Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the Kitchen... with low-calorie pumpkin dip!

Halloween is the opening bell of holiday eating season.  Mini candy bars and gooey caramel apples make way for a tryptophan-laced monster Thanksgiving buffet, which in turn leads to stockings full of chocolate and peppermint and a neverending spiral of ham (and possibly shame, if that's your game.)

In our house growing up, the one constant between these holidays was the pumpkin, starting with the ghoulishly carved fellows (and the peanut butter/chocolate ones), and finishing with the pie to end all pies, the pumpkin.

We've arrived, people.  Pumpkin-flavored goodies are going to be available around every corner from now until next year.  These days, you can even get hot pumpkin-spiked coffee at every single coffee retailer.  It's inescapable.

Since I'm concentrating on my moderation, and on eating nutritious foods, I figure... why beat those pumpkins when you can join 'em?  Pumpkin, in moderation and with the right ingredients, can be good for you!

Today I have a recipe for you that I have totally fallen for: a low-calorie pumpkin dip that in no way tastes low-calorie, and that will stand up to all of those other calorie-dense, less nutritious recipes.  Everyone who has tried it so far has loved it.  Even friends of mine who are anti-health-food dug in and enjoyed.


On top of all that, it's a super-simple recipe, and it doesn't take very long.

Five ingredients - that's all.

In your mixer (or in a bowl with a whisk) - combine 1 cup of skim milk with two small boxes of sugar-free vanilla pudding.

I used Jell-O brand, but next time I'm going to purchase some Splenda instant pudding
so Tom can enjoy it - and also because Splenda is the lesser of two artificially sweet evils.

Mix it until it's smooth, and about the consistency of cookie dough.

Then add the 30-ounce can of pumpkin, and mix for quite awhile.

After a few minutes, it'll still look lumpy with globs of pudding. Eventually it will smooth out. 
Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to fully integrate the pudding into the pumpkin.


Once it's smooth, add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.

And now, for the fun part!

Spray the entire can of fat-free Reddi Wip into the bowl.  Every last bit.


It may be hard to combine the heavy pumpkin with the whipped cream,
so it may be helpful to stop periodically and fold it together.


When it's all together, it'll look like a smooth, whippy version of pumpkin pie.
It'll smell like it, too!


It's especially delicious with sliced apples.  Also good with graham crackers or sticks - but I've proven time and time again that I cannot keep graham crackers in my house without the floodgates of food addiction opening.  In fact, when I tested this recipe in Palm Springs, I sent the graham crackers home with my friends for their toddler to enjoy.  

Creamy, pumpkiny, yum.

This would be a great, easy dish to bring to, say, a Halloween Potluck.  (Don't do it if you come to ours, though, because I'm already bringing it!)

I'm thinking it might make a great filling for a low-cal pumpkin cream pie for Thanksgiving, or even as filling for pumpkin "ice cream" sandwiches - which my friend Teresa challenged me to perfect.  Or... dare I say... frozen pumpkin cream pie?  Maybe I'll have that recipe for you, soon!

And the best part of all?  Not counting the apples or graham crackers, 1/8 of the very substantial recipe is only 46 CALORIES.

Serves 8.  Serving size looks to be a little bit over a cup.

Of course, eating pumpkin is not the only way to go with my favorite autumnal fruit.  Tonight, I'm attending a pumpkin-carving party!  It's being hosted (and attended) by some phenomenal artists, so I'm a little intimidated, but, hey, I'm sure it'll help those creative juices keep flowing, right?

For inspiration, here's my favorite pumpkin I've ever carved, two years ago alongside Tom, his mom Jean, and my dad.

I call it "Sometimes They Eat Their Young."

All right!  Hope you're all having fun getting ready for Halloween.  I'll be back tomorrow with some great news for active plus-sized ladies in search of great workout gear.  'Til then, take care of you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adventure Wednesday... Texts From (Last) Horror Night

This Adventure Wednesday post is rated H, for fans of Halloween, Horror, and Heidi's writing.

So... here's the thing.  We haven't really told many people, but Tom and I have slowly been developing a screenplay for a horror film.  Horror scripts can be a good toe-in-the-door for screenwriters writing on spec (or, for free/as writing samples) like ourselves.  We also needed a little break from the TV spec writing, and I'm close-but-not-quite-ready to finish my Yoga For Fat Girls spec screenplay.  Plus, both of us dig a really clever horror flick.  So horror it is.

Tom and I first thought about collaborating on a horror script four years ago this Monday - Halloween 2007.  I'd gotten out of work on time (for a change) and Tom came to pick me up for a date.  We had planned to head down to Disneyland to see what festivities were happening, but this was before Disney realized what a goldmine Halloween can be... and the park was closing at 8 PM.  One of us suggested we check out Universal Studios.  We'd both heard they did something called "Halloween Horror Nights," but we didn't know much about it.

