Archive for March, 2010

Don't ask, won't tell

Last week I was at my parents’ house when my mother asked, “Heather, have you lost weight?”

“I have,” I said.

“How much?” she asked.

So I told her.

“Heather! Oh my gosh! Why haven’t I noticed before now?”

I shrugged but assured her I didn’t take any offense. I actually prefer not to have people notice because when they start to notice they start paying closer attention and check in on you to make sure you haven’t gone back to eating your weight in butter.

This happened six years ago when I lost eighty pounds. Two lovely, well-intentioned ladies at work took an interest in my progress and started asking me how much I’d lost. And they asked every stinkin’ week. Towards the end, once I’d peaked and started putting on the pounds again, their questions became awkward.

“Nope, still eighty pounds,” I’d say trying not to convey the annoyance and embarrassment I felt.

Thankfully they eventually stopped asking.

This time around I’m very selective about with whom I share information, and when I told my parents how much I’d lost, I made them swear not to tell my grandmother. While I’m sure she’d be proud and all that, she’d wind up telling her church lady friend and her church lady friend would wind up telling her daughter, who happens to not only work in my office but is also the resident sugar Gestapo.

In other words, I’m trying to keep things on the DL, except when it comes to my BFFs on the internet.  I’ll share whatever with y’all because we’re tight.

But eventually more people who are not related to me will start to notice and there will be that awkward silence during which I’ll have to decide how to respond.

Recovery is a private thing. Some problems are more visible than others, but when you start to share them with other people you begin to stand in front of them with a little less armor. The workplace is the last place I want to be more vulnerable.

Been there. Done that. Moving on.


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Last week I told the story about our trip to The Yellow Jacket. We were there for awhile and took the “all you can eat” concept to heart.

Autumn did not partake of the buffet. She had a cheeseburger without fries. Then she realized we had all this leftover ranch dressing from our fried pickles and nothing to dip into it and asked for the fries that were supposed to have come with her burger anyway.

She got bored when the fries took a little longer than expected. Watching mom and dad chow down on crab was apparently not as fun for her as actually eating the crab was for us. So she started to act like a bored four-year old. This behavior required some correction and she didn’t appreciate it.

“I want to go live in a new house,” she said. Usually when she’s mad at us she gives us her “I want you to go to jail” riff, but instead of wanting to displace us, she figured she could hightail it to another family who doesn’t mind four year-olds tossing fried shrimp on the floor.

“Fine,” I said. “There will be plenty of houses on the way back home. You just point out one that looks nice and we’ll drop you off.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this about Autumn, but she calls my bluff every stinkin’ time. EVERY TIME. It doesn’t matter what the threat is, be it a whack on the behind or eternity with the Clampets, she will toe up to the line I’ve drawn and expect me to make the next move. The kid has some balls and I still haven’t decided if it’s a quality worth my admiration or admonishment.

Knowing this about my kid, it was no surprise when her sullen voiced piped up from the back seat on the way back home.

“I want to go to that house,” she said and pointed to a blur of white aluminum siding.

Of course I told her she can’t live there and that we’d never, ever leave her behind with another family.

“But I want to live in that house,” she said.

“Why? Why do you want live there?” asked Nathan.

“Because there aren’t any brothers or sisters in my house.”

Crap. This again?

These requests are getting to be a little annoying in their frequency.  The kid wants siblings. I get it. I’ve heard her pleas, my heart has bled, I’ve dealt with the guilt and moved on. As I told Nathan later, eventually she’ll realize that ship has sailed and stop asking.

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to give her a brother or sister just because she wants one,” I said.

Thankfully my husband and I are on the same page.

Our daughter, however, is not.  It seems she’s stuck in an entirely different book, a fairy tale in which she is never lonely and eagerly shares her possessions with this fabled sibling without complaint.

I have a younger brother. Nathan has two. We both know sibling relationships aren’t all love, laughter and a rockin’ community toy box. Sibling relationships are some of the most difficult relationships to maintain because they are thrust upon you. You do not choose your siblings, nor do they choose you, and sometimes it’s quite easy to look at them and feel like an only child because that’s the only way you can deal with the baffling differences between you.

