Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weigh in, groceries and new food find

Once again, I step on the scale and scratch my head. Three people eating the same things, three different results

Me- stay the same ( I have a suspicion what may be the cause)
Nick- DOWN 4.2 ( with absolutely no exercise whatsoever)
Bob UP 0.6 ( with all the carting of groceries up the stairs in the heat and a boatload of walking)

In my case, I absolutely and totally believe it is hormones. I am very close to menopause ( for 3 years now my cycles can come every two weeks, or once every 3 months or skip showing up for 7 months ). One little known issue with menopause( and the number one complaint amongst perimenopausal women) is CONSTIPATION. It has nothing to do with the level of fiber, water, oil or activity, but rather EVERYTHING to do with your progesterone levels. It is exactly the same reason many pregnant women have problems with this ( and then add iron supplements and it is a wonder if you have a BM once a week). Everryone talks about hot flashes, mood swings and night sweats. No one talks about the constipation issue, but 98 percent of women approaching or going through 'The Change" experience it, and it does play havoc with weight loss !

I just got back from grocery shopping, and i am praying for a refrigerator with elastic walls to hold all the produce ! I am going to have to start using this weeks haul of tomatoes, squash, eggplant and more as decorations . One of the things I picked up is an Opa squash and White Canadian Eggplant and some eggplant that is white and purple striped. These are going to be fun to play with this week, and i will snap pictures and post recipies.

The rest of the day today is going to be lost to chopping veggies and other household tasks. Tomorrow is a festival of The First Harvest in my spiritual tradition, and I need to get ready .

Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting to know herb

Two of the most valuable skills in the kitchen for money saving and lifestyle improvement would be learning how to use and maintain a good sharp knife and how to use spices. Both can help you transform cheap, ho hum kinds of things into delicious and healthful meals. I have a pretty respectable spice rack that gets used 3 meals a day in some form or another . It is not my only stash of botanical things- I have a whole separate cabinet of medicinal herbs that we uses. But as far as cooking, meet my little friend:

One of the best reasons I have found to use spices is to avoid high sodium hits from unexpected sources. Like this healthy looking thing:

Hodson Mills Whole Wheat Couscous with Garlic and Basil. Also contains flax ad soy , for an added boost of omega fatty acids. Omega fats are very important for health , and a boost is a good one. I have flax meal in my fridge, I have loads of garlic, I have fresh and frozen basil, but I picked this up because it sounded like a good way to save me a step in the kitchen. It did, but at what cost ? Shall we examine ???

625 milligrams of sodium per serving ! That is one fourth of the days sodium intake in one serving. This fact took the healthy aspect of this product and threw it right out the window. I made it because we really eat low on the sodium scale , but for the average person, this little side could send you into dangerous waters. It would not be at all difficult to make this dish with your own whole wheat couscous and spices.

Sometimes people get very intimidated about using herbs and spices. What goes with what is something we pick up from the other cooks in our life, and if they have a limited repertoire, we end up with the same. Here is a list of what spices I know to go with a small list of foods. Perhaps it will help some of you widen your own repertoire !

Beans (dried) — bay,cumin, cayenne, chili, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, thyme
Beef — basil, bay, cinnamon, chili, cilantro, curry, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Breads — anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme
Cheese — basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chili, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Chicken — allspice, basil, bay, chives, cinnamon, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mustard, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme,
Corn —basil, chili, curry, dill, marjoram, parsley, savory, thyme
Eggs — basil, chervil, chili, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Fish — anise, basil, bay, cayenne, celery seed, chives, curry, dill fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, marjoram
Fruits — allspice, anise,basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mint
Lamb — basil, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme
Potatoes — basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Salad Dressings — basil, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, thyme
Salads — basil, caraway, chives, dill, garlic, lemon peel, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Soups — basil, bay, chervil, chili, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
Sweets — allspice, angelica, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary
Tomatoes — basil, bay, celery seed, cinnamon, chili, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, gumbo file, lemongrass, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thinking and playing

Yesterday Nick was feeling better, back to his normal sparkley self, and it even more normal. The weather decided to play "let's be threatening" all day , so we broke out the Wii and spent almost two hours playing cycling races, archery and dog frisbee. Dark ominous clouds kept rolling in, but the rain never happened. Nick gets really freaked out at storms( he thinks lightning is going to fry him or every wind is a tornado) and thunder is a real sensory overload. All things considered with how he has felt the last while, I decided it would be best not to push and just use this Wii time to trasition back into the world of more activity.Would you believe that you can actually break a sweat doing the cycling races and it gets your heart rate up ??? It's true.

We caught a few more shows on The Cooking Channel, and I am finding that even the thought of some of the dishes prepared by people who go "BAM", are enough to make my stomach flip. Flavor should be the star, and the way those flavors dance and play together the feature. Not fat! While fat is important to your health, to have it as the star ingredient dulls the pallet. Add a stick of butter and you have herbs and seasonings trapped because they have been dulled. Add lard and nothing can mingle. A pinch of salt turns up the volume on some flavors , but it quickly reaches a level where it bullies them into quiet submission. Cooking is an art, and like all arts , you can either mass produce it so that it becomes as common as a smiley face . Or you can take time and create something that is a masterpeice. I think when you experience a masterpiece all of your senses come alive, drink it in and you are soon deeply satisfied. When all you see is smiley faces, your senses become dulled and you over-consume simply to feel something. I believe Nick is understanding this as well, and he gets excited at people who do things like roast beets, shave carrots into simple salads and combine things like oranges and basil. He kept asking if we could make this and that, and it inspired me for a whole new idea. This Saturday when we go shopping , abandon the menu plan and the lists. Simply go and buy food- whatever is in season, whatever looks vibrant and whatever is on sale. Could be suicide, but I suspect that it is going to be a heck of a lot of fun !

