Visit to little villages…A great day out and about…Photos…

Wildflowers growing in the little village of Colognora, the smaller of two villages with the same name. At night beyond the mountains, we can see a scattering of lights in the distance. That is the location of the other Colognora that we may visit someday. 
Today was a great day! I don’t know why Tom’s haircut days are such fun, but they consistently prove memorable. Tomorrow, we’ll share his haircut story and photos, a delightful experience.
As we mentioned, staying put in our cozy surroundings in Boveglio is easy. At our fingertips are all the distractions we love; good books to read, Internet access, favorite TV shows and movies downloaded on our laptops, amazing views, mouth-watering food, and of course, the companionship of one another. Why go anywhere? We’re relatively comfortable.
The proverbial laundry basket (we have the same style) in front of a house in the village of Colognora, filled with wet clothes. “Where shall we hang them today?” the owner of this house may ask. “Why not leave them on the road until we decide?”  We love the casual attitude of the Italians. Can you imagine placing your laundry basket filled with wet clothes on the road in front of your house? The neighbors would wonder about you!

Why go anywhere? We’re relatively comfortable in our now familiar surroundings. Alas, it’s the food thing. With few restaurants nearby plus my peculiar way of eating, dining out is more of a chore than a relaxing experience. 

Even with the use of my printed list in Italian of my “can have” and “can’t have,” it becomes stressful and challenging for the chefs in this country, in particular, to create a meal in which they feel proud of their skills and quality ingredients. And chefs in Italy indeed take pride in every plate of food that is placed in front of a guest. We get it.

Throw a juicy rare steak or a piece of grilled fish, a side of steamed veggies, and a big salad in front of me, and I’m thrilled. But for a chef, this offers little satisfaction. As a result, we cringe at the thought of dining out often. 

The language barrier makes it impossible to explain the omission of many foods they perceive as “safe” to eat for gluten intolerant individuals. For me, it’s much more that must be restricted.

We couldn’t decide what this tiny building was, with a park bench in front of it. Could it be a bus stop? It doesn’t look like a garage.

As a result of these issues, we’ve wrapped ourselves in the reality of being our chefs, preparing fun and delicious meals, no questions asked. With an abundance of the finest ingredients in the grocery stores in Italy (although many of my everyday ingredients are unavailable), we have been able to adapt most of our favorite meals to provide us with a delightful presentation and a mouth-watering experience.

More steep roads lead to attached and unattached houses.
After our sightseeing excursion today, we headed to our new favorite grocery store in Pescia’s larger (19,851 pop.) town, a 35-minute drive down the winding mountainous road with no less than 50 hairpin turns.
The trip seems less intimidating as we’ve become more at ease with the drive, coupled with Tom’s good driving. Today, we decided to visit several villages along the way. We’d rush to get our groceries back home on the way back.

This looks like “our town” of Boveglio. But it’s not! Are we noticing a similarity in each of these charming little villages, a bell tower?

After stopping in these little villages and exploring their nuances and charms, we headed for Pescia to find a barbershop before going to the grocery. Yesterday, we looked up the word for a barber shop in Italian (Barbiere) which I not only wrote in my smartphone’s notes app but locked in my memory banks of yet another Italian word learned (not that many so far).
A view of the mountain from Colognora as more clouds roll in. The day it started sunny and clear. The haze in many of our mountain fountains is due to the massive amount of vegetation in the hills, creating a constant confusion of humidity.
We’d looked online on several sites for any possible Barbiere in Pescia with no luck. Many were either out of business or hadn’t been updated in years. Not in the mood for a wild goose chase, we decided to visit a few strip malls we’d noticed on our past visits. 
As Tom slowly cruised the strip mall parking lot, I yelled out the door to two men sitting outside a shop, “Barbiere?”  They started waving their arms immediately, pointing to a little shop we’d easily missed. More on this story tomorrow, as mentioned above.
An hour later, we were once again on our way to the grocery store, Esselunga in Pescia, forgoing any more trips to Collodi for food at the tiny, grumpy grocery store next door to the tiny grumpy bank where Tom invariably ends up locked inside the theft-proof revolving tube. 
Once again, we drove around with no available parking spots until we located a place in the overflow lot. With my Euro $1, I paid to unlock a grocery cart heading inside the store. Leaving Tom in the car to join me in 45 minutes, he could continue to peek in the rearview mirror at his latest haircut, yet to determine if it suited his liking. 
Parking the car, we walked to explore Colognora. The roads were too narrow and the
 Houses too close not to intrude upon the homeowners, many of whom were either hanging laundry or working in their gardens.

