Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weigh-in Tuesday with a clean kitchen

Remember last week's weigh-in?  When I was honest about having a rough go, and weighing in 3 pounds heavier?

Well, for the last week, I may have been super busy (and not always on my regular blog schedule)... but I've also been working super hard on taking care of myself.  I've eaten carefully, and tracked my food every day.  And I exercised a LOT.

  • 60 minutes on Wednesday at the YMCA pool
  • 90 minutes at Slimmons on Thursday
  • 8 hours walking around (and standing in line) at Disneyland on Friday
  • 90 minutes at Slimmons on Saturday
  • nothing aside from walking a the Farmer's Market on Sunday
  • 60 minutes on Monday at the YMCA pool
  • and it'll be another 90 minutes at Slimmons tonight

I felt emotional from time to time, but I didn't eat emotionally.

And as a result... when I weighed in this morning, I was 4.5 pounds down.  The scale said...


Seriously. I have a digital scale with tenths and it was exactly 300.0.  I even tried to pee more to see if it would go below, but alas, it did not.

Alas? What is "alas" about it? I'm at my lowest weight in years!  I am very close to saying goodbye to 300 forever.

I learned one thing this week that I'm surprised I didn't realize before... one weird thing that, when it's in place, always spurs me on:

Being healthy is easier when your kitchen is clean.

Last week, during the days I was struggling the most, my kitchen was a mess.  Piles of dishes, sloppy floor, unorganized fridge... the last place I wanted to be was the kitchen.  And Wednesday morning, after I cleaned it, the balanced eating was suddenly so much easier.  So I'm making a concerted effort to keep the kitchen clean, so there's nothing - no mess, no leftovers, no nothing - to make me want to hide from the kitchen.  I do best when I'm making all my meals, and now I know that I can't just stop there!

All right.  I'm off to keep kicking ass, so that hopefully next week I can finally say I weigh less than 300 pounds.  And you? No matter where you are, and no matter how we know each other or how close we are... I hope you'll keep taking care of you.  You deserve it.

Fashion Friday at the Drive-In!

Ach, I'm running behind again!  It's Tuesday... and although I missed posting on Fashion Friday, I wanted to conclude with the third part of my B-Movie BBQ series. (Have you seen Part I and Part II yet?)

Here's what I wore to the latest Supper Club 600:

The wind did terrible things to my hair!
Retro camp shirt by Torrid
Black jersey dress by Target
Blown-glass cherry earrings by Anthropologie
Bakelite cherry necklace by
Bat bracelet by Lisa at Inspired Adornments

I was excited to finally wear the camp shirt for the first time.  I bought it online years ago, but it was one of those terribly mis-sized pieces, and fit nothing like the other shirts by the company.  I finally fit into it perfectly, except for the sleeves, which were cinched in far too small for the size.  (It seemed like they hadn't used a fit model.)  My mother-in-law (our tireless volunteer tailor) snipped the sleeves' bands, they were almost too big! 

The shirt has such cute little details - the cheesecake print, the star buttons, and especially the monogram, which is "LS" for the designer, "Lip Service."  In certain online circles I'm actually known as "LS," so it felt like it was made especially for me.

An up-side of inviting creative friends to parties is that occasionally, those creative friends will bring a creative surprise for you.  In this case, my jewelry-designing friend Lisa brought me a horror-themed bracelet for the occasion, since she knew I had themed the event around B-movie horror.  It's adorable, and it's going to get a heck of a lot of use, especially around the Halloween season.  There's a brass plate on the back which is embossed with the word "spooky" - spooky like an abandoned drive-in lot...

OK, maybe an abandoned drive-in lot is not that spooky when I'm smiling.
Tom looked pretty Friday-Fashionable himself, in his retro shirt by Vintage Silk.
(I swear to you, we did not plan our outfits together.)

I'll be back later today with a weigh-in post for Tuesday... and I'm hoping to get back to my regular post schedule starting tomorrow.  Take care of you!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Barbecue Part Two: Recipe Boogaloo

Yesterday I shared my Supper Club 600 adventure at the Drive-In, and as promised, today I'll be sharing the recipes for all of the dishes we made.  (Well, all but the barbecue jackfruit, which I've already shared.)

Curried Chickpea Salad

An excellent source of protein!

We fell in love with this salad at Joan's on Third, our favorite place in Los Angeles to pick up a picnic-to-go.  Whenever we wanted it, we'd have to trek over to Beverly Hills... until The Times was so kind to print the recipe!

