Thursday, May 31, 2012

Forget the Gatorade, Grab a Banana

Proving once again that natural is better.    A new study shows that bananas are just as beneficial as sports drinks during intense work-outs.  

And, with the banana you don't get all the nasty chemicals, added sugars, and dyes.

And, with the banana you get that handy little carrying package which you can throw on the ground that will decompose naturally.

And, bananas are packed with real nutrients and antioxidants.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good News for Java Junkies (Like Me)

Drinking coffee helps you to live longer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Climb Every Mountain . . . . .

Cue the singing nun.   I'm thrilled to be climbing Mount Washington again this summer.   Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, is the highest mountain in the Northeast.

Two years ago, my sister and I climbed Mount Washington.  It took close to six hours to reach the peak.   Although it was a hard climb, and we were cursing ourselves towards the end, once we reached the top we were ecstatic.  

The only problem was that after six hours of climbing, we were too exhausted to climb back down, so we took a bus back to the base.   Lot's of  people do manage the climb and descent in one day, but we had to admit to ourselves we weren't up for it.

We swore then and there that we'd attempt the climb again, and next time, we'd book the hut at the top of the mountain, stay overnight and climb back down the next day.  

When others heard about our adventure and desire to go back, they asked to join us.   So next July a group of four of us are climbing, staying overnight at the top and climbing back down.

All of us are ladies and we're all either over or close to 50.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pink Slime meet Tuna Scrape

Pink Slime meet Tuna Scrape.    

I'm going to be a lot more cautious about where I buy my Sushi in the future, and be sure to make sure they're not using tuna scrape.

As always, when I look into my food, I discovered that things are not as they seemed. 

I assumed (bad thing to do), that if I was eating raw fish, that 1) the fish was never frozen, and 2) the sushi chef was actually cutting up the fish himself (I have to admit that I've never seen a female sushi chef).

The proponents for tuna scrape argue that sushi chef will often do the scraping themselves.

But there's a world of difference between my local sushi chef getting a piece of tuna and scraping it himself, and another who gets a pre-formed, frozen block of tuna from India.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tax My Soda!!!!

A new report came out stating that simply telling people to "eat less," isn't helping the US's obesity epidemic and steps have to be taken, like taxing soda. 

In an ambitious 478-page report, the IOM refutes the idea that obesity is largely the result of a lack of willpower on the part of individuals. Instead, it embraces policy proposals that have met with stiff resistance from the food industry and lawmakers, arguing that multiple strategies will be needed to make the U.S. environment less "obesogenic."
I couldn't agree more. We need public policies to correct what is going on in America with respect to weight gain. Michelle Obama started the process, but so much more needs to be done. "Personal responsibility" is just not working:
"People have heard the advice to eat less and move more for years, and during that time a large number of Americans have become obese," IOM committee member Shiriki Kumanyika of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine told Reuters. "That advice will never be out of date. But when you see the increase in obesity you ask, what changed? And the answer is, the environment. The average person cannot maintain a healthy weight in this obesity-promoting environment."
Of course, you know that the food industry came out with both barrels shooting:
Shortly after the report was released, the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is funded by restaurant, food and other industries, condemned the IOM as joining forces with the nation's "food nannies." The Center said the IOM recommendations would "actively reduce the number of choices Americans have when they sit down to eat" and emphasized that "personal responsibility" alone was to blame for the obesity epidemic.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Eating Well While Losing Weight

Make every calorie count taste-wise.   Apparently a veteran food writer discovered the same thing that I did on my weight loss journey.   If you eat higher quality, better tasting food, you naturally eat less.

Now, I've ranted against eating ultra-processed, mass-manufactured foods for a number of reasons in the past, but one thing I realized very early on is that it really doesn't taste that great either.   Oh, we're fooled by sugar and salt into thinking that packaged food tastes good, but once you get used to eating "real" food, you really can never go back to eating processed foods.  

And by eating real food you eat less.   Since you're cravings are never really satisfied by eating crap, you naturally eat more. 

For example, if, instead of a box or bag of mass-produced processed cookies you went to a really good bakery and bought just a couple cookies, I can guarantee you that you would feel like you got your sugar fix with fewer calories.  

Not to mention that a good walk to and from the bakery is a good way to walk off a few of those aforementioned calories.  

Michael Pollan in his Food Rules wrote that you should eat less but better.

I agree.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You're Fat Because You Eat Processed Carbs

Which is basically the message of this Newsweek piece.   I'm not sure if I agree.   

I do agree that WHAT we eat is a big part of why we're getting fatter.    However, the author makes the argument that calories and exercise play no part.   I most definitely do believe that calories in/calories out plays a part in the obesity epidemic. 

I'm always mystified by the either/or approach.    Couldn't it be that it's a combination of both factors--calories in/calories out and what we eat--that's causing the problem??????? 

We're exercising less AND we're eating more refined carbs and sugars and less unprocessed "natural" foods like raw fruits and vegetables.    So doesn't it make sense that both play a part?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fat Cat Dies

Seems that obesity isn't healthy for cats either.   A morbidly obese cat dies at the age of 2.   It kind of reminds me of the Heart Attack Grill's 575 pound spokesperson dying at age 29.

Just goes to show.  Fat kills, even if you're a fat cat.

Friday, May 4, 2012

What Did You Do To My Pants????

It's been a weird Spring here in New England.  We've had May weather in April, and April weather in May.  

It's been cold and damp for the last two weeks, and there's no sign of truly Spring weather on the horizon.

I, of course, have pretty much run through my cold weather Spring clothing options.   I have a number of events and dinner outing coming up.   The kind of events where you're not exactly dressed up, but you don't show up in jeans and a sweat-shirt either.   I usually call these "pants" events because all the women generally show up with nice trousers, tops and heels when the weather is cool.  

Since my pants have been getting a bit of a work-out and there's no end in sight (once it warms up you can switch to a skirt or a dress) I thought that I should pick myself another set of pants to get me through the next few weeks.

Now, buying pants for me has never been easy.   I'm short, have a fairly small waist, but a large butt and thighs.    I can't wear most pants, even jeans, without a fair amount of reconstructive work.

A few years ago, however, I discovered that Brooks Brother's size 4 petite pants fit me perfectly.  I could go into the store, pick a size 4 petite pant off the rack, and bring it home with me the same day.

So naturally when I realized I needed another set of pants to get me through the next couple of weeks I headed to Brooks Brother's, and they had the perfect pant--a black cotton capri.    

I happily pulled the size 4 petite off the rack and headed to the dressing room.  

There was only one problem.   I couldn't get the pants up over my thighs.   I tried on progressively larger sizes until I finally fit in a size 10 petite, but even then the fit wasn't right.  They sagged in the crotch, and even though they fit over my rear end and thighs, there was a big gap at the waist.

When I queried the saleswoman she reported that Brooks Brother's changed it's "fit."   Apparently, the new "fit" for their petite line is a 12-year old boy with no hips or butt.   My old stand-by for pants is no longer making pants that fit me.

I was, as you can imagine, upset, and the saleswoman informed me that I am not the only long-time Brooks Brothers customer to feel that way.  