When we arrived, the crowds were thick at the gate, so we sprang for a "Front-of-the-Line" ticket, like a Disney Fastpass, but for purchase (and without waiting.)  We walked through the gates... and our lives were never the same.

No, really.  We had so much fun during that first trip that we've gone back to Universal's Halloween Horror nights every year since.  And it inspired Tom - who, in turn, inspired me - to write a horror script.  Tom describes the experience as feeling like you're actually in a horror movie.  The mazes are so well-designed and executed (much like the characters, heh) that you end up feeling like a scream queen, heart pounding, eyes darting from this dark corner to that door ajar, nerves crackling with the fear of knowing that any second, something is going to burst through and scare the living dead daylights out of you.

Plus, I had a photo opportunity with Norman Bates, in front of the really-for-real Psycho house.
What could be more life-changing? He told me I looked like someone he could "bring home to mother."

This year, since we're working on the horror script, we decided to focus on our annual trip to Horror Nights for inspiration and discussion.  We had so many ideas and observations from the mazes that we started to forget some of them, so halfway through the evening, we sat down to text each other our shorthand thoughts.  Here are our Texts from (Last) Horror Night, in bold - with a bit of explanation for each.


Things that are inherently creepy: photos, children, churches, dolls, illness.
One of the new mazes this year, La Llorona, is based on a Mexican legend about a woman who drowns her children.  It includes so many inherently creepy visuals and concepts that I bet I'd even be spooked by it without any scare-acters.   It might be my favorite maze ever.  (It might even beat the Halloween maze from 2009, a lovingly faithful tribute to my favorite horror film.)

It's the key to surprise.  The Alice Cooper maze made great use of it, placing one gruesome duo at the end of the hallway.  I couldn't help but stare at them - after all, they were gross, and they were going to turn and scream at me or something, right?  But partway down the hall, two other scares popped out at me from either side.  All the scarier because my attention was focused elsewhere.

Big and small spaces.
Opposite use of space can be scary. Very big spaces have all kinds of nooks and crannies from which spooks can emerge... and you can't focus on all of them at once.  On the other hand, in very small spaces... if something comes at you, you have nowhere else to go.  And you're very, very aware of this.

Variation - keep 'em off balance.
For a long-form scare, there must be lots of different kinds of surprises.  For instance, silence or darkness punctuated by noise or light is most effective.  If you repeat the same kind of gag - say, guy jumps out from a door - people will start to suspect the scare and disengage.  You want to keep them engaged - and to do so, you gotta keep them on their toes.

Know your audience.
You need to calculate their fears... what they will be thinking, and how they will be reacting.  Some people might be scared by someone jumping out at them.  Some people might not... so how do you scare them?  One brilliant scare-acter realized that Tom and I were smiling at him, not scared by him.  So instead of moving on to someone else, he changed his tactic.  He walked straight up to us and stopped inches away from our noses.  We stepped to the right, and he mirrored us.  We stepped to the left, and he mirrored us without stopping.  This was actually far more unsettling than any jack-in-the-box startling.  And a good horror film should have as much "unsettling" as "startling."

A single, iconic villain.
One very creepy main antagonist will always be scarier than a variety of less-compelling ones.  The "torture porn" mazes are hardly scary at all.  Sure, bloody bodies and crazy trap-like contraptions aren't exactly Hello Kitty, but those depictions can verge on comical, and aren't scary, just gross.  Gore has its place, but it will be most effective when it follows deep emotional connection, tension, and terror.

A safe place.
The characters and the audience are always looking for a "safe place."   A spot where they know that nothing is coming to get them.  Denying them that is deeply unsettling.  Movie characters, like maze-goers, would try to move quickly from one safe space to the next, rather than at one pace.

The first scene.
What we see at the beginning of a maze (or a movie) shapes how we see the scenes that follow it.  For the very effective La Llorona maze, this starts before you even enter.  Three signs are placed within the maze line, which tell the story of La Llorona.  Then, when you step into the maze, you're in a Mexican church - a funeral, all flickering votives and memorial photos.  You're immediately drawn into the maze - and surrounded with several of the "inherently creepy" items listed above.

Emotional connection is what drives everything.
For effective horror, there needs to be some sort of emotional connection - fear of the antagonist, identification with a protagonist, witnessing things with inherent emotional content, etc - for it to really work.  In a film, it makes people a part of what's happening, not just an audience member.


