Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poor Clarence

"You will someday make a large fortune, 
in some easy way,
and have one horse for your carriage, and one for your wife…
and a pretty gate to the front yard, and plenty of shrubbery…
your wife will come dancing down the path to meet you…
she will wear white dresses, with a blue sash--

Poor Clarence,
it never occurs to you that even Madge may grow fat,
and wear check aprons, and snuffy-brown dresses of woolen stuff,
and twist her hair in yellow papers!"

from Dream Life by I K Mavel

Once upon a time, as the decade changed from the Happy Days of the 1950s to the Mad Men year of 1960, there was a slim 17 year old girl. At 5 ft. 7 1/2 inches tall she weighed 128 pounds.

Being slim was not enough. Her first prom was coming and she wanted a 22 inch waist for her prom gown. By eating lettuce for supper, she lost almost 8 pounds. With a panty girdle, which all ladies wore then, the girl's waist measured 22 inches.

By graduation the next year her weight was back up to 128 pounds. The first two years of marriage saw her weight creep up to 132 pounds. She was a woman now and no longer eating her mother's well-balanced meals, and she was sitting at a desk all day as receptionist for a publishing company.

Another two years passed and her weight went up and down between 130 and 136 pounds, depending on whether or not she was on her Canned Corn Diet.

At 24 she had her first baby and less than two years later, her second. After that her weight ranged from 132 to 145 pounds as she went on and off doctor-prescribed diet pills.

There followed years of countless diets. One that seemed to promise much brought heaps of guilt when she dropped out of the Vanderbilt Rotation Diet where she had reported weekly to Vanderbilt University thinking they had the perfect and final solution to losing weight.

As always, she lost weight--in the beginning.

The young woman and a million other dieters could repeat the rest of the story in their sleep.

The Beverly Hills Diet, Air Force Diet, Scarsdale Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, the Atkins Diet (that one left her ready to take a fork and stab the fingers of anyone near her bringing mashed potatoes to their lips), Stillman, Nutri-System, Dial-a-Meal (remember the nice young man in the spangled shorts?), and Pritkin Diet (she almost fainted just reading that book).

The healthiest diet she tried was probably Weight Watchers, but she absolutely hated going to the meetings, any meetings.

The most dangerous diet the woman tried, now with 4 children,  involved going every few days to a diet center for an injection of magical potion in her hip. The diet was very low calorie and she even had to wear rubber gloves when handling raw chicken because raw chicken fat would be sucked up through her pores.

These trips ended after the "nurse" let the needle roll off the paper towel and onto the desk before injecting her one day. A day or so after that there was a bright red bull's eye on her hip, fever and flu-like symptoms. Her thin family doctor shook his head and said, "You got a dirty needle."

That was pretty scary and the woman spent the next 15 years rarely dieting.

In 2007 her health began to fall apart and she began to focus almost entirely on losing weight, following the Mediterranean Diet. Being the all-or-nothing kind of person she was, she carried it even further and for 7 months didn't eat anything sweet, not even fruit, no dairy products, white flour or processed foods. She lost 50 pounds.

Then came Thanksgiving Day and she had one piece of her special pumpkin pie. Christmas followed and she was miraculously holding her own and her lab numbers were terrific. So she made an Amaretto Trifle for the family Christmas party and ate one serving--that is, one serving a day for four days. 

And there began the Slippery Slope.

That is the long of My Story, and the Short is that I vowed never again to go on a fad diet. I just did not have the heart or the energy for it. What I do have now, however, is a lately reborn desire to focus on what I can do.

I can plan healthier meals. Cut portion size. Try to be more active.

I can satisfy my sweet tooth or snack attack by throwing some nuts in a pan with olive oil to sauté and a light sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt. I can have a piece of fruit or berries with it. I can add a piece of cheese if I have to.

Nuts satisfy a sweet craving for me--if I remember to eat them! I've always loved walnuts and pecans but now I'm adding almonds to my meals and snacks. 

Almonds contain gamma-tocopherol, protein, Vit E, folic acid, magnesium, copper and zinc. They have a whopping amount of fiber. Best of all, the tryptophan may help my insomnia.

I made a recipe for a dip from the American Heart Association for this post. It was full of cucumber and scallions and herbs and toasted chopped almonds, all done in the food processor. Next it said to add fat free or light sour cream to the food processor.  So easy but such a waste. It's still sitting in my fridge. I think pulsing the sour cream in the food processor was not a good idea. I'm talking major gag.

