Diet Advice From a Juggler:
What I’m Eating to Lose Weight

As a side effect of dropping 60 pounds in 4 1/2 months, I’m forever asked about what I’m eating, not eating, doing, not doing. My husband has lost more than twice the number of pounds and gets at least as many questions as well as peanut gallery commentary.

Totally understandable. Who wouldn’t be curious?

And I often say I love the opportunity to talk about what we’re doing without being one of those insufferable people who won’t shut up about their special diet.

Short answer: Whole plants, omitting fruit, nuts and seeds, not because they are bad but because they are more densely caloric than other plant foods and will be added back in once our target weights are achieved. We eat vegetables, legumes, whole grains and mushrooms. For seasoning: spices, herbs, vinegar, nutritional yeast, cocoa powder. Coffee, teas of any kind. (Hello fruity herbal teas! Love you!)

No animal products. No added salt, oil or sugar. No processed grains. Nothing artificial.

The hardest thing to get out of one’s diet is salt. If you think you don’t eat much because you don’t use a salt shaker at the table, you are wrong. It’s in everything packaged or prepared. Eating out is impossible. I gave away so much canned food and seasoning blends full of sodium. We buy no salt added canned tomatoes but otherwise nothing in a can works. Had to learn to cook from dried beans. Frozen veggies are a blessing and of course the produce section is safe even if Costco puts it right by the bakery. We do make a concession for Tabasco as the salt content is modest and you earn it with the heat.

What I do run into is the need to provide reference material  for those who ask with the underlying hope of finding a plan they’ll be able to use.

When my answer starts with “Do you know who Penn Jillette is?” it can go a couple different ways, but usually ends with “I’ll send you links to some information.” Penn was the emotional heart of the change we’d first flirted with in 2013 after seeing a bunch of documentaries about plant based eating. I am going to provide a bunch of links at the bottom of this post for anyone who might be curious.

Back then, we didn’t take it extreme enough, mostly by still using salt and oil. The weight simply didn’t come off for me. While I can personally attest to what we’ve undertaken as not being easy – starting with a two week mono-diet of nothing but potatoes – it has allowed me to overcome the impossible catch-22 of insulin resistance where being overweight exacerbates trouble regulating blood sugar but the condition makes it nearly impossible to shed the weight.

I’ve done the research, heard what doctors and scientists have to say, but it took a man who went to clown college and taught himself fire eating from a pamphlet to convince me I was crazy enough to do it. The only major difference between our plan and Penn’s is he gave up caffeine years ago and I partake for everyone’s benefit.

Resources covering the why & how of whole plant based eating:

Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales  by Penn Jillette – I recommend the audio book. Penn is a performer and hearing him in his own words about his journey is going to have an impact. Word of warning: NSFW or the easily offended. It’s not a diet book, but a first person chronicle of a guy who almost died due to uncontrollable blood pressure doing a crazy thing to live. 

CalorieLab breakdown of Penn’s diet – I love Presto! but it isn’t meant to be a diet book for others to follow, so there’s not a list of do’s and don’t’s like we’ve come to expect. For those who don’t want to read the book, this will give you what you need to know. For those that do read the book, it’s a perfect crib sheet for implementing the plan.

Safe for work and still packs the emotional punch, this Big Think video is an ideal Cliffnotes version of what Presto! provides in a family friendly way

Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (alternatively, although I haven’t read it myself: Dr. Fuhrman’s book The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes) – The science as well the diet we’ll eventually spend the rest of our lives on for both maintaining weight and good health. 

Ray Cronise’s blog and Penn’s Sunday School episode: More an honorable mention than anything, “Cray Ray” is the former NASA scientist who once took Penn up in the vomit comet (and let him get naked in Zero G) and was the brains behind Penn’s weight loss. Cronise was, last I knew, still working on a deeply scientific book Our Broken Plate.

