Menu: October 11 – October 16, 2016

Menu:  October 11 – October 16, 2016
  • (New recipe) Tandoori-Spiced Chicken (thighs)
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms
  • Roasted Onions:  white, yellow, purple, cippoline (Italian) with red wine & white wine vinegars (no oil)
  • Roasted Cabbage:  purple & green with red wine vinegar
  • Fruit:  mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in basalmic vinegar,
  • Pumpkin Energy Balls

Menu Commentary
Tandoori-Spiced Chicken (thighs)
I really enjoy this recipe. So easy to make.  Chicken is moist and mild.  Delicious!

Roasted Cabbage:  purple & green with red wine vinegar
If it weren’t for that  pesky necessity known as protein, I’m sure I could just eat these and roasted onions with vinegar all week.   Both are easy to cook.

New ingredients:
None

New Tools:
None

Resources:
Cooking Light
Bon Appetit
Martha Stewart
Clean Food Crush
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

Review: minor characters

Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson
Minor Characters
by Joyce Johnson

Title: Minor Characters
Author: Joyce Johnson
Published: 1983
ISBN-10:  0-671-72790-7
Publisher: Washington Square Books

The women didn’t mind, or, if they did, they never said – not until years later.  (p. 218)

To be a woman is difficult in any era, but to be an independent, creative, curious woman is especially difficult.  In the 1950’s, after World War II, gender roles were supposed to be fairly well established.  But things were starting to rumble a little.  Change was stirring.

Really, the story of the Beat Generation begins in the late 1940s, when a confluence of personalities and talents converged at Columbia University in New York City.  It was there the big names began to meet and discuss a new way of writing, and of being.

A teenaged girl named Joyce Johnson lived in a “respectable” neighborhood with her “respectable” parents.  And, around the age of thirteen, this “respectable” girl rebelled.  She went to places young girls shouldn’t go, and met people who opened her mind.  These people led to the Beats; Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac among them

Minor Characters is Johnson’ memoir centered around the years 1957-58, when she was Kerouac’s sometime girlfriend.  She tells a story many can relate to, being attracted to someone who can’t reciprocate at the same level.

Much has been written about the Beat Generation writers.  The men, that is.  Not so much has been written about the women.  Especially not much about the way women were treated.  Johnson’s story about being in the middle of that maelstrom is fascinating.

She relates how women were discounted by the men.  The usual story; taken for granted, belittled, not taken seriously, etc. etc.  Her story could be the story of so many women, but what makes it stand out is that it happened with a group of men who are revered for their open-minded views about all sorts of things.  They were especially interested in changing the rules of writing, and literature.  But women were only for amusement, or housekeeping.

And as Joyce Johnson, reiterates, the women stood for it.  Because as many generations of women will say, “we thought that’s what we had to do.”  To find love, to find a life partner, meant a woman had to put up with the meanness of her beau’s foibles.

Here is a book in which the woman, after two years of evasion and half-truths, said, “No.  Go away” to Jack Kerouac.  Joyce Johnson told Jack Kerouac, she was tired of his crap and to leave her alone.  Brava!  and Well Done!

The pain of this decision is clear, as is the need for something healthier, something more equitable, more loving.  To be sure, the most famous names were men who were hard to love, under any circumstances.  Kerouac, Burroughs, Cassady; all charismatic and difficult.  Horrible in their actions, negligent in their search for self-awareness.  Of them all, Ginsberg is the one who consistently appears to exert a great deal of effort to become familiar with himself.

While the Beats were changing the way America read and wrote, literature, Joyce Johnson was changing the way women looked at the men with whom they were in relationships.  Her story is well-told, and a fascinating look at the minor characters who also played a part in the Beat Generation.

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Personal Log: September 27 – October 8, 2016

Spiralizer

Six month stats:  50 pounds lost, down two sizes, blood pressure 132/75.

Absurdly baggy snuck up on me.  In July, when  a wardrobe upgrade came due, I hadn’t realized how big my old clothes were.  I joked the next wardrobe upgrade would have to wait until my clothes were absurdly baggy again.