Just to make sure I went home and pulled an old set of Brooks Brothers petite size 4s out of the closet.   They fit perfectly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Heart Attack Grill---The Name Says it All

Yet another customer collapses at The Heart Attack Grill.    In brief, this is what happened:
No one can accuse The Heart Attack Grill of false advertising.  
A woman collapsed into unconsciousness at the Las Vegas restaurant while eating a "double bypass burger," drinking a margarita and smoking a cigarette.The unnamed customer was the second in just over two months to collapse at the restaurant while eating one of the famed burgers named after various forms of cardiac arrest. Back in February, another customer was caught on video being carted out by paramedics after suffering a heart attack while eating a "quadruple bypass" burger.

I know the name is supposed to be amusing, but just how funny is the name "Heart Attack Grill" when your obese spokesperson drops dead from eating your food and two of your customers have collapse in your restaurant while eating your food?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Cooking with the Kids

A few weeks ago I took my daughter to a local organic bakery in Ridgefield.   While I sipped a cappuccino with skim, she had a cinnamon/butterscotch scone and fell in love.   I tasted a corner, and I would have to agree that it was very, very yummy.   We bought two more scones to bring home with us, and by the weekend, my daughter was asking to go back to the bakery to get more.

I had some problems with just going back to the bakery and buying more.   For one thing, although they're really, really delicious, a cinnamon/butterscotch scone is best as an occasional breakfast treat and not a breakfast staple for a growing 11 year old girl.

Another thing, I kind of adhere to Michael Pollan's philosophy that it's OK to eat goodies, as long as you make them yourself.   Buying scones, even at an organic bakery, side-steps that rule.   Did I also mention that buying scones at an organic bakery is somewhat pricey???

So instead of just buying more of my daughter's favorite new treat, we could try making them ourselves.  I thought it would be a good lesson in baking, and following a recipe.   I proposed the idea to my daughter and she enthusiastically agreed.

I Googled "Cinnamon butterscotch scone" and came up with nadda.   I next tried "cinnamon scone" and came up with several recipes although none seemed to match the basic scone that we had gotten at the bakery.  

I realized that I'd have to start with a base recipe and adapt.   I explained this to my daughter, and thought that this would be another good baking lesson--you don't have to just slavishly follow a recipe.  

So here's the base recipe we decided to use.   The organic bakery scones had a sugar/cinnamon topping, so we thought this would be a good start.   We followed the recipe with two changes.   First we added 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the flour mixture.  Second, we swapped out butterscotch chips for the cinnamon chips (which we couldn't find anyway).

The end result?   Not quite what we were looking for.   The overall product just wasn't as "yummy," my daughter told me.  

My own feeling was that the scones where too "caky" as opposed to "flaky."  Probably due to two things--the heavy cream and the egg.   Generally, I usually like to use buttermilk as opposed to cream in my scones and the next version of this recipe will definitely swap out the cream for buttermilk (and eliminate a lot of the fat as well).  

The cakiness was also likely do to the egg in the recipe.   I thought the egg an odd addition for a scone recipe.   I've made scones plenty of times in the past and I never added egg.   So prior to our next try, I'll do some more research again and try to find an eggless cinnamon scone recipe.

The cinnamon/sugar topping and the butterscotch chips, however, were definite keepers.  

So, my daughter and I are now on a baking mission to replicate her scones.   It's a good lesson for her to learn.   Not everything has to come out of a packaged box or be purchased.   And, if you try a recipe and it doesn't come out as planned, adapt, and try again.

Friday, April 27, 2012

All Natural--REALLY?????

It turns out that Kellogg's Kashi cereal contains GMOs.    The above photo was put on the shelves of a very ethical natural food market.   When it discovered that Kashi, which claims to be "natural" contained GMOs and pesticides, it heaved it's sorry "unnatural" ass from the market's shelves.  

I've written before that you can't trust the "natural" label on food.  It's meaningless.   But then, "organic" is pretty meaningless as well.   

I guess the only thing you really can do is arm yourself with information.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Burger King is pledging to source it's pork and eggs from cage-free facilities.

I call this progress because it represents a step back from the factory-farmed, processed foods, that have predominated our food supply for too long now.

Don't get me wrong.  I still think that actually eating at Burger King should be avoided.   The food is still too processed to be either healthy or low-cal.  

However, by treating animals humanely, it will hopefully mean that fewer antibiotics will be needed--a good thing.   If we "de-factory" the methods of creating meat, maybe that will mean that we'll eventually "de-factory" our food production down the line until we are once again eating natural, un-manufactured food.

It's a dream.   I know it, but then, I'm a dreamer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What the F@ck did they Do to Blogger???

 I log onto blogger to see what's going on with my blog, and everything is different.   They've completely changed the Dashboard.   It took me six minutes to figure out how to review comments, and then I couldn't figure out how to put up a new post (I'm still not sure I'll be able to do it).

I thought when improvements to technology are made, one of the goals is to make it more user-friendly.    I'm freaking out here.  I'm lost.   Hopefully I'll be able to figure this all out in the next few weeks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

You're Fat Because You Eat Too Much

I LOVE this image.   It's from a 1950's Better Homes &  Gardens Diet book and I found it on the blog American Women Didn't Get Fat in the Fifties.  

As the poster pointed out, it's rare to see this kind of directness today.   For one thing, the word "fat" has taken on the same connotations as "retarded."   Fat is now kind of a "dirty" word, and using terms like "overweight," are more acceptable.

But the truth is, we are fat, overweight, etc. BECAUSE we eat too much (and don't get enough exercise).   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What do I Miss Most About Living in the City?

The walking.   The kids are off from school this week, so yesterday my husband and I took the kids into the city for the day.  

First we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art were we checked out the Egyptian Galleries and European paintings. 

Then, we just walked around the Upper East Side for a few hours shopping, and capped off the day by having dinner in a European-style bistro.  

We drove into the city.  Parked the car on the Upper East Side, and then from there just walked.   We walked for hours, and I wish I had my pedometer on to clock how many miles we covered. 

I miss walking like that.   I lived in New York for over ten years, and always adored just walking around.    I hated both the subways and buses and rarely took them, and I couldn't afford to cab it everywhere.    That pretty much left just walking as my primary mode of transport.  

Within a year of moving into the city, I dropped 15 pounds without really doing anything.

Walking is probably the reason why most New Yorkers are slender.   When walking is your primary means of transport, you can't help but to shed pounds.   I just wish the opportunity to walk for hours shopping, dining, etc., existed where I live now. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Does Exercising Make you Eat More???

It can, depending on how fit you are to begin with, says this New York Times article.   The bottom line of the study was that while most people LOST weight by exercising, some didn't because they ate more.   

So guess what???? If you want to lose weight you have eat less and exercise more. 


Friday, April 13, 2012

Your Pants are Lying to You

I've always thought that clothing manufacturers have "shrunk" sizes over time, but this confirms it. 

I still wear the same size that I did in college--size 4.   The only thing is that I can't actually fit into any of the size 4's that I had bought 20 plus years ago when I was a working woman and bought some high end clothes (like Chanel and Donna Karan).   My old size 4's from 20 plus years ago are more like size 2 or 0 today (0 and 2 didn't even exist as sizes back then).  

I also known that while my size has remained the same, my measurements have gotten larger.  

Still it was fun to see my suspicions regarding "size inflation" confirmed by the Economist.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Case Against Gyms

I have to admit that I am one of those people who loathes the gym.   Gyms are just not my scene or my kind of work-out   Yet, when I read this piece I had to object.

I guess what I object to is the "one size fits all" approach.   Yes, I agree that gyms are, for the most part, money suckers and you're better off getting your exercise outdoors or at home.   As someone who once lived in a cramped NYC apartment, however, I would have to say that a gym membership is somewhat of a necessity if you want to keep up a work-out regime throughout the year.  

