Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adventure Wednesday with The Muppets!

It's time to play the music.  It's time to light the lights!  It's time to go see The Muppets, if you haven't already, because it's pretty damn good.  The best Muppet movie since the 1980s.  For today's Adventure Wednesday, I take you along on our trip to see the movie, Hollywood-style.

Having finished all of my preparation for Thanksgiving by Wednesday afternoon, Tom and I found ourselves with an uncharacteristically open night before our holiday guests arrived for dinner, so we booked tickets to see the movie opening night at the best possible viewing location -- the El Capitan. 

The El Cap marquee, all lit up


This turned out to be especially fun, because El Cap is in the film, as the location of "Muppet Studios."  (In real life, the Henson studios are actually on La Brea north of Sunset, in Charlie Chaplin's former studio space, but the Muppets are now owned by Disney, the owner of the El Capitan.)

The real Henson Studios has a tribute to Kermit and Chaplin - the statue of Kermit AS Chaplin.
Photo via Henson Studios


   We love going to the El Cap.  It's a more expensive ticket than your usual theater, but then, it has so much more to offer than your usual theater does. 

Here's the side of the theater, with the nearby Animal billboard.

It may only be a mile away from our home, but we rarely get over to the tourist district (with Grauman's Chinese among other attractions.)  There's always something strange and amusing to see there, and going to the El Cap gives us a good excuse to people-watch.  Or pet-watch.

For instance, we spotted this very recalcitrant cat being walked - or tugged - on a leash.

The El Cap is also fun because it is such a beautifully restored historical theater.  I'm a fan of old theaters, and this is one of the best restorations ever done.

Here's the ceiling above the ticket box and entryway.

And unlike most old theaters, it has a Wurlitzer organ that is in good working condition -- and their organist plays a set before every show!  There's nothing like seeing a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean or Lady and the Tramp or The Muppets, (all which we've seen there) and hearing its theme song pour out of the pipes before the movie even starts.

The organist at play.

   Plus, whatever is playing at the El Cap, Disney always brings in special displays or events that tie into the movie.  This one was no exception, and it was one of the reasons I most wanted to see The Muppets at the El Capitan.  They included a pre-show holiday sing-along with a live performance by Kermit and Piggy.


Now, I know - and I hope you know I know - that they aren't really people.  But... I'd never seen the puppets in action, actually being puppeted in front of me.  The holiday sing-along with them was worth the ticket price alone.

My inner two-year-old (and my outer thirty-two-year-old) was totally geeked out by the real Kermit and Piggy, in person.

After the sing-along, we enjoyed the audience's giddy reaction to the pending movie.  When the reel didn't roll right away, some fella behind us started doing a Statler/Waldorf impression.  It was spot-on and made everyone laugh.

The film was preceded with a Toy Story short that was so packed with laughs from stem to stern that I am pretty sure I need to see it again to catch everything I missed.

Finally, The Muppets began, and I was amused (and kind of moved) that there was as much cheering by our fellow adults in the audience as we'd heard from the tweens seeing Twilight.  I'm reminded, with the second coming of these felted weirdos, that I'm not alone in my love for them.

Especially when it comes to Jason Segel, the writer and star of the movie.  I was a little worried the film would be jaded and a touch ironic, as is the 'Apatow' style from which he sprung up to stardom.  But the movie was filled with real heart, and lots of funny laughs.

I'm a musical fan, and the music numbers did not disappoint.  I loved several of them, but my favorite by far was "Man or Muppet," which I hope like hell will be nominated for an Academy Award.  There's a terrific cameo for the song, which totally surprised me - I was deeply tickled by it.  I'm not spoiling it for you, and you should try to stay unspoiled.

It was fun to spot the hotel on the corner of our street, in its own cameo as Amy Adams' and Jason Segel's hotel room.  (I was hoping there would be an exterior shot, but alas, no.)

Once the credits were done rolling (you should stay for them, btw) we headed downstairs for the special exhibit of Miss Piggy's wardrobe from the film - yet another benefit of the El Cap screening.

My favorite was this Zac Posen number. He designs so well for curves!

   We didn't realize - I don't think they advertised - that there was also a photo op backdrop down there, plus the Muppet portraits from the film, and some sets and props, too!

Blissed out after the movie.

Tom in front of Kermit's office, complete with his "Standard Rich & Famous Contract"

Me with Miss Piggy's dressing room. I'm holding the Muppets popcorn bucket that came with our VIP tickets.

From there, we headed out through Disney's Soda Fountain, the combination gift shop/restaurant connected to the theater.  (You can't exit a Disney ride without exiting through the gift shop, yo.)  They had a ton of Muppet merchandise.

They had a whole display just for Animal!