Forks Over Knives: I’ve linked to the documentary (it’s on Netflix, too), but check out the website. Lots of recipes and information.

Hungry for Change: Another great documentary (Netflix and Hulu) about the science behind a whole plant based diet. 

My personal Pinterest board for recipes which either fit or can be modified to fit (currently pushing 700 items):

How I Broke My Blog
(Or Didn’t Appreciate It
Til It Was Gone)

Long story short, I updated by WordPress version over the New Years weekend and *poof* the whole site was gone. I didn’t get a fix from GoDaddy until today, mostly due to my lack of follow up. It involved upgrading the type of hosting I was using which meant transferring servers. My famous last words, always: How hard can it be?

I learned a few things in the process but all from not succeeding in transferring my backup files, so I’m rebuilding from spare parts. For the second time as a blogger, I’ve used the Wayback Machine to rescue content. From my previous blog, I pulled the reading lists from before 2010. I had knowingly pulled the plug on the domain but realized later even with the posts I’d had sent to my email over the years, I wanted a few other things. I should make a donation to this wonderful resource.

Today, I wasn’t even planning to change the theme. Now, anything dated before today is transferred. I was terribly upset at the idea of loosing everything. Maybe my blog isn’t anything to anyone else, but it’s something to me.

Sure, I only posted a handful of times in 2016, but I renewed my domain and paid hosting. Money talks, right? I’ve never blogged consistently like I did years ago when it was possible for a humble personal blogger to make a couple hundred dollars a month with a modest amount of traffic and semi-ethical paid links targeted at SEO optimization and some sponsored content.

It was partly the cash, but partly the community. Both dried up. Blogging used to be the way to make and maintain online friendships. I was never great or a run away success, but I still can’t bring myself to let my domain and hosting go. I always say how allowing social media to hold all our content is foolish, but I don’t take the time to post. It’s so convenient to use Facebook or Twitter.

I do tend to write blog posts around my birthday as well as around the first of the year. Despite myself, I get reflective. It was my New Years post that had me logging to break the darn thing.

Since I’ve made so many life changes in the last few months – dietary, obviously – I am thinking about writing here more regularly. Not because I have everything figured out, because I don’t, and since I was a kid writing is how I figure things out.

As I always say, we’ll see what happens on my little corner of the web, but if you are feeling nostalgic yourself, take a trip to the Wayback Machine for yourself.

Happy New Year’s from My Kitchen


Since I first moved to South Carolina in 2010, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying traditional Southern New Year’s Day meals prepared by my mother-in-law. Black-eyed peas, collared greens, cornbread and the most wonderful pork chops you can imagine.

This year, since Chris and I are back on our restrictive weight loss plan after several holiday indulgences, I decided it was up to me to prepare some kin of the good-luck meal to fit our limits. Neither of us believe in superstitious luck bringing, but do believe in the benefits of traditions. We believe in making your own luck and healthy eating is a big part of the luck we’ve made in the last few months. I’d like to write more about our dietary choices here on my blog rather than simply being insufferable on social media, but I will not go into extreme detail in this particular post.

Behold, black-eyed peas prepared with no salt, oil or animal products. Greens, well, didn’t get to the grocery store for collards to cook. Fresh kale and spinach seem just as lucky, right? It’s doubly lucky to go through the Costco sized bags before they get funky and slimy. Greens and beans are the foundation of our plan, so it’s as fitting as it is likely sacrilegious to my hardcore Southern friends. Your meals today are certainly better tasting, but I only just got the scale to read the same as Christmas Eve morning, so I’ll have to pass on the butter and bacon for today. No disrespect to your ancestors intended.

Not pictured is the pot of brown rice. I didn’t plan for corn to go with the meal to symbolically stand in for cornbread. Since it’s a whole grain with so many uses, corn is a staple in our kitchen. Corn on the cob, air popped popcorn, homemade corn tortillas (we bought a press) are all permissible and only scratch the surface of corn’s potential. Popcorn later in the evening is likely, if not corn on the cob, while we watch the new Sherlock special on PBS.

