New Favorite Breakfast-Overnight Oats

Preamble: I'm not really a food blogger. But I do like food very much!

My breakfast routine is pretty routine. Usually nonfat greek yogurt with fruit or berries and sliced almonds on top. Occasionally I'll have cereal, but that's kinda more like dessert in a way. (Even if it is made up of high fiber twigs and flakes.) I love oatmeal, but it's not cold enough for a big bowl of hot breakfast yet (I live in Los Angeles - go Dodgers!)

Overnight Oats have been on my radar for a while, but I didn't pay attention, thinking they were too prep heavy. Turns out I have idiotic thoughts and in fact they are SUPER EASY!

  • 1/2 cup rolled/old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup milk (of whatever kind of milk you like)
  • 1Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried fruit
  • Put all that in a mason jar, stir well and refrigerate 5 hours or up to 5 days. When you go to eat it, stir well and add honey or syrup or fresh fruit or nuts. 

That's it! Here's my before/after shots. I like using frozen cherries in oatmeal or the yogurt/fruit combo. And almonds. Lots of almonds! PS - also kinda healthy for you.

  IMG_5664  IMG_5670

Note: Many of my links (and/or images below) connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.

Mason Jars: 


Quaker Old Fashioned Oats:

Improv Cooking - New To Me

Building an Improv Lasagna

I love to cook. I try new recipes, I buy cookbooks, I subscribe to emails for recipes. The food comes out well, I think, at least 9 times out of 10.

One thing I'm not great at is improv cooking - looking into the cupboards or fridge to see what's there and then whip something up. Following rules is something I'm better at. And one of my current goals is to be better at improv cooking!

Last night I took the leftover squash (butternut and zucchini) in the fridge and decided I could make a veggie lasagna. In my cupboard were boxes of whole wheat lasagna sheets (no boil style) I'd bought a while back but hadn't used. (I just looked at my amazon history and see that I bought the lasagna noodles in, ahem, 2015! Luckily the expiration is Dec. 2018. Guess who is going to be eating LOTS of lasagna before the end of the year??!)

Glancing at a few basic veggie lasagna recipes, I made a bechamel sauce (I did look at a recipe for that!) and built a decent lasagna. There was also mozzarella and parmesan in my fridge.

Finished product

These days, with a shift in life and work priorities, I'm working harder than ever to save money and not just buy whatever I need the moment I think of something. Therefore, the improv cooking. Or better to call it the "USE WHAT YOU HAVE!!" method of cooking. In our pasta/rice drawer, there is a lot of both that need to be used. (Hint: Rice casseroles coming soon!)

The pasta sheets I bought were whole wheat and organic. (See images below to click on the affiliate link and try some for yourself.) Nobody really seems to notice the difference between regular and whole wheat these days, so I usually opt for whole wheat. 

As for the finished product? Not bad! I had sauteed the butternut and zucchini but the butternut squash went weirdly dark brown after the baking. Tasted fine, just looked, um, odd. Also, I think there needed to be more filling. It all went very flat. I'm still pleased with myself and I'll do it again. 

I used my trusty pyrex baking dish. I swear I used to have two of these, but can only find one....hmmmm. Maybe in a frenzy of "clean out all the crap!" I did away with one. Or maybe it lives at someone else's house now because I made something and took it for a potluck. Maybe I need to put this on my Christmas wish list. I like the glass better than a metal pan. I like seeing the layers cooking. 

I will continue to practice my Improv Cooking skills. Stay tuned for my next adventure, probably rice related!

P.S. Many of my links (and/or images below) connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.

Click the image for Pryex dishes: 

 Click the image for Whole Wheat Lasagna (set of 6):

Homemade Kefir and Smoothies and Blenders

IMG_5455Whilst we were in England, I had three lovely visits with a friend I've known since high school. She taught me about making your own kefir for all that probiotic goodness and I've tried it now that I'm home. I had heard interesting stories on the BBC about how our microbiome may affect our physical and mental health. Fascinating stuff. Why not add it to a healthy diet? (Which I'm working on to make better habits!)

