I ran into a friend the other day who after three or four years of vigilant healthy eating had fallen off the wagon and gained more than a few pounds. Like the ole’ Carly Simon song goes, “You think this song is about you.” I will tell you this story is about so many of us, so I am not writing just about you.
Dieting is a major issue in America. Billions of dollars are made helping people lose weight. Sure, most of us need help losing weight, but the real money could be made in helping people maintain that weight loss.
I have to think about eating good food like owning a dog. I have to pay attention to it everyday. There is no “Day-off” from either walking a dog or eating right. The benefits are great, but the work is always there. You can’t say to your dog, “I don’t feel like taking you out in the rain, so I will just let you pee in the house.” One day you live in a nice clean house and the next you are hold up in a s#$@ hole. Talking a day off from being vigilant about good eating can have similar effects.
The problem is you are much more likely to recognize you need to do something about your dog defecating in the house than you are about not reaching for another thin mint cookie. Naturally thin people I have known have said things to me in the past like, “Now that you have lost weight, you won’t have to do that again.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. It is always there. I don’t think I know many people who at one time or another don’t fall off the wagon, but why? And it’s not just falling off the wagon, but staying off and being dragged behind it for a while.
For some reason, getting out of control with eating can happen fast. There are a lot of human emotions involved; denial –I can eat this and not gain weight, deserving — I have not eaten any pasta in a coon’s age, exhaustion – I’m tired about thinking about eating the good for me foods, amnesia – I used to know what to eat that helped me lose weight, but I can’t seem to remember right now.
It takes time and usually a good number of refound once previously lost pounds before people regain control. What is the answer to this problem? Stay vigilant to your commitment to eat right everyday. If you slip up at one meal, or one minute, recognize it and stop it then. Never let one bad bite make you give up on a whole day, week or month. We all have moments of poor choices, but make sure they are just moments.
Enlist the help of others. Confession at least keeps you from hiding your problem. One reason I write this blog everyday is not just to make you laugh, but to help me keep my commitment to better eating. Sure, some days I have nothing much to write about and it would be easy to skip a day, but that could lead to my taking an eye off the eating ball. One day of not writing could lead to one day of some French fries and then three weeks later I’m on up side of the scale.
If you think this song is about you, ask for help. Recommit. You did not forget about how to lose weight you just need some guidance to get back on your best path. I will never forget one of the best phrases I learned at Weight Watchers years ago that applies to any weight control program, “Show up, pay attention, ask questions, don’t quit.” It does not matter what happened yesterday. Let’s work on what we can do better just today and again tomorrow.
February is such a fickle month in North Carolina. Yesterday is was almost seventy degrees, sunny and soft. Today it is in the low forties, grey and steely. What a tease yesterday was and now it’s back to the torture. It is Monday however so if there is going to be a let down day, let it be today.
One of the only side detriments to losing weight is that my body is so busy trying to hold on to calories that it forgets to make any body heat. When I say any, I mean none. My hands and feet are particularly icicle-like, but before you think it is just the extremities that don’t have warmth I will also tell you that even my butt is freezing.
Luckily my sweet dog Shay-Shay is a little furnace who just wants to snuggle. I just wish she were bigger and could cover all of me at once and transfer all that extra heat she produces. It is only fair that Shay gives me her heat because I have to spend more time outside walking her on this frigid day, which just makes me colder.
Today I had a lovely hour and a half yoga class and after returning home I thought Shay deserved a good workout of her own. Off we went, me in my yoga clothes and running shoes, she in her curly brown fur coat. By the time we had walked far enough from home for her to do her duty all my good Yoga warmth had worn off and the chill was beginning to set deep in my bones.
I turned Shay around and decided that I was so cold we would run home. Running is not an activity I like or do often, but when being chased, especially by Frosty it is something I will do. Shay was thrilled to get the gallop-go-ahead and off we headed. As we sprinted down the street, cold air was streaming through the vents that would be the entire uppers of my running shoes. My white cotton socks were no insulation against the biting breeze. My previously very cold toes were now just numb nubs. The pins and needle stabbing pains were taking over. What could I do, but continue running until I reached the house.
Certainly I cannot be the only circulation challenged person who might need to run in the cold. I understand the desire to have lightweight running shoes, but how about ones that keep the wind from whooshing over your toes? Here I sit an hour later and the feeling has not completely returned to my left foot. Enough of this cold, bring on some hot sand to bury my feet in.
I love to watch TV. I am not a snob about it and am happy to admit that I do it. From news in the morning to the Good Wife at night, there are lots of different types of shows I love to watch. With the exception of the Super Bowl ads, I would rather skip the commercials, especially food commercials and ones for local car dealerships. Mostly I want to skip them because they are eating up my allotted TV watching time and I want see the story. But I definitely want to skip the food ads, restaurants as well as individual foods, because they start my brain thinking I want to eat something, even if I was not hungry before.
The DVR, or Digital Video Recorder, is almost the best diet tool I own. The ability to record my favorite shows and then fast-forward through all the ads keeps the cheesy gooey pizza ads from planting the desire in my head.
On one memorable occasion an ad had an adverse effect on me. As a teenager I was home sick with the flu. Hold-up on the playroom sofa watching TV an advertisement for Ragu came on the screen. I will never forget how seeing those images of sauce-laden spaghetti made my stomach feel and before I knew it I was running to the bathroom barley making it before the projectile show began. It was months before I could even look at spaghetti again, all just from watching the pictures on the tube.
Unfortunately I got over that Pavlovian experience and now have no ill feelings when I see that yummy red sauce. Rarely are commercials for plain steamed broccoli or one perfectly ripe peach. Individual fruits and vegetables don’t have agencies or campaigns. But burgers and fries or gooey chocolate chip cookies can be seen hourly enticing weak willed beings to crave them.