For dinner I tried a new to me recipe for yellow squash. In this area yellow squash becomes as abundant as zucchini this time of year ( and it is going to pick up production even more in the next 3 weeks), and there is a rush to find ways to use it.It can be used in any recipe calling for zucchini, as well as eaten raw. I honestly prefer the taste of the yellow squash over the zucchini.To me it has a mild buttery taste. This recipe combines that buttery flavor with basil and lemon, which seems to remind me of afternoons as a kid running through a lawn sprinkler on a hot summer day

Summer Squash Saute- serves 4

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced( or 2 T dried basil)
1 pound yellow squash ( or zucchini, pattypan or a combination of all 3)
fresh ground black pepper
juice of one lemon

Trim ends of squash, cut lengthwise and then into half moons about 1/8 inch thick. Heat oil in a skillet, place the squash in and season with salt and pepper. Saute till the squash is slightly tender and slightly golden brown. Add lemon juice and remove from heat. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back to normal

I think I see the light . At last !

Yesterday afternoon Nick was feeling better and suddenly decided he did not need so much constant attention from me anymore. I was even able to talk him into going out for a short walk. If nothing else, a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine would do the both of us a world of good, and so about mid afternoon we went out. For allergy sufferers, early morning and early evening are the worst times to head out , as that is when the pollen concentration it at it's highest. Mid- day is hotter, but less loaded with the stuff that will turn you into a faucet of gunk ! I think normal is returning at long last !

But what exactly is normal ? I think it gets re-defined with each revelation . The more you learn, the more your definition of normal changes. Normal for your school years is very different from your adult years, and normal eating when you are at your worst is very different from normal eating when you decide to live a healthy lifestyle. Normal evolves as you evolve.

I noticed a shift in my thinking over the last week or so. I think it happened while watching numerous shows on the new Cooking Network while giving Nick acupressure, ice backs and so forth. We watched a lot of cooking shows to help get his mind off pain. Some of the classics were on , like Grahm Kerr, and some new rising stars like Jamie Oliver and The Spice Goddess. I watched , and realized that the very best chefs used the most basic, minimal ingredients to create the most wonderful meals. Take fresh watermelon, fresh basil, combine the two and you have this wonderful dish that elevates the flavor of both of these ingredients to a whole new level. No need for all kinds of chemicals to make it sing and dance- it does so just because of it's own power. Not only does it taste wonderful and innovative, but it is less likely to do our bodies harm. It has high flavor, real nutrition and we are less likely to overindulge because we are actually satisfied by it. Hence comes a new normal for me- I want to make and serve food created in this simple, real style !

I began last night with this new way of preparing zucchini- raw, seasoned with simple ingredients and very delicious. It reminded us of those simple cucumber onion salads you find at summer gatherings

Zucchini Carpaccio

2 medium zucchini
salt and pepper to taste
1 T olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 onion, sliced thin
3 T Parmesan cheese
fresh mint leaves for garnish

With knife or mandolin slice zucchini very thin. Place on a plate in a single layer,
season with salt and pepper . Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle with
onion slices and Parmesan cheese. Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

Speaking of summer, we were able to eat a few of the tomatoes that we grew here from seed. Planted in little containers, grown indoors and pollinated by hand with a paint brush. It was a successful home school experiments that sadly had to be destroyed because of the bed bug spray prep.
I did not think it would be safe to eat any of the ripening tomatoes after the spraying , so we ate the few ripe ones and tossed the plants. Then they decided we did not need to be bug bombed, so the plants were destroyed for nothing. Sniff....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cheap, Healthy Zucchini and Eggplant: 134 Recipes

Day 8 of either pain or sickness. Nick's is no longer hurting, but his seasonal allergies have flared up. Bring in the truckload of kleenex !!! In the mean time, I found this page that has several good, ,healthy recipes for both eggplant an zucchini. I know they are abundant in our area right now, and I believe anyone who is growing them is starting to experience the annual flood of these beauties. Enjoy !

Cheap, Healthy Zucchini and Eggplant: 134 Recipes

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I bet E Harmony doesn't even think of this one

About 30 odd years ago I got this idea in my head that this total stranger was not only my future husband, but the second half of my soul- the missing part of me that made all the rest of it make total sense. I followed through with that hunch, waited till he realized the same truth , and we have been living happily ever after since August of 81. It's not to say that problems have not arisen in our life, but they have not been problems in our relationship. Bob is a very, very special man who makes everyday wonderful. However, there comes those occasions when I am convinced he is both a Saint and my Knight in Shining Armor- yesterday was one of these.

