Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Are Ya Doin' New Year's Eve?

Or does the song say New Year's Day? Anyway, what are you doing? Whatever it may be, however you choose to celebrate, I am wishing you a wonderful 2012. We're having a quiet day; this has never been a big holiday for me. I'm catching up on laundry, working on the perpetual disaster that is our kitchen, and after that I'll plant some tomatoes and lettuce in our itty bitty garden. I'm feeling the need to get ready for the busy times to come once DH goes back to work and the kids are in full stride with their activities again. We'll do a little celebrating, though- I picked up the SUPER pack of fireworks, although sparkle and noise makers would be a more accurate description, at the grocery yesterday.

This holiday season was busy all the way through up until today. In addition to all of the holiday-specific activities and travel, we were running errands, Moving our Money, signing our updated wills, and on and on and on. Never ending.

The Move Our Money project turned out to be quite time consuming but I'm glad we did it. I've done my banking with a credit union for years and years, but a while back they went through a period where their customer service was not good. I got aggravated and moved a lot of our funds over to Wachovia; not everything, but a lot, like the kids' college savings accounts. I also had another checking account there and some other savings, Girl Scout troop accounts, and so forth. I liked Wachovia. They were very nice, they had fantastic customer service, (I was on a first name basis with my favorite bank person), they had branches EVERYWHERE, and they didn't charge fees.

Well, not so much now that Wells Fargo has taken over. They still have very good customer service as far as the employees I've interacted with, (even though my favorite bank person left or was fired during the transition) but they started charging fees. Um, no. I'm done; DH and I went and pulled all of our accounts (the Girl Scout accounts are still there for the time being) and moved everything back to the credit union. Thank heavens the credit union has improved in recent years! I think the lapse in customer service had to do with growing pains- they went from a one-company-specific credit union to one that is open to anyone who lives in the area, and that was a difficult transition. Well, maybe that's not the cause, I don't know, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. Since I continued to maintain a relationship with them I've seen improvement. They even have some free standing branches now that aren't too far away, which is convenient.

Now that it's done and our Money has Moved we can go into 2012 as proper hippies and Occupiers, with all of our money out of the evil big banking industry.

Occupy Wall Street!!! Power to the 99%!!!! :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Current Read: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I just finished Part 1 of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Yes, the one that was made into the movie staring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack way back about 100 years ago. Did you know it's a non-fiction book? Neither did I, but it is! So the story goes like this. The author, John Berendt, was from New York but took a liking to Savannah and started hanging out there off and on. More on than off as time wore on. He met, interviewed, interacted with, and partied with many of the more colorful locals, and during the time he was there Jim Williams was accused of murder. He was already writing about this guy, then the guy goes out and kills somebody. (Allegedly.) Wow, that can make a big impact on a story; talk about being in the right place at the right time! Well, not for the murdered guy, but for the writer. A total scoop, and well written, at that.

I'm starting on Part 2 for a little pre-bedtime reading. If you read this book, one note of caution. If you are at all faint of heart, do NOT Google the Lady Chablis, a major character so far in the book, like I did. There are You Tube videos; they are... interesting. (And look- no links this time! This is a G rated blog, after all.) ;)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays to all. We've been busy around here, mainly cooking for the last couple of days. Christmas prep has been woefully inadequate otherwise, but there are only so many hours in a day. Not pushing myself too hard (maybe a little bit, but not excessively) or getting overly stressed is always a goal for me over the holidays. They are supposed to be fun and special- how can that be the case if I'm wiped out and stressed to the max? So I let things go. We got to travel, so the trade off was decorating at home. Much to Martha Jr.'s chagrin, I might add. She wanted me to pull out the second box of ornaments (the one with all the Hallmark ornaments that are individually boxed) but I just couldn't do it. She's willing to put the ornaments on the tree but I'm the one that has to get them re-boxed when the holiday is over!

