Friday, October 15, 2021

Vacation Recap

So vacation 2021 is behind us.   That is so sad!   We struggled with getting back to real life.  Ok, we were ok with returning to our life and our apartment…we struggled with getting back to work!   But we did what we needed to do!  However, I’m not ready to let vacation go yet!   So l am going to relive vacation through this blog by recapping our vacation!

Day 1

We arrived in the New River Gorge area after traveling for about 5 hours.   We had left Mertz the cat at home but we were traveling with the bird, so we checked  into our Airbnb as soon as we could.   While kiwi settled in, we unpacked and got ourselves situated.  It was a lazy day.  We ran a few errands, such as going to the grocery store to get the perishable items that we needed for our home cooked breakfasts.  We also drove to Cathedral Falls.  We had chosen that as our spot for our elopement but had never even been there in person!  So we went to check it out!!

It was a pretty chill day.  And even though we were both 100% sure of our plans, we were both full of nervousness about the huge step we were taking the next day.

Vacation Day 2
We got married!!!!  I shared this the other day in Post….but if you missed it…on October 3, 2021 I got married at Cathedral Falls!
It was the first full day of our time there so after our nuptials, we changed our clothes and we headed out to see the sights!!!  One of the first things we always do is to go to the visitor center and check out the Canyon Rim overlook and check in with the park rangers about any closures or whatnot!  The view from the overlook is always a good one!
We next headed to Thurmond, WV.  This is an abandoned coal town.  We have been there before but I had found information about an abandoned church that we had of course we went back and hit up that trail!  And since we were in Thurmond, we walked through the town and explored it again!   (We always see new things on each visit!!). You can see a video of this visit to Thurmond here.

We did a few smaller things…stuff like checking out the location that commemorates where Hank Williams was found dead. (Hey…I was there…may as well visit it!!).  I also stopped and picked up a surprise.   We got married…so we needed a wedding cake right??

Day 3
On this day our main activity was in finally visiting the abandoned coal mine of Nuttalburg.   The road to the lower area had been closed on all of our recent visits and we had always said ‘we will wait’.  Before we went this year I vowed to hike in, even if it took me all day!   Luckily for us the road was unofficially open!  So we hiked to the top buildings and then drove to the lower trails and buildings!   It was still a full day of activity as we hit all the trials and explored it fully!

Day 4
The weather was supposed to be a bit warm this day, so we headed to Beckley, WV!   What was the attraction in Beckley?  The Coal Mine Exhibition is what drew us to Beckley!  This was a fabulous visit…well worth every penny that we spent!!  The exhibition can be broken into three parts.  The museum section which displayed all kinds of artifacts from coal mines.  The second aspect is the coal mine village that shows the buildings and life in a coal mine town/village.  And the third is the actual tour that takes you into an old coal mine on a coal tram.  The guides were excellent and it was such a neat experience!
Whilst in Beckley we decided to drive out to see Grandview.  This is another area of the National Park…and we had never visited!  The main overlook afforded great views!  But we also found the trails to be neat and full of awesome nature!!!

Day 5
On this day we headed out to hike again.  We decided to explore the abandoned Brooklyn mine.  So we laced on our hiking boots and started to hike.  Because like most of these abandoned mines to get to them (at least parts of them) you will be hiking a few miles!  It was a pretty hike…and we did reach the actual mine.  The buildings at this level were in total ruins and there wasn’t too much to explore as they were fenced off because they were in that bad of shape.  But it was a great hike and still a fun exploration!

When we were done with the Brooklyn mine Trail Hike and exploration we headed down to the nearby river access….there were more trails down there…and there were more remnants of the Brooklyn Mine!  So more exploring!!!

Day 6

We encountered rain on this day.   But we were lucky. It would pour while we were hiking and under tree cover, but would literally clear up almost each and every time we stepped out from under the tree cover to view an overlook!  It was amazing!   We hiked the endless wall trail.  This is an amazing trail!  Neat trail…awesome views!!

On this day we also picked up a few shorter trails that we had not previously completed!  And of course we stopped to view any available overlook and small thing that caught our attention!

Day 7

This was our last full day in the area.  We had a lot of smaller things that we wanted to complete.  We also had a few places that we wanted to go.  So this day was full of small stops.  It rained off an on…but once again, most of the rain occurred whilst driving and we honestly only had to wear rain jackets at one stop!
we stopped at Kanawah Falls.

