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Archive for the category “The Body”

A Foodie’s Hell

I love cream.

I love cheese – all cheese. I love eggs. I love full-fat everything.

I recently discovered that I have a cholesterol level of 352.

So I have to recalibrate. I’m told to stay away from the things I love, as well as most red meats, potatoes, and refined flour (so no white pasta). So basically, I can’t eat most of what Bernardo cooks – pizza, lasagne, steak, etc. I can’t even eat too much of the so-called “good fats” – olive oil, avocado. I just have way too much fat overall in my diet.

Which suddenly means I’m cooking for myself again (which is fine – I love cooking), and it’s all different from what Bernardo and Gina are eating. (Yeah, I had a little cry right before dinner last night while they were having Porterhouse steak and roasted potatoes, and I was having a Morningstar Farm fake-chicken thing.)

Yesterday I did a big shop and realized that – aside from the occasional chicken breast or lean pork – I’m essentially looking at a pescatarian lifestyle. And given that fish doesn’t really travel well into the office, I’m looking at it mostly being a vegetarian lifestyle.

Today I did what I used to do years ago on a Saturday – cooked for the week.

I made black bean soup, with parsnips and onions and fat-free chicken stock and a TINY amount of sunflower oil. It’s nice and sweet. I thickened it by using an immersion blender to mash up the beans and release their starch.



Years ago, I was a vegetarian – I lasted about 10 years before the practicality of having little kids and little time intervened. But I’m familiar with vegetarian brands – I really like Morningstar Farms (though I’m aware that they’re fairly salty – which is probably why I like them). I made a ragout with MF “Crumbles” – basically flavored texturized vegetable protein. I used some tomatoes that I’d put up in August (Jersey-grown tomatoes do get a bit watery in the can, so I had to use some tomato paste to thicken it). This came out surprisingly well.


I also made a braised tofu dish with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and honey. Again, the MINUTEST quantity of sunflower oil, mostly just to keep the tofu from sticking during the searing process. I used to make this years and years ago.



And I made a sort of chicken-and-parsnip casserole, with oregano, garlic, and lemon.



And I roasted an acorn squash.


So I should be all set to come home from work, heat something up quickly, and sit down with Bernardo and Gina. We were joking last night that Gina wouldn’t even be jealous of my food because none of it is anything she likes.


Now, I have lost 25 pounds since June 9, mostly just through walking and monitoring my caloric intake. With this new way of living, it looks like I’m about to lose a load more – not intentionally, but just because I’m having to give up rich foods. Due to reflux, I’m also eating several tiny meals in a day – so I’m eating all the time, more or less. But it’s whole grains, nonfat yogurts, vegetable proteins or low/nonfat meats (turkey breast, chicken breast, fish), fruits and vegetables. Instead of seltzer, I’m drinking water infused with ginger and citrus peel. Instead of drinking so much caffeinated tea (basically, it was all day every day till 5 p.m.), I’m drinking more ginger/lemon tea. (Yeah, ginger’s kind of my best friend right now.)

Proof of Providential forces: a farmer’s market just opened up next door to my office.


Pinhole Breathing

My new ENT tells me that I have “silent reflux”. This is reflux with no symptoms except…asthma.

Not that the allergy shots were a waste – I have been feeling better. But I’ve plateaued. So the allergist sent me across the hall to the ENT, and he…stuck a camera UP MY NOSE and INTO MY SINUS CAVITY and DOWN MY THROAT.

There is something very wrong about an object going IN a passage where you’re used to things coming OUT. You want to kind of stop and say, “No, see, you’re doing this wrong, let me show you” – but of course in the case of these teeny cameras on strings, it’s not wrong. It just FEELS wrong. (Oh, it feels so very, very wrong.)

At any rate, he was able to see the inflammation. I am to avoid all the things I normally avoid (except coffee – he said I could have a cup of coffee), and take prescription Prilosec before bed. When I told him I’d felt like I was breathing through a pinhole, he said that actually, my larynx was swelling up and pressing against my esophagus and so, indeed, that sensation was in fact accurate.

