The Best Ever Oatmeal: a crock pot breakfast

I love oatmeal for breakfast. But not just any oatmeal…I love steel cut oats cooked overnight in my crock pot.

007Everybody seems to call these by a different name. I call them steel-cut oats. I’ve also heard them called Irish oats, or groats. Here’s what they look like:

006Here’s the box they came in:

005They are creamy and chewier than rolled oats, and have a rich, nutty flavour.

003My friend Maureen gave me the recipe and I played around with it a little bit. Do you want to make some? They are easy-peesy!

008Before you go to bed, get your small (I use a 6-cup) crockpot out of the cupboard and put 3 1/2  cups of water and 1/2 cup milk into it. Pour in 1 cup of steel cut oats.Put on the lid. Plug it in and turn the setting to low. When you get up in the morning, give it a good stir and let it sit for 5 minutes while you make your coffee. Enjoy!

You can add chopped apple, some walnuts or raisins right into the pot, whatever you like. I like mine plain with a teaspoon (okay, 2 teaspoons) of brown sugar. Sometimes I throw a handful berries on top just before digging in. Delish!

In a nutshell for you:
3.5 cups water
.5 cup milk
1 cup steel cut oats
6 -cup crock pot, on low overnight.009If you’re back on the old Weight Watcher’s Momentum plan, they are 2 points per cup. I don’t know what they are in points plus. You’ll have to look that up for yourself as I’m not doing that program anymore.

Do you love oatmeal? What do you call them: Groats? Irish Oats? Steel-cut?

Four things to build Momentum in 2015

Do you choose a word to guide you for the year?

Last year I chose the word Play. You can read about it here (and there are also some great family photos on that post, too!) It was the perfect word for my first year of retirement.

But now it’s time to switch things up. I’ve thought about it a lot and the word that keeps popping into my head is Momentum.

Driving Power…Strength…to (continue) Moving Forward…to Repeat Recent Success.  I’ve felt stagnant lately. Bored, even. Recognizing signs of depression hovering around the atmosphere, like little dull grey sparkles just inside my peripheral vision.

Time to start moving forward again….build up some Momentum!

There are four areas I’ve identified that need some work. That need some momentum.

  1. Writing: I wrote over 50,000 words last November during NaNoWriMo and then totally let it fall to the side.
    What I’m doing about it: I’ve joined a writing critique group. In fact, I have someone’s first three chapters on my laptop waiting for my own comments right now! Wow! Now, not only does this give me serious aakk! moments but it also gives me incentive to keep on writing. In fact, my goal for today is to get a chapter ready to send around for a look-see. I’d like to send it out this afternoon. And a bonus is that it reminds me that I am capable and competent – something I have struggled with this first year of retirement.
  2. That number on the scale: I gained 15 pounds. Yup. In one year. You’ve heard of the Freshman 15, right? Bet you hadn’t heard of the retirement 15, l0l! Eee Gads. How embarrassing to have to admit this out loud.  Several years ago I lost 65 pounds with Weight Watchers. Read about it here. Then Weight Watchers changed from the Momentum plan to the “new” Points Plus plan. The new plan just didn’t work for me, and my weight crept up until I had re-gained 15 pounds.Over the next 4 years I started and quit weight watchers three times.  Finally it sunk in. The new plan just doesn’t work for me. At all.
    What I’m doing about it: I’ve dug out my old weight watcher’s momentum plan stuff. I’m going back to what worked for me the first time before any more damage is done. Did you do the math? Yup…15 + 15 = 30 pounds “found.” I remember my friend Judy saying that she wasn’t loosing weight, she was getting rid of it because she didn’t want to find it again. Right on, Judy! Does this put me in the same category as all the other people who vow to loose weight and get fit in the new year. I suppose so, but I don’t care. What I care about is regaining that feeling of good health that I enjoyed up till recently. So YAY for the old Momentum plan. It worked for me before and so far it’s working for me again as I am already down 4 pounds in the first two weeks. And I’m having fun! Just like I did before.
  3. Fitness: My fitness plans went sideways, and I’m not sure why. I’d been doing a fair bit of walking…Sammy and I have covered quite a bit of ground over the year, and I’m really pleased about it. But I’ve also been doing a fair bit of sitting, what with all the sewing and quilting and book-reading I’ve been doing. I really missed my treadmill this winter when the weather hasn’t been cooperative for going out.
    What I’m doing about it: we moved my treadmill out of storage in the garage where it has resided since we moved in last year and set it up in the sewing room. Yup. My little 99 square-foot sewing room just got a little bit smaller, lol! And better yet, I’ve built a little desk for my laptop, so that I can move while I write.
    046Yup! and the little pink balls you see there weigh a couple of pounds each, perfect for a few overhead presses while I’m thinking or watching an episode of SG-1 on DVD. How’s that for two birds with one stone, eh?
    045It isn’t hard…I haven’t fallen off once. In fact, I’ve spent 68 minutes writing this post  at the low low setting of 1.2 mph and have walked 1.35 miles. That’s over a mile on my feet instead of on my butt! Awesome!
  4. Social: I often feel isolated and lonely.
    What I’m dong about it: Not 100% sure yet, but things are going to change. I’ve gone to a second quilter’s group and may join – though I am deathly afraid of becoming an old lady who does nothing but quilt. I am thinking of maybe joining a line dance class or something active and fun like that. Even teach a dance class, maybe? Tomorrow night I’m going to attend a meeting at the Sunnybrae Community Hall down the street from us and see if I want to get involved there in some capacity. The important thing is that getting more involved is on my radar and this will be the year to do something about it. I need to make a life for myself outside of being home alone all the time.

