Whole30: The Halfway Point



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Please note that I receive no compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Whole30 or any affiliates. 

I had intended to check in here every few days, but a few things happened...

1)   Thinking about Whole30 is wearying after awhile.   I think about what I'm going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   I think about the shopping I need to do.   I think about how on Earth I'm going to locate those three elusive ingredients that I can't seem to locate across a variety of stores - without paying $$$ ordering online.  (Those three ingredients rotate.   One thing is located, then I need something else.  It's always something that is key to an entire meal, OF COURSE).

I think about how I'm going to socialize with friends, without being seriously tempted to stray off this plan.  

2)   I'm pretty sure everyone around me is sick of hearing me talk about Whole30.

3)   Also, I'm tired of thinking constantly about Whole30.   Did I mention that?


Happily, Whole30 is becoming more habitual for me.  It's becoming more automatic, and I worry about it less - thank goodness!


Today is Day 17 - I am more than halfway through my experiment!   I feel like I'm in a good place with everything.

Here are the things I have experienced in the past two weeks, since my last post:

  • My sleep is so much better.   I fall asleep easily, and I wake up more easily than I used to. 
  • My skin is clearer, brighter, less prone to dryness.
  • There are no mid-morning hunger pangs, or mid-afternoon slumps.   NONE.   It's amazing.
  • I have cut back on coffee drastically - usually I have 1-2 cups in the morning, and then I'm good for the rest of the day.
  • Cravings go away quickly.   My cravings have been entirely sight-related.   If I don't see the chocolate, the cheese, the chips and salsa, I don't miss them.   When I do see them, I calmly remind myself these items will be around in mid-September, and the desire subsides.
         My Sugar Dragon has calmed the f*ck down... for now.

          Although... sitting in a kitchen while my friend made arepas very nearly unhinged my mind.


It hasn't all been gravy, so to speak.   Workouts have been hugely challenging, up until the two-week mark.   I was feeling unmotivated to do Tracy Anderson Metamophosis, or go to dance class, or swim.   I was also feeling a bit winded when swimming, but things are getting easier again.  My body is learning to work in a different way, a way that isn't sugar-carb-fuelled, and less reliant on caffeine for energy or motivation.

Doing Whole30 has made me aware of something else...

I've really struggled with body image these past few weeks, in a way that I didn't know would happen.   I obsessed almost constantly about my weight and appearance - until I did this program.   Even now, I still do.   This is an issue that is always on a low-heat burner at the back of my brain.  So automatic, I didn't know it was even there.   Background noise nearly every waking moment.

The scale and the measuring tape have been my cravings, in a way that chocolate or a nice glass of wine have not.

I have not weighed myself since I started, or measured myself.   I want to so badly.   Up until this past Friday (Day 14), I felt frustrated because it didn't seem as if I'd lost any weight.

On Saturday (Day 15), I glanced at the mirror and was surprised to see how much slimmer my arms looked.

Yesterday (Day 16), I thought a lot about this obsession of mine.  I decided that a productive exercise would be to empty my closet, and try on everything, and get rid of that background noise.   Only things that fit right now, and look good right now, would go back in the closet.

I got to work, and quickly discovered... my posterior does not seem to have shifted in weight or size.   Perhaps a little, but not significantly.   My waist and hips seem a little smaller.

On the other hand... my stomach is almost flat!   I have not had a flat belly since I was 17.   Several skirts that have not fit well in over a year, went on smoothly.    I could not get over this - particularly because, when I look down, I don't see a flat belly.   Again, there is this idea in my own mind... 

I want to let go of that idea.


For this reason... I intend to continue Whole30 on a slightly relaxed basis, once this experiment is over.    If we go out to dinner, or dine with friends, I won't worry if the meat was cooked in a seed-based oil.   I won't obsess that there might be a little sugar in something.  Inasmuch as possible, I will make Whole30 compliant choices when dining out, or visiting friends.

And if my friend makes arepas, I'm going to have some!   At home, I will stick with the program.

I should also note, that I am doing this plan for 28 days.   I looked at a calendar, and realized that thirty days ends very close to our trip to EPCOT, for the Food and Wine Festival.   We went a few years ago - this may be one of my very favorite things I have ever experienced at Disney World, and I want to be able to enjoy it - within reason - without being sick.   

So my plan is:   finish Whole30 on Day 28 (Friday, September 9).   Reintroduce dairy (cheese, half-and-half in coffe) on Saturday, see how I feel.   Go back to Whole30 on Sunday.   Reintroduce non-gluten grains (rice and corn among others) on Monday.   Whole30 on Tuesday.   

If you're thinking about trying Whole30, let me make some recommendations:

Read "It Starts With Food" and "The Whole30" first.   Do your research.   It's easier to walk away from cravings and temptations, if you know the 'why' of why you are cutting these things out of your diet for a month.

Inasmuch as you possibly can, plan and prep your meals in advance.  Especially breakfasts and lunches.   Google recipes that are Whole30 compliant.   One of the trickiest parts of this plan is having a breakfast you can get quickly on a busy morning, or packing something portable for the office or the gym.   Meat can be cooked and frozen, some fruits and vegetables can be chopped up and refrigerated in advance.

And as you find things in the grocery store, make a note somewhere that you found 'Item X' at this store, and 'Item Y' at this other store.   In my experience, just committing it to memory doesn't stick.  There is no frustration quite like driving out of your way to a specialty store, and then forgetting a key ingredient that makes your buffalo chicken recipe legit.

Do your research, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!  








The Whole 30: Days Two and Three



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Please note that I receive no compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Whole30 or any affiliates. 

Sunday, JC woke up with a bad headache.   It lasted 48 hours.   He woke up today (Tuesday), feeling a lot better.    He said it felt almost like a migraine last night.  He hasn't had any caffeine since Friday.

Day Two:

On Sunday, I had located a "Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage" to put in my coffee.   It was terrible.   Watery.  I poured some in a glass, and it tasted like... white.   If despair had a flavor, it would be this stuff.   I drank less than a cup of coffee with this, and then I had black tea.