So there I was with a crisper full of fresh vegetables but no dip. What to do? 

I found one of my favorite dip recipes and simply added almonds to it. And it occurred to me that I can do this with so many of my own recipes. So many things would be better and healthier with nutritious almonds in it.

This one is based on a recipe from my favorite Nathalie Dupree cookbook. She calls it Lime and Cilantro Salsa, but it's really a dip.

Lime, Cilantro and Almond Dip

1. Chop fine, 1 bunch of cilantro. 
2. Chop fine 1 or 2 jalapeños.  
3. Add juice of 2 limes to cilantro and jalapeños,
4. Add salt and fresh ground black pepper.
5. Stir in 2 cups of sour cream or Creme Fraiche.
6. Adjust seasonings to taste. 
7. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted chopped almond slices.

Okay, so this is not a diet recipe, not with sour cream as an ingredient but it is delicious and served to a group of people with a pretty platter of raw vegetables, not chips, how much damage can the sour cream do, especially if you use light sour cream? I'm not saying if I did.

Here's a recipe for Spiced Almonds from Ellie Krieger. We love to snack on these! Wonderful with a glass of wine outside in our picnic shelter before supper.

1. Toast 2 cups whole unsalted almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring
         frequently until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
2. In a small bowl, stir together:
          1 teaspoon ground cumin
          1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
          1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
          1/2 teaspoon salt
3. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil on medium heat in the skillet the almonds were toasted
         in for about 30 seconds.
4. Add the almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are warm and the 
        spices evenly distributed.
5. Add 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce and stir.
6. Remove almonds from pan and allow to cool before serving.

I'm going to look for more ways to add almonds to my meals. Remember Trout Amandine? I often ordered that when I was young when my father took us out to eat. I see another almond recipe in my near future, and I could use almond flour in it!

I'm going to try to go back to the Mediterranean Diet I was on in 2007 but not cut out all the dairy products and fruits that I did then. And don't think you won't be seeing future food posts from my beloved vintage cookbooks. I just hope to choose the more nutritious ones, and they have got to taste delicious or they're just going to sit in my fridge until trash pickup day.

My kitchen never will be devoid of any treats, but they have got to be homemade and not loaded with chemicals.

Here's R.H.'s favorite Christmas sweet, a longtime family recipe, maybe from Southern Living, and it has lots of almonds in it. Okay, it has sugar in it too but R.H. has volunteered to eat all of these himself. This one begins as a meringue and ends up tasting like pralines.

Sugared and Spiced Nuts

1. In a rimmed shallow baking pan combine 1/2-pound each of blanched whole almonds
        and pecan halves, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Roast in 350 degree oven for
        8 minutes and cool.
2. Melt 1 1/2 stick butter and let cool.
3. In mixing bowl beat 2 egg whites until they hold soft peaks, then beat in gradually
        1 cup of sugar mixed with 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
4. Continue to beat until mixture forms a soft meringue.
5. Pour the melted butter over the nuts in the baking pan and stir.
6. Pour the nuts into the meringue and stir gently.
7. Pour the mixture back into the baking pan and bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes,
         turn nuts over and bake for 10 minutes more, take out and turn once more,
         bake for 5 to 8 minutes more, or for a total of about 27 minutes.
8. Cool and store tightly covered in refrigerator.

Poor Clarence! 

Madge may have grown fat and wear snuffy-brown dresses of woolen snuff, but she's going to get herself on the Mediterranean Diet!

Maybe Madge does wear check aprons but she refuses to twist her hair in yellow papers. 

Besides, it's naturally curly!

So there, Clarence!

This post was cheerfully done at the invitation from the nice people at, without compensation. The timing was providential as I've been searching for ways to add more of the Super Foods to my meals--and almonds are on that list. Go here to find out more about the health benefits of almonds.

I ordered pine nuts from last summer and I love's site. I know you will too. I'm in awe of their almond page! I've never seen so many amazing flavors of almonds as are on this page. I want to order a dozen, at the very least. And they've been a family-owned company since 1929. I really like that fact.

But perhaps I'd better not buy any more Amaretto, even if it does have almonds in it?

Dear readers, here's your chance to share with me ways that you incorporate almonds into your diet--please pass on your ideas!