So there you go. Four things to build some momentum on. Four things to move me forward. AND a plan to help me do so.

And did you notice that sewing and quilting didn’t even make the list? That’s because there isn’t anything at all wrong or lacking in that area. I aim to continue learning and growing and playing with needle and thread.

Do you have a plan for the year? and seriously…what do you think of my walking desk? too cool, right?

Vintage Adjust-O-Matic Dress Form and a Healthy Body Image

Have you ever seen one of these?


Made in the mid-1960s and costing only $6.95: “with your Adjust-o-Matic dress form you see in advance just how attractive and becoming your dress, skirt, coat or blouse will look!


Inside the box was a bewildering assortment of pieces. I have to admit, as a person who kind of sucks at puzzles, this put a bit of fear into my heart.


Thank goodness there was also an instruction booklet! And let me say right now, that all instruction writers in the world should read this instruction booklet and take notes.  Seriously! This was so easy to put together! I was amazed!


I spread the pieces out on the kitchen floor and proceeded to fit tab A into slot A and on and on until I was finished about an hour later.


The Incredible Adjust-o-Matic is a miracle of modern engineering. Honestly.


The form was built in three sections: first the hips, then the torso, then attach the neck piece and close the shoulders. When I built the hips section, I held it in my two hands and thought that surely there must be some mistake. These hips are too small. My hips are much larger than this. So I double checked the measurements. And yes…these are my hips.


I suddenly felt a little teary-eyed! So here’s something about me that you may or may not know. Several years ago I lost a great deal of weight. Yes. Yes, I did. You can read all about it here. At some point after that I suffered an illness. My brain chemicals and hormones went out of balance, brought on by a combination of stressful life events and menopause, and I was diagnosed with acute depression.  It took me a couple of years, but thanks to a lot of very hard work and the love and support of my husband and a couple of close friends, I recovered. Unfortunately, however, I am left with a 20 pound weight gain. I can’t begin to tell you how I have beat myself up over re-gaining those pounds! The vicious, terrible things I say to myself! Horrible, just horrible.


So holding those hips in my hands made me cry. Because I saw that they aren’t gigantic ugly hips at all! Yes, they are 3 inches wider than they were 3 years ago. That is a fact.My body-image is so out of whack, it’s scarey!


I will get back to a healthier weight again. It’s just taking longer this time. My body is different than it was when I lost the weight before. I’m post-menopausal now.  I’m not teaching 5 dance classes every week. But I go for long walks every day with Samson, and I’m making an effort to get back into my yoga practice. I still go through phases of being very mindful of what I eat and then binging on ice cream (hard not to do on these hot summer days!). Over all I feel like I live a very balanced life. So the weight will probably be much slower in coming off this time around.  And you know what? That’s okay. Besides, the incredible Adjust-o-Matic will reduce right along with me as I re-loose those inches. She’ll help keep things real.


She doesn’t actually belong to me. She is on loan from a friend. It belongs to my friend Jean’s mother.


Jean’s mother is in a nursing home now, and the dress form was taken apart and packed away into Jean’s basement some time ago.


I still think she looks smaller than me. But every time I check the measurements again, hers and mine remain the same.


She sits in my sewing room and I look at her every day. She reminds me to be kind to myself.


Cheers for a Playful 2014!

Hello and Happy New Year!

Have you ever chosen a word
just one single word
to guide you through the year?

For the last couple of years I’ve held the word balance close to my heart. It was the word that helped me to navigate a very busy life: teaching up to 5 dance classes per week, directing a dance troupe, choreographing and producing shows while managing to have a family life and working a 9-5 day job (phew!)


