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A Sure Thing… Usually Isn’t

I had a wonderful birthday yesterday… in spite of being cold and wet. I did have a moment last night, between shows, when I was standing in a quiet plaza with snow falling gently all around me and it just felt… perfect. Do you have moments that in the grand scheme of things are quite ordinary but for some reason, at that moment, they just feel magical? That’s what I was feeling.

I had another one of those moments a few nights before we left for New York. It was late and Michael and the dogs were already in bed when I turned in. I laid down and ended up nose to nose with Roxie (one of my Boxers) and she was in and out of sleep, occasionally opening her eyes and licking my face. Such a simple, ordinary thing– but it felt magical.

IMG_0783Birthday In New York. I spent several hours at Starbucks yesterday writing and post blogs and pictures. I love starting my New York days that way. Michael came over from the hotel with his new iPad and sat with me for a while and then we got ready to head out for our last day of shows before our cruise.

A Sure Thing… Or Not. I purposely booked our shows the way I did, thinking I was guaranteeing ‘the best for last’, so to speak. One, a star-studded revival, the other– my most anticipated show on the trip. Our friend Amee was able to get rush tickets and join us for the latter.

Mystery of Edwin Drood. I’d been a fan of Drood for years. I saw a non-equity tour of it years and years ago and frequently listened to my out of print CD copy of the original cast. (Now available digitally.) Now you have to understand that Drood is not, for the most part, your typical musical. There is audience interaction with the cast and in the end, the audience votes for several of the outcomes to the story. (Drood is based on an unfinished Charles Dickens novel.) The show takes place in an old music hall and the actors, play actors playing roles in the story. Confusing? It’s really not.

Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54, pulled out all the stops casting this production. Some big Broadway names, past and present make up the core of the casting. Is it a wonderful piece of theatre? No, probably not. The framework is unique, though and I really love most of the music. Especially the haunting Moonfall the sweet Perfect Strangers and the energetic There You Are and Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead. The show is brilliantly sung by the seasoned cast, both powerfully and intuitively. Vocally, there are some glorious moments in this production.

The staging is perfect here. The high melodrama style of the piece is brilliantly played. (This is where it could quite possibly go terribly wrong in staging the show.) Now you have to understand, I am not a ‘laughter’. I’ll smile, grin or chuckle during productions but it is rare that I laugh out loud. I laughed. Multiple times– out loud. Let’s just say, that apparently my laughter shocked Michael enough for he to comment on it later. I was having a wonderful time.

Michael, on the other hand, was not. He’d never seen it before– and at the conclusion stated, “I never want to see that again.” He really hated the format and period style, comparing it to watching an old Gilbert and Sullivan piece. (Not sure where that comes from.) His review would be: “I wanted to see it, I saw it– never again.” (Which makes me laugh out loud, in itself!)

I LOVED it! Can I say that again? I really, really loved it! And lucky for me, I get to see it again in a few weeks. The directing, staging, design elements and spectacular performances all came together perfectly for me.

IMG_0779That Villain Guy. Michael did say he liked ‘that villain guy’. And he really liked Stephanie J. Block in the title role. That sparked the following conversation:

Me: That villain guy? Don’t you know who that is?

Michael: No, I didn’t look.

Me: OMG! Michael, that was Will Chase!

Michael: And? … Like I’m supposed to know who that is?

Me: Seriously? Roger in RentStory of My LifeSMASH?

Michael: Who? The cheater guy? That was him?

Me: OMG! Yes, that was him!

Michael: How was I supposed to know? I didn’t recognize him. Like I know EVERY performer! (pregnant pause) He was good though.

I just found the conversation highly amusing for some reason. And Will Chase wasn’t just GOOD he was BRILLIANT!

BARE. This was my most anticipated show. I’d been a fan of the material since they released a concert sampling of the songs years ago. When a full studio recording was released, I quickly snatched it up and my interest, or love for it– grew substantially. I won’t go in to detail about the plot or subject matter here. Partly because in this ‘refocused’ staging… it’s now unclear what it wants to be. Hence, the title of this blog post.