In general, I wear my clothes until they fall to pieces.    Three months is the shortest time between wardrobe upgrades ever.  Yet, there I was, hitching up my jeans, and looking down in astonishment to see how baggy they were.  I won’t lie and say I don’t love the new edition of me.  In my mind, I still weigh 300 pounds, but in the real world where there are mirrors, I look fabulous!  And I’m so grateful to be able to do the work which got me here.

Truly, it’s about having a healthier body, really not about the weight,   But those two go hand in hand.  Losing weight has made my body healthier, and easier to maneuver.  I can walk longer distances with little to no pain, and I can do it without losing my breath.  Huge!

The past week or so has been filled with creative energy, I thought I was going to jump right out my skin.

San Jose Museum of Art Photography Workshop - October 2016
San Jose Museum of Art Photography Workshop October 2016

In no uncertain terms, the universe told me I needed to go to the San Jose Museum of Art for a photography workshop.  My introverted nature was shocked and appalled that I would be willing to give up three hours of perfectly good alone time on a Saturday afternoon to be in a room with 15 people I didn’t know.

San Jose Museum of Art Emilio Banuelos
San Jose Museum of Art Emilio Banuelos

 

 

The reason I was meant to be there was to meet street photographer/instructor Emilio Banuelos, who treated me as a peer.  It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like my work was taken seriously by someone in a position to offer guidance and encouragement.

Emilio was someone I could nerd out with about photography, and processes.  Specifically, my process.  He stayed after the workshop and offered insight when I explained the project I’m working on, and the purpose behind it.   “Nice,” doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to be taken seriously.  My greater fortune was finding out that Emilio teaches privately, at a rate I can easily save up for.

Spiralized Apples
Spiralized Apples

Meanwhile, on the food front, I’m committed to prepping and eating seasonally fresh produce.  Which means learning how to change my fixed ideas about the weekly menu.

I am process oriented and making sudden changes drives me right ’round a very short bend.  I am learning to pay attention to the food available, and think about my menu before shopping.  It’s really easy to fall into a routine and stop paying attention.

I managed to botch the curried chicken.  Again.  The recipe gets set aside for a few weeks while I move on to something else.  In the past, I would have given up.  Being willing to simply set it aside and come back to it later is new behavior for me.

As my relationship with food changes, so too does my attitude towards life.  I find myself more willing to try new stuff and am able to accept, from the outset, that there may be disappointment ahead.

This new attitude really showed itself when my car broke down.  It happened as I was driving to meet a friend who, quite literally, rode to my rescue.  Having someone text those three words, “on my way,” was the most comforting thing I’ve ever experienced.  It gave me such a boost.  Which made it easier to spend most of Monday in an unfamiliar neighborhood and take care of myself.

The results of this change were evident when I was able to calmly walk short distances with almost no back pain.  Listen to me.  I walked.  I walked willingly.  And nothing dread happened.

Which brings me to this:  size 22 y’all.  The jeans I bought in July are now too baggy for me.  I don’t like when my pants are baggy anymore.  No really.  Me.  I love my jeans from Torrid, and I love the way they fit.  So I ordered two pair in the next size down.

Speaking of which, exercise.  Finally!  With my wonky knee, it’s been difficult to do any kind of exercise without stressing the knee and the leg.  The resistance bands have arrived!  Me. Actually wanting to exercise.

And all because I changed my relationship with food, and began eating healthier.  I wanted a stronger body, and it’s on the way.

I must remind myself, give myself permission, to be human and make mistakes.  Even though I’ve made the commitment to exercise with my resistance bands six days a week, I know there are going to be times when I just don’t.  This doesn’t make me a bad person, it just makes me a person who every once in a while just can’t with the exercising.  Time was, if I missed a day, I just gave up.  Now I know if I miss a day, I’ll be back.

This is how I reached six months of better eating.  A plan executed one day, one meal, at a time.  The burgers still call my name.  Chocolate wants to know when we’re getting back together.  Today I make the choice not to listen.  I make the choice to eat what’s healthy and waiting for me in my refrigerator.  I did this.  No one else did.  Me.  And I like the results.

