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!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Meaning of Food?


Since we needed to be at Hopkins before 8:30 that meant we both needed to get up and start moving right away which is not how either of us typically operate. Since we are morning people breakfast became multiple servings of Dan’s new favorite smoothie (frozen banana, frozen cherries, kale, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder and stevia). We both gulped down our smoothies and flew out the door so that we wouldn’t be late. The one nice thing about early morning appointments at Hopkins is that it is much easier to get a parking space in the building. Hopkins is a huge complex of interconnected buildings and parking can be a nightmare. The pictures below are the atrium in the cancer center from the third floor looking down.

We spend the entire morning at Hopkins. We both surprised when we spent over an hour with our prospective medical oncologist and both of us liked him a lot. He is German (literally with an accent) and extremely thorough which we thought was great. We were both impressed with his knowledge and came away comfortable that he would be able to fill our retiring oncologist’s shoes which is no easy task since he is practically a member of the family now. I have been describing this new oncologist as exactly the type of person who would design and build a Mercedes and most people seem to understand what he is like from that. He was very exacting, used very specific language and definitely knows his stuff. It was a huge relief to find a new doctor that we both liked personally and felt like he knew his stuff.

After the appointment I dropped Dan at this office and came home to get back to my never ending to-do list. It is looking like I am not going to make my self-imposed deadline of having the house cleaned up by Friday. In the past missing deadlines would have annoyed me but now I just take it in stride and keep moving forward. The important thing is that I am making progress not how long it takes me to get things done. By being able to realize that deadlines are arbitrary has allowed me to be less tough on myself when things don’t happen precisely as I want them to.

My lunch was not exactly a meal but more like a bunch of snacks. I made myself a little air popped pop corn, had a grapefruit, two brazil nuts, and make myself a lettuce wrap (I used romaine) filled with almond butter, Asian pear and raisins. I do tend to eat unorthodox food when Dan isn’t home don’t I? ;-)

Before dinner I spent an hour chatting with one of my girlfriends on the phone. Of course this meant that I didn’t get into the kitchen to cook. However that wasn’t a problem since I can always make salad for dinner. Tonight’s salad included: romaine, arugula, kidney beans I pressure cooked earlier in the week, artichokes, salsa, corn, peas, carrots, corn and green beans, and raw pumpkin seeds. To use frozen vegetables in your salad you have a couple of options. One is to quickly blanch them, or you can place them in a colander and pour boiling water over them, alternately defrosted them in your infrared/convection/halogen oven (I really love this thing), or you microwave them. If you have planned to use frozen veggies ahead of time (which I didn’t) you can move the frozen veggies to a bowl or bag in your refrigerator in the morning and they will be defrosted by dinner. I find that defrosted frozen veggies are good in salad and in many other things. My other favorite use for them is to cover them in tomato sauce and finish them with nutritional yeast and they taste like pizza veggies.  The picture of pizza veggies topped with walnut parm is below.

World’s Heaviest Woman on TV:

Thursday night Dr. Drew had the world’s heaviest woman on his show. I watched this in stunned silence. This poor woman weighed over 700 pounds and could barely make it from the couch to her driveway. It was one of the most tragic things I have seen in a long time. It was particularly sad to me that she is in denial about how much she eats. Clearly you don’t get to 700 pounds by not eating much. My heart just broke as I watched this woman on the screen. I really hope that she gets help before she dies.

The show pointed out that 1 out of 3 American’s is obese which I think most of us realize. However I didn’t realize that 17% of American children are obese. How did we get our health so messed up in this country? What needs to happen for people to wake up and realize that we can’t continue like this? If you have any ideas please share them. This problem is so big it feels overwhelming at times.

What Does Food Mean to You?

(Vegan Spinach Lasagna - One of Dan's favorite foods)

I think all of us would agree that food is more than nutrition to most people. We all attach different meanings to food. Some people see it as comfort. Other people view food through the lens of tradition. Still others use food to numb their feelings. It is the rare person that only sees food as fuel. When we first made dietary changes I struggled much more than I expected. I knew that I liked food but I didn’t realize that it was so important to me until my favorites weren’t available. I was not initially prepared for the roller coaster of emotions that I was experiencing as a result of being without my usual food.

I came to understand that my traditional Italian foods were connected to love for me. Foods of my culture were more than just nourishment. When you grow up in a family where food is synonymous with love it creates all kinds of issues. We celebrated with food and we ate when we were sad. To say this makes it difficult to have a healthy relationship with food is an understatement. However I know it can be done because I did it. So if this is the same for you know that there is a great chance that you can break the cycle too. I have learned to make foods that taste similar to the things I love but in a much healthier way like the pizza veggies I mentioned earlier or the pizza almonds. Do you have any favorite flavors that you have been able to replicate in a healthy way?

In addition to love, food is also connected to suppressing negative feelings for many people. One sure sign for me that my cravings are emotional and not hunger based is when they come on quickly. I have learned that hunger which seems to come out of nowhere is not actual hunger. I grew up being a “good girl”, not getting angry or being disrespectful. Even today when I start to have a “negative” feeling one of my first reactions is to find something starchy to eat. If you have this problem it is very easy to spot once you know what to look for. True hunger builds up over time, it doesn’t come on suddenly. Also if it has only been a couple of hours since you ate you also probably aren’t actually hungry. When this happens to me I make myself a nice cup of hot tea, sit quietly and try to figure out what feelings are trying to come up. I use this time to open up my computer or journal and write. Often just putting my feelings on paper, or into Word, is enough to make the food craving go away. This becomes much easier the longer you do it. At the beginning it will seem strange but like everything else it eventually becomes a habit. Another trick that works for me is to call or text a friend. Sometimes just spending time with people is enough to take me mind off things until the craving goes away. Do you have any tricks you use for this? If you do please share in case they might help someone else.

