Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SHE AIN'T HEAVY...Or: Food, Glorious Food!

Is there a person in North America today who is not obsessed with their weight? If you are free from the constant nagging in your head that maybe you should lose a few – or maybe even gain a couple – I’d like to meet you and give you a big hug.

When I was a teen the doctor told mother, “She’s way too skinny! Give her milkshakes!” The pounds have come on gradually, but steadily since then. I swore up and down that I was never going to become neurotic about weight gain, but that’s exactly what has happened (and yes, I know, those of you who know what I look like are saying, “Really?”) I also swore that I would never allow myself to gain enough to warrant the size I swore I’d never wear – which has happened, much to my embarrassment. I was resolute that I would never even peak into the Women’s section where pants have elastic in the waist band (comfy as they are!) And so, with all that swearing going on, I resisted ever being on a diet - not so far in my entire life. A conundrum, yes?

Well, the chickens have come home to roost – along with the double chocolate brownies, phyllo pastry appetizers and Eggs Benny. It is time to lose some pounds. Time to join the Stamp Out Obesity in America campaign. Now, I’m not inclined for anything faddish. Not Atkins or South Beach or grapefruit or even the Dr. Oz-approved eat-what-you-want-all-week-but-reserve-one-day-for-eating-nothing-but-protein diet. The thought of going to a confess-your-sins Weight Watchers meeting makes my skin crawl. I’m also not about to take diet pills or contemplate gastric bypass. I recognize that what is needed is not a quick fix or even a temporary change in habits. What is called for is a whole life sentence…er, commitment…yeah, that’s it, commitment….to better eating.

Not that we eat poorly. I love to cook with good, wholesome food fresh from our wonderful little market or direct from farmers in the summertime. Ken, dear man that he is, loves to eat what I cook.  He has said, “thanks, honey!” after just about every meal I’ve prepared in our 34 years of marriage. Eating a good dinner is what we do together and I’m not prepared to change that. I’m also not about to give up drinking wine. Dinner is NOT a protein shake and a power bar! Herein lies my problem. Meals are events at our house.

So what’s a girl to do? I looked at Weight Watchers’ online program today and thought, “Well, at least I wouldn’t have to go to a meeting.” Their online assessment tool puts me at an ideal weight for my height of 105-135! What!?! Are they kidding? I was 105 when I got married at age 24! I ain’t going back there!  This got me to worrying: if I don’t want to lose that much are they going to calculate my calorie target at an unreachable goal and I’ll starve when I really only want to lose a measly 20 pounds?

Stay tuned! I should be able to keep on a diet for, oh, maybe 3days!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I "OU"

Ken and I speak Canadian at home. You know how many immigrant families will learn the language of their new community, but often revert to their native tongue when they are at home? That’s us! (No, we don’t say, “eh?” all day long.) Because, obviously both Canada and the US are English speaking for the most part, notwithstanding Canada’s bilingualism, but what I mean is that we use words that are specific to Canada. Like at lunchtime, I might ask Ken if he’d like his sandwich on a roll, and he’ll say, “Its o.k. to speak Canadian.” And I’ll say, “Right! Do you want yours on a BUN?”  “Bun,” you see, is much more Canadian than “roll” which is so much more American. We learned this a long time ago on vacation – I mean “holiday” – in Oregon when a waitress laughed at us for asking for buns and gave us a look that I translated as “They sure are odd up there in the frozen north.”

If you ask, “Where’s the washroom?” in the US you’ll get a funny look. Ask for the “restroom” and save yourself the precious seconds you might need.

At home, we pronounce words the Canadian way, too.  Like, we pronounce scone, “scawn,” as in fawn instead of “scown” as in own. We say baa-zil, rather than bay-zil, which is what you’ll hear in American farm markets. And, because we learned French in school as all good Canadian kids do, we say “foy-yay” not “foy-yur” when referring to the front hall. And seriously, it’s “Iro-kwa,” not “Iro-kwoy” as I was surprised to hear for the first time when we moved to Buffalo. I try to say these words in the local dialect when out in public, but, as I say, at home we revert.

Or when I write emails to Canadian friends and family, I try to remember to use the “ou” Canadian form for words like honour, colour, and favour which even now, as I write this on our American version of Microsoft Word, is underlining these very words in red. “Glamour” apparently is the same in both languages.

As luck will have it, our address has a “z” in it. This creates the need for caution when spelling our street name, Schantz, aloud and the conscious effort to say “zee” instead of “zed.” But then as I once explained to an American friend, Canadians are adept at accepting Americanisms with grace and aplomb. My example is La-Z-Boy. In Canada this should technically be pronounced “La Zed Boy” not the contracted “Lay-zee-Boy” which is the accepted convention. But we Canadians like to play nice.  We call the store Lazy Boy, at least out in public.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Has this ever happened to you?  We hear so many horrible stories these days about internet photo-doctoring. People seeing themselves online with features added to or subtracted from their photos – sometimes until they’re unrecognizable even to themselves! Didn’t think it would ever happen to me!

Here’s the story.

