Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Update--Four Weeks

Let me start with the good news. Four weeks into Nutrisystem and I'm down 10 pounds. Yay!  But I am a little concerned. Here's how the weight loss went by week: Week 1: -7 lbs; Week 2: -2 lbs; Week 3: -1 lb; Week 4: no change. Sigh. First, let me say, I haven't lost ten pounds in four weeks in a very long time. And, showing no loss at all in the last week was a real drag. One I'm used to, to be sure, but none the less disappointing. I have ordered the second month, and while the packaged stuff came right away, the frozen stuff has yet to ship. Still sitting in their warehouse, 9 days after it was ordered!!! Someone needs to tell Nutrisystem that I regularly get shipments from a shop in the U.K. in 3-4 days. Shipments from China usually take a week. Hey, Nutrisystem, have you every heard of Amazon??? Now that they bought Whole Foods, I can get groceries from WF in ONE HOUR. And if you think Amazon is not coming after you, Nutrisystem.......WAKE UP! Does this sound like a broken record? It should. I had the same trouble last month. They told me it was due to the hurricanes in Florida and Houston. Yeah. What now? The real issue, of course is that while the non-frozen breakfasts are palatable, the lunches and dinners are really, really awful. So I switched up most of my lunches and dinners for frozen food. But now I'm out of frozen food and who knows when it will be replenished.

I confess. Yesterday, I went to the store and bought two Lean Cuisines and two Smart Ones to try to get me through this week. It's hard enough having to sit and smell real spaghetti or salmon or steak that Tom is cooking for himself and Tim, while staring at a Lean Cuisine Mac and Cheese. But try doing it when you're eating a 5" cardboard pizza with three slices of mushrooms and a tablespoon of fake cheese. Oh yuck. If I make it through another four weeks, it will be cause to celebrate....(with a bottle of wine and a bag of Fritos).

In the meantime, I am trying to fill the void with the vegetables. Home made soup helps.  Here's a Butternut Squash and Mushroom number I whipped up one day and then ate soup for my veggies for the next three:

 I sauteed the squash and mushrooms with onions and garlic in cooking spray. Then I added loads of seasonings. Salt, pepper, thyme and chili powder. Added chicken stock and simmered for about 20 minutes. Then I pureed it with my stick blender. If you don't have a stick blender, put it on your Christmas list. It's definitely one of my top ten favorite kitchen gadgets......And since I have at least a thousand of them to hear my husband tell the story, you can see that I love it.  Oh, and the soup? Very tasty and filling.

BTW, many of you have been asking where my next book is.  Well, I have been working on #11 on and off for a year now. (Mostly off). I have been having a constant battle in my head and heart between the writing and the sewing. Most of this year, the sewing has won. Here's my latest craze: Halloween Hats!
 I made three of them for Julie and Melissa and I to wear up at Big Basin where we will be camping the end of October.  Our campsite will definitely win the Halloween contest.

Okay, well, now back to the d%$#& diet.  Many times I really wonder why I'm doing this. With who knows how many missiles pointed at California, I will be really, really mad if my last days are spent eating this crappy food. Oh, sorry. I guess I need an attitude adjustment.

Anyway, the book, The Breach at Briar's Burn, is 50% done. I guess I'll quit whining and go finish it.  Afterall.......

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hang In There!

I know, I know. I'm not supposed to weigh-in every day. But honestly, I do better overall if I am constantly stepping on the scale. If I were being honest with you, I'd admit that sometimes I weigh myself twice a day. Argggh. But I am now into the fifth day of my second week. (Actually, it's the fifth day, third hour, and twenty-first minute. Who said that?!?) I have not lost one more ounce. I know all the proper lines: Well, I lost a lot of water the first week and now I am actually losing real fat. My body is just adjusting to the large weight loss last week and if I stick with it, I will wake up some day soon and have lost two more pounds. Right. I also know the improper line: Damnit!!!!!

I really hate dieting. And I'd really like to give up and call my sister and suggest we meet at Big Bear Diner. But I have all this food in my cupboard and my freezer and I don't really feel like throwing it out....despite the fact that it is garbage, Sallee....well, maybe I could just count calories on my, Sallee......You get the picture.

So I persevere. I did try a few new recipes in the last couple of days. First of all, with Nutrisystem, you get a bunch of waffles and pancakes and stuff like that. And starting this week, I also get one extra protein with breakfast. Oh, sorry, Nutrisystem calls them Power Fuels, PF. Whatever, I decided to make a Pumpkin Spice Cheese Waffle for breakfast:

I toasted the waffles in the toaster and then spread them with low fat cottage cheese (my PF) and sprinkled them with pumpkin pie spice.
I put these under the broiler. My intention was to get the cheese hot and bubbly. Maybe some color on it. But I had to pull them out sooner than that because the edges of the waffles were getting pretty brown. Still, the cheese was hot and then I poured on a tablespoon of sugar-free syrup.
It was a very satisfying and tasty breakfast. So overall, I'd give it a thumbs up.  