One of the big problems with food is that it can be addicting. If any of you have read the book “The End of Overeating” you know what I am talking about. Manufacturers put so much sugar, fat and salt into food these days that it has become an addictive substance. Our bodies are wired to seek out those foods since they these used to rare in nature. For most of human history our biggest problem was inadequate food supplies so our bodies were designed to enjoy things like sugar and fat. This is one reason that it is so difficult to eat just one cookie or piece of pizza. We are literally hard-wired to react to these foods. Our biology is trying to make certain that we consume enough calories because it doesn’t realize that we are surrounded by high calorie food now. This overabundance of calories is now harming us. I have found that the only way to break the craving for these foods is to eliminate them from my home. Both Dan and do fine eating higher calories things when we go out that we don’t keep in the house, but that might not work for everyone. For us being 100% off foods high in sugar, fat and salt for a few months was enough to reset our taste buds. If you have are having trouble you might want to try a short period of abstinence to see if that works for you too. For a long time Dan and I tried the idea of moderation and it just didn’t work. It tasted good and we literally got to have our cake and eat it too, but moderation also came with too much weight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When you know something isn’t working be open to trying something different. After all none of us should expect to keep doing the same thing and have the results change, that simply doesn’t make sense though I know from experience we all fall for that trap more often than not.

You will know that you have broken the cycle when you start to view food as fuel. I still remember when I realized that this was how I now saw food. No one was more shocked than I was. I have always loved good food so I expected to fight the urge to eat the rest of my life. Somehow when I got my body off the bad stuff, and the on the good stuff long enough my system seemed to reset. I have heard Dr. Fuhrman explain this as what happens when your body has sufficient micronutrients. Is he right? I have no idea how the biology works but I can tell that something changed inside me and that sufficient micronutrient stores could be the reason.

Food is a very complex subject. It is so much than just nutrition. As anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows there is much more to it losing weight than calories in and calories out. Humans seem to attach many emotions to food and dietary patterns and those are harder to break than most people realize. However I know you can do it since we have. It just takes commitment to change in the beginning. After a while those changes will become your new normal. While it won’t be easy I promise you that it is possible. We really can all do this!

Are You Ready to Make Changes?

The end of the year is a great time to start thinking health improvements. Most of us indulged between Halloween and New Year’s Eve so getting serious at the beginning of the year makes sense. Right after Christmas I start thinking about what my intentions and goals are for my health for the coming year. I try to make them doable, but still a stretch. I start with an intention, which is broader and break it down into specific goals so that I can tell if I am making progress. I will be sharing my intentions and goals with you on Sunday. Please start thinking about the improvements you would like to make now. Do you want to feel better, look better, improve your blood pressure, exercise more or maybe you want to focus on spending more quality time with your loved ones. Remember improvements to your health can come from positive changes to your relationships or attitudes, or they can be around diet or exercise.

Happy Thoughts:

• Who doesn’t love the first snow of the season? While we all might be tired of it by the end of winter the first snow is always a little special. Ours was just a dusting but I enjoyed watching it for the warmth of my family room. :-)

• It was a relief to finalize our New Year’s Eve dinner plans. For the last 5 years of so we have spent New Year’s Eve with “the kids” (Aimee and Michael). We are going out for Middle Eastern food this year and then to the boat to watch the fireworks from there. I am sure it will be a great evening. Dan and I love spending time with those two. They are both fantastic young people and give me hope that the next generation will do great things if these two have anything to do with it.

• We are thrilled to have found a new medical oncologist to replace our current one who is retiring. Both Dan and I bonded with our current oncologist and couldn’t imagine anyone taking his place. Thank goodness we found a doctor we like as a person who knows his stuff. This was a huge relief for us.

• I chatted with my friend Jackie for an hour. She had forwarded the YouTube video above which I thought was hilarious so I had to call her and thank her for the link. Before you watch this please make sure there are no children within ear shot because there is a lot of profanity in this short video. I laughed so hard that I was crying while watching this. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did.

• It was nice to have Dan home from work about an hour early Thursday evening. He should catch a ride home with Troy more often. We had a relaxing evening at home just the two of us and the three fur children.

• We are meeting our friend Louis for dinner this evening which will be great. Dinner with Louis and seeing the gang at the restaurant is how we will be spending our evening. Sounds like a great evening doesn’t it? There is nothing better than spending the evening surrounded by people you like.

Signing out:

I need to get moving today since my to-do list isn’t getting any shorter. I hope you have some wonderful things planned for your weekend. Happy Friday! Talk with you again soon.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Day of Planning!

Wednesday was crazy busy at our house. Today was one of those days where I have no idea how ever managed to get all these things done when I had a career which kept me at the office 12 hours a day. But then again I do realize that I didn’t do the same things at home back then so I guess that is at least part of the answer. ;-) Sometimes I forget how much my life has changed. Silly me. LOL

I spent a many hours working on the list of daily topics that I am going to cover during January as part of my “31 Days to Better Health”. The order my change a little but I think the topics themselves are fairly well set now. I also wrote the first two posts which made me feel like I have this a little more under control. Given that the posts are going to ask you to think about a number of things and do a little homework you may want to have a binder or notebook handy to keep your answers in one place for future reference. My goal is for the posts in the month of January to have all of us, including me, do some deep soul searching and set up systems to help all of us stay on the right path. Depending on the feedback I get this may become a regularly weekly feature on the blog. Please let me know what you think of the topics/ideas either by commenting on the specific posts or sending me an email if you are more comfortable with that.

The first day of January will be devoted to defining success, identifying what is holding you back, and choosing one task you will commit to for the day. It sounds easy but if you really take your take your time with the questions you might be surprised at what comes up, I know I was since I have already done this to show you exactly how to do the exercises.

My breakfast was a bowl of leftover split pea soup topped with mushrooms and roasted peppers while I read the Wall Street Journal. There are some interesting articles in the personal journal section of the paper. I don’t generally have time to read the paper from cover to cover. However I do like to scan the personal journal for articles on health and nutrition. Are you starting to see how obsessed I am? ;-) BTW the mushrooms were added to this for extra nutrition. Since mushrooms boost the immune system I try to add them to at least one meal each day.

While I was took a cleaning break I spend a little time shopping on Amazon. Darn it is convenient to buy things online, a little too convenient if you know what I mean. I ordered a textbook on public health but I never get enough of this stuff. Something tells me none of you will be surprised if one day I tell you I am going back to school to get my graduate degree in public health. No I haven’t made that commitment yet. At the moment that feels like it is too much of a time commitment. But you never know when or if I might change my mind.

This is a frequent site at our house. This is Massimo (Masi) who likes to burrow under the blankets and leave only his head peaking out. What a smart boy my little angel is. As you may be able to tell from the look on his face I woke him up taking his picture.