All I can say for lack of space and clarity. The bittersweet, tragic coming of age story is now a big mess. Characters were cut, characters were combined, well developed characters in the original conception are now disconnected  and their purpose, muddied; and new characterizations (or characters) are started but not developed and leave the audience hanging, wondering why we were introduced to them in the first place. Nothing was left untouched. The music, lyrics, dialogue, characters… all have been altered.

Now, I want to say that though I’m a fan of the original conception, I don’t consider myself intimately involved in the material to the point of not being open or accepting of changes. Here, the show is almost unrecognizable. Now that I’ve seen it, I can totally understand the NYT’s review of it. I think they’ve destroyed its commercial appeal and dumbed it down for maybe to junior high crowd… except most parents won’t be taking their children to this, due to the subject matter.

I understand a few of the changes that adapted to the current trends, updating the piece that was written about ten years ago; but those changes could have easily been made without the huge unnecessary alterations that were made. The choreography, or musical staging, is completely awkward here too. There are hints of the physicality used so brilliantly in Spring Awakening that in this production are just a cheap copy-cat attempt, not well executed. In addition, I thought much of the cast lacked the overall experience or vocal skill required for a ‘New York show’.

So, what I thought was a sure thing– wasn’t. My ‘birthday show’ was beyond a huge disappointment. It was a disaster.

Less Than Half. In total, Michael and I saw three Broadway plays, one off-Broadway play, four Broadway musicals,  one off-Broadway musical, one cabaret performance and one movie. We only both LOVED two shows: The Other Place and Chaplin. In addition, I really loved Mystery of Edwin Drood… but it’s not for everyone. We both really disliked: Golden Age, Grace, Bare (actually Michael said it was ‘ok’ but not good) and the movie, Les Miserables. The rest fell in the middle. Not a very good average and not very encouraging with the prices they charge for tickets.

Luckily, we have two more shows to see when we come back after our cruise: Spiderman (which I’ll probably end up loving since I’m so sure I’ll hate it) and The Book of Mormon (which I’m supposed to love, so I may not.)

I don’t expect to love every show I see but I do expect to be entertained. If it were possible, I’d be asking for a few refunds this trip. Don’t worry, it didn’t spoil my birthday. I’ve had a wonderful time so far. Now I need to get back to my room and finish packing to start the Bahamas cruise portion of the trip. I’m not sure when I’ll be posting. Internet is expensive on the ship. I’ve been writing these posts online ‘live’ and if I write offline on the cruise, I might be able to post. Otherwise, I may not be able to post for a week.

Just in case, Happy New Year everyone!

How Do You Measure… A Day in New York?

125th Street, Harlem, New York City.

125th Street, Harlem, New York City.

The Marquee at the historic Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

The Marquee at the historic Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

How do you measure a day in New York? Sixteen Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixteen (16,816) steps according to my fitness tracker. I’m not sure how accurate it is but I’ve been wearing it for about three months now and that’s my one-day record. I got the tracker to help measure my weight loss and work outs. Even if it’s not completely accurate, it has definitely been a motivating factor in my daily activities, measuring my work out progress, calories burned and daily steps taken.

Yesterday morning was our time to explore New York, this trip. Every trip to the city, we try to explore some place we haven’t been before. Having friends here gives us a chance to get a New Yorker’s view of the city and things to see and do. Yesterday we explored Harlem’s 125th Street and then worked our way down past Columbia University.

The world famous Cotton Club in Harlem.

The world famous Cotton Club in Harlem.

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Honoring a legend– outside the Apollo Theater.

Harlem isn’t the supposed frightening place it was years ago. In fact, it looks pretty much like many other parts of New York and even Chicago. Of course no other city has the legendary Apollo Theater or the Cotton Club. We got to see both of them on our rather frigid walk.

The men's room at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

The men’s room at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

We stopped at the end of 125th where it meets the Hudson River, at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and met friends there for lunch. We shared smokey wings, pulled pork and brisket… all were absolutely delicious! (I know it may seem like I’m starting an obsession but I had to post a picture of the unique men’s room.)

