Cuppa Dessert

I ran out of calories yesterday and went to the grocery store after dinner to find some veggies to snack on. I know veggies are not calorie free – but I think their benefit both health-wise and snacking-need-satisfaction-wise outweigh the calorie cost. So if I have to snack – I’ll snack on raw celery and green beans. (Another good one is cauliflower, sprayed with “butter flavored PAM” and then roasted in the oven for when I’m craving buttery popcorn.)

In any case, I started browsing the aisles – looking for anything low-calorie that would make a good snack or meal… I’d been craving chocolate – but it’s hard to get around the calories for that one. Then while in the tea aisle I found this:

Chocolate… Tea…?? Not really sure that sounds appetizing. I pictured something like hot cocoa – but really runny/watery. I put it down… I picked it back up. Really?? Chocolate tea? I put it down… I picked it back up… I bought it. Actually it’s really really good. It’s NOT hot cocoa – but that’s probably a good thing. (re: runny/watery hot cocoa = yuck) But it has enough of a chocolate taste to make it feel like a dessert. And under 5 calories for something that resembles chocolate… I’m happy. They also had other flavors too. Red Velvet. Strawberry Chocolate… I’ll be going back soon to try them all!

In other news, I’m down another pound this morning. (again, I’m sure this is going to slow soon – my guess is it’s just bloat weight I’m losing right now) I planned out the food for the day – with my Zumba class planned for tonight, my calorie count is REALLY low. I may be able to sneak in chocolate of the real-kind variety tonight!! So feeling pretty good about things at the moment. I can still see the fat on me – but I’m also feeling better – healthier – just a wee bit skinnier. Success is the biggest motivator.

10 Cool Games and Tools for the iPhone

I haven’t done a big roundup of iPhone apps I’ve been playing with / using for a while – I’m still buying apps like its nobody’s business. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

A while ago, I reviewed a few apps that I got to help me tune my daughter’s Cello. They were pretty good – but not perfect. What I really needed was something that could show me when we were *close* to the right note, how far off we were, were we sharp or flat… because honestly, when it’s really close, it’s really hard to tell. I first started looking at devices that did this and they were really pricey – then I found this app. It’s currently priced at $3.99 and worth every penny!! Just play a note and it shows you where you on a dial how close you are – watch the dial as you tune the instrument. (Works when you sing too!) It’s just awesome. Very simple and does a great job!

Cleartune – Chromatic Tuner: $3.99*


Next up, Trivial Pursuit. I’ve never been really good with trivia, but the game is still fun. I can’t remember what inspired me to buy this, maybe it was on sale… either way, I downloaded it. The iPhone version of the board game is pretty fun. I like that you can change some of the settings if you want to play a variation on the game (ie. how many wedges are required, where you earn wedges – how hard your opponent is :) if there should be a time limit to answer). If you don’t like waiting to see how your computer opponent does, you can speed through his play. Now here’s the cool part – you can play with someone else. There’s two ways to do that: “pass n’ play” (obvious how that goes) – or “Wi Fi Multiplayer” – so if someone on your WiFi network has the game too, you can play against each other. That feature in games, I’ve gotten a little addicted to, I have to say.

You’ll see some reviews complain of it crashing, and I’ve seen the problem too. It does seem to come and go, though. I’m hoping they do make it more stable – but it’s something to be aware of.

Trivial Pursuit: $4.99*


When we were on vacation, I saw my nieces playing Monopoly on their iTouch and iPhones, so not to be out-done, I had to download it as well. The iPhone version of the game is more fun than the original board game, I think. While sometimes it doesn’t always work, you can speed through the computer’s turn by clicking a button on the game screen. You also have a few options to change the game to play a variation that suits you.

