day 200 and counting

hershey-bar-nutrition-factsI’ve been dieting — counting calories, eating healthier, embracing a healthier lifestyle, sacrificing calories to Zuul, whatever you want to call it — for 200 days now. Two hundred portion-limited, fun filled days. Just 15,000 or so to go.

It’s actually been going well. I’ve lost 39-ish pounds as of today, and mostly it’s been not too awful. We’ve got a lot of good recipes for our dinner rotation, and we’ve found a few takeout places with lower-calories options, when we need a break from cooking. I exercise every day and I’m looking forward to going back to the pool in the summer. But… the holidays aren’t entirely easy. Or the weekends. Or the days in between. And maybe it’s just the realization, this time around, that it’s never going to be over, really. You can’t just cut calories for a month or a year or two, lose the weight, and then go back to eating whatever you want. There is no eating whatever you want, not really ever again. (Unless I get to my 80s, in which case, you know, screw it, I’m throwing caution to the winds.)

I take breaks for special occasions — Thanksgiving, Christmas, our anniversary. I know it helps to take a break from the regimen every now and then; if you deprive yourself all the time, sooner or later you’re going to hit a wall and lose your mojo. But special occasions have to be special — you have to pick and choose, and not turn every weekend into a chance to cheat. The holidays really are hard. No one has a weight problem because they indulge on Christmas Day. It’s when you graze happily through the entire holiday season that you get into trouble. I’ve always found it hard to stick to a diet when you work in an office, too. It’s like every time you turn around someone is bringing in donuts, ordering out for lunch, bringing in cake. Ah, cake… sorry, I just drooled on the keyboard a little there.

I know it’s worth it. I’m getting healthier all the time. When we go on our cruise next year I’m going to be in good shape and feel a lot better about myself, physically and mentally. These are good things and good goals. Still, though. Too often it feels like the world is one big gooey-cheesy-chocolately-crispy-fried wonderland that I have to say “No, thank you” to, when what I really want to do is yell, “Yes, please!” as I grab seconds.

hayward house

8404866A little over four years ago, Dave and I were planning a trip to the Finger Lakes — to Ithaca, to see my friends. Or rather, to give my friends a chance to inspect my new boyfriend. (I think we decided he was a keeper.) The hotel I’d expected us to say at unexpectedly raised its rates, and I found myself saying to Dave, “How do you feel about bed & breakfasts?” After a short search and reading a few reviews, we booked a weekend at The Hayward House, and that’s how we found one of our favorite places in the world.

IMG_1357The Hayward House is in Interlaken, NY, and sort of in the middle of nowhere. I mean, not really, but it feels that way, in a good way. Driving up to it at night for the first time, gravel crunching underneath the tires and no lights, like, anywhere, you get a little worried you’ve unknowingly landed a part in Blair Witch 3. But when you get there, it’s a warm beacon if wonderfulness, a beautiful house and an amazing place to stay.

IMAG0270We’ve been back many times — a few more times when we were dating, the weekend before our wedding for a nice retreat, and just last year, in the summer. We’ve gone on the cheese trail, on sailboat rides, visited the nearby Amish market for cookies, honey and yogurt, and visited friends in the area. We’ve always loved it there — the same beautiful West View room with the lovely bedspread, the cozy chairs, and the stuffed cow that lives on the bed (I call him “Moo Moo Cow”), the alpacas next door (we got to see a newborn last visit) and the various animal residents all around.

IMG_1341The breakfasts are completely amazing — Kevin is a phenomenal cook and Michelle’s not bad herself — and we’ve always looked forward to them with glee. There is usually one other couple there when we are (though once it was just us). You meet some interesting people, some nice, some a little odd. One couple kept complaining that there was too much food… as if they force-feed you asparagus tarts and bacon and egg fritattas and delicious juice… They left the table early, which, frankly, meant more quiche for us that day. (And the house is spacious and people go their own way, so breakfast is the only time you have to socialize with anyone, just in case you get a dud like that.)