After lunch, we walked down through Columbia University and past The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. I played there (with the youth orchestra I mentioned in the previous blog) when I was in high school. Then we jumped on the subway to head to our matinee performance.

Chicago, the Musical. I got a special deal on tickets so we had great house seats to the show. In all the years it’s been running, Michael and I had never seen Chicago on Broadway. I have to say I prefer the movie to this long-running revival production. Still, it’s a solid production, strong performances and the choreography is still executed with tight precision– something that could easily be missing from a show that’s been running for so long. (I’ll be seeing it again in January when I come to New York with a group of students from school.)

Subway Train Tracks near the Hudson River.

Subway Train Tracks near the Hudson River.

Chaplin the Musical. What a surprise treat! The reviews of Chaplin weren’t good and partially as a result, it is closing next week. Michael and I both found it to be our favorite show this trip, so far. Everything about the production is good. The staging, choreography, sets, costumes and performances are all top-notch. Rob McClure as Chaplin is a whirlwind of talent and fully embodies the character. Definitely a Tony contender. Even though Michael and I both agreed Billy Porter (Kinky Boots) will probably give him a run for his money in a very tight Tony race, McClure deserves the prize.

Chaplin’s story can be considered part tragedy but was skillfully told in a way that didn’t become too dark and focused much of the show on the good that existed in Chaplin’s tumultuous life. It has a great score with a number of songs, sure to become standards in the musical theatre repertoire.

After the show, we headed over to John’s Pizza on 44th street for a quick bite before midnight. Delicious as always, John’s is one of the top rated pizza restaurants in New York.

My friend Amee met us in Times Square for my birthday countdown and then Michael headed back to the room, while Amee and I went to the Cranberry Deli next to our hotel for a red velvet cupcake. Even though I was pretty wiped out, I still stayed up until almost 3 AM, responding to early morning birthday wishes on Facebook, Twitter and email. It was a pretty terrific day.

The Library at Columbia University

The Library at Columbia University.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Cathedral Window.

Cathedral Window.

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Statute in the park next to St. John’s.

Proud Five-Zero (50) !

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12:01 AM. Exactly 50 years.

The day final came. Goodbye Forties, Hello Fifties. I know a lot of people have trouble with milestone birthdays but I’ve actually been looking forward to this one… Not to be older but reaching that benchmark. In this day and age, there isn’t the same stigma and ageism that existed years ago. Okay, so I know it’s not completely gone but you even see less and less of the once popular over the hill merchandise (thankfully) than was so frequently used say, ten to twenty year ago.

My theatre headshot 1988.

My theatre head shot 1988.

Age is just a number. I could insert a dozen more cliche sayings here but I’ll spare you. We all, hopefully, evolve as we grow older. We’re a conglomeration of all our experiences, good and bad; as well as all the people that have influenced our lives. I don’t believe in being a victim of circumstance. We have many choices throughout our lives that lead us to where we are now. The choices and experiences of our lives, those we choose and those we can’t control, are just small pieces of our whole being. We choose what we do with that and who we become.

This past year has been a time of deep personal growth for me, or of self awareness… Moments that have really mattered. I think I was about forty-five when I found myself thinking, ” I have to do (or accomplish) _____ before I’m fifty.” Now I know none of that really matters. Without leaving life to chance, I trust I’ll reach the goals and accomplishments I need to complete in my lifetime. I have a purpose and I do impact others. I don’t always needs a specific measure of that.

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Me around 1965.

I was born December 29, 1962 at 12:01 AM. (My poor mother!) I marked the occasion with with my partner Michael, and my dear friend Amee in Times Square at the exactly 12:01 AM this morning. The perfect start to what promises to be a memorable day.

For those approaching the big five-zero— have no fear. I feel no different today than I did yesterday. Only now, I can say I’ve  lived a half century.

Here’s to the next fifty years.

The REAL Christmas Vacation

We started planning our two week vacation, six months ago. Five days in New York, a seven day cruise on Norwegian to the Bahamas and finishing back in New York for one final full day of shows. Pretty straight forward. We booked our cruise, flight, hotel and also booked all our shows in advance. Done.

