Sunday, August 19, 2012

Liked this interview with Caitlin Moran on NPR's Fresh Air. From her book How to Be a Woman:
What part of liberation for women is not for you? Is it the freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man that you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Vogue by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that stuff just get on your nerves?


Heard this song while having lunch at The Percolator on Friday. I saw Augustana in concert once upon a time, tried unsuccessfully to play the intro on the piano. Aw, memories.

Friday, August 17, 2012

End of the week

Ahhh, the end of the week. There's always a combination of feelings on a Friday of a regular week:
1) Tired. Despite my best efforts I'm usually spent by 10 p.m., 11 at the latest.
2) Head spinning trying to process everything that happened during the week. This mental state usually lasts until late Saturday.
3) Body slightly amped up on caffeine, sugar and fat, which I allow myself to have on a Friday night, not so much during the week.
4) Excited. It hits me that I'm actually free to do what I want. I resolve to finish that book and watch those movies and go on a long hike and reconnect with friends and family. Usually my reach exceeds my grasp.
5) Lonely, now that the boyfriend is away. I wish he was around.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Refined sugar fast: The aftermath

Finally I have time to write an update on the results of the refined sugar fast. The last day was Tuesday. Yes, I did stick to it after my NYC vacation days, no moments of weakness where I sneaked in a candy or two.

Some thoughts:
- The last few days of it I felt particularly energetic. I don't know if it was purely the result of my diet, but I'm sure it contributed. I was trying to memorize that feeling for the next time I feel lethargic and start wondering why, after I've eaten two chocolate bars and drunk 20 oz. of soda. Nutrition does matter after all, who knew?

- My mom made cinnamon apples (with sugar) on Monday night and the smell of it was soooo tempting. But I didn't eat them.

- On Wednesday I had some sugar again. I had a bowl of cereal that had sugar and a small chocolate candy. And that was it. It's funny, 30 days of not packing in the sugar had the intended effect. It made me not want it all the time. I didn't even eat any of the leftover cinnamon apples. Seeing how much healthier I feel I don't want to jeopardize it by bingeing on junk food.

- My stomach-area fat has gone down a little bit and my pants fit more loosely. So I have lost some weight. This has been the best diet I've been on, because it hasn't been so much about losing weight. Usually if I diet I rely on portion control. Two cookies instead of four. A small sandwich instead of a huge one. Cutting down at lunch and letting myself go hungry until dinner. But in these 30 days I never let myself be hungry for too long. I did go hungry a couple of times when I couldn't get to a sugar-free snack. But usually I allowed myself to eat as much of sugar-free snacks like fruit and nuts as I wanted and I also allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted on the salty end of the spectrum. So it didn't feel too much like deprivation, and I think that's what allowed me to get through it.

- I'm not putting myself on another diet right now but maybe there could be another round. No meat for 30 days? No fried food?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

New York, Part 2 update

My second visit to New York was equally interesting to the first. My first visit was like visiting an alien world, or actually more like discovering that a fairy tale city that I only knew of from TV and books actually did exist. I was beyond glamour-struck at the subway and the skyscrapers and the lifestyle.

Probably because of the impression that initial visit made I've been back to big cities again and again in the following years. I love big cities and won't rest until I've been to them all.

And yet New York still found ways to surprise and amaze me.

High Line Park amazed me. A park above the city, how does that work? There were colorful flowers and amphitheatres, a walking path, food and art vendors, and some young people just out there chilling during the middle of the day. It seemed like a place that could easily not work, and yet it absolutely did. It's an oasis of peace above the big city.

I was excited to see the Statue of Liberty this time around, as tourist-y as that might sound. I'd never seen her green copper panels up close. I got photos of her from every angle, trying as well as I could to see the writing on the book she was holding (it says July 4, 1776).  Even by 2012 standards she is towering and impressive. She's an artistic as well as technological marvel. Did you know the copper on her surface is only two pennies thick, and her structure (designed by Eiffel Tower engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel) is similar to that of a skyscraper?

I wondered why there were so many foreign tourists at the Statue of Liberty. I guess you really can't say you've been to America unless you've taken a picture with the Statue of Liberty in the background. No other icon says "freedom" and "America" like the Statue of Liberty.

What else in New York amazed me? My sister took me to a Brazilian restaurant where I had one of the best meals I've ever eaten, a stew of sweet shrimp and perfect sauce made of yucca root. I savored every last grain of rice and scooped every last drop of the sauce I could with my fork. The second best meal was at a bagel shop in Queens. An egg on a sesame seed bagel and hot coffee, how New York is that? I could taste the freshness of the bagel. No place in El Paso could compare.

One thing I've discovered that I like about big cities is the stores. Not that I am much of a shopper, but the variety and quality of what you can get in a big city really exceeds anything you could get in middle America. Mood had endless rolls of silks and jerseys and chiffons, feathers, buttons of every kind, and even a dog.

And two independent bookstores, St. Mark's Bookshop and The Strand, fulfilled my literary fantasies. I bought two books and a copy of New York magazine at St. Mark's and picked up a free copy of the Village Voice. The Strand has three stories! I think my fantasy New York life is of the hyper-literary sort, hanging out at coffee shops and bookstores and finding an interesting crew to talk to about news and literature, writing a column called Books and the City :-).

During this visit to New York I really took notice of all the public art -- a mosaic in a subway tunnel, a stained glass window in a subway platform, fountains and sculptures in parks around the city. I was impressed because in my older age I'm more aware that it takes money and effort to have things like that. Yes, I would rather have a functional subway over a pretty-looking subway tunnel, but a mural did give me something to ponder on my way to the next platform. It sends a definite message -- art is important. Thank you, New York.

Subway station in Queens

At City Hall Park

Fountain at Central Park

Ketchup bottle at City Hall Park

New York is a place of greatness, of imagination, of fun. Could I be a New Yorker? Maybe. I think I had the same reaction coming home as I did after my last visit. New York = fast, El Paso = sloooow. Driving home on the uncrowded freeway on a Sunday I could feel my body relax taking in the bright sunshine and still, dry air, realizing I could take as long as I needed to get home. I drove by Downtown El Paso and compared to New York it seemed like a cute dollhouse version of a downtown. Not that I have anything against our Downtown, or a slower lifestyle. They are just different speeds on the machine. Sometimes I want things to be slow. Other times I yearn for excitement and something that wows -- a giant statue to marvel at, a park above the city, a beautiful sculpture in a public park, a ride on a subway, a three-story bookstore. I *heart* New York still.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Refined sugar fast, Day 24

I'm eating my dessert of half a banana and a small fresh apricot. I successfully resisted my mom's Rice Krispies treats.

I'm realizing that one can get used to this non-sugar lifestyle. At times this adjustment has been very difficult, but at other times it's not been difficult at all.

It is difficult when my thoughts drift to food, especially when I think about taste and texture -- what cotton candy tastes like, what jamoncillo (Mexican candy) feels like melting in my mouth. At those times it is almost unbearable not to be able to have it.

But when I don't overthink it it's fine. So what, fruit instead of ice cream at night, does it really matter? Nuts instead of M&Ms, am I really denying myself very much? My body certainly doesn't miss the extra calories.

I do think it would be hard to eliminate all sweet things from my diet. Fruit has been my saving grace during this time. I bought a package of dried figs for 98 cents this week. Those are so sweet they almost are like candy. Plus as a bonus they remind me of Fig Newton cookies.

I suppose the point of this is that there is nothing impossibly difficult about this diet, mostly it is just a few simple substitutions and some discipline to not give into the cravings.