Mastering the Salad

“Something I thought I’d never see in my refrigerator: a “salad bar”. I’m coming up on 1 year of changing my diet and working on my health. Also coming up on 60 lbs lost. I’m still struggling some days, and in some months change is slower than others. But I’ve learned that commitment doesn’t mean “easy” and commitment doesn’t mean “perfect,” either. It means showing up, making a plan, and learning from both success and failure. And it also means I master the “salad for lunch” that I’ve resisted my whole life.”  – HP, posted on Facebook May 15, 2018.

IMG_1297In my world, the “salad” portion of the meal was always an optional add-on, not the main event. My mother never made great salads. My aunt is an excellent salad maker, but it always seemed like every meal had to add a salad in order to provide an obligatory vegetable side.

But after a year of improving my diet with nary a salad in sight, I decided that that this summer’s “level up” would be to master the salad for lunch. I’ve been improving my lunches gradually over the last year (slowly reducing the carbs and upping the vegetable content). But I’ve now gotten to where it just makes more sense to go with a salad.

The Elements of Salad

I’ve never found salads very SATISFYING as a meal, though. I’ve had tasty salads, but they just weren’t something I understood on a dna level, ya know? So I decided to decode their dna, so to speak.

I spent about a month going through Pinterest recipes for salads and got a general idea of the elements of a “good salad”. As far as I could tell, they comprise the following:

  • leafy greens
  • at least one source of protein, 2-3 is even better if you can combine with the following . . .
  • a variety of chopped vegetables to fill in more fiber and more flavor
  • Nuts or seeds to provide crunch, texture, added nutrition
  • A dressing that balances either the sweet flavors or the tangy-flavors of what is in the salad.  (So vinaigrette if the flavors are predominately sweet, creamy dressing if the flavors have more spice or tang.)
  • Optional: chopped or sliced fruits, as desired.

Rather than choosing specific recipes to make a bunch of mason jar salads, I opted for the “salad bar” approach. This made it easier for me in that I wanted to stick to what was easily accessible in my supermarket and easily prepped. (Not all produce in every salad recipe is conveniently sourced.)

I got everything I needed for a beginner salad at Smart and Final:

Shopping list

  • I got 12 pint-sized wide mouth jars for glass storage (keeps things fresh longer than plastic).
  • 1 lg box of 1/2 and 1/2 mixed greens (half spring mix and half spinach).
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 can of chick peas and one can of black beans
  • 1 medium red onion. A bunch of green onions, chopped.
  • Shredded cheese of choice. I used Mexican blend because I use it for other dinners a lot.
  • Chicken breast. (Or you can get pre-cooked chicken tenders). I buy in bulk and freeze the others for dinners.
  • A dozen eggs
  • 1/2 pound cashews, bought in bulk.
  • 1 bottle Annie’s organize olive oil and red wine vinaigrette

All of this cost me about $63, which seems like a really expensive salad. But when you consider that the mason jars were about $13, the chicken breasts $10, the eggs $2, and the cheese was $5 – and all of these things will be used for more than just the salad, it kind of levels out. I did the math and for the amounts used just for salads, it is around $4.40 per salad. These amounts make about 6 lunch-sized salads and in the jars they last for about 10 days, which means my grocery bill the second week will go down a bit.

Like I said, it seems to all level out.


Meal prep and recipe

Anyway. Here’s what I put together on meal prep day:

  • 6 jars of mixed greens. I use the whole jar for a single salad.
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked, sliced or shredded.
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 jar of shredded cheese (2 cups)
  • 2 jars of chick peas and black beans, mixed (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 jars of chopped red and green onion
  • 1 jar of sliced and halved cucumber.
  • Nuts in the bag. I keep them with the salad stuff in the fridge so I don’t forget about them. They MAKE the salad!

Directions: Drop a jar of mixed greens into a bowl. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to add: 1 scoop of cheese, 1 scoop nuts, 1 scoop onions, 2 scoops of beans. Slice one egg in. Drop in approx 1-2 oz of chicken breast. A few cucumber. A little pepper. 2 tbsp of dressing. Toss. Done. (If you’re wondering, this is in the neighborhood of 450 calories. Back off of the chicken, beans, and dressing to bring it down to about 300).


I’ve found that I can probably lose the chicken if I want to go vegetarian on a few days. The nuts, egg and beans are plenty of protein and very satisfying. It is a plenty big salad that I find keeps me satisfied for a good 4 hours before I start feeling a little hungry again. And I’m not uncomfortably full after eating it.

And so, after just one week, because of the ease and general deliciousness for a weekday lunch, I am now a person who eats salad for lunch. And enjoying them. I’m also pooping like a boss.

I hardly recognize myself, anymore.




General Blog Update

I have struggled with how I would like to use this blog moving forward. I’m an intermittent blogger at best and I haven’t been keeping up with my diet and exercise updates. But I’d like to set a goal that I do them more often. They will very likely be repetitive and quite dull to most people. But I want to share a bit more often publicly, A) for accountability and B) because every once in a while I get asked a question about my food prep or weight loss process that linking to a blog would be much simpler to answer!

