Saturday, April 30, 2011

City Island's Black Whale Restuarant

I spent the day on City Island, a short bus ride from my home. I did not take my camera, so there are no pictures to provide. I can say that the island provides many pictureseque views, very beautiful. I walked from the first bus stop to the end of City Island Avenue, and there is a lot more I could have done! I will be returning to the Island for more. For today, however, I just wanted a couple of places to sit, sip on some unsweetened iced tea, and read. Sammy's Shrimp Box was one stop, with nice outdoor seating. Here is their link:

I was also VERY favorably impressed by The Black Whale, a small, cozy restaurant. They allowed me to sit for well over an hour, sipping my tea and reading. The ambiance of the place, coupled with the friendliness of the staff, guaranteed that this will be a place I return to on my trips to the Island. Little knick knacks, like a barber shop light in the restaurant, give it its charm, as does an outside patio which I will have to sample on a warmer day (a bit windy for my tastes today).

And I have a feeling I may have one of my weekly meals out at this establishment! The Sunday Brunch Buffet comes recommended by two patrons with whom I spoke today, though my personal struggles with food makes buffets dangerous for me. No matter -- there are a number of tempting, and very reasonably priced sandwiches that fit my dietary needs, as well as some interesting sounding meals from "The Land," and "The Sea." I will definitely find what to eat! :)

Check out their website, and drop in for iced tea or a meal -- you'll fall in love with the place, as I did:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Hampshire and Vermont

I visited New Hampshire and Vermont in the Summer of 2007, as my weight was rising to its Zenith.

I started my weekend with breakfast on Saturday, followed by hiking at Franconia Notch State Park, where I saw The Flume Gorge -- some beautiful views. This was followed by my trip to Clark's Trading Post, with the link below:

Naturally, a personal favorite of me was watching the trained bears :):

But I also enjoyed the circus act performers:

And I also partook of the White Mountain Train Ride, seeing the Wolfman!

This was a silly, fun time, a nice little trip.

I drove around afterwards, stopping to take pictures of the New England scenery:

The next morning, I had breakfast at Polly's Pancake Parlor. Under my new diet, I probably could not eat there, but it was scrumptious. Here is the link:

This was followed by my trip to Chutters, which had been listed in The Guiness Book of World Records as the longest candy counter in the world. I was, literally, the kid in the candy store:

Here is the link:

Covered bridges were a big part of this trip:

After perusing the sights of Littleton, New Hampshire, including the Village Book Store and the Grist Mill, I drove to Vermont to see the Ben and Jerry's Factory. Highlights included the hall of fame, and here I am in front of my "hero's" "plaque." (My favorite ice cream from Ben and Jerry's is half-baked.):

The Flavor Graveyard, where one can pay their respects to those flavors that didn't quite make it:

And of course, eating the ice cream, which is uncharacteristically not pictured!

Here is the link for the factory:

I spent some quiet time perusing Stowe, Vermont, before beginning the drive home, stopping for dinner at The Pasta Pot, along US-4 in Vermont (I lived in Queensbury, NY at the time). I personally found it a romantic venue. Here is a picture, with the mountain in the background:

Obviously, under today's rules for my diet, I might have to plan a much different trip. That said, a) The New Hampshire/Vermont area provided a number of charming, silly stops, much needed for the weary traveler; there were several stops and sights that did not involve sugary foods; and; b) For those who do not struggle to control their food intake as I do, for whom stops involving the sugary foods might not be as dangerous, the venues described here are a lot of fun. The weekend was A LOT of FUN! Just what I like most when I travel, even if the fun has had to change as I've aged.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lessons from SM in South Florida

I am taking a short break -- today only -- from my discussion of New England to discuss my time in South Florida. Today is my friends's birthday -- SM I shall call her. Going back to poor quality pictures (sorry) here we are together:

