Friday, January 30, 2009

An Old Sweatshirt and The Good China

I find myself wondering when I will finally get rid of this sweatshirt. I bought it on a vacation with my children during the second year of the two between being married to their father and being married to my wonderful hubby Matt. The vacation, at Bruin Woods, a mountain retreat for alumnus of UCLA, was one of the highlights of my brief singlehood. Located in Big Bear, California, it is a luxurious family camp with activities for both kidlets and adults. On a teacher's salary, it was a splurge; the sweatshirt was priced accordingly. This was 22 years ago. At some point, I cut off the very ragged sleeves of the sweatshirt; at another, I tried to get rid of stains, then discovered that those dark areas weren't the slops and spills of careless eating, but places where the fabric had worn through. I suppose the day will come when this sweatshirt will become a rag, but for now I wear it around the house constantly.

I seem to be drawn magnet-like to those of my possessions which have seen their better days. Perhaps it is truer to say that these are the things to which I have the greatest connection. They feel the most like mine. I'm sure it started out with the idea of "saving the best for company." The occasions of hosting guests with The Good China have been very few and very far between. I usually prefer to use the decent everyday pieces over those with the silver rim that would be damaged by the dishwasher. With the addition of a young granddaughter at any big family dinners that I host from now on, who will guard The Good China from her surging inquisitiveness if I choose to use it?

The Good China consists of the silver rimmed ones that my children's father and I received from
my uncle as a wedding gift and a rose patterned set that I inherited from my mother.
Neither set has seen much wear. Currently they are stored in a cabinet with packages of dry dog food. It has occurred to me that these sets of good china will find their way to a thrift shop after I die. Or, if one of my children decides to keep them, they will either cycle them in for daily use or, like me and my mother, hardly use them at all. And, if the latter, will they be passed from generation to generation as valued heirlooms? Would those progeny who'll never know me be burdened by such an inheritance, especially if the memories of multiple ancestors were carried forth by such possessions? Or perhaps there would be the war of the plates, the hapless progeny fighting over the ancient soup bowls and coffee cups finally caught up in a frenzied battle. My imagination runs wild. My children have grown up in a disposable society. Ben and his wife got as wedding gifts more good dishes than they can use in a lifetime. The dishes I have are not of their style. Rachael finds too much enjoyment in living life to take on the mind-set of The Good China psyche. She'd toss the silver rimmed plates into the dishwasher and shrug when they got chipped.

As I've played out these various fantasies, I find myself saying, "Why not?" Perhaps it's time for me to start enjoying what I've guarded to the point of disuse these many years. I'll start freely using the rose patterned set from my mother. I'll use the silver rimmed set at big family dinners and shrug if they get chipped or broken. I'll wash them by hand, though. Seeing the silver rims erode after a couple of tours in the dishwasher would pulverize me with guilt. I'd feel like I was stealing from the future.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Never Ending Flower Project is Finally Finished

I'm amazed to discover that it's been over two weeks since my last post and yet I shouldn't be. I tend to spend either an inordinate amount of time composing posts and keeping up with the blogs of my on-line friends or an inordinate amount of time doing everything else in my life. It is not without good reason that my mother called me "Slow Motion." I have finally finished the flower photo project that I began when the first daffodils appeared in our garden last Spring. I hope to start catching up on some of my favorite blogs in the days ahead. The project that I just completed looks even more dazzling if you double click on the photo.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I've Been On Track For Seven Plus Years (and other mind games)

I had a feeling yesterday as if I'd been on track with my eating for a very long time. In reality it was the second day in a row that I stayed within a very generous point allowance. I thought that I might be borrowing from the success of others, most notably Kathy who seems to have achieved a nice steady pace negotiating her own treacherous dietary terrain.That would be the reasoning that I used to finally extricate myself from the burden of having to write The Great American Novel, a task with which I had been burdened from childhood, largely by a father who couldn't forgive himself for not doing it himself. This was in part a result of his being friends with Jack Kerouak. How does one as self critical as my father and with his own literary aspirations look at his own highly edited scribblings with any degree of confidence after his pal has gone On The Road to literary fame? He piles his writings in closets and hopes for a daughter to achieve what he hasn't.