Going back over my year and doing some reflective or assessing blog posts is also in the cards.

I already do a weekly food and exercise journal each week to assess what I’ve done with my food plans and how I need to move forward. I’m okay with putting some of that in a more cohesive thought online.

I’d also like to use this space to log my sewing projects because I need to see the little wins on that front. I find sewing to still be incredibly intimidating and I need to have a record of what I get done and what I’m procrastinating on – and how I’m learning and growing – to build some motivation to keep going.

I still have my What’s My Call Time theater blog, and I may still keep my theater oriented thoughts there, just because it is still so established and is linked to our regional theater community and my theater newsletter.  But all other project/goals/life stuff, I’d like to get in the habit of putting here. It will also help me to integrate the very disparate aspects of my life if I can see them all in one spot!

At least I hope so!

Food Prep 1/1/18, this week’s menu, and how to make juicy chicken breasts

This week’s options in the fridge.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to hit the ground running because Rogue Festival is literally eight short weeks away and January is when my schedule becomes overwhelmingly busy.

But in terms of the diet and exercise, I’ve been in maintenance mode since Thanksgiving. The Win: I’ve actually lost 3 lbs since Thanksgiving. That’s about .5 lbs per week, which is .5 lbs a week more than I anticipated.

I didn’t do things even close to perfectly during the holidays. But I did make a concerted effort to not go overboard. I upped my calorie and limits and allowed myself more sugar treats like cake and cookies. But there were also two or three weeks in there where I did a solid food prep to eat well during the workweek and that helped keep things in check. I think that shows (anecdotally, at least) that even doing things well in a hit or miss fashion is better than not doing them at all.

And this last week, I’ve slowly gotten back into the habit of walking at least every other day. This is a big deal because when I’m stressed I really want to sleep, but I need to work on switching that habit over to going for a walk. Hopefully, the consistent diet and regular exercise will keep me energized enough to power through the next two and a half months!


Anyway. . . the food prep this week was pretty simple and basic. The post holiday budget is pretty tight, so we’re looking at simple, inexpensive foods or foods that can stretch to two or more meals (three chicken breasts will stretch to two lunches for me and two dinners for both me and Jag on this plan). On the menu:

Breakfasts: My usual oats, greek yogurt with fruit, cottage cheese, bananas, sometimes a hard boiled egg or nuts. I mix and match depending upon the day.

For lunches (we typically go home for lunch during the workweek): Again, the usual staples – Farmer’s Sandwich, Chicken breast and brown rice (half a cup), or leftovers like spaghetti marinara or a quick black bean chili, which we had this weekend.

For dinners:  Baked Drumsticks with mashed cauliflower, Taco Bowls (crockpot) with brown rice, Baked Pork Chops with sweet potatoes. Leftovers at will.

Snacks: Celery with peanut butter, handful of almonds and apple slices, orange slices with dark chocolate (brilliant for a little dessert when called for).

Food Prep (45 minutes, including the washing up)

  1. Cooked one large (10oz) chicken breast to divide for lunches. (See below for my method of cooking a chicken breast so it stays moist in the fridge during the week).
  2. Assemble Taco Bowl recipe in Crock Pot crock. Set into fridge (set up to cook tomorrow morning).
  3. Slice 1.5 apples for Farmer Sandwich fixins and snacks.
  4. Clean out expired or generally gross stuff from fridge. Reorganize.
Refrigerator reorganized for this week’s plan. The sheet pan on the bottom is helpful for sliding out leftovers and pre-prepped food instead of having stuff sit in the back, lonely and forgotten.

Everything else is pretty much a quick-prep food that is easy to deal with. The brown rice is the Trader Joe’s frozen kind and the mashed cauliflower also from Trader Joe’s. I had intended to make my own mashed cauliflower, but TJ’s didn’t have any cauliflower in stock at the moment. So I was forced to take the lazy way. Alas!


Okay, so. . . when I discovered this method of cooking chicken breasts a few years back, my world shifted. Seriously. I was never any good at making a basic chicken breast on the stove top. They were always dry and a rather tough. I’m sure there is some technique that would have prevented this, but I don’t care what it is anymore. Because this is how I make them now. It takes more time to cook, but is actually easier on me in the long-run.

The great thing about this way of doing it, though, is that if you eat them right after you make them, they are SUPER MOIST and always thoroughly cooked. But if you put them in the fridge to keep, they are still moist and tender upon reheating for about three days. I think that’s because they are basically steamed.

The prep time takes about 6 minutes and is super-easy. The cook time, about 25-30 minutes (during which time you can prep the rest of the meal or go and read a book or something for a bit. No need to check the chicken.)

*First, you’ll need a skillet with a cover that fits. And a glass of water with about 1/2 a cup of water in it. Doesn’t need to be exact. Set these aside for a bit where you can reach them.