Michael spent hours watching all the YouTube videos people posted of the cruise ship, rooms similar to ours and read all the reviews of the ship the possible excursions, etc. We both lost a lot of weight so we had some fun shopping for new clothes. Everything planned ahead, ready to go… simple, right? Then the real fun started.

IMG_0722Show Tickets. You have some options if you want to see Broadway shows, you can purchase your tickets in advance, get better seats depending how early you buy– but you pay full price for most of them. Sometimes you can get discounts in advance and we got a few but for the most part, we paid full price. Your other option is the TKTS booth in Times Square. You can get tickets for up to half price based on availability but we would be in NY, Broadway’s busiest week of the year. So instead of taking chances, we booked all our shows in July. Done.

Or were we? Turns out, one show never opened, we re-booked it, that show closed quickly after opening, we booked another, that one cancelled that specific performance, so re-booked it again. Then the show the were to see that same night, open and closed and we found ourselves re-booking shows five times on the same day! (Wednesday, December 26th, 2012)

Packing or “Do you two communicate?”. Thinking we were ahead of the game, we started packing two days before we left, only to discover two things: 1) Packing wasn’t as easy as it seems and 2) We kind of had our wires crossed about what we intended to wear in New York. Oops!

Michael bought us new luggage: we each had a large suitcase and a new carry on sized bag. In the first sound of packing, we found the large suitcase easily held way more than the 50 pound limit of the air and cruise lines. So, we had to unpack. Then, somewhere in round two, we discovered. somehow we had different ideas on clothing for New York.

Usually we go to New York for five to seven days and each just take a carry on and re-wear what we have, dressing comfortable, casual the whole time. Usually jeans and whatever else we threw in the bag. This time, since we would be gone two weeks and needed to dress for both warm and cold weather and needed to have at least some dress clothes for the cruise, we knew we’d be checking luggage and taking more. I had commented several times how it would be nice to dress for the theatre for once BUT I guess it didn’t translate. Michael didn’t hear that and had planned on dressing as we normally did– casual only in New York. I, on the other hand, planned to wear suits and sports coats to the theatre and casual during the day.

It may not sound like a big deal but it was. We went through what we had, what we needed to swap out and what we needed to buy. After a quick analysis, some hair pulling and stressing out, a quick trip to the store Christmas Eve morning….. <sigh> we were back on track. We crammed as much of the weight into the two smaller bags, relieving some of the weight from the big bags and we were ready to go. We were sure we’d crossed our T‘s and dotted our I‘s …. and of course, we were even more certain we were forgetting things. Folks, I actually brought FIVE pairs of shoes!

Unedited self portrait in the bathroom of Cafe Bar in Astoria. I could resist the mirror tile of unusual wallpaper and lighting.

Unedited self portrait in the bathroom of Cafe Bar in Astoria. I could resist the mirror tile of unusual wallpaper and lighting.

Off we go. We made the decision to travel in style and were flying first class. When you figure in the additional checked luggage costs, early booking advantage and convenience…. and the fact this was my 5oth Birthday trip…. it all made sense to add this luxury. We got to O’Hare early, breezed through the Priority security line and the rest of our travel to New York was as smooth as possible. No delays, traffic was light from the airport to the city. Perfect.

We checked in to Hotel St. James (where we stayed in March) and got a surprise. Our room was slightly bigger than last time and they old-style hotel which previously was still using actual room keys, had upgraded to scan keys.

Christmas Night. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Our first show. It was a good, strong production but the first act was much stronger than the remaining two acts. Instead of building to a final climax, I felt it lacked, or failed to build and maintain the intensity needed to sustain a powerful ending. The acting was good but I’ve never been a fan of the ‘Chicago-style of acting‘– you are always aware they are actors playing parts, as opposed to actors assuming roles and becoming the characters. I’m pretty sure Tracy Letts will be, at the very least, in the running for a Tony for his portrayal of George.

Wednesday 12/26. In the morning, we headed out to Astoria, Queens for brunch with a friend of ours. Always a favorite part of our New York trips. Then back in to Manhattan for our first two-show day. This was the day that gave us all the problems with our show tickets. The matinee was Golden Age Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club. All I really can say about it is: Not interested. I thought it would have a similar feel to Amadeus based on the description and subject matter– mostly, I was just bored.

