Dec 31, 2011

A Surprise at Taco Bell

So normally at Taco Bell I get the steak taquito with no cheddar cheese, meaning it's just the meat & the tortilla. Being a picky eater, that's how I like it.

The other day I go to Taco Bell, order Christy's stuff and then order my taquito. The girl behind the counter informs me they've redone their menu and no longer offer the taquito... What?!? Why do places do that? They get something good on the menu and then mess around with it. (Update: They still will sell you taquito... they just don't list it on their menu)

But, I've still got options. They have a steak taco, but it's less convenient to order. With the taquito I could just say no cheese. With the taco I have to say no cheese, no lettuce, no tomatoes and no avocado ranch sauce. This makes it four times more likely that they'll mess up my order. I don't even bother with doing the drive through at fast food places any more. They always goof up the order and I have to go inside anyway.

But, none of this has anything to do with what my surprise was. It's been so long since I've ordered the steak taco, I had to go to Taco Bell's website to see what all is on the taco so I can be sure and list everything they need to not put on it. While on their website, I noticed they have a nutrition calculator. It allows you to build a customized meal and it'll adjust the calories for what you add or subtract.

So I started looking at the side items I get at Taco Bell. I plugged in Cinnamon Twists and learned that they have 170 calories. That's not too bad compared to 230 calories for a small fries from McDonalds, 380 calories for a medium fries and 500 calories for a large fries.

But my big surprise was when I looked at Taco Bells nachos, the ones that come in the little bag with a little container of cheese sauce. I don't do the cheese, but I like the chips. I was figuring that the chips would have less calories that the cinnamon twists since the cinnamon twists have a cinnamon and sugar coating. In fact, I've always kinda considered the cinnamon twist a dessert item.

I was shocked that compared to the 170 calories in the twists, just the nacho chips have 230 calories! I was able to save 60 calories by going with the cinnamon twists over the chips.

While typing this post, I see that McDonald's also has a food calculator. These are pretty handy tools to see exactly how many calories you are getting and where they come from. For example, eliminating the Big Mac sauce from your Big Mac will save you 110 calories. The BBQ sauce for the nuggets carry 50 calories for each little container.

Bottom line: we typically underestimate the calories we are consuming. The only way to really know is to do the research. Oh, and don't be afraid to think outside the bun...

Dec 29, 2011

The Journey: Am I Up To This?

One of the blogs I follow is "11 Points." His humorous, sometimes off-color posts are full of useless trivia which are like candy to the brain. I didn't realize it, but the author has been on a Journey of his own. He talks about it here... I'd suggest reading it first before continuing on with my post.

When I decided to cut out soda, I did it 100%. I knew if I just tried to cut back it would lead to an epic failure. In the same way, the author of the blog made a 100% commitment to work out every day in 2011. He knew if he said he'd work out "most" days that he'd compromise one day at a time and before long he'd find he hadn't exercised in months. Which is EXACTLY what I've done over the last 6 months. It's so easy skip a day, promising yourself that you'll hit it hard tomorrow. Only tomorrow never comes...

So, after reading his post, I'm contemplating doing the same thing he did: commit that in 2012 I will exercise everyday. But I'm hesitant... And in the spirit of the original blog, I'll list the 11 reasons why I'm hesitant:
  1. Am I too late? When I made the commitment to stop drinking soda, I gave myself a month and a half to prepare mentally. Every time I had a soda between early February and late March I was reminding myself that soon I'd be quitting. It was part of the process of retraining my thinking. If I make this new commitment, I've got just a couple of days to prepare.
  2. It's not going to be convenient. Something like this never is. 
  3. What if I fail and don't make it the whole year? Do I really want to add another dismal failure onto the pile of failure that is my life?
  4. If I do miss one day, will I have intestinal fortitude to go the next day since I would've already broken the streak?
  5. What if I do go at it this hard and still see no results?
  6. Is it wise in regards to health to exercise every day? I've seen studies that show your body needs periods of rest. Even God took it easy on the seventh day...
  7. If I don't do this am I ever going to get some of this weight off?
  8. What other demands on my time will I have to ignore to make this happen?
  9. Why did I say I'd have 11 reasons? I'm starting to run out of things... How can I commit to a year of exercise when I can't even complete an 11 point list?
  10. Going to the gym is pretty boring... Can I figure out a way to make it more engaging?
  11. What if I fail... Yes, I know I've listed this twice, but it's a pretty big concern. Outside of my marriage & my walk with God, I've managed to mess things up pretty good lately.