  1. Heat up a tablespoon of oil of your preference in the pan over high heat and swirl in the pan.
  2. Place the chicken breasts in the pan to sear. Sear for 3 minutes per side.
  3. While searing the second side, add any seasoning you like to the chicken. (I use Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, but use what you like or nothing at all.)
  4. After both sides have seared for 3 minutes each, grab the cover to the skillet in one hand and the glass of water in the other.  Keep the heat on high for just a bit.
  5. Pour the water into the pan and then cover immediately. The water will immediately boil and steam up and the cover will trap that initial steam.
  6. Lower the heat to the lowest setting.  Let it continue to simmer and steam on low heat for 25 minutes. (25 minutes is plenty of time for most chicken breasts, but if you have some particularly large cuts, you can let it go 30 minutes and it will be fine.)  SET THE TIMER!
  7. After the time is up, turn off the heat and open the cover. It can sit in its steam-juices for a few minutes to rest while you prepare the rest of your meal or set the table. It’s ready.
  8. Eat and enjoy!


Already need to edit:  I just went back and looked through my previous updates and realized that I weighted 240 on 10/18.  This week, I weighed 240 in late October. Yesterday, I weighed 232 lbs. That’s 8 lbs in 10 weeks ( .8 lbs per week on average) over the holidays and after a plateau. That isn’t so bad when looked at in the grand scheme of things. I’ll take it!


Fridge Clean-Out Food Prep 12/17/17 + Maintaining during the holidays + Fruit Bake

This week’s fridge list. 

Well, it has been a couple of months since my last update, so I thought I’d catch up tonight.

First, the past month has been a slog as far as my eating is concerned. I had a five days at a conference in San Diego with a foodie companion just before Thanksgiving and ever since then I’ve been a little loosy-goosy with my eating. As a result, my weight loss has slowed to around a half pound to a pound a week. Still progress, but yeah.

This is also due to the fact that when the weather is colder, I get hungrier. I also want more sweets and more wine. Which have to be accounted for in my intake! So those are the losses in the past month. A little hungrier, more of a sweet tooth, less motivation to be as disciplined as I have been.

The wins: I’ve still logged everything I’ve eaten in MyFitnessPal every single day. No lying. No skipping a meal. No skipping a day. I’ve been able to see why I’ve slowed to a crawl and be at peace with that. As a result, I upped my daily calorie intake by 150 calories (about a glass of wine) for the holiday season. This will keep me on maintenance mode until January.  I feel better having made that decision and it being a conscious one instead of an accidental one.

But today I felt the need to get back to a Sunday food prep. I’ve skipped strategic food prep for the past month or so because of schedule and general motivation. So, I figured the week before Christmas would be a good time to get back to it.

I didn’t do my huge food prep, though. This week I did the “refrigerator clean out” food prep. Which is basically evaluating what is already in my fridge and can be re-purposed or used as leftovers.


TJ’s frozen brown rice. I always have this on hand. One pouch is about a cup and a half of rice – good for two lunches. 3 min in microwave


This is what I had:

Already had 4 hardboiled eggs, a low-sugar fruit bake I made as a dessert last week, Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice, leftovers from a taco soup and a cheeseburger pie I made a few days ago, and three chicken breasts in the freezer. I also still had some celery sticks left over and more celery for a stew. We have lots of oranges on teh counter. And a small batch of fudge. There are, of course, various other staples that we always have (rolled oats, milk, yogurt, etc.)

So this is what I did. First, I made a quick chicken stew in the crock pot with two chicken breasts for our Sunday night dinner. It’s about 325 calories a serving and low in sugars, but high in dairy. It is a really filling and comforting stew that will give us mid-week leftovers for dinner, too.


Once that was in the crock pot and cooking, I …

  1. Parboiled the remaining single chicken breast to use for a couple of lunches this week. It was a 4 oz breast, so there’s two 2 oz chicken pieces with a 2/3 cup of brown rice for lunch.
  2. Sliced up an apple pear for use in a few farmer’s sandwich lunches this week.
  3. Spooned out two servings of the taco soup (I leave out the chicken in this recipe, btw) into a smaller container for a couple of lunches this week. I tossed the remaining half a serving.
  4. Cut up the remaining celery stalk (left from the stew) into 5″ pieces for snacks with peanut butter.
  5. Re-purposed the fruit bake I made (recipe below). I made this fruit bake last week when I was craving something sweet. I made it with half the amount of brown sugar called for in the recipe. It was still delicious over a bit of vanilla ice cream for dessert. And it became even sweeter sitting in its pineapply juices for a day or two. But I had a bunch left I wasn’t likely to use as dessert again. So I dropped about 2/3 of what was left into my chopping/blending device and give it a quick turn. It is now a very chunky fruit sauce that’s just perfect over quick oats or in plain yogurt for breakfast. It is so sweet, I won’t have to add any honey to the oats or yogurt with this stuff. And at 1/2 cup I’ll get a serving of fruits in.
  6. I measured and prepped three oatmeal bowls for overnight oats. 1/2 cup rolled oats and sliced almonds mix in the little bowl with some cinnamon and nutmeg. The night before I’ll put 2/3 cup of milk in the bowl. The next morning, the oats have absorbed most of the milk and I can heat it in the microwave with the chunky fruit bake on top. I’ve already tried it. It tastes like a deconstructed fruit pie for breakfast. Win!!