We stopped on last time at Cathedral Falls (for this trip…I’m sure we will visit this canyon waterfall each tim we are in the area since it is where we got married!)

We stopped at Hawknest State Park and checked out the overview, area and gift shop.

Wr stopped back at the Canyon Rim at the visitor center to see the amazing fog that had descended

We drive the Fayetteville Station Road again (we had already driven it once or twice earlier in the week)

And we stopped at a variety of stores and places.  We vowed to enjoy every minute on this last full day and to not think about vacation ending!!!

We spent our last night in the area and the next morning we packed up and drove home.  Kiwi did great with traveling but was happy to get home to his big sister Mertz!    We unpacked on Saturday evening and then on Sunday we made the rounds and had a fun day surprising and shocking our families when we told them that we had eloped!!!   It was an amazing week!!!!  From the first minute to the last we had fun!!!

Monday, October 11, 2021

A confession: I have been keeping a huge secret!!!

 Soooo I have been keeping a secret!  A HUGE secret!   This secret was the biggest one I kept and it about near killed me!   Seriously!  I didn't tell my sister in law.  IN fact I lied by omission and ok, kinda lied flat out to them to keep this secret!  I have apologized and since let them in on the secret!!!

What is the secret??????    IF you want to watch the video and figure it out....follow the link here! (But don't worry if you don't want to watch the video....I'll tell you below!)

THere have been hints!    I set up a goal to lose weight by a certain date....12 weeks out.  That was my 12 week mark from my wedding!  I wanted to get to the weight that I was when I met Jason.  (which I didn't reach, but I was closer than I was when I started).

I even shared the dress that I bought for this special event!!  I called it a Frugal Find....and it was frugal but it was much more important that being a frugal find!

Jason and I planned it out and we got married!  Yes.  I got married on October 3rd of this year!    NO one seemed to have a clue in our families!   And we kept it a secret the whole way through our vacation and waited until we got home to share the news with anyone!!!!!!  

Friday, October 08, 2021

A new plan to Lose weight

 Things with my weight loss journey have been full of ups and downs and more recently lots of downs.  I have been totally discouraged.  I do the exact same thing I have done in the past and there is no progress....or rather progress is in fits and starts.  It is totally a two steps forward two steps back type of deal.  I knew that something has to change!

Looking for a change in my weight loss plan

I knew that I had to make a change in my weight loss plan and efforts.  So I started to research.  I started to look at various plans.  I checked out the whole 30 and the possibility of eating pretty much ONLY whole foods and nothing processed.  I looked into Keto and the thought of pretty much totally eliminating carbohydrates.  I thought about tweaking my existing calorie in versus calories out routine.   I seriously started to look at fasting on a larger scale than my 16:8 plan that I typically follow.   There were so many options!  I knew I had to research more because I know that I don't want an 'all or nothing plan'.  I don't want a plan that is so restrictive that I can't sustain it for life.   I kept digging into research and eventually I stumbled upon the book, The Obesity Code by Jason Fung. (Amazon link) .  This book has been out for a while, it was published in 2016, but for some reason it hadn't come across my radar as something I wanted to read until just now.

I started to read and almost immediately the guilt and self hatred toward myself started to fall away.  What am I talking about?  The feelings of being a total failure due to my dismal weight loss progress.  It is hard to not beat yourself up on this journey when you are not losing and instead gaining or at the least maintaining.  BUT, the author talks about how weight is regulated by our bodies.  It would be foolish to not think that our bodies don't regulate it.  Our bodies regulate everything and usually via the hormones that course through our body.  Therefore, weight problems may have been caused by myself (which I do accept full responsibility) but my prolonged issue with obesity and my struggles to get this weight off is most likely due to a hormonal imbalance within my body.  The relief I felt was intense.  I have been beating myself up over what I have perceived as my own personal failure.  Encouraged, I read on.

The author contends that the hormone responsible for weight regulation is insulin. He sited numerous studies that indicate this fact.  Furthermore, the more insulin we make in our body, the more insulin resistant we become, which just causes our bodies to create more since we need more due to the fact that we are resistant (or immune).  The more we produce the greater the changes of weight gain!

