Thursday, April 28, 2011

one-year anniversary (lyn)

April 28th.  One year exactly since I became a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers.  Yesterday I weighed-in at 121.6. 

In the past 12 months, my weight has ranged from 118.2 to 123.6 (last week), so overall I’ve been pretty good.  All my clothes still fit.

Maintenance is not as gratifying as losing weight.  I miss the excitement of watching my body shrink, my pants grown bigger, and the compliments.
But on the positive side, eating is more enjoyable, as I am less rigid about what goes in my mouth.

So in thinking about the past year, and because I’m a big list-maker, I thought about the many ways my eating and other related habits have changed.  Here’s what I came up with.

At least every two or three days I get on it.  Prior to starting Weight Watchers, I didn’t own one.  Having one keeps me in check.  If I see I’m heading up, I cut back on what I eat, or I track for a week or two. 

Tracking:  I do it less.
I am still paying for my etools.  It makes me feel safe knowing I have access, but mostly I don’t use it.

Eating out:  I do this less too.
Before WW, I regularly ate out.  While losing weight, I stopped eating out as much, but agonized over menus when I did.  Today, I still eat out infrequently, but when I do, I order what I want.  I don’t worry about ordering something whose points are too complicated to compute. I am generally not foolish about what I do order.  If the steak is huge, I cut it in half and take half home.  (Or not).  I stay away from Caesar salads and pastas, still.  Too many points that aren’t worth it. 

Weighing and measuring: hardly ever.
I only do this during my rare weeks of tracking.  I have a pretty good idea of how much of something I’m eating, having been doing this now for a year and a half. 

I got rid of all my “fat” clothes, so everything in my closet pretty much requires my staying thin.  If something feels tight, I cut back and begin tracking. 

The corner diner
I used to get a turkey burger and fries there about once a week.  I’ve maybe been there once in the past year, and even then, I didn’t get the fries.

Sweets and dessert
I pretty much stay with the safe ones.  Funny how I’m still not sick of angel food cake.  Occasionally I will splurge and have a piece of carrot cake or a morning muffin or something else that is just too good to resist.  Gone are the chocolate mousses, and rich chocolate opera cakes from Agata.  

I don’t pick up coffee anymore every morning at Starbucks.  My Keurig Coffee Maker is convenient and makes decent coffee.  I do find, though, that I drink a lot of it when I’m home as a way to curb my appetite.

Burger and fries
This is one of my favorite meals, and since November, I have only had it three times (with my parents when I was home for Thanksgiving, with Alexander when we visited Georgetown in December, and earlier this month when Hazel was in town).

Unless I’m out, I generally will have two vegetables (or a salad and vegetable) with dinner.  Rice and potatoes are no longer part of my weekly diet.

It’s a rare treat now when I add an avocado to a salad or sandwich.  Before, I probably ate avocado almost every day.

Chinese food
No more egg rolls and orange or sesame chicken, both of which are fried.  Instead, on the rare occasion where I do order in, it’s usually shrimp with vegetables.

While I used to eat pasta once a week or so, now it’s probably once a month, if that.

Chips and popcorn
I don’t even miss the gourmet chips from Agata that I used to buy.  I have grown accustomed to Pringles-light.  Even Alexander has.  Same with the bland taste of fat-free popcorn.  I can’t remember the last time I had the much-better, but fat-laden, movie popcorn. 

The 100-point replacements from Thomas are good enough. And it would be easy to have the real thing.  There's a great bagel place only one block away.  

Sorbet will trump ice cream 9 out of 10 times
No more regular trips to Sedutto’s for their chocolate chip.  I’ve become a big fan of sorbets, especially the homemade ones from Agata (my two favorites are pear and chocolate, although green apple and mango are a close second).

he got me (m)

After steering clear of my husband for a week...I even sacrificed my long, body-hugging pillow to put between us as a Berlin Wall so the germs wouldn't get me while sleeping....I lost the battle.

Yesterday, I woke up, put the dishes in the dishwasher, cleaned the counters, put a laundry in, made the beds and started a presentation to deliver to the Board of Directors at the medical school. 

Something didn't feel right.  My head was fuzzy.  I look up and the room is spinning as if I had just gotten off a carousel.  I thought "this is it.  this is how I'm going to die."  It was that bad.

I tried to make my way to the bathroom as I started to feel nauseous.  I just made it there.  As I was throwing up, the doorbell rings.  I open the window in my bathroom which is right next to the back door where the bell rang and ask, weakly, "Who is there?"

I"t's me! Joanie!"

My wonderful neighbor.  I tell her I'm sick.  She asks if she can get me anything.

"A new body," I shout out the window.

I crawl upstairs to my bed and spend the rest of the day there.

Harrison was so concerned, he left the rink and came home to take care of me.  I had two ginger ales and a Gatorade.

My husband went to the drugstore to get me Sudafed (my head was stuffed up, maybe a sinus infection?).  No Sudafed in two stores.  The drug addicts have won.  We can't even buy Sudafed in stores anymore.

By dinner time, I was a little hungry.  I had the Healthy Choice chicken noodle soup.  Swill.  No wonder it's only a couple of points.  The "noodles" tasted like strips of paper.  I know I'm sick but this wouldn't taste like food on a good day.

Had a WW cheese string.  One point.  I wouldn't say it hit the spot but I did get some satisfaction out of it.

My husband actually took my presentation (handwritten) and put it on his computer.  He did a great job.  Guilt for giving me the flu?  "Wasn't me.  Not my brand.  I didn't have the dizziness."

By ten o'clock I went to bed for the night, presentation done courtesy of my husband, and I was in the deficit column points-wise.

Still, I'd rather be healthy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

more than the book (lyn)

Tonight Andrea hosts book club.  I haven’t been since early January.  Penny even chastised me a couple of months ago, “I don’t care if you haven’t read the book.  We’re your friends, aren’t we?”  Her words resonate.  So even though I haven’t read the book, I show up.

I am the first to arrive and am immediately drawn to the sliced flank steak.   It’s delicious and I ask Andrea for the recipe.  "Oh, it's easy," she says.    “Just order the Korean sesame-marinated flank steak from Fresh Direct."   Andrea’s sautéed zucchini is also great.  I eat a few pieces, some grapes, and two small glasses of red wine.  I intend to stay for an hour or so, and leave when the discussion turns to the book whose name I can’t even remember.  But that’s not what happens.  Instead, I stay for two and a half hours, and enjoy the conversation that comes with friendship.

