Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Tangerine Screamer

This July, my car (aka Tangerine Screamer) turned 10 years old. Except for some scratches she's doing pretty good. And I'm doing pretty good, too.

Here's what we looked like in 2000:
And here's what we look like in 2010:
As you can see, that dress still fits.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Way I Hear Music

"Love is the light in which we see each thing in its true origin, nature, and destiny. If we could look at the world in a loving way, then the world would rise up before us full of invitation, possibility and depth." - John O'Donohue, from Anam Cara

When I read this quote, I realize why I hear music differently from most people. Because I truly love music, I usually hear it in the most loving way...the same way a mother loves her child; it can do no wrong, and it is full of wonder and possibility.

This is how I hear most music...with the hope that it will bring me joy and help me transcend the everyday banal. I expect the best from it, and usually it delivers. I try to hear past the flaws of the music, the singer, the off-key notes and clumsy performance. I let it transport me somewhere else and show me the best it can be. It takes hold of my imagination and becomes something greater than what it really is. It is soul and spirit unified with flesh.

I can hear the vibrato that isn't there, and strengthen the singer's voice with my mind. I hear the off-key note that exists, and add to it the on-key note it should be, and combine the two into a lovely harmony. I convert cheesy synth sounds to violins, guitar to dulcimer, and spiff up dull arrangements with a bit of added instrumentation. It's a rare song that I hear as is, without altering it in my mind.

In this way, listening to music becomes a creative act, kind of like parenting. Musicians are my children, and I place their compositions upon my refrigerator, proud of their work. What other people might view as mere scribble, I notice the craft of a genius.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Continued adventures in dieting

Here are some things I knew gave me blood sugar fits even before I started this diet:
--white potatoes
--alcohol on an empty stomach
--fruit juice sweetened yogurt plus granola sweetened with honey and maple syrup
--waffles with maple syrup

I've also recently learned that eating fruit at breakfast is likely to make me hungry much sooner. Sticking to a protein heavy breakfast seems to work best for me.

Since I started this diet, I've lost 5 lbs. I'd like to think I've gained a bit of muscle weight in the past week, since I've been doing some circuit training along with the "30 day shred" DVD. But who knows? The important thing is that my pants are no longer tight!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

South Beach Diet, Phase 2

I started adding grains and fruit to my diet a few days ago. I've had apples, nectarines, pears, rye, popcorn, and today I tried wheat (for the first time in over 2 weeks).

Wheat is the only thing that threw me a little. I ate a Phase 2 friendly muffin (made with wheat bran and whole wheat pastry flour), and suddenly wanted another. Even after 2 I was still hungry in a weird way. Later in the day I ate a third muffin, and had this "ick" I didn't need that feeling.

So I don't quite know how to explain it, but I have this feeling that wheat doesn't quite agree with me, even when it is whole grain. But the effect wasn't hugely bad, so it's still worth testing some more.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 13

I guess I must have moved into Phase 2 today, because I went to a Mariners game and ended up eating some popcorn. Later at Gorditos I had a few corn chips.

Tomorrow I am planning to get some apples. So slowly, I'll be adding back fruit, grains and sugars in limited quantities. I'll keep you posted if there's anything worth mentioning!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 11

I have gone through 1 liter of olive oil in less than 2 weeks!

I feel pretty good, but do miss some of the things I'm not eating, like apples, corn chips and wheat bread. I don't miss candy and sweets though (after all, I am getting my chocolate fix from sugar-free chocolate, and chocolate has always been the only candy that matters to me, (as an adult at least)).

Although I feel pummeled by the amount of cooking (and dish washing I have been doing), we are not eating out hardly at all now, and Troy has gotten in the habit of packing a lunch.

I'm not paying super close attention to the actual weight loss, but I think it has been 4-5 lbs. so far. Last I checked, I had lost about 1 inch to my general circumference. Not bad for just 11 days.

Perhaps one of these best things about this is breaking free of the tyranny of simple carbs. I am no longer shoveling crackers in my mouth or just because they are there, or eating candy and ice cream simply because we have it in the house. I have learned to plan meals around veggies and proteins, not around bread, tortillas and corn chips. Having a garden full or spinach and lettuce helps on those days when I haven't gotten to the store and am short on greens. I snack on mint and parsley, and enjoy it!

Stay tuned for future updates.

Monday, May 31, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 8

As of last night I had lost 3.5 lbs, so that's about 1/2 lb. a day for the first week.

Generally speaking I feel better on this diet. I am not hungry all the time anymore, and don't get intense cravings (though seeing the corn chips my husband brought home have been a bit of a distraction).