Now that I live in the burbs and have the space to  devote to a treadmill in my home, I see no need for a gym membership (nor do I have the time to travel to and from the gym daily).    

I'm also not an "exercise class" fan either.   No Aerobics or Zumba for me, but I know plenty of women who hate running or walking and wouldn't exercise if not for Aerobics or Zumba.   

I say find what motivates you to exercise.   For me it's yoga, Tai Chi and walking, both outside and inside on the treadmill.  I also enjoy hiking and skiing as well.  

If you're someone who doesn't want to go outdoors unless the weather is between 65-70 degrees and sunny and don't have the room for a piece of in-home equipment, however, a gym membership may be the thing for you.   Ditto if you're a social animal who needs social stimulation to work out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Back on the Mat Again

I'm still in recovery mode after my shoulder surgery, and will be for quite a while. My doctor says it will be a good 4-6 months before I'm completely pain free.

I was cleared, however, to start practicing yoga again, and I was back on the mat Monday.   I did a self-practice at my Shala, and kept it very light and easy.  I did 40 minutes of yoga, pretty much focusing on hip opening, and doing nothing that put pressure on my shoulder.

Today I was more adventurous.   Pattahbi Jois' grandson Sharath is teaching in nearby Greenwich this week.  I didn't want to miss the opportunity to practice with the Guru's grandson, so I rolled out my mat and did what I could.   I would have preferred to be able to do at least a downward dog, but was happy that I could do what I could do.

I keep telling myself that I need to be patient, but I really can't wait to be pain free and doing head-stands, crow and other arm balances again.   Hell, I'd just like to be able to lift my arm up over my head again. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nuke those Veggies!!!

It turns out that microwaving vegetables may not be all that bad as far as nutrition goes.  

I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with my microwave.    I absolutely love the convenience, but there's been so much literature about microwaves sapping the veggies of their nutrients and other bad stuff, that it's always left me in a big of quandary.   

Well, it turns out that whether you nuke, saute, boil or bake, you're losing some nutrients.   
While I'm still squeamish about nuking, I think that it's better to microwave vegetables and eat them, than avoid eating them because it's too much work (although eating raw is probably the best of all). 

I do follow some rules, however.   I never microwave in plastic to avoid the leeching of cancer causing chemicals into my food, and  try to keep the time in the microwave as short as possible.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Know Thy Chicken

Did you know that factory-farmed chickens are routinely fed arsenic, Prozac and other drugs and chemicals???? I knew about hormones but arsenic???

Nicholas Kristof covers this in his latest New York Times opinion piece.

After looking into industrial raised chicken practices here's what he found:

That’s because my topic today is a pair of new scientific studies suggesting that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic.
He was pretty floored by this:

Likewise, I grew up on a farm, and thought I knew what to expect in my food. But Benadryl? Arsenic? These studies don’t mean that you should dump the contents of your refrigerator, but they do raise serious questions about the food we eat and how we should shop.

Kristof concludes that his family is better off eating organic. But there's "organic" and then there's "organic." Organic is, unfortunately, now just another label, and doesn't necessarily mean you'll be avoiding unwanted drugs, hormones and chemicals in your food.

Eating organic, is, of course, better than eating non-organic, but in the end you're best bet is buying directly from a farmer where you can question exactly how the food was produced. Second best is looking into the farming practices of individual producers to find out exactly how "organic" their product is.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

101 Year Old Awesome Yoga Dude Does Astounding Yoga

Ok, this Dude is a little bit on the TOO skinny side, but you have got to admit that being this flexible (and healthy) at 101 is awesome.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I was checking in with Marion Nestle's always well written and informative blog Food Politics, and saw that she had three (yes three!!) full posts on the pseudo-beef, food additive that has been come to be known as Pink Slime.   You can check them out here, here and here

I've been trying to follow the debate on pink slime, but have to admit I'm still pretty confused.   I have no idea whether or not the stuff should be legally allowed into food meant for human consumption.

I can, however, tell you one thing for sure, I do not want either myself or my family eating it.   BPI and other processors of pink slime AKA Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) can argue all they want that it's safe, healthy etc., but I don't want it in my body.

To that end I have one word LABELING.   If is an any product, then it should be clearly spelled out that it's in a product.   Of course the absolute best way to avoid ingesting LFTB would be to just not eat processed meat products or at fast food joints--something I adhere to already.  

Nestle notes that BPI argues that LFTB is safer than using the usual cheap beef products making it less likely that E. Coli will be present.

I have a better idea, just pay more for better beef.    Cheap food is making us sick and fat.   Pay more for your food, eat better and just eat less.   You don't have to spend more on food to eat better.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Yet Another Reason to Avoid Processed Foods

Our wimpy-assed FDA isn't going to ban BPA in food packaging.  

Just remember, if it doesn't say it's BPA-free, it probably isn't. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Photo of the Day

Yeah, it's that simple.   That's all I ask, just disclose it on the label if you use GMOs in your product.   They disclose genetically modified ingredients in over 40 countries.   Why can't we do it here?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Oatmeal

Since my surgery I've had some difficulty getting things to move.  I've been through this before.   The general anesthesia and the pain-killers afterwards bind me up, and it takes a good week or two to get things to move smoothly again.

So, I've been hitting the oatmeal in the morning to add additional fiber to get things rolling, and juicing it up a bit by adding ground flax seed.  

This morning I made myself a nice bowl of Chocolate Peanut-Butter Oatmeal.    I added some fresh cut apple and it was delicious.  

In addition to helping with my digestion, adding the Cocoa may actually help with my BMI as well according to this article.

So here's how I made it.  


1/4 cup thick cut oats
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter
1 medium apple peeled and diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup water

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and then microwave for 3 1/2 minutes. 


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bugs are All Natural?

Another reason to avoid processed foods even if they're labeled "natural."   According to Bruce Bradley, it turns out that many of these "natural" ingredients are pretty disgusting.  

Thanks Bruce for informing us that "Natural Red #4" on an ingredients list is actually crushed up bugs.   It's also good to know that "natural vanilla flavoring" or even "natural flavoring" on the ingredient panel can signify that the product contains BEAVER ANAL GLANDS. 

I, for one, always label any food product suspect if it has to be dyed to appeal to me, but I never knew that some of those dyes were actually derived from crushed up bugs.   Let's all let out a collective YUCK!!!!  

Turns out that some of these "natural" additives can also be problematic if you're a vegan or vegetarian.   I'll take my Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino venti minus the rosy, buggy hue--THANKYOUVERYMUCH.  

Better yet, I'll just brew up my own cuppa of joe here at home so I know exactly what's in it. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


I'm five days out from my shoulder impingement surgery.    My left arm is still in a sling, but I weaned myself off the pain-killers.   I should be driving by the middle of the week, but it's going to be a long time until I'll be able to balance on my hands again in yoga.  

The good news is that while I still have pain when I move my arm, it's not as painful as it was prior to the surgery.    The pain also seems to be lessening as time goes by, as opposed to constantly increasing the way it was prior to the surgery.

I'm scheduled to see my orthopedist this Friday, and after that I should be starting physical therapy soon after.  

My main goal at this point is to just get back to my yoga mat doing anything I can do.   It was recommended that I not practice yoga for at least 2 weeks, and so I won't.   When I do get back to the mat, it's likely to be the same modified practice I've been doing for the last few months.  

