Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Adventure Wednesday

Yesterday was a long but cheery day spent catching up with my friend Sara, who I hadn't seen since we graduated from high school almost 14 years ago.  Good heavens how time flies.  I gave her the abridged driving tour of Los Angeles, and also introduced her to the wonder that is Slimmons.  We had much fun sweating and laughing at Richard's zany antics.  For a day spent on the road, food went surprisingly well.  I ate breakfast at home, and packed dinner for after class.  While out, we had Thai for lunch, where I ordered Tom Yum with Mushrooms (which is a clear and low-calorie soup as far as Thai goes) and some steamed veggies with ginger and cilantro.  I'm a big fan of coconut milk used in Thai cooking, but I wanted to stay within my planned calories, so creamy curry wasn't an option.

I was back to my regular schedule today, which Tom and I have been adapting as we discover what works for us and what doesn't.  Consistency is good, for instance, so although I used to swim the morning after a Slimmons class, I now swim in the evening so that our now-we-get-up-and-go-exercise momentum becomes part of our muscle memory at 5:00.

Part of the schedule I've developed is assigning a recurring goal for each weekday.  For instance, Monday is laundry and budgeting day, Tuesday is send-food-log-to-Richard day, Wednesday is try-something-different day.  Trying something different each week was part of my list of ideas for what makes a successful week, and to make that official, I give you Adventure Wednesday.

After our writing session (in which we finished our first draft, yay!) and before our gym session, we headed out for today's adventure.  We made our way to Barnsdall Art Park, a facility in our neighborhood that is a curious mix of public park, art center, theater and historical location (due to a Frank Lloyd Wright house on the grounds.)  It's only a few blocks away from us, but somehow we'd driven past it and never stopped in.  We spent a little time wandering through the various nooks and crannies - it's kind of an eclectic blend of grass and cement, art and trees, and varying heights and platforms.

We stopped into the art center to look at the upcoming art classes (there are many!) and take in the students' art in the gallery.  From there, we each went our own way, Tom to look further at the grounds, and me to find a perfect spot to gather some zen.  I'd been feeling scattered, and I needed some spiritual time in nature.  I found a sunny spot under some trees where I could lay back and look up at the sky, and I spent several minutes in quiet meditation, and then found myself noticing and then taking stock of all of the living beings within my sight line.  I watched a solo bee, a pair of butterflies in pas de deux, one very vocal songbird, and the biggest swarm of gnats I've ever seen.  Eventually, I outstretched my arms in the grass and said a prayer for the universe to open up for me, and for me to open myself up to the universe.  When I was finished, I felt very centered. And itchy. My skin has apparently forgotten how to deal with grass.  Ah, the perils of living in a metropolis.

At the base of the park was a Wednesday evening Farmer's Market, which was our impetus for visiting in the first place.  The produce seemed nice, and the market is apparently growing, so we may take advantage of it more as the budget allows.  I did have one treat while there, from the GastroBus,  a local food truck that makes all of its dishes from the produce sold at the markets where they set up.  I needed another serving of fruit for the day, so I tried something called a Blood Orange Rickey.  It's typically alcoholic (a relative of the mojito) but this version was simply fresh-squeezed blood orange juice mixed with sparkling water and possibly some herbs.  Apparently, the Rickey dates all the way back to 1883, as possibly created by Colonel Joe Rickey.  Thank you, Wikipedia.

From there we stopped in our local Goodwill store.  I had only been there once, on a saucer-purchasing mission, so I wanted to take a look at the kinds of clothes available.  (I'm on a hunt to reasonably replace my wardrobe as I outgrow - er, outshrink? - what I own.)  As it turns out, they sort everything by color, and not by size.  So if there were any plus size clothes there (and the clerks told me they doubted it) I'd have to dig through everything in order to find them.   I may thrift later on, but for now, I'll have to find other avenues for affordable clothes.  We did snag a new-in-the-box collection of magnetic spice jars, which I'll use to organize our very overstuffed spice cupboard.

It is becoming clear to me that Adventure Wednesday needs to be camera-required.  I left ours at home this time, but I'll be sure to lug it along next Wednesday, whatever we end up doing.  For now, I just have one video and one picture to punctuate today's entry.

The video is from yesterday's E! News Daily - the special segment on Slimmons, in case you missed it. 

The photo is of Tom, who has been working just as hard as I have on our journey.  When Mabel jumped up on his shoulders this morning, I snapped this shot of the two of them.  His weight loss is as noticeable in this photo as Mae-Mae is cute.   (Mae-Mae is not as cute as Tom, though.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weigh-in Tuesday, plus Workin' It, E! News, and some Slimmons news

Man, the weeks have been flying.  I can't believe today is already Tuesday.

Hopped on the scale this morning, not expecting much.  Which is good, because I'm down 1.5 pounds again, bringing the total to 34+ lost.  It ties my record for slowest loss in a week since starting, but a loss is a loss, and it's in the right direction.

Today is the day that Slimmons is featured on E! News Daily, so if you are inclined, check out the show to see the segment that Giuliana Rancic's feature on our class.  She took the class with us last week, and fared pretty well (that is to say, better than Khloe Kardashian but not as well as Parker Posey.)  I'm not sure if there will be any shots of me in the class, but there were shots on the commercial about it last weekend, so it's likely you'll see me workin' it last Thursday in my pink tank top.

Actually, you can see me workin' it in last Saturday in my navy tank top, on Richard's YouTube channel right now.  Richard does themed classes on Saturday, and this past week it was Rock & Roll. Richard came in full KISS makeup.  Check us out, here, and here, and here.

Richard has recently begun to talk about a new project he's working on - a reality show about his studio, Slimmons.  Yep, the studio where I take classes 4 times a week.  You can read a little about it on his website today (but only today... his blogs only stay up for 24 hours.)  And you can imagine what that might mean for those of us who are regulars.  More to come on that in the future.

Today I'm off to take an old friend around the city all day.  We'll end up at Slimmons tonight for a class - she'll be the first friend I'm bringing with me, and I'm excited to introduce her to my gang and to Richard.  I hope to take more friends to class soon, too.  Will it be you?  It should be!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Friend Makin' Monday, plus, meh.

I'm feeling meh today.  I'm exhausted from doing something great all day yesterday.  I'm so glad we did it, but today my body and my brain just aren't syncing up.

On top of that, I indulged in a little unplanned food yesterday (technically it was a food I planned to eat - homemade macaroni & cheese that I was making for friends -  but I ate a full cup instead of the quarter-cup I'd planned.)  Although I was still within my calorie goal, I kind of feel like I haven't fulfilled the #100DayChipQuest, already at day 8.  I know it's not the case, really, but I feel down on myself.

