Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Slow-carb, low-carb, no-carb

All this talk about restricting starchy carbs JUST MAKES ME WANT TO EAT THEM!

© Debora J. McNeer
I'm totally jonesing for a big hunk of homemade bread dripping with butter. And marmalade.

Paleo plans are all over the internets these days. I even got a message from my former son-in-law yesterday suggesting I try the Four Hour Body plan, not paleo but definitely carb-restricting. (He and I have had many conversations about weight-loss struggles over the years, so he was trying to be helpful and supportive.) He has apparently done well with it. I'm not linking, if you're curious you'll find lots of information with a Google search.

One of the common threads in the plans I've been looking at lately is including a cheat day, a day off from whatever the plan is (another one I've checked out is called Game On). The theory is that a free-for-all day keeps your metabolism revved up, tricking your body into thinking you're not really on a diet. Because you just ate a … whatever your particular food porn is.

My daily weight checks this week are increasingly discouraging. Because they're increasing. I'm ready to cut off an arm to lose weight.

Yesterday's luncheon at the Governor's mansion consisted of tuna, chicken or egg salad on a flaky croissant; some kind of warm pasta dish (the pasta was decidedly not whole grain); mayonnaise-y cole slaw; potato salad, and red velvet cake. I ate very little, but I had to eat something. I'd been on the road for two hours and then in meetings for another three.

And, of course, I made up for the crappy food I ate during the day by overeating last night when I got home. I just. couldn't. get. enough. It was one of those nights where I simply wanted to eat and eat and eat.

I hate when that happens.

It's good that there's not much here that's bad to eat. You can't eat what you don't have and I'm certainly not going to drive 12 miles to the nearest market to get the food porn of my choice.

But overeating good stuff isn't good either.

So. Have I parted company with South Beach? No, not really, although my food log certainly looks like I have. I'm beginning to think that having these rules is probably hindering my progress. I do tend to throw up my hands when I can't (because meals are out of my control) follow the plan.

It was just two days ago that I wrote I needed to reboot, reset, renew my resolve. Here I am feeling the same way, with literally nothing to hang my hat on in between. Oh, and today? A funeral and a reception following it with food lovingly prepared and served by members of the departed's church. I suppose I could skip it, but my mother-in-law won't want to leave.

So there you go. Another downer of a post about how hard it is to stick to a plan when life happens. Life has been happening in a big way lately – family issues and illnesses, travel, work. Maybe instead of a reset button I should just lock myself in a tower and have my food delivered.

I hear Jillian has launched a meal-delivery plan …

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

By the time you read this …

I'll be heading to Charleston, WV, to gather with other Democrats from all over the state for a day at the Legislature.

While registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans here in WV, it's hard to tell one from the other sometimes. Well, actually it's not hard at all to tell that lefties like me are Dems. Some of the more, um, moderate ones might as well switch parties.

I put our Governor and one of our Senators in that category. I don't think I'm supposed to say that out loud, though. Heh.

Anyhoo … I will once again be at the mercy of someone else's kitchen – this time, the Governor's – and I've decided just to enjoy my day and not allow the pressure of A Plan to, er, weigh me down.

This is turning into a super busy week. Posting will continue daily, but content (like today's) will hardly be worth reading.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sugar-free, but …

not completely South Beach compliant.

It was hard to stay on plan while I was gone over the weekend. Rather than go into all the gory details, let's just say I need to hit the reset button today.

Sigh.

I listened to a lot of podcasts while traveling to and from, and got all caught up Russ and Jeff, Jillian and The Moth. I actually had to listen to music the last 20 miles or so coming home. Considering I was on the road for a total of probably 10 hours, I was, um, pretty far behind.

I wish listening to podcasts was all there was to it. Unfortunately, I need to put into practice the ideas these folks are preaching and teaching. And I am, really, but as you can probably tell I'm discouraged after a weekend where I wasn't able to eat the way I need to.

I might give myself a pass on the official weigh-in tomorrow.

One bright spot of the weekend (I was visiting one of my grandchildren, so that was the true bright spot) was getting out for a run/walk Saturday morning. Six other women, all young enough to be my daughters, meet up semi-regularly and invited me to tag along.

They've been doing a 1/1 run/walk, but we mixed it up a bit and did some 3/2s, 2/2s and 2/1s. I'm so out of running shape. But it felt good to be running (the flat terrain and paved trail helped a lot) and the fact that I didn't die gave me a little hope that I might actually be able to get back to it again.

Today I will hit the gym and the produce aisle. I have some freelance work to do this afternoon, but tomorrow will be another day out of town. Including  another lunch out of my control. This is what real life looks like, and it's making me wonder whether SB is really what I need to be doing. It's pretty inflexible and I end up feeling bad when I can't follow it to the letter. The testimonials in the book were carefully chosen, I'm sure, to point out how easy it is to stick with the program come hell or high water. Or business trips or restaurant meals.

In a situation where someone else is doing the cooking, though – well, not so easy at all. When one feels bad about oneself to start with, it's probably not useful or productive to intentionally add yet another guilt-inducing layer to the scenario.

A good hard workout will do me good and give me lots of time to think. My e-mail was read and discussed on episode #111 of the Fat2Fit podcast, and I listened to it again yesterday. I haven't lost any additional weight since then (12/8/10, and isn't that discouraging!), but I also haven't been starving myself for a year, either. Russ and Jeff encourage their listeners to eat whole, healthy foods, just as Dr. Agatston does, but I haven't been doing much at all to keep my metabolism revved up by eating more frequently. And I'm back into the calorie-restriction mentality, which isn't the best place to be.

Yes, it's definitely time to reset, reboot, renew my resolve.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Home again …

and you didn't even know I was gone!

I drove almost all day today. What a delight to see cherry trees bursting with pink and bright yellow daffodils blooming two states south. Spring will be here in southern West Virginia before we know it.

I left on Friday under a tornado watch and arrived in North Carolina under another one, but all I experienced was unusually strong winds. Had a good weekend which included a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art. I was very impressed – the museum has a large Rodin sculpture collection, as well as a couple of Wyeths I just stumbled upon. I only spent a couple hours there, so certainly didn't see everything. The stainless steel tree is one of the first things you see as you approach the building and was stunning.

It's always good to be home again. I'm going to get my jammies on and watch the Oscars. Or at least watch the Oscars until I can't keep my eyes open any longer. 'Til tomorrow …

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Progress photos

Once a month, you (and I) will be subjected to a side-by-side comparison of, um, me. I used to do these back in the Shrinking Knitter days, and it was somewhat helpful. And since I want to give myself every advantage to once-and-for-all lose this effing weight, and since progress photos were part of my previous success at losing this effing weight (although obviously not once and for all), well these effing progress photos will be part of the permanent record.

Without further ado (and with a lot of trepidation and a dollop of courage):


Of course I am more critical of me than you are. I always got lots of positive feedback on SK, but because I'm a realist and stubborn and have pretty good vision, I rarely believed the nice things you said. Clearly there's no difference between this January and February, other than the change of clothing. But I took the January photo the day I joined the gym and made a little promise that I would do this monthly.

My hope is that strength training will make a visible difference when the scale doesn't. I still haven't taken my measurements, and yes I know I should but you have NO IDEA how much I don't want to do that.