Our night at Univeral was very well-filling, so to speak.  We've since been flush with ideas, and meeting for daily writing sessions before Tom leaves for work.  I'm having a lot of fun.  I really need to remember that I'm at my happiest - and the days that follow are most productive - when I start the day writing.

One other fun thing I noticed that night is that... I'm stronger!  I suppose it should have been obvious to me, since I work out so regularly (and so hard!) but I was still surprised when I hiked up the hill next to the Psycho house, and, for the first time ever, I made it up without stopping, and reached the top without panting.  I guess that's what comes of taking care of me!  And I hope you'll take care of you today.

If you're local, and a horror fan, definitely check out Universal Horror Nights, which runs through Halloween night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weigh-in Tuesday: Dear Twelve-Year-Old Heidi

Dear Twelve-year-old Heidi,

Hey, kiddo.  It's me.  It's you.  It's us.

Here I/you/we are at the spring music program in sixth grade.

I'm 32 now, and the other day I stumbled upon a thought I hadn't had in a long time.  I was thinking about you, and your music program in sixth grade, and how you were really having a hard time back then.  Because when you're just on the verge of a breakthrough, things can feel especially dreadful.

I remember that you felt isolated.

For one thing, you didn't feel like you were on the same page as the people in your class.  It was a small class, with tight cliques, and emotions running rampant as prepubescent hormones blossomed.  They grew up into some great people, but at the time, you were drifting apart from them.  Couples were pairing off, and it really stung as some your closest friends started holding hands with some of your crushes.  Ah, crushes.  So called for their ability to crush a little heart.  You felt completely unpretty.  You definitely felt fat - though you were at a healthy weight -  and you believed that the fat stood between you and all good things.  It's important that you hang in there, little me.  There are kindred spirits in your future.  There is great love to come.  There is upcoming comfort in your own skin, even when you're actually overweight.  (Even when you're morbidly obese.)  And there is courage to take care good of yourself, too.

For another thing, you were saddled with a teacher who discouraged you.  When you mention to a teacher that you're interested in writing, the last thing you should be told is that you'll never be a good writer.  Heck, even if you were a bad writer at the time (which you weren't) a teacher's job is to encourage and enrich the student, not put them down.  I hate to admit it, but that one statement will come back to haunt you, long after other teachers award you, bosses promote you, clients commend you for your writing.  You'll still secretly worry that your sixth-grade teacher was right, that you'll never be a writer.  But you ARE one.  Throughout your life, you'll work very hard on it, and you'll keep improving at it.  You'll even make a living doing it.

To top it all off, you were getting ready for the spring music program.  Two of the 'cool' girls were asked to do a dance together, and you were secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) jealous of them.  I know it wasn't so much about the dancing (though you'd been studying ballet for six years)... it was about feeling lonely.  Girls with whom you wanted to fit in were spending extra time together, without you.

Chin up.  You have to realize - you weren't really excluded.  You were, in fact, invited to sing a solo.  But you didn't like the solo, because you wanted to dance with your friends.  And you didn't like the song. It though it was unpopular, like you thought you were unpopular.

But you sang that song anyway. Here you are, doing it.

Here's the thing.  That song?  It's actually one of the most beloved songs in the American music canon.  It became famous in a movie musical.  One that you will grow to love.

You'll watch it for the first time in a few years, at a cozy cabin while eating raspberry pie with your very first kindred-spirit friend.  You'll adore it.  You'll quote from it frequently.  You'll come back to it again and again.

Later in your life, you'll find yourself sitting in a lawn chair, in a cemetery, in the dark.  You'll be snuggled up in blankets, and in your husband's arms.  You'll be surrounded by several of your kindred-spirit friends, as you all stare up at a mausoleum wall, aglow with beautiful scenes from your favorite movie musical of all time.  A cool breeze will swirl around you, and you'll look up and notice that you can just barely make out the outline of the palm trees in the dark

You won't be thinking of how you sang that song in your sixth grade spring music program.  You won't be thinking of anything... except how you feel incredibly - completely - content.

 There's a little piece of advice a former (er, future?) boss gave me once.  When you're feeling jealous of someone because they... have a boyfriend... spend more time with someone else... have a moment in the spotlight... have an easier journey to good health... are more successful in their career...  or for any reason at all... you should:

...Keep your eye on your own plate.

It's a figure of speech.  It means that if you're worried about what you don't have, you should focus on what you do have.  Don't have a dance to perform like someone else?  Work hard on that solo, and really savor the fact that you get to have your own private moment in the spotlight.  Haven't sold your screenplays like someone else?  Work hard on them.  Working hard on your writing has always paid off in the past.  (See?  I'm taking the same advice.)

