The Nordic-Terranean Venn Diagram Food Plan

 

 

If any good comes of the health crises abounding on Hubby’s side of the familial ledger and my brother in law’s quad bypass surgery, it’s that we’ve both felt the Universe’s foot in our butts about making some overdue changes to our food choices and exercise goals.

The two of us have family medical histories that read like a CDC bulletin: cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure; diabetes; cancer; strokes; arthritis. In fact, Hubby had an uncle who had the trifecta of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. He still made it to 80, but the last few years were of highly questionable quality.

Needless to say, we don’t want that. It goes double for me since then nonsmokers in my family hang around until their 90s. Several lengthy conversations and not a little research later, we drew the following conclusions:

  1. Both of us need to move our behinds a lot more. I added weight training (we have a machine in the basement) twice a week and committed to practicing with yoga videos from YouTube at least twice a week on top of walking with Oakley at least 30 minutes a day.
  2. We needed to tweak our food intake. Even though there is nothing more soothing to the soul than carbs and cheese, a steady diet of it does no one any good. Especially when mac and cheese, albeit homemade, becomes the default meal.
  3. Portion control is a factor. We are both guilty of eating out of the container and picking at leftovers and stress eating.
  4. Both of us see kale as the vegetable equivalent of waterboarding.
  5. We like ice cream and cake.

So how do we make these changes as painless as possible? We had been sort of kind of eating according to the Mediterranean diet. (Graphic on the right, not mine in any way shape or form.) For Hubby, it’s perfect because his roots sink deep into the soil of the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern shores. He just has to do some portion control and he’ll be in great shape.

For me, however, it was a tad too high in carbs, even unrefined ones, and fats, even healthy olive oil. Plus I’m wired to need more substantial sources of protein than legumes and nuts. (Now you know why I can’t go completely vegetarian.) Unlike Hubby’s, my ancestors wandered all over the map of the United Kingdom, western and northern Europe. What, then, should I eat?

Behold the graphic in the upper left: the Nordic, or Baltic diet.  (Again, not my work.) A team of Helsinki researchers riffed on the Mediterranean pyramid to use products that are easier to find in northern Europe.  It emphasizes lower glycemic foods such as berries; grains such as barley, rye, and oats; lentils; and more dairy products, preferably low fat. Oh, and canola oil, preferably organic. Plus potatoes.

The overlaps are in the seafood, leafy greens, nuts, yogurt, and small amounts of chocolate departments. We start meal planning from there.

We back off on the starch based meals and watch the amount of oil. Trina Hahnemann’s New Nordic Diet has a crazy easy cod and mussel stew recipe that’s become a go-to, replacing the mussels with shrimp if we can’t get to the fish monger’s.  Just put everything in the pan and let it steam until done. I am eating rye bread most of the time–the really good bread Aldi gets from Germany. I am eating oatmeal.

If we can stay the course, we can still have a bit of cheese and we can still have pasta a couple of times a week in moderation.

I am happy. I will be more more so when the scale starts to move.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Month of the Big Let Go

 

dawn environment fall fog
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com  

Last Friday brought the first frost advisory via the five o’clock weather report. I went out into the rainy late afternoon and pulled the last of the tomatoes so they could ripen indoors. Covering the plants last year resulted in watery, sour spheres despite a stretch of warmer days afterwards. Not something I wanted to go through again. At least in a brown paper bag they’ll get some semblance of color.

The cool rain didn’t bother me, even as it trickled down my neck and back. Earlier in the week we’d had to turn the air on after cooler weather briefly flashed its ankles at us. That had lasted for a few days until heat and humidity returned. Friday marked the end of the run for the heat and the beginning of weather more in line with the autumnal equinox.

I can’t say that I was sad to see September go. I let the rain wash it away.

I let it cleanse me of the anxiety over my brother-in-law’s bypass surgery. Four of the five blood vessels were 80-100% clogged with the gunk that collects in them as we age. Some can circumvent it with diet and exercise. In his case despite doing everything right, plaque still took up residence on his arterial walls. The surgeon was shocked that BIL hadn’t had a heart attack before this. No damage to the muscle, and just a couple of days after his surgery, he sounded more energetic if a little breathy. He was able to walk to the end of the block and back ten days after surgery.