I really am ready for once-and-for-all. And I'm willing to do whatever it takes. I believe slow-and-steady weight loss will yield permanent results, even though I WANT IT ALL GONE NOW.

However, it's like the Rolling Stones said: You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

Ah, yes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just when I thought I'd have to skip a day …

I got tagged.

How cool is it that I don't have to think this morning? Well, that's not really true, there's a lot of thinking to go along with this post. But at least it's directed thinking. Because seriously? I don't have a thing in my brain to write about today.

Shannon at The Warden's Log wants to know 11 things about me. Then she wants me to answer some specific questions. Then I have to come up with more questions to ask 11 of you. There are rules! Sounds pretty complicated for this early in the morning, but here goes.

11 Things About Me
This is the plane I learned to fly.
It's called a Citabria, which is aerobatic
spelled backwards. Sorta.
  1. I'm a private pilot, single-engine, land.
  2. I've been knitting for more than 50 years.
  3. The only foreign country I've been to is Canada. Does that count?
  4. I've seen Bob Dylan in concert at least a dozen times and own all of his CDs except one. (Live at Budokon.)
  5. I've been sober more than 20 years.
  6. I drove a restored 1950 Hudson to high school.
  7. The first car I bought on my own was a Volkswagon Karmann Ghia. I loved that car.
  8. My current husband is my fourth.
  9. I was a cat person until I got Lindy, a chocolate Lab who instantly transformed me into a dog person.
  10. During my first trip to New Orleans, when I was 11 years old, I announced I was going to be an artist.
  11. Some of my pen-and-ink illustrations have been published in magazines.
Okay, now Shannon wants to know:
  1. Who is your favorite singer (or band)? Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan.
  2. Cary Grant or George Clooney? George.
  3. Canceled TV show you miss the most? American Dreams.
  4. Most annoying habit? Interrupting when someone else is talking.
  5. Best facial feature? I have good skin and don't use anything to keep it that way.
  6. Favorite season and why? Spring, because I can start planting food!
  7. Did you see The Artist? Sadly, no. (It's a two-hour round-trip to a multiplex cinema and the local one-screen theatre only screens family-friendly movies.)
  8. Favorite book as a child? The Wind in the Willows.
  9. Have you seen the first person you kissed in the last 10 years? No, not in the last 45 years.
  10. Favorite movie made before 1970. The Parent Trap.
  11. If you have children, who are they named after? My daughter isn't named after anyone, my son's middle name is his father's first name.
  12. Sidney Poitier or Denzel Washington? Oooh, that's a tough one. Denzel, I think. And that's 12 questions, so I might have to say both.
Finally, your questions, whether you get tagged or not. If you're as uninspired today as I was when I opened the laptop, feel free to answer these questions:
  1. First job?
  2. GPA in high school?
  3. Favorite beverage?
  4. Most inspiring quote?
  5. Last movie you saw?
  6. What's on your nightstand?
  7. Do you take a daily medication (vitamins don't count)?
  8. What famous person would you invite to dinner?
  9. How would you spend your lottery winnings?
  10. Where do you want to retire?
  11. Your last meal?
The rules:
  1. Post these rules on your blog.
  2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
  3. Answer the questions set for you by the person who tagged you.
  4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag.
  5. Let them know you tagged them.
  6. You legitimately have to tag 11 people, but if you don't know 11 bloggers, tag as many as you can.
This is the hardest part for me. I hate to impose on anyone and I'm not nosy by nature. (Not that Shannon is nosy, this was fun and interesting and more challenging than I thought it would be!) I'm going to cop out on tagging others and invite anyone who reads this to follow through, with a request to come back and link to your post in the comments. Anyone wanna play?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How weird is this ...

I mention that you don't leave spam comments and I get a spam comment!

It's like going to amazon.com to look for wireless printers and getting an e-mail from amazon.com with wireless printer deal in it.

It's like cruising the Coldwater Creek website for a blue sweater and then having blue sweater ads show up on the next website I visit. You know, the not-amazon.com one with all the printers.

It's like every since I linked to that New York Times Magazine story about creepy marketing practices, I've been assaulted by creepy marketing practices!


And spam.

Maybe you're not spam, Booker, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. But I won't link to you and I definitely won't be following you on Twitter. Nice try, but your timing is just a little bit off.

33 percent stronger than last week

That would be my biceps and triceps.

Yep, my inner badass took over at the gym yesterday. I went a teeny bit heavier on the Nautilus/Cybex machines, did pyramids on the ones I could easily change the weights on (Cybex makes it pretty handy) and did curls and kickbacks with 15-pound dumbbells. I thought I was awesome last week using 10s. Rawr.

I had a 10 a.m. meeting with a client and went to the gym afterward. I didn't eat before I left the for the meeting and I didn't eat at the meeting and I didn't eat after the meeting. By the time I watched 75 percent of an episode of Glee walked for 36 minutes on the treadmill I was completely outta gas. So I stopped.

I also had some horrible cramping when I was doing crunches on the exercise ball. Managed to do 50 percent of my goal of 50 before I had to stop.

[An aside, while we're speaking of percentages: Don't you love it when weather.com says there's a 20 percent chance of rain and it's absolutely POURING outside? Ah, but it will be sunny and 60 later today. At least that's what they're saying.]

Your comments really helped me yesterday. They always do, unless they're spam. But you don't leave spam. I love your comments. Feel free to leave more! It always helps to know one is not alone in one's frustration with one's weight. That's what this weight-loss blogging is all about, right? We're in it to win it – or in this case, to lose it – and we're in it together.

Gingerzingi, I studied the paleo plan and decided I wouldn't be able to live – yes, that's right, I would DIE  – without dairy. It isn't that I slug back big old glasses of milk at every meal, but I do enjoy yogurt and cheese, which are permitted on South Beach. And because my yogurt and some of my cheese is homemade by me in my kitchen with milk from the grass-fed cow down the road, I feel good about this choice.

It's not difficult to find whole-grain cereals, pastas and breads nowadays, but I clearly need to limit them. Heck if one is trying to lose weight, one should limit them. Starches = calories. And I have limited them. My weight was down two pounds this morning from yesterday, not because of anything I did yesterday (believe me, I made up for the lack of breakfast later in the day!), but because as we all know, weight loss is HARD. Oh, and it fluctuates on a daily basis.
I will never do everything perfectly as far as food and exercise go. I won't even pretend that's a possibility. I will continue to treat myself respectfully and know that, eventually, I will be rewarded.
Yeah, that sounds like a load o' crap, but it's a good message. If I don't remember it, maybe you'll be able to use it when you're in a tough spot.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Still bummed, but …

I know it's just information,
but it's too much information! Heh.
what's the alternative, really?

And how many times have I asked myself this question?

As the young folks say, it is what it is: I have a hard time losing weight, and that's a FACT. I would love, love, love to simply eat healthfully and exercise regularly, without needing the weight-loss reward at the end of it.

At the age of 60, am I too old to change this cycle?

I just read a couple articles on shopping habits. (The Forbes condensed version is here; the NYTimes Magazine longer article is here. Not sure how long the NYTimes link will be viable.) The author began his habit research because he'd developed a mid-afternoon cookie habit that resulted in some unwanted lard. He analyzed the cue-routine-reward circuit, changed the reward part and lost 21 pounds.