I think it's also good advice to take literally.  You're going to go through a long process of weight gain, little me.  It's going to be hard on you.  But in time, you'll find your balance, and then you're going to take good care of yourself - and try to do it in every way you can.  That's what I'm doing right now.  I'm down a pound this week, but I notice that I've gotten a little bit lax with the measuring, lazy about counting.  So I'm going to work on keeping my eye on my own plate.

You've got big things ahead, twelve-year-old me.  You've got places to go and people to love, who love you.  How's this for a deal?  You keep breathing, and keep trying, and keep being yourself.  And I will, too.  And in another 20 years, maybe we'll get some great insight from 52-year-old Heidi.  In the meanwhile... I am always with you, and you are most definitely always with me.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Multimedia Monday: Don't Tell the Bride!

It's Monday again? Wow, the time moves so quickly.

My weekend was fun and exhausting -- I'm looking forward to sharing more about it in upcoming Adventure and Fashion posts.  But the weekend has passed, and you know what that means... it's time for some Multimedia Monday Short Cuts!

  • I'm always impressed by the films that George Clooney directs.  The tabloids promote him as such a playboy, but from his films, it's clear to me that he has a sharp, intelligent mind and a boatload of talent.  I loved The Ides of March. It reminded me, kind of achingly, of how politics broke my heart once, too.
  • After seeing - and loving - The Help, I wanted to read the novel from which it was adapted, and I finished it this week.  I'm always interested in the way things are condensed into filmic form, and I thought this one was handled very well - though I was surprised by a few of the differences.
  • Tom and I have finally caught up on American Horror Story.  I can't say that I love it, but it has definitely intrigued me enough to add a season pass to my DVR.  
  • We added another season pass this week, for Once Upon a Time.  One episode is usually not enough to judge, but I'm a sucker for fairy tales, especially revisionist ones.  I'm curious to see where they'll go with it.

There's one other show that I'm watching this season... and it's called Don't Tell the Bride.

Full disclosure - I'm totally biased about it, because Tom is one of the show's editors!

Each week, a couple is given $25,000 to plan a wedding... but the hook is that they only have three weeks to plan it... and the groom has to do it.  He can't see - or talk to - his bride for those three weeks, until she comes down the aisle.  And only his best man can help him.  (No, really. There aren't people behind the scenes aiding him or giving him recommendations.)

So far, two episodes have aired (and they are replayed during the week.)  Next Saturday, Tom's first episode premieres, and I'm really excited to see his handiwork.  I think we might have a viewing party for one of his favorite episodes, later this season.  (Let me know if you want to join us, heh.)

Clearly, the first topic that comes up when discussing the show is: "how would I [handle/have handled] this for my wedding?"

I love my groom more than anything else in this world.  Tom is a creative, thoughtful man who has such vision, and such a unique point of view.  Seriously, every day I'm grateful that he came into my life.  I'm sure that he'd do his best to be thoughtful in planning a wedding.

But let me tell you: there is NO WAY I would have had him pick out my wedding dress.  Not without me trying it on.  A wedding dress is supposed to make you feel beautiful and confident.  If I hadn't tried on all different kinds of shapes of dresses, I would never, ever have picked my own.  What you think you like is almost never what you end up liking.  (This past episode's bride had that experience, too.)

I loved, loved, loved my wedding dress.
Much as I love, love, love my husband.

When it came to our own wedding (which I wrote a little about on our anniversary), Tom did participate in the planning. He had veto power on everything, and I made sure to come up with ideas that expressed both of our personalities.  He had a few hard-and-fast rules about the wedding...

  1. No groom's cake.  He'd seen them on shows like Bridezillas, and came to think of them as proof that the groom had nothing to do with the wedding except one dinky little cake.  So he nixed it.
  2. No live animals as decoration.  When we saw photos of fish bowls on reception tables, he made it clear that there would be no animals used and then flushed.  Fortunately, I was never interested in that, either.
  3. No garter toss.  It seemed embarrassing to all involved, and I'm relieved, too.
  4. No Chicken Dance.
Funny story about #4.  My mother was disappointed that Tom ruled out the Chicken Dance, and asked him to reconsider.  Jokingly, he told her that he'd permit a chicken dancing, but no Chicken Dance.  And oh, my mother - what a prankster she was - secretly arranged for the rental of a chicken suit and the appearance of a dancing chicken at our reception.  Such fond, fond memories.

Tom's biggest involvement in our wedding was editing our wedding movie, which we screened during our cocktail hour at the local movie theater (the very theater I grew up attending.)  I'll leave you today with the wedding movie - which still makes me cry.

