Saturday, March 31, 2012

Alyssa + Josh + Gracie + Bluebonnets = FABULOUS PHOTOS!

Alyssa and Josh decided to include Gracie in their Engagement photos. At first I was a little skeptical, but these photos just turned out great! 

The photographer, Lisa Shepard, has been a photographer in Austin for a long time. We met with her and fell in love. She was so sweet, and took so much time with us. Josh and Alyssa originally thought they were going to have the pictures taken at Brushy Creek, where they often go fishing.  We played around with different ideas for the photos, but something felt "off." 

Spring brought a good deal of rain to the central Texas area, so this year, the bluebonnets were really great. We've always loved bluebonnet pictures, but only seemed to take them when the kids were all little. At the last minute, Lisa told us she found the perfect hidden-away bluebonnet field in East Austin. We met her at the studio on Lamar and then all went over in caravan. She was armed with treats for the dog, a ladder for some cool shots and we came with a blanket & a picnic basket.  Lisa and her husband, Don, spent nearly 3 hours with us! It's clear that Lisa loves her job as a photographer. She would often look at the viewing area on her camera and say, "Wow! That looks great!" Then she'd see how the setting sun was hitting them, and shout, "Stop! That's perfect! Turn a little to the right! YES!!!"

What could have been an awkward photo session actually turned out pretty fun for everyone involved. Lisa's website is Aimage, and we'd recommend her to anyone looking for a great photographer.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Walk with The Elements

Spring always make me think about Nature. Sure, I think about all kinds of natural occurrences in all the other seasons, but particularly in the Spring, I've started thinking about the Natural Elements: Earth, Air, Water, Fire.

So in my nearly-daily walking around the lake, I'm trying to distract myself with the Nature that surrounds me.


Waves of Wildflowers

Wildflowers along the path

On my first BIG walk, the one where I actually went all the way around the lake, instead of my little 1.5 stroll, I thought about Earth. My body felt very heavy and Earth-like as I was walking on the crushed granite trail. But while I looked at the trail, I noticed all these different little flowers springing up. Small chains of delicate white flowers, the lemony yellow flowers that come in the clover patches, the purple wild flowers. I thought of them as beckoning me on, encouraging me to keep going. The Mexican Plum trees still had flowers so they were beautiful and smelled great! The redbuds bloomed and the green grass looked so lush everywhere I walked. People were everywhere, riding bikes, jogging and walking their dogs. And today, they were all SO friendly. It just made me smile. Yes, Earth was providing it's part, all I had to do was notice!

The next day, was incredibly windy. The wind blew so hard on my walk that it picked up Buddy and slammed him into my ankles! I could watch the breezes travel across the water as the waves would roll in sheets out in the open area. The KiteSurfers were out, making jumps that gave them a hang time I've never seen before! They were LOVING all that wind!  Nearer the shore, the waves crashed on the rocks and the air brought the water up onto us in a spray.  There's one windmill out there and it was spinning furiously! The birds were loving it. Some were flying from tree to tree, others were soaring way up high.

The headwind was so strong as we'd make a turn and fight through it to get all the way around the lake. There weren't very many walkers that day, and one bike rider was struggling with her bike when I first saw her. Later in the walk, because I usually pass people twice, she was evidently coming to the end of her ride. She smiled widely at me, "I beat it! Gosh I wanted to give up!" We laughed and I finished my walk. So often I think of Air as a breezy almost flighty thing. Today Air showed me not to count her out! Air is Strong and Powerful and Relentless when it wants to be. No doubt.

Even the lens was foggy
So by the 3rd day, I was wondering what natural wonder would become the frontrunner of the day. The winds the day before had brought torrential rains in the night. But as is so often, the next morning shows a stillness that is the direct opposite. Today was no exception. It was still cloudy and the trail was a little soggy. But the lake was absolutely gorgeous - the water was like glass. I decided to focus on the water that day. One lone fisherman sat out in the middle of the lake. With the wind so still, I could hear the bullfrogs in the reeds. At one point, I just sat on the bench to take it all in.