They also sold Muppet Whatnot sets - and though I'd really like one, I'd rather wait until I can assemble my own
at the FAO Schwarz in New York - or if it finally comes to Disneyland, as is rumored.

   They even sold the OPI Muppet nail polish series - but I decided not to buy any, in favor of another souvenir I had my eye on.

Sporting my cozy new Kermie hat.

We loved the experience... and we loved the movie, which we'd like to see again while it's still in theaters.  (Having had the full El Cap experience, we'll opt for a cheaper theater this time.  Once is worth it, but once is enough.)

If you're local and you love Muppets, definitely consider checking it out at the El Capitan... and if you're not local, you should try to catch the movie in theaters.  It's a love letter to the original fans, and a cheery introduction for new ones.

OK.  I'll be back again mahna-maƱana (wocka-wocka), and til then, take care of you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Media Monday... Movies, Movies, Movies!

It's already Tuesday, and I missed Monday, so I'm including a quick post of short cuts, all about the movies we saw this weekend!

We always do a movie day on Thanksgiving weekend.  By the end of November, the Oscar films are starting to pour into the theaters, and we're usually so busy that we're playing catch-up with them.  It started on our very first Thanksgiving together (Kinsey, Finding Neverland, Saw, Sideways) and has continued every year.  This year, we caught five great films!

  • The Muppets.  Major love.  More on this tomorrow, for Adventure Wednesday!
  • The Artist.  An absolute must-see if you're a fan of silent films... and even if you aren't. Take a dash of Singin' In the Rain, a pinch of A Star Is Born, and you have a story about the silent age of cinema told... in the style of the silent age of cinema.  There's some really indelible imagery in the film, and it's created in the vintage-retro aesthetic that I love.  Plus, the two leads seem as if they were plucked from the 1930s.  Hollywood just doesn't make actors - or movies - like this anymore...  but it seems France can.
  • Hugo. Two films in a row that are love letters to classic cinema - though I didn't really expect it of this Scorcese children's pic when I first saw the trailer.  I don't want to spoil anything for you, but it's a slow but immersive jaunt to France that entertains while it pleads for the preservation of film.  This actually may be my favorite Scorcese film.
  • Arthur Christmas.  The most benign of the bunch, but a pleasant watch nonetheless.  I usually expect more of Ardman (the Wallace & Gromit studio) but it's still much better than many animated films.
  • We Bought A Zoo.  It was playing in a "sneak preview" (the kind you buy tickets for, not the kind you're selected for.)  I wasn't expecting much, because Cameron Crowe hasn't interested me since Almost Famous... but I was totally won over by the film, the characters, the actors, and the depth of feeling.  I won't lie.  I cried - a lot.  I loved it.

We've also been seeing more and more of our own script.  With Tom home this week, we've been going gangbusters, and it keeps getting better and better.  Thanks also to a long discussion over dinner with my mother-in-law this weekend, we having been looking into a new avenue for the main character that has been fun and exciting to research.  Woo-hoo!

On Weigh-In Tuesday, weighing in on Cleveland's obese foster child

I'm weighing in today, with the number on the scale, and with my opinions.  Specifically, my opinions about what makes weight loss harder, what makes it easier, and how my experiences relate to the case of Cleveland's obese foster child.

First: Hormones & The Long Haul
When I hopped on the scale last Tuesday, I was up.  By a pound.  Again.  I hadn't eaten terribly, but I still wasn't logging what I ate, and my exercise had slowed a bit.  It's very frustrating to confront my challenges again and again and again.  I try to remember that this is a life-long journey, not a race. I remind myself that so long as I'm committed to taking care of me, speed does not matter - only persistence.  It's hard not to feel frustrated.

Aware of my frustration, my mother-in-law recently pointed me to an article in the LA Times.  Apparently, a medical study found that "subjects who shed weight on a low-calorie diet were hungrier than when they started and had higher levels of hormones that tell the body to eat more, conserve energy and store away fuel as fat."  Even a year later, the subjects' appetite hormones hadn't returned to normal.  The good news is that perhaps the study will help scientists find a way to help those who've lost weight maintain their loss.  The bad news is that until then, those of us who are struggling to maintain or lose more after an initial loss... we just have to fight what our bodies are telling us, keep active, and stay on our journey as best as we can.

Second: The Team Approach
Tom's been home since last Wednesday night - for Thanksgiving plus a week of work hiatus (he goes back next Monday - and I'm reminded what a difference it makes being one of a team on this journey.  While he's working, we're still a great team... but I'm alone in making our dinners, planning our menus, doing our grocery shopping, cooking for myself.  I go to the gym alone.  To Slimmons alone.  (I see dear friends there, but it's not the same as arriving with my best friend.)  And since I'm a freelance writer, I work at home alone.

