Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

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I was hoping to have a dinner report about a new-to-us place that specializes in hand-pulled ramen and in soup dumplings, but that’s not really gonna happen tonight (although there may be a note on the order the roomie is bringing home for me).

At dinner last Friday, I was sitting next to one person who says she didn’t know she was getting the flu, which attacked her pretty violently Saturday morning. I didn’t know she was sick until two days ago. When I started getting sick on Tuesday, I just figuredit was stuck energy from all the internal growth work I’ve been doing. That happens, and you just get through it.

Wednesday, she sent me an email that she wasn’t joining us this week because she had awakened Saturday with the flu. Thursday, I had the electric blanket on “4”, which I never do, and it barely felt warm. Asked the roomie for the thermometer and, lo and behold, I had a temperature of 101.2. I called the woman and asked what the onset symptoms of her flu were, and they matched mine. Lovely. She kept insisting that I could not have gotten it from her and must have picked it up elsewhere. However, this chain of events is math that even a mathophobe like me can figure out.

Yes, I am sure that she did not intend for me to get sick. I really don’t think most people go around trying to make others lives miserable (well, except maybe my sister, who prides herself on doing just that). What is really annoying me, however, is her continued insistence that she could not have been the source of my flu.

I have an old friend, Naomi. We know each other since 1972, and have each done our share of stupid-ass things over the years, to which the other’s response has always been “I’m gonna kill you, then we’ll do lunch.” The reason this works is that both of us are willing to look at and own the stupid-ass stuff we do.

Anyway, the roomie is going to bring home some soup dumplings, some duck ramen with hand-pulled noodles, and some braised duck for me so I will be able to report on the food if nothing else.

In other news, I got a smaller rollator, and I fit into it! This new rollator weighs about 15 lbs. less than the old one. The roomie was able to carry the whole thing, in the box, from the front door to my room, and it does move easily between the rooms of the house. I gave the old one to a friend for his wife, as a backup.

So, whinge and flu aside, it’s been mostly a good week.

 

 


It’s been a pretty full few days.

I had a dinner group meeting at Teresa’s, a favorite Polish restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, on Friday, 3 February. Due to the cold, it was a small group, but a pleasant evening was had by all.

Tuesday, I got some real movement in taking back my life – both literally and figuratively. I already had a dentist appointment for mid-afternoon, due to a loose tooth (more about that later), so I did one of the scariest things I could think of…I scheduled a beginner ride at the Peloton Studio in Chelsea (140 West 23rd Street, between Sixth & Seventh Avenues). Mind, I had bought a Peloton bike a bit over a year ago but ended up being too sick to use it for more than one ride. Also, I was having trouble with getting the shoe clips into the pedals, even after I bought toe cups so I could use regular sneakers with the bike. Well, my neurosurgeon cleared me to use the bike last week, so I figured I should go to the studio and they could show me why I was having issues with the clips. While I was on the phone with them, I asked if they had any really gentle classes, and explained my situation. The young woman I spoke with noted that they had a beginner ride on Tuesday at 1:30, but that I should come earlier to set things up. I did so, with the roomie accompanying me to watch my stuff and to make sure I had help after the dentist if I needed it. I got to the studio, signed in, had a studio account set up for me so I could book rides there when I want to, and spoke with the manager, who had a few concerns about my condition, which I was able to allay. I also was able to show her that I was flexible enough to bend from the waist and touch my toes while standing — something I hadn’t tried doing since the surgery.

Anyway, she decided to let me try the ride, and I’m thrilled that she did. I lasted for 15 of the 30 minutes, but I was able to raise the bike’s resistance from a start of 0 to 2, and get my cadence up to 85. I probably could have pushed through for the second half of the ride, but I had promised my surgeon that I would go slowly and not overdo it. Still, it felt so good to be back on a bike – even a stationary bike with my feet clipped in so I couldn’t fall off! I know I wasn’t going full bore, but it still felt like I was flying! Even better, I felt like me for the first time since before the heart issues happened! I would have even tried walking to the dentist (I had the rollator with me), but the roomie’s hip was so bad she was stopping every ten feet or so. When she apologized for holding me up, I just said to heck with it and flagged down a cab. It felt odd to be walking faster than her while using the rollator, but I think it means that I am making real progress to getting my walking back. Now if only they were not predicting heavy snow for tomorrow night into Friday…I would gladly try walking out for more than a couple of blocks. Oh well, I will get there in good time.