The food prep part only took about 40 minutes. After that I wrote out my fridge list and cleaned out the rest of the fridge and pantry. Total of 1 hour food prep and I now know what I need to shop for, what I’ve got on hand for meals for the next five days, and how to keep things at a manageable level of eating satisfaction without totally derailing my (slow) progress right before Christmas.

By the way, my meal plan DOES include a small piece each day of the Easy Fudge I made Friday. I’ll eat the fudge alongside an orange. The combo is delicious! Like I said, I’ve got a sweet tooth going on right now. But keeping the sugars under surveillance is super important, too. I can have it, but knowing how much added sugar I’m taking in during this time of year is going to be key to not losing it in January.

Low Sugar Fruit Bake


I modified this recipe to use about 1/2 as much brown sugar as called for and added in more pineapples and more of the pineapple juice to compensate. I find pineapples to be incredibly sweet these days, so using it to offset the added sugar made sense to me. The recipe says the bake serves 5, but for me it made 8 servings at about 1/2 c per serving.

My workup of the recipe with the lowered sugar content:

130 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Fat: 8.2 g (4.9 saturated)
Carbs: 15.5 (most from fruit)
Protein: 0.5
Sugars: 11.4 g (2.5 g added sugars – the rest are in the fruit)

Great for over oatmeal or alongside brunch in the morning or as a sweet treat with ice cream or served with marscapone or whipped cream as a dessert.

Check In and Lab Work – 10/18/17 + Facebook suggests recipe sites

Finally had my follow up labs done to see how the weight loss and “re-balance” of my diet has affected my health.

  • Weight: 240 lbs (down 37 lbs)
  • Blood Pressure: 120/70  (down from 135/90 in May)
  • Cholesterol – 235 (down to borderline range from high range)
  • LDL: 161 (down from 205 – significant improvement, but still borderline high)
  • HDL: 41 (up from 40 – good movement, still need more)
  • Triglycerides: 167 (up from 142 – probably due to my weight change that can have weird effects on triglycerides)
  • Ac1: 5.7% (down from 6.2 but still just in the pre-diabetic range).


My labs indicate a lot of good movement in the right direction, but not as much as my doctor was hoping for at my relatively young age. She suggested some statin drugs for the cholesterol, but I tend to err on the side of conservative treatment (do what I can without drugs or invasive procedures until absolutely necessary). I convinced her to give me another six – eight months working the diet and exercise plan to see what improvements can continue to be made. 

The next hurdle is probably the upcoming holidays and the need to step up a strength training regimen.


I’ve definitely hit the first weight loss slow down part of the journey. I’ve slowed from losing 1.5-2 lbs per week to about 1 lb a week on average. It was expected, but can be hard to keep motivated. The lab work definitely was a perk up, though.

I also have to admit that, on the whole, I generally feel better than I did last spring. So that’s something.


I’ve logged every single meal – as honestly as I possibly can – in MyFitnessPal every single day since I started. Even if I let myself slide on a few days or have a rougher week, I can at least say that I’m not lying to myself!


I did a shout out on Facebook to get some new recipe sites to look at. I need to expand my options! There were a lot of great suggestions of a wide variety of sites. Take a gander if you’re looking for resources:



Food Prep 9/10/17 and How to Make Balsamic Chicken Thighs

September 10, 2017: Current weight 247.  Reached my first goal, losing 10% of my weight. Total: 27 lbs down. As of last week, my calorie goals are 1440 per day during the week and 1600 on the weekends. 

The last two weeks’ food plan looks like this:

And yes, I do write this stuff out. It helps me to plan the grocery shopping and to check what I already have in the fridge and pantry so I can use it. Money is an issue in our lives and I’m not all that fond of wasting food, if I can help it. I put this note on the refrigerator so I can remind myself what the options are every day.

I also tend to set up my day’s eating in My Fitness Pal the night before or the morning of. If I decide in advance what I’m making for dinner, I can adjust my breakfast and lunch accordingly. This makes spontaneous dinner outings with friends hard, though. But if I have a day’s notice, I’m often able to make adjustments!

You can see that last week’s meal plan includes some not-so-healthy items like Brinner (Breakfast for dinner) and Steak and Ale pies.  I built these into the plan because I knew I was feeling stressed and a little down from grief. So I allowed myself a little grace in my eating and adjusted my breakfasts and lunches on those days.

Food Prep:

  • Brown Rice 2-3 cups
  • Chicken Breasts – steamed on the stovetop. (This method keeps them moist as they sit in the refrigerator for 3-5 days). Seasoned with TJ’s 21 Seasoning Salute. 1 12 oz breast cut into 3 oz portions for lunches. 1-2 12 oz breast cut in half for dinner portions.
  • Apple slices and chunks of peaches (good for farmer’s sandwiches, snacks, to put in oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast)
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • Marinade for Balsamic Chicken Thighs (see below for recipe).

Trader Joe’s Cheat:  Pre-made Salads.  I split them in two portions for when I don’t feel like making a side or need a snack on the weekends.



I cannot take any credit for this one. Found it on Pinterest and it is legit a favorite for both me and Jaguar. Super easy and pretty cheap if you use thighs, but you can use breasts, too. Thighs have a heartier taste to them, but breasts have a bit less fat. Do what you will.  And I’ve left it in the fridge to marinade for up to a day and a half it and it was fine.