I have been walking.    I started the day after my surgery.   I wear my sling and try to keep my arm as staple as possible.   That means a slower pace than usual.   I keep telling myself that I'll eventually get back to my old routines.  

It just takes time to heal. 

Friday, March 23, 2012


Yesterday I had surgery to correct my shoulder impingement.  All went well, but typing is a little difficult.    I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skeletons in the Kitchen Cupboards

I'm at the stage in my kitchen renovation where I'm starting to clear out my kitchen cabinets in anticipation of demolition.   Anything deemed "nonessential" has been banished to bins in the dining room.  

I, like many avid cooks, have quite a panoply of pots, pans, utensils and gadgets.  

Clearing out my cabinets, however, has brought to light a lot of skeletons--those cooking items I bought on impulse (or not) but now never use. 

There were, I'm afraid to say, many skeletons of my kitchen cupboards.   The expensive copper pots from Williams-Sonoma that I had to have, but then stopped using because I couldn't be bothered with the upkeep.   I also unloaded at least 10 vegetable peelers because I'm always on the look-out for that ultimate peeler--ditto for cork-screws.  

I also have the 2 fancy bundt-cake pans that you use for Christmas and Easter.   I haven't made a bundt-cake in over five years, much less a holiday-themed bundt cake.

So when I read this New York Times piece this morning it hit home.    It was interesting to read how even famous chefs who appear on the food network aren't immune to kitchen gadgetmania.   

I have to say that I've always resisted large, expensive, one-use items.  I've never owned a rice-maker, bread-maker, nor any of the other "makers" William-Sonoma seems to come up with monthly (the pie-maker and soup maker are two of the more seemingly useless gadgets they also market).  

I have a relatively small kitchen, and with no place to store a bread-maker I simply didn't buy it nor any other of its "maker" cousins.   Lack of space, in some ways, is a god-send if you're disciplined enough to work within the restrictions.

My "panini maker" consists of putting my heavy cast iron skillet on top of the sandwich as it sits on my grill pan.   Half-way through cooking I flip the sandwich, replace the heavy cast iron skillet, cook a bit longer and viola the perfect panini without the bother of having to find someplace in my already over-stocked cabinets to store a dedicated panani maker. 

But I am a sucker for expensive pots and pans and for small kitchen gadgets.   Some of these items I couldn't live without.    My morning coffee wouldn't be the same without the battery operated milk frother I bought for $2.99 in Ikea--ditto for my ceramic one-cup drip coffee maker bought in a fancy coffee shop in Ireland.

But, emptying out my cabinets has brought to light quite a few items that I can indeed live without.    When the time comes to move things out of the bins into the new cabinets, I think I'll have to set many of these non-essentials aside and donate them to Good-Will.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bittman on Read Meat

Last week I posted about a study linking red meat consumption to early death.  I thought it was an interesting study and went to prove the point that eating less meat is an overall good idea, for both your weight and your health.

Today, I went over to check out Mark Bittman's blog at the New York Times, and it turns out that he has quite a thoughtful piece written about the study which you may want to check out. 

As he usually does, he asked some good questions and had a few good thoughts worth pondering.  Such as:

There are two things wrong with focusing too closely on meat in the diet. One, meat is not the only problem with how we eat: we eat too many animal products in general (more than a pound a day, all told) and we eat too many grains stripped of all their value. And — as everyone in this great big room has been told since they were old enough to listen — we don’t eat our vegetables. Finally, from a strictly dietary perspective, meat is not our biggest problem: junk food is.

Secondly, industrially produced meat’s effect on our morbidity and mortality and the associated infamous health care costs are not the only problems with meat. Industrial agriculture damages the environment too. (Whether it’s the No. 2 factor in climate change, as the United Nations has suggested, is debatable. That it’s generally been an enormous contributor to environmental degradation is not.) It’s made it difficult for small-to-medium farmers to hang on. And industrial meat producers haven’t exactly been loyal members of the A.S.P.C.A.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another Success!!!

And this time it was vegan.

I've been experimenting with veggie burgers for a while now, and I have to say they haven't been that big of a hit.  I've tried all sorts of recipes, and my husband (and often myself), pretty much gave them the thumbs down.

Last week, however, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  Looking in the refrigerator, pantry, freezer, etc., I found the ingredients to make an Indian-inspired veggie burger.

Unfortunately, I don't have a recipe (because I literally just grabbed stuff and whipped it together.)   The basic ingredients for the burgers were lentils, curry, cumin, mushrooms, carrots, coconut oil, scallions, and chick-pea flour thrown into the food processor and mixed until the ingredients formed a thick batter.   I coated my cast-iron skillet with oil, then formed the paste into patties and fried them up.  I served the "burgers" in whole grain pita pockets with Mango chutney and arugula.

My husband looked at my creation rather dubiously at first, but then he tasted them.   HE LOVED THEM.

Now all I have to do if figure out exactly how I made these burgers so that I can make them again.

That's the problem with cooking on the fly, if you come up with a dish that's truly worth making again, you have to remember what you did the last time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Meatless Mondays May Just Help You Live Longer

It turns out that red meat can kill you, or, at least increase your chances of mortality by 20%.   Bummer!!

Not that I'm all that much of a red meat eater.   I tend to eat "mostly" vegan, and when I do partake in animal protein, it's usually fish or chicken.   

Like a lot of people, however, every now and again I just crave a big piece of red meat, cooked medium-rare.

I view my forays into carnivorism as just that--forays.  It's not something I do regularly, and I don't think eating meat once every blue moon is all that bad for me (can't speak for the critter I'm eating).

Still, as the study demonstrates, it is something best kept to a minimum.

BTW, I don't eat any processed meats, so I'm good there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time!!!

My daughter is a Girl Scout, and I think the Girl Scouts is a fantastic organization.  

I just have one complaint--the cookies.

Being that my daughter is a Girl Scout, that means that I'm not only obligated to sell cookies every year, I have to buy them.

I have a confession.

I am a Girl Scout Cookie-holic.   I can not have them in my house without eating them. 

I should know better by now and only order Thin Mints.

I don't like Thin Mints.

But, every year I order a couple of boxes of Somoas and Tag-A-Longs.

Those I can't resist.

Thank god Girl Scout cookies only come around once a year.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How Do I measure Success???

When my rabidly carnivorous husband actually comes up-stairs to complement me on a meal that contains almost no meat.

As I've chronicled here before, my husband and I had a clash of cultures when we first got together.   My Italian family ate very little meat, and when we did meat was almost a side dish.   Meatless meals were common, and it wasn't unusual for us to go for a week without meat on the table.

My husband, however, grew up in a family were meat was always center stage.   Roasts were common as were steaks, burgers and hot dogs.

Wanting to please my husband, I for years cooked pretty much only meat-centered meals.  If I made anything like spaghetti with meat-balls or sausage, I upped the quantities of meat just to make him happy.

When I came to realize that pleasing his palate was not only bad for my waist-line but his heart, I made a determined effort to reduce the meat in all our meals, and go meatless several days a weak.

This transition was not easy.   Let me tell you I had a lot of knock down, drag out battles with my better half over the reduction or elimination of meat from our meals.

But guess what?   He got used to it.   He now generally complains when a meal has little or no meat, but he eats it without a fight.

Now, years ago, if I was making a dish for the two of us and using Italian sausage it wasn't unusual for me to use 1 1/2 pounds of meat.