As with any recipe, Tom and I tweaked it to lower the calories... and I'm a wuss when it comes to spice, so we removed the heat.  Here's our variation on Joan's chickpeas:

  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 30 ounces of chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Pam
  • Water
  • Salt

Saute the onion in Pam over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the turmeric, cumin, and coriander. Stir regularly for about 3 minutes.  It will develop into a kind of spice "paste."

Drain the chickpeas, then add to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice along with a little water, to thin the paste.
Remove from heat and season with the cilantro, the rest of the lemon juice, and salt to taste.

Broccoli Slaw

Light and crunchy!

Tom got this recipe from "Big Daddy's House," starring Aaron McCargo Jr, the winner of Next Food Network Star a few years ago.  It's a lot spicer as Aaron makes it - and it includes oil that, in our opinion, weighs the slaw down unnecessarily.  Here's our twist on Aaron's recipe:

  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cups shredded broccoli slaw (we buy ours at Trader Joe's.)
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Soak the slices of onion for a few minutes, which will make it slightly milder.  Then drain, and combine with the carrots and broccoli slaw. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, add the vinegar, lime zest, lime juice, salt, sugar, and the black pepper. Bring to a light boil over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Add the mixture to the vegetables, and toss to combine.

 Blue Cheese Aioli

We served ours with crunchy veggie crudite.

I'm proud to say that I came up with this recipe myself!  I'd heard about combining sour cream with mayo to make aioli, but when I had discovered two perfect low-calorie ingredients, I knew that putting them together would make for amazing flavor and texture.  And I was right!  You can try other replacement ingredients, but if at all possible, I highly recommend these specific ones:

  • 1/2 cup Trader Joe's Fat Free Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup Light Vegenaise (available at Whole Foods)
  • 2 oz blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Stir it together, and that's it.  For some real foodie fireworks, bake some sweet potato fries and have at.

There are a couple of other recipes I can share with you... but they're hiding inside the movie snack sampler bags!

The spoils of Supper Club 600!

Every guest at the Drive-In received a sampler with two kinds of popcorn, some fresh market cherries, and a mini-serving of dark chocolate pomegranate "raisinettes."  (We did not make the "raisinettes" ourselves. They're available at Trader Joe's as Dark Chocolate Dried Pomegranate.  They're great, but be wary of portion size.  They list it at 1/4 cup for 200 calories - a third of our evening's calories! - so we gave our guests less than half of the recommended serving.)

We made the popcorn ourselves, with just a tiny bit of oil in the popper.  From there, we sprayed it with a little butter-flavored Pam and transferred it to a large bag (not packed - with plenty of room.)  Add the flavor mixtures and shake to coat!  Here is the ratio information for our mixtures, per cup of popcorn.

1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt

1/4 tsp taco seasoning (with salt but without MSG)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder

Tom - who is a veritable popcorn fiend - liked the flavored popcorn enough that he's considering bringing some to a movie theater in the future.  (Movie theater popcorn is possibly his greatest vice, and he's cut way, way down.)

That's everything!  But don't forget to come back tomorrow for the sequel... ATTACK OF THE DRIVE-IN FASHION!  'Til then, take care of you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Supper Club 600: B-Movie BBQ at the Drive-In!

I am so happy to be writing this blog entry.  You have no idea.  I've been preparing for it for weeks!

Every so often, my Adventure Wednesday post is extra-special to me, because the adventure of the week is a gathering of friends and loved ones for a celebration of my journey.  A celebration of food and health and joy... which IS POSSIBLE.  You can combine food and health and joy.  And that is why we started Supper Club 600, a dinner party series where we teach - by example -  that you can eat healthfully and still take great delight in being a foodie.  Each SC600 meal clocks in at less than 600 calories. And each time, it's themed for maximum party pleasure.

This time it was a barbecue.  At a drive-in.  With B movies.  And it was a blast.

Tom and I have been perfecting the menu over time, starting with the jackfruit itself.  I've already shared the recipe, but for those of you who missed it, the short story of jackfruit is: it's canned, it's unripened, it shreds like pulled pork, and it's delicious.  We first served it at another SC600 BBQ gathering, but I managed not to take a single photo of that party, so we decided to throw another one!

This time, we knew we needed to make everything simple so that we could prepare it in advance and deliver it to the Mission Tiki Drive-In, where we gathered for the occasion.  Here's our menu for the evening:

I lifted the illustration from an old B-movie poster I found while gathering inspiration for the party.

I stumbled upon the theme idea after Googling "movie fabric," on the hunt for some sort of textiles I could use to decorate.  I happened upon some amazing monster movie fabric by Robert Kaufman, and I thought... of course!  B-movies are notorious at Drive-In theaters, and it was just the perfect element to tie everything together.  Kaufman's fabric had gone out of print, but I was lucky to snag just enough on eBay, so my crafty mother-in-law Jean whipped it into table runners.  And a theme was born.

