Just Like Mother Used to Make

People eat the strangest things and call food the oddest names. We also refuse to eat some things that are actually very nutritious for us. Basically, eating is a mind game and you will be more inclined to eat the kind of foods you grew up eating. You might change up the seasonings and side dishes, but the main ingredient will be standard. Continue reading “Just Like Mother Used to Make”

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Clean Eating, Dirty Fiction

On the last Sunday of every month, I like to share part of what I have learned in my weight loss journey. To be a better writer, I need to get exercise, plenty of sleep, have good posture, and eat clean food. To me, that means eliminating foods Grandma would not recognize as food. Like Flaming Hot Cheetos ™ or bacon-wrapped Lil’ Smokies ™ Grandma might have enjoyed the bacon wrapped stuff after we explained it to her, but it’s the need to say “This is edible” that is the problem. http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/clean-eating/ Continue reading “Clean Eating, Dirty Fiction”

A Balanced Life

When I woke up on August 10, 2011, I knew I had 190 pounds of ugly, limiting, aging fat to lose. I started on Medifast, and lost 71 pounds in two years. Then life threw me a curve ball or two. I’m still down by 50 pounds from my starting weight, and I do my best to stay low-carb and high protein. The biggest change has been in my physical activities, and that’s what I need to focus on the most.

Because I simply needed cheap, filling foods, I allowed myself to add fruit, 1 slice of bread, a bite of sweets, a sip of beer, hello slippery slope! My runaway food is peanut butter. My second runaway food is sugar-free chocolates. I have placed myself on strict portion control with peanut butter, and will have to do the same for chocolates soon.

What has this got to do with writing? Well, in a few short days, my dream of being a full-time writer is going to come true. I am retiring from my day job, and the pension is enough to allow me to not work elsewhere. There are red flags all over the place. Sitting is a dangerous way to spend your day. I want to live a long time and get as many of my story ideas written out as possible. I know the Creator will help me in this if I do my part.

Last year at this time, I had lots of activities that I enjoyed. I walked during the weekdays at work, and sometimes when I got home. My husband would walk with me, and we’d meet the same neighbors out with their dogs or just walking. Then the weather turned too hot, right about the time Mike got a full-time job. Understandably, after a long stretch of unemployment, he wasn’t up to walking after work. But he enjoys his job and has lost weight just from working. He is not as hungry and doesn’t eat as much as he used to. Stress eating is a thing of the past for him.

I also had to give up walking the sweet dogs at the local humane society, because we couldn’t afford the gas to drive out there. Now that I want to get back in, the society has merged with another and the rules are different. I need to go through the training again and there just hasn’t been time.

More carbs plus less exercise for 6 month to a year equal 20 pound of fat back in my life. Finances are much better, but still subject to fluctuation. Mike finished his 90 days of probation, and became eligible to health insurance, a huge factor in my ability to retire now. But the pay increase that was expected will come along shortly. Still for a month, we have been a little short at times.

Once all the dust settles on the money picture, I will be back on Medifast. Once I stop commuting, I will be less stressed. And once I have my own day to plan out, I will be writing and exercising and volunteering for fun things I want to be doing. And I want to reward myself when I reach my goal weight with getting to learn to ride horses, for one thing.

I plan to use the last Sunday of every month’s blog to write about The Balanced Life. I make myself accountable to my readers to share my weight and my emotions, my progress and my road blocks. You are very important to me in this endeavor. And if you want to share what worked for you, please do!

I’ll be back on Thursday with more story fun.

Creative Writing is Like Surfing

No, I didn’t hit my head or fall through a rabbit hole. I was looking for a photo of someone waxing a surfboard, for a presentation at my place of employment. And I found Surf Science. The first thing I noticed was the similarity in articles there to those at help for writers web pages.

Avoid Surfing Mistakes for Beginners, the 10,000 Hour Rule, How To Turtle Roll: http://www.surfscience.com/topics/surfing-tips/beginner-tips/

Eleven Tips for Beginning Writers: http://www.magicalwords.net/david-b-coe/eleven-tips-for-beginning-writers/

The 10,000 Hour Rule: http://www.wisdomgroup.com/blog/10000-hours-of-practice/

How to submit a query letter: http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx

There are a few things on the surf page that SHOULD be on the writers’ pages, like good nutrition: http://www.surfscience.com/topics/surfing-lifestyle/life-as-a-surfer/surf-nutrition and exercise: http://www.surfscience.com/topics/surfing-tips/advanced-tips/indo-board-workouts-for-surfers/

I searched good nutrition for writers, and got places to submit articles on nutrition. Sigh. Exercises for writers just brings up prompts and writing exercises.