So simple. Sigh.

I'm not making excuses for myself, but just stating facts. The writer is:
  1. a man and
  2. younger than my children.
Those two facts are in his favor as far as weight loss goes. The fact that I'm an, ahem, older woman with an older woman metabolism is not helpful! Not helpful at all.

Back to the original question: What's the alternative? I've gradually but systematically been increasing weights, sets and reps at the gym. I'm doing some kind of cardio five or six days a week. The alternative this week will be going back to Phase I for a couple weeks.

If I didn't have such a lousy family history of obesity-related health issues, I might not care about losing weight so much. But as I've said here before, I don't want to end up dying early, as my mother did, or being in pain for the last 10 years of my life, as her mother and my father were. I'm not pre-diabetic (that I know of), but my dad, an aunt, my sister and two of our cousins were or are all Type 2s. I would hate to develop diabetes after all this work and effort to avoid it.

I love that a blog can be all about me-me-me. I can't express these feelings anywhere else. My husband is as supportive as anyone can be, but his BMI is normal, and when he gains a few pounds he's able to easily get rid of them. You guys have been my cheerleaders for such a long time, and I really appreciate your suggestions and sympathy.

I just don't want you to have to start sending get well e-cards. So I'll keep doing whatever it takes to save you the trouble.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I like last week's results better

Tuesdays are weigh-in days around here. Last Tuesday I loudly and proudly announced a total loss of 10 pounds in six weeks. Today? Not so much.

After seven weeks, I've lost seven pounds. A pound a week, that's supposed to be good, right? But a three-pound gain in one week? That's not so good. And I'm really discouraged.

©Debora J. McNeer
So tired of eating eggs I took a week off.
I haven't eaten an egg all week. Eggs are a go-to breakfast for South Beach followers. I have either been skipping breakfast or eating Shredded Wheat, which is permitted on Phase II, but clearly my body is hanging on to every delicious carb-laden shred of that wheat.

So. Bummed.

No, really, I am
SO BUMMED!
In fact, I am so bummed I think I'll go scramble an egg. Grrr.

Yesterday's four to six inches of snow has been significantly reduced. It's nearly gone completely from the driveway. The emerging daffodils are planted in an area that didn't get more than a dusting. We lost several birch branches and a huge limb from one of the pines. All in all, not a bad way to kick winter to the curb.

Now it's time to kick the rest of these extra pounds after them.

Monday, February 20, 2012

More often than not …

when a Major Snowstorm hits us here in the Middle of Nowhere, it usually is accompanied by a Power Outage. I've lived here 15 years and have kind of, sort of gotten used to anticipating coldness and darkness when we get a heavy wet snow, as we did yesterday.

Last night was no exception: The lights (and heat and water) went out at about 8:30. I reported it immediately and was told by the friendly computer voice that it was not part of a known power outage and repairs would be made 10:30 p.m.

More often than not, when the friendly computer voice gives me that initial, optimistic restoration estimate, he is WRONG.

At 2 a.m. I called the friendly computer voice to get an update. He oh-so-carefully told me we were now part of a widespread power outage and would have power by 11:30 p.m. on February 20, 2012. P.M.!

More often than not, when refrigerated food is unrefrigerated for more than 24 hours, it needs to be tossed. I spent the next hour or so contemplating what I might safely save (condiments other than mayo) and what would need to be discarded (everything else).

My cell phone rang at 6 a.m. Friendly computer voice again, asking me to press "1" if my power had been restored. I was groggy, of course, but I heard the furnace running, pressed "1" and went back to sleep for another hour.

In retrospect, we didn't suffer too much. It was a little chilly, but not too bad. It happened during downtime – you don't need or use much electricity in the middle of the night. We could have planned better, of course. Had the power not returned until tonight, I would surely have been wishing I'd filled a Thermos® with coffee. (Not having coffee first thing in the morning is the worst part of a power outage.)

Not sure if I'll make it to town today to hit the gym. Days like this are why we bought the elliptical, after all. I would happily trade a hazardous trip down my steep, snow-covered driveway for a short walk to the garage!
 
All in all, I'd say I had a pretty good weekend. Homemade pizza on Friday, a good hard workout and a meeting with a potential client Saturday and a beautiful snowstorm accompanied by an abbreviated power outage Sunday. Hope yours was good, too!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not bad …

in an old-hippie, crunchy-granola kinda way.

I'm talking about the whole-wheat crust from last night's pizza, of course.

Prior to serving, my husband said if we didn't like it, we could just eat the toppings. I agreed, but was secretly hoping I wouldn't have to sacrifice a precious jar of homemade pesto. And I didn't! The crust was earthy, almost nutty, not too dense (that was my biggest apprehension) but definitely not the softer crust we're used to.

The recipe I've used (link is to a .pdf file) for the past several years is from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.), the book that nudged me into being much more of a locavore, whole-food kinda cook. It's the traditional formula, calling for approximately half-and-half white and whole wheat flours, along with yeast, olive oil, salt and water. I usually added a little sugar. Go figure.

Here's the Nourishing Traditions recipe:
1 cup plain whole yogurt
1 cup softened butter (oops! I only used half a cup, and it really was totally fine!)
3-1/2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons sea salt 
Mix the yogurt and softened butter, add salt and incorporate flour. Cover and leave in a warm place 12 to 24 hours.
Ready to pre-bake at 300° for 30 minutes.
That's it. Pretty simple. It doesn't rise, as a traditional yeast dough does. It just sits there in a bowl overnight. I doubt that an extra half-cup of butter would have changed the dynamics of the resting period. That additional fat surely would have changed the character of the final product, but we were happy with the, ahem, lower-fat version. Heh.


On the left, topped and back into a 350° oven for another half hour. At
right, plated and ready to eat. I was so excited I shook the camera getting
ready to sit down for dinner.

I spread a quarter cup of pesto over the pre-baked crust, then added shredded mozza, onion, mushrooms and chunks of chicken breast which had been sprinkled with garlic powder and sautéed in a little olive oil. I meant to add some feta cheese crumbles but I forgot. Sometimes I also throw on some sliced black olives. These are my favorite pizza toppings by far.

All of the recipes I've seen for a whole-wheat yeast dough include sugar or honey. If you find one that's sugar-free, please share your source! Thanks. In the meantime, we'll be enjoying this one again.

We're waiting for a big snowstorm today here in the Middle of Nowhere. I stopped by Tiny Kroger yesterday to pick up some of my husband's favorite yogurt (Kroger brand Vanilla Chai, which is okay but I don't care for flavored yogurt, and he doesn't care for my, um, tangier plain homemade stuff). I had to go past the refrigerated meat and poultry on my way to the dairy section. There was not a single package of fresh chicken on the shelves.

I bought the last seven cups of his yogurt and as I walked down the aisle toward the checkout lanes, noticed there were no tubes of refrigerated biscuits nor any packages of sliced American cheese. I should have taken pictures, it was so funny.

This snowstorm will last one day. Temperatures will be back up into the 50s the remainder of the week. I predict it will hardly be worth getting a snowplow out. I look at it as a nice soaking rain, only colder.