But since Wednesday, it's been much easier to do everything I was struggling to do.  We've cooked together.  We've exercised together.  We planned our meals and grocery-shopped and discussed our plans.  We've also done a lot of work together.  It supports the very first thing that Richard Simmons ever said to Tom and I.  He said, "you have to do this together, or it doesn't work."

Together with Tom, I was able to come back down a pound - even on Thanksgiving week.  Soon I hope to be back to my 70 total lost, and move on from there.  But I have to be patient with myself, and I have to be pretty vigilant, thanks to hormones that are constantly telling me I'm hungry.  I never used to feel this way.

On the Cleveland Situation
Perhaps you haven't heard yet, but there's a debate swirling around a Cleveland social worker's decision to remove a child from his parents' custody because he was obese.  The child was an honor student and involved in activities at his school, but he is now staying with foster parents.

Apparently, the state worker was trying to work with the parents, but claims that they weren't following doctors' orders.  The parents dispute that claim, that they bought him a bicycle and were working with him. 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer article includes this quote from the mother:  "Of course I love him. Of course I want him to lose weight. It's a lifestyle change, and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that."

The article also states that the mother is overweight herself, and that when she "found out that other kids and a sibling might be giving her son extra food, she tried to put a stop to it."

It sounds to me like the family was torn.  I don't know the specifics of the situation aside from the story, but all I can think about is how the Team Approach helps everything.  And if a sibling - or a struggling mother - isn't doing everything they can to help their loved one (or worse, actively sabotaging them), then it's going to be that much harder for their loved one to succeed. 

One other quote from the article stuck out to me - it flashed like a blinking red light.  "Last year, the boy lost weight but in recent months began to gain it back rapidly." 

It sounds to me like the foster child from Cleveland - like the scientific study suggests - has his appetite hormones out of whack after a weight loss.  It's hard for me to control myself in this situation as an adult.  How much harder would it be for an eight-year-old?  Without his parents?  Without his friends, in a new school, with life upside-down?  I know how my eight-year-old self would have handled it. Hell, I know how my twenty-eight-year-old self would have handled it.  I'd eat.

Is it sad that an eight-year-old is over 200 pounds, and suffers from sleep apnea?  Certainly.  Does it need to be addressed?  Yes.  Are the parents responsible?  Absolutely, to the extent that they are able to control their son.

But does the child need to be removed from their custody?  I'd say no.

While he's in danger for future comorbidities from obesity, he only has apnea, and has been treated for it.  While a parent can encourage and schedule healthy eating and exercise, there is nothing they can do to stop their child from, say, buying crap at school.  Stopping at a convenience store on the way home.  Swapping their healthy apple for processed junk from friends.  I cite these three examples because they are, in fact, things I did as an overweight child.  I remember that our cafeterias had some good salads... but candy, sugary sodas and fresh-baked cookies (3 for a dollar!) were sold at our high school store. Other kids didn't have a problem resisting them... but I did.  I know there were others like me, too. 

So, what can we do?  How can we help this generation of children get healthy, and stay healthy?

For starters, while this branch of the government is removing obese children from their parents, other branches are approving french fries and pizza as vegetables.  (Not even veggie pizza, people.  Any pizza with tomato paste - a tiny fraction of what goes into a pizza's calories.)  It's Regan and ketchup all over again.  Nobody's banning food advertisements.  How many late-night tacos were born of TV commercial taunting?  Who, as a kid, didn't want to go to McDonald's to get the latest toy?  Why are we still allowing it to happen?

The answers lie even beyond the ridiculousness of school cafeterias food and marketing.  But they're not easily addressed.

It would help if there wasn't such a stigma attached to being overweight.  Shame is often a chief reason for overeating - a vicious circle I was trapped in for years.

It would help if there wasn't such a stigma around therapy.  Everyone can use guidance.  Nobody is "normal."  And it's the very thing that helped me begin to address my health.

It would help if sports - especially competitive sports - weren't jammed down every kid's throat.  I have no hand-eye coordination.  I wasn't strong.  And I was scared of every ball ever thrown at me in gym class.  I was never taught to kick the kickball.  I was tossed aside on the no-cut basketball team.  And I was forever losing every race.  The lack of positive reinforcement from teachers taught me to hate gym class.  The negative taunting from my classmates taught me to fear exercise.  So, for a long time, I didn't do it.  I didn't realize that the dancing I loved as a kid could be good exercise as an adult.  I didn't know that the swimming that made me so happy on vacation could make my every pool workout feel like a vacation.  Not every kid is a softball star... and not every kid wants to be.  Maybe parents (maybe even schools) should consider an activity program for those kids who are averse to sports.

It would help if parents who struggled with disordered eating would do everything they could to address their own habits before passing them along to their children.  And that, my friends, is what I'm doing right now.

To the kiddo from Cleveland:  I hope you find your way back to your family, and that they can be a united team to help support you.  And I hope that they, along with the others around you, can help you to learn to take good care of yourself.