So this is just the perfect day to participate in a social exchange like Friend Makin' Monday, right?  But then, I feel very strongly that my blog will be honest about the successes as well as the challenges I face on this journey.  And anyone hopping in to read my answers will see that I am flawed, that I am seeing straight, and that instead of hoarding the rest of that brown-butter-sage-and-four-cheese mac, we gave the other seven servings away as planned.  And instead of seeking to eat something unplanned today, I'm right back on track.

This is me.  This is the real me.  I'm not perfect but I'm working very hard at being honest, and taking care of myself.

So.  Time for FMM.

1) What is your favorite physical feature?
Right now, I am really enjoying the noticeable and odd-looking divots in my shoulder.  For some reason (heh, could be Richard Simmons' incessant arm lifts in class) I have lost quite a bit of weight in my arms and shoulders, and there's less padding up there.  So I can actually see the muscles getting stronger from all the toning we do.  And I can imagine what the other muscles, hidden under my weight, are doing.

2) List three adjectives that describe you.
Creative, empathetic, committed.

3) How old were you when you had your first kiss?
I was 16, and it was just before I walked onstage at a regional drama competition. I was playing a coquettish maid at the time.

4) Do you believe in God?
Yes, I do.  I think my sense of spirituality has gotten broader as I've gotten older.  I feel very strongly connected to God and to the universe around me, and I don't feel as concerned about the specifics as I do about the big picture.

5) How often do you watch the news?
That depends on what you mean by "watch."  I mostly read the news, so if watch means TV, then the answer is very rarely outside of The Daily Show or major events like the recent crises in Japan and Libya.  Mostly I read articles about it online, typically at CNN or the Times (NY or LA.)  And I also read Time magazine, and rely on my very well-informed (read: news/politics junkie) husband to keep me abreast of anything I might miss.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bringer of War

Yesterday I talked about how fake baked goods tempts me to eat real baked goods... and how that reminded me of a short film I wrote a few years ago.  The script is pretty brief, so I decided to post it in its entirety here.

There are two thoughts behind this short film.  One, that moderation is possible.  And two, that cupcakes are haunting.

(Photo AND cupcake by Flickr user mm550366)

So, without further ado...

© 2011 Heidi Powers

An retro-kitsch TEAPOT sits on the table in a cozy breakfast  nook, where LIZ, tall and plump, sits with her roommate SANDRA, petite and sinewy.  The two ladies sip their tea. 

No, that's what I told him.  I said I wasn't going to go out
with him until he asked me on a date - a real date - with 
more than an hour's notice. 

Well, good for you! Ballsy. 

I really do like him, though. 

And he knows it? 

Well... yeah. I think. I'm not sure. 

  But he didn't ask you out after that? 

He sort of did.  He told me to clear my evening next 
Wednesday, when he's back in the office.  More tea?  

Sure, thanks.

Liz tops off their teacups.

So, Mr. Nerdy I.T. on Wednesday! 

But he didn't tell me what we were doing.  For all I know 
he just needs another person for his RPG.

She stands and crosses to the refrigerator, grabbing a carton of milk.

Oh, I hope it's something nice!  Then I can live 
vicariously through your geek love!  

Don't jinx things!  Geek crush, that's all. 

She pauses to consider the fridge.

Hey, I have cupcakes. Want one? 
  SANDRA What?  No.  

They're fancy... Madagascar bourbon vanilla...   

I don't care if the vanilla is so rare and precious that it had to 
pass through a monkey's intestines.  No thanks.  

Well I wouldn't want to eat one if it had. But I'm pretty sure 
a monkey didn't poop any of the ingredients, because this is sugar bliss.   

Maybe I was thinking of coffee beans.  


Those coffee beans that the monkeys... defecate.

Liz pulls a cupcake from the box and places it on a saucer.  She crosses back to the nook, sits down and begins to nibble at it.

Such an appetizing conversation for teatime.  Thank you!

Are you actually eating one of those?

Sure, why not?

Well... for one thing, you have a date on Wednesday...

He knows what I look like.

Yeah, but you know how it goes. You can't eat just one.

Uh, yeah you can.  It's called "moderation."

So what are you going to do with the other cupcakes?

Cupcake.  Singular.

What will you do with it?

Uh, I dunno.  Give it to someone else?
I worry about you.

Well, thanks for thinking of me.
I'm OK. 

They sip their tea in silence for a moment.  It's awkward. And Sandra can't hold it in.

You're going to eat the cupcake.  

I'm not going to eat the cupcake. 

When I go out later, you won't be able to resist. 

  I'm NOT going to eat the cupcake.  

  It will taunt you.  Every time you open the fridge 
you will smell Madagascar bourbon vanilla!  And you 
will be powerless to stop it.  

Is that how you see this? A demonic cupcake is on 
the loose and there's no escaping it?
Sandra considers this for just a moment until we...


It's the same kitchen from the first scene, but now it is empty, and shot in black and white to signify that we are in SANDRA AND LIZ'S IMAGINATION.

Slowly and quietly, we hear the ominous tones of Gustav Holst's MARS, THE BRINGER OF WAR as it thumps militantly, driving the camera as it pushes ever nearer the REFRIGERATOR.  Something is dreadfully wrong.

The fridge seems to open of its own volition.  We back up to follow the light pouring out from the door as it oozes down and across the tiles.  Until it brushes the edge of something and reveals - no.. it's too horrible.  We can't look... it's...

The CUPCAKE.  We close in at its eye level.  If it had eyes. In the light of day, it might look perfectly innocent. Lucious, even, with its creamy frosting, its playful sprinkles.

But in the harsh glare of the refrigerator light, it seems downright menacing.  Is it... it couldn't be.  Is it... glaring at us?

Through a series of shots, we discover that the cupcake is on the move with steely resolve.  Hard shadows dance across its face as it stealthily sneaks toward the edge of the kitchen.

It peeks around the corner, through the doorway, at something we can't see. 


Liz sits serenely, reading a magazine.  She smiles thoughtfully and turns the page.  Not a care in the world.

The cupcake has moved through, a bit, onto a table near the door.  It fills the screen, for the most part, except an indistinguishable blur in the background.  The focus pulls to reveal that the blur is LIZ.  The cupcake has her in its sites. It nods at her, knowingly.

Liz looks up from her magazine.  She can sense that something isn't right - she has goosebumps and doesn't know why.  She begins to look forward, left and right, for something - she doesn't know what.  As the music builds, we suddenly realize that the cupcake has come up behind her - the sneaky bastard.

