Jumbled Rooms and Jiggly Thighs

When my daughters were little our bedtime ritual included reading a book, saying a prayer, checking under the bed for monsters, tucking them in like a mermaid, and taking their emotional temperature.

This practice first started when I noticed their little minds spinning instead of winding down for the night. I asked if there was anything they wanted to talk about, but they were at a loss for words, even though it was apparent they were wrestling with something. I persisted until my eldest confessed, “I don’t know where to start – everything in my head is like a jumbled room.” I told her to pick up one item in the room and talk about it, and then another, and then another until the room was clean. After a brief pause, her thoughts, worries, and questions came spilling out in fits and bursts, and since then ‘Jumbled Room’ has been our code word to deal with emotional clutter.

What else do we hang on to that affects our mental and emotional health? For some it’s bad habits, or grudges, or an unbending mindset. For me, it’s my fat and my ‘stuff’. I’m an organized hoarder with OCD – I inherited this from my mother who hangs on to everything “just in case”. Her basement, dubbed ‘the warehouse’, is the quintessential jumbled room. I understand her need to hang on to these items because she grew up with very little. She has a hard time parting with anything she spent hard earned dollars on… her clothes from the 70’s, our toys when we were little, even the bomboniere from every wedding attended. In her case, her jumbled room doesn’t stress her out, the thought of clearing it out does.

However, clutter does stress me out. I like to have everything in its place – my stockpile of water bottles (labels facing forward), my canned goods (stored by type), my spices (arranged in alphabetical order), even the hundreds of books in each of my libraries (main floor: blog resources; den: scripts, books on writing; basement: novels, inspirational books, and kids’ books) – it gives me peace of mind knowing everything is where it should be.

Whenever my house is a mess it means my mind is jumbled. And when my mind is jumbled, I become mentally, emotionally, and physically paralysed. I don’t know where to start to regain order, so I procrastinate, and when I procrastinate, I eat. Hmmm, I guess that makes me a procrastinEATER. After a binge I hate myself because the house is still a mess, and I’ve ingested a trillion empty calories. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps me moving, but gets me nowhere.

Apparently researchers have found a link between obesity, OCD, and hoarding (Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 2008;22(2):243-252), and while I’m not the type of hoarder you see on reality shows, I still identify with the need to hang on to certain things that others might find useless, from my angel figurines to my love handles.

Ironically, I’m a spring cleaning junkie – it’s the High Holy Week in my OCD calendar. The moment I hear the first robin chirp, I take everything out of closets and cupboards and pile them in the centre of the room, determined to scrutinize the necessity of each item once and for all. And when I say ‘once and for all’, I mean year after year after year, and this year was no different.

I’m always enthusiastic when I set out on this task. I feel like an organizing ninja ready to attack the consumeristic fat that weighs me down. But what invariably happens is that I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tchotchkes that I end up ignoring it by burying my head in the fridge.

The same holds true when I step on the scale. Losing over 100 lbs is a monstrous undertaking – I look at the number flashing on the scale and get overwhelmed, so I deal with it the way I always do… avoid it until something forces me to take action, like a reunion, or an undesirable medical diagnosis.

This year, equipped with all that I’ve been learning and applying on my 12 in 12 journey, I finally took my own advice, I looked at my jumbled basement, picked up each item one at a time, and dealt with it.

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I gave myself permission not to be perfect, but to aim for progress.

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And little by little, I achieved the results I hoped for.

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I asked myself two questions for every item I handled: (1) do I need it? and (2) do I love it? If I answered ‘no’ to one of these questions, out it went, and as such, I got rid of more stuff this year than in years past. This little pile, which I affectionately call “The last 10 lbs” is all that remains to be dealt with, and that’s okay – progress, not perfection!

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I realize that the same principle applies for weight loss. I can only get rid of the body clutter one pound at a time, and that can only be achieved if I ask myself similar questions before I eat something, (1) do I need it? or (2) if I love it, will it help me, or harm me?

When taking on any insurmountable task the old adage “Yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch, life’s a cinch” makes perfect sense, and for those of us struggling with our weight, I’d venture to add, “Bite by bite, we’ll get it right.”

To view my Week 21 food journal, click here.

It’s Time To Play….

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*cue music*

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Hello, and welcome to Health or Consequences, where Mare from Searching For My After aims to achieve 70,000 steps or more in a week. If she doesn’t, she must complete a consequence chosen by the audience!

Mare: Actually, that’s about to change.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: How so?

Mare: Since starting Health or Consequences a few months ago, I’ve heard from several readers who bought an activity monitor to find out just how many steps they were getting in a day. Many went from curious to surprised when they discovered they weren’t achieving the daily minimum of 10,000 steps either. So while I know many of you stay up nights wondering if I’ll hit the 70,000 step target, and wait with bated breath as the Fitbit Wheel of Truth beee-booops until it reveals my fate for the week, it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be the only one marching around town getting fit and tooting my own horn…. We should ALL be tooting until we stink up the city with health and vitality!