Lunch for me was leftover cauliflower and quinoa with mushroom sauce and truffles. I didn’t have good light for a photograph so I am recycling the one from dinner. ;-)

Dinner was a 15 minute bowl of spicy miso soup with tofu, soba noodles, and Chinese broccoli topped with sesame seeds. I love meals like this because they are not only fast and filling but healthy. I made this spicy using chili garlic sauce because I we both really enjoy heat but you could leave that out. The Chinese broccoli was added after the noodles were finished and this was done to keep the most nutrition in the greens. I also added fresh garlic and ginger to the broth so it had lots of flavor. When you are buying soba noodles (really any Asian ingredients) be sure to check the label for sodium. I have seen soda noodles that range from 15mg of sodium per serving to 1300mg.

There was also roasted seaweed and Brazil nuts which we eat everyday for the iodine and selenium. Of course there were also numerous mugs of green and white tea with grapefruit juice and cinnamon. In the past I tried to make certain that we reached 6 cups of green or white tea per day and now we are aiming for 10 cups after more research. Since that is a lot of tea to make it easier to reach I have been brewing double strength tea which increases the EGCG with half the amount of liquid and that seems to be working well.

Here is the baby of our family, Nicco (aka Binky Boy). He loves to pose for photographs in case you didn’t notice. This is daddy’s little boy. He waits at the door for his father to come home from work.   As you probably noticed I am a proud cat mother.  :-)

Do You Ever Overreact?

In the past, when I was a definite type-A personality, I tended to overreact. In fact it was a little worse than that since I was so busy viewing the world through my filter I reacted to things that weren’t even there. Let me explain so you know what I mean. For example someone at work might comment that they didn’t receive their budget package and my reaction was they had implied that we didn’t send it. Now they didn’t say that we didn’t send it only they didn’t receive it. But I took it personally instead of hearing what the person was actually saying.

Have you ever done that in your life, react to something you thought someone said rather than what they actually said? I have noticed that it seems to happen more when people are stressed out. Now that I am more of a go-with-the flow girl I am much more able to listen and take in what people are attempting to communicate. When I find myself getting defensive I immediately take a step back to make certain that I am not “making things up” based on my filter. More often than not I am, and allowing myself to take a deep breath before I say anything really goes a long way in my communications with other.

I find that when I allow myself a few extra second to respond to people improves not only my response but the reaction of the people that I am speaking with. In this fast paced world that we live in it is very easy to misunderstand what people are trying to say. I hope this makes a little sense and that you will give it a try. It has made a big difference in my life and will be explaining it more next month so that those of you who also have this happen can learn to see when you do it too.  Life is much more pleasant for me with this issue behind me.

Happy thoughts:

• The week is absolutely flying by; I can hardly believe it is almost the weekend. I am not complaining mind you since weekends are my favorite time of the week. There is nothing better in my mind that spending time with my sweetie. :-)

• I ordered a DVD on meditation from the Great Courses last night. I have been trying to work more meditation into our day so this seemed like a good idea. Once I have had a chance to watch all of it I will let you know if I think it is worth buying.

• The second give-away item that we ordered for the blog arrived yesterday. *woo hoo* I opted to buy these items rather that to give-away things that people are always trying to send me. For a brief time I considered give-away the free items but they are generally not something that I believe in or would use myself so I didn’t want give anyone bad information. At least you know that since my give-aways are things that I purchased that they are items that I truly believe are worthy, like Dr. Barnard’s book “21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart” which was my first give-away.

• Speaking of Dr. Barnard, I am kicking around the idea of becoming a PCRM certified “Food For Life Instructor”. If any of you have done that program and have any information to share I would love to hear from you either in a comment here or send me an email at

• Thursday we spent the morning at the hospital. *woo hoo* Sorry I couldn’t help but be a little sarcastic. Our beloved medical oncologist is retiring so we are interviewing new doctors and today we found him. It is not as easy to find a doctor that you feel comfortable with whom also knows his stuff and doesn’t make you feel rushed. It is good to have this item crossed off our to-do list. Not to mention since Dan and I went to the appointment together which meant more time with my sweetie and you know I love that.

• This morning I was happy that I uncharacteristically dressed for the cold weather. Since it was 33 degree this morning my sweater, full-length coat, boots and gloves were enough to keep my toasty warm. Typically I run out of the house underdressed and then get cold, but not today. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? LOL

• This afternoon I am enjoying the cloudy grey skies and snow flurries which make that the white lights on the Christmas tree look that much nicer. Being a Midwest girl I love the first snowfall of the season even it is only flurries. I have been sitting in my bay window sipping tea and watching the snow fall. Not a bad Thursday afternoon if you ask me. Though I will need to get back to my to-do soon since those tasks of mine aren’t going to complete themselves. Darn it. ;-)

• My sweetie won’t be working as late as usual today because he is getting a ride home with one of the guys since we took one car to Hopkins and I dropped him off at his office on my way home. It will be very nice to have Dan home earlier than normal today. *happy dance*

• My revised and healthier pizza almonds turned out pretty good. I am very happy with the added crunch to the exterior that the flaxseeds added as well as the omega-3 fatty acids. Now I just need to perfect the seasonings. I am anxious to hear Dan’s thoughts on this new batch. I love playing around in the kitchen, in case you hadn’t noticed. LOL

Signing out:

Guess who hasn’t planned dinner yet? Yep, nothing like waiting until the last minute. I really need to give dinner at least a little thought so that we aren’t eating late tonight. Talk with you again tomorrow. I hope the week is flying by for you like it is for me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Are You Interested or Committed?

The distinction between interest and commitment is what I believe separates people who are able to reach their health goals and those who do not. I have avoided talking about this for a while because I knew that those who haven’t yet made it to commitment may find my comments to be upsetting. Since I don’t like to upset people I avoided this topic. However it occurred to me yesterday that by avoiding this topic I was doing exactly what frustrates me when other people do it. How many times have you heard me get upset by doctors who won’t advocate a diet like ours to their patients because they knew the patients wouldn’t do it? Well isn’t my avoiding this topic similar to what those doctors don't do? *sigh* Oh well at least I figured it out eventually.