DVR is our only defense. Don’t let those brilliant marketers get into your head because your head controls your stomach. The power of suggestion is great. The best way to fight eating the wrong thing at the wrong time is not to have any reminders it exists. You could just read a book, but eventually you will want to know whom the Bachelor gave the final rose to.
Have you ever seen a person out in public tapping on their face or collarbone or underarms? Neither have I. But it is a stress relieving technique that was brought to my attention called EFT which does not stand for Electronic Funds transfer as I have known that acronym, but Emotional Freedom Techniques.
According to EFT Universe, the largest EFT website in the Universe, this technique was developed using Cognitive and Exposure Therapy combined with acupressure and is good for helping people with over 30 different problems from ADD, allergies, carpel tunnel, phobias, sports anxiety to weight loss. From the little I have learned, it involves tapping on the acupressure points and talking yourself out of what ails you. Your pressure points are places like your temples, besides the outside of your eye, the bone under your eye, the place between your nose and mouth and the center of your chin.
I have no personal experience with this method and since it is simple and free I can’t call it snake oil because I don’t know who is benefitting from promoting it. The way you do it for weight loss is if you have a food you crave you are supposed to smell it and then start this tapping process on eight places on your body, tapping each place ten to fifteen times saying all the while, “Even though I deeply crave this (fill in the blank, let’s say brownie), I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Then tap, tap tap. Smell the brownie again and if you still crave it, do the tap-talking again. Still crave, tap-talk. Hell, if I had a brownie in front of me and I was smelling it I am sure I could tap on the side of my face with one hand and lift the brownie to my mouth with the other hand. If I was supposed to be tapping with two hands I easily could bend my face down to the brownie on a plate and take a bite handless.
Maybe this technique is supposed to help with future brownie encounters and somehow if I meet one on the street I am just supposed to tap my pressure points and I will somehow lose my desire to take a bite, but that seems just too simple for me. I think that by doing this smelling-tap-talking I would probably actually sensitize myself to want a brownie anytime I accidentally tapped one of these pressure points.
Maybe people who are prone to being hypnotized could have success with Emotional Freedom Techniques. Somehow I just don’t see that I am one of them. I think that the best EFT stress reliever for me is still Electronic Funds Transfers, as long as they were transfers into my bank account and not out. As for brownie cravings, my best defense is steering clear and definitely not smelling them.
It’s cold here today — like the rainy and bitter cold. It’s the kind of day you would like to make a big mug of hot chocolate and sit in front of a fire. But that’s not what Carter, and her friends Mason and Ellis did with me today. For a mission project the four of us went down to the unheated Durham Food Bank warehouse and sorted brights.
Brights might be a term you are not familiar with unless you are in the canning or food banking business. A bright is a can without a label. The kids spent the afternoon inspecting dented cans and identifying the contents by a stamp on the lid and adding labels to those without one. After doing all that they had to box the good ones and then carefully stack the rejects in a giant box to be sent off to a hog farm. Since they were the first crew on this bright shift the reject box was empty. One kid had to climb inside the box and the others handed the cans in. Carter was the last one to put her finger on her nose so into the box she went.
Let me set the record straight that I did not do any of the work. I had other Food Bank business to attend to while I was there. Thankfully Carter’s mentor Jamie came and supervised when I had to be elsewhere. By the time I came back they had sorted through a good size pallet and Ellis and Mason were just handing the last of the cans down inside the box to Carter.
It was not hard work, but good work. Their volunteer time was equivalent to what it would have cost the Food Bank about $120 if they had to pay an employee to do it. Instead of spending their resources doing that the Food Bank will be able to spend that money acquiring more food to feed hungry people. They can turn that $120 into $1,200 worth of food so in essence that is how much food the kids were providing to hungry people by volunteering.
North Carolina kids hold the Guinness World record for the largest food drive by a non-charitable organization in 24 hours. Two years ago the students at the NC school of Science and Math in conjunction with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC collected 559,885 pounds of food in Durham – A WORLD RECORD.
The kids at Science and Math had tried to break that record in years before and even though they had not succeeded they had fed thousands of people with the food they collected. Their not setting the record was still a big win for the Food Bank.
So today on this cold and blistery day I am thankful for the generosity and hard work of kids. Everyone can make a difference in the world no matter your age.
My great college friend Janet and her daughter Sofia arrived last night for a few days visit while they are making the great college tour. Being a diet supportive friend Janet brought me a beautiful Hydrangea plant. Carter on the other hand got a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake of TLC TV fame. I asked how long they had to stand in line to get that cupcake and they said only thirty minutes.
Only is not a word I would use when thinking about standing in line for food especially when there is plenty of food available in America. It is one thing to have to stand in a line to get bread in London during World War II, but a cupcake, not something I would do for my child. I am thankful that Janet did it for Carter because now that she has had one I am off the hook from even being asked.
I wonder if people buy more cupcakes at one time when they have to wait so long? Would waiting cause me to eat more because I had so many available at once or make me eat less because I would not want to have to wait in another long line to buy it? Would I just not bother to eat because I would not want to stand in line?
If only I could create some artificial waiting period for fattening food, but instant availability for healthy food. I don’t know what most people would be willing to put up with, but I for one would rather not spend my time standing in lines and would forego something yummy. But somehow, for many people, the line to get something raises its worthiness.
Maybe the answer is that there is an exercise class that happens while people stand in line for something decadent, like a cupcake. That way the waiting was productive and they would not want to overeat after doing all that exercise. On the other hand they may feel like they could afford to eat more after doing the exercise. Human psychology is so complicated when it comes to cupcakes.
My friend Arabella sent me a link to an NPR story entitled “Money replaces willpower in programs promoting weight loss.” The long and the short of it is that the new health care law allows companies with more than 50 employees to require over weight workers who do not exercise to pay a great portion of their insurance costs. I think of it as a sin tax for being fat like smokers pay a steep tax for cigarettes.