7733912_origThe Hayward House is one of our favorite places to be, hands down, anywhere in the world. And it’s a special place for Dave and I, as we went there together when we’d just gotten together, and have gone back for so many other milestones and special times. We’ll always cherish every memory we’ve made there. Recently, it went up for sale, and I hope whoever takes guardianship of this special place next continues its lovely traditions, either as a B&B or a home, of simple grace, peace and harmony.

viva las vegas

Last month Dave and I went to Las Vegas to celebrate our first anniversary (yay, us!). Dave, obviously if you know him, spends a lot of time in Vegas. But I haven’t been there since I was abuot nine years old, and I remember very little of that trip.

We had a beautiful room at the Bellagio and in many ways, that room (and the awesome room service breakfast) was my favorite part of the trip. We were upgraded to a fountain view room and it was a terrific view all around. The fountains play most of the day on a set schedule, set to music. It’s kind of neat. Like the long-gone and much lamented Kahunaville restaurant in the Walden Galleria Mall (Buffalo peeps will know what I mean), times a thousand. I tried taking video and kept having snafus, but this one’s not bad — you just see my finger over the lens for, like, half a second.

DSC02216The Bellagio is really pretty. There’s this neat conservatory they change with the seasons — it was set for Autumn when we were there. The lobby has this really neat chandelier sculpture, Fiori di Como, but Dale Chihuly. There’s also what is reportedly a very nice art gallery, but it was closed in preparation for an exhibit of Fabregé eggs. This was a little heartbreaking for me. I’ve got a thing for Fabregé eggs. Their history is fascinating, and since there are so few of them, and most in private collection, a traveling exhibit like this is a big deal. And I missed it by four days. Grrr.

DSC02221There are a lot of great restaurants in Vegas. We had a beautiful fancy wonderful dinner at Jasmine, also at the Bellagio. And I was tickled to learn that the burger place Dave took me to is Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar. I’ve watched enough Top Chef to be a big Hubert Keller fan.

I haven’t mentioned much about the casinos, which is because I don’t gamble or have any interest in gambling. I sat down at one slot machine just to try it, and then had to yell at Dave not to put $20 in it — what a waste! A dollar was more than enough. I found the whole thing kind of lackluster. The gambling areas of the casinos are a lot less nice than you see them on TV — they’re crowded. And SMOKY.

I used to smoke. I quit years ago. It was really, really, really hard to do, so anyone trying to quit and struggling has my sympathy, no question. But I kind of thought a lot of people had quit. I mean, I don’t see that many people smoking anymore, out and about. But apparently all the people that still smoke are in Las Vegas. All of them. And all of them smoking all the time. Everywhere. Casino, outside, inside, at the pool, in the halls, in the elevators, even. It’s kind of gross, to put it mildly. And the smell seeped everywhere, into hallways and under doors. I bought a big thing of Febreeze and sprayed our room with it a couple times a day.

We took the bus tour around the city, though, and got to see a bunch of the other hotels. The Venetian is nice but the gondoliers are really cheesy. Paris has a great breakfast buffet. I liked Circus Circus, which Dave tells me isn’t on many other people’s best-of-Vegas lists; I thought it seemed a little friendlier and not quite as avaricious as the other casinos.

Vegas was fun, and in my humble opinion I make a pretty cheap date there, since I don’t drink or gamble. I’d like to go back, but I don’t ever think the Strip will ever hold the same appeal for me as it does for others. I was just there for the food. And the fountains.

today’s the fourth of July

Two musical offerings for you this holiday — Aimee Mann and Katy Perry, in no order of preference or merit and with nothing to connect them to each other except for a tenuous holiday reference. Between the two, though, whatever kind of 4th you’re having, one of these is bound to suit your mood. (Just be careful of the sparks from the KP one. Apparently she can shoot them right out of her body.)

sea ya real soon

I cried when we left for our honeymoon (I hate leaving the cats). I cried when it was over. Apparently, I cry at endings and goodbyes of any kind. And ending our honeymoon was sad, because it was really wonderful.