When you read this please try to do so with an open mind. Ask yourself are you interested or are you committed.  If you fall into the interested category starting thinking about what you can do to move toward commitment. I will be giving you concrete ideas for that during the month of January. However I wanted to introduce the concept now so that we can all be thinking about it for a few days before my “31 Days to Better Health” starts January 1st. *woo hoo*

People often tell me that they would “love to be able to do what we have done” as if relates to our health. They seem to be genuinely interested in our weight loss, Dan’s dramatic drop in cholesterol and blood pressure, and the fact that neither of us seems to pick up colds or flu now. But often in the next breath they usually tell me why they can’t do what we do themselves. It usually goes something like this: “My husband would never eat like you and Dan, I don’t have time to cook, my kids would revolt, and my personal favorite I need to entertain clients for work.” Are all of these true? On some level I am sure they are true. However these are also problems which have solutions. The difference between their life and mine literally comes down to this, they are interested in better health but they are not committed to better health. Let me explain what I mean.

For years I wanted to lose weight and to feel like I did when I was in my 20’s but I had every excuse in the book why it didn’t happen. I would try a new diet at least once a year, frequently more often. As long as I was enjoying the results of this new diet I stuck with it, after all who doesn’t like results? However if I hit a weight plateau I dropped the diet like a hot potato and always returned to my old habits and in short order and my weight was back where it was before I began the diet. The reason I was so quick to go back to my old habits is that I was interested in losing weight, but I was not committed to improving my health. Back in the day I thought that weight loss was synonymous with better health. Isn’t it amazing how far I have come? LOL

However a funny thing happened when I decided that my focus was my health not my weight. Now I had something much bigger in mind. Instead of being interested in a short term result (like weight loss) I saw the big picture and I was committed to achieving the best health that was possible now. Do you see the difference? The things that I do now are just part of my life rather than temporary changes until I reach some arbitrary number on the scale.

Now when I encounter a challenging situation, like going out to dinner with Dan I know that isn’t going to derail my healthy behavior. I have a very simple rule that I follow. I make the best choice that I can in that moment and this changes based on what is available, who I am with and my mood. Let’s look at dinner on Monday night as an example so you see what I mean.

Dan wanted to go out to dinner and having the night off from kitchen duty sounded very appealing to me so we went out to eat. While I love Asian food (particularly veggie sushi) but I also know that comes with white rice and too much sodium. However I also know that we both enjoy it and that getting pleasure in life is good for the soul. I gently encouraged my hubby to order a veggie dish of napa cabbage, carrots and mushrooms with brown rice which would have been much healthier than the faux duck which was what he really wanted. In the end we went with the faux duck which at least came with a variety of veggies. Since the faux duck in tofu based, and not fried, it wasn’t a bad choice just not the optimal one from a nutritional perspective. However the faux duck made Dan happy and this is also important. In the end our dinner was healthier than what I was seeing people around us order, we both enjoyed it and we left the restaurant feeling satisfied but not stuffed since we split our entree entrée.

Now I am sure some of you are thinking that it is much easier for me to eat this way since my husband goes along with it and yours won’t. I will agree with you that it does make my life a little easier, but I also have a solution to that challenge. If my husband insisted on eating meat I would make dishes that would work for both of us. For example I would make veggie lo mein and add some shrimp or chicken to his portion. What about pasta with tomato veggie sauce for you with meatballs and/or cheese added to his plate? Do you see how that could work? The same things could apply to your children. Another plan would be to find veggie dishes that the entire family likes and work those into your meal rotation. Coexisting with meat eaters doesn’t have to mean two entirely different meals. However you will need to be a little creative until this way of cooking becomes second nature to you. Please know that in a few short weeks you will get the hang of making meals that can be both vegan and omni with a few tweaks. If you need suggestions feel free to ask, I am happy to help.

What about the "I don’t have time to cook problem"? If you aren’t willing to make time to cook what that tells me is that you aren’t committed to your health. We all have to eat, it isn’t an optional activity. When we buy packaged food or take out all the time we have given the task of feeding us over to someone whose motivation is to make money. These people are not interested in our health they are interested in their profits. They prepare what sells, and what sells is food that is harming all of us. As you can tell I really don’t think anyone can be optimally healthy unless they are willing to get into the kitchen and prepare the vast majority of their meals. Sure if you have a big pile of money you can hire a personal chef, eat a lot of salads with the dressing on the side, or spend a lot of time at your local juice bar. But for most people that is going to be cost prohibitive and other than the personal chef it is going to be more time consuming than getting into the kitchen to cook.

You may think that I spend a lot of time cooking but I actually don’t. Every other day I pressure cook 2 cups of dried beans. Those beans are used to make soup and some of them are saved to add to salads. While the beans are cooking I typically make some sort of whole grain to either add to the soup, salad or to serve under cooked veggies for a main dish. While the beans and whole grains are cooking I am often roasting mushrooms and onions to add to our salads since mushrooms and onions are so healthy. We either have green smoothies or oatmeal for breakfast, a soup or veggie and grain entrée for lunch, and frequently a salad for dinner. I spend on average 30 minutes cooking per day or less. Can’t we all find 30 minutes to spend in the kitchen cooking healthy food for ourselves and our families?

In my mind the difference between being interested and committing comes down to “would you like to be healthy, or are you going to be healthy”. Dan and I don’t want to be as healthy as we can be; we are going to be as healthy as we can be! The difference between interest and commitment is literally all in our minds and our attitudes. Any of us can achieve our best health possible if that is what we decide is most important. So, are you ready to commit to having your healthiest year ever? I hope so! :-)


Today we were back to our usual routine. *sigh* My morning was spent making breakfast for Dan (a big chocolate cherry and kale smoothie), packing his lunch (split pea soup, salad, roasted seaweed, Brazil nuts, and dried Asian pears), and making green tea with grapefruit and cinnamon for us both.

I had planned to get outside early in the morning to get my cardio in before the rain started but the weather people were wrong. It was raining by a little after 9am so cardio had to be inside affair today. I really prefer exercising outside, even when it is cold, but cold rain is enough to keep my inside. Thank goodness we have exercise equipment at home so I don’t need to run to the gym on days like this.

Once Dan left for work I did my morning reading in “The Book of Awakening”, checked in with some friends by text and started cleaning. Wow … do I have a lot of cleaning to do. Things really get backed up when you just skim the surface for a month. I don’t know why my cats aren’t bald given all the cat hair I have to clean up. ;-) I am not sure that I am going to be finished by Friday afternoon but that is still my goal.

