Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

Christmas Eve was my mother’s birthday. It was also the day my sister’s fiance had the stroke that killed him on the day after Christmas.

I just spent a week in Beth Israel-Kings HIghway Hospital for cellulitis. I woke up on Friday the 13th and couldn’t get warm. Coffee didn’t help, nor did getting under the electric blanket. I wasn’t at the shaking so bad I was dropping things stage, but with the heart defect, I figured safe was better than sorry, and had the roomie call 911. Apparently, I was running a fever of 102.8, which is pretty high, even for me. So the EMTs took me to the hospital. Unlike last time, I had a room by end of day, which was good. Roomie, my sister, and Naomi Moslow took turns sitting with me, which helped. The MRI came back okay, so there was no fluid in my lungs. Still, I felt pretty miserable.

This time, the nurses (with one exception) were all really nice. The only problem is that whenI came in, I needed some oxygen, and they chose to do that via a cannula. The cannula irritated my nose, and I kept begging them to take it away, but since the doctor had ordered it, it stayed — until I started having bad nosebleeds from the way it irritated my nose. Once they took it out, they kept monitoring my O2 levels, which were fine.

Anyway, I was in the hospital on intravenous antibiotics until Wednesday, when five different tries to get a vein didn’t work, at which point I was switched to oral antibiotics. I got out on Friday afternoon, came home, and went to sleep for a bit. When I left the hospital, I had a whole sheaf of forms recommending various nurses for the “Caught Being Great” program. That felt good.

I am feeling a lot more like myself now. While in the hospital, I caught up with my primary care guy. He agrees that I should have some say over how we treat the heart defect, since it is my body, after all. He also agrees with me that something is not right that the surgeon my cardiologist wants to use has rejected me as a poor candidate without ever having even spoken to me. We will deal with this in the new year.

Other than that, things go apace. I have writing to do. I got a winter jacket that proved to be nice and warm, even though fairly light. I am working on my professional website.

Roomie and I will be making Christmas dinner for somewhere between seven and ten people. It’s the one thing I can do on Christmas to make sure lonely friends are not lonely for a little bit, and that I can do something of value on a day when no one should be left alone unless it’s by choice. When I invited the ex, he asked if we would be doing a movie and Chinese food, the traditional way many Jewish folk in New York avoid the holiday. I told him no, but that I would order something in if it would make him feel better. He laughed.

I’m not particularly religious, although I do acknowledge being Jewish more by birth and by all the things I am not. However, the part of the world I have grown up in often looks at Christmas as a fairly secular holiday (yeah, I know, I didn’t say it made sense), and I grew up in a Christian neighborhood, so I have never had a problem celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. When you come right down to it, I think that any chance to spread joy is probably a good thing.  This year, I am especially cognizant of how blessed I am when it comes to friends. So I am happy to be able to spread a little cheer, and I always love an excuse to cook for my friends, so this is a good thing.

Roomie and I made a shopping list already, and the ex took her shopping yesterday, so we have pretty much everything we need.

At least I’m feeling like myself again. I hated feeling helpless and hopeless.


The people were Sue L. (the roomie), Marc G. (the ex), Joanne C., Mark B., and Claudia R. The dinner went off without a hitch, and a plate was made to send home to Marc’s wife, Donna C. (who has marginally less mobility than me). Donna rates a plate any time I make a social dinner, because for years she die the same for me, and even invited me over to join them for feasts she made (and she is a most excellent cook). We never got to the cookies Mark B. brought, because – in the spirit of Chanukah – he also brought Sufganiyot, which were more traditional.

Claudia got here first, and helped me get the last of Naomi’s bookcases set up and get stuff transferred from the half shelf that had stood in the spot before we got this one set up. So all of Naomi’s bookshelves have now found a home.


2013-11-28 16.27.51Sue’s matzo ball soup was a huge hit, as always. She has totally mastered the art of making matzo balls that seem to be fluffy, but have enough substance (while not sinkers) to be really enjoyed. The turkey and the brisket drew raves, as did the green bean casserole (straight from my Betty Crocker New Cookbook, which had been a gift from Spencer Love & Persis Throndike). The stuffing was good, the rice dish Joanne brought was good, the pumpkin pie Claudia made was delicious, and the two pies I made were enjoyed by everyone.  Needless to say, we were all pleasantly stuffed.  After Everyone pitched in to help clean up, Marc G. gave rides home to Claudia R. and Mark B. The only things that need cleaning as of this moment, are the rack from the turkey, and my plates from breakfast.