No more sitting on the sidelines – it’s time to make this game interactive!

For those of you who have an activity monitor, I invite you to play along, and for those who don’t have a device, you can still play! The show will be played in one of the following three formats, which YOU get to choose:

  • Step Off
  • Target Practice
  • Hang Ten

Step Off

If you think you can out-step me, throw down your sneakers and challenge me to a STEP OFF! Once the challenge has been called, we must mutually agree to the following:

  • The week the challenge will take place.
  • The consequence, which will be communicated on the blog the week before our challenge starts.
  • Exchange our progress reports at the end of the week, and post them on the blog following the challenge.
  • The high stepper gets to do the Walk of Fame.
  • The low stepper must complete the consequence within 4 weeks of the challenge, document it (i.e. video or photograph) and agree to have it posted on the blog.

Target Practice

YOU set my step target for the week and I aim to achieve it. (I don’t want to be a sitting duck Mare, so I’ll do my best to keep moving!) Keep in mind that the minimum is 10,000 steps a day. The maximum should be a stretch, but reasonable, because this lady still has to go to work and get her beauty sleep at night.

If I don’t hit the target, I will donate $10 to the Heart & Stroke Foundation. However, if I do, the challenger must donate $10 to the charity of their choice. It’s a win-win-win situation!

Hang Ten

If I don’t receive a challenge for the week, I will continue to play the game as it currently stands.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: How exciting! How do people challenge you?

Mare: I can be challenged in person, via email, or through the blog. So slip on your favourite runners, Birkenstocks, or tap shoes and let the games begin!

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Before we move over to the new format, let’s see how you did last week.

*The Fitbit wheel of truth spins… beep-boo-beep-boo-beeee-boooooooooo*

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Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Wow! That’s your all-time record Mare.

Mare: It was an exceptionally busy week and I don’t expect to see numbers like that all the time.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Speaking of time, that’s all we have for this week. This is Cheeky Game Show Host Mare, reminding you to choose HEALTH, or else you’ll have to live with the CONSEQUENCES.

*cue music*

Welcome To Our Table – Mangia! Mangia!

So far the Mediterranean diet has taken me out to enjoy authentic Greek cuisine on the Danforth, and Spanish Tapas in Port Credit, and now I invite you to enjoy homemade Italian lasagna straight from my Mom’s kitchen.

It’s a laboursome process, but I assure you the end result is worth all the effort, and your taste buds, and all that gather around your table, will thank you!

Let’s get cooking!

Before you even put on your apron, or tie your head-kerchief, you will need to bring heaps of patience, a generous measure of love, a dollop of humour, and a sprinkling of lively music…. We usually crank up the Big Night soundtrack, Italian opera (i.e. Tosca, or Rigoletto), or Dean Martin.… I haven’t known a time when my family didn’t breakout into a full on singalong when Volare comes on.

Note: we don’t have exact measures, as we do everything ‘by eye’ and feel.

The Dough

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • All-purpose flour
  1. In a large bowl add oil, salt, and eggs. Whisk together with fork.
  2. Incorporate flour slowly and add enough so that the dough is a sticky, yet workable consistency.
  3. Transfer dough to board and knead on floured surface.
  4. Work until smooth and feels like play-dough. Kneading will take 7-10 minutes.
  5. Shape dough into a firm ball, cover with cling-wrap and put in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

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The Meatballs

  • Ground meat
  • Day old bread
  • Water
  • Garlic (minced)
  • 1 egg
  • Parmigiano (Parmesan) cheese
  1. Place bread into a bowl. Moisten with a bit of water to soften, and crumble it up with your hands.
  2. Add garlic, cheese, and egg. Work with your hands.
  3. Add ground meat and continue working with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Shape into meatballs and set aside.

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The Sauce

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Jarred tomatoes (preferably homemade)
  • Meat (meatballs, sausage, etc.)
  1. Over medium heat, sauté garlic in olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of a large pot).
  2. Add jarred tomatoes, and allow tomatoes to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Break the sausage into pieces, add to sauce, and allow the sauce to simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
  4. Add salt, and let the sauce cook for another 1 hour.
  5. In the last 20-30 minutes of cooking, add meatballs. Some people sauté the meat before putting into the sauce, but this only makes the meat hard. By adding the meat in raw, it will remain tender.

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A good sauce takes 2-3 hours to make at a slow boil.

Preparing the Pasta

While the sauce is cooking, it’s time to roll out the dough.

