Goodbye Delango



Russ and I are much better at buying cars than we are at selling cars.  This morning when I woke up we had a 1964 Morris Minor woody station wagon and a Smart car in the garage.  They are our smallest cars thus allowing us to have a garage packed with lots of other stuff but giving us the illusion that it is actually OK since we can still fit two cars in it at the same time.


Out in the driveway were the big cars, the 2000 Land Cruiser the fairly new Ford C-max and the 1999 Dodge Delango.  What, you’ve never heard of a Delango?  Well it is quite a special model.  The Christmas Carter was born my Dad stole Russ’ seven year old Ford Taurus station wagon and traded it in and gave him this White Dodge Durango he had renamed and rebadged as a Delango model.


In the early days of our marriage my father thought Russ was actually not of German decent, but of Italian because of his love of all things red sauce.  The nickname of Roussilini Delango was the one my father called him.  So when Russ started eyeing the new SUV from Dodge my father, who’s favorite pastime is buying cars, jumped the gun and got him one.


Not only did my father surprise Russ with the car on Christmas morning, but also the regular “Durango” silver letters on the side of the car had been removed and in the exact same typeface the new ones spelling out “Delango” were in their place.


The Delango served Russ well.  He drove it back and forth to the airport at least seven hundred and thirty two times.  When we went to buy the C-max last fall I asked Russ if we could trade in his old car.  Why did two drivers need five cars?  For whatever sentimental reason he said no, but the Delango sat idle in the driveway all year.  Finally on my fix it day this week I decided it was time to sell that car.


I had to wait until Russ was home so we could drive two cars to the dealer and leave the Delango there and come home to a driveway with only two cars in it.  The old car came into our life at the same time our only baby did.  It is hard to admit that soon she will be gone too.  Until that time comes she has to get her drivers license and the good news is the old Land Cruiser is the perfect first car for a kid.  At least it won’t be so ridiculous to have four cars and three drivers.

Inspiring Circles



Today a friend and colleague reached a big weight loss milestone.  Andrea Griffith Cash the Editor of Chapel Hill and Durham Magazines set out to lose thirty pounds before her thirtieth birthday.  First I have to step back and say, gosh, she’s only 30, and is a great editor.  Now back to the story.  In the spring I was having lunch with Andrea and she told me that she was inspired by my weight loss challenge and wanted to do something for herself.


Being a busy editor, especially of two magazines that cover a lot of food stories is not the easiest life to keep weight off, let alone lose it.  I told her that the one big thing that helped me was making my challenge to lose weight public.  It is much harder to break your diet if everyone you know is watching you.  It also is much harder for people to sabotage you if everyone else is watching them try and push food on you.


Andrea went full on public with her goal by blogging about it in the Chapel Hill Magazine website-  Thanks to her hard work and vigilance she reached her goal before her September 5 birthday- Right On baby.  It wasn’t all easy.  In August we met for lunch and Andrea told me she was stuck on a plateau.  Having visited many flat places myself I encouraged her to try a few tricks to kick her butt back into losing mode and she did it.


Today I went for a walk with a new friend who also was interested in how I lost weight.  I told her a little about my plan, but I was mostly thankful that she would walk with me because I need to move more to get myself off my current plateau.


Both Andrea and my new friend are helping to inspire me to push harder.  I may have motivated them at one point and now their work is coming back around to help me.  I am sure from reading the comments about Andrea’s success that she is encouraging others to their own success and so the circles of inspiration continue.


Whatever you may want to try and accomplish there is probably someone out in the world who has succeeded at it.  Look for their story.  Learn from them.  Take that spark to energize you.  You don’t actually have to meet them or know them.  When you have some success help someone else and in that passing of the encouragement torch you will help yourself.

Fix It

Today is a rare day in my little world.  Carter is away on a school trip and other than my early morning trip to the trainer I purposely kept my day completely free.  Imagine the fun I could have.  With Russ at work and no one to answer to other than my sweet dog Shay I could do what ever I wanted– well, other than eat chocolate or cheese fondue.


The possibilities for excitement were endless and I did not disappoint myself.  What in the world did I do on my big free day, you ask?  I fixed everything that was broken in my house!  Maybe not everything, but most of the things that had been piling up for months awaiting a repair.


I know it sounds incredibly boring, but it has made me practically giddy.  I took my favorite reading glasses that had the lens held in by fishing line that had snapped into the optician and got them put back together good as new.


While on vacation in Maine my old beloved camera started acting sluggish so Russ ordered me a new battery.  Putting it in he dropped my camera and broke the battery door.  You would have thought he cut off my hand the way I acted about it.  He thought he was going to have to buy me a whole new camera, but today I found an honest to goodness camera repair store today and in a flash he replaced the broken part with a new one he had on hand, I never.  In this day and age to actually have an obscure part like that in stock is practically unheard of.  The camera still is acting sluggish, but I was able to leave it with this photo superhero who I have great confidence can fix it.