And everybody reading this:  I hope that you're taking good care of you, too. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week in a day.

Between vacation recovery, freelance work and... I dunno, sometimes I feel kind of hermit-y... I didn't blog at all last week.  But it's never too late to do anything. So, I present:


Media Monday:
Countdown to the Muppets is hitting single-digits.

Is anyone else tired of Fake Amy Sedaris as the spokesperson holiday-shopper for Target? (I'd never be sick of Real Amy Sedaris.)

I'm not embarrassed to say that I looked forward to Twilight. Not because I particularly like the series, but because Tom and I enjoy a good ironic watching... plus, it's our tradition to watch the fans freak out. 

Weigh-in Tuesday: 
I was down 2 pounds last week.  Between very good exercising and cooking for myself, I have felt like taking care of myself.  But after the weigh-in, the week felt like a harder fight.  More on that soon.  In other news, I just read another weight loss blogger comment upon her "before" pictures.  She called herself disgusting.  I'd like to say to my before pictures: thanks, baby.  You are strong, and you're starting out on a journey that is neither easy nor short-term.  And you don't deserve any negative self-talk, any more than I do.  (We are actually the same person.)

Adventure Wednesday:
Had a wonderful time celebrating my anniversary with Tom.  He took me to dinner at The Little Door.  The space was beautifully designed, the food was creatively cooked, and the celebrity-spotting was amusing, what with Ricky Schroeder (yes, Silver Spoons Ricky Schroeder) seated around the corner from us at the bar as we awaited our table.  Our weekend writing retreat was fun and productive, and the plot is really taking shape.

Themeless Thursday:
I finally caught the weight loss documentary, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead.  I'd been putting it off, because I was a little nervous that the film - which advocates juice fasting - would convince me that I should try to lose my weight rapidly, as do the subjects of the film. 

As it turns out, it didn't convince me of that, because my own convictions and experiences with weight loss and motivation were strong enough to feel secure in my own path.  I think the juice fast might be very helpful to 'reset' the palates of people who eat a lot of junk food and very little produce.  I, however, eat a lot of produce, and have not eaten junk food in... wow, I just realized.  In a week, it'll be 11 MONTHS since I've had fast food.  And I don't purchase processed junk food, and try to limit processed non-junk food. 

The side effects of rapid weight loss - like mental disconnection and hair loss, both of which I've already experienced at my relatively slow pace - makes me think that if I tried to lose weight any faster, I'd make myself incredibly sick.  So my goal is to continue on the path I've already plotted out... but with the possible addition of a home juicer, so I can add some additional veggie nutrients to my daily intake.  I really do enjoy it, and my body seems to respond well, too.

I don't own a machine yet, but I do pick up the occasional serving of freshly-pressed
veggie juice as a treat.  Isn't my carrot-ginger juice vivid and pretty?

Fashion Friday
I tried my AdoraOm outfit in action for the first time, while working out at Slimmons.  The pants were possibly the most comfortable ones I've ever worn while active.  I'd never had flat-seamed exercise pants before, and I was doubtful that it would really make a difference.  IT DID.  (I do wish the rise on the pants would be a little higher, but that's not a deal-breaker.)  The shirt was very cute and I got plenty of compliments on it.  The only down-side was that it would ride up a little when I lifted my arms, but I know they company has been very active at soliciting feedback, and I'm sure that it'll only get better from there.  Considering how great I felt after the workout - how well it cooled, supported, and wicked away sweat - anything else is gravy!

Here I am, in my AdoraOm outfit, accessorized with Richard in a tutu.

OK.  I feel better for having blogged.  How are you feeling?  Are you taking care of you?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fashion Friday: one skirt, two ways!

Happy Friday!  And it's a particularly happy Friday for me.  It's the seventh anniversary of my first date with Tom.  

Last night, in the elevator on the way up to our condo, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat.  I asked him what tickled him so, and he let on that he'd gotten "a little something" for me, to celebrate.  Oh, no!  I hadn't gotten him anything, but he assured me that it was really for both of us.  When we got to our door, the package was waiting for him.  "That was fast," I said.  "Depends how you look at it," he replied.

Turns out that it was a "little something" - a zip drive.  He secretly went to our wedding photographer - the amazing Kat Foley - and purchased the digital rights to all of our wedding photographs.  We've been married four and a half years, and we never managed to squeak it in the budget.  I was so surprised!  Bowled over.  I'll share more later, but for now, here's one to tide you over:

Look ma, no hands!  (Otherwise known as the most dangerous photo I've ever been in.)


Today's Fashion Friday post will have to be quick -- tonight Tom's taking me to a surprise dinner (he won't say where) and then tomorrow morning, we take off for an all-weekend writing retreat together! 