Last week was pretty chaotic , as well as hot and humid. Between bug sprays, package nonsense, toothaches, curriculum decisions, hassles at work, the prospect of simply going grocery shopping for the week was sounding like a weekend in Vegas! Sometimes just plain normal can be the most exciting thing in the world! I made our menu plan, lists and prepared to go- and we needed to make some extra consideration because of the 100+ heat index and frozen foods. Friday night we got a gullywasher storm with 8 inches of rain and a lot of flooding. Several roads were closed in the area, we were out of popsicles, squishy cold foods for Nick's teeth and other necessary stuff. We got ready to leave, and learned that the elevator had been knocked out ( something electrical got soaked in the heavy rain or something). We live on the 3rd floor, and while my mobility is improving, I do good just getting my body up the stairs, let alone carry anything. ( It's a stability issue- I need to use the railing and the wall in order to support my knee). Carrying anything up the stairs for me involves a back pack. Nick's tooth was flaring up again and he was miserable, and so I mentally calculated what I could scrounge in the house over the weekend till the regular staff was back on Monday and the elevator was repaired. Then Bob said that he would just take the lists and go. I argued that it was too hot and dangerous to be lugging a couple of hundred pounds of groceries up 3 flights of stairs in 100+ heat, but he insisted he would be fine and it would be best to do it this way. So off he went.

He did all the shopping, carried up all the groceries in the heat, remembered things I forgot to put on the list , and was happy to do it. It allowed me to work on Nick to get him feeling better ( temporarily), and pump Bob full of ice water when he got home. Skip roses or jewelry- THIS is some of the sexiest, most romantic things that a man could do for his wife when push comes to shove !

So far Nick is doing better, and we are noticing that while waiting for any medication or treatment to take affect, if we entertain hi with something the remedy takes affect faster and more efficiently. In that light, today he is feeling much better ( even has an appetite again) , and so we are going to take him to Chuck E Cheese. Technically is too old for the place, but he still loves it , and a day of being swirled in the happy energy can go a long way towards helping him at least become stable enough to be relatively normal till we can get him in ( long story on the Dentist) . Bob suggested that maybe getting Nick to do something really fun would be of great benefit in the interim. Add excellent father to the list .

My partner in life, crime and weight loss. I think I will keep him !

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weigh in, because it is Saturday

For some reason ( hmmm- what could it be ???) , I am really tired and kind of on automatic pilot. I do think being tired has a lot to do with harming weight loss, so the results of the week seem to be as expected. I am not stress eating- in fact there is a lot of time I am not eating at all because of the busy-ness and stress.

Me- UP 1.0
Nick - DOWN 2.6 ( apparently you can eat 4 boxes of Popsicles, lay and moan AND lose weight)
Bob- DOWN 0.2

Next week better be calmer, or I will figure out where it is sleeping and put an end it it's misery !!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just pop popcorn !

So spraying was supposed to happen Thursday, then Friday. Yesterday afternoon we get a call saying that they will NOT be spraying in our apartment because we have seen no signs of the bugs.

Good in the fact that I will not have to deal with the aftercare of a toxic cloud enveloping my apartment for 4 hours, and that we will not have to leave the apartment for this time.

Bad in the fact that Bob has moved things around at work twice so that he could be home while this happens, meaning we would have the car and the ability to do more than sit on the lawn for 4 hours. Now the efforts will prove unnecessary. Rather than pound our heads, we are going to take advantage of having an unplanned day off. It is going to be brutally hot and humid here today , so we are going to take care of all of our Saturday errands, and then have Saturday to do something fun and active.

Nick with his tooth- will no be able to get him in for TWO WEEKS. Yep, two weeks. Thank you to the rush of back to school dental check ups and other fancy stuff for that delay. After a VERY intense day of helping him deal with the pain, we finally found a few things that gave him relief ( acupressure, reiki, herbal remedies) . For comedy , the toilet decided to back up in all of this , at a time when I had only two paper towels in the house and Nick moaning in pain. Finally toilet issue resolved, comfort was given to Nick and I actually was able to take a shower ! Looked like relief was in sight , till he ate dinner. It seems that cold food gives him relief, but hot food brings serious pain, and so biting a piece of whole wheat pasta brought back searing pain, and another 4 hours of heavy duty work to bring him relief. Finally it was found, and a relatively good night sleep was had by all.

It seems that life is meant to be just a little bit chaotic at the moment- fingers crossed that all will drift back to relative normal today.

Foodwise, the last couple of mornings I have been making overnight oats for breakfast. Half cup rolled oats, one cup of soymilk, a teaspoon of cinnamon , a teaspoon of raisins and a teaspoon of crasins - place in a container in the fridge before bed and in the morning, stir and eat. Nice cold nourishing breakfast for a hot summer day. Have also been making overnight iced coffee in the french press ( water and coffee in the press in the fridge overnight, press and drink in the morning) for another good way to start the day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just a quick note

Finger- getting better
package- recovered
spraying- informed at last minute it would be delayed a day ( life happens, so roll with it)
ADD- son having monster tooth ache, inability to get to a dentist soon so mommy working frantically to use any and all home remedy/alternative medicine things to stop the pain. Accupressure , Popsicles and ice packs seem to work the best. For him , diet matters are currently abandoned in favor of anything to keep him from pulling his tooth out. He will- when he was little and losing baby teeth if one annoyed him he would sit and pull the tooth out long before it was ready to come out.

