Oink, Its National Pig Day!

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Okay, so, most of you know that I am a diabetic, and that I’ve been controlling it through diet and exercise for 20 years now.  You also know that we travel a lot, and I rarely, if ever, use that as an excuse to stray from my healthy lifestyle…….its my equivalent of an insulin injection.  When people say, oh go ahead, splurge, you’re on vacation, I have to remind them, and myself, that diabetes doesn’t take a vacation.

Occasionally, I’ll have a drink, or Rock and I will split a dessert.  I once ordered an entree in Italy that was mainly pasta.  So delicious I ate the whole damn thing, even though it was at least 3 times my normal serving size.  I checked my blood sugar after that meal and vowed to never do THAT again.  Last week, however, I threw all caution to the wind.  I ate and drank like a pig in Hawaii, and I’m dead last on my Fitbit friends competition list.  Instead of treating my body like a temple, I treated it like a brothel – I put a lot of sinfully good stuff inside of me, and boy did I pay for it.

I’m not quite sure what came over me, but I gave into temptation – big time. Coconut shrimp AND chips.  Several times.  I ordered a salad twice.  The first one is the one pictured below.  Aside from the fact that I eat red meat about once a month, I think the only thing close to salad material was the pineapple chunks and the peas and carrots in the fried rice.  The other salad came with bacon, candied macadamia nuts and whipped brie (my heart be still) on top of spinach and arugula.  I ate everything.  Except the spinach and the arugula, which, in my opinion, are the equivalent of the plate – its just something to put real food on.

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Enough meat in this “salad” for a family of four

Five alcoholic drinks, probably more than I have in an entire year.  And not rum and diet coke either…….creamy, calorie and carb laden delights garnished with paper umbrellas, pineapples and maraschino cherries.  And that famous Hawaiian Hula Pie?  Three times. Three. And shame on me, cuz after the first time, I knew that the portions were truly as big as my head. Granted, we split dessert, but nonetheless, that’s like 3 times more than I should’ve had, and I knew it, each time I ordered it.

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Who needs a piece as big as your head, seriously
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Trust me, there was a third piece. I was just too embarrassed to take another picture

We prefer to rent a condo when we travel, and that requires grocery shopping.  What shall we eat for dessert after our healthy meal of turkey burgers?  After drooling in the baked goods aisle, I thought, somehow, I should head for the frozen aisle.  I know that there’s light ice cream that isn’t killer bad.  Channeling my inner glutton, I drifted towards and settled on……duh, gelato.

Somehow gelato didn’t seem decadent enough.  You know those jars of delectable ice cream toppings at the end of the dessert aisle?  Yeah, so do I.  The golden dulce de leche, along with the jar of marshmallow ooze right next to it almost made it into my cart.  BOTH of them, one wasn’t enough, right?  But man, doesn’t that just sound delicious?  Then, thankfully, I saw the price.  Since everything in Hawaii is so damned expensive, there was no way I was going to spend $10 per jar for something I’d probably only (only!!) eat half of and then have to toss the rest before we left.

I walked away, but reluctantly, I assure you.  And then, on the way to check out, there they were – Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies.  I was practically drawn to them, I mean……here they were, both the dulce de leche flavor AND the marshmallow ones.  It wasn’t lost on me that it was exactly the same flavors as the sauces I ran from…….I took it as a sign.  Bigger sign?  It was Buy One, Get One.  Hell yeah, I bought them both.  But man, they were so good with that gelato.  And by themselves after breakfast the next morning.  And the day after that in the middle of the afternoon.

I felt miserable.  I was bloated and uncomfortable, and even my leggings were tight.  I vowed that I would jump back on the wagon once we left.  At the airport, we stopped for an innocent coffee, and Rock ordered a chocolate croissant.  I had no intention of ordering that strawberry white chocolate chip macadamia nut scone, but hey, he was having something, so…….hello, willpower, are you in there, anywhere?  And who on earth was that, saying, “sure I’ll have that complimentary POG Mimosa, thanks very much” to the flight attendant?  Couldn’t possibly have been me????

So we get home on Thursday night, and I didn’t go to the gym Friday.  Or Saturday.  Or Sunday.   Shoved in the back of a kitchen cabinet, I had an open bag of Heath Bar Crunch toffee bits (that I had used in a recipe for company).  They’d been in there a while, and  had mostly turned to crushed powder.   On Monday I ate the chocolate toffee dust with a spoon out of the bag, while I stared out the window at the snow.

Thankfully, by Tuesday I was back to the gym and eating normally.  We shall see how strong this found-again willpower is on Monday, when we begin a 5 day client trip, which will involve restaurant and hotel meals three times a day.  I’ve looked at all the menus already so I’m armed with nutritional knowledge, plus I can order intelligently.  I always do this, so I can make healthy decisions beforehand; and because menus these days have gotten pretty pretentious.  I don’t like to look stupid, especially in front of clients……there’s a lot of stuff on menus these days, and I have no idea what they are.  For instance what are chicharrones and onion soubise?   Why do I need to resort to google to find out they are fried pork rinds and creamy onion sauce?  Neither of which are healthy, at least not for me.

I guess we all fall off the wagon, I think the important thing is that we are able to climb back up again.  Next week, hopefully, I’ll be renting the wagon with the seat belt – wish me luck!  Until then, as always, thanks for reading……..