Pretty simple right? Just fix your insulin levels right?  Not quite, this is where the author states we as a society has gone wrong.  We get fixated on one facet of this equation....and we forget that there are many facets for getting this hormone under control 

He talks about the keto plan which lowers carbs by strict restrictions. He agrees that it works but what about the other facets that cause our insulin levels to rise?   Intermittent fasting works also because it gives our bodies prolonged periods without food and food is what stimulates our bodies to produce insulin.  So fasting works too!  But what about the other pieces of the puzzle.   Calorie counting?  What about that?  Well yes, that works to reduce the insulin levels.....remember everything we eat causes our bodies to make insulin in response.  So reducing the amount of food through calorie counting and caloric restriction works great also.   But it doesn't account for the whole picture!

The all encompassing plan to lose weight

So I have gleaned 7 different tips and ideas that I will be incorporating into my weight loss plan:

1.  Reducing sugar, including artificial sweeteners.  This is pretty simple...cut back on my sugar intake.  NO more candy at my desk while I'm working for one! I have been indulging and it fits in my caloric budget but do I really need that little square of pure sugar?  Probably not!  In a perfect world it should be reduced to none, but I am aiming for sustainable, not perfection.  Artificial sweeteners are better in some regards, but they still cause our bodies to produce more insulin.  So they are going away also.  My biggest offender for that is the flavored drink packs.  I drink at least two of those a day!  I plan on reducing that for now and getting back to NONE and drinking just plain straight water for most of my day (right now I'm about 50/50).

2.  Reduce Refined and Processed foods -  Food that is processed needs to be eliminated.  When food is processed it loses so many nutrients and adds a variety of other things (sugar for one) and it's just not good!  Flour is a great example.  White flour is so highly processed that it contains almost NO nutritional value.  Wheat flour is only marginally better.   Cutting everything out may be not feasible for me and my lifestyle, but I can certainly reduce! 

3.  Moderate My Protein Intake:    I am going to be aiming for 20-30% of my daily food to be protein based.  

4.  Increase Natural Fats - Natural fats (from nuts for example) are good for us.  They do NOT promote insulin production and they have other benefits in our body.   Eat the GOOD fats!

5.  Increase Consumption of fiber!   The author talks about fiber as the 'antidote' to sugar.  He talks about how many processed foods have removed the we have taken away the antidote!   Not good!   But that isn't what made me sit back and say "aha!"   I was brought back to my days in weight watchers.  Back to the old days when we didn't just put the information in an app.  We used a physical slider and we could clearly see that the FIBER was a big component (at least it was when I had great success with weight watchers!).   I was eating a very high fiber diet and I lost a LOT of weight.  But somewhere along the way I got away from watching my fiber consumption!   It's time to bring that back!

6.  Fasting. I already do  intermittent fasting but the author talks about breaking that insulin resistance.  We need to break  the cycle of your body needing more and more and more insulin.  He claims that the way to break that cycle is to fast.  He actually recommends a 24-36 hour fast.  That will give your body a prolonged time without food...and by having no food your body will not be stimulated to produce insulin....which should help break that cycle.   I will not be doing very long fasts.  But I am going to be trying to OMAD method of fasting to get a bit more time between my meals.  OMAD is better known as One Meal A day.   I will be eating only one time a day....and I'm aiming to do this on my week days while I am at work.   We shall see how it goes and either increase or decrease after I try it.

7.  I know that quantity of food is a big issue for me, so I will continue my calorie counting.  I know that I could still do a LOT of damage in that one meal a day.  I know that I will always need to keep a handle on how much food I eat.  So I will continue calorie counting.   I know my weak spot and calorie counting helps me combat that weakness!

SO there you have it.  My new plan.  It is very similar to what I have already done in the past.  I have already switched to more natural whole foods and tried to lower my carbohydrates.  That has been happening all along.  But it is time to get serious about it and REALLY work on these items!  I'm excited to see how this will work for me!!!!! Wish me luck!

Monday, October 04, 2021

Victorious Failure

 Have you ever had a time where you were victorious but still a failure?   That is where I am at right now!   while back I threw down the gauntlet!  I was determined to lose weight. I was going to embark upon a 12 week challenge/plan.  I vowed to use the upcoming 12 weeks to slay the pounds from my body.  I came out swinging and I was going to take no prisoners!   