Here's the Kaufman fabric runner, plus one of our centerpieces - white hydrangea "popcorn."


It was the THEME THAT WOULD NOT DIE.  I ended up making personalized bags for the movie snack sampler, using an array of B-movie posters I'd found online.

Mmm.  Black Lagoonlicious!
Photo courtesy of Rochelle

We even used thematic serving forks - as modeled by our new friend David.
I got these beauties at Target during Halloween season two years ago.
Photo by Rochelle

Enough with the theme.  Let's get to the party!

We set up our table before the Drive-In opened for the night - and once other guests
arrived, there was much staring.  We could read their minds. "What the hell?"


Our dinner spread.
Photo by Rochelle

We offered chilled zero-calorie beverages, including still water, "fuzzy" water (as it's known in my circles)
and a selection of diet sodas from the awesome Rocket Fizz in Burbank.
Photo by Rochelle

Among them, Jones Zilch Pomegranate... plus Old Philadelphia Creme Soda,
Avery's Orange, Virgil's Black Cherry, Root Beer, Cola and Dr. Better.
Man, I love that "Children of the Damned" poster.
Photo by Rochelle
Every single one of our lovely guests arrived early
to help set up, and soon we were ready to dig in.
Photo OF Rochelle! (And David.)

Possibly our proudest moment was hearing raves about the jackfruit from a friend of ours who is a firm non-vegetarian.

The awesome Patty is about to try jackfruit for the first time!


A bird's eye view of dinner.
Photo by Rochelle

Time flew past, and suddenly the sun was setting on the beautiful Southern California evening.

But at a Drive-In, that means the party's just starting.  Our gang grabbed their treat bags and split off into three different movie doubleheaders: B-movie horror (Fright Night & Final Destination), B-movie remakes (Conan & Planet of the Apes) and comedy (30 Minutes or Less & The Change-Up.) 

Regardless of movie quality, everyone seemed to really enjoy their Drive-In adventure.  Goodness knows I did.  Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, to Frank and the team at Mission Tiki, who made this possible; to Tom, who keeps me grounded and pops excellent popcorn; to our amazing guests.  No amount of cooking or planning really makes a party great.  It's the guests who do that.

Hungry for more about the Drive-In?  You're in luck! I'll be back tomorrow with RETURN OF THE DRIVE-IN... a close-up on the recipes from this edition of Supper Club 600, and a peek inside those little treat bags.  And if that's not enough... come back for Fashion Friday: IT CAME... FROM THE DRIVE-IN! That's right, it's a B-Movie BBQ trilogy.

'Til then, I'm working hard on taking care of me.  And I hope you'll take care of you, too.

Weigh-in Tuesday thoughts on honesty

I'm still behind. And I want to get this post out of the way because I have a post that I'm genuinely excited about to write today.  This post... I don't want to write it.  But I'm going to write it.  Because one of the most important parts of my journey to better health can be described with one VERY important word:


Without honesty, I might still be secretly eating.

Without honesty, I don't have to remind myself where I've been, where I want to go, and where I am on that path.

Without honesty, I could be choosing to subconsciously punish my mistakes with more mistakes.

Without honesty, others who are on their own journeys would get a flawed picture of what it's like for me to be on mine.

Without honesty, I would break the trust between myself and my loved ones.  Myself and my readers.  Myself and MYSELF.

Without honesty, I could continue on a path of not taking care of myself, because I'd be duping myself - and others - that I was.

But you know what?  I don't WANT to be on a path of not taking care of myself.

Let's get rid of the double-negatives in that sentence.


And nothing... no stress, no projects, no passion, no work, no people, no emotion, no NOTHING... is going to get in the way of taking care of myself.

So here is the truth.  Here is my honesty.

I work really hard to lose weight.  Really, really hard.

This week, I didn't work hard enough.  I gained 3 pounds.  I did so by letting myself get wrapped up in a project I loved, and putting that project before myself.  I did so by being mindless about food.  I did not take the time to follow my plan or get to the gym or track what I ate.  And later, I let myself get down and stressed, and leaned on my addiction to get through it.

And that's not OK.

I'm having a hard time not beating myself up about it.  But that usually leads to the whole subconsciously-punishing-mistakes-with-other-mistakes thing I wrote about above.  So, instead, I'm just being honest.  And I'm picking myself up, dusting myself off, and keeping on this life-long journey of taking care of me.  I have plans, checks-and-balances, in place to help me as I work through this.  And I know I can do this.  I am fighting for me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh my goozness, it's Friend Makin' Monday

I drafted but did not push this entry yesterday - apologies for the lapse!  Weigh-in Tuesday will follow later today.

