Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alexander Cockburn, my friend (1941 - 2012)

I wrote this post last year, the week after we lost Alexander. He was our dear friend, whom we miss every day.

The loss was immediate and intense when we received notice that 
Alexander had passed from this world on July 21, 2012. We had known he was battling cancer, but we were sure he was going to win. Alex was the type of person everyone thought would live forever. Even with news of his illness, I never considered a world without Alex Cockburn.

As the day wore on, there were more and more online memorials written about him. Most of the websites I had never heard of, but the range of emotions toward his death was vast. For most Alex was seen as a far-left political journalist, to the point of being labeled radical. Nothing I read described the man we knew and loved. We didn't lose a great political antagonist. The Alex we knew was witty, caring, compassionate and generous. A true friend in every sense.

Alex and my husband, Dave, met over their mutual love of classic American cars. He was born in Scotland and raised in Ireland, and moved to the states in the mid 70's. He settled in the Northeast, and ordered car parts from Dave not long after. Buying parts led to buying cars. Alex was soon visiting SC, and driving away in a new (to him) purchase. This continued for years. In those early years of trading, Alex wrote a magazine article about Imperial Motors, and from that time until we closed in 2003, business boomed. Dave felt like he owed much of his success to Alex for getting the word out worldwide.

In a 2007 C-Span interview, Alex said that becoming friends with Dave, opened up a whole new part of America for him. Becoming friends with Alex opened up our whole world.

Fast forward to the mid 1990's when Dave and I married. Alex came for a visit soon after. This time it was for an old  pickup truck to use on his "farm" as he lovingly referred to his place in northern CA, where he had recently moved. In later years the farm evolved into a quaint apple orchard, with fresh squeezed apple juice and "special hard cider".
Alex the Cider-Man - photo by Caroline Eller
From that visit on we had a tradition whenever Alex was leaving. In the last few minutes he would dig out one of him many cameras that he carried around with him in a satchel and take our photograph. Before he left our driveway, we held hands and said a prayer. We thanked God for our friendship with Alex, and for his safe travels. It was always the same after that first time. "Well, it's time for the photos", Alex would say, "and then THE prayer."

With Alex everything was prefaced by "THE". The first time we traveled to his place in Petrolia, CA, we were introduced to THE famous pork BBQ. He had engineered a pit on the side of a small hill where he built a fire, above that there was a pulley system to let the pork down on top of the coals, to be left for hours and hours until so tender it would melt in our mouths. After this visit, there was a another new tradition. Whether we were at his home, or ours, we always had "THE" pork. Dave's method was not quite the engineering piece of work as Alex's, but the result was just as good.

Alex loved to eat, and even though he was as thin as a rail, he could put food away - and with great speed.  I always stocked up on wine and meat for his visits. I always drank more around him too, but no matter, every sip was more delicious in his company. I once told him that I could see why women fell in love with him so easily - he was a charming guy. Very engaging. I loved conversations with him, loved the way his words sounded, not just from his Irish lilt, but the way in which he spoke, the way he formed his sentences. He got off topic easily, but then usually brought things back around to his point, more or less. He had a wonderful, dry sense of humor and would insert little pieces of this and that into each and every conversation. He was sharp as a tack, and his mind was always working.   

In the early days Alex would bring a tape recorder and record Dave speaking. I'm sure it took them at least a year to be able to understand each other. Dave has a very southern, country drawl and Alex with his Irish/Scottish accent.

We were unlikely friends. Alex was a brilliant journalist, his mission and passion was to unveil the truth, however ugly it might be and display for all the world to see. He had written for the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, and had a long time column "Beat the Devil" in The Nation. He added us to his CounterPunch newsletter in the late 90's when it was ignited. And if a headline had his name underneath, I would always read it. The rest of the newsletter - not so much. We aren't political. We aren't radical. Sometimes we even forget to vote. We are simple folk who just fell in love with Alex and his beloved dog, Jasper. 

When something happened in the world that made us perk up with interest, Alex was the first person we called. We always thought he would "be in the know" and could give us details we might not see on the evening news. If Alex needed a part or mechanical advice for one of his cars, he would call Dave, whom I think he thought of as some kind of "Car Whisperer". But Dave did his best to live up to Alex's perception of him, and almost always came through with the part no one else could find, or the solution no one else knew for the car.