Here we are.  Six women who have been meeting to discuss books for a long time.  Some of us only see each other at these meetings.  But the connection is there.  I was asked to join the group seven years ago.  All of us have children and met though them when they were students at the same elementary school (not all in the same year).  Sometimes the group is larger than the six of us who meet tonight, but this seems to be the core. 

The night begins friendly-enough until someone says to X, “So, everything good?”  Rather than answer with the pat response of yes, X surprises everyone with, “No, everything is not good.  And I don’t like it when you ask me in a way that trivializes how I feel.”  This is not going to be an ordinary meeting.

As a group, we’ve experienced a lot.  Cancer, two husbands unexpectedly walking out with little more than good-bye, kids and the worries we have about them, new careers, ailing parents, children leaving home, and lost jobs.  We conclude that life can be difficult, and each of us contributes an unspoken worry that keeps us awake in the middle of the night.

Tonight is more revealing and comforting than any of the many books we’ve read.

finally, a decision (lyn)

Two years of SAT's, ACT's,  SAT subject tests, touring 17 colleges, making a list of college choices, checking it twice then changing it a million times, flying to the Midwest and South, driving North, hopping on trains and busses, writing essays, completing applications, thinking about how to best package one's self, filling out financial aid forms, talking to students, taking AP courses, meeting with tutors, teachers, and college advisors at school, and of course all the stress, the angst, and the waiting.... it's now finally over.  I mailed in the $400 deposit today.

Alexander applied to 14 schools and got into 9.  He strongly considered four:  Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Cornell, College of Arts and Sciences.  In the end, he made the final decision.  Cornell.  And despite its bad-weather reputation (justifiably earned;  it was snowing when he was up visiting last Thursday), Alexander is very excited about going there.

Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do when he leaves!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

a weekend of doing a lot and paying little (lyn)

Zelia and I go to the movies on Friday to see The Lincoln Lawyer.  I use a discounted movie pass bought a couple of years ago.  Since joining BAFTA, I pay for fewer and fewer movies.  In fact, the last time I saw a non-screened movie was in September. Seven months ago.  I’d forgotten how good my taste-free popcorn is with a few junior mints thrown in.

Saturday afternoon is raining.  Jill and I are paying $4 to see an off-Broadway play, Teeth of the Sons, at a popular theater in the Village.  After the play, there is a talkback with the playwright, actors and director.  The audience, as is true of most NY audiences, is filled with smart, insightful people.  Their questions and comments are more enlightening than annoying.  Afterwards, we go looking for a place to have coffee.  All the little coffeehouses and Starbucks are hiding, as we walk for blocks before finding one.  A tiny bakery.  Jill is hungry and gets an almond croissant that looks incredible.  This is my week of tracking so I take only a bite, and order a cappuccino.  Conversation is easy with Jill and by the time we leave the sun is out and it feels like mid-afternoon, though it’s 6:30.

Alexander comes into my room on Sunday around noon.  I tell him I’m leaving soon to meet Robyn.  For another $4, we are seeing The School of Lies, a play in the East Village starring Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter).  “Whoa.  You are going to theater in the daytime? Again?  Who does that?  It’s like drinking in the afternoon.”  This, from my culturally-deprived son who views theater of any kind as punishment.  He goes on.  “I can’t believe you drag your friends into this too.  Yesterday Jill.  Today Robyn.”  And to think I once imagined sharing my love of theater with my son. 

But we do share a love for sushi and movies.  Dinner is Chinatown with raw fish. A great combination.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a too small small (lyn)

Alexander is visiting Cornell.  While he’s there, I ask him to get me a white hooded sweatshirt with the Cornell bear on it.  But only if he’s sure that Cornell is where he wants to go.  He is.  His decision is unequivocal.  “The campus is beautiful and there’s so much to do.  Everyone is friendly, and kids are from everywhere.  I just love it here, but it did snow a little today.”

Alexander calls me from the bookstore.  He's looking for a Cornell hat for himself (he already has a sweatshirt and two T’s) and a hoodie for me.  Before he left New York, we discussed size, color, style, etc.  Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to mind the burden of this mini-shopping expedition.

“Okay, here’s one that’s nice, but it’s not quite white.  More of a light yellow.”  “Keep looking,” I tell him.  “This one looks good,” he says.  “But it doesn’t zip all the way up; it it’s more like a V-neck and it doesn’t have a hood.”  “What else is there?”  I feel like I’m in the store with him.  Poor thing; he’s probably wishing he hadn’t agreed to this assignment.   But finally he finds it.  The perfect hoodie.

Alexander arrives home around 8:30, energized with the excitement of Cornell, despite the six-hour bus ride.  After dinner, he hands me his purchase.  It is exactly as described.  I love it.  Except for one thing.  Size Small, the label says.  This, after I’ve told him a size Medium.  “Oh,” he says, “I forgot to check the size.”  Then he tries to cover.  “No, I’m just kidding.  You are small.  Look at you.  You're tiny.”  He insists that he really made a conscious decision to select this size, but I don’t believe him.  It’s far more likely that he got so caught up on finding the right style, he totally forgot to consider size. 

I call the store about returns.  Turns out that this small is really really small….equivalent to a size 2 to 4.  A size I’ll never be, but that’s okay.  Size six is perfectly fine with me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

seder #2 (lyn)

Last night 13 of us go went to Valerie’s.  This time we even did some reading from the Haggadah.  Adam opens his and sees his own handwriting from his Hebrew School Days. I eat like the old me, including again two slices of 7-layer cake.

This morning I step on my scale (I’m not even considering going to Weight Watchers today).  123.6.  Wow.  I start hearing that woman from my ww class who became a lifetime member this year and always expresses her fear of being one of the 80% or so who gain back the weight they’ve lost.  I know I’ll never be as heavy as I was, but I want to stay thin.  My clothes demand it.

I look at my calendar.  Not one big meal is currently scheduled for the next two weeks.  Perfect.  I’m back to tracking.  All seven days this time.  Might even bring out my food scale.

