Monday, April 30, 2012

Shame Free Shopping

I'm not feeling so great today - 3rd day being so sick and frankly, no matter how much my family gives me warm hugs and words of encouragement, they still need me to drive all over town and then ask me what's for dinner.  I want a sick day like in the olden days - like when I'd put a call in to my boss, turned off the pager (old school, I know), and took some NyQuil and slept the remainder of the day.  In spite of feeling lousy, I stopped by the grocery store to shop my list for needed supplies - almost all of which were fruits and veggies.  When shopping from my garden diet list, I can't help but feel better when checking out.  There is nothing on the conveyor belt to bring me shame.  No bags of chips, cookie dough ice cream, or family size packs of Oreos.  There was a time when I'd look at all the crap from my cart laid out on the belt and my mind would swim with lame explanations for why I was buying that junk.  As if anyone would ask.  I admit I felt a little smug when I had to identify a few items like the celery root or point out the difference between cilantro and flat leaf parsley (smell it!).  Poor cashier, if you ask me about food, I can't stop talking.  My voice is almost bass from my cold and yet I still gave him the recipes for everything I plan to eat over the next 48 hours.  Hopefully I didn't give him this virus as well.  Poor dude.  

Instead of making the nut sushi tomorrow (a little too nutty for me), I'm going to try using celery root as a rice substitute.  If it's good, I'll put up a post and pics tomorrow.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tourism Trumps Community? North Grant Park Renovation Project

At a recent community meeting, Chicago Park District and the Grant Park Advisory Council unveiled renovation plans to the Northeast corner of Grant Park and Daley Bicentennial Plaza.  I missed the meeting.  In fact, I didn't even know about it.  A notice posted at Daley Bi was about as much outreach as these two organizations did to get feedback from the community.  From the scuttlebutt on the playground, feedback was not exactly what they were looking for - it was more like, "the garage is leaking, we've got to tear out the park the fix it, and this is what we're putting in its place, lucky you!"

New Plans

Being two steps behind, I spent the morning looking through articles about the renovations.  The plans don't look all that bad.  In fact, it looks pretty sexy with all the curvy paths, voluptuous hills, winding ice rink, plenty of play and picnic areas and a CLIMBING WALL.  Wow!!  My kids are gonna love that.  It seems as though the design team is pitching this as an extension to Millennium Park providing a more cohesive access to the lakefront.  It is pretty.  It is cohesive.

We do love Millennium Park

What's missing?  Well, no tennis courts.  And that winding ice rink?  No ice hockey.  On the surface that doesn't seem like a big deal, but to the folks in this neighborhood it is a big deal.  Our park district community center is small.  It is too small to house a big gymnastics facility, pool and basketball courts, like say, beautiful and abundant Harrison Park in Pilsen.  But we do have an awesome, shaded playground, tennis courts and ice hockey.  Will the spectacular climbing wall be enough to replace all that?  What does that mean - big fees?  Long waiting lines?  Is this meant to be an "attraction"?

It's the little things, like moving a fallen branch, that binds these kids together.

 The Daley Bi Park District programs are a Big Deal to this community.  In fact, I would argue, those programs are one of the essential community building elements in this neighborhood.  In an area of towering highrises and front doors hidden behind perfectly appointed (and sterile) lobbies and doormen, the playground park at Daley Bi is where the facade breaks down and people get a chance to enjoy a little small town familiarity in this otherwise big, anonymous city.  If you've got kids and you haven't enrolled them in at least one park district program, it is hard to be known.

So many blissful afternoons spent playing with this boy in the shade of the park.

One could argue that with the relatively new Lakeshore East Park and playground, there is ample space for the local community to enjoy.  That is indeed a beautiful park; however, a kid outgrows that tot lot within 2-3 years.  There are beautiful lawns, but no sports facilities.  Speaking of facilities, there are no public bathroom facilities.  Not such a big deal when your door opens onto the park, but that privilege is held only by a minority of the buildings in the area.  When your toddler's gotta go, even the closest homes aren't close enough.

End of school year picnic - the teacher gets payback!

