Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pure Decadence

Once in a while, I run across something that I just have to try.  Nuance Chocolate is one of those places.  When I first read about the small batch, bean-to-bar shop, I was intrigued.  I mean, how cool would it be to have an actual chocolate factory in Northern Colorado?  I filed the information about the shop away in the back of my little mind for a future date.

A few months later, one of the local blogs I follow did a review of Nuance, and I remembered reading about it.  It jumped to the top of my list of places to try.  One day.  You know how that works, you get really excited to try something and then life happens?

It just so happened that two weeks ago, Jay had a Friday off which coincided with the Foodie Walk in Downtown Fort Collins, so we decided to go.  I was absolutely thrilled to see that some new places had been added to the walk and one of them was Nuance Chocolate.

The store is beautiful and we were treated to a mini-lesson on how the chocolates are made.  We got to see the beans and saw samples of each stage of the chocolate-making process before we received a sample.

I'm fairly certain my eyes rolled to the back of my head when that lovely piece of chocolate hit my palate.  I don't consider myself a chocolate snob by any means.  I love me a Hershey's bar and consider the gold-wrapped happiness of a Godiva bar blissful.

But this chocolate?


Pure Decadence.


It's that good.  The people who work at Nuance are passionate about what they do and talking to them reminds me of speaking with the sommelier at a small vineyard in Tuscany we had the pleasure of meeting.  They speak about their chocolates like a wine-maker speaks of his grapes.

I've been back twice since the Foodie Walk and haven't been disappointed yet.  So far, I think my favorite is the Sea Salt, but I've got a few more flavors to taste (I haven't even started in on the truffles yet).

Nuance Chocolate is definitely worth your time and money when you need to just treat yourself (or, if you're the generous type, treat someone else).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Just A Little Rant

Once Upon A Time, some people pissed GunDiva off ...

At the beginning of the year, I posted about the 28 day FAST Metabolism Diet.  Y'all know I *hate* numbers, right?  So I'm still refusing to engage with them.  After our first round with the diet and the numbers (I did lose some inches, BTW), I decided I still hated the numbers and if I was going to repeat the 28 days I was going to do it because it is good for me, not because of some numbers on a scale.

People at work have noticed my drastic change in diet - I haven't tried to hide it - and I'm a lot better about not joining in on the impromptu "let's go to lunch" stuff. 

One of my well-meaning, but probably orthorexic, colleagues told me a few weeks ago, "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."  I call bullshit.  I've been skinny.  You know what it feels like?  Guilt.  It feels like fucking guilt.  Every missed work out, every bite of "forbidden" food equals Guilt.  That is no way to live a life.

I've been skinny and I've been fat, and I'll tell you what: I'm much happier living my life now than when I was skinny.  Did I look better on the outside?  Yep.  Did I like the way I looked in pictures?  Yep.  Was it worth it?  Even just a couple of years ago when I was working out like a beast with The Little Bastard?  Maybe, at the time I thought it was worth it.  Now?  No way. 

Just last week, as I was shoveling down my salad, I mentioned that I was being really good with my diet because I had a cheat day planned.  A different co-worker piped up and said, "how on earth to plan on losing any weight if you schedule cheat days?".

Um, excuse me, but just because I'm fat, do NOT assume that I'm trying to lose weight.  I'm eating cleaner because it makes me feel better.  I could not give a flying fuck what the scale says.  I lived my life by the scale for far too long and I'm not going to chain myself to it any longer.

And yet another co-worker, when he noticed me eating my salad and drinking my ONE Coke for the day, told me he'd rather see me eating the greasy cheeseburger and fries that my other co-workers were eating instead of drinking that "poison".  The one thing I refuse to give up, and I've said it for years, is my Coke.  It's not going to happen so people need to back the fuck off about it.  I have very few vices, other than my foul mouth and my love for Coke.  I don't smoke, rarely drink, and don't do drugs. Look, dude, I know you're a personal trainer, but you're not *my* personal trainer and unless I'm getting drunk or shooting up at work, what I put into my body is none of your business. 

What I would really love is for the people at work to stop assuming I'm eating healthier to lose weight.  And I really wish they'd keep their damned opinions and comments to themselves.  God forbid I do something like work out - I can only imagine the "help" I'd get then.  I do plan on being more active as the weather continues to warm up, though I won't call it "working out".  My whole goal is to be healthy enough to do what I want to do.  If I want to go for a hike, by God I'm going to go for a hike.  If I want to take Skeeter for a walk, I'm going to take Skeeter for a walk.  But I don't need my armchair quarterback co-workers being "helpful".  I need them to shut the fuck up and mind their own business.

