Wednesday, May 28, 2014

If it tastes good, spit it out

The other day I was at a rest home with Ernst. He has conducted a Bible study at this particular rest home for over 10 years. He has two objectives - give them comfort and try to stir their memories. Monday he was asking everyone  - Who in history was a really strong man? The first man to pop in my head that could stir some memories in older folks was exercise guru Jack LaLanne. And it did. And then it stirred some memories in my head as well.

Jack LaLanne and his dog Happy.

I vividly remember being home alone with my mom when all the other kids were off to school. I would have been four or five, because it was at our old house. My mom and I would do the exercises from the Jack LaLanne show together. I specifically recall doing the various exercises involving a simple kitchen chair. And I remember his dog Happy. Don't know what the dog did, but he was on the show living up to his name.

After Googling Jack LaLanne, I discovered some interesting facts.

  • He was an unhealthy, unhappy and at times violent young man until he gave up junky, sugary foods at the age of 15.
  • He had a degree in Chiropractics.
  • The day before he died at the age of 96 of pneumonia, he was still doing his exercises.
  • He ate a diet of egg whites, fish, and lots of fruits and vegetables. He ate 10 raw vegetables a day. He ate oatmeal with soy milk, broth, and fruit for breakfast. 
  • The prevailing attitude at the time of his TV show was that women could become infertile with exercise. His show ran from 1953 in the heart of the Baby Boom and ended in 1985.
  • He woke up every day at 4 am to work out. He changed that to 5 am when he was much older.
  • He believed in two big meals a day, a big breakfast and a big dinner.
Real men work out in ballet slippers.

Two quotes from Jack LaLanne made us laugh.
"if man made it, don't eat it" and "if it tastes good, spit it out"

The second quote is the exact same one we used while cleaning up our diet a few years back. Of course, it's not true, because healthy food does taste really good and your taste changes when you eat cleaner. But at first, that is exactly what it feels like. 

Can I eat this cookie with butter and sugar?
Does it taste good? 
Yep, it sure does!
No, you can't have it, spit it out!
And spit out that cheeseburger too!
Here is your unsalted, no cheese, no meat, plant-strong vegan bean and brown rice burrito on a whole grain tortilla that is too stiff to fold up with all that kale sticking out of it.
Now make like Jack LaLanne's dog and be Happy!

Jack LaLanne towed 70 boats for one mile on his 70th birthday.
In shackles, not ballet slippers.
Been eating about 10 raw vegetables and/or fruits a day.
I ran for 30 minutes yesterday. 
OK, I plodded along for 30 minutes yesterday.
Even our dog was Happy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Eating vegetables like there is a tomorrow

We've all been at those gathering of friends and family. The ones with the yummy food. The ooey gooey casseroles, the creamy dreamy concoctions, the to-die-for desserts. And of course the salad. A party would not be complete without a big green salad served with a variety of bottled dressings. So after we pile on the ooey gooey creamy dreamy to-die-for stuff, we put on the obligatory plop of green salad with the generous plopping of store bought dressing and say, There! I've had my vegetables! Where's the dessert table?

This spring I've been making a conscious effort to eat more vegetables and fruit. Not an obligatory plop here and there, but giant platefuls and bowlfuls and blenderfuls and glassfuls. All day, everyday, every meal. It's been a lot of work to purchase, wash, peel. chop, prepare and clean up all the  produce, but I'm feeling the good effects. I've given up my chocolate habit, a miracle in itself! We average one tea bag of caffeine a day between the two of us, and my energy level is still up. And I started running. More like plodding and most of it is in the backyard, but the dog thinks I'm cool and I'm increasing my time and distance. With all these fruits and veggies in our diet, on our grocery bill and in our kitchen, it's on my mind a lot. So from mind to blog, here has been the process.

  • Find a place to buy fruits and vegetables. Sounds like a no-brainer, but stuff at Trader Joe's and Raley's starts to add up on the grocery bill. I found a great little produce place called Jesse's Farmers Market on the corner of Morse and Arden in Sacramento. Look for a European market, or Russian store or Asian market where produce is cheaper. Organic is the best of course and I should be going to one of the many farmers markets around town, but I like to shop on my time schedule. I've been hitting stores for produce about 3 or 4 times a week. 
  • Buy what you like and what you'll eat. Being hip and cool is great, but if you hate kale and love spinach, say kale no and buy the spinach. If you see a new fruit or veggie, try it, google a recipe and maybe you'll love it. If not, at least you tried and then just go back to what you like. 
  • Buy in season and local if you can, it will taste better. When you're gorging on stone fruit in summer and oranges in winter, your body will be happy and figure out where to put all that goodness. Some produce travels better than others, but nothing says waste of money like a fruit or veggie that was picked unripe then traveled halfway around the world just to sit uneaten in your home, eating up your wallet.
  • Buy real produce. Sometimes a week is so busy and hectic that the pre-shredded, pre-washed, pre-packaged, pre-everythinged items get us through. But if it feels wrong taking apples out of those plastic coffins from Costco, don't buy them and do without apples until you can buy them in a better package, their own skin.
  • Don't forget the frozen produce. Often cheaper and better tasting, if it was grown on your own continent, it will be more "local" than something "fresh" that arrived on a plane. And a stash of frozen bananas makes a terrific ice cream when thrown in the blender with some berries. 
  • Make stuff with what you bought. Simple things like a tomato, cucumber, red onion and dill salad with vinegar. Smoothies for breakfast. Simple roasted vegetables. No need to impress, it's just family. Big fruit salads are so great in summer, soups in winter. If it tastes gross, then you learned what not to cook. If it tastes great, serve it to company. If it tastes just OK, eat it until it's gone and then make the thing that tasted great again. Don't buy anymore produce until you've used up most of what you have. It's a game and you and your family are the winners.
Adding more fruits and veggies to our diet has boiled down to these simple goals; buy them, prep them, eat them and then buy more. My body is happy from my head tomatoes!

