Coffeegirl63's Blog

Good Intentions and Improved Health July 16, 2011

Filed under: Food,Healthy Living,Writing — coffeegirl63 @ 10:50 pm

My daughters went on a seven-week road trip, leaving Memorial Day and returning this week. My younger daughter, who lives with me, turned 18 while on their trip. They celebrated her day in New York City by seeing Wicked on Broadway. It was, in my daughter’s word, Epic! What a wonderful time for them! Adventures… Sister Times… Weddings… Graduations… 21 states, as far north as Maine, as far south as Orlando, Florida… The Wizarding World of Harry Potter… EPIC!

While my daughters were enjoying their adventures, I took advantage of the opportunity to experience living alone for the first time in my life. It’s true: I’m 48 years old, and I’ve never lived alone. I got married at 20, and I moved from my parents’ home into my husband’s apartment. When I separated from my husband 20 years later, I moved back in with my parents. I lived there until I rented a room in a friend’s house 2 years ago for a year. Last summer, Julia and I bought a new house together. See? I’ve always lived with someone. So for the last week of June, I took a stay-cation from work and just did what I wanted. I had some laziness, courtesy of Netflix, but I accomplished a lot of what I set out to do.

Several things in the last year have filled my life with a bit more than I have handled well. Some of my success in life is due to my tenacity, my sense of responsibility to accomplish (at whatever cost) what I commit to, and my ability to focus. Sometimes I take those talents to an extreme, and they become stubbornness, people-pleasing, and perfectionism. There’s not always time to deal with stress as it comes, so I just store it all in my upper back until I do have the time. In the last year, I chose not to deal with an unhealthy relationship or to address some nagging negative health issues (“I know it’s been eight months, but I know this tummy ache and these headaches will go away on their own! And, good grief, isn’t everyone tired most of their waking hours??”) I’ve been keeping up with my job and all its new responsibilities, but I get behind on some of the less “squeaky-wheel” tasks… until the finance controller turns up the volume of the squeaking. And he gets so grumpy and closed minded when I tell him, regarding the accounting, “that was then, this is now… it’s time to move on!!” Financially, I’m doing fine, but I have a huge brain block regarding creating a budget that I will follow. And I’ve been wanting to get serious about my writing for a long time–this blog has been a testimony to how well I’ve done pursuing that dream (hopefully, my current pace and enthusiasm are a new trend).

I made a list of tasks I intended to accomplish, keeping in mind that a vacation should not end in a state of greater exhaustion than it began with. The intentions I followed through with: First and foremost, I guarded from time diligently. I rearranged my living room; culled through and organized my clothes closet (necessary, as I’ve lost about 30 pounds so far in 2011); culled through and organized my pantry; defrosted, cleaned, and organized my freezer (necessary, as my annual seafood order arrived my first day back at work); figured out my ideal sleep schedule (turns out I work better later at night, so I need to wake up later in the morning); figured out my ideal eating needs and schedule; and dealt with some of my deeper health issues (the rest of this post is dealing with the last two items).

I started seeing a chiropractor at the beginning of June. My medical doctor wanted to treat my chronic neck and upper-back pain (and accompanying finger numbness) by shooting steroids into my spinal column (he said cortisone shot, but we know what he meant). It’s not that I am opposed to modern medicine. On the contrary, I’m grateful for it. But I didn’t have a good feeling about that solution. A friend told me about her chiropractor, Dr. Molly Kallenbach, DC, http://doctormolly.com/ at Thrive Chiropractic. Before going in for an anesthesiologist-administered, spinal column-invading steroid shot, I made an appointment to see Dr. Molly. From my first appointment, I felt relief from the pain in my upper back. Such a good choice! Right away, she wanted to address my overall health. She put me on a detoxification diet to try to give some of my organs a break. The foods-to-avoid list was more extensive than I’d anticipated: dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, tomato, corn, alcohol, caffeine, beef, processed meats, peanuts, and peanut butter. I knew I didn’t tolerate dairy well, and I’d begun to suspect that maybe soy was not going to be a good dairy alternative. I was just happy to see that I could eat fruit. So for two weeks, I ate a lot of salads, fruit, and non-gluten whole grains. Fortunately, I really like salads, and the ingredients are beautifully plentiful and affordable this time of year (I’m hoping, now that I’m writing more regularly, that I’ll start inserting pictures into my posts again). My regular meals were: quinoa or brown rice with fruit and rice milk for breakfast; salads, with a variety of colorful and tasty vegetables and sprinkled with chia and hemp seeds and sliced almonds, for lunch and dinner. When I had questions (and I had a lot), I’d ask my dear friend, Julie–see http://glutenfreeveganfam.blogspot.com/ for a plethora of healthy-eating wisdom; it’s a delightful journey of literary wit and gastronomic adventures.