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Menu: October 2 – October 8, 2016

All prepped and ready for the week
All prepped and ready for the week

Menu:  October 2 – October 8, 2016

  • (Newish recipe) Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, onions, Penzeys Garlic Shoots, mushrooms, orange bell pepper, asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spiralized zucchini
  • Fruit:  red and green grapes, mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar,
  • (New recipe) Roasted Onions with Vinegar
  • (New recipe) Pumpkin Energy Balls

Menu Commentary
Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
I botched it again this week. The only thing I can think is that I prepped the sauce a few days ahead, and that did something to the balance of the ingredients. 2% Greek yogurt helped some. Burying it in veggies again. Time to set the recipe aside and came back to it in a few weeks.

Pumpkin Energy Balls
I did NOT botch this recipe.  It’s basically the peanut butter energy balls I’ve been making for six months now.  To meet my dietary requirements, I removed the chocolate chips and used coconut in place of the walnuts.  But dear Hera, this is a “want to put my face in the bowl” recipe.

New ingredients:
Red Grapes
Red Wine Vinegar
Mandarin Oranges
Pureed Pumpkin

New ingredient commentary:
Why has no one told me that pumpkin is so yummy outside of pies?

It’s so good without all the spices in it.  Wow.  Yup, gonna be cookin’ with this again.

New Tools:
Roasting pan

New tool commentary:
The roasting pan isn’t really a new tool, it’s just been packed away in a box for a while. It’s a deep and big enough to set a rack and a smallish turkey in.

Resources:
Real Simple
Bon Appetit
Clean Food Crush
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

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Review: Butcher Bird

Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey
Butcher Bird
Richard Kadrey

Title: Butcher Bird
Author: Richard Kadrey
Published: 2007
ISBN-13:  978-1-59780-086-0
Publisher:   Night Shade Books

Be quiet.  It’s not necessary to fill every moment with your own voice.  Silence terrifies you.  You see your own existence as so tenuous that you’re afraid you’ll pop like a bubble if, at every opportunity, you don’t remind the world that you’re alive.  But wisdom begins in silence.  In learning to listen.  To words and to the world.  Trust me.  You won’t disappear.  And, in time, you might find that you’re grown into something unexpected.  (p. 126)

In Butcher Bird I read many of the themes which make the Sandman Slim series so interesting.

It’s more than “what is real”.  It’s about what happens when reality shifts and the way through is to accept things are scary different from our expectations.

One of the things I consistently enjoy in Kadrey’s work is the way he reconfigures religious myths.

in Butcher Bird, tattoo artist Spyder Lee lives a life he enjoys.  He hangs out with his best friend and tattoo partner at their favorite bar, getting drunk and being raucous.  He has a solid reputation for his tattoos and shop.  But one night, Spyder steps outside to relieve himself and a demon tries to bite his head off.

Yes, literally bite his head off.  And then a blind woman steps in and saves his life.  Now Spyder can see the demons and monsters humans aren’t supposed to notice.

The key to this particular fight is one of Spyder’s tattoos.  It’s a symbol he thought looked cool and didn’t know the meaning of, which calls the demon to him.

Then Spyder discovers that his best friend, Lulu, isn’t what she appears to be and he is really screwed.  And in order to put everything back into some semblance of order, Spyder goes on a quest with Shrike, the woman who saved him.

I love a good quest story, and this one has great payoffs.  Quests, on the surface, are about going from here to there in order to solve a problem, usually saving the world.  Quests are also about confronting ourselves, our beliefs and what we thought we knew about everything.

Butcher Bird has everything a good quest story should have; unexpected blessings and obstacles, fights (sword play or something similar), evil (in this case in the shape of demons and monsters), tricksters, love, and a drive to put things right.

Reading Butcher Bird while in the midst of the Sandman Slim series, gave me a richer experience, because I already knew what Kadrey was up to.  That appeals to the historian in me.

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It Takes a Village: The Journey Begins

painted-daisiesMy mind has been a big jumble for several weeks, ever since I got the idea to share my journey with food in public. How do I start? Where do I start? What gets put in? Which details do I leave out?

“They” say that any journey starts with a step. So, here’s my first step. Haltingly and imperfectly, here is where I am in my life, and how I’m becoming the person I always dreamed of being. (Yes, I know that sounds like hyperbole. Trust me, it’s not.) As you get to know me, I hope you will find the compassion for yourself to reset your life, and reach for the things you don’t know you wanted.