I actually started the challenge out so strong. I was smashing my goals.  I had set a overall goal to lose 2 pounds a week and I was meeting my weekly requirements.  I was on fire!  Nothing could stop me! And then I hit the 3rd week and I hit a bit of a road block.   Yes, week three was not as successful!   I was determined to not let one rough week get me down.  So I kept pushing forward.  And I recovered and lost nicely the following week or two.  Then I hit another rough patch. And so the challenge went through the first six weeks.  Two steps forward one step back.  I was still progressing so I didn't worry about it!

But then the second half of the challenge came....the last 6 weeks.   And oh my, the rough patch started to settle in like a burr on the back of a donkey!   I would have momentary glimpses of loss but then I would settle into weeks of maintenance.  My weeks played out with mostly maintains but an occasional loss and even an occasional gain.   It was frustrating.  It was infuriating.  It was disheartening!  I felt like an absolute failure!   I wanted to crawl under a rock  and hide, because you know that chronicling a weight loss journey on a website and on youtube is embarrassing when you are not being totally successful! I was such a failure! 

And then one day in the shower whilst in the midst of my pity party had an epiphany!  This thought was profound.    I started this journey and vowed to lose 24-25 pounds.  I knew at that point that there was no way that I was going to reach that goal, short of developing some made sickness that caused me to lose an overabundance of weight or without cutting off my arm or leg!   Neither option of course is or was desirable.  So I knew that I was doomed for failure.  But then I realized.  I may not reach the 25 pounds, but how much DID I lose?    Sure, I failed at my attempt to lose 25 pounds....but did I succeed at losing ANY weight?   Did I lose anything?

At that point I realized that I was not a failure.  My body just chose to lose it in a different time frame than my mind wanted me to lose.   I was actually victorious because at the end of the challenge I am able to say that I did lose weight!  I lost more than 12 pounds!    

I could have continued to dwell on the fact that I didn't meet my goal and thus was a failure.  But I am choosing to dwell on the fact that I am down more than 12 pounds! That is more weight than most people lose in a year!  That is more weight than I would have lost had I give up and not even tried.   Those pounds lost make me victorious indeed!!!!

Friday, October 01, 2021

Foodie Friday : Taco Bake

 Sometimes in life we need a quick and easy dinner and there is nothing like the Taco Bake Casserole.  This is an easy alternative to the typical tacos.  It is the crunch, the flavor and the cheese all baked into one easy to make dish.   It really is a tasty treat!

Taco Bake Ingredients

Chili Cheese Fritos

1 lb hamburger

1 pckg taco seasoning

1 can cheddar Cheese soup

1/4 cup milk

1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese


  1. 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x9 pan with a nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. 2 Brown hamburger in a skillet over medium heat. When meat is cooked thoroughly, add the taco seasoning and water. Mix and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. 3  Spread Chili cheese Fritos in a layer over the prepared 9x9 pan. 
  4. 4 Pour hamburger over the fritos and spread evenly. 
  5. 5 In a small saucepan, mix cheddar cheese soup and milk. Heat over medium heat until warm. 6 Pour the cheese soup over the hamburger mixture. 
  6. 7 Sprinkle Mozzarella cheese over the Cheddar cheese soup. 
  7. 8 Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  8. 9  Serve immediately. Can be served with your favorite taco toppings.
This is truly a tasty dish.  It is a bit high in sodium and you can actually taste the saltiness, but it is still delicious!

To find a printable version of this recipe, click here

Monday, September 27, 2021

2021 is over....kinda

I am through with 2021!   Done!  No more!

What in the world am I talking about?  I am talking about the 2021 challenge that I embarked upon this year!   Yes, at the beginning of the year I decided that I would be trying to tackle the task of completing 2021 miles in 2021!  Any type of miles counted.  Swimming....hiking...walking...running...biking!  The challenge amounted to 5.5 miles per day!  I was stoked and ready to rumble with my miles!

It didn't take long for me to hit that wall!  I hit the wall of impossibility within 2 weeks!  I was feeling completed daunted by the miles.  Seriously, I was feeling like I was going to fail by the thirteenth of January!  My gut instinct at that time was telling me to quit.  I was literally thinking "MaryFran, you are going to fail so you may as well stop now and not waste your time even trying."    But something clicked within me.  Something made me sit back and say.  "NO....keep going and do NOT look at the full mileage you need.  Instead focus on the 5.5 miles you need EACH DAY!"   Only focus on one day at a time.  5.5 miles is doable....easily doable on that exercise bike!

