Snow and the Supermoon

Snowy Tree

My dad emailed me at about 6 p.m. on Saturday the 19th, letting me know about the supermoon that was supposed to be in the sky that evening. An avid weather-watcher, he suggested we probably wouldn’t be able to see it thanks to our cloud cover, but gave us a heads up anyway.

Our living room curtains are usually drawn because we don’t have a blind and the window faces the street– anyone could see anything in our house if we didn’t keep the curtains shut. So when we stepped outside after darkness fell, I was truly shocked to see the amount of snow that showed up over the span of a few hours.

I knew it wouldn’t be clear enough to see the moon, no matter how large it was supposed to be, but the giant snowflakes turning everything white was a surprise. So much for rain boots.

As soon as we started walking I told Matt I wanted to go to my favourite tree to take pictures. It’s this huge, spindly mass of branches right near a street light and every time we go for a walk, I notice how lovely it looks at night.

On the way back I played around a bit with my shutter speed and the rapidly accumulating snowflakes on the lens for some abstract results.

I guess this is what the first day of spring looks like here!

On a negative note, until the weather figures out what it’s doing, I think I’m going to have to lay off of my initial attempts at C25K– the slush and snow is ridiculous for running, and I don’t want to pay for a gym membership. Once everything clears up I won’t have to worry about sliding all over the place. In the meantime, it’s back to indoor cardio.

Looks like I’ll be waiting till November 14, 2016 to see that supermoon.

Easy Dressed-Up Olive Hummus

Hummus

I never really understood the hummus craze. I’d spread it on sandwiches or eat it with a few carrots but it wasn’t something I particularly craved or raved over. Then I bought this:

This is the best hummus I’ve ever eaten. I picked it up on a whim because I love olives. I forgot about it for a while, then decided to try it out with some cucumbers. I couldn’t put it down.

The sad thing is, the container is now empty, and I can’t really justify driving two hours just to buy hummus (though you can rest assured next time I go out I’m buying another container. Maybe two.) I thought about making my own olive hummus, but tahini is expensive and I didn’t have the motivation to start from scratch. But — I really, really love that olive hummus.

So, I read through the ingredient list and decided I would try to dress up regular grocery store hummus, into the best olive hummus ever, or as close as I could get.

The Best Olive Hummus.png

You’ll need: Plain old boring hummus (taste tested it; it was boring), pitted green olives, and jalapeños.

I think the best olive hummus ever is made with both black and green olives, but green was my best option at the deli. I also neglected to add shallots, parsley, and whatever mystery spices are in the original.

Boring hummus goes in the blender. A handful of pitted olives and jalapeños on top.

More diced olives on top. And a few olives for my mouth, too.

The verdict? It has a bit more of a bite than the best hummus ever, so I’m guessing I used more jalapeño than they do. But the olive-y taste is apparent, and delicious. It’s not quite as good, but it will probably suffice until I can stock up on the best hummus ever again.

Overnight Oats for People Who Hate Oatmeal

Overnight Oats

I hate oatmeal.

I remember my father coming into my school when we were learning about pioneers in Grade 2. He made porridge. I hated it. The next time I recall trying it out was the summer between Grade 11 and 12, when I worked as a waitress at a fishing lodge with a bunch of my friends. Our boss, Beth, apparently made the best oatmeal ever and I was convinced to give it a try. I hated it.

Something about the gloopy oats swimming around in milk really bothers me. It’s a texture thing, and I can’t get over it, though I will eat microwaved oats in a pinch. But then there’s overnight oats.

Overnight Oats for People who Hate Oatmeal

Trying Overnight Oats for the First Time

I was told an equal ratio of oats to liquid should work. Here’s a half cup of oats:

Next, add an equal amount of liquid. This is a half cup of low-fat organic soy milk (I get a kick out of saying the long string of things that seems to precede a lot of the products I’m eating lately, like ‘low-fat dairy-free vegan organic black bean soup’).

I sliced up a banana and threw maybe a tablespoon of ground flax seed on top.

Next up, a spoonful of raisins, because I bought a giant bag and am putting raisins in everything as a result. I covered it up with plastic wrap, put it in the fridge for the night, and crossed my fingers that I found a way to make oatmeal work, via overnight oats.

The next morning I had to poke it to make sure the oats were actually soft, because it really didn’t look that different from the way I left it the night before. Shockingly, everything seemed to be good and soft, but not gloopy. I stuck it in the microwave for a half-minute just so it wouldn’t be cold, chopped up a strawberry, spooned in some (crunchy, all-natural) almond butter, and tentatively took a bite.

Success! No gloop! No swimming around in extra milk! And with the almond butter, strawberries, bananas and raisins, it was seriously flavourful.

The best part was it kept me full for probably an hour longer than my usual morning smoothies do, and I didn’t have to eat a very large lunch to feel satisfied again. I’m looking forward to trying out different combinations of overnight oats, now that I’ve finally found a way to eat oatmeal.

How I Gained, Then Lost My College Weight

How I Gained, Then Lost My College Weight

Pre-College Weight and Body

As a kid, I was incredibly skinny, and heard a constant refrain from adults of “one day it’ll catch up to you!”

I stayed thin all through elementary school and high school, though I did gain a small amount of weight in Grade 10 when I quit phys ed class. Still, I was never concerned with weight or health and often, when my parents went on diets, they fed me all the food they wished they could eat.

I somehow managed to stave off the Freshman Fifteen (the weight part, not the grades) through university, even into my second year when I lived off-campus. I attribute it to not wanting or knowing how to cook, thus eating a lot of things like scrambled eggs and grilled chicken breasts, and living far enough away from campus both years that I was guaranteed a half-hour walk each day. I also did a lot of walking around the city, thanks to my habit of constantly missing the bus.