I'm trying a new thing this Friend Makin' Monday... introducing one of my friends to you!

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a viral video that I literally watched three times in a row.  It was called "Fat Rant," and in it, a beautiful plus-sized woman took on several different characters, speaking to the camera about what it's like to be overweight, and how to treat overweight people.  It was my introduction to the Fat Acceptance movement.  And it was my introduction to Joy Nash.

Joy Nash developed and wrote the piece as a solo performance, and adapted it for video... which spread like wildfire.  Her performance was smart, insightful, and funny.  I fell in creative-crush.

A year later, I was involved with a Fat Acceptance online community and headed to a gathering of the local Fatshionistas.  (That's not my word, that's actually the name of the group.  Clever.)  When the host called me with information, I realized she was Joy.  That Joy.  Joy!  We met and became friends, and have collaborated on a few creative pieces, including her amazing performance as Roz (the second-grade school newspaper reporter) in our workshop reading of our animated kids' pilot, Bubble Gumshoe.

This year, Joy premiered her solo play, My Mobster, at the Hollywood Fringe Fest, and we had the pleasure of seeing it (both in development, and there at the Fest.)  And it is brilliant.  The Fringe Fest agrees with us: they selected her show for the "Best of Fringe," and it is playing once more, this Saturday.  Tom and I are going to go see it again, and I hope you locals will consider joining us.  She is a firecracker, and her story of a relationship with a wild, romantic possibly-mobster is both hilarious and full of beauty and life.  Just like Joy herself.  Let me know if you want to join us - you can get tickets here.

All right... I'll be back with a weigh-in tomorrow, with some really fun coming soon.  Til then, take care of you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Amigo

Today I'm burnin' around town like a tornado, getting ready for something fun (which will be appearing here next week!) 

In the meanwhile, I thought I'd share a piece of my writing with you - a memoir short story about shopping with my mother.  (Many of you have seen this before, but many of you haven't... and I kind of think it belongs here.)  Without further ado...

The Amigo
by Heidi Powers

Escapism was the chosen method of passing the hours sandwiched between
Thanksgiving and the nauseating drive back to school for the final
stretch of exam preparation.  Unpaid-bill neck tension melted away at
the sight of Dad's crinkled eyes, warm and blue and welcoming.  The
nightmarish stacks of The Modern Novels--yet unread before the
scheduled blue-book exam-- dissolved into happier dreams of dark meat
fox-trotting with butternut squash.  And the spiteful call from a
newly-engaged ex-boyfriend became eclipsed by pumpkin pecan cheesecake
and drizzly caramel sauce.  One could imagine away any number of
things while clasped in the embrace of a parent's arms, or a parent's
refrigerator, or a parent's wallet.

The wallet in question-- or its owner, my mother-- had decided that,
after we'd gorged ourselves on leftovers for the third meal that
weekend, it was time to shop.  To her, holiday break meant that she'd
have another woman readily available to navigate her wheelchair
through narrow aisles of local stores, stopping to peek at the little
treasures my speed-shopping father would never have noticed.  She'd
summoned all the energy she had after whipping up the holiday feast,
and she'd taken extra steroids to make the trip.  After she'd showered
(and rested for an hour) and pasted on enough foundation to hide the
pinpricks of petichae on her cheeks where the internal bleeding showed
through (and rested for another hour) and drew on her eyebrows, we
were ready.  I took her plump, purple-tinged arm and walked her
carefully to the Lincoln, taking breaks so she could catch her breath,
gulping the crisp air and grinning at me.

We found ourselves at a sprawling example of the warehouse store
trend: everything you need, crafted by small third-world hands at half
the price, all available under one roof.  It wasn't the kind of place
that either of us would really choose to shop for an afternoon.  But
we knew we'd only have two, maybe three good hours before exhaustion
from the low platelets would put and end to our excursion.  With an
auto-immune disease, one-stop shopping was the best you could hope

Parking-spotting, a gift with which I was not blessed, was especially
challenging in the days post-turkey mortem.  Every blue-lined spot at
the front had already been taken-- some by curiously sporty cars with
conspicuously absent disabled licenses.  We were left with a spot at
the back between two SUVs in a pissing contest over which could park
more over the line.  Leaving as much space as I could on her side, I
mashed my various chub sideways out of Dad's Silver Bullet and popped
the trunk.  The wheelchair, a worthy adversary of shopping trips past,
glinted and sneered at me.

"You know, we can always change our minds," Mom called from her seat.
"I don't want you to have to push me around."

