Stressed spelled backwards is desserts (and diet is a four-letter word)

I have put on a few pounds in the past few years. More than 30 pounds, actually. It was so easy, so subtle, so excusable, that I barely noticed. No, truth be told, I did notice. I was just in denial.

One day (and one pound) at a time.

One day (and one pound) at a time.

I love sweets. I don’t really have a favorite, either. I love them all. There is definitely a cookie I would not eat. And ice cream. Oh, I love ice cream. And cake, and brownies, and chocolate. I could go on and on, but I’m making myself crazy.

After my second daughter was born, I weighed in just under 200 pounds. I didn’t lose any, either.  I loved the Ding Dongs too much. I eventually lost some of the weight, but then I just gained it back when I became pregnant with my third daughter 18 months later.

It took me years to finally reached that magic number I was comfortable with. At one time, I was able to fit into size 10 jeans. But only briefly. I settled into a 12, where I stayed for more than 10 years. Then I met Jeff, who I am not blaming for my weight gain. I just decided he fed me too well.

This past January at work, we were asked we wanted to participate in the Live Well Challenge.  I didn’t need the pressure of the possibility that I would fail at yet another “diet,” (at last count, there were at least 5 of them). But I needed to do something.  So I decided to try it on my own. My rules. My own level of stress. And I would not call it a diet. I would call it “changing my eating habits.” (Because as the title suggests, diet really is a four-letter word.)

I don’t do moderation very well, so I knew I would have to call it quit on the sweets. For now. I hated the thought of doing away with them forever. I decided to do the challenge for the 10 weeks that my co-workers were going to do it and I would see how much I could lose. It was that simple.

Well…yes, and no.

A friend of mine told me about  I love it. You put in what exactly you ate for the day, and how much you exercised and it tallies everything up for you; how many calories, how many carbs, how much sodium, and fat and sugar.

It’s awesome.

Since January 27, I have lost 18 pounds. It’s been slow, but it’s been an eye-opening experience. I never realized how much sodium is in canned foods and Panera’s soups.  Or how fattening beef and pork is. And gravy and butter. Even sour cream. And I don’t miss sweets as much as I thought I would.

Okay, maybe it makes me a little jealous when everyone else gets to have a Dairy Queen, but I am perfectly fine with my Fiber One Lemon Bar. The little treats aren’t bad and they curb my sweet tooth, but the truth is, I feel so much better about myself.

I would like to be back to where I was when I lost the weight the last time-145 pounds. And I will get there. It just might take me awhile. But I have other reasons for losing the weight than just to look good and feel better about myself. I have to admit that as I get older, it’s easier to get around if I’m not carrying around excess weight. Besides, it cost way too much to go to the doctor anymore. Because, as we all know, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

(Visit my new

Spring is in the air

It was a beautiful day-above freezing and sunny anyway-and I felt a strong need to get out and do something. A walk in the park maybe? Or how about some much-needed ice chipping? (The edges of the driveway were still thick with ice, but I decided the sun would take care of most of that.)

The "Lawn Bott"-Photo by Cynthia Petersen

The “Lawn Bott”-Photo by Cynthia Petersen

I decided instead to take in the home and garden show at Hawkeye Downs. Years ago, Hawkeye Downs was the home of the All Iowa Fair, the highlight of my summers as a kid. Now it’s home to trade shows and summer stock car races-and Bingo.

The home and garden show was what you would expect, but because we’ve had such a hard winter, it was cause for celebration. One of the most beautiful displays was decorated by Peck’s (a local flower shop). Their display was a replica of a garden-a garden I can only dream of-with real flowers, bird baths, garden gnomes, and other lawn ornaments.

Other local businesses had their displays up, too, including College Pro Painter (kids making their way through college painting houses) and Revive Chiropractic, a Marion-based business that boasted a new technique to pinpoint pinched nerves and out-of-whack backs.

The one thing that impressed on a techno level, however, was the Lawn Bott. This little machine is programmed to mow your lawn all by itself. Wires are installed under your lawn and you program it when you want your lawn mowed. All for a mere $2,200-installed. The person manning the display told me that there are 4,000 of the Lawn Botts in the US, but I bet there will be many more in the next few years, and at a lower cost.

What did my fiance have to say about this magnificent machine?

“All it needs is a snow blower attachment.” Typical Iowan.

My son sat for an hour listening to the culinary display person talk about how great his pots and pans are. He sampled some of the cuisine and then he headed for the hot tub displays. I guess I know what interests him.

I had a great time just soaking in all the springtime vibes. Winter may not quite be over, but it’s a sure sign spring is coming.

