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October 31, 2011

That's his Halloween ride

Seen on the 101 North:

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License plate says GOTH SUV.

Posted by laurie at 12:22 AM

October 17, 2011

R. Lee Ermey learns to knit

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Just got back from Washington, D.C. and on the plane to Burbank I sat next to a nice fellow who took an interest in my knitting. It took me two glasses of wine and about sixteen people gasping and asking the man for his autograph before it dawned on me he might be Someone. I did not know he was Someone, I just thought he was quite a character with his red boots and his salty language. He loved my knitting and he thought it would he high-larious for an ex-Marine such as himself to take up knitting as a hobby, proving once again that yarn unites everyone.

D.C. pics coming soon!

Posted by laurie at 9:50 AM

October 11, 2011

That's a lot of miles.

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It's hard to get out of bed sometimes.

Early last week reader Liz posted this message:

This is just a note to say how inspiring it is to hear about your exercise. Not just this post, where you are "talking about it" but other posts where you casually refer to your walk that morning, as an ordinary part of your life. You are doing what we should all do - make a change so that exercise is part of our lives. Not something we really will get around to doing some day, or some super special new thing, but a genuine life change. It's harder to do than to say, or we'd all be doing it, so congratulations Laurie.

--Liz

Sometimes a comment sticks with me for a while, and I have thought about this one on and off during the week. I keep asking myself, "Have I made a lifestyle change?" It doesn't feel that way. Instead, it feels more like I have a lifestyle -- an unhealthy one -- and I'm just choosing to do the opposite of it.

According to my Nike sports band, so far in 2011 I have walked a total of 756.02 miles. That is a lot of miles and it's only early October! Also, apparently I didn't walk any in January (is that true? I think I still had an ankle injury then.)

My goal is to walk every single day. It doesn't always pan out, I might be injured or it's a million degrees or I just want to take a yoga class that day. But I walk a lot. For someone who is a serious couch potato at heart that is a giant accomplishment.

However, I'm not certain it's the grand lifestyle change we hear about on those TV reports about healthy living. As long as I can remember, every single diet book and article and news story about health talks up "lifestyle changes" as the key to good living. Obviously my lifestyle has seriously changed, but it's not the new autopilot. I didn't suddenly become a fitness enthusiast or a traveling preacher talking about the sin of the sofa. I love sitting on the sofa and watching TV. I love potato chips with a deep passion that no man has ever rivaled. I love food and wine and general sloth and gluttony. That hasn't changed one bit.

My "lifestyle change" is that I wake up every day and decide all over again that today I should go for a walk or take a class or ride the exercise bike while watching TV. It's a daily thing. Sometimes it's a daily slog.

I'm sure there are some people who do make a lifestyle change in the spirit that the diet books suggest. Perhaps these folks were more moderate in their lifestyle to begin with, so for them it's just a matter of trimming a little bit here or there and before long they have a new normal. I was way out of whack, though, on the extreme end of things and so I had to perform a gigantic lifestyle overhaul. I couldn't just cut out a soda a day, lose the miraculous ten pounds in a year and be balanced and happy. (For one thing, I don't drink soda. And I had way more than a ten pound problem.) Overhauling my life was scary and sometimes hard. Everything changed. And it didn't take root immediately -- several months passed before I got into it for real, and started making that daily decision to lace up my shoes and walk. There were long periods of backsliding.

Walking isn't just an activity for me, it's symbolic. It's a decision that starts the day and every other decision flows from it. Today I will move around. Today I will accomplish something. Today I'll take vitamins. Today I'll write, work, read a good book, declutter a drawer, have a healthy dinner. I know there's still the hovering ever-present problem of personal sloth: it's easy enough to go one or two days without a walk and string them together into a month. It's easy to eat too much or drink too much when you have a weekend guest and let that bleed over into next week, and next weekend.

Truthfully, my lifestyle default setting is textbook unhealthy and I have to work to make it different. I wish I were one of those people who genuinely lived to exercise, who only ate for fuel and nourishment. I like to eat because I'm hungry, or sad, or happy, or tired, or anxious, or because it's Tuesday. It's been over a year now of Lifestyle Changing and I'm basically the same old me. I still want to eat when I'm upset, I still want to stay in bed and watch TV every morning -- I just choose not to most of the time. I get up and decide to walk. I decide to have a good lunch. I decide that if I'm going to slink into a TV coma I better be on the exercise bike during half of it. I make the choice because it gives me hope for the future and happier feelings during the day.