Balance was the word that got me through to the other side of menopausal depression. I was out of balance physically, emotionally and hormonally. Searching for and maintaining balance was the lifeline that I clung to and the rope I hauled myself up by. It kept me secure during the heartache of deciding to let go of my dance troupe and students. I kept it in the front of my mind during my weight loss journey (65 pounds!).  It was the word that taught me to put health and happiness above productivity.

Balance guided me through the waters of deciding to retire relatively young; to move to a new town and seek out new adventures.

1-CollinsBalance: what a beautiful word!

But now it’s time for a new word to live by. It’s time to get out of the box and…


This year I am going to play in my kitchen and learn to bake a cake from scratch. Specifically, some of the Chatelaine cakes. Yum!

…and I will experiment creating delicious meals from all over the globe: India, Japan, Italy, Thailand…! No fear in the kitchen will be my new motto – play with those spices, Nita! Try it out!

37-CollinsIn my Creativity room I will play in the sewing nook, on the yoga mat, in-front-of the dance mirror and with words at my laptop.

My body will become stronger as I play outdoors, exploring local walking and hiking trails with Kelly and Sammy. We’ll take our bikes out and explore some of the country roads.

I will play in the garden, discovering all the wonders of living in a zone 5 gardening region.

I vow to put myself “out there” and be open to meeting new friends, getting involved in the community somehow (music? theater? dance?)

32-CollinsMy friend Melissa at 100 Billion Stars puts it brilliantly (you can read her entire blog post here):

Play is a way of making room for our potential. It isn’t about pretending to be something we hope to be one day. It isn’t about presenting a different face to the world, trying on masks and personae. It’s about being authentic and true to ourselves in an atmosphere without judgment or rules. It’s from this place that growth begins, releasing the possibilities that have been lying dormant all our lives.

So here I am this morning, wishing you all a wonderful year of play and a hell of a good time doing it!

70-CollinsNo fear! Have fun!


(these wonderful family photos were taken by Heather Jones of hpj photography at our Fox Lake cabin last September. We had so much fun!)

Observation & Determination: a balancing act

I took last week off from my daily yoga practice. Why? I didn’t get out of bed in time. Simple as that. Did I need a week off? Did I need some extra sleep? Or maybe some extra snuggle time with my beloved?

This morning I returned to it feeling somehow emotionally and mentally refreshed from the break. It didn’t feel like a chore or a commitment that I had to live up to. It felt like a reunion. It was lovely.

On the DVD I was working with, the instructor (Colleen Saidman) said something that resonated with me and that I have been thinking about all morning. She said:

“have greater observation and less determination.”

She was talking about relaxing into the one-legged forward bend. She was talking about allowing the muscles to lengthen and the back to open. She was talking about not forcing yourself into the pose…rather, give in to it and observe how your body feels. She was talking about being mindful.

This pleased me, because this is also the “secret ingredient” in Middle Eastern dance. It’s the secret that I give to my students in their very first dance class, and then probably in just about every single dance class after that. Okay, everybody – in unison now, repeat after me! “relax the muscles that are not actively involved in creating the movement!” (can you hear me smiling?)

In a hip slide, I tell them to put their hands on their waists and feel (internally observe) the muscles working there. Which ones are actively engaged? Which ones are not? Students hear the words “opening”… “giving in”… “allowing”… “feeling.” They hear me tell them not to force the movement; but rather, give in to it and allow it to happen. Observe it. I ask them to pay attention in their bodies. I ask them, “where is your weight?” and “where is your center of gravity?” We do drills while being mindful of how our weight is placed over the heel or over the ball of the foot – being aware of the changes in our center of gravity and our core as it adjusts to different physical attitudes and levels. I ask them to be Mindful, pay Attention, Give In, be Aware, AND have to Purpose, Direction & Intention in their movements. Yes! All at the same time!

Observation & Determination: it’s quite the balancing act!

This led me to think about mindfulness and the difference between observation & determination in life in general. I thought about observation in regards to the absence of determination: passively allowing life to flow past without active participation. I then thought about determination in regards to the absence of observation: aggressively pushing ahead to the exclusion of all else. I thought about how balance between these two is key to a full and emotionally satisfying life. And how it can be so difficult! About how sometimes we need more of one and less of the other, and how we always have to pay attention to where our weight is balanced on that see-saw.

Observation vs Determination has played a role in my thoughts about where to go with the dance school. My life with Celebrations Bellydance had been unbalanced, with determination on the heavy end of the scale. I am thinking of the years where I worked full-time at the college and taught 6 & 7 dance classes per week on top of that. I was not mindful of my own health. I was aggressively determined to do it all – to have it all – at the exclusion of all else. Quitting dance would be equally out of balance. Dance is part of the make up of my soul. My work over the next little while is to find out what the balance between observation and determination with Celebrations Bellydance will look like.

