mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

scrumptious? . . .

Here’s a scrumptious looking cookbook for superfood snacks such as “chocolate mint truffles” and “pomegranate salsa.”

http://www.amazon.com/Superfood-Snacks-Delici…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Also found an eggplant color mini-muffin pan on Amazon to make non-gluten, low sugar bites of zucchini-carrot-golden raisins, pumpkin gingerbread or fresh corn.

Who knew that getting healthy could be this much fun?

P.S.  and here’s a photo of flowers from our Japanese tree peony which is almost twenty years that grew from a $3. plant from Spag’s here in town.

japanese tree peony

 

soup! . . .

spinach soup 1

Yesterday, I made a simple vegetable soup (onions, celery, carrots, broccoli and diced tomatoes simmered in homemade chicken stock from the freezer) that we shared with G.’s mother and brother across the street at lunchtime. It was a warming treat during a grey, drizzly, cool day. Today, I was thinking about how meager our lunch choices were and thought about making the soup again. Instead, I looked around and discovered some fresh spinach that was looking a little sad but still good, so I looked online for a spinach soup recipe and found one that incorporated a sweet potato too!spinach soup 2

We love Japanese sweet potatoes but I’ve been avoiding them for awhile to adhere to the “no starchy vegetable” guidelines of the eating regimen that I’ve been following. However, I thought bending the rules to add one would be all right, especially since the recipe looked and sounded so scrumptious. I was also looking for a recipe that avoided adding cream or milk to a creamy spinach soup, wanting to use almond milk instead. This recipe fit the bill perfectly,

Since I’m meeting my daughter, C., for dinner tonight, (we’re celebrating by ordering Peking Duck in the same restaurant that we went to when she got her first job in high school! – imagine that!) There will be enough soup for G.’s dinner to enjoy here at home by himself tonight too.

Some things stay the same (like the Chinese restaurant still open after thirty years in the same location!) while recipes made with sweet potato and almond milk offer new approaches to cooking healthy!

The more things change, the more we can still find ways to savor our time together, right?

 

changeover . . .

DSC_0093_2

Sometimes I find myself going whole-hog to do something and then read something which stops me in my tracks. Then, it’s time to change the original plan. Talk about change being the only constant in the Universe!

In my reading about how to lower blood sugar levels FAST, I first read Mark Hyman’s “Blood Sugar Solution” book with a claim that he was a consultant to Bill Clinton. His regimen was basically a stricter Paleo diet: protein for breakfast, salads and greens, a 1-3 ratio of protein to green leafy vegetables for dinner. Two snacks of nuts, seeds or something low-glycemic. No problem! I diligently made a table of what to avoid and what to eat with sample breakfast, lunch and dinner menus which I put on the fridge as a guideline.

I forgot that I had also ordered a used copy of Joel Fuhrman’s book, “The End of Diabetes.” It arrived yesterday and I almost didn’t want to read more after immersing myself in Hyman’s books last week. But when I picked up Fuhrman’s book, he gave case histories with actual numbers and DATA of people whose blood sugar readings plummeted after a WEEK, and significant weight loss within weeks and months! One 80-year old woman’s weight went from 148 to 110 over a few months. After ten days, she was taken off insulin, something she had used for twenty years! A fellow weighing 268 pounds lost 16 pounds in two weeks and was off insulin and medication in five months after losing sixty pounds! Numbers and data are compelling, aren’t they? So there was no stopping me from reading about his diet regimen which departs radically from a modified paleo diet (which afforded all sorts of luxuries as a foodie.)

“The End of Diabetes” is achieved by eating vegetables. That’s it. Fuhrman makes the argument and shows data that vegetable protein (who knew?) was just as healthy as animal protein. The most drastic weight loss and glucose drops occurred in people who followed his “nutritarian” diet: cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collard greens, etc.) non-starchy vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes, avocadoes, lettuces, watercress); low-sugar fruit light portions: melons and berries; an ounce of nuts and seeds daily, and you can eat all the raw vegetables you want. THREE meals a day, NO SNACKS, especially after dinner. Because blood sugar is highest in the morning, he advises that you eat a very light breakfast of fruit or lightly cooked VEGETABLES! I also read that drinking an ounce of pomegranate juice lowered atherosclerosis and reduced artery plaque over the course of a year!