And, yes, I am up way too damned early. I had to get up and eat before 5:00 am, because I need to eat with some of my meds, and I can’t eat for three hours before the MRI (according to the message the hospital left for me yesterday), which is at 8:30 this morning. My sister is driving me in, and then driving me home, which I really appreciate, since I am not ready to use the rollator for public transit, and I can use my cane for the distance from the hospital door to the MRI section.

The truth is, I’d much rather crawl back into bed and stay there. The MRI, and a possible CAT scan at some point, are precursors to a pacemaker being put in. The MRI is necessary because I am not presenting in a standard way – the amount of distortion the echocardiogrm picked up is way short of what they would normally see in someone who has become as immobile as I am. In a rare fit of common sense, I have removed all my jewelry already, and will leave it at home.

Anyway, I have now had breakfast and meds, and have called my sister to make sure she’s awake and on schedule, so I should go and get myself washed and dressed.

I hope everyone’s holiday was as pleasant as mine was.

First, and let’s get this over and done with: I will not use that cutesy advertising term for the coinciding of the two holidays. I don’t do cute, as a rule, and cute fueled by people trying to get me to spend money I don’t have is even more annoying.

That said, I have much to be grateful for this year. The thing that should have killed me decades ago didn’t, and  – while my mobility has lessened a lot – at least we now know what is wrong, and are fumbling toward a solution. I have good friends who have kept me from eating my own tail over the situation, and who make themselves available when I *am* up to going out for a bit. Thirdly, my sister has been trying to be genuinely helpful, and I really do appreciate that.  My roommate has kept a roof over my head when work has been scarce, and never said a word about how or when I will be able to pay her back. She has also run all sorts of errands for me when I cannot do them easily.  My ex has been crazy helpful, schlepping me shopping when I have the energy, and either taking the roommate or picking up stuff for us when I don’t have it. I have good doctors, who I trust. They continue to exercise caution, even beyond what I would, given my druthers. I have yet to meet the surgeon that my cardiologist favors, but I do know that if it doesn’t feel right, I will tell him to find someone else, because I have learned what the consequences of not doing that can be.

I have had almost steady work since getting out of the hospital in February. Pretty much the only days I haven’t had work were the days I was not physically up to working.  And I’ve ended up with some good new colleagues out of it.  I also have my writing website almost ready. The last thing that remains to be done is to figure out how to get my grammar blog to appear on that website (and if any of you can help me with that, it would be much appreciated – please email me, call me, or Skype me).

I have, with the help of various friends who have either worked at Social Security, or who have gone through the process themselves, started the process of filing for disability, since it will take at least a year before I am capable of working to my normal capacity.

My roommate came to me last week, and asked how many people we should figure on for Thanksgiving dinner. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do it this year, since it meant moving some bookcases so we can get to my big table, and that’s the kind of energy sink I don’t need right now. However, she helped me move two of them, and we need to put one more in its place, and temporarily relocate the wicker shelving unit I inherited from the ex’s mother. At any rate, we figured we could fit a couple of folks around the double gateleg table my grandfather had made, which resides in my kitchen. We invited my ex, two friends who are having severe Landlord problems, and my sister and my oldest friend (who both declined for various reasons involving mourning). So, we are currently five definite for dinner, with a possible sixth (depending on how mobile she is feeling today).

The thing is, until I started the cooking for the things I’m making, I didn’t realize just how much *I* needed to do this. There are damned few things I have control over right now, and being able to feed friends has always been one of those things, and – possibly – the one I enjoy most.

The food I’m making is the brisket and veggies I posted the recipe for the other day, a mince (fruit) and walnut pie, a lemon jello and mandarin orange tart, cranberry sauce, and a green bean casserole. The roomie is doing the turkey, matzo ball soup, dressing, and garlic mashed potatoes. One friend is bringing a homemade pumpkin pie, another is bringing a rice dish with craisins and cashews, the ex is bringing some yams (in case anyone wants them), and another friend is bringing cookies. I know we should have latkes, but none of us feel like scraping our fingers.

Anyway, I’m feeling tremendously accomplished this morning. The only things *I* have left to do are move the bookcases and make the cranberry sauce. The jello tart is setting properly; the mince/walnut pie has cooled enough to cover and put in the fridge, and the green bean casserole is cooking (that will get the French-fried onions when it gets reheated before serving).

