body, happiness, health, mind

get out of diet prison!

In prison, those things withheld from an by katerha, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  katerha 

A former colleague, Noel Dickover, has just shared his 20-month journey to better health, during which he has lost 100 pounds. But his goal is not tied to a number. His goal is to live a healthier life. That’s my goal, too. Noel’s story inspires me. I no longer care about my weight. Instead, I care about my depression, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, diabetes, and Graves disease diagnoses.

First Noel addresses diets, redefining them as a sure-fire way to gain wait in the long term. He equates being on a diet with being in a psychic prison. My own experience with Jenny Craig eventually brought me to the same conclusion. It only took two years for my weight to soar up again, past what my starting point had been when I joined Jenny Craig.

Noel then takes on exercise programs, pointing out that like diets, they focus on numbers – number of squats, number of reps, number of steps. This leads to overdoing things, which leads to injuries, which leads to failure. My experience exactly.

Noel’s approach has been to make small changes that he could incorporate into his routine. Gradual changes, at the pace his body accepted. Stretching instead of heavy exercises. Many small meals instead of three big meals. Real food instead of processed foods.

Real food. I’ve just started reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. In addition to recipes, Fallon includes descriptions of what processing foods does to the nutritional value. For example:

Extraction: Oils naturally occurring in fruits, nuts and seeds must first be extracted. In the old days this extraction was achieved by slow-moving stone presses. But oils processed in large factories are obtained by crushing the oil-bearing seeds and heating them to 230 degrees Farenheit. The oil is then squeezed out at pressures from 10 to 20 tons per inch, thereby generating more heat. During this process the oils are exposed to damaging light and oxygen. In order to extract the last 10 percent of the oil from crushed seeds, processor treat the pulp with one of a number of solvents – usually hexane. The solvent is then boiled off, although up to 100 parts per million may remain in the oil. Such solvents, themselves toxic, also retain the toxic pesticides adhering to seeds and grains before processing begins.

That description was enough to send me off to the health food store to look for cold pressed oil and organic food.

Noel’s journey followed these principles:

  • Clear direction, but no clear, measurable end point;
  • Heal at your body’s pace;
  • Experiment before deciding;
  • Changes must be enjoyable; and 
  • No restrictions, just better decisions.

Thanks, Noel. I’m right behind you.

body, health


Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) by anneheathen, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  anneheathen 

This morning I almost took a photo of my scrambled eggs breakfast to post because I felt smug about including leaves from a weed that continues to sprout up in my yard. That weed is purslane. Then, after eating my breakfast, I opened the San Diego Union Tribune, I found an article in the Food section with the headline “For a Weed, Purslane Is Quite Tasty.”  It is clear what my blog topic today should be.

Our gardener pointed out the weed as he prepared the area outside our fence for planting gazania flowers, a drought-resistant plant we knew wouldn’t take much effort. He mentioned it was edible, a good addition to salads. But I hadn’t expected to find my breakfast option hailed in the newspaper. I also didn’t know it could be purchased in farmers markets.

One of our neighbors calls it water weed because it pops up so quickly whenever it rains. Even with our current water deficit, purslane finds wherever there is any water, and it pops up. Earlier this summer, I stopped considering it a weed and started picking the leaves and adding them to my salads.

During my daily morning walks in the neighborhood, I check out the neighboring yards for purslane. I keep expecting to find some limp, dried patches, especially since the drought means most people aren’t watering their yards as much. But where the grass and other weeds are brittle and brown, purslane leaves are plump and broad.

Purslane, probably of Eurasian origin, grows throughout the United States.

Here are some recipes with purslane.


body, health

zucchini – recipes needed

zucchiniThis week it looks like I’ll be baking and cooking with zucchini. I’ve got the zucchini. I need recipes.

Can anyone help?

That’s what I asked on Sunday and the ideas rolled in.

Sari and Morag gave me suggestions which I tried today (see links in comments below for the recipes). There is still enough zucchini for me to try Nandini’s recipe.

See the photos below of my efforts today.

Zucchini breadSince the first recipe I ever discovered to use up large quantities was for zucchini break, I started by making two loaves. One loaf went into the freezer. Here’s a photo of the other one before I dug in to slice off two pieces which I slathered with butter to go with my first cup of coffee of the day. Here’s the recipe on  But I can never leave a recipe alone so I added a half teaspoon of cloves to the flour mixture. And I had to bake the loaves for 10 minutes longer than the recipe stated. I had always thought my oven baked hotter than the temperature setting. I may have to rethink that.

zucchini casseroleNext I tried Morag’s zucchini casserole. I had to make a trip to the grocery store to get what I needed for this recipe and the next one, but as usual, I came home without one of the ingredients – the spring onions. But from my year of living in Romania where the shelves were always full – but of the same thing from top to bottom for widths of about six feet – I’ve learned to improvise. I just added in some chopped onions. Again, I had to bake it longer than the recipe stated, but that may be because I put it into the oven with the third of the recipes I made which probably slowed the baking time of both.

zucchini lasagnaAnd the third recipe was Sari’s zucchini lasagna. Since I couldn’t find riccota cheese at my local grocery store, I picked up cottage cheese instead. But once again, I missed picking up one of the ingredients, this time because I thought I had some in the refrigerator – the mozarella cheese. I substituted Asiago cheese. The baking time for this one was just right. Most of this one will go into the freezer, too.