Between my semi-weekly visits to Dr. Molly’s house of healing (she doesn’t call it that, but she should) and my new health habits, I’ve felt better than I have in years–no tummy aches or headaches, and I require way less sleep and feel alert throughout my days.

My first introduction of a new food was inadvertent. Who knew canned tuna uses soy? Maybe it’s a preservative or something, I don’t know, but I certainly would not have chosen to introduce anything new during my work day! It was such a tiny amount, but the ensuing tummy ache and headache sent my to the tuna-fish can to read the ingredients. Since I was leaving a few days later for South Carolina and Johnny’s graduation from Army Basic Training, Dr. Molly and I decided I should go back on the detox for my week of travel. It was surprisingly easy to stay on the diet most of the time. I went to a grocery store the day I arrived and bought salad stuff and snacks. There were a few meals we ate on base (food court of the PX), but there was one place that sold salads. The family went to a BBQ place one day–everything was fried, breaded, swimming in BBQ sauce (tomato), loaded with cheese, or (usually) some combination. It looked and smelled delicious, but the way I was feeling every day was strong motivation to “be good.” I was not disappointed to have to resort to a protein shake for that meal.

I have been very slowly trying new things. The foods it seems I can have: eggs, gluten, very limited amounts of coffee (one cup a day, a few days a week, instead of my three or four cups a day every day of the week), and alcohol. This weekend, I plan to bake a loaf of whole wheat bread–I hope that turns out well for me. Unfortunately, a few days ago, I confirmed that soy is poison to me. Without thinking, I ate a protein bar (which was made of soy, and dairy, and soy, and corn, and soy, and dairy, and soy). The next day was rough, the day after that was even worse. Thursday, I was tired, had a headache, and had more pain in my neck than I’d had since I started seeing Dr. Molly. Yesterday, I was in pain to the point of tears, so tired I was muddleheaded and had to leave work early, and (hardest of all for me, I think) an emotional wreck. I spent more time crying than not yesterday. In retrospect, I’m guessing the meltdown was a vortex of several things hitting at once combined with having poisoned my body (causing pain, over-tiredness, and stress).

As I said, my motivation to eat well is strong, and confirmed daily. My daughter likes eating healthfully, as well, and it’s nice to have someone to cook with. Eating out is a challenge, unless it’s to http://www.jasonsdeli.com/ or http://www.soupersalad.com/ or some other place with a self-serve salad bar. Shopping takes a lot longer now because I have to read every label. It seems everything has soy of some form in it, most insidious–soy lecithin (ok, I know it’s not technically insidious, but it sure feels like it!). Well, as my friend Julie (http://glutenfreeveganfam.blogspot.com/) says, “Honey, that’s why you only eat foods without labels!” Certainly would be easier.

Today, I’m still a little muddly, but I’m feeling a lot better: less pain (probably use an icepack on my neck after I post this), not as emotionally distraught, but still pretty tired. Dr. Molly said it would be three or four days of getting over the assault on my body, but I was hoping it wouldn’t take that long. Seems she knows what she’s talking about… again!

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Coffee and Chocolate May 6, 2010

Filed under: Food,Life Questions — coffeegirl63 @ 8:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

Recently a friend posted a question on his facebook page: Wondering…of all your favorite foods, which one would you find the most difficult to give up completely for the rest of your life? I was seriously torn between chocolate and coffee… but then as I thought about how particular I am about each, I wondered if I’d rather give up each than have certain chocolates and/or coffees.