 

 

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Mirror, mirror on the wall……

F13FCB8E-4449-4790-89CB-AF166794D60BOkay, so, if I’m writing, it must be my birthday.  Or we’re traveling.  Okay, so it’s both.  Today I celebrate another birthday in Hawaii, this one on the beautiful island of Kauai.  This time, and it sounds older and older each time I say it, I’m turning 63.  Years.  OLD.

Here’s the thing.  I know 63 is old.  Its the bottom box on every survey I take…….AGE: not the 21-35 box, not even the 50-60 box.  I have to scroll all the way to the end to find my demographic – 60+.  PLUS.  I’m lumped in with 70, 80 and 90 year olds now, because apparently if you are my age, you might as well be 90.  I suppose the flip side of that coin is we also get to check the bottom box on income level, so take that age 60 PLUS.  Here’s the thing though.  When I look in the mirror, I don’t SEE old.

I am seeing a lot of NEW stuff though, thanks to the make-up mirror I got for Christmas.  It comes with a 10 times magnification mirror.  Why G-d, why?  Who needs something like this?  Who needs to see these things on their face?  Not me, that’s for sure.  When I first used it, I was fascinated and couldn’t turn away, kinda like a train wreck, you know?   It was as if I was looking at Google maps.  The peach fuzz became amber fields of grain. There are tributaries around my eyes.   The railroad tracks around my lips are from inhaling and exhaling (um, breathing, yeah, that’s it, breathing).  And I think the two around my mouth make me look like Homer Simpson.

Truth be told, I’ve had this lovely turkey wattle for years now, but in profile, this 10x shit makes it look like the Florida Panhandle.

The hairs from my thinning eyebrows have packed up the bags under my eyes and relocated to my upper lip and chin.

When you’re young, you get freckles.  Even the word is cute, makes me think of button noses, daisies and sunshine.  Now they’re called age spots.  Lovely, thankyouverymuch.  Why not just call them “wisdom warts” FCOL.

I color my hair every 4 months or so, and I must be overdue because I saw more than a few grays in there.  And I don’t color it to cover the gray, honestly.  I color it that, ahem, “vibrant” red color so Rock can find me in a crowd when we travel.  Or in the supermarket when he wanders off every single time.

I’ve got the jowls going on, but in all fairness, I’ve always had them, I can thank genetics and my paternal grandmother for that.  In this mirror, though, they make me look like a damned bulldog.   So, I guess I am definitely aging, but do I look old?

Perhaps perception of old has changed (and if so, woo hoo).  When Irene Ryan played Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies, she was 59 years old;  Golden Girls’ Estelle Getty was 62 when she played Sophia.  Granted, they had to wear makeup, but dang, so do I.  And THEY were OLD.

So, I put on a little make up, get dressed, do my hair, put on earrings.  And then even with the above shit going on with this face, when I pass by a mirror, I still don’t SEE old. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I see YOUNG, but geez, old?

I know I look my age, because no one ever drops their jaw when I tell them how old I am.  However, for the shock value, I love to tell people I’m 85.  Their expressions are priceless, and until I tell them my actual age, for about 30 seconds I look pretty damned amazing.  I did this to an uber handsome YOUNG waiter in Italy, and he loved it so much he got down on one knee and serenaded me.  Swoon.

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Beyond adorable Simone sang to me in the middle of a crowded restaurant when I told him I was 85 years old

Whether or not I look old, stuff around me is starting to let me know that whether or not I feel OR look it, I am.  I wake up a little stiff each morning.  That would be great….if I were a guy.  At least I’m waking up though, right?

My friends are starting to move to Senior Communities.  I am eligible for the “honored citizen” discount on random Tuesdays.  My computer has been telling me that I haven’t been able to connect to the cloud in months.  I have no idea what that means, and even less idea how to fix.

At lunch today, Rock got a piece of meat stuck in his teeth.  I said, “I have some cole slaw in my purse if you need it”.  When he looked at me like I was a nutcase, I realized immediately that I hadn’t offered him the intended dental floss.  Seriously.

One thing is for sure;  perception does change as we age.  When I was 38, and my Mom was 66, she had surgery for her cancer.  They told her it had spread everywhere.  The first thing she said to me was “I wanted to live to be an old woman”.   I laughed out loud and told her that her goal was attained.   In the past two months, two people important to me passed away. One was 55, the other 59.   At the age of 63, you bet your ass that sounds young to me, but you can be sure that my thirtysomething year old kids look at me and see old.

Maybe, as well as beauty being skin deep, so is age?  People who have lived really hard lives or are really ill or are really unhappy generally look a lot older than they are.  Maybe the outside does really mirror the inside.  Maybe I don’t see old, thankfully, because I am healthy and happy and my life is pretty easy.  And awesome, thanks to my 35 year marriage to my best friend, my three great kids, and a bunch of amazing old friends who will always have my back.

Will I ever look in the mirror and see old?  Does the vibrant yet wrinkly 85 year old still see a youngster looking back at her?  I hope to find out someday, and I’ll let you know.  Until then, thanks for…….oh no, wait.  Wait wait wait.  I just had a thought:  what if your eyes progressively age as well, so you only see young in the mirror?  Oh G-d and I just had another thought…….people have always told me that I look at the world through rose colored glasses.  What if all this time they meant Rose Nyland colored glasses and I’ve always been blissfully ignorant?  Well now I have to rethink this whole thing….. never mind.   But thanks for reading anyway.

 

Here we go again

DA1BC3A9-334E-4159-91AF-5CD3CC82D806Okay, so, we have begun another one of our adventures in our beloved Italy.  We have started this trip in Milan.