The Full Recipe is found HERE AT BUDGET BYTES.

My final version with chicken breast. The balsamic marinade is good with the vegetables, too.:


My workup on this recipe is:

  • 3 tbs of the balsamic-soy-brown sugar- olive oil marinade (approx what is spooned over the meat when serving): 90 calories. 1 g of sugar.
  • 1 – 8 oz chicken breast – baked: 215 calories.  3 g of fat (1 g of saturated fat).
  • 1 – 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken thigh, baked – 135 calories. 9 g of fat (3 g of saturated fat). Thighs are smaller than breasts, so most people eat two.



Mom’s Eulogy

The day my mother died, I was handed her Bible. The same study Bible she had used for 30 years or so.  Before the memorial service, I spent a week going through it, looking at my mother’s notes, handwriting, questions, and answers. I found a lot of smiles there. I also found a lot to think about. My mother could be quite perceptive when it came to spiritual study.

But when it came time to write her eulogy, I spent five days at a loss. I was attending Hedda Gabler performances, but once the show would start, I’d sneak upstairs to a table and attempt to make some notes. But to no avail.

It was the day before, when I took a day off of work, that I looked at her Bible and thought, “Well, I’ll start there.”

And this is what I came up with:

Mom’s Eulogy

NEW Testament

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

If I could say anything about my mother’s ultimate goal in life, it would live in that phrase. “The peace of God.” I believe she pursued it her whole life, not only for herself but she also actively prayed for it for others.

This is my mother’s Bible. It is the Life Application Bible (New International Version) and she bought it in 1989 when it was first published. It is a little bit amazing that this Bible has survived intact. Once, in about 1992, she was headed to church, and after loading some things into the trunk of her car (probably the orange rolls she was famous for making), getting into the driver’s seat and heading from Visalia (where we lived) to Dinuba Nazarene, she arrived to find that she had lost her Bible. Which was impossible because she knew she had taken it out of the house. But it was not in the car. She was devastated because she had been making notes in it for three years. When we returned to Visalia, in a last-ditch effort to find the Bible, we drove the route from our house to the edge of town. And on Court Street, at the overpass crossing Highway 198, there in the gutter, was this Bible in this cover, intact.  She had placed it on the back bumper, forgotten it, and somehow it made it a mile down the road before falling off.

This is actually a pretty typical “Marsha Maneuver.”

Since that time, this Bible was never very far from her.

It is filled with notes, quotes from sermons, her own thoughts and questions on passage after passage.  In the past week or so, I’ve gone through nearly every page of it, and found there a remarkable footprint of my mother’s spiritual life, as well as many references to her life as a mother, as wife, as a friend, as a Christian. I’ll place the Bible in the fellowship hall afterward, if you’d like to look for yourself. It is like a time-capsule to her inner world. I’d like to share for you a few of the features:

Inside the front cover is a mini-post-it note, probably put there about 1992 . It says “Prayers – Heather, Matt, Church, Uncle Ed, Janet. (Janet was her cousin.)  For some reason, she never removed that post-it, even though Uncle Ed and Janet passed away in the 90s.

The front pages have thoughts on a variety of topics, including “On Letting Go or Releasing. . .”  “Evangelism” . . . “Forgiveness”. . . and “Growing in Wisdom”.  

She has marked the passages for The Beatitudes and the Fruits of the Spirit. And she has a quote from St. Augustine: “There is no burden too heavy for the loving heart.”

And my mother knew about burdens. Her life wasn’t the smoothest of rides. She suffered personal heartbreak many times and endured continual pain and physical suffering since the 1990s. But she would always try to release her burdens in prayer and in studying scripture to find insight. And then she would focus on others. Because she also knew about having a loving heart.

She was an extrovert by nature. The woman never knew a stranger and could talk the ear off a fence post. But she had the knack of drawing people out, mostly because she was truly interested in them. She wanted to hear their stories and their troubles. She was open about her feelings, but tried hard to empathize with others. Even if she didn’t like them much. She was a natural in the nursing profession.

Inside her Bible – mostly in the New Testament – there are pivotal passages she’d go back to again and again with her thoughts:

  • In Matthew 7’s admonishment towards harsh criticism and judgement, she has written the thought, “One of the easiest ways to cover our sins is to judge others for theirs.”
  • At  John 14:23 when Jesus speaks of the Lord making a home for those who journey to him, she writes, “Who could mind the journey when the road leads home?”
  • At Acts 20:35’s “It is more blessed to give than to receive” she writes: “Unhappiness is found in a mirror. Happiness is found in a window.”
  • And in Romans 5, she writes “A perceiving faith is one that finds hope in hopelessness.”

(My friends are now starting to realize where I get my knack for pithy epigrams!)

Copy of File_000Over and over again, she writes about discernment, perception, faith, love, acceptance, hope, and having a giving spirit. Anyone who knew my mother knew that she was all of those things and much, much more.

It wasn’t that she was never critical, judgmental, or lacked self-control. She certainly failed from time to time. But she actively practiced joy, peace, patience, love, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and gentleness with each of us. Because practice may not always make perfect, but it sure helps a lot!