The story goes on to say that some companies are taking this as an opportunity to help their employees get to a healthy weight by offering monetary incentives. It surely is cheaper for a company to have healthy employees so offering some money directly to the employees is more economical than paying higher insurance premiums. The story goes on to say that money is not a great motivator for losing weight.
The problem is money might help a small percentage of people lose weight, but if they only did it for the money what is going to prevent them from gaining it back? Not your employer, your spouse, a parent or child is going to make you want to lose weight. Only you can do it. Not until you decide you want it will it happen in any meaningful and lasting way and then it is still a struggle.
The problem is you have to eat everyday. It’s not like quitting drugs or drinking where you can never do it again. We all have to eat. So money can never replace will power. There is not enough money in the world. If you are someone who lives to eat you have to work at not letting it take over.
For most obese people they will just pay the penalty rather than actually work out and loose weight. Food is a much stronger drug than money. So no matter how much America collectively wants to be thinner because it is good for our health care bill it won’t happen because we legislate it. At least it will be a little fairer that if you don’t do anything about it you carry a great portion of the burden your fat imposes on society. No one is giving up Girl Scout cookies for the good of their country.
This glaze will make enough for four servings
Juice of 1 orange
Zest of 1 orange
3 T. balsamic vinegar
3 T. minced Red onion
3 T. chopped cilantro leaves and stems
Put all the ingredients except the cilantro in a pan and bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro and cook one more minute.
Spoon over cooked salmon
To pan roast salmon preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat an ovenproof fry pan on high heat on top of stove. When the pan is very hot spray with Pam and add the fish to the pan. Cook on high heat for three minutes for fish that is an inch think. Place the fry pan with the fish in it in the oven and cook another 2-3 minutes.
When I was a kid we only had cake in the house on someone’s birthday. It was always a cake made out of box with frosting made from a mix too. Something that would now be considered nothing special, but the fact that there was cake was the thing that made it special, and the birthday. For kids I know now, having a cake is an everyday occurrence, or at least expected. The specialness of it has been overrun by the everydayness. No one pays any attention to the average.
Target has really hit on the way to take the ho-hum out of the unexciting with the brilliant marketing campaign of the “Everyday Collection.” I don’t know if my friend Jeff Jones, the CMO of Target, came up with this idea, but I will give him credit. “Collections” are special and he has elevated the mundane things like diapers and paper towels to a new level by calling them part of the “Everyday Collection” at least at Target. Those same things are not part of a collection at any other store and so don’t you want to get them only at Target?
The psychology of special makes us like something more than we normally would. If we can be desensitized to the specialness of having a cake around we can be resentistized to the average being elevated. It all has to do with our perception.
This can work for eating healthy food too. Rather than calling something a “diet food,” with all the depriving connotations those words conjure up, I am going to call my daily salad part of my “Svelte Collection.” Who doesn’t want to be svelte? Makes you want to run right over to my house and have that oil-free salad.
Marketing has been a big part of the diet industry for years. You don’t think that the Palm Beach Diet would have been as successful if it were named the Pine Bluff, Arkansas Diet? When you close your eyes and think of Palm Beach beautiful and thin people like CZ Guest come to mind.
So market the good things to yourself. Rename and reframe the ordinary, typical and dull as something new and exciting. Make things special again, even if it comes out of a box.
Today is my dearest college friend Suzanne’s birthday! She is Carter’s Godmother, and we were each other’s maid and matron of honor at out weddings. It is hard for me to believe that we have known each other almost twice as long as we have not known each other.
In our decades long friendship one thing has remained the same. While my body has changed multiple times, Suzanne’s has not. More of the time than not we would have what be what I call “Body opposites.” Suzanne is very tall and perfectly thin. I am neither. People often mistake me for being tall, but I correct them by saying I am just loud and thus appear taller than I am.
When Suzanne and I were in college she used to describe our bras as a fruit cup and a salad bowl. That has not changed; although I think now the better description might be a fruit cup and a salad spinner since my boobs can take any shape they are molded into, except for bowl shape.
Suzanne loves food, a common interest we share, but somehow she is able not to overeat or gain weight. The only time I can think of her being concerned with her weight was sometime after the birth of her third child. She told me she asked a doctor what might possibly be going wrong and after a few probing questions the doctor discovered that Suzanne was eating her cereal out of a bowl that held three or four servings. Soon after that realization Suzanne was down the few pounds that the cereal had left her with.
Suzanne is an adventurous eater. One of her favorite things to do is make a sandwich out of all the leftovers in the refrigerator. “A meal between two pieces of bread.” One of the best habits she has is that she always washes fruit when she brings it home from the store and keeps what is not perishable on her kitchen counter so when someone in her house is hungry the fruit is the first thing they see. I have happily snacked on more than a few grapes while cooking in her kitchen.
One thing that is wonderful about being Suzanne’s friend is that no matter where I am on my weight continuum she is never judgmental and is always supportive. That is a great sign of a true friend, one who loves you just the way you are. So today, on her day I would like to thank her for all the fabulous years we have spent together. We may be body opposites but I will always consider us hearts alike.
Well before Downton Abbey was a well-formed story idea I feel that Julian Fellows, its creator, must have met my father while we were working in London for British Telecom. Julian’s original screenplay was actually called Hom-a-gen Abbey based at my ancestral farm in Providence, NC.
Lord Grantham is clearly based on my father, who chose “Your Grace” as his grandfather name. Gracie, as my father is called by his granddaughter, has three daughters just as Lord Grantham does. Mary would be loosely based on me, since I am the oldest and only married daughter. Edith would be my middle sister Margaret, looking for her place in the world. And the much loved and hardest working youngest daughter Sybil is based on my sister Janet.
