Monthly Archives: August 2015

Back in the (Fast Diet) Saddle Again

A few years ago I wrote here about the ease and virtue of the Fast Diet.

Following this plan helped me to drop twenty pounds in about six months with minimal suffering. Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer have published an updated book explaining the diet and the science behind it. I also recommend The Fast Diet Cookbook by Mimi Spencer and Sarah Schenker, which offers tasty, low-calorie recipes, from simple to fancy, and would be useful to anyone who wants to cook low-calorie meals.

The Fast Diet        The Fast Diet Cookbook

Of course, you can buy both of these on Amazon.

I must admit, once we arrived in the U.S. last summer, I slid out of my previous good habits. I figured that continuing the Fast Diet would be too difficult here; I no longer have my job to distract me from my hunger pangs, and now—well, my office is just across from the kitchen. Besides, I spend so much time at the gym.

Well, I have toned arms and legs, but a rather round belly from all this sitting—and snacking. (Writing is just so much easier with Triscuits and cheese.) Exercise alone obviously isn’t going to cut it, so I’m back on the Fast Diet. Actually, two weeks into the program, I’m feeling good and have dropped a few pounds. Hey, if I can endure discomfort at the gym, I can put up with the discomfort of feeling hungry twice a week. I am Woman, hear me (and my stomach) roar!

Yesterday was fast day. That means no starch (crackers, bread, noodles, potatoes, rice), no sugar, no alcohol, and very little fat. My favorite eating schedule on fast days is to skip breakfast, have a light lunch after spending the morning at the gym, and then have a light dinner around 7 P.M. OK—I might go slightly over my 500 calorie recommended allowance for the fast day, but not much.

Today for lunch I made skinny kale with eggs.

I know, I know—kale is trendy, and you’re probably sick of hearing about kale. But we all know it’s really good for us, has plenty of fiber, and helps keep us full. For my fast day, I wanted to keep the calories down, so I chopped up about a quarter of a sweet onion (maybe 3 Tbs.) and a small clove of garlic. I sprayed a non-stick pan with PAM and stirred that around a bit for 2-3 minutes, then threw in about three cups of chopped curly kale, minus the tough stems, of course. I stirred this a bit to blend, then added lots of freshly-ground black pepper, a squirt of lemon juice, about half a cup of water, and half a teaspoon of chicken broth base—the stuff that comes in a jar. I continued to sauté until the water was mostly gone, about five more minutes. The lemon and chicken broth really added a marvelous, bright flavor. On top of this I plopped two eggs “fried” in a non-stick pan with a spray of PAM. Oh my! The runny egg yolk oozing onto the tender kale…pretty damn good for a diet day meal. The highly unscientific calorie count, based on some quick internet research, would be 276 calories. Not bad!

Fast Day Kale and Eggs

I decided to make dinner right away while I was still full from breakfast. The weather was finally cooling off, and I felt like something soup-ish. I adapted my recipe for chicken chili, omitting the oil (for sautéing the veg.), the corn, the sour cream and cheese. No tortilla chips either, alas. But that’s the beauty of the Fast Diet—I can eat chips again tomorrow, if I wish. Here are the ingredients that I used:

Ingredients for Fast Day Chicken Chili

  • four skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • half a large onion, diced
  • a red bell pepper, diced
  • four cloves of garlic, minced
  • a jalapeño chile, minced
  • a can of diced tomatoes
  • a can of diced mild green chiles
  • a jar of tomatillo and cilantro cooking sauce
  • water to cover all the ingredients
  • 2 tsp. of chicken broth base
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

I dumped all that into the slow cooker and let it cook on high for four hours, then turned it down to low and dumped in a can of white beans, mostly drained. By the time we were ready to eat, the house smelled heavenly. I topped each serving with sliced radishes, sliced green onions, and fresh cilantro. Marvelous! This recipe makes four generous servings, leaving me some to freeze for future fast days. There are 140 calories in a boneless, skinless chicken breast, so I’m sure this comes out to fewer than 300 calories per serving.

¡Buen provecho!

¡Buen provecho!

What’s your favorite low-calorie recipe?


A Recipe to Celebrate the Return of the Rain: Tacoma Smoked-Salmon and Summer Corn Chowder

Not my most photogenic soup, but so delicious!

Not my most photogenic soup, but so delicious!

Here’s what you do:

Notice that it’s raining and a wee bit chilly. Hmm—some soup would taste good tonight. You’ve been down near the Puget Sound all day, so your thoughts turn to salmon.

Go to Northern Fish Old Town, 2201 Ruston Way, in Tacoma, and buy some of their superb house-smoked salmon. If you don’t live near this fine purveyor of fresh seafood, I’m sorry. In any case, get some good smoked salmon; you want the firm, hot-smoked variety for this soup, not the soft cold-smoked type you’d eat on bagels with a schmear.  A half a pound is more than plenty if you’re serving this chowder as a main dish to two or three, or a first course to four.