A Hitchcock-style dolly zoom on Liz as she screams silently in horror - she has discovered the impending doom of the cupcake on her shoulder.  But she recovers her senses enough to rise and RUN!

She pulls around the nearest corner, back into the kitchen.  She catches her breath.

Like a horror movie monster, the cupcake slowly and  persistently pursues her.

Liz scrambles for something - anything- to use as a weapon. Salt shaker?  Spatula?  Aha: jagged, pointy, yes!  A FORK!

She seizes it.

She peeks around the corner to assess the situation.

Liz's POV.  The cupcake has drawn closer.

Liz looks anxious.  She peeks around the corner again.

Liz's POV.  The cupcake - like a ninja - has moved closer once again.

This is agony.  But she can't wait any longer. She slides onto the doorway floor, face-on with the cupcake.  She wields her fork and stabs it.  A success!

But - wait. The cupcake, brutalized, is nodding again, with the same knowing confidence.  Suddenly Liz looks down at her weapon... it's a forkful of cupcake.  She played right into its hands.  If it had hands.

Liz looks resolved.  This isn't her time.  She flings the fork away from her, towards the refrigerator, and slams the kitchen door in the cupcake's crumbled face.  She sinks against the

With a sudden shift in the music, the refrigerator door opens again, but this time, a dashing but pompous BABY CARROT marches out and onto the floor.  He examines the cupcake carnage and the discarded weapon.  Tut tut - something's afoot.  He summons another carrot to his tactical meeting, and
another - until suddenly they become a whole carrot army.  And they're on the march.

The carrot soldiers shimmy up a table leg and march across the table at Liz's eye level, as she watches them from her spot on the floor.

Liz instinctively climbs up and into the chair at the back of the table, putting the protective front-line of beta carotene between her and the door.

The barricade spreads out just in time.  Against all odds, the cupcake - war-torn and haggard - has made it through and up to the other end of the table, opposite Liz.  The carrots steel

The two sides battle.  The carrots are in the shit.  Frosting carnage spreads, fallen carrots pile, and still the army isn't giving up.  But just when things are looking brighter, the cupcake makes a hail-mary play: it hurls itself, slow-motion, through the air... right at LIZ.  This is the end, folks...

Or not!  From seemingly nowhere, Sandra leaps into the shot, into the air, across the table, waving her hands. 

SANDRA (in slow-motion) 

Her open mouth collides with the cupcake as we -



We're back in reality, again.  And Sandra has frosting all over her face.  She looks sheepish.

How's the cupcake?  

(mouth full)  
It's... good.   
(She pauses. Awkwardly.)  

Friday, March 25, 2011

The empty cake dome

Here's a truth about me: I love cake domes.  I love cake domes almost more than I love cake. (And you know I love cake.)  We have just one, a streamlined modern-shaped one from Crate & Barrel, and we keep it out on the retro refurbished dresser we use as a sideboard.  But we don't frequently store baked goods in it, especially since we don't eat a lot of dessert lately. (And when we do, we purchase in single-servings, or bake and freeze, so the dome doesn't get a lot of use.)

Something about that empty cake dome made me feel a tad melancholy.  I don't generally feel down about the changes we've been making, so I wanted to do a little something for that empty cake dome that brightened my mood whenever I looked at it.  And I didn't want that little something to involve fake food of any kind.  The last thing anyone needs is a pretend cake staring at you, daring you to eat real cake. (Heh, that kind of reminds me of a short film I wrote.  Perhaps I'll post an excerpt of it for you tomorrow!)

Fortunately, a recent blog post on The Idea Room caught my eye, and I knew right away I'd found my cake dome decoration.  Paper pomanders!  So I made a pair in purple and yellow, to reflect our sideboard color scheme.  Here's my step-by-step:

These are all of the supplies needed.  Easy-peasy.

Pair up two of the punched flowers, aligning them so they alternate petals.  Attach them to the ball with a corsage pin.

Fluff up the petals to make the flowers more dimensional.

Repeat in a row around the diameter, and then follow with parallel rows for flowers, until you cover the whole ball.

Here are the finished pomanders, in their cake-dome-home!

I think they turned out well, but I would recommend using a punch with a fuller/rounder petal, and pins with more petite heads.

We had a pomander at our wedding (carried by our darling flower girl Julia) and now every time I pass the cake dome, I think of her and our very happy wedding day.

Hurrah for leftover supplies!  I have enough for two more pomanders, so if any of you are interested, I can make one for two of you (or two for one of you.)  First-come, first-served, so if you want one, post a comment here or on Facebook.  If only one person wants a pomander, I will make two for you.  If more than one person is interested, I will make one pomander for the first two people who request it.  We can talk color preference after I announce the winners.

In other news, I made it through Day 2 of #100DayChipQuest with all three rules met, hurrah!  The second day was much easier. I think that the rule-breaking rebellious part of me that was rearing up has been soothed - for now, anyway!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

100 Day Chip Quest

Yesterday I added a new goal to my list.  I joined Brad Gansberg's 100 Day Chip Quest.  

Brad is a health blogger who has come a long way on his weight loss journey, and been an inspiration (by example and by connection) to a lot of people who are struggling with food and exercise.

Most people start out working toward his 7 Day Chip - an acknowledgement of going seven days without uncontrolled eating.  But since I have pretty much gone since January 11 without uncontrolled eating, I thought I'd jump right into the fire with the 100 Day quest, which officially began yesterday.  It's nice to have goals, plus I thought this might be a way to add more people to my support circle (who I can also support.)

I have come up with three rules for my personal chip:

  1. Thoughtfully plan all food for the week on Sunday, and follow through on that plan.  I will allow for deviation in case of emergency or rearranged plans (though my eating must still be mindful.)  I can still be flexible in my choices (say, a planned Indian dinner on Tom's birthday, or a dessert that I've been craving for 7 full days before I am allowed to enjoy it in moderation.)  But where this differs is that I will choose not to indulge in any treats that are unplanned.   For me, my process of recovery from food addiction is all about the planning.
  2. Exercise 7 days a week, at least 60 minutes a day.  Obviously, I'll trump that at the 90-minute Slimmons classes, but I'm more concerned about the other days, when I have typically had a harder time getting myself to work out, particularly Sunday or Monday. Only real medical emergencies can be excused, and let's hope none of those occur.
  3. Write for at least 15 hours a week (not counting the blog.)  We're almost done with our current project, and we're pushing on to the next project... so I want to make sure we're holding on to our momentum.  No excuses permitted on this one, especially because it's a weekly-based goal and not a daily one.

Funny enough, the moment that I committed to this process, I began thinking of food in ways I haven't often since I started making changes in January.  It was as if my id knew there were new rules, and wanted to break them.  The funny thing is that I've already been doing most of this stuff.  It's just the title, the commitment, the goal that set me off.