While doing this thing I'm doing I've had to accept I may never find it exciting and awesome to exercise daily. It might be a decision I have to re-make every day forever. It's more routine these days and of course the effort is easier because my body is more fit and can do more activities. But it gets boring sometimes! BORING. Losing weight and gaining fitness through incremental diet and exercise changes is a slooooooow process. SLOW.

Sometimes I get bored and want to stop. Sometimes I get tired and want to stay in bed, or knit in front of the TV, or eat nothing but fast food. On those days I worry I will careen off into a ditch and never recover. Those are the days I walk even when I'm not motivated, I just do it because I promised myself I would. Maybe that is the lifestyle change -- keeping a promise to myself.

Even though it is slow and can be a drag sometimes it's worth it. In a few days I'm going to be seeing some of my family, an event which would normally make me panic about my weight. I grew up in a family that is obsessed with weight and slimness and I have always been the "fat" one, even when I was nowhere near overweight. Usually I get so nervous before seeing my family that I go on a crash diet, or I buy new fat-hiding clothes or I start a wine IV. Sometimes I just cancel, waiting until the magic day when I am skinny to visit with them. (Oh that magic day. It never comes.)

There's still a remnant part of me that feels worried and nervous I won't measure up but more than anything I feel happy to see my family. I haven't been crash dieting or hiding under a new pair of Spanx or drowning in skinnygirl margaritas (yet, always give myself the option!) I know I'm not rail-thin and never will be and that's life. I'm healthy. Or at least I feel healthy. I just walked 756.02 miles this year, of course I feel healthy! My main motivation for exercising every day is that I don't have to put off my life anymore, I don't have to panic. And since I still have a long way to go, panic isn't really a great option anyway.

How do you stay motivated over the long haul? What gets you up each morning making healthy decisions? What do you do when you feel the deep urge to hide under the covers with a bottle of wine and a snickers chaser? How do you motivate yourself to stay the course? I'd love to hear what's working for you!

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Bob will nap while we discuss this.

Posted by laurie at 8:03 AM

October 10, 2011

That's going to be my spy name.

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Posted by laurie at 12:59 PM

October 6, 2011

That is not the poster I would have picked ...

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Posted by laurie at 4:10 PM

October 5, 2011

Today's forecast: Puddles and frizz and DOOM

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STORM WATCH 2011 is ON!!

Rain in early October is the Los Angeles equivalent of snow on Spring Break in the deep south. Everyone looks homeless including me, it's an unspoken citywide rule that on rainy days you get to suspend normal operations and wear all your scrummiest clothes at one time. Plus it's COLD! For those of you not familiar with the vernacular, cold is anything under 67 degrees. It was 52 degrees this morning in the Hollywood Hills! That's just crazytalk.

Of course, people in other parts of the country get a good laugh over Los Angeles "cold." It's the same way we feel when you complain about "traffic" or "high gas prices." Everything is relative, and in this relatively warm and sunny spot of the map we don't expect to see a 52-degree morning until a cold snap in December.

There has been a lot of snuggling happening in the city:

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And this morning I went on a walk in the rain thus proving I have either fully committed to exercise or need to be fully committed. Having never deliberately walked outdoors in the rain I wasn't sure what to wear, so I zipped on my big, oversized sweatshirt hoodie and got on the road.

This was a big, oversized mistake. By the time I was midway through my walk I was soaked all the way through and my clothes had become larger, heavier and longer. It did have the fascinating side effect of allowing me to re-create what it was like to exercise back when I was ten pounds heavier, though. By the time I got home I was thoroughly exhausted from carting all those wet clothes around, including a hoodie/sponge that now weighed fifteen times its normal heft.

But I lived to tell the tale and make fun of myself, and really, is there anything better?

There may be one thing better:

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Rainy days and greenies always make me smile.

Posted by laurie at 10:07 AM

October 4, 2011

Pillow fort

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Posted by laurie at 11:54 AM

October 3, 2011

Kale Salad

Kale scares people. I'm not sure why -- it's so pretty! -- but I love kale. I look at it as my dietary antidote for all the cheeseburgers and wine that accidentally fall into my life.