My mother poured these things into her relationships. I know that I was, and will continue to be, a recipient of these gifts from her. Through her unyielding and unconditional love and acceptance, I have learned how to pursue my own peace, and practice my own fruits of the spirit – even though I have yet to perfect any of them.

Through her, I also learned to find meaning in profound texts, to serve others through performance, and to always, always seek insight.  She also allowed me to laugh out loud, to argue my case, and to go my own way.

Because she also said, “I raised my children to fly, not to huddle in the nest.”

My mother held on in this life a long, long time, considering her catastrophic illness. But she was a blessing to those who encountered her. She also spent her whole life learning to be at peace with what life brought her, and to find new hope in every day given to her.

I can only hope I follow her example.


Mom’s Memorial Program

On July 18, 2017, my mother Marsha died. I got to see her the night before before she passed, although she was barely responsive.

At the time I was exactly halfway through rehearsals for a production of “Hedda Gabler”, but we were on a short rehearsal break for a few days. Mom’s timing was often extremely good.

A month later, we held a memorial service at her church. The folks at Dinuba Christian were wonderful and so supportive.


The program copy from the service:

Program of Service:

In Loving Memory

Marsha Lynn Parish Kelly

November 14, 1949 – July 18, 2017

Dinuba Christian Church

355 E Saginaw, Dinuba, CA

Pastor Jim Susee, Officiating


On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, Marsha Parish Kelly passed away at the age of 67 at her home in Dinuba after a long illness.

Marsha was the daughter of Howard and LaVerne Smith of Dinuba and step-daughter of Don Freet. She graduated from Dinuba High School (’67) and earned nursing degrees from College of the Sequoias and Pacific Union College. A practicing nurse at Kaweah Delta Hospital for her entire career, Marsha was one of the first nurses to work in the heart and vascular center in Visalia. Marsha will be remembered for her love of nursing, her beautiful singing, her contagious laugh and her deep faith.

Marsha will be lovingly remembered by her husband Larry Kelly, son Matthew Parish and wife Virginia, daughter Heather Parish and husband Jaguar Bennett, brother and sister-in-law Greg and Renella Smith, nephew and niece Tim and Leeanna Smith, and many family and friends.

Program of Service

Musical Prelude : “Fly Like a Bird” by Robert Kochis

Opening Words of Grace: Pastor Jim Susee


Obituary and Pastor’s Reflection: Pastor Jim Susee

Special Tribute and Song: Larry Kelly, Marsha’s husband

Eulogy: Gregory Smith, Marsha’s brother

Scripture Reading: Heather Parish, Marsha’s daughter
Old Testament: Psalm 46:1-3
New Testament: Philippians 4:4-7

Eulogy: Heather Parish

Reflections from family and friends (2 minutes, please)

Musical Interlude: “It is Well With My Soul,” sung by Sandi Patty

Prayer and Benediction: Pastor Jim Susee


 A few of Marsha’s favorite Bible verses

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Matthew 7:20

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,  for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3-10

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
John 14-23

It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Acts 20:35

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5


Favorite hymns:

I will Enter His Gates (He has made me glad), written by Leona Von Brethorst (1976)

It is Well with My Soul, written by Horatio Gates Spafford (1873)


Prayer mantra: “In His peace, I release.”


Food Prep and Week’s Journal 7/30/17: Rehearsal foods, TJ’s in the freezer, & How to make a Farmer’s Sandwich

7/30/17 Current weight: 252 lbs. 5 lbs away from first goal. 22 lbs lost.

When mom died on the 18th, I was 3 lbs away from my first goal (10% of my weight lost, or 27 lbs).  But in the two weeks after mom’s death, I gained back two pounds.  Not so bad considering I thought I had gained 8! But putting on two pounds after just losing my mom AND while directing a play . . . I’m putting that in the win column.

The large-ish food prep that I did for rehearsals, right before my mom died. Got me through another week without having to think too much about “staying on track”.

In all honesty, I had done a huge food prep the weekend before mom died, and that really helped during the week. To not have to think too much about food and just grab something already prepared was a godsend when I was in the fog right after her death.

Right now, I am exhausted. The grief from mom’s death has caught up with me and I’ve still put off doing her obit. Not good. I have other, show-related items I need to get done as well. But I physically hurt from the low-grade depression and anxiety of grief. I was exhausted all last week. I got through rehearsals but just barely. The cast has asked for longer rehearsals this week.  I’m not looking forward to it.

I’m going to try to get up early and walk in the mornings this week. Give me more time during the day to organize my thoughts, perhaps get a few things done. Maybe take Friday off for rest and recovery.

But the food plan is full of whole grains balanced with protein in order to keep my energy up for the whole day. Once I get to six p.m., I still have at least five more hours of work to do!



Food Prep Upcoming week: 7/31

Final week of regular rehearsal before tech. Needing to prep food for easy lunches and dinners to keep me on track and Jaguar fed.


Breakfast: TJ’s Steel-cut oats or hard-boiled egg (with apple slices, usually).

