Monday, December 28, 2015

Finale - December 26th

Wow - one year ago today I started blogging about my effort to get stronger and feel better.  I've learned a lot and I actually do feel stronger and better, so I would say it has been a success.  Remember my "before" photo?  Here I am "after", ten pounds lighter and hiking on a hilly trail with no hip pain, knee pain or pinched sciatic nerve.  I feel great!


I started at 144 pounds and waistline of 32 3/4 inches.  Today I weigh 134 and my waist is 31 1/2 inches.  There's definitely been some backsliding - my best weight was in May when I checked in at 128 pounds, and my lowest waist measurement was in August at 31 inches.   I was really focusing on my meals and exercise during the first part of the year, and gradually got busy with other things as we got into summer, golf, travel (2 weeks of cruise food!) and the holidays.  My daughter Melanie suggested I look at my net results and be happy - ten pounds lost and 1 1/4 inch thinner  : )

January 31st
December 25th

January 31st
December 25th
That darn belly just won't go away...  and the zipper on the skinny jeans doesn't help   : (

So what have I learned?
  • I can do it.  I know what to do to lose weight and feel strong and healthy.
  • I will follow a mostly paleo diet, but not completely.  Strict paleo leaves out whole food groups like grains and dairy, which makes it hard for me to stick with.  I'll focus on meat, fish and poultry, veggies and fruits, healthy fats and also cultured dairy like yogurt and cottage cheese.  I'll have occasional "cheats" of grain foods, like Stan's yummy waffles.
  • Regular exercise is a necessity - don't gripe and complain, just do it.  I don't actually ever want to go to the gym, but I'm glad Stan drags me there twice a week.  I like it best when we take our hour-long walk on the trail first, but when it's raining we need to go anyway and do some elliptical or treadmill and then the weight machines.  Just say yes!
  • Although I like how I look in my Stitch Fix clothes, I'm really more of an LL Bean type.  I stopped my monthly "Fixes" because I find I'm not really comfortable in the very skinny low-riding jeans and the very short skirt and dress.  However, I have liked seeing photos of myself that I think look nice, and I'll pay attention to wearing nice clothes and standing up straight.
  • I can heal.  I've had aching hips for many years and I thought that was permanent.  When my sciatic nerve got pinched in my back I feared that might be permanent too.  Also my knees that hurt when I walked downhill.  All that is fine now.  My sessions of physical therapy and chiropractic, and doing the exercises, really helped.  Squeeze those glutes!!

What's next?
My year of blogging has come to an end, but my quest for good health will continue.  
  • My friend Sharon sent me three books by Dr. Ann Kulze:  Dr. Ann's Eat Right for Life and the companion cookbook and guide to shopping and dining out.  I've just started reading and I'm finding a lot of great information, tips and recipes that I can use.
  • One of the blogs I found this year is Feed Me Phoebe. Phoebe has blogged about her year of health, which she calls The Wellness Project.  In her post of December 21, 2015 she highlights her 10 Best Wellness Books of 2015.  I plan to read nearly all of them!  These are books she found helpful in her own quest for health and they cover topics from having a healthy gut to meditation and following your passion.
  • I want to cook more!  In our house, Stan is the chef and I am mostly the chief bottle-washer.  I do make salads and my healthy breakfasts, but I'd like to branch out and learn more - maybe how to make some great soups, and also find more healthy recipes that we both like.
  • I want to keep walking - maybe in some new places.  I've heard of vacations where you walk every day and stay in an inn at night - maybe in New England in the fall, or as Tyler and family did, in Wales.  I like the idea of experiencing a new place up close while stretching the body and being pampered with good food and a comfy bed!

Walking in St. Petersburg

Stan and I are spending Christmas alone this year.  Other years we visited on Christmas Eve with our friends Maggie and Vicki and their two great kids, Aiden and Margaret.  Vicki passed away last February of stomach cancer, and our hearts are with Maggie and the kids in their new home near family in Florida.  We usually spend Christmas Day with son Tyler and his extended family, who have become our beloved family as well, however this year folks were traveling, so we celebrated a week early.  We had a super-wonderful day with them, and I am overjoyed to think of what granddaughter Mira is feeling these days.  Her heart's desire has been to please get a dog, and for Christmas, her parents committed to make that happen.  I can't wait to meet my new granddog!!  Daughter Melanie and her husband Ben came up for the celebration, a treat I didn't expect, and it was great to have them.  They spend as much time over Christmas as they can in Black Butte, Oregon with Ben's parents and brother.  My granddog Wilbur and his cousin Banjo love it there and it's a relaxing break for Melanie and Ben who have stressful jobs the rest of the year.  I'm happy that Melanie has another family who love and appreciate her as much as we do!