Apparently a lot of folks in my county are more worried about it than I am, and are planning to eat a lot of chicken and biscuits. I hope you have a warm-and-toasty Sunday. With American cheese on top.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A South Beach gripe

I alluded to this when I began following the South Beach plan a month ago. I'm a "whole foods" kinda gal. When it comes to dietary fat, SB suggests that you:
Dispose of all solid vegetable shortening, lard, butter and hydrogenated oils. Replace them with extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil and cooking spray, and with margarines and spreads that do not contain trans fatty acids.
The South Beach Diet Super Charged, p. 165
I have some issues with this directive.

Obviously I'm not doing much baking on South Beach. Do I miss it? Hell, yeah! I told my husband last night that possibly the worst thing about the plan is I really don't get to cook. Mostly I throw a chicken breast on the George Forman and toss a salad or roast some cauliflower – not exactly haute cuisine, nor is it even creative cooking.

In the second phase of the plan you can eat whole grains. I'm really missing pizza, so I decided to try making a 100 percent whole-wheat pizza dough. It's in progress; I'll report back tomorrow on how successful I was.

I found the recipe I'm using in Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

Right up my alley, little rebel that I am. Heh.

The thing about the recipe that doesn't fit with South Beach is, um, butter. And full-fat yogurt (which I make from fresh, grass-fed, non-homogenized cow's milk). I'll post the whole thing if it's edible, but I just wanted to say right up front that butter is now and always has been on my menu.

Granted since Dr. Agatston doesn't encourage baking or the eating of bread, there's not much opportunity to eat butter. And I use olive oil when I sauté meat or poultry in my non-stick skillet (or Dutch oven, I love my new Dutch oven!), but I've been using olive oil to sauté for years.

Pin It
There is, however, butter in the pizza dough. One. Entire. Stick. The recipe calls for softened butter, and mine wasn't, so here's a tip. Don't put a stick of butter in the microwave to soften. Instead, grab your box grater and shred it into your mixing bowl. It will soften quickly and be ready to incorporate into your recipe in no time.

I need to make the mozzarella this morning, pull a jar of frozen pesto and a chicken breast out to thaw and  tonight – we feast! I hope. Film at eleven.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It was a crafty day, indeed

I ended up making 18 of the little square campaign buttons I showed you yesterday. I got them done fairly early in the day, and it rained all. day. long. so I wasn't able to walk outside. And, frankly, I decided a day off would do me good.

Knitters who give knitted gifts exhibit an odd behavior in the last few days before the holidays. If they've managed their time wisely, all their projects will be done, wrapped and shipped (or under the tree) well before the big day, and they will decide, with three days to go, that there's certainly enough time to knit another [hat/scarf/pair of mittens/pair of socks/bag/oven mitt/accessory of your choice] for [recipient]. All that extra time on their hands is burning a hole in their pockets, if you don't mind a mixed metaphor.

Well, I'm a knitter who wasn't knitting yesterday, but I was looking at a long afternoon and I was in a crafty mood. I decided just handing out campaign buttons wasn't enough, I had to present them. I set off  on the internets to find the perfect little do-it-yourself box.

Here's the one I found. There are lots more out there.

Turns out a pillow box is pretty darned easy to make, and it took exactly the right amount of time to make them. I just knew my cardstock stash would come in handy someday!


Our meeting last night was fun, and we added a couple of new members. Everyone is enthusiastic about the upcoming election, eager to work on fundraising projects and a membership drive and especially anxious for Democrats to take back the House of Representatives. Republicans, and especially the Tea Party faction, seem hell-bent on turning the clock back to the 1950s.

The fact that we as a group are, um, older (at 60 I think I'm the youngest) doesn't mean we won't be fighting for reproductive rights. We won't let everything we fought for 50 years ago be overturned by some whippersnapper of a man who has the financial backing of more men. It's not right, it's not fair and it's not going to happen.

Not if the Three Rivers Democratic Women have anything to say about it.

From pillow boxes to soap boxes: My, that was fun! Have a great weekend. Due to my commitment to post every day in February, I'll be here tomorrow. I hope you will be, too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who's next?


Up, down, up down ... HEAVY SIGH

[Before I get started this morning, did you read Mindy's fantastic comment yesterday about how she knew her husband was The One? What a guy! Thanks for sharing your story, Mindy.]

Okay, I'm ready.

Perhaps I shouldn't be weighing myself daily. Or perhaps I shouldn't give the number I saw this morning so much power. I have a lot to do today. I don't have time to analyze why I've bounced back up again, nor do I have the energy for it.

It's. Just. Information.

Data comes in all forms, and what I weigh is just part of it. How my clothes fit, how my wedding ring slips around on my finger, how I move, how I feel are better indicators of how the South Beach+gym workout plan is working than what the scale says.

Can I get an "amen" on that?

I'll be honest with you, I'm pretty tired of all protein and vegetables, all the time. I'm sticking with Phase I most days; a couple days a week I have steel-cut oats or whole-grain bread at one meal. I'm allowed to add a half-cup of carrots (and peas) on Phase II, and I think I'll do that today.

What's so bad about carrots, anyway? Yes, I know they have more "sugar" than spinach or celery, but still. Come to think of it, though, the original incarnation of Weight Watchers limited carrots (and peas) to four ounces daily. (Many vegetables were unlimited back in the day.) There must be something inherently delicious about carrots (and peas) if they're restricted.

For the last couple gym workouts I've been using free weights instead of Nautilus for biceps and triceps. I started with five-pound dumbbells, because the gym doesn't have eight-pounders (which is what I have at home) and I didn't think I could lift 10-pounders. Because I'm a wimp.

Well, yesterday I picked up that 10-pound bad boy and ripped off two sets of 15 curls and kickbacks like it was nothing! I was so surprised, and I learned a valuable lesson: I must not underestimate myself. Maybe my inner badass is breaking free. Heh.

If that doesn't get me out of this scale-induced funk, nothing will. I feel better already, just remembering how I felt when I finished.

Don't worry, I'm not morphing into a weightlifter. I still don't much care for strength-training, but I can see  a few benefits already. Not so much in my shape, but more like this:

  • my ability to move more freely
  • my energy level
  • my willingness to just go do [whatever] rather than delay or ignore doing [whatever]
  • my posture (seriously!)

I hope I figure out all this health-and-fitness stuff before I'm eligible for Medicare. It would be so great to have a government health benefit and not have to use it for illness or a disability. I've been working on figuring it out more than half my life, you'd think I'd have it down by now.

If I did, though, what kind of drivel would both of you be reading this morning? Heh.

Here's what the rest of my day is going to look like:

This is the prototype for this year's campaign buttons for my Democratic women's group.
I need to make enough to give to members at our meeting tonight, and then we'll be
making and selling them as a fundraiser. Want one? Let me know. Just $3!

I hope your day is just as crafty, creative and hopey-changey as mine is!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What a card

I'm the early riser in my house, so when my husband got up yesterday he found a Valentine's card and gift from me. We usually don't make a big deal of the "holiday," so he was a little surprised. Every day is Valentine's Day here in the Middle of Nowhere! Heh.

He had to be gone most of the day, and when he came home he handed me a very large pink envelope. I certainly didn't intend for him to go out and get me a card just because I got him one, but he said he'd planned to get one anyway. And his history is that he always buys cards on The Day They Need To Be Given. In other words, I've never woken up and found a card waiting for me.

Before I opened it, he half-jokingly said he could have bought me dinner for what he paid for the card.

