Sunday, June 13, 2010
I grew up in Iowa, and they are the pork capital of the country. That’s what they do with all that corn – feed it to the hogs. My father is German, and the Germans must eat a lot of pork, too, because my father loves it. Pickled pig’s feet were always a favorite. All kinds of sausage, pork chops, ham and bacon showed up on the menu at home.
I bought fresh green beans at the farmer’s market yesterday and the first thing I thought of doing with them was to make my father’s green beans and bacon.
Dad started with about a half pound of bacon ends. (These are the scraps left over after they put the neat little slices into the Oscar Mayer package.)(I was married before I knew bacon came in slices.) My Dad cooked the bacon in a big skillet until not quite crisp, and poured off some of the fat into the jar on the stove. (This jar of pork fat was kept and used to season other vegetables and to fry eggs.) A chopped onion or two was thrown into the hot bacon/fat mixture in the skillet, followed by a bunch of cooked green beans, a little salt and a lot of black pepper. The whole mess was cooked down until the onions were browned and the green beans were almost falling apart. I’ll tell you, that is some good eating. Now we all know that pork fat is not a health food, but don’t tell that to my 96 year old Dad.
I decided to modify my Dad’s recipe a little to make it a tad healthier for me. I cooked two slices of all natural, no nitrates, no antibiotics, smoked bacon. Once the bacon was crisp, I poured out the fat and cleaned the pan. I used a tablespoon of olive oil to cook down an onion and a red bell pepper. The bell pepper is my own addition. I like them and they’re colorful. While they were cooking slowly, I cut my green beans into a pot of boiling water and after 20 minutes used a skimmer to add the green beans to the onion & pepper. I tossed in some minced garlic, too, just because, and ground in a lot of black pepper. I can’t remember whether my Dad put garlic in his beans or not, but I don’t think he’d mind. At this point I added back a tablespoon of the bacon fat and the bacon, chopped up small. Then I cooked and stirred until the beans were totally soft and coated with the bacon fat. You can’t rush these green beans. Just be sure to keep the flame low under the pan so they don’t burn. I’m not going to pretend this is diet food, but I did the recipe calculator and for ½ a cup it’s only 112 calories and 7 grams of fat.
My husband won’t eat them. He doesn’t like green beans. I had to put the leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as I’d measured out my serving so I didn’t eat the whole pan full myself. I can enjoy them all week.
Here is a poem about husbands and food. It’s by Leo Dangel.
After Forty Years of Marriage, She Tries
a New Recipe for Hamburger Hot Dish
“How did you like it?” she asked.
“It’s all right,” he said.
“This is the third time I cooked
it this way. Why can’t you
ever say if you like something?”
“Well if I didn’t like it. I
wouldn’t eat it,” he said.
“You never can say anything
I cook tastes good.”
“I don’t know why all the time
you think I have to say it’s good.
I eat it, don’t I?”
“I don’t think you have to say
all the time it’s good, but once
in a while you could say
you like it.”
“It’s all right,” he said.
For more poems by Leo Dangel, check out the Writer's Almanac, one of my favorite sources for poetry.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
One of my favorite movies is a film called “A League of Their Own”. Madonna was in it, and Rosie O’Donnell. Tom Hanks played the alcoholic coach of a girl’s baseball team. The most famous line in the movie is “There’s no crying in baseball” but I liked another line better.
One of Hanks’ best players is quitting the team. She tells him, “It just got too hard”, and he tells her off, saying something like, “Of course it’s hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. That’s why it’s good. It’s the hard that makes it good.”
It’s the hard that makes it good.
Many of the best things in life require effort – graduating from school, having a baby, even, sometimes, staying married – but the coach said more than that. He didn’t just say good things take effort, he said, “It’s the hard that makes it good.”
Among the best experiences in my life was learning to scuba dive when we lived in Bermuda. I’m a good swimmer, but the dive course was hard. As part of the final test we each had to go to the bottom in about 15 feet of water, take off all our scuba gear – mask, fins, tank, weight belt – go to the surface, take a couple of deep breaths, then go back down to the bottom and put all the gear on again. Getting the gear off is fairly easy. The first challenge for me was getting back down to the bottom. The laws of physics say that fat floats, and I am a champion floater. I normally wore 10 pounds of lead weight around my waist just to get my butt under water. Without the weight belt, I really had to struggle to get to the bottom. The next challenge was getting my mask on again. When you breathe air through a regulator under water you are normally wearing a mask over your eyes and nose. This creates a little pocket of air over your face that makes it a whole lot more comfortable to breathe. When I got back to my gear, I grabbed my weight belt, and reached for my regulator to get more air. At this point my lungs were screaming “breathe” but my brain was screaming “don’t breathe you fool, you’re under water, you’ll suck water up your nose”. I had to pinch my nose shut in order to breathe through my mouth. This left me only one hand to put my mask on. Once the mask was on, I had to clear the water out of it by pressing it against my forehead and exhaling through my nose until the air replaced the water. I passed the test on the first try, thank goodness. It was hard, but it was good. I got my license to scuba dive and I spent many enjoyable hours exploring the reefs and ship wrecks around Bermuda. The best part of every dive was getting back in the boat with a deep feeling of accomplishment. I was a diver – and I lived to tell about it.