If an interesting car or truck came on the scene in SC, we would email Alex the photos as bait to see if he showed any interest. If he did, he would send a quick reply, asking for more details. Who knows just how many cars/truck were exchanged over the almost 40 year relationship he and my husband shared.

Alex broadened our minds with his intuitive questions - making us think instead of just believing every thing we heard. He engaged us on topics we didn't normally delve. And it will probably spin his fans, followers and critics in circles to know that Alexander let my husband watch FoxNews, on his TV, in his house. Oh My. He gently teased us about our conservatism, but never belittled us for not sharing (most of) his political opinions.

He enjoyed cooking, baking and entertaining his friends in his home. He introduced me to the world of bread, more specifically THE "Russian Rye". It was beautiful and delicious, and he was generous with the recipe. From then on Alex and I traded bread recipes. If I tried a new kind, I would snap a photo and shoot it off to him. He would examine it, ask about the yeast and for the recipe.
Russian Rye
We traded wine too - in the mail. We had a special box that was made for shipping bottles. I would send him a couple of my favorites at the time, and he would send the box back with a couple of bottles of Lost Coast Plush. For me, it was always Plush. He knew it was my favorite.

Visits with Alex were pleasures that we looked forward to, and savored. After he would unpack his stuff - the many bags of things he took everywhere, he would spread out in our guest room. And I mean s p r e a d  o u t. He didn't just use the room, he took it over. I was always amazed at how quickly he could clear it all out too. He basically took over the phone too. We would retire to our room about 11pm or so, and the phone would start ringing. We never got up, because we knew it would be for him. He used to carry around a typewriter and fax machine. When he bought his laptop we scurried about making sure he would have internet access as well. When he went wireless (and we hadn't yet), he drove to town, slowly - watching his computer for open wireless accounts that he could "borrow". He would stop in the middle of the road when he found one so he could send his column off to whomever was waiting for it.

The first time we went to CA our plan was to drive one of his cars home, as I had never driven across the country. Alex had maps of every state we would cross, with all the routes highlighted. "Go the back roads" he said. And he graciously gave us use of his 1963 blue Plymouth station wagon. Everywhere we stopped, we took a picture of us, and then a picture of the car - for Alex. 

1963 Plymouth Wagon
Alexander hated to be cold. Northern California is chilly at times, but not as cold as SC winters, and SC really isn't usually cold. When he came to get the Plymouth, it was either late fall or early spring, and it was unseasonably cold. He was cold outside, cold inside - wore his jacket all day, everyday - even to bed, I think. When it came time for him to depart, he wanted a blanket to keep him warm. We had just come across a wonderfully thick blanket, so we offered it for the drive. On our next visit to CA we picked up the blanket. Alex was reluctant to give it back.

The next time he visited us, we hid the blanket. By then we were in a new house and were frequently napping on our screen-in porch. On cold winter days we liked having the blanket to keep us warm. We hoped Alex wouldn't ask about it. We knew it might be a year or more before we were in CA again to retrieve it. A day before he was to leave Alex asked, "do you remember that lovely blanket I borrowed once before?" Dave and I exchanged nervous glances, and said we didn't have it anymore. A terrible lie. Alex dropped it. And when we heard the news that he had died, Dave said this was his one regret - that he didn't give him that damn blanket.

Often during Alexander's visits to SC (of which we were blessed with many), Alex was left to fend for himself during at least one day. He always went to the little town where we lived, and walked around. Talked to the locals, bought gifts & wine for dinner. He was once declared the "best looking guy in Tryon (NC)". He was proud of that, and reminded us often. At the end of one trip Dave and I both had to leave the house early on the day Alex was to depart. Later, I discovered that Alex had helped himself to my stash of loose tea, homemade jelly, the opened bottle of wine and the small supply of moonshine we had tucked away in the fridge. That was Alex, and he would have expected no less if it had been us in his home.

Alex was a generous friend. During any conversation, whether in person or by phone, if we mentioned that we would like to have such-and-such that he was talking about, we would receive it in the mail soon after. When he visited there were always gifts - a red enameled bowl from India, Turkish coffee pots, handmade serving platters, a clock made out of a Lincoln wheel, sacks of tea and local coffee. We once brought him an olive wood salt bowl w/ finishing salt - he acted like we had given him the moon.