Lunch: Farmer’s Sandwich (a favorite of mine – see below for how to make), leftover chicken breast with whole wheat spaghetti on the side.

Dinner: Spaghetti marinara (whole wheat) and chicken breast, chicken breast/rice/steamed veg, chili-seasoned beans with quinoa.

Everything I’ll need for food prep, except the chicken breasts.  I use the 21 Seasoning Salute on the chicken breasts, the Lime Chili Seasoning, Garlic Powder, and Cumin on the beans (which is beans, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, bit of whatever broth I have mixed together), and the marinara and pasta is self-explanatory.

Almost all from Trader Joe’s.


Today’s food prep:

  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 parboiled chicken breasts
  • 8 cups whole wheat spaghetti marinara
  • 6 cups chili beans/corn
  • 2 apples, quartered and sliced


Each takes only 3 minutes in the microwave.

In the freezer:  

TJ’s frozen steel cut oats (more sugar than when I make the oats myself, but I went this direction to get the oats back in my diet. For some reason, I wasn’t feeling them the last two weeks).

TJ’s frozen brown rice

Mixed California Vegetables for steaming

The food prep has helped me stay as on track as possible in the last two weeks. Not having to think about what to eat is good. But by the end of last week, I was tired and emotionally exhausted and just wanted mashed potatoes (I’ve had next to NO potatoes for 2 and a half months). I planned for a meal at Jack’s Urban Eats – the chicken plate with mashed potatoes and corn – which pushed up against my calorie limit, but wasn’t terrible overall.  My weekly averages were still okay, all things considered, and I still lost a pound. Hoping for similar results this week.

Adding in the frozen items from Trader Joe’s are helpful when I’m already tired and stressed from rehearsals on top of work. They cut down on my Sunday food prep time and make pulling  a meal together very, very easy.



A “Farmer’s Lunch” is traditionally a crust of hearty bread, an apple, and a hunk of cheese.  I put these elements into a sandwich.

  • Two slices of whole wheat or multi-grain bread
  • Brown Mustard and Mayo to taste (I use less than a tbsp of each)
  • Sliced apples (usually half an apple is plenty)\
  • Sliced cheddar cheese

I stack the sandwich with the apples on the mayo side of the sandwich and the cheese on the brown mustard side.  The sweetness of the apples pairs well with the sharpness of the brown mustard and the cheddar, and the mayo gives it all a slight creaminess. It can be difficult to keep together, though, so assemble at work if you are brown bagging it.

Today's simple pleasure. One of my fave springsummer lunches a farmer's lunch sandwich. Apples, sharp cheddar, light Mayo and brown mustard on wheat bread. With milk. It gets the job don
Farmer’s Sandwich Lunch – except I now omit the milk. Too many carbs and sugars.
  • It is around 500 calories, but super filling for a no-meat sandwich and gives good, long-lasting energy.
    22 g protein
    44.5 g carbs
    12.2 g fiber
    15.5 g sugars (but only 4 of those are added sugars, the rest are in the apples)
    25.1 g fat (that’s with two slices of cheese, cut it in half if you want less)
    10.1 saturated fat
    60 mg cholesterol

HP’s Lose the Buddha Belly: Diet Approach after 3 months.

After I announced my first 20 lbs lost in 11 weeks, I had several people ask me what I was doing to see that result.  The next five sections are what I sent in reply. But I also emphasize GREATLY the importance of judging the calorie and macronutrient intakes on a 7-10 day average instead of obsessing daily, not freaking out if every single food doesn’t meet every single one of the goals, and being incredibly forgiving with myself in terms of where I’m at emotionally because that is going to get in the way at times. There are just some times it is going to be harder or go slower. And that’s okay.



The first thing I did (on advice from a friend who also dealt with pre-diabetes) was cut out potatoes and drinking milk (I still cook with it occasionally).  The starch in potatoes spikes blood sugar and you’d be surprised how many carbs and sugars are in a glass of milk. I drink milk now like I drink a fancy cocktail – only on occasion and often as dessert! I also tend to switch out sandwich bread for whole wheat pitas half the time. And I started with steel-cut oats in the mornings. This was a big help with keeping my energy up in the mornings.


I did a ton of online research about diabetic diets and did an online pre-diabetes course through Kaiser Permanente and consulted briefly with a KP nutritionist who basically confirmed that my research was on the right track. (Thank you, ObamaCare!).



southwest-tenderloin-w_rainbow-salsa-Well-Everyday-1024x682To keep the blood sugar down and lower my cholesterol, my diet consists of monitoring what I call my Big Four: carbs (under 180g per day), saturated fat (16g p/d – I don’t worry about general fat, just the saturated kind), cholesterol (280 g p/d – cholesterol is often related to diabetic issues) and added sugar (20g added sugar p/d – I don’t count natural sugars in fruits and vegetables).  If a food hits the targets on 3 out of 4, I’m good to go.


The result of eating like this is I’m automatically eating a lot of foods low in the glycemic index like whole grains, high in complex nutrients like beans and lean meats, I eat less bread and dairy than I used to, and go vegetarian more often. I also have a new love affair with hummus. Seriously.


