How Olga Reminded Me Why All of This Matters

This weekend, I had the honor of flying to Minnesota for a quick weekend visit to see my grandmother. My brother and sister had planned this trip for months before, and while on the phone with my sister two weeks before they were to go, I wistfully said I wished I was going. After some gentle coercing from my sister and brother, I had a plane ticket booked from LAX to Minneapolis. However, I was a surprise for my grandma! Nobody knew I was going, and we had some very excited relatives to see upon my arrival.

Alyssa, April and Tommy with their Grandma

Alyssa, April and Tommy with their Grandma

One thing I love about seeing my grandma is filling in the gaps of our family history. I know the basics, but I’m always so curious about where exactly we came from, and from who. For example, while I didn’t get specifics, I’ve confirmed that many people on my dad’s side of the family have “a way with words”, a talent that I hope I’m properly utilizing. I also found out in addition to the name Hannah, which I love, and hope to name one of my future children, we also had a Matilda in the family, and her nickname was Tilly. Those are awesome heirloom names for the time when I finally pop out a spawn. (Believe me – I was reminded about 17 times this weekend that I’ve been married THREE YEARS and still have yet to “bear an heir”.) (Ok, so it wasn’t put in those terms, but the heat is on. Procreate! Now!) (***All good things come to those who wait, was my response.)

While describing family relations, my grandma mentioned Olga, my grandpa’s brother’s sister-in-law. Olga wasn’t remembered for her charitable contributions to society, or the way she made a mean biscuit. Olga was remembered for being “a big lady”. If Olga was an ounce, she was 300 pounds. In fact, she was so big, that she had to have a custom casket made, and the pallbearers had to hold it from the bottom instead of the sides, so she didn’t bust through the bottom. I was horrified. None of this was being mentioned in a patronizing or rude way, but simply as a matter of fact. This is the sad side of obesity. If my body continues to go rogue and my actions don’t fight it, could I be remembered as the person who needed a custom casket? Nope. I won’t allow it.

As I’m harshly reminded every time I visit the doctor, I need the plus-size blood pressure cuff. Airplane seats are snug. I don’t want to outgrow things any longer. I’m fine with outgrowing things mentally, but not physically. I want to be “regular” size, and heck, even being described as “chunky” is fine. But please, for the love of God, I cannot be remembered as the person who needed a custom casket. This message stood with me as we ate dinner at the 58 club, known for its appearance on Man Vs. Food for Juicy Lucys, a hamburger patty stuffed with oozing cheese. I enjoyed some appetizers of fried cheese curds and onion strings, but when the time came to order my meal, I ordered a juicy lucy with no bun, and carrot sticks instead of fries. Enough is enough. I can splurge, but I need to make sacrifices too. I can’t always have my cake and eat it too, because there are things more important than French fries and pretzel rolls. When I croak, I want to be remembered for things like this: my blog, my cupcake decorating, my kindness, my sense of humor, my altruism, my sarcasm, my blonde hair, my blue eyes, my foot-in-mouth disease… please God, anything, but the size of my body. (And I just remembered I’m going to be cremated. Whew!)

Have you ever experienced someone being remembered in a less than positive light, for the way they looked or something that happened to them? What was your reaction?

 

Midwestern Magic, Part 2

Grandma and I

After leaving the Wisconsin Dells, we arrived in Maplewood, MN around 5 pm – perfect time for a barbeque! It was great seeing my aunts, uncles and cousins – and my sweet grandmother, who’s turning 90 in a few weeks but still has a razor-sharp wit. My dad was grilling up salmon burgers and cranberry walnut bratwurst, and the table was heaping with apple ambrosia dip, roasted potatoes, smoked salmon and three types of pie. We ate and then sat around being merry – here’s proof.

Some of you reading this blog know that I’m a big klutz – and if you don’t, well, you do now. As I oohed and ahhed over the beautiful handcrafted doll house at my grandmother’s house, somehow my big old booty bumped into a little TV tray and sent diet coke splashing everywhere. Thankfully everyone was cool about it and helped me blot at the carpet, but how embarrassing! My butt apparently has a mind of its own – thank god it doesn’t have its own zip code. (Just a few days later my butt took down a plate of grilled cheese. I guess my butt is striking back for being sat upon all these years.)