I'm in love with a skirt.

I'm always on the lookout for full, swingy skirts -- they are my favorite.  And I'd been wanting to add a chambray piece to my wardrobe this fall.  Chambray always looks so smart, and is so versatile.  So when I saw this swingy chambray number at eShakti, I pounced.

Still available, from size 0 to 26, at eShakti.

I can't stop wearing it, so I thought I'd show you two different outfits I've built around it.

This one, which I wore during the Reagan Library outing, was warm & comfy.
Sweater via Nordstrom Rack
Tank top by JM, via Macy's
Scarf via Nordstrom Rack
Belt via OneStopPlus
Leggings by Lane Bryant
Boots by Comfortview

Alternate view, plus Kate Spade purse, plus friends


The second version on the outfit comes with a bonus hat!  Our awesome friend Samantha had a hat party for her birthday, and we all wore our best chapeaus for the occasion.

Sweater by Jessica London
Blouse by Lane Bryant
Hat is vintage, via Junk For Joy in Burbank
Bracelet is vintage, via Dazzles in Palm Springs
Friends are gorgeous, and priceless.

I thought I oughta show you Tom's duds for the day, too - since he cleans up so well.
That's his best fedora, and his grandfather's vintage jacket.


That Tom.  After being so thoughtful and setting up our romantic/creative weekend, he even got mooshy on Facebook.

Honestly.  I'm every bit head-over-heels as I tumbled on this day, seven years ago.

Please take care of you this weekend - and take care of your loved ones, too!  I'm off to take smother mine with kisses.  Mwah, mwah, mwah!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On a roll... and in the kitchen with Salmon Rolls

I cannot begin to tell you how much better I am feeling this week.  I don't fully understand it... the previous several weeks were filled with fatigue, depression, and the less-than-helpful choices that come with fatigue and depression.  I was skipping exercise classes.  I was adding to my portion size.  And I was feeling downright crappy.  I could hardly talk about it - even when I tried.

But I tried to put tiny actions into place... good, healthy ways of self-care.  Solid rest.  Menu-planning.  Healthy snacks in moderation.  Between all of that and the breathing revelation at therapy last week, things just seemed to come together.  Mindful eating, regular exercise, writing, blogging, chores...  I'm on a roll.

A salmon roll, you might say.  Well, maybe I'm not on a salmon roll, but I'm totally eating a salmon roll snack, a few times a week.  I started at the beginning of October, as a way to tuck a little extra protein and veg into my weekend in Palm Springs.  It's simple, quick and tasty, and I liked it so much that I've added it to my repertoire.

All it takes is a little smoked salmon, Laughing Cow Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil, and some fresh crunchy veg.


Lay out an ounce of the salmon, and open up one wedge of the cheese.


Spread a half of one wedge onto the salmon.

Lay one or two strips of crunchy veg at the far end of the fish.


Roll it carefully toward you.


Wha-la!  You can either eat it as a hand-roll...


...or use a serrated knife to carefully slice it like a roulade.  Some of your pieces will be very pretty.

Some of your pieces may be pretty ugly.


No matter, it's all ending up in the same place!  And it's tasty.  The tomato Laughing Cow reminds me of the sun-dried tomato cream cheese at Noah's Bagels (if you're on the west coast, or Einstein Bros. if you're elsewhere.)  And it's such a quick fix that it makes the perfect pick-me-up in the afternoon.

What is your favorite pick-me-up?  And are you taking care of you?  I hope so!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Adventure Wednesday at Reagan Library

Before I start, I just want to thank all of you for your support and outreach after yesterday's post.  I have been struggling, but this week has been leaps and bounds better.  More on that in an upcoming post, because today is Wednesday, and it's time for some Adventure!

I don't really talk politics on this blog.  It's not that I don't think about politics (though when I was younger, it was more of a focus.)  But politics is a fraught topic, and this blog is about the joy of living healthfully and creatively.  They go together like peanut butter and liverwurst.  (Except if you're my brother, who actually likes that.)

For the record - though you probably already know - I'm progressive/liberal with a basic belief that we shouldn't adhere to just one school of thought (capitalism, socialism, et al) because they keep each other in check.  Plenty of my friends and family members are conservative, and that suits me just fine, because, again, we keep each other in check.  In general, one really must consider perspective.

Take, for instance, my pal Erik.   Among our group of cohorts, he's one of the more conservative.  In another group of his friends, he's the hippie-dippy liberal.  So I found it apt and amusing that he took all of us - those to the left and those to the right of him - to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for his birthday.

We tend toward the rollicking when we're out and about, so I tried to be on my best behavior and keep the inappropriate jokes inside my head (or save them for targets who'd find them amusing) while visiting the museum that pays tribute to the 40th President of the United States: The Gipper.