  1. I love almonds, especially in Trout Amandine :)

    I've had a lot of issue with weight myself. I weighed 105 at 5'4" until I had kids. At one point I weighed 200 lbs, because I was depressed. One day, I changed my diet after a lot of research, and started eating only organic and lost all the weight without trying. The problem is, I've strayed from it a little and I put on around 15 pounds in the last year. So like you, I'm headed back to my old ways.

    Good luck to us both!

    You're still beautiful no matter what you weigh though, Dewena :)


  2. Good for you...eating healthier, walking is great exercise and ever so easy. I eat nuts out of hand, mostly, but rarely remember to use them in dishes. I'm walking 5 out of 7 nights, about 1.5 to 2 miles and across rough pasture which is also up/down hill. I'm not losing weight but I am losing inches so it's all good.
    Keep up the good work and when I walk, I'll tuck you into prayer for resolve, determination and will power.

  3. I put myself on two diets in my 58 years and that was enough. Now I just try to drink lots of water. One thing I want to mention, last time I had to get a crown on my tooth (actually two teeth) the dentist told me she sees some damage to those expensive crowns from eating whole almonds. So be careful.

  4. Dewena, this is a wonderful story, and I thank you for sharing your past with us. Almonds.......they are my favorite and I eat them all the time! You know, it seems that everything we eat has some sugar in it, and when we reduce our sugar intake, we will lose the weight. I know this from experience. I smiled when you said at 24 you had your first child because I was 24 with my second child, little miss Jess. Those sugared and spice nuts look amazing. And you look lovely in your prom dress back then.............and now.

    love, ~Sheri

  5. I'm visiting you from Sandra's place. Goodness, I cannot believe this post! I don't think I've ever posted anything so interesting and so long. How on Earth do you have the time. Loved all the dieting stories. Because you sound exactly like me. Exactly. I've finally gotten used to my roundness, and actually don't care anymore. I've lived a splendid life, had 2 husbands, a great family, been beautiful, happy, thin and not overweight, and I really don't care anymore.
    I'm happy.

  6. I spent almost my entire life watching my mother go on diet after yoyo diet. Like you, she was an 'all or nothing' kind of person, but I don't have to tell you how that worked out for her. Extreme diets simply don't work for the long haul. I've only gone on one diet in my life, and that was two years ago as I was hoping to lose weight for my daughter's wedding. I tried weight watchers and lost 15 lbs and picked up a few tips, but after a while writing everything down became a burden. I've gained most of the weight back :(.

    Nuts are my husband's snack of choice and we almost always have some in the house. I didn't know that about almonds being good for insomnia.mcinsidering it is now almost 5 am and I've yet to fall asleep, maybe I should get some. ;).

    You were a beautiful young lady, but you are even more beautiful today, in the way that truly matters.


  7. FIRST!!!

    You have the most perfect naturally curly hair!!!! Why oh why, do you straighten it??? Why? Why? Why?

    I would love, love, love that hair!!! -sob-moan-sigh-pout-whimper-

    And you have it. And you don't embrace it. Oh the sadnessssss! Oh the sadnessss! Oh the sadness!!!!


  8. Ahhhh, the life of trying to lose weight. Oh I hear you, my Dear.

    Until after my fourth full pregnancy, I weighted my usual 112 on a 5'3" normal frame. Then! I kept a few pounds! So I starved. And lost. And went on a roller-coaster, from then on. -sigh-

    and I never liked going to any meetings either...

    Eating in the most healthy way we can. Yes. That is it! I am enjoying my wine again. And a weekly treat. Quality of life, has to be there. :-)

  9. oh dsm...
    where to begin?
    this post is a tour de force!
    every single woman can relate. unless they're of the pencil thin by nature variety. and that brings its own problems. my little mother COULDN'T gain weight.
    i never had a weight problem my entire life. until i had a complete hysterectomy.
    we all know... it throws you into menopause... regardless of your age.
    i just started thickening around my middle. no place else. an apple on a stick.
    that's when i wrote my little book.
    if you still have it... i would prescribe reading only one page a day...
    the one titled "i am an apple woman!"
    remember. you are beautiful.
    so beautiful. both inside and out.

    the main thing is health.
    i often think all of our worrying about it makes whatever we eat unhealthy!
    i love the description of gladys taber of her mother... "a plump little partridge of a woman." or something to that effect. i'm like marsha splenderosa.
    i just no longer care anymore. as long as i feel good. that's my barometer.

    i'm only 5'1" so every pound shows. i've lost weight on this no grain no sugar thing. but i'm getting to where... if i want a baked potato i have it. if i want one little dip of ice cream... i have it. but then i don't do that again for weeks.
    it keeps me eating more healthfully. the key word... health. not diet! YES!
    and almonds? they are a STAPLE for me. couldn't do without them.