It has also played a role in my weight-loss journey.

It all comes down to that little nutshell, doesn’t it – finding and maintaining balance between observation & determination. Mindfulness.

How has the balance of observation, determination and mindfulness played a role in your life? 



yoga & my crock pot

One of the things I learned in Weight Watchers was to pre-plan and prepare meals ahead of time. Now, while I always admired people who were organized enough to do that, it wasn’t something that I ever actually tried to do very often for myself. I was always too busy. Oh, sometimes I’d go through a phase but it never lasted beyond a week. But during the time that I was loosing that burdensome 60 pounds, it became an essential tool, and it worked very well. I was working 1/2 days and I had the afternoons to browse cook books and decide what I wanted to make. I would make big crock pots of stew or soup  I would get two suppers for us plus 5 lunches for me out of each crock-pot creation. Luckily, I am happy to eat the same thing several days in a row.  My crock pot soups were a staple in our diet. My weight loss journey, like my balance journey was moving forward, sometimes going gangbusters and sometimes wobbling a bit, but staying strong throughout – relying on new habits and tools – like crock pot chili and my new yoga practice.

If you’ll indulge me, I can relate this to my yoga practice.  Yes, I can! I think of this phase as being in Warrior II. Feet firmly rooted, legs strong. Arms long and reaching, chest open – powerful and grounded. Stable and steady. Knowing there was someplace to move forward towards. Moving forwards towards Warrior I. Hips square off to the front foot. Arms reach overhead. I’m a little wobbly at first, but soon begin to settle down and feel strong again. Relying on the strength of my core and my legs. Knowing that they were there for me because I had built the habit of my morning practice. Like the habit of pre-planning my meals, I could rely on that.

Then my 1/2 days ended and my job reverted to full-time. Okay – I knew that this was happening. I knew which day it was happening on. But somehow, I didn’t plan for it. The first day, Kelly and I looked at each other and said “what’s for supper?” Aaak! There was nothing pre-planned. So we had soup and sandwiches. And again the next day. And the next. We started to look at each other in panic every morning and I would say, “just take something out of the freezer and we’ll figure it out tonight.” I gained 8 of my lost discarded pounds back in what felt like over night. Because not pre-planning means more than settling for a hurried dinner, it means that when I walk through the door at the end of the day, I can’t rely on knowing that a nutritious, point-friendly meal is only minutes away. So I start to snack while I figure out what I’m going to cook for supper. That’s a meal-worth of snacking while I’m making dinner. It also means I don’t have lunches planned for the week. And that means dashing around in the morning, getting stressed because I don’t know what I’m taking for lunch. Making me late and grumpy.

Yes, something was seriously out of balance in the meal department. It took me until this morning to figure out what it was. So, this morning, I stood in my nightgown in my sun-filled kitchen and started chopping vegetables. I filled my crock pot with whatever I could find in my fridge and cupboards and I made a chili. This will be 2 suppers and 5 lunches for the week plus some for the freezer. Later today I will look in the freezer and decide what I need from the store to make another meal that will do for 3 more suppers for the week. I put the knife down and stand in mountain pose for a moment, feeling balance flood through me. Feeling okay for the week ahead.

Warrior III –  my standing leg is rooted deep into the earth as place my hands on my hips, lean forward and lift my back leg straight out from the hip, my flexed foot reaching through the heel. My hands stretch out to the sides, then forward. I am a plane, flying. I tip and wobble. I touch the wall for balance, I touch my toe back down for balance. I try again. How long can I hold the pose each time? I practice and keep trying. I know that I will eventually hold it strong and true. I have the tools. I have prepared for this moment. My heel reaches strong to the back – to the past. My standing leg is strongly rooted into the ground – into the present. My hands reach forward to the future.

Today’s chili happens to be vegan:
black beans (1 can)
diced tomatoes (2 cans)
chopped carrots (approx. 2 cups)
1 medium chopped zucchini
1 double handful chopped mushrooms
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
4  “use-today-or-throw-away” tomatoes found in the back of the fridge
2 T chili powder (I like my chili mild)

Put everything into a 15-quart crock pot. Cook on low most of the day. Don’t make it too liquidy because the vegetables will cook down and make their own juice. You can pretty much throw in whatever vegetables you have in the fridge – especially ones that need to get used up quickly (like my tomatoes). Serve with rice. If fact, do like I do and make a big pot of rice and store it in the fridge – reheating portions as needed during the week.