Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Running Story (Pt III): the Final Chapter

Thank you for sticking with this through to the end! For the first part of my running journey, start here; for part II, here.

We've now made it through my not running at all, to being forced to run in ROTC, to not running at all again, to hashing, to training for my very first half-marathon. This is where our story continues and comes to its eventual end (FINALLY!). Oh, and side note: if you just read Part I, you'll remember where, when running for ROTC, I absolutely couldn't breathe? And my superiors were all like "BLAH YOU SUCK KEEP RUNNING, NOT BREATHING IS NO EXCUSE!"? Well, as I went through my semester of my marathon-training class, I was diagnosed with slight asthma. SO THERE, stupid POCs. It wasn't just me being out-of-shape: I honestly COULD. NOT. BREATHE. (I still feel vindicated by this fact.)

The Lincoln Half took place on Sunday, May 6th, 2012: the day after I'd graduated from college. Needless to say, that was an incredibly busy, incredibly stressful weekend. My whole family, plus Colorado Mommy Jeanne and Devil/Ninja Fred (mentioned in Part I), plus our good friends the Murthas, had all signed up for the Half. On that Saturday (Graduation Day), everyone convened at the Johnson Guest House (my mom is way big on VRBOs) for a graduation party-slash-pasta feed. We had crockpot upon crockpot of marinara, meatballs, alfredo, meat sauce, and pesto to top our pasta, and my absolute favorite for the sides: two huge pans of Fazoli's buttery, garlicky, salty breadsticks. (Cute story about the crockpots: Mom pulled me aside as we were setting up and said, "Hey honey, we don't have enough crockpots to go around--can I borrow yours for one of the sauces?" I didn't own a crockpot, and I started to tell her so--until it dawned on me. SHE GOT ME MY VERY OWN CROCKPOT FOR A GRADUATION PRESENT, because she is the best mommy ever--and it's RED for the Huskers. Um yeah, go ahead and be jealous of my awsm mom.) We also had a keg of Boulevard Pale Ale, since my family has much better taste in beers than all y'all*. Although, since most of the people reading this blog are my friends/family, maybe we don't have better taste than all Y'ALL, but rather, compared to the average American populace.

*I know that for someone like me, who is absolutely crazy about grammar and punctuation, it must seem very strange for me to be using the word "y'all." Let me explain my stance. In German, there are words for "you" AND "you guys" (in both informal and formal constructions: "du" and "euch," informally; "Sie" and ...well, "Sie," formally). It Just. Makes. Sense. "Y'all" may be considered really tacky and lowbrow, but IT. MAKES. SENSE. It's a pain in the butt to say "you all" or "all of you people," or "youse guys" if you're from Brooklyn, when "y'all" works just as well. So there. As for "all y'all"--well, it means exactly what I need it to mean. Would you rather me say "All of you people who happen to be reading my blog," or "all y'all"? ...Well, at this point, the former would have actually saved you from reading a paragraph of rambling discourse on the topic of  "to y'all or not to y'all," so...nevermind.

The day of the Lincoln National Guard Marathon dawned...terribly. There was a HUGE mf-er of a storm: lightning, thunder, torrential rain--the whole nine yards--all night long, which kept waking me from my already-restless slumber. In said slumber, I was dreaming about the half-marathon itself, including that they had cancelled it due to the storm. When I kept waking up and realizing that it hadn't been cancelled, I was just that much more peeved, exhausted, and anxious. When the magic hour of way-too-fking-early arrived (also known in the military as "Oh-Dark-Hundred" [a reference to the 24-hour time system, where 7:00, for instance, is written as 0700 and said aloud as "oh-seven-hundred"--you're welcome]), I heaved myself out of bed and had a breakfast sammich and bandaged up my feet to avoid blisters (a futile attempt). The storm had stopped by this time, but it was still a tad drizzly and overcast. My carpool of Mom, Dad, Spud (little brother), and I think Colorado Mommy arrived and I clambered into the backseat. When we arrived at the drop-off zone, I suddenly realized that while I had remembered my hairband, my iPod, my bib, and my sunglasses, I'd forgotten my earband--essential, as my ears are super-sensitive to cold and will have me in tears in no time if left unprotected. I had a mini panic attack and Mom (who'd decided to sit the run out, due to injuries) told me to chill the heck out--she'd go get it for me. We walked a couple blocks across campus to the Port-a-Potty Plaza and stretched for a while (Mom returning in the interim with my earband) before convening at the starting line (or, y'know, the starting half-mile-of-solid-crowd). Dad was wayyy up near the front, and Spud and I around the 2:15 finish time pacer group. (Side note: Robin, my little brother, is known as "Spud" simply because when he was a baby, he looked like a potato. His other nickname, bestowed upon him by my uncles on my dad's side--the Clowers are less than sentimental--was "Chuck," as in "up." He has always been known as either "Spud" or "The Boy," with diminutives such as "Spudlet" or "Spudster" used as well. Since my phone recognizes him by his Facebook profile information, I have to pause pretty much any time I text him--"Crap, he's not Spud in here. What's his real name again? Derrrrrp." Love you, dorkpants.)