I started another batch of pizza nuts in the dehydrator. This time I added ground flaxseed to the mix to see what that does to the texture of the finished nuts. I know it will add nutrition so I am hoping we like what it is does to the coating. *fingers crossed*

It became very clear to me that I had too much dinner Monday night when I didn’t get hungry for breakfast until almost 11am. I made a pot of quinoa (some for my breakfast and leftovers for tomorrow) and topped that with a Mexican-spiced red bean and tomato soup. After breakfast it was back to cleaning. This is the going to be the story of my life this week.

I also made time to listen to some audio recordings on nutrition and health while I cleaned. You probably guessed that I am prone to multitasking didn’t you? ;-)

So that I wasn’t wasting time I also starting soaking some dried mushrooms during the afternoon so that they would be ready to make a nice mushroom sauce as part of dinner tonight. Dried mushrooms are very handy to have because they are easy to rehydrate and don’t require any attention while they are doing so. I love low maintenance food. While I haven’t mentioned it recently I do make it a point to consume mushrooms often, and preferably every day. Mushrooms are not only delicious and low in calories but they help to stimulate the immune system. Also they are wonderful cooked and added cold to salad, or incorporated into hot dishes.

Our friend Louis bought us some wonderful fresh Italian truffles for Christmas. Louis knows that I adore truffles and since they are available this time of you he splurges in the spirit of the holiday season. For dinner I made a mushroom sauce of the dried mushrooms, the mushroom soaking liquid, ground walnuts, onions, nutritional yeast and just enough arrowroot to tighten the sauce. I served this over cauliflower and a little quinoa and topped it with shavings of fresh truffle. Heaven! Thanks Louis. :-)

After dinner Dan wanted to watch a movie which is why I didn’t get this post up last night. It was probably for the best since having extra time is the reason that I added the section on interested or committed to this post.

Happy Thoughts:

Life Tuesday was very odd with the all day rain and being home by myself for the first time in a month. The house was beyond very quiet. However being by myself also meant that I was able to focus on getting some things accomplished which makes me happy.

• It was nice to have some time to check in on my friends by text. A few of my friends aren’t feeling well so I wanted to make certain that they knew I cared. It is always good to let those you are important to you know that. As my grandmother used to say if you want more love in your life you need to be more loving to others. My grandmother was a wise woman wasn’t she? ;-)

• I am very excited to see how my revised pizza nuts turn out with the addition of ground flaxseeds. I am hopeful that this nutritionally improved version will be just as good as the original. *fingers crossed*

• Today I have been thinking a lot about my intentions for 2012. I have a number of areas that I want to improve next year. I prefer to think of my plans as intentions rather than resolutions since those never seem to come to pass. I have some exciting plans for the year (well I think they are exciting) which I will be sharing with you. :-) Have you starting thinking about your plans for next year?

• I believe in coincidence/premonition. Out of the blue I decided to check my library account to make certain the dozen items I returned Monday night were off my account and for the first time ever one of them was still there. I called the library right away; they located the item, apologized and removed it from my account. What made me confirm the books were all properly recorded as returned I have no idea. It wasn’t as though this had ever happened before. Isn’t it odd how these little coincidences creep into our lives? I wish I knew how and why they happened. But it is a good reminder to me that life isn’t always just the things we see and understand. ;-)

• We had a delicious dinner at home last night with fresh truffles which was such a treat. Since we don’t have truffles at home often I really relish them when we have them. You are the best Louis. :-)

• After dinner we watched an older movie “Big Night” which is about two Italian brothers who come to America to open a restaurant. If you know about Italian culture you will enjoy this movie. When one of the brothers calls a customer a criminal for ordering risotto with a side of pasta I could not stop laughing. We thought it was a good movie, but we also understood why most people wouldn’t enjoy it.

• I am very excited about my “31 Days to Better Health” which will start January first. I have been working on the topics for a few days and I think it is going to be a great month for all of us. I hope many of you will be in the mood to join me in making some healthy changes next month. We will be working on defining success, setting goals, changing our attitudes about food and other fun things. Of course there will also be healthy food in our month too.

Signing out:

What a great Wednesday so far! I have been very productive so far today which always feels wonderful. While I miss having my hubby at home I am also enjoying crossing items off my to-do list. I have really been enjoying working on my month of posts for January which I am going to get back to now. I hope your week is going well and that you are looking forward to another long holiday weekend. Let’s all make 2012 our happiest and healthiest year yet. :-)  If you have any suggestions on areas we should work on next month please either comment here or send me an email. Talk with you again tomorrow!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Healthy Chocolate and Peanut Butter Spread….Oh My!

So that the title of this post and the accompanying picture coincide I thought I would start of telling you about my latest “creation”. It seems like an oxymoron to say that chocolate and peanut butter could be healthy doesn’t it? If I hadn’t made it myself I would be skeptical too. But I promise you this isn’t bad for and it is also tasty.

December was a tough month emotionally. Even I am not immune to feeling down on occasion. When bad things happen which I can’t immediately figure out how to deal I often crave comfort foods, I am after all only human. However what is different about this for me now is that while I crave these unhealthy foods I also recognize what is happening and then I start trying to figure out how to satisfy my emotional need without doing something that I will regret later.

Since I have been experimenting with a lot of hummus variations, both sweet and savory lately, that was part of the inspiration for this recipe. I took the concept of sweet hummus and married it with the concept of black bean brownies and added peanut butter to the mix and voila, a healthy chocolate and peanut butter flavored spread.

I made this once, not long after surgery, and didn’t measure. However I wanted to introduce the idea of it now before I forget what I did. This isn’t something that requires a recipe though the next time I make it I will measure so I can share the details. All you need to do is cook black beans until they are very soft. Place the hot drained beans in your food processor or Vitamix machine (I used my Vitamix). Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to make a creamy base. Now add some peanut butter (I used my homemade reduced-fat peanut butter) to the processor and mix to combine. Add cocoa powder and stevia to taste. That is all there is too this. If you can make hummus you can make this.

The dish pictured above is cucumber slices with the chocolate peanut black bean spread and little reduced-fat peanut butter on the side, because you really never can have too much peanut butter in my opinion. Not to mention that I liked the look of the two colors together. LOL

Our Last Day of Togetherness in December:

Boo hoo, today (Monday) is the last day of 24/7 togetherness for Dan and I this month. Tomorrow Dan returns to work and I return to my usual routine. Can you tell that a big part of me isn’t looking forward to this? ;-) We decided to take it easy today and rest up for the return to “normal life”.