Just trying to stay sane at the moment....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Been strangely busy

It's been a weird couple of days here. First has been the attempt to chase down a UPS package. Our mail /delivery situation is the most insane hassle imaginable We live in a complex which has tiny little mail boxes that hold about three envelopes and a smashed magazine. Our current postal worker will not ring the bell of any resident if they have something that will not fit in the box, they bring it back to the post office. UPS is worse- one carrier will attempt to ring the bell to deliver, another one will simply leave a notice on the wall and deliver the package to the office, and still another will deliver the package, leave no notice and the office will not inform you that you have a delivery( they have way too much to do). So if we forget the joy of package delivery and make the mistake of ordering something through a catalog, it means a minimum of one full day playing "who's got the package". Such has been the case, with a notification that delivery will be made sometime on that day, only having the notice left by carrier one and delivery made by carrier 3.

In the mean time, we were notified that we are going to be fumigated for bedbugs on Thursday. Up till a year ago I thought bedbugs were a sort of mythological creature , but it turns out they are real and there is an epidemic of them in our area. I have not seen any or evidence of any , but living in a building with 48 other families , it is wise to take precautions. So for the last 2 days it has been prep for the bomb- you have to seal things like toothbrushes and brushes in plastic, remove the matresses, cover food and then a whole list of aftercare procedures. Plus, you have to evacuate the building for a couple of hours- you, your pets , because this stuff is very toxic. I have smelled it from other apartments, and I am NOT looking forward to the after smell !

In the fun of shifting , prepping and so forth, I managed to somehow break my little finger. I am not totally sure how I did it, but I kept getting my finger mashed under stuff, whacking it into other things and so forth. Not much to be done for it but splint it and keep on keeping on.

Food has been good but our regular exercising has taken a back burner to deep cleaning and so forth. It will be interesting to see what the scale says this weekend. Thursday if it is not raining , I plan on taking my trekking poles to the woods while they bomb the place for nasty little vermin !

Monday, July 19, 2010

Short quick trip to frustration

Yesterday afternoon we went running to do some non food shopping, and I made the HUGE mistake of attempting to look for a bra, in a certain cut and color. This is never a good thing.

As I have mentioned before, I have PCOS- basically a hormonal condition that makes it difficult to metabolize food in the way most people do, lose weight and many other things. It goes way beyond this to things like infertility, severe acne in many women ( thankfully I skipped that) , facial hair ( I have a full beard if I do not shave daily- I kid you not) , and a less than traditional female shape. In women with PCOS you often do not get the traditional large breast and big hip apperance, but instead something that looks like a brick on thin legs with thin arms. Which leads to ALL KINDS of difficulty and frustration when it comes to clothing.

It starts from the undies out. Panties for larger women are designed for gals with larger cabooses and ample hips. If you do not have these proportions, the fit is wiggy at best. Then move to the bra. For reasons of the need to outfit as many women in that size as possible, once you get to a band size beyond 36, you will rarely find a band size bigger than this with a cup size of anything less than C. Beyond 44, it seems they only carry D cups. I happened to be "blessed" with a size 46 B. Just try to find that size in a place like WalMart, Target, Meijers, Kohls, Sears, Pennys or even Layne Bryant. You either have to order online( and pray the sizing is accurate) , buy cups too big and have the whole argument about support go right out the window, or wear a sports bra. Sports bras do not offer the same support, and unless you want to have your straps sticking out through the neckline, limit you to wearing tee shirts and little else.

I never found a bra and came home feeling really, really frustrated. I did think about two possible solutions to the problem, until I lose weight ( let's not even get into the frustration on that- losing weight when you are dealing with hormonal issues makes emptying the ocean a thimbleful of water at a time look like a productive restful activity). First answer would be hunt out a bra pattern and start making my own. They have to exist- there are patterns for everything if you know where to look. Second would be to grab a bottle of honey, find an aunt hill, coat myself in honey, lie down and hope that the swelling from the ant bites will allow me to become that fabled D cup that every plus sized woman allegedly is. What do you think ?

Off to work out my frustrations with a session with the trekking poles !

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Does anyone remeber ?

This book ???? It was a real, but comic, book. We had a copy years ago, found at some discount book store and bought for a laugh. If I remember it was a very funny book that included things like calories burned through giggling and so forth. I think we bought it in like 1983 or so forth, back in those carefree days before kids, when we had two wage earners and a lot more dollars than sense. I came across this picture of the book online , and suddenly remembered it with a smile.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weigh in- again

Weigh in
UP ...I repeat UP 2.6 pounds.

Bob - UP 1.2
Nick- UP 5.4 lbs

Ah, the power of hormones with PCOS ( for me)...... They may make me gain, but they are not going to get me in the shape to be able to tackle this terrain

I wonder if I can stab the scale with my trekking poles ????