On April 6, 2016, a confluence of events led me to change the way I thought about food.  To this point, food had been a survival mechanism.  Now, I want more.  The main motivation for this lifestyle change is this, I want to be a better steward to the members of the museum at which I work.    A healthier body means having the ability to stand, or walk, for longer periods of time mingling at events with our members, without chronic back pain.

This has almost always been about wanting a healthier, stronger body.  It’s never really been about losing weight. Although I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I do succumb to the numbers game on occasion. I need to remind myself daily that it’s about being healthier, not thinner. Because, I’ve been thinner, and I was miserable.

On April 6, 2016, I weighed 300 pounds and while I knew I was a gorgeous creature inside, I did not particularly believe I was beautiful outside. At 56, I had surrendered to my past. The past whose experiences told me I was worth less than just about anybody else in the world. That I was unlovable, and unworthy. Yet, the universe saw fit to put me in situations, and bring people into my life, who showed me the exact opposite, if only I would pay attention.

Nearly six months later, I am so happy. The happiest I have ever been at any size. And I know, deep where it’s important to really know things like this, that I am lovable, I am worthwhile and I am worth more than I ever thought possible. Ever.  And I have just begun.

Many people have asked what my “secret” is.  I giggle and tell them there is no secret.  Then, I tell them there are spreadsheets involved.  Most roll their eyes when they hear that.  Everyone wants someone, to tell them how to “fix” their lives.   I can’t, I don’t know how.

What I can do is share my journey.  All of it.  Food, emotions, getting physical.  The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.  We all have the power to heal ourselves and become the people we want to be.

But, it is work. It is hard.  Sometimes, it’s downright tedious.  Are the results worth the work?  Oh HELL to the yes.  There are paths to potential opening all around me. Some go places I never would have thought of. Some paths are to things I gave up on.  So, yes it is worth the time and effort.

None of this is possible if I’m not willing to do the work.  I do the work, the universe provides the results.  I’m learning to let go of the “how,” and just take the steps I know, the universe provides guidance every step of the way.

It’s the same for you who are reading this.  YOU do the work. You can’t just wish for change, and do nothing to make it happen. You, and only you, can do this work and make your life better. And, once you begin, you are the only one who can make you falter. You are in charge, and no one but you, not even the deity itself has the power to take this away from you.

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Food: September 25 – October 1, 2016

Menu:  September 25 – October 1, 2016

  • (New recipe) Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, onions, Penzeys Garlic Shoots, mushrooms, orange bell pepper, asparagus
  • Fruit: watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar, broccoli
  • (New recipe) Spiralized Cinnamon Apples

Menu Commentary
Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
The habit of removing all salt and fat from a recipe finally caught up with me. Without the salt, and at least a little bit of the fat in the yogurt, this was spicy, yet bland at the same time. A little reparative salt made it much better. The next batch I make will use at least 2% fat Greek yogurt.

Overall, this was not a bad first attempt. And it goes really well with the roasted veggies.

Spiralized Cinnamon Apples
There’s a recipe I’m going to try. It involves a skillet and heat, and other yummy things. But since I was running out of time, and because the weather was hot, I didn’t do the cooking part.

What I did instead was spiral cut the apples, sprinkle fresh lemon juice and cinnamon over them, and add a tablespoon of roasted walnut pieces. Microwave for 60 seconds, and yummy!

New ingredients:
Penzeys Now Curry
Fresh Ginger

New Tools:
Box Grater
Spiralizer attachment for stand mixer

New tool commentary:
The new attachment wasn’t a complete success. I couldn’t figure out how to attach the peeler blade. After a couple of YouTube videos and many tries, I threw my hands up. Spiralizer cutting blade not so great on cucumbers.

However, I did figure out how to spiral cut three pounds of Granny Smith apples. So much fun!

Notes on preparation:
Fresh ginger is a PITA to peel and shred. But it is worth the effort.

Resources:
Real Simple
Cooking Light
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

Review: A Thief of Time

A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman
A Thief of Time Tony Hillerman

Title: A Thief of Time
Author: Tony Hillerman
Series: Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee #8
Published: 1989
ISBN-10:  0060159383
Publisher: Harper & Row

Academic competition is fierce, especially when it’s between colleagues trying to get to the historic pottery remnants first to prove their theory and get published.  Oh, and recognition in their field.