And while we're talking about thumbs up, let me tell you the best Nutrisystem snack that I've had so far: The Chocolate Pretzels. Oh yum.
They taste so good that I went to the Nutrisystem site and I changed my next month's order to include five of these puppies. So good.  And that's important, because chocolate is the most important food group if you ask me. Well, no. Wine is the most important, but chocolate is a close #2. And the two together are just incredible. I can just see me now with my chocolate pretzels and a big glass of Zinfandel.....Stop that, Sallee. Well, a girl can dream......

Monday, September 25, 2017

One Week Down!

Week one under my belt. Down 7 pounds! Now, I have to say that I don't think I have ever lost 7 pounds in one week, so I am a very happy camper about that. I am also happy that my frozen food FINALLY came and so far, it's really pretty good. I now get three meals and three snacks. In the Turbo Charge week, week 1, it's only two snacks. And I now get one extra protein at breakfast. That helps too. But, as hard as the Turbo Charge week was for me, (only about 800-900 calories a day), it did prove to focus me on a few things that I think are very important in this journey.

Up Your Vegetables: Like a lot of these programs, on Nutrisystem you get four or more servings of non-starchy vegetables. You can have them in an unlimited quantity if you want. At first, I was struggling to get all those vegetables. I'm a one serving a day kind of gal. So I ate carrots and celery and radishes the first day and the first serving of them was good. Then I went the salad route, although salad with just vinegar or lemon juice is self-restricting too, if you get my drift. So then I got creative. First of all, the packaged food (non-frozen) that you get the first week is really pretty bad. There is some sort of processed tomato sauce that they put on 99% of the dishes in all these packaged foods that tastes really artificial, like some sort of non-toxic red glue that I guess serves to keep the five noodles from falling off the edge of your plate. And the whole meal is about one cup of food. For those of you that don't measure, a cup of food is the size of a baseball. Not a softball. A baseball.  At least it's not a golf ball. But there you go. I roasted a bunch of vegetables with cooking spray and seasoned them and tossed them into my Rotini with (microscopic) Meatballs. Quite an improvement.

Herbs and Spices: I use a lot of herbs and spices in my own cooking. I grow most of my own herbs.I doctored everything up with herbs and spices. It makes a huge difference, whether in my own cooked vegetables or in the Nutrisystem foods, they help a lot. And now a special word about.....

SALT: I get it that packaged food uses a lot of sodium as a preservative. But did you ever wonder if there so much sodium in that food, why does it taste like it never met a salt shaker? The food needs salt. The food needs pepper too, but the food needs salt!!! And when you're drinking 19 gallons of water a day, I don't think most of us need to worry about retaining water.

Salsa: I also grow chili peppers and this year, I have been having a bumper crop. Between my peppers, my tomatoes and my first mediocre crop of tomatillos, I have been making some lip smacking salsa. And if you don't make salsa, go buy it. There are about 100 different kinds on the grocery store shelves. It can take any food from crappy to happy. Or at least burn your mouth out so you can't taste that awful tomato glue.

Soup: I learned this from Weight Watchers. Make a big pot of vegetable soup. It's "free". It's delicious. Ignore the fact that it's still 90 degrees outside. Winter will come, I promise. Just let them eat soup.

So, there it is. Add vegetables to everything to both bulk it up and add flavor. Use herbs and spices, including salt, and salsa and make a big pot of vegetable soup. Today I made mushroom. Yes, thank God, mushrooms are considered vegetables. And they are soooo good.

Here's this week's score for Nutrisystem:
Weight Loss: 10
Food: 6
Customer Service: 8
Shipping: 3? (Happy to have gotten my frozen food, but reserving judgement until my next shipment.)

Next time I'll post some of my recipes for vegetables and soup.

P.S. Just a side note: I sold my first handbag on my Etsy Shop. If you'd like to have a look, here's the link:SewSallee

Friday, September 22, 2017

NutriSystem? Time to Get Serious

Okay, it's now time to get serious about my weight. It's a health thing. Sure, I'd like to look better and feel better in my clothes. But the big thing is, I like to live an active life and when every joint in my body hurts, it's hard to move. And sitting makes it worse.

Please do not tell me to take tumeric, or to cut out bread or to try Tai Chi. The fact is, I am at least 50 pounds overweight and no matter how I cut the mustard, the first order of business is going to be to relieve my joints of this extra baggage. And I want to do it as fast as I can.

