The Egg and I

Take a deep breath, grab your loved one by the hand, jump into your pickup truck and head for the wilds of Washington State, where Betty MacDonald spent a few years as an egg farmer’s wife. You’ll love Betty for her self-deprecating comments and calm acceptance of her crazy neighbors (The Kettles), you’ll envy her fresh mountain air and jaw dropping views, but you’ll snuggle deeper under your own covers when you read about her getting up at 4am to struggle with the stove, wet laundry hanging throughout the winter in the kitchen and never getting dry, cougars stalking through the woods, drunken wife-beating Injuns (Betty’s a bit of a racist), and a severe drought of books or reading material.
Fantastic peek inside life on a farm in the 1940’s. Recommended!

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Mind Your Heart

Recently, when I find myself at the library, ostensibly returning books or picking up ones on hold, I slither over into the 600’s and let my eyes suck in all those healthy titles. My obsession with nutrition books is surely borderline obsessive by this point. Still reading? Onward!
I skipped through most of the beginning chapters on relaxation and heart artery diagrams. This is a Harvard Med book, after all. Plus they were talking about the 3 legged stool approach, where 2 of the legs were surgery & medicine! Ack, this goes counter to everything I believe in… simply, that healthy eating & exercise will prevent most of what Americans have to go under the knife for.
Food Triggers
* Remove temptations. This is the hard one for me, because the workplace is a minefield of sugar bombs. It will be nearly impossible to remove temptations, so I must learn to:

Stop before you reflexively eat that cookie or candy. Breathe, which relaxes you and prevents you from automatically eating. Reflect on why you want to eat at this moment– is it hunger based or mental? Choose– if you’re not eating b/c hungry, choose another activity like taking a walk.
Don’t have time to exercise? “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – 19th century British statesman Edward Stanley
I make a trip to the gym as part of my commute home; When I was first beginning to do this, I would have to remind myself not to turn down 8th street, but to continue on to 11th and thereby get to the gym. After a few weeks of constant habit reinforcing, it’s now harder for me to go straight home than simply stopping off at the gym first. And really, there is nothing better than unwinding the day in the sauna. Guilty pleasure?
Some of their recommended reading that I might pick up:
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Richard Carlson
Slowing down to the speed of life – Carlson
What Color is your diet? – Heber
Eat, Drink & Be Healthy – Willett
Syndrome X – Reaven

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Graveyard of the Atlantic

In preparation for an upcoming trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I picked up this moldy tome to familiarize myself with the region’s charms. Unfortunately, Stick’s book is an unabashedly boring catalog of shipwrecks, one right after the other, with so many similar details that it resembles Groundhog Day, where I felt I was reading about the same shipwreck over and over and over.
Example: “Ship name” has a tearful farewell at port, but sails out on an auspiciously beautiful day. Soon, the ship finds herself caught in a storm, and landed upon a sandbar near Cape Fear. Water pours into the hold. The ship tears apart. The single lifeboat doesn’t hold all 200 people on board. Men are swept overdeck/hang in the rigging. Women and children perish. The “bankers” divvy up the treasures that land on shore in an auction.
I suppose the one and only thing I learned was that this region got a lot of shipping traffic despite its dangerous waters because it is the confluence of the Gulf Stream and the southerly stream from the Arctic. In other words, a watery superhighway that sailors used to take weeks or months off their journey.
The ink drawings are also quite nice, drawn by the author’s father who took “time out from his busy schedule to do the fine pen and ink drawings that enliven the accounts.”

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Moosewood Cookbook

Does one read a cookbook? Or does one simply consult the cookbook for ideas when hungry? I actually curled up on the couch this rainy Sunday and read Moosewood cover to cover. After being brow-beaten by all those myriad of healthy nutrition books, I wanted to take a break and simply read something that had joy for cooking. I spend the afternoon dreaming of the taste of the dishes, and plotting to whip some of them up in the coming weeks.
For the uninitiated, Moosewood is a vegetarian cookbook lovingly handwritten and illustrated by Mollie Katzen.
I’d forgotten that my cornbread recipe was cribbed from here; I made up a fresh batch yesterday and was surprised to encounter the recipe verbatim in this book. Ah, memory.
Other dishes of note that I’ll be trying out:
* Solyanka – essentially a mashed potato casserole with onion/carrots/dill/yogurt/cottage cheese/ sunflower and caraway seeds/cabbage/paprika baked for 45 minutes at 350.
* Date-Nut Cake – a newfound love of dates thanks to the date dealer at the farmers’ market drives me to make this. Eggs/sugar/vanilla/flour/salt/walnuts/dates. Mouth watering from the recipe…
* Ricotta Cake – Eggs/ricotta/sugar/flour/vanilla/almond/salt/orange & lemon rinds/lemon juice