Photo taken by my friend Audra

I'll admit, it was a little challenging to do that during the first multimedia presentation.  It was very much like a movie trailer.  They even said something like, "one man braved the challenges..."  One of our friends cracked, in a Don LaFontaine voice, "IN A WORLD..."

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  We met up in the front garden of the grounds, just past the entrance.  I'd never been to Simi Valley, and I didn't realize how beautiful the view from the library would be.

Vista from the meeting place.


It was nice to see a piece of the Berlin wall, which was donated to the museum.  Talk about symbolic contrast... the other side was totally bare except for the letter "E" (we presume for "East.")

Photo by Audra.

We started off with a little lunch at Reagan's Country, the cafe inside the library.  There was a nice range of options, including a barbecue chicken salad (with dressing on the side) which I enjoyed alongside a diet Snapple tea.

I don't know why my leg is pointed, but I like that we can see my cool kicks.
More on my outfit this Fashion Friday.
By the way, this, and the rest of these photos, were taken by Tom.

I spotted Reagan's favorite food quirk - jelly beans - for sale, and I couldn't resist picking up a bag for the group.  (There were jars of jellybeans tucked around the museum, and for sale in the gift shop as well.) You'll see them on the table in the photo below.

The birthday boy enjoys his lunch.  And some jellybeans.


I don't know what Audra is gesticulating about, but check out that VIEW!

The museum included a mix of Reagan's personal and political history, plus some general presidential-type fun, like a chance to stand at a podium and experience the phenomenon of teleprompting.  Did you know that teleprompters are basically a version of Pepper's Ghost, my favorite old-timey theatrical trick (and the technology behind the Haunted Mansion?) 

I take my podium seriously.


There were several interactive displays.  Our group got high marks on the etiquette quiz, and were very confused by the lack of explained consequences of our "break through regulations" game, in which we used a slingshot to break up things like business monopolies.  (We had video of it, but alas, it has been lost in the ether.)

 We also took a stroll through a recreation of the Reagan Oval Office.  Did you know that they redesigned it in unusual rust/coral color scheme to remind them of their southwestern ranch home?

Everything's a reproduction but the chair. The docent said after his presidency,
Reagan enjoyed coming to the library and sitting in his old chair.
Guests would commend them on their excellent Reagan impersonator.


The star of the exhibit, for me, was the decomissioned Air Force One, which we were able to walk through (but not photograph.)  We did get some fun shots of the outside (and some people purchased the souvenir photograph they took of us at the gate.  I'll post that in an update, later.)

The gang, admiring the tail.


Tom - in a bowling shirt that would come in handy later - looking dapper in front of the 27000.

My favorite of the batch - let's call it "View Beneath the Wing."

How often do you get to stand this close to the bottom of an airplane?
Let alone a presidential one.

From here, our camera battery gave up the ghost, so we missed photographing wonderous things like the very 1980s orange sherbet push-up pop I purchased in the Reagan "pub," plus  Nancy Reagan's Second-hand Rose outfit, and the official Just Say No Board Game (still available on eBay, people!)

Thus, we missed out on photos of our dinner at a local pizza restaurant (which had the nicest salad bar I've seen at a non-salad-bar-centric restaurant - they even had jicama!) or our post-dinner bowling... at an alley that looked very much like the one in my hometown.  One forgets just how much exercise one can get while bowling.  Especially when you're speed-bowling, which is the new sport we just invented.  (I think we invented it, anyway.)

Our time with friends was very refreshing... but I have to admit, that much time in a museum honoring a conservative president made my liberal brain feel a tad itchy.  Tom's too.  Partway through the museum, he whispered to me, "Can we do something really liberal when we're done here?"  We pondered through an amusing array of options, but finally decided that the best thing to do would be to donate to Obama's campaign.  So we did.

All right!  I think I've fulfilled my politics quota for... ever.  A big thanks to Erik for organizing our fun day with the Gipper, and to all our friends, who are awesome and amusing and supportive and fun.

And to you.  I hope you're taking good care of you.  I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about some of the ways I've been doing it this week.  'Til then!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I stopped breathing.

Last week in therapy, I stopped breathing.

I didn't even realize it.

We were talking about why I think I'm stuck here at 300 (yes, I'm back to 300.  Making it only 66 pounds lost this year.)  We were going over the things that happened when I first hit this weight.


It was 2001.  I had just graduated from college.  The end of most people's higher education seems to take the shape of soaring crescendo.  Mine looked like that pathetic "waaah-waaaaah" of a trumpet that signals ineptitude on a game show.  It started looking pretty shaky when my heart was broken (and I mean smashed - and I mean, for years) around semester break, but I pushed through to March for my senior thesis, directing a one-act play by Madeleine George called The Most Massive Woman Wins.  The four wonderful ladies in the cast kept me going, along with my roommate, tech director and all-around best friend, Matt.