When the crowd started moving forward, I hit "play" on my iPod. For the past month, I'd been listening to Unbroken, the absolutely astounding story of Louie Zamperini (recommended by longtime friend Suzy--many thanks). For those of you unfamiliar with Zamperini, he was an Olympic track star who, as a bombardier in WWII, was shot down, stranded at sea--in shark-infested waters, no less--for over a month, and then captured and held in a series of brutal Japanese POW camps for years. I'd found that listening to audiobooks while running held my attention better than music did, and with a book as compelling as Unbroken, I was motivated to run even farther in order to hear what happened next. This book had the added benefit of making my running seem like a cakewalk compared to what Zamperini and his friends endured.
Tory: "Whiiiine, my feet hurt."
Narrator: "Zamperini had been held in a painfully small cell for such a long time that he was unable to walk. Since he had once come within sight of running a four-minute mile, it was a crushing blow for this once-Olympic athlete. He was also starved down to double-digits and used as a tool for Japanese propaganda, due to his celebrity. There were lots of other terrible things too, like cholera and working as slave labor and having batshit-insane guards with dangerous delusions of grandeur, and his family was told that he was dead even though he wasn't. Etc." [Roughly paraphrased.]
Tory: "....FIIIIINE, OKAYYYYYY, I guess I could maybe run a little more and it wouldn't kill me."

The very first thing that made me smile during the half-marathon was the sight of a little girl, no more than seven or so, holding a sign about half-a-mile up the street: "Do it for the mimosas." I LOVE YOU, LITTLE GIRL. Spud and I stayed together up until about Mile 5, where he then took off ahead and I slowed back, enjoying the strains of The Boss playing through a sound system on Sheridan Boulevard. Can you guess what song it was? Lemme give you a hint; it goes like this: "Huhhheh, we wuhhh buhhh uhhh ruhhhhhhhh!" ("Born to Run." I'm not a huge Springsteen fan.) I managed to run those first five entire miles without stopping--new personal best! (Remember, only six months earlier, I hadn't been able to run a single mile without stopping to walk!)

Mom met me around the Mile 6 marker with a gel-pack, which I slurped gratefully and continued on my "meh"-rry way. One of the cool things about the Lincoln Marathon is their pacing strategy: rather than having pacers who run every single mile at 10:20, for instance, the pacers instead plan to finish with a time of 2:15, which averages out to 10:20min/mile over the entire course of the race. This means that they may go faster on a long, open stretch, and a bit slower on an uphill climb. Makes it more tolerable. I was doing my best to stick around in between the 2:20 and 2:25 pacers. Boyfriend Spencer caught up with me around Mile 9 with another gel-pack, and my friends Amy and Jesse were waiting with a sign for me somewhere around Mile 10 or 11. (I was so tired at this point that I had a moment of "GAWWWD, why do they have to be here?! Now I have to expend energy by acknowledging their presence! I don't have the extra energy to wave and smile, geeeeeeeez!" Thanks though, guys.)

From about Mile 11 on, I would have a couple of seconds every few minutes where I'd think "ohmigawd, I might actually finish this, I'm running a half-marathon and I'm almost done," and I'd tear up and almost break down. I kept pounding it back down inside and telling myself, "you can bawl when you're done. Just FINISH and you can have a crying fit, but not until then."

As I came around the last straight-away heading into Memorial Stadium, where the run ends on the 50-yard line, I passed the 2:25 pacer and sprinted across the field. I bounded past three or four people and pulled across the finish line for a bib time of 2:27:00.

I almost look like an athlete here!

You may recognize this as my profile picture.

