July 14, 2013

April 14, 2013

The Great Tea Taste-off

I've been trying to get away from soda, from caffeine, but struggled to find a good replacement beverage. I can drink a ton of water when I'm working out, but apparently not when I'm just working.

Also, I've started to follow the Atkins plan, which for me has created a side effect of dry eyes every hour or two, unless I am really well hydrated. The dry eyes are extremely uncomfortable, so this is probably the best thing to ever happen to me. I *MUST* drink quarts and quarts of liquid a day in order to prevent that discomfort. Everyone knows you're supposed to drink a ton of water to help lose weight. Voila! I can't NOT.

Hi, by the way. I've missed you all.

So. Trying to walk away from caffeine and soda, while not feeling forced to drink a beverage I don't really enjoy unless parched. I don't like coffee unless it's buried in flavored creamer, which makes it a high calorie beverage. Tea seems the logical answer. Except I can't drink sweetened tea on Atkins. Or rather, I can't drink as much as I need. I can use artificial sweetener, and do use Truvia, but each packet is considered a gram of net carbs (even though it says there are 0 carbs, they can say that when there is less than 1% so better safe than sorry). I'm currently supposed to have less than 20 net carbs per day. For those who don't know, net carbs = the number of grams of carbohydrates a food has, minus the grams of fiber. So you're basically keeping track of the sugars you eat. For me, less than 20 net carbs comes out to about 40 grams of carbs, period. 

I have several teas in my cabinet, but I've always drunk them with cream and sweetener. I've never really tried them without. I also found a sale on tea today, so added several more to the stash. Not having the cabinet room for all these teas, and now knowing if I even liked them, I decided to have a tea taste-off.

I started with 16 teas. Well, 17 if you count the Lipton's standard, but the first thing I did was throw that away. I already know I can't drink it unsweetened, nor can I drink it all day long. It is too acidic and upsets my stomach. Also, it was probably close to 10 years old. 

I eliminated the Tazo Wild Sweet Orange and the Good Earth teas from the competition as well. I already know I love Good Earth's Sweet and Spicy,  sweetened. That and the Wild Sweet Orange are both good unsweetened, though not amazing. I also already know green teas are ok sweetened, but not unsweetened. 

I do not have 16 tea cups in my house, so I knew there would be several rounds of tasting. I started with the teas in my cabinet: Green Chai, Organic Breakfast Tea, Salada White, Tangerine Orange Zinger, Berryblossom White, and Red Zinger. I steeped them for a minute or two, pulled the teabags out and put an ice cube in each cup. I smelled each teabag as I discarded it, and tried to guess which ones I would like by scent alone. I was not always right.

Once the teas were cool enough to taste, I took a spoonful then a full sip. The Tangerine Orange Zinger was the unsweetened winner, hands down. I also liked the White, which surprised me. I did not enjoy the other four unsweetened, so tried them with one packet of sweetener each. The Green Chai was good sweetened, but the Organic Breakfast tea won this round for the sweetened tea category.

The next round consisted of several Tazo teas: Sweet Cinnamon Spice, Apricot Vanilla Creme, and Passion. There were also Lipton teas: Green Tea with Orange, Passion Fruit and Jasmine, White Tea with Blueberry and Pomegranate, and Orange Blossom Hibiscus. The Stash Green Tea with Pomegranate and Raspberry was the last, so I added it to this round.

I learned I'm really a white and black tea girl. Most of the green teas didn't wow me, sweetened or not. I was really hopeful for the Sweet Cinnamon Spice, but it tasted like a cinnamon roll in tea, and that was just too odd for me. I'm wondering now if I'll even like any of the other "desert" teas. I'm game to try, but a bit skeptical. 

In the sweetened category, the Organic Breakfast Tea held it's own. However, in the unsweetened category I found a new winner. The Tazo Passion is amazing! It is full, with a strong flavor of rose and orange. It's obvious to me I like orange teas, but this is a step beyond. I'll be drinking a lot of this tea!

Now I know I have several flavors of tea I like unsweetened, for when I get tired of the Passion. I don't see that happening any time soon, but anything is possible.

