Nine???

Recently, I googled “does eating sugar make my joints hurt?” I think this is often over-stated in blogs. I do not believe that if you eat a teaspoonful of sugar you will immediately be stricken with joint pain. But, my search led me to arthritis.org, where they did state that when you have arthritis, your body is in an inflammatory state. And sugar is a food that causes inflammation. There is enough information out there about this that I agree with that. Okay. Less sugar.

That search led to an article about “the ultimate arthritis diet.” Interesting. They say that a Mediterranean type diet helps stop pain and inflammation. Here are their recommendations:

  • Fish–salmon type. 3-4 ounces two times a week. I can do that. I like salmon. So I’ve started buying a half pound piece of salmon and having it on Sunday and Wednesday. Approximately 🙂
  • Nuts–especially walnuts. Oh my. I love walnuts more than almost any other food. But they are high in calories, so I usually measure out about 1/3 of an ounce. They recommend 1 1/2 ounces a day! That’s a lot of calories. But I have started having 1 1/2 ounces of walnuts in yogurt for my lunch almost every day. It feels very luxurious.
  • Olive oil–especially EVVO. They recommend 2-3 Tablespoons per day. That’s not happening. I can’t even imagine eating that much oil. But, I could eat more salads, and I could use real dressings with olive oil instead of my low calorie dressings. I’m working on that one.
  • Beans. Again, not happening. I DON’T LIKE BEANS.
  • Whole grains. They are recommending 6 ounces. I know I won’t eat that many whole grains, but I do have oatmeal almost every day in some form or other.
  • Fruits and veggies–all kinds, but especially the colorful ones. They recommend NINE servings a day! Now this is not a new number. Many diets recommend that many fruit and vegetable servings per day. I like fruits and vegetables. But I have yet to eat nine servings in a single day! I am being more cognizant of that. So far the most I’ve eaten in a day is seven. I mostly only like fresh fruits and vegetables, so you have to shop a little more often to keep stocked, or just remember to buy more when you’re at the store.

Notice there’s no mention of dairy or other animal meat sources. I guess Mediterranean’s don’t eat that stuff. I’m not stopping eating those things, because I enjoy them. But its fun to try a few changes in your diet. My arthritis pain seems to have decreased, but I’m not convinced its the dietary changes. It could just be the changes in the weather. Nevertheless, these are healthy changes, so they’re worth a try. I also think that some of the amounts are probably based on a “normal” 2400 calorie diet. If I ate that much, my arthritis pain might be decreased, but I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe in a much larger size 🙂

The Inexhaustible Richness of Sameness

 

To be in the same place daily, watching the dawn, hearing the birds wake each morning, makes one realize the inexhaustible richness of ‘sameness.’

Thomas Merton

I enjoy sameness. Routines. Predictability. Plans. Not Knowing makes me slightly anxious. I think my dogs enjoy sameness too. They watch me and know what’s coming next, even if I try to be sneaking and do things nonchalantly. If I am getting dressed AND putting on my shoes, they know that the next step is going out to the doggie room and THAT MEANS TREATS. Oh, the excitement! This happens three or four times a week.

And then I started this routine to give equal time to the girls. So for my afternoon coffee break, Bess and Zoey get to sleep on my lap. I started this because Bess doesn’t demand much, and I felt like she was getting a little neglected. Now, when I just START making my afternoon coffee, Bess goes and positions herself by my chair, ready to take her rightful position! I can’t believe how excited she gets about this. It is the only time she asks to get on my lap! Sophie and Chloe get my lap after dinner. Since they are a little bigger, Chloe gets on the chair next to me, and Sophie lays on top of her. Chloe doesn’t seem to mind. (sorry, no pictures of this. Believe me, it would not be a flattering selfie.)

I enjoy waking up early, without an alarm clock, so most nights I start to bed fairly early. I like it when I can get into the studio before 9am to start my quilting, sewing, and creating.

I like going to the gym three days a week, and working out hard (but not too hard 🙂 )

I enjoy going to church every Sunday. I enjoy worshipping with others, and this is where I can hear from God (if I am listening) and it grounds me for the week ahead.

I like the predictability of the seasons. I love seeing everything pop up in the garden when spring starts. I like working out there in the summer, getting new plants, moving others to new locations, and making little plans. I like the fall, when I can look forward to the changing colors. I like it when winter comes, and I get to take a break from the garden.

Sometimes liking sameness can cause a little difficulty. I like certain foods, and I like them at certain times of the day. If I identify that that might not be the best, most healthy way of eating, it is difficult for me to change those habits. Right now that includes a protein bar every day with my coffee break, and Skinny Pop popcorn every night! I’m working on that.

When I first moved to the country, my city family would ask me, “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!” Well, I was going to stay home and enjoy myself. They did not understand this. Its a verse in the Bible, but its also just plain wisdom “I have learned, in whatever state I am in, to be content.” 