Fellows surely had heard my father talk about his mother, known as Granettes because Dame Maggie Smith portrays my Grandmother to a tee. One example of their parallel personalities is towards the end of Granettes life she was in the infirmary and she rang and rang the nurse call button. When the nurse came scurrying in my grandmother screamed at her, “Get a pain pill, quick.” The nurse ran out of the room and returned with the medication and asked her what was hurting. “It’s not for me, it’s for that fool over there,” my grandmother said pointing to another patient in the room. Granettes was famous for saying something terribly biting which took a person a moment to figure out. I’m sure I heard her say to more than one pitiful person she met, “You are all you’ll ever be.”
My mother would love to be the wealthy wife who saved the family home with her inheritance. She lives a charmed life similar to Lady Cora.
Mr. Fellow certainly must have spent time in my father’s London office and overheard him talking to the people on the speakerphone who work at Home-a-gen. The relationship of all the farm workers and my father is exactly like the downstairs characters on Downton Abbey to Lord Grantham.
My father depended on his staff to keep the farm going while he was away. One important character was Alvin who was chief builder and as important to the running of Hom-a-gen as chief butler Mr. Carson, but in a much more redneck way. Gracie would call Alvin and check in on the progress of building projects and the weather, always an important topic to land owners and farmers. Once when my father heard bad weather was going on in the Americas he called Alvin to get the local report. Since he always used a speakerphone everyone in the office heard this conversation.
Gracie: Alvin, what is happening with the weather?
Alvin: Well, there’s a tycoon and it’s off the coast of Costa Rica.
Alvin: No, no I’m wrong, It’s off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Gracie, like Lord Grantham, did not correct Alvin that it was not a tycoon, but a typhoon.
When Julian Fellows wrote the first screenplay for Hom-a-gen Abbey and went to sell it to the BBC they certainly said it would be way too cost prohibitive to film a show in America and could he please rewrite the show for a British location. And thus Downton Abbey came to be.
The gender differences in calorie consumption just are not fair. There are two teenage boys at my house right now and at 3:00 in the afternoon they were about to expire so they ordered pizza. When three boxes arrived at the door I asked how many other kids were showing up. None, two pizza and one cheese sticks were just for them as the afternoon snack.
Growing up I lived next door to the Prahl family of four boys. One a year older than me, named Halfdan (pronounced Hallffdan), Crispan was my age, Duncan one year younger and Amos was three years younger. The timing must have been off on the last one. Our bus stop was at their house so when we were let in the afternoon the Prahl boys and I would go in their house for our snack. Each one of them would sit down at their kitchen counter and eat a whole box of cereal and a half-gallon of milk.
I would get a cookie and talk with their mother Lottie who was just happy to have another female to talk to for a moment. I used to ask her how in the world she could bring enough milk home to keep these four boys going? She said that the afternoon snack mil was only about half of their at home daily consumption. The difference in the amount of food they needed, especially when they were teenagers, than that of my family of girls was over whelming.
How did boys survive in a world before there was a constant food supply? I guess the human race really only needed a few men. I don’t know that I ever heard of boys starving more than girls, but based on what I have seen boys eat I would think that the slightest famine would render the massive calorie requiring boys practically useless.
I think big pharma needs to study the metabolic makeup of fourteen-year-old boys and put that in a pill to sell as the weight loss miracle. I know there comes a time when even people of the male persuasion need to reign in their eating, thank goodness, otherwise there would not be enough food on earth. Imagine how many diary cows would be needed in every man continued to drink as much as the teenage Prahl boys did.
This afternoon Carter went to take Shay-Shay out for a walk and announced that there were flowers on the front porch. Not just flowers, but two beautiful orchids, my favorite. It was a wonderful treat that was not surprising on this Valentines Day. Russ is in Chicago and won’t be home until tomorrow, but I knew he would still make the day special even if he were not here. It is not just because he is an exemplary husband who I love more than chocolate and peanut butter, but also because he has a long-standing Valentine’s phobia.
Twenty-two years at our first Valentine’s Day, before we were married, Russ really felt the pressure to live up to all the manufactured hype about declaring his love on this day. Diamond earrings were the gift he thought he should give me, probably from watching too many Kay Jewelers ads. So for the days leading up to February 14 he searched every mall in South Jersey looking for what he considered to be diamonds worthy of his love and my ears only to discover that diamonds were really, really expensive.
He continued the quest until the day before when he finally realized that the prices on diamonds just don’t vary that much and had to find a plan “B” at the last minute. For Christmas that year Russ had given me a very nice camera. Since I was fourteen I had been into photography, even concentrating on it as an art major in college. Russ did not know that camera brand loyalty was akin to speaking a foreign language. Just because you can speak French when your native tongue is English does not mean you can understand Spanish.
I was a Cannon girl and Russ gave me an Olympus. It was a foreign operating system to me and one where I had a lot less creative control. I pretended I liked it, but secretly I still used my trusty Cannon. One excuse I used with Russ was that all my lenses were Cannon and they did not fit the new Olympus. So what brilliant gift did Russ come up with for our first Valentine’s Day together… a lens for my hated Olympus.
Poor Russ. I tried to act excited, but my reaction clearly showed that he was now compounding a wrong gift with an unromantic gift. I tried to make him see that it is not the value of the gift, just the sentiment that counts. I don’t need any gift on Valentine’s Day. I love my husband and I know he loves me too. The last thing I want him to do is stress about a gift. His learning the “lens mistake” so early in our relationship has saved him hurt feelings and thousands of dollars in wrong gift choices. A sweet note, or an orchid that will live until the next year make me happiest.
So the words on the card from the florist today, “I hope you like this more than a lens” are the similar to the words he says every year. But it’s not the flowers or a gift that I like. It’s my husband whom I love everyday. He makes every day Valentines Day for me.