Now, if you haven't figured it out by now, we're pretty frugal around here. For my husband to spend a significant amount of money on a card was not only completely out of character, it was – in my opinion – completely unnecessary.

Not enough for a fancy dinner,
you understand, but somewhere
here in the Middle of Nowhere we
could probably find dinner for $9.
You know what, though? It was a beautiful card and it said exactly what he wanted to say. We've been together for 19 years (our first date was February 13, 1993), and there've been lots of ups and downs during those years and he wanted to tell me … well, I'm not going to go into all the mushy details.

Suffice it to say I was touched and pleased. Especially when he said he thought the card would probably be $4 or $5, but when the cashier told him it was $9.53 he bought it anyway.

He's done things like that before. The most memorable time was when we rescued a cat that had been wounded by a wild animal. Before we took her to the vet, I asked him how much he was willing to spend to save this cat's life. He thought for a minute and said, "$100."

When the vet assessed the damaged feline she said it would cost around $250 to stitch her up, vaccinate and spay her. And he said, "Of course. Whatever it takes." He didn't even hesitate.

That happened before I moved in with him, and I decided right then and there he was a keeper.

How about you? If you're in a committed relationship, what was the defining moment when you knew you weren't going to let him or her get away?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Alter-Valentine's Day

TangledLou has some great alternative heartfelt greetings today. Check them out here.

Six weeks. Ten pounds.

It's been years since I could say I've lost 10 pounds in any time period, let alone six weeks. For you young whippersnappers out there who think you've got your whole lifetime to lose weight, here's a tip: Your metabolism will slow down as you age. In other words, lose it now.

Because I weigh myself daily (but only officially record it weekly), I knew I was not going to have a dramatic loss. It's good to see the trend continuing downward, however, and it's enough motivation to continue the South Beach plan. I love the irony of hitting the 10-pound mark on Valentine's Day, when chocolates are plentiful and on sale!

 Image courtesy of valentine-clipart.com
My craving for something sweet has not gone away, and I caved in yesterday. I left the gym at around 1:30 p.m., after a hard workout (I'm increasing my sets this week, I'm now up to 3 sets of 15 reps), headed for the grocery. I walked into Tiny Kroger and the first thing I saw was a display of sugar cookies – the soft kind with icing – and free samples of half cookies. Without even thinking about it, I popped one in my mouth and enjoyed every crumb. (You recovering alkies will recognize this behavior, if not from personal experience, then from reading about it.)

I'm sure not going to do that every day. The taste wasn't enough to get me to buy a dozen, as I might have in the past. I feel worse about it this morning than I did yesterday afternoon. It's one of those "get back on the horse" moments, I guess, and in the whole scheme of things, I hope I haven't done much damage.

Damn Valentine's Day anyway. Were it not for this Hallmark holiday, those cookies wouldn't even have been on display.

It's all Cupid's fault!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammys from four perspectives

(When I finished writing this, I realized it's the first post I've published this month that actually fits the NaBloPoMo "Relative" category. Yay, me!)

In case you missed it, the 54th Grammy Awards Show aired last night between commercials for CBS's Amazing Race. There were heartfelt remembrances of Whitney, of course – Jennifer Hudson pulled off a stunning performance and howdoesshedoit? There was lots of fire on stage and lots of cra-zee oufits and some really beautiful ones, too. I don't watch a lot of television these days, but I love me an awards show.

So I took control of the remote and my husband suffered through it. When it was over, he said, "I hate to admit it, but I kind of enjoyed it." SCORE! Heh.

Here's a brief rundown of how three of my relatives and I viewed the spectacle.

My husband
Though just eight years older than I, he really belongs in the previous generation when it comes to music. He doesn't listen to popular music at all, when he has a choice he prefers classical and when we're in the car it almost always has to be something he's at least familiar with. The single exception is Mumford and Sons. I take all the credit for introducing him to their music.

His favorite part of the Grammys last night was the Tony Bennet duet. He thought the Beach Boys did well (but when he said that, Foster the People were doing the vocals), and Sir Paul was the bomb.

Me
Bob Dylan will always and forever be my favorite poet, musician and singer, but I definitely stay tuned in (heh) to current artists. I was not surprised that Adele won six Grammys last night. She's amazing, just simply amazing. Much older-sounding – and looking – than her 23 years and so talented.

Lady GaGa in a leotard and head-to-
toe fishnet stockings.
© Just Jared
I'm not a fan of country music, but I downloaded Taylor Swift's "Mean" before she stopped singing it.

I felt bad for Lady GaGa, who got all dressed up and had nowhere to go. Because Adele was wearing a groove in the carpet collecting her awards.

My daughter
She really stays on top of the current popular music scene, and introduces me to many of the artists whose work now fills my iPod. My husband and I were in the same room watching the Grammys, but my daughter and I texted each other throughout the program. My favorite text from her was this:
Has anyone ever taken up as much space as Diana Ross? That hair! That dress!!! My goodness, woman!
Our running commentary started on the red carpet and ended with Paul McCartney's great advice: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Nobody says it better.

My granddaughter
We weren't rockin' the Grammys by text message, but I got updates from her mother throughout the evening. To bring things full-circle, her 14-year-old self also thought the Beach Boys sounded pretty good when Foster the People was singing. Heh.

So. Four generations of Grammy-watchers and I don't think any of us were disappointed. I've read a lot of stuff on Facebook this morning about how the current crop of musicians are me-me-me and not talented and it's all about the show and the pyrotechnics and oh, by the way, where's the talent? I will say just one word, three times:
Adele. Adele. Adele.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

RIP Whitney

Whitney Houston
http://www.usafricaonline.com/
I wasn't a fan.

There's not a single song by Whitney Houston on my iPod, not even I Will Always Love You, which really is an amazing song (but I like Dolly's version better). She was so iconic she could easily have gone by her first name only, like Cher or Madonna or Fergie. Or, um, Dolly, for that matter.

Her vocal style didn't mesh with my listening taste, so I wasn't a fan. But I'm shocked to learn of her death.

Just 48 years old. On the comeback trail. Her demons supposedly behind her. So much accomplished already, and with so much promise.

An autopsy is scheduled. We'll learn the cause of death in time. In the meantime, I'm trying not to think 'it must have been drugs,' but that's what we think when someone like Whitney (or Michael or Heath or Amy) dies suddenly and too soon.

The abuse of drugs, legal or illegal, takes your life away, even when you're still breathing. Ninety percent of the inmates at the prison where I volunteer are there for drug crimes. I hear it every week: the heartache of being a 'bad' mom, the pain of losing everything, the shame, the guilt, the remorse.

Some of them get it. Some of them quit, for good. They go to 12-step meetings, raise their kids, get jobs. They help others and turn their backs on their varied pasts.

Some of them don't. Or they quit for a while, but there's something in their lives or their souls that sends them back to "the life." They show up in prison again. And sometimes again.

They're the lucky ones. And they'd be the first to tell you so.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Looks like winter's finally here

I can't complain. We had the mildest January in recent memory (which isn't saying a lot, as the recent memory is the first to go as we age, I think), so having a couple day of Xtreme cold and a few potential inches of snow is, um, normal. Right now we have about an inch, and according to the radar we're looking at another three or four hours of light snow.