As usual I started my morning reading the current passage in “The Book of Awakenings”. This passage was very meaningful for me today so I wanted to share the concept with you to give you an idea of what types of things are in the book. Here is a sample of the passage:

“Our crucial task when in pain or despair is not to let the sour feelings spill into everything, so that they stain our sense of the world….Our inner work is often most demanding when we are sad and afraid, for we can so easily be overwhelmed by the power of these emotions that we can start to believe that world less possible or ourselves diminished.”

When I read this I was immediately struck by a conversation that I had with a friend on Christmas Eve. My friend hurt her back and was in pain. Her husband was working and she was alone and miserable. She told me multiple times that this was the worst Christmas ever and that she couldn’t imagine it being any worse. I tried to get her to look at what was right in her world so that she didn’t concentrate on what was wrong and make herself feel worse. I reminded her that her husband loved her, and that her condition was temporary. However my friend told me that she wanted to wallow and feel sorry for herself so in the end I backed off.

I believe that everything which happens in life does so for a reason. Experiences are here to teach us things if we are open to the lessons they bring. How we process what happens to us in life has more to do with our outlook on life than the situation itself. Take my life for example. It would be very easy to focus on what is wrong and ignore the good. Most people don’t see the bright side of cancer, but it is there if only you look for it.

If it had not been for cancer neither of us (Dan or myself) would have been as willing to make such dramatic lifestyle changes. Also had it not been for the cancer I would not have embarked on a journey to learn everything that I could about what we could do to be as healthy as possible. Once I “knew” the truth about nutrition and health it became my passion and something that I felt like I needed to share with others so that hopefully they could avoid the same situation that we have had to deal with. In the end cancer was not all bad for us. Don’t get me wrong I would never say that I am glad that cancer entered our life, but what I am saying is that if I can find something positive about cancer I feel like any situation has some gift to share with us if we are open to it.

What about you, how do you deal with problems in your life? When something terrible happens how do you react? My immediate reaction to problems now is to jump in and learn everything that can about the issue at hand. Once I feel like I know the basics then I feel like I can make a positive impact on the situation which gives me the feeling of some level of control. If I had hurt my back and been discharged from the hospital while my husband was at another hospital working I would have taken the opportunity to do some research into my situation. By the time my husband came home I would have taught myself the basics of the situation and would have tons of questions for him. Would you have approached the situation like that or would you have done something else?

When bad things happen to you how do you pull yourself out depression or isn’t that an issue for you? I find that when I am researching topics (like cancer) it allows me to think of it (the cancer) in the abstract. By thinking of the disease in general I frequently forget that it is more personal than that. Also my “sense” of control over the situation means that I am more optimistic. Did you know that there are many studies that indicate that a patient’s attitude is correlated with better health outcomes? This was something that I knew nothing about until I embarked on my research project (which is what my husband calls my health and nutrition obsession).

Okay enough questions about life let’s get back to the food. ;-)

Breakfast this morning was a simple bowl of steel cut oats, sliced banana, homemade almond milk and a little homemade no-oil, no-sugar granola on top for crunch and nutrition. Dan loves oatmeal for breakfast so I like to oblige when I have time to make it. I wish that he would eat savory oatmeal (since it is much higher in nutrition) for breakfast, but I guess I shouldn’t complain since his diet is SO much healthier than the average American male. Sometimes I need to remind myself of how good he is when it comes to his food habits. ;-)

Lunch was a bowl of split pea and barley soup that I made quickly in the pressure cooker. I use my pressure cooker almost exclusively now when I am preparing beans. It is hard for me to believe that I used to be afraid of pressure cookers. Fortunately I worked up the courage to use mine. Now I am not sure I could eat like we do without it. If you eat a lot of beans and you don’t have a pressure cooker I highly recommend them. I think you will be very pleased by how simple and safe they are to use now. Today’s pressure cookers are nothing like the ones our mothers and grandmothers used. If you need any suggestions on what to look for when buying one please ask. I am happy to share what I have learned using mine.

After lunch it was time to run errands. Like usual we had things to do which we had been putting off all week. After a quick trip to the library to return books we headed to Hunt Valley because Dan wanted to stop at Wegman’s. Since I love grocery shopping (because I am weird like that) I was all for it. I picked up some dried organic beans (you can never have too many IMO), organic low-sugar unsulfured dried fruit, organic raw cashews, cauliflower (love my cruciferous veggies) and argan oil for my hair.

While we were standing in line I couldn’t help but notice what was on the convey belt behind us. *sigh* This young couple (okay not really young but younger than us which isn’t saying much) had the following items: cream cheese, port wine cheese spread, a block of something that looked like cheddar, cocktail sausages, water crackers, Diet Dr. Pepper and chocolates. As I looked at their food I could not help but notice that not only was there no nutrition in their cart but everything was literally toxic. I find it so depressing that people seem to be oblivious to the healthfulness or lack of healthfulness in the food they are consuming. In my perfect world everyone would at least understand the ramifications of their choices on their health. Who knows maybe one day our educational system will actually teach nutrition and not the BS that is currently taught based on studies funded by the dairy council, pork producers, etc. *ugh*

When we were leaving Wegman’s Dan decided that we should stop at Jesse Wong’s for a little veggie sushi. He said it would be more relaxing for me since they would be no prep or kitchen clean up. I protested his idea for at least half a second and then gave in. After all who really likes to clean up the kitchen after dinner? No me that is for sure.

We started our meal with a pot of green tea because you really can never have too much of that stuff in my opinion. Dinner was two orders of veggie sushi (shitake and asparagus) and edamame (which I forgot to photograph). How long have I been blogging? LOL

As you all know Dan’s loves the faux duck at Jesse Wong’s so he really wanted to order that for dinner. I tried to convince him to try something new but he likes what he likes if you know what I mean. It is a guy thing I have decided. He did agree to try the faux duck with mixed vegetables instead of the Hunan faux duck in the interest of being adventurous. ;-) We asked them make the faux duck with mixed vegetables spicy and that was a good decision for extra flavor. If you make it to Jesse Wong’s don’t forget to order your entrée with brown rice. Frequently we forget and have to change that after our entrée has come to the table. However they are always good natured about making the change.