All three results were delicious.

Thank you Sari and Morag.

If you need more zucchini recipes, here’s a list of 15 I found on the Gimme Some Oven blog.


body, happiness, health

retirement week one – baking

rhubarb upside down cakeOne of my goals for the first week of retirement was to try out a few recipes I had stuffed away in a drawer for when I could find more time.  The first was rhubarb upside down cake.

Since I haven’t lived in one place long enough to start a garden for more than 30 years, I haven’t had any rhubarb to pick for at least that long. This spring we found small rhubarb plants at Lowe’s. We planted three in our small garden, right next to the rosemary bush. When the stalks were big enough to cut, I began looking for recipes. After trying a couple of rhubarb cake recipes, I found the upside down cake recipe.

rhubarb upside down cake with ice creamI didn’t have a springform cake pan and I didn’t have a large enough cake pan to hold the batter. I compensated by lining the edge of my 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper to extend the height. The result was delicious, especially with ice cream.

The complete recipe can be found here.

heart shaped wafflesAnother recipe I couldn’t wait to try is for Norwegian waffles. I’ve had the waffle iron for several months (it bakes five hearts with the points in the center so the waffle comes out with a scalloped edge) and the waffle recipe for even longer. We serve the waffles at the House of Norway in Balboa Park on Sunday afternoons. A key ingredient in these waffles is cardamom which gives off an enticing fragrance while they are baking, just the kind of aroma that draws people into the House of Norway to find out just where it comes from.

Find the complete recipe here.

And finally, I found a recipe for orange zest scones from Laura Gummerman’s lemon sconesblog, A Beautiful Mess, which I thought I could make with lemons instead. But lemon juice is so much stronger than orange juice that I knew I had to compensate with more sugar. Instead of just squeezing lemons for the juice and adding sugar, I took a page out of a Norwegian lemon tart recipe I found in August 2015 Viking magazine which calls for slicing two lemons very thinly and then putting them into a bowl, pouring 2 cups of sugar over the slices and letting them sit for at least 8 hours. The sugar draws out the juice and adds enough sweet to it, turning the juice into a very thin syrup.

For the complete recipe, check here.



body, happiness, health

rhubarb upside down cake

From the New York Times


  • 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans
  • 1 ½ pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes about 4 cups
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Nutritional Information

Nutritional analysis per serving (8 servings) 652 calories; 33 grams fat; 20 grams saturated fat; 1 gram trans fat; 8 grams mono-unsaturated fat; 1 gram poly-unsaturated fat; 83 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 52 grams sugars; 7 grams protein; 173 milligrams cholesterol; 254 milligrams sodium

Note: Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available data.

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a buttered baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
  3. Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes.
  4. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Whip 2 sticks butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
  6. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color.
  7. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through.
  8. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  9. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  10. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (It’s O.K. if the mixture looks curdled.)
  11. With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the mixer bowl in between the additions.
  12. Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.
  13. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.
  14. Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.
body, health

lemon scones


  • 2 small lemons
  • 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cold butter in pieces
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)

For the icing

  • 2-3 tablespoons warm butter
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon syrup
  • 1-2 teaspoons milk


  1. Slice the lemons into paper-thin slices, remove the seeds, and place in a medium bowl with 2 cups of the sugar.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Remove the lemon slides from the bowl and set aside. Strain the lemon syrup. Reserve 1/2 cup of the syrup.
  4. Mix together the flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut in the pieces of cold butter and lemon zest until the mixture looks like course crumbles.
  5. Add in the lemon syrup, milk, and egg and mix until combined.
  6. Optional: Cut up the rind of the lemon and add the pieces to the batter and mix until combined.
  7. Transfer the sticky dough to a floured surface and gently fold in flour until the dough is only slightly sticky.
  8. Roll out the dough to make a 10″ circle and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of the dough. Use a pizza cutter to cut the circle into 8 sections (or 12 if you want smaller scones), and place the sections on a greased baking sheet or ungreased baking stone with a little room between the slices.
  9. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-17 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
  10. For the icing, use a fork to mash together the warm butter and powdered sugar. Then add in the zest, lemon syrup and milk to form a runny buttercream type icing. If the icing is too thick, add more juice or milk, and if it’s too runny, add more powdered sugar.
  11. Drizzle the icing on the warm scones and serve immediately.
body, happiness, health

norwegian waffles


  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 pound melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sour cream