So this morning, I woke up knowing that the element that would have to surface today would be Fire. As I pulled the shades back, I could see it was a bright sunny day! The morning sun was shining straight into my face. I would definitely need my sunglasses today. The sun is a powerful reminder of the element, Fire.
The water glistened and sparkled as the sun reflected from the waves. It reminded me of many a beach trip.  The heat on the trail was really growing - a little reminder that we ARE in Texas, and it WILL be hot again very soon.

What I think I learned from all of this is that these elements are out there all the time. While I was looking for particularly signs of the elements each different day, but the others weren't gone. They were just not taking center stage. On the day I deemed to be "Water", I came home with a slight sunburn on my face and arms. The sun was evidently there all the while, shining through the clouds. On the day I considered my Earth day, the birds were flitting from tree to tree. I fell in love with these black birds that had these beautiful red and yellow stripes on their shoulder areas. I even asked a family that was walking what they were called. Hoping for some exotic name, the internet search revealed that these incredible birds in the marshes are simply called Red Winged Blackbirds. It made me chuckle. They didn't need a show-offy name; their looks spoke for themselves.

So all of the elements were present every single day. They're completely in balance. Ebbing and flowing, depending on the day.

I tend to think of myself as more of a Water Person. I feel connected to water most of all. I have water everywhere - a fountain the front yard, a waterfall in the backyard, a hot tub, a community pool, a gym with a pool. I just love water. But recently, I've started paying attention to other Elements. And I've discovered that one isn't better than the other. Fire is not the opposite of Water...just different. So, in a search for balance, I'm trying to pay attention to all of them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What about Exercise?

My exercise plan is in full swing! Even though every day I have to talk myself into doing it. But it's happening.  I topped 200 lbs. when Alyssa was born - 18 YEARS ago! I don't think you can blame the fat on The Baby for 18 years, can you? No.  I've never gone below it since then.

I tried a bunch of diets and exercise, but it always ended in frustration. In 2008, I wrote a depressing little piece about My Problem with Dieting.    But with regards to exercise, I always gravitated to the Easy Route. If Oprah's trainer said, "Just get up and move around." I bought into that.  When I read that 3 days per week of 30 minute walks is a good thing - yep, I liked that one too. So last Fall, I got a gym membership, did a weekly hike with the kids and the dogs, and, in my mind, I was Upping the Exercise. Going to the gym lasted for about a month. I let the cost of the trainer get in the way of my learning more about exercise.  I still hiked weekly, usually. And I walked the dogs for 30 minutes around part of Lake Pflugerville maybe 2-3 times per week. Sure, I was less sedentary, but I finally had a realization when another year went by with the pounds NOT flying off.  If it took nearly 20 years for me to put and keep this weight on, it's going to take some SERIOUS effort to get rid of it.  That means, exercising when I don't want to. Doing way more. Sure, I'm sticking with my new healthy diet, but this exercise thing simply has to stay intense.  If you watch the Biggest Loser and you see how their pounds come off, you have to remember that they are working out 4-6 HOURS of their day! That's a lot. My plan is to do about 2 hours. Every Day.

The dogs have to be walked at least 30 minutes every day.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I'm going to walk the 3.3 miles around Lake Pflugerville.
24 Hour Fitness offers some really good water aerobics classes. I'll do 4 per week.

So. Now it's in Black and White. That's supposed to mean something, right?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vegetarian - Week 1

So far so good!

I've been sticking with the vegan choices and trying hard to stay low-calorie. The chip bag still calls me late at night, but I'm trying to resist.

Another thing I need to work on is the the pre-planning of meals. My standby meals include:
    A bowl of cereal with Almond milk
    A sandwich with hummus, vegan cheese, veggies and sprouted bread

This week I've eaten out way too much! But I've managed to stick with vegan the whole time.