Don't forget to watch Don't Tell the Bride on OWN, Saturdays at 10PM.  And... don't forget to take care of you!

Garden-to-Table Recipes & Fashion

I have vivid memories of my parents' garden from my youth.  The garden spanned the whole width of their quite large backyard, and come harvest time, our little kitchen would overflow with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, grapes, peas, cucumbers, apples and peppers. Oh - the way that a just-picked tomato, still warm from the sun, feels on the palm of your hand.  The smell - of green, of earth, of hard work, of summer.  I learned early that nothing tastes better than fruit and vegetables direct from the garden. 

And thanks to the Urb Garden Girls, I was able to share a garden-fresh meal with my Supper Club guests. Today I'm sharing a couple of recipes from Supper Club 600: Garden-to-Table Edition.  (By the way, did you catch my recap of of the event? If not, you can see it here.)

Avocado & Sprout Lettuce Cups

These lettuce cups are perhaps my favorite recipe I've created so far... and one of the simplest, too.  Something about the peppery-crunchy sprouts, the smooth and creamy avocado, and the tangy dressing makes it dynamite when combined. One serving gives you a healthy portion of good fats, and a lot of protein. 

 For the cups:
  • 1 cup of raw sprouted lentils, beans & legumes  (I buy mine from Jazzy Sprouts at the Hollywood Farmer's Market, but you should be able to find them at specialty grocery stores or farm markets.)
  • 1 ripened avocado, diced.
  • 8 cup-style lettuce leaves (Butter lettuce is good for this purpose.)

For the dressing:
  • 1 tb olive oil (Use the best quality you can find.)
  • 3 tb vinegar (you can use your favorite kind - but my favorite for this combination is Global Gardens' Pear Tamarind Champagne vinegar. We LOVE visiting Global Gardens, which we found on our olive oil tasting tour of Southern CA wine country. They make amazing oils and vinegars.)
  • 1 tb dijon mustard (Maille is best.)

In a nonreactive bowl, gently stir together the sprouts and avocado.  Whisk the dressing ingredients together and combine with the sprout mixture.  Divide evenly between the 8 lettuce cups.  Serves 4.

Tomato & Cucumber Salad

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced (preferably heirloom)
  • 1 cucumber, diced (preferably hothouse)
  • 3 tb red wine vinegar
  • 1 tb chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss 'em all together in a bowl.  Wha-la!  Serves 2 to 4, depending on whether you use the salad as a side or entree.

As for my outfit at Garden-to-Table, and in the spirit of the theme, I wanted to get in touch with my roots.  My mom's parents - and many of her ancestors - were farmers.  My dad's parents also owned a farm, though they were hobbyist farmers.  Mom and Dad's own garden, as I mentioned earlier, was the source of most of our summer food, and I remember Mom in her plaid shirt, weeding around the tomatoes, telling me how - even though I didn't enjoy working in the garden at age 8 - I would want my own garden someday.  Oh, Mom.  On this, like on so many other things... you were right.

I included an industrial/urban touch, though, because although I come from farming stock, I've always been a city girl at heart.

Plaid blouse by Target
Tank dress by Lane Bryant
Studded belt by Torrid
Industrial chain necklace and earrings via Nordstrom Rack
Tights by Avenue
Boots via OneStopPlus

All right!  Have a beautiful day - and take care of you!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Supper Club 600: Garden-to-Table Edition

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of co-hosting an event with some of my closest friends in the city, Lisa and Chris.  I've known them for the better part of my time in California, and they've enriched my life in so many ways -- our "Supper Club 600: Garden-to-Table Edition" party being the latest one.

One of the veggie "crate labels" I photoshopped for event decoration, using an existing historical label as the basis.

When Lisa started her own urban garden this year, and began to blog about it (with her partner-in-grime, Amy) at Urb Garden Girls, I have to admit I felt the tiniest flush of jealousy.  I don't have the space to grow garden food, though I grew up with one in my backyard.  So when Lisa approached me with the idea of a dinner party that would bring the freshness of their garden straight to a community table, I was thrilled.

Another crate label. A doozy - this one used to say "Irma," not "Lisa."

Soon Chris offered to join in with a contribution from his own blog, The Enlightened Hedonist.  Chris is always seeking a way to enrich his life through thoughtful pleasure.  He recently described my mindful eating as my own personal enlightened hedonism - and I realized he's right!  My journey has been very much about keeping the enjoyment of food while being mindful about it.  Something that brings Chris pleasure is creative mixology, so he came up with two signature cocktails for the evening, also made with ingredients from his garden.  You can read more about it in his blog entry, here.