Contentment. Its a good thing.

I wish for you a contented Happy New Year!

A Simple Special Dinner

Most of the time I am cooking for one. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the whole world who does this, so I thought I’d share how I made a special dinner for myself without breaking the calorie bank. Yes, I know its just one meal. But of course, you do end up making enough for several meals, and so for me, its just a good thing to lighten up some of my favorite foods, and also to limit the number of foods I prepare. Don’t feel bad, I did have more than my fair share of sweet treats this Christmas 🙂

So here’s the two recipes I adapted from old favorites. The first was an old recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. My copy is 40 years old! It still has a lot of great basic recipes and instructions, and I am very happy to have it. These are called Buffet Potatoes, and are kind of a simple version of potatoes au gratin. I looked at the recipe and there were a few simple obvious changes and substitutions to make, and still have a delicious side dish. I left out the butter (why do you need cheese AND butter,) and instead of half and half, I used whole milk. That made my version a very reasonable 130 calories per serving. I made a recipe that had 4 servings instead of the 8 in the original recipe.

Here’s how I did it:

I had an 8 oz block of cheese, so I just marked 1/4 of it with a knife, and then shredded that much of the block. I actually weighed out 12 oz of potatoes (I almost always use Yukon Gold because they have more natural flavor,) and I sliced 1/2 an onion as thinly as I could.

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Assembled them in layers with salt and pepper, per the recipe.

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Sprinkled the milk over all, and baked according to recipe, and here are my lightened up buffet potatoes. Perfect with ham!

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I used to make jello with frozen raspberries in heavy syrup, and I used that syrup to make regular jello, and then added the raspberries, cream cheese and plenty of walnuts. For my lightened up version, I used SF raspberry jello, laughing cow lite wedges, and walnuts. I forgot to buy some fresh raspberries, so I used pears this time, which are also delicious in this combination. I have compared, and laughing cow lite has less calories that light cream cheese, and I think its delicious in this kind of preparation. When I had it all combined, I was very happy that I came up with the idea of portioning it out into serving dishes, saving me one more step when it came time to eat! Each serving has about 100 calories.

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And here was my Christmas Eve dinner! The only thing that was missing was some kind of green vegetable. Just some broccoli or green beans would have been great.

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A Quiet Christmas

This year I noticed I was in a pretty festive mood even before Thanksgiving. But I was working constantly on finishing a special quilt, one that I had conceived last year at Christmastime when I attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah, and I didn’t want to stop to get Christmas decorations out.

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When I finally finished the quilt, (and I did finish it in time to hang in in my church the week before Christmas,) it was raining, and I didn’t want to haul Christmas decorations from the storage shed to the house. Then I was working quickly to finish one quilt for a present for my brother’s family, and I didn’t want to take the time to put Christmas decorations up. (My brother loves the zoo, and I couldn’t resist this panel of zoo animals when I saw it at the fabric store.)

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Finally, I got a pattern to make “artful oven mitts,” and I was having so much fun making some last minute Christmas presents that I didn’t want to stop long enough to put Christmas decorations up.

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And that’s how it happened that I had a Christmas without decorations even though I was in a festive mood. Somewhere along the way, I did have an epiphany–one of the things I DON’T like about decorating for Christmas is hauling the decorations from the storage shed to the house. I now have more storage room in my house, and so sometime in the new year I am going to go through my decorations, thin them down a bit, and bring them in the house.

I did remember to order a ham from the local meat market for my own Christmas dinner. I almost forgot about the rest of the dinner, and one morning I was at the store with only about 10 minutes to spare and I suddenly remembered, what else do I want to make?! So I remembered that I love this old recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Buffet Potatoes, and  I love the jello salad I’ve made for years.

I made lightened up versions of both, and I’ll share that in a post later this week. Yummy, if I do say so myself. I only made one batch of cookies. They were the featured cookie of a well-known quilter, so I just had to try them! Quite delicious–the recipe called for fresh cranberries, but since I had a boatload of dried cranberries, that’s what I put in mine.

The girls got new beds and toys for Christmas. Bessie claimed the small round bed next to the wood stove.

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And Chloe is quite enamored of all the new toys 🙂 Sophie prefers her perch next to the wood stove. After all, the Queen must maintain a higher station than the common dogs.

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All in all, for me it was a wonderful Christmas season. I attended a wonderful church in Folsom that celebrated Advent in a special way, each Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I attended my home church for our Christmas dinner, Christmas Eve candlelight service, and again on Christmas morning, before heading to my niece’s house for a nice Christmas dinner with family. For me, this is the way to celebrate Christmas.

I hope you all had Christmas just the way you wanted it, and I wish for you all a peaceful and happy New Year!