Somewhere around 2002 we had to move my mother-in-law to a nursing home. I was complaining to Alex on the phone one day that she was ripping out all the tags that I had sewn into her clothing. The edges were rough, and she didn't like them. Not long after I received several dozen silky, soft clothing tags with her name sewn on them. That's just the way he was. Very giving, very caring.

We didn't know Alex first as a writer, although we have signed copies of many of his books. We didn't know him as a political journalist, but we relied on him for political information.

Most of all we are honored to have called him friend, and we miss him.
Our last family photo, with Jasper and Percy, in Petrolia, CA. Oct. 2011
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Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Confessions 5.31.13

It's Friday AGAIN! Time to confess and come clean before the weekend.

Here goes:

I confess that it has been 2 weeks since I have confessed. Last week I stuck to my plan all week long. I did not give into the temptation of Key Lime pie and Eclair cake on Monday, nor did I cave to chocolate cream cheese cake. I was making headway. Then, a holiday weekend. Things fell apart a bit.

I confess that I ate out several times, enjoyed every bite, spent an evening with friends for Memorial Day and enjoyed my food then too.

Then stepped back into full plan on Tuesday. I confess, I haven't been as steadfast this week, and I can tell a difference. I feel sluggish and yucky, so with the monthly lunch outing over with as of today, I can refocus and re-commit.

I confess that I tried my feet at running this week. A three mile run/walk with a running friend. I confess I was very thankful that she reached out to me. I needed a push to see what I could do.  Did my foot hurt, oh, you betcha. Was it worth it? Oh yes. I saw this on facebook this week:

And I am still very frustrated that I am not running like I want to be, like I was this time last year. So maybe, I am still a runner. I was beginning to wonder.

I confess that I have switched from my beloved Black tea to green and herbal blends. It wasn't a conscience choice or effort, it just kind of happened. I confess that my new evening tea has me quite enamoured. This Hibiscus tea is delightful! With a drop of raw honey, it it tastes like I'm really cheating.

Lastly, a good friend of our's has listed a unique vacation property in Northern California. We stayed there some years ago, and have very fond memories. If you find yourself headed in that direction, check this place out. I confess, and promise, that you will be glad you did. It's a bit rustic, so you've been warned, but also a place you will never forget. 

Redwood Tower on Wild Lost Coast

What are YOU confessing this week?

Head over to Aubrey @ High-Heeled Love to join the confessing!

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Confessions 5.17.13

It's Friday - time to confess the week's indiscretions and come clean before the weekend....

Here goes:

I confess that I am looking forward to lunch today - this week has been National Nursing Home week, and we always conclude with a big catered BBQ - which is today! Yum! I will be stepping out on the Plan today, and enjoying every bite!

Speaking of the Plan, I confess that I'm still doing it and you can see my latest update here.

I confess that I am soooo frustrated with my foot. I did a tiny bit of running 2 days this week, and my foot was throbbing the next day. Does anyone know where I can get a new one?

I confess, once again, that I LOVE my residents. Take this true story from this week:

My sweet 97 year old lady gives me a hug today, grabbing one of my many love handles as she does. 
She says: You are so sweet Caroline, and so pretty. And I guess you know, honey, you are sort of fat. 
I say: Yes ma'am I know I am. 
She says: I thought you did, does your husband like it? 
Me: He doesn't mind it too much.

I confess that at one time, this would have bothered me a little bit, but I've learned that my old people just don't have their filters working anymore (if they ever did), and I enjoy their honest banter - most of the time anyway.
Lastly, I confess that I have discovered Feedly. Since Google Reader is going away in just a couple of months, I needed to find another reader to keep track of my favorite blogs. I tried Blog Lovin' but I just didn't like the layout so much. For now, I'll stick to Feedly - it has a nice, clean looking page that I can customize with different views and categories.

Well, I think that's it for me, what are YOU confessing this week? 

Head over to Aubrey @ High-Heeled Love to join the confessing!
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The Plan Days 8 - 11

Day 7 - Remember I made that batch of Almond Butter cookies? Well something in them cause a reaction - maybe the coconut? I had stomach cramps and gained .8 pound. They weren't that great, so I won't mind not getting to eat the rest of them.