The End.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Speed Racer and Gizmo Go to the Vet

Now that we know that the kitten formerly known as Abby is actually a boy (oops), we decided it was time for him to get a little snippy-snippy.  Gizmo, my son's cat, has also moved back in with use and that cat is always in heat, so I made an appointment for both of them to be "altered".  I guess that means we now have two "it" cats.

Speed Racer hates cardboard boxes.  He's the only cat I know that will have nothing to do with them.  I'm going to anthropomorphize a little bit and say it's because he was abandoned in a cardboard box - he does not associate them with anything good.  Surgery day, Jay and I did the ol' scruff and stuff and managed to get the cats into cardboard carriers.

Now, Gizmo hates the car and yowls the whole time she's in it, so while Speed Racer was plotting his way out of the cardboard box, she was serenading us.  She did do us a solid when he started crying and talked him down, so the last few minutes of the drive were pretty quiet and calm.

Hey, you out there.  Yeah, you.  Get me out.
 We dropped them off along with a million other people.  Almost all of the cats we saw getting dropped off were black and white cats, too. I mentioned to Jay that we'd have to double check to make sure we came home with the right black and white cats.

At the end of the day, we went back to pick them up (we got the right cats) and we were warned that they'd be drugged up for the next 24 hours and that they would probably be seeing pink elephants and not have a clue who we were.  Just let them be and they'll be fine, we were assured.  As a side-note, the tech told us that Speed Racer was trying his best to eat his way out of his carrier.  There were only a couple of toothmarks, so I thought we'd be okay.

Forgive me, I should have taken video so you can share in the all-encompassing anger Speed Racer exhibited.  Introducing Speed Racer as Jack Torrence in The Shining.

Jay was driving and I was giving a running commentary while I was trying to simultaneously take picture and push the little bastard's head back in the box.  I lost, as you can see.  I finally took a sweatshirt and tied it tightly around the box in hopes that the dark would calm him down (and it gave me a level of protection as I was trying to keep him in the box).  The sweatshirt worked for about a half a second before he decided he was going to keep eating his way out of the box.  Suddenly, it went from The Shining to Alien, when the alien is trying to claw his way out of the guy's abdomen.

I shoved his head back in the box through the sweatshirt and kept my hand flat against the hole so he couldn't poke it back out.  He changed tactics and started growling and pulling the sweatshirt into the box so he could kill it.  I was fairly concerned at that point and relieved that we were less than ten minutes from home.  I did NOT want that demon cat getting loose in the car.

Anesthesia + Speed Racer = Bad, Bad Things.

Surprisingly, Gizmo was quiet the whole way home.  She hunkered down in her carrier and didn't say a word, thank goodness.

The vet tech had told us to just open the carriers and let them come out in their own time.  I have to admit, I was worried about letting the demon cat out of the box, so I let Jay do it.

He was out of the box like a shot, so I couldn't get a picture of him leaving, but this is what he did to the box.  Next time he goes to the vet, he's getting a metal carrier.  Speed Racer ran around the house checking to make sure everything was still here for hours.  He really earned his name for the twelve hours after his surgery.  Stupid cat.

Gizmo was a bit slower deciding to leave her box, until Speed Racer convinced her to come out.  I think she thought we were going to move her to a new place again.  Once she realized she was back home, she found the oil heater and curled up there for the next 24 hours.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

It Was Just An Oil Change

I haven't been spending much time on the computer when I'm not at work, so blogging has suffered (obviously).  My apologies.  Truly.

Yesterday, Jay and I had a rare day off together and had errands that needed to get done.  First on the list was an oil change for Newt, so off to the dealership we went.  We dropped her at the service center and went to wander the lot.  Before we even got to the lot, right there, smack-dab in the middle of the showroom floor was the most beautiful Soul I'd ever seen.  We wandered over to look at it, and ooh'd and aah'd for a bit before we headed outside to look at the other cars.

When we came back in, I had to see the Soul again, only this time, we made the mistake of opening the doors and looking at the interior.  She was beautiful. Like, beautiful-beautiful.  A helpful salesman came over and we told him we were just looking, that our Soul was in for an oil change.

But something about the new one wouldn't let me go.  Jay and I decided that if we could do a straight across trade for the new one, we'd do it.  I don't know why.  She just spoke to me.

We talked to the salesman again and he was willing to run the numbers and see what he could do.  Next thing you know, we're moving our stuff out of Newt and into the new car. 