But when that was over... well, what did I have left?  No more theater.  No love interest in my life.  No clue what to do after school ended.  And according to my senior audit, I had two more semesters of school left.  Turns out when you're in two different colleges within one big university, they sometimes require 50 extra credits of you, even when you've otherwise fulfilled all of your degree requirements.

There was no final internship or real-world job-search for me after "walking" in my cap and gown.  Instead, I spent the spring and summer in Ann Arbor.  Other than the first and only math of my college career (an advanced statistics class which my adviser mistook for an introductory class) I decided to take a full slate of film classes, because that's what sounded compelling.  (On the up-side, 50 credits of it-doesn't-matter-what-you take did point me in the right direction for my career and eventual move to Los Angeles.)

On my way into that very last final - the inappropriately non-introductory stats - I prayed to any deity that would listen: LET ME OUT OF HERE.  I wanted to get to California immediately, but I had no money.  So after I passed stats-for-not-beginners, I did what haunts the dreams of all college graduates... I moved back in with my parents.

I love my parents.  You know I love my parents.  My parents know I love my parents.  They are terrific people.  They helped me save up money to get a car and a down payment on an apartment, and even loaned me a little extra in case the temp jobs didn't kick in right away.  Despite my mom's ill health and my quest for a career in an industry that's breakneckingly competitive at best, they even encouraged me to follow my dreams.  My dad even drove with me across country with a truck full of my belongings, toward a city thousands of miles away where no job, family, friends or even apartment awaited.   They are/were GREAT PARENTS.

But if you put a 22-year-old, who has lived on her own for four years, back in her parents' house... everybody's in for quite a shock.  Those eight months in Midland were possibly some of my darkest.  I temped as an office assistant at the Company Town's company from 8 to 5, and then I sequestered myself into my childhood bedroom between the hours of 6 and 8 to watch the first syndicated showings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on a tiny TV.  Around 8, depending on the day, I might or might not have staggered bleary-eyed into the living room.  Or kitchen.  Definitely the kitchen. 

I was lonely.  For my friends.  For Ann Arbor, and all its Culture and its cultures, and everything it represented.  For freakin' sushi.  (Oh, timing -- Midland didn't open its first Japanese restaurant until six months after I moved to LA.)  I was lonely for my freedom.

Wonderful though my parents were, being back in their home meant being back under their rules.  There was a curfew.  There was no heading out to a bar alone, which wasn't my style anyway, but I was desperate for some socializing.  My one close friend in the area was a bride-to-be/on her honeymoon/a newlywed, and though she was lovely and kind, there's only so much wedded bliss a single bridesmaid can take.  Except for Willow and Xander - and they were fictional - I felt very, very alone.  (Side note: little did I know that my future husband felt the exact same way at the exact same time.)

So I ate.  And I ate.  I ate at the first hint of heartbreak in my senior year, ordering the first of many 2 AM deliveries of Pizza House pepperoni breadsticks and milkshakes with my roommate.  I ate during my thesis - a play set in a liposuction clinic - having baked Valentine's cupcakes for no Valentine in particular.  I ate when we found the Girl Scouts special edition Samoa ice cream. ("Please, sir, I want Samoa," we joked.) I ate sushi when I left the Ann Arbor for the last time.  I really ate in Midland.  Fast food.  Slow food.  My parents' food.  My own stash.  Sometimes all in the same night.  Brazenly, not caring who saw me.  Secretly, not wanting to share.  Not wanting to be judged.  I ate.


I was finishing this thought when my therapist interrupted me.  "I'm sorry, but I really have to ask you to breathe."


I had been expressing all of that pent-up sadness -- and anger, my therapist tells me -- and I had no idea that I'd been hyperventilating the whole time.  I took a breath.  I tried to make it a deep one.  It seemed impossible.


Since my therapy session last week, the concept keeps popping up again and again in my brain.

In my life, I have gained so much weight that I now cannot breathe at night without the help of a machine.

When I binged, I binged until I could hardly breathe.  And I certainly couldn't move well without breathing well.

When I exercise, I exhale.  I breathe out emotional smoke - from the embers of suppressed anger, into which I can so rarely tap.

To fully take care of myself, I must leave enough room to breathe.  In my stomach.  In my schedule.  In my heart.

Today, I will do that by posting on this blog - because holding my words back here is holding me back.  I will do that by planning my food, preparing my food, and eating my food mindfully.  I will do that by sweating at Slimmons, focusing each breath to release of whatever it is inside of me, blocking my progress.

I hope you'll take care of you today.  And I hope you'll breathe.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Supper Club Potluck: Halloween Edition

Have you been to one of my Supper Clubs?  If you haven't - or if you haven't read about them on here - I explain them in my FAQ section.  Basically, it's a dinner party with friends, which I plan and create... and I always keep the entire meal below 600 calories per serving.