My Weight Watchers coach, the much-beloved Robert, recommended an app called Headspace to me a few weeks ago. I tried it, and love it. It’s a ten-minute-a-day mindfullness app. I highly recommend the free version to everyone. Further, if anyone does try it and likes it, feel free to add me as a buddy there.

Another free thing I came across in my Internet wandering is The Yoga Summit. One of the interviews there was by a woman named Danielle La Porte, who somehow resonated with me despite being about half my age. I checked out her website and blog, and decided that I wanted to try some of her methods.

So, things are starting to look positive again, for the first time in a very long time.

 

 


There is some very good news this week. I spoke to my surgeon, Dr. Soriaya Motivala, on Thursday. She says that I do not have to wear the bone-growth stimulator anymore and that I can start using my Peloton exercise bike again, so long as I go slowly and do not overreach.

In other good news, I dropped six pounds this week, so I am cautiously optimistic that I am getting back on track. Wednesday, I decided that on days that I’m not going out I will go back to tracking my food for a while. but may switch to “Simply Filling” on days that I am going out. (I did track last night’s dinner – it was pretty easy to do since I planned what I was going to order before I left the house.

Dinner last night was wonderful. We ate at an old favorite, El Gran Castillo de Jagua, at 355 Flatbush Avenue, which makes some of the best Dominican dishes around. I had the fillet of salmon with a side order of sweet plantains. I did sneak a bite of Marc Glasser’s mofongo with pork (mashed plantains, usually with some meat or fish added). For a change, I managed to get through dinner without ordering any soda. The attendees were Marc Glasser, Cyndi Cascanti, Joe Sullivan, Sue Levy (the roomie), Maury Kestenbaum, Chuck Hancock, Ariel Winterbreucke, Mark Blackman, and me. Joe was kind enough to drive Marc, Sue and me to Marc’s afterward
deb-lucys-carrot-stewOkay, I promised I would post the carrot stew recipe. Let me start by posting what Lucy had to say about it that inspired me to make it:

“I’ve started adding what I call ‘carrot stew’ to my repertoire. The name comes from a picture book we had when our kids were small, The Tawny, Scrawny Lion, in which a hungry lion encounters a fat little rabbit, but before the lion can gobble him up, the rabbit invites the lion to come home with him and share a dinner of carrot stew with him and his five fat rabbit brothers and six fat rabbit sisters.  So this lion goes home with him, thinking that 12 little fat rabbits will make a better meal than just one, and the rabbits throw carrots and onions and mushrooms and some other vegetables and some fish into a pot and when it’s cooked they share it with the lion and then serve bowls of berries for dessert. And afterward the lion walks home, whistling to himself in the moonlight.”

Lucy and Deb’s “Carrot Stew”

Ingredients:

Frozen (pre-cut) or fresh veggies

(I used frozen spinach, 2 diced onions, a bag of baby carrots, a can of new potatoes, 2 ribs of celery, pre-cut bagged zucchini and butternut squash, and canned mushrooms)

1/2 cup pearl barley

2.4 lbs of salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

tarragon, to taste

dill, to taste

Auntie Arwen’s Ultimate Garlic Insanity, to taste (Auntie Arwen has a shop on Etsy, and her spice blends are magnificent and reasonably priced.)

Water to cover

Directions:

I swear this recipe is pretty much fool-proof. You just put all the ingredients into a large pot, cover, and simmer until the fish is cooked and the vegetables are tender. It is a very forgiving recipe. I made the whole recipe, without the mushrooms, then added them after Sue had taken her portion, then reheated it until the mushrooms were also warm. Cooking took about two hours, and the resulting stew is wonderful – even after being reheated four days later for today’s lunch.

The recipe is also incredibly Weight Watchers friendly: only 3 Points Plus for a one-cup serving.

