Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Just Keep Swimming

Goodbye, 2016, and good riddance! Overall, you were a pretty rotten year. In January we became aware of some health issues with my dad, symptoms that his girlfriend couldn't deal with on her own. In early March, we moved him 350 miles from home, up here with us, and started the rounds of doctors and tests which, in mid-April, lead to the diagnosis: Alzheimer's Disease/Lewy Body Dementia. 

(In the midst of this, one very BIG, very BRIGHT spot..we welcomed my first grandchild into the world. The amazing, adorable Angelo graced us with his presence in April, and he has kept me laughing & smiling through the darkest parts of this year. What a blessing he already is, what a joy!)

So, we sold Dad's truck and beautiful 5th wheel trailer and with that went his dream of traveling the country, enjoying his retirement after 42 years with the same company. It was devastating. We were able to move him into his own small home, maintaining some independence,  but he requires some supervision so we hired caregivers to be with him about 75% of the time.

At some point that's not going to be enough and I will have to make the Big Decision. For now, I'm just treading water, trying not to drown under the worry and overwhelming responsibility that comes with being the only child of an ailing, aging parent. It requires more patience, strength and grace than I possess on any given day.  I've discovered skills I never knew I had and dusted off some I never thought I'd need again.  Managing finances, caregivers & general day to day life, doctor visits (and one scary hospital stay), has become  the focus of my life. It has become a full-time job, because even when he's being cared for by paid professionals, I'm still on call. 24/7, 7 days a week. My phone is far from my side. No vacations, no holidays, no days off where I can just put Dad's illness on the back burner and focus on ME. It's sad and stressful and all-consuming. Yet, I keep going. I keep swimming, as Dory advises, hoping that I make it look easier, that I appear more graceful than I actually am. Because it's not his fault. And I'm not complaining, truly I'm not. It's just freaking hard, that's all.

 With all of this going on, I moved Dad to the front burner and put everything else in the back. My hobbies, my goals, my weight loss. My fitness. All of it got put on hold. I tried to keep up with my daily walks, but either I was too busy or I was simply too tired or stressed. It was easier to self-medicate with food instead of exercise. I allowed some more junk to seep back into my diet, especially while cooking for Dad who is definitely not vegan but was willing to try some faux meat products, just nothing too "green" or anything that looked like "weeds." So, more veggie burgers, hot dogs & fries & less kale ended up on my plate for a while. My Fitbit continued to plug along, logging the couple thousand steps that were part of my daily routine. Now & then I managed a long beach walk, and my body & soul thanked me for it but I couldn't manage to sustain that habit. As a result, my clothes got tighter. The  numbers on the scale started going in the wrong direction. And before I knew it, 10 of the 20 lost pounds had crept back on.

Sad & sobering and oh-so-disappointing. But, here I am. It's a new year, can't do anything about what happened in 2016. What now? Do I keep heading in that direction, just treading water and surviving? Nah, let's not. A better idea would be to get myself together, force myself (and others) to put myself first, or at least somewhere near the top. How to do that? Well, I think we have a working system in place, that Dad's needs are being met..for now.  There will always be adjustments, issues that come up that will need addressing, but I can't sit around waiting for what might happen. I need to keep living my life the best I can. I have a father to care for, but I also have a partner, children and a grandchild who want and need me around! In order to do that, I've gotta take care of myself. I've got to do what keeps me healthy & happy because if I'm not around, who's gonna take care of Dad?

So, I am already working on the new plan. It involves some elements from the past, what worked before, with a few new habits thrown in. To keep with the theme of this post, I've added some new strokes to my swim routine. I'm excited and hopeful and determined to lose what I gained in weight, and gained what I lost in fitness & mental health.

For the readers who are still with me, thanks for hanging in there. I hope to see more of you in 2017.


P.S. In the midst of all of this change, we also decided to build a swimming pool, which added a lot more construction & chaos but hopefully, eventually, more fun & joy to our lives.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Just Keep Dancing

Yes, it's been a while since I posted and yes, I have stumbled. Not too badly, not so much that I've fallen and can't get up. I've stumbled just enough to gain back 10 pounds that I lost last summer. I won't go into the whys and wherefores and excuses, just going to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.