I have been a Weight Watcher member for at least 30 years. It's a great program for someone like me who loves to cook. But it is pretty tough when you live with a really picky eater who has a requested change to everything you cook because he only eats about 20% of the foods that farmers can put on our tables. So, honestly, I am tired of the battle of meal planning and cooking and serving. Plus Weight Watchers is slower than molasses in January. Members "can expect to lose 1/2 to 1 pounds a week'. At least that's the last I remember hearing. I went to their site to look for an update on that, but couldn't find it anywhere. And, in fact, even in the FAQs, after clicking through "more" about twenty times, it still didn't come up. Hmmm. What's the first thing I want to know about a weight loss program? How much weight can I expect to lose?

I've done Jenny Craig and was pretty successful, but it, too, is pretty expensive and not very flexible if you have special occasions where you don't need to buy 21 meals a week.

My doctor has really been encouraging me to go on the Opti-Fast program that they sponsor (but insurance doesn't cover). First thing he said, though,was that I would need to cut back on my exercise because it's under 1,000 calories a day. No, I want to move. And it's hardly any chewing (mostly shakes) and it's really, REALLY expensive. But it is fast.

I checked out Ideal Protein after a friend of mine had great success on that program. But the person who runs our local program here didn't impress me at all. And again, it is expensive, and there are no provisions for days off. When I mentioned a planned three-day vacation, she suggested that I take my shakes with me. And while you cannot have store bought barbecue sauce or salad dressing, you can buy theirs, which is, of course, extra.

So, after being inundated with commercials, I checked out NutriSystem and decided to give it a try. Good price, and while I had heard in the past that the taste of the food was pretty questionable, I'd also heard that the newer, frozen food was pretty good. So I took the plunge. and now, you're going to take it with me.😀

I received my non-frozen portion within two days of ordering. Cool!! Breakfasts: Good. Lunches: Not too bad. Dinners: pretty yucky. Although, with free vegetables, I doctored them up to be palatable.  But, I was excited to be able to try the frozen food. And that's where the snag hit.

While the website is screaming at me constantly to buy more food, they can't even manage to ship the frozen portion of my first shipment out of their warehouse. It has been 8 days since I ordered it and still nothing. I have chatted with them every day (until today, when they have disabled their chat capability) and I have called them three times, each time being promised the food would ship the next day. Still, no shipment. I do seem to losing weight, though, and I will update you on that after I have completed my first week. So far, here is my rating of the program on a scale of 1-10:

Weight Loss: ? Stay tuned
Food: 5
Customer Service: 5 (assuming they re-enable their chat)
Warehouse and Shipping: 1

Keep in mind that if I never get the food, it will be hard to stay on the program........

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Writing is Easy...

To paraphrase the late, great Gene Fowler:

Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank (computer screen) until the drops of blood form on your forehead.

Of course, when he wrote that it was a blank sheet of paper. But it still applies. I did it. Today. I finally finished the first draft of my tenth book, The Nature of Fog. It's the third Chloe James Mystery. But this post is not about the book. With the second draft to go and all the editing it will still be three or four weeks before it is live.  This post is about another book. A book that I keep coming back to time and time again.

Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.

Let me explain. I have been having a very difficult time with this, my tenth book. This was somewhat new to me, because while writing is never easy, I've not ever been plagued with the urge to procrastinate that I have felt the past five months. I'd sit down at the computer and search for more news on the election. Or sewing. Or golf. Or new books to read, new places I want to move to, new recipes I want to cook. Anything, really, anything that could move me further away from finishing my book. And all the while a little voice in my head was asking:
" Sallee, what's up with that?"

And while I won't ever be as prolific as some of today's contemporary writers, I'd never 
struggled so much with the feeling that I didn't want to write anymore.
 I don't know what it was that urged me to re-read this book on Art and Fear. I'd read it the first time when I was painting. The second time when I convinced my book club to read it. And at least on other time before I just pulled it out a week ago. And within the first twenty pages I found at least one of the answers I was looking for.  I had been feeling an empty sense that my work wasn't good enough. That, for some reason, I should just pack it in, because, afterall, I'm no Louise Penny or Martha Graham. And no matter how much I try. No matter how hard I work, I'll never measure up.

Then I saw it. The one sentence that grabbed me and shook me back to my senses: 
Vision is always ahead of execution- and it should be.

What I intended to write is always going to be so much better than what I actually do manage to get down onto my computer. What I feel about a story is always going to be more touching than what I can ever say about it. What I see in life is always going to be bigger than whatever vision I can possibly share.

It is the nature of the beast. This thing we call art. But then I was reminded of what Jim Smyth, one of my painting teachers said so many years ago. The only way to get over the stalling, over the procrastination and the fear is to put as many paintings behind you as possible. Thank you, Jim. And thank you to the authors of Art and Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland. The only way I finished the first draft was to put butt in chair and keep writing. One word after another. One sentence after another. A scene, a chapter, a novel.