Happy Days

It was my birthday weekend! Yes, that’s right, weekend, not week. Two days is more than enough celebrating at this time of year. My real birthday was on Sunday, and since I started a new tradition 3 years ago of SWIMMING on my birthday, I planned to do that on Saturday. So off to the gym I went Saturday afternoon. I spent 45 minutes (10 miles) on the stationary bike (the amount of time I spend on the bike is directly related to how interested I am in the TV show I’m watching :/ ) So when I finally got out to the pool, it was smooth as glass! Yes, I had the whole pool to myself for my birthday. The water is actually nice and warm, but if there is any breeze, your head and shoulders are quite chilly. Still, I spent 20 minutes running back and forth. I decided to not swim, because I didn’t want to get my hair wet. I was going to Starbuck’s afterwards for my free frappuccino!

Sunday I had all planned out. I have started attending a church in Folsom every other Sunday–they are the church that encourages artists and they have displayed my quilts in their gallery twice now. I really enjoy this church–it feeds my soul, and fills me with thoughts of God for the week ahead. So I headed out to Folsom bright and early, so I could stop at the bakery on the way and get myself a sticky bun and a good cup of coffee for the drive. Yummmmmmm.

I had decided ahead of time that I wanted to get myself a nice pair of pajamas for my birthday. I usually have good luck finding pajamas and nightgowns at the thrift store, but I haven’t had some nice cozy pj’s for a while. So after the church service, I checked out Ross and Marshall’s, but ended up at Steinmart and got the perfect pair–pink of course, with a gray and pink rose print. And the tag claimed they were “cloud soft.” Perfect!

I saw that they had a Nordstrom Rack there, and decided to check that out. I had quite the little adventure there. I pulled forward into a parking space next to a man in a van that was full of stuff. The man did not look very friendly… and before I got out of my car, another younger man came running out of the store, hopped in the passenger seat and slouched down, while the driver tried to pull forward but hit a parking bump so he had to back out of the spot. This all seemed highly suspicious, so I tried to memorize part of the license plate, and the next thing I saw was the mall security car with its flashing lights on, doing what seemed to me to be a slow speed chase. And then the funniest thing happened–you know how sometimes its hard to find the mall exit? Yeah, that van had to turn around and find a different way to get out of the mall. Well, I don’t really know how that ended, but I went in the store to give them the partial license plate, and there was already another man there showing them something on his cell phone, so I decided they didn’t need anything from me. End of story 🙂

I looked around the Rack for just a minute–too crowded and messy. But I did find a pair of diamond earrings to replace the ones I had lost. LOL. Cubic zirconias. They are plenty sparkly for me.

I had lunch at my favorite Chipotle Grill (same thing every time–the carnitas salad,) and the first girl asked how my day was going, and I blurted out, “oh perfect. Its my birthday and this is my favorite place to eat.” So I went on down the line and the other servers said happy birthday, and I paid with my card and went to the table. And then I looked at my ticket, and they hadn’t charged me for my meal! What a nice surprise.

I ended the day with my free Pinkberry froyo–gotta love those cards where they just load the free birthday treat onto it. And I was on my way home, where I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in my big chair, taking turns holding each little girl on my lap.

In case y’all are  wondering, this is a special birthday–I turned 62 this year. SOCIAL SECURITY, baby!! It doesn’t start until February, but I have been looking forward to this since I retired five years ago!

From the Garden

While checking out the garden before another predicted rainstorm, I found three incredible rose blooms. I decided to cut them down and bring them in to enjoy for a bit.

Look how well they match my bathroom! I love that color of pink 🙂

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And even 4 days later I was still enjoying their beauty.

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And one more note about the garden. I was so looking forward to a good year of fall color from the Japanese maples. Unfortunately, the warmer fall that we had (that gave me wonderful roses the last week of November) was not so good for the maples. They just didn’t get that cold shock that they need to turn colors. So I am enjoying bits and pieces of fall color, but so far, none spectacular enough to share on the blog.

Late to the Party

I know I’m the last person in America to discover the joys of potstickers! Before, they just seemed like a pain in the butt to prepare–trying to heat pasta in a pan with some oil, and they always STUCK TO THE POT. And then I discovered the toaster oven. I put them on a piece of foil sprayed with Pam and Bam! They cook up with just a bit of crispiness and not only do they NOT stick, they tend to slide around on their little aluminum foil sheet pan. Weird, but it works so well.

But I need to back up. I discovered these potstickers through Biz’s recipe recommendation for won ton soup. I love that soup. And then I got the giant economy bag of the mini potstickers at Costco, and I thought I might like to eat them without the soup. After all, they are only 100 calories for eight of them!! And THEN, I found the recipe for dipping sauce on the bag, and I adjusted it for my own purposes. And I had the makings for a quick and easy and very low calorie dinner, just like that.

Here’s what I had for dinner the day after Thanksgiving. The shrimp are good dipped in the sauce too!

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