I instantly started sobbing. I was crying so hard I could hardly breathe (although this might have had something to do with the fact that I'd just sprinted the last 50 yards of a 13.1-mile race). I grabbed the medal that was being held out to me and staggered into the receiving area, where I grabbed a bottle of water and a bagel, then went to find the rest of my group. By the time I saw them ("them" being Dad, Spencer, Amy, and Jesse), I had calmed down; the second I reached them I started bawling anew and collapsed against Spencer. Dad asked tentatively, "It was that bad?"
I responded between sobs, "I can't believe I did it!"
"PHEW! I thought you were crying because you hated it, and I was upset because I'd hoped you'd enjoy yourself!"

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. Took a nap, ate leftover breadsticks and pasta, drank more beer. I was still overwhelmed and in a state of disbelief: in two days, I'd graduated college (with honors, just sayin') and ran a half-marathon. Beat that!

It caught me. I was a victim of running fever. Only a month later, I ran the Deadwood/Mickelson Trail Half-Marathon in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where I improved my "farthest-distance-without-stopping-to-walk": six straight miles; I'm currently training for my third (the Williams Route 66 Half-Marathon in Tulsa, taking place this November).

I did my best to wear all-clashing shades
of blue. Success! 

I'll have a future post about my current training plan, but I'll leave you with this: three years ago, I was 164 pounds and a size 10. I was unable to run even 100 yards. Now, I'm in the 130s, a size 6, and running anywhere from 5 to 25 miles a week. I've accrued a total of 235 miles run since the beginning of May (when I started tracking on MapMyRun), and I've gone through about six audiobooks in that time. I'm proud of myself, my hard work, and my accomplishments; needless to say, I'm thrilled that I finally inherited my dad's genetics for running. (I'm less-than-thrilled that I also inherited his propensity to sweat by the gallon.)

Thanks so much for sticking with me this whole time. I hope you enjoyed the story, and I dare to hope that maybe someone will be motivated by this. And always remember:

Source: unknown. If you know, tell me so I can credit it.
See ya later!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Running Story (Pt II)

Welcome back!

We will now continue with my saga of (not really) epic proportions, concerning all things related to running and my life. (For Part I, click here.) When we left off in Part I, I had just dropped out of Air Force ROTC at the very beginning of 2010. Now, for the next over-a-year, I did NOTHING sports-related. Nothing athletic, nothing nothing nothing at all. Well, actually, there was one moment in early December of 2010, when I received one of UNL's "N-nounce" email updates. (In related news, I will never lose my affinity for clever marketing/naming ploys.) This one in particular was notifying students of the Rec Center's spring semester Marathon/Half-Marathon Training Class. There was a (literal) split-second where my brain had enough time to think "Hey, maybe I cou--" before reality leapt shrieking into the void, laughing hysterically at my folly.

It wasn't until March of 2011 that I had a certain amount of lucidity. This eye-opening moment, when I finally realized running might be something I could possible enjoy, came about as a result of a queer ("queer" as in "weird," not "gay." Although mostly gay too. See: K. Delker, A. Barrier) activity called "hashing."

This was the "Stillwater Hash House
Harriers Halloween Homecoming Hash,"
or the "SHHHHHH"

Pictured: A. Barrier; gay.
Hashing, for those of you unacquainted with the sport, is most easily described as "drinkers with a running problem." (This is also the unofficial slogan for pretty much any hashing club in existence.) A hash constitutes of four major ingredients: the lead runner, or "hare"; the group who follows him, known as the "hounds"; flour; and booze. How do these all come together? Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. (Get it?! Get it?!?!)

More gay; a cute bumblebee (who now happens to be his wife,
I guess).

The hare plans out a trail--usually cross-country, and usually absolutely terrible (especially if my dad is the hare). This may very well include poison ivy, barbed wire, thorns, nettles, and pretty much anything else that could hurt you. The hare takes off ahead of the hounds, carrying a bag of flour. He then uses the flour to leave a trail of poofs of flour on the ground, known as "hashes" (Ah! The lightbulbs are starting to flicker on, I see!), which the hounds then follow. The objective is to catch the hare before the run is over. If this happens, the hare gets his leftover flour dumped all over him and is ridiculed for years to come.