Let me begin by saying I am generally not a fan of traveling to a big city for a vacation. I was born in a big city (Bronx, New York), raised in a big city (Bridgeport, Connecticut), and live in a big city (Portland, Oregon).  But since our flights with Alaska Airlines’ codeshare partners usually take us through London or Milan, we decided to stay for 3 days this time instead of just an overnight.

There were 2 things that we considered must do’s – the magnificent Duomo of Milan, pictured above, and a visit to see DaVinci’s “The Last Supper”.  Obtaining tickets to see the latter is very difficult and must be done in advance.

Even though we did try months in advance, we were only able to get tickets if we purchased them through a 4-hour group walking tour of Milan.  This particular tour started with The Last Supper, and we figured we could bail after that if we felt like it.

We have had phenomenal luck with weather on almost all of our vacations, so go figure it absolutely fucking poured on the day of this tour.  For sure we were outta there after “The Last Supper”.

Ironically, they changed the order that day, and it was the LAST stop of the day.  I almost cried, actually I think I did a little bit, but it coulda been raindrops and not tears.  Our guide was wonderful and extraordinarily knowledgeable, but one of the stops was a visit to THE OUTSIDE of an art museum.  Y’all know by now how much I hate anything cultural, so imagine how thrilled I was to tour the OUTSIDE of one, in the pouring rain no less.  I could feel my hair frizzing with each passing moment, and truly would have welcomed a chance to go inside, anywhere, as long as it was dry.

Up until recently, I did not know that “The Last Supper” wasn’t a typical painting on canvas, but painted dry on a plaster wall in the dining hall in the church Santa Maria della Grazie.  Since this makes it very vulnerable to humidity, only 30 people every 15 minutes are allowed inside to view it.  We had to give our guide all our food, liquids, even all our cosmetics, lest we should think to do any harm to the ageless masterpiece.

I have a friend who told me she cried when she saw “The Last Supper”.  I pretty much cried when I realized that when we were done with the viewing, we then had to walk back to our hotel.  I know, I should be smacked upside my head, but you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

I will however admit that The Duomo, the fourth largest cathedral in the world, was one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever seen.  It costs €60 million annually to maintain this structure, which is why it costs €25 per person to climb the steps.  Apparently the view ON A CLEAR day is supposed to be unparalleled.  On a rainy day, ahem, not so much.  Sigh.

I don’t mean to sound like a big whiny baby, even though I know that I am, so let me say that even though I prefer my Milanos minty and chocolate filled, overall Milan is a lovely city.  It was amazingly clean, and it is the financial as well as the fashion capital of Europe.  It has wonderful, albeit extremely expensive shopping and we had some fabulous meals.  We stayed in the Hilton by the train station once again, and it continues to exceed our expectations each time we stay there.  Plus it has one of the most amazing buffet breakfasts I’ve ever seen, and is included in the price of the room.

Saturday morning we hopped on the train and headed for out next destination, the beautiful resort/fishing town of Santa Margherita Ligure.  Fashionable but less touristy and much more affordable, SML is just north of the more famous town of Portofino.

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The view from our apartment in Santa Margherita Ligure

We rented an adorable, yet typically quirky, apartment on the palm laden harbor, with views to die for, for €150/night.  Didn’t know it was 55 steps up, but more the better, since, well, the food.  The owner told us it has been in his family for more than 150 years, and while it obviously has been updated since then, it is easily older than that.  We chose this as our base for the week because, again, it is much cheaper than Portofino, and both the trains and the ferries can whisk us away to so many other similar towns for day trips.

What a charming little town!  With a year-round population of just under 10,000, there are, comparatively speaking, very few tourists, and VERY few Americans.  It seems to be a weekend beach destination for Italians, and the draw here seems to be it’s natural beauty and “right off the boat” fish.  As a matter of fact, the highlight of the day seems to be when the fishing boats come in to drop off the catch of the day.  I watched in amusement as a crowd of locals gathered ‘round every afternoon and seemed to look forward to this daily ritual.

Ten years ago, we visited the Cinque Terre.  Apparently it has become horribly overrun with tourists, and I think SML will probably be the same way very soon.  However, right now, there are no hordes, no tour guides with closed umbrellas held high, leading throngs of tourists through tiny streets.  I’m glad we’re here now, because it is indeed delightful.  The pace here is MUCH slower than most places we’ve visited, and even I have been able to slow down and just slowly stroll along the harbor.  If you’re looking for nightlife, look elsewhere, because you won’t find much here.

You will however find scrumptious food.  The eggplant ravioli for dinner at Angolo 48 was to die for, and unlike anything I’ve eaten before.  Its also very 21st century – the wait staff took our orders on their individual iPhones.

So far, we have taken 2 day trips.  A quick 5 minute, €2 train ride to Camogli, pronounced ca-MOLE-yee, provided more breathtaking vistas………

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Camogli

……..and yet another delicious meal.  I rarely clean my plate, but this tagliere with seafood, momma mia!

 

Portofino was much smaller than I’d imagined, and reminded me very much of the town of Vernazza, one of the 5 cities of the aptly named Cinque Terre.  The weather had promised rain, and I’d had enough of walking in that ish (p.s. the weather was gorgeous and sunny), so we took the 20 minute ferry ride instead of walking the supposedly famous and scenic pathway.