But how do you explain this to a four year-old?

You can’t. No explanation can fill the void she’s feeling now and may feel for the rest of her life.

So I’m done. This will be the last post on the matter and I will handle future requests for siblings with as much patience as I can muster.

Lord help me if she asks for a puppy, though. Lord help us all.

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Pulling into the parking lot of Autumn’s school requires me to make a left turn against oncoming traffic. Some people are cool and will let me in if cars are backed up behind the traffic light, but this morning we ran into another driver who wasn’t so accommodating. At first it looked like he was going to stop to let us through, but instead he decided to putter on forward through my opening.

“Great, jerk,” said Autumn from the back seat.

The next car let us through, and as I pulled into the school parking lot, I asked my daughter to repeat what she had just said. I thought I had heard correctly, but I wanted to make sure I had heard correctly.

“I said ‘Great, jerk,’” she replied.

“Where did you hear that?” I asked. “Who do you know who talks like that?”

“You,” she said. “You say that all the time!”

I beg to differ. I do not say things like that “all the time.” Occasionally, maybe, but in the ten months since I’ve had Autumn in the car with me every morning, I’ve tried to be conscious of my attitude towards other drivers. I try not to curse or shout or let my impatience take over and turn me into an aggressive driver like her father. If anyone should be called to the carpet for slinging mud at other motorists it should be him.

Still, I took my licks and decided to turn this into a teaching moment. “If I said that, it was wrong. We don’t want to call people names like that even if they can’t hear us.”

As with all my impromptu teaching moments, I don’t know if any of what I said sunk in or if my past indiscretions are what she will remember. It’s scary knowing how much she actually is listening when I think she’s not.

It would be nice if she could pay that much attention when I need her to listen. But that would make this job too easy, wouldn’t it?

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Yesterday Nathan suggested we get Blimpie for dinner. I shrugged my shoulders, not really wanting to commit to that before 8:00 in the morning, so throughout the day he’d shoot me messages or call asking if I knew what I wanted for dinner. Our plan was to dine out, but the question was where.

Finally, at about 3:00 in the afternoon, Nathan rang my office phone with a brilliant plan.

“Let’s go to the Yellow Jacket.”

Oh hells yeah!

The Yellow Jacket is a local restaurant that specializes in a weekend seafood buffet. We had not been there in at least ten years, the last time being a Christmas party when we were both working at the factory. It’s only about ten miles down the road from the university, but for some reason we never think of it since it’s sort of out in the middle of nowhere.

You know how some restaurants, especially Chinese buffets, will have crab legs but only bring them out occasionally so that you’re left waiting at your table for long periods of time with your bowl of clarified butter and an underused crab cracker?

Not at the Yellow Jacket.

They keep their crab stocked.  Nathan and I were in heaven and we stuffed ourselves silly.  I had good intentions going into the dinner, but they were forgotten as soon as I bit into my first fried pickle (which we ordered as an appetizer for the buffet-gah!)  Several hush puppies, fried mushrooms and pieces of butter-soaked crabmeat later I was fairly sure I wouldn’t be seeing a significant loss at the scale this week.

“You can blame me if you have a bad weigh-in tomorrow,” said Nathan.

I shook my head. “It will have been worth it if I do.”

What wasn’t worth it was the horrible feeling of a grease-laden meal sitting in my stomach for hours afterwards. That sucked and I was once again reminded why that kind of gluttony isn’t good for me. Or for anyone.

And yes, I did gain a little this week. It was my first gain since starting Weight Watchers again in October.  It was less than a pound, and since I have my husband’s permission to blame him, I will do just that.

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Que sera sera

I’m working on a presentation for work and was combing through the university’s online photo archives the other day.

The university used to publish yearbooks. The college was small enough that the entire student body could be encapsulated in a leather-bound volume not unlike the ones you get in high school.

