Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Retiring my blog

Greetings folks,

As you can see, nothing much happens in Laurie Coleman world. I started this blog when Dave and I were newly married, I was working, and we were building a house and a life together. But, things have slowed way down for me, and there's just not enough to feed this blog. Therefore I am retiring it. Don't worry, I'll still be in touch!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Our Meyer lemon tree had a nice crop of lemons on it, just begging to be made into marmalade. Couple that with our wonderful Navel orange tree. So, this weekend I somehow talked David into helping me prep lemons and oranges for marmalade.

I decided to make Meyer lemon marmalade and also a marmalade made of a mixture of the Meyer lemons and Navel oranges. Half of the jars of Meyer lemon marmalade were infused with a vanilla bean pod.

Here's the proof of all of our efforts:

I think we may have a few to share. :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Calorie Deficit Update

In the last post I told you about my plan to operate on a calorie deficit to lose a few pounds. I'd like to share with you my successes so far. Here is what my Diet Power "dashboard" looks like today:

If you click on the image above it should bring it up bigger so that you can see it better.

What you can see is the trend that my day-to-day weights have been. Every yellow line represents a "new" diet start... what that means is that I may have changed or played around with my goal weight or goal date. I think I modified it from time to time. The original goal may have been about 138, then I changed it to 135. When I was overshooting that goal (projecting a lower weight) the program would allow me to eat more calories each day. I would then change the goal weight lower to keep me on the lower trend. Heck, if I reach my goal sooner, or reach a better goal, then why settle for more calories and a higher goal? So, I've adjusted the goal from time to time to keep the calories at about 1500 per day, give or take some.

My diet actually started on 1/16, at the first yellow line. I have used this program in the past but stopped when something happened, like a surgery or the holidays. It's just so difficult to count calories accurately during the holidays because so much of the food comes from outside of the home. So, the line before the first yellow line is Diet Power's assumption of my weight trend before 1/16.

What I like about this screen today is that my goal weight and my projected weight are exactly the same. What that says is that if I continue to follow the calorie allowance faithfully each day then I'll make my goal weight as planned.

I would also like to point out that I've done this with absolutely no exercise. It's not that I haven't wanted to exercise. OK, maybe I've been a bit lazy. But this does go to prove that what or how much you eat is probably more important for weight control than exercise. Exercise is important for more than just weight control (calorie burning) such as cardio-vascular health or muscle strengthening which is why I plan to start up with it as soon as my foot doctor gives me the green light for high-impact exercise. If I did exercise, my calorie allowance for that day would be increased by the amount of calories that I burned. But if exercise isn't an option, weight control can be accomplished by diet alone. All it takes is some discipline (which I do lack sometimes) and some willpower (ditto). Overall, it all comes down to operating on a calorie deficit, no matter if that's created by eating less food and making better food choices or if it comes from exercising to burn off excess calories.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Counting Calories

Off and on for just over a year I've been using a program called Diet Power. It's calorie counting software. The premise is that you tell it your goal weight and goal date for that weight. It will tell you if it thinks that goal is reasonable or not by telling you how difficult your daily calorie restrictions will be. Once you settle on a goal that you think you can accomplish then you start entering in every calorie that you eat. If you exercise then you also log calories burned and this, naturally, earns you more calories to eat for the day. The software will dynamically calculate for you every day the calories that you can eat for that day so the number will change from day to day.

If you are faithful about logging your calorie ins-and-outs then you will reach your goal weight on your goal date. Determining calories isn't too hard, unless you eat out a lot. Then you have to try to estimate as best you can. A lot of the restaurants here in California now have the nutritional data available for you (it's state law for the chains) but the mom-and -pop places don't have to. Most items you buy in the store have calorie counts listed on them. I love it when they are listed by weight. I weigh out just about everything. I have a nice kitchen scale on my counter and weigh my cereal every morning. I weigh bread (if slicing it myself). I weigh out my mayonnaise for my sandwich. I find weighing food so much easier than using volumetric measurements. When the food is weighed fewer dishes are dirtied, too. I don't have to dirty a measuring cup or measuring spoon.

Anyway, like I said, I've been using it for a bit over a year now, off and on. I stopped last summer during my abdominal surgery (it's my experience that I lose weight anyway during and after surgeries, yet I gain it all back then afterward.) I also skipped this past November and December. It's just too hard during the holiday season - too much food that I didn't prepare and had no idea how to count.