The Other Place with Laurie Metcalfe was our wild card show. It was one of our replacements and has turned out, so far, to be our favorite. Metcalfe is sure to be Tony-nominated for her role of a 52 year old woman slipping quickly into the grips of Dementia. The play is well crafted, beautifully acted and emotionally devastating. I’ll be anxious to see how the critics review it after the official opening.

Thursday 12/27. Four shows in one day! Okay, one movie, two shows and a cabaret act. I’ll try and be brief with my descriptions and reactions here. Michael had been insistent on seeing Les Miserables while we were here. I’ve been skeptical since I saw the first previews. The power and beauty of the stage production, brought to the big screen, was… to put it kindly, disappointing. I think it was poorly directed and filmed. The way it was filmed really annoyed me. Despite the dedicated efforts of Jackman and Hathaway, I felt their performances were hindered by the way they were filmed. The only two actors I thought came across well were Samantha Barks as Eponine and Aaron Tveits as Enjoras. Russell Crowe neither acted or sang in the film. I cringed every time Marius and Cozette were on screen. It was actually worse than I expected.

Our matinee performance, Grace with Paul Rudd and Ed Asner, was also a disappointment. It had an interesting framework but failed to deliver any real content. Just a meandering conversation about Christianity and Faith that really didn’t go anywhere.

In 1979, I was lucky enough to be invited to go to New York and perform with the Florida Camerata and then join the Winter Haven Youth Orchestra in several Manhattan and Long Island concerts. It had a huge impact on my life. It was during that trip that I saw my first professional concerts, my first Broadway show and… The Nutcracker. I can still vividly remember the moment in the Nutcracker when it began to snow on stage. I think it was that moment that hooked me on the stage for life. The first Broadway show?….. was Annie with the young Sarah Jessica Parker. No matter what the show, or how good it is… I think your first always holds a special place in your heart.

So last night, 33 years after my first encounter, I saw the new revival of Annie. I think its a good strong production. I can’t say it’s phenomenal but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I appreciated that all the bells and whistles were blown early in the show and it felt like it continually built to a big finale. My favorite moment in the show, one that could easily be boring or ignored; was Daddy’s Warbuck’s song, Something Was Missing. It was very well staged and beautifully performed, creating one of the shows most touching moments. Even though it wasn’t over-played (or over-staged), I still couldn’t help but get a big old lump in my through when Annie made her first appearance at the top of the stairs after her transformation. It still gets me, even after all these years. Annie remains on my short list of must-do shows to direct before I die.

As if three weren’t enough, I had made reservations to see cabaret performer, Sirius XM host, and my Facebook friend, Christine Pedi’s show, There’s No Bizness Like Snow Bizness at the West Bank Cafe. It was the perfect end to the day. Pedi’s blend of humor and holiday reminiscing was just what I needed. Michael and I had a delicious meal and really enjoyed the performance. Pedi was a part of the Forbidden Broadway franchise for years with her amazing ability to accurately impersonate dozens of performers. Her final number, The 12 Divas of Christmas, in which names of 12 stars were drawn at random from a hat, was hilarious perfection.

I apologize in advance if my editing is bad. I started this post yesterday morning and just don’t have enough time to write all I’d like. Today we’re off on a Harlem adventure and lunch with friends… then more shows of course! Until next time.

My 2012 Weight Loss Challenge: The Unveiling

IMG_0674I’ve been anxiously waiting and counting down the days until I could write this blog post. Believe me, when I say that I was surprised  with my progress and final results. Even two months ago I couldn’t have predicted the final outcome. The most important thing I’ve been reminded of — We can all do pretty much anything we want, if we truly have the determination and desire to see it through. We tend to forget that. At least I know I do. I want to share with you what I did, how I did it and hope that maybe it will help just one person to find their own strength to challenge themselves. Whether it be achieving a weight loss goal or healthy living, pursuing a change in career or living situation or even starting or finishing a project you’ve put off for too long– you CAN do it.