Happy (and Healthy) New Year!

Time is What You Make It

The internet is a buzz with hate for 2016. It was a challenging year for our household personally as well as the world at large on the political and cultural fronts. I started early with spending December and January soothing myself with Deadpool comics. I didn’t even bother to add a page on the blog to track my reading for the year that later gets abandoned (Is it laziness or tradition at this point? I don’t know.)

I remained in a funk for a long time, simply getting myself to the next event to look forward to on the calendar. The Deadpool movie in February, my brother meeting us in Atlanta for Treklanta in April, Kate driving out for a visit before Memorial day and ConCarolinas afterward. One foot in front of the other, because what else do you do?

At some point, I became restless with a steady diet of work, junk food and sofa-sitting until bedtime. I started meditating again over the summer. I also completed a prescribed course of physical therapy for shoulder pain and have used the exercises daily take the edge off a problem which had become increasingly worse.

When Chris decided to give the diet plan Penn Jillette lost 100 pounds in 90 days on as detailed in his book Presto. We started after DragonCon, on September 8th. To date, I’ve lost 52 pounds and Chris has lost 100. We had some planned “off diet” meals over the holidays so the rate of loss had slowed down since Thanksgiving, but we are incredibly motivated by our success.

There is one more leg to the stool I’ve built in the back half of the year.

By happenstance, a Facebook friend who I’ve never met in person, posted about Stoic Week. I’d learned about Stoicism and begun to adopt the thinking as a underlying principle after reading The Obstacle is the Way, but I have recommitted and refocused to practicing stoic living. I am looking forward to starting 2017 with The Daily Stoic as a devotional practice.

I’ve always considered the calendar rather arbitrary, especially deciding something magical happens between 11:59 pm, December 31st and 12:00 am, January 1st. Both stoicism and mindfulness cultivate a focus on the present with stoicism calling for virtuous action and mindfulness proving the peace of mind to carry out that action. Self-determination as well as acceptance of things beyond our control. This is what I wish for myself in 2017 as well as for others.


I originally finished this project in January, uploaded the pictures, and created the draft for this post. I intended to post. Something about January and August that makes me think of blogging. January is the “clean slate” effect the New Year brings. August 17th is my birthday so I’m contemplating the existential things in the dog days of summer. Who am I? What progress have I made? Where am I headed? And the biggest question of all: Why have I paid hosting for a blog and not published in eight months?

I am always torn between by impulse for privacy and the desire to be known and understood with a generous side of not feeling like I or my work is ever good enough. I don’t say this as a play for pity or bait for complements. I am not unique in my feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. I know my strengths and my stumbling blocks. I struggle with physical and mental health with sometimes nothing left after doing what has to be done vis-à-vis the requirements work and life. Yet I feel like I should push myself harder.

I’m sure it’s difficult for most people to understand why the pictures of my little sewing project musings on my well being. Yet my brain makes the connection between a perceived failure (both in quality of what I made and not posting sooner) and every single unsolved problem in my life, past, present and future. Not useful, but welcome to depression/anxiety thinking.

So as a small symbol of defiance, I’m posting. I’m not happy with how the pictures turned out on this project. I didn’t iron it again before putting it back on my dressmakers dummy. I didn’t take the time to get a good shot of myself wearing it. Funny thing is this garment is only a mock-up for a version of it made from a small piece of fabric left over from a skirt made from thrift store pants. I finally finished the “real” project a few weeks ago, but that is a post for another day.


It’s shameful how long certain unfinished projects have languished in boxes, bags or piles. This is to say nothing of supplies purchased and stashed for later use, some with intended ends and some without. I don’t think of those as unfinished as much as un-begun.

I am working on finishing up some of these objects begun long ago with such enthusiasm. Abandoned, but perfectly good ideas. I say this to differentiate from a scrapped projects. It’s one thing to quit and another to never get back to a bit of work. It is as of my creativity gets held hostage with intentions to complete a project.