Monday, April 18, 2011

marathon monday (m)

Monday.  Patriot's Day in New England.  The running of the Boston Marathon.  The re-enactment of The Battle of Lexington and Concord.  A Red Sox game.  Sunny, mild.

Perfect, no?  What could go wrong?

I'll tell you what went wrong.

My husband, Mr. Predictable, the man who has only been sick one day in his life, comes home from work (he works for himself but decided not to give himself the holiday off) with chills.  He's shaking uncontrollably. 

I escort him to the sofa and cover him with tons of blankets, including the faux fur from Pottery Barn that weighs a ton.  He's still shaking like someone who just stuck a fork in a live electrical outlet.

I take his temperature with one of those ear-things.  93 degrees.  Is that even possible?  What does that even mean?  I take it in the other ear.  93.2 degrees.  I have never seen this before.

I look at him--he's whiter than Casper.  Feet are ice cold. 

I call the health plan.

Because of the holiday, they divert us to Urgent Care.  No urgency there.  Twenty minutes later, someone comes on the line and tells me to take him to the hospital.

The nearest hospital is on the Marathon route.  Cups litter the sidewalks and streets from where the runners passed through.

We get to the hospital and I drop him off to check in while I park the car.

I walk up to the hospital and notice a table set up for injured marathoners.

As I look around to find my husband in the waiting area, a volunteer asks, "Are you a runner in need of assistance?"

I'm dumbfounded.  Do I look remotely like a runner or any kind of athlete? I can't imagine anyone asking me that question a year ago.

I suppose that's progress.  Better an injured runner than a couch potato.

PS-T is fine.  Some intravenous, lots of testing.  Probably the flu.  Is it sick of me to be jealous that he has no appetite?

seder #1 (lyn)

For the past five days I’ve been tracking.  I’ve barely used any bonus points.  But when I started the week, I’d forgotten that it would end with two big holiday dinners.

Jill (Abbey’s sister) hosts tonight, the first night of Passover. 

I had planned to skip the appetizers but once they are in front of me, I can’t resist.  Chopped liver, crudité with dip, Jill’s amazing homemade egg salad and chopped liver.  These are foods I only eat on the Jewish holidays; at least that’s the excuse I give myself to indulge.  Dinner starts with matzo ball soup, followed by a filet mignon roast (I have two large pieces that are nowhere near the recommended deck-of-card-size) and steamed string beans.  I have fruit and two small slices of 7-layer cake for dessert, and decide as I eat, that I will not be tracking points tonight and tomorrow.

My ancestors would not have had time to count what they were eating.  They were in a very big hurry to get out of Egypt in search of The Promised Land.  Tracking would have held them up.  So tonight I do what they did centuries ago…be thankful for all I have, enjoy the food in front of me, and worry about tomorrow another day.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

how cold was it? (m)

Baseball in April in New England is a total "hit or miss" proposition.  It's either decent (at best) or ridiculously cold.

My husband and I drive four hours to New York for Sam's game where the forecast is "wet and windy."  Lovely.  A doubleheader.  At least 16 innings of baseball.

I pack the car at 7 a.m.--boots, gloves, hats, blankets, chairs, down vest, storm coat, rain slicker, umbrellas--you know, your basic baseball gear.

We arrive at Sam's school only to find that they are in the fifth inning of the first game.  Apparently, given the weather, the coaches decided to start much earlier.  Also, I got pulled over for speeding which slowed me down.

The parents bring alot of food to these games for the tailgate.  Too much food.  So much food, that they need two long tables to lay the food out.  Then they need tents to cover the food.  Two big tents.  Well, the wind is so strong, it blows one of the tents across the field, into the baseball game. 

Down to one tent which is blowing in the wind like a flag, we try to secure the food and protect it from the elements.  I hear ping! ping! ping! on the roof of the tent.  Hail.  It's hailing out.

The boys break in between games and come over to get lunch.  There are 24 players and coaches to feed.  Everyone grabs something quickly and runs to take shelter in the dugout. 

I look around at what's left (I'm on clean-up duty).  36 submarine sandwiches, 30 bags of chips, bowls of pickles, banana peppers.  A tin tray full of salad (an interesting salad of mesclun leaves, goat cheese, those fried Asian noodles, candied pecans, and some kind of balsamic dressing).  I can't tell if it is Asian, Greek or Italian).   A banana bread.  A basket of Reese's peanut butter cups.  A huge box of homemade cookies and three large "tomato pies" (essentially, pizza without the cheese, big in these parts).  Four cases of soda, two cases of water and two cases of Gatorade.  Also left is a bowl of fruit--clementines and apples.  The paper goods are blowing around.  I have to find rocks to secure them.

I'm on clean-up, left alone with all this stuff.  On a good weather day, this would be like leaving the fox to watch the henhouse. I might have had half a sub, definitely the homemade toffee/chocolate chip cookies.  A bag of chips, a diet Coke and a piece of fruit.

Today, however, I just want the stuff put away so I don't have to chase it across into left field.

I am too cold to eat.  That's how cold it was.

cabin fever (lyn)

Alexander still has a fever.  Six days now.  It fluctuates between normal and 102.4 (this evening).  We’ve been to the doctor twice.  She’s checked him, taken blood tests, and everything comes back normal.  Aside from a cough, he seems fine.  Fevers scare me, but I try not to let him see my concern.

When he is up (he’s been sleeping a lot), he is eating (he still has a good appetite), drinking (ginger ale, water, or Gatorade), or half-reclining.  His energy level is understandably low.  Because I’m tracking, I have tried to occupy myself with computer stuff, reading, and other things non-food related. 

Alexander is tired of being in, and I loathe seeing him sick.  In trying to find a cure, he  researches fevers and comes across something called cabin fever.  Without reading its definition, he asks worriedly, “What’s that?  Do you think I might have that?”  “Yes, sweetheart, I know you do.”  “Why do you think that?  What are the symptoms?”  “Boredom, restlessness, and a strong desire to leave the house.”  I wish this is all he had.  At least that's something I know how to fix.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

walking tall (lyn)

Beautiful spring day.  Sunny and a little cool.  I get up, step on the scale.  Today I’m 120.8.  There must be something wrong with my scale.  My hair looks like it died.  I take a shower, wash my hair, and they try some Redken product I have lying around called Extreme Deep Fuel “for very distressed hair.”  I follow the directions.  Apply to towel dried hair.  Wait 10 minutes.  Rinse.  I do all this.  My hair looks exactly the same.  Horrid.