Friday, July 16, 2010

My little friends

Say hello to my little friends. I am naming them Possibility and Brighter Tomorrows. Possibility, who is black and has a handle that looks like a bear, allows me to get places when my knee is not feeling so great. Brighter Tomorrows lets me almost FLY on land . I did not think anything would give me the level of stability and mobility that I felt before I got pregnant, some 20 years ago. Nick and went out for an early morning walk , me using Brighter Tomorrows and him deciding to use Possibility so he did not feel left out, and I was able to nearly break into a run. The only reason I did not was that running is something I have been instructed not to do because of the wear and tear on the joint, and I did now want to find out that this was indeed true and require some kind of wheelchair to get back into my house. For the time being I am going to just be thrilled with walking ! These are perhaps the best invention since sliced bread, and combined with the shoes, make for a wonderful way to go.

Nick also loved walking with assistance. It is kind of funny to think that he wants this, but whatever floats your boat and gets the job done is a good thing ! He then decided later in the day that he wanted to cook dinner- partially because he was flipping through the TV and found something he liked on Food Network. Nick kind of takes insperation from these shows and watching /helping me, so his attempts are usually very good. Last night was no exception

Balsamic glazed roast Zucchini and Peppers, Mustard Marinated roast chicken breast, Fruited Quinoa and a salad of romaine and watercress topped with melons, berries and sliced almonds. It was EXCELENT ! I think I might have to consider hiring him as a personal chef.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trekking Poles and salad finds

Yay !!! Found my trekking poles last night at Walmart !! 19 dollars for the set, adjustable, aluminum and have tips for two kinds of surfaces. They do make walking a whole lot easier, and make me feel stable enough to walk on all kinds of surfaces.

While we were out , we went to Steak and Shake for one of their new salads. This one was Apple Walnut salad ( romaine, apple wedges, grapes, dried cranberries , walnuts and blue cheese crumbles with a balsamic vinagrette on the side) . I ordered it with a grilled chicken breast, and it has to be one of the best fast food options out there right now ! Nutritious, flavorful and filling !

Today is going to be very hot hand humid here with an Ozone action alert posted. We are going to skip the late afternoon family walk but I am planning on getting Nick to head out with me early for a neighborhood stroll, and the do the bike with Bob tonight. Gotta keep working twoards the goal- places like this are not going to be very accessible if I am not very stable !

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Holding me to my word

Yesterday my butt and legs were hurting ! It's amazing how fast something that is affective will work on your body- and it is never comfortable to live with the results ! Healing and growth are painful processes, and it can make you want to give up the effort if you do not have a good motivation for your lifestyle change. I made a commitment to my self to get in the proper condition to hike, announced it to my husband and son, got them to agree to tag along, so there was no backing out ! Nick and I do some walking and other exercise during the day, we all walk as a family before dinner and then in the evening Bob and I take turns with the little pedal bike as we are watching TV. Community support on the most basic level , and no way to escape when you decide to find an excuse to back out ! It was warm-ish yesterday but very humid and my butt muscles were really achy ! Bob suggested maybe I skip the walk , but I thought of this and said Heck No !

So out for a walk we went, and after dinner a session with a bike. The soreness kind of worked itself out - something that I had long ago forgotten ! How is it that as kids we take pain as an inconvenience to be ignored , but as adults we take it as a sign to stop ?? When do we learn this ??

Tonight is a Date Night ! Okay, we are taking Nick along with us and it is to the excitement and romance that is WalMart to look for trekking poles, but a date none the less. This weekend is looking to be very full again with church commitments, but I am hoping to find the poles and get out to the woods on Sunday afternoon. Fingers crossed !!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I think I have found two powerful motivators for myself ! I mentioned the first one yesterday ( a trip to Minnesota to hike) , but the second one was revealed in the course of the days events. Rather than a motivating factor like a smaller size, a pedicure or other happy things, this is something that makes me so angry I could scream. Rather than getting angry about it , I am going to use it as my motivation to do all in my power not to be like the thing I hate. What is it ? There is this person whom I know who is battling with a lot of serious health problems. The illness does not make me angry, but rather the fact that they will not change their lifestyle to battle the diseases does. They seem to have taken on the idea of illness as a hobby, and they are a great enthusiast of it. Nothing makes me more angry than people who just give up and let life roll over them like some kind of steam roller ! Few of us get it perfect all the time, but at least if we try there is both hope and progress. When you stop trying and give your power away, it is a form of slow, lingering death . All I have to do is think of this person's name , and I remember all that I am fighting against and I can move on !

And move on I did yesterday. Some walking with my new shoes and cane, cleaning house and all kinds of "get back into the swing of normal" sorts of things. I believe that the shoes not only ease the discomfort in my joints and back but DO work your butt and thighs in a different way. By the end of the day my butt and back thigh muscles were painful to the touch ! I am still continuing the energy medicine work outs as well, and I am noticing that they seem to be flowing in a kind of natural to me feeling order.

For dinner I made a Pasta Salad Caprise- so easy it almost did not need a recipe ! For three people I cooked 6 ounces of whole wheat pasta, diced 4 vine ripened tomatoes ( not from our plants- they are still green) , chopped about a quarter cup of our fresh basil, diced one pack of fresh mozzarella and tossed it in a bowl with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar glaze. I chilled it for a couple of hours and we had it with some fruit salad on the side. So summer-y and so satisfying !

This week I also want to post pictures from my second motivation- the falls on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Gotta get fit so I can hike these trails again next summer !