"No worries.  I've got it."  I seized the wheel and yanked upwards,
catching the handles on the top lip of the trunk.  I grappled with the
handles and the armrests scraped the bumper.  I yanked up by the
armrests and finally the vile thing let loose-- but not before the
wheels spun out and pinched my pinkie finger.   I bit my lip and swore
silently, and took a breath to clear my head before I wedged her chair
into the space between our car and the neighboring monstrosity, so that
she'd only see a smile that said we were ready to move inside.

The doors and the mass of crowds parted as we rolled into the garish
lighting of the superstore.  A besmocked twenty-something with dead
eyes and a pasted-on grin stood watch over a line of shopping carts.
I grinned back with my own pasted-on grin.  "Happy holidays how are
you today," he monotoned.  I mumbled something back, pushing the chair
towards the awaiting aisles.

Mom jerked her hand up to stop me.  "Back up, go slower," she
murmured.  "Let's take our time."  A little confused, I rolled her
back a few inches.  "Farther," she coaxed.  Another step wasn't
enough, so I turned towards the door and, dodging an influx of
shoppers, yanked her back until she finally felt satisfied.  I looked
up to see that we were again facing the zombie greeter.  "Good
morning," Mom bubbled.  "How are you today?"

The bewildered greeter gaped at her for a moment before registering
that she was actually talking to him. "Um, I'm… OK.  How about you?"

"Happy to be out."

"Happy to be out today?" Greeter asked.

"I don't get out too much anymore."

"On a day like today, though… The crowds are rough."

"Only if you've been standing on your feet greeting for… how long have
you been here, anyway?"

He groaned.  "Since five this morning.  This isn't exactly the easiest
weekend for shopping."

"Ah, but it's the best.  My girl's home from college today."

"That's nice.  Can I help you with anything?"

"She's studying theatre.  Runs a Shakespeare company."

"Mom!  Nobody wants to hear about that."   I rolled my eyes at nobody
in particular.

Greeter smiled an actual smile at me.  "Wow, a theatre company."

"She directed Hamlet this year.  And now here she is, shuffling me
around town in this awful wheelchair."

"It's not an awful wheelchair, mom," I sighed, though I knew it was.
Greeter straightened his back and craned his neck towards the customer
service window.  I was certain the next words out of his mouth would
be "let me find somebody else who can deal with you," or perhaps "why
are you talking to me, again?"  But Greeter waved at a frizzy-haired
woman behind the counter and called out to her.

"Jodie!  Can you bring me an Amigo?"

Mom let out an audible gasp.  "An Amigo?  You have Amigos here?"

Greeter puffed up his chest a little.  "We just got them in last month."

"Are you selling them, or…"

"They're for people to borrow while they're here."  He leaned in
conspiratorially.  "But we only let the goodies use them."

"Aw, I'm no goodie," she grinned, and blushed a little through her
lacquered makeup.

A humming noise came up from behind us as Frizzy Jodie wheeled towards
us in what I recognized as an electric wheelchair.  A shiny, zippy
electric wheelchair… the kind that Dad's insurance had denied us
several times on the grounds that my mother wasn't bedridden and
therefore didn't require more help than a squeaky plus-sized
wheelchair and a family member to push.

"She's a beaut!"  Mom exclaimed.  Frizzy Jodie hopped down and offered
her a hand.  "Oh, can I really give it a spin?"

"She's all yours," Jodie said, and tugged at her right arm as I tugged
at her left.  Trying not to put any weight on the joints that suffered
her steroids and body mass, she winced and plopped from one seat to
the other.

"So many bells and whistles!  What do they all do?"

Jodie pointed out the forward and reverse, and an inverted triangle
with a picture of a rabbit at the top and one of a turtle at the
bottom.  Mom pushed the curser up to rabbit and tore off towards the
aisle of holiday knickknack gluttony, giggling as she zoomed.

I called after her.  "You might want to try turtle first."

"Who really wins a race by being slow and steady?  Last one to the
Christmas Tree aisle makes dinner!"

Greeter smiled at me.  "You'd better get going."

"Eh, how hard is it to warm up leftover turkey?"

"Well, some of us have trouble boiling water."

"Then some of us are in luck.  No boiled water necessary for reheated bird."

"Unless it's turkey carcass soup, which I'll make today if you don't
hurry up!"  she called from down the aisle.

"I had better get going, then," I said, handing him the wheelchair.
"Floating bits of stuffing isn't all that appealing."

We chuckled and watched the amigo disappear into the fluorescent
horizon.  "Is she always that…"

"Warm and bubbly?  That's mom."