Last week, I made a commitment to Robert, my WW coach, that I would meditate at least once a day. He suggested that I use the free trial at Headspace to get started. Even though I have done meditation many times in the past, I figured I’d give it a try, and I love their method, so I have added it to my routine (I don’t talk about this much, but I try to remember to meditate twice a day already). I actually like meditating; it’s refreshing to take a little time to not have my brain running around like a madwoman. I’ve also noticed that on days when I do take the time to meditate, I seem to have less trouble reacting to things that happen.

So that’s where things are today.See you all next time!

 

 

 

 


As most of you know, there are three measures by which I know I’ve taken back my life from the health issues of last year: walking, cooking, and blogging. Slowly – far too damned slowly – I am doing all three.

Yesterday, I went to a most excellent housefilk at the home of some friends. Not only was I able to sit up for the whole thing, but I was able to get the rollator up the front steps to their building by myself (normally, Sue or Marc drags it up the steps, while I use the banister to haul myself up)! I was also able to walk to the car after the housefilk, and survive the car rides to and from Josh and Lisa’s place. I was even able to walk around their apartment a little without using any support at all.

But that’s not today’s accomplishment. The roots for that actually go back to a job I had from 1977 to 1987. Back then, I worked for Rialto Management Company, a small real estate firm in midtown owned by Ruben Shulsky. One of the best parts of that job was the little kosher meat restaurant across 30th Street and halfway between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It had no name, but had some of the best food I had ever eaten. One of my favorite dishes there was cholent – a beef/bean/barley stew. Cholent is one of those things observant Jews eat for Shabbos lunch, because it can be started on Friday before sundown and kept on the top of the stove over a very low heat until they can turn the light off after sundown on Saturday. Well, I loved that cholent, but not being an observant Jew, I didn’t know how to make it. Over the years, I asked observant friends and looked on the Internet for recipes – and there were some interesting ones – but they never quite tasted like the cholent from that restaurant. Cholent is one of those things where everyone has a slightly different recipe, usually learned from their mom.

lucys-cholent-picA few months ago, an acquaintance of mine posted about cholent in an APA we both belong to (AWA, or A Women’s APA). I asked for her recipe, and she posted it in the following collation. I started it yesterday after we got home from the housefilk, and when I tried it for lunch today it was exactly the taste I remembered! I even put it into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and discovered it’s 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving, which is not bad for a meal! Without further ado, here is the recipe for Lucy Schmeidler’s cholent, as written in AWA:
Lucy Schmeidler’s Cholent

1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium large Idaho (russet) potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 – 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 – 10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 4-oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup pearl barley, soaked
1/2 cup navy or small white beans, soaked
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Cooking oil
Water to cover
3-qt heavy pot

Friday morning: Brown onions in oil. Add meat, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and water to cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. (Deb’s note: We did this for about an hour. Also, since the roomie is allergic to mushrooms, we made it without, and when she had taken what she wanted, I added the mushrooms and reheated it thoroughly.) Add barley, beans, seasonings and more water to cover. Cook covered overnight over low heat without stirring. Serve for Shabbos lunch.

So, I want to thank Lucy for helping me solve a  – to me – 35-year search!

In other “taking back my life” news, my surgeon says that I am doing amazingly well – far better than she had expected. I went to lunch with the roomie to a place we often order from over on Emmons Avenue, the Opera Cafe. The food was excellent, as always, and it was good to get out. I’ve also started up the fannish dinner group again, although we have been sticking to places in Brooklyn so far. Future plans include maybe doing a Monday night dinner so the Kosher Krew can join us, and possibly some weekend brunches. There are just too many great places to eat around New York City. (And if anyone reading this is in the area and wants onto the list for the dinners, please leave a comment, email, or otherwise message or call me. I’d be happy to add you to the list. Attendance is not mandatory at all; all I ask is if you are joining us on a given week, let me know in case the group for that week is big enough to need reservations.)

 


I mean that quite literally. I have been starting the process of taking my life back again, post surgery. Since Thanksgiving, I have managed to get out of the house at least once a week. This week, I actually managed a dinner with friends on Saturday night and some grocery shopping on Sunday, both of which the ex was willing to provide transportation for. I also did both with my cane, rather than with the rollator or walker, so I am proud of that accomplishment. Mind, going out two days in a row left me kind of wiped out on Monday, but that sort of thing should pass as I get about more. The first time I tried to get out my front door (one small step up), I was exhausted with the effort; now I pretty much just hop out, so things do get better the more I do them.