It turns out the only tea I really didn't like is the Red Zinger. This is actually one of Superman's favorites, so I'll be keeping it around anyway. However, I do now have a lot of tea I'm not particularly fond of, sweetened or not. I know my tastes are not the same as everyone else's, so it's possible these teas could find a good home with someone who will appreciate them. I'm willing to put all I have left of each, waterproofed in a ziploc baggie, and send them off to anyone who wants some. I won't ship the boxes because it will be cheaper for me to send envelopes. Just let me know which of the following you'd like - first come first serve. If you've chosen more than one and someone else would like one you've chosen, I'll split it between you.

Stash Pomegranate Raspberry Green Tea
17 left
I really wanted to like this one. Maybe it if had been white tea...
Tazo Apricot Vanilla Creme
19 left
This one smelled amazing, but the taste for me was just meh. Maybe I needed to steep it longer or something. 
Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice
19 left
This is apparently discontinued as I can't find it on the Tazo site.
Lipton Green Tea with Orange, Passion Fruit & Jasmine
19 left
It has all the right ingredients, except the green tea part
Lipton Blueberry Pomegranate
Only 8 left. I like this one sweetened and with creamer, but that's not how I'm drinking tea these days
Tazo Berryblossom White
8 left
another I liked creamed and sweetened
Lipton Orange Blossom Hibiscus
16 left
another I really wanted to like, but didn't. 
Leave a message in the comments if you want any of this. If no one claims them they'll just go in the trash. I don't have the cabinet space for it all!

January 13, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

Last post I talked about Shakeology - whether I should try it or not, how expensive it is, a few of the pros and cons. 

My darling son Monkey Boy had not gotten me a Christmas present, so decided to step in and help sort out my indecision for me.
This package arrived at my door Thursday. 
Now I really have a decision to make. It was easy to toss the pros and cons of meal replacement around when I hadn't actually spent money on the Shakeology product. Apparently Monkey Boy figured Shakeology was too expensive, so purchased more than twice as much product for just over $100 more than the Shakeology would have cost. 

I cannot follow this program. That I know already. The Vi program is based around two shakes per day, plus a healthy dinner. Now I'll admit I've daydreamed about being able to take a pill and get all the nutrition I need in a day. That would remove all temptation to over-eat, because I wouldn't eat at all. "Brownies? No thanks. I don't eat." In the real world though, I want to learn how to eat right, how to eat within my body's requirements, and I want to eat real, healthy food.

But I have this stuff in the house now, and I cannot decide what to do with it. I was (and still am) considering meal replacement shakes for breakfasts. I don't eat breakfast every day, but on the days I'm hungry in the morning a shake would be quick and easy, measured calories, tasty, and (theoretically) nutritious. Just using the shake portion of this seems such a waste though. I am in no way inclined to use the appetite suppressant pills, and am not even mildly consistent about the vitamin supplements I do take. 

I made sure Monkey Boy wouldn't be upset if I returned this lot, which at this particular moment I'm almost certain I will do. I may or may not get the Shakeology, or maybe a different brand of comparatively nutritious meal replacement shake. I don't know. 

I do know I made yogurt smoothies for breakfasts this week. 
I guess I'll see how these go down before deciding about meal replacements one way or the other. 

I'm still amused by my workout schedule. If I were sticking to a single program I would probably be complaining about little quirks of the trainers. As is, I can't decide which videos I like best. I lost a bit of steam toward the end of this past week. I wasn't prepared for the Combat video to require weights, and had to improvise. Thursday night I had multiple vivid and violent nightmares, which contributed to Friday being a rest day. I didn't run today either, though I could have. Even so, this past week is the best workout week I've had in a long time, as I type this I'm looking forward to the week to come. 

January 7, 2013

Should I drink the koolaid?

A friend of mine has lost 40 lbs doing the Insanity program, and has now become a Team Beach Body Coach. She's invited me to her Facebook page and encouraged me to talk about my "hybrid Beachbody workout plan."