Lisa tended her garden - much like she tends her friendships - with care.  So she encouraged friends to donated the fruits of their own urban gardens - eggs, avocados, lemons, apples - as well as a beautiful location for our meal.  And I took that bountiful harvest (along with supplemental ingredients from my favorite farmer's market) and whipped it into a feast for 24!

Our buffet-style garden feast.

 Lisa and Amy decorated for the party, which we held in the backyard of their friend Christy's house.  And thank goodness - I love well-decorated events, but when I'm cooking for a big crowd, I just can't manage it myself.  Thanks to them, it turned out beautifully.

The decorated table, with vintage linens from Lisa's collection, as well as candles, sunflowers, and my crate labels.

 I was especially unable to decorate (or photograph... thanks to Rochelle for all of these pictures) because Tom had fallen ill and could not join me for cooking duty.  Originally we'd planned for him not to be there due to his work schedule, so luckily I had two sous-chefs to help me - Keith and Alexa.

The three of us, done with cooking for the day!

A serving of the harvest spoils, plus one of Chris' cocktails (calories extra.)

Chris at his "bar," a gardening table.

Baked apples for dessert - with Reddi Wip (which was within the calories) or Brown Butter Sage ice cream (which wasn't.)

I don't have a good picture of it, but we were also treated to an after-dinner apertif, fresh apple-carrot-ginger juice pressed by Amy.  It was, honestly, my favorite part of the meal! 

Each guest was sent home with a goodie bag with extra produce from the gardens.


Isn't Lisa's dress cute? And she MADE her rooster/tin-roof earrings.  She talks about them,
and the whole day, on her jewelry blog, Inspired Adornments.

It turned out to be a beautiful day, with delicious fresh food and drinks, and wonderful friends.  I'm so grateful to be a part of my community, and so happy we were able to celebrate together.

Which we did, by twinkle-light, well into the evening.

I'll be back tomorrow with some recipes from the party - and some fashion details from it, too.  Until then, please take care of you!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weigh-in Tuesday

Yet another less-than-stellar weigh-in this Tuesday.  I'm up one pound from my last weigh-in, making it 69 pounds lost.  (I was at 297 a few weekends ago, and my friend Erik asked me if I just wanted to stay there for perpetuity because of the amusing number, which I do not.)

Am I bummed? Of course I'm bummed.  But I made it through two big weeks for me.

The first of those weeks was spent dealing with some considerable emotional stress (which I navigated quite well in terms of food), then preparation for vacation, and then four days in Palm Springs.  Tom and I, along with a group of friends, rent a house there every October.  It's always a time of creativity and refreshment.

I did art journaling every day we were there. This was my favorite.

It's always one of culinary pleasures, too.  I went in feeling a bit anxious about eating. Everyone usually brings a ton of snack food, and I don't keep snack food in my house. While processed salty and sweet snacks are typically small in size, if you put enough of it together, you can end up eating twice as many calories in an hour as you needed all day. On top of that, each couple takes a turn cooking breakfast or a dinner while we're there... which means that if I choose to go along with our plans, my nutrition is in someone else's hands.  And I don't know if you can tell by reading this blog, but I rarely - if ever - put my nutrition in someone else's hands.

Lucky for me, I have some very thoughtful friends who either made food that was healthier than our standard fare, or who warned me that they would not be (so I'd know to provide for myself.)  With very few exceptions, I was able to eat in moderation, and supplement with my own fruits, veggies and protein.  And over four days, I kept the snacks down to one fun-size candy bar, a few triscuits, an ounce of peanuts, and an ounce of candy corn.  (Considering what else was there and how much of it there was, I feel pretty proud of that.) And while those processed snacks probably played into the weight gain, I'm doing my best to be patient with myself.

The second week - last week - was spent laid flat with an unpleasant coldy-flu bug that specialized in body-aches and sinus pain.  Having just returned from vacation, the kitchen was a mess and Tom was working his usual crazy hours so he wasn't around to pitch in with cleaning or cooking (except late at night.)  In my exhausted state, I ordered delivery comfort food - lots of salty soup, lots of bread.  There was typically veg in the soup and I got fruit from watered-down OJ I was using to hydrate and load Vitamin C... but it was still unbalanced.

In discussing it with my therapist, she pointed out that I had trouble when I was feeling ill after my surgery, too.  It may be when my willpower is weakest, so we put a plan together for keeping a stash of very easy-to-prepare foods at the ready for the next time I'm ill.  I need microwaveable soups, frozen dinners, anything that I can make quickly and help me balance and stay moderate when I have a harder time making that decision.

As my strength returned, so did my desire to put my nutrition back in my hands.

One of the first things I did, as soon as I felt well enough, was to art journal this to remind myself of it.