My new book will be out in a couple of weeks. If you choose to read it, I hope you find it worthy of your time. But what I feel good about is that I believe it was worthy of mine.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Final Act--The Best Act

My sister, Julie, gets mad at me when I say that we're in the final act. I guess she thinks it's morbid. But the truth is, knowing this is the last act doesn't make be think about the end. It makes me remember all the things I have left to do before the end. My first two acts were sixty-three years. So, given luck, divine will, and my own common sense, I could possibly have half again as much to go. But it's not the number of years left that matter. Abraham Lincoln said, "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." And here's the best kept secret of all. After the kids are grown, the career is done, the body starts to droop and you have to touch up your roots every bloody six weeks, then a really remarkable thing happens. Your TIME is finally your own!!!

Today I was doing a bit of sewing and listening to some of my iTunes and the Sounds of Silence, by Simon and Garfunkle, came on. I stopped. It filled me with the most remarkable memories of my youth. When I was young and full of dreams. It also reminded me of the times that I was young and full of despair. Wondering what was to come of my parents' world, where the almighty dollar seemed to dominate everything. Where people were still warring a half a world away. Where racism and sexism and hatred of anyone or anything different than ourselves still boiled under a seemingly calm surface. Yes, I was a hippie. And Simon and Garfunkle seemed to capture all the despair on the one hand and the hopes of young generation on the other.

Ah, what a time. And then it occurred to me that this is what is going on today in the hearts and minds of today's young people. Who is Bernie Sanders, anyway, but a modern day George McGovern? (Today, I'm a Hillary supporter, but that's another post.) We fought for our ideals back then just as today's youth are pushing the envelope for their own. And I'm sure that some people, many people, actually, will say we failed. That the world is more dangerous today. That we still have corruption and bigotry and war and hatred. But I think the world is better and getting better all the time.

These are the things in my life that are better. I am a cancer survivor. And although I have lost too many loved ones to this horrible disease, I actually know more cancer survivors than people who did not make it. I live in a highly diverse neighborhood where we all get along. More than get along, we watch out for each other, we share vegetables and fruit from our gardens, we visit. While we may not be best friends, we care about each other. The air in California is cleaner than it was thirty years ago, even while the highways are dreadfully more crowded. I, like most Californians have quit smoking. And while I'd start again in a minute if it wasn't so deadly, it remains one of those things that I am regularly thankful for. My son, who is gay, can get married if he so chooses. He works for a corporation, PayPal,  that is making a stand for the rights of its LGBT employees. Can you believe that? A corporation that actually cares about its employees!!!
And I could go on......The world is changing and I say, overall, it's for the better.

For every point I've listed, I'm sure that the counterpoints will come rolling in. And my husband will tell you there is just no upside to getting older. I disagree! As I said, my time is my own, and that's the most precious thing of all. That, plus the fact that I have wonderful memories and God has graced me with the ability to keep making more of them.

So, younger generation, vote for whoever you must...but VOTE! I hope you live your dreams and make beautiful memories and someday you will list all the things that are better, not worse. Oh, but one last thing. We still had the best music ever!!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Mystery in Banbrae Wood

The sixth Mick Malone Mystery, The Mystery in Banbrae Wood, is now live on Amazon.

When I lived in the U.K. there was a wood not far from my house, The Savernake Forest. It is famous as the only ancient forest in Britain that is still under private ownership. The Marquess of Ailesbury, the current land owner, graciously opens the forest to the public nearly every day of the year. I used to walk in that forest often and did a lot of my best thinking there. It is both beautiful and haunting, and I spent many solitary hours there dreaming of what it must have been like a thousand years ago. It was some of those memories that were the inspiration for Banbrae Wood.

The second inspiration for this book was my husband's insistence that the powers that be have invented a weather machine which is controlling the world's weather. It's a fun thing we joke and speculate about. But when I started doing research, the technology is not that far away. These are the kinds of things that make me love fiction. I recently took an online class from the remarkable James Patterson. I loved listening to his advice and his stories. One thing he said that I will always remember  (and I'm paraphrasing, here)  is that he does not write reality. He writes about things that are possible and tries to make them entertaining. So whether you believe that a weather machine will ever be on the horizon or not, in this book you will meet Wanda, my version of what a weather machine might be like.

Soon I will be starting my next Chloe James Mystery. The first book in that series was published last Spring. How the Light Bends was a very fun book to write. Set on the beautiful Monterey peninsula, Tom and I spent many wonderful hours there, golfing, exploring and eating. The James' sisters will be back with another adventure this winter.

As always, thank you all for your comments and please keep them coming!