My interest in SM led me to try a lot of new things. Among them, she introduced me to country music concerts and festivals. Here she is at the Chili Cook-off, having provided me with a spare ticket she had:

SM apparently likes chili -- I do not like chili (the beans don't agree with me). I have, however, developed a taste for country music. Here is the link to the Chili Cook-off, sponsored by a local radio station:

It was because of SM that I went to see Garth Brooks in concert in Miami -- and what a performer Garth is! SM and I could not get seats together, but I am fortunate enough to have seen this master Country Musician in action. SM and I saw several concerts together, including The Counting Crowes, with The Wallflowers as an opening act; Fleetwood Mac; and Eric Clapton. The first two of those concerts took place at the Coral Sky Amphitheatre. Here is the link:

I went to a concert at the Amphitheatre on my own. It is an outdoor affair, as the name implies. I saw Jimmy Buffet in late 1998, during the last full year of my drinking days. Of course, I had a frosty Margarita -- what else would you drink in Margaritaville? (I would give up drinking in August of 1999; not an addiction, but not an activity which brought me enough pleasure to continue).

SM is also an animal lover. She went to an animal show, and invited me along. Here I am with a crockodile or an alligatory, though I am embarassed to say I don't know which it is:

I would guess it's a Gator, given that we were in the State of Florida.

Point is, my friendship with SM allowed me to expand my horizons in several ways. I enjoy country music, and have a new hobby there. I have a new appreciation for animals, especially dogs, of which SM is very fond. We also enjoyed the nightlife of the area, with one particular venue of enjoyment being Howl at the Moon, with their dueling pianos. The venue is actually something of a chain -- I saw one in Louisville, Kentucky, and I will discuss my time there later. Here is a link:

We tended to go to the location at The Beach Place -- an outside mall of shops and nightlife near the beach in Fort Lauderdale --  which had just opened during my time in South Florida. Here is a link:

This summary doesn't even touch upon other parts of South Florida's charm, such as other beaches, or the nightlife in South Beach, where many take their talents (sorry Lebron, I just had to), or the charming Coconut Grove.

When I left South Florida for my internship in Wisconsin, SM left for hers by going North to the Deep South (had to say it). She currently resides in De Queen, Arkansas, where I visited her as a 240-pound person in the summer of 2006 -- that particular trip, a cross-country affair from Washington State to New York to assist my ailing parents, and seeing SM specifically, allowed me to cross off Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, as well as Arkansas on the list of 49 states I have seen. De Queen is famous for being the birthplace of Country Music singer Collin Raye. Other than more nondescript pictures of SM at her home, which do not offer much in terms of travel gems, this stop on my cross-country trip allowed me, at SM's suggestion, to stop in Hot Springs, for a much needed massage -- something I would highly recommend -- a very nice stop, indeed. Here is a link:

SM, thank you for everything you have added to my life since I met you in 1995. Have a blessed birthday and a blessed year to come, with many, many happy returns!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Food Obsessions

Dear readers, you may have noticed that it's been a few days since my last post. The reason is that I was having some difficulties with my plan of eating that consumed a lot of my thoughts, and, subsequently, a great deal of my time. I have a lot of free time right now, and that is not always a good thing.

When I am not traveling, I allow myself one meal out per week. There are some rules to this meal, consistent with maintaining my weight. I have to keep in mind the "eyes are bigger than the stomach" rule, and ask for assistance from waiters and waitresses in picking out an appropriately sized meal. And I have to stop when I am finished eating what I ordered -- that is the meal, no matter how tempting it may be to order more. I have followed those rules to the letter.