And I'm taking that effort.  It feels great.  

I'm back to Slimmons tonight, for the first time since Palm Springs.  I did exercise well on vacation - I swam for at least 45 minutes every day, and did free weights and floor work every other day.  But I haven't exercised much since I got sick.  I'm sure the usual 90 minutes with Richard will be grueling... but that's how you get strong, after all.

On another note, I keep seeing a couple of different images on Pinterest that sound like an easy quick-fix for weight loss.  Negative-calorie foods!

Except for one thing... there's no scientific evidence to prove it, and a fair amount to disprove it.  The mostly widely purported "negative-calorie" food is celery, which - according to Wikipedia, if you trust it - only requires 10% of its energy to digest.  That means 90% of its energy stays with you - hardly negative.

One of the lists - which I can't locate now (the trouble with Pinterest) - claimed that honeydew melon has negative calories.  I actually responded to that link, to let them know that not only does honeydew have more calories than cantaloupe, it has less nutritive value.  

Is it better for us to eat honeydew - in moderation - instead of, say, toffee?  For damn sure.  But it's in no way calorie-free, let alone calorie-negative.  And fruit, while it has terrific nutrient value, is still high in sugar, and should be consumed in moderation.  (Like anything else.)

Goes to show that my friend Honest Abe was right all along...

Do your research before you trust something you read... and take care of you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Multimedia Monday post... in which, I still exist.


Long time, no see.  I know.  But I still exist.  I promise!  And I'm still on this long journey of self-care.

I went from vacation preparation, to beautiful vacation, to a coldy-flu plague.  I was all refreshed from Palm Springs, and feeling ready to be present here on the blog... but let me tell you, this grippe had a grip on me for almost a week.  I threw my hands up and decided just to rest and try to recover my strenghth.

One thing I've noticed this year is that I face some serious some food challenges while I'm sick.  I'll talk more about this soon, but the good news is that as my energy grows, so does my will to cook for myself.  I think my stomach is feeling better as a result, as much as my sinuses feel better than they did last week.  I am very much looking forward to tomorrow, which will be my first day back at Slimmons since I left for vacation.

It's Monday, so that means it's time for some Short Cuts.

  • While I was sick last week, I spent a lot of time staring blankly at the watching tv.  I learned the following:
    • Even if I am only half-watching Toy Story 3, when Andy plays with his toys one last time, I will still be racked with the equivalent amount of sobs as I did upon first viewing.
    • Trick 'R Treat is (as per my friend's recommendation) a fun and playful horror romp worth watching.  The horror script that Tom and I have been developing will have a different approach, but I hope it will capture the same sense of glee.
    • The Parenthood TV series is underrated, and I should have listened to my friends Sara L. and Rena W. when they raved about it.
    • I can't make it all the way through Stephen King's Thinner without feeling sick and turning it off.  It wasn't the rapid weight loss or the mocking of fat people or the unhealthy dieting or even the depiction of food addiction that bothered me.  It was the way that the film - and many films - portray binge-eating. Seriously. I have binged.  I know what it looks - and feels - like.  It's not like that.  It's less disgusting, and far more sad.  And geez- how many Multimedia Monday posts will it take for me to listen to myself - I ought to finish Yoga For Fat Girls, which includes a character who suffers from binging, which I hope to portray honestly and without cruelty toward the character.

In movie marketing news, I keep bumping into various ads for Adam Sandler's upcoming comedy, Jack & Jill - in which he plays a man and his twin sister.  And every time I see anything to promote the movie, I can't help but think of Funny People.

Did you see Funny People?  Or, more specifically, did you see the Funny People websites?  Perhaps some of you don't know that in a past life, I was a movie marketing interactive producer, which essentially means that I helped to conceive and (manage teams who) create movie websites.

One of the sites I produced was a portfolio for Sandler's character, George Simmons -- a past-his-prime actor who has made a lot of zany high-concept comedies. Featuring titles like Merman, Dog's Best Friend, and My Best Friend Is A Robot.  (If you read the reviews on that website, you might see some interesting fake critics named, such as the formidable Brian Powers and the remarkable Michelle Vander Missen... who happen to be my siblings. Ah, the little joys of marketing.)

Anyway, all I can think whenever I see that Jack & Jill poster is...

And in movie marketing old-news, there are bus ads all over town for this season's Project Runway, which (I think?) is about to end.  Now, don't me wrong: I love Tim Gunn's catchphrase, "make it work."  But this particular one-sheet design for demonstrates just how important it is to treat marketing copy carefully.