Yesterday, I was scrounging around the kitchen for something to throw together for dinner.  Out of the fridge came some left-over rice, peeled baby carrots, peeled garlic and leftover Tuscan Bean soup with Kale.   I also pulled a can of tomatoes out of the cupboard.

I looked in the freezer and found four sausages---less than 3/4 pound in a zip-loc bag.   I almost used all four links, when it hit me to just use two and save the two for another "almost meatless meal."

Everything got thrown together into a pot and simmered with a bit of Romano cheese for a risotto-like stew.  

My husband got home late, but dinner was waiting for him on the stove.  

I thought he'd complain because of the paucity of meat.

Instead, he came upstairs to specifically tell me he thought dinner was delicious.

Battle won.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Imagine--A world Without Big Food

An interesting read, although I don't actually agree with it 100%.

I found this, in particular, interesting to contemplate:

The breadth of products controlled by the food industry -- amply toxic and less so -- is itself a symptom of a deeper problem that has public health symptoms, but a political economic cause. The food industry is an oligopoly that has transformed not only what we eat but how we eat it, and what we think of food. Which is why the logic of Proctor's argument as it could apply to the food industry waits in the wings -- for now. It's hard to entertain the abolition of the food industry, because it's difficult to imagine ourselves in a world without PepsiCo, Nestlé, Kraft (formerly part of Philip Morris), and friends, and their product lines.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Post Cancer Update

My life has settled down somewhat from the whirl-wind, cancer-fest of surgery, doctors and radiation therapy I had to endure last Autumn.  

There is, however, one daily reminder.   Everyday I get to be reminded that I had breast cancer because every day I have to take a daily dose of Tamoxifen--an estrogen inhibitor.

Prior to starting Tamoxifen, I was somewhat worried.  

I'm one of those women who has never been able to take the Pill, or any kind of hormone therapy.    The minute a drug starts tinkering with my hormone levels, I generally go pretty loony.   Even pregnancy and post-partum for me was traumatic.   

Once when I was pregnant for my son, I broke down crying and couldn't stop for over an hour because my vacuum cleaner stopped working.

Knowing that menopause is a rather emotionally challenging time for most women, and that going on Tamoxifen would essentially send me into menopause on over-drive, I was somewhat hesitant to start.

To my pleasant surprise, the Tamoxifen has had no effect on my emotional state.


But, there is a but.

Since I've been on Tamoxifen, I've had not one, but two bladder infections.  

Prior to this Winter, I hadn't had a bladder infection since I was in college.  I'm a 50 year old woman who's been married for over 20 years, I'm not exactly having wild sex any more.

I thought the first bladder infection was odd (it took me close to a week to even realize it was a bladder infection since I hadn't had one in so long), but when the second one hit, I knew something was up.

And, that's not all.

I've had yeast infections pretty much bi-monthly since January when I started the Tamoxifen.  

Yes, I know that being on the anti-biotics for the bladder infections can lead to yeast infections, but the first yeast infection hit me prior to the first bladder infection.

So, it's obvious that while the Tamoxifen didn't make me go loopy emotionally, it does seem to be reeking havoc on my system.   I'm looking into pro-biotics at this point to try to set everything right, and I'll talk to my oncologist about these side effects as well. 

Hopefully, I'll get through this soon, and continue on my recovery drama-free.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Weekly Reading Round-up

I thought I'd share with you some interesting articles I've found on the web this week.

'Natural': The most meaningless Word on your Food label?   There's really no meaning to the term, and any manufacturer can slap the word "natural" on a label because there's nothing regulating the term.

Selling Processed Foods in a Whole Food World?     A look into the marketing of processed foods to those of us trying to eat better.

Access to Good, Healthy Food Should be a Basic Human Right.    We can do better than large agribusiness firms polluting the planet and producing less than wholesome food products.

The Importance of Portion Control.   Quote of the week:  "If  I could teach just one thing about nutrition, it would be this: Larger portions have more calories".


Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Ode to Cast Iron

It's nice to see that someone else has the same loving relationship to his cast iron pan that I have to mine. 

This dude waxes pretty poetic to his pan writing shit like this:
The idea for the cast-iron pan has been around for hundreds of years, a relic of an age before cookbooks, let alone blogs, recipe apps, and all the rest. It’s an enduring, sacred object that transcends almost everything we think and believe about cooking. It’s a wonder to me that even I, a person who traffics in meditations on food and history, took it for granted so long. But then, that’s easy to do when something has no label, no parts, no color, and virtually no cost. I would suggest that every household in America needs to own a cast-iron pan, even if you aren’t in the habit of making fried chicken, one of the many dishes for which it is absolutely indispensable.
And this:
This pan, this mute dense tool, roots us to our parents, and our grandparents, and the hundreds of generations that came before them. It is Confucianism cast in black iron. Every one that was ever made, whether by Lodge or the million nameless smithies and shops across America, is basically the same: a heavy, immovable piece of metal that takes a long time to heat up, that picks up a patina with long use, and which grows to fit the hands that hold it. The modern way of cooking is to buy a pan, use it for a while, and then throw it out when a flashier or better version comes along. I have thrown out dozens of non-stick pans, ranging from toxic tin bought in Indiana superstores, to luxury versions purveyed by Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. I’ve had copper pans that cost a fortune, and which I never used before losing in a divorce or a move, or ruined by leaving on the stove too long. But I still have this same black pan, which has accompanied me, like the last survivor of a shipwreck, through every turn of a life radically wrenched on multiple occasions.
I'll note here that he forgets one important point about cast iron--once it's been properly "seasoned" if maintained it puts any modern "non-stick" surface to shame.   Plus, you can use metal utensils in cast iron, and not worry about accidentally killing any pet birds in the room.

If you already cook with cast iron, you probably got a pan or two from your mother or grandmother.   I have several from my grandmother, and I'm hoping to pass them on to my daughter some day.   As cast iron dude points out, cast iron has a way of linking generations, of bringing us together in the kitchen.  I think of my grandmother every time one of her pans comes out of from under the counter.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I like to think of myself as a yogi--a dedicated practitioner of yoga.   I've always resisted, however, the tendency towards guru worship that seems to prevail in the yoga world.  

It's just my personality to not put anyone too high on a pedestal or see them as somehow better than myself.  I know and have seen, however, many people do treat their spiritual leaders as somewhat mythological god-like beings (although it's not just confined to the world of yoga).

Yoga has been linked to sex scandals in the past, and now there's a new scandal lighting up the yoga blogs.   John Friend, the founder/creator of the Anusara yoga movement, it turns out, has been having sex with quite a few of his devotees.   This has led to other devotees (and probably some of the devotees he had the sex with as well) being somewhat let down.

Their guru, it turns out, was just a horny, middle-aged guy more than willing to take advantage of young, nubile, fawning yoginis. 

There's a lot of confusion as to whether yoga encourages sex or not.   Many non-practitioners have a somewhat Westernized-fantasy-skewed idea of what Tantric practices involve.    There seems to be this belief that yogis hold the secrets to mind-blowing, 12 hour long, continuously orgasmic sex sessions.

It's kind of like those creams and pills that promise to increase bust or penis size--if they actually worked we'd all be walking around with double D's and 12 inch long dongs. 

I don't know what other yogic traditions teach, but the Ashtanga tradition teaches that excess sex is a waste of prana (life force), that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and that sex should only be done on certain days times.  