My obsession has come over planning my meal out for the week -- I have noticed, with extra free time, I am focusing on that activity. More specifically, I have been looking for new Mexican restaurants, and new Nacho meals in particular. I haven't ruled out nachos from my list of acceptable restaurant foods, and I discovered I enjoy Mexican food. The obsessive part is that I am specifically looking to have that type of food for my once a week meal. So what? After I lost weight in 1999, I began eating sweets again in October of 2000. I had a "once a week" rule. I began gaining weight, and, before I knew it, that once a week had ballooned to any time I felt like having sweets. Moreover, I had a tendency to look for special sweet meals, kind of like they advertise on the Food Network, or the Travel Network. If a particular sweet treat was too much for me to finish, I would want to return to tackle it again. Not a great way to maintain weight loss.

I came to the conclusion that there will always be a new sweet meal for me to try. If I keep eating the sweets, knowing I am prone to being addicted to them, I might never stop. I had to stop eating sweets for good.

The Mexican/Nacho meals were becoming similar draws for me -- I wanted to try new meals of the same kind, and finish all of them. I like to finish every meal I order out -- that is not specific to the Mexican/Nacho meals. But there will always be something new to try.

I consulted several trusted friends, and even prayed to my Higher Power for answers. I believe the Higher Power is concerned with matters such as this -- isn't gluttony one of the seven deadly sins? Well, not only did my obsessions lessen, but I started to feel humble -- if I have to give up Mexican food, or Nachos, and eat other foods, that is something I may have to adjust to, but there are many people much less fortunate than I am, who have much less choice over what they eat. If offered to them, they might not be able to choose to eat or not eat the foods I dislike -- they have so little they have to eat what is available, or risk starving!

Other benefits -- I found I ate my meal this weekend a lot slower, enjoying the ambiance of the restaurant more than in the past. I found I was more "honest" with myself in measuring my foods. I hesitate to suggest that I was not being honest, so here is the point: My physician has allowed me some leeway in my eating now that I have lost the weight ("If you have a salad, you can add dressing."), but I find I can abuse that leeway if not careful. I was more careful this past week, after my prayers.

I have not yet decided to remove Mexican/Nacho foods from my list of foods I can eat. I have decided to avoid them for the next two weekends, and then limit my consumption to once a month, at most. I know I like to go out for other meals, and, if I purposely limit my consumption of Mexican/Nacho foods, I think I will find that I will "reacquire" other tastes that have gone away the last few weeks, and redevelop a balanced approach to eating in restaurants, as well as at home for the other twenty plus meals per week, which I have maintained. If not, I am at least aware of my obsession, and can remove Mexican/Nacho foods from my appropriate list of foods to eat at that time. The issue is on my radar. I will also limit my active planning of my one meal out until the day before the meal.

Food is a constant struggle for me. I have to accept that. That does not mean I cannot enjoy my food. But when the "enjoyment" becomes an obsession, it is a problem. I am happy that I addressed the problem, and I thank my Higher Power for giving me answers that clarified the issues for me. To paraphrase an old saying, its not enough to ask for help from God -- giving thanks is also appropriate.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Returning to my "roots" in Boston

My father loved the city of Boston. He took the family there several times. On New Year's Day, 2010, I decided to go there on my own to explore.

My first stop was enjoying the ice sculptures in Copley Square, at the suggestion of the hotel clerk.

This was followed by an excellent meal at Dolce Vita, in the North End:

The above picture is of one of the staff members, who kept yelling, "Ay ay ay!" I had to have my picture taken with him! Below is the scumptious pasta and seafood dish -- one of the final times I have allowed myself a pasta meal since the beginning of 2010. Here is the link:

The following morning, after breakfast at a local diner close to my hotel, I took in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum:

I thought the museum was excellent, very detailed and informative about how influential President Kennedy was. Here is the link:

I followed this up by honoring my lineage -- my paternal grandmother's maiden name was Revere, and we are descendents, so I had to see his home. Pictures do not do this justice.

I had lunch in the North End, followed by perusing Quincy Market. The I went up to Harvard Square. I discovered a Curious George store, perfect for the child within:

I spent over two hours in the Harvard Coop bookstore, before having dinner on the square. After dinner, I had my most recent hot fudge sundae at JP Licks, which, for those who continue to consume such sweets (and how jealous of them I am), I highly recommend.