In 1969, this guy was listed in the senior class:

Dad, 1969

That’s my dad. This picture was taken less than three years before I was born, but I don’t ever remember him being this young.  My earliest memories are of a man with a lot less hair on top. My dad’s still around and he’s the best grandpa I could have ever wanted for my daughter, but I don’t think the guy in the picture above was quite ready to become a father. I think he had more living to do, and yet he went right from college into a career teaching science to middle school students. It was a job he learned to hate and wound up retiring early.

I sometimes wonder what legacy I’ll leave behind. What will be woven into the tapestry of my daughter’s earliest memories?   Will she some day look at a picture of me and wonder what happened to the bright, smiling face of someone with more years ahead of her than behind her? Will she try to reconcile that early image with the one she carries with her of a tired, bitter old woman who never had the courage to live out her dreams?

Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see.

But it would be so much easier if we knew the risks would pay off, wouldn’t it?

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I couldn’t help myself. I had to post two recipes in a row.

This one is for my favorite lasagna and is accompanied by many pretty pictures in which my husband has dutifully posed as cooking demonstrator. I did not get a shot of his face. Sorry, ladies.

This particular lasagna comes from the May, 2000 issue of Cooking Light magazine. You can find the recipe on their website here, but I can promise you it won’t include the witty quips and blatant product placement shots you’ll find here. Theirs is printer-friendly, though, so if you think this dish is going to knock your socks off, please do visit them and print away.

This recipe is formally called “Tomato-Basil Lasagna with Prosciutto”, but Nathan and I prefer to call it, “Holy Hell That’s a Lot of Garlic” lasagna because we tend to add a lot more garlic than what the recipe calls for.

And for those of you who’ve been reading me for awhile, this would also be the same lasagna Molly devoured last year when we set it out on the deck one January night because we had no room in the fridge.

Ah, memories.

Anyway, here are the indgredients:


  • 5  garlic cloves (or however much garlic you can tolerate)
  • 1  (16-ounce) carton 1% low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2  cup  (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) grated fresh Romano cheese, divided
  • 2 1/2  teaspoons  dried basil
  • 1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1  large egg
  • 1  (26-ounce) bottle fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce (such as Muir Glen or the cheap not so fat-free stuff I use)
  • Cooking spray
  • 12  cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) chopped prosciutto or ham
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Drop garlic through food chute of a food processor like so:


If you don’t have a food processor, this can also be done in a blender if you don’t mind your mixed drinks and smoothies tasting a little bit like garlic for awhile.

Add your cottage cheese.


Process for a couple of minutes or until smooth then add your cream cheese.


Add your egg.


Right after I snapped this pic, Nathan moved his hand and the egg completely missed the chute. It was hilarious. And messy.

Add your spices and 2 Tbsp Romano cheese (which I seem to have left out in this step).


Blend, blend, blend until you get a yummy-looking concoction that looks like this:


Spread 1/2 cup of your pasta sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch pan. Nathan and I used disposable tin baking dishes here as we planned on freezing the lasagna for later. Not very eco-friendly, I realize, but for us it was preferable to relinquishing our good cookware to the freezer for several weeks.

Arrange three noodles over the pasta sauce.


Top with one cup of your cream cheese/cottage cheese mixture.


Yes, we screwed up and placed four noodles on the bottom. Shut up. It’s not like we’ve made this a hundred times or anything.

Top with 1/3 cup prosciutto.


A word about prosciutto; it’s freaking expensive. If you’re thinking of making this recipe, you probably don’t want to go to your local grocery store and pick up a small package of prosciutto for just this dish. You can, but every 4 oz package of prosciutto I’ve ever seen has cost at least $5. That’s $20 per pound, people.

That’s why Nathan and I buy this:


That’s a whole pound of prosciutto and we get it at Costco for around $9. That’s why when we make this lasagna, we make up to four pans at a time because we don’t want any of that prosciutto to go to waste. This time we only made two pans and used the other half of the prosciutto on pizzas.

Just to be clear, neither Costco nor Citterio compensated me for this post. No one ever compensates me for posts, dammit.

Moving on.