The "chalk talk," where the various markings are explained.
The "unfortunate looking woman" in red is my dad.
This is a symbol meaning "true trail," which is
one of the few things on a hash which you can
actually trust.
 At various intervals throughout the run, the hounds may encounter refreshments: Schnapps Stops, or Tequila Stops, or [any type of alcohol] Stops, or "Beer Nears" (meaning, of course, that beer is nearby). The hounds must then partake of the beverages before continuing in their pursuit of the hare. The hare may try to lure the hounds off the trail by leaving false trails, or intersections that might not lead anywhere, or by hiding hashes behind posts or dirt piles or driveway curb-cuts (so as to be invisible when approached from one direction). The end result is something akin to a drunken treasure hunt in Sauconies, followed by many lewd and bawdy songs, and more drinking. And usually a firepit, and hot dogs and chili and other cook-out food, provided by the lovely wench of the manor (my mom). I say "wench" in the kindest of possible ways, Mom!

I'm not sure about the sanity of letting lots of drunken Air Force
officers (and idiot pilots) around fire, but hey, it's nice and warm.
You also get flour dumped on you when you get named, which
happens after you've run five hashes. The names are also usually
rude, lewd, and crude. Some goodies: Boy Scouter, Cornholio.
Back to the story: around St Patrick's Day of 2011, I took part in my very first hash. Over the years, I'd attended many of the "on after"s (the afterparty), since they took place in my family's backyard, literally directly outside of my bedroom window--but as hashing is a sport where drinking (while not required) is definitely encouraged, I'd opted to wait until I was at least no longer 14 and eating queso with college seniors, most of whom did not treat me any differently despite the age gap (so many repressed memories. See again: K. Delker. He is a life-ruiner). Anyway, I ran that hash in March of 2011, and my thought process went something like this: "Man, running sucks. Boy, am I out of breath. Ewww, Guinness Stop. [gulp] Yay booze! Running is maybe not so bad! I'm chatting with some friends! I'm following a treasure trail! GodDAMN it's cold. GREEN BEER? NO WAI! [more gulps] Yay booze! Black Velvet Stop? What's Black Velvet? [answer: champagne mixed with Guinness] Ooh, I LOVE champagne! [further gulps] Yay running and booze! Mostly booze! Booze with running!" [trip, fall]

After the on-after. It was COLD! I'm front center; Mom is behind
me on my right; Dad is the orange hat in the background that's
started drinking again. 
All of a sudden, running maybe wasn't the worst thing in the world. One month later, I participated in a fun-run 5K put together by the Honey Badger Racing Team (a group of friends of mine, who mostly happen to be siblings and cousins of one another):

I'm second from the left; I'd ventured into the realm of
something-other-than-blonde hair for a few months.
My good friend Duff and I, doing a slow-
motion dramatic run-up to the finish line.
But then I didn't do anything else, again, until the subsequent autumn. I honestly cannot tell you what finally changed my mind, but I all of a sudden actually started going to the Rec. I'd paid my student fees for it for two years already and taken NO advantage of that investment. (Plus I found out that all of the treadmills had TVs attached, soooo...that helped.) When I started, I wasn't even able to run a mile without stopping to walk. Remember, I couldn't run! I would never run! Running was way beyond my physical capabilities!

This time, I was actually at the Rec when the first posters went up advertising the Marathon/Half-Marathon Training Class, and I was signed up before the N-nounce even went out to the student general population. (This was actually one of the first times I realized how much of an "adult," relatively speaking, I'd become: my parents offered to pay the $100 class fee, as well as buy me a new pair of running shoes, for my Christmas present that year--and I was overjoyed. When you finally start getting excited about receiving clothes and shoes and stuff for Christmas...congratulations, you're all grown up.)

That $100 was the best present I've ever gotten. The once-a-week class covered a wide array of topics, from what to eat, to how to stretch, to the physiology and psychology of running. The $100 included not only the class, but also a "run analysis" with a member of the Physical Therapy department, where they film you running and give you tips on how to better your form (usually $100 itself, I believe); access to the Rec's PT staff; a training plan special-tailored for you and your abilities (or lack thereof); a thrice-weekly Yoga for Athletes class; and featured speakers to talk about nutrition, massage, and lots of other things. Probably the biggest way I benefited from the class was just that: it was a class. I had to go once a week. It wasn't for credit, but the over-achiever in me knew better: it helped me stay focused, even when the Lincoln National Guard Half-Marathon was months and months away.