Sunday, January 3 was spent in Salem. I saw the Salem Witch Museum, learning about the condemnation of those believed to be witches. Unfortunately, many attractions were closed due to the weather. I had my final Massachusettes at Salem Beer Works, watching football. I learned a valuable lesson from the waitress, who had suggested a order a half-order of the nachos -- I didn't listen...this time, but I learned that a half-order on a menu is often quite sufficient. Here is the link for Salem Beer Works -- I appreciate the excellent food and good service:

There is so much to see in the Boston area. My trip comprises only the few attractions I could get to in two and a half days.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent service I received at the Braintree Motel 6. Kind and excellent suggestions on how I spend my time in Boston were provided. The location is walking distance from the T-Train, which was necessary in the snowy weather. I recommend this location for lodging on a budget, and, quite frankly, for lodging in general.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nostalgia in Rhode Island

My father told me the family went to Newport, Rhode Island -- I had just vague memories of the trip. But with a day off for President's Day, 2010, I had a long weekend to take a trip, and I really wanted to do a trip to Rhode Island I would better remember -- so I did.

I arrived late afternoon on February 13. With limited time for that day, I drove along scenic Ocean Drive, stopping to take pictures.

The next morning, I had a nice breakfast at The Hungry Monkey, taking pictures of their pictures of celebrity figures holding monkeys. Naturally, the one of Tigger pictured below was one of my favorites:

I am eating corn beef hash with eggs on top -- yummy! Here is the link for the restaurant, which I would recommend for Newport breakfast:

Next stop -- The International Tennis Hall of Fame. I am not the hugest tennis fan, but I watch the sport, and I learned a lot. I hadn't known, for instance, that Bobby Riggs was so good -- all I knew about was some of his views on women. I liked the Hall -- I spent several hours there -- and I sure those who are more passionate about Tennis would love it!

Here is the link:

I followed this up by touring two of the mansions, The Breakers, which had been inhabited by the Vanderbilts, and The Elms. The mansions were quite beautiful, reflecting the excess of the period, as I learned.

In between seeing the two mansions, I had lunch at The Red Parrot, eating their Monsta Lobsta sandwhich:

Here is the link for the restaurant, which I also recommend:

For dinner, I ate at The Moorings -- it was crowded, because it was Valentine's Night. Once again, I would recommend the place at which I ate. I had a bowl of unique Scallop Chowder, and a "bag of donuts" -- some little fish-filled balls -- while I sat with a view of the water and the bridge (the picture of the bridge is terrible -- I apologize). This is the first time I consulted with the waitress, let her know that my "eyes are bigger than my stomach," and asked how I could keep the meal reasonable while still eating meal. The meal was her suggestion, and filled me up nicely -- it is the second picture.

Such service, beauty, and good food has to be recommended! Here is the link:

The next morning, after breakfast, I hiked the Cliff Walk -- long, but beautiful!

You get some nice views of the mansions from the walk. Be prepared for quite a long hike! I call this a MUST! Here is the link:

I closed my time in Newport with some shopping for souvenirs, and a pleasant nacho meal at The Brick Alley Pub and Restaurant:

Here is the link:

For natural beauty, gorgeous mansions, great food, and more, you can't go wrong in Newport, Rhode Island.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weight Loss Struggles -- Update and Disclaimer

First my disclaimer -- I need to be clear that I am not a physician or a nutritionist. And while I have had some experience in my professional life treating people for issues related to their obesity, I am not in any way attempting to use my professional expertise in this blog. This blog is about my personal experiences with weight loss -- these include continued struggles, as well as the successes I have endured. I am not acting as a psychologist in this blog in any way. For professional advice, a professional, such as a physician, nutritionist, or psychologist, should be consulted.