I feel so bad for the daffodils. They usually have to withstand a very cold night or two later in the season and they pop right back. I hope mine will, but I'm not holding my breath. They just sprouted too early.

Denise, I'm a total novice when it comes to Excel, and your tip on how to select a section of a spreadsheet is nothing short of genius! Thanks so much. I should probably read a tutorial or take a class to get the full benefit of the program, but I truly don't use it very often.

(I bought it for a part-time job that fell through. =( But I'm happy to have it to work on the garden center's website. I'll link to it when it's ready for prime-time.)

Took this picture of our
BRAND-NEW coffeemaker
last year on Feb. 13.
The grind part of our grind-and-brew coffeemaker bit the dust this morning. From what I can gather after reading online troubleshooting forums, this is pretty common after a couple years of use. It's a 12-cup Cuisinart model that was on sale at Sam's for about $50, so I'm not too disappointed. I pulled the backup Krups grinder out of the cupboard and we're good to go.

My husband drinks a lot of coffee. His coffee consumption is actually rather legendary in his extended family; one cousin says she and her mother have had entire conversations about how much coffee he drinks. We routinely brew three pots of coffee every day, and sometimes four.

I mix a bag of regular and a bag of decaffeinated beans together to reduce the total caffeine intake, but still. That's a helluva lot of coffee. (I drink three or four cups in the morning and then I'm done.) That the grinder quit so relatively soon after purchasing the unit (in two days we will have had it for a year) shouldn't be a big surprise, considering that most people make coffee once a day.

Don't they?

We have a backup coffeemaker, as well, because obviously when someone needs three pots of coffee a day, you have to be prepared. We're like Boy Scouts that way. Heh.

Fortunately we're like Boy Scouts as far as being prepared for bad weather goes, as well. Because it doesn't look like we're going to be leaving the house today. Plenty of eggs, milk, meat and vegetables. And I should probably go put another pot of coffee on.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I've got nuthin'

No Friday quote (has anyone noticed I've abandoned it?).
No photos.
No words. (Well, not many. Heh.)

But also?

No problems.
No worries.
No angst.
No hassles.
No drama.

Life is good. I think I'll do everything I can to keep it that way. I'm so grateful for your readership and for your comments and for your support in my doofusness and weight-loss efforts and the general ups-and-downs I go through. Today is an up, for reasons I can't really figure out. I just feel … good.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What a DOOFUS I am!

I've spent so much time trying to connect my wireless mouse to my computer. I've Googled and searched user forums and tried all the fixes out there, to absolutely no avail.

Apparently there are a boatload of Mac users whose Bluetooth peripherals quit working after the most recent Lion OS upgrade. And there are lots of step-by-step solutions, beginning with turn the computer off and back on again, and going all the way up to reinstalling the OS.

I finally called Logitech Customer Support. The very nice young man (thank you, Chris!) first asked if I'd remembered to plug the USB receiver in.

Huh?

Because everyone else on the internets was having trouble with a Bluetooth device, I just assumed that's what I was dealing with. I rooted around in the little basket where I throw all my computer cords and there, down in the bottom, was a tiny little USB thingie, imprinted with a Logitech logo.

Chris was sooooo gracious. Kudos to Logitech for hiring tech support people who have the good manners not to tell old ladies they probably shouldn't be playing with computers anyway. Heh.

To be fair to myself, I'd only used the wireless mouse a couple of times prior to upgrading my OS. Not having much familiarity with the device, I suppose I could be forgiven for forgetting about the tiny little receiver that makes the mouse work. Duh.

Still no mouse ...

Well, except for THE REAL ONE that wandered up through the ductwork and got caught in a sticky trap.

They really are barbaric, those sticky traps, but at least you can hear the mouse ticking its little claws on the floor, trying to get away, and you can dispose of the whole mess. As opposed to having one get caught in a spring-loaded trap and then just lie there rotting until the guest room smells like, well, a dead mouse.

Ask me how I know of such things. Heh.

My computer and my wireless mouse are still not speaking to each other, but my index finger worked pretty well on the touchpad and I made a huge, HUGE, HUGE amount of progress on the job I've been working on. My client is pleased, I am pleased and despite the fact that I know very little about birthin' websites, we're going to be blessed with one soon. I'm waiting on the client to provide more data before I can continue. It's a tedious process, what she's doing, and it will be so worth it to her when it's done.

We woke up to a light snow yesterday, which – in the past – would have kept me home from the gym. Um, if I'd had a gym. Which I didn't, but I do now! Yay! I called to make sure they were open and learned that my road out here in the Middle of Nowhere was the only snow-covered one between here and there. Armed with four-wheel-drive (and not needing it at all, as it turned out), I made it for workout #8. I'm still doing two sets on most of the circuit training machines, but I'm up to 15 reps now. (Plus I'm doing pyramids on the leg press – 90x15, 110x15, 130x15, 110x15 and 90x15. I love the leg press.) And I'm well into the second season of Glee, which makes walking on the treadmill a whole lot more manageable.

May I bore you with one more wheatgrass photo? Pretty please with sugar-free Jell-O on top? I posted it on Facebook last night, so if you're one of my friends you've probably already seen it. (And if you're not, you can click my name over there in the righthand column to friend me. I'll warn you, though, I wax pretty political on FB.)

Okay, so we're eating dinner and now that the grass is the new centerpiece,
I can't help but notice all these little dewdrops on the tips of each blade.
I put the soup spoon down, got the camera and started snapping. I'm
calling it the Wheatgrass Diet. Look for it on Amazon.com soon. Heh.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My new favorite plant


February 1: Planted wheatgrass in these little pots. Covered them with
plastic wrap, put them in a sunny spot.

February 4: Surprise! The center pot is doing really well. Not much
growth in the other two.

February 6: You've already seen this, but I wanted you to see it again,
next to today's shot below this one.

February 8: Almost ready for a haircut! 

Arghhh ...

I just read Anne's lovely comment on yesterday's post, in which she said I was in a good place in so many ways. She should know; Anne's been reading my drivel for years, and has been through many of my ups and downs both at the Shrinking Knitter and here.

Isn't she pretty? And she used to work!
I'm actually not in a good place rightnowthisminute, but it's a technical glitch between my laptop and a wireless mouse that USED TO WORK, before the most recent OS update. I've been trying to fix the problem for, oh, more than an hour now.

I don't need the mouse to do the work I have to do this morning, but working in Excel is easier when I can click-and-drag with a device rather than with my index finger.

Thus the "arghhh" and head-banging and other frustration noises you've been hearing from the Middle of Nowhere.

If you happen to have a MacBook Air and a Logitech M305 Bluetooth mouse that do work together, could you please share the magic words with me?

As both of you know, I love me some technology. But it's times like these that try women's souls.