I can't seem to get a good pic of my calendar.
I mark off each day with comments about weights I used,
or whether it's better to do that particular workout in the basement
I don't know that I really want to talk about my plan on her Facebook page. Mostly I don't want to talk about it because I feel like a fatty. I've been running for over two years, but even when working out regularly I haven't lost any weight. Much like the start of my friend's workout journey, mine has included a lot of workouts and not so many dietary restrictions.

My friend has drunk the Koolaid. She's also drinking the Shakeology. At $4 per shake, I'm having a little trouble swallowing that one. Sure, they're full of all natural ingredients. So would any smoothie I made from whole foods instead of processed "beet juice powder."

It's working for her.

I've spent an awful lot of money trying to figure out approximately how many calories I expend in a day, and how many I need to consume. I'm better about overeating now I'm staying away from gluten, but I still have a sweet tooth the size of the Grand Canyon. I still have no idea if I should try to subsist on 1200 calories, or if I really need the 1700-1900 I consume most days.

I'm actually inclined to believe the latter. For the past several weeks I've been weighing myself when I get up and when I go to bed, on the days I'm home. Starting Mondays I've consistently lost a pound or two through the course of the week. Then comes Wednesday or Thursday Chinese, then Friday Mexican, and by the end of the weekend I've gained it all back.

I'm not good at wholesale changes. That doesn't mean I'm not good at changes. I'm still working on making the gluten free one stick. I'm planning out how to cut coffee and soda from my diet. I'm not as concerned about the caffeine as I am with the chemicals in the coffee creamer and diet colas I drink daily. The majority of my day to day diet is healthy whole foods. I am slowly working on reducing the calories in while increasing the calories out.

I don't want to drink the Koolaid. I want to be able to eat healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight without all the hype.

I guess we'll find out how well that works for me.

I've taken another set of "before" pictures. I won't subject you to them, but I will say I'm pleasantly surprised to find I have some muscle definition in my arms.

January 6, 2013

Release the Anger

I am a literalist and a realist. Because I take everything literally, I do not function well when people lie to me. I don't lie to you, and I expect the same courtesy.

We've been having a bit of drama at work lately. One of the guys that was hired in with me has been extremely unhappy. He didn't like the hours, so decided to make his own. Coming in half an hour to an hour before the rest of the crew wasn't that big a deal, as long as there were tickets to work on. However, when he decided he wanted to start his shift a good 2 hours before support hours began, Management decided he needed to be doing other things during that time. He was trained on applications that had support hours when he wanted to come in.

He wasn't happy learning the new applications. He apparently had enough trouble learning the application he was hired in to support, and learning two new applications on top of that overwhelmed him completely.

At about the same time he finished his training and was put on the phones to support these two new applications, his daughter became ill.

This guy's behaviors and mannerisms reminded me Ninja. I felt bad for him, and somewhat protective since he was obviously struggling. I'm not bragging when I say I know the most out of the three of us about the product we support. I helped this guy out. I let it pass when he asked me the same questions over and over, figuring he wasn't using his knowledge as much since he was supporting these new products. I let things pass because he had "stuff going on."

He started calling in sick. A lot. The way the schedules worked, it was just he and I on Mondays. He started showing a distinct tendency toward Mondayitis, leaving me alone to handle what is supposed to be a two to three person job. Work stressed him so much he refused to log onto the phones when he was there, leaving the majority of the work to myself and the third member of out team. It got to where I could almost predict when he would be out, based on his behavior the day before.

There were a lot of doctor's visits for his daughter, who had a severe and mysterious pain in her side. Ultimately, there was a gall bladder surgery and an extended hospital stay, all of which he had to attend. He used up all of his PTO with unplanned outs, and then some.

Last Monday was his final day at work. At some point while he was supposedly out with his daughter's illness, he interviewed for and found another job. This is not a job I would have taken. From what I understand it does not pay as well, nor does it have the benefits this company offers. I'm only a little mad he lied about interviewing, and that's mainly because the lie he told was obvious enough for me to feel insulted he believed I'd buy it. I am more peeved he used our concern and care over his daughter's illness for his own gains.

I'm mad that he lied about so much else, too. I've found in the last week he told the other guy on our team he was making more than both of us. That is patently ridiculous, considering each of our level's of education and experience. He told clients things that made the team look bad. Everything he ever said is now being questioned, and quite a bit is not living up to the scrutiny.

