Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rice Logic

The slimming process is well under way (see previous posts for background on my anti-obesity project) - three weeks into it and I've shed five pounds of chubbiness. The blood pressure is easing off and though I haven't located my six-pack abs yet my yoga practice is pumpin'!

In order to make it easier to add lots of lovely fibrous grains (gluten-free of course) to my diet I've just acquired a cute little state-of-the-art rice cooker. It's a Zojirushi "fuzzy logic" machine. I've run three batches of brown rice through it so far and though I have no clue what fuzzy logic means, Twinkle makes some totally awesome rice!(I have named her Twinkle because she plays "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" when she begins the cooking cycle.)

I've also bought a rice cooker cookbook and am excited to try all kinds of super yummy recipes. When I tell people I can't eat wheat, oats (except gluten-free oats), rye or barley they inevitably ask "What's left?? A natural question when you realize how wheat-heavy our American diet is. Like high fructose corn syrup it seems to be in absolutely everything on the grocery shelves. That's one heck of a lot of subsidized, fattening grain! Still, when you swear off of it you realize how rich the possibilities are. Most of the world's cuisines are basically gluten-free, based as they are on rice, corn and potatoes - which makes those three foods pretty important to quality of life for people with celiac disease. Thus the fabulous rice cooker that now has pride of place on my kitchen counter. Will keep you posted on how Twinkle and I are getting along as we get acquainted.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Today is Lord Byron’s 222th birthday! I’ve belonged to the International Byron Society since the 70s, joining in college, but I’d been a Byron fan since high school. That’s saying something since Lord Byron has been out of favor for probably a hundred years. Thinking back to when my passion began I can’t actually remember what sparked my initial interest. Probably it was his biography rather than his poetry that first attracted me as a teenager.

Byron was the world’s first media superstar - and like today’s superstars he invented his public image as he went along - which makes him an endlessly intriguing individual. Byron had everything the tabloids relish, then and now; he was gorgeous, scandalous, brilliant, reckless - “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”, as Lady Carolyn Lamb declared him. Some have argued that Byron’s greatest work of art was his own legend.

Possibly, but it’s worth the effort to get past the glitz and glamour of the man himself to the wacky topical wit of his comic verse. Known best for his “romantic” poetry (a taste of the time in which he wrote), Byron is at his best as a comic poet. He’s a keen observer of human nature and society who’d be right at home on the “Daily Show”. Pick up a copy of “Don Juan” and dive in anywhere. Don’t be put off by the conventions of the 19th century English. Just listen to the man’s voice and play of thought. This is a guy you’d enjoy knowing.

So, Happy Birthday, Byron! Tonight friends will come over for a celebratory feast of spaghetti (because he lived the majority of his life in Italy) and Greek salad (because he died in Greece). We’ll read some poetry, his and ours. Maybe the man himself will show up in spirit to rock the party. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Monday, January 18, 2010


When I was a kid in the ‘50s there were two overweight kids in my high school. That’s right, two. And they were mere stick figures compared to 50% of the kids in any school you happen to pick today. When I was a kid, fat people lived in Russia and wore huge fur hats; they weren’t waddling down the aisles of our local supermarkets. Oh how things have changed. Now of course we’re up to our chubby cheeks in . . . well, chubby.

A week ago I started on my doctor-directed “slimming program” to shed twenty-five pounds so as to get my cholesterol and blood pressure under control. You’ll notice I did not use those dreaded words: loss, lost, losing, or diet - all of which are horrible negative words triggering depression, discouragement, and feelings of defeat. I quarrel with the use of “Biggest Loser” to indicate a person who has succeeded in becoming svelte. No one wants to be a loser. People want to be winners!

The British have it right. Over there if you’re a bit chunky you go on a slimming program. You don’t lose fat, you shed unnecessary weight. It is a much more positive attitude - and attitude is everything when you are improving yourself.

In pursuit of my plan I at first checked into the various programs available: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem. Couldn’t find one that had a gluten free option, which of course made them useless to me. A few offered vegetarian or diabetic options but there was nothing for vegans, gluten free or nut-free, Kosher or Halal. Still, it’s no great loss (I can use the word in this case) since I thought the food they did offer resembled chocolate covered ceiling tiles and tiny piles of yard waste. In addition, why should I have to pay twice as much money to eat half as much food?? Doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me so I decided I could do better on my own.