IMG_0038I’ve never been on a cruise ship of any kind before, or been to the Caribbean, or even been to Florida. This trip would’ve been a big deal for all of those “firsts”, but this was the honeymoon we’d been planning for over a year, cruising on the Disney Fantasy to the Eastern Caribbean islands. Dave and I were so excited. We flew down the day before and stayed at the Hyatt at the Orlando Airport, which is weird but convenient. In the morning we took the Magical Express to the cruise terminal, and soon we were off.

My cousin Lori gave us Bride Minnie and Groom Mickey hats for a shower gift and we wore these on the first day of the cruise… and it felt like EVERYONE on the boat knew us, as a result. People were so nice and congratulated us all week long, and the crew, of course, made sure we got special treatment and enjoyed every minute of our honeymoon. And hey, a couple we met even got engaged on the cruise (congrats, Brittany & Doug!), so there must have been something romantic in the air all around.

DSCN5531Our stateroom was terrific. Pretty roomy for a cruise ship, comfortable, a veranda to look out, and a nice stateroom attendant to tidy everything up twice a day. I didn’t make a bed, do laundry, cook or wash a dish all week. It was so relaxing. And as for the food, the entire week was fine dining every night. Disney does something called rotational dining, so you eat in different onboard restaurants every night, but your servers go with you. Our servers were Sasa and Gede. Dave warned me that by the end of the week you feel sad having to leave them, and he’s right — I got all weepy. They take such good care of you and make it all a little home away from home. I’m never good with hotels — I get creeped out even in nice ones, thinking about all the people who’ve stayed there, some sad and alone, it gets me depressed. But the ship was warm and friendly and just like living in our own little floating neighborhood.

DCL1My favorite restaurant on the Fantasy is “Enchanted Garden”. Ever since we started planning the trip, I wanted to sit in one of the few banquette “teacups” in the front of the room. I assume these are usually reserved for VIPs or concierge-level guests, but Dave had put in a request for one since it was our honeymoon, and Disney accommodated us — so we got to sit in our “teacup” every time we dined there. So nice! I also liked “Royal Court”, and especially because our night there happened to coincide with the ship’s formal night. Any reason to wear my wedding tiara again is much appreciated.

There was a lot to do on the ship. We saw characters — princesses, Donald, Mickey and Woody from Toy Story:

DCL2

I hugged him and told him I’d seen all his movies.

We went to a drawing lesson, saw several live shows, went to the movies, watched football in the sports pub. Disney Cruise Line has the only fireworks at sea, and we had a great seat for the show on Pirate Night. Dave rode the Aquaduck:

and we did very little shopping, aside from a souvenir or two, but we had fun window-shopping in the stores. I did break my “no more stuffed animals” rule, but just this once. It was a special occasion, after all.

IMG_1946We spent a lot of time at the pool. The “Quiet Cove” adult pool was always heated and comfortable and never really too crowded; it’s empty in this picture but some days, especially the at-sea ones, were a lot busier, but it was always friendly and fun. I confess I may have enjoyed it more than some for another reason: the center area was 5 feet, 5 inches deep… too much for a lot of folks to linger in, but just fine for 5’10” me. Being tall sometimes helps.

IMG_1955We also very much enjoyed our stop at St. Thomas. We took an excursion on a catamaran sail to the aptly-named Honeymoon Beach on St. John, and it was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect and the sailing was every bit as fun as I hoped it would be. The beach was clean and blue and white. Dave snorkeled and I played in the waves until it was time to sail back to the ship. Beautiful day.

All in all it was everything we could have possibly wished for in a honeymoon. At the end of the week, I was thrilled to be going back home to my kitties, but sadder than I could have imagined to say goodbye to our new floating home. Mickey doesn’t say good-bye, though: he just says “Sea Ya Real Soon”, so that’s how we’ll leave it… until our next cruise, whenever that is. (Next time, Alaska!)

year in review: 2013

So I’m a sucker for quizzes, surveys, memes, all that stuff. I think these are usually more fun to do than they are to read, though — so you should feel free to just skim my answers and do your own, if you like. If you do read, though, I warn that there may be some snark along the way. That’s my traditional new year’s gift.