Buy what you like and will eat.

Buy more!

Make stuff up.
Asian salad with a nut butter, soy sauce, Braggs, ginger, citrus dressing with almonds.

Make more stuff up.
Kale, celery, tomato, red onion, dill, Braggs, balsamic, maple syrup and toasted pistachio salad. 

Make smoothies!
I love arugula in them now, with pineapple, blueberries, bananas and spinach.
I made one this morning with stone fruits, Rice Dream, banana, spinach and mint. Wow good.

And begin the process all over again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moo Moo Millie, an Utterly Bovine Deconstructed Cow Quilt

Got Quilt?
It's a great feeling when a complete stranger buys one of my quilts. I get the notification from Etsy, give the quilt a once-over, check for stray threads, find a good sized box, weigh it, print up the label and make the happy trip to the post office. I love the post office when I'm shipping a quilt, even if the line is long. I dream of saying, if anyone were to ask, "Why yes, complete strangers buy these items I make. And they pay me too!" Nobody has ever asked, but I'm always ready.

The other way I sell quilts is to people I know. They either see one I have posted or ask if I can make them a custom one. Those are the hard sells for me. The first time a person I know buys a quilt, I'm convinced it's a Pity Sale. Nobody wants a Pity Sale. If that same friend/customer wants a second quilt, then I'm convinced it's a Sale to Convince Jessica That the First Sale Was Not a Pity Sale. Oh, this low self-esteem I've been blessed with. What if that customer/friend wants a third quilt? At that point I figure they must, for some strange reason, just happen to, maybe, just a little bit, sort of, kind of, like, or at least not hate, the first and second quilts they bought, possibly.

Their Before poses.

Before my Mom and family came to visit in April, the house got a thorough spring cleaning. Hiding under the guest bed along with the dust bunnies was some cow-themed fabric I had completely forgotten about. Leave it to me to lose farm animals under the furniture, but I was very happy be to reunited with the lost sheep and cows and pigs After our company went home, I carved out some time to cut up the fabric farm animals.

I had discovered a really cute piece of project fabric at the thrift store, originally intended to become a cow pillow. Why make a pillow when you can have the whole farm, that's what I thought. So I combined the project pieces with some cute calico, a bit of black and white checks, a dash of bandanna themed paisley, a pair of never worn Lee cotton shorts, and two more cow themed prints.

There was a lot of fabric in this quilt I was afraid would not fray, so instead of using Warm and White batting inside sewn with an X, I used squares of really good white flannel as a third layer. I should have gone with the really cheap white flannel, it would have frayed better. But with use and washings and dryings, this quilt will do what all rag quilts do - get better with age. Happy cow quilts not only come from California, they come from under the guest bed.

63 squares of Bovine Chicness.

Off to greener pastures.

I'm a vegan butcher.

All rolled up with somewhere to go.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

If it sits like a duck, plant trees

Shooting up right past the toddler years, our cute little maples out front look like adolescents now. Seems like only yesterday they were little guys, shorter than this shorty.

March 2013, planting day

When we moved here in the Fall of 2012, our yard had grass and some agapanthas and that was it. We don't live on a corner, but the way the street bends it felt so exposed. Besides having to leave our street where we lived across from some great friends, our beloved rental was nestled in with other houses and just felt more a part of the neighborhood. We knew we needed trees at the new place and we needed them fast. Our little maples soon were joined by our Sea of Mulch and some drought resistant plants and a path. A bit better but the sitting duck feeling persisted.

June 2013, while we let the lawn die.
Duck. Sitting.

August 2013
Quack! Quack!

May 2014
Ahh, much better.

Shade, plants, growing things.
No more sitting duck!

Our path to somewhere
I care way too much what people think so this whole Mulch Madness project has been hard for me. I like results and I want them yesterday. I have finally learned to respect that little tag on the plants that says put them such and such feet apart, but that means waiting for things to fill in and that means it comes together far from yesterday. This week a woman walked by and said our yard was looking cuter and cuter every month and that it is an inspiration. I tried not to quack up!