Here's the thing. It's easy to get stuck in "mad." I'm a complainer. I try to keep it under wraps, but I frequently find myself complaining about things. Frequently those things involve work. I've been complaining about this guy for months. He's only been gone a week, and I'm already tired of being mad at and complaining about him. I'm tired of the jokes going around the office about him, even when I find myself participating in them.

I drew the above image to help me release the anger, the frustration, the fear of how this change will affect both the team and myself. He is gone, and he will have to pay for the choices he made while here. The residual effects will likely be gone before this next week is over, except for the fact we're now down to two and don't know when that will change. There's also the question of how this affects my training, upon which my expected promotion is if not hinged at least marginally contingent. I'm concerned about the frying pan/fire aspect of our next teammate as well. At least we've been promised the next new hire is ours.

I've been thinking for a while about incorporating my drawings here. My art waxes and wanes, and I often have to make a conscious decision to pick it up again. I'm trying to find time for it now, and chose drawing as something more mobile than clay. I can draw just about anywhere, whenever I find a few minutes.

At the same time, I've been thinking about the possibility of making money from my art. This has always been a dream of mine. If you look over to the left, you'll see I've started a shop where people can purchase things with my work on them. This week's piece may not be the best to begin that with, but I figure by the time anyone actually finds my shop and wants to buy from it, the quality and quantity will be much improved.

January 4, 2013

New decor

Showing off my new workout room decor. The papers on the walls are P90X worksheets, and they surround the room.

Still so very amused.

January 1, 2013

Yeah yeah yeah...

I'm not a big fan of resolutions. I'm even a bit hesitant about goals, but at least those aren't contingent on a calendar date arbitrarily mandated by a papul bull in the late 1500's.

That said, there are a few things I would like to see happen this year.

1. Work out more days than not.  I am highly amused by the fact I've acquired the following workout video series: Jillian Micheal's Body Revolution, P90X, Insanity, Les Mills Combat, and TurboFire. I am even more amused by the fact I combined them all into a year's worth of workouts. One series per day, something like this:

Add in the Yoga class Superman and I found on Groupon and an hour long run on the weekends, and I have over a year's worth of workouts planned. I'm not likely to get bored, and really all I have to do is show up. Shouldn't be that difficult. right?

2. Gluten Free.  I've been reading Wheat Belly, and while I have an awful lot of raised eyebrow at the sweeping statements and high drama (the author practically says going wheat free will cure cancer) there is enough science and testimonials to make me at least consider the benefits. Turns out I'm kind of addicted to gluten/wheat. I thought it was sugar, but going off gluten for over 2 weeks, then going back on, I see the difference. There is also the possibility it affects my allergies, though that one is harder to pinpoint cause.

So, gluten free as much as possible. We eat out somewhat regularly, and gluten free at restaurants is almost impossible and I refuse to obsess overmuch about this. I will refrain from ordering tings I know will contain gluten, but if my steak comes with an onion ring on top, I'll just take the onion ring off and give it to Superman. I won't send the steak back because contact with gluten may transfer some. I'm not celiac and I don't have to be THAT careful.

Sugar free would be nice too, but I know myself too well. I can't make sweeping changes successful, and I have a sweet tooth the size of the grand canyon.

3. Rediscovery my creativity. I have plans for this, including a return to blogging, but the biggest problem is finding time. I'm a big fan of lists, and currently have multiple calendars to keep track of workouts, what I need to do to make those happen, and when I have a little extra time. I'm still working long hours. I'm still playing WoW and raiding twice a week. Those aren't likely to change any time soon, so I have to make time elsewhere. I have nights I don't raid, and I have weekends.

None of these are new ideas. Well, gluten free maybe, but not if you count it as "eating better." None if it is anything I'm not working on all the time, every day, regardless of new or old years. I say that, but I still keep coming back to Aurther's take: "Re" means "again" ... and "solution" means "something you thought you already fixed."

Maybe I do believe in resolutions after all.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope it's a stellar one for all.