After I read the book, I tore up the first table I had so carefully constructed and devised a different way to approach my health. Mainly, I wanted to make a substantive effort (lose weight, lower readings, feel better, be more active) that would correct and reset my well-being meter once and for all.

So, yesterday for breakfast, I had a piece of tofu cut into cubes with a little oyster sauce dabbed on top of it. Delicious and satisfying! I boiled up a cup of frozen edamame soy beans from Trader Joe’s and ate them alongside. Instead of coffee for awhile, I’m sipping mugs of boiled water poured over a fresh lemon wedge. Poured a half glass of pomegranate juice to take my supplements with.

Last night for dinner, G. and I weren’t very hungry after having some nibbles at a recital that we went to in the afternoon. Plus, I had cheated by eating some Medjool date halves stuffed with Boursin cheese (a scrumptions combo of sweet and salty.) When I got home, I read that dates are low-glycemic fruit and okay to eat which was a relief. So for our evening meal, we sliced up a half of a ripe cantaloupe and ate the melon with handfuls of fresh blueberries, raspberries and dry roasted almonds. It was satisfying and refreshing. We also didn’t feel hungry afterwards and felt lighter this morning when we woke up.

Since I love to cook, I’m thinking of dishes to make that are appetizing that fit into the “nutritarian” guidelines. It’s hard, I’ve found, to eat other people’s recipes for very long. So far, I’ve come up with fresh spinach stuffed portabello mushrooms; cabbage, apple and walnut salad with a creamy macadamia salad dressing; eggplant parm without the ricotta, using fine gluten-free panko crumbs (yes!); spiraled zucchini “noodles” with shrimp scampi; vegetable soups made with onions, carrots, celery, cabbage and stewed tomatoes similar to macrobiotic recipes I’ve made in the past. I bought some Mrs. Dash’s seasoning that contains no salt and put my Maldon sea salt and Lawry’s garlic salt away.

I’ve also visualized the difference between eating the old way and the new way.  In the former, a body is warm or (very) hot in the sense that all of our organs are being fed too much rich, heavy food all the time so that one’s physical infrastructure (organs, blood vessels, nerves, glands and muscles must work hard to process full tilt on an ongoing basis – like an engine that’s revved up and going 80 miles an hour, driving on highways all day long.

With vegetables, your liver, pancreas and your endocrine system go on vacation, so to speak, because they’re not asked to do so much. Your engine is idling in the driveway or just cruising down a shady lane at 20 miles an hour. So when your body system is cooled off from all that over-exertion, and then you add some exercise, such as brisk walking or going up and down flights of stairs, it gets your heart pumping and the cooled body is flushed out by more oxygen going through your pipes (and arteries.) Anyhow, that’s how I’ve imagined it to myself. Makes sense to me, at least and an added incentive to “cool things down.” Is that what they mean when they say, “chill out!”?

The only trouble with having so much more energy is that I don’t know what to do first today: take my walk, hang out the sheets on the clothesline, start picking up and vacuuming, clean out the freezer and pantry or cut up the strawberries and rhubarb to make a compote that I can eat for breakfast or lunch later.

Maybe I’ll pace myself and read some of the New York Times newspaper first. The Universe is taking good care of things (including Helpers) and it’s good to remember we can also give ourselves a break, to smile and to enjoy the day. Especially on a Sunday morning! Here’s to enjoying the day!

 

 

 

 

“healthy” meets “foodie” . . .

guacamole post

Wow! Once you actually look around the grocery store, outside of the usual places we always go to, there are lots of new non-gluten, non-sugar foodstuffs to try out. One of my favorites is “Better Chip” spinach-kale corn chips. They were so full of flavor, crunchy and tasty with the homemade guacamole that I made for lunch today.