I gradually increased my mileage, stamina, and speed over the spring semester of 2012. At the end of March, I ran my longest distance yet: the 10-mile State Farm Run. I finished with a time of 2:02:50, which was just over my hoped-for goal of 12:00 min/miles, and promptly collapsed on the grass just to the east of the finish line. When I finally got up the strength to make it inside for some orange slices and a cup of water, the lady in front of me in line turned around and said, "I saw you finish, and thought 'Boy, it looks like she really pushed herself!' Nice job!" That made it all worthwhile. (But sheesh, don't get me started on the lack of water stops on that run, or the fact that it was just 5 miles out, 5 miles back, or the fact that it didn't start til 9, so I didn't finish until past 11, and even though it was still March, it was quite warm by then. But yeah, worthwhile.)


Okay, I hate to prolong this to another post (kidding about the "hate this" part! This way, I still have something to write about!), but I'm going to prolong this to another post. Run, Tory, Run: the Spellbinding Conclusion will be appearing soon on a computer screen near you.

Bis dann! (That's pronounced exactly the way it sounds, although just to clarify, the 'a' in "dann" is a long 'a'. "Dann" sounds like "dahn," and the phrase "bis dann" simply means "until then"!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Running Story (Pt I)

Currently, I'm typing this post while sitting on the floor of my living room because I'm too sweaty and smelly to even THINK of touching any furniture. I just got back home after a morning of working out: I ran 5.86 miles from home up to UNL campus, where I met my girlfriend Kelsey for a couple hours at the Rec Center. We then got coffee and split a pumpkin bagel at Panera (holy god, those bagels are INCREDIBLLLLLE). As I was sitting here, realizing that I really need to wash my iPod armband because eeewwwww, it smells worse than I do, I thought: Why don't I share my running story with my (scant) readership? Which leads us to this post.

Um, the armband is supposed to be black. You see all those
white smudges? Yeah, that'd be sweat. Eurgh.
Krieg is all like "omfg it smells so bad, lemme sit here and
lick it, nommmmm salt."
Where to begin? I guess with my dad. My dad is a runner. He has been a runner since (slightly) before I was born. When he and my mom were newly married, they lived in southern California, where they had a lot of friends who were also DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), a lot of good beer, and a lot of good food. Many fun partytimes were had. (One of the best stories about said partytimes involved a long weekend of boozery, followed by a friend realizing she was pregnant, prompting the unforgettable line: "Oh my god, I've pickled my baby!" Weird thing is, the "pickled" baby turned out to be the most normal of their three children.)  

"One day," as Dad always tells the story, "I looked down at the scale and realized, 'I'm gonna either have to start running, or give up beer,'...and I've been running ever since."

How much has he been running ever since? Try a minimum of 1,000 miles per year, every year for the last TWENTY-TWO YEARS. Yep, that's my entire lifetime.

With that in my genes, it definitely makes sense that I'm a runner. However, the story of how I got there is definitely not that simple. I never ever ever ran--like, ever--for the vast majority of my life. During a brief stint in high school when I actually was in some semblance of physical shape, I could walk fairly quickly, but the second I picked up both of my feet at the same time, I was gasping and panting and wheezing all over the place. I very clearly remember telling my mom when I was in 11th grade or so, "I can walk fast, but I'll never be able to run."

Fast-forward two years. I'd just finished my year as an exchange student in Germany and returned to the US thirty pounds heavier (for that whole story, check out this post), with about six weeks to go until I began Air Force ROTC on a full-ride scholarship: depending, that is, on my ability to pass the PFT (Physical Fitness Test). The week or so after I touched back down stateside, my family took a trip to Red River, NM, to meet up with some longtime friends. The Slanes, who are [one of] my adoptive families (a military upbringing means that friends are friends FOR LIFE, and after all, "Friends are the family you choose for yourself"), include Jeanne, my "Colorado Mommy," (for whom I serve as a surrogate daughter, since she was cursed with three [very handsome] boys) and Fred...the devil incarnate. Or at least that's the way I felt at the time. 

The PFT at the time involved push-ups, sit-ups, a measurement of waist circumference, and a 1.5 mile run. Remember above, where I said "I never ever ever ran"? Uh-huh. That 1.5 mile run was the thorn in my paw; the ants in my sandwich; the skunk in my living room. I did my best to just forget that it was a thing. Classic head-in-the-sand approach (coincidentally, did you know that the whole ostrich-burying-their-heads-in-the-sand thing in a myth?), and of course it didn't work. I needed to improve my running ability, and FAST. Enter Fred. Fred is a ninja and a solid mass of muscle, basically. Fred decided that he was going to be my personal trainer. Fred pushed me and yelled at me and told me that "it doesn't matter if you cry as long as you keep going." Therefore, Fred made me run while I cried on the side of the road (true story). Let's just leave it at that. Running was, for me, a form of torture. Of course, his help was invaluable, but it felt pretty miserable then.