Hats off to Isaac’s BirdBrains

Most entrepreneurs have to work at getting their business off the ground.

Isaac models one of the hats his mom makes. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Isaac models one of the hats his mom makes.
Photo by Cynthia Petersen

But not Erin Maeder.

With a natural talent on her side, Erin, who lives in Cedar Rapids, turns a cold weather necessity into a whimsical conversation piece.

Erin was only 9 years-old when her grandmother gave her a needle and taught her the basics of crochet.

“I mostly just crocheted squares,” she said. “Then about 2 years ago I decided to crochet my son a blackbird hat.”

Erin said that when her friends saw what she had made, they wanted her to make one for them, too.

“That’s where I got the name for the business…Isaac’s Bird Brain-from Isaac’s blackbird hat.”

Since then, Erin said she has literally made thousands of hats and has a picture of every one she’s made, which can be found on her business’ Facebook page.

Erin said she gets a lot of help from her son, too. Isaac, now 3, models the hats his mom makes.

“He’s getting really good at it,” she said with a laugh.

He has two favorite hats which he would wear all the time if Erin let him; a “Geo” hat and a “Jake” hat, which are based on TV cartoon characters.

Erin also crochets slippers, booties, scarves, and mittens.

“I often go online and research what everyone else is doing,” she said.  “I do my best to stay current and competitive.”

Most of the hats only take Erin 1-2 hours to make, but some can be rather complicated. She said she recently completed a Vikings hat, which comes complete with a “helmet” and beard.

And though Erin gets some interesting requests, she doesn’t work from a pattern.

“They send me pictures and I just try to make it the way they want.”

She said it doesn’t always turn out exactly the way it’s supposed to.

“But no one has complained about it yet,” she said with a smile.

Erin participated in her first craft show late last year and sold out of her entire inventory in one day.

“Since it was my first show I didn’t know what to expect,” she said with laugh. “Next time I’ll be better prepared.”

Erin said she hopes to take part in more craft shows next fall, but will continue to take orders for hats and other items on Facebook all year-long.

And as her hats continue to be in demand, Erin is getting ready to go back to school at Mount Mercy University, where she is majoring in Criminal Justice.

Erin has worked at ASAC for the past seven years, helping kids who have drug and alcohol problems.

“That’s really what got me into the Criminal Justice program,” she said. “I love working with kids. I hope to make a career out of it.”

For more information about Erin and Isaac’s Bird Brain, visit her Facebook page.

Mark It CR

Everyone’s a winner, according to some people

I had a great time at the Oscars.

OK, maybe I wasn’t actually there, but I felt like I was. Ellen DeGeneres made it a point to make everyone feel welcome, as thought they were a part of the celebration. And she did it well. She was really enjoying herself, too. I don’t think anyone really thought she would order pizza, but for those who have seen her afternoon talk show, it really was no surprise that she did.

The best part, though, was when she said there were no losers at the Oscars. And I tend to agree with her. Of course, this is coming from a 50ish midwestern, whose only brush with celebrity-dom was when I attended class with Mariah Carey (Miss Iowa) at Mount Mercy University, and an interview with Courtney Reed, who plays Jasmine in Disney’s Broadway production of “Aladdin.” I also waited on Fred Grandy of Love Boat Fame, and later Iowa Senator, but he doesn’t count because he was rude to me.

So, to make a long story short, anyone who works heard enough to reach celebrity status is a winner to me. But wait. Let me define my idea of “winner,” because it might not be the same for all people.

To me, a winner works hard to make a name for themselves; someone who appreciates and is thankful (Matthew McConaughey) where they are and doesn’t treat everyone else like crap. A winner is someone who doesn’t forget where they come from (Jared Leto) and says please and thank you, takes time to talk to their fans, and is able to laugh at themselves (Jennifer Lawrence).

There was a houseful of winners at the Oscars, and not just those who took home a little statuette. And Ellen wanted everyone to know that.

This year’s Oscars was more than an awards ceremony. It was a celebration; a celebration for all the winners. (Well, not all the winners. I know a few that didn’t get to go. But maybe next year!)

I guess I was a little surprised that I was so entertained. I usually start surfing half-way through the Oscars, but I watched until the very end. Others thought so too, with  reports that the audience for the Academy Awards was the highest it’s been for a decade.

I wonder what that’s says about the way we watch TV.

(Oh yeah, all of my predictions were right except for the Best Picture. After seeing the previews and hearing the stories, I realized that 12 Years a Slave did deserve it.)