Finishing, even with imperfect results, is the only way to make progress with skills in the arts. I was reminded of this, weird as it’s going to sound, by Guardians of the Galaxy Writer/Director James Gunn who some time ago posted on his Facebook page about how he didn’t start to have success with screenwriting until he buckled down and finished what he started. He’s not the first successful creative type I’ve heard this from, but somehow hearing it from a guy who really knows how to put together a mix tape stuck with me.

It’s true: Twenty first halves aren’t anything compared to one whole. Even if the whole isn’t fantastic, learning from the process is invaluable. Irreplaceable experience you can’t get any other way.

The photo above is from an ambitious project I began at least two years ago using embroidery and applique techniques. The design came from Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection: 400+ Easy Embroidery Designs. I enjoy Aimee Ray’s designs because they are modern and not too “crafty” looking.

When I saw this particular drawing in the book, I knew something would have to be made from it destined to go live with someone who’ll appreciate it. Until it is done, it is private. One simply doesn’t post spoilers on the internet.


I was inspired as well by the knowledge FedEx Office will print stuff as big as your imagination. I blew up the images from the book, got two copies: One for cutting a pattern and one for reference. My fabric stash of odds and ends I’ve picked up for doll clothes or other small projects became the crayon box for filling in the pictures. Working with different textures, colors and patterns in fabric gets my creative juices flowing like nothing else. I had a ton of fun digging through my boxes of scraps to find the right combinations.

It may be a while until this project is complete. It’s around half done with a few variables still in how it’ll be finished. Embroidery is an ideal TV watching project. I’m enjoying the process and happy to be back at it and looking forward to being able to share the results.


I’ve passed a milestone in my life without noticing it passed. Not everyone measures their life how I’ve measured mine. Most people do not start all their stories by saying “When I lived in…

Few people can say, at the age of thirty-five, they’ve beat their livelong record for living in the same place for the longest amount of time.

My previous record was Kent, Washington from Thanksgiving 1996 to just after July 4th 2001. I calculated it out today to 55 months or 4 years and 7 months. In that time, I got my first job, graduated high school, and moved out with a boyfriend who would become my ex-husband.

I moved to Simpsonville, South Carolina at the very end of August 2010. Sixty-one months ago. Or five years and one month. I did make one small move a few months after I arrived; I went from an upstairs one bedroom into a downstairs two bedroom in the same building in February 2011. Chris moved in with me in April. We’ve gotten married three times since then. Strange, but true.

I don’t regret having moved around so much both as a child and an adult. I do sometimes wistfully wonder how my life would have turned out with a more traditional path. I understand not everyone has the classic upbringing of Mom and Dad in a house in a neighborhood from birth until graduation with happy visits to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins for summers and Christmas. In 2015, one would have to be delusional to believe a fantasy image from a children’s picture book bares any resemblance to reality.

Still, in moves per year, I’m an outlier. In big and small ways, it’s impacted who I am. My perspective is a little different in ways both helpful and challenging.

For now, I’m perfectly happy where I am, but I don’t credit geography with my happiness. If I’ve learned nothing else in my travels, I’ve learned wherever you go you take yourself with you. Change your behavior, thoughts, and associations to change your life. Otherwise, it’s the same story on a different set.

I have no plans to leave the Greenville area in the near future, but since when have my plans had any influence on what happens?

Why I Don’t Take Pictures at DragonCon (Thoughts After D*C 2015)


DragonCon 2015 was my fourth year attending what one of my friends appropriately calls NerdiGras. More than a convention with celebrity guests, panels, and gaming, DragonCon is five days of 24 hour activity transforming five hotels and the surrounding area in Downtown Atlanta into a world where Storm Troopers, Doctors and Waldo are expected parts of the landscape.