Year in Review: A 2013 Survey

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Well, I got married, which I definitely have not done before, to the best of my knowledge.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes, and no. I made a resolution to stick to a particular diet plan and I did stick to it; it wasn’t successful, but that’s not the fault of my willpower. I don’t think I’m going to make any for 2014. Lower expectations, greater rewards, and all that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not yet, and probably not by the end of the year, but soon. 🙂

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not really. My grandmother died this year, but in truth we were not close. I am sorry for the family members who were close to her, though.

5. What places did you visit?

The Finger Lakes, Niagara Falls, and, of course, Long Island, a lot. Though it doesn’t count as visiting anymore.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Nothing. I just want to keep everything I have now.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched in your memory, and why?

I think I’ll remember our wedding date, November 9, pretty much forever.  But there’s also October 26, which is the day Dave came to Buffalo and we stopped being apart. That was the best day of all, really.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Making it to October 26.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Weight loss. I tried a new method and it didn’t work for me. I’m disappointed to have not made any real progress this year. I’ll keep trying some other way, but I had high hopes for this.

10: Did you suffer illness or injury?

Unfortunately, as has been the case the past couple of years, I still struggle with my back. Recovering from surgery was long and hard, and only partially successful. Not to sound corny, but if you have good health, value it. I feel I didn’t do that enough, before.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Last month I bought an iPad mini (and sold the 1st-gen iPad I bought way back in the day in 2010) and I’m really thrilled with it. Steve Jobs was thoroughly opposed to a smaller iPad; in general I think he was a true genius and Apple will never innovate as it did under his direction again, but I think he might have been wrong about this one. The mid-size between an iPhone and a full iPad is perfect, at least for me.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My niece Rebecca makes both Dave and I incredibly proud just to be related to her. She’s awesome.

13. Whose behavior was not so exemplary?

Georgie is a bad, bad kitty, and he knocks things over all the time for no reason at all. I still love him, though.

14. Where did most of your money go?

FredCo’s offshore accounts. Also, rent and moving. And a wedding.

15. What did you get really excited about?

Well, the wedding. Also, in no particular order, bingo, marriage equality, Catching Fire, and spaghetti parm.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Probably Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a. happier or sadder? Happier.
b. thinner or fatter? I think almost exactly the same.
c. richer or poorer? Well, I’m unemployed now.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

At home, with the kitties, our tree, and cheeseburgers.

19. Did you fall in love in 2013?

From now on, I fall in love every year.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

How I Met Your Mother. But we also love Modern Family. In a surprise move, I’ve also gone back to both Glee and Top Chef.

21. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate at this time last year?

I hate all the same people I did before, plus our downstairs neighbor, who once complained about the noise we were making when we were out of town.

22. What was the best book you read?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I didn’t read a ton this year, though I started a lot of books I never finished.

23. What did you want and get?

A husband. Also, a Supreme Court ruling (two of them actually).

24. What did you want and not get?

Marriage equality everywhere. A cure for AIDS. A totally non-broken back.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

Catching Fire

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

Dave says I was 41 this year (I never remember). We were in the Finger Lakes at our favorite bed and breakfast, The Hayward House.

27. Which celebrity/public figure did you admire the most?

I don’t think about celebrities much. But I like Sir Patrick Stewart, and not just for his ability to moo with different accents.

28. Whom did you miss?

I missed Mom a lot this year.

29. Who was the best new person you met?

Michael & Mindy Shedler, Dave’s former and sometimes boss and his wife, who came to our wedding as well. Also Uncle Norman and Aunt Jane, and a lot of other new relatives.

30. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

From the Goo Goo Dolls, “Come to Me”

Today’s the day I’ll make you mine
So get me to the church on time
Take my hand in this empty room
You’re my girl, and I’m your groom

Come to me my sweetest friend
Can you feel my heart again
Take you back where you belong
This will be our favorite song
Come to me with secrets bare
I’ll love you more so don’t be scared
When we’re old and near the end
We’ll go home and start again