Monday, July 12, 2010

New shoes and new goals

Yesterday morning I discovered that we were out of a couple of crucial items . It seems when you go on vacation you lose track with he supply level of things like shampoo, shaving cream and so forth. The guys went to Church in the morning and met the new Pastor, so it was not till afternoon that we could do anything, and errands won out over the woods. I decided to check out the Back to School stuff while there , wandered into the shoe department and found a knock off of these

They are advertised as something that helps to tone your butt and calves, but also something that eases back and knee pain. I found a pair in my size and decided to try them out . Verdict is they do indeed ease back and knee pain, but feel a little wonky if you take an abnormal sized stride. I think I am going to really love them though .Going to test them out with a neighborhood walk today. I see it as anything that will help me move with less pain as a very good thing .

We also talked about setting a definable goal with fitness. It's one thing to determine an exercise plan to help you lose weight, but if the scale does not cooperate , it is very easy to become discouraged. A non scale goal is a lot more motivating and realistic. Our trip to Tennessee reminded me of how much I love the wilderness and how completely unsafe it wouldbe for me to venture into these at this level of stability. So the plan is the Couch to Waterfall program- take a year to build all of us up to the level where we can walk the paths along the waterfalls on the Lake Superior arrow region. Here is one of them...I am going to use it for inspiration !

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Walking with a cane

I have to say , walking with a cane is indeed a good thing ! Only hang up is that my back falls into a different alignment while using the cane and it creates an odd pressure on my hips. Nothing that can't be overcome though. It is making me think about investing in a set of hiking poles and seeing if this would allow me to do walking off paved or handicapped ready surfaces ?

Going for another walk today- I should take my camera and snap some pictures of the plants like Spunkysuzi does- I always love seeing what she finds on her walks !

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Post vacation weigh in

Weekly weigh in time

Me- DOWN 1.2
Bob -DOWN 2.8
Nick - DOWN 1.4

Yesterday was a day of grocery shopping, laundry and in general getting back to the swing of life. I noticed something about our area that is radically different from Tennessee. Here, sales tax on non food is 9.5 percent, but food tax is 2.5 percent. Restaurant Tax on average is 8.5 percent. We have numerous grocery stores and close location to many distribution centers, so our food costs are lower. Example- we stopped in a Walmart Super center to get some road snacks in Tennessee. One of the things bought was a pint of organic cherry tomatoes for 3.98. Same thing here is 3.29, or non organic for 99 cents. In our area, Walmart is one of the highest priced places for fresh produce, and they do not do well in our immediate area because there is too much competition from numerous other chains and independent grocers who have much lower prices for fresh fruits and vegetables. Several areas we passed through had few options for grocery shopping, and it seems that if you were living in the area and forced to be on a strict budget, healthy eating may not be something that you could archive. If you have to feed a family of 4 for 125.00 per week or less, and live in an area where your only store is charging 5 dollars a bag for apples and 3 dollars for a bag of carrots, healthy eating is not your first thought when shopping. Not sure what the solution is to this, but it is something to consider when looking at things like childhood obesity , adult obesity and so on.

Thankfully, we are blessed to live in an area with numerous healthy and affordable choices. I was very appreciative of this fact as I filled my cart with things like asparagus, fresh fennel, melons, berries and 3 kinds of lettuce. I was almost giddy with excitement when I made dinner yesterday - roast vegetable, grilled chicken salad with a honey mustard dressing. Yes there are salads available at most places, but they are limited to iceburg lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers. Ours at home contain things with so many other veggies and such dense micro nutrients ! As I made breakfast yesterday Bob commented that even if I had ordered the oatmeal at the Pancake place we ate at on Wednesday , it would be nothing like this , with cranberries, blueberries, pecans and cinnamon. It got me thinking about a wild idea of investing in a small restaurant in a touristy place, and serve jacked up oatmeal, yogert and fruit parfaits, roast veggie salads, hummus and veggie wraps and so forth. Perhaps.....

Today we are going out to test drive my new walking cane ( I have fought this move for a long time , but it is necessary) and shopping for some aqua socks so that we can go to the lake the next available weekend. We made a discovery while walking back and forth from our room to the outdoor pool at our hotel, and that is that none of us can walk on hot surfaces barefoot. Last time we went to a lake it was very painful walking through the hot sand, and aqua socks will allow us to do this in comfort.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Vacation recap

It is said that one of the best reasons to travel is to gain an appreciation for your own culture and home. That being said, the trip was a success. However, to arrive at that viewpoint you must experience the shock of something different. There is different, and there is different ! I must say at the start that I approach things with a totally different mindset than most people do , and my experience tends to be very different from the average person. I say this as an explanation fro my perspective. That being said, I must also say that it has been 25 years since I was in Gatlinburg , and like all things in this world it has evolved and changed according to the needs of the area. While it was a definite different experience, it was FAR from the restful and restorative experience we were hoping for.

We hit the road at about 2:30 am Chicago time. Reason for the early hour was construction and the need to beat the Chicago traffic . Rush hour in this area begins at about 6 am and lasts till 10 am, so plan accordingly. Traveling through Chicago was a breeze, as was Indiana ( with the exception of stopping in a very scary truck stop about 4 am) and a general breeze till we stopped at a McDonald's for breakfast. Not a lot of healthy choices on the road and we did not want to carry Oats in a Jar. Back on the road as the sun was rising and we encountered one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen- a large bank of wind turbines.

