Further in ANNA KARENINA (Chapter Nineteen of the Modern Library Edition)

Vronsky orders a beefsteak:

On the day of the races at Krasnoe Selo, Vronsky had come earlier than usual to eat beefsteak in the officers’ mess of the regiment.  He had no need to be in strict training, as he had very quickly been brought down to the required weight of one hundred and sixty pounds, but he still had to avoid gaining weight, and he avoided starchy foods and desserts.  He sat with his coat unbuttoned over a white vest, resting both elbows on the table, and while waiting for the steak he had ordered he looked at a French novel that lay open on his plate.

Self forgets how tall Vronsky is supposed to be.  Because 160 lbs. on a six-foot man is a whole different story from 160 lbs. on a 5’8″ man . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

What’s on Self’s Mind Today?

What is on self’s mind today?

Food.  The need not to partake of further.

The sizing here in the UK is all wrong.  Self noticed it in Heathrow:  she wandered into several stores and tried on a few things.  The sizes would say 4 or 6.  The dresses were so skimpy they wouldn’t even go over self’s shoulders.  She managed to struggle into one and couldn’t breathe.

“Sorry, I don’t have a size 10,” a saleswoman told her, in a very kind tone.

Every day, lunch is brought up to the residents in a picnic basket, like this one:

Lunch is brought up to the residents’ rooms daily, in a basket like this one.

It consists of a sandwich on rye or whole wheat bread, a thermos of warm soup, and a piece of fruit.

Yesterday night (and this was only after self’s first full day here), self began feeling that her pants were tight.

Today, self hitched a ride to Tesco, the huge supermarket in the next town, Bonnyrigg.  She found a cute little F & F tunic, which cost 16 pounds (about $24.50.  Come to think of it, that does seem a little price-y for a supermarket dress!  The brand was F & F).  Since said dress was just in a section of the supermarket, there didn’t seem to be fitting rooms.  Self asked a lady walking by with a cart, “Is this a medium, you think?”  She looked at the tag.  She replied, “Yes, it’s a medium.”

As soon as self got back to the Castle, she slipped into the bathroom and tried the dress on.  She must confess to feeling some confusion, when she had difficulty pulling it past her shoulders.  When she looked at herself in the mirror, her muffin belly was on full and glorious display.  Horrors!

She took off the dress and looked at the label:  Size 6.

OMG!  Never ever will self eat double servings of dinner, as she did last night.  Nor down a whole thermos of soup, as she did yesterday and today.  And she’ll refuse the strawberries doused in heavy cream, and she’ll never eat another slice of Scottish bread or cheese.  Hmmm, what else?  She’ll start searching for Wallace’s cave, and explore the Pictish caves beneath the castle.  She’ll walk to Bonnyrigg next time, instead of hitching a ride.  Heck, she might even try walking to Edinburgh!  How’s that for a neat weight-loss regimen?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Letter to the Editor, Feb. 4, 2012 Issue of The Economist

The reader wrote in from San Francisco.

    SIR — Reading about how near-starvation diets and vigorous exercise can boost longevity (“Worth all the sweat,” January 21st) brought to mind a remark by Clement Freud: “If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving you don’t actually live longer — it just seems longer.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Reading Life (Mostly in Nonfiction): December 2011

Self just read to the last page of French Women Don’t Get Fat.  It got boring towards the end, this book about all the ways in which French women are unlike American women but simply don’t get fat.  They love champagne, they love chocolate, they don’t “do” gyms, but they don’t get fat.  Why?  Because they are so individual, they treat wine as nutrition, and bread as a staple of life, and believe in the quality of chocolate.  No Snickers bars for your average self-respecting French woman!  Only artisanal chocolate will do!

Still, self is very, very surprised when she realizes —  it’s taken her a full two weeks to finish this book.  A book she’d normally skim in a few days.  What is happening to self?

Last week, she had her regular lunch with Connie at Stanford.  Connie has been the Program Administrator at East Asian Studies, ever since self was a student in the program.  Connie happened to ask, what did self do all day, how did she fill in her time?  Self is so busy, she almost doesn’t have time for these lunches with Connie, but when Connie asked her the question, it was almost embarrassing, self honestly couldn’t answer.  It’s not like she has a regular job, or writes five hours a day.  No!  She is simply trying to keep her balance.  By keeping in touch with people in the four corners of the earth!  And gardening!  And caring for her 16-year-old beagle!  And calming all her husband’s many fears about her upcoming trip to India!  And calming her own fears!  And reading!  And doing laundry!  And putting up Christmas decorations!  And dropping off food at the post office and the doctor’s!  And, and —  self doesn’t know what she does all day.  Connie is right.  She has absolutely no right to even think she is busy.  After all, all she does (75% of the time) is observe, and think, and witness.  Honestly, that is all she does.