Dumbass that I am, I had bought two cartons of this tasteless misery - one for my place, and one for JC's.

I did find, however, that The Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage worked much better in the coffee I have at JC's.   I have Starbucks Italian Roast at my place, and Lavazza at JC's.   Lesson learned:  Lavazza is a better coffee all-around, whether drunk black, or with 'liquid white despair'.

Over the course of Day Two, I felt dragging and unmotivated.   Mid-afternoon, I suddenly had a burst of energy that lasted eight hours, until I got suddenly sleepy around 10:30.   Olympics were on, so I made myself stay up and watch for another hour.

Day Two Meals:

Breakfast:  Two eggs, over-easy, an Aidell's Chicken and Apple Sausage, and a cup of blueberries and strawberries

Lunch:  I didn't eat lunch.  I grazed:  two bananas, a tablespoon of almond butter, some blueberries, and a couple of bites of leftover meatloaf.   I have to work on the lunch thing.

Dinner:   I improvised a fried chicken dish with chicken thighs, egg, almond flour, lemon juice + zest, garlic and onion.   It was kind of meh.   We had leftover sweet potatoes with this, and a salad (lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion, balsamic vinegar dressing that I made myself).


Day Three:  When I woke up yesterday, I felt pretty good.  I slept well, and woke up easily.   Then something strange happened:  I had a sudden caffeine withdrawal headache, that disappeared on its own ten minutes later.

Breakfast:  One hardboiled egg, an apple, and coffee

Let me note - this breakfast was not Whole30 compliant.   To be a proper breakfast requires several eggs, or a source of protein that is the size of one or two of my palms, plus enough vegetables to fill the rest of the plate, plus a piece of fruit, if I want.   I'm still getting used to breakfast.   I don't usually eat in the morning.

I went to the Farmers Market, and did a bunch of shopping.   I found compliant coconut milk, coconut cream and bacon!   Happy day!

Lunch:    I still wasn't feeling terribly hungry.   I had two handfuls of diced coconut, another hardboiled egg, and two figs.

Dinner:   I felt like I hit this one out of the park:  I made a Buffalo Chicken Salad with Grilled Fries and Ranch.   This was fabulous!  One caveat, I did not realize there is a difference between EVOO, and "Light-Tasting" Olive Oil.   I used EVOO, so the ranch dressing has a noticeable olive flavor.  Still very good though.  I also had two more figs.   JC declined, as his head was still hurting.

More thoughts and observations on Whole30:  JC's headache reached nearly-migraine proportions by Monday evening.  His caffeine source is Coke Zero, which is a no-no on Whole30.   I think part of the headache is caffeine withdrawal, and part of it is that his body is shifting from depending on a quick hit of carbs, to burning fat and stored fat in his body.   They talk about this in the Whole30 - apparently many people experience this in the first week.

I also think lack of calories is contributing to the headache:  he doesn't eat breakfast.   He eats out for lunch, and he probably has not had enough fat and protein to fuel his body.   He had some cashews in the afternoon, before dinner, and a lot of water to drink.

Whole30 says you're supposed to stick to regular meals, but I'd be happy if he grazed more.

I experienced some real pangs at the Farmer's Market, when I walked past the pasta aisle, condiments (most contain sugar), the sugar aisle (this was HARD, they have actual brown sugar nuggets, and my Sugar Dragon reared its head to take a good look)... and cheese.  Ohmygod, the cheeses!  I let myself look for a moment, then kept rolling.  I reminded myself that all of this will be waiting for me, in 28 more days.

I found the cravings went away as soon as these things were out of sight.

My biggest craving, strangely enough, has not been for food.   It's been for the bathroom scale.   Interesting, no?   I want so much to weigh myself!  I'm not going to.   Whole30 is about eating more nutritiously, making a lifestyle change, and not emphasizing weight, or weight loss.   I'm going to try and wait for Day 30, as suggested in the program.  But seriously, even as I type this, I can hear the siren song of the scale.

Overall, Day Three was a very good day, and I feel very optimistic, and well-nourished.  And very happy that I have actual coconut milk for my coffee!





The Whole30: Day One: In Which I Have A Meltdown



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Please note that I receive no compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Whole30 or any affiliates. 

Day One of the Whole30, and I had a meltdown.

But first, a rewind...

Starting last Tuesday, I tried to prep for the Whole30 by cutting down on grains, legumes, sugar, and dairy.   I snacked less - compartively speaking.  I mostly stuck to three regular meals, with plenty of protein and good fat at every meal.   I also decreased caffeine.   Not on purpose - we were travelling, and I am a terrible coffee snob.   I had a few days of mild headaches from caffeine withdrawal.

On Friday, I shopped for Whole30 at The "Good" Kroger -  i.e., the Kroger that is supposed to be "upscale", and is a 7-8 minute drive from my house.  

Here is what I learned in the two hours I wandered through The "Good" Kroger:

1)  This Kroger has less selection than the one around the block.   Gah.

2)   I read the back of every package of bacon, and every can of coconut milk and cream in the store.   I looked at every type of egg to see if I could glean how the hens were raised and fed.   I picked up so many things and read so many labels, I could barely think straight.

I still wound up with a coconut cream with metasulfites in it, and a box of bacon with nitrites that I somehow missed.   SIGH.

3)  I am nearly done reading "It Starts With Food", and I have learned so much about how food affects our body - in ways I never imagined.

With this new knowledge, I felt so incredibly lied to, as I examined box after box, and read label after label.    The grocery store is chock-a-block full of lies.   We all think we're making healthy choices in our eating.  Guess what?   We're NOT.   We are being set up for failure:  for obesity, for arthritis, for food allergies, for stomach ailments, for Alzheimers', for auto-immune disease.  

And this failure is all wrapped up in attractive packaging, labelled "Gluten-Free!   Low-Fat!   Heart Healthy!   Anti-Oxidants!   Pro-Biotics!"