Zen - BYOB

SubwayVeggie Delight
We ate at Trudy's for Ron's birthday. Black bean tacos for me, with guacamole and TONS of chips and salsa. (Oh, and a margarita)

Ron and I also went to Zen Austin- Japanese Fast Food. It's really yummy. I had the BYOB (Build Your Own Bowl) with tofu, greens, mushroom/veggie mix, noodles, and miso sauce.

Alyssa and I went to Subway and I had the Veggie sandwich.

Cydney and I went to the Ethiopian Restaurant near my house and they were having a Vegetarian Buffet! It was sooo delicious!

Cydney and I met Leena and Angela at the Steeping Room in the Domain. We all had the Buddha Bowl with various sauces. It's tofu, kale, lentils, brown rice and sweet potatoes.

Ethiopian Buffet

Steeping Room's Buddha Bowl

I haven't lost any weight yet at all. So that's disappointing since I haven't cheated. And there's been plenty of meat around here!

Walking the trail with Hank & Buddy at Lake Pflugerville
So I've decided to really get serious about the exercise aspect. The dogs and I really need to walk daily...just to get in the habit. We all have pounds to shed! My plan is to do that every morning, before I really have time to think about other things I'd like to be doing. It's a 30 minute walk out at the lake; it's a nice trail and I go about 2 miles. My goal is to be able to do the whole lake by summer. It's 3.3 miles. Currently, I just walk for 15 minutes, then turn around and walk back. I'll work up my stamina and increase it soon.

My additional exercise is going to be Water Aerobics. Monday-Thursday, 24 Hour Fitness has a 6 p.m. class. I'm going to try to make it 3-4 days/week. And leaving the house while everyone eats dinner is a good plan.  

So, that's where I am at Week One. 
Thank you to everyone who sent recipes and cookbooks and encouragement - it helps a lot! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Family Updates

2 weeks in one!

We had a busy couple of weeks so I missed my Friday Family Updates.  I'm never good on any kind of schedule, so why that surprises me, I don't know!

So here's a bulleted list of what the Pattersons have been up to for the last couple of weeks:

  • Alyssa turned 18 on the 26th. She had a little party with Josh's family the night before. Very sweet of them to do for her! We shopped, went out to eat at Olive Garden, and hung out with the family on her actual birthday.  
  • Katie turned 21 on the 28th. First time to have a birthday away from me...EVER! She went out with friends all day long. Her big gift this year was 2 tickets (great seats!) to see Seminar with Alan Rickman (Snape from Hogwarts).  She took her friend Allie to it and they loved it. 
  • Michael is doing well in Nicaragua. They have 3 day weekends every week, which is nice. This week, he's spending it in La Paz. They're doing a Peace Corps inservice on Spanish. He's going to be SO fluent when he gets home! The people in La Paz are wonderful to him, so this will be a fantastic week for him. 
  • Pam Sorooshian came to visit for a few days. We worked on NHEN business and figured out a plan to sustain enough income to keep the website up. She and I spoke at an UCAustin event about The How's and the Why's of Unschooling.  We ate a lot of good vegan food while she was here and she's really encouraging me along this path.
  • Ron and I went to Fredericksburg for a few days just for fun. We ate German food (decided we really don't like it that much). I tried every bread pudding offered in every restaurant. If you're going to be a connoisseur, A Connoisseur of Bread Pudding is the one to be! I'm also a Connoisseur of Stuffed Mushrooms. But not on this trip. We spent hours in a fabulous metal art place. I came home with a granite/wrought iron table, a blue ceramic pig and a chicken planter. We stayed at a great Bed and Breakfast called Hoffman Haus. They delivered breakfast to our door in a basket. Very sweet AND yummy! A super cool blonde siamese cat hung out with me all morning on the porch there.. Just like home.
  • I've decided to retry the vegan diet again. The goal this time is weight loss and getting rid of my medical diagnoses. Like I linked above, I'm Going Vegetarian. So far so good. I'll send weekly updates on how that's progressing. I've heard a lot of encouragement from people behind the scenes about doing this. I think I can do it. Now, the exercise aspect of losing weight...well, I'm sitting here typing instead of walking the dogs!!! :-/
I didn't get around to my wonderful idea about creating books or videos for the girls' birthdays. I wrote about it I Love A Party! I still might do it though. February always creeps up on me. 