I decided to keep it simple, cheap, and cheerful to start in case I hated it. So I bought dry kefir starter and put it into milk. (The options are coconut water, juice or milk. I am not a fan of coconut water, thank you very much. With amount of coconuts I've peeled, cracked, drank and eaten as a kid in the tropics, I'm pretty much DONE with that.)(#islandgirl)

The flavor it creates is like a tart yogurt flavor in a creamy milky texture. I like it a lot. It's super easy: You put 1 quart of milk into a pitcher and one packet of dry kefir starter. Place a paper towel or coffee filter over the top, keep it in place with a rubber band and let it sit on your counter for 12-18 hours until the seeds bloom. Basically you know it's ready when the milk turns to cream and it has a lovely yogurt smell. Then you refrigerate and drink or make into smoothies or whatever you like, keeping 1/4 cup to start a new batch.

One very important step: once it's ready, blend or whisk it to smooth out the chunky bits. Because there will be chunky bits and that was an almost instant turn off when I poured out my first glass to drink. I quickly poured it back and texted my friend: What do I do with the chunks!?!?! 

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 1.29.32 PM

And the smoothie was good. But once I learned you can't kill the kefir with blending, I just give it a quick whisk in a glass before drinking it if I have no time for smoothies.

And putting it in smoothies is super yummy just like adding milk or yogurt. I tend to toss in whatever fruit is getting a bit too squishy plus some frozen fruit to make it cold. I also like to add shredded carrot and sometimes spinach if it's about to be past its prime. (The other morning I forgot the frozen stuff and have to say a lukewarm smoothie is not super great...lesson learned!)

IMG_5452Here is a ridiculous picture of my blender with peach, kefir, carrots, apple and banana. Crystal clear! LOL. Currently I have a GIANT Ninja blender. I was purchased in haste last year, but does come in handy for larger batches of smoothies and such. 

Oooh, random thought: I have about 1/4 cup of passion fruit juice that I squeezed myself when I made passion fruit curd a few weeks ago. (Post on that later!) I will put that in a smoothie soon! MMmmmmm. 

I'm giving it a shot, maybe it improves my mood? (Not that I need much help in that arena.) Maybe it improves my colon health? (Won't really know that until I get my next colonoscopy.) Maybe it improves my smoothy flavor? (Never a bad thing.)

No matter the result, I'll report back.




P.S. Many of my links connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that. 

Back To The Farm

Last year we discovered Underwood Farms in Moorpark (and their smaller sister farm in Somis). They close from December to March and recently reopened so we drove out and picked some lovely veggies and strawberries. Then Harper had fun in the bouncy house and feeding the goats.


Strawberries1 Strawberries2


















Aside from the super delicious strawberries, we picked carrots, sugar snap peas and radishes. Harper had mostly carrots (with ranch dip) for dinner. She tried the radishes and seemed okay about them. But then just had more carrots. Awesome.



PS you know a place is uber kid friendly when all their porta-potties have these in them.


Melancholy in the Cracker Aisle


ChickenBiskitSo there we were in the cracker/cookie aisle at Target and all of a sudden, there it was on a high shelf. That blue box of memories and melancholy and grief. The box of Chicken In A Biskit.

This ALWAYS makes me think of Grandma Jane (who died 22 years ago) and Jen (6 years ago). Any time Jen and I reminisced about GrandmaJane, Chicken in a Biskit would inevitably come up. When GJ was married to Grandpa O, there was an open kitchen shelf that had clear containers of crackers. Grandpa O always had Diamond Brand Soda Crackers (Gawd I love those!) and then that blue box. We loved those salty chickeny crackers. They were like a special treat because mom didn't buy them.

Now, anytime in the last 22 years I've seen that box, I would call Jen or email her or something. And she would do the same to me. If she were still here, I would have simply texted her a picture with "GRANDMA JANE!" as the message and moved along.