 

On the ferry ride back to SML, I steeled myself and rolled my eyes when a school group of about thirty 14 year old GIRLS boarded.  In my experience, ain’t many more beings on the planet as obnoxious than they are.  I say this because I WAS one, and I RAISED one.  Hey Deni…..remember that time in the ladies lounge at the mall when you burped like a truck driver, and then turned to me and exclaimed “Lisi! Say excuse me!”  Yeah like that.

At any rate, due to lack of available seats, two of them were stuck sitting next to us.  One of them whispered to the other, “English woman” and giggled.  I corrected her and said AMERICAN woman, and she apologized.  We struck up a conversation, and they spoke English beautifully.  They said it is mandatory to study English starting at the age of six; boy are we behind the educational times in this country.  Before we knew it we were surrounded by about ten of them, all chatting and laughing with us and what a fun time we had.  As we left, I implored them to please not think all Americans are like the Kardashians, and they all rolled their eyes and claimed to hate them. Let’s hope so.

We are here until Sunday, and then we will hop back on the train for six days in Verona.  I will check in when necessary, but let me tell you, so far this trip has been

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Ciao for now, and as usual, grazie mille for reading!

Happy Birthday Mom

F75CEDF8-C9E2-4DA2-9311-24AA0E8419D2Okay, so, today you would’ve turned 90.  Which means that amazingly, you have now been gone for more than 23 years.  You died when I was 38, really just a few years older than my kids are now.  I feel like we both got cheated out of so much.  In honor of your birthday, I’d like to tell you things I wish I’d told you then.

I wish you didn’t die such a horrible death.  Not that anyone deserves the ravishes of cancer.  But you were always so……….good.  Just doesn’t seem fair.

I wish I had gotten more of your recipes.  I looked and looked for your rugelach recipe.  I remember you used sour cream instead of the cream cheese all the website searches used.  Just before I settled on something close, I came across a recipe titled Aunt Sylvia’s Rugelach, and guess what, its the one.  I make them for Hannukkah, but they’re never as good as yours were.

I wish I wasn’t such a bitch to you when I was growing up.  I’m sorry I accused you of prying and shutting you out.  I know now that you weren’t trying to be nosy, but just wanted to be a part of my life.  Can I share a secret with you?  Remember those times I was willing to talk, and wouldn’t stop?  You’d creep in and sit on my bed while I looked in the mirror on my desk and plucked away at my (now almost nonexistent) eyebrows?  Talking to you but not actually looking at you?  Yeah, I was doing coke.  Yes, Mom, cocaine, it was the 70s.  I’m 100% sure you didn’t know that, but kudos to you for sensing your moments.  Way to “Mom”!

I wish I could tell you how much you taught me, but more importantly, how much I actually learned from you.  Amazingly, all the things you did that drove me crazy were also lessons.  Lessons in what not to do when it comes to parenting.  There are so many things that I want to ask my kids, but I remember how I hated it when you asked too many questions.  I try with all my heart NOT to do those things.  I realize now, its not that easy to pretend you don’t care.

I wish you could have gotten to see your grandchildren grow up into the wonderful adults they have become, and I wish they had you longer so they could’ve gotten to know you better.  Not only were you a great Mom, but you excelled at being a grandparent.  You stood with us when baby Josh was in the hospital, day and night.  You delighted in spending hours dressing Jess up and loved every minute of it.  You couldn’t wait til Andy was born so you could show me how much love you actually possessed for anything me, or mine.  Andy was just 4 when you left us, and it hurt me to the quick several years ago when he said he couldn’t remember what you looked like anymore.  I’m sorry that you totally missed out on meeting your namesake, my adorable nephew Sean.  I think he would’ve loved you so much.

I wish I could pick up the phone and call you whenever I wanted to talk to you.  I remember thinking that you called too often.  Hindsight is the best sight, be careful what you wish for, yada yada.  Do you know that after the transplant, you were the first person I went to call, even though you’d been gone for 8 years?  I wonder if you had a cell phone, if we’d text everyday like I do with Jess?

More than anything though, Mom, I wish I told you this when you were alive instead of having to purge my feelings to make ME feel better.  I wish I’d been able to say them to you, to your face, to make YOU feel better.  I’ve been wondering lately if you’d lived longer, if I would’ve also grown, as a person, a parent, but more importantly as a daughter.  I hope I would have learned to appreciate the advice you’d continue to pass on to me.

Growing up, all of my friends loved you, I can’t understand why I would’ve tried so hard not to be like you.  I guess the joke’s on me, because I find I am more and more like you everyday, and I am both honored and thrilled to be able to say that.  I can’t say that my kids agree with that, or not, but only time will tell.

Yesterday, while I was writing this, I felt your presence.  An old episode of Charmed was on in the background, and I heard someone say “You really never know how much your mother loves you, until you become one yourself”.  Goosebumps.  And I looked up to the heavens and asked you if you’d forgiven me.  I heard your voice in my head, “Silly girl, there is nothing to forgive.  Once you had children, you understood how I felt.  How much I loved you, unconditionally, as only a parent can love.  Plus the years with my grandchildren were my happiest ever, and they were the greatest gift I have ever received.”

Thanks Mom, for everything.   I hope they do have celebrations in heaven, and you are having a piece of carrot cake and an apricot sour.  Raise your glass, make a wish, happy birthday!