There were moments in the grocery store, where I felt genuine despair.  We've pushed back the average lifespan for the human race over the past century.   In a time where there is more food widely available than ever, when we have nearly unlimited options to eat, it's very possible that lifespan number is going to decline.

Everyone should read this book.   You don't have to do the plan.   Read "It Starts With Food", and work on your own nutrition goals.   But read the book.

Moving forward...

Day One (Saturday): Our friend Meech stayed with us this weekend, and agreed to do the program with us.

Breakfast:   I chopped up leftover chicken and red onion, and cooked them together in balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil.   This was the filling for omelets, which I cooked in a little bit of clarified butter.   We also had chopped potatoes, cooked with red onion and garlic.   Prep and cooking took about an hour.

My offerings were tasty (my opinion), but eyed skeptically by the others.   Nobody said, "hey, thanks for doing this".

Harummmph.

Because I still did not have a Whole30 compliant creamer option, I drank my coffee black, and joyless.  I stopped at about half a cup.  I also had a cup of unsweetened cocoa mate' tea, which did not deliver the promised kick of caffeine.   Meh.

Lunch:   Nobody wanted lunch.   Several water bottles, and two packages of six-dollar, Whole30-compliant nuts were packed silently into the cooler, as the JC and Meech stared at me with eyes full of betrayal.

JC paused on his way out the door, 'So... you coming down later?'

And that's when I melted down.  It was kind of epic.   JC eventually fled down to the pool, and I sat and bawled for about half an hour.   Then I took a bath, got dressed, went to Kroger (the one around the corner) to return The Nitrite Bacon and The Sulfite Coconut Milk.

Eventually I stopped feeling all sorry for myself, got my sh*t together, and went down to the pool, and had a good time.

Good Enough for Lunch: You aren't supposed to graze on Whole30, so I'll call this "an extended light lunch"...  between breakfast and dinner, we all had bananas, almonds, pistachios, blueberries, and cold chicken.   Not optimal, but good enough for the first day.

Dinner:   We all binge-watched 'Orange in the New Black', and had a really good dinner:   a Whole30 meatloaf (made with ground pork), and roasted carrots and sweet potatoes.

To recap Day One:   Stressed, moody, slight caffeine withdrawal headache, but by late afternoon, I felt better, content, more at peace,  I dozed off briefly at the pool, but never felt like I hit an energy slump.  Also, I got my period Saturday night, which accounts for the anxiety and the self-pity.

Some thoughts on Whole30

1)  I wish I had been able to read the entire book, before I started.   I was about two-thirds through it when we started.   But we're on a bit of a time crunch:   we are going to the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT next month, and I wanted us to have time to re-introduce some food groups into our diets, so that the trip doesn't shell-shock our systems.

I am nearly done with "It Starts With Food", and I've learned a few more planning things that would have given us an easier start.   If you're going to do Whole30, I recommend reading through 'It Starts With Food', before you do.

But if, like me, your calendar has big events or trips on it... visit their site, scoop up as much information as you can, and go.

2)  "Surfing The Crimson Wave"...  usually, when I'm PMS-ing, I have one or two days where I Eat Everything That Isn't Nailed Down.   I also have epic cramps - but not this time.   They were milder, and easily controlled with ibuprofen.   So even done partially the week before I started, Whole30 already had a positive impact on my body.

3)  I didn't have any real cravings on Day One, but my sister - and countless internet articles - tell me that it will eventually happen.

Day One = DONE.   We stuck to it.






Why I'm Doing The Whole30



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When I go over my mental roster (or look at my friend list on Facebook), I realize that probably 8 out of 10 people that I personally know, are trying to lose weight.   Maybe 4 out of 10 are trying to increase their fitness.

I belong to both categories.

As of Friday, my weight was 124.4   I've been tracking my weight, and this seems to be a consistent pre-menstrual cycle number, over the past four months.

Hello, plateau.

I've been working out, taking dance classes, and working on my farruca solo piece.   In an average week, I get a good 6-8 hours of dance and exercise-related activity.

It's frustrating, because the weight isn't budging.   I don't eat a lot of junk food, and I don't drink sodas.  I don't eat much dairy.   I do love chocolate, and I tend to overindulge there.

Whether it's a 'good' week, or a 'bad' week, my weight sits at 124.4

My baby sister just finished the Whole30 this past week, and she had glowing things to say about it.   She lost ten pounds and several inches.   What she most loved, is that she has increased energy, and many of those mid-afternoon slumps have disappeared.   Her skin is clearer, she has less cravings, and she says she feels happier, overall.

Now, mind you, we talked continuously as she went through this process, and she did plenty of grousing and a bit of ranting for the first couple of weeks.

Ranting or no, she recommended this plan so thoroughly, I bought 'It Starts With Food" and "The Whole 30".   I'm about 2/3 through "It Starts With Food".

Not gonna lie, this is some serious reading.   Very interesting, but it gets a bit dry at times.   Overall, it does a pretty throrough job of explaining how different foods affect us psychologically (producing cravings and feelings of being rewarded, which leads to more cravings).   It also explains, at great length, how foods affect our hormonal systems, our gut, and our immune system.

All in layperson's terms.   Not an easy feat with all of the science involved!

I find this book very enlightening!   For the first time in my life, I feel like I understand how that sandwich is going to physically affect my body, or why that banana should have a hard-boiled egg accompanying it when I have a snack.

I spent five days, easing myself into this plan, before officially starting yesterday.  The ease-in was, well, easy.  My coffee still tasted sweet and delicious, and there was corn, glorious corn! on my plate.  Already I have had more energy.

These past two days have been a little tougher.   I plan to journal my experiences here.   I can tell you, there has already been some crying, some ranting, and a whole lot of swearing, mostly to myself and my sister.

Sounds great, no?   But I can already feel the improvement in my body.

Best off all, this is a sustainable nutritional plan that doesn't count calories.   So far, I have felt very satisfied in my eating.