Alexander still has a fever of 100.1.  He’s getting restless and cranky.  When I ask him a question, about anything, the response is the same, “Stop nagging me.”  I need to get out.

Penny calls and has an extra ticket to the Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair.  I want to go but feel too guilty leaving Alexander.  Instead, I purge my closets of coats I no longer wear.  I take four over to a designer resale shop and they reject two.  One they say is “too pilled.”  It’s only a year old.  I bought it at Maxwells, and have worn it a handful of times.  I feel the need to defend my clothes but the store clerk is intimidating and I don't.   The other reject is a ¾ length brown leather coat that I think I’ve worn twice.  This coat is noisy.  It squeaks when I wear it, so I never do.  This was rejected also, and not because of the sounds it makes.  No, this one “looks a little worn around the inside collar.”  I leave hating this snobby store.

I come home and  start looking through my shoes to see if there are any I can toss. I see a pair of beige Prada wedge sandals that I never wear.  While they look brand new, I must have bought them at least five years ago.  I put them on.  They are not comfortable (hence the reason why they look brand new), but the three-inch heels make me feel tall and sexy.

I leave them on for my half-block excursion to the bank.  I’m also wearing Lululemon black crop pants (aptly named Inspire) with a beige T and my short black motorcycle jacket.  Despite my bad hair, I feel good walking in my uncomfortable high-heeled wedges.

A friendly-looking stranger is walking toward me with her three kids.  She smiles and stops me.  She actually puts her hand on my forearm.  “Hey, I’ve been wanting to tell you, you look great.”  I swear, I have never seen her before.  “You live in my building,” she says, "And I've  noticed that you’ve lost a lot of weight.”  I am speechless.  “You look so sassy,” she says, and walks on with her kids.

I think I'll be wearing these shoes more often.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

writing it all down (lyn)

122.0.  Too high.

I begin tracking again, something I haven’t done since  February 20.  I want to get back to around 120, and the only way to lose weight is to track.  I know it works.

It’s raining and Alexander still has a fever of 101.  I skip Weight Watchers.  I’m sitting at my desk and the phone rings.  It’s Alexander calling from his cell as he sits in bed (in his room) and watches Zoolander.  “Hi, mom.  Can you please get me a bottle of water?”  The refrigerator is exactly 23 feet from his bed.

The last time Alexander had a fever was on his 10th birthday.  My mom came to visit, and surprised him by bringing his cousin Sally who is exactly 50 days younger.  His fever then only lasted a couple of days so we were still able to celebrate.  I hope the same is true of this fever now.

We go to Alexander’s doctor who advises Alexander not to visit Cornell tomorrow as planned, and not to go to school.  Apparently you should be fever-free for 24 hours before subjecting others to your germs. We get home around 11:30, and Alexander eats a big onion focaccia, then falls asleep.  He opens his eyes around 7:00 and is ravenous.  I make him a big salad and heart-shaped ravioli while I eat two slices of turkey on a bagel thin, with a side of 15 Pringles. It’s only my first day of tracking in a very long time;  I have to be good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

sick day (lyn)

Yesterday morning Alexander comes into my room around 7:30.  “I don’t feel well.  Can I skip school today?  Puh-leese.”  “No,” I say,  assuming his senioritis is just getting worse.

Alexander comes home around 4:30 and feels warm.  His temperature is 101.7.  I feel terrible.  I hear him on the phone with his grandmother.   “When I told her this morning that I was sick, she didn’t believe me…”  Do others really need to know? I feel bad enough as it is.

Today Alexander stays home with a fever of 101, and I try to remember…is it starve a fever or feed it?  I do an internet search and find an article in The NY Times that says neither strategy works.   Just rest and fluids seem to help.

“Can you get me some ginger ale?”  I go out in the cold rain and come back with three, 2-liter bottles.  I don’t want to risk being a bad mother two-days in a row.  “Can you hand me the remote?”  “Can you heat me up some soup?”  “Can I watch a pay-per-view movie?  “Can you serve me some blueberries and strawberries?”  “Can you go in the other room so I can concentrate?”  I’m surprised he doesn’t ask me to tie his shoes.  But that’s probably because he’s not wearing any.

By five, Alexander’s appetite is back, and his fever is in check.  I make a roasted pork tenderloin with vegetables, and add to his plate potatoes and a Caesar salad.  We watch Fair Game, a Netflix movie I’ve had for about two weeks.  

I hate when my baby is sick.  But hanging out with him is nice.

Monday, April 11, 2011

decisions, decisions (lyn)

I wake up this morning agonizing over Alexander’s college decision.  He’s debating between Vanderbilt and Cornell, having eliminated Northwestern and Wash U (their grant money wasn’t even close to the other two).

Yesterday we went to a Cornell event for NY-area admitted kids.  Aside from the two pieces of chocolate chip biscotti that I ate, it was a good meeting.  But I worry about Cornell being the best fit for Alexander.  Will the pressure be too much for him?  Will he freak out when he sees how hard he has to work for B’s?  How much is he being influenced by the name and the ivy-status?  Will the school be too big for him?  Will he be assertive enough to take advantage of all that Cornell offers?  Will he get lost in the large classes?  Will the bad winter weather get to him? 

But then I wonder, too, about Vanderbilt.  Is it too Southern (49% of the kids are from the South or Southwest)?  Is it too far from home?  Is it the right place to go if Wall Street is his hoped-for destination?

Perhaps I’m over thinking all this.  Alexander is going to visit Cornell later this week and perhaps he’ll find his answer there.

In the meantime, all this thinking has made me hungrier than usual.  Once Alexander makes his decision, I’ll make a corresponding one to eat fewer sweets.  For now, it helps with the angst.  I had no idea that a good piece of Lloyd’s carrot cake could be so comforting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

lucky day (lyn)

Spring is here and I need a berry bowl.  I have a couple, but they are all big.  I need one small enough for blueberries.