Love always,

Lisi

 

 

 

 

I have bad genes and I cannot lie……

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Okay, so, here I am again, another year older.  Yup, 62.  The other day I passed an old woman in the grocery store.  And I mean OLD, not like 62 old, but like “holding on to the cart to keep her upright” old.   I smiled at her and she paused and said to me, “Honey, you look so HEALTHY”.  Not you look so young.  So beautiful. So thin.  So rich.  Not, wow, nice butt, killer abs…..but HEALTHY.   I mean, really, who says that to a stranger?  I touched her arm and said  “From your lips to G-d’s ears”.  As I touched her, I got one of those inexplicable head to toe electrical rushes.   Perhaps she had just gotten her clothes out of the dryer, but I like to think it was a higher power, reassuring me that I’d be fine.

Once I hit 60, I started to get a little paranoid.  My poor Mother, at this age, unbeknownst to anyone, was riddled with cancer.  She and my Dad retired at 62 and moved to Florida.  Ignoring all the symptoms, she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at 64, and after 2 grueling years of chemotherapy, she died at 66.   Those numbers have always been scary to me.  There were 5 siblings in her family, and only the oldest, ironically, lived to see 70.  We all pray that we have Aunt Yetta’s genes, everyone adored our oldest aunt, who lived past 90.

In the past year, five friends and relatives have been placed on my prayer list.  They all have cancer, all being treated with chemo and/or radiation.  I name them all, each night  – Kay, Tammie, Ben, Sandi and Mike, asking G-d to make them well, and give strength to them and their families as they battle this brutal illness.   Recently,  I found I needed to add another name to my list, and now, Kathy and her family are in my prayers as well.  I looked up and asked, “Really, six?  Can this please stop?”.  Be careful what you wish for.

The next morning, I woke up to find out that we were indeed back down to five.  Dear, sweet Ben, had lost his battle with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  I last saw him 7 months ago, a week after diagnosis, and he didn’t even look sick.  He was 55 years young.  Back to five on the list.  Sigh.

When my Mom was diagnosed in 1992, I was shocked and appalled to read that a huge factor in preventing colon cancer, and several other illnesses as well, was diet and exercise.  I researched and read everything available to me at the time, and started to incorporate huge changes into the way I fed myself, but more importantly, my young family.

I adjusted my lifestyle a long time ago to TRY to ward off cancer. Along the way, I developed diabetes while I was on a completely different page.  Blindsided.  However, highly manageable through diet and exercise – how fucking lucky am I that I get to call the shots on this?

When I was growing up, there was a minuscule amount of reference material available to us.  Newspapers, magazines, stuff you get from the library.  Or the woefully inadequate, often joked about, Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia that my Dad bought in weekly installments at the grocery store.  There were no nutrition labels on the food we ate, I don’t think there were even ingredient lists.

Now we have everything available to us on the internet, so there should be no excuses.  Just about every piece of food we buy tells us more than most of us need to know, but it’s still there.  Read those labels, know what’s in the food you’re putting into your body.  One of my rules of thumb is don’t buy anything with an ingredient you can’t buy in the grocery store. BHT?  BHA?  MSG?  WTF? I try to eat what comes from a farm, not what’s created in a lab.

Wanna know how much artery clogging fat is in the food you’re eating?  How many carbs, either the good ones or the bad one (YES, there are GOOD carbs, and they are important)?  Gettin’ any fiber with that piece of white bread?  Sodium, vitamin content, how much sugar, and even what kind of “sugar” (yes, there’s like a bazillion ways for them to hide other types of sweeteners in our food)…..all on there.  Read it before you eat it.

I have found that since I am a diabetic, I have to be twice as careful as most healthy people, with both my diet and exercise.    I HAVE to walk 8 to 10 miles a day – not to stay skinny or to fit into a size 6 – but to keep myself off of insulin.  I am on the maximum dose of oral medication for almost 20 years now, even though I’ve lost more than 40 pounds and exercise as much as I do.  To the people who wonder why I go to the gym in the morning AND the afternoon, its because exercise is my insulin.  I mean, its not like I’m running marathons, jumping onto benches, or pulling 50 pound weights behind me.  I’m walking, something just about everyone can do.  I walk on the treadmill twice a day,  or sometimes we go for a walk down by the river if the weather is nice.  Highly preferable to giving myself insulin injections twice a day.  I have traded in my prescription medications for walking shoes.

When you have a checkup, the first thing your doctor should ask you is if you are getting enough exercise.  If they don’t, or if pushing pills is the first line of defense instead of lifestyle changes, it’s time for a new doctor.  I recently fired my doctor of almost 20 years when it became clear she thought prescriptions were more important than any changes I might be willing to make.  Sometimes YOU have to be the difference.

You don’t need to exercise to look better, you need to exercise to LIVE better,  and hopefully, longer.  Move it or lose it.  Trust me, if I didn’t have proof that it works, I would not be doing it.  I am, what we refer to in our house, a BFLC.  Stands for Big Fat Lazy Cow.  I know I am no longer big, or fat.  I certainly know I am not a cow.  I do know that I am lazy.  To put it nicely, if left to my own devices, I would live a very sedentary lifestyle.  Diabetes LOVES sedentary life styles.  When I got a new fitness tracker a few years ago,  I found it appalling to know how much I wasn’t actually moving, even though I went to the gym 4-5 days/week.  I have to add movement wherever possible.   I park as far away from the grocery store as I can, and then I walk up and down all the aisles, even if I just need milk.  I take the stairs instead of the escalator.  You get the picture, I try not to be the lazy cow I would love to be.