Since Ripley and Newt were both named based on their colors, I saw no need to change the trend.  Salome is Caribbean blue, and that just screams Jimmy Buffet to a ParrotHead like myself.  I wasn't going to name her "Jimmy Buffet", so I needed a name from one of his songs and Salome came to mind.  If you don't know "When Salome Plays the Drums", I've got a little earbug for you.

Some of the trim work that Jay did on Ripley and Newt is already done, so he's hard at work designing a wrap for her back gate that keeps inline with the Jimmy Buffett/Caribbean theme.

We absolutely do NOT plan on trading Salome in any time soon, so we agreed that we will never go to the dealership together again.  One or the other of us will go do her oil changes, but not both.  We tend to be impulsive when we both go to the dealership, after all, that's how we ended up with Newt (and now Salome).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Back to the Damn Numbers

Last week, I was ending my year with no numbers.  I loved the lack of stress associated with not dwelling on numbers.  However, there were a couple of numbers my doctor was worried about.  Namely, my liver function and my hemoglobin A1c.  I did my six-week re-draw of my liver function and it's all good.  We have no idea why it was so out-of-whack, but it was at that one moment in time.  Now, it's well within the normal ranges (at the moment in time that it was drawn).

My hemoglobin A1c is high normal, but I'm an obese, middle-aged, half-Mexican female, which greatly increases my risk of diabetes.  Blah.  The one surefire way to lower my A1c is to change the way I eat.  Hence the fucking numbers game again.

Jay and I started the FAST Metabolism Diet last week.  I was super excited to do it - the recipes all sounded yummy and there was the promise of a lot of loss very quickly as our metabolism got sorted out again.  It started out pretty well.  We both had low-grade headaches for days as our body adjusted to no sugar, no caffeine, no anything good.  We gutted through.

The brown rice recipe at the end of day two made me sick.  The smell of it nauseated me and it was all I could do to get some of it down.  When I make brown rice, I make it with water, rice, some salt and that's it.  Her recipe called for garlic, onion, celery, veggie stock, carrots, and oh yeah, some brown rice.  Her proportions on the recipe were wrong, so we ended up with brown rice soup. (1/2 c brown rice to 4 c veggie broth?  Even my non-chef ass knew that was cattywompus.)  The chicken and broccoli that was supposed to go with the "brown rice" was excellent, but I didn't get my serving of grain down that day because I literally could not stomach it.

Phase 2, which is Wed/Thurs and primarily lean proteins, no fruits/grains, was hard for me to get through.  We had received an amazing fruit basket for Christmas and we had piles of fruit just begging to be eaten.  Thursday was a day we had to go into town and our "eat every three hours" wasn't going to work unless we stopped to eat or brown bagged a lot of stuff.  We "cheated" and went to Qdoba - we left off all the "bad stuff" and had the food on our approved list.  Mostly.  We did not opt for a naked burrito, so we broke the rules by having a tortilla (gluten is verboten on this diet) and brown rice (also verboten during this phase of the diet).  By Thursday, we both still had headaches and had a fuck it all attitude.  Amazingly, after we ate food that our bodies were used to, our headaches went away.

It was in Phase 2 that we started altering the recipes to fit us better.  One night we had green chili rubbed steak with asparagus.  Loved it.  The next night, we had cajun chicken with asparagus.  Both had "approved" ingredients and both were foods our body could handle.

Phase 3 is the least restrictive of the diet and we have done okay with that.  We can eat all the fruit, veggies, grains, protein we want.  Since we eat 35 meals per week on this plan, we had a cheat night last night at the hockey game and went all out.  We had nachos and fresh donuts and a soda each.  Jay had a chili dog (I stole a bite of it - to die for).  We figured one out of thirty-five wasn't too bad.

I woke up feeling like a million bucks this morning. Jay did not.  He had acid reflux really bad in the middle of the night and his gut was not happy at all.  His gut flora has already adapted to the new diet, while mine has been slower to adapt.

I cannot express to you how much I hate, hate, hate living my life in three-hour increments.  The biggest complaint in all of the reviews I read of this diet was the cost involved.  I absolutely agree.  We've spent a lot of money on foods that we normally don't eat, so it's like restocking the pantry all over again.  The recipes provided sound amazing, but the spice combinations are just too much.  My stomach can't handle them.

I was absolutely ready to throw this diet out the window, but then we did our measurements today.  We took initial measurements at: neck, R arm, waist, hips, R thigh, and R calf.  Today, we repeated them and we've both lost some combined inches.  We've lost just enough to do this torture again for one more week.