Now the struggles. While I may be a physically "little person," as one of my friends described my current physique, on the inside I am no different from everyone else who struggles with weight and food. That is part of the purpose of this blog, that even those who struggle can be successful in their battles with weight and food, but make no mistake, it is a battle. I am very proud of what I have accomplished. I have to be careful about that pride. I have lost weight before, as my pictures will show, only to gain it back with interest, so I know I cannot become complacent. I can't say for sure that I have noticed that every day is a struggle, but I do struggle with food regularly. Last year, I was willing, for the first time, to simply acknowledge the possibility that I cannot have sweets again. It took me years to even acknowledge that as a possibility. I know that I can easily be back up to 265 pounds -- or more -- in an instant, if I don't continue to refrain from trigger foods. I have to evaluate what I do every day in regards to food.

This week, I noticed myself obsessing about what I ingested, a regular struggle for me. I have had dreams about eating my trigger foods. If unchecked, the obsessions can lead to a return to dysfunctional eating -- I notice myself hungrier when anxious and obsessing. So far, with God's help, I have not allowed these obsessions or dreams to beat me. It is a constant battle.

I emphasize that this entry is meant as empathy and compassion for those who have similar struggles, not as discouragement. It is also an attempt to offer encouragement -- the battle can be won. For those with specific questions, I have developed certain behavioral techniques that have worked for me so far, and might work for you in your battle as well. I am happy to offer what assistance and information I can from my personal experiences in this blog.

Friday, April 15, 2011

New England Treasures

I was going to continue discussing my Southern tour, but an acquaintance mentioned a plan to travel the New England area. I have several experiences in this area of the country, including some cities he is considering, such as Portland, Maine.

I had several new issues I was dealing with on this trip. One was a personal decision to avoid entering bars. Fortunately, places such as Gilbert's Chowder House, respected my decision to sit on their deck and drink iced tea:

I was also learning that I did not have to order entrees in restaurants. Here is my meal on Dimillo's Floating Restaurant:

That's an appetizer of crab cakes, with a bowl of clam chowder, and I'll tell you the truth -- a cup would have done the trick! Here is the link to the restaurant:

And here is me enjoying some iced tea in Top of the East, in the Eastman Park Hotel, along with a link:

Breakfast at Becky's Diner the next morning, an establishment featured on The Food Network shortly afterwards:

Both meals described so far were absolutely scrumptious -- my meal at Becky's was a meaty omelet with loaded hashbrowns. Here is the link to Becky's:

Here I am taking a break from my hike around picturesque Peak's Island:

 I also hiked the Eastern Promenade trail, back in the city.

At night, I went to Old Orchard Beach, where there is a pleasant amusement park, and I had dinner at Surf's 6 -- another soup and fishcake meal -- very tasty.

The following day, I drove to Freeport. I am not a huge shopper, but, when in Rome...or L. L. Bean...:

Those more interested in shopping for clothing or outdoors gear would likely find this heavenly, and it is open 24 hours a day! Here is the link:

This was followed by hiking at Bradbury Mountain State Park. Here I am at the summit, with the picture followed by a link for the park:

My trip to the Portland area ended with shopping for souvenirs, and a nice lunch at the Azure Cafe.

This trip was varied and enjoyable, and there is plenty for everyone's taste in the Portland area. My acquaintance, as well as anyone else who chooses to tour New England, should consider making it one of their stops.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Weight Loss Struggles

A good friend of mine just sent me a message on Facebook, telling me he is looking forward to reading more about my weight loss, which I realized I have spoken about too infrequently in this blog to this moment. This friend described his struggles with food. The biggest thing I can offer is empathy -- I know how hard it is to stay away from the trigger foods, the snacks we love so much, which sabotage our attempts to improve our fitness. I know how hard staying away from those trigger foods for even one day can be.