Day 8 -  Test Bread - I toasted my bread and smeared on my yummy raw almond butter. Then my stomach started to protest just slightly. But I'm also having my monthly cramping, so which was it? I lost 1.3 pound so think I will retest bread in a day or week or so.

Day 9 - Rest Day - Party Day - Blew it Day. Breakfast was fine, weird, but fine. I had Blueberry/Pear Compote w/ chia seeds. The texture was very strange - like crunch, slimy seeds. I have a 1/2 portion still in the fridge, so I will eat it, but will I make it again? Maybe not.

Lunch was really good - bed of mixed lettuce w/ heated sauteed veggies, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, avocado and cucumber/mango salsa with carrot soup. Very satisfying.

Then Nursing Home week social. I had my snack beforehand to help keep me strong. That was a waste of apple/almond butter. I was tempted by the chicken wings and cookies. And a bite of a cupcake. The cake was way too sweet and I threw the rest out. I usually love the icing, but it tasted really yucky, so only a bite of that. But the chicken wings, I'm not sorry about those. They may turn me into a slug later, but I'll skip the dinner animal protein tonight. I've probably gained 3 pounds. (only gained 1.5).

Day 10 - I had to give a presentation today in a city almost an hour away, so no way to pack my lunch. My program ended right at 12 noon. I hung around with my boss for a little while, then decided to head back down the mountain to do a little shopping. I was looking for a Wendy's because I knew I could get the Apple Pecan chicken salad w/ no blue cheese and no dressing. Could not find a Wendy's anywhere. I was really hungry, I saw the McDonald's  and was headed for Chicken nuggets & fries. Right across the street was an Ingles grocery.

Our Ingles have the absolute best salad bars - so I turned left instead of right, and got a delicious salad w/ a bit of fruit. Felt much better with myself for making a healthy choice. Lost 1.1 pounds.

Day 11 - With the conference yesterday I got off  schedule, so used today as another rest day, and re-tested bread. Did not have any cramping after eating it today for breakfast, had salad & leftover veggies for lunch.

For dinner I made a vegetable Timbale. I had no idea what that was until tonight. A layered vegetable salad, kind of like a lasagna (without the sauce, cheese and meat), but not really. This one called for zucchini, onions, carrots, swiss chard, mushrooms, goat cheese and manchego cheese. I was supposed to use 4-5 oz of goat cheese. I think I'm reacting a bit to the goat cheese, and I only had 1 oz anyway, so crumbled it up to give it just a touch of cheese in the middle.

The picture really doesn't do it justice. Since I haven't been using any salt or dressings, I could really taste the saltiness of the manchego cheese on top. It was delicious.

Bill’s Timbale

• 1/2 head of Swiss chard (use kale if you have thyroid dysfunction)
• 1 large zucchini
• 1 red onion
• 1 1/2 large carrots
• 4-6 oz. soft goat cheese
• 2 oz. manchego
• 8 shitake mushrooms
Preheat oven to 400 F. Use a mandolin or slice vegetables as thinly as you can. Create layers like a lasagna: zucchini, onions, Swiss chard, goat cheese, carrots, shitakes, Swiss chard, carrots, zucchini and top with manchego. Cook for 30 minutes or until top layer of cheese is slightly golden. Makes 6 servings.

Total weight loss - 4.5 pounds. Have gained twice - once on a rest day when I made those almond butter cookies, and after my cheat day earlier this week.

There are 10 days left for the formal part of the program, but I would like to continue eating this way, because I feel so much better mentally and physically. It does take a good bit of planning, but I love looking in my notebook each morning knowing exactly what I'm going to eat for the day.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Plan - Days 4 through 7

Well, I made it through the toughest part - the 3 day cleanse. And then the next four days as well.

I've not had any reactions so far to any of the "test" foods - almonds, goat cheese, dark chocolate or steak. Tomorrow I get to try bread - white bread. I'm so excited!

The ounce of chocolate at the end of the day is really worth waiting for. I'm still taking the L-Glutamine and have had zero sugar cravings. I'm going to take it for another few days, maybe this whole week coming up because it's National Nursing Home week at work, and there will be food everyday. And I'll be the one serving it everyday.