Doesn't sound all that sexy now does it?   The first time I read these sexual teachings in Yoga Mala I couldn't help but think that it sounded pretty much like what the Nuns preached to me back at Our Lady of the Valley.

While Friend never preached abstinence or marital fidelity (at least he's not a hypocrite), other yoga gurus accused of sexual misconduct have.

So the question is, why does this happen?    Why do some women succumb to spiritual leaders, whether they be yogis, preachers, rabbis or priests?     Why is it that we put these people up on pedestals where they preach sexual restraint, then strive to climb up on those pedestals to have sex with them?

The Anasura community is in a turmoil right now over the John Friend scandals.   The question is, why is anyone surprised?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pose Posse--Ashtanga Yoga's Eddie Stern

I saw this in the New York Times and had to repost.   I wish there was a way to embed the video because it's really worth watching and hearing.  

I love the idea of asking myself "how do I want to be at that age?"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mother's Little Weight Loss Helpers

While I was away, news broke about FDA approval of yet another new "miracle" weight loss pill.

How long do you think it will be until they have to pull it off the market because of adverse side effects???

As this article shows, we've had a pretty long and torrid history in trying to find that miracle pill that allows you to shed weight effortlessly.   Pretty much everything had side affects so bad, you have to question if losing weight by taking a pill is really all that good of an idea.  Yeah, you lost 40 pounds by taking a pill, but you now have a child with birth defects.

Is it really worth the risk?

Also, people may lose weight while they're on the pill, but because they've never addressed the underlying problems for their obesity--consuming too many calories and too little exercise--they're pretty much guaranteed to put back on every single pound once they go off of it.

So once again we get to the only true methodology for losing weight and keeping it off.  

First, you have to permanently cut back on your daily calorie consumption.  No, short term "diet" is going to keep the weight off.

Second, you have to move more.   No, you don't have to go to the gym every single day for the rest of your life and have the sweat soak through your clothes, but you do have to take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the store instead of taking your car, and find other ways to just move every day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm B-a-a-a-ck!!!

Hi all.  Sorry for not posting but I was away last week for my annual the kids are out of school for a week and I don't know what the hell else to do with them so I'm going skiing trip.   

Great trip, great skiing, and one of the benefits of skiing hard every day for a solid week is that I'm down 2 pounds (and that was with eating pretty much anything I wanted including several cups of very creamy, New England Clam chowder.)

I'll get back to blogging this week.  Promise.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coffee! The Good, the Bad and the Ayurvedic Perspective

An interesting post in the Elephant Journal. 

I have to admit to being a java junkie.   I love a steaming, hot, cuppa joe in the morning, and my day just can't seem to start without it.   So, needless to say, I'm thrilled to learn about all the "good" stuff that my coffee habit can lead to.

But, there are also the downsides to being a java junkie as well, and I have to take note of that as well.

As is the case with anything, moderation is best.   So, I limit myself to 2 cups of coffee a day, and several times a year I go on "coffee fasts" where I wean myself off coffee for a week or two (usually in conjunction with a detox.)

Should I swear off coffee entirely?   Probably not, because there do seem to some health benefits, but I don't want to be drinking a dozen espressos daily either. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Practicing Through the Pain

I haven't done a downward dog in my yoga practice since July.  

The pain from my shoulder impingement has gotten so bad, I can't even do cobra any more.

Needless to say, I am really looking forward to my surgery in March to correct the problem.   Yes, I know it will be painful, and I'll have  a couple of months of physical therapy, but after that I can hopefully start to do downward dog, and maybe I'll even be able to fly in bakasana again.

For those of you who aren't familiar with my shoulder saga, over two years ago, I started experiencing quite a bit of pain in my left shoulder.

Now, this pain pretty much lasts throughout the day, and isn't just associated with my yoga practice.    Carrying in groceries has become an issue, as has doing something as simple as opening a car door. 

I'm at a point now where I can't even laterally raise my arm up over my head.  It's just too damn painful.

But, even with the pain, I still practice yoga at least 4 times a week.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not gritting my teeth and forcing myself to do handstands or anything like that.   I do not do anything in my yoga practice that increases the pain (because the pain is constant), and I don't even do many asanas at this point even if they don't cause pain just because I'm worried they will make the problem worse.  I gave up on doing shoulder stand a month ago for this reason.

When I practice yoga, I can not do my standard Ashtanga vinyasas because I can't do chatturanga, down ward dog, cobra or any other pose that would put pressure on my shoulder.   Instead I've worked out modified vinyasas that still generate heat, but put no pressure on my shoulder.

People ask me why I still practice.   "Why not just give up until after your surgery?" they ask.

I guess I would just "give up" if I only focused on what I couldn't do right now.

But I don't.   Instead I focus on what I can do

And, by focusing on what I can do, I've made some really significant improvements in strength and flexibility.

It's true that I can't lift my left arm into the proper position for Virabhadrasana B (warrior 2), but by getting into that deep lunge position I'm still getting all the benefits to the muscles in my legs.

I also can no longer push all the way up into a full back-bend and had to revert back to half-bridge.    Even in half-bridge, however, I'm still stretching out the entire front of my body and increasing the flexibility of my back.

Despite my pain, I've managed to make improvements in my yoga practice.  Yes, I've probably lost some strength and flexibility in my upper body as a consequence of not being able to put any weight on my shoulder, but I've still increased strength and flexibility in my lower body.

So, in the end, practicing through the pain has been beneficial.  

Still, I can't wait until I can do a headstand again.

And, I won't miss this constant throbbing pain all day either.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Vegan Experience

Kenji over at Serious Eats ate a purely vegan diet for 28 days and blogged about it.   It's a pretty good read and gives a lot of good insight.  

I liked this:

What has changed for me—and this is something I did not forsee—was the perceived benefits of meat eating. Over the last four weeks, I've come to realize that I can lead a perfectly fulfilling life even when drastically cutting down on my meat and dairy intake. Indeed, I've felt more rewarded and interested culinarily than I've felt in years.

I also liked this:

I firmly believe that given a supply of good, fresh vegetables, a few basic techniques and recipes up your sleeves, a modicum of commitment, and a genuine willingness to welcome a mental shift, that anybody can be convinced that eating a diet richer in vegetables can be every bit as satisfying, better for the environment, and better for your body than a meat-based diet. Heck, last Friday night, I even took my dad (an avowed meat eater) out for a surprise 12-course all-vegan tasting menu at Craigie On Main. Now, granted, that's a hardcore, James Beard award winning chef cooking vegetables, but still, we were halfway through course five before my dad even realized that we'd thus far had no animal products of any kind. If my Dad can be convinced, I'm confident that anybody can.

There's also a Top Ten Tips for New Vegans list which is well worth the read.

Kenji is no longer eating strictly vegan, but it was an interesting experiment, and one that I think is worth repeating from time to time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wow!! Now this is a Work-Out

Maybe its because I live in Connecticut.  Maybe because I've led a sheltered life.  I've never met anyone who does pole dancing as a work-out and so had no idea what it entailed.    The only time I was ever exposed to pole dancing was when Demi Moore did it in Striptease.

That's probably why I was so blown away when I saw the first video.   I knew that pole dancing has been marketed as a work-out, but I never really understood what it entailed.  I always imagined it as being a bunch of women trying to look sexy by shimmying around a pole.