My favorite small store is La Terrine, described in NY Magazine this way:  “This pleasantly crowded shop imports covetable French, Italian, and Portuguese ceramics, all of which are hand-painted.”  The store is just a little bit bigger than the bathroom/dressing room I was in the other day.  But it houses the most beautiful collection of dishes, serving pieces, and other kitchen-related items.

Today I go there to buy a small berry bowl…an essential for any kitchen (I have two others and use them all the time, especially during fruit-season).  I choose a happy-looking yellow.  I also end up buying dishtowels painted with golden-orange pears, and a small spreader with an ivory handle (this is why I should never leave my house).

As I’m leaving, I notice a stunning off-white platter.  I comment on its beauty and the store owner says, “Oh, we are having a raffle today.  You should enter.”  So I fill out a short entry form and leave.

A few hours later I get a call from the store's owner;  I won!  I run out and buy a NY Lottery ticket.  If I can be lucky just one more time today I’ll win $16 million.

Friday, April 8, 2011

harrison wins, i lose (m)

One week in Italy and Harrison and I come home with the "gold". He wins the competition and I lose 1.6 pounds when I weigh in at Weight Watchers.

How did that happen? I didn't track, I didn't use my Points Plus calculator; I didn't eat the one-point candies I brought (he ate them). I didn't use my menu guide from WW either.

So what did I do?

I walked all day everyday. Ate a healthy breakfast (an egg, tea, multi-grain toast, plain, fat-free yogurt) no snacks, lots of salads with protein (tuna) at lunch. No other carbs.

More salads and protein at dinner.

Oh, yes, a few limoncellos, a few glasses of wine and one piece of cake.

All in all, a good week.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

two new dresses (lyn)

Through a connection, I go to the showroom of a NY designer  I need a dress for graduation.  I walk into the tiny room and immediately see two dresses I like.  The dressing room is a small one-person bathroom down the hall.

I fall in love with the first dress I put on.  Since this is not a store, the dress is only shown in the runway size.  Boldly I take it to try on.  Just a little tight around the hips, but not horrid.  It’s sized between a four and a six, and we agree that the size six will be perfect.

I try on a second dress for another big-school event and love that one too.  I just worry that for both dresses, I’ll need to wear high heels (and I can’t walk any more in heels greater than two inches) and get a wrap for my shoulders.  But the dresses are so nice -simple with clean lines- I get them both.  The low prices make them more affordable than a trip to the hairdresser.

As I’m leaving, the designer says, “You have a beautiful figure.”  It wasn’t that long ago that my mom’s friend couldn’t even recognize me as “I’d gotten so heavy.”  It feels nice to feel good again.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

one last 60th birthday dinner (lyn)

I’m getting ready to meet Gail in Soho.   Alexander looks at me and asks where I’m going.  “Balthazar,” I say.  “Gail is taking me out to celebrate my birthday.”  “Still?,” he asks.  It’s a legitimate question.

I’m the first to arrive and already this popular French bistro is buzzing with activity.  I’m seated and Gail comes a few minutes later.    Her entrance causes heads to turn.  She is tall and stunning and wears a Wolford black top with cut outs on the shoulders.  She looks impressively and tastefully sexy.

“I read that we all need zinc in our diet, and do you know what food is highest in zinc?  Oysters!”  I love oysters and so she orders a dozen along with champagne.  A beautiful combination.  Next we split a warm goat cheese and caramelized onion tart.  These items alone make the perfect meal.  I don’t need the steak frites, but have it anyways.  All of it.  And then, when the waitress says there is a strawberry rhubarb tarte with ice cream special for dessert, well, I have to have that too.  It’s a splendid meal and my last big one in a while.

Gail was my first boss at Gillette when I started there in 1981.  I was 30 and she was 27.  I think I learned more from her than I did at business school.  She taught me how to write, how to structure business arguments, and how to position  products.  She was also my biggest advocate.

Our relationship is different now, and better.  It’s no longer a common interest in hair spray that dominates our conversations.  We still talk of business challenges, but also talk of aging parents, a great husband (hers), a terrific kid (mine), and so much more. 

I am lucky that Gail is back in my life.

two product reco's (lyn)

I know today will be bad, and almost don’t go. Weeks of eating out have finally caught up to me.  I step on the scale at WW and I’m up 1.4 pounds since just last week.  That’s not surprising considering four huge meals in the past six days.  At 122.6, I haven’t weighed this much since May 5th of last year.  Tonight is the final night of celebrating my birthday, and then I’ll be back on track.

This morning is another great class.  Our leader Steve says of us, “This is the class I am most excited about seeing, and the most scared of seeing.”  We are a vocal group of smart, supportive women.

This morning I learn of two new products I will buy.

weighted hula-hoop
Bonnie and Jen, the two fit and slim blonds in the class who always offer excellent tips on food, recently discovered 3-pound collapsible hula-hoops (with sponge) that they say are fantastic.  I used to be the neighborhood hula-hoop champ when I was about 10, but I doubt I could even do one rotation now.   The girls say it takes some practice, but they also say it’s easy once you get the hang of it.  And, you only need to do it five minutes a day.  At $27, it seems worth the investment.  The link is:

fit chip
This little thingy can attach right to your bra.   It tracks movement (and sleep) and the data is automatically updated onto a website.  It's the motivation I need to start exercising.  I am a list-making, excel-spreadsheet-making junkie.  I feel like I track everything.  Books I read.  Movies I see.  Theater I go to.  Money I spend.  So effortlessly tracking activity excites me.  Sick, I know.   At $100, it is not cheap, but it’s still less than a gym.  One of the women in class says the fit chip changed her life.  It measures activity levels from sedentary to very active, and really, who wants to see themselves described every day as sedentary?  Here’s the link:

And to think I almost skipped class today!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

this may be obvious but... (lyn)

When Alexander was a freshman in high school, he aspired to be the class clown. Not exactly what I had in mind.   When Alexander came home with a C- on a test, his response was, “Everyone did badly.”  When I left the house to run errands he said he’d be working.  When I came home, no work had been done.  I became something I never thought I’d be.  An annoying, nagging mom. 

I got a software program that limited Alexander’s online activity (once I found out he was on social networking sites until 4 or 5 in the morning).  It didn’t matter.  I paid him for good grades.  That didn’t matter either.  In fact, nothing I did mattered.