The proposed changes to Daley Bi seem to have greater focus on drawing tourism through this area of the park as they remove some much loved community elements.  Since the introduction of moving the Children Museum to Grant Park, there has been a tension between ideas of community versus tourism.  My sense of community is largely defined by stepping outside and to know and be known by others.  At the same time, I am not totally averse to having strangers in my backyard - I mean, heck, that's part of the vibrancy of living in an urban area.  It is a pleasure to meet people coming in from the suburbs for the day, or from another city, other countries.  It gives me great joy to see my kids pick up new friends for the day easier than they pick up their toys.  Yet, I also enjoy seeing the same faces.  Knowing a few good families that I hope my kids to grow up with is essential to parenting kids in the city - probably just as essential in the country and suburbs, too.  I just don't want to have to get in my car and drive away to a different neighborhood every time my kids wants to try a new sport and to participate in a community experience.

Are these among the trees that have to go??  So sad.

From the little I've learned, the restoration to the leaky garage roof is inevitable.  I mourn those big mature trees that are otherwise so scarce in Chicago.  Apparently a couple thousand parking spaces are valuable enough to the city to justify a $30 million dollar restoration project and to kill a few good trees.  I can forgive Chicago's hunger for parking and to strengthen it's premier destination status if, IF, this plan can be reinforced to keep or strengthen the elements that make this community so great.

Just my two cents.  Chicagoans, what's yours?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Time to Get Some Sleep

I'm the one in the family who's pushing the kids to get to bed so they get enough sleep.  And then, once that task is accomplished, I resist going to sleep myself.  The house is quiet.  No one is making demands on me.  I can read.  Watch a movie.  Contemplate.  Write.  Edit photos.  Have sex : )  The list is endless.  It's my me time, and I am loathe to give it up.  Yet there has been a buzz the last few years in how sleep deprivation is linked to obesity.  I've heard the news, but haven't paid much attention to it, nor have I made any changes.  All along, my weight has been creeping up and up.  Last week, Science Translational Medicine published a solid piece of research to further this information.  Interrupted sleep slows the metabolism and increases the risk of diabetes. 

"The irregular, restricted sleep schedule also slowed metabolism to a rate that, if sustained over an entire year with no other changes in the person’s routine and diet, would amount to more than 12 pounds of weight gain."

I'm working on some great changes in my diet.  I'm loving my regular walks and yoga workouts.  To complete this effort, especially now that my little one isn't continually waking me up all night, it is time for me to lighten up and get some sleep!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Super Chunky, Super Satisfying Gazpacho
I've been keeping it pretty close to the Garden Diet's 21 Day Cleanse this last week.  On today's menu was gazpacho.  The last time I made this, I blended everything to a puree, and yuck - flavors were fine, but with the lack of texture, it hardly passed muster.  I find that to diet successfully, I am pickier about what I consume (like I should have been more picky in the first place, right?) and so I want to put extra effort into creating not only the most healthy food, but the best tasting food.

Today, after cruising around the Internet reviewing different recipes, I've combined a few ideas and came up with this.  I left it super chunky because as a main dish, I wanted it to "feel" more substantial.  However, if I were to serve it for a summer garden party (coming soon : ) I would scoop out half the recipe, puree it, and add it back in for a balance between soupy and chunky.  Or, make a raw tomato juice (researching that next) and mix it in - because who wants tomato juice that's been stewed to death, mixed with preservatives and canned to sit on a shelf for ages?
(for one, so double, triple, quadruple it, etc. to share the love)

  • 1/2 Cucumber, seeded and chunked up
  • 2 Tomatoes, cut in quarters 
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, quartered
  • 1/4 Red Onion, chunked up (these vary so much in size, so use your own taste to judge)
  • 1 Clove Garlic, crushed
  • Splash of Apple Cider Vinegar with Mother (or lime juice - Jasper ran off with my lime, I'll probably find it decomposing under a couch cushion in about a month or so)
  • Splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • Himalayan Sea Salt (HSS or salt : ), dash
  • Black Pepper, dash (actually, I use a lot of pepper because I love it - if I can't see it, it's not enough)
  • Pinch of Ceyenne Pepper (and there lie the Zing!)
  • 1 Avocado, diced
  • Cilantro
Pulse separately in food processor using the S blade cucumber, tomatoes, red bell pepper, and onion.  Add in crushed garlic, vinegar (or lime juice), EVOO, HSS, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Mix (by hand - don't squoosh it).  Toss in the avocado and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.
I was delighted to find that one of my veggie averse children will eat this as long as I don't add the avocado.  That is such a huge success, because what the older one will eat without scrunching up her darling nose, then the little one will soon follow.  I can see this as a perfect side to any summer meal.