Whatever seasonal holiday, or holidays, you celebrate around this time of year, I wish you a good one! If you think of it, express to your loved ones how much they mean to you – life is short enough, even if we are lucky enough to be long-lived, and it can go away in moments. Be grateful for being above the ground; no matter how big your problems are, there is always hope that you will find a way through while you are alive. If you still have your health guard it. I found out this year just how easily that can vanish, and I know that I had always taken it for granted.

Whether I’ve met you in person, or only on these pages, I hope you know that you have made a tremendous difference in the quality of my life.  I can only hope that I have, in some small measure, given back in kind.




Sundown is bringing the first night of Passover, and the roomie and I are making a small Seder (ritual & festive meal) for ourselves, my ex, and a friend, M (C was coming but is not feeling well, so she messaged me this morning that she couldn’t make it. Not entirely unexpected, given that I know she has been having health issues.

The ex requested brisket, and the roomie was agreeable.  We got a gorgeous brisket during the week, and this morning, we pulled out Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and looked up brisket. Lo and behold, we actually had everything on hand, so the brisket just went into the oven.

We got one of the gefilte fish that you cook yourself. I like both that, and the regular jarred gefilte fish, but the ex prefers the homemade one, and it’s really nothing to make.  Unwrap the outer wrapper, remove the tray, boil some water, add a sliced up onion and a sliced up carrot, some slat (we used light salt) and some pepper, toss in the wrapped fish, bring the water back to a boil, simmer for an hour, cool, then refrigerate until dinner.

We will have matzoh (eating matzoh is a part of the holiday), and some juice (we are none of us big wine drinkers). I even, thanks to the ex, managed to find some high-fiber matzoh, and some matzoh made with rye (both kosher for Passover), so the commandment will not exacerbate some of my health issues. The veggies will be broccoli, cauliflower & carrot mix (we got a huge bag of that on sale the other week).  The roomie is doing the Seder Plate, and the charoset (a mix of apples, nuts, and wine [for us, grape juice]) can be done just before we sit down.

As for staying on program during Passover, I’ve never found it impossible.  Depending on how many weekly points I have when it falls, it’s generally pretty easy to stay within bounds. I do track, except for the two Seders, and though I don’t track those, I do keep an eye out and, when I do the one at home, I do weigh and measure my portions.

I also make sure to eat lots of fruit and veggies during the day. I know I will want to have a nice portion of meat at dinner, so I keep my points use down during the day by eating lots of salad.  Salad is my friend in general — it’s one of the few ways I can get the volume of food I need to feel full, while keeping my points usage to a minimum.

This morning, for example, I made an 8 Points Plus salad.  The only things in the salad that used points were the salad dressing, and the steamed dumplings I tossed in (I like one warm component in my salad). The rest of the salad was romaine, spinach, a tangerine that I sectioned and cut in half, and some baby bella mushrooms. It was hugely filling (I’m just now getting to my coffee), and it should hold me until dinner.

While we were doing prep for the cooking, we got the house vacuumed,, so all we have to do housework -wise is to move the spare computer from the dining table to the windowsill for the evening, and put the stuff for mailing Bookmooch requests in my room. We will only have to move two chairs into the living room, since we have two in there regularly.

So, everything is about as ready as it can be at this point.  Will let everyone know how the Seders went on Wednesday.

To those who observe Passover, please have a wonderful, safe, healthy holiday.

After meeting on Friday, C and I headed back here where we had lunch and then baked the scones we heard about during the meeting. They were chocolate chip scones, and we had to make a tweak or two to the recipe, but they came out really good.

Fergie, Deb, & Claudia’s Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Scones

12 scones @ 4 Points Plus 


  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup mixed angel food & devil’s food cake mix
  • 1/3 cup Splenda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 Tbsp cold butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 5 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 Tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 cup water


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  • Cut in butter.
  • Stir in orange juice, vanilla extract, water, & chocolate chips.
  • Divide batter and shape into 12 scones, pressing each scone together lightly so that it adheres.
  • Place on baking sheet that has been sprayed with on-stick spray.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes until top is crusty.
  • Let cool and enjoy.

M came over for dinner, so we had the roomie, M, C, and me. Dinner was a huge frittata, split four ways. It was stuffed with sausage, roast pork, shallot, red & orange peppers, spinach, and chard. Dessert was a scone each.