When I started ROTC, ....ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I won't say it's a boys' club, but I definitely got looked down on and ignored because I couldn't keep up with everyone else during PT (physical training) sessions. Even in the classroom or during group activities, I'd be ignored even though (shameless self-brag) I was one of the smartest, most confident cadets--all because the assumption was made that "She can't run, so obviously she's mentally inferior too."  It didn't help that my superiors' version of "encouragement" was to simply yell at me, while I was walking along the track, gasping and wheezing, with my hands over my head (can't say as though I believe it helps you catch your breath much, but at least then I was forced to stretch out my torso, instead of collapsing over on myself and further squooshing the breath out of me), "CADET CLOWER! If you stop running, it's just that much harder to start again!" 
Cadet Clower [lightheaded, spots in her vision, lungs feeling like they're about the size of your average hummingbird egg]: "HEEE-HUHNNN, HEE-HUHHHHN, sir, HEE-HUHHHH, I--can't--breathe--HEEEEEEEEE-HUHHHHHHNNN--" [stagger, trip]
Angry upperclassman: "You won't get any better at running by WALKING, Cadet!!!"
Clower: [falls over like Liz Lemon, barfs, passes out, suffocates, makes everyone regret being so unfair to her]

I did end up passing the PFT (by a hair), not that it mattered much, since I quit ROTC at the end of my first semester. Let's keep that story short: suffice to say, I'm way too stubborn to tolerate hardly any level of bullshit (pardon my French), and that detachment could've easily been a stockyard. The stubbornness is something I also inherited from Dad, along with a very finely developed sense of right vs. wrong. Those two traits rarely result in any kind of productivity, and I'm sometimes terrified that I'm going to turn into Lois from "Malcolm in the Middle"--if I am in the right, it's like taking candy from a baby (in the REAL sense): you ain't ever gonna pry my fingers from my stance, and I WILL bite you.


You know what? I think I'm going to pause here, and finish up my story in another post. (I still really need to shower, and I'm honestly kind of nauseating myself with the smell right now. TMI.) Tune in next time for the stunning conclusion of The Tory Clower Story: The True Story of One Girl's Journey from Lazy and Kinda Out-of-Shape to Slightly Less Lazy and Marginally More In-Shape (subtitle: CLOWER POWER, or Running (wo)Man). 

See ya next time!

Monday, September 17, 2012

In which I start off with a recipe for a warm beverage, but then start talking about Germany instead.

I woke up this morning and internally groaned: it's a gloomy, grey, off-and-on drizzly day. I still got up and went for a short run  (a mile out; a mile back--working on my speed), though, and was surprised that it wasn't as cold as it looked. ...Two hours later was a different story. COLD. WINDY. TERRIBLE. (I really don't like the colder seasons.)

The one plus side to cold weather? Hot drinks! Hot chocolate, hot apple cider, chai lattes, coffee, and most importantly, Glühwein. Approximately pronounced "Gloo-vine," "Glühwein" is German for hot mulled wine, and a staple of Weihnachtsmärkten (Christmas markets, pronounced "Vi-nokts-mare-kten") throughout the desolate winter months. No, seriously, Germany's winters are brutal. During my year as an exchange student, I put away my sunglasses--like, in the closet-put-away--in OCTOBER, and literally did not need them again until Easter. Germany's on the same latitude as Seattle, and the grey misery is exactly the same. For months, I would leave for school in the dark and return home in the dark. One morning, I expressly paid attention to the time when the sun really seemed to have dawned: 8:20 a.m., before I could even classify it as "daybreak." Sunset was about 4:30 p.m. Thus was the impetus of my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Ugh.