So... Am I going to do it? I don't know. I've got three more days to decide. I'll let you know what I come up with. Unless I fail at that too...

Dec 25, 2011

My Family Christmas Letter

I've been a little remiss in my blogging duties... So I thought I'd put up our family Christmas letter for your reading enjoyment.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!

So you may’ve notice that this Christmas letter has come to you after Christmas. You might be assuming this is an indication of laziness or procrastination. Well, you’d be wrong. You see, by the time you get this, Christmas will just be a memory. The stores will already be onto Valentines day stuff. The last of the leftovers will be molding in the back of the fridge. The tree will be mulch. But, by us sending our Christmas cards & this letter out now, we are helping you keep the spirit of Christmas alive for a few days extra. You’re welcome...

We pray that this letter finds you healthy & whole. As much as we love living in Alaska, it’s hard being away from family.

So, here is an update on what has been going on in our lives in 2011. We’ve been in our new house for two years now. We had gutters put on this summer & next summer we’ll have to get a yard put in. We are the last home on the block without grass. Luckily the house next to us has an old travel-trailer half tore apart in the yard, so we are not the most ghetto-looking place on the block.

Christy’s work has remained very busy. In addition to being bookkeeper, she is now the store manager and for the most part in charge of the whole company. It’s been a big challenge, but she’s making great strides to keep everything going. She works at Builders Bargains and they sell cabinets, countertops & wood floor. They offer a high end product at a low price.

Todd is still working at Alaska Air Balancing. He’s been there 2 1/2 years and has finally started to understand what “air balancing” is. Mechanical engineers design the heating & ventilation system for commercial buildings & mechanical contractors install these systems. Then balancers come in and measure & adjust the heating & ventilation system so they function as they were designed. Alaska Air Balancing is the only firm in the state of Alaska that are qualified to do what they do, so their 10 field technicians stay pretty busy. Todd works in the office doing the job bidding and getting the paperwork set up for the field technicians.

The highlight of our year was our first ever trip to Hawaii. We spent two days on Oahu, staying in Waikiki Beach, and then 7 days on Kauai. It was a great trip. We climbed to the top of Diamond Head, went snorkeling and spent time on the beach. At the end of the trip, Christy didn’t want to leave. Neither did Todd, but that’s only because he had sunburned his feet so bad he couldn’t walk.

The biggest change this year was our resignation from Wasilla Assembly of God. Todd had been there almost 16 years & for Christy it’s about the only church she’s ever know, having been there 23 years. It was an incredibly hard decision to make, but it was just time for a change. After the first of the year we’ll begin the hunt for a new church to attend here locally.

Back in 2010 we both started a journey to begin to lose weight. We cut out soda & focused more on what we were eating. In February we joined a gym and really saw some great results. We knew our trip to Hawaii was coming up and that gave us the motivation to hit it hard. Todd lost 55 pounds and Christy got to her lowest weight in years. After getting back from Hawaii, things haven’t gone as well. Between Christy being overwhelmed at work, Todd’s feet being fried to a crisp for a month and the stress of making the decision to step away from Wasilla Assembly of God we lost our momentum. But we haven’t given up. You can follow Todd’s journey at his blog,

For Thanksgiving we snuck off to Oregon & surprised the family there. We got to meet our five new nephews & nieces: Trenton, Averee, Anna, Elijah and Esther and get reacquainted with Trent, Trevor & Levi. It was great to see a good portion of the family again. We are trying to put together another quick trip down over Memorial Day weekend.

The rest of our year was spent enjoying time with friends & family, relaxing at home and geocaching along the trails and in the wilderness of Alaska.

We are thankful to God for His provision & protection this year. We know that what ever is ahead of us, He will guide us and walk us through. We remember this Christmas season the ultimate gift that was given: Jesus Christ as our savior & lord; for the forgiveness of our sins & shortcomings.

We love & miss all of you.

~Todd & Christy

Dec 11, 2011

Dark Chocolate

We all know how it works with Hershey's Miniatures...You buy a bag and dump them in a bowl. The Krackel & Mr. Goodbars go first, and then the regular milk chocolate. Now you are left with a dozen or so of the dark chocolate bars that linger in the bowl for the next two weeks until you either throw them out or eat them in a fit of self-loathing.

I've always assumed that I didn't like dark chocolate. But that's because I've only ever had the Hershey's dark chocolate. All of that has changed.

On our recent trip over Thanksgiving to visit family in Oregon, we took a couple of days & drove over to the eastern part of the state to visit some good friends that live in Milton-Freewater. It's a little town just south of Walla Walla, Washington.