We are going to adapt the recipes to our tastes and keep some gluten- and dairy-containing foods in our diet because we don't want to alter our gut flora as drastically as this diet would do.  Just one or two meals out of our thirty-five, we'll feed our happy bacteria food instead of going on probios.

If I were to rate this diet, right now it would be a three-star diet.  We have seen some improvement, but the financial and emotional cost is barely worth it.

The worst part is I'm back to the fucking numbers and the stress associated with them.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Year of No Numbers

At the beginning of 2014, I decided that I wasn't going to pay any attention to numbers, especially numbers concerned with my weight/health.  For the past few years, my life has revolved around calories, reps, and pounds and I was over it.  I decided that I wasn't going to do a damn thing other than live my life - as long as I was healthy enough to do what I wanted to do - I wasn't going to give numbers a second thought.  I even gave away my BodyBugg, so I wasn't tied to calories burned/steps taken/etc.

I walked a 5K because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to.  Nebalee walked with me, but the thought of "no numbers" about made her crazy.  I didn't care about my time, as long as I finished.

I spent a few weeks doing Les Mills' Body Pump with a friend of mine.  Again, because I wanted to.  It made me feel good to complete the workout.  Then summer came and I got Skeeter.  My exercise became working with her.  Ten minutes here and there.

Stacking hay - talk about functional fitness - you can't get that kind of workout in a gym. 

I ate and drank what I wanted, when I wanted.  You know what I found?  I can no longer tolerate greasy burgers.  5 Guys used to be my favorite burger joint on the planet.  I can't even get one down now without feeling sick.  I go for days without a Coke, and those of you who know me, know I refuse to give up my Coke.  It's pretty amazing when you feel like nothing is off-limits, how easy it is to "choose wisely".

It's been a surprisingly peaceful year, not worrying about how many calories I'm stuffing in my face or stressing out about how much weight I've lost (or not).  As the year ends, I'm down about four pounds over the beginning of the year (I know this because the doctor still weighs me).

Mentally, I'm much more relaxed.

Physically, I'm kind of a mess.  My liver enzymes are out of whack, my LDL is elevated, and I'm tired of being a cream puff.  There has to be some sort of middle ground.

2015 is all about finding the middle ground.

The fact is I do need to lose weight and I do need to engage in exercise (other than just playing with the horses), but is there a way to do it without turning into a calorie-counting bitch?  Without all of the guilt that goes along with knowing I shouldn't eat this and I should do that?

My doctor recommended The Fast Metabolism Diet.  I trust my doctor implicitly; I used to be her medical assistant, so we've built a stronger-than-usual patient/doctor relationship. She believes in the diet and uses it herself for weight maintenance, so I felt good about her recommendation.

I took the time to read the book, and what I read has me excited to give it a go.  It's all about "re-setting" your metabolism.  It explains why calories in/calories out doesn't work for everyone.  I've lost and gained weight a lot since my thirties and my metabolism doesn't have a clue what to do, so it stores everything as fat.  So much of what is in the book makes sense that I wonder why I never figured it out for myself.

Jay and I are going to start the "diet" tomorrow.  I hate to call it a diet considering there is so much food involved, and it's all good, "real" food.  I'll have to re-join the numbers game for a bit (no calorie counting, though!), just the measuring tape once a week to see progress and maybe an occasional scale, but I'm not going to focus on the numbers.  I've had a year of no numbers training under my belt, I think I can ignore them as needed.

Here's an example of what our first week of the "diet" will look like:

Morning snack: watermelon slices with lime and chili powder
Breakfast: steel-cut oatmeal with berries
Lunch: chicken, apple, and spinach salad
Afternoon snack: veggies and dip
Dinner: pork tenderloin with broccoli and pineapple

Morning snack: fruit (probably pomegranate - yum)
Breakfast: steel-cut oatmeal with berries
Lunch: turkey, bean, and kale soup
Afternoon snack: veggies and dip (or more fruit)
Dinner: Chicken and broccoli bowl

Morning snack: jicama with lime and chili powder
Breakfast: Spanish egg white scramble
Lunch: steak and spinach salad
Afternoon snack: deli meat wrap
Dinner: baked cinnamon-mustard chicken and lemon garlic spinach

Morning snack: jicama with lime and chili powder
Breakfast: turkey bacon with celery (sounds weird, I know, but I'm willing to try it)
Lunch: steak and asparagus wrap
Afternoon snack: deli meat wrap
Dinner: southwestern beef and cabbage soup