Eat.  Share.  Love.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Daily Walk

This week I figured out how a small matter of home economics can benefit my health goals.   The cost of taking a cab to yoga one way is equivalent to the cost of parking while at yoga.  Cab there, Bikram yoga 90 minutes, and walk the two miles home.  Today I extended myself thinking that if I walk first, I have all of 90 minutes in 105 temps to work out all my aches and pains from walking.  I might have been a little dehydrated during class.  Not my strongest, but as I wrote earlier this week, every class is a good class because I did the class. 

I don't play chess, but thought it would be amusing to try it here.

The joy of walking home is that I dawdle and snap a few photos along the way.  Today, not so much joy, my pack was heavy and cabs were unusually scarce.  But I did manage to catch a couple images that I like.  

Sometimes, the motivation to get out and walk is in finding something interesting to shoot.

I want to check into this - learning to sail at the yacht club, maybe?

I may shoot the same lake meets horizon view every time I get out there, but each time it is something new.  Now that spring is in full force, the buoys are all set up, some early bird boats have arrived in the harbor, and the sun is definitely higher. 

I wonder if photographing with a camera phone can really be referred to as shooting.  Easy cheats.  After yoga, carrying around my real camera is a serious commitment. 

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Each Moment is a Chance to Begin

I have gone directly from The Garden Diet 28 Day Transition to Raw program to the 21 Days Raw Cleanse.  With it I get daily emails with direction and support from Jinjee.  Today she wrote:

Having Trouble?
  If you are having trouble sticking with the program, don't be hard on
yourself. Rather, give yourself a pat on the back for the changes you
 HAVE made. And then challenge yourself to stick to the program for one
 day! - for today! For the rest of today. Once you do it one day, you
 will be so proud of yourself, you'll want to keep achieving that 
success every day! One day at a time!

By the same token, instead of focusing on the ways in which you weren't perfect, give yourself credit for what you did do, even if that was: I did five minutes of exercise, drank a glass of water, ignored my craving for chips, ate everything on the program menu, and I kept a positive attitude most of the day even when I slipped up in the afternoon. And really feel proud of that. If it was in any way better than the day before you are moving in the direction of your goals. Every little step in the right direction is worth celebrating!

I was thinking a lot about this last night and today before even reading her message.  Yesterday, I bought a package of six large snickerdoodle cookies from the bakery.  I wanted one for my daughter – her favorite.  But they were only sold in packages of six.  I knew I’d be in trouble, so in the store I vowed that I wouldn’t eat them.  Well, I did.  As soon as I got home and the groceries unpacked, I ate a cookie.  It was large, and dense – must have been baked with lots of butter because I could feel it like led weight in my stomach.  Tasted great going down (doesn’t it always?), but the after affect was so immediate.  You would think that I had learned my lesson by throwing the rest away, or to get away, fast.  I didn’t do either.  I did a few more chores in the kitchen and then I HAD ANOTHER ONE.  I was still feeling very full and uncomfortable from the first cookie, but still, I forced the second one down.  Of course, that felt even worse, it didn’t even taste good. 

Do any of you eat while in pain, but still continue to force the food down?  I write about this because it is behavior I have yet to understand in myself.  Perhaps uncovering it and taking a hard look at it, will lead me to some reasoning and hopefully, change. 

This reminds me of Nicolas Cage’s performance of Ben in Leaving Las Vegas.  There were frightening scenes when he tilts his head back and guzzles straight from the vodka bottle.  I saw the movie with my boyfriend at the time, soon to become my husband.  He asked, “Did you ever drink like that?”  No, not really.  But I wonder had I continued, would I?   There certainly was a lot of pain there.  Today, eating forcefully, painfully, as a glutton feels much like drinking to excess.  It is the loss of control in spite of the pain that is frightening.  At times I wonder is there something unresolved that I’ve buried, that I wish to continually hurt myself over? 

Perhaps.  So I ponder my state of mind yesterday as I overindulged.  I had just come home from shopping with my son.  I was very tired and my body hurt from maybe overextending myself with exercise.  My neck, lower back and right hip were sore.  I was also tired from getting too little sleep the night before.  I honestly don’t recall my thoughts at the moment as I felt predominantly tired and sore and a little bit dazed.  No deep negative thoughts.  No big mental challenges.  My little one was even being easy-peasy at the moment – cute, delightful, funny.  It is these times that I wonder if the way I eat is more a function of habit instead of psychological distress.  The truth may be found somewhere in between.