Other things that try my soul:
  • When my husband goes into one of his moody, broody places, especially when I don't know what's wrong.
  • When Hershey won't come when she's called, especially when I need her to come in because I'm going somewhere. (I don't leave her outdoors when no one is home, not even for a little bit.)
  • When the brew pause feature on the coffeemaker suddenly and inexplicably fails.
  • When the oven won't heat up. (The heating element sometimes needs to be jiggled back in place. Jiggling has saved me lots o'cashmoneybucks in repair or replacement costs.)
  • Fruit flies. I guess if you have indoor fruit trees, you stand a chance of having fruit flies, no matter what the temperature is outside. I killed half a dozen of them last night in a 10-minute span. I hope there's no such think as fruit-fly karma.
Looking at that list, there's absolutely nothing on it about poor health or financial distress. So, really, I should just delete the whole shebang. But writing it down typing it out actually helped me come to a place where I can share things that soothe my soul:
  • Text messages or phone calls from any of my grandchildren.
  • Seeing a picture of my dad. I sure miss him, but it comforts me to know he's no longer in pain.
  • Home-cooked meals.
  • The women I serve at the AA meeting at Alderson FPC.
  • This.
Feel free to add to either of these lists! And have a tech problem-free, soul-soothing day, won't you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Oh, the weather outside is …

beautiful! In an ethereal, dreamy, foggy kind of way.

Yesterday morning we woke up to low clouds and thick frost. See?




Today it's clear and crisp with frost covering everything on the northeast side of the house, but barely coating the stuff on the southwest side. Not sure how to explain that. And it's not nearly as picture-worthy as yesterday's icy morning greeting.

Looks like we're in for some cold, cold nights, with daytime highs gradually cooling as the week wears on. High today of 53° and sunny, so an outdoor walk is on the agenda. The rest of the week we descend into winter. Finally. I hope the daffs survive.

I've now been South Beaching for four weeks. My weight stayed the same this week, but the trend since January 1 has been two weeks of losses and one week of staying the same. Jen noted recently that she experiences a similar pattern. Not that I'm Jen, but it was instructive to read that and it helped me be not quite as bummed as I would have been in the past. Jen also is using a scale that tracks body fat. I have a scale that does that, but I'm not using it. Maybe it's time. (My body fat percentage was so scary-high I put the scale away and haven't looked at it in more than a year. Seriously!)

My old thinking would have had me jumping off the wagon at this point. I've been really good about this plan that promises big losses the first two weeks and a steady two-pounds-a-week after that. I can stay the same weight eating all kinds of crap. I maintained the same [too-high] weight for several months last year, eating pretty much whatever I wanted.

Rather than ditch it, I plan to stick with South Beach. Nothing about eating protein and vegetables is going to hurt me, and avoiding sugar and refined flour has already helped. I feel much better emotionally.

There's also the gym factor. I've been faithfully showing up there thrice-weekly for two weeks, spending at least half an hour on full-body weight-training and another 45 minutes watching Glee on the treadmill. I am a sweaty mess when I get done. On the days I'm not in the gym I try to walk outside or do the elliptical here at home, although I have missed either three or four days of intentional activity.

The interesting thing about skipping a day is that in the old days I could easily justify skipping another and another and then just falling back into the not-working-out habit. Now I just tell myself that because of circumstances, I need to take a day off. ONE day. Not a week.

Consistent healthful eating plus consistent workouts will theoretically yield results. There's a poster on Pinterest (naturally I can't find it now, sigh) that says (regarding weight loss) it takes 4 weeks for you to notice, 8 weeks for friends and family and 12 weeks for everyone else.

I guess I've still got time. Heh.

Monday, February 6, 2012

One more wheatgrass photo

Taken just now, aren't those little drops of water cool? 

You, too, can have a green thumb

Five days ago, I planted wheatgrass seeds in this cute little planter I bought last weekend in Asheville. Look at it now!

These sprouts are already twice as tall as they were yesterday when
I took this photo! What is it 'they' say about watching grass grow?
I should charge admission!

Wheatgrass – live or plastic – is all over the place. I first saw some displayed in a restaurant at the North Carolina Zoo two or three years ago, and I've been on a mission ever since to find the perfect container in which to grow my own. My plant is purely decorative, but I could make juice from it if I wanted to. Which I don't. Cats like to eat wheatgrass (it's also called catgrass), something to keep in mind if you want your centerpiece to remain intact. I don't have cats, just one adorable little dog who doesn't eat from the table. Much.

I used an organic seed-starting medium for soil, but any kind of potting soil would work. I made sure the dirt was moist, sprinkled the seeds on top and added a little more soil to cover them. Then I put some plastic wrap on top and put it in a sunny spot. The plastic wrap acts as a mini-greenhouse; you shouldn't need to add more water until you see growth.

Once the seeds sprout, you can remove the plastic wrap. My experience with vegetable seeds is that sprouting can sometimes take a couple weeks. You can imagine how surprised I was to see this much growth in five days.

When the sprouts are about three inches tall I'm going to snip them straight across the top. For someone who never much cared for houseplants, I'm turning into quite the indoor gardener. The green onions are doing fairly well, as is the celery. My Meyer lemon tree is loaded with baby fruit and the lime tree has plenty of babies and mature limes. I'll have enough spider plants to totally rock whatever container planting I do this summer.

And speaking of rocking, how about those Giants? It was way too exciting! And Madonna totally killed the halftime show. No wardrobe malfunctions this year (in fact, Madonna was pretty buttoned-up), but M.I.A. got a little out of line, prompting apologies from the NFL and NBC. The middle-finger salute looked inadvertent to me; I didn't even notice it until I'd watched the video twice.

Speaking of not rocking, I thought the commercials were only so-so. (The standout was Chrysler, very bold and I hope we see it again.) Super Bowl advertisers must think we like to drink a lot of beer and buy a lot of cars. They should have thrown a DIY Network ad in there, cuz girls watch football, too! Heh.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Apologies

I just reread yesterday's post, which totally sounds like food porn. So sorry!

I went on a foodie blog kick late last year and had to quit because the pictures and recipes were beginning to make me want more. I began adding writers from their blogrolls to mine and eventually got to the point where reading about food became the gateway drug to cooking and eating more of it.

I haven't gone completely cold turkey, but I've unsubscribed from the major dealers' RSS feeds. Gotta clean up my blogroll before I'm charged with conspiracy. [ETA: Done!]

So anyway … it's Super Bowl Sunday and we're going to have some snacks. Heh.

One thing the food bloggers did was inspire me to be more creative with photography. I, in fact, dedicated my Project 365 blog to food this year, but that only lasted a month. I've started following a photo-a-day challenge for February, which has been interesting and actually makes the photos somewhat more interesting than a shot of the nightstand at 11:45 p.m., just so I don't miss a day.


If you'd like to see how I'm interpreting the challenge, click here. If you'd like to join in, here's the list of prompts.

Go, Giants!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

The whole house smells like bacon

© Debora McNeer
According to my daughter, a traditional Cobb salad is the low-carber's perfect meal. I made a version of one last night for dinner (aren't they all just a little bit different?): torn romaine and red onions dressed with pesto salad dressing and topped with sliced black olives, chopped hard-cooked egg, diced chicken breast, crumbled blue cheese and bacon, bacon, BACON!

I bake my bacon on a rack in a 375° oven until it's crispy but not burned. Less mess than on the stove, but you'd still think I put parfume de bacon in the air freshener thingies.

The salad was delicious, and very satisfying – two of the results I love about lots o'protein.

I had to warn the husband that the five leftover pieces of bacon were a reserved ingredient for our Super Bowl supper tomorrow night. He has no concept, because he doesn't cook, that you can make more of something one day in order to use it later. He also has no concept, because he usually eats only one daily meal – dinner – of serving sizes.