Today I was at the mall with no choice but to eat the offerings at the food court. I ended up with a salad from Taco Time, which seemed perfectly legal on the diet, except for the corn kernels sprinkled throughout. I wasn't about to pick them out, so I ate them, with no ill effects (like hunger or sugar rush).

So I have 6 more days and then I shift to Phase 2!

Friday, May 28, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 5: Zero Calorie Sweeteners

So I'm feeling pretty good, but this morning I was craving sugary tea for some reason. I don't normally have sweetener in my tea, but this morning I decided to try some zero calorie sweetener that is permitted on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet: Stevia. I put some powdered Stevia in my tea, stirred, and tasted--ick. Not the taste I was looking for.

So I went to the store and bought xylitol and erythritol. The former I am familiar with. We've been chewing xylitol gum for years and I believe it has helped my cavity prone daughter avoid getting any more cavities. The erythritol is a tooth decay preventing sugar alcohol like xylitol, and the kind I bought looks like granulated sugar. I added some of the erythritol to one of the South Beach Diet's more interesting dessert recipes: Espresso Custard Cups. Not bad. I will try it in my tea next time I'm craving sweet tea.

Meanwhile, my friend Mel (who lost 40 lbs on the Atkins Diet) turned me on to sugar free chocolate. So I bought some of that, too. The kind I got was Vosges Sugar-Free Red Fire Chocolate, which contains maltitol. Not bad, not bad.

In the old days of my youth, all artificial sweeteners were demon spawn. Saccharin was (and still is) rumored to cause cancer. Now there's aspartame/Nutrasweet which I've heard causes migraines in some people. Then there's sucralose/Splenda, which I also feel wary of.

But the maltitol, xylitol and erythritol...all I've heard bad about them is potential digestive issues---a "laxative effect." I haven't experienced any ill effects myself, and I think as long as I don't overdo it, I should be fine consuming these sweeteners during the sugar-avoidance phase of this diet.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 4: I think I can do this

On day 4, I am feeling much better than I did yesterday. I'm not very hungry and I don't feel like I'm fasting either. I eat when I am hungry, and am sticking to the Phase 1 regimen, though doing it my own way. As I mentioned before, there is only so much cheese I can stand. I have a garden and every day I'm picking fresh greens from there and making salad. This morning I picked some kale and made some on-the-fly concoction involving kale, black beans and lime juice.

My energy level is improved from yesterday, and I took a walk and also did some hula hooping for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 3: Okay, now I feel like I'm fasting

This morning my stomach finally adapted to this diet and complained very little about being hungry. Instead, the rest of my body finally figured out that I am no longer feeding it grains or sugars, and let me know by making me feel worn out and on the verge of a headache for much of the day. It's like a sensation that I am fasting, even though I am eating, lots, and throughout the day.

It looks like I might actually be losing a 1/2 pound a day.

We'll see what tomorrow brings!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 2: Who knew parsley could be so yummy?

First let me mention something I realized at the end of Day 1: I felt fine, except my body said, "too much cheese." On Day 1 I had consumed a stick of string cheese, some low-fat Monterey Jack, and an intriguing but slightly repulsive concoction from the South Beach Diet book called Vanilla Ricotta Crรจme (1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese, 1 packet of Stevia (or other 0-cal sweetener), plus 1 tsp. of vanilla extract). Today I decided to eat a lot less cheese, replacing the overwhelming cheese snacks with bell pepper and hummus, or celery with almond butter.

On Day 2 of the South Beach Diet, Phase 1, I had an interesting experience.

It started with lunch. I was eating some zucchini roasted in olive oil that was leftover from the night before. The night before (as on all other nights I have eaten it), the zucchini was a rather ho-hum side dish. But this afternoon for lunch, it was absolutely delicious. It had a sweetness I had never detected before.

This revelatory taste experience continued throughout the day. I was in the garden picking and eating some Italian Flat Leaved Parsley (as I have been doing every few days for months), and was suddenly struck by a sweetness I had never noticed before in it. Granted, it was still mostly bitter, but so sweet and tasty at the same time I just kept eating and eating it.

That night at dinner I had the same experience with steamed cauliflower and also with ground beef. It's as if my body is cleaned out enough now of sugar that I can actually taste the sugars in other foods I don't normally think of as being sweet.

This is totally worth it! I wonder how long each of my meals will continue to be a miracle of flavor and deliciousness that was formerly reserved only for things like triple chocolate cupcakes?