I won the first game I played on it, and have not won another game since. (And I’ve been playing a lot recently). Heh. I haven’t changed the difficulty but sometimes it sure does seem like it has the dice are stacked against me! LOL! It’s still fun to play. Since I’m on a multiplayer kick with these games, I was psyched to see it also can do multiplayer: either pass n’ play – or for wireless it has WiFi or Bluetooth. However, when I initially tried the wireless options, they didn’t seem to work. Bluetooth would only seem to work if you were hooking up with ONE player (maybe that’s something that’s unique to Bluetooth technology? – that it won’t connect with more than one device…? Not sure)

Monopoly: $2.99*


This is another one of those games I thoroughly suck at but it’s fun to play anyway. In fact, if you want to know how bad I am, since this game also has a WiFi multiplayer option, I played this game against my 13 year old niece when we were on vacation. She kicked my butt. LOL! Yeah, definitely gave her a little ego boost I think. After that, she kept asking to play me again. LOL!

Ok, a few things I really like with this game: if you’re really stuck you have the option to use a “Best Word” feature. You only get a limited number, so it’s best to save them for when you really need them – like at the end when all you have left in your hand is a “Q” tile. 😉 (Did you know “Qi” is supposedly a word – and it’s worth a fair amount of points for a two letter word) 😉 So that brings me to my wish for this game. I think it would be great if it had a dictionary feature with it. Some words I’d really like to look up and see “Hey, exactly WHAT is a ‘Qi’!!!” or I’d like to play a word, or rather, what I think is a word – but I don’t know if it’s just something I’ve made up. Yes, you can try to play it and it will simply tell you it’s not a word, but I’d like to know. Maybe there’s something close that I was thinking of. I mean, hey, if you get a “Best Word” feature that will figure out the best use of your tiles – why not give me a few shots with a dictionary…?

Scrabble: $2.99*


Ahhh.. Chuzzle. This is a really weird game. But I have a soft spot for games that have cute little creatures in them. Fuzzballs with eyeballs – what’s not to love. At one time, I actually bought this game for my PC (back when I had a PC) – that was a few years ago now. The game is pretty simple to play, but the strategy gets a little tricky as time goes on. It’s a bit like Bejeweled except with more fur. You slide a row or column of Chuzzles to line up 3 or more Chuzzles of the same color/pattern (doesn’t have to be in a row – as long as they are adjacent to each other). The tricky part comes when you get a “locked” Chuzzle (which will lock the row and column that Chuzzle is on) or a Super Chuzzle which is one chuzzle 4x the size of a normal one. Until you match up the color of those Chuzzles, they stay on your board making your game challenging. :)

If you get this game, and haven’t played it before – here’s a cute “easter eggs” – try tapping the same Chuzzle over and over and over again and see what happens. :)

So here’s my one complaint about the game: MAJOR battery eater. Like BIG TIME. If you ever feel like draining your battery, play this game. I’m not sure what they did with the game, but it must use up a ton of resources. (Maybe it’s all that groovy music it plays in the background) 😉

Chuzzle: $4.99*


This is another game I saw my nieces playing with and then quickly downloaded myself. Reminiscent of the TV game show – this one is a lot of fun (and much more fun than yelling at the TV trying to get them to hear your answers in tv-land) 😉 There’s a few different ways to play: “TV Show Game” style, Multiplayer (yay!), Toss-Up Game (They show you letters and you have to figure out the puzzle before it shows you all of them), and Speed-Up Game. (You spin the wheel once to determine the point value of each letter guessed, then you just take turns guessing a letter in the puzzle, until someone solves the whole puzzle)

Wheel of Fortune Platinum: $1.99*


I’m a sucker for time management games like this one: Turbo Subs. In this game you need to serve customers a variety of different food types, some that require preparation first, others that don’t.  As per is usual in games like this, customers have a limited time before they get angry and leave your store.

I love the graphics in this game – I think there’s something about cute little food icons – I’m not sure what it is. One problem I did experience with the game that I see in the reviews on iTures that others have reported as well, is that sometimes the game is not as responsive as I would like. You click on an item, but it doesn’t register that you did. Otherwise, this is a fun game.

Turbo Subs: $1.99*


(This one also has a free version in case you want to try before you buy)

Uno is a classic card game – and on the iPhone it’s just as much fun. Once again, the multiplayer options here a great feature. Now that the kids have their own iPhones (our old ones that no longer have phone access) we can all play together and no one has to clean up. There’s a couple of extra features in the card game – if you put down a “0” – everyone switches cards. If you put down a “7” – you pick someone to swap cards with. There’s a “jump-in” feature where if you have the same color and number as a card that was just put down you can jump in and put down your copy of it (only one person can do it – so you have to be quick) – then the rotation picks up with the person that would normally come after you. If you don’t like these extras, you can turn them on or off in the options panel.