I followed the usual guacamole recipes and used two just-ripe avocados, three tiny ripe tomatoes, cut up, about 2 tablespoons of chopped red onion, a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves (makes all the difference); fresh lime juice and a scoop of asian hot chili sauce. I mixed it up into a rough chop mash and tasted it with one of the spinach/kale chips. Honestly, I could eat like this forever!

You know those volcanic rock mortars on legs that you can get to make guacamole? It’s called a “mocajete,” I think. I looked at one on the Williams-Sonoma website but in the back of my mind was thinking that I already had a bowl that would lend itself perfectly to serving guacamole. Sure enough, the bowl in the photo above that I’ve had for ages, was made from a thick slab of clay by Sandy Brown (an English potter) and has a deep well for a bowl that was perfect. It’s boosted my confidence that efforts to reduce glucose needn’t be dreary and/or boring.

On another note, even though I’m not really eating much fruit during the intensive part of this regimen (7 more weeks to go,) there were fresh strawberries and rhubarb on sale yesterday that I brought home to stew together into a compote. It took a little time because there were so many strawberries to rinse off, cut up and remove a lot of the white parts inside, cooked in a pot with the sliced rhubarb. No water was added, just heated up the berries and rhubarb over low and then medium heat. It cooked down incredibly quickly, and after it cooled, I added a tablespoon of agave nectar to sweeten it slightly. (Next time, I’ll use stevia instead.)  I ate a small serving of it just like that and G. had the fruit spooned over Haagan Daz vanilla swiss almond ice cream.

Since nuts are both good for you and tasty, I happened upon a brand of cashew nut butter that is dry roasted and combined with safflower oil. I don’t know if it’s the dry roasting process or what, but “Crazy Charlie’s” cashew butter is satisfying for a one-spoonful snack because it’s so full of flavor. When I first opened it, there was some separation of oil and I stirred it up until it was thoroughly mixed. I read a tip online to store it in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t separate again. Perfect!

Rather than dipping it straight out of the jar, I found these “super seed” crackers, manufactured by “Mary’s Gone Crackers” that are made from: “organic whole grain brown rice, oranic whole grain quinoa, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds, organic brown flax seeds, organic brown sesame seeds, organic poppy seeds, filtered water, sea salt, organic seaweed, organic black pepper, organic herbs. Zero grams of sugar. I guess they’re really organic – as you can see from the way they listed the ingredients on the box.

So, eating differently is starting to feel a little lighter — which is also the way I walked this morning, not clomping my feet along but just stepping lightly without trying too hard. I’m unusually undisciplined so to do anything four days in a row is pushing it for me. Mentally, I didn’t feel like going for my walk this morning but I made myself do it and am glad I did. It does make a difference that I’m answering up at my physical which is scheduled for mid-July.

And so, I’m finding that alternative eating, and living, doesn’t have to be punishment. It doesn’t have to be laborious or a dirge of “should-haves” rather than being free to enjoy what we want. Our dinners are now two dishes, max. It used to be three or four dishes a night (protein, vegetable, carb (potato, sweet potato, rice, couscous) and a salad. Now, we have protein and either a cooked vegetable OR a large salad. The protein is a third of the size of the vegetables which easily takes care of portion control.

For sure, these fancy spinach/kale chips, super seed crackers and roasted cashew nut butters are pricey. Okay, expensive. They probably cost a third more than I might pay for ordinary goods. However, there are only a few of them in my pantry and they are exponentially more tasty, interesting and healthy to eat.

The non-gluten, low sugar eating movement has triggered the development of new products that also appeal to “foodies” like me. Michio Kushi and his wife, Aveline, started natural food stores with Erewhon decades ago. But until recently, health food stores seemed medicinally oriented (no pun intended) and it sometimes felt like one was shopping for food in a pharmacy rather than browsing in a gourmet delicatessen.

Now, It feels like we have entered the dawn of an alternative era: healthy meets foodie! And it’s a good one!