So I began by thinking about Jinjee’s words about not being so hard on oneself – lighten up, keep positive.  At the end of the day, I honored the good food that I ate, the joy I felt in preparing it, and the amazing exercise I had experienced.  This morning, immediately following yoga, one person exclaimed with childlike enthusiasm, “That was the best class, EVER!”  (I wanted to hug him, but we were all so sweaty.  Ewe.)  A moment later in the locker room, a woman confided, “Such a bad class for me today.”  I could feel her resignation in the slump of her shoulders, her lowered eye lids.  I tried to be encouraging.  

I am still so much a beginner in this class.  I’m the one you would see in an exercise video who performs the modified poses for all the newbies, injured, overweight folks to follow along.  Yet I think to myself, there is no bad class, for to be in the class is a triumph, an accomplishment, a gift to myself.  That’s how I feel about the diet on the hard days, through the slipups, and the all out binges - there is no bad day in my diet.  To nourish myself is to live.  To acknowledge mistakes is to learn.  To overcome challenges is to grow.  Every moment of each day is an opportunity to start anew.  I can see good things on the horizon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Image Unedited

Shortly after updating my profile picture on Facebook not long ago, someone had uploaded and tagged me to an unattractive image of myself.  Yikes!  WTF?  As soon as I saw it, it was removed, but it had left me feeling bad.  Immediately I was obsessing over this person's intentions.  Was it meant to hurt?  To mock?  Did she intend to be mean spirited?  The friend's response was something like, "Oh, when I saw your beautiful profile pic, I decided to take the other picture down."  Sarcasm?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  There was much one can read into that.

Or is there?  Or more importantly, does it matter?

That's when it's time to take a step back.  I am reminded of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."  It is I who feels insecure of my own image.  Taken at an unflattering angle, you all can see the weight that's built up over the years, acne scars, gray hairs (I actually love my gray streaks), loose skin, droopy jowls.  People see me at flattering and unflattering angles all day long.  There is no opportunity for me to edit, photoshop away the shine on my nose or lay over a soft filter to mask the scars before I am seen.  Yet, I love and am loved all the same.

Except... those moments when I see a chance reflection of myself.  Ouch.  How did I get this big?  This tired?  This old?  I catch myself from sinking in despair and smile.

My daughter was playing with my camera phone just this last weekend.  She snapped a photo of me while chopping vegetables with my mother in the background.  It is one of my favorite past-time these days, preparing food in the kitchen when my mom and I get together.  One that I look forward to a lot.  She loves all the delicious raw foods that I've been experimenting with, and I love an appreciative partner.  Chloe showed me the photo and she and my mom exclaimed how beautiful it was.  I cringed.  I saw the stooped shoulders, the baggy shirt, the large body, the unattractive angle that showed my sagging jowls.  I made her delete it.

Now I wish I had it.  I want to show it to you - the image of me doing something that I truly love.  The image that my daughter saw and loved.  The image that my mother saw and loved.  That is what I wish to embrace, what I am trying to love.  All of me.  In spite of all of the above.  I looked back through my photo archives and found almost nothing of myself.  Typical when I'm the one safely hiding behind the lens.  Instead, here is me with the kids on a colder day in Chicago.

When I was looking for that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, I found this written by blogger, Davey Wavey:

No one can tear you down, unless you give them power over you to do so.
No one can hurt you, unless you let them.
No one can deflate you, without your permission.
No one can tell your truth, without your okay.
No one can make you angry, unless you give them that ability.
No one can define you, without your authority.
Wise words.  He's right, you know.

Monday, April 09, 2012

28 Day Transition to Raw Wrap Up

Celery Avocado Soup.  So satisfying, I could only eat half.

This last weekend marked the completion of The Garden Diet, 28 Day Transition to Raw program that I've been working.  Overall, I feel that it was successful, yet I don't think I'm done yet.  I've written about bouncing around and slipping a bit.

This last week was particularly challenging as my kids were home for spring break.  Feeding them their "normal" food was like putting candy in front of a baby.  I refer often to the addictive tendency to reach for food that is in front of me, regardless of whether I am really hungry, or even have a desire to eat it.  That tendency was getting the best of me.  Towards the end of the week, my daughter began scolding me if I tried her food.  I found it incredibly annoying.  Yet, really, if I were enjoying a scrumptious meal, and my dinner companion kept swiping food, I'd probably fork him.  It left me thinking that in addition to acting out of control, I am not being respectful of others around me.