Saturday, I made another batch of lentil/quinoa burgers, because I really loved both the way they tasted and the way they kept me nice and full until my next meal. Saturday was also the third Saturday fannish thing in upstate Manhattan. T, one of the hosts, made met lasagna, while N made a three-bean & couscous casserole. T also made homemade tapioca pudding & homemade whipped cream to go with it. I had a bit of each and used up some of my weekly points, but it was well worth it.

Sunday was a quiet day at home, with grilled salmon, a baked potato, and brussels sprouts for dinner. I did bake another batch of scones — this time almond instead of chocolate chip — and I got 15 scones out of this batch, for 3 Points Plus each. I left out the cinnamon & vanilla extract, so they tasted more like scones than Friday’s batch.

Tonight will probably be meatloaf or hamburgers. The roomie will be making dinner, and I have no idea what she will feel like doing with the chopped meat she has thawing in the fridge.

What do you do when a weekend, rather than just one occasion, is food-focused? How do you arrange to stay on your plan? Or do you just declare a day off from it?


As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m cleaning up my house.  And as I’ve also mentioned, both the roommate and I have been having various computer issues since Superstorm Sandy.

Today, two friends came over.  C was helping me with organizing — she took some clothing that no longer fits me, and brought a pair of jeans that will fit in another week or so.  She also helped me move more boxes out of the living room closet.  A came over to see if she could fix the roomie’s stereo (it took a repositioning of the antenna, and plugging my old turntable into her stereo’s CD outputs).  She also lugged her old iMac down to my house from upstate Manhattan, so that I can use that while the roomie borrows my laptop until hers can be fixed (I’m typing this entry on it, in fact).  Afterwards, they, the roomie and I all watched Jeopardy! while dinner was cooking.  Then we sat down to a meal that C and the roomie had cooked.  We ate, and laughed, and talked, and it was wonderful.

The thing is, it was not the food so much that was wonderful (although it was, and was also all on program).  What made it wonderful for me was the sharing.  Yes, I love food — I didn’t get to my weight by hating it, and I’d be lying if I said I did.  But I love even more having friends over, and having them enjoy each other’s company.  Heck, even the roomie lit up a bit and took part!  I love the feelings that my cleaned up living space is starting to accumulate!

This is the kind of thing I want to have in my space — good friends, enjoying themselves.  It really makes me feel much happier to be able to invite people over  and know that I will have space for them to be comfortable.  And the thing is that when I do have days like this, the food is really secondary to the people I’m spending time with.

How does having people over make you feel?  Do you have foods that you enjoy having with company that support your food/weight loss program?  Has putting your guests before the food had an effect on your eating?  

First, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday (if you celebrate) or a great Tuesday (if you don’t).

Dinner was better than I had expected.  Lots of good conversation, lots of quality time with some friends I don’t get to see all that often (and a few that I see on a regular basis), some brainstorming for a friend’s new project, and far too much really good food.

There were changes — as these go, there usually are — but everyone got fed, no one went hungry, there were yummy leftovers, and everyone had a great time.  As a bonus, I now have a living room where I can have company over when I want to, and the rest of the apartment is sufficiently clean that (while it would certainly fall short of my mom’s standard) I can have people over without having to apologize for.

The food:  The roomie made a turkey breast, roasted sweet potatoes, and her dirty mashed potatoes; I made my pistachio pie, my split pea soup and some chili; C made her broccoli/cauliflower mash, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash;  N made a glazed ham, stuffing, and one of the best green bean casseroles I have ever eaten (she made the mushroom soup for it from scratch!), as well as some lovely chocolate snaps; and R brought some lovely baked goodies.

Even better, I was totally able to stay within program, choosing to stuff myself with the veggies & protein and just sample things that I felt were not optimal choices for me.

As an extra surprise, C’s boss sent us a package of crackers (the kind you pull apart (with a loud popping noise) and a party favor, a paper crown, and some riddles and trivia come out.  We left the boss a fannish phone message of thanks,which we hope won’t shock her *too* much.

As often happens when I am around people, I forget to take pictures. I did, however take pictures of my now visible living room:

Kitt on the couch Entertainment Center Free Stuff Box & Holiday Tree Main bookshelves Dining table, Blocked Front Window, & Secondary Bookshelves

It was, all in all, a Really Good Day.

Freelancers Union

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