Before After Blog

The Beginning. I would have to estimate my weight back in March 2012, when the first photograph was taken, at somewhere around 255 pounds. I was at my heaviest point ever and even XXL clothing was somewhat tight. I was starting to feel embarrassed by my size but I didn’t let that stop me from eating. It wasn’t so much the quantity of what I ate as it was the quality of foods. I lived primarily on fast food. I usually only had one meal a day during the week, and if I did eat anything else, it was always something like chips or ice cream. That one meal a day was always a high calorie, high carb binge-fest of fast food.  It got to the point I couldn’t do anything without it affecting my breathing, I’d get severe acid reflux, and I was tired all the time. Sure, I thought about losing the weight but I had no motivation to change my eating habits. It’s so easy to find excuses and place blame. The fact was I was just too lazy.

Between March and May, Michael and I started talking about losing weight and even started to cook more. We lost a few pounds but without a complete, radical change in our diets we weren’t going to see the results we needed to see. It wasn’t until we started planning my 50th birthday trip that we got serious about eating right. We decided to primarily follow the rules of the Adkins diet because it had worked well for us in the past. (We just didn’t continue to eat healthy after it.) Every diet isn’t right for every person and every person’s results may vary but the low carb diet definitely works for achieving significant weight loss and then can be easily adapted for long term, healthy eating.

IMG_0615FACT #1 It’s not always how much you eat but the combination of what you eat.

FACT #2 The Food Pyramid is wrong.

I put these two together because they are interrelated. Your body processes different foods, well, differently. When you eat foods requiring different processes, it confuses your systems and ultimately stores much of your food as fat. Your body processes proteins and fats in one way and sugars and starches in another.

FACT #3 Large quantities of Milk, Bread (Grains) and Potatoes are not good for you.

Have you ever heard the saying, Cows milk is for baby cows, not people? Most of our bodies don’t process it well. It’s no wonder so any people are lactose intolerant. Bread and potatoes contain large amounts of sugar and components that the body turns into sugar; and then the body stores it as fat.

These are staples in fast foods. When you go to a restaurant, the first thing they bring you is bread and one of your side dishes is almost always potatoes (or rice). They are cheap to serve, filling, and your bodies loves to turn them into fat. I love french fries. I haven’t had any for six months now. Honestly, I can’t say that I haven’t really missed or craved them like I thought I would. I also love bread. Sandwiches, burgers, and particularly, yeast rolls are my downfall. I love them– but my waistline does not. One slice of bread or half of a burger bun has more carbs than your daily allowance when you start a low carb diet. (It’s no wonder so many children are obese when sandwiches and burgers are a regular part of their eating habits.)

FACT #4 Dieting and Alcohol Don’t Mix.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known that talk about how they can’t lose weight and go out and drink on the weekends. Alcoholic drinks contain loads of sugar and the alcohol breaks down in to sugar that turns to fat. If you’re serious about weight loss — stop drinking. I’m not much of a drinker, so this was easy for me.

IMG_0603The Progress. In the initial few weeks of our diet, Michael and I didn’t weigh ourselves and we were very strict in limiting our carbs. We primarily stuck to proteins and fats (meats and cheese), having very few vegetables and taking vitamin supplements. We drank lots of water and cut back on caffeine. I wasn’t willing to give up coffee altogether if I didn’t have to– and soon found, for me, caffeine wasn’t having much affect on my weight loss progress.

After about a month, I started weighing myself daily. This can be tricky when you are trying to measure your progress. I found my weight can easily vary around five pounds depending on the time of day and the amount of fluids I’ve been drinking.  The best practice is to weigh yourself at the same time of day to accurately measure your progress.

We also started eating salads with nearly every meal, or the salads were the meal. You can make salads interesting by adding lots of low carb veggies such as celery, cucumbers, broccoli, mushrooms and green onions and of course all the meat and cheese you want. We only used small quantities of tomatoes and carrots for flavor because they are higher in sugar than other vegetables. Broccoli slaw is also a nice crunchy addition. Most ranch dressings are only 2 to 3 carbs per serving but you have to read the labels. Italian and vinaigrette dressings are not as good for you as you might think. Many have large amounts of sugar. I can’t tell you how much I love salads now and I never thought I’d say that.