I'm still following a low-fat, high-carb vegan diet. I'm still walking, albeit not as much since I literally fell down and hurt my foot. I'm still cooking a lot and enjoying my own food, but I have allowed some vegan junk to come back into my diet, and have been eating out more often than I should. That needs to stop, right now, and right here.

I started another blog last year but, as always, I come back here when I want to post more personal stuff, and when I want to get back in touch with my sassy, sexy side. I know she's still in there somewhere. 

So, if anyone's out there reading, great! Post a comment and say hi. If not, that's ok, I'll just keep writing and working through this process, still in pursuit of that elusive inner pin-up.



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kicking it up a Notch

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Wow, it's been nearly a month since I've posted. It's been pretty busy around here catching up with household projects and fun family events.

As far as diet, I've kicked it up a notch. I've realized that as much as I love delicious vegan foods like this:

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Kale Cafe Veggie Burger

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Stir-Fry Veggies in Chile Sauce over Pasta, Billy's Tap Room, Ormond Beach

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Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

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Italian White Bean and Sausage Soup

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Apple Crisp

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Siam Tofu with Thai Chili Sauce leftovers, Thai Erawan, Ormond Beach

I do much better if I eat like this:

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Steamed Collard Greens and Roasted Potatoes

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Roasted Potatoes and Steamed Spinach

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Weekly Produce Delivery from Front Porch Pickings

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Steamed Kale and Chipotle-Kissed Red Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

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Baked Seasoned "Fries"

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Fresh Collard Greens ready for steaming
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Raw Cauliflower

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Baked Sweet Potato with Steamed Greens

The difference between the two styles of eating: The second group of food has no added oil and is unprocessed.  No bread. No pasta. No faux meats. Just plain food, as close to Mother Nature intended as possible.

This week I've been listening to lectures by Chef AJ and turning back to my McDougall books, experimenting with recipes and observing what happens with my body when I eat more "cleanly." What I've discovered, time and time again, is that when I eliminate the processed foods, breads and oils, I feel better. My food cravings subside. And I lose weight. I'm down 2 pounds since Monday. It may seem extreme to some, but if I'm every going to reach goal weight and achieve optimum health, I have to do what works for me, for my particular chemistry. It's not easy, and I'm not 100% compliant. While the bread and frozen "meat" products are relatively easy to eliminate, I'm not willing to give up my morning coffee with non-dairy creamer, or, frankly, my wine! I understand that these are issues for some people and maybe down the line I'll change my mind, but for now I think I can still enjoy an occasional happy hour and my one cup of java per day.

So, that's where I am right now. I'd love to hear thoughts, opinions from those of you who have tried this way of eating, I can use all of the inspiration I can get!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Here I am, back to blogging, though I still don't have much to say..grin..I hope you'll bear with me and eventually I'll find some inspiration! I'm sure everyone had a great holiday season but, if you're like me, you're ready to get back to normal. Maybe you've made some resolutions and have started a new routine? Instead of actual resolutions, I tend to choose a word or phrase to focus on throughout the year. In 2014, that word was "self." Self-love. Self-acceptance. Self-esteem. Etc. etc. It worked really well for me as I did take better care of myself. I focused more on me. I walked more, ate better, and lost a few pounds (12, to be exact).

This year I've chosen a phrase:

Take Your Time

As a kid, I remember Mom offering that advice. Whether it was while working on a homework assignment or baking cookies, she encouraged me to slow down and pay attention to what I was doing. When I start to rush around, especially when cooking, I hear her voice reminding me that there's no hurry. Better to take your time and do it right, not risk mistakes. This has served me well, on so many levels. Turning 50 has reminded me that life is short, and I do literally need to take the time that I have left on this earth. Not take it for granted nor squander it away. Since I'm an empty-nester who doesn't work outside the home, I have a lot of time to myself. It's a luxury that not everyone has been granted, and I need to appreciate it more and spend it more wisely. So I'll be making a few changes this year, being more conscious of just how I use the 24 hours a day I'm given. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I know there will be more beach walks, more healthy food, more writing, more crafts, more art, more books. Less worry and anxiety, less concern with the silly stuff that just doesn't matter. There will be fewer hours spent on Facebook. It sucks up so much of my time, I wish I could give it up completely but I would miss my friends there, and the connection to other vegans, sorely lacking in my "real" life.