The temptation that came to mind surprised me. buffets.  Even when we weren't being mindful about our food, we only went to buffets rarely, on special occasions.  Generally for a holiday, or for a friend's birthday.  But there's something about that seemingly endless array of beautifully-displayed foods... foods we wouldn't typically make for ourselves even in the days of mindless eating.  As much as you wanted to eat.  As much as your eyes told your brain you wanted to eat.  And suddenly yesterday, I found myself wanting to eat a LOT of it.  I talked a little with my father about it yesterday afternoon, as we both feel the same way about buffets.  For me, they're going to be a slippery place that I should avoid, at least so long as I'm in active weight-loss mode, and at least so long as I am working on my recovery from behavioral tendencies.  Buffets would just make those good choices too hard for me right now.

Part of the problem yesterday was that it was a less-productive day.  We'd gone to class the night before, and it had really kicked our butts.  Then we went to the Y yesterday morning, where I had the goal of doing at least 60 minutes.  For some reason, I thought it would be a good day to try the elliptical for the first time in years, and that certainly wore me out.  I managed 15 minutes there, followed by 15 minutes on a recumbent bike, followed by 30 minutes snorkeling in the lap pool.  By the time we got home, I flopped. We decided to take a spontaneous rest day to recover.  Which was very good for our bodies... but not so excellent for my brain, which, in its non-distracted state, was now telling me things like "orrrrder foooooood" and "youuuuu waaaaaant caaaaaaake."

Fortunately, I have enough coping tools in my arsenal these days to combat those murmurs from my id.  And we had, as always, had our food planned for the day with all of the ingredients ready for us in the kitchen.  And that makes it so much easier to follow through with our plan for yesterday, which was:

Breakfast: 1/2 cup fat free vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/3 cup FiberOne cereal
Post-Workout Snack: 6 oz fresh pineapple; 8 oz skim milk; vitamins
Lunch: 2 oz whole wheat spaghetti with 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1 oz goat cheese; 2 oz crab with 1 tb plain fat free Greek yogurt, the juice of half a lime, a tb of cilantro, a chopped stalk of celery and 3 cherry tomatoes quartered; 32 oz water.
Dinner: 4 oz ground turkey on Orowheat light whole wheat, with 1 tsp Veganaise, 1 fat free Kraft single, and 5 pickle chips; 1.5 cups of cauliflower with 1 oz goat cheese; 32 oz water.

So I made it through Day 1 of the quest, with goals met.  Now just 99 (plus the rest of my lifetime) to go.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy weigh-in Tuesday!

And a beautiful weigh-in Tuesday it is!

I had a very good week for food and exercise.

This week's calories, via LiveStrong

Tom and I made every single one of our meals except for dinner at a party on Friday (where I ate reasonably, with small treats in moderation.)  It was a St. Patrick's Day party, so I wore a green blazer (which I need to bid goodbye - it is too big to wear anymore) and my new polka-dot shirt I bought on Thursday.  The way that it's cut, you get good view of my shoulders, which are shaped pretty differently than they used to be.

We also exercised 6 out of 7 days:
Tuesday 3/15 - 90 minutes of class at Slimmons
Wednesday 3/16 - 60 minutes of swimming at YMCA
Thursday 3/17 - 90 minutes of class at Slimmons
Friday 3/18 - 60 minutes of swimming at YMCA
Saturday 3/19 - 60 minutes of swimming at YMCA
Sunday 3/20 - rest day! Though I did a lot of housework.
Monday 3/12 - 60 minutes of swimming at YMCA

So it shouldn't be surprising that my body responded.  I'm down 4.2 pounds, for a total of 33.3! That's 1/3 of the way to my first goal. Plus my BMI is down 2.08 points! That doesn't sound like a lot, but it takes a LOT of loss to lower BMI.

Check out the downward trajectory!

Here's to another week of good work, and to the one that begins today.  We don't have any restaurant meals planned, and we're aiming for 7 days of exercise this week.  If I lose, I lose, and that's swell, but the changes we've been making have made me feel better, and that's the most important thing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Friend Makin' Monday

I'm hopping on the Friend Makin' Monday bandwagon, which is steered by the excellent Kenz at All The Weigh.

The goal of the exercise is to make new friends - and I'd love to learn about my current friends and readers, too!  If you have a blog, you should post your answers and share the like here and at Kenz' blog. If you don't have a blog, you can post 'em here or elsewhere for us to read!  Here are this week's questions, which were selected by Josh at You Have A Blog.

1. Who is your pick for the Final Four?
The King's Speech, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and The Social Network. (And Easy A, if it were nominated.) That was what you meant by Final Four, right?

2. What is your favorite workout/fitness activity?
On my own, it's swimming. In a group, it's the class I take with Richard Simmons three times a week. Exercise was never fun for me, outside of a pool... until I met Richard.

3. Do you have a favorite healthy snack? Something that REALLY hits the
Yes, I love Trader Joe's fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt with a handful of berries. It always feels decadent.

4. What is your dream car?
I'm not much for cars. I live in Los Angeles, and we get stuck in them far more often than anyone would wish. So I guess that my dream car has my favorite people in it, and low mpg.

5. Have you set any goals for yourself this month? What are they?
I don't have month-specific goals, per se... just the ongoing ones I've set for myself. Aiming for 1400 calories a day, aiming for 60 to 90 minute workouts 6 days a week, aiming for 3 hours of writing per day (outside of blogging.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cookie Chaser: Lemon-Cardamom Polenta Cookies

OK!  I have decided that following every downer post, I'm going to post a recipe for dessert.  This is not to say that I encourage eating based on emotion.  (I heartily endorse talking based on emotion, instead.)

But there's no way around it, dessert is cheery.  And we've been making some low-calorie desserts, and there are others I'd like to try.  So for today, here is my Cookie Chaser recipe for Lemon-Cardamom Polenta Cookies.

(Pictured here with strawberry sorbet.)

When searching for dessert recipes for last week's luncheon, I found this recipe in our Cooking Light cookbook, which has lots of interesting dishes I'm looking forward to trying.  We modified the ingredients slightly, and we modified the portion size.

On our recipes, you'll notice that we frequently swap the butter with Earth Balance.  We are big fans of Earth Balance, because it's made from healthy oils, with no trans-fats. Plus, for Tom's benefit, it's vegan!  And on top of that, it just plain tastes good.  You should try it out.

This was my first time working with cardamom, a zesty floral-scented spice that is used frequently in Indian cooking.  I like it, but I thought the cookies turned out heavier on the cardamom than the lemon, so if you'd rather focus on the citrus, I'd reduce the cardamom by half, and double the lemon peel.