 

 

 

 

 

a secret to life . . .

DSC_0720Guess what? I had a medical diagnosis from the doctor I’ve been going to for over thirty years recently that has challenged me to get my health on to a better track. It’s been interesting to observe my process since then. I’ve taken out library books and purchased a few from Amazon plus reading online to get the lay of the land. It’s nothing new, perhaps, but it’s now urgent to eat better and lose weight. At first, I thought that a strict regimen for 6 weeks that would cut out sugar and glycemic foods such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, pasta, sweet potatoes, beets, fruit and fruit juice would be sufficient to lose about 5-8 pounds during that time. Apparently, that’s not enough, especially if you have high blood sugar readings (which I do.) Medication might help to reduce it too but that alone won’t be enough either. My doctor told me that 30 minutes of VIGOROUS exercise would make a big difference.

Disappointed, I began thinking about how to get vigorous exercise when my right ankle with 13 plates and screws in it from being broken last year was stiff most of the time and sore as well. I’d been avoiding exercising it because it seemed to resist whatever I did. Anyhow, I got off my duff, put on my jacket and walked out of the house before breakfast yesterday. I walked pretty slowly until a woman passed me, waving “hi” and walking at least twice as fast as I was. Today, I went out after breakfast and started walking rapidly, moving my arms in sync with my stride. I discovered a place to walk nearby that was level (unlike yesterday’s mountain climb up hills to get home from the post office) and broad – an empty parking lot ringed by flowering trees just a ways down from my house. I walked at the newer, rapid pace with arms moving (almost power-walking, I think) and felt good when I got home.tassel necklace photo

Afterwards, I drank two glasses of water and my mood was much better than it has been for awhile. My goal is to counter the conventional wisdom that it’s hard to lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks (why not?) and to show up for my physical scheduled on July 13th having accomplished that even though my doctor cautioned me not to be disappointed. My personality is such that having a finite goal and then being challenged that it’s not do-able, is the carrot that makes me determined to succeed. The “against all odds” bit that you see in movies and stuff.

The other thing I have focused on is how to reduce the stress in my life. And that is to find novel ways to clean up the relationships in my life that are either toxic, frustrating or disappointing. I guess all of us have some of these some of the time. But I am determined to reclaim what’s been good and to assuage what seems to be impossible to regain. Towards that end, I’ve decided to express myself to people about things that have been unspoken for some time. But at least, it’s a chance to do something (to act) rather than never to act. You might know what I mean. Some families NEVER talk or communicate about what’s really important. Then, people die, and there’s no opportunity to gain better understanding or emotional completion in some meaningful way.

So, the title of this post, “a secret to life” is simple: take the best care of yourself that you can. Only we can do it for ourselves. Only we can stop making excuses about how we hate exercise or have a broken ankle or enjoy cooking too much to MODIFY it and learn something new. It does take effort. Mostly, it requires taking the blinders off of denial, procrastination, prevarication, laziness and whatever is keeping us from dealing with it. The “it” is different for each of us. I let things go until my “it” was giving me symptoms that alarmed me and forced me to face the music.

I have found that the music is not that bad. I think of myself as having a pretty straightforward approach to things. Apparently that is not the case. Now, I am making corrections all over the place. It won’t happen overnight but I am at least hoping for some tangible changes in six weeks. The relationship stuff might never work out but it’s not because I haven’t tried my best. The other night, G. and I were supposed to go out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary. Instead, our new tenants were two hours late and I went out to the local Chinese take-out restaurant. The food was over-salty and not that great. Afterwards, I picked up my fortune cookie. Inside it was this message:

 “An upward movement initiated in time can counteract fate.”

What do you think about THAT?

 

 

blooming!

dogwood

Apparently, eating better and less is not enough to get healthier, fast! Half an hour of “vigorous exercise” would do it, though, my doctor opines. The ankle I broke last year has 13 plates and screws in it which inhibits me from jumping around, running or even walking fast. But never fear. I decided to walk to the post office today and back. We live on top of a (very) high hill. So getting there (going downhill) was relatively easy. Getting back was another story.