So... here I go!   I'll be chronicling this madness in the weeks to come...


Please note that I receive no compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Whole30 or any affiliates.   My sister does not, either.   I am simply sharing my opinions, and those of my sis.

Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis Dynamic Eating Plan: My Thoughts



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I wouldn't call this a full review, as I only completed about 3.5 weeks of the twelve-week plan. These is a summary of my experience and thoughts...

Back in February, I undertook the Tracy Anderson Dynamic Eating Plan, part of the Tracy Anderson Metamorphoses.

I love/hate the Metamorphoses workouts - warts, flaws, bad cue-ing, uneven repetitions on either side, and all.   I can see the impact they've had when I take dance classes - my balance and strength are better, especially in centerwork for ballet class.

I mostly hated the eating plan.   I did it for about 25 days, before I crashed and burned.

Here are the reasons this plan did not work for me:

1.  Every other week entails time-intensive shopping, and labor-intensive food preparation.   I didn't mind this.   I thought most of the recipes were quite tasty, except that everything is mush, or slurped through a straw.

Some of the recipes triggered some milder food allergy symptoms (all-over itching, stomach swelling and mild distress).   I think parsnips and celery were among the culprits.   So.. it was trickier to stick to this part of the plan.

2.   Every other week, you are crash dieting.   I know the TA plan tries very hard to factor in 'going out', and dining with friends and family.   But if you have any sort of social life - and I was fortunate enough to have one this spring! - it's very hard to stick to.

3.   In those stringent weeks, there were times when I simply could not think clearly.   I also found that I was increasingly dependent on coffee.   I was drinking 5-6 cups a day.

At times, I hated the world.

This plan was not for me.   It is not sustainable for me, long-term.  I lost a total of seven pounds, and regained about 2.5.   My weight has pretty much stayed the same, since.

If you are thinking about starting this plan, do your research.   Read online reviews written by people who have tried it.   Think about your lifestyle:   are you willing and able to pack lunches?  (me:  yes)   Do you have the time and patience to shop and cook these ingredients from scratch?  (me:  yes)     Do you have the presence of mind to be able to abstain when you're dining out, or having a social outing with your friends?   (me:  NO).

If you try this plan, and it doesn't work out, don't beat yourself up, and don't be discouraged.   If you succeed, congratulations :)   I would love to hear about your experience!


  



Now This is a Minimalism Lifestyle Goal I Can Totally Get Behind...



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Photo courtesy of Bromley Caldari Architects PC


I recently came across this house on Small House Swoon.   

When I looked at these photos, I felt exactly like Richard, the first time he sees Elise's portrait....




(You don't actually have to watch all four minutes of this.   Just making a point about love at first sight).



Seeing these photos makes me want to ring the doorbell, and tell whoever answers to get out of my house, because clearly, THIS IS MY HOUSE.


Photo courtesy of Bromley Caldari Architects PC


Photo courtesy of Small House Swoon

Photo courtesy of Bromley Caldari Architects PC


This house is located somewhere in New York.   My guess is the Hamptons, because, really, is there anywhere else where you'd find a beach house like this in New York?   Dunno.   Doesn't matter.   This house would be enchanting anywhere.   The beautiful, clean lines, the minimalist aesthetic, the graceful staircases...



Photo courtesy of Small House Swoon

Photo courtesy of Bromley Caldari Architects PC

The bedrooms exude a sense of calm and peace...

Photo courtesy of Small House Swoon

Photo courtesy of Small House Swoon

Photo courtesy of Small House Swoon


Photo courtesy of Small House Swoon


My guess is that this is someone's vacation home, and not someplace that is lived in year-round.   My home is lived in year round.   It isn't a beach house.   My furniture is different.   My color palettes are different.   My lifestyle needs are different.   Everything is vastly different. 

But I am totally on-board with this clean, minimalist look.   Looking at these photos makes me want to make a clean sweep, purge everything that I don't absolutely love, treasure, use, or value.   I am going to reference these photos, again and again, as I work my way through my home, and declutter.

It's the idea that I'm after:   the clean, open spaces, the flow of light through the home, the way every item is useful, and beautiful, and thoughtfully placed.

Seeing these photos made me realize:  everything I'm working toward, with the KonMari Method, and Joshua Becker's Uncluttered program.... to me, this is the ultimate, physical representation of what was, until recently, a sort of undefined concept.  


Now I see with great clarity:   I want this in my home.


If you visit Small Houses Swoon, or Bromley Caldari, you can view additional pictures of this gorgeous place, as well as other innovative and exciting homes.   

Teatime and Uncluttering.



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I've read through and tried out several decluttering books and programs:   Flylady, Marie Kondo, and most recently, the Uncluttered course, by Joshua Becker.   These have all been immensely useful.   I view my downsizing process as a sort of onion:  I peel away a layer, discard what isn't useful, and keep what is.   I try to creatively re-purpose things.   For example, I have a beautiful lidded Wedgwood powder jar, that, until recently, held my java jig coffee filters.

So I peel away a layer, and then I live with what's left for awhile.   Sometimes it's a day, sometimes it's a month.  Then I find I'm ready to remove the next layer off the onion.   Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes I get stuck.   When that happens, I will walk into a room at random, and think, 'what bothers me in here?'  I might pull open a drawer and purge three small things, or I might sort out half a closet.

This weekend, I tackled a kitchen shelf full of china serving pieces.   It's a shelf hidden deep at the back of a seldom-used lower cabinet - but it's been nagging at me for a few weeks.   I went through the things, and this morning, I sent in an 'offer to buy' to Replacements.com.   I struggled a bit with this decision, so I'm going through my thought process here...

As of this writing, I have three beautiful china sets: a set of Wedgwood 'Angela' for six, a set of white-and-lavender Wedgwood Queensware for twelve, and 'Winter Greetings', by Lenox, also for twelve.  

I have enough fine china to have thirty people over for a four-course fancy meal.