Anyhoo, back to self’s reading:  the next book on self’s reading list is by Bryan Sykes (“author of the bestselling The Seven Daughters of Eve,” it says right under his name on the book cover), a book called Saxons, Vikings, and Celts:  The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland.  In the preface, Sykes describes how he was once asked to do an analysis of a woman named Wilma’s DNA and “the test showed that, on her mother’s side, Wilma was descended not from the ladies of the English county of Hampshire, as she had always believed, but from a native American, probably either Sioux or Cherokee.” (!!!)

Self has been on a nonfiction streak for a while.  In July, August, and September, she was on a novel-reading streak (Of which the three best were Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, and Harry Mulisch’s The Assault), and before that she was on a three-month travel-book reading binge (Of which her favorite was unquestionably Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts).

Last week, just before she got sick, she also ordered from Arkipelago Books (1010 Mission St., San Francisco) a copy of Benito Vergara, Jr.’s Daly City:  Pinoy Capital.  She has been so interested in this book, for ages and ages.  She called the bookstore, and Marie Romero (the owner) answered and took self’s order, and two days later the book came in the mail.  Thanks, Marie!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


The book self began reading a week ago is French Women Don’t Get Fat:  The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, by Mireille Guiliano.

Mireille used to be overweight (when she was 17), and her (Parisian) mother, instead of humiliating her by calling her “fat,” very discreetly arranged for Mireille to see a dietitian named Dr. M.  This kind soul was so circumspect that Mireille didn’t even know he was weaning her from food.  He started her on a daily food journal, and …

Well, the point is, Mireille says it is OK to eat as much as one wants of salmon, oysters, scallops, etc, and we would all do well to follow the French habit of shopping every day in farmers markets.

Which (here comes another digression:  It’s less than two weeks to Christmas, memories are crawling out of the woodwork like termites) puts self in mind of the time she was doing a residency in Mojacar, this tiny village in the south of Spain (which is probably no longer so tiny — which, in fact, might probably have exploded by now with Danish and English retirees), when she used to spend weekends visiting markets with Eizo Sakata.  Eizo went everywhere with a hat, and when he found a fruit that looked particularly pleasing, he’d take it back to Mojacar and use the juice on a painting.

Let’s see, what was self supposed to be writing about again?

Oh, yes, French Women Don’t Get Fat.

Self is now on p. 103.  Mireille provides a very helpful sample Spring Menu.  And here are the items she lists therein:

Breakfast:  yogurt *  cereal with strawberries *  slice of whole wheat or multigrain bread *  Coffee or tea (Why does Mireille capitalize Coffee, self wonders?  Not that she has anything against coffee.  Self in fact loooves coffee — That’s enough, self!  You dingbat, coffee is the first word of a new line!  It’s like in a poem, don’cha see?  The first word of each line, whether it’s Yogurt or Cereal or Coffee, is always capitalized.  This is known as:  the Editor’s Rule of Consistency # 3!)

Lunch:  Asparagus flan * Green Salad *  Cherry clafoutis without dough *  Noncaloric beverage

Dinner:  Pea soup *  Grilled Spring Lamb Chops * Cauliflower Gratin *  Rhubarb compost (Did self just write “compost”?  She meant compote, of course!  Pardonnez moi!) * Glass of red wine

Well, see, this menu plan doesn’t work for self.  Here’s what works exceedingly well for self:

Breakfast:  Coffee (Aged Sumatra), black

Lunch:  More Coffee (More Aged Sumatra), maybe a dollop of half’n half

Dinner:  Everything self missed out on during the day, two servings of those

In addition:  No snacking during the day, not even one cupcake.  No soft drinks, even though the husband drinks Coke so ostentatiously, even flirting with self and making goo-goo eyes while polishing off his can.  No gelato and no frozen yogurt, no matter how many times self’s errands take her to downtown Palo Alto.  No potato chips, even though self has been hitting the Walgreen’s every day in the hunt for the elusive Benadryl, and the Walgreen aisles seem to be crawling with at least 20 different kinds of potato chips and a dozen different kinds of dip.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Favorite People, Smart Car

Self is in love with Stella and Tina’s bright red Smart car!

Capable of reaching freeway speeds of 100 mph!

Is it not so adorable, dear blog readers?

This little thing ferried Stella and Tina all the way to San Carlos yesterday, where self met with them for coffee and pastries at the Zest Bakery on Arroyo Street.

Self must admit, there was something wee bit different about the appearance of her two friends, and finally, after two hours or so, she learned why:  they have each lost something like 20 lbs.!!!

Mama mia!  How did that happen?

They explained that it had something to do with sticking only to gluten-free food, and becoming vegan.

No, it wasn’t as easy as that.  To find out more, here’s a link that Stella sent.  (Self wishes Tina and Stella would sit down and write a book!  It should be called:  “The No-Exercise Way to Lose 20 lbs. in One Month”!  Self thinks such a book would be an instant best-seller!  Stella and Tina, e-books awaits!)

Anyhoo, Happy Monday to One and All!

Stay tuned.

This Is Terrible

OMG, this is terrible:  self’s jeans are tight.