So, here I am. I started it again on January 20th and have lost 7 pounds so far to date. To reach my goal I will have to lose 10 more, and Diet Power is projecting that I'll actually be 2 pounds under my goal at my current rate. Therefore it is increasing how many calories I can eat each day because it wants me to stay on track. Of course, if I reach my goal sooner then that will be great but it doesn't seem like I can tell Diet Power that.

Oh, and might I add that I've been doing this without any exercise? Sure, having 300 more calories each day to eat would be nice, and last Friday I did spend an hour on my exercise bike to earn a couple of glasses of wine for the evening. But the point is that weight loss (or control) is more about controlling your calorie intake. Or at least balancing it all out. I don't know how many times I've exercised very hard and my weight wouldn't budge. It's because I would eat a lot afterward, canceling out the calories burned. Now I know that to lose weight I have to take in less than I'm expending, whether I'm exercising or not. I'll step up the exercise soon because it's good for things other than just weight management (cardiovascular health, muscle strength and toning) but the key thing that I am learning (and demonstrating) is that you don't have to work your butt off at the gym to lose weight. All you have to do is watch the calorie intake.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Burpee Figured It Out

Here's the final response from Shelia:

"The diameter from one side of the circle to the other side is 28". We are working on getting this information on our website.

I apologize for the inconvenience."

I wonder if the other two women learned anything from this.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Burpee Pole Bean and Pea Tower

I'm having a bit of frustrating fun with the Burpee gardening supply company. Here is a product that I am interested in: Pole Bean and Pea Tower. As you can see on the website, the height is 6' and it takes up 5 square feet. But they are missing a useful piece of information: the diameter. I know that the base is a circle and I know that this can be calculated, but I sent a note to the company asking for the diameter because, heck, they should know their own products! Here's a transcript of the responses that I've received from 2 folks (Sharon and Pam) in Customer Service:

My initial query: "Greetings! Could you please tell me the diameter of this product: Pole Bean And Pea Tower (Product number 91439). Thank you, Laurie"

Response from Sharon: "The Pea and pole bean tower pole is 6 foot high. The nylon string comes down to use only 5 square feet."

My response: "Thanks for the reply, but I didn't ask for the height. I asked for the diameter. Do you have this information? I want to determine if it will fit into my raised beds."

Response from Pam: "The pea tower is 5 square feet in diameter."

My latest reply: "I'm disappointed that you are not understanding my question, or basic geometry. "Square feet" is an area. "Diameter" is the length of a straight line that would be from one side of the circle to the other side. You guys should know your products better than this. Can't you have someone measure it if you don't have the product information handy? Which, I might add, should be on the product description page of your website."

In the meantime, I've already used an online calculator to determine the diameter using the known area of the circle, and I've determined that the diameter is about 2 1/2 feet. This will fit into my raised beds, barely. However, I'm going to see if I can get them to eventually understand what a diameter is and correctly answer my question. After all, they are Customer Service and they should be able to answer such a simple question.

I'll post their next response, which will probably be in a day or two. Or maybe their heads will blow up and I won't hear from them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back to Being a Normal Brunette

The red extensions were fun, but they are temporary by nature. I enjoyed the sassiness of them and also the little bit of extra fullness that they provided. However, they started to tangle easily at the ends, requiring frequent brushing, and I got tired of having to comb ever so carefully near my scalp after my showers. So, I decided to go ahead and remove them. I could have made an appointment with the stylist, gone to the salon later this week, spend 1/2 an hour or so there, and paid her about $25 - $40 to take them out. But I didn't. I just took a pair of needle-nose pliers and removed them myself. They are simply held in with crimped metal cylinders (called "beads"). So all I had to do is pinch them the other way to unflatten them and they came right out. It really wasn't very hard. The best thing is that I didn't have to spend my time and money letting someone else remove them.

It is nice running my fingers through my scalp knowing that I'm not going to catch on one of the metal beads.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Planting Onions

The 2011 garden season has officially started here at the Coleman household. Before I get into the garden itself, I'd like to say a little bit about one of my favorite resources. It's this book:

Following the guidelines in this book, I've learned to steer clear of the traditional method of gardening, the one that my grandparents used: row, path, row, path, row, path. The traditional method dedicated 50% of the space to walking, and that walking in between the rows of vegetables compacts the soil around the roots. A better way is to plant the vegetables in wide rows (beds) that you can reach into from at least one side so that you never have to step into it, compacting the soil. Even better: last year David worked very hard helping me to build raised beds throughout the garden. This provides better drainage and also saves stress and strain on my back.