These crispy bits of yumminess are a shortbread-style cookie - and prior to making this batch, I had never made shortbread.  I got everything prepped for my stand mixer...

...only to realize that the recipe recommends assembling the dough in the food processor!  Cue kitchen appliance switch-a-roo.

I toasted some almonds for 10 minutes in the oven, at 350, and threw them into the processor to make a fine almond meal.

This is about as fine as my processor will chop the almonds.

Then I added the flour, cornmeal, sugar, lemon rind, cardamom and salt, and spun the processor until everything had combined.  You may want to scrape the bottom corners, as almond meal likes to get stuck there.

Next, I added Earth Balance, water, and egg, and pulsed about 6 times, until it was just combined, and still kind of lumpy.


Then I spritzed my 9-inch springform pan with some Pam, and pressed the mixture lightly into the bottom of it.

It kind of resembles a graham cracker crust, though the cookie is much thicker.

I sprinkled it with a tablespoon of confectioner's sugar, and then popped it into the oven, where it baked at 350° for 30 minutes.


And this step is very important: unlike the Cooking Light recipe, I cut the cookie into 16 wedges, bringing the overall calorie count down to 116 calories instead of 150.  (The smaller cookie is plenty big enough; you wouldn't even notice the difference.)

The cookies were terrific with the sorbet, but I think they'd go marvelously with a glass of Earl Grey or a demitasse of espresso, too.  If you try them out, let me know what you think!

  • 1/4  cup  blanched almonds, toasted
  • 1 1/3  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup  yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  grated lemon rind
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cardamom
  • Dash of salt
  • 3  tablespoons butter (we used Earth Balance)
  • 1  tablespoon  water
  • 1  large egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  tablespoon  powdered sugar

Nutritional information:
  • Calories:  11
  • Fat:  4.3g
  • Protein:  4.4g
  • Carbohydrate:  12.6g
  • Fiber:  1.0g
  • Sodium:  26.8mg

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I've looked at body politics from both sides now...

I find myself a little blue today.

It's not because we didn't have a nice day yesterday.  In fact, we had a lovely evening, though I managed to forget to take a picture of the new blouse. Dinner was delicious - the best corned beef I've ever tried.  (Yes, I can eat corned beef if I choose to. I can eat anything I choose to... it's just that I choose to eat it in moderation.)  Our friends' home, which we've never visited before, is stylish and right up our alley, with the most beautiful yard.

Last year, when Tom and I were frequenting estate sales, we fell in love with a house.  Actually, not the house at all.  The yard.  We both keep thinking back to it, and now we know what we're looking for once we're in the market.  But we're not in the market now.  We're in a condo, and we're not in a position to move in the nearfuture.  All we can do is keep thinking of that house, and keep moving forward to develop our writing career.  And not be blue about how we can't host lovely parties in a yard.  We can host lovely parties in a small combination kitchen/dining room/living room.  Sigh.

Speaking of writing, we had an excellent brainstorm yesterday, which felt good.  I also shared the plot of the Modern Family spec script we're currently finishing, with a friend who is a fan of the show.  I think our friend liked our ideas, and we're going to share the script with him once our draft is finished.  We have one more act, and editing, and then we'll be done.  By the way, are there any other Modern Family fans out there?  Just curious.

One other reason I might be a tad blue is because I did something I knew I shouldn't.  No, it wasn't food or exercise related.  It wasn't even related to my to-do list.  I read some comments on a Fat Acceptance blog.  I knew I shouldn't have.  But I did.

For those of you outside of the world of body politics, Fat Acceptance (FA) is a movement which promotes the rights of those who are overweight.  There was a time when I was somewhat active in the movement, and to be clear, I still support it.  People should have equal rights, regardless of size, race, creed, or orientation.  People should have the right to eat what they want to eat, to be active as much as they want to be active.  And people should not be so quick to assume someone who is overweight doesn't eat well, doesn't exercise, and doesn't feel ashamed of herself.

I remember a previous time in my life, when I would feel sad after reading comments on an FA blog because of the trolls who would pop in to tell us how disgusting we all were.  And those trolls are still at it, for sure, but that wasn't why I was sad.  Yesterday, I read some FA supporters making negative comments about weight loss, to a post about Weight Watchers, Jennifer Hudson, and the use of the song "Feeling Good."

The post in question was written by a very, very smart woman named Lesley Kinzel, who I knew casually when I was a member of the Fatshionista community - a body-positive group that used fashion as a tool for politics.  The post is thoughtful, and places the song in context.  I agree that without the context, it loses its power.  What I disagree with is equating weight loss with assimilation.  I disagree with some of the commenters, who say things like "dieting is usually about making a concession to oppression, not overcoming it."

Do I think that some people lose weight because they are made to feel ashamed, and want to fit in?  Certainly.  Do I think that many people diet to punish themselves?  Yes.  And I really, really wish I could help them.

But here's the thing: There are also people who have been overweight or obese, who have lost weight, who aren't punishing themselves.  Who aren't assimilating.  And I am one of them.

It's my opinion that to use language about weight loss with a negative slant ("assimilation," "opression," etc) is to disregard the people who have suffered from disordered eating, from health problems, from behavioral issues - who are working to correct them.  And disregarding them is just as dangerous as disregarding that there are fat people who are perfectly happy, comfortable, and healthy.  I was one of those people.  And then I wasn't.

I had health problems.  I realized behavioral issues.  And then I watched my very sick mother struggle during her last years, and struggle worse than she would have if she hadn't already been obese before she became got sick.  Would she have still died if she wasn't obese?  Quite probably.  But would the weight-related pain, and the physical suffering she experienced, have happened if she had addressed her behavioral issues and disordered eating?  Quite probably.

Here's the thing.  I'm going to die someday.  You are, too.  We all are.  And I could have kept on with the way I was living before, and possibly met significant struggle if chronic or terminal illness befell me.  Or I could confront my behavioral demons head-on, so that when illness finally finds its way to my body, I'm as prepared as possible to fight it.  I watched what 500 pounds did to my mother.  I watched what 500 pounds meant for my father, who had to take care of her.  I do not want that for Tom.  I do not want that for me.  And unless I changed my habits, like I did this year, I was on that path.

So I changed my habits.  And I exercise every day.  And I limit my calories.  But I never feel hungry.  I eat wholesome, healthy, fresh food - prepared in thoughtful and delicious ways.  I don't feel punished, I feel spoiled.

For me, it isn't assimilation.  It's not even life extension, because who knows how long we'll live anyway?  It's suffering prevention.  It's behavioral healing.  It's self-love. 