Coffee–I drink my coffee black. I’m sure I’ll receive persecution for this, but I always believed that people who had to put stuff in their coffee didn’t really like coffee. Most people add water to their coffee when I brew it. There are people in my life, very special people, who can now drink my coffee without adding water. I think that almost everybody I know puts stuff in their coffee–with the exception of my dad and my friends, Art and Mary. Having grown up in CA, my favorite coffee for years was Peet’s. I used to have it delivered to me every month because there wasn’t a Peet’s here; well, Denver, but that’s too far to drive to get coffee. After a while, I decided it was too expensive to keep having it mailed to me. I set out on a mission to find a new (local) roaster. I went to a couple places and suggested they should have something like a wine tasting so I could find a new coffee blend. Most of the places were not open to that–couldn’t imagine how it would possibly benefit them to give away coffee like that. These were people who had obviously notgrown up or ever lived in Wine Country! … Until I found Pike’s Perk Coffee. I stopped in at the downtown store, and the manager thought it was a great idea. She gave me a few tastes there and then sent me home with enough beans to make one pot of each origin and blend she’d given me. I talked to her about the possibility of having coffee delivered to my office, even though it wouldn’t be much. She said they would deliver with no delivery charge. She gave me the owner’s cell number so I could get more information. He said there were no restrictions (in other words, no minimum order), and I just have to call the answering machine or fax my order each week. I order on Mondays, they roast on Tuesdays, package on Wednesdays, and deliver on Thursdays. Rick, the owner of the Pike’s Perk brand name, is very friendly and helpful if I want to try something else, but I’m not sure what. Even if I only order one pound, he always seems happy to be delivering. Their prices are very good, and they don’t charge shipping when you order on line. So, my favorite coffee is Pike’s Perk’s French Roast. There’s another important point to note regarding coffee. Just as the wine glass affects the flavor of the wine, the coffee mug affects the mood of the coffee drinker. Sometimes my mood dictates my choice, and sometimes my choice influences my mood. Below are a few of the mugs I keep at work:

Jeanice bought me this one on a trip to Germany. I use it when I miss her, or when she’s here, or when I’m feeling particularly German.

My friend, Helen, bought me this one. The back has a line, below which is written “this glass is now half empty.”

My friends, Art & Mary, bought me this one. They say that I’m high maintenance, and that I know I am high maintenance (ref. When Harry Met Sally). I’m really not high maintenance—I just feel strongly about certain things (like having the right coffee and the right chocolate).

Ok, my mom says my Aunt Kathy bought me this one. I don’t remember the event at all… but it’s a great mug for almost any occasion, don’t you think?

Chocolate–some of you may have read that I NEVER accept the union of fruit and chocolate (with the exception of a fairly dark chocolate with a good port). Why, just today, I had a conversation with someone who I THOUGHT was a good friend but who actually purposely ate orange-blossom chocolate. I mean, seriously? What if I wanted to stop by and see her today? We’d have to visit from different rooms in case the scent wafted. And she actually had the nerve to tell me that orange blossom is more an essence than a flavor… as if! Anyway, I’m rather particular about my chocolate. I prefer dark chocolate over milk–and white chocolate really isn’t even chocolate at all, so don’t get me started! In my opinion, Lindt Lindor dark chocolate truffle bars (and it’s crucial that they be the truffle bars–the truffle spheres are way too big for my mouth) are the best in the world! My friend, Katie, introduced them to me over 20 years ago when she went on a trip to Europe. Unfortunately, when people hear I like dark chocolate, they buy me something that is akin to unsweetened baking chocolate. Sorry, but that’s a little bitter and intense even for me. (However, melt a square of that 90+% chocolate in milk, stir in vanilla, and you’ll have the best hot chocolate ever!) Anyway, most American chocolate tastes rather paraffinny to me. However, Ghirardelli is a wonderful exception to that generalization, and their Dark Chocolate with White Mint Squares are the best of all! YUM!! I always have a bag of those around. 🙂 The Lindt are a little more difficult to find, but I try to keep one around for nibbling on.

So, those are my current thoughts on coffee and chocolate. I have two questions for you: how do you feel about coffee and/or chocolate? and of all your favorite foods, which one would you find the most difficult to give up completely for the rest of your life?

In Him, Joni

 

Keeping and Breaking Rules April 28, 2010

Filed under: Food,Healthy Living — coffeegirl63 @ 8:56 am
Tags: , ,

 There are certain clear and unbreakable rules regarding food… rules that must never be broken. Some people say that these rules are mine and mine alone, that no one else sees that food even needs to be governed by any standards at all. But they’re wrong; very wrong. Why, my friend Mary, were she not so averse to the spotlight, would stand right here beside me, defending every rule… and adding a few of her own. What are those rules, you ask? Those of you who have known me very long at all could recite several of them with me. Who the first person was to think my ways so entertaining, I don’t know; but it’s really caught on. Oh, wait… no, I’m pretty sure it was —you know who you are!  