But this woman, Jenyene Butterfly really takes pole dancing to a whole other level--almost akin to gymnastics.  Some of the sequences this woman performs in her routine are nothing short of amazing.   It takes quite a bit of strength, flexibility and grace to pull them off.

So here's to a new found appreciation to the art and athleticism of pole dancing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Food For Thought

Mindful eating can lead to less eating.   A thought provoking article from the New York Times. 

I know that trying to be mindful when I'm eating is a struggle for me.   Because I work, take care of kids (including my Autistic son), volunteer, etc., eating is often multi-tasked with everything else I have to do.  

But, I do know about eating mindfully, and try to do it whenever I can.   Sometimes just really focusing on what your eating, and taking the time to really appreciate your food can awake realizations in your mind.   

For example, if you really slow down and focus on the taste of some processed snack you think you can't do without, you may realize that, in reality, you really don't like it all that much.   Or, if you slow down and really consider the different tastes and textures in a salad, you may realize that eating salad is really a treat and not a suffering.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cookbook Review--Vegan Italiano by Donna Klein

I have a friend who frequently takes long walks with me by Long Island Sound.  It's great exercise, and our conversations ramble on from topic to topic.  We often have a hard time parting.

A few weeks ago during one of these rambles, we began discussing if you can truly be a yogi and eat meat.   My friend, like me, tries to eat as little meat as possible, but doesn't want to take that step into full vegetarianism or veganism.

That talk, of course, led to finding good, tasty, vegan and vegetarian recipes.   The kind of recipes that are easy to prepare, don't require any exotic ingredients that you can't pick up at the local market, and will satisfy dubious family members.

My friend recommended a series of Vegan cook-books by author Donna Klein.    She described some of the recipes, and they sounded yummy.   So  once I got home, I immediately went to (because I had several B&N gift cards).   While several of Ms. Klein's cookbooks had potential, I purchased her Vegan Italiano book since I'm Italian and am already used to cooking in the Italian style.
When I got the book and began perusing the recipes, I was really pleasantly surprised.  Unlike most vegan or vegetarian cookbooks, I couldn't find one recipe containing soy, tofu, or any kind artificial, processed vegan substitute.  No vegan cheese, no egg substitutes, just real ingredients  that you can pretty much find in any good supermarket.

I have to admit I pretty much loathe tofu, and in any event I'm supposed to now be avoiding soy products following my breast cancer so finding a vegan cookbook that just uses real natural ingredients and doesn't try to make "meat and cheese substitute" meals was a god-send.  

If I have to say one thing about this cookbook is that it is truly a vegan cookbook for non-vegans.   If you're like me and just want to eat vegan more frequently without completely crossing over, than I highly recommend this book.

Being that it's an Italian cookbook there are literally dozens of main course pasta ideas.   Pasta is always a huge hit in our house, so I appreciate getting ideas for new veggie combos.   The fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala went over real well for dinner last week.   

The appetizer section is also extensive, and I've used several of the recipes to provide "healthier" appetizer fare.    I particularly love the Italian-style butter bean dip as an alternative to the usual fat-filled appetizer dips.

And, the salad recipes are the best I've seen in any cook-book in a while.   Last night I made the Arugula, Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Raisins and Pine Nuts.   The toasted pine nuts complemented the mix of greens and the licorice test of the fennel superbly, and the orange vinaigrette was so good, I'm planning on making a batch of it just to put on other salads.  

My one and only complaint?? Not enough pictures.  I have to admit that I'm one of those people who actually likes to see in pictures what I'm making.    But that doesn't detract from the overall qualities of the cook-book.

Plus, I'm planning on ordering another one of Ms. Klein's books (I still have some B&N gift cards from the Holidays).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Post-Komen Thoughts From a Breast Cancer Survivor

Sorry if I seem to be ranting on and on about this, but as someone who so recently had breast cancer, I guess it just hit a nerve.

I was one of the lucky ones.    One of the first things I learned following my breast cancer diagnosis was that there are "good" breast cancers and "bad" breast cancers.

Prior to last September when I was diagnosed, I had only thought that there was "breast cancer," I had no idea that there are different types and some can be worse than others.

I had a "bad" type.   I was diagnosed with an invasive lobular carcinoma, an aggressive type of breast cancer that runs the risk of metastasizing easily.     I also found out that the type of breast cancer I had would never form a lump.

I never knew that you could have breast cancer and never had a lump.   With all the "breast cancer awareness" out there, that fact there are many kinds of breast cancers that don't form lumps never seems to be discussed.

I was lucky in that I'm an upper middle class woman with decent health insurance (decent in that it pays for screenings), so being the good Girl Scout that I am, I always went in annually for my mammograms.

It was that dutiful behavior that probably saved my life.

Although I had a "bad" type of breast cancer, the main tumor that they found was less than 1 centimeter across.   There where other micro tumors that were less than 2 millimeters spread throughout the breast, but I managed to catch my cancer at an extremely early stage.  Had it gone even one more year, my prognosis could have been completely different, and I would have needed much more intensive treatments.

After my diagnosis, I reached out to breast cancer survivors.  What amazed me despite all the money pouring into breast cancer charities, we haven't gotten all that far treatment wise in the last 20 years.

Here's the basic outline of what happens if you get breast cancer.  First you have surgery, either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy and you may need to have lymph nodes removed (I did).   Then you will definitely have to have radiation, five days a week, for five to six weeks.   Depending on how your cancer progressed, you may need chemotherapy which usually comes before the radiation.

Now, you speak with women who had breast cancer a year ago, or 20 years ago, and you know what?   They tell the same stories.   The treatment of the woman who had breast cancer 20 years ago, pretty much mirrors the treatment of the woman who had breast cancer last year.

We may have gotten to the point that we're finding cancer earlier and earlier but the treatments haven't progressed at all.

And, that's what I think was the Susan G. Komen Foundation's biggest failing.   With all the money they collected, they couldn't find any better options for curing breast cancer than surgery, radiation and chemotherapy??? 

Why is it that a daughter being diagnosed with breast cancer today is essentially going through the exact same treatment regimen that her mother did 20 years ago?

Up until the night before my surgery, we did not know if I needed a lumpectomy or mastectomy.    As I contemplated losing my breast all I could think about was how barbaric it all is.   That we have to rip off women's breasts to save there lives.  This is, after all, the 21st century and this is the best we can do?

BTW, I don't know if you've viewed this brave woman's story yet, but it's worth at least listening too if you're too squeamish to watch:

The entire time I watched this video I just kept thinking, "with all the walks and pink ribbons slapped on useless products, why does this woman have to go through this."

Why do women still have to worry about losing their hair due to chemotherapy?   You mean that after all the money that's been collected, they haven't been able to find any better drugs?  

And, for smaller cancers, like mine, why do I even have to undergo surgery?  Why is it that we're not at the point were an injection could have done the trick?

And, why six weeks of radiation, five days a week?  It's exhausting, and emotionally draining to have to drag yourself to a hospital five days a week for that long to get treatments.   Why hasn't the technology been improved to the point were breast cancer patients only need to go 3 days a week for 3 weeks?  Is that so much to ask?

Yes, the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood revealed some failings in the breast cancer charity world, but the real failings are that women diagnosed with breast cancer are no better off today, treatment wise, then they were 20 years ago. 

I was one of the lucky ones.  I only needed a lumpectomy and radiation.   No chemo for me.   I'm also lucky because I was able to get annual screenings so that my cancer was found early.