The first year, I took lots of pictures. To a first timer, it’s overwhelming to see all the wonderful costumes and it all seems so novel. These days, with four DragonCons and other conventions under my belt, I find I take progressively less pictures. This is not because I am jaded to the experience. On the contrary, I find the experiencing to be vivid as ever.

For those who love to take pictures at DragonCon and get the perfect shots of the elaborate costumes, I thank you. Your pictures land online and keep the con alive. I hope you get as much pleasure from how you spend your convention as I do from how I spend mine. I sometimes suspect there may come a year when I decide to play photo journalist myself. After all, every year is a new adventure full of possibilities.

One reason I’ve stopped worrying about taking pictures is the flood photos online after the con by better photographers with far better equipment. Add the crushing crowds and the frustration of traffic stopping dead in a congested area while someone stops a cosplayer for a photo op, say, in the dealers’ room or on the path to a sky-bridge and I’d rather avoid the hassle for myself and others.

The biggest reason I don’t go out of my way to take pictures at DragonCon is my favorite moments are of the you-had-to-be-there variety.

The scenes I notice and remember are not appropriate opportunities to record. A tenet of “cosplay is not consent” etiquette is requesting permission to photograph as well as not photographing “off duty” cosplayers. This leaves my favorite moments from conventions off the table. If I can’t take a picture of girl Ninja Turtle cosplayers sitting at the food court having lunch or Princess Leia talking on a cell phone and holding a Starbucks cup, why bother?

My favorite example from 2015 happened Sunday as we were walking past the food court entrance near CVS.

On Sunday, the crowds have thinned significantly from the madness of Friday and Saturday. I’d noticed several sets of parents and small children earlier in the day without con badges, obviously locals checking out the part of the con that spills out onto the streets of Atlanta. I’d almost stepped on Thor’s cape on the steps of the Westin as he got down on one knee to pose for a picture with one of these kids. No doubt, made that little guy’s day.

Near the food court, we’d missed the photo op itself with the mom and little boy, all of three or four years old, and Batman. It was the aftermath of the pictures being taken as if DragonCon makes Atlanta a low-rent super hero theme park for the day that I saw. The mom stood with her purse open and holding out a folded bit of currency. The little boy stood behind, watching Batman. Batman graciously waved away the offer. Without even slowing down, the idea of attempting to tip Bruce Wayne was burned into my brain.

Like several years ago when I saw thirty or so Death Eaters, Dementors, and Voldemorts arranged for a group photo outside the Sheridan. Taking their picture was a beautifully costumed Disney style Snow White.

Only at DragonCon.

Retro Robots

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We leave for Dragon*Con in the morning. I’m so excited to get away for four geek-tastic days in downtown Atlanta. In many ways, con-going feels like I’ve finally found my natural habitat.

I find there are two kinds of reactions when you tell someone you are going to a convention. A typical reaction along the lines of “what is it?” Upon answering, the follow up questions run to “why?” and “what do you do there?” There’s little use in explaining to most of these folks. They won’t understand.

The second group says, “What costume are you wearing?”

It is little use to explain not everyone cosplays.

I have before and I surely will again. This year, rather than make costumes I’ve planned a couple outfits befitting the occasion.

The new creation is a bit of serendipity, really. First, a picture and then explanation.

Several years ago when I was working at Target, a pair of men’s pajamas were returned. As an online only item, they were heavily discounted. Who was I to pass up the opportunity?

I hung onto the pajamas with the intention to make something to wear in more visible situations. Turning pants into skirts is one of my favorite modifications. As is my usual creative process, I hung onto the material and idea for a long time. I picked up the red fabric to fill in the gaps several months back, but didn’t get started on the project until Teefury offered the Asimov University tee.

How much do I love Asimov’s Robot novels?

Enough to make darn sure I completed my whimsical robot shirt and matching peter pan collar before DragonCon. I’d been saving this Burda pattern for an appropriate occasion for a while.