A bit of a digression there (but one I planned). After numbers of years with sporadic attempts to write The GAN, I realized that I didn't have to be a published author after all. Jane Smiley and Ann Tyler and Sue Miller and whole host of others had done it for me. The world simply didn't need a published work from me. Nor did I need to create it.

With this in mind, I began to think of my need to string together three weeks of disciplined eating in order to consider myself on track. And then I had a Eureka-Ah-Hah moment. Kathy had already done at least a week for me. (Thank you, Kathy) I could count this Thursday as the beginning of my second week. And it felt right to me.

I began my second on track week on Thursday, then hurriedly threw on my Weight Watcher dress, the one I always weigh in, for the much anticipated 6:30 p.m.First Weight Watcher Meeting of the New Year. Full of enthusiasm, I quickly waddled to the front door - only to find a note that the meeting was canceled. Canceled?? The first friggin meeting of the friggin New Year! I came home, in the very very cold, actually glad to be entering my nice warm house, glad to not have to listen to a boring lecture, certain that I would persevere because: I was at the start of my second successful week. My eating was on target on Friday and on Saturday. And then came Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning.

I could not fall asleep. Not at midnight, nor half past twelve, nor one a.m. Not even having first ingested a prescription sleeping pill. Finally, at about one thirty a.m., I rose from my bed and went into the kitchen to have some cereal, an off points action that I knew would help me get to sleep. Having eaten (an overly large) bowl of cereal, I pursued the logic of the situation and snagged a well buttered roll. I fell asleep promptly (at around 2:20 a.m.)

This morning, Sunday morning, a fresh start??? Or not?? I felt doomed by last night's gorging. Also, waking up at around 11:30 a.m. didn't feel like an auspicious beginning. And then a Wise Decision hit me like a bolt of lightening (or someone showering me with dozens of rolls of TP): I could have Brunch. A bagel with cream cheese and lox + an orange + milk came to 13 points. A half eaten chicken cattiatore restaurant dinner added at most another 13 points. I'll have some fruit after I've finished writing this. Today will end with me being on track.

I have a new paradigm: I'm reaching out and holding on tightly to that Arlene who, on 10-22-01 began a lifetime of appropriate eating habits that manifested itself in a whole new look 18 months later. There's been a bit of a break in the connection between us. This has resulted in an exterior that looks like a somewhat inflated model of that seen in October 2001. That's an unpleasant detail. I, the Arlene of January, 2009, am claiming a continuity with who I was a little less than six years ago. I don't need three weeks of self discipline to achieve this. As to the cereal eating woman of last night, she is separate from me. I will work with her, but not allow her to impact my daily behavior.

I really wish I could figure out how to get a good night's sleep, though. I've written about that before. Tonight I'm slamming down the antihistamines.

Finally, I don't do well with deprivation. The photos below are of some of the yummy things I'm able to eat and still get rid of the lbs.

I like root veggies. I cooked the ones pictured, except for the sweet potato which I decided not to add, with
enough water to cover them.
Once finished I added salt and harissa, my new favorite ingredient. If I hadn't discovered harissa, I probably would have used an Indian seasoning such as Patak's tikka sauce. This made a wonderful soup which I can have alone or to which I can add ingredients such as the spinach and chicken, apple, garlic sausage in the soup as shown above.

On my day of cooking, I also steamed a large bag of yummy broccoli. I like to munch on it alone or, as in the picture, use it to bulk up a main meal. This is brown rice with chicken (previously marinated and grilled) and roasted almonds.

I also made a thick lentil soup, ten servings which makes five meals for my hubby and me. I usually cook in bulk because, though I enjoy cooking, I don't enjoy it as a daily enterprise.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

An Afternoon of Opera

Thais Encore Presentation

"Renee Fleming stars as the Egyptian courtesan, Thais, in search of spiritual sustenance. Thomas Hampson is the monk who falls from grace. Massenet's sensual opera is presented in a new production by John Cox."