UNO: $4.99*


(There is also a free version so you can try the game out – but as I recall, the free game is extremely limited)

In Fruit Ninja – the object of the game is to slash up some fruit. As you play the game you’re given different swords to play with – for example one we won makes various color streaks when you slash the fruit. There’s two different ways to play. “Zen” you play against the clock and just try to slash fruit and get as many points as possible. In the regular game you can’t miss any fruit. 3 misses and the game is over. Also – occasionally a bomb will pop up. Don’t slash the bomb – otherwise the game is instantly over. (I kinda wish they’d let you hit a few bombs before ending the game – but I guess that’s the way the kiwi crumbles.) 😉 This is a really cute game – once again, I think maybe it’s just the cute food icons that reeled me in. Either way – still fun to play.

Fruit Ninja: $0.99*


So, as I showed with a few pictures from vacation, I kind of let things go diet-wise. Well, ok, I REALLY let things go diet-wise. I gained way more weight than I had prepared to. This isn’t an option now – I’m not going back to the way things were before, so like before, we’re counting calories. This time I’m trying something new. I found this app online – you create a (free) account on their site: Daily Burn, and then you can use this app to help track your calories. There is a free version of the app where you can enter your calories in – but this one, called Food Scanner, takes it a step further: you can actually hold the barcode up to your phone and it will scan it and show you matching products – and enter all the details from the label for you. No need to search or do custom entries yourself. (Yes, I’m lazy – that’s how I gained this weight back, thankyouverymuch) You can still search for foods (in case it’s something that doesn’t have a label (ie fruit, vegetables, meat, etc.) or if it doesn’t find a match, you can enter the label in manually. Favorite the foods you use the most so you can add them easily later on. Everything you enter is synced back to your account online.

With these types of calories counters, the service is only as good as their database – so it’s nice that they seem to have just about all the foods I tend to eat.

FoodScanner: $0.99 (currently on sale!!)


Ok, I said 10, but you made it this far down in the post so here’s a bonus freebie app. It’s a good one too! I’m trying to do something a little different exercise wise this time too – with the nice weather, and now that my daughter is big enough – she and I have been biking around town. We’ll go biking for an hour or more – leisurely, but still it’s exercise! When I came home the other night, Sam asked me how many miles did we bike – I had no idea. I tracked a path on Google maps and discovered we biked almost 8 miles. Probably not as much as serious bikers, but I was still pretty impressed. I thought there must be an app that will help track you as you go – and of course – as they say: “There’s an app for that” – the one I’m going to start playing around with is: RunKeeper (Free). You sign up on their website, and when you’re ready to start running or biking or whatever, turn on the app and tell it start tracking you. When you’re done you can upload your path and time, with all sorts of stats to the website and share it on Twitter or Facebook.

There is a “Pro” version of RunKeeper that costs $9.99, but I don’t see a side by side comparison that would show features that would make purchasing it worth the money. And the fact of the matter is that the free version does everything I need.

Updated to add: You can check out my runkeeper page here and see my activities.

*Price at time of this writing.

Post Holiday Catch Up

I hope everyone had a good Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice or other holiday of your choice 😉 The last few weeks have been insanely busy with work projects, and various holiday projects.

I was able to do the Hanukkah presentation for Rachel’s class with minimal problems. My plan to talk “off-the-cuff” as little as possible worked. I read a book. We sang a few songs (many of them the students already knew from previous years of my coming in there), I had the kids play dreidel, and then I brought in latkes. That was probably the biggest challenge. Due to health laws – I’m not allowed to bring in homemade food, so the latkes had to be store-bought. So the first challenge was finding a store that would make them. I convinced the local Harmon’s grocery store to make them for me in their deli department, but then at the last minute they decided they were too busy to actually do it. (I can’t even tell you how pissed I still am at them for pulling that stunt). The one good thing that came out of it was that they told me that they thought that Whole Foods might make them. Which was true – and I didn’t even have to twist their arm and beg. In fact, when I explained what I needed the latkes for, they offered to make up a special batch for me of “smaller” latkes for the kids (their “normal” size was HUGE – their “smaller” size is closer to what I would have considered “normal”). But the the problem was that they refused to give them to me heated up. And I wasn’t given access to the school’s cafeteria, so I had to heat them up on warming platters in the class. They were still on the “cooler” side, but they still tasted good. All the kids seemed really excited to try them.