Day 4 - tested goat cheese, and I passed. I was also able to add dark chocolate in after dinner. And I could have added red wine, if I had any, but I haven't been drinking lately, so will save the wine for later.

Day 5 - tested Rye flour, and I passed. Now, I can have a rye cracker or two w/ almond butter as a snack.

Day 6 - tested steak. I was worried about this one because I love it so much. And I didn't drink enough water, so at 7:30pm I chugged about a quart and was still behind. But, lo and behold, lost 1.6 pounds, so I passed Steak! The book says that beef is tough on the digestion system and most people do well to have it only once every 7 days. So chicken is my friend, for now, until I test another protein.

Day 7 - Rest day - no testing, just all non-reactive foods.

Total weight loss so far - 4.4 pounds (in 6 days).

On the Lyn-Genet Plan facebook page she posted this wonderful looking almond cookie recipe, so I made a batch of those today. I can have them as a snack or as a dessert.

Here is the recipe:

Almond butter balls

1/3 cup almond butter
3 tbsp chia seeds
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup almond flour
1 tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350
Combine almond butter, chia seeds, coconut and almond flour in a mixing bowl.
The almond butter mix should make 9 small balls

Combine sugar and cinnamon- roll balls in sugar/cinnamon mix
bake at 350 for 10 min

Portion is 3 balls they taste like sugar cookies  and they are chock full of protein!!

The little black things are the chia seeds - they kind of look like something else, but I'm not saying...

I wouldn't go so far to say they taste like sugar cookies, like they said in the recipe, but very good. I will definitely eat the whole batch (over the week - not all at once).

This next week will be a combo of test/rest days.

Tomorrow I will test bread. And, get this, it's white bread (well I can choose wheat if I want to) but no multigrain, no flax, no oatmeal - no fancy, healthy bread. I've got gluten issues, so this will be interesting to see what happens.

After bread comes a new protein - maybe eggs or bacon? I haven't decided yet. Also this week I start to wean off the Flax granola and add in different breakfast offerings. Blueberry/Pear compote is up for Tuesday. I've already made it and it looks kind of gross, so I'm hoping it will taste completely different that what it looks like.

Thoughts so far:

  • The biggest difference I can tell, so far, is that when I wake up in the morning I am awake. I'm not groggy or sluggish. I don't have to have caffeine to "wake up." I get out of bed, and I am awake. I don't know if I have ever felt this before.

  • I am sleeping really hard at night. I used to be an incredibly hard sleeper, in the last few years have had increasing trouble with sleeping. So it's wonderful to be able to go to sleep and stay asleep all night.

  • I'm actually not dreading weighing everyday. I'm still not crazy about it, but it's not messing with me as it has in the past.

  • I think I function better with vegetable protein at lunch and animal protein at dinner. I'm not getting tired after lunch. At some point I think I actually test having 2 animal proteins in one day. For now, I think I'm doing very well with vegetable protein at lunch.

Incidentally, I've pretty much stopped all caffeine. Maybe a cup of green tea once in a while (not every day), but I've switched from my beloved black tea to rooibos and herbal teas w/ either a spot of honey or nothing at all. And I don't miss the black tea. I really thought I would. I will still drink it occasionally, but may not go back to an everyday habit.

What are you thinking about this plan? Sound interesting to you?

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Confessions 5.10.13

It's been too long since I've confessed....But here goes:

I confess: I am soooo glad the Trail Race I directed last week is OVER! I was disappointed in the turnout, but am so glad it is done. It's a lot of work and I don't mind saying that I would not be upset if the race gets dropped next year...or maybe someone else can take it over.

I confess: that I am still having my Most Annoying Foot Pain.It gets a little better, and I think it's going, and then it's not gone. I haven't run regularly in several months. My eating got out of hand and I gained back some weight.

I confess: that I needed a new strategy. So I started The Plan. I started just this week, and you can check out my progress so far here. I confess that the first 2 days were pretty tough physically, but today, day 5, I am feeling pretty good. Sleeping much, much better, and feel good physically as well as clear mentally.