I'll crib from Joni Mitchell and say that I've looked at body politics from both sides now.  I really don't know body politics at all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Discoveries at the gym

This morning I felt exactly like slug-Calvin, in one of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes strips:

(by the brilliant Bill Watterson, of course)

Helen (the teacher who led class while Richard was in New York yesterday) kicked our butts. We did a full 60 minutes of pretty heavy-duty aerobics, followed by about three times the toning that we usually do (though a bit less floor work.)  I woke up with really sore arms, already feeling like it should be bedtime.

But we're pretty damn committed to our workouts, so I oozed my slime trail all the way to our local Y, not expecting much aside from an epic nap after the gym.

I learned two things while there.  Things that I am surprised I didn't already know, and which I am very happy to have learned.

1) You know that burn you feel, the day after you tone the hell out of your arms?  That burn that hits when you're reaching up and lifting a bowl out of the cupboard?  The one that says "ha ha, weakling, you can't even lift this BOWL"?  You can combat it.  Do smooth, low-impact movements (like, say, the breast stroke) and suddenly you'll find that the burn is gone.  How did I not know this? Why didn't you people tell me this!?

2) Snorkels are amazing. AMAZING.

That's me, fresh from the pool, modeling the new snorkel.

 I purchased one yesterday at Target (with part of a birthday gift card - thanks, Jean!) They only had one for adults - the Speedo set, which for some reason isn't listed online.  It comes with a handy carrying case, but without directions for attaching the snorkel to the mask.  Thanks to the power of Google, I found out it's a widespread confusion, and got instructions to connect them, and we were off to the pool.

Figuring it might be too awkward to start out in the lap pool, I went to the training pool to test it out.  Within the first minute, I was doing laps.  I cannot believe how many ways this improves my swimming...

  • Even breathing!  With breast stroke, I wasn't breathing evenly.  With freestyle, I would hyperventilate after one lap.  It's not for lack of practice. I swim four days a week, and have been doing so solidly for almost ten weeks.  And before that, over the last eight years or so, I swam on a semi-regular basis.  But the snorkel means that I can breathe as needed, and not worry about my timing. 
  • Faster laps!  I don't break for breaths, so I just keep moving.  I don't even break at the end of a lap - I just turn around, still submerged.  
  • No neck pain! I'm terrible at proper form.  Due to the not-so-smooth breathing, I tend to bend my neck and back to get a faster breath.  Since I was underwater the whole time, I never had to wrench my neck, and I finished my set with fully pain-free neck.
  • No clock-watching!  I was so in the groove with my laps that I didn't bother to come out of the water to look at the clock until I started to feel just a touch tired.  It turns out I'd swam almost an hour without realizing it.  
Yay, snorkel.  I'm telling you, fellow breathing-troubled swimmers (Dad and Brian, I'm looking at you.)  You have to try it.  The only down-side I seemed to have was water in the ear.  A new pair of swim earplugs will do the trick, and I'll be as happy I've ever been while swimming.

Tonight we head out to visit some friends.  I'll be wearing one of the new shirts, and I'll be sure to snag a picture.  Tomorrow we're skipping Slimmons because Ann, the substitute teacher for the day, does much higher impact exercises.  I didn't enjoy her workout as much the last time we took her class. (She's much higher-impact, and I'm trying to make sure my knees don't suffer while there's still this much weight on them.)  We'll probably hit the Y again in the morning - and I can't wait to do laps in the lap pool with the snorkel.  Woo-hoo!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A shopping trip and a surprise

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We celebrated by wearing green to our Slimmons class, and eating asparagus for dinner.  I'm delighted that my brother and his kids celebrated by building leprechaun traps.  To wit:

This is my niece's, complete with leprechaun hot tub.

This is my nephew's, complete with our namesake whiskey.

Apparently the traps were sprung and the cookies were eaten, but no leprechauns were caught. (Dollar coins were left for them, though.  Generous leprechauns, will you leave us some?)

I had a bit of a milestone today.  I went shopping.  At a clothing store.  For probably the first time in two years.

I have worn roughly the same size for the past 10 years.  I have fluctuated gradually by about 20 pounds, but due to the cut and stretch of the clothes (and due to the fact that those 20 pounds are on top of 320 to 340 pounds, so they don't make as big a difference in inches) I've been able to wear the larger or the smaller end of my wardrobe without any major shopping.  What I've done, instead, is to build a collection of investment pieces and staples that work within my own personal style.  This is actually a challenge as a plus-sized woman. I have about 10 different stores I can buy from (mostly online) and the selection is limited.  So it's been kind of a hobby for me.  A labor of love.

And now it's all going away.

I still have a few months with some of the pieces.  My very kind mother-in-law has offered to do some tailoring for me, and I've got my bags of baggy ready for her.  Plus, I'm soon to get back the smallest pieces from my wardrobe, which I had loaned to a friend.  But once those are gone... I'm SOL. I'll have to build a transitional wardrobe, which will be much smaller, and will need to be much less expensive.  I feel like I should be excited about this.  I mean, hey. I love clothes. They'll look good on me.  I'll eventually have a wider selection.  But somehow, there's a touch of grief in this.  (Plus, whoa, budget.)

With this process, I felt like I needed to warm myself up for it.  So today I treated myself to a window-shopping (and gift-card shopping) trip.  I bought some equipment I needed for working out: a new swim cap, a pair of nalgene bottles, and a snorkel.  Yes, a snorkel. I suffer from the dreaded Powers family freestyle hyperventilation, and I urgently want to incorporate freestyle in my swim workout.

I also stopped into a Lane Bryant.  I haven't been too interested in their wares recently - I wear their jeans and their intimates, but the 26/28s had not been cute or comfortable.  I buy the bulk of my clothes elsewhere. (EShakti, Old Navy, B&Lu, Igigi, among others.)  But since those stores are mostly online, I figured it might be a good idea to try on some items in person, to see how I'm fitting things these days.  I grabbed a range of clothes in a range of sizes, and headed to the dressing room.

Figuring I'd still be on the slightly larger end, I started with the largest items.  I was wondering, in fact, if anything would fit at all.  And, no. The 26/28s didn't fit.

The 22/24s did.

Surprise - 22/24s! I haven't worn that size in... well, as long as I've known Tom, at least.  I couldn't resist purchasing two shirts on clearance.  They were cute and would still work once I lost a little more weight.  Pictures to come as I wear them.

There's something that isn't quite registering with me about my progress.  I mean, yes, I feel much stronger in class or in the pool.  Yes, most of what I was wearing last year is too baggy now.  Yes, I am conscious about all of the changes we've made, and yes, I see what the scale says.  But somehow, I had trouble believing that would translate to new clothes! 