I have a lifelong love of china dishes.   My grandmother used to let my sister and me play with an antique toy china tea set, whenever we visited.   When we got our own sets for birthday one year, I was beyond thrilled.

All of my china sets were gifts:  my grandmother bought me the Queensware set.   She bought me the white Angela set on a visit home to England.  The Christmas china was something I saw, loved, and my family gradually gifted me with pieces over about five years.   A few years ago, my mom gave me the lavender-and-white Queensware tea service, shown in the photo below.

My grandmother and my mother both, have at least 3-4 fine china sets each, that they never use. There are, literally, entire sets - plural - of Wedgwood and Lenox that nobody in the family has ever eaten off of.   NOBODY.   It's mostly tucked away, out of sight, in cabinets, for a day that has yet to come.    There are enough dishes that we could probably have a state dinner for 200 people, and everyone would have their own, beautiful place setting of dinner plate, salad plate, and soup bowl.   At the very least.

I don't understand this, and yet I do, this love of collecting china...

1. It's beautiful. My mom has a set that is gold-rimmed, with little violets, that I used to take out of the cabinet (when she wasn't around), and sigh over, as a kid.   I suggested, on a recent trip home, that she should get it out and use it, and enjoy it.   She looked at me like I'd grown a second head.

It's being saved, 'for good'.

2. It's ladylike, in every sense of the word:  fine china symbolizes an advance in social status. My grandmother can trace her lineage back to the late 1400s, and just about everyone worked as housemaids, gardeners, shepherds, and farmers. My grandma was always a freethinker who was eager to break out of the constraints of 'class' and even gender, that surrounded her, growing up in rural England in the 1930's and 40's.

Is there anything more ladylike than sipping tea or coffee out of an exquisite little cup?




As I sat and thought about this, I realized.. if you want to "move up" in this world, there are a couple of things that have to happen, for you to have truly 'advanced', socially:

1. You use that fancy china. Live it. It means acknowledging that you 'deserve' to use that china.

2. This means you have to have to be willing to spend the time on it:   transferring the food from pan to serving dish to table.   And having to care for the china - washing up, and drying by hand, because it isn't microwave or dishwasher safe.

In England, that 'social advance' used to mean having someone to do it for you.


Now I've lived in places without a dishwasher, and I don't mind spending the time washing and drying my china plates and cups.   I get a kick out of having my meals on fancy dishes.

But I resent taking perfectly hot, just-cooked food, out of their pans, putting it into the 'middleman' dish that cools it slightly, then putting it onto my plate.   Luuuukewarm.   Yech.

Then having to wash a set of pans AND a set of dishes that don't include what I ate off/out of.

And the tea services?   I am an avid coffee and tea drinker, but unless I take that extra step of heating up the teapot, it just makes my beverage cooler, before it ever gets into my mouth.   

My conclusions about fancy china:

If you have beautiful china that makes you feel happier, posher, or your food more appetizing, USE IT EVERY CHANCE YOU GET.

Keep what is useful. Figure out what is not, or why it is not, and then go from there. Can you repurpose it? No? Then let it go, so someone else can enjoy scooping their now-lukewarm casserole out of that lidded dish.   
So them's my two cents.   What about you?  Have you found things like this in your home?




Making a DIY Flamenco Blouse, Part One



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INC International Concepts 100% Cotton Blouse, thrifted.


This blouse was an impulse buy from a favorite consignment shop.   I luuuurved the corset-like shape.  The fit is just about as perfect as I can ever get, off-the-rack.   The fabric is crisp and lightweight.   I really dig the minty hint of steampunk.

I bought it, hung it in my closet and proceeded to ignore the heck out of it.   

A year later...  I pulled the blouse, intending to list it on eBay.   As I was taking measurements, a little lightbulb went off in my head....



I have these pictures on my flamenco fashion Pinterest board:

Oscar de la Renta, NYFW  Spring 2009
Found via Pinterest. 


Why not make myself a flamenco blouse, to perform in?

For those of you who don't know... flamenco dancewear can be quite expensive.   To find really good quality pieces, you have to order from overseas, or find it secondhand on eBay.   You can have pieces custom-made in the U.S. - but if your seamstress doesn't know to sew for flamenco dancing, you can wind up with a pricey sub-par disaster.

I'm always looking for ways to make my costumes harder, better, faster, stronger.... on the cheap.

I put the blouse on and did some choreography, to make sure the blouse wouldn't crawl up my torso.   It stayed in place, so it's a keeper for dancing.

I don't know how to make ruffles, but I found this excellent tutorial for a clown costume.   This type of ruffle lends itself well to flamenco wear.

And I already have lace.  I pulled my laces out of storage, to compare with the blouse:





I set myself some criteria:

1.   I must use what I already have, because I am packing to move. 

2.  I am not spending any additional money on this project.

3.   This has to be something I can do easily, by hand, and not totally obsess over this.



I have three different types of lace,   Up close, none of them are a perfect match to the blouse, but onstage, they would be great.



#1 Floral Print, with a shadow stripe.
#3   Floral pattern with a dainty border.

I didn't get a clear photo of #2, against the blouse.   

Option #1 was too shiny for the blouse, so I put it away.  I have a flamenco dress that I might refresh with this lace.

I was down to Options #2 & 3.   I tried draping the lace against the cuff to get an idea of how it might look...



Looking at the blouse, #3 is on your left (actual right sleeve), and #2 is on your right.
Close-up of Option 3.   This draped easily and well.
Close-up of Option 2.  This did not drape as easily.

As you can see, #3 lends itself to folding easily, so that is the one I chose.  

I spent some time experimenting and pinning the lace.  First, I folded the lace exactly in half, lengthwise, and used the flower pattern to set my gathers:








When I pinned the cuff to the blouse, I didn't really like how it looked.  Kind of 'meh'.   I tried folding the lace lengthwise, in more of a 3/4 ratio.   I thought this looked much better:







The lace has been folded more in a 3/4 manner, and it works better .   But I want a longer cuff.   