This is a good winter salad that can be made with either oranges or grapefruits. You only want to use the best part of the citrus so cut the peel off and cut section into sections called supremes which leaving out the skin of the sections. Then squeeze the juice out of the leftover skin part of the fruit. If you want you can also add arugula. Just have fun
1 Fennel bulb- sliced very thinly
1 red onion about half the size of the fennel’ sliced thinly
2 oranges or 1 grapefruit with the skin cut off and sectioned into supremes
Juice squeezed from the leftover parts of the fruit
30 mint leaves – minced
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Toss everything together and enjoy.
How could I let the only day in the year with the word Fat in it go by uncelebrated? In case you aren’t from New Orleans or fluent in French you might not know that Mardi Gras is actually the translation of Fat Tuesday. In New Orleans tonight plenty of good Catholics and other lovers of good food are going to be eating high on the hog because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season when same said good Catholics are supposed to give up decedent eating and do some good fasting and denying during Lent.
When I lived in London I learned that today is called Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day when the believers would eat really fattening pancakes. In Brazil today is Carnival and we know what a wild party that is. Holland, Germany, Sweden and Italy are all also eating up a storm today for tomorrow they pray and start the fasting.
I am not sure how many people actually fast these days, although I do know many people who give up one particular sinful food during Lent, such as chocolate or soda. That seems a lot easier than fasting during all daylight hours and only eating a small evening meal.
As a Presbyterian there is nothing I am required to give up. Thank goodness because I am running out of things to give up in the food category. I could give up playing games on my phone, I-pad or computer if I was looking for some penance. But I am not looking for atonement. What can I do that would be better for the world than not playing a game?
Having a holiday to eat as much as you can one day before you don’t eat much the next days almost seem like you are cheating the system. Wouldn’t it be better to just eat thoughtfully and thankfully all the time? I’m sure those theologians amongst you might send me some comments on this.
But no matter what you believe or celebrate or give up if you are enjoying some King Cake today please have a slice for me. See my giving up started long ago and will have to continue well past 40 days. I’m working to get to Skinny Saturday and Svelte Sunday. I’ve had one too many Fat Tuesdays in my life.
I have decided that almost any food with the word “mix” in it is not a low calorie food. Let’s start with “trail mix.” This seems to be a current favorite of my husbands. He had a big meeting at his office in January and had me buy all the snacks for them especially requesting “trail mix” since it was something “everybody” loved. Since that meeting he has asked me to buy more trail mix, which I thought was for his office. Nooo, that was his personal trail mix for home. Please go hide the bag of everything yummy, peanuts, cashews, almonds, raisins and the big time sin of all sins, M&M’s.
Other mixes I can’t get near are Chex mix, cake mix, brownie mix, sweet and sour mix, bridge mix or pancake mix. What I have decided is that the word “mix” is code for fattening although “mixed” is not always bad.
Mixed fruit is good as long as it is fresh and not canned with syrup. Mixed fruit is bad if it is followed by any of the words pie, cobbler or muffins. Mixed nuts are fattening, although healthy fattening if there can be such a thing. Mixed drinks are just that, mixed. Mixed vegetables are great.
Of the things I eat that help me drop the pounds hardly any of them are a mix. As far as I can remember I have never eaten a salad mix. I make my own soups, so soup mixes are not part of my intake. Nothing sounds as unappetizing as a meat mix, so I hope no one is eating that, although a lean meatloaf is good.
In the history of food mixes are relatively new and in food, new is not all that good. Basically the things that come straight out of the earth or animal with little to no enhancements are the best and I can’t think of any food that God made as a mix. It takes a human to make something worse for you.
I miss Andy Rooney. Sixty Minutes just isn’t the same without him. Not the most attractive guy, with those monster eyebrows and wrinkled clothes yet somehow I was wildly attracted to him. Just goes to show that some women like a good sense of humor I guess.
What I miss is someone who is respectable enough to be on a serious news show, but allowed to talk about the most ridiculous subjects. Somehow I think that Andy and I must be distantly related because I too often write and talk about things that no one ever thought of or at least would not admit to thinking of.
One of my favorite Andy Rooney essays was about how real food almost never looks like the picture of the food on the box it came out of. Never once did his pancakes come out so perfectly matched and brown as the ones on the Bisquik box. He goes on to say that he never had a Betty Crocker cake come out at even and symmetrical as the one on the box.
Since I take a lot of pictures of food I cook to put with the recipes on the blog I know that food styling in a serious art, one that I have not mastered. I have never been one who cared exactly how food looked, but am much more concerned about how it tastes. I am sorry that you can’t taste my food on the blog and have to be wooed to make it yourself from my inferior photo and maybe a delicious description.
With the giant world of Andy Rooney wannabe’s in the blogosphere I don’t know if Sixty Minutes will ever replace him. I am sure he was quite a big expense for the two minutes of weekly programming he produced. But those two minutes were almost always my favorite TV of the week.
Although Andy was often funny he also was often touching especially when he talked about war. I will never forget a piece he did about memorial day and how maybe we should not spend time thinking about those we have lost in war, but spend time figuring out how to not have any more wars so we would not have to lose any more young people.
Please Sixty Minutes, bring us a modern day Andy Rooney. I miss having someone say the things we all need to hear whether it’s inane or heartfelt.
This morning I went to Yoga class where I got to think good thoughts while trying to stretch my body to be longer and taller. One thing I was giving thanks for in that class was that I do not live in the blizzard hit area of the country any more. For those of you who are stuck inside with two feet of snow outside I am sorry. Even if you only have one foot of snow I am sorry.