DSCN5116_2

The real benefit of walking during this mid-Springtime is that it’s easier to notice that the flowering trees are all in bloom and there are lots of flowers growing on the ground as I pass by.

On my trek to the post office, I saw: white johnny jump-ups, lilies of the valley, daffodils and narcissus, of course, lots of dandelions, azalea, dogwood, weeping cherry, crabapple blossoms, apple blossoms, pear blossoms, forsythia and a magnificent magnolia tree (white and so glorious!)

Purple and white lilacs are out, honeysuckle and this morning, I noticed that the wisteria in front of the barn is awash in lavender tendrils for the first time!

DSCN7856

crone . . .

K in dark glasses for Bonnie

Yesterday, someone gently described me as having entered the phase of my life known as “crone.” It’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, definitions for the word, “crone” include:

“an old woman”

“an archetypal figure: a wise woman”

Furthermore, “Croning is a rite of passage into an era of wisdom, freedom, and personal power.”

She also mentioned that at this stage in life, that we don’t have to feel responsible for how our children turn out because they are on their own paths. And that we have all done the best we could raising them. I’m so relieved to hear that I don’t have to work on it anymore. For some reason, I had thought it was my job until the bitter end.

Thank God I can take a permanent vacation from it starting now. It’s not up to me anymore, it’s up to them. Now, I’m on easy street!

me as crone with groucho marx glasses on . . .

me as crone with groucho marx glasses on . . .

 

 

 

“these are our days” . . .

garden with plantersSometimes it’s hard to remember what we were like twenty years ago. Since then, we may have grown our hair out, gained weight, lost some but still weigh a little more than we did back then. Even more weighty is what our experience has been since then: how did we make out in our professional careers; what do we do and how do we spend our time now? Most importantly, what’s left that we would like to have out of our days while we are in what’s been called our “third chapter?”

G and I when we first met, >twenty years ago. . .

G and I when we first met, >twenty years ago. . .

I’d been thinking about these questions when I came across an article about Carey Mulligan, the actor who appears to be more independent than most. On her dressing room mirror, written in eyebrow pencil are the words:

“These are our days.

Walk them.

Fear Nothing.”

How pure, I thought. No extra words or flourishes. No project management flavored goals, timelines or milestones. How refreshingly free of “shoulda, coulda, woulda” thoughts. No plans nor agendas. Walking is something we do everyday. Pace yourself.

“Fear nothing” is the best advice of all. Upload into the Universe what you can’t manage anymore. Sew them up with tiny stitches and put them away, Push them through the opening and zip the cover tight. Breathe naturally. Since doing that, I’ve found that nervous tics go away. So does a lot more.

Today is Sunday and the day is filled with sunlight and a light breeze that makes the trees sway. G. is tuning a piano downstairs before it is delivered to a new home this afternoon. (How lucky we are that he does what he does with pianos and that we live in this beautiful home!) I’m drinking the last of the coffee and reading my Sunday New York Times newspaper which I relish as one of the luxuries of my week.

our weeping cherry tree flowers every year around May 1st. . .

our weeping cherry tree flowers every year around May 1st. . .

Tomorrow, our new tenants for the front apartment will be coming by for supper. I thought I’d make a vegetarian dish called “Buddha’s Delight” and we’ll make scallion pancakes together. They’ve said that they love dumplings so we’ll make them later on in the Fall after they’ve moved in and things settle down. Earlier in the afternoon, I’ll make some homemade dashi broth with kombu seaweed and bonito flakes; strain it and add some white miso, tofu and green onions for our soup. A good new start to living here in the “piano house.” I hope things work out and that we’ll have a good time.heuchera planters 1jpg

The spring ceramic planters I bought at Lowe’s are filled with dramatically colorful heuchera plants whose leaves contrast with each other against the green of the pots. Coral bells have always been some of my favorite kinds of plants because of the unusual colors the leaves are (chartreuse, light orange and deep maroon) their stems of tiny coral flowers swaying in the breeze.