He pushed shopping cart in my direction.  "You're lucky."

I nodded and trudged off in the direction of artificial pine and
icicles and mom's giddy laugh, wondering how long my luck was going to

I found her among racks of knitted dogs and bells and angels, fondling
the texture of a plus-sized Christmas sweater vest.  Clearly I'd
inherited her tactility but not her style.

"Isn't this cute?"  she asked, examining a shiny button in the shape
of a candy cane.

"It certainly makes its point."

"Don't grinch.  It's cheerful."

"Hey, if teddy bears in scarves do it for you, go for it."

She grimaced and held the sweater up to her rounded shoulders.  "I
don't fit clothes here anyway."

I straightened my own rounded shoulders.  "I thought…"

"I did.  How are you supposed to maintain weight if you can't move?"
She sighed, and plunked the sweater into my cart.

"Oh… I don't really think that it'll look good on me."

"It's not for you.  It'd look nice on your aunt.  Maybe we can find
some warm sweatpants to give her on the caroling trip, too.  Are you
still coming?"

I usually did end up accompanying my parents on their annual Christmas
trip to Gladwin, the tiny farming town where they grew
up.  We'd bundle ourselves in our warmest coats and brave the black
ice on the poorly-paved roads between the homes of my mother's
siblings.  I could always expect that while we warmed
our hands on the wood-burning stove in his bungalow, my beer-bellied
uncle would point out the couple new pounds I'd gained that year and
make his pet bird do tricks.  But we'd sing our harmony to "The First
Noel" and play Santa, and somehow, I always ended up with less Scrooge
and more Tim Cratchett.  I nodded and suggested we buy some toys for

After locating the right bird-treats, and treats for the rest of the
people on our caroling stops, she was determined to find some presents
to send back with me.  She always made sure her kids in college had
something to look forward to each day… a carved snowman to remind us
to get outside and play… a CD to keep us in the Christmas spirit
despite our piles of undone work… powdered cider so we could inhale
the musky sweetness and imagine we had just stepped inside their warm
house, seconds from their embrace and the real cider mulling on the

We were in the middle of a kerfuffle about Toblerone (she was
convinced she could find one for me, I was certain the store hadn't
found a way to sweatshop Swiss chocolate, and even if they had I
wasn't willing to waste her last bit of fading energy in search of
honey nougat) when I felt the sensation of being gawked at.

A pillar of a woman stood in the aisle across from ours, staring at us
with an indignant pout on her lips.  I stared right back and sneered
at her.  Mom smiled at her, with a look of
slight confusion on her face that we'd usually identify with her
search for a missing word or name since the steroids started bleeding
her memories together.  "Do we know you?" she asked.

The woman pointed a finger as she walked towards us.  "You
should have left that machine for someone who really needs it."

"Pardon me?"

"There are people who deserve to use those wheelchairs.  You shouldn't
have taken it."

Mom shrugged.  "These are available for anyone who needs them, that's
what the greeter said."

The woman put her hands on her hips--or lack thereof-- and took a step
closer to us.  "Anyone who needs them.  Not you.  If you just stood up
and walked, you could lose some of that weight."

A tingling of bile grew to a burning fireball constricting my throat,
and fifteen different insults evaporated before I could open my mouth.
I looked helplessly to my mother, who was taking a deep breath.
She smiled weakly and shook her head.  "You don't always know the
whole story."  The woman narrowed her eyes and wheeled around, and
clicked away in her pointy heels.  I stared in disbelief until she
turned a corner, and then looked down at my mother.  Her eyes were
welling up and she was staring at the scuffed linoleum floor.

I kicked the nearest shelf.  "What a fucking bitch."

"She didn't know.  She didn't know I was sick."

"Doesn't excuse her behavior."

Her tears had begun to reveal her blood-bruised cheeks.  I dug in my
pockets for a Kleenex.

"No," mom said, shrugging her shoulders.  "But someday she'll know how I feel."

"She'll never understand."

"Not until she gets sick someday.  We all do."

"Well, I hope the bitch suffers."

Mom looked me straight in the eyes for a moment.  The she put the
wheelchair in gear and rolled away.  "I wouldn't wish this suffering
on anyone."

She was waiting for me at the front, where Jodie with the frizzy hair
was helping her park alongside an electrical outlet.  Another worker
had pulled out mom's own wheelchair and we helped her back into it.
The workers smiled warmly at her, and she smiled warmly back while I
stared numbly and pushed her back through the tides of shoppers into
the parking lot and a pouring rain.  Barely the energy to stand, she
slumped from the wheelchair to the car and laid her head back to rest.

I glared at the wheelchair.  Fuck you, fucking wheelchair.

