the original kStyle blog.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I like that book, okay?

Some reviewers love to get all pissy about the book French Women Don't Get Fat. Their defensive/sarcastic commentary can be summed up more or less as follows:

  1. French women do too get fat.
  2. French women--especially the author, Mirielle Guiliano--have a psychologically unhealthy relationship to food.
  3. American women shouldn't feel all ashamed and go out and buy this Frenchie book, which is trying to taint us with its Frenchie ways.
  4. And what about the smoking? Does the book mention that French ladies are chimneys?
The trouble with these criticisms is that
  1. They were clearly penned by people who have never read the book, and
  2. If they did read the book, they missed the point entirely.

I agree that it's sad, early in the book, when Mirielle's father criticizes an adolescent Mirelle for returning from America overweight. But this is almost beside the point.

The truth is, Americans have lost their food traditions, and this fact is likely a major contributor to our National Epidemic of Obesity. And Ms Guiliano, in her book, offers to share her food traditions with us. Maybe it's true that many French women are also straying from these time-honored traditions, as the Slate critic contends. I don't see how that affects the quality of advice (and recipes, mmmm) in the book.

Although Guilano does not use the same phraseology as my favorite health and nutrition coach, who works right here in the USA, the concepts are the same. Enjoy life, enjoy food as part of life, in balance and proportion. Learn what you truly in enjoy--in food and life--and cultivate those things. Eat smaller portions mindfully and chew well. Think about what you're eating and compensate for indulgences with lighter choices and more walking. Do exercise you enjoy. Walk. Drink a lot of water. Take the stairs. Love is a great slimmer. All things in moderation. Laugh.

I don't get what these critics are so grouchy about. I don't think they've read the book.

Friday, March 23, 2007

That Dentist Was Worse Than I'd Dreamed

Remember my tale of dentistry woe? When we last saw the rude dentist and his too-rough assistant, they were about to fill a small cavity in my wisdom tooth. I felt absolutely no pain in the tooth, but he reassured me there was a small cavity that would worsen without treatment. After almost fainting in the office, and the dentist making an insensitive comment about it, I decided to find a new dentist. But the new dentist couldn't take me for a few weeks.

No matter, I didn't feel anything.

Upon returning from the Azores, my gum behind the wisdom tooth became very inflamed and painful. I've been downing (generic) Tylenol and chewing on cloves all week to stop the pain. I could tell that my gum was infected.

Today was my appointment with my new, wonderful dentist. He's kind and gentle, doesn't rush, and has a good sense of humor, to boot. Oh, and he's a network provider, so I have no out-of-pocket expense.

And guess what Dr. L. told me? I don't have a cavity in that tooth and I never did! Let's all take a moment and let this news sink in.


But thankfully, because I thought I had a cavity, I had a preexisting appointment for when I developed a brand new gum infection requiring antibiotics. Oh yeah, and this might sound lame, but I had no idea that dentists could write prescriptions! Turns out they're "real" doctors after all.

And better yet, when I returned from vacation, I decided it was time to check out the local Chamber of Commerce. Leaving the dentist's office, Lo, there was the Chamber office, two doors down the hall. I had a great time meeting the ladies there and got all the info I need.

So maybe the Tao was in fact flowing through the incompetent hands of Dr. Goldberg, DDS.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Story About Tea

The tea plant, camellia sinensis, was brought to the Azores from Brazil in the mid-1700s. Tea, and other camellias, were planted for their bright flowers and glossy, deep green foliage, with no thought of producing anything drinkable from them.

At the time, Sao Miguel was famous for its oranges. England--especially Victorian England--could not get enough "Saint Michael Oranges". They loved 'em.

Then, a blight destroyed the island's orange production in the mid 19th century. Sao Miguel needed to diversify its agriculture. The locals began planting pineapple and raising cows for meat and milk. And the clever Micalenses brought in two Chinese men from the Portuguese colony of Macau to teach them the art of making tea.

A new industry was born. At its height, 14 factories made tea in Sao Miguel. Today, two remain, and they produce their tea the old way, without any chemical treatment.

In these photos, the neat rows of short, round plants are tea. This is a small planting behind the Porto Formoso Tea Factory. Elsewhere, just a bit down the road, whole hills are planted with tea.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lakes of Sete Cidades

Sao Miguel is called the "green island" for a reason...

City gates, Ponta Delgada

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A nossa viagem aos Acores

Friday night--that's two nights away!--we're getting on a plane. A plane is an amazing thing; it whisks you off the frigid, below-zero New England ground and, four hours later, deposits you in a tropical climate an average of 5 degrees cooler than Hawaii, the only place on this whole planet where pineapples--other than isolated specimens in botanical gardens--grow in greenhouses.