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Atmospheric Disturbances

Psychiatrist thinks his wife’s doppelganger has replaced her in his life. I lasted 70 pages, really wanting to like the book, but it had eerie echos of the madness of The Raw Shark Texts, which I enjoyed immensely. For some reason, I could never quite get in sync with the madness of the main character; I came close, nearly falling into the rest of the book, but realized I was pushing myself falsely past that barrier I usually erect.

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Eat to Live

“Clearly, it is difficult to eat healthfully in our crazy world, where it seems that everyone else is on a vendetta to commit suicide with food.” Dr. Furhman wants you to have a healthy heart, and you do that by eating 90% unrefined plant food, both raw & cooked. Fill up on leafy greens, basically, and you won’t be hungry for the rest of the crap that normal Americans pour down their gullets daily.
Broccoli. romaine lettuce & kale all have 2x the protein in a 100 calorie portion that sirloin steak does.
Health = Nutrients/Calories
High density nutritional calories are the goal, end result is longevity & health.
What to eat:
* Unlimited: raw vegetables (1 lb. daily), cooked green vegetables (1 lb. daily), beans/legumes/sprouts/tofu (1 cup daily), at least 4 fresh fruits per day, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions & tomatoes
* Limited (not more than 1 cup per day): cooked starchy veggies or whole grains, raw nuts & seeds (1 oz max per day), avocado, ground flaxseed
* Off limits: dairy products, animal products, fruit juice or dried fruit
Ten Tips for living with the Six Week Plan:
1. Salad is the main dish, eat it first @ lunch & dinner
2. Eat as much fruit as you want, but at least 4 daily
3. Vary your greens
4. Beware the starchy vegetable (anything that’s not green)
5. Eat beans/legumes every day
6. Elminate animal/dairy products
7. Ground flaxseed every day (1 Tbsp)
8. Eat nuts/seeds in limited amounts, not more than 1 oz per day
9. Eat lots of mushrooms all the time.
How do you make the change?
– social support
– stimulus control (remove temptation from your house, all cheats should happen outside the house)
– positive visualization & relaxation
– self monitoring
* The earlier puberty comes, the quicker the aging process begins
List of most contaminated produce from highest to lowest, 200 = most toxic, according to FDA
1. Strawberries (189)
2. green & red bell peppers (155)
3. spinach (155)
4. cherries (USA) (154)
5. peaches (150)
6. cantaloupe (Mexico) (142)
7. celery (129)
8. apples (124)
9. apricots (123)
10. green beans (122)
11. grapes (Chile) (118)
12. cucumbers (117)
Life Plan Food Pyramid:
30-70% of calories: Vegetables, half raw half cooked
20-50% calories: Fruit
10-39% calories: Beans/legumes
2-20% calories: whole grains, raw nuts, seeds
Twice weekly or less: fish, fat free dairy
Once weekly or less: Poultry, eggs, oils
Rarely: Beef, Sweets, Cheese/Milk, Processed Food, Hydrogenated Oil

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Call Me Ted

Inspirational peek inside Ted Turner’s life, the man who shaped modern Atlanta. Taking over his father’s billboard business at the age of 20, he launched TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, and TCM. He purchased MGM to get his hands on their film library. He bought Hanna Barbera’s collection when Disney turned its nose up at the $300M price tag.
An abusive childhood, away at military school, a wealthy dad that forced him to rely on himself, he picked up sailing at a young age and was passionate about it, winning the America’s Cup and Fastnet before retiring to spend more time with family/business. The largest individual landowner in the US- 2 million acres that he’s returning to their pre-white man state (removal of barbed wire, buildings, rebuilding bison herds). The tragic unraveling of his company post-TimeWarner merger (post-AOL merger with Time Warner at the height of the dot com boom).
You get the sense that Turner is pure energy, non-stop and full of great ideas (the :05 Superstation start to programming instead of the on-the-hour programming like the networks, selling expensive paintings instead of laying people off).