Interestingly enough I'm not a huge fan of salad but I love kale salad. It's fast and easy and stays good in the fridge for two days (with the dressing on it!) I hate spending all that time washing and cleaning and chopping stuff for a regular green salad only to discover my lettuce has wilted the next day or the tomatoes have gone mushy. This kale salad is the lazy person's best friend. You make one batch and it's good for days and days.

You can make your own mix but I found the best possible bagged vegetable item EVER at my local Whole Foods market:

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That's a half pound of cleaned, de-stemmed, chopped curly kale mixed with some shredded carrots and purple cabbage for only $2.99! And it's organic. This is one of the few times that a bagged item rivals the value of buying something straight off the vegetable aisle. Plus it's so EASY. Just open the bag, make the dressing and in two minutes you're done.

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There is a recipe for dressing on the bag but after a few weeks of making this obsessively, I've come up with my own version that has more flavor and less calories. If you look closely in the picture you'll see I forgot the sesame oil -- it was in the fridge! But sesame oil adds most of the flavor to this dressing. Use the dark (toasted) sesame oil. I buy it in small quantities and keep it in the fridge so it doesn't get rancid.

My Kale Salad Dressing:

1/4 cup rice unseasoned wine vinegar (you can use a little more if you like more intense flavor)
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil or less
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt & black pepper to taste

Mix this up in a little bowl and then pour it over the raw kale. Here is the most important part of the recipe: Put the salad back in the fridge and let it marinate for AT LEAST one hour. The acid in the vinegar softens up the leaves and improves the texture. You can let this marinate for much longer, and it will be completely edible and awesome two days later.

Finally, I add pecans and dried cranberries on top to make this salad super tasty. The cranberries on this salad add the perfect combination of sweet to tangy. You can also add some chopped chicken breast or grilled salmon to make it a full meal. One bag of salad makes four gigantic portions. I worked out the calories in my version (with cranberries and pecans) at about 325 calories per lunch-sized bowl -- about four cups of salad. And after you eat four cups of raw kale trust me you are no longer hungry.

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Super salad!

Posted by laurie at 10:03 AM

October 2, 2011

Eighty-three days until Christmas!

I don't watch scary movies, but I do love the sensational fright that comes with the traditional October scare-fest known as OH CRAP THERE ARE ONLY EIGHTY-THREE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS. Which there are as of today.

You're welcome, you're welcome.

This is going to be a productive month, I hereby declare it so. I'm finishing a scarf for my sister-in-law, which precipitated this conversation:

Me: I don't know if you wear scarves or even like them, but I made you one and I'm going to give it to you and you have to wear it at least long enough for me to take a picture.

Kelli: Alrighty then! Gotta run!

I'm also still walking each day, though I've broken it up with some stationary bicycling in the afternoons because it's less jarring on my poor aching back (and I can watch TV while exercising). In October I'm going to write, declutter and at least start to think about updating the database. That is my to-do list and I have it written on paper in colorful sharpies and posted in my office so I can see it yelling at me every day. Productivity, you will be mine!

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The cats are unimpressed.

Earlier this morning I called Jennifer, she was in her car listening to Christmas music.

"Are you listening to Christmas music?" I asked.

"I couldn't help it," she said. "I went to Michael's for some craft supplies and I saw all the holiday stuff and I had to. I broke out the carols."

"It's supposed to get cold here and rain later this week," I said. "I am TOTALLY going to make hot spiced tea and listen to Christmas music and freak out my neighbors!"

"It is the most wonderful time of the year," she said.

It does feel that way, here on October 2nd, when the holidays still seem far away and unreal and there's still plenty of time to finish that scarf. But it's only 83 short days from today! Frightful!

Posted by laurie at 12:25 PM

October 1, 2011

Out, Out, October Clutter!

The first day of October has arrived, bringing with it a new, fresh calendar page and a feeling of fall and more than a little fear about the rapidly approaching end of 2011. A small, persistent voice in the back of my brain is saying, But I still have so much to do! It can't be October yet!

When I had my sudden middle-of-the-night move to this apartment last spring, I became acutely aware of how much clutter I still own. Anytime you have to pack and haul and pay to move your stuff it's a reminder that clutter can be a real drag.