Tonight Bernardo and Gina are going to Gina’s mom’s house for dinner – I am going to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill because it’s horrid outside, and then come home and have a pasta and knit and pickle my tomatoes and watch Big Bang Theory (which reminds me so much of high school and the nerds I hung out with).

What I’m reading: The Italian Secretary (on paper! Scandal!)

What I’m listening to: Silence. Blissful silence, and the wind, and critters scritching around my gutters.

Nights Like This

Tonight I left work and went across the street to the gym and did an amazing cardio workout. Just the bike – but stupendous…I finally got through 14 miles in 45 minutes. (Yes, well, hip injury. It was exciting for me, personally.) In a state of bliss I drove home, to find Bernardo and one of his BFFs, Charlie, greeting me as I pulled up against the curb. They were going to rack the wine a final time, and begin bottling.

But they needed fuel. Bernardo had put up some flounder in crazy water, with sauteed spinach. So we had a bit of the 2012 before dinner – it is coming along deliciously – and sat down. Fish in crazy water is substantial enough to warrant a red wine, and Charlie brought us a robust California cabernet. And in the middle of dinner, the doorbell rang – it was our neighbor Rich, six weeks post-knee-surgery, come to see what the wine-bottling was all about.

We persuaded Rich to have a little fish, and then the men disappeared downstairs. As I was nestling into the couch with my laptop, I heard the sound of pool balls being smacked into pockets. Eventually, this turned into the sound of wine being bottled.

A beautiful night to come home to. Friends, food, wine, and the lingering endorphins of an amazing workout.

The Luxury of Morals

I was reading this today. Quite shocking, particularly this bit:

I’ve optimized soups,” Moskowitz told me. “I’ve optimized pizzas. I’ve optimized salad dressings and pickles. In this field, I’m a game changer.

To think of food as being “optimized” (and I am a product manager; I “optimize” products all the time) is one thing. But Moskowitz followed up:

There’s no moral issue for me,” he said. “I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being a moral creature. As a researcher, I was ahead of my time.

This sounds so much like the ultimately destructive scientist in dystopian movies, making excuses retrospectively while also trying to establish his brilliance.

If being a “moral creature” is a “luxury” – and I say this as someone who has struggled to survive myself, with two children, no less – then we’re here. In the future. Day by day I go past the New York harbor, watching our ships come in – literally. Ships filled with cheap merchandise made by who knows what impoverished men, women and children from who knows which lands, unloading from their containers and shipping off to Wal-Mart in a logistical wet dream. I spend a considerable amount of money each week (and time, in terms of food prep) on Real Food because eating what I’m apparently being programmed to is literally an exercise in futility (if not morbidity).

The only ones who benefit from this level of mass-production – and it is everywhere, from our food to our clothing to our furniture to our transportation, our movies and TV and even our books – are the corporations. And they seem to be quite happy to merely repackage their messages until we swallow them like we do Cheetos.

I don’t want optimized pickles. I want the real thing. And that’s the least of it. I want my daughters to grow up and grow old. I want the world to have green in it, for my grandchildren and their grandchildren. And I want them all to do good things – because doing good things is not a luxury. It’s how we’re going to continue to live.

Aged, decrepit and worn-out

I’m coming up on the age my father was when he started complaining about “being an old man”.

My dad was really active, to a guilt-inspiring degree. In high school and college, he was a lifeguard. He could do a gorgeous swan dive and single-flip dive. He swam laps in the sea. Most days he would come home from work, park in the driveway, lower the garage door, and lift weights – he’d follow that with a run. But eventually he started getting injured. That didn’t stop his workouts or his runs – it just meant that every evening he’d sit on the sofa in the family room, one leg propped up on a footstool with an ice pack on his knee, eating Cheerios and drinking sherry.

I was sort of shocked when he started talking that way. Because of course you don’t think (particularly when you are 18 or so) that your parents are aged, decrepit and worn-out – they’re inconveniently old, and they totally don’t get anything about you, but they’re not on death’s door or anything. And my dad was so fit, so handsome, so smart, so eloquent. (And utterly clueless about raising teenage girls, but even people who have BEEN teenage girls are clueless about raising them.) But being so physical, he felt every stroke that age laid on him.