Go to the doctor for your annual physicals.  A good percentage of the most important diagnostic tests are covered by most insurers at 100%.   Not feeling “yourself” lately?  Tired all the time?  I’ll say it again, go to the doctor.  Preventative medicine is SO IMPORTANT.  Dealing with stage one is much easier than dealing with stage four of anything.  Educate yourself, and learn how to play the cards you’ve been dealt, and win.  You should know that white potatoes and couch potatoes are bad, but sweet potatoes are good.

If you are lucky enough to still have relatives alive from your parents generation, ask them about the family history.   Know your genetics, and get tested to diagnose against what illnesses took your loved ones.  I know that my Dad died from an abdominal aortic aneurism, and I know that it strikes without warning, and therefore is nicknamed the Widow Maker.  Armed with the knowledge that it is indeed hereditary, I have a simple abdominal ultrasound done every few years.

My latest lab results indicated that my cholesterol, due largely to the diabetes, is now borderline high.  My new endocrinologist loved my attitude – I am going to add strength and flexibility training to my workout, and I have an appointment with a yoga trainer to help me achieve my new goals.  I’m adjusting my already ridiculously healthy diet towards one that is more plant and grain based.  If none of this works, MAYBE we will discuss the addition of another prescription, but I told her not to hold her breathe on that one.

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Mediterranean Quinoa and White Bean Salad, part of my new “eating healthIER” plan

Sometimes, things are indeed out of our control, and no matter what we do, really bad stuff does happen.  We can’t always “make it better” and just shake it off and feel amazing.  Several weeks ago, I learned that the adorable and delightful ring bearer from our wedding, had suddenly died at the age of 37.  Then on Valentine’s Day, 17 healthy people’s lives were snuffed out in the blink of an eye.  Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, healthy or otherwise.   The following “words of wisdom” apply to the small stuff, you know, the stuff we’re not supposed to sweat………

HAPPINESS is the most important thing in life, because I know lots of healthy people who aren’t very happy.

You can’t blame your unhappiness on anyone – that whole master of your own destiny crap is pretty much right on.  In a job that you hate?  Start writing that resume.  Always wanted to go back to school?  Do it.  In a bad, going nowhere relationship?  Buh-bye toxic partner/lover/friend/neighbor.  My Mother, THE Queen Mother of all Jewish Mothers, always told me she’d rather see me alone and happy than married and miserable.  Trust me, if SHE believed that, it was true, because no one on this planet wanted grandchildren more than she did.

No one else can make you happy but yourself.  And if you can’t make yourself happy, than don’t expect someone else to know how to do it either.

There will always be people who don’t like you or things you do.   Fuck them, and only worry about the people who do like you. Unless, of course, nobody likes you, and then you might want to think about seeing somebody about that.

Its okay to say “NO”.  You don’t have to be the chairman of every committee, every time.  You don’t have to go to that restaurant you hate but everyone else loves; suggest something else that YOU like.  You don’t have to take a beach vacation if you get sunburned just thinking about it.  Make yourself a priority more often, and let others know what YOU want.

Don’t wait until tomorrow, again, not promised.  People always say they envy our travels.  I realize not everyone can take a month to travel like we can, hell some can’t even take a week.  But if you can’t (or won’t) take a long weekend and go someplace you love to clear your head, you need to reassess your life.

My financial advisor husband likes to tell his clients that it makes no sense to be the richest man in the cemetery.   Treat yourself to that vacation, that new purse, that fancy car.  Don’t wait until tomorrow, yeah, yeah, you know.  Spend your kids’ inheritance, they can make their own way.   Leave them amazing memories instead.  Better than “stuff”, any day.

Life will always throw you a speed bump.  I face them the same way I face the stupid humps they put on our roads.  I do not slow down, its not like I was speeding to begin with.   You know what, so far, I haven’t ripped the bottom off my car, even though my husband swears that one day its gonna happen.  Liver transplant?  Bring it.  Wait what, he’s not sick enough?  Well then make mine a double, please.  (But not again, big Guy, this was just an example, once was enough, thanks).

So, do I want 62 to be the new 18?  Seriously?  I don’t even want it to be the new 30.  There are things that I can still do now, that I did when I was younger, only now I do them better and more often.  Its up to me to make sure that 62 is not the new 92.  Granted, instead of shopping for my first really nice car, I’ve got burial plot shopping on my list, but I’ve also got a ton of amazing experiences and memories, and I hope I have a lot more to look forward to.

For some reason, it seems appropriate to end this with a prayer……yes, from ME of all people.  But this one has always been so right on, and it seems to apply to my thoughts today:  G-d, grant me the Serenity, to accept the things I can not change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Worth the Weight


 

IMG_6695.JPG Florence’s famous Duomo

Okay, so, yeah, um, Florence.  Better late than never.

This will not be my first post on Florence, but this time I want to answer the question I get asked all the time, mainly, what is it about Florence that keeps calling us back?

When we got here in September for our third stay in this apartment, it felt like we had never left, it felt like we were home again.  We felt the same way years ago, when we would return as often as we could to the beach house we owned on the Oregon coast. If we could, we would certainly hop in the car and drive to Florence (Italy, not the one on the Oregon coast.  Oregonians always think that’s where we’re going).  Not so easy or affordable to fly out there that often, so we have to save up our time and go for a month.  Too bad, huh?

We know that we are fortunate to have the flexibility to do this.  Going to one place for an entire month is absolutely the most relaxed I’ve ever been able to get on a vacation, so that might skew our views of Florence.  I unpack everything. I get asked what we do there for a whole month?  Whatever we want, whenever we want.  Its pretty sweet.  So why do we continue to go back year after year?  Here are some of our reasons why.