In your favorite large-ish soup pot, put two slices of bacon that you’ve cut up into smallish bits. When that’s rendered its fat (you want about 1 Tbs.), throw in about a cup of diced Walla Walla sweet onion and about a cup of diced celery. Include some celery leaves if you can. Stir that around in the bacon grease over medium heat, plop on the lid, and let the veggies soften. After five minutes or so, sprinkle the veggies with a tablespoon of flour, which will help thicken the soup later.

Now add the kernels of one ear of sweet corn—from Washington State, of course—and one large or two small red-skinned potatoes, diced. Pour in a liter of low-salt chicken broth. It’s important that the broth be low-salt because the salmon is salty. Throw in a bay leaf if you like, and add plenty of freshly-ground black pepper. Stir well, cover and let this simmer gently until the potatoes are as tender as you like them. Add some fresh dill if you have it, dried dill if you don’t.

When your potatoes are done, stir in a glug of heavy cream. I use about a half cup, but you might like more, or less. You can try some low-fat substitute for the cream, but don’t tell me about it. Now flake up the salmon and dump it into the soup. Stir gently. OK—go ahead and eat a few chucks of the salmon; you’ve earned it.

Let the soup simmer just a few minutes longer, and serve with crusty sourdough bread. Look out the window at the rain. Smile.


I’m too old for this sh#@.


I enjoyed Dominique Browning’s August 8 essay in the New York Times entitled I’m Too Old for This. You’ve probably read it; it’s making the rounds on social media. If not, go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

Well, I needed a break from writing query letters, and I couldn’t resist piggy-backing on this fun topic. This blog is (more or less) devoted to exploring this new (for me), mature phase of life. Being too old for some things might actually be a blessing.

Let’s see: I’m too old for…

1. Waiting in line. OK, to be fair, I’ve always hated waiting in long lines, like a baffled cow in a cattle chute. In fact, while waiting recently in the passenger chute for the Seattle ferry, I found it hard to resist the urge to moo. (Guess I’m not too old for sophomoric humor.)

It’s a good thing that my daughter grew up in Germany, where queue-up events for children are less common than here. Had she grown up in the U.S., she’d have felt deprived by the paucity of trips to Wally World—ain’t no way Mama’s going to wait sixty minutes in line to ride Thunder Mountain, or what have you. If I can’t get an assigned seat in advance, I’m not going.

“But that’s just how it’s done,” I hear someone say. “That’s part of the fun, waiting in line for hours and hours to get your concert tickets, or a tasty snack from a food truck.” Pish tosh on that; I’m too old. My poor old ankles might swell, my back might pain me, and my coffee would certainly get cold.

2. Uncomfortable shoes. I love to stroll around a city, or along the shore, or in the park, but you will not see me doing so in “cute” shoes that rub or pinch. I do my best to look “cute” from the ankles up, but comfortable shoes are non-negotiable. I’m too old to hurt myself in order to look snazzy.

I had the most wonderful teacher in the fourth grade. Christina Graham, a kind and elegant lady of about sixty, wore tweed suits and silk blouses to work, but she wore ugly orthopedic shoes. She said, “You can have a teacher with pretty feet and an ugly disposition, or ugly feet and a pretty disposition.” We chose the latter, of course—not that she would have been foolish enough to let a bunch of kids determine her footwear. She was, after all, too old for such foolishness.

3. Children’s television shows. I hate shrieky, shrill voices. Hate, hate, hate ‘em. This may be a problem if/when my grandchildren arrive, but I will not subject myself to shrill, shrieky cartoon characters, no matter what. I’m too old for that.

4. Unflattering clothing. Boyfriend jeans make me look like a lumpy boy—not the look I’m aiming for. Baby doll dresses make me look like a lampshade. Neon colors make me look green. Gladiator sandals only look good on Russell Crowe. But hey, those styles are mostly marketed to younger women. I’m off the hook—too old to wear such silly things.

5. Junky food. Doritos, frozen burritos, Popeye’s chicken, fast-food burgers…I ate this stuff when I was younger, and I knew that it was bad for me. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my army roommate and I would celebrate Friday nights by sharing a jug of Lambrusco and a big ol’ bag of Doritos. (Are you out there, Cindy?) Well, today my touchy tummy gives me a sharp kick in the gut if I try to eat such things. A recent lapse reminded me that I’m never, never hungry enough to eat Doritos. They’re darn tasty, but just—no. I’m too old for that.

6. Caring about what snooty people think of me. I have enough life experience to know my worth: I’m well-read, a quick thinker, educated, and pretty cute. I know a quite a bit about art, literature, wine, fancy cooking, history, and other topics that help me score well in most trivia games. But I’m also quite bad at most sports, higher math, mechanical repairs, remembering which actor was in which movie…and that’s perfectly OK. I’m old enough to know that one can’t be good at everything, and that trying is foolish.