Top the Tater

After the BBQ, I had a strange craving… for TOP THE TATER! You folks in the Midwest might know what this is – a sour cream dip filled with chives and other herbal seasonings. My cousin Sarah bought some once with Old Dutch potato chips (locally made in Minnesota) and I was hooked by the salty, creamy combination. I figured… when in Minnesota, do as the Minnesotans do – so I splurged at 11 pm (come on now, only 9 pm Cali time) and bought some Old Dutch and Top the Tater to eat in solitary bliss in my hotel room. Yeah, yeah – bad weight loss blogger (HONEST weight loss blogger!).

A classic photo I found in my Grandma's album - hopefully this is the ONLY topless picture of me on the internet!

The next day we spent at my Grandma’s house catching up, looking at old photos and helping her with some household stuff – I learned how to properly wash windows. Did you know that the correct way to wash windows is to wipe downwards on one side, and then wipe horizontally on the other? No streaks! We relaxed over lunch and told old stories – and then we were back in the car with my dad, heading to Chicago to see my cousin Becky get married! Come back Monday to read about her awesome and unusual midnight wedding snack!

Midwestern Magic, Part 1

Wisconsin Dells in October

Matt and I began our trip by flying into Chicago… and then renting a car and driving four hours away. DOH! Here’s why. My grandmother and lots of other family members live in Minnesota. Airfare was considerably higher to fly into St. Paul, for some reason, than it was to fly into Chicago. So – we rented a sexy Nissan Sentra and hightailed it to the Wisconsin Dells (halfway to my grandmother’s house in MN), where we spent the night in a seedy Super 8 and then woke up to to do some tourist stuff – including nomming on delicious Dunkin’ Donuts!

I touched the rocks as we squeezed by!

First up: An Original Wisconsin Dells Duck tour! Ducks are amphibious vehicles used in World War 2 – they’re half boat, and half truck, so they can journey on land or in water. We started our tour by splashing into the Wisconsin River – marveling at the changing leaves and awesome rock formations. The duck crawled out of the water and into the woods – through narrow rock crevices and trees like these. The tour guide was a sarcastic college student no doubt used to pleasing the more elderly of the group, so he had a good time ribbing me about my “Elton John Sunglasses” and why Matt and I weren’t hard at work unlike all the retired folks on his boat. It was fun!

Moo-ve over Wisconsin, we're comin' thru!

After our duck boat tour, we were on our way to Minnesota – but not without a stop at the “cheese factory”. Proving once again that my career in marketing communications has no effect on whether or not I fall for traditional marketing tactics, I told Matt we HAD to stop at the advertised “cheese factory” off the highway. Cheese Factory? More like tiny cheese store with no aforementioned factory and lots of cheesy (har har) tourist tsotchkes. There was, however, a chance for me to fulfill a life long dream of posing for a photo with three very mild-mannered Holstein cows. And by mild-mannered, I mean fake – because come on – what sane person  would really sit on a cow?

Bringing the bib back in style - one fried cheese curd at a time.

We picked up a bag of cheese curds for the hell of it and we were off again, with one more stop to make at the Norske Nook to pick up a blueberry pie to bring to the family. Norske Nook is a Norwegian bakery and eatery based in Osseo, WI – a tiny smear of a town with wide roads and beautiful old farm houses. As a little girl, my grandfather would take us to the Norske Nook and my sister and I would press our faces against the glass of the pie display case, oohing and ahhing over the many delicacies that lay before us. We got our giant blueberry crumble pie – and with one last stop at Culver’s for a quick lunch of butter burgers and fried cheese curds, we were off to Minnesota!

Check back on Friday to read all about our time in Minnesota – including tales of my unfortunate diet coke-butt-bump and late night adventures with Top the Tater!

PS: If you enjoy this blog (And I hope you do! If you don’t… well… *tear*) , please “like” it on Facebook at facebook.com/doublechindiary ! Big thanks to all of you that already have!

Post-BBQ Bulge

Helo my lovely bloggies! I hope those of you in the states had a great long weekend, and those of you outside the states had an equally lovely weekend. After 7 hours in the car on the I-5 (flat, devoid of any scenery), I was happy to be home last night at 8 pm. We drove up Friday evening to Petaluma, where Matt and my parents live. (What’s the correct grammar for that? Matt and Mine? Matt and I’s? Our parents? Someone chime in – Amy, I’m lookin’ at you.) Friday was a stressful day at work, and as I had hoped I would not do, I was tired, bitchy and stressed out Friday night so I picked up a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza. That was the first not-so-health-concious choice of the weekend.

The I-5 in all of its flat glory.