And I’m reaching that age. There are some limitations I’m willing to accept – that my knee, after a torn ACL and reconstructive surgery, will never bend all the way again. That I am beyond doing a split like I could in college. But one thing challenged me last year – the deterioration of the tendons in my left hip. Through process of elimination, it’s clear to me that the side effects of several rounds of antibiotics have caused a lot of damage, and I may never fully recover. So I have to be careful – biking and swimming instead of running and the elliptical, gradual weight-training instead of harsher approaches like boot camp.

But I don’t feel old in the way my father did. And there may be something to that – 12 years after he began this litany, only a few years after his own father had a fatal stroke, he suddenly died (of a heart attack, while mowing the lawn during a heat wave). Given his lifespan, he was old. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m way too young to lose the ability to bear weight on my hip. That I’ve been robbed of basic functionality (seriously, dancing?) thanks to sinus infections. But I don’t feel old.

My hair is very grey, and my girls think I’m hopelessly dated, but the other day I found myself skipping, hip be damned. Maybe I’m just nuts.

The resolutions will be accessorized

This is one thing I learned in my time at Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts (from which I have FIVE diplomas): if you really want to commit to something, make it enjoyable for yourself. Otherwise, you’re signing yourself up for torture, and what sane person does that? Pleasure doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes it a hell of a lot more likely.

So it helped that some gym things arrived from Amazon yesterday – headbands (my head is shaped like a very small egg, and it’s hard to find headbands that don’t crawl up the back of my head), a water bottle. A gym bag arrives tomorrow. I popped over to the Murray Hill Health & Racquet Club and signed myself up, and had a lovely cardio workout.

It helped that I was in a buoyant mood when I got home as a result, and merrily swept up the dog hair and wiped down the dining room table and put things AWAY instead of leaving them all over the place.

And it helped that, having done all of this, I cleared the decks to sit and blog. Three resolutions met in one day. (I’d argue four, actually, because cardio makes me all blissful, and one could consider that a spiritual experience.)

And here we are in 2013

Usually I’m not big on resolutions. My traditional resolution has been to floss regularly. But this year I achieved that, so it’s time for something more rigorous. Looking at the categories into which I seem to have divided my life, I’m making the following resolutions:

The Work: Brian O’Leary, last year, made the resolution to “write something useful every day“. And he did it! I like the idea of writing every day, though I can’t swear it will be useful. But since Bernardo has also made the resolution to write every day, it seems like a companionable thing we can do in the evenings after dinner. So, I am resolved that there will be blogging every day. 

The Soul: Bernardo and I just started going to church regularly. I’d like to continue, and I would like to either join the choir, or start piano lessons again, because music feeds my soul like nothing else. So those are my resolutions for that category.

The Home: We’ve finished a year of pretty intensive renovations. This year will see us putting Venetian plaster on the walls of the living room, and repainting the sun room and kitchen. I’m hearing rumors of a new filing cabinet that will live in the basement – while it’s not my resolution to make to see all the papers in the house put away neatly, I can certainly encourage it. I resolve to stay on top of the laundry and pet grooming/hair sweeping, and to give a shit about how the house looks because I have to live in it. I am also not going to run in terror from my own finances. I SWEAR.

The City: I love my city so very much. Staten Island, in particular, seems like such an enormous secret – it’s a wonderful place to live, but nobody wants to hear that message. I resolve to take more pictures of the things I love in the city, to donate to the public radio station, to be more involved when there is trouble. Warm hats for Sandy victims!

The Body: Well, obviously I’m going to keep flossing. And my hip is as healed as it’s going to get – I have spent months resting and healing. I have joined a gym near my office, and every evening while I’m waiting for traffic to die down, rather than sitting at my desk, I’ll hop over and do some cardio. I’ve also unearthed my kettlebells and bands, and set up a home gym in the basement for resistance workouts on the weekends and when Bernardo has evening meetings, and downloaded Tracker2Go on my iPad and phone. I am also investing in a proper vanity table and jewelry armoire. No more excuses for looking like I’m falling apart, and wearing the same damn necklace every day because I’m too lazy to rummage for a different one.