I let the rain wash away the sadness surrounding the passage of the father of my high school best friend. He was funny, kind, and flew a B-26 in WWII. His students in the agriculture department at Michigan State were lucky to have him. He was 96, and living with problems peculiar to people of an advanced age. It was time, not to take from anyone’s sorrow. It was just time.

In the fading light, I looked upwards at the variegated grey clouds.

We’d had one call  Tuesday night from Hubby’s oldest sister, one of the calls after ten p.m. that bodes unwell when you get to be our age. Second oldest sister was on her way out. Another round of sepsis came on and the weapons-grade antibiotic couldn’t touch it and it’s any minute now. Oh, and Oldest’s husband is failing, fading. Maybe six weeks according to the doctors at Cleveland Clinic. The radiation intended to kill off the cancer irreparably damaged his lungs, making them look like the red lace doilies used by children to make Valentine’s cards.

The call we’d hoped some miracle would stave off came about 2:30 Thursday morning. Second Sister had slipped the veil into the next world. She was only 64. A retired junior high guidance counselor, gardener par excellence, and active in helping refugees.

Hubby had been able to get an earlyish flight to Phoenix. He left at 5:30. Called me at 8:30  that night. I supported him as best I could. Funeral the next day, Friday. Family members flying back and forth between Detroit and Phoenix, tending to the living as they prepare to say goodbye to the passed and the passing.

The rain washed away the helplessness, the sorrow.

I took the tomatoes inside, then sat in my spot on the sofa. Oakley, sleepy from an afternoon at day care, snuggled his tush against my hip. I rubbed his ears. We don’t need words to talk. I read some poems. I watched some mindless filler on TV, too, until bed time.

Hubby arrived about three a.m. I heard his footsteps and the soft scrape of the chair across the kitchen tiles, and went back to sleep.

Many hours later, we talked of his travel experiences, seeing his family, and the service. We talked, too, about the need to get our estate planned and our advance directives down in ink. Neither of us want heroic measures. Personally, I want to include a clause that will warn anyone thinking of putting me on life support that if they do, I will haunt them to the end of days.

And while I don’t know how my funeral will go beyond hoping that people will say kind things about me, I do know that I want the memorial to conclude with a reading of Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon, followed by a pause, and then for the very last thing, Spring by John Denver. (A live performance would be cool, but it’s up on YouTube if that doesn’t work out.)

I hope that’s many years off, though. Our immediate tasks are to tend to his brother in law, support his sister when that time comes, and go about the present and all there is there, letting the seasons cycle as they will.

In the meantime, I’ll let the rains of autumn wash me clean.

Oh, Hi There….

Here I am. I missed you, too.

Since the last missive, colorful and interesting opportunities for personal growth took over the days.  I just haven’t been able to write anything coherent here in WordPress Land. However, this wave of experiences abates, and I hope to hang out on a regular schedule again.

It’s been mostly good happening. I’ve been taking a writing and environment class at a literary center in Geneva. The teacher is passionate, enthusiastic, and better prepared than some instructors I had in academic situations. It’s a small class, only four students, and we enjoy each others’ company. I will be sad to attend the last session next week.

The draining part: we’ve been dealing with another round of automotive follies the last few days. It’s to be expected when one co-owns two vehicles produced before the millennium and one shortly after.  We may as well count them as new with all the work Hubby’s put into them. Last year was the year of his Corolla needing quite a bit of work. I can’t remember everything that needed to be done, but it was pretty extensive. Then the air conditioning crapped out on it just after Labor Day.

This year, my VW needed help. My A/C crapped out. Since heat and I don’t get along, and since Oakley is my usual passenger, we moved that up on the priority list.

And then there was the oil leak.

And the lock that didn’t respond to the remote.

And then this past weekend, the latch activating the door over the gas cap quit working. Of course I only had an eighth of a tank of gas left. The well-intentioned attendant at the gas station offered to pop it open for me with a screwdriver. Since that would lead to the need for the quarter panel getting replaced (VWs of that vintage do nothing half way), I politely declined.

Hubby figured out how to open the door manually. Open the hatchback. Pull out the panel over the gas cap from the rear. Apply pressure from the inside. Still had to do some  rearranging and moving of this bit and that part, but he was able to fill it up.