The fur children were all waiting at the front door when we arrived at home. They insist on “investi- cat-ing” all the packages that we bring into the door. I am not sure why they feel the need to check out everything we do. However Dan and I both joke around that it is because they know that they are smarter than we are and therefore they are protecting us from ourselves. With our three little Einstein felines this is not as farfetched as it sounds. ;-)

Happy Thoughts:

December has been a rough month for us but things have definitely turned around. We had a good Christmas and many things to be thankful for such as:

• The weather today was very pleasant. The air was a little crisp but with a light coat and gloves it was a nice day to be outside at the mall. Being outside when there is a little snap in the air always reminds me of being a child and who wouldn’t love that?

• Dinner out this evening was a nice surprise. I always enjoy veggie sushi and spending a little less time on kitchen clean up duty. ;-) Not to mention it was delicious and a very relaxing way to spend the evening.

• I wore my new red sweater and Levi’s tonight for dinner and both of them fit great. Dan did a wonderful job picking clothes out for me. I even had on some of my new jewelry this evening. Somehow wearing a new outfit always makes me smile.

• I was thrilled to find organic argan oil at Wegman’s this evening for my hair. Go Wegman’s! Sometimes it is the little things in life that make me happy.

• Dan told me this evening that he will also be off next Monday. *woo hoo* Don’t you just love four day weeks? I will have to start thinking now of something fun for us to do with his day off. I think a day trip may be in order for us. Now the only question is where to go. Decisions, decisions. ;-)

• Spending every morning reading “The Book of Awakenings” has definitely become a habit for me. I really enjoy that book and it nice to have a little time to myself each morning to get myself in a good frame of mind for my day. If you haven’t seen the book please see if your local library has it. I first found it at my library and enjoyed it so much that I ordered a copy for myself.

• I have been very touched by all the welcome back messages that I have received the last few days. Thank you all so much for your kindness. It really means a lot to me that I was missed. Hugs to you all!

Signing Out:

Tomorrow we get back to the regular grind. *sigh* Dan will be returning to work and it is my job to try to get the house back into some semblance of order. Clearly after taking a month off on the house front I definitely have my work cut out for me. With a little luck the homestead will be presentable by Friday afternoon. *fingers crossed* I wonder if I can convince the fur children to lend me a hand. LOL, fat chance, but it amused me to "say it" out loud.

Talk with you again tomorrow. I hope the holidays are treating you well. :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Relaxing Christmas

Nicco says Merry Christmas! Hard to believe has a warning on his medical record at the vet isn’t it? He is 6 pounds of danger kitty that little one. LOL

This is Luca and Massimo that I shot with my new lens. They aren’t thrilled but were more cooperative than normal which was a nice Christmas present for mommy (me).

People often ask us what Christmas is like at our house without little ones. What, fur children don’t count? (just kidding, sort of) This morning I woke up to one of the fur children bouncing in the bed as though they were excited about Christmas. Whose cats act like this? Oh yeah … mine do. LOL

After my “daughter cat” decided to do the tango on my bladder decided it was time to get out of bed and have some quiet time before Dan was awake and moving about. I like to get up first so that I can have a little alone time. Early mornings are my time to enjoy the colors of the sunset, read a little (specifically the daily passage from “The Book of Awakenings) and get my mind in the right frame for a good day. Christmas shouldn’t be any different now should it?

Since the surgeon gave the all clear for exercise we have been starting our day with a quick three miles to get the blood pumping and set the right healthy tone for the day. Today being Christmas that didn’t give us a pass on our healthy habits. However since it was 39 degrees in the morning we did opt to wait until after breakfast to head outside. We didn’t get a white Christmas as you can see, but the neighborhood is still looking festive even without the snow I think.  :-)

Christmas breakfast was a bowl of steel cut oats, topped with homemade almond milk, a little homemade no-sugar and no-oil added granola, and a few dried cherries to our breakfast for nutrition as well as intense flavor.

Our current favorite hot tea is a combination of green and white tea (a double mug) with the juice of 1/8th of the grapefruit squeezed in and a pinch of cinnamon. Both Dan and I really like this combination. I came up with it one morning while considering making us baked grapefruit with cinnamon which turned into tea instead.

I received a few “blog presents” this year for Christmas. The first was a new portrait lens for my camera since I take a lot of close ups of food as you know. I am not sure if you can see the difference but the photo of breakfast was taken with the new lens and I think it worked well. ;-)  Now I have no excuse to use my cell phone camera to take pictures for the blog. Let’s see how long that lasts.

My sweet husband also bought me Dragon Professional to give me more time. Woo hoo I am excited that there will be a lot less typing in my future. You have no idea how happy that makes me. My typing skills are not the best so less typing means more output. LOL

Every year the hubby and I buy each other at least one new Christmas ornament for the tree. This year I got a beautiful crystal train. I always wanted a train set as a child but never got one, now I have my train and it is beautiful and sparkly.

I bought Dan a crystal angel ornament because he is my angel. Sorry, I know we can be a bit much to take for a lot of people. But we really are like this all the time. ;-)  As crazy as it sounds I really do love my husband more today than I did 25 years ago when we met.

In keeping with my obsession with health Dan also bought me a book on anatomy which you know I will be pouring over. I also received jewelry (in addition to the three-stone ring I told you about yesterday), cookbooks, books on health, Dr. Greger’s latest DVD, and Dr. Fuhrman’s Immersion Excursion boxed set of 10 disks. There was also a lovely Shun santoku knife under the tree. It is my first Shun knife so I am thrilled to have it. I received some glassware for taking blog worthy photos, a new tea pot just like they use are our favorite Asian restaurant, green and white tea, scented candles, a calendar based on the Tao, 4 new sweaters, and a few other things. Are you starting to see that there are definite themes to my life? ;-) I guess you would say I am fairly single-minded. LOL

Lunch for us was a big salad which I am sure is no surprise to anyone. This one contained cooked red beans, arugula, salsa, marinated mushrooms, roasted red peppers, artichokes, and raw pumpkin seeds.

Later I made Dan a double smoothie for dinner. I wasn’t hungry but Dan needed the calories. As usual he requested his recent favorite smoothie which includes: frozen banana, frozen cherries, kale, walnuts, cinnamon, cocoa powder, ground flaxseeds, water and a little stevia to taste. This actually tastes like a chocolate cherry shake, no wonder he likes it.