This apartment was one fantastic find.  Located in a historic building built in the mid 1800s, it is a 10-15 minute walk to just about everything.   The bustling location is closed to all but local traffic, and there are AT LEAST 20 restaurants within a block of us, and probably double that amount of shopping for everything and anything you can imagine.  The apartment itself is fully air-conditioned, and has a washer/dryer which allows us to pack much lighter.  Totally modern kitchen and 2 bedrooms.   And for longer than a week stay – it’s gotta have 2 bathrooms.  I have been told that I’m a bit of a princess;  that is total bullshit, because I graduated to Queen years ago.  If I’m going to be away for a month, I gotta have two toilets.  Sorry, that’s just the way it is.  And for €85/night, I’mma get my own damn toilet.  You know what else this same €85 buys?  This view. From every room.

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View of the Duomo and the Campanille from “our” apartment.  Amazing to know that construction began on this beauty in 1296

When choosing where we stay, a great view is one of the main things we look for.   We don’t spend a ton of time indoors, but when we are inside, we want it to be just as spectacular as when we are out of the room.

This food is always simple yet superb.  We are always amazed when we get the bill and a 3 course meal with wine and cocktails can be under €50.   Florence has ruined us for pizza at home, since nothing will ever come close, even the stuff I was raised on in New York City.  The dough is rolled extremely thin and cooked in a wood burning oven.  And a head’s up – when you order a pizza in most of Italy, the entire pie is meant for one person.  I have done it myself, once or twice; totally doable when it tastes like this.

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Pizza Quattro Stagione, or Four Seasons

Sometimes, though, we are surprised that what we are served is sooooo not what we THOUGHT we were ordering, and sometimes I find I just have to go outside my comfort zone………who knew I could eat musky octopus?  Not me, and for future reference I won’t be ordering THAT again.  And, in Italy,  cavolo nero, which translates to black cabbage, is actually kale.  Let’s just say i didn’t feel the need to clean my plate at every meal.

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Asparagus flan with burrata
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Artichokes ZaZa, from our favorite, Cafe Zaza
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Bouillabaisse with that musky octopus
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Tiramisu with all the trimmings

These people make us feel like friends and welcome us like family.  We don’t get to meet a lot of locals who aren’t merchants, and we do indeed meet a lot of these merchants.  Rocky sees the pastry guy every morning for his breakfast, and they both have sorta the same name, Rocco.  The couple who I bought my leather boots from invited us to dinner.  The guy we bought leather jackets from embraces us whenever we walk by.  The waiters from two different restaurants and the corner butcher blew my mind when they remembered us from our last visit.  We are now Facebook friends with the couple that sells us heavenly prosciutto cotto at least 3 times a week.  The old gentlemen, who speaks NO English, always walking the streets wearing a velvet jacket and a bow tie.   He shouts a hearty “Bon Giorno!” and waves when we see him each morning on our walk.  This past trip, we somehow discerned his name is Raphaele, and he owns BOTH of those jewelry stores I always stop and admire.  Hope to see more of THAT guy.

Most Florentines speak English fluently, which makes it much easier to visit.  Occasionally we’ll run across a language barrier, but somehow, we’re usually able to convey what we mean, sometimes, using sign language.  We wanted chicken breast from the butcher, and I had no clue what the word for breast was.  So, I cupped my own, and guess what?  I got two really nice-sized boneless chicken breasts, plus a good laugh and a wink from the butcher.

Since it’s just the 2 of us pretty much 24/7, we do tend to chat people up.  Florence is filled with tourists, and we will often find ourselves in conversation with people from all over the world while eating at tiny, crowded restaurants.  Most of them are here for their very first taste of Florence, and we always love telling them about our favorite things to do and see, and what we consider to be the best food around.   People are always looking for personal suggestions, plus when we get to chatting we almost always discover that the world is indeed much smaller than we could ever imagine.  One woman, my age,  attended the same 3 schools our kids attended in Beaverton.  Seriously.

This city has everything a big city should have, but on a smaller, much more intimate level.  Between the natural beauty and the centuries-old buildings,  there are jaw dropping views at almost every turn.  I find myself grinning like a fool sometimes when we are out, just walking the streets.  Each trip we discover something new, and are amazed that this city continues to offer us new things each time we return.

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The magnificent architecture of these centuries old, gigantic palaces and cathedrals are unforgettable.  All have amazing gardens and piazzas filled with original sculpture, carved by the masters hundreds of years ago.  We love strolling these many different gardens on our morning walks; I often joke that it’s certainly better than any treadmill I’ve ever used.  Florence is a city built on many hills, and since we walk almost everyplace, we totally work off all those decadent food calories.   On this last trip, I climbed 850 flights of stairs,  and walked 580,000 steps, the equivalent of 250 miles.

There are 72 museums in Florence, some filled with the most amazing and famous art on the planet, like Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.   I personally can only take so much of museums, he loves them.  Life is what you make it, so I spend my time there coming up with obscene captions.  Or separated at birth pics like this one.  IMG_7268

 

Florence’s location makes it very easy to take day trips to some of the surrounding towns in and around the area.  Tuscany, Pisa, the beach, the many different surrounding hill towns….all are less than a 20 minute bus ride, or max a 90 minute train ride.   The trains and buses are clean, comfortable, inexpensive and unbelievably reliable.

