Monday, September 30, 2013

The Start of My F**ket List

The cover of David's book.
A friend of mine, Dr. David Stameshkin, recently wrote a book titled My F**ket List. Newly retired, he thought about starting a second career and considered vocations contemplated when a young man. The book discusses why he will not begin another career in any of these occupations. David has a great sense of humor and his book can be purchased from Amazon here.

Reading the book started me thinking about my own f**ket list. So here are the first items on my absolutely never going to do before I croak list:

Run a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K or any kind of running race or fun run (what is fun about running anyway?).

Learn to bake. I always thought it would be fun to take cooking classes and learn to make decorative petit fours and fancy desserts. But I cannot in good conscience serve my family yummy foods laden with sugar, fat and loads of calories. Not to mention the fact that I should not eat them either. And how can I make and not taste a treat or two or three?
Luscious desserts I will never make.
Downhill ski. I do not want to break a leg or any other part of my body, if I can help it, and end up in a cast or traction for months. As we age it takes longer to heal. Hub and I transitioned from downhill to cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Accidents can still happen, but hopefully the damage would be minimized. 
Not me, but could be. 
Wear high heels. I loved wearing high heels for years, decades actually, but now as I teeter atop stilettos I worry about falling or tripping. And walking more than a couple of steps hurts my feet.

Stay up 24 hours. I have never been an epic non-sleeper, and as I age I really, really need, want and love my sleep.

Sew. Anything. I no longer own needles and thread.

Work at Chico’s. I considered getting a job at Chico’s when we relocated to the shore. I love their clothes and would love their employee discount even more. But I realized I would not make a good saleswoman. For starters I am not very good at lying. Seeing someone walk out of a dressing room in a loud print that screams Halloween party! and having to say – that is so you and fits so well and you can wear it to work – I cannot do it. Another reason the job would not work out is because, although I am not afraid of computers, I find cash registers intimidating. A third reason: I buy when items are on sale as much as possible. I enter stores and walk directly to the clearance rack. Salespeople are not supposed to steer customers in that direction. I am sure they are trained to build outfits, showing additional pieces to add to the one item a customer walked in for. Nevertheless I will continue shopping at Chico’s, but will not apply for employment.

Buy another house or condo. After living through a life of mainly housing downs, including: three and a half wonderful years of shore living entailing the loss of electricity several times, evacuating twice because of hurricanes and incurring thousands of dollars in damage following Hurricane Sandy; a housing crash in the 2000s; a housing and economic slump and outrageously high mortgage rates in the 1980s, moving several times, packing and unpacking, upsizing and downsizing, I have had enough.

There are other things I absolutely am never going to do. I will add items as they come to mind.

But unlike other lists, nothing gets crossed off this one.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Family’s Food Legacy Lives On

Sometimes I wish I grew up in an ethnic/cultural group that did not adore food, a culture where food was something necessary to keep one alive, but that is about it. Then perhaps I might be slim and trim.

Then again I also wished my forebears were tall so I would be tall. Then I found out some were tall. I am the shortest one in my family. Go figure.

But I digress.

I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on one’s perspective, to be raised in an environment where holidays and social functions revolved around food. Or it seemed that way to me as a child. 

It did not have to be a special occasion for food to take an honored place in my family’s life.

Sunday morning brunch, for instance, was a major meal. The star was usually fresh bagels purchased warm, just out of the oven from the local bagel bakery. Occasionally other items would dominate, but we never tired of fresh bagels.

How does that impact me decades later?

I remain a bagel fan, relishing bagels with cream cheese and a thick slice of fresh tomato and onion.

We used to add lox to our bagels. I think we had lox often; at least that is what my (possibly faulty) memory recalls. My family was not affluent by any means, and we went through some tough economic times. If certain foods appeared regularly at our house they were, if not inexpensive, reasonably priced. Lox has since become an expensive treat, which is a good thing.

The smoked fish contains lots of salt and fat. And a three-ounce serving is 99 calories – including 33 fat calories. Not a healthy mix.

And that bagel? A calorie-counter’s nightmare.

A Thomas’ original English muffin (the best English muffin on the market) contains 120 calories and 9 fat calories.

An Einstein plain bagel (not the best, but nutritional information was available) contains 320 calories. And that is before any toppings.

On the positive side only 9 of those calories are fat calories. But the bagel contains 520 mg’s of salt.  Even if you do not know what mg’s are, 520 is a big number. (mg = milligram, but that probably does not help visualize how much salt that is.) There is a lot of salt in bagels. Too much salt is not good for us. Actually too much of most delicious foods is not good for our bodies, but once again I ramble…

So add some cream cheese to that bagel, tomato and onion (veggies are good for you!), and enjoy along with a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee. No sugar in the coffee, only fat free half and half added.

That cream cheese, by the way, cannot be ignored. A one-ounce serving of Philadelphia cream cheese is 100 calories – 81 of them fat calories.

I could put something else on my bagel. I tried nonfat cream cheese, but this is one item food scientists have yet to find a really tasty low fat or no fat alternative for.

Bagel, OJ, coffee.

I already consumed a good portion of one day’s calorie intake, according to today’s guidelines for a woman my age. If I had not grown up eating bagels it might be a lot easier to consistently eat healthier, less calorie-laden foods.

Not that I eat bagels daily, but it is hard to resist stopping and buying a warm, fresh one as I pass the bagel store on my way home from the gym. I usually ride my bike, getting fresh air and additional exercise. I am hungry and it is almost lunchtime. (Bagels are not just for breakfast anymore.)

I do not stop every day, but I do stop on too many days.

My inherited foodstuffs include a lot of other foods of dubious healthiness as well as foods that were, and still are, nutritious and delicious as well as healthy.

Another food no-no nowadays is fried foods, including some items prepared by my grandmother. She made the best French fries I ever tasted.

