together....

23. How many one night stands?

LOL

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Jane the Virgin, without question. But I also loved Selfie - a very cute show with a very bad name. I'm watching it until the end on Hulu.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No.

26. What was the best book you read?

Bargain Fever, Brown Girl Dreaming, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Tiny Beautiful Things, We Were Liars, Someone Else's Love Story, and a LOT of picture books.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Favorite music this year included the new Tori, Sia, St. Vincent. I rediscovered the Ditty Bops. Someone shared My Brightest Diamond with me and I liked her a lot too. And someone else shared Snow Songs by Daisy May with me and that was breathtaking and a perfect wintery album. But truly I didn't listen to enough new music (and didn't like a LOT of what I heard when I checked out Best Of 2014 lists) but maybe next year? (New Sleater Kinney & Juliana Hatfield Three!)

28. What did you want and get?

A whole bunch of new kitchen toys.

29. What did you want and not get?

A job.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw Wild in the theater and it was great so that wins! I also enjoyed the Lego Movie.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 41 and earned my first sleepover away from the kid since I was pregnant with her. Drank a lychee martini, ate ice cream, shopped, relaxed. It was great.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Money.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Comfy, cute, classic.

34. What kept you sane?

Chromecast.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Tom Mison!

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Everything having to do with the police in the US, basically.

37. Who did you miss?

A lot of people.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Everyone I met this year was lovely, OK?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Budgeting can be helpful.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

As her heart is slowly ripping into pieces
Disconnecting from the circuits of her mind
She'll get over it you say in time.
In time? Stop Father Time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fifty Cent Thrift Day Post - October 22, 2014

Yesterday was the monthly day that one of the local thrift stores clears out its older merchandise for 50 cents a piece. The selection was picked over - the woman working claimed it was because the store had sold so much the month prior, which is possible, but there also were many more shoppers this time around and they had gotten there before me and had armfuls of clothing.

I still found 10 things but one (which I will still put in the pictures) had a hole in it, so I have already thrown it away (DISAPPOINTING). And I am not sure about two other pieces, but for 50 cents I figured I could sell or redonate or give away or whatever.

I could lovingly Photoshop these pictures but today I just don't feel like it.

I went back and forth on these, but they are Ann Taylor Loft wool pants, and they fit, and they were only 50 cents, so I bought them. The legs are really, really, REALLY wide though and I don't know if that works for me. Still, such nice pants...

Tommy Hilfiger shirt! It's so cute and it fits really well except the sleeves are perhaps a smidge too short. I can roll them up though. I like this a lot.

Boring squishy not necessarily flattering Old Navy shirt. I liked the sleeves.

Cute stripey shirt.

Purple Old Navy shirt that I think will match some of my many skirts.

I cannot resist a black waffle/thermal shirt.

THE SHIRT WITH THE HOLE. Sure it was just 50 cents and was just a basic Target shirt. I liked it. I liked the neck and the fit. And it had not just a tiny hole but a spiderweb of tiny holes at the bottom. I thought I looked carefully but not carefully enough, it seems. I trashed it.

Ann Taylor Loft top. It's see-through but with a camisole under it, it will be darling. It fits so well!

Shirt for the kid. I'm undecided and it may not fit her but the kid section was so sparse and I just wanted to get her something.

On the other hand, I love this other shirt I found for her. It's hysterical and will totally fit her.
So, $5 total (plus tax) and I absolutely positively will wear at least 75% of what I bought. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review and #Contest - Purex Crystals Aromatherapy

As a Purex Insider, I am often given the opportunity to test out products for free. The products are provided to me by Purex but I am under no obligation to do anything, as far as I'm concerned - I don't have to say nice things and I don't have to write a review at all if I don't feel like it.

This time around, I jumped at the chance to try Purex Crystals Aromatherapy - because I misunderstood what the product was. Wait, stop. I'm not saying I didn't like the product (I did, you'll see), but I am saying I didn't realize that this was not Purex Crystals fabric softener. The fabric softener aspect of the Crystals seems to have been removed completely and all that remains is dryer sheets under the "Crystals" label. And I am very, very disappointed at this - I liked the fabric softener crystals because they smelled nice, had reasonable ingredients, and actually worked - even on my workout clothes. But now it's just a fragrance booster, which is...whoopdedoo?

Purex Crystals Aromatherapy - not to be confused with fabric softener
 I mean, I've noted this before here in reviews - I do like pleasantly scented things, but I don't necessarily want my everyday clothing to smell like anything. I gravitate toward free and clear detergents in part because of this. I like to wear BPAL fragrance oils, for example, and I don't want them competing with my clothing. To me, "scent" doesn't equal "clean."