Currently, people who need to lose weight want meals with high protein and low fat, and very light on the carbs. http://www.activebeat.com/health-news/9-benefits-of-a-high-protein-diet/?PageSpeed=noscript Well, that should go for writers, too. But wait, athletes burn lots of calories, so they can get away with more carbs! http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/nutrition-tips-athletes So the key isn’t just what you eat, it’s also what you do for the day.

Sitting in front of a computer like I am doing now has been linked to many serious health issues. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20140407/sitting-disease-faq My nutritionist says that sitting is the new smoking, it will cause the deaths of more and more inactive people. Luckily there’s no such thing as second-hand sitting. But I do have a load of writing to complete, some of it with deadlines. Look what I found: http://www.wikihow.com/Exercise-While-Sitting-at-Your-Computer The key here is that if you drink lots of water as well as do these exercises, you’ll be up and walking to the restroom every half hour or so. Here are more, slightly advanced exercises to try: http://www.theactivetimes.com/best-seated-exercises?slide=7

The tip on that last page about tightening your abs and glutes and holding it for a time throughout the day, that’s going to strengthen your core muscles, and make an improvement in many things you do. Did you know that muscles are fat-burning factories? The reason athletes can load up on carbs is that they have muscles that will burn those off. You can exercise and build your muscles, and lose weight from ramping up your fat-burning capabilities.

While you have been reading this, did you get any ideas for stories? Maybe a hero who needs to get back into shape, and meets a physical trainer who puts him through the wringer for his own good? Maybe a restaurant owner who wants to improve the quality of food in her establishment, and hires a whole foods consultant who also happens to be a surfer? Taking a break from your regular routine is always good for the brain, as well as the body.
And guess what? Regular activity is good for your creativity! How cool is that? You can become a healthier person and finally figure out the plot twist you need to become a best-selling author! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/09/exercise-creativity-physical-activity_n_4394310.html

Well, I think that’s my weekly quota of exclamation points. I’ll be back on Sunday.

Art Imitates Life

Being chronically obese is something like being a shape changer. I’ve often joked about over-inflating my feet when it’s hot. Just one of the outside influences that impact my shape.

Here are things that contributed to my weight issues:
*Raised in a low-income home
*Raised without a father
*Genetics, mostly from my mother’s side
*Tonsils out at age 2
*Molested, 3 separate incidents
*Spoiled
*Felt unloved
*Afraid of close contact with men

I gave myself permission on my birthday to eat pretty much what I wanted to eat. The next day, I jumped back on the health wagon. Did really good for four hours. Then I had a clear feeling of fighting an entity that wants out, much like a werewolf or wild cat or dragon. Leashing the beast is what my life is all about. Well, that and writing.

My inner-eating-dragon isn’t the only one I battle, either. There’s my inner couch potato, inner sex addict, and inner gaming nerd.

By the way, my inner sex addict is an introvert. Writing about sex is fine, acting it out with my husband is wonderful, but just thinking about doing anything with strangers? Let’s eat some chocolate instead.

Now I have this idea that probably isn’t new, but so many shape shifters belong to packs and families, all of the same animals, all life long. My idea – and I’m cool with sharing it here, there’s no way I will get all my stories written out. So if you resonate with this idea, go for it! – is a shape shifter who is a loner, and can become any of 4 or 5 different beings. And each of those creatures “lives” full time in the person’s brain.

There was a television show some years ago, Manimal, that went with a similar premise. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085051/ But it was a crime drama and not a lot of attention was paid to how he got that way, were there others like him, etc. Lois McMasters Bujold looked at multiple personalities is an awesome way with Mark Vorkosigan’s disturbing evolution in Mirror Dance. Not about shape shifters, but still exactly what I am thinking of. Ms. Bujold is an amazing writer, and the glimpse of many personalities in one brain is as smooth as silk and eye-opening. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_Dance

So I just need some demon bane to be successful at my diet and exercise. I need to fine the valve to deflate strategic areas. And I need some good crowd control moves to keep the brain characters in order. See you on Thursday.