I spent an hour on this today, and I have other things I need to do, so I've shelved this for the time being.   I plan to pick it back up later this week.   I know I want a longer lace cuff - this blouse is for theatrical purposes, not everyday use.  

 There are two more things I plan to try:   I'm going to use two separate, unfolded, single-layer ruffles, one on top of the other, possibly using the #2 lace on the inner layer.    I am also going to try putting a small layer of soft white netting fabric in betwen the layers, at the seam, to make the lace stand out a bit more, and give it movement.

Another idea is to sew both lace layers to elastic, as slip-on, stand-alone cuffs, that I can pin to the sleeve for shows, and remove to wash the blouse.

I seem to think there might be some white cotton eyelet lace trim somewhere in my home.   I'm going to see if I still have it.   I think I may have donated it earlier this year.

So that's it for today!  Stay tuned for Part Two!





And Now For Something Completely Different...



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Source:  Giphy


Here is how I've been goofing off.    Here are some interesting links that caught my eye...

1)   I recently had an epiphany while folding laundry:  I wash JC's jeans on permanent press and throw them in the dryer.   I wash my jeans on a gentle cycle and hang them to dry.   Why?   Because I'm terrified I'll never find another pair of 'perfect' jeans again.  Point of fact, I am this way about everything in my closet.   I perennially overshop in search of a Holy Grail clothing item, and agonize that it isn't perfect - that the item - and myself, by extension - is not going to measure up to some barely-clarified mental standard that I hold in my own mind.   I settle for something that doesn't quite live up to my imaginary standard, then re-shop the same thing again and again and again, because there are too many choices, and I'm not satisfied with any of them.

Whereas JC just puts on his jeans and is satsified with his own hawtness.

I enjoyed this TED talk by renowned author and psychologist, Barry Schwarts, speaking about The Paradox of Choice, and how choice makes us less happy, and more dissatisfied.   At 12:10, he talks about jeans, which made me laugh.


2)   I am a huge fan of Joshua Becker, of Becoming Minimalist fame.  I'm currently reading his new book, The More of Less, and taking his 'Uncluttered' course.   It has been extremely helpful in paring down excess out of my closet, and my home.


3)   Okapi makes leather bags that are stunning and unique.  According to their site, these bags are "entirely handmade in South Africa from locally sourced materials... creating honest and sustainable job opportunities and skills growth locally".    I am obsessed!   Alas, they are out of my price range at the moment.   A girl can dream.   Maybe Santa will be good to me, down the road.


4)  Every Monday, I hop over to Miss Minimalist, and read her Real Life Minimalist series.   I really enjoyed the sense of peace and tranquility that this week's featured minimalist exudes in her words.


5)   I've written about my own experimental foray into capsule wardrobes, which didn't really go as I had imagined.  But I still remain fascinated by the concept.  I recently came across this wonderful blog by a lovely Australian, Mademoiselle.   She consistently puts together these lovely capsule wardrobes, season after season, and she always looks fabulous and put together.   I can only fume in a grudgingly admiring silence.  



Ch-Ch-Changes....



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2016 has been a year of sweeping changes.   Here are all the things that have happened since my last post:


 1)  A few days after my last post, there was a shooting in JC's building.  It happened in downstairs, in a restaurant in JC's building.   This establishment had been running a drug operation  pretty much since they got their liquor license, about 18 months prior.   We were upstairs watching TV when we heard bursts of semi-automatic gunfire.   Multiple weapons were fired, and several people injured.   Nobody was killed.   Legal proceedings were started to evict this business, and there has been a hearing.   JC and I attended.   If a decision has been handed down, the residents are not yet aware of it.   

The restaurant itself  is slowly dying off, because of the combined efforts of residents, city government, and increased police presence this area.   But we are all hoping that the legal decision will be made soon, and that this restaurant will be evicted.



2)  I did three weeks of the Tracy Anderson eating plan.   I lost four pounds.  The stress of it damn near drove me crazy.  I went off the plan and eventually regained the weight.   

 Halfway through Week Three, I was walking home to JC's from my parking garage.   For two blocks, I could smell pizza.  Sweet, sweet, mouthwatering cheesy tomato goodness, wafting through the air of downtown Atlanta.   

I thought to myself, "I could kill someone for a slice right now." 

 If you had pointed to that homeless guy sitting on the corner over there, and said, "Hey, go kill that guy and I'll buy you some pizza", my only question would have been, "You wouldn't happen to have a Swiss Army knife on you, by any chance?"

I went off the plan, and by mid-May, I had gained the weight back.

I realized that if I'm going to lose weight, and keep it off, and still have friends who don't think I'm a total asshole, there has to be a balance of a salad every day, and a small splurge once a week.  Without chocolate, I am impossible to live with.

I got back on the better-eating wagon a week ago, and I've been regularly working out for about three weeks.   I have lost five pounds since Memorial Day Weekend.



3)   Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis (hip-centric) and Elemental Body Alignment System have been truly life-changing.   

 I do not receive any monies or other reimbursements for recommending either of these programs.   These are simply my own experiences and opinions.

 I'm halfway through the second series (workouts 11-20) of Metamorphosis.   It has more variations of leg-raises-and-presses-while-doing-planks than I ever dreamed existed.   I have also used more variations of swear words and phrases than I ever dreamed existed, gasping and wheezing my way through the workouts.

That being said, Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis has been, hands-down, the best body-shaping series I have ever done in my life.

I have been doing EBAS since October 2014.   I cannot recommend this system enough.  I am more flexible than I have ever been in my life!   I started out with a once-a-week class.   These days, I take class every week.   I occasionally do the video, but mostly I spend 10-60 minutes a day, doing the stretches on my own, while we watch TV.     I very rarely have any back pain or discomfort. because of these stretches and exercises. 




4)   In other news:

I am moving out of my condo later this year, because the owner wants to re-take possession.   I've been downsizing my things - clothing, dishes, furniture, books, and tchtotchkes.  I am only taking things that I absolutely love, with me.