Yeah, it's clever and visually interesting to tuck little words into bigger ones.  But when you're doing that, you have to make sure you're not turning the phrase into something else entirely.  Whenever I drive past this one-sheet, I don't see the "it."  I see "MAKE WORK."  Which is regional slang akin to "busy-work," or work undertaken not for the purpose of completing a task, but for the purpose of keeping you busy.  This poster is telling you - though I don't think it intends to - that Tim Gunn appears on Project Runway not because he wants to be there, but merely to make him seem busy and engaged.

The moral of the story here is that one little word... be it "it," or "no," or "thanks"... can make all of the difference.  And I'll end today with four little words. I apologize for not being here to tell them to you regularly the last few weeks.  But I've had them in my heart, nonethless.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Weigh-in Tuesday: Yeah. I did it.


I did it.

296.  Two pounds down from last week, for a total of 70 pounds.  That's, like, 7 bags of flour.  At once.

Even though I wasn't posting much last week, I stayed committed to the food plan I wrote about a week ago:
  • I cooked every meal (except for three I planned to eat out - and which fit into my calorie plan.)
  • Every meal was different.  No duplicates, no leftovers, no boredom.
  • I photographed each one.
  • I exercised 5 times.

Although I didn't get to sharing them here, the acts of careful planning, preparation, and photography helped me break away from the great food-fight I'd been having with myself. "You want this.  No you don't.  Yes you do.  No you don't, and that's that."  I was still making good choices, but I was losing a lot of energy fighting.

After a week of solid mindful eating, the fight seemed to disappear.  So much so that yesterday, when I was in full-on HALT mode (and somehow managed to be simultaneously extremely hungry, extremely angry, extremely lonely and VERY extremely tired) I chose grilled salmon and salad instead of any of the myriad things that would have helped me temporarily numb my emotions.  And that feels like even more of a success than breaking through my plateau.

When I have a little more time, I may share some of those photos... or I may keep them and share some of the recipes I came up with, because they're definitely worth trying!

I'm vacationing this weekend, and before I do, I'll be sharing a recap and recipes from this weekend's Supper Club event, as well as sharing a little bit about how me and my body are... getting along.  Sort of.  Keep an eye out here for the next couple of days, because I'm looking forward to sharing it all with you.  And in the meanwhile - keep taking care of you. 

Multimedia Monday - checking in and checking out

Phew.  I think I finally came up for air.  Hi, everybody.

Between freelancing and preparing for another Supper Club event, I ended up so busy that I couldn't swing my usual daily posts.

The good news is that despite my total absence here since last Tuesday, I had a terrific health week.  (More on that in my weigh-in post, coming soon.)

Here are my Short Cuts for the week:

  • I finally watched Splice, which I added to our DVR during HBO Free Preview Weekend. Is there anything more fun than a premium cable channel free preview?  I was mesmerized by the film, which was a surprisingly intimate character exploration, not a sci-fi horror as it was advertised.  (Much like the film I mentioned last week, I understand why the marketing team did this, but I'm bummed that it missed its audience.)
  • It's nice to have our regular shows back.  I've been enjoying How I Met Your Mother especially.  The use of flash-forward (the wedding, the labor, the goat, etc) is an excellent way to entice audiences to keep coming back.  It definitely works on me, anyway.  I'd like to use that structure in an upcoming project, myself.
  • It's weird not to have new 30 Rock until mid-season.  I miss it.  But it's nice to have reruns in syndication for the first time.
  • This week's Saturday Night Live was the best I've seen in years.  Which brings me to today's topic.

Melissa McCarthy.

Here's my favorite sketch from Saturday.  In this sketch, she sexually harasses a coworker.  With balloons.

It was hard to pick a favorite.  She was so different in, and so committed to, each of them.  Knocks each one out of the park.  Blows almost every other guest host away.   

More proof that this is her hour: she's on the cover of Hollywood Reporter this week.  When was the last time a plus-sized woman graced that cover?  Roseanne?

It's not just that she totally stole the biggest female-starring comedy from the higher-billed actresses this summer.  It's not just that she won an Emmy for best actress in a comedy. Or even that she's plus-sized and in her forties. It's that she seems totally comfortable in her skin while doing all of it.

On top of all that, she just announced she'll be starting her own clothing line.  Count me in, Melissa.  Count me in.

Not to mention the fact rumor has it that in an upcoming film, Melissa may be paired romantically with my other favorite SNL host (who happens to be my preferred flavor of eye candy), Jon Hamm.  I. Can't. Wait.

But the thing that makes me most excited about her growing stardom is her new production company.  Because I dream of casting her in the script I've been writing (on and off) for five years - called Yoga For Fat Girls.  She would be a perfect Maggie.  And if I can just finish this thing, maybe someday, she will be.