That summer, Alexander went to Chile.  He came back changed.  He decided he wanted to get into a good college, and began working hard.  These past few weeks have affirmed that his hard work paid off, although he still regrets freshman year.  “Without it, I probably would have gotten into…”

This afternoon I bump into an old friend I haven’t seen since last summer.  Our kids were classmates at the same elementary school.  Last time I saw her she commented on my weight loss, and I immediately launched into the benefits of Weight Watchers.  She told me she had just started, and I wished her luck.  Today I see her and she looks the same, maybe even heavier.  She suggests coffee.  We “walk” to the local Starbucks and it is impossible for me to slow to her pace.  A very old woman on a walker passes us.

She tells me that she is still on Weight Watchers but that recently she’s slipped a little.  I don’t believe her.  At Starbucks I get coffee and she gets a coffee with a slice of pound cake.  “I know I shouldn’t have this,” she says sheepishly.  I want to say, “You’re right, you shouldn’t,” but of course I don’t.  By saying nothing, I feel like I’m enabling an addict.

Unlike getting into college, where you can work hard and still not get into your top choice school, WW is a guarantee.  Follow the program and you will, with absolute certainty, lose weight.   But you have to want it.  Like Alexander in 9th grade, he wasn’t ready.  Whatever his reason, he didn’t yet have the passion to make the necessary changes.  He wasn’t mature enough to envision the rewards.  Perhaps the same is true of my friend.

Monday, April 4, 2011

there's no place like home (m)

We awake at 4:30 a.m. on our last day.  Despite the ungodly hour, I spring out of bed, desperate to go home.

Don't get me wrong.  I've had a wonderful time here, but I'm ready to get home to see my husband and Sam.

We are outside the hotel by 5:15 a.m. The team leader has checked all the kids' rooms to make sure they got everything and left everything in good shape which will reflect well upon the U. S.

The 4 hour bus ride down the mountain is extra windy today.  The Russian mother behind me vomits.  I can't breathe.  The team leader in front of me offers me a lemon wafer.  I don't know if it is just the smell of the other woman's vomit or the lemon smell of the wafer that reminds me of the Limoncello hangover but I almost toss my cookies as well.  Harrison throws up.  It is like a vomitorium in that bus.

We get to the border of Austria.  The police pull us over.  Out of a police-issue BMW steps a young officer who looks very much like an aged progression version of Liesl's boyfriend from The Sound of Music.  I have a knot in my stomach.  Why are we being pulled over?

Passport check. 

Our team leader takes all of our passports, hands them to the officer, then hands them back to us.

We get to the Munich airport and have to sprint to our planes.  We are going in different directions.  California, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Colorado.  We say goodbye and rush to our airline counters to check in.

I open my passport.  IT IS NOT MINE!  Harrison opens his passport.  IT IS NOT HIS!

I know what this means.  Trouble.  We can't get home without our passports.  I look again at the passport photo in my hand.  It's Harrison's roommate's mother's.  Wouldn't you know that they are the only people not connecting to a flight!  They are boarding a train to tour Dachau, the concentration camp.  They have no cell phone and have left no forwarding address.  I want to cry.  Visions of going through a former concentration camp looking for my passport popped in my head.  Not good.  Not good at all.

I do not want to spend the night in Munich.  Harrison has to get back to school. 

I turn to our coach who sheds his jacket and baggage and races through the airport to the train station.

He returns triumphant.  He found them JUST as they were about to board the train to Dachau.

"How did you do that?" I exclaim.  "I'm good," he replies.  Yes, he is.  He's also sweating, "like a whore in church," (his words).

If you thought I was satisfied with my passport photo before, I can tell you it is my favorite photo of me now!

22 hours from the time we awoke in Italy, we arrive in Boston.

T is there to pick us up.  I've never been so happy to see him.

We get in the house and I'm so tired I can't stand up.

It's 9:30 p.m.  T looks at me and says, "I haven't had dinner yet.  What can you make?"

Bleary-eyed, I open a can of tuna fish.

Still, it's good to be home.

an unusual find at costco (lyn)

Zelia drops me off at Costco while she runs over to Fairway.  I go to get my cart and there is a woman next to me screaming into her phone.  “Don’t yell at me.  I have enough to do.  I’d like to see you accomplish in a day what I’ve done already and it’s only 11:30,” she says to some poor soul on the other end.

We enter the store and she heads straight to Customer Service, bypassing the Costco check-in police, who run after her to make sure she is legit.  I’m heading to the same place.  This woman continues talking on the phone as she places four return items on the counter.  She ignores the clerk helping her.   So rude, I think.  Finally she hangs up and says to no one in particular, “My husband can be such a pain. “  And then she smiles and becomes human. “I guess that’s one of the few benefits of being single,” I say.  Immediately she hands me her card.

I don’t have my glasses on so I can’t read it, so I ask her what it says.  “I’m a matchmaker,” she proudly tells me.  Wow.  I’ve never met a matchmaker before.  Then she suggests I contact her.  “Oh, I don’t know,"  I say, “I might be a little old for your services.”  “Why, how old are you?  40’s?”  I tell her my age and she genuinely looks astonished.  I’m not even wearing much makeup.  (I can hear Valerie saying, “See, I told you that you should always look your best when you leave the house; you never know who you’ll meet.”).

I google this woman when I get home.  She’s everywhere.  In Wikipedia.  On ABC News.  In Forbes.  Credible sources describe her as both a Rockstar and a Manhattan matchmaker extraordinaire.

It’s amazing what you can find at Costco.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

practice makes perfect (m)

For the past six weeks, Harrison has been setting his alarm to go off at 5:30 a.m.  He drags himself to the basement and works out for 30-45 minutes on the treadmill and the elliptical machines, wearing a mask on his face to simulate the high altitude conditions of the Alps.

He then goes to school from 7:30 until 3 p.m. and then skates 3 hours, comes home, eats dinner and does homework for 3-4 hours.

My job, as I see it, is to keep him healthy and feeling good about himself.

We get to Italy and he is coughing up a storm.  A phlegmy, productive cough.  His eyes are glassy and his forehead feels warmer than usual.  I am sick to my stomach thinking he's getting sick.

Not now, please, I think to myself.  He just got over a nasty foot injury which plagued him at Nationals.