Living in North Carolina now and almost never having to shovel was a choice Russ and I made nineteen years ago. Why my southern born parents ever left the south to live in Connecticut for thirty years I will never know. We came here after living through fifteen snow storms in twelve weeks in 1993 and have never looked back.
One really memorable snowstorm took place in Wilton when I must have been about nine years old. It happened before my parents built on to our house and we still had four garages all in a row. It was a blizzard very similar to the one Connecticut had yesterday so huge amounts of snow fell and the winds were so strong that they blew it up against the house. The drifts were way above the garage doors so that when we opened them there was a wall of snow at least eight feet deep outside.
I remember digging tunnels out of one garage door opening and looping back to another garage door opening. It was like a giant hamster habit trail in snow. Our garage was heated and I’m sure that my sister Margaret and I spent at least $300 in heating oil because we opened all the doors at the same time to dig tunnels. My mother must have been glad that we were just not bothering her and never came down to see what we were doing.
Shoveling snow is the hardest exercise on earth. It uses lots of different muscle groups that don’t get used enough unless you are a prisoner who breaks up rocks all day. The trick to shoveling is to do it throughout the storm, unless it is blowing like it did yesterday. The second trick is to shovel as soon as the snow stops because new snow is lighter than old snow. The worst snow is one that ends with sleet or freezing rain on top so you get a really hard crust on top. That stuff is hard to break through and really heavy.
For all my Yankee domiciled friends right now, I hope you have power, are warm and have shoveled already. If you have done all those things try some Yoga. The stretching will do you good. If you don’t have power, or heat or own a shovel do some Yoga. You will need to find some inner peace. Namaste.
Yesterday was Carter’s final middle school basketball game. It was a day met with sadness for Carter who declared earlier this year that basketball is her favorite sport. I knew that was true when while Carter was sick for two weeks I caught her sleeping with her basketball in her bed.
Carter is tall, something she has always been. Tall is good in basketball, but it is not everything or even half. I am thankful that she has discovered this love of basketball even though it is late in the child sports world of today. Learning the important ball handling and shot making skills ideally would have started when she was about four. I blame Carter’s nice nature and my ignorance for this not happening.
Carter was first introduced to team sports when she was three in YMCA soccer. She was the tallest kid on the field and she did not like to try and kick the ball hard because she was worried about hurting one of the other, smaller kids, who had not problem kicking her. This “I don’t want to hurt anyone” attitude kept Carter from being interested in most team sports so she gravitated to horseback riding and swimming.
Today Carter is less worried about hurting someone else and she is still a target to get hurt by the other teams. This last week of basketball had three games. The first two were against really great teams and were hard fought contests. Carter limped home on Tuesday with a bruised hip from going down in a tussle over the ball and a back eye from a skinny girl’s sharp elbow. Both those matches were in the loss column.
Yesterday’s final game was the last chance for this team of really nice girls to go out on top. The game started with a star player passing Carter the ball so she could make the first basket. It was the start of a great game where the score was 24-2 at the half in favor of Carter’s team. Every girl seemed to be playing her best and I feel that everyone made at least one basket. Our team of parents was living high on the sidelines. I asked that we all memorize exactly where we were sitting and what we were wearing so we could repeat it next year. No sport superstitions here.
Then, just as I was thinking that this basketball season was going to end on a total high, Carter stepped an opponent’s foot and rolled her ankle going down to the floor. When she did not get up the coach and my husband went out to the court to move her to the sidelines. Carter said she heard a crack, which she has said at least four times before when she has in fact broken bones. So off to Triangle Orthopedics she and I went where they have the Carter Lange VIP treatment room from her frequent visits.
After text consolations with her personal Ortho doctor Mack Aldridge and his remote x-ray reading, a bad sprain was the verdict. My sideline job as a radiologist looking at the print out of her various x-rays confirmed the good doctor’s pronouncement. Treatment involved Carter needing to wear one of her many orthopedic walking boots for seven to ten days. The celebration ensued until in the car on the way home Carter remembered that today is the school dance. I made her promise to keep the boot on for the dance. I am not taking her back to Triangle Ortho again tonight.
Last night I took Carter out to dinner. As we were driving to a place I thought would be an easy diet place Carter begged to change locations and go to the Cheesecake Factory. Before I said anything Carter said, “I understand if you don’t want to go there since they won’t have anything you can eat.” Thinking it might not be too crowded on a Wednesday night and since it had been some time since we had been there I gave in.
I was right on the lack of crowd part so we were seated immediately. I was not even going to open the giant book of a menu because I knew that I would get the luau salad without the wontons or nuts and the light soy dressing on the side. Can you tell I’ve ordered that before? As Carter was reading the manuscript of choices I noticed a small folder that was under my menu. I pulled it out and thought I read the word “SkinnyLicious,” but was unsure until I got my reading glasses out.
Hooray! A whole menu of choices of lighter fare at the Cheesecake factory! When I say a whole menu I mean it. There were 47 choices not including the skinny cocktails. I am not sure how skinny it is because the heading at the top of the salads sections said, “Each one under 590 calories.” I thought that 590 calories is not usually a small amount for one meal, but in comparison to the regular Cheesecake Factory food it must be a huge reduction.
I ordered the Asian Chicken Salad asking for the dressing on the side, hoping I could reduce the calories that way. Well, when this giant serving platter sized salad arrived I thought I had hit the jackpot. I was able to get my dinner fill with only half the salad and brought the other half home for today! So now that 590 calories turned into 295 and I was happy.
After dinner the waitress brought the dessert menu. She had a new sales technique. She told us that if we ordered from a certain list of cheesecakes .25¢ of our bill would be given to Feeding America. What a way to relieve guilt. You eat dessert so others will be fed. Twenty-five cents does not seem like a large enough donation to push many people over the edge to order dessert if they were not already going to do it. If the Cheesecake Factory really wants to increase sales they should consider bumping up the donation to at least a dollar.