There were about a thousand of these lined in a row, and I got very excited ! Yay to Indiana for doing this !!! As we drove through I got the distinct impression that I was looking at the future .

Continued the drive , and about lunchtime we encountered a Chick-fil-A. This is a chain I have heard about , but we have none in this area. There healthy options are EXCELENT ! ( grilled chicken, whole wheat buns and wraps, fruit, salads and so forth). I wish we had them here, and perhaps they will get the courage to break into the Chicago market. They would do very well ! Then it was back on the road and head into the hills of Kentucky. Where the highway is scenic and the Asphalt Cowboys( truck drivers) begin to play road games to block the flow of auto traffic so they do not lose momentum on the inclines and other reasons. Many moments took my breath way- the views and nearly running into the rear ends of trucks ! After several hours of that fun and stress we got off the interstate to the road that winds through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The first stretch happened to be under construction and the rest of America seemed to be on that road at the same time as us. 2 hrs to travel 20 miles is stress beyond belief ! Doing this with an Autistic son with sensory issues is .....

We finally got to our hotel, and learned that it was an older one with no elevator and a set of concrete stairs. This is an issue because my knee no longer allows me to climb stairs without a great deal of aid ( I cannot even walk up a street curb without aid). There was a railing, so it was manageable. The room was older but clean and nice, and it had a little balcony with a blocked veiw of the mountains ( tree blocked). I did not care- this was a little slice of heaven ! We did not feel like dealing with the insanity of the crowds, so we found a little pizza place about 2 blocks from out room after a quick swim and brought the pizza back to our room to eat.

The next morning we headed out to do Cades Cove and other sights in the park, with plans of having a breakfast picnic in the mountains( cereal bars and fruit). As we were heading down the stairs Nick fell down them and scared me to death !! When a 350 + lb person falls down a flight of concrete stairs, it is never a good outcome. He was very bruised and showing signs of shock, and then I flew into mother and reiki worker mode. I got him calmed down and gave him reiki because his hands and elbow was quite bruised( but not swelling instantly and he could move his fingers and hands so thankfully no breaks) , reaching out with my abilities to scan his body for serious injuries , panicking because I have no idea where the nearest trauma center was and reaching out to draw healing energy from the land itself . Long ago , there were certain areas of The Smokies that the Cherokee Indians understood to be sources of healing and if you understand land energies , you are able to tap into these and draw from them. After a few very intense minutes he was fine, but I was wide open, shaken and staying hyper vigilant in case there was damage I could not feel and we would have to find a hospital. Mom mode makes you look out for concussion, internal bleeding and a thousand other things As I said earlier, I am not like most people and my experiences are very different. Remaining that open in an area of high energy from a land and people perspective is NEVER a good thing. We drove into the park and all the while I was being bombarded by the land energies, the water energy from the rushing streams and the residual energies of various people. We stopped for breakfast, but because it did not contain any protein it did not help to ground me. Here are the guys- the family chauffeur and my little reason for heart attack mode !

It was a very pretty little picnic area , and very peaceful before the crowds arrived. Then on to Cades Cove- which for some reason has called me, haunted me and drawn me to it through the years . It is one of my favorite places on earth for some reason

The whole Cove is beautiful, and filled with wildlife
But the single thing that draws me through the years is this exact spot
It is the grave pictured at the bottom of the shot. The headstone is gone but I know instinctively it is the grave of a child, and I just want to spend hours there. No idea if this is accurate, who it was or anything. Through the years, since the first time I visited, this exact spot has called to me and I still have no idea why, but I just want to be there.

The Cove was very crowded , as was the whole park, but the beauty of it all makes you ignore the rest of the people and the traffic. I believe it is because the place is still healing on many levels
Nick and I at one of the other picnic areas.My "baby" is now nearly a full head taller than me !

I had noticed that the air quality was very poor and there was a lot of evidence of dead trees. Odd. And then I saw this sign that is mounted to every picnic table

It seems that the bears are more aggressive because their environment is being destroyed. Bears being bears , they will seek out available food sources, and they don't care who stands between them and the food. Any greasy foods are a draw ( I know from experience of living through a bear attack when I was young). We did not encounter any bears while we were there - something I am not sure if I am happy or sad about ! By this time I was really not doing well and I needed to get out of the crowds and get some protein in me. We headed back into Galtinburg and Pigeon Forge, and by this time the traffic level was up and I was being absolutely slammed by vibrations. I came very close to a full blown panic attack because I could not stop the chatter. Happily we found a Golden Coral and we pulled off for lunch. A trip to the salad bar, some roast chicken and fruit and I was good to go. We headed back to the park to go through Clingman's Dome. It was here that I got the absolute biggest slap in the face from the land that I had ever gotten
This is the view from Clingmans Dome. I need to explain something. The Smoky Mountains were named such because of a consistent cloud of vapors coming from the rich levels of vegetation. No matter where you looked, the mountains appear to be smoking. Sadly, our environmental pollution has reduced the views by 40 percent in the winter and 80 percent in the summer. What you are looking at is not haze form plants , but Sulfur Dioxide gas. What is worse, about one fifth of the pine trees at the high elevations are dead. I looked at this and realized that if things continue, there is a very real possibility that these mountains will no longer exist in this state for my grandchildren- and the impact on out climate will be devastating. Trees produce 70 percent of our air supply , cut down on land erosion, support the life of thousands of animal and insect species. If they go, life as we know it will slowly cease to exist.