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Conquer Your Food Addiction

Repattern your behavior so your default action is the healthy one. Change your habits.
Helpful tips:
* Eat slowly- try to spend at least 20 minutes on each meal. Put your fork down between bites, sip some water, read the paper or a book.
* Hot water can be as delicious as tea/coffee?
* Brush your teeth when you are full. Will prevent you from mindlessly continuing.
* Be mindful of the number of items you consume each day
* Be aware of portion size.
* Feed your smaller self, not the large person you used to be
* Put less on your plate so you can still be a clean plate club member
* Don’t eat mediocre food just because it’s there or it’s free.
Breaking addiction:
* As you work on breaking a ritual, place a tick mark on a piece of paper every time you think of doing that thing (eating)
* Ask yourself: “Was I thinking of eating 2 minutes before I saw this food?”, “Will this food help me reach my goal?”, “Am I even hungry?”
Rules before 20 minute meals:
* Stretch before eating
* Deep breathe
* Be present, eat small bites, put fork down after each bite
* Ask yourself if you’re still hungry
* When done, move plate away, feel the satisfaction, leave the table, brush your teeth then go for a walk
When faced with food, ask yourself:
* Am I hungry or what?
* Am I hungry enough to put food on a plate and eat it with utensils?
* Am I hungry enough to create a relaxing meal lasting 20+ minutes?
If not hungry, you can:
* Physically move: change locations, brush teeth, walk, drink water, breathe
* Mentally: visualize yourself at goal, fill up on ambiance, taste with nose
* Relax/refresh: breathe, nap, bath, sit quietly
* Verbally say no thank you
(Use combination of all of these to break habit)

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Personal Development for Smart People

Oh yeah! Finally off the nutrition book kick… or am I? There is a section in Pavlina’s book about health and the importance of fueling your body properly- less processed foods equals more mental clarity.
* Ask yourself: does the path I’m on have heart? Does it feel right deep down?
* Try things in 30-day trials (giving up TV, eating no sugar, getting up at 5am…)
* His career section asks you to take a piece of paper, write at the top “What is my true purpose in life?” and just start writing answers until you get to one that makes you cry.
* To live more intelligently, make sure you’re aligned with truth, love, power, oneness (we’re all connected to each other), personal authority, courage, & intelligence. Yes, this is as new-agey as it sounds.
* Give up the idea of attaining money, and simply go after the specific goals you think money would help you attain – travel, new house, etc.
* Find work in an area that overlaps with your deepest interest. Charge a fair rate for your contributions. Contribute, don’t mooch.

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The New Sugar Busters!

I know what you’re thinking… you’re really hoping that I get off this sugar book tip, because it’s just getting boring coming here and reading all these “nutrition” books I end up skewering. And I hear you. It’s just…
* I cannot say no to Specialties cookies in the afternoon at work. Cannot. A box of cookies appears, and I keep going back for cookies until they’re gone. That’s just poor manners, and unhealthy. I have an addiction and I want to solve it.
* I *know* sugar is bad for you. In What To Eat, Nestle talked about how cancer feeds on sugar. Sugar is cancer’s enabler. What more do you need to know. The stuff is bad news, and millions of years of dietary evolution got us to the 2000’s without refined sugar.
* Sugar is everywhere. It’s hidden in English muffins in the form of mercury-laden High Fructose Corn Syrup.
* I’m a wee bit nervous about becoming diabetic. I mean, amputation? Blindness? Scary.
But more to the point, what did I learn from this ridiculous book?
* Sugar consumption spikes from zero pounds/person/year in 1500 AD to 154 pounds/person/year in 1997. That’s a big old pile of sugar we’re all consuming
* One, two alcoholic drinks a day helps prevent heart disease (same effect is gleaned from an aspirin & grape juice, for the non drinkers out there)
* Eat low glycemic foods like whole grains & vegetables. Potatoes are off-limits (except sweet potatoes), which makes this whole SugarBusters diet off-limits to me and my Irish nature.
* Vinegar, lemon/lime juice helps decrease the glycemic load of a meal
What I hated about the book:
* Excessive inclusion of “success stories”
* Unnecessary revised edition
* Way too many recipes included. Not using this as a cookbook…
* The back cover has photos of all 4 authors, all old white men. This turns my stomach, and makes me feel a little less guilty about hating the book. They’re out of touch.
* They were very meh on the whole exercise thing. Like, “do we need it?” “nah.”
* Ditto on being meh about calorie counting. Sorry, old white men, but it’s true that you reduce the number of calories consumed, and increase exercise, you lose weight.
Super-foods, as dictated by the old white men:
* Greens – Kale, Collards, Spinach
* Sweet potatoes
* Fruit – Cantaloupe, blueberries, oranges, tomatoes
* Green Vegetables – broccoli
* Beans – lentils
* Nuts – almonds, walnuts
* Whole grains – wheat, oats, barley
* Seafood – salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
* Olive oil
* Protein – liver & meats
* Milk
* Flaxseeds
* Dark chocolate