What was that? Oh, yeah. The rules. Ok. I must begin with a disclaimer. If you ever watch me eat, you’ll know how I’m doing emotionally by seeing how my food looks on the plate(s) and the way in which I consume the food… in some cases, even the food itself. I’ll try to walk you through it, although I haven’t always been aware of many of these myself. At the height of my painful bipolar days, food was the only area of my life I felt I really had any control over. At that time, my ideal plate was very specific. Green vegetables at 6:00, then working clockwise around the plate: other bright-colored vegetables, potatoes or bread at 12:00, corn or other light vegetables at 2:00, and meat at 4:00. If there was anything sweet, it was right at the center… but only if there was no liquid involved. And none of this food ever, ever, ever, ever touched! I liked to have a variety of bright colors—“aesthetically pleasing” was a phrase often heard in my home. Everything was eaten in clockwise order, starting at 6:00, and NEVER going counter-clockwise. This is one I wasn’t aware of until eating out with friends one night. My friend Katie ate some food off my plate. Another friend commented that she was surprised it didn’t bother me. Katie said, “oh, no, it’s ok… when she eats something and moves onto the next thing, she never goes back.” I thought, “what? oh, my gosh, it’s true! I never DO go back!”

Other rules are not as complex. Never, ever, ever, ever fruit in chocolate. There is never any situation that allows for wet bread. Fruit is sweet. It is a dessert. It has no business hanging out with the meat or the salad or the vegetables or any part of the regular meal. Textures are there for a reason—there’s no cause to go mixing them all up and confusing the mouth. I’m sure there are more that I’m not remembering, so feel free to comment if you know of any I’ve missed (or have any of your own that I should incorporate?).

In the last few years, the specificity required in the actual plating of my food has diminished somewhat, only to be brought out again at times of great need. It’s true—from time to time, food on my plate sometimes touches other food on my plate and there are times I’ll even roam all over my plate grazing like I haven’t a care in the world. Some of the others, however, are hard and fast rules that are not to be trifled with. For example, there really is never a situation that calls for wet bread. Bread is supposed to be dry—that’s why you bake it in the oven instead of soaking it in the kitchen sink.

And now, well, the times, they are a’changin. It started when my friend Mary convinced me to try dark chocolate lava cakes with port. Alas… I loved it! Now I regularly enjoy dark chocolate with a good dark red wine. I’ve even introduced friends to the concept, including my friend Jenny—check out her fun food blog. And then, once, at a sports bar, I was offered hot wings with a mango-chipotle sauce. It was really good! I’m afraid it’s all gone downhill from there… and that brings us to today…

Ok, so you know that I’ve been eating better so that I can lose some weight and get healthy again. I’ve been eating a lot of salads, which I’ve really been enjoying. I’ve been making my own salad dressing with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), apple cider vinegar, and whatever herbs and spices appeal to me—the fresher, the better. Mostly, my salads are made of greens and a few crunchy vegetables. Today, a friend called to say he was in the neighborhood (of my office) and wondered if I wanted to have lunch. I told him I had enough to make salads for both of us and invited him to join me at my office, no need to pick up food on the way, I had plenty… really. Like a good little hostess, I went to the kitchen to prepare our lunch. Uh oh, I misjudged my resources. I used what I had—baby spring greens, spinach, jicama, red bell pepper, tomato, brined artichoke heart bottoms, canned hearts of palm—and then started to rummage. I always have a variety of food at the office so I don’t have to eat lunch out. I found some Greek olives, some marinated mushrooms, and some deli turkey and cheese. Here’s where things deviate from what I have always found to be right and true. I found a Granny Smith apple. Yes, you guessed it—I chopped it up and added it to my salad. At this point, if there had been ANY caution left, I’d have thrown it all to the wind. I added imitation crab and sliced almonds. By this time, there wasn’t enough of my salad dressing left… so… I stirred in a little red pepper hummus and a bit of orange-mango juice. By the time it was all together, it was so pretty I just had to take a picture.

Do you know what? (And I realize I may lose some readership here. Mary, please don’t give up on me; after all, you started it!) That salad tasted fantastic… all those different flavors? It was amazing! 🙂

In Him, Joni