Saturday, I had delicious thai food for lunch… and then Saturday night, my in-laws prepared a BBQ feast of artichoke crostini, cheese burgers with bacon and avocado,(so simple, and so yum!) corn on the cob, potato salad, and chili. Dessert was a big old slab of apple pie covered with vanilla ice cream. I didn’t gorge but I definitely ate more than I should have, and regretted it that night as my stomach felt like an over-blown balloon. I’m spoiled to have awesome cooks on both sides of my family – and we’re super lucky that as a married couple, our parents get along and we eat, vacation and hang out together 🙂

Sunday was where the real damage was done! The daytime was fine, as me, Matt, my siblings and their significant others went to Lake Sonoma. Matt and I had Subway sandwiches, BBQ potato chips, and Hornsby Hard Ciders, but it’s hard to pig out when you’re swimming and laying in the sun.

Water Babies in Lake Sonoma

We returned to another BBQ feast at my parent’s house – this time of smoked and brined tri-trip, smoked turkey, potato salad, pasta salad and baked beans. My mom makes incredible potato salad – tossed with sour cream and mayonnaise to make it ultra cool and creamy. A few chopped eggs and lots of crisp celery makes it a total comfort food treat – I definitely had seconds. Dessert was homemade cheesecake (amazing – with a sourcream top, made by my father-in-law, Mike) and creme brulee (delicious, with a crackly sugar top) made by my dad.

My mom's amazing potato salad

 

To add to that, a bottle of Gewurtztraminer was cracked open and my sister had a “Cheese – Off”, in which we all tasted and chose our favorites in a blind taste test of Wisconsin Cheese vs. California Cheese. (I’ll write about that later!)

So, as you can tell, the food choices of the weekend were not “diet friendly”, but they were “family friendly” and I had a great time seeing all my loved ones. My goal is to be back on plan and tracking this week, and try and squeeze in some gym time. I’m already behind on that goal since it’s Tuesday night and I’m doing homework and now I have class the next two nights…but… I’ll catch up. I will, I will. When life gets busy and the food around you is so tempting, how you do stay on track? (At least I swam all the way across the lake on Saturday! That was definitely good cardio!)

Midwestern State of Mind

Little me creeping up stairs

I came screaming into this world in Naperville, Illinois, which was at the time, a small suburb of Chicago for new families and new shopping malls. (Fun fact: It’s now so yuppy people call it “Diaperville”) My mom was a native Michigander and my dad was a native Minnesotan, and together, they made a Midwestern hybrid baby that would be raised with good Midwestern values and three square meals of meat and potatoes. In the Midwest, “vegetables” are potatoes, iceberg lettuce, carrots and canned olives. When my cousins come to visit us in California, their noses turn up at the “grass” that is served as a salad – leafy arugula, green spinach, declicate baby greens. In the Midwest, gravy is a beverage. Oil is a condiment. Butter is a must.

I’m sure parts of the Midwest are different, but where I was raised, cheese in a can was a perfectly acceptable counterpart to crackers. “Salads” were rarely made of vegetables. Like what, you say? Potato Salad. Pasta Salad. Jello Salad. Taco Salad. Egg Salad. Chicken Salad.  Things like London Broil or Tri-Tip or Alfalfa Sprouts were unheard of. In fact, I never tried an artichoke, avocado, or soy milk until I moved to California.

Awkard chunky pre-teen phase. But I always was an LA girl!

It’s no laughing matter, but in both sides of my family, more of us fit into the lumpy category than we do lean. Would it be different if we had been raised in mountainous Colorado, or sunny Florida? (Florida: Probably not. Pretty sure funnel cakes, pulled pork and Cuban sandwiches do not a skinny person make.) Does the region you live in affect your tendency towards a certain body mass? I know I can’t blame my obesity on all the times I ate ice cream instead of fruit, but I have to wonder if my corn and grain-fed habits translated to a paunchier person.

One of the few years of my life where I had a normal BMI... I was 2.

I get grumpy sometimes when I compare my present eating habits to some slender folk around me. I cook rustic, wholesome meals with things grown from my garden. I mostly eat meals based on a lean protein, green and one starch every night. I try my best to stay away from processed foods and I exercise. I’ve made bad choices in the past and let’s be honest, will probably continue to do so, but the slightest bit of me loves blaming it all on genetics. In all fairness, I identify that I can’t blame the region – but I can blame the habits.

Did the region you grew up in contribute to your eating and food habits? How? If it was negative, how are you working to change them?