I do want to thank them for finally offering a number of choices that are a little healthier than their average fare. I hope it is successful and other restaurants will follow suit.
When I was a kid growing up in Wilton, Connecticut my family belonged to a tiny club called the Wilton Riding Club. It was basically a swim and tennis club with some horses walking around. We did not have any fancy dining facilities, just a snack bar and a big barn for parties.
The Riding Club was the summer center of our childhood universe. All my friends had the same summer routine. Our mothers would drop us off at swim team at 7:30 in the morning and they would go play tennis before it got to hot for adults to be out on the courts. We would freeze in the morning pool water, which had to make us swim faster for the hour and a half long practice.
After practice the very young kids would go off to day camp on the back half of the club and the older, like twelve-year old kids, would hang around the pool and jump on the trampoline. Once you had aged out of day camp most of the “regulars” would stay at the club all day. We had a routine of swimming and eating lunch and then playing tennis around one in the afternoon because no mothers would be on the courts at the height of the sun.
Lunch for the hangout crowd meant a visit to the snack bar. The choices were limited. Grilled cheese, Grilled cheese with bacon, hamburgers, cheeseburger and cheeseburgers with bacon, fries, frozen candy bars and ice cream. Iced tea, lemonade and half and half (tea and lemonade in the days before Arnold Palmer.) Payment for these items was through the use of “Chits” which were tickets with .25¢, .10¢ and .05¢ printed on them that were sold in books of ten-dollar increments.
Everyday my mother would dole out our allotted chits for the day. I can remember that .85¢ was the amount of chits I was given for years on end. It was perfect training to become the head of the budget and management because your choices were severely limited with just .85¢.
Basically I ran a two-day menu plan. One day I would get the cheapest main dish, the grilled cheese at .45¢ and then a half and half for .25¢, leaving me with .15¢ to carry over the next day. The second day I could get a cheeseburger for .75¢ and a cup of water and later in the afternoon I would take my carryover money and my dime left from that day and get a frozen Milky Way bar for .25¢. All the candy bars were frozen, which was a bonus because it took us three times as long to eat them.
The only time I ever had anything with bacon was on a weekend when my father would take us swimming and he had control of a whole chit book or two. If I were really lucky he would give me the practically spent book with a few nickel tickets still in it because I had a pool bag to carry it in. He would forget abut those chits and the next Monday I might have enough to get a Cheeseburger and a half and half on the same day.
On weekdays we usually ate lunch around 11:30 because we all were starving from swim practice. Tennis was the perfect thing to do after lunch since we technically had to stay out of the pool for half an hour after eating. When we got too hot from running around the red clay courts we would all head back to the pool where we would play categories while jumping off the diving board. Categories involved the lifeguard screaming out a category to the person at the end of the diving board just as they jumped in the air and they would have to give an answer before they went under water. The lifeguard might say, “Colors” and the jumper would then scream out something like “Red.” The older we got the harder the questions became.
At the end of the day, usually around six o’clock, my mother would pull her light blue Chevy Impala wagon into the club driveway and honk her horn. My friends and I got really good at recognizing our mothers’ various car horns and were quick to alert each other when we were being summoned. The worst thing we could do as a kid was not come to the car when called because that meant that our mothers had to circle the whole club and park and walk down the big hill to the pool to get us.
By six we were ready to go home because first we were starving. None of us ever had enough chits to get a good snack. Lots of time I had money from babysitting at the pool for some mother who wanted to play tennis, but money did you no good in our “Chit book” world. Our gang of kids also needed a break from each other by late afternoon because inevitably someone had hurt feelings from some slight during the day. We were exhausted from over sun exposure since it was the seventies, the time of the Bain du solie tans and no sunscreen. But we were right back at the club first thing the next morning ready to do it all over again, chits in hand.
I made this dish because I wanted to use some of the preserved lemons I have sitting in a giant jar in my fridge. Preserved lemons can be found in the Indian section of your market or you can just use the zest of a fresh lemon and a little juice instead. When using preserved lemons you remove all the flesh and discard it and just use the lemon rind.
2 large yellow onions diced
5 cloves of garlic minced
1 chopped tomato
2 T. cumin
1 t. turmeric
Dash of red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 cups of chicken stock
3 preserved lemons with the pulp discarded and the rind cut into small strips – or zest and juice of one lemon
2 pounds of large peeled raw shrimp
In a stock pot sprayed with Pam add the onions and the garlic and cook on medium high heat for about five minutes until the onion turn translucent. Add the tomato and all the spices except the bay leaves and cook for another two minutes stirring often.
Add the chicken stock and the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the lemons and the shrimp and cover. Cook the shrimp until they are just done, should not be more than about three minutes depending on their size.
Serve immediately over rice, or couscous to be very Moroccan.
One of my real non-food related guilty pleasure is playing jigsaw puzzles. I say playing rather than the more conventional “working” a puzzle because I don’t know anyone who gets paid to put together jigsaws and it can only be work if someone, somewhere gets paid.
While doing some Christmas shopping I came upon two 1000 piece puzzles that were severally marked down so I gave them to myself. I had to be particularly restrained not to break one out during the holiday, but I knew in the back of my head as soon as Christmas was cleaned up and put away I could reward myself with some puzzle time.
Last week when I was finally well enough to do more than lie in bed, but not so well that I wanted to leave the house I decided it was the perfect time for mindless puzzle play. As I flipped the pieces over, spreading them out on the game table in the living room, looking for edges it dawned on me that doing a puzzle is very similar to trying to get a better body.
The easy part is the beginning. In puzzle making I look for corners and the edges, studying the picture on the box I begin to form the outline. It goes fairly quickly and I have some quick success. But then I usually hit a bump in the road when I can’t quite complete the whole perimeter. I search through all the pieces I have designated as non-edges looking for those missing few.