So far, the fare at Supper Club 600 has been a product of my own test kitchen (with or sans Tom, depending on how busy his job is during planning phase.)  It's been great for me because I don't do well when I'm bored, and a regularly-scheduled bimonthly Supper Club keeps me in forward motion, learning new skills in the kitchen, and always trying new things.

But due to some unusual scheduling, I did four consecutive months of SC600, and it exhausted me to the point that I knew if I didn't take a break, I would get burned out on a fun project that has challenged me and fulfilled me in such important ways.

When friends requested a Halloween-themed SC600, I was sad to turn them down.  Halloween is perhaps my favorite holiday of the year!  But I couldn't shake the idea that I really wanted to see my usual SC crew, all costumed to the nines.  So when my usual SC photographer, Rochelle, offered her home up, I didn't turn her down... exactly.  I turned it into a Supper Club Potluck!  That way I would get to enjoy the day with everyone, but I wouldn't have to do all of the usual legwork it takes me to test and create recipes, plan a menu, do all of the graphic design, organize the decor, buy all the groceries, and spend a couple of days cooking for a big group.

So we sent out our invitations, and on Saturday night, we gathered at Rochelle's home to eat, drink and be spooky.  I had such a blast!

I went as Medusa, thanks to a dress by Kische that I found on crazy sale at Nordstrom Rack.   I wasn't able to find a wig or headdress I liked, so I found a Medusa Crown tutorial online.  Using Sculpy clay and nail polish, I built my own crown.  I also used a Medusa makeup tutorial... you can't make it out in the photos, but I made a sparkly snakeskin pattern by using fishnet leggings!

Look, I'm turning you to stone!

Tom went as a meta/deconstructed duck-billed platypus.
This is the most excited I've seen him about a Halloween costume.
Yes, that is a velour track suit.  He ordered it for the occasion.

With my co-hostess, Rochelle the Black Swan.

For our contribution to the potluck, I brought the low-cal pumpkin dip I blogged about last week, and Tom made our signature Barbecue Jackfruit sandwiches.  I also made punch, and I really liked the recipe I came up with -- it will appear on Finishing the Hat sometime soon.

Our guests also brought some scrumptious dishes to share.

Some of which included baked enchiladas, corn bread, roasted root veggies, bruschetta, and queso.
There were also some dessert treats, not pictured.

My favorite contribution was from Lindsay - her peanut butter/apple/marshmallow mouths. SO CUTE!

Rochelle and I had a blast decorating.  We pooled our respective Halloween notions, and put together a couple of fun displays.

Probably my favorite corner - Spanish moss with pumpkins, pumpkin vines,
and the raven that once sat on my father's shoulder for his Edgar Allan Poe costume.


My "Black Hat Society" tin sign at the spiderwebby entrance.


Spiders and a spiderweb runner


Last but not least, my complete Simpsons Treehouse of Horror collection.
I was down in the dumps the year Burger King released these toys,
and my parents cheered me up by helping me collect of of them. 
I'm lucky they didn't release them this year... because I haven't eaten fast food in 10 MONTHS!

Our guests had such awesome costumes!

Swine Flu, Pig-in-a-Blanket, Beer Frau, Megan from Bridesmaids,
Medusa & Black Swan.

Patty's costume may have been my favorite from that night - every last detail from her Melissa McCarthy/Bridesmaids costume was spot-on.

Do you want a piece of this?

David wrote about his Jared from Subway costume on his blog, Keep It Up David.

Our gloved duo, Steampunk Big Bad Wolf, and Edward Scissorhands

Steampunk Big Bad Wolf was a part of a costume quartet of steampunk fairy tale characters, which was definitely my favorite group costume of the night.  We didn't get a great picture of all four of them together, so I'm sharing one they took.

Steampunk Red Riding Hood, Big Bad Wolf, Mad Hatter and Goldilocks.
Their little costume details were AMAZING.

Sonic the Hedgehog, Wario and Chum-Chum (which is especially cute because
her boyfriend was a storyboard artist for Fanboy and Chum-Chum!)

Our friends above are holding our trick-or-treat goodie bags, which Rochelle and I put together for our guests - including some Skinny Cow candy, some sugar-free Extra Dessert Delights gum, and a bunch of Halloween toys and trinkets to help everybody embrace their inner kiddo.

It was a wonderful night shared with terrific friends - and I'm so glad I took Rochelle up on her offer to co-host!  A big thanks to her, and to all of our guests, for such a fun night.

Now we're already into Thanksgiving season.  Does everybody have somewhere to be on Thanksgiving?  Anybody need a loving home?  I'm not doing an official Supper Club for the holiday, but I'm definitely cooking.  :)