Category Archives: Articles

How I’m Packing for 3 Weeks in Italy

One of our ‘rules’ is that getting to a foreign country is so expensive that we want to stay there as long as possible.  Another rule is that we each pack only a piece of luggage small enough to carry on, and a personal bag. Yet another rule is that we do our best to dress like locals. This means we have to get creative about what — and how — we pack.

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Being Hungry

(I almost can’t write this, I still feel intense shame.)

There were two times in my my life when I was poor enough to feel actual physical hunger. The first was when my parents first separated and I was living with my mother in a commune in Berkeley (CA).* I’d been wrested from a typical middle-class (white) suburban lifestyle full of meat and bread in unlimited quantities and thrust willy-nilly into a hippie commune. No sugar. Homemade bread. No meat, except when we killed a chicken or rabbit. Nothing processed.

I hated it.

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The Skinny Rules

(These are originally from Bob Harper, Oprah’s weight loss and fitness ‘guy’. Now, whatever you may think about Oprah (and she is a conflicting personality), the woman has literally made a career out of her journey into health. I think Harper is the most realistic of her gurus and his list is sensible.)

1. Drink a large glass of water before every meal.
2. Don’t drink your calories.
3. Eat protein at every meal.
4. Slash your intake of refined flour and grain.
5. Eat 30-50 grams of fiber each day.
6. Eat apples and berries every single day.
7. Learn to read food labels so you know what you are eating.
8. Stop guessing about portion size and get it right.
9. No more added sweeteners.
10. Get rid of white potatoes.
11. Make one day a week meatless.
12. Get rid of ‘fast’ and fried foods.
13. Eat a real breakfast.
14. Make your own food.
15. Eat at least 10 meals a week at home.
16. Banish high-salt foods.
17. Eat your vegetables.
18. Go to bed hungry.
19. Sleep right.
20. Plan one ‘splurge’ meal a week.

What I will add to this is:
Plan your meals and prep as much as possible in advance. Personally, I make very bad food choices if I don’t have a good breakfast. Also, I can’t eat cereal for breakfast (bad intestinal things happen, although I am neither gluten- or lactose-intolerant). So I take time on Sundays to make my breakfast for the week: baked berry oatmeal,, or baked eggs with veggies in either tortillas or hash browns, or ricotta cheese waffles w/ fruit sauce, crustless veggie quiche, etc. Bringing my breakfast makes a huge difference in how well I do during a day.

Another key is having a variety of snacks. I am a ‘hangry’ person, so getting low blood sugar is a Bad Idea. My office keeps ‘Naked Medley’ snacks — plain nuts and raisins — on hand, and I reach for them if I run out of what I bring from home. From home I try to bring a variety, because that helps me keeps from feeling like I am on a diet. Sardines on whole grain toast are nummy (but you’ve GOT to keep them sealed in a smell-proof container and eat them over two days or your office mates will hate you), guacamole on sliced veg, hard boiled egg with a slice of nut & fruit bread, salmon ‘candy’ (from Vital Choice), apple with peanut butter, fresh fruit, or just the old standby: sliced carrots and celery.

My lunches are usually leftovers from dinner, which makes meal planning very easy and keeps me from being tempted to spend money/ eat excess calories by buying lunch.

So that leaves dinner planning as my complicated weekly task. (And I’ll do another blog post on how I do dinner planning a month at a time, and then I just have to tweak weekly.)

Other smart eating tips I’ve ‘discovered’ over the years are:

  • Drink a glass of water first thing when you wake up. Keep a mug by your sink and do it before/ after you brush your teeth. It’s worth the extra 15 seconds.
  • Eat the highest quality food you can afford, starting with your proteins. (Costco does a really good job of working with organic producers, so join their club and get good prices. They also have organic milk, eggs, and butter.)
  • Eat when you are hungry, not according to the clock.
  • Eat slowly. Put your fork down frequently. Stop eating when you stop feeling hungry, NOT when you are feeling full. It takes a while for your brain to catch up with your stomach so give it that time. You can always get a bit more food.
  • Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter. Eat all of the fruit before it goes bad. (You can always cut it up and freeze it for smoothies. but make a smoothie that week.)
  • Switch to smaller plates: use salad plates instead of dinner plates.
  • Read the label:
    if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t eat the food
    if it has more than 5 ingredients, seriously contemplate whether you want to eat it
    can you create it yourself? if so, would purchasing it truly make your life simpler?

There is no such thing as a ‘diet’ — there are changes to what you eat that suit your lifestyle that will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Since your lifestyle will change, so too will what you eat. It’s a fluid situation, not static — don’t get stuck. Moreover, there are plenty of ‘skinny’ people who are incredibly unhealthy (high cholesterol, diabetic, etc.) Pay attention to your HEALTH, not your weight. Are you fit? Are your numbers (cholesterol, glucose, etc.) good? then you are healthy.

MDMS: If I had Unlimited Time/Money

I have all the time I need, this needs to be about having unlimited money.

  • I would buy a home for my mother so that she can live independently for longer.
  • I would start a ‘bank’ and loan money to creative people so they can buy real estate at reasonable rates, no matter what their credit history looks like.
  • I would open a publishing house for beautiful occult books that are made to last lifetimes.
  • I would fly in a private jet – just so I could have my pets with me when we live elsewhere for months at a time.
  • I would donate generously to Planned Parenthood, the EFF, the ACLU, and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
  • I would have a personal nutritionist/cook to plan meals with and create amazing food I *want* to eat to stay healthy.
  • I would have a daily workout followed by a massage to stay in peak condition.
  • I would replace all of my paperbacks with hardbound.
  • I would have an exercise room, steam room, and sauna in my house.

MDMS: Ways I am Extravagant/Silly

My house is huge.

I spend too much on food (either at home or dining out).

I indulge in personal care (this is not so true since May) like massages and similar making-the-body-beautiful services.

I keep buying clothes I think I will fit into, and then put them away for the future. (leading, eventually, to donating them — essentially brand new — to Goodwill)

MDMS: Ways I am stingy

(I suspect that people around me would have things to add to this list.)

I re-use/re-cycle as much as I can. I have been known to wish for children, just so I could make craft projects out of jars and containers for them. I print or write on the back of pages that were already written on.

I save crafting elements for later, for a special project, for . . . anytime but now. I almost have to force myself to use products I bought specifically to use in my crafting.

I use items until they are falling apart.

I won’t see a movie unless I am sure I will like it. Otherwise, Netflix is my friend.

I try to save energy throughout the house.

I return items that I don’t want, or don’t work the way I thought they would.

MDMS: Times I Have Capsized Success

All the time, with my physical health. Often, with my writing (I suspect that my “I can’t write when the Muse isn’t there” is a way to keep from being too successful. For me the capsizing is usually *before* I get started on something, rather than after I’ve begun. I do a little too much ‘this won’t be perfect so I’m not even going to try it’ and that censors my actions.

Specific events aren’t coming to mind: this is definitely a ‘I sense’ answer rather than a ‘I have concrete evidence’ one.