 Health wise, I've given left Weight Watchers and am back to Sparkpeople. I haven't changed my "diet," still focusing mostly on low fat whole foods, with a little vino and chocolate here & there. I'm being more gentle with myself, though, since having a conversation with Laura who suggested that I've been sabotaging myself, being a bit too extreme. More about that another time, for now I'm just doing the best I can.

I'm still receiving my local produce delivery, am really enjoying it! On Friday afternoon, Front Porch Pickings sends me an email detailing the fruits & veggies that will be delivered the following Wednesday, and I have til noon on Monday to make revisions. This gives me a couple of days to plan my weekly menu which I'll once again be posting here. The weather here has been cool and grey, not great for beach visits but perfect for curling up on the couch with Netflix and a big bowl of soup! I'll be featuring several recipes from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, one of my favorites. Without further ado, this week's menu, in no particular order:
We'll likely have one pizza or taco night and one dining out, lots of leftovers for lunches or to store in the freezer for those I-don't-wanna-cook-nights.

I hope your 2015 is off to a great start, looking forward to catching up with everyone here in Blogland.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chili Weather's blustery and chilly outside, at least by Florida standards! We're seeing unseasonably cold weather here, almost record-breaking for this time of year. I love it! Finally we can unpack our sweaters and boots, if only for a couple of days.

I love soups & stews all year 'round, but most especially in Autumn.  There's nothing like a hot bowl of stick-to-your-ribs soup to warm you up from head to toe.

On Halloween night, I made up a big pot of my "famous" chili. I've been making this "recipe" for many years now, and despite it's simplicity it always gets rave reviews.  I basically toss a couple cans of drained, rinsed beans (kidney, chili, black bean, whatever you like) and a couple cans of diced tomatoes (Ro*tel brand if you want a little extra kick) into my Crock-pot along with a chopped onion and a packet of chili seasoning. If I'm cooking for non-vegans who prefer a meatier chili, I'll add some veggie crumbles. Turn on low to cook all day, or high for a few hours, or if you're in a big hurry you can cook it on the stovetop for an hour or so.  Like lots of veggies? Chop up some green peppers, mushrooms, etc. and toss them in.  Corn? Sure, add a can or bag of frozen.  This recipe really is infallible! I usually top with a dollop of vegan sour cream and soy cheese, maybe some scallions if I have them. Since I've been on a squash kick lately, this time I served the chili inside half of a roasted acorn squash.

Chili in Acorn Squash photo 20141031_185754_zpsjxrgb9qj.jpg

We had this for dinner Friday night, and then again for lunch yesterday. It's hearty, delicious, and healthy. Because I'm watching the "extra" Points+ and calories, I left off the sour cream and cheese for my portion.

So, my first day back on track was...ok.  I struggled a bit, especially in the evening time when Chip was eating vegan hot dogs & onion rings for dinner, followed by a bowl of chips & dip. *groan* I wanted to join him, but instead just had some more chili and a side of home-baked french "fries." He was having a couple of beers, I allowed myself a small glass of wine and then switched to herbal tea. I got hungry right before bedtime so I made myself a bagel thin topped with a little tofu sour cream and sliced tomato. I used more Points+ than I wanted to, but  it could have been much worse. It could have been better, too, if I'd logged more steps on my pedometer! Today's a new day, will strive to do better.

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In case you're curious about my breakfast, the "Sausage" and Pepper Bagel Sandwich is something I came up with a couple of years ago. It's a bagel thin smeared with tofu cream cheese, topped with a vegan sausage patty and sauteed green peppers and onion. It's not very pretty but so delicious! Along with some oven-baked taters, it makes for a very filling morning meal.

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Today I'll be making Broccoli Potato Soup, hope you'll stop by tomorrow for the results/review.

Have a beauty-full day,


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day of the Dead

Not only is today Día de Muertos, it is also World Vegan Day. A day to honor the dead, and I guess also the fact that there are no dead animals on my dinner plate! 

Today also marks Day One of my improved fitness plan.  Nothing new really, still following Weight Watchers, using the Simply Filling plan, just need to get serious about planning/tracking/exercise and quit messing around. 

I'll be menu planning, but for now will be doing this on Saturday instead of Monday the way I once did. This is because I'll be basing my recipes on what's in my weekly produce delivery, and I get the notice of what's coming on Friday night. 