I spent a few glum moments missing everyone, then I got up off my duff and made some Christmas cookies - full fat, full glutinous wheat and plenty of sugar.  We'll be seeing Stan's son David, daughter Jenifer and grandkids, Sydney and Stanley, and they'll appreciate my cookies  : )  How lucky I am to have such a loving man in my life - he's cooking me a delicious dinner as I type.

Thanks Readers!

Readers, thank you so much for sticking with me!  I know three friends have been very faithful - thank you Charla, Marcia and Sharon!!  As I planned my posts and healthy eating experiments I could visualize you cheering me on.  And how lucky is a mother whose children take an interest in what she's doing?  Even though my posts tended to be a bit "girly", Tyler checked in often along with Alethea and Mira, and left some thoughtful comments.  Melanie also left comments and when I found one it made my day.

I also appreciate my occasional and accidental readers.  The blog has been looked at from 10 different countries without my making any attempt to advertise.  I've wondered whether the person just clicked on to something else, or did they actually read my post?  Or was it just "bots" wandering around on the internet?  I've been following several other blogs about healthy cooking and eating, and I really appreciate the work those bloggers have done to share their knowledge with the rest of us.

I only planned to blog for one year, so I'll stop my regular posts.  I do plan to make quarterly assessments though; without that to hold me accountable I'm afraid I may fall back into bad habits, as I've already started to do this winter!  If I can check in feeling as good as I feel now, I'll know my year of focus on health was a success.

Thank you for reading!  My very best wishes for fun and good health in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Favorite Grocery Store

Here in Seattle we have a co-op grocery store chain called PCC Natural Markets.  It began as a food buying club of 15 families in 1953 and today it's the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the United States.  I first found it when I lived in North Seattle near my son and his family and they introduced me to the local PCC, which I could actually walk to.  (There was a big hill to climb on the way back and I soon learned never to use a shopping cart in the store or my purchases would be really heavy to lug home!)  Now that I live in Renton, it's more of an effort to drive over to the closest one in Issaquah, but it's worth it the trip.  

I'm making a New Year's resolution to get there at least once or twice a month next year; once to use the 10%-off coupon I get in the monthly newsletter, and on the 15th of the month when it's 10% off for all members.  Yes, I did actually join, and their website says it's a one-time fee of $60 now, however anyone can shop here.  Members get the fee back quickly if you use the coupons.

At my old house, PCC and Whole Foods were my two closest grocery stores and I felt that just limiting my shopping to those stores probably improved my diet regardless of what I bought.  I was not buying items they don't carry - if I wanted my Starbucks frappuccinos or Campbells cream-of-something soup, I had to make a special effort to go elsewhere.

 I drove to the PCC in Issaquah last week as I knew they'd have a nice selection of gluten-free crackers for the brie and fig jam I planned to take to the family Christmas gathering, and I took some photos to show you what they have.

Right inside the door is the vegetable and fruit department, and they have an organic version of just about everything, along with many items from local farms.  They make an effort to actually know their farmers and suppliers, which makes me feel happier about the source of my food.

They have a great selection of bulk foods, including spices so I can buy just the pinch that I need, and liquids like oils and maple syrup.  I like that they carry grade B maple syrup which is so much tastier than the grade A that you get in regular grocery stores.  You can bring your own container, or buy a plastic one (BPS-free of course) that you can reuse.  The liquids in this photo are avocado oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, maple syrup, tamari and shoyu (which is soy sauce).  I still have a lot to learn about using some of these products.  This time I bought organic raisins for my Mom's raisin sauce recipe to go with the ham another family member was bringing.

