Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Comes to a Close

The Happiness Project:

At the end of each year I try to reflect on what happened and focus on what went right in our lives. All of us have crummy things that happen but we also have good things in our lives too. It is very easy to go through life crossing items off our respective to-do lists, dealing with the inevitable problems and that crop up, and forgetting to notice what went well. However I believe we would all be much happier if we took a few minutes to remember all the good stuff. Here are the big things that happened this year in our life that put on a smile on my face:

• The biggest change in our life this year was the addition of the new family member, Dolce Far Niente (our sailboat which we named:  the sweetness of doing nothing - in Italian). Both of us love our new girl and plan to spend as much time on the water relaxing as we can. There really is nothing like boat time to take your mind off the cares of the world. We are also both really looking forward to teaching more of our friends to sail and sharing the joy with them. Good fortune is definitely sweeter when you can share it with people you care about.

• Dan and I are ending 2011 at least and healthy and possibly more healthy than we entered the year. Given our health challenges I would say this is a major accomplish to be celebrated! As I often say we have plants to thank in part for our good health. Go plants! Are eating your 10 servings of produce a day? I hope so!

• Our fur children had a few minor health challenges this year as well but they are all now doing well at the ripe old age of 10. We are so lucky to have such precious little fur babies in our lives. They all add immeasurably to the love in our home.

• My parents had their own health challenges this year as well. However considering that they are in their 80’s they are also doing well. I know that there will come a time when I won’t have them around so I am grateful to have them in reasonable health as long as possible.

• I learned a lot about myself this year and what I am capable of doing and learning, even at my age. It feels wonderful to know that my health and physical fitness have improved more than I thought possible for someone so close to 50.

• Speaking of 50 I have finally learned to accept that age is just a number. I was always one of those women who didn’t want to age. Being able to tell people how old I am not worry about it was a huge victory for me. Allowing my grey hair to exist was also big for me and goes along with accepting my age. I feel much better now that I am not using toxic chemicals to cover my grey. Each time another woman tells me how much they like my hair I just beam, literally. It is very freeing to accept your age for what it is just the passing of time.

• It is fantastic to finally know what my purpose is in life. For years I went through the motions of daily life doing what I needed to but didn’t really have that spark that makes you want to get up every morning and contribute to the world. I am so grateful that I now know that health is where I need to focus my attention. As I have said many times on this blog is only a handful of people read and “get it” then I feel as though the time that I put in is more than worth it.


The last week of the year has been very busy for me. There have been lots of tasks, appointments and fun things too. Friday was another one of those characteristic busy days that I have been having a lot of recently. The up side of busy it that it doesn’t leave time to mope around or over think things which I have a tendency to do, specifically the over thinking part. LOL

Once Dan had his smoothie and was out the door to work I made myself one of my favorite breakfasts, savory oatmeal. Even though this isn’t Dan’s cup of tea I adore this stuff.  Courtney, I think of you every time I make this.  :-)  Usually I made Mexican flavored savory oatmeal but this time I decided to make Southern Italian flavored oatmeal. I cooked the oats with nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, diced tomato, garlic and red pepper flakes. When it was finished I topped it with artichokes (which I am sure you have realized by now I am obsessed with) and a few pine nuts. Delicious! If I had been thinking I would have made myself a smoothie since going out typically means more starch than usual.  However I wasn't thinking and that was okay too.  It was a cold morning and a hot bowl of oatmeal was what I wanted.

After breakfast I spent a few hours working on my upcoming January posts. I am  trying to get a little ahead so that I don’t miss any days. This is definitely the farthest ahead I have written things for the blog and it is a good feeling to be ahead of schedule. I think I may do more of this in the future.

Knowing that we were going out to dinner to meet our buddy Louis I decided lunch should be on the light side. I opted for nibbles instead of a meal to save room for dinner. I had some pizza almonds, a few prunes (which are a new obsession), my usual two Brazil nuts, an individual package of roasted seaweed and copious mugs of hot green and white tea with fresh grapefruit juice and cinnamon. Since my breakfast was so substantial this morning this was more than enough food for lunch today.