One of our other favorite meal solutions was soup… Don’t even think about soup from a can, they really aren’t good for you. Once or twice a week we made a huge batch of our own using a prepackaged beef stock (which is often salty and can be watered down), meats such as sausage, beef and chicken, and vegetables such as celery, green beans and mushrooms. The best thing is to add fresh chopped green onions and shredded cheese when you’re ready to eat it.

IMG_0643Exercise. I didn’t start working out until three months in to our program. Obviously, an important part of good health is exercise and physical activity. I started out going 3 to 5 times a week but my workouts only averaged 45 minutes to an hour on a regular basis. My goal was to get the exercise and begin to tone and build my flexibility, not build bulk. Especially when losing a large amount of weight in a relatively short period of time, toning your body is crucial. Excess fat stretches your skin so as you lose, you want to help firm up that body.

I’ve only been going to the gym about once or twice a week for the past month with my schedule but I’ve been getting my exercise through my daily routine at home and work.

FACT #5 You aren’t going to achieve your desired results through exercise alone.

I’ve watched friends become obsessed with the gym but do nothing about altering their diets. Though this may work for some people, it doesn’t for most of us. You need a good combination of healthy eating and exercise to see your desired results.

FACT #6 It’s okay to cheat.

Cheating is okay. Sometimes you find yourself with a craving or in a situation where you can’t stick to a strict diet. Just remember that cheating may set back your progress– but if it keeps you from giving up in the long run, it’s a good thing. I can actually name all the times I’ve cheated in the past six months. I had one piece of cake, pizza twice, a small helping of scalloped potatoes and two yeast rolls. (Spread out, of course, not all at once.)

The saving grace for my sweet tooth has been the Adkins Bars. They are available at most grocery stores and I’ve gotten the best prices at Target and Walmart. They have been my morning and afternoon meal replacements and my snacks. I average two to three of them a day. They are really delicious and the perfect solution to sugar cravings. You can’t really substitute other diet or energy bars. Most are extremely high in sugar and carbs.

IMG_0510FACT #7 Attitude and Determination are EVERYTHING!

I can’t stress enough how important it is that you are really ready and committed before you start any weight loss plan. If you go in to it halfheartedly, you’re going to fail. You can’t let yourself be discouraged during those periods when the results seem to be stagnate either. Stay committed. Stick to the course and you’ll see the results.

One of the reasons this diet has worked so well for me is that though I do have to watch what foods I eat, I don’t have to count calories, points or measure food portions. I’m not disciplined enough to track those things necessary to achieve results on those other diet plans. I can honestly say I have never been hungry or felt like I was depriving myself (or starving) on this diet. It’s overall, been a relatively easy path.

I feel better. I look better. I have more energy. What more can I ask for? I’m reminded everyday how much better I feel and how much easier it is to do simple tasks. I’m much more productive and I feel alive again!

LOVE YOURSELF! You’re worth it!

One more thing– Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. Yes, the drive thru or a sit down restaurant is easier. Once you get into the swing of preparing your meals at home (if you don’t normally), it just becomes part of your daily routine. The thought of it is more harsh than the actual cooking can be.

Final Results. Here are the final statistics from my six-month weight loss journey, on my road to better health:

My Weight Loss Update: 12/23/12:

IMG_0633Started: End of June 2012

Goal Date: December 25, 2012

Goal Weight: 185 lbs.

Starting Weight: 245 lbs.

Starting Waistline: 38″-40″

Starting Shirt Size: XXL

Current (Final) Weight: 178lbs.

Current Waistline: 30″

Current Shirt Size: MED.

Total Weight Lost: 67 lbs.

MeRow Blog

Green Christmas

IMG_0708Decorating for Christmas has always been a challenge here at my house. In order to do it right — I need to start in October. Trees in every window, lights outside– it’s a challenge but I love every minute of it.