His coach looks at me as if to say, "Is he sick?"  I just shrug my shoulders.  We decide not to talk about it.

I load him up with bottles of water and Vitamin C drops and Emergen-C.  Sam's friend, J, takes this with Airborne.  H decides to follow J's regimen. 

He does the first practice and it goes well.  I think he looks good versus the international competitors.

Friday, he does his short program.  It's "clean," meaning no mistakes.  The only thing is that he has been practicing triple-triple combinations and did a triple-double in competition.  He leaves something on the table, an opening for a competitor. 

There are young men from 8 different countries.  Fourteen competitors in all.  After a long day, Harrison is in first place.

The next day, he looks sicker to me.  He says he's "fine" but when I kiss his forehead, he's hot.  I give him some Advil.

The next day, there's a practice, this time in a town 45 minutes away.  The bus ride there is totally nauseating.  Both Harrison and his US teammates are sick as dogs by the time they get to the rink.  One of them throws up.  They get to the rink and settle themselves before getting on the ice which leaves them very little time to practice.  At least they are all in the same boat.

Sunday.  Final competition.  The long program.  Harrison looks a little better to me and is not hot to touch.  I take this as a good sign.

He gets on the ice and his first jump is the triple-triple combination.  Will he do it?  If he lands it, he'll likely lock on first place, if he doesn't his teammate will seize it.  Harrison jumps up and lands the first triple.  He jumps up immediately after and lands the second triple!  I can't believe it.  It's the first time he's done this in competition.

He goes into the next corner and lands a triple lutz/double toe loop combination.  He lands both, but his body bangs against the boards.  Amazingly, he is still standing!

He goes into the next jump, a triple lutz and hits the boards again. 

He finishes the program in style...intricate footwork, combination sit spins, more jumps.

When it's all over, we wait for the last two skaters to learn the scores.  Harrison wins by 12 points.  A very comfortable margin.  The Italian judges come up to our coach afterwards and ask if our rink in Boston is much bigger than the rink here (how else to explain why he hit the boards?).  "'s 18 feet smaller," says our coach.  Ouch.

I go to look for Harrison.  He's beaming.  "Mom," he says with disbelief in his voice, "I won."  I cry and give him a huge hug.  I want to call my mother.

I hope she knows.

a special night out (lyn)

Weeks ago, Meredith invites Alexander and me out for dinner to celebrate my birthday.  I am touched by her generosity and thoughtfulness.  She hasn’t seen Alexander in a while, and separately they have both expressed strong interest in getting together.  She has chosen Café Luxembourg, a great little French restaurant on the Westside.

While we are waiting for the crosstown bus to meet Meredith, I remind (he’d say nag) Alexander of a few things he hasn’t done and should, given that today is the last day of his two-week spring break.  “You still haven’t looked for merit scholarships.  I’ve sent you links for a bunch of sites.  The deadlines are almost here.”  Then I remind him of the people who have called and offered their college-decision help (as in, “my friend’s son goes to Cornell, you should call him and talk to him; here’s his email address.”)  By the time the bus arrives, Alexander insists on sitting alone.

We get to the restaurant and Meredith is already there.  Even though I speak to her every day, and she has lived through every single second of the college prep, search, application, wait and notification process, she hasn’t seen Alexander since his Bar Mitzvah, five and half years ago.  He’s changed a lot in that time.  On the physical side alone, he’s gained what I’ve lost (160 from 120), has grown 3 1/4 inches (from 5’6  3/4 to 5’10), and he now shaves.  He’s probably become more mature and articulate but that’s hard for a mother to see.  The two of them embrace like best friends who haven’t seen each other after a long absence.

We sit down and Meredith says she has a few must-read books for Alexander.  I’m thinking, “Oh, no, doesn’t she know that my son is not exactly a reader-for-fun kind of guy?”  But of course she knows this.  She hands him three books with cute little intros for each:
  • D!rty Spanish (everyday slang from “What’s Up?” to “F*%#Off!”)
  • 100 Words To Make You Sound Smart (I will read this too)
  • F in Exams (the very best totally wrong test answers); this, I hope, he never needs
The books are clever and appropriate and Alexander loves them all.

I order some kind of cod entrée that is layered with mashed potatoes and a leafy green vegetable of some kind; Meredith and Alexander have steak and fries (of which I steal many).  I hardly notice what I’m eating (I just know it tastes great) as we flirt with the actor/waiter from Alabama who-worked-hard-for two-years-in voice-class-to-get-rid-of-his-accent, laugh, exchange stories, and of course discuss college.

As always, Meredith offers excellent advice, and Alexander really listens. 

I think we order dessert just to prolong the evening (although the lemon tarte with a caramelized top and whipped cream is exceptionally good).

Sometimes everything clicks and tonight is one of those nights. We all leave smiling with the knowledge and contentment of a very good friendship.

one wish (m)

Directly across from my hotel room is a little church.  The bells ring on the hour every hour.  It is beautiful.

On Sunday, I decide to go to Mass.  My grandmother told me that when you go to a new church, you get to make one wish.

What should I wish for?  The top of mind selection is that Harrison win the event.  He took first place after the short program, but his US teammate usually beats him in the long program.  That is the lead candidate.

Then I think about wishing for the stamina and willpower to continue my weight loss journey.  I still have a long way to go and, as you can see, food is never far from my mind. 

Then, I think about my friend, A, who is suffering from cancer.  A has always taken good care of herself.  She lived right, drank rarely, never smoked, exercised frequently and then gets whacked by cancer.  It has been two years of MRIs (3 hours at a time, sweat dripping from her body), nauseating chemo, debilitating radiation.  She is scheduled for surgery two days after we get back from Europe.  They found more cancer and the question is whether this is a new type of cancer (very bad) or more of the same (less bad).

When you look at life and break things down into groups of things you can control and things you can't control, you see things very differently.  Harrison can control his body.  He just needs to execute what he's learned.  I can control my diet.  I just have to exercise discipline.

My friend, A, has no control over what is happening to her.  She needs divine intervention.

I pray that A's cancer is the less bad one and that they can remove most of it during her surgery.

I leave the church feeling lighter knowing I have done the right thing.