There are a few things I haven't given up! We are hosting a "Christmas After Party" tonight. (Name credit goes to The Wild Child.) A few friends, desserts, hot chocolate, and a fire in the patio fire pit where we'll be toasting s'mores and popping popcorn. I think the fire is turning into one of our family traditions- we started a few years ago and I really enjoy it. Before all of that, however, we have our brunch. We started brunch a bazillion years ago back when I had a lot of family in the area. It was a way to claim part of the holiday for myself; now it's tradition. We open presents first then laze around for a while, then we'll go eat eggs and french toast and home made cinnamon-raisin bread and fruit salad, as if all the calories we consumed yesterday (when we have our big, traditional meal) weren't enough! I splurged, I binged, and I'll be paying for it, but for now we feast!!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours! (Or Happy Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate in your family.) With love and hugs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Travels and Some Thoughts About Nutrition

The Eldest finished up her first semester as an official college student on the 9th so we packed up and headed out on a journey to cold northern climes. It was a challenge to pack since we don't really have winter clothes but we got by. Can't let a little thing like that stop you! It was cold the first few days but then it warmed up by the time we left. It was great to see my family. I miss everyone so much- it's hard to live so far away from all of them.

Now that we've returned home I can assess the damage- to my weight, that is! I managed to do OK. I went up a little bit but nothing significant in spite of the fudge I bought in the mountains; now I have to continue the battle to get back down to my goal weight. The holidays and traveling are no excuse! I stopped walking for about a week to a week and a half since we were so busy but I got right back to it today. I feel so much better when I walk every day so it was important to get that going again.

My cousin and I had a great discussion about nutrition while we were visiting. We talked about how important it is to make sure our food is nutrient dense, among other things. After that conversation, DH ran across an article today about how food companies are lying to us. It boils down to this- processed food isn't food at all, it's chemicals made to look like food. (Michael Pollan writes about that quite eloquently.) Our taste buds may not know the difference but our bodies sure do, and if you are consuming empty, non-nutritive calories then your body will just send out the order for MORE, MORE, MORE in an effort to get the nutrients it needs to function properly. You'll only know you're hungry and you'll over eat, but you're still not giving your body what it needs, so you aren't satisfied, so you eat more, and so on. When I gained all the weight in the first place I was eating a "Standard American Diet" (aka SAD), I was stressed out, I wasn't exercising, and I didn't know much of anything about nutrition. I ate junk food, processed food, and fast food on a regular basis and my portions were out of control. I was a mess; it's a wonder I didn't gain even more than I did.

My Nutritional* Influences

I went to Weight Watchers several years before my big weight gain. I gained a little after I graduated from college and wanted to get it off before my wedding, which I did thanks to Weight Watchers. (I walked all over campus when I was in college. Once I graduated and got a regular job I didn't walk everywhere any more and that's all it took.) I learned a little about nutrition from Weight Watchers but not enough, obviously, since I didn't stick with it and gained back all the weight I lost and then some. I still like WW and think they have the best commercial program out there, but it didn't work for me long term. They are a good starting point since they do teach you about portion control and they encourage exercise, which are important components to a weight loss program, but they don't get into the importance of eating REAL food enough. I went on from there. I took a class at a local hospital wellness center on nutrition and weight loss called the LEARN program which was fantastic. I lost some on that program too, but life got in the way and for one reason or another (having babies, problems with my feet that meant I couldn't walk for exercise, etc.) I wasn't able to lose and maintain on that program AT THAT TIME either, but a lot of what that class taught me went into the program I came up with for myself. When The Eldest was little I was involved with La Leche League, a nursing support group that is so much more than just nursing support. They also talked about nutrition for the breastfeeding mom and for your children once they transition to solid food, and one of their main principles was EAT WHOLE FOOD. Sound familiar? Michael Pollan says the same thing, basically. Real food, whole food, whatever name you have for it, it means NOT PROCESSED. Cook from scratch. It's the best thing you can do for your body.