  1. Mix eggs, flour, sugar, melted butter, and cardamom together in a bowl.
  2. Dissolve baking soda in water and add to the mixture.
  3. Stir in sour cream
  4. Thin down, if needed, with water.
  5. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter on a waffle iron (Norwegian waffles are usually shaped with five heart-shaped pieces connected in a circle).
  6. Serve with sour cream and raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or lingonberry jam.
body, happiness, health, leisure, mind, soul, wisdom

lessons from the dalai lama

For his 80th birthday, the Dalai Lama’s shared eight lessons for living and asked that we all try to follow them.


For more information about each of these lessons, see this article from

body, happiness, health, leisure, mind, retirement, soul, wisdom

what to do? what to do?

Compact Calendar Card - Design 3 by Joe Lanman, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Joe Lanman 

Those who have retired before keep reminding me that it won’t take long for me to wonder how I did anything while still working. My days will be filled with projects until there isn’t any more time left.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

photo (56)So, even though it might sound like work, I plan to schedule my time in blocks of 1-2 hours in this new retirement state. I have a white board positioned to my right, under the window of my office, at just the right height for me to add items while sitting at my laptop.

I’ll include those tasks I never could find time for before, like housework (thanks, Sweetheart, for filling in when it was clear I wouldn’t). Two hours each day, at least for the first week. And I have a stack of recipes I want to try – rhubarb upside down cake, orange scones, rhubarb pie – so one of those will go on the schedule for each day. And I plan to write more, for this blog and for myself. That means some time needs to be scheduled for research, another 1-2 hours.

Then there are the presentations I promised to do for Ladies of Valhall (the women’s auxiliary of Sons of Norway out here in San Diego) in September and for the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild in August. They will each take 2-4 hours to prepare.

Every other week I meet with my critique circle. I need to have a new piece written (or an old piece rewritten so that it is worth sharing). That requires another 4-6 hours every other week.

There are audio tapes from Great Uncle Henry from his years living in China while he worked for the Chinese Maritime Customs Service in the 20’s and 30’s. I keep picking them up to transcribe them, but get stalled in the same places each time. I’ve been reading books and books about China’s history in the period just before he arrived there, during the years he was there, and even some of the history afterwards to try to absorb more of what he assumes his listener knows. Transcribing the tapes I have will take weeks, not hours.

Through all of this I have to continue maintaining the website for the Writers Guild, adding posts regularly to improve the likelihood that new people will discover it and decide the Guild is worth looking into. That takes 1-2 hours every day.

I also hope to dig deeper into my family history, to learn more of just who our ancestors were and how their hopes and dreams have influenced mine. Everyone I know who is into genealogy tells me there aren’t enough hours in the day to devote to this project. There is never a point at which the work is “done.”

There are photos to organize (and scan), papers to file (and others to shred), closets and cupboards to organize, and trips to plan.

photoThere are now 8 more hours in each week day that can be scheduled and that means I need to keep a paper calendar with me at all times because I won’t be able to keep all the possibilities in my head. I tried scheduling everything on my iPhone, but it just doesn’t look like a calendar. I need to see not just the events I have scheduled but all the days between them. Look left to see what I mean.

I must leave time for reading. I am reading Peder Victorious, the sequel to Ole Rolvaag’s Norwegian immigrant saga, Giants in the Earth. And yesterday I borrowed the third in Norwegian mystery writer Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, The Redbreast. I’ve read four of his books, three from the Harry Hole series (The Phantom (9th), The Bat (1st), Cockroaches (2nd), and am now working my way through them in the order Nesbo wrote them) and one standalone novel, Headhunters. I won’t be satisfied until I’ve read all the books in both those authors’ series.

But most importantly, there are the grandchildren. Not working any longer means we can help out during the day, not just after my work day ended.

Ufda! I think I understand what those kind folks advising me about the future mean. I don’t know how I’ll ever get all of that done. But I’ll let you know if I discover any tricks.



Retirement by 401(K) 2013, on Flickr Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  401(K) 2013 

The day has come. Yesterday I deleted all e-mail message from my work account. I unsubscribed from all the internal professional platforms. I sent off a farewell message to all my colleagues and special messages to the special colleagues.  Then I logged off, put the government-furnished equipment I had received to permit me to work the approximately 2700 miles away from the office for the past three years into a box and dropped it off with FedEx for delivery to my government supervisor. That cut off my ability to get in touch with anyone on the official network.

All ties have been disconnected. I am no longer employed. I am retired.

Let the fun begin!