Anyway, when I left work this morning, I knew I needed a pit stop to stock up on my hot chocolate stores. I've used the Diet Swiss Miss packets in the past, which are pretty chocolatey, but don't mix very well into hot water and get weird and clumpy, so I decided to try something new. I settled on the Nestle Fat Free, and I was not disappointed! It calculated out to 1 PPV per packet...but I found that it's really more like 1/2 PPV per packet, as two packets are still only 1 PPV, three packets are 2 PPV, and four packets are 2 PPV too. Weight Watchers Math (c): Where 1 + 1 doesn't always = 2! (tm)

Although I came in expressly for hot chocolate and bananas, I made the mistake of shopping on an empty stomach, and a large number of other delicious drink mixes constituted the rest of the hot chocolate aisle. I was looking at all of the nummy Maxwell House International Cafe mixes, which include things like Vanilla Latte, Mocha, Hazelnut, and so on. I checked the nutritional info on the box of Chai Latte and it was a little higher than I was hoping; for 4 tsp of mix, it was 2 PPV. If I'm going to be drinking my PointsPlus values, I'd rather they be alcoholic! I still really wanted some chai mix, so I got it anyway and brought it home, leading me to my newest delectable discovery:

Hot Chaicolate!

I mixed up a packet of hot chocolate into boiling water (provided by the wonderful hot-water pot my mom gave me for Xmas a couple years ago) and added 2 tsp of the chai mix for a total cup of 2 PPV. Chocolatey with just a little bit of spice, I was tickled pink. However, I think it would probably work with just 1 tsp of chai in order to keep the drink down to 1 PPV. I'll keep you posted.

Om nom.
The mug is from Spencer and my's Xmas trip to Germany last winter, where we visited a total of (at least) 10 Weihnachtsmärkten all the way from the south to the north. Each Christmas market has its own mug, and when you order a mug of Glühwein, you pay a 1 or 2 Euro deposit; you're then free to either return the mug for your money back, or keep the mug as a souvenir. We managed to transport one mug from each market all the way back home and didn't break a single one!

This mug is from Nürnberg (Nuremberg), which happened to be our favorite stop by far. (Click to enlarge any pictures.)

This is an accordion-playing Santa. He called his dog
"Rudolph" as I was taking my pictures.

Translates to "Nuremberg's Children's Christmas"

A little river runs through town. 
Well, Nürnberg was our favorite besides spending Christmas with my German family in Bad Homburg, a city about 20 klicks from Frankfurt. There were many reasons for loving Nürnberg, but the biggest was probably because our hotel was AWESOME. We stayed at a Mercure, which was super-ultra-modern:

Yes, that is a see-through shower and a
burnt-orange bathroom.
Another view of the see-through shower.
The most awesome thing about our hotel? As soon as we walked up to the reception desk in order to check in, we were offered a complimentary cup of Glühwein, straight from a Crock-Pot sitting on the counter. THANK YOU, MERCURE!!!

OMFG free booze.
We also really liked that Nürnberg's signature Glühwein is a blueberry wine, which is a bit sweeter and less wine-tasting than your average Glühwein. After puttering around the Markt for a while--eating lots and lots of wurst, chocolate-covered fruit, giant soft pretzels, and other delicacies--we walked up to the castle which sits in the middle of town on a hill (rather like Salzburg, Austria, but not as big). 

Photo via; this will at least give you somewhat
of a view of how the castle on the hill looks during the day.

View from the castle's hill (castle was under construction; no
pretty pictures) of the rest of the old town. Excuse the
somewhat blurry picture; it was raining (IN GERMANY?
NO WAY!) and windy and dark.

Awright! Hope you've enjoyed this recipe and mini-travelogue; I know I've enjoyed looking at these pictures again. Happy beveraging!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Where I say every synonym for "delicious" at least once, and also ramble a lot.

I'm baaack! I know it's been quite a while, but I've been busy and couldn't think if any topics that'd be interesting enough for y'all to read: but I finally did!

Those of you who know me know that I'm a Weight Watchers leader. Those of you who don't know me: I'm a Weight Watchers leader. There, now we're all caught up. Oh, you want more information than that? FIIIIINE. Here you go.

 I joined WW in July of 2009, upon returning from an exchange year to Germany with more than the requisite "Freshman Fifteen"--mine was the "Beer and Chocolate Thirty."

That Diet Mt Dew didn't really counteract the damage.
My second day back stateside, my mom (who is a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, meaning that she achieved her weight loss goal and then went through a six-week maintenance period) dragged me, KICKING AND SCREAMING, to a WW meeting. It was a necessary evil: at the time, I was about to start Air Force ROTC on a full-ride scholarship, for which being in good shape was a major requirement. Over the next eight months, I lost about fifteen pounds for my initial goal, then started working as a receptionist immediately after achieving Lifetime status. From March 2010 to April 2011, I gradually lost another fifteen pounds for a total weight loss of 30 pounds. In December 2011, I went to Leader Training in Chicago, making me a Weight Watchers Leader!