For the first month or two that I lived here in Bland Hollywood Starter Apartment -- and especially as I unpacked each mysterious box -- I managed to reduce my clutter load by about 10%. But it's not enough for me. I'd like to ultimately get down to about half of what I moved here. It will free me up, cost me less, and make the next move all that much easier.

Oddly enough, having less money and therefore shopping much less hasn't reduced my clutter at all. I think as money gets tighter something inside my delicate psyche edges me to hang on to every last item, every paperback and sock and skein. Is anyone else experiencing the rise of recession clutter? It's mysterious. It makes sense in a 1930s save-the-rubber-bands kind of way, yet I'm not sure it's useful or even healthy. How can your life have ebb and flow if you're stuck holding on so tightly to your stuff?

The other challenge with my personal clutter level is that I've already gotten rid of most of the superfluous crap, the duplicate saws and fondue pots and end tables. Now I'm down to the harder decisions.

These seem to fall into three categories:

1) Stuff I want to get rid of but would require selling and having strangers in my home, or hiring movers, or some other gigantic effort.
This category includes some furniture and probably the treadmill (now redundant since I live in a neighborhood where I can safely walk outdoors all year round). Some of the furniture can be donated but logistically it's a hassle -- I live on the top floor of a building with no elevator on a street with no parking. I think the best thing for me to do with these items is to wait until I move again and make a plan for them at that time. That makes it even more imperative to deal with the other areas of clutter.

2) Stuff I want to pare down that requires significant time, effort or emotion to cull through.
Most people have some form of this clutter hiding in a cabinet or closet. How many of you are still holding onto that old, outdated computer because you need to clean up the hard drive and erase all the data and then find a place to donate or recycle it? Yup. Been there. For me it's old zip disks that should be transferred to an external drive, erased and recycled properly. And the large collection of CDs I want to transfer to my computer then get rid of. Stacks of press clips that should be scanned then discarded. Boxes of old photos and mementos I need to look through and cull out the keepers. Old photo albums that are falling apart and need to be deconstructed and weeded through and figured out. Many of these tasks aren't extremely difficult, just tedious and time-consuming, so the clutter tends to stay around longer than it should.

3) Stuff I just haven't wanted to get rid of yet.
This category has some clothes, a lot of books, a lot of yarn, craft supplies, and picture frames. They are items I genuinely like and keep thinking one day I'll do something with them. Of course the truth is that I've already had them for a long while and I have yet to make that Big Project or even the Little Project and I sure haven't done the Maybe This Could Be A Project. This stuff is hard to part with because I like it, and part of me feels distress about letting go of the idea that I'll use it in the future.

- - -

That one concept -- difficulty letting go of the idea of an item's future usefulness -- is what separates those who have clutter issues and those who do not. There will be readers who honestly cannot fathom the feeling. (These are the people who can get all their belongings into a single suitcase. Fascinating.) I'm not looking to live a spartan existence with no decorative elements, that simply isn't my personality. My goal is not to be a Zen minimalist, my goal is to lighten up because I will be moving again and I don't want to pay to move clutter.

When paring down, it's relatively easy to part with cruddy old T-shirts, rusted cookie sheets and duplicate saws. That's like the Defcon 1 of Decluttering. It's not fun to get started but once you do it's not as hard as you thought. Then there's Defcon 2 Decluttering: streamlining the main living areas and getting your bedroom closet and kitchen cabinets clean and clear. I've done a good job of this, helped along by the fact that this apartment is tiny and has almost no kitchen storage. My living area is tidy and clutter-free and the bedroom is so small that it's almost impossible to clutter up.

My office is the last big sucking swamp of stuff. It's the dumping ground, the purgatory of clutter and projects and paper. Every corner is packed with books or boxes or carefully curated bins of craft supplies. What makes it hard is that most of this stuff I genuinely still like and might want to use one day in some vague and pretty future. It's Defcon 3 Decluttering -- the painful paring down.

Unfortunately there isn't a quippy, quick tip that can fix this kind of clutter. The solution is simply to do the work. I've been avoiding it for a few months and now in October I'm taking on my office and its assorted piles and projects. My strategy is to commit to spending one day a week -- probably a Sunday -- in my office doing the work of Defcon 3 Decluttering. But why wait until tomorrow? Today is as good a time to start as any, perhaps with the mountain of mail and magazines on my desk.

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This cat is not clutter.

Posted by laurie at 9:36 AM