BTW – this is very similar to a ketogenic diet, but this is far less extreme and way more forgiving. I’m all about the forgiveness!



The OTHER thing I found when focusing on the BIG FOUR is that for the first several weeks, I was having trouble getting in ENOUGH calories. I still have to be pretty strategic about it, but it is less of an issue now. By eating a lot of brown rice, beans, and lean proteins, I was eating foods that satisfy me longer, leveled out my blood sugars and my energy, and I was less prone to stress eating. (I still stress eat, just not as often and not as much.)  But these foods are usually very low in calorie.

During the first month, I actually had trouble clearing that 1200 minimum calories per day. When I needed to clear that hurdle, Trader Joe’s “Handful of Almonds” became a go-to. It is now part of my regular snack regimen – as are multigrain pita chips and hummus. 

But it also becomes pretty obvious after a several days of low-calorie eating, that something must be done. My body basically turns into Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and screams “FEED ME!”  So, I do.  And I don’t worry too much about what I’m feeding me on that day, but I DO record everything I’m feeding me. No matter what. 




I pay the $50 per year for the full My Fitness Pal (MFP) app so I can track calories and each of my Big Four on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I don’t kill myself if I’m a little over on one day or another. As long as my weekly averages are below the limits, I consider it a solid week. (Again, forgiveness!)


I had used the free version of My Fitness Pal in earlier endeavors to just track my eating. But I find that paying the $50 a year (not month, YEAR) is worth it. It gives you so much more data that is both encouraging and eye-opening.  Each day, week, or month, I can click on SUGAR or SATURATED FAT and see the foods I’ve eaten that contributed these to my diet, and how much they contributed. Same with over a dozen other macro and micro nutrients.  


Let me tell you, this last week, when I only lost 1 lb after several weeks of losing 2 lbs, I was like, WTF? Then I went to MFP and looked at the Big Four.  Lo and behold, I had had a week filled with Mexican food (and forgiveness).  I had been in rehearsal for two weeks, so feeding Audrey II queso and margaritas or getting Robertitos bean burritos two or three times was a coping mechanism.  It didn’t completely kill my week, but it definitely slowed things down. And there it was, in the antiseptic blue and white of the app, staring me in the face.


So yeah, it really helps me get a handle on what foods are problem foods for me and where I need to find some solutions. (Like finding better options on a Mexican menu!).


But it ALSO tells me what I can have that’s a surprise. When I found out how friggin healthy hummus was, I was looking to put it in everything!  I also discovered that I can still have small amounts of sour cream in my chili beans or a tsp of brown sugar in my oatmeal and it won’t kill my day.



IMG_9879The old-fashioned tradition of a Sunday Dinner has been replaced in my life with Sunday Food Prep. Especially with rehearsals involved, having a refrigerator full of already prepped foods really helps. So often the decisions are already made for me.


What I prep:

  • Brown Rice –  6 cups (after cooking) total.
  • Steel Cut Oatmeal – 2-3 cups.
  • Chicken Breasts – 2-3 large. One or two get split in half for dinner portions. One will get shredded or cubed for chicken salad or pita/hummus bowl filling.
  • Steamed vegetables – 4-6 cups.  
  • 3-4 hard boiled eggs – these are just in case of emergency, when I need a snack or a super fast breakfast (with fruit). Jaguar can make egg salad sandwiches or I’ll slice and add to a spinach mix for salad.
  • Fresh Fruit – 4 cups of sliced/cubed melon, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon. Apples. Always apples. Now adding peaches and nectarines in the latter part of the summer. And grapes for snacks.
  • Beans with chili seasoning – 6 cups.


This amount of food can last Jaguar and I well over a week, really. It is perfect for when we’re both busy and we’re not sitting down to a prepared meal every night. If we’re disciplined, grocery store trips are cut down to the basics, saving us some money, too.


IMG_9882All of this then gets divided into various 3-6 cup food containers – a few of which are complete meals so I can take them to work for lunch or grab for a fast dinner before rehearsal.  I also tag what everything is with post-it notes AND put a list of what’s in the fridge on the fridge itself. So I scan, make a decision, and don’t think too much about it.


Meals I prep in a 3 cup food containers:

  • Chicken breast, brown rice/quinoa, and steamed veg. (The classic prepped meal for weight loss).
  • Beans w/ steamed corn or Beans and Brown Rice.
  • Chicken salad pita with fruit on the side.
  • Leftovers: ususally stir fry or whole wheat spaghetti marinara
  • Four morning portions of steel-cut oats
  • Hummus bowls – I read about this on a MFP blog and gave it a shot. It almost instantly became my replacement for Mac and Cheese for lunch. A hummus bowl is bascally a 1/2 c – 1 cup of brown rice and 2 – 3 tbsp of hummus as its base. Then you can add in anything else that suits you. I add shredded chicken or steamed vegetables as I have them. Leftover steak or taco filling has also gone into hummus bowls. Beans? Yep. Anyway, add what you want to the base, zap it in the science oven for a minute or so, stir and eat. I add a little garlic and cumin or Lebanese spices as often as not. But it is filling, low in calorie, low in the Big Four, and I find it a decent comfort food.


I take my nonsense seriously.