Ohio… Ice Cream Paradise

It’s a miracle that I’ve actually lost weight since moving here. Thank goodness for the hundreds of parks, running / walking trails, and bike-friendly roads. Basically, this area encourages an active lifestyle, which I need to burn off all my ice cream calories! There are literally 4 gourmet ice cream parlors within a 1-mile radius of my house, plus several more within 5 miles. Ice cream is my favorite food!  And did I mention that 2 of them are regularly ranked among the countries best?  Yes, we are the proud home of both Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, as well as Graeter’s (now found in some local grocery stores).  Check out the best in the U.S… maybe there’s one near you!  http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-ice-cream-spots-in-the-us


My initial arrival in Ohio really my put  healthy lifestyle to the test.  The move was tough, really tough.  I spent the first 3 months living alone in an apartment.  I thought that would actually be a benefit for me since I wouldn’t have anybody else to cook for, or any distractions from my workout routine.  Boy was I wrong.  First of all, I travel with my job… a lot.  The first 2 months, I was gone more often than I was home.  Lots of long hours, unhealthy business dinners, and intense stress took its toll.  When I was home, I only wanted to sit on the couch with a pint of Graeter’s (which was also 1 mile from my apartment!).   I also discovered that despite our dietary differences, my husband motivated me to cook healthy meals.  When I was alone, there was nobody there to question my decision to have mac & cheese with ice cream for dinner, and I didn’t feel the same responsibility to create healthy meals for my little family. 

 4 months into it, we sold our house in Tennessee, bought a new house, and my husband relocated with me.  Once again, life was chaotic.  The new house needed some work, and between that and the physical movement of our stuff, it was lots of fast food meals and very little real exercise other than lifting boxes  Over the course of the 6-month transition, I gained 6 pounds back and was so disappointed in myself.  I knew I had to get back on track or once again head down the same path I was on 2 years ago. 

Fast forward 6 more months… I’ve now settled into about 25% business travel and have actually discovered that I enjoy finding new places and new ways to workout on the road, often starting with free weights in the hotel gym and then heading to nearby parks for long walks after work.  I still run 2-3 times per week, and my husband and I walk around our neighborhood many mornings and evenings – a great way to either wake up in the morning, or blow off the stress of the day at night.  What’s more, I’ve found some female cycling groups recently that I’d like to start joining.  Cylcing is actually pretty amazing in our area.  Tons of wide, winding, mostly-flat country roads, and cars are pretty bike-friendly.  With all this fun exercise, it’s no wonder I lost all the weight again without really trying.  I actually saw 130 on the scale again this morning for the first time since last June. Woohoo!

Our Staycation!

With two upcoming trips planned (Savannah in May & Hawaii in June) plus a limited budget, my husband and I decided to use our long weekend to take a “staycation”.  Afterall, after 6 years in Knoxville, there is still so much we have not seen!  

My husband was such a good sport… going along with all of my crazy ideas.  We started out with 2 days of playing tourist.  Day 1 travelling to nearby Sweetwater and Athens to tour Tennessee’s dairy country, while also taking 3 hours of scenic back-roads all around East Tennessee.  Day 2, we checked out a couple of historic landmarks in Knoxville and the Italian Street Fair.  Then on Day 3, we went camping… in our backyard, complete with sitting by a chimnea campfire and making S’mores!  Day 4 we mainly relaxed at home.  It was lovely… and fattening.  We basically ate our way through the past 4 days, and thus today I’m back on Cinch Detox.

Day 1.  First up, Sweetwater Valley Farm, a farm that specializes in gourmet cheese and takes pride in the humane treatment of their cows.  Unfortunately we missed the tour, but still had a chance to walk through the little museum and see (and smell) the cows.  Plus, we got to taste (and later buy) lots of cheese!

(You can click on the first pictures in each group to go to the location’s website.)