What makes it so sad is that Jen is simply the ONLY Person on this planet that I shared this with. It's one little thing of many that we shared, of course, but one of those things that makes me miss the goofy fun stuff you have with a sibling, whether your politics or religion or whatever aligns or not. We could have disagreed about something in the news and not talked for a day but we could always, ALWAYS laugh or at least smile about Chicken in a Biskit.

It made me happy and sad to see that box on Saturday. Plus I was at Target with Harper staying cool and buying ingredients to make these cute cookie sandwiches:

Image-6(From this website-can't wait to try the pizza crescents!) (And also big ups to Melissa for pointing me to that website in the first place.) (And no, that is not my picture of the finished product, ours were not so perfect.)

Harper loves sprinkles, BTW.


I wanted to tell Jen all about how fun it was to try these things now that I have a daughter. She did it all when Grace and Matthew were little and It was fun to be at their parties and eat the sunflower cake made out of twinkies. (I did kinda tease her about making a cake with TWINKIES!) But I can't. Yes, there are plenty of friends and family to talk about all this with. But it's not the same.

For example, I found this while doing research on a script I'm working on:

MetalTyperI would have instantly texted or emailed this to Jen and said "REMEMBER THESE???" (I did post on facebook and tagged Betsy and Sloane, cuz I knew they would know.) But then Jen would have picked up the phone (probably) and we would have talked about life on Oahu before we moved to Maui. Where was that machine? Longs Drugs in Kahala Mall across from the Yum Yum tree? Remember the Yum Yum Tree? And on and on and on.

But I don't get to and it makes me really sad. Not all the time, mind you, but when I have a chance encounter in the cracker aisle to a touchstone of my childhood and the one person I can talk to about it is no longer there, that is a deep dark bummer.







Early Christmas Present - Yay!

We got a new stove for Christmas. Hooray! Here is the old stove. It was here when I moved in (almost) 16 years ago. It's pretty and charming, but man, we were ready for modern, efficient and predictable!


It is smaller, but the broiler works (haven't had a working broiler in 15 years) and the kitchen doesn't heat up to 350 when you bake something at 350. Did I mention efficient?

Also? There is a light in the oven. What a modern concept!


If you know anyone who wants to buy the old O'Keefe and Merrit, we are selling it...


And We Are Back With Weigh-In Wednesdays - The FAST Edition!

Previously on Weigh-In Wednesdays:

HippoonscaleI had gotten to 199 pounds in 2008 (granted it had been a BAD/TOUGH/HORRIBLE year) and it was time to lose it. By December 2010 I weighed 175 with plans to lose at least 10 more pounds. Then I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. By Feb of 2011 I was at 182 and got pregnant again. I gained about 28 pounds during the pregnancy and was amazed that by February of 2012 (when Harper was 2 months old) not only had I lost the 28 pounds, but I was down to 172! Breast feeding is good for many things, including losing weight. I stayed around 175 through the first six months of 2012 then I went back to work full time. Stressful, long hours, tiring work. I finished breast feeding and the weight came back slowly slowly slowly but it came back.

FastDietBookCut to....August 2013. I heard a story on NPR about modified fasting. I was fascinated and bought the book The Fast Diet by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer. What really got me interested was the research on how fasting can potentially do good things aside from weight loss. There are studies that show fasting can help longevity (important when you had a baby at 44!) and can potentially reduce your risks of cancer and diabetes and dementia, among other things. All good news! Oh and yes, I wanted to lose weight. I just wasn't interested in Weight Watchers again, though it had been successful previously.

I bought The Fast Diet book, read it in a couple of days (it's quick and easy) and wanted to give it a try. I had Kurt read the book too as I thought the science behind it was something he would be interested in. He was in and we started three weeks ago. We also got physicals with full blood tests and took our measurements as suggested by the doctor in the book. I don't know what Kurt's details are but mine are as follows.