Conductor: Jesus Lopez-Cobos
Production: John Cox
Starring: Renee Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Michael Schade

Note this link.

I am extremely fortunate to have a theater close to my home that has been broadcasting the Metropolitan Opera's current season in high definition. This is the third season of these broadcasts and the first season that I've been attending them. I've enjoyed four or five live operas in the past and seen a couple or three that I didn't particularly enjoy. These transmissions have been amazing. I'm finding that I enjoy these movie house presentations even more than the live productions that I've seen. Even when I've managed to snag the best seats in the house, I've never been able to see the subtleties of facial expressions that I've seen in these filmed performances. Behind the scenes action and interviews with the performers are included in these presentations. They add a sense of connection to the opera that I hadn't experienced before.

It's been interesting to me to see how popular these presentations have become. I think that technology and the efforts of opera's movers and shakers have made opera much more accessible both in terms of the cost of tickets and the ease of getting to a nearby theater. People have responded enthusiastically. Up until this past performance, the theater that I've gone to has been presenting the opera live on its premiere night with two rebroadcasts. This time around, and faced with virtually sold-out screenings, a third rebroadcast has been added. In the past, I've thought of opera as appealing to a primarily "high-brow" crowd. Now I see that it appeals to all sorts of people, though I have to note that there have been a disproportionate number of gray hairs, myself included, in the audience.

This Wednesday, I saw a rebroadcast of Thais by Massenet. This is the story of one person, a monk, who loses his soul in trying to save the soul of another person, the Egyptian prostitute/"kept"woman" Thais. The plot line is simple; the characters, who definitely change over the course of the opera, seem (to me) pretty much one dimensional. The appeal, besides the beautiful music, is in its stark choices, good vs. evil, and the decisions that we all experience though usually (and hopefully) in much less dramatic form. In Thais, the spirituality and the worldliness with which the characters wrestle is alien to me, yet not entirely. In the starkness of their struggle, I see the blurred faint muddle which is my own. Their lives touch and even pierce my own. And I am enriched.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Used New Year's Eves and The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I am not a snob when it comes to the gently used discards from another person's life. Indeed, I have purchased some very cool items from my local thrift shops. However, I have a very visceral reaction to someone else's used New Year's Eve when midnight hits my own little town. Shortly before the Magic Hour on December 31st, Matt and I were frantically trying to find a TV station that was broadcasting from a site at least somewhere in our time zone. One station, broadcasting from Las Vegas, promoted the daring stunt that Robbie Knievel would be doing at the start of the New Year, but they kept flipping back to an earlier recording of the scene at Times Square when the ball dropped. I have nothing against Times Square, New York, or their beautiful dropping ball, but when I ring in the New Year, I want it to be New, not Used. With seconds left until midnight California time, we turned off the TV and decided that the New Year would begin precisely when we cheered it in, reminiscent perhaps of an earlier New Year's Eve when my son, then obsessed with watches, kept looking at his watch. With the TV announcer shouting Happy New Year, Ben waited until his watch said the time had arrived.

We had made plans this year to stay overnight in the Cavallopoint Lodge at Fort Baker in a bayfront room from which we would have been able to view the San Francisco fireworks. My being sick put the kabash on that. As it turned out, it may have been too foggy to see the fireworks anyway. Matt and I ended up eating take-out from a local grocery store and watching two History Channel programs, one about Envy and the other about Gluttony, my personal favorite of the 7 Deadly Sins. After that, we spent considerable time zapping through the many commercials of a movie that Matt had recorded before the election. This was my first introduction to the famed Rocky Horror Picture Show. What an awesomely fun movie! I want to make it a New Years Eve tradition. I want to go to a movie house showing with props and all. I'd really be interested in any comments from those of you who have seen it.

My dreary cough is still hanging on, but I'm well enough to play catch up with some of the chores I deferred during my sickness. I am also pleased to say that as of 6:02 p.m. Saturday, I have maintained the self discipline with food that I expect to maintain for the rest of my life (a bit of an affirmation here). Replaying some of the scenes in the History Channel's program on gluttony may help me with this.