It is in PCC that I found the cultured butter that I wrote about in my post on eating cultured dairy, though I haven't tried it yet.  This time I bought a quart of organic whole milk for my coffee.  I know Organic Valley brand is located in Wisconsin, but this carton makes me feel like I have my own personal friends, both farmer and cow  : )

Some other great items they carry are a large selection of probiotics, healthy packaged items like the gluten-free crackers I wanted, a selection of grass-fed pasture-raised meats and responsibly-caught fish, healthy skin-care and beauty items, and cookbooks for healthy eating.  (This is where I found the chicken feet for my bone broth, too.)  I bought Glutino whole grain crackers and these Lentil crackers and my Christmas appetizer was eaten really fast, by gluten eaters as well as the GF folks.

I'll try this brand of hair color the next time I refresh my blonde.

They actually have a great selection of greeting cards, too.  Sometimes in the grocery store or Bartells I just can't believe how dumb or objectionable some of the cards are.  These are nice.

I even found a package of salmon chews for Wilbur's Christmas.  (Boy did they smell good!)

I didn't photograph a lot of other good stuff.  It didn't seem helpful to post pictures of their great bakery items and wine section, but they have all the treats you could possibly want.  Here's where I buy our favorite Chocolove chocolate bars, too.  They have a juice bar, and a few months ago I ventured into the land of smoothies.  My first try was pretty hard-core.  I had to struggle a bit to drink my entire "Green Dream".  The next time I tried the "Aunty Oxy" - full of antioxidants and a bit more palatable with some berries.  I tried my first coconut milk latte here - not altogether satisfying either.  Even after a year of focus, I still have a long way to go to change my taste buds completely.

PCC sends a monthly newsletter, with my coupon and information about what they have this month.  In it comes a lovely 16-page magazine full of great recipes, information on topics like how to select perfectly ripe fruit, and meal and gift ideas.  Their website also has a recipe section, full of yummy and healthy ideas.

A couple of years ago I started supporting PCC by setting up a monthly donation to their independent non-profit Farmland Trust.  The trust helps to preserve farmland in Washington state and help the small farmers who use sustainable and healthy farming methods.  You can read how they actually do that here.  Here's what got me interested:
" we lose Washington farmland at an incredible rate—45,000 acres each year, about twice the size of Lake Washington—we are facing a future in which our ability to feed ourselves is severely compromised. PCC Farmland Trust is leading a call to action and increasing awareness about why it’s so urgent that we save what’s left of one of our most valuable natural resources: farmland. Often the farmland that is the most agriculturally valuable–flat and well-drained prime soils–is also the most desirable for development."
I want to always be able to acquire healthy food for myself and I want my kids and their kids to have that option, too.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Are You Inspiralized?

The title of this post comes from a blog called Inspiralized, "a food blog devoted to all things spiralized".  It inspired me to get out the spiralizer Stan and I bought at Uwajimaya and try out some zucchini noodles.  They turned out pretty good!  I sauteed them very briefly in a dab of coconut oil and tossed with leftover pesto, tomatoes and some mozzarella cheese.

We bought the more expensive of the two models we looked at and it works fine, but I noticed that some of the videos and photos on the Inspiralized site show a wider size.  They sell an "inspiralizer" that makes four shapes and is set with a dial instead of changing the blades manually.  It also says theirs is BPA-free plastic, and I'm not sure about the one we got.  Theirs costs about the same as ours (~$50), and if I were buying again I'd get theirs.

This spaghetti shape is the biggest I can make and there is an even smaller size I haven't tried yet.

The next recipe I made is this carrot beet salad with walnut dressing and goat cheese from Rejuvenated For Life.  I had never eaten beets raw before, and was skeptical, but cut this thin they were very good.  I made the walnut dressing in the recipe, but I think it would be just as good with vinegar and oil, or, for guests, I might try a dressing made with orange juice and add some glazed pecans or slivered almonds.  I would make this recipe again!

On the Inspiralized website, there is a list of veggies and fruits that can be spiralized, and the list is long!  There are beautiful photos, and each one links to a batch of recipes for that vegetable or fruit.  It is inspiring.

I usually avoid eating radishes because their flavor is just a bit sharper and zippier than I like.  I tried spiralizing a few though, and I found the thin strands added a nice bit of zip to my salad without having too large a bite of radish.  I would do this again.