As of August 6, 2013:

Weight = 192 (goal is 165)

BMI = 30.1 ("Obese" starts at 30)

Waist = 40"

Neck = 13.5" (if above 16 then worrisome)

Overall Cholesterol = 184 (best under 200)

HDL = 92 (60 and above is best)

LDL = 76 (70-100 is ideal)

TRI = 79 (below 150 is ideal)

Glucose = 5.5 (between 3.9 and 5.5 is normal)

The Cholesterol numbers are very good and always have been, thanks to good genes and probably it helps I've been an athlete most of my life. (My 40s not withstanding...) The weight needs to come down for sure and that's my main goal.

SO! Where are we today? As of August 28, I weighed in at 187. Five pounds off after three weeks of the 5-2 fast. NICE!

How does it work? It's pretty darn easy. For two days a week (you pick any two days) you eat only 500 calories for that day. (Men get 600 calories.) And it is recommended that you eat the calories in one or two meals, not grazing throughout the day. The positive results of fasting are in the hours when you are consuming nothing and your body has time to "reset." (Dammit Jim, I'm not a doctor, read the book! Or go to the official website of Dr. Mosley. He practices what he preaches.) You can drink water and tea and coffee as long as there are no calories added. Also, you don't have to have the two days be the same every week. I'm on a Monday/Thursday thing and if I have to schedule an important lunch or dinner on one of those days, I'll shift the fast day. Easy.

You know what? It's not that hard. What's hard losing is the HABIT of eating on those two days, not the lack of food in my tummy. I feel hungry on fast days, but no more hungry than a busy day when you don't have time to eat and suddenly it's 6 and you go, hey, I'm actually hungry! Fasting makes you SOOOOOO conscious of how many times you might get up to go eat something simply because you are bored or tired or that's what you do at noon or the tv is on or you've had a bad day and food is comforting. (This is totally me, btw).

What makes it easy for me are two things: 1) you still get to eat on the fast day! and 2) you can eat whatever you want on the non fast day. So while a lame old-school diet says "YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ICE CREAM EVER AGAIN" this one is about having whatever you like, just not on those two days a week. So on a Monday I might look at cookies at the store and want them, but I just tell myself, you can have the whole box tomorrow! But funny thing, I never want them the next day. Or if I do, I have one or two and that's enough.

What has amazed me is that I'm never really any more hungry the day after a fast day. And I find I really want to eat less at each meal as well as eat less on regular days. I can feel that I'm starting to eat less and eat better foods already, simply by fasting two days a week and being much more conscious. And yes, I eat ice cream!

So what am I eating on fast days? There are some nice recipes in the book and I also bought another fast day cookbook. I've had for breakfast 1 package plain oatmeal with a 1/2 cup of blueberries and in the evenings I've had either 2 eggs with asparagus (no butter or oil) or a bacon and butter bean soup (from the book and it's YUMMY!). I've made a faux veggie pizza (whole wheat tortilla, tomato paste, big amount of steamed veggies and some mozzarella cheese.) But you can make whatever you want as long as it adds up to 500 (or 600) calories on that day. I also drink lots of tea and water and coffee.

I'm really pleased with the results so far. There is a bit of two steps forward, one step back feeling, but only if you weigh yourself every day. (The morning after a fast day I'm always 2-3 pounds lighter but that goes up after a non fast day.) So I'm going to stop weighing myself every day. Maybe twice a week, and for sure on Wednesdays.

I need to be healthier and to do it in a way that makes sense for me -- lose weight yes, but also get benefits of reduced disease risks? Hell yes! I've got a beautiful girl to live a long long time for.




Carcass: It's What's For Dinner!

So I'm in the kitchen preparing to make chicken stock with some tired veggies and picked-over chicken parts and I have the chicken and the water in the pot, and nothing else. Kurt comes in to chat and looks at the pot and says, "Mmmm! Carcass!" We just started laughing and I added, "I did say we were on a budget." 

For some reason it's making me laugh a lot. "Honey! Dinner's ready! Come get your carcass!" 