So that is what I did. Each day I focused on only what I needed to achieve that day!  5.5 miles, 5.5 miles, 5.5 miles.  Wash, rinse and repeat!  I missed very few weekdays but weekends were a bit sporadic, so I started to up my mileage on the week days to account for any miles that I may miss due to life or sickness.  I started to work up a bank of overage miles.  But I didn't let up.   After a month or two I began to focus on getting 7 miles a day...then 8 miles a day. ....then 10 miles a day.  I was racking up the miles and my end goal of 2021 miles was spinning toward me on that exercise bike! 

I am so very proud to announce that this past week I reached the 2021 mile mark!  I have propelled myself 2021 miles this year!  I did it in less than 9 months!  I totally rocked out this goal!

That means that I have FINALLY earned the right to wear the tee shirt that I got when I signed up for the challenge!  

So what is in the future?  I am concerned about the fact that without the 2021 challenge that I will just fade back into an existence of no exercise.  I don't want that.  I can tell how much the biking has helped me along.  Hiking is no longer painful and has actually turned fun! 

So I am announcing the desire to actually make it to 2500 miles in the year 2021!  (but I'm wearing my shirt now because I earned that puppy!)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Do You : Make Peace with Your Pace

I have been really struggling of late with my weight loss journey.  This weight loss journey has been incredibly difficult.  It has been full of ups and downs and It is so difficult to not compare myself to others and to lament in the fact that I am still on this seesaw of emotions and weight.  But this week in the midst of my despair, I realized that I have to be my own person and make peace with my own pace for this weight loss Journey.  This is so true not just for weight loss…but for some other things in life that have been getting to me.


Do You

I have been on this weight loss journey for a very long time.  To say that I have kept blinders on and only focused on my own journey would be a complete lie.  It is human nature to look outward to other people that are on similar journeys.   In fact, looking outward is great because it affords us the opportunity to gather inspiration in other peoples successes and it allows us to learn from the mistakes that other people make.   Looking outward allows us to find accountability in places that we may never have known.    But looking outward also opens the door to comparisons.

Comparisons in a weight loss journey can be a landmine.  When we begin to compare ourselves we will begin to fall short.  Because someone will always be doing it better at some point.  Sure, you may be on top of the world and being successful this week….this month…this year. But what happens when that day comes and you are struggling and someone else is doing better.  Will it derail you?  Will it cause you to stumble off of the path that your journey is taking you on?  If it does, then you need the reminder to DO YOU!  Weight loss is an individual journey.  What works for one person won’t work for another.   What is a great plan for my lifestyle and happiness would totally not work for someone else.  And due to over abundant variety of differences within each person, we will all complete this journey at a different pace. 

Make Peace with Your Pace

I am on this weight loss journey and I am incredibly frustrated at the pace in which I am losing.  I totally want to snap my fingers and have all of this weight disappear!  I want to lose the weight overnight.  I know that isn’t realistic….so how about 2 pounds a week and be done with the losing aspect of our weight loss journey.   But that is not how my body and my sustainable plan is working for me.  My body is choosing to lose the weight much more slowly.  My body is choosing to cling to every ounce of weight and is determined to make me have to wrangle each pound away from my frame.  And while it is frustrating, I have to accept that this is my pace.  I can be frustrated all the time or I can accept it and keep wrangling that weight.    I am tired of being frustrated!   I need peace


This Do you is not just for weight loss.  I am having some situations at work.  It has been difficult for me to sit back and say “well so and so is doing this and had this happen.”  It is easy to be frustrated with the events that are happening.   But I need to sit back and say “I am doing me.  I am being the best person, worker and employee that I know how to be.  If that is not enough, then I can sleep at night knowing that I ‘DID ME” to the best of my ability.”   I need to make peace with the pace of my employment.  I would LOVE to be promoted and have tried and put my best foot forward.  I  DID ME to the best of my ability and for some reason, it isn’t meant to be at this time.  It is time to make peace with my pace.  Sitting, dwelling and comparing myself to other people is not helping me any.  I need to make peace. 


It’s not easy.  I am overwhelmed with emotions about my work and the events happening.  I am overwhelmed with frustration about my weight loss journey.   But I will accept it as what it is.  I will keep putting my best foot forward and continue to “do you” because ultimately, it’s not what the scales say.  It’s not what some random person says about a promotion (even though everyone that knows me at my job is shocked that I don’t get…considering I’ve already done a lot of the work for that position).  It’s not about anything other than the fact that I have been true to myself!