Confession: I've never been very good at tracking. Portion control and paying attention to hunger cues (or lack thereof!) were what helped me lose my first fifteen to twenty pounds or so (that, coupled with my freshman year "Hangover Diet"--Step 1: get drunk. Step 2: REALLY drunk. Step 3: go to bed. Step 4: be hungover all day and not want to eat anything. Step 5: Repeat. This works great, since with nothing in your stomach after being hungover all day, the process is expedited exponentially each consecutive day!*), but tracking has gradually become something that I realize HAS to be done in order to get the results I want.

*Disclaimer: Results not typical. Possible side effects include headaches, nausea, dizziness, exhaustion, dehydration, bitchiness, poor decisions, walks of shame, memory loss, and skipping classes. Serious side effects may include nasty rumors, bad grades, and a lowered GPA. Talk to your of-age booze supplier for more information and to find out whether the Hangover Diet is right for you.**

**Double disclaimer: I am not encouraging underage drinking or suggesting that it is by any means glamorous and/or cool. I'm just saying that if you can get married and/or join the military to die for your country, you should damn well be able to have a glass of beer if you want one. Also, drinking makes you popular and people will like you more if you drink. As long as you don't drink light beer.

With all of this in mind, here are my newest favorite foods and meals, all of which are PointsPlus value-bargains!

1) Unsweetened almond milk
Okay, I never in a million years thought that I'd like almond milk. That's something that hippies drink. What's wrong with good ol' American cows? Besides, almonds don't HAVE milk. That's like the banana juice that Germans drink: Bananas are not juicy. Where the heck is this "juice" coming from--what IS it? (Answer: Soylent banana juice is people.) HANYWAY. I finally tried almond milk after finding out that a cup of unsweetened almond milk has half the PointsPlus values of regular skim cow-juice (1 PPV/cup, as opposed to 2/cup--but make sure it's UNSWEETENED almond milk), and 50% more calcium.

My brand of choice, although I've found that Hy-Vee's
generic brand (if you live in the Midwest) is just as good.

The main difference I've noticed between skim and almond milk is that almond milk is thicker. I'm wayyyyy used to the watery consistency of skim (been drinkin' it since birth, practically), so drinking a liquid that actively clings to the glass--nevermind how lightly--still weirds me out a little bit. However, I still have yet to drink a glass of it straight: I've just been using it in my cereal, smoothies, and baking.

If you're still feeling trepidatious (HA! I got a red squiggle under that word, and KNEW it was spelt correctly--turns out Google spellcheck doesn't realize it's a word. BOOM for being eruditer than Google), I'd suggest trying the vanilla flavored kind first. It's a good way to ease into a new, scary form of juice-that-comes-from-things-that-aren't-juicy.

2) Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Caramel Nut cereal
Maybe more than one word, in retrospect.

Plus, the box is hilarious. Read the back of it
the next time you're at the store.
Okay, like I was saying, zomfg roflmao wtf. Further Internet acronyms. (Side note: the word "Internet" is still classified as a PROPER NOUN. Please alert the web's grammar police, because everyone seems to be forgetting that rule. According to Wikipedia, most of the people who have stopped writing it as such are people outside of North America--Brits and Ozzies and the like. Yet another reason why we're better than everyone else. USA! USA! USA!)

This cereal is truly wow-worthy. It tastes exactly like its name would suggest: like caramel, and nuts. So much delicious. For a serving size of 3/4 cup (31g), it's only 3 PPV. Not bad, for how flavorful it is!

1) + 2) =
3) Tory's Fruit 'n' Cereal Bowl
Can I say "nom" again, or am I wearing it out? Whatever the state of noms, this breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack is delish. I simply cut up a banana (or two) and a peach (or nectarine--whatever I have on hand) into a cereal bowl, then add my serving of Crunchy Caramel Nut (31g of flakes goes a LONG way) and a cup of unsweetened almond milk. Voila! Ginormous bowl of yumtastic-ness for only 4 PPV.

(I would put a picture right here, but I usually snarf too fast to take a picture of this treat. Maybe I'll remember tomorrow.)

Yay! Finally remembered. Here's the famed
Fruit 'n' Cereal Bowl.

Th-th-th-that's all, folks! Tune in next time to read all about my obsession with peanut butter, interspersed with probably some ranting about the state of food allergies these days. See you then!