I popped the trunk and tried to pick it up.  Dripping wet, it slipped.
 Pinched again.

I slammed it up and over the bumper.  The wheels stuck.

I shoved it harder.  And harder.  Fucking wheelchair.  Fuck you.  Be
that way.  We don't want you.

I screamed.

And then I felt a hand on my back.  I spun around.

It was the greeter, rain-drenched, looking at me with concerned eyes.
"Are you OK?"


He re-angled the wheelchair and slid it in gently.  "I told you it
wasn't a good day for shopping."

Mom's voice, worn but warm, drifted from the passenger seat.  "It's
always a good day for shopping."

He closed the trunk and patted me on the shoulder, and walked away
with a train of shopping carts in tow.  I stood still, suddenly aware
of how wet I was, not really caring.  I squashed back into the
driver's seat and reached out for mom's hand.  "Do you want anything?"

"I'm OK."

"Do you want me to key that awful woman's car?"

"Maybe a little."

"How about some chili fries?"

"Chili fries… would be nice."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventure Wednesday with Mush and Dioramas

Since both Tom and I are fans of things that are quirky and unique, we prefer shopping at independent stores and boutiques when it's possible.  The down-side of that?  If you don't give them enough business, they can't float.  We've seen it again and again, with little places like the late great 8-Ball, and SkyBluePink, both formerly of Burbank.  When we can, we try to "keep Los Angeles weird" by shopping at still-open shops like Uncle Jer's in Los Feliz, Le Pink in Silverlake, and Zamba in Burbank.

And one day, we spotted a little store called Mush, located just down the street in our neighborhood.  Every time we drove by, we'd say "we should check out Mush."  We kept saying that for over a year... until one day, when it up and disappeared.  "Noooooo!" we cried.  "Not Mush!"

To our delight, Mush hadn't closed, it had simply moved a block closer.  So as soon as we had the chance, we made our way into their new digs to explore.

Located on Hollywood Boulevard near Western, there's metered parking and a lot in back.


They specialize in all things I love in a good indie boutique.  Here are some art sconces in the front window.

They have all kinds of interesting books, and a gorgeously-curated collection of antiques.

I love this old postcard projector. It's just the kind of thing I'd like on my bookshelves. (Aside from books, that is.)


Wouldn't you just like to settle in for a martini?


Their collection of artist and costume jewelry was eclectic and interesting.
I really dig that elephant ring, in the middle at bottom.

Check out this awesome array of antique pocket watches and keys. Don't they just scream "shadow box"?

You can't see it very well, but in the top right corner of the picture above is a pair of steampunk-style clockwork rings.  That was our one purchase of the day - we couldn't resist getting it for a steampunk-lovin' birthday girl we know.

There was one purchase we didn't splurge on, but we are still drooling every time we pass the Mush window: a mid-century modern television, in light wood on three legs.  While looking at it, Tom got inspiration for a house project we want to create for ourselves.  He would like to gut the TV of its innards, and have us create dioramas that would live inside.  We'd peer through the TV screen into a tiny world in three dimensions.  I've always been enamored of tiny things and depth/layers... so the thought was incredibly appealing to me!  We're hoping we can save up the dough to buy it before someone else does... but even if it doesn't work out, we at least have a fun idea to add to our list of projects-in-waiting.


Inspired by Tom's idea, I headed online to look at images of art dioramas, to see if they helped me envision my own.  Here are a few, plus links to their artists.

Su Blackwell does beautiful diorama-like sculpture by cutting from books.

Everything is cut out and popped up from a copy of The Secret Garden.

Kendal Murray uses everyday objects like mirror compacts, teapots and coin purses.

I love how the mirror is used in the art - there are some thing you can only see reflected.

What a novel idea - a grassy-material purse as a diorama base.

A day at the beach. In a teapot.

Thomas Doyle's pieces are darker, more foreboding.  They're captured well in a series of detail photos.  Here's one piece, called "The Reprisal."

A second piece, called "Slighting" - 

And another piece,  "Tuff Luck."

And, of course, we must consider the Peep dioramas from The Washington Post contest!  My favorite... the Muppeep show, a finalist this year by Kathy Hardis Fraema.

I love the detail!  You really can tell everybody apart.  The little Swedish Chef even has kitchen gadgets.

All of this inspiration is exactly what Adventure Wednesday is about... seeing things in new ways, filling our well of images and ideas so that we can create fresh and exciting projects of our own.  (And also, it keeps us busy and never bored... so we don't feel tempted to eat out of boredom.)