I wonder if the rapid loss has caused a touch of body dysmorphia.  I'm having real trouble identifying how large I was and how much less large I am, in terms of visual space.  I saw that picture of me on Sunday, and I was actually surprised I was as "small" as I am.  And I remember the opposite happening in the past - seeing myself in a photo after a gradual weight gain, and being surprised at how large I was. 

This will all shake out, I know.  I'll continue to progress, and my brain will eventually click in, and recognize that I look different.  I probably need to look remarkably different before that can happen, but a girl can hope.  For now, I'll wear my newly smaller blouse, keep calm, and carry on.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On Motivation

Do you ever have trouble with motivation?

I used to have trouble with weight loss motivation.  There was so much going on in my day that I didn't have the energy or focus to make it happen. But then, there were other things holding me back as well.  Now that I've managed to confront and address all of those things, the motivation to eat well and exercise has been pretty consistent, even on days that are more challenging.  I almost always get 60 to 90 minutes in, and I almost always eat about 1400 calories of nourishing, healthy food.

What I find missing now... is the motivation for everything else!  Tom and I both freelance and are working on our own projects, and so we don't have the regular 9-to-5 that provides automatic structure to our days.  We get on a good path and make terrific progress - inertia is our friend! -  but the second we get redirected by some unexpected event, inertia is our enemy.

After I stumbled on a terrific blog post by The Token Fat Girl, I thought it might be fun and productive to create a list of things that would make each day or week awesome.  It was EXACTLY what I needed today - it gave me a boost of motivation to strengthen my productivity the way I've been strengthening my body.  So here's my list:

Take care of my body:
  • Exercise.  At Slimmons, evenings T/T/S, for 90 minutes.  At YMCA all other days, mornings for 60 minutes.
  • Food.  Plan and shop for all meals on Sundays, aim for 1400 calories daily, following Food Mover.
  • Shower.  First thing on Slimmons days. Immediately after pool on YMCA days.
  • Teeth.  Brush morning and night, floss and mouthwash morning.
  • Face.  Wash in the shower and at night.  Mask once a week.
  • Medicine.  Morning.  No exceptions.
  • Lotion.  Before bed.
  • Fashion.  Select a cute outfit on workdays AND weekends.  Stay up to date with tailoring and purchases as my sizes change.
  • Medical.  Make and keep doctor, therapy, and dentist appointments.

Tend to my environment:
  • Kitchen.  Put away clean dishes in the morning, load washer throughout day, run in the evening.
  • General tidying.  Pick up kitchen, living room and bedroom daily.
  • Laundry.  Put clean and dirty clothes in their proper places. Wash swim laundry the same day it's made. Do a few loads each week instead of waiting until I'm out of underwear. (This will get more important as I update the wardrobe with smaller clothes, and have fewer of them.)
  • Bathrooms.  Clean and mop once weekly.

Manage my business:
  • Make lists.  Create my daily "Five To Do" list each morning before 9 AM.
  • Regroup.  Attend our daily "team meeting" each morning at 9 AM, to discuss to-do lists and start work for the day.
  • Focus.  Refrain from internet and television during working hours (excepting one hour lunch break.)
  • Be proactive.  Manage paperwork as it arrives.
  • Budget.  Enter expenditures as they are made.  Have weekly budget meeting.

Nurture my spirit and creativity:
  • Projects.  Work on my writing projects for at least 4 hours on work days.
  • Blog.  Write 1 entry per day.
  • Journal.  Do morning pages every morning.  (More on The Artist's Way in an upcoming entry.)
  • Refill my well.  Take an artist date weekly.
  • Embrace adventure.  Try new things at least once weekly.
  • Center.  Pray and meditate daily.
  • Relax.  Plan time to rejuvenate myself through rest and creative input instead of output.
  • Don't play computer games.  They kill my creativity. And my productivity.

Connect with my friends and loved ones:
  • Online.  Reach out via Facebook, blogs, LoT, LiveStrong - once at lunch and once in the evening.
  • Respond.  Answer emails and messages as they arrive.
  • Call. Talk to family on a regular basis.
  • Write.  Send one letter/email each day.
  • Honor birthdays. I've been terrible at this, and I really want to change it.
  • Network.  Have one meeting or discussion to expand work circles, once weekly.

Just doing this exercise was refreshing for mind and spirit.  I feel excited to get started... and keep going.  I sure hope this isn't the emotional equivalent of buying organizational tools at The Container Store, only to drown in clutter two weeks later.  But all I can do is put my best foot forward.  Many of these things I already do, though sporadically. Or I have done with success in the past.  So... sally forth and tally ho!

What's on your awesome-day list?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Close Encounters of the Luncheon Kind

I love food.

This is probably not surprising to you.  For heaven's sake, I'm morbidly obese.  But then, I'm sure there are plenty of morbidly obese people who don't exactly love food.  Or they love-hate food.  I used to love-hate food.  Now I just love it, and have learned to use it in a way that - it seems - it loves me. 

The process of learning how to correctly use food has been multi-faceted.  There were too many things to learn, for me to grasp them all at once, or from one source.  When we started in January, Tom and I already knew a lot about healthy eating.  What we didn't know about was balance and moderation.  Sure, we'd tried.  But nothing had really clicked.  But in January, everything came together. So much so that when Tom read an article about obesity in Scientific American that came out in February, he noted that we were already doing the behavioral modifications that they had recommended for most successful weight loss:

  • Rigorously measuring calories, exercise and weight
  • Making modest, gradual changes in eating and exercise habits
  • Eating balanced diets that go easy on sugar and fat
  • Focusing on life-long habits as opposed to short-term fixes
  • Being part of a support group

And when we realized we were having such success, we wanted to share the delicious food we were cooking WITH some of the people who had been supporting us.   So on Sunday, we invited a few of them over for lunch.

We promised a healthy but filling meal, complete with calorie count (for fellow counters) - and I think we delivered!  Here is the menu we had on-hand for our guests:

I didn't manage to snap a picture of the spinach dip and chips - but it was probably the easiest food to prepare.  We steamed and chopped a little spinach, mixed in an ounce of grated Parmesan (from Milan - thanks, Brian!), a wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese, 2 tablespoons of fat-free sour cream, and a dash of garlic salt.  Then we cut up tortillas (into eighths, and each eighths into quarters) and baked them for 15 minutes with a little Pam spray.