This morning I see I’ve shed the first five pounds - the next twenty should depart at the more leisurely pace of a few pounds a month. The Seattle Slim Plan: oatmeal each day for breakfast to clear the cholesterol (I’ve found a source of gluten-free oatmeal! Yeah!), locked up the salt shaker, banished butter and other animal fats, swore off red meat except as a flavoring, cut all portions in half, doubled up on fresh fruit and vegetables.
I am also fooling my silly brain into thinking we’re eating more than we are by using salad plates instead of dinner plates. And to reward myself for this fine behavior I have sent for a cute, computerized rice cooker! It’s my birthday present to me. Besides cooking all sorts of rice it can also be programed to have my fragrant gluten-free oatmeal ready for me when I get up in the morning. So far, so good!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Every once in a while if you are lucky something comes down the pike at you, slaps you up-side-the-head and sets you on a better path. For me it was this week’s doctor’s appointment. Apparently while I was busy doing all kinds of other things my cholesterol and blood pressure were busy heading through the roof. How could that have happened? And were was I when it did? Obviously I hadn’t been paying attention.

I left the clinic with a fist full of prescriptions and instructions - and with the growing realization that the times they are a-changin’ for me. My marching orders: ditch twenty-five pounds, walk at least half an hour a day, chuck out the salt shaker and animal fat etc., etc., etc. My head was spinning. None of this matched my image of myself. In my mind’s eye I was still the scrawny twenty-year-old who could eat anything she jolly well wanted. High blood pressure, high cholesterol were something big ol’ beer-bellied bubbas get, not me. Definitely not me!

As soon as I got home I commenced filling the garbage with all the “bad for you” stuff from refrigerator and cabinets. The memory surfaced of fifteen years ago when I learned I was gluten intolerant, when I filled big black garbage sacks with bags of flour, pasta, bread, frozen waffles, and a staggering number of products I never suspected contained gluten until with new eyes I read the labels. Cans of soup, bottles of soy sauce, boxes of potatoes au gratin went to the local food bank. I came to think of it as the Great Gluten Purge. Now here I was once again purging my kitchen, this time with anything that contained sodium, cheese, red meat, butter. Goodbye bacon, goodbye sausage! It took the better part of an hour.

While I worked I contemplated how apt the title of this blog has very suddenly become. I started it when I retired last year, intending to explore self-sufficiency, foraging, economizing, coupon clipping, recycling - all the nearly forgotten hippie values of my youth. But it has been a slow shift. I dawdled, stuck in my ways and a little afraid to take the necessary steps to change. With the news that my health has been compromised by our ever-lovin’ fat-lovin’ American lifestyle the choice has been taken out of my hands. (Well, of course I do have a choice: I can stroke out or have a heart attack! Naw, no choice.) So here I am folks, in my new incarnation: gluten-free, oatmeal-vegetable-fruit-tofu eatin’, Earth Shoe wearing, yoga chick! Tomorrow I’ll stock the cabinets with brown rice and cans of low sodium tomatoes. Yippie!

I’ll be keeping you informed on how I’m doing. Knowing you’re there cheering me on is sure to be the kind of encouragement I need. What I discover along the way I’ll pass on to you - you never know, you may at some time need it. Hope you don’t but I didn’t think I needed it either!

Friday, January 1, 2010


Today we launch a bright shiny new decade. Happy New Year everybody! I continue my tradition of cleaning the daylights out of the house on the first day of the year so as not to drag last year's grime into such a pristine place. The sheets are swooshing around in the washing machine at this very moment. When I finish here I'll wash the floors. I'm giving 2010 every chance.

Last night I stayed up to watch fireworks spangle the Space Needle. Quite an accomplishment for this early-to-bed-early-to-rise girl. I vaguely remember a time I could welcome the dawn after a night of partying. Gone are the days, I'm afraid. It takes something momentous to keep me up past nine. Some would call it encroaching old age - I call it an increased appreciation of the value of eight hours sleep.

Taking a break from the novel this week. I'm putting together a chapbook of haiku called "French Press - Coffee Shop Haiku". Poems inspired by years of starting my work day at Starbucks. Strong black tea as the sun clears the mountain. I do miss that sense of community now that I'm retired - seeing the same sleepy Microsofties and Geekatopians every morning lining up for their jump start. I wish them a double grande low fat soy half-caff new year.