HOWEVER, on the other hand, I do like my towels to have a light scent - and sometimes my sheets too. So when I get a scented product like this to try, I use it on my towels and I judge it just on how well it works on my towels.

Purex Crystals Aromatherapy works just fine. I was sent the "Energy" scent, which is citrusy (more orange than lemon, I'd say), and it made my towels smell nice. I can't really say much more than that - they weren't softer and they weren't cleaner. They just smelled nice. It wasn't overpowering and it has lasted a few days (which also makes my linen closet smell nice, a little bonus). It's not a product I'd necessarily seek out in the future, but I am curious about the other scents. (I think I'd prefer "Serenity," which supposedly is calming and smells like water lilies, to "Energy.")

I was also sent two coupons to give away to two readers of A Place to Write Things who might like to try Purex Crystals Aromatherapy. Judge for yourself. If you like to add scent to your clothes, this will do that. Also it's absolutely fun to try new things. So check out the Rafflecopter widget, do the tasks honestly (I'll disqualify you if you cheat), and enter. US residents only. Contest runs from October 15, 2014, to October 22, 2014.

Thanks for reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mini Thrifting Trip - October 1, 2014

This trip was mini in a few ways.

I don't really need more clothing right now, my closet is bursting and needs to be emptied not filled.
My kid does need more clothing so I had to buy small things. (MINI getitgetit?)

My phone's camera hates me and so the pictures are not the best. But I found some cute things for both me and the kid all at the two stores we hit. (Three if you count Goodwill - I bought a copy of 13 Going on 30 for $3 there because I gave in - I watch that movie every time it is on random TV so I figured, might as well just own it. It's so damn cute...)

The save-the-animals store!

Really, this was the best thing I bought all day:



Yes, that is two boxes of little plastic lobster gems. It was $1 for the two (they seem to have originally been from the Target Dollar Spot) and I LOVE THEM. They're just so cute and...lobstery. Every time I send a package, someone's getting a lobster, I think.

As for the rest, I did buy things for me. I couldn't resist. But you should have seen all the things I put back! So clothes in my kid's size are 50 cents, clothes in bigger sizes for kids are $1, the skirts were $1.50 each, the owl shirt for me was $1.50 too, I think, though I'm not actually sure.

My kid probably will never wear this poncho (I put it on her when we got home, she took it right off) but LOOK. PONCHO. For 50 cents. Had to have.

I love Halloween, I love cheap clothes, I love this shirt that I got her for 50 cents. Also she's a fan of the peace sign. I call it a win.

Just a cute little sweater. NBD.
This Gymboree shirt looks like it was never worn. It was "specially priced" so it was $2 instead of $1. That's fine. It's so cute.
Hello and goodbye, cute pants. These are destined for resale at the upcoming consignment store. For $1 each, I took a risk.
Plain black skirt for me.

Ridiculous, almost-too-small Banana Republic skirt for me. BUT SO CUTE. I just...lost my mind and bought it. I'm hoping it will work with the sweater I bought (see next pic) and some brown tights.

TERRIBLE picture of amazing deep green sweater with boat neck. Just trust me. I think this might've been $2? I also think it does sort of match the skirt. We'll see.

I shouldn't have bought this and yet OWLS and PUNS and HALLOWEEN - of course I should have... $1.50.
Then we went to Value Village. Not anything particularly exciting this time around (although I do like VV's new tag system - bar coded and much more clearly color coded as well).

This sweater was so cute and also a half-price color. 75 cents.

HELLO KITTY. I couldn't resist. $1.50.

$1.50. I think it will fit her next year.

Limited Too sweater that I hope will fit her. Half-price, $1.25.
And my other favorite find:

This was $3.50. It's a Nino Bossi purse and I guess that means it was expensive at one point? I can't find a thing about this style (looks like a sweater/knit) anywhere so if you've seen it before, holler. I bought it because it was a) cute and b) fancy. Also I needed a new wintery purse.
And that's it!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How I Save Money on Produce - September 21, 2014

The first thing most people say when I tell them I like to use coupons is that "coupons are only for processed food." Which implies that I only buy processed food for my family, and that's not very nice - and most definitely not true. I'm a broken record but this is the fact: many coupons are for processed food but not all. You just have to dig a bit.

So someone asked me how I save money on produce and I figured I'd just blog about it really quick so I'd have a reference source to send people instead of just answering over and over.

But I have to say first, I am lucky enough to live near YDFM, so I have easy access to inexpensive fresh produce (organic and conventional). To be honest, that is the short answer of it - when I shop at YDFM, I spend less than I spend at regular grocery stores and my cart is full of ingredients, not finished products. If you can find a place like this near you, that's what I'll say to do - don't fuss with coupons or sales, just buy the cheapest you can find.