On a side note, I love making homemade stock because it's like you are making the worst stew in the world while cleaning out the fridge. So easy to do, the fridge is fresher and whammo you have quarts and quarts of stock! 

"Who wants more carcass?"

End of Six Weeks -- How Am I Doing?

My Six week plan was:

  1. Exercise at least six days a week
  2. Eat less and eat better
  3. Complete my book proposal
  4. Start a writer's group for two specific projects

How am I doing? 

I have exercised at least six days a week. The first week was only five days, this last week was also only five days. However, there were two weeks where I did seven days. So I averaged it out. The best part is, I have already gotten stronger. I know this because the exercises are not leaving me sore anymore -- so I have to up the reps and intensity. The other best part is (I can have as many best parts as I want!) that I LOOK FORWARD TO EXERCISING! Holy cow it's been a long time since I've felt that way about it. So while the Wii Fit might not be the best long term exercise plan, it's a damn fine one now because I *want* to do it. In fact, I have to force myself to stop playing so I can get showered and dressed for work. This is a good thing.

In regard to eating, I have not improved much. I haven't lost more than the four pounds I lost earlier in the six week plan. Maintaining is better than gaining. So I will press on with the better eating plan. The longer hours than expected work schedule has been a bit challenging to the better eating, and I'm going to work at getting things done ahead of time. But then I'm doing so much more fun stuff on the weekends (See item #4 above) that I don't have much time then either! I choose how I use my time and I have not chosen to spend time making healthier food yet. 

The book proposal sits idle. I think I put it in the wrong part of my schedule and it floundered. I was working on it just after waking up and before exercising, all before work. Normally I can get a good chunk of writing done at that time of the morning. But this was different kind of writing and I found myself not very enthusiastic. I think I will try switching my book proposal work time to a different time of day. I have one more week of super busy work, then I'll restart on it.

As to item #4 -- it is moving ahead splendidly. It keeps me going through the week and I can't wait to have more time to devote to it!

So what will the next six weeks have? Much of the same

  1. Exercise at least six days a week with higher # of reps and greater intensity. I need to have sore muscles after exercising to know I pushed it harder.
  2. Eat less and eat better, make two specific meals a week (from cookbooks)
  3. Bring book proposal to Rough Draft shape and find a better time to work on it during the day.
  4. Continue writer's group! 

I'm feeling good about another six weeks and am quite proud of myself for how much exercise I've done. Thanks to the Wii Fit for getting me into a new habit.

I'll check back in about three weeks on this!

The Seattle Trip -- Part I

It was hot. Really hot. Record breaking hot. In Seattle. In the greater Seattle area. HOT! Thankfully Kurt's brother is one of the few people in the city who has central air. Even our hotel didn't have air conditioning it the hallways, but luckily the rooms did. Phew. Let me be clear: the record breaking day was 103. Normal for that same day is 77. And the days leading up to and away from that record breaking heat were in the 90s. And it didn't cool off at night, or it did but barely. 

Did I mention it was hot? Okay okay, moving on.

You saw the train trip and the end of it was we arrived in Seattle at 8:45 at night, then went to the in-laws for an evening visit and to get Dot all set in her guest room. We played some Uno and then at about 11:00 Kurt and Glenn drove me to our hotel where I checked in and went to sleep, but the boys went back to Glenn's to play some motorcycle racing game on Wii until 3am. (It's how they bond.)

The next day we picked up our rental car had breakfast at the Shari's Diner next to our hotel and went back to the in-laws to hang out all day. More Uno was played. Some Wii bowling and tennis were played. Uno was played. Some Wii Golf was played. Kurt's niece came by later to join in the fun and Kurt's (our) sister in law prepared a southern feast for dinner: Ham, green bean casserole, and cheesy potatoes with the corn flake layer on top. After dinner there was ice cream. After ice cream there was more Uno. There was only one bottle of wine that the six of us shared at dinner. By the time the Post Dessert rounds of Uno began, I was, uh, needing, jonseing, wanting another glass (or three). Alas,water was my drug of choice. Midnight approached and I said my good nights and departed, taking the rental car and leaving Kurt and his brother to have their rematch on the Wii motorcycles until 3am. My brother in law would drive Kurt back to hotel afterward.