Better yet, he was able to get the gas cap door fixed and the new lock installed. Not a pretty sight to see the innards of the door stacked on the workbench in the garage, but he completed the task. No screws were left behind, either.

Somehow, literature concerning Toyota Priuses materialized in the last week. We may be materializing one in the near future.

 

 

 

A Back-to-Basics and Stay in the Moment Year

Happy New Year, gentle readers. I hope that your end of year commemorations were peaceful and happy, or at the very least the local people in blue were not last minute additions to the guest list.

Mine passed peacefully, but not without a few bittersweet notes. My niece and nephew are adults now. Very odd to see them as such, especially my nephew with his shaved head. My sister and brother, now firmly entrenched in their 60’s, have finally figured out that 1. what happened in 1955 should stay in 1955 and 2. we no longer have the luxury of time to quibble about that, or which dead relative said what, or the color of the sky. The darker note was my sister in law’s diagnosis of dementia. The last round of neuropsych testing indicated that she’s holding steady with no deterioration since the last consult with the psychiatrist. For every remembered name, for every recalled detail, for the results of this doctor’s visit, we give thanks. We know what the future is likely to hold, but we will deal with it when it gets here.

The last chapter of 2015 completed, we step into 2016 with a focus on the truly important things. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Intentions, yes. Resolutions sounds too harsh and unforgiving. If the intention comes to fruition, great; if not, oh well. My intentions are pretty simple:

  • to remain civil and kind in the face of the unrelenting wave of bat crap craziness that intensify as November’s presidential election draws closer. To remain civil and kind, period. I shudder at comments on social media and the lack of anything resembling manners in the real world. I’m not advocating the strictures of “Downton Abbey,” but can we say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” at the very least with a response of “how interesting” when someone 180 degrees from you on the political spectrum tries to pick a fight?
  • revitalize meditation and yoga practices to help keep my brain focused and not let the ADHD gremlins hijack my thoughts.
  • to plant a vegetable garden this spring.
  • read more real books. I just read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and wondered where I’d been since it saw the light of day.
  • and the ubiquitous lose weight.

The last is a radical journey to what works. I’m combining two things that have worked in the past: paying attention to body cues and following an exchange plan that I used in high school. It’s worth a shot.

May you have a year of many moments worthy of your precious attention, and may you have a year of peace.

And for the sake of any deities you believe in, or for the sake of humanity, get out and vote in November.

 

 

 

T-16 and Counting

I’m much more of a New Year’s person than a Christmas person, so I count the days until then. Not wishing them away by any means, just counting them.

Today started wet and dreary. Oakley followed me upstairs and went back to bed while I took my shower. He has play group this afternoon, so I’m not concerned over the lack of walking. I filled his treat ball with teeny tiny turkey treats. We both are happy. He gets some noms; I find it amusing to watch him bat the ball with his nose and paws to release the freeze-dried chunks of turkey. We ride for Ms. Lanette’s at 11:45.

While he weaves around the coffee table in pursuit of the ball, I’m countering the chill with a pot of rustic pear and apple sauce. “Rustic” is code for chunky and unpeeled. I had a bag of pears on the brink, so I salvaged most of them and put them into the pot with a couple of apples. Dash of salt. Sprinkle of cinnamon. We wait for them to break down. Shouldn’t be too long.

Christmas will be nice. On the day itself I’ll be joining friends for chili and trimmings. Two days later will be the gathering of the clan.

And then we have New Year’s. We had so many releases this year, including Hubby’s leap into retirement. It will be good to get there, to see who and what await. One of my friends and I will be meeting on January 1 to create vision boards for 2016–the kind that you look to for goal setting and clarification, not the ones you stare at in vain hopes of having your desires drop from the sky.

The pear-apple sauce smells lovely, a bit like the scent of childhood holiday memories and the way that advertisers want you to think Christmas smells. Oakley is saving his energy for an afternoon of play with his friends, snoring away next to me.

The New Year is coming, and will arrive when it gets here. In the meantime, this is a pretty nice place to be.