In our room where we'd staying for the night, they put together a little welcome basket, full of all kinds of delicious snacks. Among the items was a bar of Dove dark chocolate. Now, I'm familiar with Dove chocolates. As I've been on the Journey I've develop some tricks to help along the way. To keep me from binging and devouring a whole candy bar, I keep some of the little foil wrapped squares of Dove chocolate in my desk. When I'm craving some sweet, sweet sugar, I'll slowly eat one of them, one little bite at a time. And since chocolate makes me thirsty, one little square eaten over time will cause me to drink a liter of water. Drinking lots of water is a big key to weight loss, so it all works together.

At some point that evening I was hungrin' for something sweet, so out of desperation, I tore into the dark chocolate. And while it wasn't as good as milk chocolate, it was good. It was definitely way better than the Hershey's dark chocolate.

I feel like I've discovered a whole new world. I went to my local mega-mart and got some of the Ghirardelli 60% Cacao dark chocolate. It's pretty tasty! Because the flavor is still a little bitter, just one little bite causes me to drink a lot of water & satisfies the sweet tooth for quite a while. This one 3.5 ounce bar has lasted me all week That works out to about 95 calories a day, which is equivalent to about half a candy bar. And who ever eats just half a candy bar?

So over time, as I can afford it, I'm on a mission to try out some the other dark chocolate options in the candy aisle. Hershey's will not be among the candidates...

Dec 6, 2011

The Journey: HCG Diet

I'm back from my trip to Oregon & I've got a couple of different posts in mind to do, but I'm short on time...

However, I saw this in the news & thought it was worth passing on. The HCG diet is the current fad out there. It's not cheap, and now the FDA says that their claims are illegal and dangerous.

This post from Scott Hensley at NPR lays out the details.Here are the highlights:

HCG is a natural hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy. A prescription-strength version is given by injection as a part of fertility treatment.
But companies that sell the stuff in drops, sprays and pellets without a prescription claim it can recalibrate the body's metabolism, the FDA says. A dieter is supposed to take HCG to help curb cravings while adhering to an extremely low-calorie diet of, say, 500 calories a day. Stick with that and you're supposed to lose a pound a day.

 "These products are marketed with incredible claims and people think that if they're losing weight, HCG must be working," Elizabeth Miller, acting director of FDA's Division of Non-Prescription Drugs and Health Fraud, says in a statement. But there's absolutely no proof of that, the agency says. "Any loss is from severe calorie restriction. Not from the HCG."

Aside from the issues with HCG, the FDA says a 500-calorie diet by itself is pretty risky. You can get gallstones and develop other health problems from such severe restrictions on what you eat.

MSNBC also had an article on it here...

Bottom line: There's no shortcut to weight loss other than proper diet & exercise. Which really sucks...

Dec 1, 2011

Oregon for Thanksgiving

We decided to surprise my parents by showing up unannounced in Oregon for Thanksgiving. We flew the red eye flight and got to Portland at 6am Thanksgiving morning. After grabbing breakfast we woke mom up to let us in the house. She was shocked but happy to see us.

Because of everyone's travel & work schedule, we did our Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. There was over 20 of the family there. I got to see both of my grandmothers and all of my nephew & nieces. I had 2 nephews & 3 nieces that I had never met before. It's been 3 years since we've been down here. It was really good to connect with everyone. The one regret I have for living in Alaska is that I'm so far from the rest of family.

We'll be spending a total of 10 days here. We are spending time with my parents & getting some shopping down. We also took a couple of days to drive across the state to Milton-Freewater to see some friends who have moved there from Alaska. It was an incredible drive over & back along the Columbia River. And it was even better to spend a little time with some incredible people who we miss very much. I was going to include some pictures of the drive, but they are on another computer & I'm too lazy to get up...

The Journey will resume when I return home. The complete lack of results in the last month do not give me much motivation, but I can't give up... My goal a few months ago was to be back down to 315 for this trip. That was my weight before I lost momentum back in May. I completely failed on that goal. I was also wanting to be 299 by the end of the year. That's not going to happen either. I also wanted to be 271 by March 24th, 2012, which would be 100 pounds lost in 2 years. That goal *might* be doable if my body will start responding to the exercise.

I just remember I could grab the pictures off of facebook:

The mighty Columbia River

Mount Hood

Multnomah Falls

Our rental car. I've had it up to 108 MPH so far...

A recreation of Stonehedge built in 1918 as a WW I memorial

The vineyards behind where we stayed in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.

We saw hundreds of these wind turbines on the drive.