The summer before I moved for college was the skinniest I’ve ever been as an adult. I lived in Kitchener, and routinely missed the bus to Waterloo, thus meaning a 30-minute walk each way every time I had to go to the bus terminal.

How I Gained the College Weight (And More)

Living on my own for the first time for college, the weight stayed off. Every once in a while my dad would visit and feed me a hearty meal, but most days I just snacked or ate pre-packaged food. My workplace was a twenty-minute walk away, so I usually had daily walks working in my favour still.

My weight and health never seemed like a pressing issue to me until my second year of college, around age 20, when I gained a lot after an indulgent summer working in British Columbia. I lived on a steady diet of beer and hamburgers, and found myself overweight for the first time. When I came back to Ontario I had to go shopping with my sister for an all-new, larger wardrobe. The weight slowly came off through the year, but I spent another summer in BC the following year and wound up at my all-time highest weight.

I moved from there to northern Ontario, with a suitcase full of clothes that became too large for me in a few months, just by not being in BC anymore and laying off of the booze and bar food. But, now owning a vehicle, my walks dropped off to zero, and starting a new relationships meant a lot of late night snacking in front of the TV, cozy breakfasts, and elaborate dinners.

Worse yet, my health was falling apart (and had been for three years) with chronic, recurring stomachaches that sometimes got so bad it hurt to move. I ate indiscriminately, snacking on whatever looked good regardless of calories or nutritional content. I drank a lot of alcohol, and while I got some exercise through hikes, fishing and geocaching, I felt thoroughly out of shape trying to keep up. I realized how unhappy I was with my body while trying to find clothes for my Gramma’s funeral in November 2010 — my mother and I spent over an hour trying on dresses, and I was still displeased with how I looked in the full-length mirror the morning of the funeral.

Christmas 2010 came and went with the usual gluttony, my birthday went by with an ungodly amount of rich food and booze, and come February 2011, I was tired, sick, heavy and uncomfortable. It was time for a change.

Resources I Used for Losing the College Weight

In mid-February, I decided it was time to make a change for good, and lose that pesky college weight, plus all the additional ‘comfy relationship’ weight.

I started by simply tracking what I was eating to get a sense of how my calories and nutrition were breaking down each day. I stumbled across My Plate on livestrong.com, first by finding the iTunes app. It allowed me to punch in my weight, how much I wanted to lose per week, and gave me a caloric goal to hit each day, that changed as my weight changed. I could track the food I ate, and any fitness activity. The fitness activity negated some of the calories, which I was encouraged to eat back — the idea being that the more you exercise, the more freedom you have when it comes to food.

Initially in using this, my only goal was to lose weight. But as I tracked calories I realized I could eat a lot more and feel a lot better if I focused on fruits, vegetables, and grains and not processed foods. Gradually, as the weeks went on, I eliminated more and more processed foods and began to see a change in weight.

Subtract the Fat was also helpful. This site allows you to enter your weight (and body fat, if you measure it) each day. It creates a running average, so those 160 pound to 167 pound jumps get smoothed out into increments of a pound. You can enter a weight loss per week goal, like on My Plate, or you can enter a weight you would like to be by a certain date and it will fill in the weekly blanks. It will tell you how well you’re doing, including a projected weight.

Where I was previously discouraged by a huge fluctuation, despite weighing myself on the same scale every morning when I woke up, now I can look at it on a larger scale and see that, even if I’ve gained a pound, I’ve actually lost a bit off my average since the beginning.

 

 

As I continued making these changes I found it constantly easier. Simple, healthy eating became more natural to me. While I have changed my way of eating several times since then, from dairy-free to keto and everything in between, I am grateful for this period in my life, when I finally lost the college weight and kickstarted a healthier lifestyle.

Recipe: Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes

When I was a kid my dad would make us a huge batch of potato pancakes every Shrove Tuesday. He’d fry them up in batches as we sat at the table wolfing them down as fast as he could cook. It was generally the only time of year we got to eat potato pancakes, unless he was feeling extra generous.

If you look up potato pancakes you’ll find that everyone and their mother (or father) makes them differently. My dad scoffs at my use of a tiny amount of flour, while others load in so much that it’s more like a pancake with a few potato shavings in it than the potato-heavy cakes we make.

That being said, my recipe is really basic and will make about a dozen, enough to feed two people. It’s easily doubled or halved or quadrupled, depending on your crowd.

Easy Potato Pancakes

You’ll need one small onion, two russet potatoes, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of flour, one egg, and butter or oil (or both).

  1. Peel and grate the onion (on a real cheese grater, not a microplaner). Put the grated onion in a colander.
  2. Grate the potatoes. I grate mine with the peel on, because I’m lazy. Makes no difference.
  3. Put the potatoes in with the onion and toss it around. Let some of the moisture drip out of the colander.
  4. In the meantime, mix up one egg with a tablespoon of flour.
  5. Before you combine the egg/flour mix with the grated veggies, do your best to press out the remaining water from the colander.
  6. Once you’ve mixed it up, get your skillet hot and greased. I use butter and oil, about a tablespoon of each, but you can use whatever you want to fry the pancakes.
  7. Heap some of the potato mix into the pan and flatten it down with your scooping utensil or a spatula.
  8. When the pancakes are golden brown on the bottom (about five minutes), flip them over and cook them for another five minutes or so, then put them on paper towel to sop up some of the grease. Every time you add more cakes to the pan you’ll want to add more of your oil/butter/grease.

If you’re making a large batch or are a slow cooker like me, and you don’t want to run back and forth to the table like my dad used to do, you can keep the finished pancakes warm on a cookie sheet in an oven set to 200F until they’re all done.

Serve with sour cream, applesauce, ketchup, or whatever makes you happy. Yum.