Losing weight isn’t easy either. It’s not easy to come home from a long day at work and get on the treadmill for 40 minutes, but walking off the stresses of the day is good. It’s not easy to watch other people in a restaurant order anything they want while I’m mentally counting calories and portion sizes, but it’s good to leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, but not stuffed, and it’s good to have a bag of leftovers to make a lunch for the next day, instead of having heartburn.
So next time you tell yourself you’re going to quit because it’s “just too hard” to lose weight, or get strong, or stay healthy, I want you to hear Tom Hanks telling you “It’s the hard that makes it good” and I want you to stay on the team.
I always end with a poem, but it’s going to be a short one today because the blog was so long.
By Edna St Vincent Millay:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light
Monday, May 31, 2010
by Edward Arlington Robinson
The Dark Hills
Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground.
For now from all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade—as if the last of days
Were fading, and all wars were done.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Today I went to the County Recreation Fitness Center to learn to use the strength training machines. These Recreation Centers are wonderful places. The one closest to my home is only 3 miles away, and has an Olympic sized pool, classrooms, racquet ball courts, and a fitness room full of treadmills, stair climbers, elliptical machines, and a bunch of intimidating weight machines.
After buying a fitness pass I was able to make an appointment with a trainer (at no charge) to walk me through using the machines safely and effectively. My appointment was this morning with Brien, who turned out to be a really sweet young man who looked like an 18 year old Ashton Kutcher, with the puppy-dog eyes and the floppy hair. He set up a circuit training schedule for me, and helped me get the right settings and weight levels. He stood by with advice while I worked through my circuit for the first time. The machines are really pretty cool. They keep track of your repetitions and sets, remind you to slow down if you are going too fast, and give you a report at the end to show what you’ve accomplished. I just totally enjoyed myself. I’m not too strong, yet, but I know that will improve. I plan to go back on Thursday to do it all again.
I didn’t really have a poem for strength training, so I am sharing a poem titled “The Courage of Women” by Jane Glazer, a poet born in Iowa who now lives and writes in Oregon.
The Courage of Women
I think of the courage of women,
how they endure,
how they walk miles to carry back water,
silence their pain, apportion
what’s left of the rice.
Keepers of eggs without shells,
they know how fragile the days are,
how hope can spill into the ground.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
I saw the doctor yesterday and had good news on several fronts.
My leg is much better. Keeping it elevated and wearing the compression stockings for a few days did the trick.
I think that leg is just going to swell sometimes, weight loss or not, and the swelling can lead to cellulitis. When I was in high school I injured that ankle and it's not been quite right since. My mother was giving me a ride to the bus stop, and we were arguing. (I don't remember what about, but I was a high school girl so I frequently argued with my mother.) My mom dropped me off behind the city bus I needed to catch. I was running for the door when I slipped on the ice and went down. The bus driver didn't see me, and he started the bus and ran over my right foot and ankle. Because of the angle, I scraped a lot of flesh off that ankle, but oddly enough I didn't break any bones. So that ankle has been scarred and prone to swelling most of my life. (Now that I've broken the other ankle, my ankles match again.)
The doctor said I could wear the compression stockings for work when I sit at my desk most of the day, but probably won't need them the rest of the time. So that was good news.
The 24 hours heart monitor test showed that I have occasional skipped heart beats, but no other problems. My pulse varied from 50 (sleeping) to 132 (treadmill) and that is within normal range. I had no episodes of heart beats more than 2.5 seconds apart, no sudden rapid heartbeats or abnormally slow heartbeats. There were no episodes of arrhythmia. My thyroid tests were normal, too, so that is not causing the problem. The doctor thinks the skipped beats are caused by stress, and he's probably right. I've suffered on and off from anxiety attacks for years, and they usually start with a sudden thumping in my chest. The doctor said if the thumping continues to bother me he can prescribe medication, but he wants to just watch the situation for now. So my heart continues to thump, but it's not dangerous, and that's good news.
Overall my blood work was excellent. My fasting blood sugar was 86. It hasn't been that low in years. The doctor decreased my dosage of Metformin from 1500 mg/ day to 1000 mg/day and that's good news.
I've been with my doctor for 25 years and I love him. He's very careful. He answers all my questions. He takes me seriously, but he doesn't over-react. There is a serenity about him that is just what I need.
Serenity is something I need more of in my life, or maybe just in my personality. I'm hoping my yoga class this summer will help with that.
The following poem is titled "The Peace of Wild Things" and I love the serenity it describes.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
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