Next up, Mayfield Dairy.  Anyone who has ever lived in Tennessee, or the surrounding area is familiar with Mayfield.  They are best known for the milk in the yellow jugs and their wide selection of ice cream.  As a milk-lover myself, I can confirm that their milk does taste better than the rest, and that is apparently because the yellow jug protects it from losing nutrients and flavor after processing.  We took a brief tour through the plant, saw an educational video, and then got to sample 5 mini-scoops of ice cream, plus a chocolate milk.  Yum, yum, yum.  The ice cream samples (shown below) included – O’Charley’s Caramel Pie, Mint Chocolate Chip, Candy Bar, Cherry Nut, and Peanut Butter Fudge.  We loved them all, but decided that the Caramel Pie was best.  It even had chunks of graham cracker crust! 

After touring dairy country and driving around for quite a while admiring the East Tennessee scenery, we somehow managed to have room for a bar-b-que dinner at one of Ruby Tuesday’s new franchise concepts  – Jim ‘n Nicks – before heading home.

Day 2.  The plan was to check out some historical sites around Knoxville,  however we got a late start and only made it to two.  First was James White Fort, original home of Knoxville’s founder, James White.  However Knoxville was not named for him (obviously), it was actually named in honor of the then U.S. Secretary of War, Henry Knox.  The pictures show a beautiful landscape within the small fort, but that was not the case when it was inhabited in the 1700’s.  In fact they could have as many as 30-40 people, plus livestock and domesticated animals living within that small space.  (For more history, you can click on the first picture.)  It was neat to walk among the 7 different buildings within the fort and learn about what life must have been like back in those days.  Did you know that people used to soak the ends of their bed-clothes in kerosene and rub lard on their bodies to stave off bed bugs?  It makes me very grateful to have been born in modern times!

Bill having a little fun right outside James White Fort. That is the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame across the street, which I also blogged about recently.

Next up, the Blount Mansion, original home of William Blount, our first Governor, author of our state’s constitution, and signer of the U.S. Constitution.  It’s really interesting to note that both of these historical sites were right next to downtown Knoxville, and you can see the tall buildings in the background in a couple of the pictures.  As we walked through, I tried to imagine what it must have been like back in those days.  Both the homes in the fort and the below “mansion” were considered elite living in the frontier days.

Day 3 – Camping!  9 years ago, in the Spring before our June 2002 wedding, my husband had a “Man Shower” that basically consisted of lots of camping gear and other manly stuff.  We tried several times to go on a real camping trip, but somehow plans never worked out.  So then we got worried about whether or not we’d even know how to put up our tent when the time came, and thus the idea to camp in the backyard was born.  We had a little trouble at first since the directions were quite vague, but finally figured it out.  Thankfully there was no chance of rain, so we skipped the outer-shell that is supposed to go under and over the tent.  We were actually surprised at how spacious and nice it was; it even had a mesh roof so we could gaze at the stars from inside.  Although it dawned on me in the middle of the night that I wasn’t sure the mesh would protect us from bird poop… for whatever reason, our yard is like a bird sanctuary. 

We made a campfire in our chimnea and later made S’mores, which were delicious and definitely not diet-friendly.  I had no idea that there were 5g of sugar in every big marshmallow.  Yikes!  Our fire did not last very long, so we spent the next hour gazing at the stars and talking… and yes, occasionally looking around at our neighbors and wondering what everyone was watching on TV.  The Nielson Company reported in 2009 that the average American watches 151 hours of TV per month / 5 hours per day.  Judging from the TV glow coming from every single house in sight, I’d say they’re right.  Sad.

Sorry to say we did not make our breakfast over the campfire.  That was a definite plus to backyard camping – a nice bathroom and kitchen in easy walking distance.  We were wide awake from all the bird-chirping by 7am and came in for one last diet-busting breakfast in our seemingly-luxurious kitchen.

So we basically ate our way through the 4 days; clearly I have not yet overcome my diet demons.  However, I have learned a lot this year and am much more in-tune with my eating emotions these days.  As I was eating my way through the weekend, I was surprised that what I felt was not guilt, but rather simple recognition of my gluttony.  I recognized that I was not eating healthy food for my body, but rationalized that I was on vacation and eating was half the fun.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Sure,  a splurge is OK sometimes, but I found myself seeking out food constantly over the past 4 days, as if being on vacation was a license to eat anything and everything in sight as often as possible.  And thus today I am back on Cinch Detox for 3 days to de-bloat and get back on track.  I’m on Day 2 now and so far, so good (more about this tomorrow).