I committed to my Weight Watcher coach to walk a bit every day, even if only with the walker and in the house. I have been good about doing so, so I am pleased with that so far.

My doctors and I finally seem to have adjusted my blood pressure meds properly. we removed one entirely and reduced a second by one-third. I am still hoping that when I reach my goal weight (currently around 160 lbs.) I will be able to reduce it some more. I have also decided that yoga is still a bit out of my physical reach, so I am looking for a tai chi class on the grounds that the movements are much more gentle.

I don’t really have the concentration to read right now, so I am slowly plugging away at Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, which is fascinating. I’ve always had a soft spot for books about history, and this one is very engaging. Chernow’s style is lively, and not at all “dry.” I can see why Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to write Hamilton by reading it. And, speaking of Hamilton, next time my friend Chris recommends seeing a play while it’s still in previews and relatively unknown, I shall follow her advice.

One of my friends noted in her LiveJouranl that she had lost her MedicAlert bracelet and had to replace it. This led to a conversation with the roomie, and we decided it was time for me to get one. Since I am working at getting more mobile, I will probably not be in sight of the roomie, Naomi, or the ex at all times, so if anything happens while I am wandering about it could be useful. It’s taking me a while to get used to it, though. It’s not something I ever thought I would need. However, I have finally come to realize that taking care of myself is a Good and Useful Thing.

So that’s where things are at this week. It’s pretty good, although I am missing Dee this holiday season more than I have before. I miss hugs and cuddling, although right now I don’t want any hugs where hands travel below the waist, lest I rip the scar from the surgery open more. Still, I am alive and getting well, which is a lot to be grateful for right there.


I have now lived through another presidential election. It has had its moments of glory, such as being able to vote for the first female presidential candidate of a major party It has had its moments of blindness, like a ton of millennials and others throwing away their votes. It has had its moments of hope, such as listening to Michelle and Barack Obama speak about the future. And it had its moments of shame, as various states were called in favor of a candidate who has shown himself to be one of the most flawed people ever to run for the office.

It is now over. Donald Trump has been elected. Hillary Clinton has conceded. Trump now claims that he will unify the country. I don’t see how he can do so, given the things he has said about so many different groups of people. I admit to some baggage here. As a native New Yorker, my opinion of our new President is slightly lower than my opinion of the late Robert Moses.

I do know that every new President has a learning curve, during which he or she finds out that the powers of the office are not totally unlimited, and that one has to negotiate with others. I also know that, no matter how good or bad Trump turns out to be, if he does not learn, he is likely to be a one-term president.

I think the next four years will be harder for many of us than we were hoping. I expect that important things will be destroyed by the new President, the still Republican Congress, and a split Supreme Court. David Gerrold has an excellent post on Facebook about what we are likely to lose and why.

What many people are refusing to understand though is where and shy this happened. They did not understand how many Americans are frustrated that neither party seemed to be listening to their concerns. They did not learn the lesson of Weimar Germany, where people who were frustrated allowed an evil man to come to power.

For the next four years, we will have to deal with the results of the willful ignoring of the frustrations and issues of people who feel they have lost their way of life. As my mother used to say, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Am I scared for myself? Yes, some. I am 64, Jewish, disabled, and poor. Will I survive this president? Most likely. More than afraid, though, I am sad that Americans seem to choose to not learn from history, Heck, I’m sad that many Americans don’t even know the history of this country. I’m disappointed that after years of fighting for progress, and toward the ideals of our Founding Fathers, many people have chosen a leader who seems hellbent on tearing down that progress.

I am not screaming for armed revolt. I am not planning on running away. I am planning on surviving the next four years, and then working to ensure that we elect a President whose goals and values are closer to mine. I will also try to remember that this election was largely a revolt by the citizens who felt that our leaders were not listening to their needs and issues, and that even as illustrious a Founding Father as Thomas Jefferson recommended revolting when the country’s leaders were not listening to the people they were elected to serve.