And as for snooty people who look down their noses because my attire isn’t as expensive as theirs—well, as long as I’m satisfied that I’m dressed appropriately for the occasion, why should I concern myself with such foolishness? I’m too old for that.

7. Staying up later than I want to just to prove I’m not a lightweight. Actually, I’ve always had a hard time staying up until the wee hours, but now that I’m older, I have an excuse to go to bed whenever I damn well feel like it. We old folks need naps.

8. Trying to enlighten the unenlightened. It’s hard to resist the urge to set people straight when they’re just so, so…so wrong! But people will believe some silly shit, such as the death-dealing properties of bananas, or that driving a huge pickup truck is patriotic, or that reality TV is real, or celebrity gossip is important. But I’m finally old enough to just chuckle and let that stuff go. It took years of banging my head against walls of willful stupidity before I realized how foolish that was. I’m too old for self-administered headaches.

You know, it feels like I should be able to come up with a #9 and #10, just because lists of ten items have become traditional on blogs. But I’m too old to worry about silly rules. Wow, this being too old can be wonderfully freeing.

How about you? What are you too old for?


Naked Ladies!

Does she need a towel?

Does she need a towel?

Whilst noodling around on the internet, looking for interesting blogs by women over fifty, I came across a funny bit about nudity in the locker room. Here’s the link, in case you’d like to read it for yourself:

I wrote a comment in reply and then realized that the original blog post was from March of 2014. This probably means that my comments of this blog post will never see the light of day—but how could I resist this juicy topic?

What the author of the above article seems to be saying, in a humorous way, is that she is very uncomfortable displaying what she perceives to be age-related flaws on her naked body, even in a setting (gym locker room) where nudity is to be expected, and thus she covers up her body with towels while changing, and she wishes we all would do the same.

I get it; I remember being quite shy about nudity when I was a kid and had to change for swimming lessons. I’d build a veritable tent of towels to keep from flashing any bit of my skinny body at my fellow swimmers. And when I joined the army at eighteen and had to shower in front of twenty other women—well, that took some getting used to. But we only had three minutes to shower during basic training, so I got used to it pretty fast. I remember girls who’d been athletes in high school rolling their eyes at our prissiness; they’d long ago gotten over fear of locker-room nudity.

What I don’t get is the idea, presented in the above blog post, that it’s normal to be ashamed of our aging bodies, and to feel bad about same when confronted with youthful bodies. In fact, I say that exposure to naked bodies in the locker room is beneficial to the sanity of all women and girls. Hear me out.

It goes back to swimming lessons—this time my daughter’s. You see, she grew up in Germany, where I worked on U.S. military bases. Germany is a dark, dreary place during the long winter months, but there are many lovely indoor swimming pool facilities available where people can shed their winter clothes and enjoy some warmth and wholesome exercise. And Germans are (wisely, in my opinion) much less hung-up than we about nudity in locker rooms and saunas. In fact, one must be naked to enter a German sauna; of course, one sits on a towel. I wish my fellow gym patrons in the U.S. would remember their towels and not plump their nude rumps down onto the sauna or steam room bench. But I digress.

While in German locker rooms, my daughter and I saw many, many naked female bodies, from tiny children to very old women. There’s nothing like in-your-face evidence to teach you that the human form comes in a great variety; something you’d never learn from looking at advertisements designed to make us feel bad about said variety. I’m glad my daughter got to see for herself, during her growing-up years, that the idealized female figure currently in vogue—slim hips, flat belly, big breasts, long, thin limbs—almost never occurs in nature. She saw that big, round boobs usually occurr on bodies with big, round bellies and butts. Slim hips and flat bellies usually go with slim, small breasts. We saw tall, gangly women; big, strong women; tiny, wiry women; round, soft women—all of them reveling in the joy of movement and the feeling of the water against their skin. I hope that this first-hand learning experience helped her to have more realistic expectations about her own body, and others’ as well.

Another area where all this nudity is helpful is in our understanding and acceptance of what aging does to the human body. Whether carefully groomed or blissfully unconcerned, every woman over 50 or so showed evidence of gravity’s effects, and time’s. But our German sisters seemed less concerned with hiding that as well. It’s normal, after all, for skin to be looser, for breasts to flatten out or hang lower after having nursed children, and so on. And it’s not hideous. In fact, even the bodies of very old ladies were not hideous. My daughter once pointed out how even the oldest ladies had smooth, white skin on the parts of their bodies that didn’t see the sun.

Really, what I took away from my exposure to all these naked bodies is that, underneath her clothes, no one looks quite as good as advertisements would have us believe, and no one looks quite as bad as our prejudices would have us believe. These naked ladies in the locker room just looked human. And I think it’s very good for girls and young women to understand what’s coming—not so they’ll be depressed, but so they’ll understand that youthful beauty is fleeting, something to be enjoyed when it’s here, but not something whose absence leads to despair. We have so much more to offer than our youthful beauty, and there are so many forces at work trying to convince us, and our daughters, otherwise. And so I say, here’s to naked ladies!