  1. Take it out of the refrigerator, and on your kneading board, slice it into 1 inch thick pieces.
  2. On the floured surface, pat the slices and line them up to be put through the pasta press.
  3. Work the pieces through the pasta press – the press has a dial and each turn of the dial tightens it.
  4. Repeat this process until you work the dough through the press 2 notches at a time. It will go from 1 inch thickness to approximately 2 millimetres.

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Cooking the Pasta

  1. Prepare an area for your cooked pasta. Place a tablecloth on that spot and dampen it with water – this will prevent it from sticking.
  2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and set next to the stove.
  3. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of oil – this will prevent the pasta from sticking.
  4. Add 2, or 3 sheets of pasta at a time to the boiling water. Let boil for 2 minutes.
  5. Remove pasta from boiling water and place in bowl with cold water. Let sit for 2 minutes.
  6. Transfer pasta from cold water onto the dampened tablecloth.
  7. Repeat process until all the pasta is cooked.

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Assembly

  • Butter or lard
  • Mozzarella cheese (grated)
  • Hardboiled eggs, sliced (optional)
  1. Grease a large casserole pan with butter or lard.
  2. Add some sauce to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add sheets of pasta (cut down to size).
  4. Add sauce, mozzarella, and meatballs.
  5. Repeat (you should get 4 to 5 layers).
  6. Top with sauce and mozzarella.
  7. Bake in oven at 350o for 30 minutes.
  8. Enjoy – you’ve earned it!

imageFrom start to finish, this dish takes 3-4 hours to make, and as such, we don’t make it regularly. A meal like this is meant to be savoured and shared with family and friends, clinking a glass of homemade wine and enjoying lively conversation, while being serenaded by the greats…

Volare, oh oh

E cantare, oh oh oh oh

No wonder my happy heart sings

Your love has given me wings

Nel blu, dipinto di blu

Felice di stare lassu

For my Week 20 food journal click here.

It’s Time To Play…

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*cue music*

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Hello, and welcome to Health or Consequences where Mare from Searching For My After aims to achieve 70,000 steps or more in a week. If she doesn’t, she must complete a consequence chosen by the audience!

Mare: Hello.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Let’s see how you did last week.

*The Fitbit wheel of truth spins… beep-boo-beep-boo-beeee-boooooooooo*

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Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: 78,239! This is getting too easy for you.

Mare: I wouldn’t say ‘easy’, but I am being more mindful of getting more activity in my day. You do have a point though. I think we need to spice this game up a bit.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Speaking of spice…

***Game Show Announcer Mare comes out with a flaming skillet***

Game Show Announcer Mare: I hope you like your slugs well done!

Mare: Sorry to disappoint you, but I did my consequence in time. Roll the clip, Game Show Camera Mare!

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Good on you, but we were hoping you’d miss your deadline.

Mare: You sadistic figments of my split personalities…. as I was saying, I plan on spicing the game up sans slugs.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: How so?

Mare: Stay tuned, and all will be revealed during next week’s episode.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: How exciting! Until then, I’m Cheeky Game Show Host Mare, reminding you to choose HEALTH, or else you’ll have to live with the CONSEQUENCES.

*cue music*

 

 

Two Señoritas Paint the Town Red – ¡Olé!

They say that variety is the spice of life, and that couldn’t be more true of this month’s plan. The Mediterranean diet not only boasts an array of flavourful, non-processed foods from the diverse cultures the plan is named for, it also encourages spicing up your life by being physically and socially active.

When I was looking for a Mediterranean restaurant for this week’s outing, I found one in the neighbourhood that fit the bill to a ‘T’… and in this case, the ‘T’ stands for ‘tapas’. SPICE Lounge and Tapas in Port Credit takes traditional Spanish cuisine and serves it with a twist and a whole lot of sexy.

Tapas means appetizer in Spanish, so the servings are a little more modest and are meant to be shared – which is perfect if you want to sample a variety of dishes. My friend Cindy, and I stepped out of our routine last Thursday night and painted the town red at this cozy venue… actually, it painted us red. The decor is ultra-stylish and the red lighting cast a warm glow on our meal.imageWe shared the Serrano Ham and Fig (18 month serrano ham, Ibirico cheese, braise red onions and fig jam, drizzled with honey), Grilled Calamari, and Red Stag Chorizo (chorizo sausage, julienne onions and granny smith apples, flambéed tableside in Red Stage Cherry Bourbon). And you can’t have a Spanish meal without a refreshing glass of Sangria… mmmm – muy bueno!imageWe also split the desserts, a yummy Gluten Free Chocolate Cake that melts in your mouth, and the Benjelos (Spanish cheese donuts smothered in homemade dolce de leche and icing sugar) is to die for!

The staff was very friendly, making our dining experience even better. Ryan, the manager, even treated us to dessert when he heard we’d never been to the restaurant – now that’s service!