Now on to what I did this week:
These are onion starts that I purchased from Dixondale Farms. I purchased a sample set of "intermediate day" onions. (According to their website I could grow either intermediate day or short day onions, but it looks like we are more in the intermediate day area.) The sample set consists of a white onion ("Super Star"), a yellow onion ("Candy") , and a red onion ("Red Candy Apple"). I planted 20 of each variety and passed on the extras to my neighbor for her garden. I followed the planting instructions provided by Dixondale. One thing that I didn't notice while I was preparing the soil 2 days ago but certainly did notice while I was planting the seedlings is that the ones near the edge of the bed went into damp, cool soil. That first 3-4 inches of soil doesn't get any sun yet and was noticeably cooler than the rest of the soil in the bed. The seedlings that were planted on the other side of the trench went into soil that was much warmer and drier. The tops of all of the onions are in the sun but it'll be interesting to see if there are any growing differences since the roots of half of them are in much cooler soil.

I set the onions off to one side because I plan to plant some carrots along beside them. They will develop a very nice relationship side-by-side.

This is what my garlic bed looks like today.

These are cabbage plants getting along nicely with cilantro. Sorry about the lighting. The fence casts a mean shadow.

These peas I planted last fall, in September. I've been harvesting peas from them all winter. Come spring, these will still be popping out peas left and right. What a nice head start!

This is a little artichoke starting to form on one of our artichoke plants. Peek-a-boo!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beautiful Words

My PET scan report came to me in the mail this weekend. These are always fun to read. With that in mind, I thought I'd post the report here. These are posted as two images. If you click on each one it should bring it up to full screen so that you can read it more easily.

There are some very beautiful words in this report.

Friday, January 21, 2011

PET Scan Report from 1/19/2011

I just got a call from the (new) oncologist's office to let me know that my PET scan from 2 days ago came back all clear. Whew! I can't help but worry after one of these scans is done. And it's hard not knowing the result for days, knowing that the result is known by someone. So I am grateful that I got a call ahead of my appointment next week. So far, so good with this new oncologist.

I actually meet with him next week and will have some blood work done. The next scan should be in three months, so I can rest easy until then. Let's hope that I can have an unblemished spring and summer this year. The next couple of scans will be key. It's been 6 months since my surgery... getting through a year will be crucial and I am halfway through it. Everyone keep your fingers crossed for the next 6 months for me, please!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Red Streaks

A couple of weeks ago while I was at the hair stylist getting my...ahem... distinguishing roots covered up I was flipping through one of those magazines in the rack. I saw a photo of Katy Perry's hair similar to this one:

I showed the photo to the stylist and commented that I thought the colors were very pretty. He told me that those were simply extensions. He said it's better to go with extensions if you want to do something like that because they are completely removable and they don't damage your hair the way a chemical process would. I kept thinking about the streaks and he said we can talk about doing something with my hair that's similar. After learning that I would have to buy a packet of hair for each color if I wanted multiple colors (and exactly how rock-star do I want to look anyway?) I decided to keep it simple and choose one color that would look good with my hair color. We narrowed it down to pink or red. When his wife held up the colors to my hair I immediately went for the red.

Here I am two weeks later:

And here:

And here:

In this photo you can see the streaks and the contrast much more when I lift up the top layers of my hair:

I will have to get used to these, and right now my scalp hurts a bit from the "beads" that are used to attach them to my own hair. But I think they really brighten my look! They will also give my hair a bit more fullness and also help absorb some of the copious oil that my head produces. If I get tired of them or decide I don't like them the extension pieces can actually be dyed my hair color and can be used just to give my hair more volume, if I choose.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Chariot

This past week we went to Asilomar for a couple of days with some family and their friends. Asilomar is a bit spread out and you basically park and then walk everywhere. I remembered this from a previous stay there. Plus, there is a nice boardwalk along the beach as well. So, we decided to rent me a little scooter for the week. It comes apart in pieces for easier loading/unloading from the car. The heaviest piece probably weighs about 40 pounds. David developed a system and had it put together for me in no time.

It was a great decision to get it. Our room was very far from the dining hall, and uphill from it too. The walks back & forth from our room to the dining hall would have been very slow & uncomfortable without it. David took advantage of the motorized wheels too - he hopped on for a ride when he could! The scooter was very useful when we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a bit tight and crowded there but if I was patient and assertive then I was able to eventually see the displays that interested me. One thing that I learned is that people really don't see you when you are riding a scooter. Many folks walked right in front of me when I was moving forward, and the scooter stops pretty fast but it takes a few inches. Sometimes I didn't even have that much to spare. One woman actually ran right into the back of the scooter once when I was sitting still.