A note about Troy: he's home sick with a cold, and somehow managed to lose 2.5 lbs in 1 day on this diet, even after getting up at 4 am to have a bowl of cereal. He's basically given up on the diet though, because he found that first day too hard on his system.

Me, I didn't lose any weight at all the first day. I don't really expect to lose much. I wonder if the people who lose the most weight on this diet are the ones who find it hardest to do it?

Monday, May 24, 2010

South Beach Diet, Day 1

In my last post, I mentioned I have a few pounds (or more accurately, inches) I would like to lose. Troy's getting a bit round about the middle as well, so he agreed (perhaps under duress) to do the South Beach Diet with me, at least for a few days.

You can read more about this diet at the above link, or their website, but I just want to briefly state that this is not one of those "low-carb" diets like Atkins. In Phase 1 (the first two weeks), you eliminate simple carbs, but not complex ones. Your goal in Phase 1 is to avoid foods that make you ride the blood sugar roller coaster: sugars, starches, flour. Instead you emphasize things like olive oil, complex carbs like vegetables, and proteins like beans, cheese, and meat. In Phase 2 you add back whole grains and fruit, slowly, testing them to see how they make you feel. Do they restart the cycle of cravings for simple carbs? That's my understanding.

This diet is not hugely different from how I eat anyhow. For Phase 1, I have hidden the chocolate and sworn off alcohol and fruit juice. I no longer start the day with an apple, and end it with popcorn and/or grapefruit (I can add the fruits back in 2 weeks). I have switched to low-fat cheese, and am trying to not eat quite so many nuts.

The biggest and most difficult change for me is that in order to get Troy on this diet with me, I have to get up early and make him breakfast, and also pack him a lunch and enough snacks to last him a day. And I have to be sure I'm cooking him dinner everyday. Prior to starting the diet, the poor man had to subsist on sugary cereal for breakfast, whatever sandwichy thing he could find for lunch, and bananas, nuts and energy bars throughout the day. When he'd come home from work (2-3 hours after Ravenna and I had already had dinner), he might be lucky enough to find some leftovers in the fridge, or not.

And how did we do on this first day of Phase 1? I was a bit hungry at first, and I attribute that to the mistake of starting the day with a V8 (these are supposedly allowed in Phase 1, but contain beets and carrots, both of which have a fairly high glycemic index). I looked at the portion suggestions for breakfast, and they were puny. I tend toward eating a larger breakfast, and feel justified in doing this, since it has been shown that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that skipping breakfast usually makes you fat. So I felt no guilt at having additional food at breakfast; even eating part of my lunch for breakfast. Then I did fine the rest of the day.

Troy meanwhile, was miserable. He said he spent the whole day feeling like he was fasting; he was shaky, irritable, lightheaded, felt cold and weak and had a hard time concentrating. By dinnertime, he had come down with cold symptoms. His reaction is a mystery to me, but apparently this is not an uncommon side effect from withdrawal from sugar. I think the fact that Troy spent the weekend leading up to the diet binging on pizza, chocolate and potato chips contributed to his misery. He feels he is going to have to modify the diet in order to survive the week. I wish him the best with that, but hope he will try again in a couple of months (after cold season is over), since clearly he is in much bigger need of detoxing from sugar than me.

Stay tuned for further adventures in dieting!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Here I go again

So February 2009 I set off to lose 7 lbs in 85 days and did it. One year and three months later, I'm back to my Feb 2009 weight. What the heck happened?

I'd like to think some of it is muscle weight, as I am somewhat stronger than I was a year and three months ago. But the real test is how well I fit into certain clothes. And certain clothes are much too tight for me to be happy about this situation.

A few truisms about me:

-- I enjoy the journey and the seeking more than I enjoy the goal and getting and having

--When I feel like I can't control some aspect of my life, I try to get control back via whatever means I can

As a result: when I go on an inches-loss kick, I find the fun is in starting a new program and going on the journey. It's not that I especially want to be thin, it's just that I want to gain control of my size. A subtle but important distinction.

So what am I doing now? I'll let you know in subsequent posts.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Learn from Art

I've started a new blog dedicated to my artwork and what I've learned from doing it. Unfortunately, it currently contains some recent sketches only, and none of them are very good, as I am so out of practice and was always more of a painter than a draftsperson anyhow. But, the point of the blog is to learn from the process of doing the art, not necessarily get some amazing art out of it.

I encourage those of you who do any kind of art (painting, drawing, videos, graphics, music, etc) to submit something you've done with a blurb about what you've learned from doing it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Favorite Quote of the Day

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
Pearl S. Buck