That was a bit of an eye opener, as I've never really felt that my addiction towards food is harmful to others - only myself.  Now I think it is.  Without beating myself up, or wallowing in self-pity, I believe that there have been numerous ways that my food consumption has been harmful to my family.  As the stay-at-home-mom, the bad eating habits, whether I decide that raw vegan is the best diet, the Paleo, Zone, or some combination of the above, I have not fed my family well.  The abundance that we have all been grateful for is killing us because I haven't patterned good nutrition.  Anything I can say about how we "should" eat is quickly unraveled as I pop popcorn, indulge in packages of cookies, allow them to drink sodas, donuts, chips, candy, sugary cereals, etc.  Let alone the state of mind I am in when I've eaten too much - I'm not particularly all there.

Falafel.  This is by far one of my favorite recipes, and those little,
grubby fingers are my son's, trying to swipe all the cucumbers.

Earlier during this 28 day journey I wrote about how remarkably easy it was to give up dairy when I was breastfeeding my son.  He was very colicky and I was quick to find the correlation between my dairy consumption and his stomach pains and cries.  I gave up dairy, he became much more calm, and I never looked back.  I marveled at how easy it was to give up something that I never, Ever thought I could do without, when it was for the health of my child, yet why was it so difficult to give up something for my own health?  It is essential in my path to change to know and understand the importance of my role as mother - the nutrition I give to myself is the health and habits I pass on to my children.  It may not be an immediate reaction, like the cries of a colicky baby, but the importance is just as great, all the same.

I must say, there were many days on the program that I looked over the menu and despaired, believing that I absolutely could not make it through the day on such little food.  I would prepare double batches of juices knowing that I'd need extra for when I got desperate.  Remarkably, I never got desperate.  I never felt the hunger pangs that I most assuredly expected.  The times I slipped up were more about addictive type eating, not eating out of hunger.  Those days that I stuck to the plan I felt triumphant - not because it was so difficult to get through the day.  I felt triumphant because I let go of the fear and despair and got down to the business of planning and preparing and enjoying my good food - oh, and doing all those other good things I do in a day.

Eating food that is so fresh, so clean, and so simple is uplifting.

My struggle to stick to the program isn't my failure.  Each day is a new beginning.  Each moment is an opportunity to restart my day.  Oh, and by the way, I still lost 10 pounds.  Hooray.

Today I've jumped straight into The Garden Diet's 21 day cleanse.  I find this program of daily menus, recipes and shopping lists to be incredibly helpful and I look forward to continued support from the community.  Thinking about trying a raw food diet, or trying to shed a few pounds, join me there.

Day 1, The Garden Diet 21 Day Cleanse

I've been making variations of this recipe every week since my friend, Imani, made it for me about a year ago. So light and satisfying. What a pleasure to see it on today's menu.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Spring Break

The kids are on spring break, and my grand plans for a staycation in Chicago have been thwarted by my nagging, and often acute back pain.  It is times like this that illustrate how my ideas for them to have a great time are often much different than their own.  Chloe has enjoyed sleeping in daily with a stack of books to work through at her leisure with no big schedule to rule her days.  She's enjoyed a few movie dates with friends to see The Hunger Games (violent, sad, and not nearly as good as the book - but we knew that) and Mirror Mirror.  Skip it - the funniest lines were in the previews.  The rest of the movie was flat.

This little ditty was much more amusing than the actual movie:

Yesterday we finally made the trip as she'd been begging to see the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago.  She has been anxious to go since reading "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" recommended to her by our friend, Ellen, from our favorite bookstore, Sandmeyers Book Store.  We are fortunate to live in walking distance of the museum, so going to see just one exhibit is just my speed when there with kids.  I love that Chloe and her friends each had grabbed a book from our library before leaving.  Every bench, nook and cranny at the museum, they would sneak a break and a paragraph.  I so love it when literature intertwines with visual art to pull my daughter out of the pages of a book into a different medium.  I could totally envision her as a teenager - owning that museum, knowing every gallery and all the good spots to escape for an afternoon.

Finally, a moment to read uninterrupted.

Jasper has simply enjoyed not having to go to school.  Although each day at school he comes home with smiles, he is never happy to go.  Every morning he wakes up with the question, "Mom, do I have school today?"  No baby, it's spring break.  He's been loving the extra time hanging around in his jammies helping me whip up smoothies in the kitchen, or sitting with his sister as she creates worlds in MineCraft, or playing with his favorite babysitter while I nurse my back.  There has been lots of time in the park, or along the waterfront, or in the playroom building train tracks and playing with Legos.

We've enjoyed such a lovely spring in Chicago, I haven't had that desperate urge to get out of town.  This was one of those weeks when I just loved being home with my kids, enjoying the life we have here.