Around here (in the greater Atlanta area), there are also so-called "ethnic" grocery stores and they almost always have super cheap produce (and produce I can't find anywhere else) - Super H-Mart, Cherian's International Groceries, Patel Brothers, the Buford Highway Farmers Market, etc. (Plus, if you have a Super H-Mart near you and if you sign up for a shopper card, they also send you coupon books every few months with produce deals galore in them.)

Also, I haven't bought the paper in months and I almost never use the coupons from those circulars. I rely on printables, apps, and other deals instead.

Other ways to save money on produce with coupons:

Look for the marked-down stuff in the back of the store! Here, my local Kroger stores do this regularly. I've bought barely browning bananas for pennies and frozen them to make smoothies and "ice cream." I always see bruised fruit or veggies that are on their way to mush but still edible. If my budget was even tighter than it is now, I'd buy from there constantly.

Buy in season! Out-of-season fresh produce = more expensive. Find out what's in season in your area and buy that to get the best prices.

Frozen frozen frozen! Many studies have shown that frozen veggies are as good as - sometimes better than - fresh. Plus it lasts longer (how many times have you bought fresh stuff and had it go bad? Just me? I doubt it...). I can get a big bag of frozen spinach for 99 cents and I put that in everything. Frozen peas are awesome. Frozen broccoli rules. I buy a lot of frozen produce. Store brand, mostly. But there are almost always coupons for the national brands and this is particularly awesome when you can combine it with a sale.

Apps! Ibotta (referral link!), Savingstar, Checkout 51, Snap from Groupon (also a referral link!). All almost always have rebate deals on fresh produce - Savingstar has a weekly 20% deal, Checkout 51 has given me money off of bananas, oranges, and salad mix, to name a few. Ibotta has deals all the time. There are downsides to this strategy - you have to save your receipt (hi, husband who never remembers to do this), take a picture of it within the app (and scan the bar codes of things you bought - that takes 1 second though), upload it, and wait to be credited. It's an extra step to save money but for me it's worth it. Then all of these apps have a minimum threshold for cashing out, so this is not fast. But it's money back for produce, and I'll take it. Also check out Shopmium (referral code - please use it! - GMMKKUWC, and you'll get a free Lindt chocolate bar when you do, which is LIKE a vegetable...), which kicks back your savings to you without a minimum, and BerryCart, which is all organic/healthy products, including produce.

Target! Target will text you coupons if you sign up for them, and I have seen fresh (and frozen) produce deals almost every week.

Digital coupons! Kroger has digital coupons for fresh stuff often (usually its house-brand organics).

Printables! Especially the printables from Mambo Sprouts (all organic/healthy stuff), but poke around on coupons.com, smartsource.com, redplum.com, and also coupons.target.com (some are Target store coupons - and some stores consider Target a competitor and take 'em too - and some are manufacturer).

Overage! Sometimes you have to buy something you don't want/need (DONATE IT) because it's not only free but your coupons/savings give you more back than the item costs - and then you can apply that extra to your produce. Rare these days, but it does happen. How do you find out about these deals? Well...

Bloggers! Find the bloggers covering your area/your local stores and follow them! They do all the legwork for you. I don't know what I'd do without Michelle from iheartpublix and iheartkroger. (I also like Southern Savers.) MoneySavingMom and CouponMom also cover grocery stores across the country. Let them tell you what's on sale and how to maximize that sale! They often highlight produce deals so watch for those in particular - and scroll by what you won't buy/use/eat.

Go to the brands themselves! Find Facebook or webpages for produce "brands" and sign up for whatever you can. Check packages too - some brands of strawberries, for example, or packaged lettuce blends, definitely offer printables and bonuses and deals. Basically, look for any spot where you might be able to get a discount and sign up for it.

And finally, yes, there are circular coupons for produce. Usually it's for frozen/name brands (Birds Eye, Green Giant, etc.), but sometimes it's for fresh (I've seen coupons for oranges, pomegranates, lettuce....). Also sometimes they come in the form of "Buy this one thing, get this produce thing for a discount/free." If you're buying the first thing anyway (like...buy cereal, get strawberries), this can work out well for you.

Then stretch what you get. Buy in bulk if you find a great deal and freeze (I did this with fresh organic strawberries when they were at their peak - cheapest and sweetest - a few months ago, and I plan to use them in January when it's dark and cold). Make a soup (and freeze it). Sneak everything into pasta sauce. Etc etc etc. I also adore BudgetBytes for recipes that are inexpensive and full of veggies.

I will update this post if I think of more tips, and I welcome your comments on how you save money on fruits and vegetables because nom nom nom!