I shared a lot of great baby picture reminders of when Alyssa and Katie were born. For those who don't really look at Facebook much, or just because Facebook stuff scrolls away so quickly, here's our Blast from the Past!

Kaitlin Jean Patterson 
Dallas, Texas     February 28, 1991

It's amazing how pictures can fade! The ones in the boxes did so much better than those in the scrapbooks. It's like the color was just sucked out of them! Katie had tons of hair, as you can see! Ron was away at the Gulf War and Michael was at his Uncle Scotty's house. The mum hanging on the TV says, Kuwaiti Katie. We always said she was born an activist, she stayed late inside me, refusing to come out until the war was over! That's a Sit In! 
And how 'bout that Dallas hair and make-up?? hahaha!

Alyssa Jane Patterson 
San Antonio, Texas    February 26, 1994

                                                      I love those pictures of Michael and Katie kissing their new baby sister, Alyssa! Julie and Zachary were in town for Katie's birthday (2 days after Alyssa's), so they were able to be there for the Big Event.  Look at her smiling!! So sweet!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Going Vegetarian

My love of food has been no secret! And now, 51 years later, my Carpe Diem attitude about eating is staring me in the face. NOT a pretty sight!  I have the diagnoses of Hypertension, High Cholesterol, and Pre-Diabetes - and medications for all of them. And then there's that All-American diagnosis of Obesity.

Last year, when I had just turned 50, I tried the Engine 2 Diet for a month. It's plant-based, no meat, no dairy. I actually liked it but my learning curve was HUGE!  Tempeh and Tofu would sit in the fridge staring at me DARING me to figure out what to do with them. Add to that, the excuse that I don't like the layout of my kitchen.  Oh, and that my family wasn't really interested in giving up their meat and dairy. I was full of excuses. After completing the month (only one slip when I ate a BBQ rib that was left from a night FULL of BBQ beef!) I was successful.

But it didn't last.

I played with the vegetarian aspects. I chose vegetarian or vegan if the option was there. But VERY often, what they took away by being plant-based, they made up for in FAT. I lost no weight at all.

Yes, I know I need to up the exercise in my life. And I've been doing that. About 3 times a week I've been walking the dogs at the lake for 30 minutes. Sometimes I add the Sunday afternoon dog hike with Alyssa and Josh. But it is NO FUN when you are heavy. I don't think there's a way to convey this to people with reasonable weights.

Today marks the day that I'm starting again. Pam came for a few days and has been doing vegan dieting since last spring. She started at about the same time as me, but just didn't stop. She has mastered a LOT of it!

When she was here, she talked to Alyssa about helping out. She's still in school full time, and not a real adventurer with regards to food. But she sat with Pam and they created a list of foods she would eat, what she didn't like, and how she and Josh could help. While I was gone to Fredericksburg these past couple of days, they COMPLETELY cleaned out the refrigerator! Every expiration label was checked. Every fridge compartment was wiped down. They moved all meat and sugary foods to the garage refrigerator. Out of sight, out of mind? Maybe. I haven't even gone out there to look. And now there's room to put in all my low-fat plant-based foods.

Here is my plan. I am going to make a serious effort to do this with the goal being food replacing medications. The promise is that plant-based diets can turn around some of the most advanced disease processes. While I have had hypertension for some time, the pre-diabetes and High Cholesterol are new.I think I'll be able to shed these diagnoses within a year.

Yes, I'm going to add some walking and working out, so I'm going to try to eliminate some weight as well.  No connection to food is so important that having that one piece of fried chicken or chocolate ice cream is going to be a priority over my health. 

So, we'll be using a few "tools." Recipes from a variety of places

If you have great low-fat. non-dairy vegetarian recipes, please send them to me or share them with me on Pepper Plate! (