We met Louis at our usual place for dinner. After we chatted with everyone at the restaurant and got caught up with Louis it was time to figure out what to have for dinner. As always we started with a pot of green tea. This one included pineapple and papaya and we added fresh lemon juice to it to improve the absorption of EGCG. Our first course was a pizza with balsamic soaked figs, roasted portabellas, caramelized onions and tofu. While I am sure this looked unorthodox to most of the other dinners it was tasty and filling as it was piled high with toppings. We just love Ian.

For the next course we decided to concentrate on getting more veggies into us so we went with two vegetable side dishes. We had broccoli with garlic and a plate of roasted veggies. The broccoli was very garlicky which we loved. Can you ever have too much garlic in a dish? Okay maybe some people think that there is a garlic upper limit, but I am not one of them…it must be an Italian thing. ;-) Overall it was a great dinner, delicious and with plenty of produce. Love that!

31 Days to Better Health:

I wanted to explain more about why I have decided to add the section on health to the blog in the month of January and give you an idea of what you can expect to see. Most of us know that getting healthy requires us to eat more fruits and vegetables, eat fewer (and preferable no) unhealthy items and get more exercise. Those things are obvious and we all know them on some level. However people just don’t seem to be able to do what they know is required. I have spent countless hours trying to figure this out for myself. Why was it so difficult to change? What was holding me back from making the changes that I knew that I needed to make? Everything kept coming back to some emotion, habit or addiction. This was when I realized that getting healthy was more mental than it was physical. I personally had to completely understand the health impact of my decisions before I was going to be able to make different ones. However I am not sure that everyone has that same “need to know” that is ingrained in me.

Using what I learned battling my own demons I designed a series of exercises so that we could all work through things and figure out what we should be doing. I have purposely not made this a vegan plan because I want to be inclusive. Given the number of emails that I receive from vegetarians and omnivores I am very aware that many of you are not and never will be vegan. However what you all have in common is that you want to improve your health which is wonderful! If you aren’t vegan please don’t let that stop you from following along and/or doing the exercises and commenting. I promise you that there will be no snarky comments directed at the non-vegans since I have to approve all the comments. It is very important to me that everyone (vegans and non-vegans) feel welcome and at home on my blog.

As you all know I believe that a whole food plant-based diet makes the most sense for us. The science that I have read leads me to agree more closely with the current recommendations of Dr. Joel Fuhrman. As much as I would love the science to point to a more starchy carbohydrate based diet as the most healthful that isn’t what the science has shown me. *darn it* The Italian in me really loves things like pasta and bread but those are now treats and not everyday items for us. You may be drawn to a completely different plan and that will also work with what I have planned for January. The only thing that you need to know for my plan is what you want your life to look like. I will be asking you to think of things like “what your intention is for the New Year, what are 5 things you know you should be doing, and how are your relationships?” Questions like those apply to any lifestyle that you may have in mind.

It is my intention that by the end of January we will all know more about ourselves, what changes we want to make and more importantly that we will have made progress toward our respective goals. Gee, nothing like putting pressure on myself huh? I have always been a person who tended to set lofty goals for myself, like defeating cancer. ;-) I hope you are sufficiently intrigued by my description of the upcoming month to join me and do the work that I have laid out for all of us for January.

You will need a few materials to keep up with the exercises in the coming month. So that none of us is scrambling I have outlined them below so we can all get a head start on gathering them. However I believe that most of these are things that you will have at home currently.

• A notebook and paper or a computer to record your answers to the exercises. Being old school I will probably keep mine in a notebook so I can flip through it whenever I need an inspiration refresher. Yes, I too occasionally need inspiration. You didn’t think I was super human did you? ;-)

• Supplies to make a vision board which include: poster board, a cork board or a vision board program and some old magazines that you can cut up if you are making your vision board the old fashioned way. I will investigate the electronic versions and will have links to them for those of you who like technology. Again I tend to be more old school so I will be doing this with a board and images from magazines. I like to do things that are tactile for some reason. ;-) I wonder if it is because I loved kindergarten? LOL

• You will also need a small journal that you can carry with you or a smart phone you can use to record things when you are on the go.