I confess: that next week is National Nursing Home week, and we have special stuff going on everyday (Translation: special food every day). So I will have to watch myself from mindless eating and drinking. I will, I confess, cheat next Friday, when we have our annual BBQ lunch catered from Mutt's BBQ.

Well, I guess that's it for me, what are YOU confessing this week? 
Head over to High Heeled Love to join Aubry's Confession party!

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Plan - Days One through Three

Day One:

First thing I weighed myself. That was not fun, but as Lyn-Genet says repeatedly in her book - this is for data gathering only. I will be able to tell which foods I react to by a number of signs - one of them being weight gain.

So got that out of the way, drank my 16 oz of water and downed my liver detox pills.

Breakfast - Flax granola w/ coconut milk. One cup of this is A LOT! Lots of chewing, and I was grateful when I hit a cranberry every once in awhile. When I was almost finished I remembered that I also get blueberries, so grabbed those and dumped in the bowl as well.

Breakfast was very, very filling. There are 40 grams of protein in a cup of flax seed, and a whole lotta fiber in there too.

Lunch - Carrot Ginger soup w/ sunflower seeds (Would have been fantastic w/ salt, but wasn't terrible), Steamed broccoli - I can only eat so much broccoli, Mixed greens w/ apple and pumpkin seeds - the best part of lunch.

S - Apple

Dinner - Sauteed kale w/ coconut sauce. The sauce was really thick and rich, almost too rich. Not sure I like it. Roasted Veggies w/ lemon oil (very good), carrot/beet salad w/ pumpkin seeds. Could not eat all of the carrot/beets. It wasn't terrible, but not great, and lots of chewing.

I did get hungry on Day 1. Went to bed at 8:30pm w/ headache and woke up at 6:30am with headache and nausea.

Day Two:

Weighed myself first thing:  - 1 pound (Nice!)
Drank my water and took liver pills

My husband took one look at me and said, "I really think you should stay out today, and tomorrow, until you get past this." Well, I agreed, but had things that had to get done - Skype calls today and a lunch outing. So off to work I went. Miserably so.

Was incredibly nauseated. Could not eat my flax, could not even think about it. Packed it all up and brought to work. By 9:15a I was better and able to eat it w/ blueberries.

Lunch: Carrot soup w/ sunflower seeds, mixed greens w/ apple and avocado (Yum on the avocado!), could not stomach the broccoli.

S - apple w/ raw almonds. This is my first "test" to see if I react to almonds. We'll see when I weigh in the morning. Have had no physical reaction so far - my headache is worse, but think that is because the Anacin has worn off.

Dinner - Sauteed Kale w/ coconut sauce, beet & carrot salad, and RICE! I was so excited about the rice. It was delicious!! But could not eat the beet & carrot. I could not get warm, and the salad was cold, so I just skipped it.

The food "tests" are in the least reactive to the most reactive, so the foods I will test this week will be the least reactive, for most people.

Day Three:

Weighed first thing: -.8 pound - total 1.8
Drank Water, took liver pills and probiotics

I did not react to the raw almonds yesterday. Yay!!

I slept hard and woke up very well, clear headed without my normal grogginess.

Breakfast - Flax granola w/ 1/2 pear & coco milk - I was late to work due to 8am hair appointment. Had a 9am bfast meeting. It was tempting sitting in that room w/ eggs, biscuits & gravy aromas wafting around me. But I resisted, and ate my stuff afterward in my office.

Lunch - Headed out for lunch outing to Strawberry Hill. So flipped lunch & dinner today. I ordered a grilled chicken salad with no cheese, bacon or dressing. But what I really wanted was a hamburger and tater tots with strawberries for dessert. Ah, this is only 20 days, and I'll be back at Strawberry Hill at the end of the month. I did sneak a couple of french fries, hopefully that will have ill effects. They weren't even that great.

Dinner - Cream of Broccoli soup - very yummy. Made with coconut milk. Very good. Mixed greens w/ avocado and pumpkin seeds, dressed w/ lemon oil.

Day Four weigh in: -.7
Total cleanse weight loss : -2.5

Today I get to have some goat cheese. Looking forward to lunch!

So far very pleased with results. My head feels clearer and less sluggish. More blog reports to follow!

What do you think of this plan? of this idea that our body has chemical reactions to certain foods?Have you had reactions to "healthy" foods?

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