I noticed while taking a shower today that the drain was a little slow so I picked up enough Draino at Costco to unclog every pipe in my neighborhood and now the showers running free.  I’ve had a couple pairs of Russ shorts/pants that have needed mending sitting on my dressing table for a month so I whipped those up with a quick needle and thread.


None of these minor chores were difficult or time consuming but somehow they sat undone at my house with no excuse.  If I had known that getting them done would have given me a high very similar to eating chocolate I would have done them long ago.  Next time I am having a craving I’m going to look for something to fix.

The Seven Layers of Hell



I got a recipe e-mailed to me today for a seven-layer salad.  I’m sure the word “salad” in the recipe made them think of me, but if they had read the ingredients they might have realized that this salad is more fattening than chocolate cake.  The layers are iceberg lettuce, hardboiled eggs, frozen peas, bacon, lots of bacon, mild cheddar cheese (what is the point of mild cheddar cheese?), mayonnaise mixed with sugar and green onion.  If I were going to splurge to this degree I would most certainly eat something with good melted cheese and not iceberg lettuce and frozen peas.


Granted when you put all these things together it really is tasty, but just not worth the calories, which total almost 400 for one cup of this salad.  That is about the same calories as a medium Wendy’s Chocolate Frosty and that reportedly has mayonnaise in it also.


There are many dishes that are named Seven Layer Something, like Seven Layer Dip made up of refried beans, cheese, sour cream etc. etc.  Or Seven Layer Bars that include graham crackers crumbs, butter, sugar, chocolate chips, butter scotch chips, walnuts, coconut and sweetened condensed milk.  About 300 calories for a bar that is what I would consider a very conservative serving, no licking the knife after cutting.


I cannot find any recipe for Seven Layer anything that is healthy.  Perhaps that it is because Seven Layers equate to the seven deadly sins.  Every layer of something fattening and yummy you add on to a dish the more sinful it gets until you reach the maximum in decadence at seven.


So my tip for today is if you are trying to be virtuous in your eating stay away from anything with the word “Seven” in the title.  Now I’m sure Diet Seven–Up drinkers might take homage here, but why risk it, switch to Diet Sprite.  It’s virtually the same drink but has no connection to that terrible number seven.

How Are Magazine Covers Communicating With Me



I walked in my bedroom tonight and noticed a magazine that must have come in the last few weeks that I have not had time to even glance at.  The issue of Real Simple had a couple of cover articles that seemed to be screaming at me; DIET VS. EXERCISE- Which Works Better?  Or Do You Need a Mentor?    It seems that some of things that I was dealing with must be issues for lots of people because they made cover articles on one of the only financially successful magazines in America.


Now in full disclosure I have not read any of these articles.  Oftentimes the cover headlines do not even tie to the actual articles, although Real Simple is usually fairly good at not pulling a bait and switch.  But I laugh that even the magazines I have sitting around are echoing what is going on in my real life.


I already know that diet wins versus exercise, at least for my body, but it really isn’t an either or issue.   The real answer is diet and exercise and as Austin Powers would say, “Yes, Please.”  I am more likely to groan, “Yes, I know.”


The mentor question is not really do I need a mentor, but do I need to get other people mentors?  As part of the Welcoming Committee at school we did away with Mentors for the upper school kids and replaced that program with one where we invited new families and a couple old families to parties so kids and parents could meet each other and hopefully find some people they like.


The older kids get the harder it is to just throw any random two together and hope they become lifelong friends.  Even if you use a computer dating-like matching criterion that says this kid plays soccer and so does that one and they both are good at math and a little quirky, tada they just end up not really liking each other.  It’s not like throwing two four year olds together and one looks at the other and says, “You have arms and I have arms, so do you want to go on the swings with me and be friends?”


Making friends is like dieting.  You have to work at it, it’s not just eating or exercise but both.  If you want to have a friend you have to be a friend.  I remember when my parents moved to London in 1979 they decided to throw a party to meet all the people who lived on their street in St. Johns Wood.  Not knowing any one’s names my parents sent my sister Janet out to put invitations in everyone’s mail slot.


The day of the party came and the whole street showed up at my parent’s house.  My Dad put out a big spread with lots of liquor, which was totally consumed by the guests.  My family being the newest people on the block was shocked to discover that hardly anyone knew each other.  Although people seemed to have a good time, days after the party when my Dad saw his new neighbors on the street they did not greet him as friend, which is what my North Carolina born and breed father expected.


He went to work and asked one of his British colleagues why this was.  The Brit told him, “If we considered you a close friend after one meeting what would we have to talk with you about in the future?”  Apparently the “getting to know you” phase of friendship was a much longer time period in the UK than in southern America.