Candy is Dandy

I do not think I would like to be suddenly transported to Regency England. I have an over-active Modern American sweet tooth, and I dare say the kind of sweets I like would be harder to obtain. For the most part, anything sweet had to be made. There were no corner grocers to run to, no 7-11 tempting one with three rows of candies and cakes, and no bakeries in the villages.

I found the blog for A Woman of Notes, (http://womanofnotes.blogspot.com/2008/09/pride-prejudice-regency-desserts.html) which contained wonderful dessert ideas and information about how to make them. Still not the ready to eat items I am used to, but would be a possible substitute if I ended up rich and had a cook.

Another valuable resource is the Cook It! History Cook Book site (http://cookit.e2bn.org/historycookbook/962-regency-trifle.html) which includes good guesses about what prehistoric man had for lunch. And I found lots of information about the timing of meals and how that changed from the 1600s to now at the blog The Regency Redingote (http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/mealtimes-of-the-regency-day/)

Gunter’s, of course, in London, could provide an ice flavored with bergamot or lavender, maple or chocolate (http://www.regrom.com/2008/09/27/regency-hot-spots-gunters/). And the Historical Hussies’ blog includes information about chocolate that contradicts long-held beliefs. Chocolate was around in special chocolate houses, but again, in London, and proably not cheap. (http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com/2009/07/regency-chocolate.html)

Regency Reflections has a couple of recipes for chocolate drops, with modern translations. (http://christianregency.com/blog/category/food/desserts/)

 

But what about butterscotch, caramel, and cinnamon red hots? While butterscotch candy surely existed earlier, I am not finding anything written about it until 1817 in America. (http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcandy.html#butterscotch) This same site has lots of good information on candy and food and when it first showed up. For instance, caramel is related to toffee, and showed up in the 18th century. Was it sold in stores or made at home? Alas, at home until 1880. And even more sadly, the cinnamon red hots I love were created in the 1930s.

Marzipan has been documented in England since the 15th century, and was most likely readily available but it’s just not the sweet thing my tooth craves. Licorice goes back into prehistory when it was used as a remedy for something or other. Again, not my favorite.

Well, what about puddings? Nice, sweet desserts, with whipped cream toppings! Ah. Many of you already know that “pudding” today in America is a horse of a different color than what was served in the past. Uncle Wiki tells us, “The word pudding is believed to come from the French boudin, originally from the Latin botellus, meaning “small sausage”, referring to encased meats used in Medieval European puddings.” Sausage? For dessert? Sounds like an erotic novel to me.

Pies? Food Timeline says it’s complicated, and that the first use of the word according to the OED occurred in 1303. They started out as large things, but gradually became portable. Even Arab cultures had proto-pies. (Does that make you want to find a way to create a pie using proteus? Only me?) I honestly expected to find that meat pies were the main use of pastries in England for years and years, but turns out sweet, fruity pies marched right along with the meat. “The distinction between savoury and sweet pies did not become really obvious in the cookery books until around 1720. The cooks closest to French culinary practice removed the sugar entirely…E. Smith gave pies with chicken and with lamb in both savoury and sweet versions, but allowed the confustion of flavours to persist in her vegetable and mince pies–in other words, those where the sweet-savoury association lingered the longest.”
The British Housewife: Cookery Books, Cooking and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Gilly Lehmann [Prospect Books:Devon] 2003 (p. 194-5)

Cakes also date back to ancient times, but were more bread-like, and sweetened with honey. The round cake with icing had to wait for improvements in ovens, ingredients to be readily available, and for baking powder to be invented. Then we need to separate the French idea of cake (gateau) from the English idea (think fruit cake), the former needing to be consumed as soon after baking as possible, the latter improving with age. Again, in London, at pastry shops, and some of the larger cities like Bath and Bristol, this could have been readily available but not in little villages unless a bakery was nearby. Side Note: An interesting recipe for Fire of London cakes dating from the times of the Stuarts. The fire was rumored to be started by little cakes that burned. (http://cookit.e2bn.org/historycookbook/964-fire-of-london-cakes.html)

In Regency England, syllabub was on its way out, and ice cream on its way in. (http://www.historicfood.com/Syllabub%20Recipes.htm)And solteties were no longer presented to the high table, paraded around the hall, and left on display or eaten. So thank the stars I will not have to worry about satisfying my sweet tooth in past centuries. Now if you will excuse me, I have some sugar-free chocolate pecan patties that need my attention.