I resist frying up a batch for me or anyone else.

On the other hand I still eat French fries. Occasionally. When eating out.

I suspect I am doomed to be a foodie because my family cared about food - preparing food, cooking food, eating in, eating out, eating between meals, celebrating food, and even growing food.

An inheritance I willingly accept.

With a few changes.

A nod to calories and healthy ingredients, and the recognition that sometimes items may have to be forever thrown on the scrapheap of food history.

Like tongue (I shudder just typing the word…). Never liked the stuff anyway.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Grandsitting Again

Grandsitting again!

Hub and I are in Vermont, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I have not seen every place on earth, or most places, but this state is magnificent. There are a lot of other spectacular locations, and someday I hope to see many of them.

Meanwhile I am happy with Vermont.

We are not on a sightseeing vacation, however. We are on a mission - grandsitting our two-year-old granddaughter. Mom is out of town. Dad is around but working, so Grandma and Grandpa pitch in.

The first three days sped by. A few hours at daycare and playtime, quickly moving from one toy to another, filled the hours. Two-year-olds have miniscule attention spans.

The weather has been gorgeous - cool at night and warm, as high as 80 degrees during the day - so playtime in the backyard and around the neighborhood consumed additional time.

Friday we toured Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. Arriving about 9:00 a.m., Sydney immediately demanded chocolate chip ice cream, her favorite. The concession stand was not open yet, but our cute, demanding little girl managed to get the ice cream parlor crew to give her a dish of her favorite flavor, devouring it instantly. She also finished a cup of pumpkin spice ice cream, the flavor freebie of the day.
Vermont is all about cows and kids.
Before heading home we stopped at a cheese shop and chocolate store, then a playground and cafĂ© for lunch. Of course Sydney was not hungry after spending the morning consuming ice cream, cheese, popcorn, yogurt and chocolate – all store free samples.

Saturday the four of us – Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and Sydney - piled into the car and headed to the Harvest Festival at Shelburne Farms, which turned out to be a toddler’s delight. There was a maze constructed of hay bales. A wagon ride pulled by two strong black and white horses. Animals to pet. Live music and entertainment. Tables of hands-on activities designed for toddlers. And food prepared on sight, most sourced with ingredients raised and grown on the farm. Unfortunately none of the food was giveaways.
Tractors hold a special allure for kids of all ages.
Baby pools filled with corn for the kids to play with - a sandbox minus the sand!
One of the interesting exhibits at the farm.
I failed the quiz. Guess I missed this science class.
Arriving home following the festivities, the two-year-old and Grandpa immediately went down for naps. I engaged in quiet pursuits, checking emails and the news online. Dad, a member of the younger, stronger, more vigorous generation, went out for a bike ride.

Baby has fun.

Dad follows his routine.

Grandma and Grandpa start out full of energy and enthusiasm, but as the days wind down become more tired, move slower, and retire earlier each night.

Grandpa leaves Monday, returning to actual paid job kind of work.

I remain officially on duty until Thursday night.

Only 127 hours to go.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Miss America 2014 Struts Her Way into the Headlines

 I do not have a written, numbered bucket list. Maybe I should. I could methodically complete each item and cross it off. But I have never been very organized and doubt trying now would work. I go with the limitations imposed upon me at this stage in life.

Not having a bucket list means a lot of things I might want to do will probably never be accomplished. On the other hand many items not initially on my list become happening events, added and immediately checked off.

One item not on my bucket list experienced recently can now be added and checked off.

Hub and I attended a three-hour preliminary Miss America pageant.

Why, you might ask?

I have no idea. The event was local and I guess curiosity overcame us.

We did not observe the Sunday evening live spectacle presented on national TV. Tickets for that event were too expensive for our pocketbook.

I doubt most people have any idea who the new Miss America is, who the previous one was, or where the contest is held. Las Vegas hosted the pageant over the past seven years. Atlantic City was Miss America’s home before that, and this year the spectacle returned to Atlantic City.  

My guess is the only reason people know about the contest this year is because of the controversy surrounding the choice of Miss America 2014. Nina Davuluri is the daughter of Indian immigrants. A beautiful, talented and well-spoken young woman, the fact that she does not fit some people’s girl-next-door image outrages many narrow-minded citizens.

I do not know where these bigots people live. My street and neighborhood is a microcosm of America today. Residents arrived from around the world – all over Asia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Eastern Europe, and Central America. Their kids, born in the USA, attend our schools and play on local sports teams. But I digress…

The local press made a big deal of the Miss America contest for weeks before the arrival of the 53 contestants and their entourages. Atlantic City was hoping for a big economic boost from the event.

I am sure the country beyond local county borders ignored the proceedings.

Contestants are divided into three groups for the three preliminary evening events. The show was hokey, but fun nonetheless.
Miss America contestants onstage in Boardwalk Hall.
Each night one group performs talent, one group is interviewed, and the third set parades onstage in bikinis and evening gowns.

On-stage interviews involved one question about the contestant’s platform. The answers were obviously well rehearsed and basically meaningless.

The talent varied from acceptable to abysmal. Most contestants sang, although a number of them really should not have raised their voices. I enjoyed the dancers. These contestants usually had taken lessons since childhood and were at least proficient, if not necessarily gifted performers.

Watching the women sashay onstage in Catalina swimsuits was the most fun. They seemed comfortable strutting their bikini bodies before a crowd, primed with lots of makeup and special modeling secrets, such as unique glue so bikinis stay in place. The judges are supposed to rate the women on lifestyle and fitness. Sure…

Almost all of the women are tall and very slim, with long straight hair. Most do not appear to have thighs, just more straight, skinny leg above the knees.

I guess a lot of 20 to 24-year-olds look that way nowadays, but I know I never did.