Morning snack: berry smoothie
Breakfast: berry nutty oatmeal
Lunch: 3 egg salad
Afternoon snack: raw nuts
Dinner: avocado chili

Morning snack: berry smoothie
Breakfast: B&B toast
Lunch: avocado/turkey lettuce wrap
Afternoon snack: raw nuts
Dinner: sesame chicken stir-fry

Morning snack: berries
Breakfast: B&B toast
Lunch: lentil stew
Afternoon snack: raw nuts
Dinner: Rosemary pork roast with sweet potato

Apparently, we have to eat within 30 minutes of waking, which is why our morning snack and breakfast are flipped.  We get up, feed the horses, get ready for work and leave all in a 30 minute time-frame, so there's no way we'd make breakfast.  Snack first, breakfast at work.  The other major key (besides not eating anything processed) is to eat every three to four hours as long as you're awake to keep your metabolism cranking along.

There are things that we "can't" eat, but it's only for 28 days.  You can do pretty much anything for 28 days, right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's Almost Time For Baking Weekend!

Just a few more days and my girls (minus Staci, who is living the life on her boat with her family) will be joining me for baking weekend!  We are a cookie baking factory over the weekend and I can't wait.

However, there is one thing I can guarantee I won't be baking this year and it's these puppies (or should I say cubs?).

(Reposted from 12/11/11)

My girls came!
Robs, Sue, Staci, Me :)
I love my girls.

They did lots of this...
This is Robs' double batch in a single batch bowl -
I was super impressed she managed.
And this...

Which resulted in these...
They were baking machines.
(Yes, SGG, there was alcohol involved)

I did zero cookie baking.  Zero.  I kinda felt bad about it, but I was focused on a project I've been contemplating for two years now.  I don't even know where I first saw these Snow Globe Coca-Cola Cupcakes, but ever since I saw them, I've been wondering if I could pull something like that off.

I mean, look at them...
Photo cred: Bakerella
In fact, I was pretty sure I couldn't pull them off, but I've been getting braver in the kitchen.  Last year, we had success with the bococcini.

So I gathered up my courage and hit the stores looking for what I would need: Coke in the "ornament" plastic bottles, rolled fondant, an edible pen, and a red sugar sheet. I followed the directions that I found on Bakerella.

I used the bears on the wrappers as inspiration.

Beel even got in on the act...
See the bandaid on the back of his hand?
Yeah, I wasn't sure that I should allow him to use a knife.
I'm happy to report that he still has all of his fingers.
I even tried the Cola Cake recipe that Bakerella linked to.  It was one jacked up recipe.  I've never baked cupcakes from scratch, but I'm a direction following fool.  I read the recipe a couple of times, and then obsessively referred to it while I was making the cake stuff.
Butter, veggie oil, cocoa, and Coke.
It's not quite as gross as it sounds.

I brought that crazy concoction to a boil and added it to the dry ingredients, which included a cup and a half of marshmallows...
It didn't taste too bad,
for a diabetic coma in a bowl.

I then baked up a batch of the cupcakes.  They were awful.  They fell, which was a bummer.  But they didn't taste so wonderful either.  Plan B - store-bought Devil's Food cake mix.  Win!!

While I was waiting for Nebalee to come up to the lodge with my Plan B, I worked on the fondant.  Oh God, what a disaster that was.  The store must have put out last year's fondant, because it was a brick.  I had to break it open and scoop out the inside just to have any to work with.

I lost easily half of the fondant I bought - the outside was unuseable.
Staci and Little Miss 'Mantha helped make the fondant bears.

Staci was a bear making fiend!  I made two.  She whipped out the rest.  Wait...Nebalee made the little cub.  Aren't they cute?
I used the red sugar sheet to cut out their scarves,
instead of the fondant recommended by Bakerella.
Auto Bot and Kyzzer helped me prep the snow globes...
We sprayed the inside of the bottles with sugar water
and then the kids sprinkled them with sugary thingies.

Mom and Nebalee put snow on the cupcakes after I frosted them...

And then I got to assemble...
Oh. My. God.
I can't tell you how thrilled I am with them!
They're not quite as polished as the ones at Bakerella, but then, neither am I.  I'm so not a professional baker - I'm pretty sure that once-a-year baking doesn't count - but I am beside-myself-excited about these cupcakes!
I'll post about the rest of Baking Weekend when I come down from my cupcake success high.