Shopping is what I live for, and Florence doesn’t disappoint me here, ever.  There are open air markets and craft fairs almost daily all over the city, with artisans selling one-of a-kind wares.  Florence is famous for its leather goods, and leather stores there are like Starbucks here – on every corner.  If you want to get a jump on next season’s fashion, you will find it in Florence first.

The Mercato Centrale is the biggest indoor farmer’s market I have ever seen.  If you can eat it, you’ll find it here.  So fresh, the mushrooms still have dirt on the stems.  Bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, restaurants, cafes and specialty food shops fill this place.  One of the advantages of having a kitchen is shopping here for our meals.   We usually eat either lunch or dinner in the apartment each day, and cooking with this food is truly a different experience.  Remember when chicken used to be yellow?  Well it still is here, and the egg yolks are orange.

This gelato isn’t in the food paragraph because its so delicious, it deserves it’s own category.  We  have indeed eaten it all over the city, and have found the absolute best artisan gelato shop (we think) in the whole city.  The gelato itself is creamy and silky, but the kicker at this place is that it fills its gelato with “stuff”.  Giant pieces of candy, truly as big as my finger.  Chocolate covered citrus peel.  Huge thick layers of chocolate fondant covering an entire flavor, so there’s a big ribbon running through each scoop.   And there’s at least 30 or more flavors to choose from at a time.

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All of these reasons, and many more I’m sure I’ll think of later, are why we have decided that for as long as we are able to do it, we are going to visit Florence in September every year.    In May, we will travel to places we haven’t been, visit 3 or 4 at a time.  This year May will be northern Italy, where we will visit Santa Margherita Ligure on the coast, Milan, Verona and for the second time, Lake Como.  We are always on the look out for the next Florence, but so far, nothing quite fits the bill.   We’d love to find another place where there’s so much to do, we are never bored in a month.  Where the food and the lodging is delicious and affordable, and even after a month, we are still sad to leave.  Its the “after a month” part that’s the kicker, because we have been to many truly wonderful places that we return to again and again.  The Greek Islands also have our hearts, but for a month, we have to visit 3 or 4 different islands, which is what we are planning for May 2019.  Yeah, yeah, I know, boo hoo.

Maybe you wanna plan a trip to Italy in September and come visit us for a few days?  Start with a few days in Florence.  We’d love to help you find hotels or apartments, and guide you around to our favorite restaurants, sights, shopping, and the best damned gelato you’ve ever tasted. When the streets and piazzas of our favorite city are filled with giant groups of tourists, we’ll show you the back roads to get around all that ish, and perhaps stop in a little off the beaten path cafe for an hour or so and people watch.  Afterwards, or beforehand, maybe explore the Amalfi Coast, or the Cinque Terre, or the Lakes Region?  We would love to give you tips on all the places we’ve visited.

So, there ya go, my two cents on the wonders of Florence.  Next month, we’re off to Hawaii, where the extent of my exerise will be walking from the condo to the beach and back again.  Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that scenario either.  Life is good.  Amen.

Continue reading “Worth the Weight”

Monday Morning Musings

IMG_7560Okay, so, we went to dinner with some friends the other night, and we talked about our favorite subject, travel.  Flying is a big part of the trip, and Portland only has direct flights to Amsterdam and London, but there are some direct seasonal flights to Germany.  Not happening.  Why not, they asked?   I couldn’t quite put my feelings into words, but it appears that my conditioner bottle explains it all.

Hot showers are one of my guilty pleasures.  I can stand there for 10 minutes and just let the hot water run down my back.  Other than that, there’s really not much to do in there……..so this morning I read the back of my conditioner bottle.

I imagine that whoever writes this stuff (and btw, how do I get a job like that?) must live in a state where recreational drugs are legal, because c’mon……..”apply, rinse, repeat if necessary” should be all you’d need to use this product.  These people want me to alter my mood, and “regain composure”  with their conditioner.  Boy, wouldn’t it be awesome if that’s all it took?

It would appear that “regaining composure” is PRETTY much universal.  France, Spain and Italy appear to want us to “remain calm”.  Very apparent, as “calm” and “composed” seem to be universal in most languages.  MOST languages.

Germany, however, doesn’t appear to understand “calm”.   Halting bewahren.  Doesn’t it look like it should be in all caps followed by an exclamation point?  If I used my non-existent knowledge of basic German, stuff I learned from Schultzie on Hogan’s Heroes, it would appear that in Germany, my conditioner wants me to HALT! and BEWARE!   Oy vey, Germany.  Chill.  The Fuck.  Out.

I did do a Google Translate though, since come on, really?  This apparently translates to “maintain a sense of responsibility”.  While not as unnerving as it looks, having a sense of responsibility sounds decidedly un-chill to me.  The very top of the bottle states that “you must have a sense of humor to use our products”.  Maybe, then, they don’t ship this stuff to Germany.

Most of you know that one of our favorite destinations is Greece.  On our last trip, I  learned the word “philoxenia”, which translates to “love of strangers’ and “eagerness to show hospitality”.   The local people, wherever we travel, have been one of the many reasons our trips are so special.  If even the language gives me the opposite of a warm fuzzy, I’m a little wary from the get go.  Germany, you need to take a cue from Greece, and another one of our faves, and riacquista la calma.

May I remind you, as we head into this holiday season, to practice your philoxenia – be kind to strangers, and show them your hospitality.  Especially in this day and age.

I wish you all a happy and healthy whatever you celebrate, and a wonderful 2018.  Riacquista la calma, and thanks for reading……..