I hadn't thought of spiralizing fruit, but I saw a tuna and apple salad suggested that sounded good.  I had some leftover turkey in the freezer, so I made the salad with turkey, spiralized apple, chopped celery and pecans.  Very good!  Of course, I could have done the same thing by just chopping the apple.  I think spiralizing made it a bit less noticeable in the salad as the pieces were quite small.

My spiralized yam turned out to be a yummy comfort food, much like eating a bowl of linguine with butter and salt.  I sauteed the yam noodles in butter and coconut oil with salt and pepper and added a tiny sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon - delicious!  I had thought the "noodles" would turn mushy, more like mashed potatoes, but they stayed quite noodle-like.  I can see some yam, sweet potato or white potato noodles could work in chicken noodle soup.

Here's a link to another recipe that sounds delicious - potato noodles baked with gruyère and asparagus.  I'll try that next!  

Bottom line:  am I going to start spiralizing on a regular basis?  Probably not, but I've enjoyed trying it out and I plan to try a few more of the many recipes I saw online.  It's a really quick way to cut up a vegetable or fruit, and kind of fun!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Home Sweet Home

It felt good to get home last night after two weeks in Russia and four weeks in Cannon Beach.  Nothing helps one gain perspective and appreciation for one's own home like being away.  We've never been gone for four weeks at a time before, so it was a relief to find the doors still locked, windows unbroken, and everything just as we left it.

 I was especially worried about the goldfish, as we had had a sad incident a week or so before leaving.  We think a raccoon or large bird got in there, as three of the seven big ones were gone and we found one dead.  I had been wondering if the remaining fish noticed their companions were missing, and if they were traumatized by whatever had happened.  I worried that if a hole had been poked in the plastic bottom, the water would slowly drain away,  so I was happy to find them calmly swimming around in a full pond when we got back.

The fish in happier times

I was also worried about my plants.  I had watered right before leaving, but four weeks is a long time and the Aerogarden tomatoes especially demand lots of water.  The tomatoes were pretty dried out, but look at the harvest waiting when we got back  : )  These have been so prolific since I planted them back in March.

This is one of my favorites - a Good Luck Money Tree that my friend Charla gave me about ten years ago.  It has delivered on both luck and money - how lucky to be retired with enough money to do some traveling!  It lost several leaves while we were gone and is looking a bit brown, but it's resilient.  I accidentally broke a main stem, and after spending some time in water growing new roots, it took right off when I planted it back in the pot.

It was great to sleep in our own bed last night!  After getting used to the smaller bed at Cannon Beach, I luxuriated in our king-size with smooth cool sheets and our faux-down comforter.  Ahhh.  An idea I had at the ocean is to get one of those gadgets that makes various sounds so I could listen to the sound of the waves at night when I'm trying to sleep.  Stan is not a bad snorer, but when I can't sleep, even his breathing is distracting.  I mentioned this idea when the kids came for Thanksgiving and Ben showed me a free phone app that makes sounds.  Voila! I just downloaded it and I'll try Ocean Waves tonight.  Ben and Melanie use the Fan Noise, which seemed funny at first, but I have noticed in summer that the fan's soft whirrr does mask other noises.  I'll report tomorrow morning how this worked out.

P.S.  It worked pretty well!  At first I thought it would be too loud so I turned it down low and eventually I wasn't thinking about it at all.  In the middle of the night when I woke up and Stan was snoring quietly, it didn't mask it completely, but I think it helped.  Stan found a device at Sharper Image that does the same thing - if I find I want to use it all the time, the device might be more convenient than plugging in the phone with an extension cord every night.

I had another idea about sleeping when I noticed how dark it was at night in Cannon Beach.  Pitch dark!  In our room at home with a very bright street light right outside it is never that dark.  I have a 10%-off coupon from Pottery Barn where we got our living room drapes, and I'm planning to shop for room-darkening draperies asap.   Hmm, will check Overstock too - they have these for a pretty low price.

As ever when I've been away for awhile, I came home full of resolve to clear out our clutter and fix up some areas of the house.  Two years ago we painted the kitchen ceiling and walls, and were planning to do the adjoining family room, but  never did.  (It took so many trips up the ladder for the kitchen... I think I'm getting too old for that!)  We also have never changed the master bedroom paint from the "builder blah" that it came with.  Stan loved a room he had on a trip to Cambridge University that had salmon-colored walls with white trim and wants to try it here - I agreed on an "accent wall" in salmon, with the taupe of the master bath on the rest of the room.  We know a wonderful painter and I'm planning to call him soon!