A thief of time is someone who robs graves in order to take something.  In this case, it’s all about the Anasazi, a tribe which mysteriously disappeared around 1200CE.  The ruins left behind appear as though the people planned on coming back, but never did.

The black market for pottery is hot, people will pay exorbitant amounts to own a piece of “authentic” pottery with questionable provenance.  While Jim Chee is trying to chase down a stolen backhoe, Joe Leaphorn is trying to track down a missing anthropologist.

Personal baggage is heavy in this book.  Chee’s relationship with  teacher Mary Landon has hit the skids.  She’s gone back to the midwest to be with her family and go back to school.  In a letter to him, she expresses her deep love for him but sees no way around the white vs. Navajo conundrum they keep bumping against.

Joe Leaphorn is mourning the loss of beloved wife, Emma, who didn’t have Alzheimer’s after all but didn’t survive the surgery to remove a tumor.  My heart sank when I read of her death.  Interesting how easy it is to get caught up in the lives of fictional characters isn’t it?

While working their individual cases, Chee and Leaphorn eventually cross paths and discover they’re working the same case from different angles.  The stolen backhoe is being used to uncover pottery, while a different anthropologist is stealing jaw bones to prove his theory.

A hike to a nearly unknown, unreachable Anasazi ruin, two helicopters converging on the same spot, and the case is solved.  But this one seemed rather convoluted to me as it involved a decades old murder case Leaphorn had worked, a traveling tent show leading Navajos to the “Jesus Way,” and those using Chaco Culture National Historic Park as their base to study the Anasazi.  Too many moving pieces to keep track of, and an unbelievable ending involving the aforementioned helicopters.

But the thing I have always enjoyed about Hillerman’s books is his love of the Southwest and his use of Navajo culture to keep his mysteries from being just another murder/stolen object procedural.  His attention to the cultural differences pulls me in and keeps me there.

Review: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Jodi Taylor

Title: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Author: Jodi Taylor
Series: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s (#6)
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: eBook
Publisher: Accent Press

Max and those crazy historians of St. Mary’s are back. This installment is almost tame compared to the earlier books. Tame, that is, if you discount the baby mammoth poo all over one of the pods, five trainees being trained by Max, one of the trainees with an agenda of his own having to do with Richard III, and a not so unexpected twist at the end. I mean, I saw it coming from the first time Max complained of being sick.

Yup, I liked it very much and continue to be delighted with the attention Jodi Taylor gives to the history.

Review: Dead Set

Dead Set
Richard Kadrey

Title: Dead Set
Author: Richard Kadrey
Published: 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-228301-6
Publisher:  Harper Voyager

When I think of horror, I think of Freddy Krueger or Nightmare on Elm Street or Stephen King, even.

If I were to categorize Richard Kadrey’s books, they would be urban fantasy, which also have a dark twisted underbelly to them.

But many have categorized Kadrey as horror, and since I’m not big on quibbling about labels, I’ll just say “‘Kay.”  Because what it all comes down to is story.  What is the story and how is the story told?  That’s what makes a great read for me.

Dead Set is the story of Zoe and how her teenaged life got derailed after her father dies.  The only thing good she can count on is visits with her dream brother, Valentine, when she goes to sleep.  But then, (good stories always have a but then) …

But then, a black dog starts appearing in her dreams.  And she meets a guy at a record shop storing records with souls captured on them.  For a seemingly small price, he’ll let Zoe commune with her father.

And then, Zoe actually goes to her father and nothing is even close to how she imagined it might be.

Kadrey’s stories are creepy, that’s for damned sure.  But they’re also interesting, well-thought out and entertaining.  In Zoe’s story, he captures that heart-ache of a teenage girl trying to fit into her own life, and make sense of the changes that have happened.  It’s the story of a girl longing to re-connect with the love she once felt from both her parents, and to use her teenage rebellion for something other than just being a rebel.

I love the Sandman Slim series.  Love it.  In Dead Set, we have a quieter protagonist whose world is almost as dangerous as Slim’s.  And I loved it just as much.