I’m not sure any of this is making sense. It’s 4:29 a.m., and I am mostly trying to frame my thoughts as to how to deal with the bitter-to-me loss of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party.

May whatever Deity you believe in sustain you through the next four years.

 


Replying to a comment in my last post got me thinking about the music that has shaped my life.

As anyone who knows me for more than ten minutes knows, one of the two life regrets I have is that I can barely carry a tune on my own. However, I have been a lifelong music fan. (I think the first song I remember hearing on the radio was “Venus,” sung by Frankie Avalon – yes, I AM that old; live with it.)

I was hooked. Not just on the song, but on the way the words and melody fit with each other, the way the sounds came out, the harmonies…. I still am hooked on music all these years later.

As I grew older, I found that the songs I loved had certain characteristics:

  • Often, the singer had an unusual voice
  • There were complexities in the arrangements – harmonies and counterpoints and descants
  • It moved me just by its magnificence
  • It had words that rang true to some part of my life
  • It had something in it that helped me cope somehow with some part of my life or some issue I was struggling with

Fortunately, my parents also liked music – chores were done to the Texaco Sunday Opera in the background; Dad liked pop music, and was often the one staying up late with me to watch the late night music shows. My Grandma was a fan of The Monkees (long story – ask me elsewhere about that). Mom loved musicals and show tunes and musical comedy such as Danny Kaye, and Allan Sherman. The Beatles hit the US when I was in 5th grade, and their excellent lyrics hooked me even more.

When I got old enough, I started hanging out in Greenwich Village – an excellent place for someone who loved music. There, I fell in love with Richie Havens, Raun MacKinnon, Laura Nyro, David Bromberg, Weeden & Finkle (later Finkle, Weeden and Faye), Christine Lavin, a cappella music, Buzzy Linhart, Eric Frandsen, and so many others.

Then prog rock came along. It had all the complexities I loved, plus Chris Squire – a bassist who often played top line leads with his bass. It also has Phil Colllins and Carl Palmer (I love a good drummer – always have) And brought me more to listen to jazz and classical music.

My taste in music has kept expanding as I’ve grown. To this day, I still hear new stuff and fall in love with it. My friend Gundo can tell you about the first time he showed me the video for “Wheels” by the Foo Fighters. I pretty much fell off his couch when it was done. And Marc can tell you about the time at the Nassau Community College Folk Festival I first heard Richie Havens do an a cappella cover of Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away.” I was literally left speechless. Megan could tell you (if she was still alive) about the first time I heard Tom Paxton perform “The Last Thing on My Mind.” Sue can tell you about how watching the 25th anniversary PBS showing of “Les Miz” not only left me speechless, but gave me two new singer obsessions: Alfie Boe and Norm Lewis.

That said, there are songs that have shaped my life. Sue and Marc have seen the looseleaf where I’d been copying lyrics since the first time I saw “Fiddler on the Roof.”

There are all sorts of sources for those songs, so I will list here some of them, in the hope that you may know and feel the same about them.

  • Follow – Richie Havens
  • On the Turning Away – Richie Havens a capella version
  • You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught – from South Pacific
  • If I Loved You – from Carousel
  • No Time At All – from Pippin
  • If I Never Spend a Morning Without You – Andy M. Stewart and Manus Lunney
  • Is A Puzzlement – from The King & I
  • Corner of the Sky – from Pippin
  • The finale of the Firebird Suite – Igor Stravinsky
  • Video – india.arie
  • I’m Still Here – Stepehn Sondheim (as performed by Elaine Stritch)
  • Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) – by Yes
  • Run with the Fox – Chris Squire
  • Too many Paul Simon songs to single any out
  • What Makes you DIfferent (Makes You Beautiful) – Backstreet Boys
  • Too many Christine Lavin songs to single one out
  • Circle of Fifths – Raun MacKinnon
  • The Last thing on My Mind – Tom Paxton
  • Most songs by Allan Sherman
  • Most songs by Tom Lehrer
  • Waving Flag by K’naan
  • Take me to the Alley by Gregory Porter
  • Bring Him Home – from Les Miz
  • Way too many other songs to enumerate

So, these are some of the songs that have shaped me in one way or another, and why music is so important to me.


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