If she doesn’t stop hitting the Rick’s Ice Cream —  oops!  Self means the Hoover Archives, she’ll need to pay for a double seat next time she embarks on a trip.

Help!  Help!  Help!

Normally self doesn’t pay attention to Buzzsugar articles (She only logs on to look at the pictures —  As if!), but today there was one that she thought she would share with dear blog readers, those who stopped wearing bikinis years ago . . .


  1. You overeat healthy foods.  It figures:  You limit your daytime consumption to avocados and nuts, only you buy 10 avocados instead of two, and buy five pounds of nuts instead of half a pound.  Ergo:  fatness
  2. You drink your calories.  Peanut butter milkshakes from The Counter, hello!
  3. Your partner isn’t on the same healthy road as you.  Self’s partner (aka Hubby) buys self scads and scads of chicharon, because he knows she simply can’t resist them:  One look, and it’s like magic:  Disappeared!
  4. You’re addicted to condiments and toppings.  Yes indeed, self’s salads are always loaded up with bacon bits, garlic croutons, shaves of Parmesan cheese, and not only that, she loves Blue Cheese Dressing.
  5. You never measure your food or keep a food journal.  Who has the time —  ???
  6. You think walking your pooch around the block is enough exercise.  Self knows that walking the pooch isn’t enough exercise.  But the real danger is:  self never getting around to walking the pooch at all.  For days on end.  (In this heat?  Are you kidding?)
  7. You’re over-indulging in low-fat or light foods.  Oh, Yumi Yogurt fro-yo, when self starts seeing long lines on the sidewalk, or Oh Pinkberry, same thing —  self immediately thinks:  What am I missing?  And rushes over and tries the new flavors.
  8. You’re on a diet, sort of.  Face it:  being on a diet means never eating.  Never.  It means having a fridge that contains only one carton of milk and a couple of leafy vegetables and tomatoes.  Not ever buying ice cream or popsicles.  Going vegetarian.  Who cares what people think when they drop by for the weekend.  You want food, you go out and buy it, is that clear?  And don’t be bringing home any left-overs, either!
  9. You go out to eat a lot.  Oh yes, huge meals (The Counter:  guilty as charged), the fried foods (Lobster Shack?), and the dessert (Tribu bibingka?  Tribu frozen brazo de mercedes?)

If only self were still in L’Fisher Chalet!  Those people were so nice:  When self asked them to remove all the snacks and drinks from the fridge, they did so, immediately.  And believe it or not, in spite of self having 24-hour access to Room Service, she actually lost weight in Bacolod.  That’s a first!

And because self thinks it will be completely lame to have a post just about dieting, here’s some book news:

25-year-old Tea Obreht has become the youngest woman ever to be awarded Britain’s Orange Prize.  Even though self has only read the excerpt that appeared in The New Yorker,  she still feels entitled to an opinion:  Thank you, Orange Prize judges, for displaying such astute literary discernment!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

My Dears!

Self is exhausted. After spending the morning at Writing Center, then wandering over to Long’s to pick up some prescriptions, then to Safeway to pick up bags of Halloween candy (self made sure to buy only the kinds she hates: Hot Tamales), then failing to find any good pumpkins selling for less than $3, and picking up Luis Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter from the Redwood City Main Library (and, now that she’s seen the cover again, self is 99.76 % sure she’s borrowed it before, but she can’t remember when), self arrives home pretty “low bat” again. What is wrong? Could it be the fact that she’s had nothing to eat all day except a bag of barbecue-flavored potato chips from the vending machine just outside the Writing Center, and a coke float?

Alas, self finds it is quite impossible to go the whole day without eating, as was her plan. Yesterday, there was Crouching Tiger with Jonathan, Liza, and Zack, and afterwards self came home to find the whole house smelling like hot buttered popcorn (hubby was snacking on that on the couch). This morning, self successfully made it to the Writing Center without Read the rest of this entry »

The Bad and the Waaay Good

Beard Papa in Redwood City closed, some months ago.

That’s the first bad thing.

Let’s see, what else?

    Lawn still looks lousy, even after hubby augmented with all kinds of fertilizer. Perhaps, dear blog readers, we were never meant to have a lawn?
    Now, this minute, self is huuungry!! But, in keeping with her resolutions for the day, self is refusing to poke her nose into the fridge to hunt up a snack. No! Instead, self will exercise extreme discipline and self control! By refusing to let any comestible, not even a crumb, not even a nibble, pass between her lips until hubby gets home! At 8 p.m.! Let’s just see if she can do it!

As for the good, here it is, and it is big:

    Self wrote today. Without interruption. And at the end of the day, she decided she might as well mail out what she’d written. And she managed to make it to the post office, 10 minutes before five.

Watching Oprah

Self wishes she could say that today, she got down to work and wrote a blue streak! Which she really should have done!

But, first, she spent an hour on Chowhound, reading replies to some of her posts (Someone disagreed with self about old-time Palo Alto hamburger joint Kirk’s Steakburgers, said their hamburgers were “greasy” — !!). Then, in the process of linking to Read the rest of this entry »

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