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I haven’t lost a single pound on this plan (yet!) and that’s okay. The Mediterranean diet may not be the way to go for weight loss for me, but it’s definitely in the lead for the maintenance plan when I get to my goal weight.

For my Week 19 food journal click here.

It’s Time To Play…

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*cue music*

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Hello, and welcome to Health or Consequences where Mare from Searching For My After aims to achieve the weekly 70,000 recommended steps for optimal health. Should she reach, or surpass this goal, she will do the Walk of Fame! However, if she falls short of the target, she will do the Walk of Shame, and will have to complete a consequence chosen by the audience!

Mare: Hello.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Let’s see how you did last week.

*The Fitbit wheel of truth spins… beep-boo-beep-boo-beeeeee-booooooooooo*

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Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: 75,108! Outstanding! You’re on a roll! Tell her what she wins Game Show Announcer Mare!

Game Show Announcer Mare: Mare, during your Walk of Fame you’ll get to toot your own horn and continue to improve your health!

Mare: Do I get a full ‘toot’ this week, or are you going to cut me off again?

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: We’re back to our regular timeslot, so toot away!

Mare: Toot! Toot!

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Mare, we’d like to remind you that you have a consequence due next week.

Mare: I haven’t forgotten.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: We look forward to it! However, if it isn’t completed by next Thursday, Game Show Announcer Mare has been coming up with creative ways to serve your SLUG penalty.

Game Show Announcer Mare: Slugs are the fruit of the swamp. You can barbecue them, boil them, broil them, bake them, sauté them –

Mare: Ewww!

Game Show Announcer Mare: There’s slug-kabobs, slug creole, slug gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried.

Mare: This sounds familiar….

Game Show Announcer Mare: There’s pineapple slug, lemon slug, coconut slug, pepper slug, slug soup, slug stew, slug salad, slug and potatoes, slug burger, slug sandwich.

Mare: Anything else, Bubba?

Game Show Announcer Mare: That’s about it.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: And that’s all the time we have. I’m Cheeky Game Show Host Mare, reminding you to choose HEALTH, or else you’ll have to live with the CONSEQUENCES… like eating a slug.

*cue music*

 

We’re Off To An OPA-licious Start!

April 1st not only marked the start of Month 5 of my 12 in 12 journey, it was my daughter’s birthday as well, and what better way to launch the Mediterranean diet, and celebrate Telli’s special day, than to dine at an authentic Greek restaurant? OPA!

While everyone was out getting their prank on, we headed across town to the Danforth (famous for all things Greek in Toronto) to savour mouth-watering cuisine that Zeus, Athena, and the rest of the toga wearing gods and goddess’ feast on.

I don’t have a clue how to make elaborate Greek dishes, let alone pronounce them, so we were in for an adventure of gastronomical proportions when we arrived at Avli’s. OPA!

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Telli, Nathan (her boyfriend, and artist extraordinaire), Marisa (her bestie, and my adopted daughter) and I, studied our menus, grappling over all the delectable choices, finally deciding on dishes we would never attempt to make at home.

We started with Taramosalata (fish roe with olive oil and lemon juice), Kopanisti (feta cheese, roasted red pepper and olive oil), and Melitzanosalata (eggplant with onion, parsley and garlic) dips served with pita bread, and grilled calamari. OPA!

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Telli enjoyed the grilled sardines and rapini – OPA!

Nathan had the meat moussaka (eggplant zucchini, potatoes, and ground beef with béchamel sauce) – OPA!

Marisa sampled the chicken gyros – OPA!

And I devoured the seafood pie, which was filled with shrimp, scallops, salmon, mushrooms and feta topped with a thin phyllo crust – OPA! The seafood swam in the most flavourful tomato, garlic and parsley sauce I’ve ever tasted – I would have drank it by the cupful if they served it that way! The herbs and spices alone enhanced the meal and took it to the next level. Double OPA!

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By the end of the evening, our bellies were full and our taste buds danced like Zorba the Greek – OPA! I didn’t need an entire serving of baklava to satisfy my craving for sweets – actually, I split this gem with Nathan and it was the perfect topper to a meal that proved it’s all about quality, not quantity. OPA!

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I’m not sure how much I’ll lose on the Mediterranean diet (if anything, if I keep eating meals like this), but I can tell you that just a few days into the plan, this has been the most flavourful to date!

I’ve also learned I love saying the word ‘OPA!’ … OPA!… OPA!… OPA!… Say it with me… OPA!

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My daughter said it sounds like I have OPA Tourette’s…. Don’t worry honey, it’s just a phase. I’ll snap out of it when we dine at our next stop on the Mediterranean Express… OLÉ!

For my Week 18 food journal click here.