 

A Certain Slant of Light

Oakley and I walked in the thick morning air today. I don’t think we’ll be back out except for running sanitary errands. It was still a good walk. We sat by the river for a while. He kept watch, guarding me from squirrels and chipmunks  while I meditated. Shafts of light flowed through the leaves, and light mist rose skyward through them.

The morning light holds a rose-gold color. In the evening, just at dusk, the deep gold light pours across the grass in the field behind the house. The earth and the sun have changed their relative angles to one another as they dance through the wheel of the year.

In spite of the levels of heat and humidity usually left behind in July, the signs and signals indicating autumn’s impending arrival unfold. There’s the light, of course. A handful of leaves experiment with red and yellow edging; a few have even made the leap and lie on their backs on the ground, staring up at the shortening rays of the sun.

Despite the discomfort, I’m having urges to bake, to freeze, to follow the lead of the squirrels and begin to put food away for the winter. No, not at 90. Maybe I’ll play in the kitchen next week when temperatures are slated to return to a reasonable level, but not today. It’s a good day for a lot of iced tea, but for soup and stew and having the oven on, not so much. The air conditioner has enough to contend with without the oven.

This weather, the yuck and the stick and the sweat, this will pass. I find comfort in knowing that it will not last forever. The slant of the light as it gilds the field is welcome to stay as long as it wants.

Simplicity, Frugality, and Sadomasochism

Changes are on the horizon here in the soybean field. Not official, but in the works. The changes are for the best and the highest, so no worries. Details to follow when all is complete.

There will be some adjustments and tradeoffs, certainly, but worth it. The trick is to implement them without suffering. A small amount of discomfort, perhaps. However, it is very possible to live quite nicely within the lines without hurting oneself.

Simplicity and frugality share some points on the Venn diagram. So do frugality and sadomasochism. Simplicity and frugality help their practitioners become free from mental clutter, debt, and consumerism gone insane. The frontiers between frugality and sadomasochism, on the other hand, drive the need to scrimp and save to the point where one’s life is taken over by the need to hoard toilet paper beneath the bed because one has found a great deal on it and purchased a year’s worth.

Simplicity asks “What makes you happy? What are you willing to give up so you have more room in your life for it?” It might be debts. It might be the butt-ugly lamps inherited from an ancestor. Or it could involve performing a ritual to release a long-held grudge.

Sadomasochism has no time for that. It demands the twine scraps be knotted together and balled up. It requires that the bags get stuffed into sacks for storage.

Your Money or Your Life is a good starting point for saving money and consuming consciously. You keep a list of what you spend during a week, then evaluate it to see what you need, or don’t. Example from real life (not in the book, but to give an idea): do you really need to make three latte runs to Starbucks a day (yes, a day) or maybe you could have one a week? Amazing what people spend their money on without awareness.

The Tightwad Gazette has some good pointers in it: making your own salad dressings and other condiments; organizing the kitchen, valuing time. Some of the advice is downright tacky (gag gifts, potluck wedding receptions, homemade gifts), dangerous (buying a case of canned foods that had lost its labels or forcing  children to finish their meals in ways that plant seeds for eating disorders in their teen years) or dated (the newsletters compiled in the book ran from 1990-96). The author also made some nasty remarks about overweight women spending too much money on their hair and nails to compensate for their weight. Very mixed.

If getting one’s hair and nails done is something that helps a woman feel good about herself, no matter her size, and she budgets for it, it falls under simplicity. It is a reflection of her true self, and not acceptance of what consumerism gone amok preaches.

For me, hair yes (tried to cut my own when I was in junior high and looked like I’d undergone chemo for a month). Never really been into getting manis or pedis. Not me. Not worth the money. Books are. Ecologically responsible cleaners are. Good food for me, Hubby, and Oakley is.

So we make our adjustments, and get ready for the next adventure.

To Everything There Is a Season

Labor Day came and went, and left hand in hand with August. The storm came on Thursday, the one that announces autumn’s impending arrival. We still have a lot of summer in front of us and plenty of nice days ahead until that last week or so in November. School starts, and on we go into the new season, changes and all.