As a kid, I was decorating my room as far back as I can remember– starting with an old silver tinsel tree that was a hand me down from an uncle. I’d swipe a few ornaments from the family tree, made ornaments with my grandma, and found bits of tinsel here and there to make things merry and bright. I’d even rescue live trees, carelessly discarded the day after Christmas, drag them home, sneak them in my room and decorate them all over again… sure to be on display until the needles dropped. One year I even tried to spray paint a long-dead Christmas icon, only to have the few remaining needles cascade on the floor.

When we became the proud owners of 321 Division Street, Christmas became an even bigger obsession. I spent hours and hours decorating– every year trying something new. There have been displays better than others and some years more conservative than over the top. Every year has been a new, highly anticipated challenge.

IMG_0692This year, Michael made me promise to go simple. Well, actually he said, “We ‘re not going to be home for Christmas this year so no need to decorate.” That was months ago– and halfheartedly agreed. EXCEPT… well, 1) It’s me. 2) It’s Christmas. 3) We don’t leave until Christmas morning.

Needless to say, the halls are decked and trees are twinkling.

IMG_0451The big difference this year? I went GREEN. Not the color, I went eco friendly with all LED lighting. The technology uses only a fraction of the energy (up to 90% savings) but comes with an initial price tag common to new technology. I’ve added a few stands of LED lights the past couple years and watched for pre and after Christmas sales allowing me to reach this point. One frustration: I’ve already noticed the quality of the light strings (the wire) aren’t any better than the traditional lights so I seriously doubt any of them will last the purported 20 years.

I found some color changing landscape lights that I focused on the house itself which adds tremendously to the atmosphere. It creates a big impact with little effort. I simplified the number of lights on the porch and found battery operated LED candles that come on are go off automatically after five hours, for all the windows. Everything else is on a remote for easy on/off on a nightly basis.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the look and the energy savings is certainly a plus.

Of course I’m already looking forward to next year– and pulling out all the stops.

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My First Annual Turkey Awards

I’m proud to present my 1st Annual Turkey Awards. (No offense to turkeys intended.) I noticed some other people were doing this, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon.

You know the people we’re talking about, right? The ones that say and do stupid things. They make bad and irresponsible decisions, violating the trust of the community.  And yes, I included businesses and groups because as we learned during the election (and apparently the Supreme Court agrees): Corporations are people.

Most of these are off the top of my head but I’m sure you can think of plenty of your own ‘turkeys‘ from the past year. (My list is in no particular order.)

John McCain for being the angriest, nastiest, most vindictive and dishonest man in politics this year.

The Entire Cable and Network News Media for disregarding unbiased reporting in favor of fear-based pandering.

Congress for not putting the best interest of the American people above their own special interests.

School District U-46 for putting cash over class. U-46 accepted a cash donation from a religious organization in exchange for priority use of the school district’s facilities. In one instance, giving them what they wanted pushed the BHS Fall Play out of its normal scheduled spot and shoved it in to the weekend before Thanksgiving. (There was more than a 50% drop in attendance with no classes the following week.) Contradicting it’s own written policies in the matter, U-46 put an outside group, not even based within the District’s boundaries, ahead of school programing.

All 2012 Political Campaigns for spending more than (an estimated) three billion dollars this campaign cycle. Imagine what could be done with that money to help our current economic situation and those in need.

The Obamacare Haters. Top Gobble Gobbles to John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s; Denny’s franchise owner John Metz; and Apple-Metro CEO Zane Tankel for public threats made in response to the Affordable Healthcare Act. Threatening to add surcharges, cut hours and lay-off employees is not the way to build public confidence with consumers or employees. (Especially if you pay most of your employees minimum wage and no benefits, while you live in a 4o,ooo sq. ft. castle estate.)

Black Friday/Black Thursday Businesses for forcing employees to work on the Thanksgiving holiday, taking them away from their families in the name of profit margin. I, for one, am boycotting any business opening before midnight tonight, for the entire holiday season.

Celebrities Behaving Badly. Take your pick. I think any person that enters the public arena has a responsibility to be a role model to others, particularly our youth. Unfortunately, instead of being chastised and sent off into oblivion, they are given even more publicity and air time.

So that’s my list for this year. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. To all those that have to work, I salute you! Best Wishes!