heuchera planters 2

My idea is to let them grow for awhile in the planters, then place them in the ground. That will allow the pots to change their look and contents with other plantings that catch my eye as the growing season progresses: knee high cosmos plants during the summer, or statuesque foxgloves for example; bright, deep-colored chrysanthemums in the Fall. It will be fun to rotate what’s in the planters outside and mostly, it will be fun to anticipate, fearing nothing.

heuchera planters 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

curve ball . . .

weeping cherry

Sometimes when you’re tootling along, life throws you a curve ball and it makes you stop in your tracks. That happened to me yesterday and I was momentarily disoriented. I’ve been reading lots of stuff by people like Byron Katie who has a process called “the work” posing a number of questions you’re supposed to ask yourself about an idea or thought you have, like “is it true,” and “is it really true?”

Well, I didn’t have to think long and hard about those questions which are meant to illustrate to the questioner that what you think might be true is actually nothing but a projection on your part and that what you’re upset about doesn’t really exist. That’s handy some of the time because I do agree that we go around projecting a lot, manifesting our hopes and frustrations in ways that fool us into thinking we’re upset about one thing when it’s actually ourselves we’re upset at.

But it’s not always the case either. There have been times when I’ve felt like giving up a struggle or two because it’s not my job, necessarily, to try to tie things up in a nice bow with the people in my life. That’s the Uber-project manager in me, striving to make sure that there’s enough time and opportunity to allow for the most positive outcome in one’s family before it’s too late.

Of course, saying “it’s too late” is just an easier way of saying “before we die.”. And it seems most people may not care about that and at least, are too busy living their lives right now to think about anything else. So, maybe it would be a good idea to just live my life and enjoy each day instead.

My canary is singing his head off these days and it’s really sweet to hear him splashing away in his water cup, taking a refreshing break from just sitting around in his cage. It’s almost the end of April and it feels like a good day to “break out the barbie” as they like to say in Australia.

So, I went out on the back deck and cleaned off the grate of our cast iron hibachi (I don’t believe in gas grills which feel to me like we’ve just moved the stove outside and turned on the gas.) Wood-smoked charcoal, slowly turning grey as it heats up is what grilling means to me. So tonight, we’ll christen the grill with marinated, boned chicken thighs which cook evenly and more quickly than those that still have the bone in.

I’m impressed with Bobby Flay’s cookbooks like “Grill It” and look forward to using some of his marinades that are a littler more piquant than what we’re used to, using chilis and fresh lime juice. After grilling the chicken tonight, might also look for a recipe for grilling a nice piece of flank steak that I brought home from the grocery store today.

Anyhow, grounding oneself in mundane things like what to cook for dinner and looking forward to making a charcoal fire in the hibachi is a good way to counteract curve balls that land in one’s lap. I’m not doing it – that is, obsessing about it (“is it true?”) or anything like that.

Just cutting a handful of daffodils and budding twigs from our weeping cherry tree to enjoy indoors  and to share with George’s family across the street.

 

 

clarity . . .

anemones

Some of us, as time goes by, care less and less about appearances, schedules and bypass things that annoy us. Why bother? Others, like me, have been working on coming to some kind of understanding about what has made me tick, or at least what has accounted for the movie script of my life.

Yesterday, I had a deep-tissue massage and both my massage therapist and I were surprised at how many knots she came across and worked out. I felt sore but really good afterwards. Then, I read some stuff online that I had been thinking about while drinking lots of water to work out all that lactic acid released from the fascia lining my muscles.

Then I went to bed.

This morning, I woke up with clarity. All the moving parts of the puzzle that have been my life clicked together at once. The Theme. Variations. Repeats. and finally, the Coda.  It all made so much sense. Understanding, for me at least, has provided clairvoyance in 3-D, no longer 2-dimensional facts or events in my life.

Clarity has helped me to finally turn the page and breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s complex. It all fits. Now, I really get it.

Time to move forward and enjoy my life!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 208 other followers