That was Day 1. Whew.

Day 2 started at the in-laws again for a brief morning visit, then Kurt and I headed off to one of the Microsoft campuses to have lunch with my former roommate, Kim. When I lived in Seattle in 92/93 I shared a two bedroom/one bath apartment with Kim for the year. I had search the classifieds and answered an ad in the paper. That is Old Skool! It was also around the time the movie "Single White Female"  came out so we were laughing about that. Kim and I hit it off and I moved in not long after. It was a great apartment -- big living room and kitchen on the 2nd floor of a 4plex in Madison Park, across the street from the Arboretum and just down the hill from Capital Hill. I worked two coffee jobs and Kim worked at a place called Geo Engineers. At our lunch, we laughed about the former receptionist who answered the phone in a sultry way. 

It had been about ten or fifteen years since I last saw Kim and the three of us had a great time chatting and laughing. Her husband couldn't make it though, so we'll have to be back up again soon! We went up to her office and talked about her work, but even better, we talked about her soap and smelled some essential oils she had picked up on a recent trip to France. 

Kim's soap company is called Pepo Park and you can go there and buy some of the beautiful soaps and lip balms she makes. She kindly gave us two bars and two lip balms. We haven't used either yet as I'm in that "oh, I don't want to use it up yet!" mode. But they will be in the shower soon. 

We let Kim get back to work and we headed back to the in-laws to hang out and play some Uno as well as a few more rounds of Wii Bowling or tennis or golf. Soon it was time to depart for dinner and Kurt and headed over to West Seattle to visit Frances and John Smersh.

I went to LMU with Frances and John,though I knew Frances better. We had been in the first class together on the first day of freshman year. Our paths didn't cross very often after that, but LMU was small and we would catch up from time to time. She and John started dating in college and got married soon after. They are still blissfully married (it looked like to me!) after almost 19 years! They are amazing.

We started our visit to their store in West Seattle called Click! Design That Fits on the main drag in town. I wanted to see their store and to buy a few things for birthdays coming up. Great store! Highly recommend you go there and see all the fab stuff they sell. The fabbest of all is Frances' jewelry that she designs and makes. You can see that specifically here

Frances and Kurt and I chatted while Kurt and I shopped. Then it was time to close up and we headed to the nice supermarket to pick up a large slab of fresh Silver salmon for dinner. A few short blocks later we pulled up to their house and John awaited us with hugs and greetings. I haven't seen the two of them since I about 94 or 95 and had to shed a few tears of joy at seeing them both after so long. 

John had already prepared some cheese and crackers -- the cheese was brie and I've never seen it so soft -- but then again it was *only* about 95 degrees at 7:30pm in the house. John and Frances live in a sweet and lovely little bungalow built in the 1920's. And there is no air conditioning because why would you need it? Oy! We were all sweating a bit! But our dinner was alfresco in the cooler back yard. John had simply grilled the salmon with lime juice and dill. There was a green salad and some fried potatoes and onions. And some wine we brought as a thank you. It was delicious and lovely. See?

After dinner we moved indoors to avoid the bugs and had BEAUTIFUL hand made strawberry shortcake. John washed and cut the strawberries while Kurt and I whipped cream. Frances cut the fresh cake part and then John piled it all on each plate. A crisp cold white wine was a refreshing partner to this fresh dessert. HEAVEN! 

We talked and talked and talked and then suddenly it was 12:30! Wow! We said our good-byes and thank yous with big hugs and kisses and more hugs and kisses. It was a wonderful evening that I will think about often. Thank you Frances and John!

More to come about the hottest day on record, Port Townsend, Victorian Hotels, and seeing high school friends I haven't been together with in 24 years...