• Food storage containers and a cooler or lunch bag so that you can have your own healthy homemade food available when you aren’t at home. This is important as planning plays a big role in achieving any goal and that it includes knowing what you can/will eat when you are on the go.

• Portable camera which fits easily in your bag or pocket. I use my cell phone for this but if you have a small camera that is easy to carry that works too. When I look at the world through the camera lens I tend to see more beauty.

I have written all the exercises yet for the month but these items should cover everything that we will need. The most important thing is that you are willing to do the exercises and really dig deep when you are answering the questions. Remember the goal is to understand who you are, what you want, and how you are going to get to where you want to be.

Happy thoughts:

• It was great to see our friend Louis for dinner. Since he moved to the Delaware 7 years ago we don’t see him as often as we used to but on the bright side that does make us appreciate the time we do spend together that much more.

• Ian was in rare form last night and I mean that in the nicest way. He really had me giggling when he came to the table to chat on his way home. Ian can be very animated, in a good way. We both really enjoy Ian and were surprised by his “tree hugging” tendencies last night. I am sure those of you who know him are as shocked by that statement as we were when he was talking. ;-)

• Both Dan and I are looking forward to spending New Year’s Eve with “the kids” (Aimee and Michael). It has become a tradition that we go out to dinner on New Year’s Eve. I think this is the 5th year in a row we have done this. We are all anxious to see the fireworks from the boat as we have heard we have a “front-row seat” which will be great. *woo hoo*

• The weather today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday) is supposed to be uncharacteristically warm and should be 62 today and 61 tomorrow. Our boat next-door neighbor Rubin said that he usually goes sailing on New Year’s Day because it is almost always over 50. Looks like this year is holding true for warm weather again. Dan and I will definitely be out and about today and tomorrow to soak up the nice weather.

Signing out:

It is time for me to sign out and get outside and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. I hope you have some fun planned for the evening. Talk with you again tomorrow. Happy New Year!


  1. OK...I'm getting my notebook tonight :) Excited to see if I can make it through a month of "assignments" :) Looking forward to the challenge though. Hope you have a wonderful New Year's celebration! Enjoy the warm weather-we have it mild in KC this weekend as well.

  2. Alissa,

    Yay! I love your enthusiam. I hope your work friend decides to join us too. :-)

    Glad to hear that you are enjoying mild weather now too. It is crazy that it is in the 60's today. We need to get out the door soon and head back to the marina to empty the boat refrigerator and defrost it for the season. I would much rather do that today than when it is colder.

    I am working on the pictures for the next post now. It should be up around dinner time if not a little sooner. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the questions in day 1. :-)

    talk with you later,

  3. Hi, Ali, I feel you--I could happily live on pasta and bread! However, I know that's not healthy for me. I've felt myself turning more & more towards what the Esselstyns would call a "plant-strong" diet (versus a plant & processed food vegan diet, which is how I would describe the way I've been eating since becoming vegan). I had blood work done & it has really been making me think about what I put into my body. I'm excited to put some action to my thoughts with help from your "assignments". :) Happy New Year!

  4. Jackie,

    I agree completely. Bread and pasta are definitely my achilles heel when it comes to food. I would rather have fresh bread or a big bowl of pasta than anything else and that may never change, but as long as I keep them out of my house I will be fine. Like you said, they are not the best choice in terms of health. Darn it! ;-)

    Bloodwork doesn't lie. There were huge changes in both mine and Dan's bloodwork after we started concentrating on whole plant foods. That is wonderful news about you focusing on the same thing. *woo hoo* I love to hear that people are eating more whole foods. :-)

    talk with you later,


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