I've also done quite a bit of reading about nutrition. One of the best books I've read is by Brian Wansink called Mindless Eating. He's a researcher who is figuring out why we eat what we eat and you'd be amazed at what he's found out. I first heard about him on a TV show; I can't remember which one, but I was impressed enough that I bought his book. He gives you really great strategies on how to avoid mindless eating traps, like how to handle a buffet without over eating. Michael Pollan, whom I've already mentioned, has the right idea. I didn't discover him until after losing the weight, but he's got some good ideas that will help me maintain. La Leche League titles first brought my attention to the importance of real food back when The Eldest was little, and even though I didn't follow through with that at the time, I sure do now!

Articles in magazines like Cooking Light, tips on Oprah, healthy eating shows on Food Network, (although they don't seem to like the healthy shows too much- they are into selling FOOD so there should be no hint that it can cause anything negative like weight gain, diabetes, and other food related illnesses), articles on-line, and everything I can get my hands on about nutrition have all influenced me and enabled me to put together my own program. I've been successful too, even if I've gained a little back. I've kept off the majority of what I lost and it's been over four years now. I've already beaten the odds; the numbers say I should have gained all of the weight back a long tome ago. It's not easy, there's no denying that, but it's not impossible either and I'm living proof. Even with fibromyalgia, even getting up there in years, I'm still doing it. You can, too! :)

*Is that a word? If not it should be!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Neti Pots

Jinkies! Maybe I shouldn't have been so quick to recommend Neti Pots in my post about dealing with colds.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

NPR's Backseat Book Club

NPR's All Things Considered is sponsoring a kids' book club aimed at the age level of my younger two. I love it because it's a great source for new titles for the kids from a reliable source. So far, the books have been The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, all winners. DH read The Graveyard Book aloud to the kids about a year ago; I listened in a few times and was hooked- I read it myself when they were done. I finished Breadcrumbs a few days ago and now I'm in the middle of The Phantom Tollbooth. I don't read everything the kids read but I enjoy children's literature so I'll read anything good. (I'm passing on Martha Jr.'s Warriors books, thanks.)

I'm fortunate enough to be part of a grown up book club. I love it both for the company of some really great women and for the book suggestions. I haven't enjoyed all of the books (and even HATED one I suggested!!) but they've almost all been books I wouldn't have found otherwise. There are so many titles out there these days that it's hard to narrow it down to just the exact book you want to read at any given time. Now that it looks like bookstores are going away (sob) I don't know how I'll pick out books because I do, in fact, judge books by their covers. It's easier to choose a book if I can see it, pick it up, and leaf through a few pages. I read the back cover and the flaps. That doesn't always work, but it helps "sell" me on a book. That's not the case with choosing books on my Kindle. I find it's a lot harder to make selections in the Kindle "store" than in a real store; a lot of the time I wind up not choosing anything. Sometimes I'll see a book in the bookstore (or Costco or wherever) and then go back and buy it on my Kindle. They need to have stores with "sample books" you can go and hold and look over, then decide on whether or not to buy them electronically. (And I think Barnes & Noble is going that way.) I just pray that, even though I love certain things about my e-reader, that actual, real, paper books will continue to abound on this planet.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Busy Night

It's Vita Mix time at a local store! I've been by twice during the demonstration period (just by happenstance) and stopped for the samples both times. Since I have a Vita Mix and love, love, love it, I am always on the look out for more recipes. The lady running the demo is the same lady I met running the same demo around the time I got my VM about a year or so ago. She gave me a yummy smoothie recipe that I've made regularly since then and a few new recipes tonight. There were some other very cool people hanging out watching the demo and sampling the smoothies; it was fun to chat with them and tell them how much I enjoy my Vita Mix.