What about the women who don't have ready access to early screenings?   What about the women who don't have insurance and for whom getting annual mammograms is cost prohibitive?  

I was also lucky because I had insurance to pay for the bulk of my treatments.  But even with my insurance, I still have over $8,000 in medical bills in co-pays and other costs my insurance won't pay.  

I can swing this $8,000 in unintended costs.  I don't like it.  I'm not happy about it, and it will mean delaying some big ticket purchases (like the new car my husband needs), but what about the families who couldn't cover $8,000 in unexpected medical bills due to someone in the family getting breast cancer.

Or worse, what if they don't have insurance?   According to the bills I got, the hospital alone charged over $35,000 for my lumpectomy.  My breast surgeon charged over $26,000.    I didn't even bother to total up all the other costs, but it probably easily exceeded $75,000.   

This is Susan G. Komen's real failure.   Women shouldn't have to worry about losing their breasts, undergoing weeks and weeks of exhausting treatments, losing their hair and getting strapped with huge medical bills because they were diagnosed with breast cancer in the 21st century.

Friday, February 3, 2012

They Reversed, Except they Really Didn't

OK it's been all over the media today that Susan G. Komen "reversed" it's position regarding funding of Planned Parenthood.

Except they really didn't.   If you read the fine print, you'll see that they only said that Planned Parenthood is "eligible" for future grants, not that they'll actually get them. 

It's also interesting that SGK is supposed to be for finding a cure but only if that cure is in accord with right-wing ideals.    Turns out that SGK has been cutting off funding for research facilities that engage in stem cell research, even if the research they were originally funding wasn't using stem cells.   In other words, a research facility could lose it's SGK funding if it engaged in ANY stem cell research (say for Diabetes).

I'm sorry about getting political and going off topic on this (but IT IS my blog, so, in a sense, I get to do what I want), but this is  an issue that matters to me.

Yesterday I made a donation to Planned Parenthood, but today I realized it wasn't enough.    So today I set up monthly contributions to both Planned Parenthood and NARAL--an organization which lobbies for women's reproductive rights.

If an anti-choice zealot like Karen Handel can weasel her way into the largest, most prestigious (until this week), breast cancer organization in the country then we have something to worry about.   

I realized I can not just sit back and just express frustration at the continued assaults from zealots on Planned Parenthood and women's reproductive freedoms.   My monthly donations are small, but it's a start in confronting the problem.


Thursday, February 2, 2012


And this is one of them.   It's off topic, but because I have had breast cancer I am livid at the Susan G. Komen Foundation's cowardly decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood--an organizations that provides FREE breast screenings to women who otherwise could not afford them. 

If you're not up-to-date on the issue you can read about it here, here, here and here.

BTW, they stop funding an organization that helps poor and low income women because of a trumped up investigation by an anti-choice congressman, yet they continue to affiliate with Bank of America and Penn State (isn't Penn State under investigation???)

Now let's make this absolutely clear.   The money SGK provided to Planned Parenthood was only used for cancer screenings.   NOT ABORTIONS.  Planned Parenthood provides abortions FOR WOMEN WHO WANT THEM, but that represents only a TINY fraction of the services they provide.   You can read about the impact of SGK's decision on Planned Parenthood here.

I used Planned Parenthood when I was a teen-ager to get my annual exams and contraceptives.   Being that I came from a strict Catholic family, there was no way my Mom was going to take me to a Gynecologist (not even for an exam) or to get contraceptives.   I didn't want to get pregnant, so my only option was Planned Parenthood.   I NEVER had an abortion, nor would I. 

But, many women DO want abortions, and will get them whether they are legal or not.    It pisses me off to no extent the bullying tactics of the ANTI-CHOICE (no, they are not PRO-LIFE they prove at every turn that they are the antithesis of pro-life), to prevent women reproductive freedom.  Not just with abortion, but birth control as well.

So, the Komen Foundation's decision to HURT women by cutting off funding to an organization which does more good in this country for women then any other REALLY, REALLY PISSES ME OFF.  

And, I don't understand the BS about abortions causing breast cancer.  First, there's no scientific evidence of it (I had breast cancer and NO WHERE do they say you're at higher risk because you've had an abortions).  Second, even if it where true, then it's STILL a woman's choice as to whether or not she wants to take the risk.

Now, I've expressed my reservations about SGK in the past.   Let's just say that most of the money they raise doesn't end up helping the people they're supposedly serving, and it's more about creating profits for it's corporate sponsors than doing stuff to prevent breast cancer.  

There's also a documentary coming out next month which I'd like to see.  Here's the trailer:

I will never give another dime to SGK. Instead, I made donation to Planned Parenthood, and plan to make more in the future.    If you want to do so, you can do so here
It's become clear that the Susan G. Komen Foundation has lost it's way. It's no longer an organization dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer, or helping women who either need to be screened for breast cancer or are dealing with breast cancer.

They hired an anti-choice political operative showing that what they are now about is promoting anti-choice politics over women's health. They are no more than an arm of big corporations focusing on making profits off of women and breast cancer.

OK, my rant is just about over.  Here's what I want all of you to take away in the end:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sign, Sign Everywhere a sign

Actually according to a new study, the above sign really should be everywhere. New York tried posting these signs in several locations by elevators and found that it increased the number people using the stairs.

Here's the gist:

The results of the study, which will appear in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, were pretty astounding. Stair use increased immediately at all locations by amounts ranging from 9.2% to 34.7%. And it doesn’t seem that tenants and employees got tired of taking the stairs, either. As Karen K. Lee, the author of the study, said, “The gains in physical activity continued to be observed nine months after the signs were first placed.”
The next step, of course, would be making the location of the stairs obvious. Why is it that you have to seek out the stairs in most buildings?  You can always find the elevators, they're obvious, but the stairs??? They're usually in some far off corner hidden behind a heavy door.

I know, because I'm one of those people who tries to take the stairs rather than the elevator anytime I'm going up less than four flights. I'll take them down, however, from just about any floor (I think once you start hitting the 20th floor and up taking the stairs is difficult

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

$8,000 in Medical Bills--And that's With Insurance Coverage

Last week I finally got around to dealing with the bills from my breast cancer surgery.  My surgery was in October, and the bills started appearing in my mailbox in late November.  Because I was in the middle of, you know, radiation and all the other crap you have to deal with when you have cancer, I pulled a Scarlett O'Hara and threw the bills in a pile to deal with another day.

Well the day to deal with that pile came last week.    I opened the bills and did some cross-research on my insurance company's web-site.

I owe $8,000.    That's $8,000 that the insurance company isn't paying.    The hospital alone charged $35,000 and my breast surgeon $26,000.    There were also miscelanous bills for other specialists, services etc.  

I didn't bother to total up the entire cost of the surgery, just the part I owed.

I never stayed overnight in the hospital, and there were no complications with my surgery.   So how, in God's name, is it that despite paying close to $800 a month in insurance premiums (with my husband's employer also paying more than that monthly) is it that I now owe $8,000?????

And, how, in God's name, could many families take that kind of a financial hit?   

Now, I expected my share of the ordeal to run in the $3,000-$4,000 range, so needless to say that I was shocked to see I owed more than double that amount. 

Did I mention that once again my husband's raise was completely wiped out by the increase in our insurance premiums???

I'm sorry, but the American system of health care is just deplorable.   I am so sick of people saying that it's "the best in the world" when statistics show that it's not, and families put into financial straights just because someone gets sick.