Eventually I get a tape measure out to see how far off the dimensions I am. I then run my fingers along the edge of the pieces I have put together looking for any slight imperfections which might indicate I have mistakenly attached two together that don’t belong. The quick wins of the beginning slow to a snails pace and I feel I am not making any progress. Eventually I find my mistake and begin to work into the middle doing something easy, like words.
I often find that in order to have the most success I have to not make assumptions about exactly the piece I am looking for. Puzzle makers love to cut shapes that disguise the identity of an adjoining piece. Even if I think the white shape is continuing and I search and search for a piece with some white I may be wrong and the white might end right where the piece was divided from it’s mate. Giving up on one area when I hit a roadblock and moving to another is my best strategy for whittling down the giant pile of unattached pieces and getting a feeling of accomplishment.
Here is how puzzle making is like dieting. The beginning is easy. You hardly have to work very hard to lose some weight, just like looking for edge pieces. But eventually forward progress slows down to a snails pace and frustration sets in. In dieting, like puzzle solving you have to change up how you are working something to kick start progress. Looking at the situation differently sometimes brings success. Walking away and coming back can give you a new perspective. Not giving up is the real key to success.
So when eating the same combinations of food or same amount or number of calories stops working I have to try something new to get a different result.
Just like doing a puzzle the satisfaction comes with every piece that finds it right home like every pound that is lost is a win of its own. You don’t have to wait until you have completed the whole picture or reached your eventual goal weight to feel happy about your progress. It is the journey and not the final product where you find gratification. Isn’t life one big puzzle after all?
My Dad called me this morning and said, “Do you remember where we were exactly one year ago.” I had to think about it for a second and I said, “New Orleans.” He corrected me, “We were at Café des Amis dancing.”
He was right. We were in Breaux Bridge Louisiana at Zydeco breakfast dancing at ten in the morning. I think it was about my Dad’s favorite thing that happened all year so it was not surprising that he called me to reminisce about it.
My sisters and I had given him a trip for his Christmas present that year. All our lives he had taken us on great vacations all over the world and it was about time we took him somewhere. On Christmas day when we told him we were going to take him anywhere he wanted to go it was not two seconds before he said, “Let’s go to New Orleans.”
I am thankful that we went last year because that trip was all about eating and spending time together. Before we went I asked my Dad what he wanted to do and he had not given me any guidance. But once we were there the truth came out. What he really wanted to do was go to Cajun country and listen to great music and dance. Since we were staying in the Big Easy about an hour and a half from true Cajun country I had to scramble to figure out how to make this happen. Within four clicks of my I-phone I discovered Zydeco breakfast at the famous Café des Amis happening the very next morning.
My sister Janet, my Dad and I got up early to drive to Breaux Bridge leaving Margaret in New Orleans to shop. We arrived at 9:00 and waited in line with the regulars who came out every Saturday to dance. We could hear the band perfectly as we waited about an hour to get into the joint. It was my Dad’s idea of heaven, people drinking beer and Bloody Marys in the morning itching to dance.
Dancing at breakfast is something that should catch on other places. Some of us are too old to go out late and listen to bands and too tired to dance long into the night. Starting your day with dancing is really the healthiest thing to do. Although paired with eating eggs with crawfish etoufee on a grilled biscuit and a few beignets you negate most of the health benefits.
Based on the lines of people wanting to listen to music and dance before lunch I think that Durham could use a Zydeco breakfast and they served fruit and egg white omelets all the people who go to exercise classes might switch over and come dance instead.
Last night the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina held it’s annual thank you awards and the Hunt-Morgridge Service award. It is the one time during the year when organizations that donate funds, food, volunteer hours and in-kind services come together with the agencies, which get food from the Food Bank.
As the board chair of the Food Bank I was the master of ceremonies, a job you can imagine I love to do. There was one theme that ran through the evening that really warmed my heart, which was of the hundreds of people who were there every person felt passionately about feeding hungry people and the good work the Food Bank does.
Running a Food Bank, or a soup kitchen or emergency food pantry is not glamorous work, but the satisfaction that comes from giving a hungry child a fresh pear and see the joy in his face when he tastes it for the first time is gratifying. We are lucky that there are so many people in our community who feel drawn to this good work.
I am overwhelmed by the generosity of companies who raise money, send employees over to volunteer and look for creative ways to support the work of the Food Bank. Our President’s Circle Humanitarian partners that have given over one million dollars or a minimum of ten million pounds of food or in-kind services in the last five years were, ABC-11, Cisco, Food Lion, Resers’s Fine Foods, Society of Saint Andrews and Wal-Mart.
John Morgridge the chair emeritus of Cisco has created a culture of serving the Food Bank in that company that has expanded every year and continued well past his retirement. Our service award is named for Mr. Morgrdige and Governor James B. Hunt, both of whom are committed to our mission. This year’s Hunt-Morgridge Service Award Winner was Barbara Oates, the founder of our Food Bank thirty- two years ago.
Barbara told the story about how when she started the Food Bank it was run exclusively by volunteers and she would go home at night and talk to her then eight-year-old son about “how the people at the Food Bank were the best people on earth.” She later heard him repeating the phrase, which she obviously said more than once. I would like to reiterate that sentiment. The staff and volunteers at the Food Bank and the dedicated board which I serve is made up of a group of hard working and selfless people who really are the best people on earth.
I also got to introduce “Hungry Kate.” If you want to learn what the Food Bank does please click on this link to watch a two-minute video.
I was happy we got to show off for Bob Aiken, the new president of Feeding America and a group of his staff who were visiting our Food Bank yesterday and today. Mostly I want to thank everyone who helps feed another person, whether you know them and do it directly or you give through the Food Bank. God is smiling on your face today.