    THANK YOU for the wonderful link to and for this lovely post.
    it's so well thought out and inspiring! and it was SO MUCH WORK!!!
    and thank you for being so incredibly honest and .... well... just for simply being YOU!
    i love you so much! we all do!
    and now.. you can name this comment... war and peace.
    LOLOL! it's about as long. good grief!!! XOXOXOXO♥

  10. I so enjoyed your could have been mine..minus the injections. What a lifelong struggle. You are so beautiful and I'd kill for naturally curly hair. And the pictures of you through the years were delightful. Our only hope at this stage of the game is to just eat healthy.

  11. Dewena, I think we all go through the weight gain/loss problem. I'm very short so every pound I gain shows and I struggle with it all the time. I think it comes to a point of accepting ourselves and being happy and healthy! Thank you for sharing these wonderful recipes that I can incorporate into our menu! Hope you are having a wonderful Monday! Hugs!!

  12. Oh, dear Dewena, you are telling my story and singing my song. Let's just forget about our weight and concentrate on our health. Who knows? The weight might just melt away.

    I'm sitting here in my new checked apron with Velcro curlers in my hair. Poor Clarence/Mike!

  13. I know the older we get, the harder it is to maintain our weight....much less lose weight. I eat a few nuts every afternoon as a snack. I need the protein and they satisfy my desire to snack. I have a cup that I keep a mixture of raw almonds, other raw nuts, some craisins and raisins and just a few salted nuts. I take out a few and just eat those...don't eat out of the bowl that you have them stored in. You won't know when to stop. lol Thanks for a beautifully written post that we can all relate to. Sweet hugs, Diane

  14. Hi Dewena, it is so nice to meet you! I'm Melanie - a blogger friend of Rue's. I thought I'd come over and check out your blog and read a bit. I am going to add your blog to my blog roll and become your newest follower! I hope that you will come over to my blog and meet me too, and get to know me a little better. :-) I really liked this post...I have dieted all my life, too. You are right about Weight Watchers - it's about the only healthy diet out there and that really works. I was on it years ago and lost 25 lbs. (and kept it off). You don't have to go their meetings anymore; you can do it online now. Now that I'm doing that or am going to do that, but just to let you know if you're ever interested. Anyway...I am now (almost) 53 years old and am at my lowest weight (and in great health) since having kids many years ago. I simply eat "clean" - meaning no processed foods, only whole, "real" food, organic whenever possible. I don't eat a lot either - never have. I'm more of a grazer. Several small meals per day with lots of veggies, fruit, nuts and lean protein. Minimal dairy. No white flour or sugar. You mentioned them! I simply eat raw almonds plain...either a small handful or I sprinkle them on top of Greek yogurt or my homemade granola. Hope you have a wonderful day!

  15. Oh my, we are definitely kindred spirits because your diet journeys sound a lot like mine. I pretty much gave up on dieting, but there are days that I do eat healthy. Oh and almonds are my favorite, but cashews and walnuts are both tied for second place.

    Also, I loved your prom picture. You looked like a princess... :)

  16. oh . . . bless you, dear Dewena! As you know, I've lost weight this year, and it hasn't been easy. I'm thinking the hardest part is starting now -- and that's keeping it off. You're right, just concentrate on eating healthy and have an occasional treat. Those diets never worked for me, and only left me frustrated!
    Best to you. The recipes look delicious.

  17. off hand what comes to mind is slivered almonds with green beans...

    What a fascinating had me cracking up at the stab the mashed potato eaters part :)

  18. off hand what comes to mind is slivered almonds with green beans...

    What a fascinating had me cracking up at the stab the mashed potato eaters part :)

  19. Dewena,
    This story is perfect for us all, what woman has not fought the battle of the bulge-Seriously we all have and do. I was very trim at one time of my life, but now I struggle like everyone and I walk so far and even lift weights. Still it won't budge or if it does it just relocates to another region! I find my midriff shrinks and my hip expands-what is up with that! So, I too am prudent in my food choices, drink wate and do the best I can. You my dear are beautiful then and now and oh to have your beautiful hair.