Just like you can’t lose all the weight you want overnight so to might it take a little while to make a really good friend.  If you have to work at it, it will be that much sweeter.


I bet if I looked around my room a little I will find other magazines that are touting answers to problems I have.  I’m waiting for the magazine to show up with the headlines, Your House is Free of Clutter- Now what?  Or You’ve Gotten so Thin You Need a New Wardrobe- Where to Begin?  Those are problems I would like to have.

Eggplant Pesto Bake



I found two nice Eggplants in my garden today so that’s what’s for dinner tonight.  In our house there is nothing as good as eggplant Parm, but there is also nothing more fattening.  So in a spirit of a healthier version I made up this recipe.  I pre-baked all the vegetables separately so I could coax the best flavor from each. I left out tomatoes sauce because it has too much sugar and I greatly reduced the cheese.  Since I was not frying the eggplant I added a few sliced potatoes for structure and Pesto to get a big flavor.


2 big eggplants sliced into ½ inch rounds

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes sliced very thinly with the skins on

4 tomatoes sliced

2 large yellow onions sliced thinly and caramelized (recipe follows)

1 cup of basil pesto

2/3 cup of mozzarella and Parmesan – any proportions you want


Make the caramelized onions.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a couple of jellyroll pans with foil and spray with pam.  Put a cooling rack on one pan and layer the eggplant on the rack.  Spray with Pam and place in oven and cook until the eggplant is browned, about 30 minutes.  On another pan layer the tomatoes and spray with Pam, salt and pepper and place them in the oven, cook until the water cooks out of the tomatoes, about 30 minutes.  On a third pan layer the potatoes and spray them with Pam, salt and pepper and place in the oven, cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.


Once you have cooked all the parts spray an oblong shallow pan with pam.  Place a layer of half the potatoes down, followed by all the caramelized onions, and half the Pesto.  Place a layer of half the eggplant, and start again with the potatoes, pesto, eggplant and end with the tomatoes.  Sprinkle cheese on top and place the whole thing back in the oven and bake about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Good served hot or at room temp.


Caramelized Onions – master recipe


Caramelized onions are one of the truly great low calorie foods.  I make big pans of them and then divide them up into smaller portions and freeze them.


They can be used to top a turkey burger that is just a little bland, or put in a sandwich to add some depth of flavor.  Added to tomato soup, even canned, they will make your mouth so happy.


They are easy to make, but still take a little time.  Always cut more onions than you think you will need they cook down to less than ¼ their original volume.


Sweet onions






Slice onions.  Spray Pam in a large frying pan and put onions in it.  Place on medium low heat on stove.  Cook low and slow, stirring every so often. After about 20 minutes the onions should start to get golden brown.  Don’t try and get there faster by making the heat higher.  The low and slow develops the onions natural sugar.  When they get to the color in the picture sprinkle a tiny amount of sugar on top and stir.  Continue cooking about 5 more minutes until they get brown.  Putting the sugar on too soon will make them burn.  Salt to taste when done.


Use them on everything.  I love them in salads, mixed in eggs or in a grilled cheese, but that’s not very figure friendly.

Back to Schedule



I love summer, the freedom, the opportunity to sleep even if I don’t actually take it, the travel, the time with Carter on trips, the time without Carter while she is at camp, the lack of a dictated schedule.  But summer has come to an end in my life as Carter started school a week ago.  It is not all bad.


One problem for me during summer is I let myself be freer with my eating and less strict with my workouts.  Of course when I travel eating has the potential to be out of control, but that never seems to have a huge negative impact on the scale, probably because travel also includes activity.  The times during the break when things can get out of hand are the ones when I’m home without a plan, or many great commitments.  Somehow being less busy gives me more chance to eat and eat badly.


If I am not virulent almost all the time I fall into some false sense that I can eat what other people eat and remain the same weight.  It just ain’t so.  I am almost never just maintaining my weight.  I am either going up or going down.  Yeah, sometimes I am stuck on a big time plateau, but that is always when I am trying to go down and being practically religious in my good food choices.  Too bad I have not found a plateau when I am not counting every bite.  Life just does not work that way.


Having a schedule with great predictability really helps me stay on track.  This week I have eaten my standard arugula salad with roasted pears, skinless chicken thighs, a touch of blue cheese and a couple of cashews for at least one meal a day.  My body is happy.  I have lost all the weight I put on in the summer.  In case you are not a weight loss expert I will let you know that weight you just gained is fast and easy to lose, fat that has been with you a while is much more stubborn.


Now begins the push to get some of those long-term pounds off.  I’m in a good zone having weaned myself from the sugar and flour that are not my friends.  I’m drinking water and only having one fruit snack a day.  The weather is good for walking and my new trainer is kicking my butt.  The best part is my mind is ready and one thing I have learned over my years of gaining and losing is it’s all in your mind.