While the little ones, DH and I were watching the Vita Mix demo, The Eldest was in her art class getting her final critique. The assignment she had to complete was an "altered book"; I think she did quite well with it. She chose the book "The Blade Itself", one of her favorites. She went through the book and cut out key quotes, arranged them on paper, and decorated accordingly. That doesn't begin to describe the time and effort she put into it; she was working down to the wire this afternoon. I am very proud of her.

Speaking of my artistic Eldest, here's a pic of her from back around Halloween. She was going to a laser tag event with a "Lady Gaga" theme.

Since Martha Jr. helped her out (with things like feeding her dog while she was working on projects and studying for finals) The Eldest promised to get both of the younger ones going on World of Warcraft. They're sitting over there now designing characters and getting started. My computer nerds! Well, guess that's what happens when Dad is a computer engineer. They cut their teeth on computers so it was only a matter of time before they all got on WoW. I'm surprised I've been able to hold them off this long; sigh.

PS: The Eldest says to look here for a pic of her in her normal state.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cold Comfort

I still have this stinking, rotten, sniveling miserable cold and I'm about tired of it already. I got it from DH (thanks, Hon) over the Thanksgiving holiday. I've canceled or modified just about everything, but life goes on. At least there are coping strategies that can help lessen the misery a bit. Other bloggers have given practical advice; I'll add a few things I find helps.

First of all, get that Vitamin D from the sun. Go out and sit in the sunshine a few minutes every day if you possibly can; making your own vitamin D is better than a pill any day. Don't forget that other vitamin, too, the one that comes from oranges! Vitamin C, of course. Load up on the citrus fruit. I don't know if either of these vitamins are proven to lessen the length or severity of colds, but they are good for you regardless. Can't hurt!

Secondly, remember that steam is your friend. I feel the absolute worst when I first wake up every day so a nice, long steamy shower is a soothing way to get everything going. I also use my neti pot in the shower and it seems to keep things clear for a while. If you can't do the long steamy shower, try the stick-your-head-over-a-bowl-of-hot-water-with-a-towel-drape trick.

Warm liquids are also helpful. My high school drama teacher taught me the benefits of hot tea with honey and lemon and I swear by it for easing a sore throat. Although milk isn't really recommended (dairy tends to create more mucus and yucky stuff, or so I've heard) I treated myself to a hot chocolate the other day that hit the spot. We've also been eating a lot of soup. I would recommend chicken soup but we're vegetarian so I've chosen not to do that anymore. Ramen noodles are good, but I can't find a vegetarian version that doesn't have soy in it; that may not be an issue for you like it is for me. We make what we call chicken-less chicken soup quite often; it's basically the matzoh ball and soup mix from the grocery (which is vegetarian) with added onions, carrots, celery, and noodles. Liquids in general are a good idea- drink more than you normally do.

I use over the counter medications at night before I hit the hay. You need to talk to a doctor or pharmacist for any advice about particular medications, but I tend to like the one or two ingredient stuff. If you are mixing multiple medications with multiple ingredients you could wind up over dosing on something so you have to be careful.

Cough drops are invaluable but a lot of them contain soy lecithin so I have to read the labels. I like Ricola lemon mint, which is like candy but it does calm down a moderate tickle; DH likes Fisherman's Friend, which is really nasty and super strong. If the Ricolas aren't working I'll take one of his Fisherman's Friends; shudder.

Lotion tissues. I normally hate, detest, and despise lotion tissues, but when my nose is runny and sore I switch to lotion tissues and they are suddenly wonderful! They make it bearable to wipe your nose yet again.

Last but not least, you can always try some spicy food. We went out for Indian last night but I wound up with the least spicy thing on the menu, dadgummit. DH made chili for lunch today and that was about right. A little spice just helps with clearing things out, I find.

While none of these suggestions will shorten or cure your cold, maybe a little self-pampering will help you get through it with more grace. Also remember to get as much rest as possible, take it easy, wash those hands, and toss anything disposable that might be contaminated when the cold is over (like chapstick and toothbrushes). Here's hoping this is advice you won't need this winter!