Without further ado, here's the plan for the coming week, in no particular order:

I'm headed out to do a little shopping, have an afternoon beach walk planned. Hope your weekend is off to a great start!


Friday, October 31, 2014

Witches New Year

Here I am. Again. Just like those nasty Mary Jane candies no one likes (except me!), I keep coming back. I've really struggled with the concept of this blog, thought it was silly for a middle-aged woman to write about pin-ups, to imply that I aspire to be one. I recently celebrated my 50th birthday, for goodness sake! I'm well past the age where I could be an actual model, and my body is far from pin-up perfect. And yet, I still feel saucy, sexy and playful..sometimes. I still like short skirts, garters & stockings, stiletto pumps and all things vintage. There is still a pin-up girl on the inside, waiting to emerge, if only in an..ahem..age-appropriate way. So, why can't I still blog here? Why shouldn't I embrace that flirty side of myself into middle age and beyond? No reason whatsoever. Who's going to care if I engage in a little folly, a little fantasy and fun. I need a little more fun in my life, how about you?

You all, whatever dear readers are left, have been through a lot with me. The losses. The gains. The diets. From South Beach to Jenny Craig to Weight Watchers (again & again), you've been there. You've watched me go from a meat-eater to a vegan. But aside from all of that, you've also been privy to some more personal aspects of my life. I've been more honest and open here than on my new blog, partially because I started out anonymous. Even though I now sign my real name, I still feel this is a more private place, a safe haven to share/vent/whatever I feel like doing. I think I need that right now. I miss writing. I need to journal, to sit each day and sort through the emotional crap that runs through my head, put it into words, process and move on. When I don't, I find the feelings get backlogged until they explode or, more likely, get stuffed down with food. Yes, I could just get a paper journal and write the old-fashioned way but it's not the same. I like sharing here, hoping that someone might read my little blog and relate, that my words, my story, might resonate somehow. Even if they don't post a comment, I think that mutual understanding and connection comes through somehow. And I like that.

So, as I've mentioned before, Halloween is a big day in my "belief system." To pagans, Samhain is a very sacred sabbat. It's a day to reflect, go deep and quiet, to embrace the darkness. Sure, we also celebrate, feast & drink and make merry. But for the most part it's a solemn holiday, and I honor that aspect of it.

In the past, Halloween was always spent with my daughters. We'd set up an altar for our family members who have passed. We'd make a meal, help each other with our costumes, and when the festive/secular part of the day had passed, we'd sit quietly, each in our own way, and honor the spiritual part of the day. Always, at some point, we would watch Practical Magic. It was a fun little ritual we had, just us girls, though no boy could become part of the family without having seen, and enjoyed the film! Our own little initiation ceremony..wink..

Now that my girls are grown and living across the state, we're not able to spend the holiday together. This year I just wasn't in the spirit, did minimal decorating and only because Chip insisted. My ancestor's altar isn't set up, haven't even unpacked the photos. I guess I'm just embracing the dark a little more right now. Last night I was really missing the kids and the Halloweens of the past. Chip went to bed early, so I poured myself a glass of wine, made some popcorn and loaded up Practical Magic. It wasn't quite the same, sitting by myself watching, but it did provide me a connection, a touchstone to the rituals and traditions established when my family was young. It was bittersweet, but really that's what this day is about.

Samhain is often referred to as the Witches New Year, and I treat it as such. The autumn season brings change. Like the trees shedding their leaves, I'm inclined to shed some things of my own. Unhealthy habits, negative attitudes, whatever has been weighing me down. This year is no different. I've already started to implement a few changes, nothing major, just subtle little shifts.  I'll write more about that later, but in the meantime I have a menu to plan and a house to clean in preparation for the "new year." Who knows, maybe a spirit will cross over tonight, stop by to say hello. I wouldn't want them to find us unprepared for their visit!

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain,


Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm Baaack!

So Fully Packed photo e655f3e3-2088-4e4c-bf83-4f649dff5ae0_zps592a88ff.jpg

Whew, can't believe I've been gone so long but it's been a crazy busy month of cleaning, packing, and all of the other "junk" that comes along with moving. We still have a few more details to tend to, and one more trailer-load of "stuff" to bring up from the old house, but for all intents and purposes: we are moved!