Tom was in change of the Tom Yum soup - its base is a homemade Thai chili paste that can be stored easily, and used for other Thai dishes.  We got the recipe from the wonderful Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, though we altered it to lower calories.  We've found that nearly all cookbooks use more oil than we need.  We're lucky to live right in the middle of Thai Town in Los Angeles, so we're able to get our hands on lemongrass and lime leaves easily - those give the soup its distinct tangy flavor.

Tom, yum!

Our next course was a mixed greens salad that was inspired by the citrus that is gloriously in season right now.  We'd found some amazing Oro Blanco grapefruit, and we picked up some mandarin oranges that paired nicely.  We tossed those together with fresh salad greens, and offered a few mix-ins for the guests, including toasted walnuts and delicious Meyer Lemon Balsamic.  The latter is available from Global Gardens, an excellent oil and vinegar company in the heart of Southern California olive country.  We discovered it on our first wedding anniversary, when we did a hunt for fresh local olive oil (after falling in love with it in Italy on our honeymoon.)  I highly recommend it!

Some of our guests liked the grapefruit as much as the dessert!

Our main course - Tillapia en Papillote - sounds and tastes like it's a lot of work, but it's actually quite simple.  Start with a large sheet of parchment paper, folded in half.  Slice up some tomatoes and onions, and plop them on the bottom half paper.  Plop your fish on top of the slices.  Plop lemon slices and herbs (parsley and thyme, in this case) on top of that.  Sprinkle with a little coarse salt, and splash with a little white wine.  Fold the top half of the paper over, and roll the edges closed like you'd roll a hand-pie.  Staple, and bake on a lipped sheet for 30 minutes at 425.  Wha-la! 

The easiest, cleanest way to fish for dinner.

For sides, we had roasted carrots and turnips with rosemary.  Turnips are a new discovery, and I LOVE them.  For starters, they're counted as a veggie, and not a starch.  They're 36 calories per cup.  And... most excitingly... you can slice them up and bake them like you would french fries.  Seriously.  Given a choice, you could eat a cup of McDonald's fries for 740 calories. Or you could eat a cup of baked turnip fries for 36 calories.  Turnips, please!

Rosemary is an excellent roasting herb for these, by the way.

We were also graced with our guest David's corn and black bean salad, which was so tangy and delicious!  I have a corn/bean salad recipe of my own, but I liked David's salad so much that I may have to make it my go-to potluck recipe.  You can see, and read, all about it, here.

For dessert, we used those amazing Gaviota strawberries I wrote about in my last entry, for sorbet.  We blended them into puree, added some simple syrup (as sugar is needed for proper freezing), and a tablespoon of vodka.  This last step has been our secret to success with sorbet; the vodka, which doesn't freeze, keeps the texture soft and scoopable.  We served the sorbet with lemon-cardamom polenta cookies, the step-by-step to which I'll share in my next entry.

So yummy. So very, very yummy.

It was so nice to share some of our food discoveries - and our passion for cooking - with some of the friends we've made at Slimmons.  (Or, in one case, the friend who brought us to Slimmons.  Thank you, again, David, for being the 007 agent of change.)

And I'm so happy to be able to say that I love food, without that love-hate feeling that used to linger behind it.  In fact, it's weigh-in Tuesday, and I know that this meal (and others like it) has a lot to do with the two pounds I lost last week, bringing my total to 29!

Dress by EShakti, Sweater by Old Navy, Scarf by Target, Gold Rush by Chaplin

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In the Golden Afternoon

"Little bread-and-butterflies kiss the tulips,
and the sun is like a toy balloon.
There are get up in the morning glories,
in the golden afternoon.
You can learn a lot of things from the flowers,
for especially in the month of June.
There's a wealth of happiness and romance,
all in the golden afternoon." 
 - from Alice In Wonderland

Our adventures (and my birthday celebration) continued on Saturday, starting early in the morning, when we hit our third farmer's market in two days.  We were on the hunt for the perfect strawberries for a dinner party, but it turns out that the cool weather delayed our regular strawberry season a little.  Fortunately, that doesn't apply to Harry's Berries, the best strawberry farm in Southern California. We found them at the Santa Monica farmer's market, at Arizona and 3rd.

They specialize in a rare variety called gaviota, which are perfect little nuggets of heaven.  We picked up a 3-pack, as well as some mandarin oranges which will make a culinary appearance in tomorrow's entry.

It's peak citrus season at the market.

While there, we discovered the largest leek I've ever seen.

A leek so large one must make reaction faces.

After making our purchases, we moved on to Project Me class at Slimmons.  We usually stay for back-to-back classes on Saturdays, but since my birthday picnic was scheduled for 1:00, we had to ditch out on Richard's Sweat class.  Fortunately, we got plenty of exercise at Descanso Gardens, the lovely botanical park where we were meeting our friends.  We brought our lunch from my favorite gourmet shop, Joan's on Third.  My lunch was a little larger than usual - I had expected I'd top my usual daily 1400 calories (though, it turns out, I only ate at total 195 extra calories, which is not bad considering two meals we didn't prepare ourselves.)  Lunch included:
  • A small black forest ham & brie sandwich with caper mustard and greens
  • 1/4 cup of butter beans with herbs
  • 1/4 cup of roasted beets
  • Three bites of a small lemon tart. I shared some of the rest, and we threw about half of it away.  I didn't feel bad about wasting food - I wanted to enjoy it, but I only needed a taste.
  • 8 ounces of sparkling water with 4 ounces of pineapple juice
Descanso was starting its spring bloom, so although not everything was flowering, much was bright and green.  It was a lovely, breezy afternoon, perfect for perambulation.

Much of the day was spent strolling and participating in shutterbuggery.
Photo courtesy of K. McQueen

There are several different subsections of the park, including Camellia gardens.  I had never seen Camellias before, and I thought the arrangement of their petals was remarkable.

Camellias everywhere!

To my surprise, parts of the lilac garden was in bloom.  In Michigan where I grew up, we only had lilacs during early summer.  I took a deep drink of their perfume, and I was surprised to realize it reminded me not of summer gardens, but of my mother's hospital room.  Sense memory strikes again.

Eau de Bittersweet

I loved the Japanese part of the gardens, which was very peaceful. I may return to do some writing and sketching there. Plus, the cherry blossom festival starts next weekend, and I love me some cherry blossoms.

I also loved these sconces inside a pavillion in the Japanese garden.

The park was varied in landscape - some open, bright areas with flower beds, and some darker, woodsy areas that felt more natural.

The trees were unusually (and pleasantly) gnarly for So Cal.

There were lots of water fixtures - and water, in its many and varied forms, tends to make me happy.

Tom snapped this excellent photo of a mini-waterfall.

The best part of the day, of course, was the time spent with friends.  A lovely adventure, had by all.

Photo courtesy of K. McQueen