Epilogue--A has her surgery on April 6th.  Much to the doctors' surprise, the cancer is, indeed, the less bad one (preliminary testing indicated otherwise) and they remove all of it in that part of the body.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

wicker park pig-out (lyn)

To reward myself for returning just about everything I bought yesterday, I recommend an unhealthy meal for dinner.  Burgers at Wicker Park. 

I have never been to this restaurant but we have a $25 coupon.  It turns out to be more of a sports bar where no one except us is over 35.   Three large screen TV’s air a final four basketball game, a Mets game, and an episode of The Office.  No one can hear a thing.  Lucky that we get a corner table.  At least we can hear each other.  Barely.

 We all order the same fattening meal:  filet sliders (with caramelized onions, blue cheese drizzle, and hand-cut fries, to be exact).   

 Hazel is a good sport as most of our talk is about college:  who got in where, why so-and-so didn’t get in and the other so-and so-did, and of course, where Alexander is leaning (he vacillates hourly among Cornell, Vanderbilt and Northwestern).  Despite the million calories, dinner is worth every bite.

food, glorious food (m)

Imagine serving fruits and vegetables only when in season and perfectly ripened the natural way.  Imagine home-cooked sauces.  Imagine eating outdoors with the sun warming every bone in your body and views of mountains surrounding you on all sides.  Imagine enjoying all that with a cold glass of crisp, white wine without sulfites.  Imagine not being rushed to leave, even in your second hour at the table.

This is why I want to retire to Italy.

Every day, we eat breakfast at the hotel.  Buffet style.  Platters of fresh fruits, homemade breads with lots of grains, eggs done three different ways (scrambled, hard boiled, sunny side up).  Platters of prosciutto and speck (ham) and cheeses.  Even trays of breakfast desserts--chocolate croissants, tartes, ricotta pies.  There are a few cereal options...mostly muesli.  Lots of yogurt.  I had the 0% yogurt and cut up fresh fruit into it.  It is perfect.  Harrison eats the fruit yogurts which he says are better than anything he's ever had at home.

The tea selection is excellent.  I have fennel tea every day which, shall we say, cleaned me out.  The cappuccino is excellent.  Just the right amount of froth.

There is no lunch at the hotel so we go to the local restaurant every day.  I have the white bean soup twice.  It is something my grandmother used to make and tastes exactly like hers.  Brings tears to my eyes.  Harrison gets a tomato and mozzarella salad and a prosciutto and melon salad.  The other days, I get a garden salad with tuna on top and dress it with a little red wine vinegar.  It is perfect.  No breads.  Surprisingly, they don't really push the bread which is great.

Dinners are an elaborate salad buffet.  All the lettuce is locally grown and fresh.  I imagine it did not come out of bags, ostensibly "pre-washed."  Arugula, radicchio, romaine.  More prosciutto.  Fresh cut cheeses.  And lots of peppers, onions, carrots, beets.  Then you order  a meat or chicken dish followed by a pasta course.  Desserts are creme brulees, cannolis or tartes.  Followed by fresh fruit.

One night, I venture out and get the spaghetti carbonara.  Insanely good.  I eat the whole dish.  Hey, if I'm going to die from something, this is a good way to go.  I figure with all the walking all day long and all the stair climbing, it can't make or break my week.

Here's a few pictures of the beautiful presentation of some of the foods.  Even the cappuccino makes you smile.

Friday, April 1, 2011

losing to a friend (lyn)

Hazel arrives in town from Chicago very late last night.   Before she arrives, I research things to do.  I send Hazel an email a few weeks ago with some suggestions:  one to an exhibit on Pompeii, another to a museum, and a third for a one-man play.  All sound good, although really, who am I kidding?  I know we’ll end up doing what we prefer to do most:  walk the streets of New York, eat well, and shop around.

It’s a cold, rainy day so we take a cab to Bloomingdales, which is supposed to be our first stop, and ends up being our last one too.  Years ago when Hazel would visit, we would jokingly have a contest: who could spend the most money.  Hazel proved to a be a worthy contender.  And now that I’m not working and she is, my goal is not to win.

Hazel buys a Joe Malone fragrance and some Clarins makeup while I get in trouble in the fine jewelry department.  I use the money my parent’s gave me for my birthday, along with the 20% Friends and Family discount, and buy a gorgeous pair of Roberto Coin gold hoops.  I doubt that Hazel can catch up now.

Out next stop is the second floor, casual clothes.  I try on a pair of 28 J Brand jeans that are ankle length, but can be rolled.  I’m thrilled that they easily fit, and are even too big around the waist.  I show Hazel.  “They’re nice, but they don't look great from the back.  It looks like you have a white-person's ass."  And then adds, “But maybe that’s because I’m so used to working with Black woman who pride themselves on their nice rounded booties.”  I decide to buy the jeans anyway since no pair of pants is going to give me that nice rounded bum look.

Hazel next buys two multi-colored tops and a neutral open-weave sweater.  All are pretty and flattering on her.  I buy a James Perse throw-on summer charcoal jumper.  It’s easy and cute and I think, “This is the kind of dress I know I’ll live in.” 

Next stop is the men’s department where I buy Alexander a gorgeous pink T and a turquoise long-sleeve shirt.  Exhausted, we come home.

I show Alexander his clothes.  “I don’t like any of them,” he says.  I’m not sure why but don’t argue.  Then Robyn comes over and I ask her opinion of my purchases.  She is a true fashionista and I can rely on her for truthful answers.

First, the earrings.  “They are beautiful.  Really gorgeous.”  I knew she’d love them.  “But they make the holes in your ears droop.  That happens with age.”  Honestly, this is a problem I have never before considered.  “Hazel, look.  Do you see what I mean? Don’t you think it makes the holes in her ears look longer?”  Hazel agrees.  There is no way I can keep them.  All that hard work at losing weight and now I have to worry about saggy ear lobes.

Then I try on the dress.  “This is such a Lyn-dress."  I'm thinking she likes it.  "But now that you have such a nice body, you shouldn’t be wearing anything so shapeless.  Take it back.” 

And finally, I put on the jeans.  “Adorable,” Robyn says, and doesn’t see to notice the flat tush.

Tomorrow everything but the jeans will be returned.  Hazel describes this as bulimic shopping.  I’m not sure what it is, but I'm happy to be today's big loser.