I rather like how it turned out. It was no small task to line up the robots so their little heads didn’t get cut off.

About Tina

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something.” – Simon Pegg

Hi. I’m Tina.

Nerd. Geek. Dork.

I’ve heard many debates on the finer points of distinction between the three interrelated terms, but no matter the definition, I’ll proudly claim each title. Denying it would be futile.

My interests seldom fall into the mainstream. I pursue those interests with obsessive passion, in many cases, over a lifetime. I hide my shyness under a whole lot of friendly. Do I seem self-conscious? I’m not as socially inept as I used to be, but sometimes I wonder if people are just being polite.

As for nerd-geek-dork cred, I’m a bookworm, Trekkie and lover of wordplay. I love the real universe almost as much as the fictional universes I’d rather ponder and discuss. When I think of “the classics,” Issac Asimov comes to mind along with Jane Eyre. People, facts, and ideas interest me. A friend of mine once said – without a trace of sarcasm – “Tina knows everything.” I’ll admit, I don’t know everything about anything. Knowing a little something about just about everything is a thrill for me especially learning new things to keep connecting the dots between pockets of understanding.

My biography doesn’t summarize easily. My geographical history is confusing to say the least. I have adopted this Douglas Adams quote – “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” – as my personal maxim. It is a literal and metaphorical truth.

All my stories start “when I lived in…” thanks to my upbringing as a Navy brat and three major relocations as an adult. I’m a potted plant. Very portable. For conversational purposes, I claim Seattle as my hometown. I graduated high school in the area and one of my sets of parents – mom and step-dad – plus my brother and sister-in-law still live in that same town. Mom would tell you I got the gypsy blood, whatever that means. All I know is the internet and unlimited long distance keep me connected to people I love regardless of how far away until the day I can hop on a transporter pad to spending the day with my friend Kate and her daughter in St. Louis and be home in time for bed.

Days are brighter, more fun and much geekier with my chess-playing Klingon husband Chris. We met in September 2010 having exchanged a few messages over the preceding months. It was a week after I’d moved to South Carolina and he’d come home from Dragon*Con fresh from his first costumed outing. He nervously showed me pictures taken at the con of him in full Klingon gear complete with forehead ridges. I don’t think he believed me at the time that I didn’t find it even the tiniest bit weird or lame, but rather found the fact he makes an excellent Klingon and learned to sew in order to make it impressive and exciting. We started dating in late October and in February 2011, our relationship got serious when he took me to my first convention – Trek Trax Atlanta – and it was everything I could have hoped.

As he promised early on, Chris has expanded my universe not just by adding Firefly, Doctor Who and Stargate to my repertoire of fandoms, but in being kind, loving and a wonderful listener. So easy to live with, too. We could not be, I don’t think, better matched in interests and in temperament. He’s not much of a reader and I can’t play chess, but we both love Star Trek in all it’s incarnations above just about anything. And isn’t that what really counts? He proposed at Emerald City ComiCon 2012 and we got married at ConCarolinas 2013 in a Klingon style ceremony in costumes we made ourselves. Dragon*Con is our Christmas – anticipated and planned for – but it is the stuff of everyday life – trips to Costco, our passion for healthy eating and a dedication to making the best of even life’s challenges – which contributes to me being happier than I’ve ever been.

Life isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. Life is good. Even adversity has it’s place. I’ve grown steadily over time and I look forward to becoming an ever better version of myself little by little.

This blog is intended to be a reflection of my interests, activities, and opinions. It tends toward book reviews, stories of conventions and crafting adventures along with updates on my mental and physical healthy and anything else I need to write about. I intend to blog more than I actually publish, but having my own corner of the internet on which to express myself isn’t something I’m willing to give up. I cherish the friends I’ve made since I first started blogging way back in 2006 and I love to meet new people, online and in real life.

I reserve the right to evolve as a person and a blogger at any time along with the right to use more commas then strictly necessary.