We'll land in a place where Portuguese is spoken, where tea grows, where spas spring up around natural hot springs. We'll see the ancient villages where my great-grandparents (grande-avos, I think) were born and baptized; in fact, my great-grandfather lived there until he was 18.

We'll walk around Sao Miguel (Saint Michael), the "Green Island", taking in the city of Ponta Delgada and the green countryside surrounded by blue, blue water.

It's hard to believe right now, hard to wrap my head around these facts of the near future, as I'm still engulfed in piles of work and petty stressors and frozen sky.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The birds look cold.

Only the brave little titmice are visiting this morning, bracing the perches against the wind and puffing out their feathers for insulation. They look like we do when we scrape our cars.

I turned on the radio, wondering just how cold it was. Sure enough, ten degrees.

Monday, March 05, 2007

At the Feeder

Sunday March 4: Three black-capped chickadees, two tufted titmice, and a female hairy woodpecker.

Monday March 5: one chickadee, two titmice, a male, slate-colored dark-eyed junco, and a pair of some sort of sparrows.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bird Sense

A few weeks ago, in mid-January, I decided we needed a birdfeeder. We had just visited my father-in-law, and his feeders were populated with everything from chickadees to cardinals to woodpeckers to nuthatches. I remembered watching the birds out my parents' window when I was in high school, how I found it joyous and calming to observe the pretty little visitors. It was time to set up our own avian cafeteria.

During my lunch break one day that week, I drove down to the garden store and chose a seed feeder, a suet feeder, and their contents, with the help of the kind of knowledgeable staff best found at locally-run small businesses. My guide to the land of bird feeding advised me that it would take a few days for the little guys to find the feeder, and I shouldn't give up.

That night, I filled the feeders and hung them from the hooks on our balcony rafters. (I also made a mental note to fill the feeders outside next time.) This vantage would give us an excellent view of the birds through our sliding glass door off the kitchen. I fretted a little over squirrels. I imagined eating my breakfast and watching the birds eat theirs.

Despite the clerk's warning, I popped out of bed early the next morning and waited for the birds. None arrived. No squirrels, either. Well, no matter. It takes a few days. I got to work on time for a change.

The next morning, there were still no birds. I sang songs trying to attract them, little ditties with lyrics like, Oh birds, won't you come, and eat off our feeder?/Oh birds, won't you come, what could be neater? That didn't work, so I resumed my usual serenading of the cats. Noah is a good boy/he's kind and soulful/Luna is a crazy cat/she's covered in pixie dust. Pixie dust, naturally, was a euphemism for the dust on her nose after she rolls in her organic wheat cat litter, wish I were making that part up. My favorite ditty, dedicated to Noah, goes
V1: Ca va, messieur?/Ca va, mon chat/Ca va, Alo!/Ca va
V2: Bonjour, messieur!/Bonjour, mon chat/Bonjour, Ca

The melody is very old-fashioned and would suit a scratchy 45 and a few glasses of red wine with a light supper of crepes.

Several days passed, me rising hopefully and ending up disappointed. After a week, I thought maybe they just weren't coming. After two weeks, despair. After three, I sort of forgot about the feeder.

A month after buying the feeder was when the depression set in hard. It had nothing to do with the feeder, everything to do with stress, stress, more stress, car repairs (ca-CHING), a lack of sunlight, lousy cold weather, and feeling dejected, like I would never make a shiatsu practice. We were on the accounting lessons of my business plan class, and I was overwhelmed. And then, my various clients sort of all disappeared at once, reaching the end of their treatment schedules or getting busy. It was clear I would be stuck in working for someone else...forever.

But then an amazing thing happened. As I was working on a list of Ten Things That Make My Business Special, and feeling unable to find any because I'd just been reading Fast Business magazine, which was causing my little practice to seem woefully inadequate...a bird flew by the feeder. He didn't land, just circled a few times to check it out. Then a couple more flew by. They did this for a few days, scoping it out, evaluating the risk level posed by two Not Stealthy cats staring at them, all fangs and eyes, through the glass. (Be subtle, I chastised Luna.) Then, the next day, one landed briefly without eating and took off again. On Monday, a brave black-capped chickadee and a curious tufted titmouse landed and ate a seed each.

Today, there are two chickadees and two tufted titmice landing, eating their hearts out, and chirping merrily. If I'm not mistaken, they seem to enjoy watching us almost as we enjoy watching them. Sometimes they pause and watch me eat my breakfast. It's a little bit funny, us watching each other.

I bet they'll bring their friends. And I'll bet the same thing will happen with my shiatsu practice: it's a matter of time, of people finding it, scoping it out, and then stopping in and sending their friends.

Meantime, the cats are glued to the "TV".