We had stayed up so late Christmas Eve that neither of us got enough rest the yesterday. Instead of trying to push ourselves today we opted to take it easy and turn in early. This really is one of the benefits of being on our own.

Making Dietary Changes:

You will probably not be surprised to hear that this is a frequent topic of conversation between Dan and me. Most of the time I initiate this conversation but Dan is more than willing to discuss it since it has had such a profound impact on his life too.

Going out to dinner is always eye-opening for me. I realize that our diet is different from most Americans but I am always a little surprised when I see how absolutely unhealthy people eat in this country. I tend to look around when we go out to eat because I am always trying to learn how people approach food. My thoughts are the more I know the better my chances are to help people. One person caught my eye last night and really made me think.

When we started on this “crazy whole food plant-based diet” (which is how I referred to it back then) we were just “trying it on for size”. Like many of you who are currently omnivores I really didn’t believe that this diet was sustainable for us. Sure other people could do it, but they didn’t love food the way we did, nor did they have a chef friend who made them delicious and decedent food anytime. How could we possibly keep this up long term? Yes I really did believe that less than a decade ago. However I also knew that things were out of control for us in terms of health and that we needed to try every possible approach. The notion of “moderation” had very obviously not worked. Dan was on medication for his high blood pressure and his doctor was worried about his cholesterol and we both needed to lose weight. We were just going try this “healthy vegan approach” for a little while to see what happened. Secretly I was hoping it would be a bust so I could get back to life as usual.

Okay fast forward to the first week and I have no idea why my husband didn’t kill me. Seriously I was a miserable human being and I wasn’t quiet about my unhappiness. I had no idea what to cook, I missed my traditional foods, I felt horrible and I just wanted to experiment to fail so I could be back to life as I knew it.

By the second week I was starting to figure out what to cook and eat so while I was still unhappy at least I wasn’t floundering around trying to decide what to do. Life was still not great but at least it was getting easier.

However by the end of the first month things had really taken a turn for the positive. Once we had both lost our desire for unhealthy food this “crazy lifestyle” was actually becoming easy. I still wasn’t “in love” with the food but we had both lost weight, Dan’s cholesterol and blood pressure were dramatically down (below normal in fact and he was off medication) and my seasonal allergies had literally disappeared.

It took a few more months before we both lost all cravings for our favorite unhealthy fare but they did ultimately disappear. Thank goodness!

Why am I telling you this? I know that many of you who read my blog are omnivores who want to improve your health based on the email that I receive. It hasn’t been that long since I was one of you. I very plainly remember what it was like to be in your shoes. My addicted brain was convinced that I could not give up meat, cheese, olive oil, sugar, etc. I was absolutely positive that those items had to be “available” or I could not survive. Yes, I really can be that dramatic some time.

Today one of my good friends is flirting with the idea of trying out a vegan diet. However she is worried that she can’t do because she will miss her “favorite foods.” While I realize that this is her addiction talking she doesn’t though hopefully she will eventually. I am not sure how to explain to her that these foods are not her friends and that they are ruining her health and most likely shortening her life. I want to assure any of you who are considering a dramatic dietary change that while it is difficult in the beginning it does get much easier and in the end it will become your new normal but you won’t want to go back to your old way of eating.

This evening Dan and I were talking about people asking him if he missed steak or prime rib and that they seem to be bewildered when he says that he doesn’t. Can you tell these are questions from men? I have to say that I don’t miss animal based food either. The foods that we used to eat just aren’t appealing to either us any longer. We enjoyed them when we used to eat them, but neither of us would eat them now. I never thought I would be someone who could say that and mean it but now I am which I hope shows you what is possible for you too. This lifestyle will become easier and you will feel so incredible that just a few short months that going back to the SAD (standard American diet) won’t be any option.

For those of you who are worried about getting together with friends please don’t be. Dan and I go out to eat probably more often than we should. There is almost always something on the menu that we can eat as is. When there isn’t there is always something that I can see is easy to modify for us. Whenever either of us has asked for a modified menu item (even from chefs that we didn’t know) the kitchen has always been more than happy to accommodate us. Please know that changing your diet doesn’t have to mean that you are stuck at home with no social life. Granted what you make at home will be much healthier for you, but I think we all need social interaction in order to have a healthy, happy and full life.  Man can't live by food alone.

If any of you have also made the change to a diet similar to ours I would love to hear from you. What prompted you to change your diet? Did you jump right in or ease into it? What are some tips or tricks you can share with others to make the transition easier for them. Let’s work together to help others make the change to a health promoting diet.

Happy Thoughts:

It has been a very nice but also a laid back Christmas. This is the first time in the last 30 years (other than when my mother-in-law passed) that I didn’t make a big dinner. I am very surprised by how nice it was to be able to relax on Christmas. If you haven’t tried it I highly recommend it. This might become a new family tradition.

• Dan and I had a nice day together just the two of us (plus the fur children). We watched “A Christmas Story”, talked a lot, got some exercise and fresh air, and just generally goofed out. Overall it was a great day!

• Tomorrow is our last day of 24/7 togetherness and I am already feeling a little sad. I love spending time with my sweetie. Too bad he has to work for living. ;-) On the bright side that will be give more time to get back to my usual routine. My first order of business is to figure out how to use Dragon to facilitate the writing process. I am really looking forward to that. If you know how bad of typist I am you would understand why. LOL

• Both Dan and I are pretty much in love with our current hot tea with pink grapefruit juice and cinnamon. If you aren’t on any medications that interact with grapefruit juice please give it a try. It is very tasty if I do say so myself. Don’t forget that the citrus increases your absorption of the EGCG in the tea, and the cinnamon contains antioxidants. Not only is this delicious but it is good for you too. Love that!  :-)

• So far I am really enjoying the new lens that my sweetie got me for my camera. Considering that I am the photographer in the family he did a wonderful job. I will need to find out which camera store he went to so that I start frequenting the shop. They clearly pointed Dan in the right direction.

Signing out:

Given the inadequate amount of sleep we both got last night we are trying to turn it much earlier tonight. Depending on what we get it into tomorrow you may see a post from or my next one may be Tuesday. However I am trying to get back on a regular schedule with my posts.

I hope you had a fabulous holiday. Talk with you again very soon. I am very curious to hear from those of you who have made the transition to a diet like ours.
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