Aaargh!  A month's worth of mail just arrived.  In all these two bins of mail there were two Christmas cards from old friends and a couple of medical explanations of benefits.  The rest was advertisements and catalogs - mostly straight into the recycle bin.  It seems impossible that printing those lovely color catalogs full of stuff we don't need could possibly pay off!

Oh yeah... also in the mail was a book I ordered on Saturday.  Amazon suggested it as I was doing some Christmas shopping online - how did they know I've been eating too much and all the wrong things??  Whole30 is a 30-day program of strict healthy eating, based on paleo principles and eliminating anything that can cause inflammation.  I honestly don't know if I can actually do it, but for now I'm sitting in my chair (so nice to be back in my own comfy chair!) sipping red wine and reading about the healthy eating I may do next month.  For now, that's enough.  Good to be home!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Eleventh Monthly Assessment - November 30th

No fair! My monthly assessment comes right after Thanksgiving weekend : (      I've been having too much fun lately, and too much good food.  I've gained two more pounds in addition to the three I gained in October on our Russia trip, for a weight of 135.  There's no tape measure here to measure my waist, suffice it to say my chinos that I was happy to fit into again are now a bit tight.  No excuses really, just eating too much and the wrong things.

January 30th
November 30th

January 30th
November 30th
What went right this month?
  • We've had a wonderful stay in Cannon Beach and I've walked on the beach every day except for three really stormy days.
  • I've remembered my vegetables amid all the other delicious food available.

What not so well?
  • I've eaten more gluten than at any other time this whole year.  I made real Parker House rolls for Thanksgiving, and we discovered the Cannon Beach Bakery.  We went in to get rolls to go with clam chowder for our guests, and wound up with delicious Haystack Bread and a pastry each.  (Regardless of diet, this is worth a stop if you're in town!)
  • I've enjoyed wine and cheese and crackers every afternoon while reading by the wood stove.  What a life!
  • Although we checked out Cannon Beach Fitness, we didn't join.  When we looked in we mainly saw treadmills and a stationary bike.  Their ad mentions Nautilus equipment but we wouldn't have been familiar with it.  We said who needs a treadmill when there's a beautiful beach??  However, we've done no strengthening exercise - I'm sure my muscles are turning to fat.

What will I do better next month?
  •  To be honest, probably not much.  December isn't exactly the best time for getting back on track, although when we get home I'll get back to eating my daily salad instead of just eating up Thanksgiving leftovers.
  • I'm considering eating very lightly for a few days after we're back - lots of soup and veggies and fruit.  I've been feeling a bit overstuffed lately and that might help if I can actually do it.

Here are some photos of our beautiful Cannon Beach Thanksgiving.  We started with munchies in the afternoon.  It just turned out that Ben's choices blended with mine perfectly for some really great afternoon grazing.  (The kids brought flowers too - I'm so lucky!)

 Ben also made that yummy green bean dish with sauteed wild mushrooms and walnuts - the traditional green bean casserole without the Campbell's soup and French fried onion rings.  It was delicious!  Stan provided his great mashed potatoes and gravy.  He makes the gravy ahead of time and adds some Madeira for a really flavorful sauce without the last-minute rush.

 Jason made a colorful salad and we all made sure to fill a large portion of our plates with it.  (Of course, we all went back for seconds and I didn't notice the proportions of those...)  I did eat the leftover salad the next day for lunch and it was still great.

I was lucky a grocery store we visited was taking orders for fresh free-range turkeys.  I didn't stuff it (Melanie made Stove Top stuffing with some added veggies and apple, which was very good) and I followed Tom Douglas' instructions in Turkey Boot Camp to leave the legs untied for more even cooking.  How easy!

No photo of the apple pie.  We had to wait awhile before eating it, but enjoyed it later by the fire with ice cream, coffee and/or Irish whiskey.  Altogether a satisfying and very low-stress Thanksgiving dinner!

I know this got off the topic of my weight gain this month.  It seems my good eating habits disappear every fall from Halloween through New Year's Day.  Melanie pointed out I can be proud of my net loss for the year (ten pounds), and I am.