Where will that be?   Well.  I don't know.   JC is in the middle of a career transition, and there is a slim possibility that we may end up relocating to another city, or even overseas.    Most likely, we will remain where we are.  Win-win, either way.

In the meantime, Sugar: The Musical wrapped up.   It was a fun show, with a great cast.    It was refreshing to be in a show that I wasn't also directing.   Even though this was an unpaid show, I learned a lot, which made it very worthwhile.

My flamenco teacher / theatre partner added a new program to her syllabus:   a series in which you choreograph your own, full-length solo flamenco dance piece.   I chose farruca, and I've had two lessons with her, so far.   Every lesson, I bring in a new piece of choreography that I've created, and we go over it, smooth it out, clean it up.     I love this work so much!   It is one of the most rewarding things I have undertaken.

We're also working on our next show, in January 2017.    I'll post more information about that soon.

As always, I am working on my eBay store, adding more listings.



I hope you are having a great summer!   What is new in your neck of the woods?


Here is your gratuitous music break:












Tracy Anderson Metamorphoses: Dynamic Eating Plan: Week One Recap...



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In my previous post, I talked about restarting TA Metamorphoses, but mostly about the Dyamic Eating Plan.

I am starting Week Two of the Dynamic Eating Plan today.   This is a day late, for a couple of reasons:  

1.   Despite my careful measurements and conversions for the recipes, I wound up with several extra servings of the sweet potato puree, and the gazpacho, both of which I really liked.

2.   I wound up going out for dinner and/or drinks three nights this past week, as well as one lunch out.

It was much easier to stay with what I was already working with.   As of yesterday morning (Day 8), I had lost 2.5 pounds!   But this morning (after dining out late last night), I was back up 2/5 of a pound.   I think that's more from the late hour of dinner, and I expect that will be shed in the next day or so.  

Here are my observations, of the eating plan, so far:

1.   I never realized what an impact cutting out milk products would make for my appearance:  my skin looks tighter across my fat-hoarding areas:  abdomen, hips, and buttcheeks.  

2.   I did not cut out coffee, and I'm using coconut creamer (vanilla-flavored, and it is sweetened).   However... I find I'm drinking coffee more recreationally - I don't have the same caffeine cravings I had before I started this plan.

3.  Something in the carrot-parsnip puree (carrots, parsnips, chicken stock), made me ITCH.   Like, hands itching, eyelids itching, chin itching, random spots on my back and arms itching.   I ate this four days of the plan, and was able to duplicate the reaction on servings 2, 3, and 4.

I used the same chicken stock/broth in the protein soup (Better than Bouillon chicken flavor, and Swanson low-sodium chicken broth). So it's the carrots or the parsnips.   Since there were carrots in the soup, and I didn't get an itchy reaction, I have to assume the parsnips were the culprit, so I'm going to keep an eye out for this ingredient in the future, as it seems to be a popular ingredient in these hipster, southern-cuisine places that we like to visit.

4.  I hated the blueberry applesauce.   Haaaaaated it.   Not because of the apples and the blueberries - but because the daily serving was 11 ounces, and my god, that's a lot of blandness to choke down.   BUT.   I found that if I ate 8 ounces, all the 'sweet' cravings seemed to go away, and I could hoard the magic chocolate pudding for the end of the day.

5.  The magic chocolate pudding is what makes this plan work, in Week One.   Because I knew I had that pudding waiting for me, I was able to resist the temptation of chocolate or sweets in other places.   If I stopped for coffee at Starbucks (did this twice), I was able to gaze dispassionately at the cake pops, and shrug.   Because there was magic chocolate pudding waiting at home for me.

Dining out, I found it was much easier to choose better options - I made sure that a salad made up at least half of every meal.

Starting tomorrow, I am on week two, which is basically protein (eggs, turkey bacon, chicken or tuna) + fruit or vegetable carbs (berries, salad or spinach) for breakfast and dinner, and a ThinkThin protein bar for lunch.   At first, I thought this would be not nearly enough calories.  But...

Using this BMR calculator... for my ideal "fighting weight" (108-112 pounds), around 1050 maintains this weight.   And for my current weight (123.6 this morning)... 1111 calories maintains this weight.

Granted, this is under very restrictive, 'basic' activity.  Physical activity would up the amount of calories that I can eat to maintain weight.   In the past, 1300-1400 calories normally kept me feeling very energetic, and I stayed at 111-114.

So I am going to try Week Two, aka, "Body Reset" and see how it goes.   I've given myself permission to have extra chicken and extra salad if I feel like I'm hungry.

In truth, though, Louis CK really says it all, about hunger...



Undertakings: A Show, Choreographing, and Tracy Anderson Metamorphoses



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Yesterday, I (re-)started Tracy Anderson Metamorphoses, in earnest - and the 'Dynamic Eating Plan'.

I did this for three reasons:

1.   I've gained 14 pounds since last June, when our WONDERLAND show closed, and a constant regime of flamenco classes and dance rehearsals, ended.   I resumed a social life, that was based largely around eating and drinking with friends on their 'cheat days'.

I have learned that alcohol is my gateway drug to non-stop grazing.   If I have a drink, then an appetizer sounds like a great idea.   What, we're getting dessert?   Okay, I'll have some too!   Yeah.  No.   I've gone back to my no-drinking-at-the-restaurant policy.  

Also, I found out in early December that there is alcoholic root beer, which is responsible for at least three holiday pounds.

2.   I have just been cast in a show!   I'll be playing Sweet Sue, in Sugar: The Musical.   We open in three months, and I would like to be a good fighting weight for stage.

3.   I've also just signed on for a nine-month series of private flamenco lessons in which I choreograph my own dance piece.   I'm super-excited about this - I've chosen to choreograph a farruca.  To do the kind of work I'm envisioning, I really need to be in much better cardio condition.

