June 2012

Answer: Bring it from home.

The question is how to keep that lunch interesting enough to not be pulled to the darkside of the wonderful foodtrucks that are on my office block each day.

I’ve been doing some financial belt-tightening as part of my goal of paying off all my debt before I hit 40 (I’m not going to say how many years that gives me). A recent review of my spending showed me that a large share of my income goes to supporting local food trucks and other nearby cafes.

So I’ve been packing a lunch each day from home, or packing all of the week’s lunches on Sunday night, to save money.

My lunch options are more limited than most people because I cannot have anything containing gluten, fresh tree fruit (bananas are the exception) or tree nuts.

And although I’m thankful that there are some gluten-free breads that could pass for the real thing if one were realllllyyyyy intoxicated, sandwiches and snacks get boring really fast. Moreover, bringing in something like humus and cucumbers doesn’t work because I’ll snack on them all day but not find time to treat that like a meal.

This week I decided to mix it up a little.

On Monday I had gluten-free rice pasta with garlic-scape pesto and a side of fingerling carrots pan-cooked with rosemary and olive oil.

Next, I made a sort of taco mix (the church I used to go to called them haystacks) of beans, lettuce, Greek plain yogurt (I prefer that to sour cream), shredded cheese, diced tomatoes and salsa. I brought in a bag of corn tortillas (precooked at home) and made the tacos in the kitchen.

Today I made a dish that used to be my potluck standby.  It is a salad of chickpeas, feta cheese crumbles, diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, cumin,  salt/pepper and a dash of Adobo seasoning.

But I’m running out of ideas.  Suggestions?


No matter how much you may deny being overweight, there is one thing guaranteed to make you face reality — economy airplane seats.

I recently traveled to the Midwest on a work trip and all I could think about as I walked down the dimly lit carpeted tunnel to the plane was that I hope I don’t have to squeeze in with someone my size or bigger. (I acknowledge what a hypocrite this makes me.)

As I found my seat, my heart sank because it was a full row, meaning my hip would probably have to duke it out with the hip of someone else for a space under an armrest for several hours. The alternative would be to sit with my muscles clenched, which was unlikely to last but a few minutes.

And don’t even get me going on having to sit next to very broad-shouldered men — it makes me feel like I’m going to turn into someone in an old V8 commercial (the one where people walked sideways because they hadn’t had enough vitamins).

There is nothing like seeing the equally disappointed look on the face of your seatmates when you reach your row to make you realize that you may have been the person they were hoping they wouldn’t have to share the space with.  In other words, I need to get my eating/exercise under control and get fit again.

One thing skinny people may not realize is that fat people, no matter how short, also have less front-end leg room…. for me it’s because my excess pounds seem to congregate around my hips and butt. The bigger the butt, the further out your body extends from the seat and the less room there is between you and the next row.

After four such flights in the last week (I had to transfer planes both times), I think I may finally be motivated to start doing something about it so that the next time I have to fly all I will have to dwell on is whether the plane will make it to its destination in one piece or not.

Growing a vegetable garden from seed is difficult — much more challenging than I expected.

This year I decided to grow a vegetable garden from scratch — starting with seed packets and potting soil.  I’ve never had my own vegetable garden. But I have some limited gardening experience from watching and helping my parents and grandmothers in their gardens.

Two months ago, I went to the local hardware store and loaded up on more than a dozen packets that promised a bountiful garden with pictures of red ripe cherry tomatoes on strong fuzzy vines, bulging beefeater tomatoes nearly touching the ground, big green garden pea pods, yellow-veined chard, slender Asian cucumbers and shiny green bell peppers, plus a few varieties of flowers.  My purchase also included potting soil, starter seed containers, fertilizer and various shiny tools.

With permission from the landlord to use a plot of land in the backyard, I started growing seedlings indoors. I figured I could get to digging the garden later because it would be a breeze, right? Wrong. But more on that later.

My first set of seedlings  was an utter failure. I did all of the things a rookie grower would do.

I over watered the plants which caused them to get moldy and drown. I didn’t make sure that the seedlings stayed warm all of the time or had consistent sunlight. Sometimes I even forgot to water the plants.

It probably didn’t help that I live in a basement apartment with limited sunlight.

So I scrapped the first batch (there was nothing really to toss out but soil because all of the plants shriveled up and died) and tried again. But this time I was aided with a sunlamp and an indoor grow lightbulb.

The plants did much better in my second attempt. The cucumbers grew strong and became viny, the tomato plants sprouted leaves that had that wonderful earthy ripe tomato smell when you pinch them. And my green pepper plants produced shiny waxy leaves.

But my busy schedule, time away from home and random cold weather kept me from tilling the backyard soil.

When I did finally put my shovel in the ground (or at least tried to), I found the earth was packed tight thanks to years of people walking on it combined with a thick network of grass and roots from nearby bushes. I had to jump on the shovel to get it in the ground each time.

Forty-five minutes later, covered in red dots of mosquito bites; with dark brown and grey smudges of dirt on my clothes, hands and face; I had only created a garden plot the size of a truck tire — if tires were square. In other words, it was tiny. *sigh*

But I persisted and mixed the slightly sandy soil with organic fertilizer and placed my little green metal garden fence around the border. The plot sat untouched for nearly a month.

Then my wonderful mother came to the rescue. Last night she helped me reshape the soil and plant the remaining seedlings (only a few tomato and bell pepper plants remained alive by then), plus a wonderful LARGE tomato plant she bought at the store.  It will probably be the only thing that survives.

Now all I have to do is water the plants consistently, keep bugs and other pests away as much as I can, and keep my fingers crossed that I will get to sample at least one vegetable from all of the work I put in this year.

Hopefully, it will be uphill from here.