For instance, when we had meat loaf the other night, I put two small slices on my plate, and he set out to eat the rest of it. I had to stop him – I used 20 ounces of meat in the thing! Even explaining that he nearly ate a pound of meat for dinner didn't phase him. He's accustomed to ordering a 16-ounce steak in a restaurant. I seriously had intended for that meat loaf to provide two meals for the two of us. Didn't happen.

The Super Bowl must be the low-carber's perfect party event. I'm taking full advantage of the fact that football food falls into the meat category. Our meal-of-snacks will look like this:

  • crudites and baked low-carb tortilla triangles with hummus
  • Buffalo chicken legs with bleu cheese sauce (this is what I'm adding the leftover bacon to)
  • roast beef slices spread with horseradish cream cheese
  • pickles and pickled okra
  • sliced summer sausage and cheese
  • sun-dried tomato and homemade mozzarella salad

It's a higher-fat menu than South Beach would like, but it's the Super Bowl! And I'm not serving football-shaped brownies for dessert. In fact, I think we'll be too full for dessert, don't you?

I just hope Eli isn't too full from his pre-game meal to beat the Patriots. I'll probably be too full to watch the final play, but I'm going to really, really try to stay up for the whole thing. We will then go into football mourning until September 1, when the college season kicks off with West Virginia against Marshall.

That is, if they're still part of the Big East conference. No matter who they play, I'm guessing there will be some bacon involved in our game-time feast. At least in September I can open the doors and windows.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Suh-weet!

After a long day of driving, driving, driving to Charleston, WV, and back yesterday (the older I get the less I care to drive, but the older my husband gets the less I want him to drive! So there you go, I'm the chauffeur), we settled down to watch Brian Williams, who relayed this little tidbit about sugar.

Which basically says there are some scientists and policymakers who think sugar consumption should be regulated. Like alcohol! And tobacco! Imagine that.

©Debora McNeer
Toward the end of the segment, Dr. Nancy Snyderman mentions that artificial sweeteners, which taste sweeter than refined sugar, actually trick our brains into wanting more, more, more. The last couple of days I've indulged in sugar-free soda and sugar-free pudding (both are permitted on the South Beach plan) and bingo! The sugar blues have been hitting me hard.

A more in-depth look at the issue of regulating sugar can be found in yesterday's L.A. Times. And here's a .pdf file of the journal article.

The article points out that the four criteria for justifying government regulation apply to sugar as much as they do alcohol:

  • It's unavoidable in society
  • It's toxic
  • It can be abused
  • It's bad for society

My current diet is sugar-free, to the best of my ability, and has been for nearly three weeks. I don't see this changing for quite some time. Nor do I see public pressure rising to force the FDA to begin regulating sugar consumption in the United States. (Can you imagine the outcry from the current Republican-controlled Congress? Nanny state! Personal responsibility! Let them eat cake!)

I'm not even sure I agree that sugar meets the four criteria. Yes, it's unavoidable and I'd have to agree that it can be abused. But is it bad for society? Or toxic?

Advocates for sugar regulation claim it is. And so did William Dufty in his book Sugar Blues. He relates an experiment during World War II in which two groups of dogs were given only plain water or sugar water for a period of time. The sugar-water group became sick and/or died before the control group did. (Can you imagine what PETA would do if this happened today?)

I've been an advocate for single-payer health insurance for many years. One of the main arguments against it is this: What would happen to all those people who work for health insurance companies? You know, the ones who fight with your doctor's office staff about whether you should take Drug A or Drug B, or receive Test Y or X-ray Z.

Should sugar come under federal regulation, what would happen to all the cake pop shops?

Just as I'm better off a nicer person sane when I don't drink alcohol, I believe, for me, that the quality of my life – and my husband's! – goes up when my consumption of sugar goes down. But I haven't purged the pantry of the baking chocolate, homemade marmalade (SOB!) or 10-pound bag of Domino's. Yet.

Maybe if I wait long enough, the DEA will raid my kitchen and I won't have to. I wonder if they serve marmalade in prison …

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Groundhog's Day!

Speaking of relatives: I love talking about and remembering my dad who, in later life, declared Groundhog's Day to be his favorite holiday.

This was not always the case. I don't remember any great celebrations in early February during my childhood. But as he (and I!) got older he became less and less serious about day-to-day stuff and more and more lighthearted about, um, everything.

What a good example he was.

Early one February 2, several years ago, the phone rang. Dad was calling from Florida to wish me a Happy Groundhog's Day, something he'd never done before.
Me: I'm sorry, what did you say?
He: Happy Groundhog's Day! Did the groundhog see his shadow in West Virginia?Me: Um, I'm not sure. Why are you suddenly all excited about Groundhog's Day, anyway?
He: It's my new favorite holiday.Me: And why is that?
He: No cards, no presents, no big meals that take all day to fix. Winter's on the way out and spring is right around the corner.Me: Well, there's still a lot of winter left in the next six weeks.
He: Maybe in West Virginia, but it's in the 70s down here! When are you coming to visit?
After that inaugural conversation, I sent homemade cards with groundhogs on them every year.

Daddy died in September of 2010. We've already been through the first year of celebrations without him. Each one gets easier. Even on Groundhog's Day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You might be a 60-year-old gym rat if …


  • Two Aleve with your morning coffee act as preventive medicine before you leave for the gym.
  • You wear baggy shirts and yoga pants, instead of tight-fitting tanks and bike shorts.
  • Older patrons ask you how things work, instead of bothering that young whippersnapper at the front desk.
  • The music blasting out over the loudspeakers is vaguely familiar, but you couldn't sing along to it.
  • You're not in a hurry to get there, and you're not in a hurry to leave.

It's a good day to be a gym rat here in the Middle of Nowhere. It's started raining, and it looks like the morning off-and-on showers might turn into a soaker by noon.

Since we haven't had any snow to speak of this winter, the rain is a Good Thing. Gardens need moisture year-'round, and not many gardeners are willing to drag their hoses out of storage during a mid-winter dry spell.

I walked yesterday morning, in brilliant sunshine without a jacket. I pushed myself to do 3.5 miles in an hour. It's so much easier to do 3.5 mph on the treadmill than outdoors on hills, but I did it. Felt very strong when I got home. And very sweaty. Heh.

February's NaBloPoMo theme is "relative." So far I haven't run with the themes, because I've always thought this blog had a theme of its own and I try to stay within the knit-run-reap-eat parameters. Also, the reason this blog exists (instead of my original one, the Shrinking Knitter), is because of some issues with some relatives. (Have any of you started a new blog to hide from someone who found your old one?) So writing about "relatives" is not going to happen.

But the word relative is adjective as well as a noun.
relative |ˈrelətiv|
adjective
1: considered in relation or in proportion to something else
In my case, the relative effectiveness of going to the gym versus walking outdoors can be measured by the soreness in my muscles. My back, shoulders and arms feel fine after a walk outside. After a trip around the Nautilus/Cybex machines? Not so much.

But it's, ahem, relatively easier this week than last, and I feel relatively stronger today than I did a week ago. And with the January weight loss, I feel positively fantastic about the decision to pony up for a six-month membership.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to remind me to come back and read this post when I slide into complacency, busy-ness, fatigue or just plain old I-don't-want-to. Thank you in advance.