For me, I had to make the decision -- a very difficult decision it was, too -- to abstain from certain foods. This meant giving certain things up. For instance, when I was in New Orleans -- a stop I will describe shortly in my blog -- I was told I had to have a beignet before I left the city. Well, sweets are one food that, once I start, I can never seem to give up again. So I had to leave a city without having one of its staple foods, one I might normally have gobbled up. How was I able to do it, and, more importantly, how does this fit into my overall abstinence from sweets?

First off, I try to focus not on what I have to "give up," but what I have gained from my abstinence. I am fifteen months removed from my last consumption of sweets -- I feel wonderful that I haven't needed them to survive the stress that has resulted in that time, and believe me, there has been some pretty heavy stress! I lost my Mother when I was in New Orleans, but I didn't lose my abstinence. She would never have wanted me to do that. She would have told me that she is dead whether I eat sweets or not, but I can be good to myself by not eating. This is without mentioning the feelings of pride I have when I look in the mirror, and the extra activities, such as skiing, in which I can now engage more safely.

The second thing I have learned in the time that I have been abstinent is that food was a substitution, an escape from painful realities, and an attempt to fill voids of reality with food. I needed something else to fill that void. I knew I couldn't do it alone, and I made sure to develop a support system that I can utilize in times of need. As my abstinence lengthens, I often find that the habits of the past fifteen months take over, and I naturally avoid the trigger foods. But I have to remind myself that the abstinence is worth it, and my friends are often a great help in this regard. It is my hope that the friend who triggered me to write this entry will utilize speaking to me as a resource to assist him in his battles with food -- I will be there for him, and he knows who he is.

Latest Weigh-In

And for my followers of my weight loss, my analog scale indicated I weighed 132-133 today -- more literally half the weight of my highest!

Making lemons out of lemonade in Mobile

I arrived in Mobile on a Saturday night, planning on a day in the area on Sunday before going to New Orleans for my flight back to New York. I did not know that much of what I would want to do would not be possible. Certain outdoor tours were unavailable for various reasons, and some venues, such as The Senior Bowl, were closed during my time in the city. Such is life -- I had to leave Mobile around 1:00 P. M., and venues that opened after that time, or on different days, were just not available to me. So I did what was available.

I have already discussed my scrumptious breakfast at Spot of Tea. The night before, I had dinner at The Bull, pictured below -- very nice as well:

After my breakfast the next morning, I toured the Cathedral Basilica of The Immaculate, followed by a tour of Fort Conde. My tour guide at the fort was knowledgeable, and I will remember him for teaching me the origins of such sayings as, "Don't let the bed bugs bite." Pictures of the Cathedral and the fort are posted below:

I included the picture of the wig, because it triggered my memory of the story the tour guide told me about the origin of the term "Big Wigs."

Here are links for those sites:

Given the "lemons" that Mobile was offering me, and made lemonade. This included iced tea at Serda's Coffee Company, which hit the spot on the hot Southern afternoon, followed by a walking tour of Mobile, snapping pictures of the architecture and other sights. Select photos are posted below:

The Fountain and gazebo like structure at Bienville Square.

I also liked the Scottish Rite Temple:

And I had one final, fabulous meal at Cafe 615:

My meal -- I had to have eggs for a second time that day because they were on a brunch menu. The eggs are over a meat meal -- I have forgotten the actual meat, other than to say it was wonderful! I liked the courtyard setting, and I was informed by the restaurant that they recently remodeled! The meal included entertainment:

And the staff was kind enough to take my picture from the street:

So even though (sarcasm mode on) the city of Mobile had the nerve not to change their Sunday schedule for me, my final day of the trip was very, very pleasant. (As you can see from my shirt, I had lost enough weight to show off my "muscles" in the hot sun) While I personally would want to return to Mobile on a different day of the week to sample things unavailable to me on this Sunday morning, Mobile definitely holds a variety of venues to satisfy people with many diverse interests. Thank you Allan Sherman for triggering me to go! (Please see my post on Spot of Tea for the reference).