Have you gone on any adventures lately?  And are you taking care of you?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weigh-in Tuesday with the Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Chairman of the Board

It's Tuesday, and like every Tuesday, I hopped on the scale this morning for my weekly weigh-in.

Unlike every Tuesday, I was a little nervous, because yesterday was a VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR day.

Illustration by Eric Carle

Have you ever had a Very Hungry Caterpillar day?  When you've already eaten the one red apple, the two green pears, the three purple plums, yadda yadda... and you are seriously craving "chocolate cake, ice-cream, a pickle, Swiss cheese, salami, a lollipop, cherry pie, a sausage, a cupcake, and a slice of watermelon." i.e. everything in sight.

Alas, I am not a caterpillar.  If I ate all of that yesterday, I wouldn't have turned into Beautiful Butterfly today.  I'd just have gained more weight.  And I did not want to gain more weight after last week's one-pound gain.  I worked hard all week to stay in balance, to eat mindfully and to never surpass 1500 calories (which I stayed below each day, even at a party!)  Plus, I exercised incredibly hard.  I wasn't about to undermine that whole week of work.  Except that...

I did.  I totally did want to undermine that whole week of work.  Not all of me wanted to screw it up for myself.  Not even most of me.  But one tiny part of me seriously wanted food.  And not, like, an extra couple ounces of chicken or another peach.  It wanted crap.  It kept saying "heyyyyyy. I'm huuuuungry."  "C'mon, you know you want more food."  "SCREW IT, OK, IT'S PIZZA TIME.  GIVE UP.  WE'RE EATING."  But it was just part of me.  One tiny part of me.

Let's call that tiny part "Hungry Hippo."

My excellent friend Lisa once described a way she looks at making certain decisions.  It's called "the Board of Directors."  When you are confronted with a choice - for instance, when a food addict wants to eat more than needed - you typically fight with yourself about it.  You might have all different kinds of opinions about that decision... different reasons for doing it, or not doing it.  And these different opinions - these different voices within yourself - are your very own Board of Directors.  And just like any company or government, your board will need to come to a consensus for you to take action... whether that's unanimous approval, or a forged compromise, or even dictatorship on the part of the Chairman of the Board.

Yesterday, my board of directors was pretty loud.  The Hungry Hippo was seated in a wide, plush chair at the end of the table. She was trying her darnedest to usurp the position of Chairman, so she could ignore all of the other board members' appeals and move forward with a dictatorship of overeating.  But the rest of the board was able to see right through her. 

Today, I'm back down to 301, the lowest weight I've been in many years.  Hungry Hippo's hostile takeover has been prevented, and she's got a gag order coming her way... because I'm excited about the next weigh-in being lower than the lowest weight I've been in many years.  (Excited and scared - but again, thank goodness for that board of directors.)

How about you? Do you fight with your own personal Board of Directors?  What do you do on a Hungry Caterpillar day, or when your Hungry Hippo tries to take the floor?  What ever it is, I hope it's kind to yourself, in the best possible ways.  Take care of you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friend Makin' Monday: The Driving Force

It's a brand new week and I've already gotten a lot done in a single morning.  Here's hoping that I can keep up my productivity because I have a lot to do!  So let's get this week started...

Today's Friend Makin' Monday question is: what is the driving force behind your weight loss?

Well, I've already detailed my turning point, which was the death of my mother.  And the strongest driving force that has kept me going is, without question, my desire to be healthy.

'Cause I want to spend as long as I possibly can with this guy.
(Taken by Rochelle this Saturday at Slimmons.)

Every little healthy step I take, I am one step farther away from the diabetes that I am working to avoid.  Both of my parents were diagnosed with diabetes as a result of their obesity.  It's just one of the illnesses I'm hoping to stave off through exercise and mindful eating.

I'm lucky.  Although I'm genetically predisposed to Type 2, or adult-onset, I started this process early enough to prevent it, provided I continue making these healthy choices.  Not everyone is that lucky.  Once you've got it, you've got it.  And if you have Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, no amount of healthy eating or exercise can prevent it.

Our friend Madz, a high school student in Southern California, just celebrated her two-year diab-versary of Type 1, and we had the opportunity to celebrate with her (and another friend of ours, her excellent mom Katie Sue, who's a regular reader here.)  We are so proud of the two of them, who have kept Madz alive and kickin' (and even horseback-ridin'!)  To commemorate her two years of insulin-balancing, we ordered her - what else? - a plush pancreas.  Madz and Katie are all-around awesome ladies, and we were thrilled to be there with them for the occasion.

This adorable pancreas is made by I Heart Guts.

I'm off to tic more off my to-do list.  Even if you're as busy as I am... be sure you take care of you, first and foremost!