The scooter gets picked up tomorrow, but it's been fun to ride.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Knitting Scarves

It took me a couple of months but I finally finished David's "Sharks Scarf". This was knitted using a "shadow knitting" technique. When you look at it head-on it looks like it's striped, like this:

When you look at it from one of the ends then the sharks come out to play. Like this:

Here's David modeling his new scarf:

This is a scarf I knitted just before the Sharks scarf. It was made with a lovely mohair blend yarn that our friend Patrice gave to me:

It is very soft!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmasing Our House

We started decorating our house the weekend after Thanksgiving. That weekend we got all of the lights on the eaves and the windows. In the following weeks we added the lights on the rails, the inflated puppy, and the lights on the paths.

Here is the whole thing.

This is a close-up view of the front of the house .

Say hello to the cute puppy!!

We added these lights along the paths earlier today.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In the Garden, 12/21/2010

Since I have a (temporarily) gimp foot and since it's been pouring rain here for a few days, it's been a while since I was in the garden. Today there's been a break in the weather and I thought it was time for me to go out and pick peas. 3 1/2 hours later I finally came back inside.

Here's how things like a little "pea-picking" task can go here:

1. I head out to the garden to see how the peas are doing. Upon entering, I see that the giant pecan tree has been prolifically dropping leaves all over the place. I walk along the raised beds pulling leaves out. I make a mental note that I also need to clear the blanket of leaves that are on the ground in the garden.

2. I move on to the peas (at this point I'm still on target). I start clearing out pecan tree leaves from around and in the pea tee-pee and discover that the pea vines have been growing very vigorously. The "outer layers" didn't find anything to grip onto before they got too long and were lying flat. One by one I lifted them up and wound them into the trellis. For one side I had to add a supportive piece of wire fencing since there was nothing left of the tee-pee to support the vines. I then commenced picking the mature (and some overly mature) peas.

3. Setting the baskets aside, I decide to move the two cabbage plants that were in the shade to sunny spots in the other beds.

4. I feed everything in the garden a healthy dose of fish emulsion for nitrogen.

5. Then I decide that there's no time like the present to do something about the leaves so I haul out the leaf vacuum and suck up all the leaves, collecting two 30-gallon cans full of shredded leaves. These will become the bulk of my compost for next year along with the grass clippings (when the lawn starts growing again in the spring) and some alfalfa hay that I've got hanging around here.

6. Finally, 3 1/2 hours later I pick up my baskets of peas and head inside for lunch.

Here's how the garden looks now that the leaves have been cleaned up. There will be more. That pecan tree isn't finished de-leafing.

This is my 3rd year attempting Brussels sprouts. Go, Brussels sprouts, go!

That middle bed contains the overly crowded pea tee-pee, a couple of cabbage plants (that are doing very well), some cilantro, and another set of peas. All together there are three varieties of peas growing.

This Navel orange tree is loaded with soon-to-be ripe oranges. The oranges from this tree will keep us in freshly squeezed orange juice for a while and when they run out...

The oranges on this Valencia orange tree will become ripe. These two trees ensure that we very rarely have to buy orange juice. We did have to invest in a sturdy citrus juicer though.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6, 2010 Garden Pics

I was out in the garden for a short time today, looking things over. Here are a few photos that I took:

This is the "overview" shot. The hoops are for frost protection. I have a bunch of old sheets that I drape over the wire supports when I think it's going to drop too cold at night.

This bed is fairly busy. I'm getting peas off the pea trellises. The cabbages look great, as well as the cilantro. I also have some carrots growing in this bed near and amongst the pea tee-pee.

This is my garlic bed. There are 6 varieties in this bed. The lettuce is a welcome companion. That's a cilantro plant tucked in the corner.

This is why I can't spend much time in the garden these days. I had foot surgery last Tuesday. Nothing major... it's the same surgery I had on my right foot last year. It'll heal and be good as new (better!) in no time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Photos from Thanksgiving 2010

The previous post details our Thanksgiving menu but I forgot that my husband, David, snapped a few photos of the process along the way. Here's what he captured...

This is the pecan pie that I made the night before. I actually took this photo... it's the only one I thought to snap. I also made a pumpkin pie but we didn't get a photo of it. I thought the pecan pie tasted better anyway!

The turkey spent the first 45 minuted of its cooking time on its side with the back towards the fire and the feet towards the back of the oven. It was later turned breast-side up. There's compound butter under the skin on the breasts as you can clearly see.

The big bird is on the oven.

I think this is the same shot with no flash. Enjoy the one you like the best. :-)

Here I am taking the temperature of the thigh. The bird was checked every 30 minutes and the less-done side was positioned towards the fire every time.