After a pause we headed back into town to our hotel for a swim and dinner. Traffic was gridlock back into Gatlinburg, so we chose to pick up some Subway subs and dine on our balcony. That night we watched the local tourist channel and it struck me. One of the biggest reasons for the level of pollution in the area are all of the big "there are dollars in them hills- let's snag em !" attractions . They are an incredibly wasteful and useless demand of energy ! Let's face it- when you think of the Smoky Mountains , do your thoughts instantly go to visiting a cheap replica of The Titanic ??? And just how many Chinese Acrobats settled the area ??? And I don't know about you but when I think mountains, I automatically desire to touch a Stingray. It made me just want to grab people, shake them and scream wake up before you lose it all !!

The next day we decided to head into the arts and crafts community. Nick still loves to play with clay and he was fascinated with the coverage they had for Alewine Pottery. The objective was to check out this shop, the dulcimer maker and a few others. We got there before the potters began working , but he saw enough to be very impressed. We then headed out to find the dulcimer maker, but hit that stop too early , so we killed time ata pretty little man made fountain

Nick snapped a picture of Bob and I while we waited. We searched the map to see how many dulcimer makers were in the area, and there was only one. Sadly, the only one is out of business ! perhaps he retired, but something tells me that it has more to do with the fact that places like The Ripley's attractions drive up the land values, grab the bulk of the tourist dollars ( even though they have NOTHING to do with the culture of the area or the heritage) , and it makes these smaller merchants struggle to make a living. Gone are the multitudes of weavers, quiltmakers, woodcarvers, instrument makers and corn broom makers. A few still exist, but thay are replaced with the high end and higher ticket artisans, because those are the only ones who can stay economically solvent in the area. You have to be able to make enough money to pay for the shop rental, insurance, service your lot, provide restroom facilities , advertising and more in order to compete with the faceless, soul-less USELESS big name attraction business.

I come home with a lot of awareness and understanding that I don't know quite what to do with. It makes me angry to see what has happened to the area, and terrified to see other areas of this country that I visited as a child. It makes me want to do something to make a change. it makes me want to do everything in my power to stop the greed insanity. It makes me want to wake up.

A 15 hour car ride back home, and I want to be able to retain this image in my mind- not of the insanity that is Gatlinburg !

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A week of Grace

It's Saturday, which normally means a weigh in, but it was mutually decided that WE ARE ON VACATION !!!! Weigh in will happen next Saturday, and for the next five days we are officially on vacation. Does not mean we will go nuts, just means taking a break from all forms of routine life for a week.

I spent yesterday creating some trail mix and packing it into individual sized servings, in an attempt to kill the Vending Machine Monster. In the past, when we have made pit stops we often grab something out of the vending machine to munch on. Let's face it- long car rides can get really boring and munching is one way to pass the time and prevent from falling asleep. So packs of trail mix, a cooler with fruit and cheese sticks and bottled water will slay that beast. The plan for road food is to head for Walmart's on the way , as they have Subway in nearly all of them. Subway is not perfection, but a darned good alternative.

Now if I just remember to pack enough pairs of socks, I'll be good to go !

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Polenta chocolate cake GF

Yesterday I decided it was time to at least LOOK for some ideas for next years curriculum. There are a few things we have not yet covered formally in homeschool which will be covered, and then there are things I believe Nick will enjoy and benefit from. Those descisions are easy- the actual application of these things is what is in question. So I started surfing for ideas and inspiration, and kept running into homeschoolers who blog about their homeschool AND homelife. These kinds of blogs I love, but inspire me to do bad things. Like bake. I got some glimmer of an idea for how to do next years work as well as a massive desire to make a cake !. Doing so in the traditional way would have been a bad thing. I am finding that I can tolerate one serving of gluten per day ( according to the energy testing ), and cake is gluten. Not only that but unless I make cupcakes or a cake that will serve 3, leftovers would be a problem with my son. I suddenly remebered a recipe I had for a gluten free cake that sounded promising, so I headed to the kitchen to make a guilt free , gluten free cake- Chocolate Polenta Cake !

Polenta Chocolate Cake GF

1 cup instant polenta
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
7/8 cup dark chocolate
OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup or more raisins -- preserved ginger, glace cherries, candied peel,
nuts -- whatever else you'd like to add

Bring water to the boil. Add polenta and baking powder while stirring and stir/mash well
(a slotted spoon helps) to stop it from getting lumpy.
Immediately add remaining ingredients and stir well (a wooden spoon works well at this point)
until the chocolate's melted and everything is mixed in evenly.
Turn into a small springform loose-bottom tin; leave to cool in the fridge. When completely cooled,pop out and enjoy.

Verdict- it tastes less sweet than a traditional cake and has the consistency of a brownie. You never run the oven so it is a good option for a hot summer day. I don't think I would serve it as a birthday cake or a company cake, but as a kind of snack cake it works.