Of course, to be realistic, for every resolution there are things we know we should be better at but realistically we’re not even going to attempt. Here are mine:

  • Being better about the phone. I hate the phone. We all know this. I will never be good at phone communication. I like text. How about we resolve your unrealistic expectations around this?
  • Being slower and less sudden/abrupt. Not going to happen. I know myself too well. It would be like asking me to be a completely different person. One who is deliberate and thoughtful and diligent about everything. Who is not me.
  • Stopping beating myself up when I screw up. I have been doing this for 47 years. If I were inclined to stop, I probably would have it figured out by now.
  • Lay off the avocados and seltzer. No.


I’m going to come back to this, I know. So I’m putting it out here now: researchers have encoded a textbook in synthesized DNA, and then converted it back to a digital file.


50 Rubber Ducks

Every so often, my work and home worlds collide. Not often. But last night was one of those times.

We have just installed a swimming pool and while the ground around it is all torn up, we are definitely using it. Helps with the hip; breast-stroking a few laps last night gave me the first endorphin rush I’ve had in months.

My stepdaughter is autistic, as I’ve mentioned, and loves to play with textures. I was thinking how great it would be to get 50 rubber ducks and float them in the pool for her, so she’d always have something to grab (and I like a Big Flashy Deal – 50 rubber ducks in a pool would be freaking awesome).

Loving Staten Island as I do, I wanted to buy them locally. But I don’t have a lot of time in my life for poking around shops trying to find 50 rubber ducks.

So, naturally, I complained on Twitter:


I started thinking about how great it would be if local independent stores could work together to supply inventory feeds to a local shopping website. I could locate my 50 rubber ducks (even if there were 20 of them here, 10 there, 15 at this other store, etc.) and shop at the stores that I want to support.

Then Brian O’Leary wrote this post. He’s absolutely right that local newspapers have an opportunity to be the gateway for this information, as they once published classifieds:

As data sets become valuable and the tools to analyze them become cheap, even free, local newspapers have an opportunity to extend their relationships and grow product and service offerings.

If the local newspaper website had a basic database of mom-and-pop inventory, that would be freaking amazing. Working with the local branch of the library for IT services and community building would be even more amazing.

To The Guys Snickering About Women Reading 50 Shades

So I have just about had it with the somewhat hysterical male response (particularly from, but not limited to, Men Of A Certain Generation) to the fact that ZOMG 50 Shades of Grey is a bestseller and that means a LOT of women are reading it quite possibly even my sister, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, daughter, girlfriend, GREAT-grandmother…and that means THEY ARE THINKING ABOUT SEX AND I AM SURROUNDED BY WOMEN THINKING ABOUT SEX!

Calm yourself while I point out certain things:

1. Strip clubs

2. Lap dances

3. Prostitutes

4. Escort services

5. Internet porn

In the spirit of my last post, let me point out the relationships between these things.



And men’s delicate sensibilities are sent a-quiver because women are…reading? Reading erotica at such a rate that the books have launched onto the bestseller lists, pushing off presumably better-quality titles? (Say, for example, anything involving a Sigma Force or a Delta Force, which include their own sex scenes, most of which are so badly written as to bring the storyline to a cringing screeching halt while simultaneously nauseating the reader?)

I just had a Twitter exchange with @bsandusky about my reading habits – which are decidedly arcane these days, ranging from poetry to philosophy to technical manuals. In terms of style, E. L. James’s work would probably be a disappointment when compared to my usual reading. But after spending the better part of an afternoon being mansplained to on a listserv by industry gurus (and while this listserv is pretty equally divided between men and women, it’s primarily the men doing the talking) about how unfortunate it is that 50 Shades is taking up attention span that could be more productively spent reading other things, I am going to do the subversive* – download that shit and read it tonight. So yes, I will be thinking about sex.

*The fact that downloading books that are bestsellers can (even sarcastically) be considered subversive is an indication of how ridiculous this whole situation is.

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