Some of them are good. I am down a hair under seven pounds as of Friday. (bows and says “thank you, thank you.”) Oakley did two full days at his new daycare place. He slept well both nights. Going to Ms. Rebecca’s involves a left turn at the major intersection rather than going straight. He’s learned that when we do that, he’s going to go have fun, and he stands up in excitement. Oakley has mad several new friends, including a pretty lab mix named Sheba and a schnauzer named Wilfred. Ms. Rebecca’s is about a third of the distance that it was to Ms. Judi’s, even picking through the construction that squashed the main road through town to two lanes.

Some are bittersweet. We are staying in touch with the parents of his previous day care friends through email and Facebook so that we can arrange play dates and walks. The adjustments are easier for him than me. Oakley’s blissfully unaware of the legal, moral, and karmic aspects about the hows and whys of the center’s closing. I wish that I were as well.

He has accepted the changes well. I, too, will adjust, but I’m the one who needs the time to do so.

 

The Gladiola Conundrum

It was Oakley’s last day at the day care center before it closes and he starts full days at the new one. I decided to do a big-haul shopping trip since I won’t be getting over that way with the same frequency.

Started the trip at Costco, then on to the Whole Foods that’s across the street. I wanted to get Oakley’s teacher a token of gratitude, such as flowers. Just inside the door, gladiolas stood proudly in their buckets. I chose one bunch for Ms. Judi, a vibrant earthy red-orange, and one bunch for me in a more ethereal lavender. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but a couple of aisles later near a Labor Day promotional display, I realized that I had just bought gladiolas.

Gladiolas+Labor Day=impending autumn. Write an equation and solve for summer’s entirely too-short visit. For some reason, several radio stations played “Cruel Summer” during my travels yesterday. The last endless winter had robbed us of a good piece of spring, rendering us all logy and crabby and vitamin D deficient. The cloud of the doggy day care center’s closing had cast shadows over the landscape, too. Hubby and I were only able to get up to the Ren Faire once this summer due to his work schedule and the endless tasks required to get his mom’s house on the market.

So here we are at Labor Day. Changes and time cannot be stopped. I felt like quoting Sheldon’s line from “Big Bang Theory” when he pitches a hissy about Leonard’s and Penny’s engagement leading to changes in the housing situation, shouting that no one was moving and nothing was going to change because he didn’t want it to.

Unfortunately, I don’t control things, a hard truth learned in my life. I decided that Ms. Judi needed a bottle of wine to go with the flowers. For a moment, I toyed with getting some for myself as well, then decided not to since it’s four points a glass. I like my Shiraz, but not that much.

Perhaps the circumstances are beyond control, but the choices made in their flow and ebb aren’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Change as the Constant

So I go for my third acupuncture treatment this afternoon. If anyone had ever told me that sitting for up to 45 minutes with needles inserted in my wrists, ankles, knees, ears, and the top of my head was one of the most relaxing things I’d ever do, I would have wondered about them. 

So far, I’m feeling a lot more pulled together. The brain fog has dissipated, finally. The only disappointment was that the needle at the crown of my head didn’t pull in any signals from Mars. 

The other recommendation: relegate grain and dairy to occasional treat status. When the acupuncturist recommended that, I had the urge to roll into a ball. The needles in my feet and ankles precluded that. 

So I quietly dealt with it. 

Me: OMGOMGOMG I have to give up grains and dairy!! 

Inner wisdom: You can still have them as treats.

Me: I can’t have cheese! What about milk in my tea?

Inner wisdom: You can still have nuts, avocado, and olives in your salads. There are a lot of milk alternatives that will be pretty tasty. You can find treats that fit your needs on the web.

Me: BUT–

Inner wisdom: Think about your friends who have a lot of restrictions. They’ve found yummy stuff. So will you.

Me: BUT–

Inner wisdom: WOULD YOU GET OVER YOURSELF, ALREADY?

Sometimes, you just need to grab your own shoulders and get back to reality.

In this case, I found some teas that pair well with almond and coconut milk. I fudged on the grain-free recommendations with some gluten-free crackers. And I found some macaroons without flour in them. Yum. 

I also fudged with a small amount of feta in a salad. Not to be done every day, but there were no adverse consequences. 

In addition to the brain fog finally dissipating, I haven’t had the bloating that was sometimes so bad that I was relegated to my yoga pants for comfort. 

Sometimes, change isn’t such a bad thing after all.