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Truly touching story of a manic girl who develops eating disorders at age nine, deciding to troop downstairs and puke up her Fritos out of the blue. Thus begins her cycle of bulimia, where she can pretend to eat normally and secretly go and purge, which eventually morphs into anorexia, where she withers away to 53 pounds in front of everyone, garnering stares while she just wants to disappear, literally.
Hornbacher’s eating disorders crank into overdrive once she leaves the protective shell of her parents’ home in Minnesota to go to high school elsewhere, among other talented people some of whom are obsessed with weight. Returning home for the summer, her parents check her into a hospital where she’s force-fed and comes out more messed up than ever. In and out of treatment facilities for the next few years, she reaches rock bottom when health insurance taps out, and is put in a loony bin. Supposedly this is her turning point, and she begins college (without finishing high school) and working as a journalist.
Suddenly, she’s accepted to American University in DC, and goes at such a frenetic pace that she justifies her weight loss due to busyness. This is when she drops into the freakishly small range of under 60 pounds.
How does she bounce back? I’m not sure if I skimmed over this part, but she ends the book happily married, with disorder under control (although constantly asking her hubby if she has gained weight, ugh), and trying to develop a healthy relationship with food again.

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The Sugar Fix

More gloom and doom on the sugar front, but this time in a decidedly unhelpful book. The author actually recommends substituting Splenda for sugar, which does someone absolutely no good. I was a bit suspicious of the book from the start, especially with his “Gatorade” disclaimer since he’s a U of Florida faculty and they’re funded by Gatorade money.
Quick summary: fructose is the bad part of sugar (glucose is “safe” according to him), spiking your insulin receptors and hidden away in almost everything we eat as a form of HFCS. Fructose also spikes the uric acid in your system, (this is also where I got suspicious– he was really pushing the uric acid story hard, and I wonder if he’s got a drug soon to be on the market for uric acid handling), and uric acid is bad making you age quicker and inflame your cell structure and not be able to ward off sickness and makes your memory worse, etc. etc. etc.
Bottom line, this reinforces for me to eat veggies & fruit, sugar in moderation, exercise and hope for the best. You can skip the book– not much of believable value in it.

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I have a problem

Ok, first step to recovery is admitting you have the problem, right? Well, here it is– I have a library book addiction. I am addicted to reading books I get from the library, and only books from the library. I have stacks and stacks of books I own, gazing forlornly at me, unread, imploring me to crack them open and devour them like I do with the constant stream of laminated covered/barcoded/stickered spined screaming “New” or “Hold Shelf” books. Instead, I turn my back on those books I own, shunning them for the glittering barrage of new titles that streak through my house day in and day out.
Right now, at 9pm on Superbowl Sunday, I’m looking at my library queue and dreaming of the day that I get Ted Turner’s bio delivered to my local branch, or the day I can pick up Susan Sontag’s newly released journals. Or ooh! More books about nutrition and financial freedom (separate books… although I see the connection between the two topics)! And meanwhile, I’ve got a stack of 4 library books piled up beside me on the couch (although I just pulled the trigger on 2 and decided to not to try and finish them). If I turn my head an inch or two, I can block out the vision of a towering stack of owned books that are gathering dust, sitting unread and frankly unloved.
Case in point– two books by Kevin Phillips, the same guy I had an unquenchable thirst for after reading Bad Money (yes, which was a library book). I picked up these two books on my birthday, and there they have languished for the last few months. My Kevin Phillips crush appears to be over… at least until I check out one of his books from the library.
The only thing that will save me are my tiny, pocket-books. These mass media paperbacks actually fit in purses, which is how I smuggled a book into a Russian men’s choral concert last night. With The Max on stage, me alone in the audience, who would disapprove if I read a couple of chapters before (and dare I say, during…) the concert.