Christmas went well too. The kids were spoiled rotten, although there were a fair share of present fails – I think Santa is beginning to look like an idiot. (Well, at least he’ll take the blame for a few more years until the kids figure it out). Rachel got a “designer nail” kit – which apparently was only an “add on” to a larger (more expensive) kit – which she doesn’t have. Oops. Zachary got a Wii game which is totally too difficult for him to play. He also got a computer game which doesn’t work on his computer. Oops. There were other presents that didn’t suck, thankfully – Rachel got a few Harumika sets, a Miley Cyrus CD (which she has been playing over and over and over and over again. Ugh.) Zachary got a few Bakugans and a marble tower building thing.

And me? Between Hanukkah and Christmas (and Thanksgiving) – basically a month+ of holidays and food… I am sitting at a good 5lbs heavier than when the holidays started. I know I’ve been “bad” – but the holidays are difficult on a diet. I wanted to enjoy them without worrying so much about every calorie. I knew I would gain, but the deal I made with myself was that as quickly as I could afterwards I would get it back together again. So here I am. Again. For the millionth time. But that’s what it’s all about.

I tried the LoseIt! iPhone app before – but I do like being able to enter stuff into the computer as well as the iPhone. Sometimes, if I have A LOT of stuff to enter, the iPhone’s interface becomes a real hurdle. So I end up skipping an entry… and one thing leads to another… and you get the idea. So I’ve signed up again with MyFoodDiary. It’s still a little overkill for what I want, and some things I still find annoying and wish I could turn off, but it has the main important features I want – iphone accessible (they have a mobile version of their site) and the ability to enter via computer as well. It’s too bad I don’t get a “referral kick-back” for the number of times I mention them on this site, but I don’t. I just like their service.

Our New Year’s is always quiet, so I shouldn’t have too much to worry about there – so today is my first day back on track.

It’s not about failure, it’s how you recover from it

You can’t have success without failure. It’s not just that success wouldn’t taste so sweet – it’s that you wouldn’t know it when you landed on it if you didn’t know what it was like to be somewhere else. It’s good to fail once in a while. Just because you fail once in a while does not make you a failure. (Obama says so! And it’s so true! By the way, I love that speech he gave.) What defines a person is what comes after that failure. How do they recover? Do they shrink and hide away? Do they become the failure? Or do they rise above and conquer it? In conquering this “failure” – the failure ceases to be a “failure”, and instead merely a stepping point. A stone from which to rise above and become better.

So why all this talk of failure? Well… yeah. I was able to maintain my weight for a few weeks. I did a pretty good job at it too – but then work consumed my life and exercise drifted into an afterthought, and then I spent a week eating and eating and eating. While I didn’t really gain a significant amount of weight (maybe 2 lbs?), the “habits” and healthy lifestyle I worked hard to build into my life dropped into oblivion. I’m not ashamed. I saw it happen. I let it happen. I’m not even sure what I learned from the experience. At least at the moment, I’m not sure I see a lesson in all this.

The end result, is that I’m ready to get back on track. I need to get running again. It’s been weeks now. I need to get logging again. It’s been weeks on that too. That lion has his eyes on me… and he’s looking hungry.

Home so soon?

Forget what I said about the diet vacation. UGH. I mean, I know it was labor day weekend and all, but all the food from the BBQ, takeout because we wanted a break from cooking, and I am sick. I’m going to keep trying to get back into the swing of logging what I eat. After eating healthy for a few months, I’m quickly reminded how I used to feel. This feeling of food just sitting like a rock at the bottom of my stomach, even hours and hours later. I used to think this was “normal” because I would feel like this all the time. But now it’s so different. You’re not supposed to feel gross after dinner, or still “full” even the next morning! YUCK.