  20. Hi Dewena Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog. I am over here for a visit and like what you have written. I do keep almonds around. I nibble on them; have plans to make marzipan someday. That is probably not good for my weight but the double layer chocolate cake where it will be a filling is definitely a no no for my figure. I love good and yummy food. I do try to be healthful but it needs to taste good. I know it's hard to make dietary changes. At least from my experience.... I won't mention that cake again. I hope you will come back for another visit. Ronda

  21. Oh did you ever speak to me!!!! This is practically my very own story! It crept and crept, higher and higher over the years. I too tried many diets. I would always lose, then stop and gain it all back. Now I too am trying to move toward a healthier lifestyle...TRYING!!!! I do so love my carbs and sweets! It's hard. Loved seeing the early photos of you. great recipes, and oh that photo of the food on the's a work of art! So colorful! Thanks for the encouragement!!!

  22. Dewena,
    I loved this post Dewena! I am finding that the pounds are creeping up on me (over the past 2 yrs) so I am determined to do something about it now while it still feels as though my goal weight is attainable. I love vegetables and would rather snack on them than desserts or other no nos....your vegetable platter looks delicious....think I will start cutting up veggies at mealtime. Your recipes sound great, we love almonds and always have them on hand. I will have to try your almond recipe.

    I so enjoy seeing the past and present photos of you Dewena....and you are beautiful just the way you are!


  23. Even as a svelte, gorgeous glamour girl of 17, you still craved that 22 inch waist - and you being you, you got it! Lettuce leaf entrées and panty girdle attire were your secret weapons to achieving your goal; what a pretty prom princess you were! But, it's that photo of you, with your pearly, flirty, white curls flowing over your sweet, gentle face, with Nora perched on your tummy, that I think you are at your most beautiful; you look so happy!

    Whatever our age, we women have a desire/need/order/ to lose weight, believing that we are never thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, the list goes on. I won't go into the reasons for this, here, but will only say that society has something to do with it, (actually, a lot to do with it). The older I get, though, the more this self-sabotaging strategy subsides, so that all I demand of myself is to be healthy. I want to feel alive, passionate, smile, pray, and be grateful for what I do have; whether that is a tad too much around my tummy, or the safety of my loved ones, the first is the best I can do at this time, and the second is a blessing. Getting my blood pressure down and my bone density steady, are the 'starters' I'm in the mood for lately. And, my GP has done the honour of ordering for me, too: everything sans salt, no more than one cup of coffee a day, followed by a calcium/iron infusion, and daily doses of aerobic exercise, all garnished with a hint of weight lifting - just to spice things up, he says.

    And speaking of spice, (it's everything nice), but only a whisper of sugar, (being the latest health critter), your almond recipes would be most welcome to my 'diet', which has always been Mediterranean, from the very first chickpea puree my mother fed me, to the lentil soup I made last night for Liberty. They're both tasty helpings of great Greek staples, and so healthy, to boot! Nowadays, when the sugar invaders march into my mind, I quickly reach for a cup of Greek yoghurt, fortified with Canadian blueberries, and pure Cretan honey, (for extra protection!), and soon enough, the sugary soldiers retreat behind enemy lines. I know that this battle go on forever, but at least I have delicious devices to defend myself!

    Now, pass that lime, cilantro and almond dip, please. Oh, and Madge, take off that checkered apron; you're driving me nuts!


  24. WOW what a great post - your journey, your honesty about it, what you are doing now , your great photos! I really enjoyed it and love the sound of the recipes you posted. I will come back and grab a few and try them. thanks for sharing.

  25. Everything in moderation, I guess that's always the bests way. All of your recipes sound delish!

  26. Thank you for all of the healthy ideas! I, too,have been on the weight roller coaster most of my life. I really never went on 'diets', but I have tried to eat different ways for many years. I have decided that I will eat healthy, not having much meat, cutting back on bread and sugar, but dairy must stay in my diet. I eat fruit and veggies every day and normally have some type of granola for my breakfast. Making our meals from scratch seems to be beneficial. It is an endless battle, this weight thing. I know I am never going to be 'model thin',, but I was not made to be that thin!