I attended a lovely event on Saturday morning – a brunch and silent auction to raise money to help women who have no health insurance to cover the cost of having a mammogram. The brunch was held in a very nice restaurant and had a Kentucky Derby theme (Saturday having been Kentucky Derby Day.)  Mint Juleps. Roses.  And hats –  gorgeous hats! Most of the women attending wore hats of all descriptions. Glorious, gorgeous hats! They would fit in admirably at the Derby – or even the Royal Wedding! When I got the invitation, I figured it would be a hat crowd. So, it seemed de rigueur to do likewise. I went hat shopping. And much to my amazement, I found one that looked good!  I’ve always shied away from large brims – given my height. But this one surprised me! It dipped strategically down over one eye. It seemed flattering almost! I bought it. I tried it on dozens of times at home.  Black ribbon woven into white straw. I accessorized it. I tied on a black and white striped ribbon, added a large bow and popped in a black rose. It was uncharacteristically decorative for me. But the Wedding inspired me. And I thought, why not? Make a splash, Lesley!

Wore it with a BCBG Max Azaria black and white dress with low cut front and bunched up waist line that would certainly be approved by Stacy London and what’s-his-name on “What Not to Wear.”  Stylin’!

I went to the brunch feeling pretty darn hot, if I may so myself. Walked confidently through the crowd. Smiled sexily for the portrait photographer. Felt goo-ood! Had a grand time. Got comments!

Saw the photos on the photographer’s web site today. That’s when I knew I had been duped! He added two chins! And a chubby chest! And a goofy smile! And that hat!!! It was never THAT big!  And good grief, I’m not really THAT short!!!! Am I?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Yesterday I was waiting for a meeting to start that I was attending at the local PBS affiliate office.  I picked up a brochure to read while I waited. It was “Rick Steve’s Europe Newsletter.” If you haven’t seen “Rick Steve’s Europe” on your public television station, Rick hosts these mini-travelogues around Europe that are fairly enjoyable in a nerdy kind of way and air in those PBS ten minute intervals between regular programs. The show tends to present Europe in that sweet, nothing can go wrong, the sun is always shining, nobody will yell at you if you don’t speak the language travel magazine kind of way.

In Rick’s newsletter there was an article about how to pack “light” for stress-free travel. It was illustrated by a photo of a smiling, almost-middle-aged couple who were both wearing jeans and light rain jackets. They were hefting fairly substantial back packs – which were apparently, according to the article’s advice, filled only 2/3 full to leave room for the day’s lunch and for buying souvenirs.  Are they kidding!?!

Their backpacks looked like they held about the volume of stuff I carry in my purse! And still looked heavy! Are they not staying in a hotel where they can dump their stuff and just carry a wallet? Are they walking through Europe?!? Don’t they want to look good by changing clothes every once in awhile? Is every picture they take going to show them in the same outfit? “Here’s me in front of Michelangelo’s David in my jeans and red rain jacket!” “Here’s me at Big Ben in my jeans and red rain jacket!” What if they decide to dine in a swanky restaurant? In jeans and a red rain jacket? I don’t think so! What if the weather gets hot? Or cold?  What if the only pair of shoes they’ve got gets wet? Are they risking trench foot just because they “packed light?”

The wet shoes thing happened to Ken and me in Quebec City once. Wet jeans, wet undies, the works. We only had two days to see the city. We packed relatively light with only one change of shoes – one walking, one dressy. But on our first day there was a torrential, all-day downpour. We could have played cards in our boring hotel room all day, tried to get on a tour bus with a thousand other grumpy tourists, or we could do what we intended – get out and walk. Our sneakers were soaked in minutes. We had rain jackets but they were only knee length and wicked all the rain around the lower legs of our jeans – which wicked its way all the way up if you catch my drift. We had wet sneakers - and undies - for the remainder of our 10-day trip to the Maritimes. The undies dried out hung on bathroom towel bars, but the sneakers started to stink of mildew after three days in plastic bags – and even though we rented a car once we got to Halifax and could unpack them – those sneakers never dried out. What would the backpack couple have done about that situation?

I have never accomplished the art of packing light – or even, as the fashion magazines encourage you to do – packing non-creasing, interchangeable-outfit, coordinating clothing pieces that can take you from day to evening with a simple change of accessories. Instead, I have made an art of packing all the wrong things – and way too many of them. I like to take clothing for weather contingencies. I like to change outfits from the afternoon walking tour khaki capris and Ecco sandals to the romantic evening dinner linen (suitably wrinkly) pants and tunic sweater with cute ballet flats. I never get the look just right for any location or event, but I at least like to try. I like to use the iron supplied in hotel rooms – it gives me something to do between outings. I like dry shoes.

Fortunately, Ken has given up trying to convince me when we fly to “just carry-on.” He never even challenges me any more when I start to pack the big suitcase that will need to be checked. Packing for a road trip is license for carrying everything I own. But for flying I have a system. The airlines lose bags a lot less frequently than you’d think.

So, here’s my counter proposal to Rick Steve’s “pack light.” Buy a great carry-on bag that has wheels and that fits under the seat in front of you. In it you pack all the stuff you’d need if your luggage never makes it to your destination or you have to get a hotel room when your flight is cancelled, plus reading materials, crossword books and snacks. Then go to town packing all the outfits you can cram into the big suitcase, rain jackets and maybe your favorite pillow and check it.