I won't bore you with details, but if you're interested in what I've been cooking/eating/doing, you can check out my Instagram pics.

The good news: I have lost a few pounds. I guess the extra exercise helped compensate for the many take-out meals. The bad news: So much restaurant food has been costly and makes me feel sluggish and bloated, no matter what the scale says. So in an effort to get back on track, I'm resuming my Monday Menu Planning.

This week I'll be focusing on my slow cooker, using recipes from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker.  

In no particular order, because I haven't yet decided which meals will be served on which days, here's what I'll be dishing up:

  • Lasagna Primavera
  • North African Chickpea Soup
  • Red Bean Gumbo
  • Slow & Spicy Sloppy Joes
  • Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

I'm really looking forward to having an entire week at home, no traveling, can't remember the last time that happened!

Thanks to those of you who are still reading here..grin..I know I haven't been the most reliable blogger.

Have a great day,


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Feb 16: The Week in Review

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Despite my best intentions and planning, the week did not turn out as expected. Chip's work schedule was super-wacky so I was eating alone several nights, relying on whatever we had in the house. I mostly lived on potato soup, roasted potatoes, veggie burger and salads.

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I ate dinner out a couple of times, too. One particular night I met my friend Susan at a Thai restaurant. I had perused the menu ahead of time, noted that though they had no tofu on the menu (strange!), they did have several vegetable dishes. I had my heart set on the Vegetable Curry until I learned that they put fish sauce in theirs. Darn it! I'm glad I inquired, but I settled for a plain bowl of brown rice & steamed veggies. I poured on a little soy sauce just for flavor. Ugh! Glad the company was wonderful because the food definitely left something to be desired.

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Then, of course, there was Valentine's Day. I didn't go crazy, but there were a couple glasses of wine and a tiny bowl of vegan ice cream. Saturday we met up with some friends for happy hour where I enjoyed my weekly french fry fix and shared a Bruschetta with Chip. Our friend Rob (in the foreground) works at this restaurant so he personally spoke to the cook to ensure that our appetizer was 100% vegan. So sweet of him!

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Back to "normal" today, made a pot of chili for dinner. This is another McDougall recipe, delicious blending of traditional flavors with some Moroccan spices thrown in. Super-yummy! I didn't include the peanut butter because I didn't want the added fat, but imagine it would've added a nice flavor to the dish.
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Chili with Yams 


I have been using a lot of red lentils lately because they cook quickly and thicken soups and stews very nicely.  I am also very fond of yams and they go together very well in this dish. This is delicious served with fresh, warm corn tortillas or pita bread.

Preparation Time:  20 minutes
Cooking time:  55 minutes
Servings:  6-8

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 ¾ cups water
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups peeled and chopped yams
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (I used my own pressure-cooked beans)
  • 2 tablespoon peanut butter (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
  1. Place ¼ cup of the water in a large soup pot.  Add onion, celery and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and crushed pepper.  
  2. Mix well, then add the remaining water, yams, lentils, tomatoes, and beans.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the peanut butter, one tablespoon at a time, if using.  Season with lime juice and a bit of sea salt, if desired.
Per Serving (based on 6 servings, including peanut butter): 394 Calories; 4g Fat (8.5% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 73g Carbohydrate; 23g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 535mg Sodium. 
Note: I cooked this in the slow cooker for about 6 hours on High, turned down to warm until ready to serve. 

Hope everyone had a beauty-full weekend!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Today is my favorite holiday. Seriously. Don't listen to my hunny when he says that whichever occasion coming up next is my favorite. Valentine's Day truly is it. It's all about romance & love, and the decorations are my favorite colors.

And you know, this holiday is not just for lovers of the human kind! Some of the best cuddles and kisses I've ever received have come from my furbabies. (shh..don't tell Chip I said that!)

 To avoid the holiday rush and to insure that I can have something vegan for tonight's special meal,  we are planning to have dinner at home tonight but I haven't quite finalized my menu yet.  I'm leaning toward making my Lasagna Rolls..

Or maybe keep it simple with some pasta and Chick'n Cutlets..

And for dessert, maybe some Carrot Cupcakes?

I'm still on the fence, what are you all doing for this special day?