Here's the turkey mid-roast.

These drippings were used to make some very rich, dark gravy.

The centerpiece is done!

David did a nice job of setting the table.

Here we are filling up our plates. That's Jerry (David's dad) on the left. Neil is on the right with the gravy boat. Mary's hand is holding the roasted Brussels sprouts.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you enjoyed these photos!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Pizza Oven Thanksgiving

We've had our pizza oven for nearly 3 years now and were told that you can even cook a turkey in it. So, we decided to try it this year. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving I got a small (10-pound) Butterball turkey for a test run and invited a few guinea friends over for the test run. I thought that it would also be a good time to try out some of the side dish recipes that were created for the pizza oven by Andrea Mugnaini, the importer of our pizza oven. The test run worked out fabulously... the turkey was amazingly moist and delicious. The side dishes were fabulous. I also got a sense of the time line and felt confident that I could add in the mashed potatoes (I cheated and used a make-ahead recipe) and dressing (though that was never in doubt) and also a pecan pie to the menu.

For the "real" Thanksgiving dinner I ordered a small heritage turkey from Whole Foods. I've been curious about the heritage turkeys for a while and wanted to try one to see if the price tag could be justified. Since we only had 6 folks in attendance for the real Thanksgiving dinner, I only needed a small turkey and when trying a pricey heritage turkey, small is good. Well... the verdict is thus: As it turns out, heritage turkeys are leaner and therefore don't cook up as moist. While it tasted good, it was dryer than the Butterball. So, lesson learned: I'll stick to regular turkeys from now on. It may not necessarily be a Butterball... it may be a "natural, fresh" turkey but it won't be the expensive heritage.

This was our menu:

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Oven Roasted Turkey

Rich Dark Gravy

Roasted Cranberries

Cornbread & Sage Dressing

Roasted Yams

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta

Mashed Potatoes

Pumpkin Pie & Brandy Whipped Cream

Pecan Pie & Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce

Every item on the menu spent some time in one way or another in the pizza oven, except for the mashed potatoes and the desserts. The gravy stock was made from turkey necks and backs that roasted in the oven, then simmered in a stock pot with the usual assortment of herbs and vegetables. Plus, the gravy was finished off with drippings from the roasted turkey. The yams and Brussels sprouts were easy to do in the oven, as well as the cranberry sauce and the dressing. My mother-in-law (Mary) brought over some nice cranberry dinner rolls that she baked up for the meal. Everyone should have brought another person because we were overrun with food (so what's new?) and we had enough for a dozen people.

Overall it was a lovely Thanksgiving with some very wonderful people. It was an honor and a pleasure to host it this year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wow... I have really had nothing to post have I? Things here have been pretty routine. My health has been holding up and I have my full strength and energy back. I really hope it stays this way for a while.

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving and I am hosting a small dinner here at our house. My parents-in-law (Mary and Jerry) are coming as well as Mary's cousin and a friend of ours, Neil. Our plan is to make as much of the meal in the pizza oven as possible. The turkey (naturally) will be cooked in there as well as the cranberry sauce, the yams, the dressing, and the Brussels sprouts. I am doing the pies (yes... call me crazy... 2 pies for 6 people) in the regular oven since that kind of baking can be tricky. We did a test run of the turkey and a couple of the sides a couple of weeks ago and it all came out much better than we dared to dream. Today I have spent most of the day prepping so that tomorrow I can sit around a drink wine while the turkey cooks. Then the last 30 minutes will be a mad dash to finish the side dishes and make the gravy.

My garden is doing great. Almost all of the garlic has come up. I have some lettuce out there, some peas, cabbage, some greens, and cilantro. Also Brussels sprouts... we'll see if I get any this year.

Now I have to get back to the kitchen... a pecan pie is waiting to be made.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

MRI Result Today

Last week I had an MRI of my abdomen. This has a limited view of the lungs (just the very bottom of the lungs) and also does not read the intestines very well. For a good image everything has to hold very still and intestines are actually always moving. But, for what it could see, everything is all clear at this time.

The oncologist up at Stanford will run a CT scan in January.

Of course I am thankful for the clear scan and for the times that I'm feeling great, like now. But I want to pass along to you that I've been told (by a couple of oncologists) that the chances for a cure for me right now is 10-12%. Which means that there's a 88-90% chance of it coming back somewhere. Of course, I'd like to beat those odds but it's just something that I have to face. I will cherish the times that I feel great and feel like my old self. That's all I have to say about that at this time.This may not sound positive to you, but I am actually being positive. There's no need to view all of this in a negative light. It's not helpful.