I have to say, I really love Tracy Anderson's workouts - even though I have not consistently followed them, since first starting them in 2010.   I started out with her book, and the accompanying DVD.   I was amazed at the difference that just a few workouts made in my arms and shoulders.   I bought Metamorphoses several years ago, and intermittently worked my way up to #41-50 (which happened a few weeks ago).  That workout, #41-50, is harder, and faster, than I can really quite keep up with, so I had the idea of starting over, and going straight through.   I'll talk about the workouts in a future post.

Today I want to talk about the 'Dynamic Eating Plan' that is part of the Metamorphoses.   My baby sister just completed the first week, and it didn't kill her.    So I thought I would go ahead and give this a try.

So what does the 'Dynamic Eating Plan' entail?

It consists of 'Nutrient Boost' weeks, alternated with 'Body Reset' weeks.   The best way I can sum it up is, 'Nutrient Boost' = lots of pureed foods that had to be chopped and/or peeled, then steamed and processed in a food processor or blender.   But it includes a Magical Chocolate Pudding made largely out of chocolate chips.

Seriously.   A diet that has chocolate EVERY DAY.   Yes, please!

Then there are the 'Body Reset' weeks, which is basically a pared-down, reduced calorie diet.   There are critics who call it crash-dieting, but I'm just gonna say it:   I have ample assfat right now, that I'm not going to starve.   And in truth, although I do it rarely, having a day of reduced calories, usually in anticipation of a big outing, helps me focus and kind of 'reset' my tendency to snackity-snack-snack.

As of this writing, I'm on Day Two of the first week.   I feel great, full of energy, and the recipes are quite good.  I feel like I'm being fed very well.

So here is what I had to do though, to prep for this week.  Not gonna lie, this was a time-sink...

Shopping the grocery list:    Alas, it does not seem to have occurred to Tracy Anderson and any individual(s) who were part of editing her documents, that a shopping list with everything you need to prepare these meals, in the amounts you will need, would be super-handy.   Nope.   Planning and cooking your meals, requires a lot of math.  The recipes yield either two or three servings, and you have to go through, ingredient by ingredient, calculate what you will need for seven meals (all of the week one recipes are eaten every day, 4-11 ounces depending)... and in most cases, the cups/bags of vegetables/containers do not come out evenly for seven servings, so you have to plan for eight.

No big deal, as you can freeze the extras, for week three.

So.   You do your math, and get your shopping list together.

Then you shop:   I spent 45 minutes wandering the produce aisle of Kroger, hunting down ingredients I don't normally buy.   I did find everything I needed at the middle-of-the-road chain grocery store.   I spent probably around $80.   If I had gone to the local farmer's market, I would have probably come in at around $55-62, but I needed non-grocery stuff too.

I hauled all this stuff home, and got started....

Food prep:   It took me 5 1/2 hours, in my super-organized, KonMari'd kitchen, to chop, steam, bake chicken, peel, run things through the food processor and blender, and to clean up everything.

I made:

Blueberry-Applesauce with cinnamon (I added apple pie spice)
Gazpacho (I forgot to buy cilantro, and after I made the gazpacho, I realized I forgot to put the bell peppers in.   Oops.   Still tasty)
Sweet potato and corn puree (I added salt)
Carrot and Parsnip Puree (I added coriander and some extra salt)
Protein soup (aka, chicken, broccoli, and carrot soup.   I skipped celery because celery is Satan's garnish.)
Chocolate Chestnut Pudding (chestnuts make me itchy sometimes, so I substituted blueberries, as indicated on the sheet)

You aren't supposed to make substitutions or add seasonings or extra salt, but I did.  Just being honest.

I will also note that I did not make the Power Juice.  It is largely made of kale.   Kale is Satan's lettuce.  The taste has to be very cleverly masked before I'll have anything to do with it, because in it's natural state, it smells like my feet do when I take my flamenco shoes and polyester-based pointe pads off.     My baby sis made the power juice, and choked down about half a glass before giving it up as a bad idea.   She bought a pre-packaged 'green juice', instead.   Her exact words for the recipe were "Chewy Straw Sips", which was all I needed to hear.   I bought a bottled green drink.   The TA version says 10 ounces, but I cut mine back to 8 ounces, because there is more straight-up apple juice in the store version, than the TA recipe.

The TA plan also indicates you should not have coffee, to which I say, that's a big ol' cup of nope.   I love my coffee.   Tray-tray does say you can have a couple glasses of wine every week.   I'll pass on the gateway-drug-to-snacking, but I'm not giving up my coffee.

Yesterday was Day One, and I drank my green juice an hour before a 90-minute advanced flamenco class.   I felt great, had lots of energy and focus.   I brought the applesauce with me, and had half of the serving after class.   I meant to finish it later, but forgot.   Yesterday, I also had the sweet potato-and-corn puree, the chocolate pudding, about half a serving of the gazpacho... and then I went out to dinner with friends, at FLIP.   (I put the link here, because omg, look at the menu.   I loooove this place).  I had the turkey burger, a casear salad, some baked beans (like 1/4 cup, and shared the rest) and some fried pickles.   I found that, because I had the chocolate pudding waiting at home, I was able to decline the Burnt-Marshmallow Nutella Shake, which I'm pretty sure contains unicorn tears and rainbows and has roughly 10,000 calories.

I had thought to wait until this dinner was done before starting TA, but the whole point - in my opinion - is to be able to function normally and socially.   If I waited to start this until a week where I don't have dinner plans, I would never even get this program started.

So it is 9pm, and I have had everything on the plan for today, except four ounces of the blueberry-applesauce, which I probably won't get to.   I feel really good - lots of energy, and no feelings of deprivation.

Next week is trickier, because the meals are just three meals, of a protein and a fruit/vegetable serving at every meal - but the servings are small.   I'm going to try the first day, and if I feel significant hunger or loss of energy, I'm going to make the salad stuff 'unlimited', and up the protein.   But we'll see.   I'd like to follow this plan closely, but it also has to work for the next 90 days, around a lot of creative work, and rehearsals.

So... I'll let you know how it goes :)   So far, so good!


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