Repeat your layers of noodles, cheese, proscuitto and sauce twice more, spreading the remaining pasta sauce over the noodles.

Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of Romano and your one cup of mozzarella.


From here you can either cover and bake or cover and freeze. Cooking Light says you can freeze the dish for up to a month. We’ve kept it in longer, usually pulling it out after opening the freezer door and saying, “Oh hey, we still have a lasagna in here.” I’m not up on the science of food and how long it actually takes for the flavors to break down, but this dish has always been tasty no matter how long we’ve kept it frozen. I don’t think we’ve ever kept it frozen for more than two months, though.

If you’re going to cook it immediately, you’ll want to preheat your oven to 375 at the beginning of your prep. The lasagna bakes for 45 minutes covered and an additional 15 minutes uncovered. If you’re cooking a frozen lasagna, make sure it’s completely thawed first, following the same directions.

Let it set it for 5 minutes and enjoy. This makes 9 servings that serve as excellent lunch leftovers, especially if you have a meeting to attend in the afternoon.

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One of my favorite downtown Grand Rapids restaurants is J. Gardella’s Tavern. Years ago they used to offer a kick ass veggie gyro filled with sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, onion and yellow squash. The kicker was the tzatziki sauce and I loved biting into the soft pita and tasting the wonderful mix of veggies and dressing.

Homemade Pita, Tzatziki Sauce, Lamb Meatballs, Marinated Red Onion, Feta and Tomatoes
Creative Commons License photo credit: thedabble

I love tzatziki sauce. LOVE. IT. Whenever Nathan and I buy a gyro kit (yes, we buy the kits), the tzatziki is always the first thing to go. We never have enough for the whole kit, maybe because I’ve been known to slice up onions and use them as scoops to shovel the tzatziki directly into my mouth.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up an issue of Clean Eating magazine. Lo and behold they had a nice section of Greek recipes, one of which was tzatziki. I’ve tried making my own tzatziki before with mixed results, but this recipe looked promising and as close to the authentic stuff as I’d ever seen in a magazine dedicated to healthy eating.  I guess some variations of tzatziki include olive oil. This one does not.

So here’s my variation of the recipe published in Clean Eating. I made it last night, adjusting it a little to our tastes and what ingredients we had on hand, and enjoyed it on a Boca Burger for lunch this afternoon.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 English cucumber, peeled
2 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed.
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely minced (or 1 tsp dried dill weed if you don’t have fresh)
1 Tbsp fresh mint, finely minced
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp red wine vinegar

Finely grate the cucumber. This works best with a multi-sided cheese grater that can stand inside a bowl, and you will need to grate into a bowl as the cucumber will release a lot of liquid. The idea here is to grate the cucumber into a pulp, so you do not want to use the side of the grater you’d normally use for your cheeses.

Do not use a microplane. You will not be happy with the results. Trust me.

Plop the cucumber pulp into the middle of a piece of cheesecloth or double-layered paper towel.  Gather up the ends of the towel or cloth and squeeze to release the remaining liquid from the cucumber.

Note: I only had paper towel on hand, which is what the original recipe suggested, but this step would have been much easier using the cheesecloth.

In a large bowl, fold your now dry-ish cucumber pulp in with your yogurt and mix in the rest of your spices and the red wine vinegar. I only had apple cider vinegar in the pantry and opted to substitute a dash of lemon juice and a dash of red cooking wine.

Opa! You have tzatziki. Chill for an hour to let the spices mingle then enjoy with sliced onion or an actual Greek dish like souvlaki or a gyro.

Of course I stuck my finger in this as soon as it was whipped up. At first I wasn’t sold on it. The Greek yogurt made the sauce a little too tangy for my liking, but after letting the mixture hang out in the fridge for awhile, I found it to be a very faithful recreation of one of my very favorite dressings.


Lunch is served.

On a final note, Clean Eating says the dressing will keep well in the fridge for up to two days, and since this recipe makes a total of three cups, you had better make sure you like tzatziki lest all those fine ingredients go to waste.

No problem.

Pass the ouzo.

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