Oddly, I had more fun on this grocery shopping trip than any other since leaving the US. With my usual free grocery shopping app Grocery Tracker on my phone with literally every meal planned for the next two weeks and now familiar with the store’s layout, I felt confident it would be a pleasant experience.

A closer look at the bell tower in Colognora is almost identical to our everyday view.

Indeed it was! At the deli, where we buy meats, cheeses, Prosciutto, and bacon, the deli guy spoke English. Oh, I was in heaven. He was the first English-speaking employee we’ve encountered since arriving here almost four weeks ago. I almost couldn’t stop ordering. 

Euros $33.11 later, Tom had since arrived to help (we waited to order all the meat purchases last), and we were on a roll. Our overflowing cart required an additional handheld basket. Looking at the vast amount of food as we began checking out, I was confident; we’d be near US $400 when all was said and done.

Hundreds of years later, Stone endures to provide excellent insulated housing for generations of homeowners.

As we were presented with a total, we handed over a credit card; I was stunned that Tom was too busy packing the groceries to notice. I saved the news for the ride back, the news being our grocery total for two weeks, every meal, was a paltry Euro $222, translating to US $289!

Many old houses show water damage and wear due to heavy precipitation and humidity in the Tuscan regions.

On the winding ride back, the stick shift jerking to and fro, I read that long receipt from top to bottom, looking for an error attributing to our good fortune. The total of US $289, resulting in a total of US $144.50 per week to eat like queens and kings, was beyond me.

The red paint slashed across the town’s name indicates leaving the village limits.
We’d purchased a half-a-cart full of the freshest organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, locally made exquisite cheeses, and free-range eggs, enough to feed us for 14 days and nights. Why is it so much less than what we paid in the US, never less than $200 per week, using coupons and scrambling to get the most current specials? Who knows?
As we drove through Bagni di Lucca with the car windows opened, we heard the rushing water inspiring us to find a place to park and get out.
After numerous trips up and down the stone steps, emptying one grocery bag after another, washing all the produce, freezing portioned servings into freezer bags, and placing it all in our newly cleaned and defrosted (by Tom a few days ago) refrigerator and freezer, we felt that comfortable sensation of “plenty” one feels when the cupboard is full. Plenty and grateful.
Many years ago, the creek running through the village created an enticing backdrop for the many homes along its banks.
This black rod was placed on the creek’s edge to keep visitors from entering.
After considerable time spent, it’s now time to prepare dinner; tonight, something easy and quick; bread-less “Jimmy John” type club sandwiches, fresh green beans on the side, and of course, our usual giant bowl of coleslaw which we cut up a short time ago. Large Romaine lettuce leaves serve as the bread while we wrap everything tightly in parchment paper to be rolled down as one eats. 
Ingredients: freshly sliced deli ham, fresh sliced turkey, cooked bacon, sliced tomatoes, sliced purple onion, sliced Provolone cheese, and a glob or real mayonnaise, all of which is wrapped tightly as one would wrap an egg roll or sushi roll. 
I should have adjusted the camera in the momentary brightness of the sun better to reflect the poppies on the edge of the creek. I am still learning.

We enjoy yet another episode of The Borgias and Dexter, downloaded from Graboid, and a dinner of our giant “sandwiches” with the windows wide open on another beautiful evening, minus swatting a few flies, bees, and mosquitoes. Who’s to complain? Not us!

Old, abandoned property that most likely burned many ago. In the US, burned-out structures would be required to be demolished. Not so much here in Italy. We’ve seen many of these.
We were looking back from Bagni di Lucca to Colognora as we continued on our journey to Pescia to load up on groceries and find a Barbieri (barbershop) for Tom. He hasn’t had a haircut since March in Belize.
I know. This looks almost identical to the above photo of Colognora, but it’s the bell tower at Villa Basicalla, another village we visited today.
Some areas of Villa Basicalla appeared to have newer homes with apparent new construction in process at this time. This road suddenly was filled with cars, giving us little opportunity to stop and take more photos.

Still under the weather…Sharing a published story about us…

While we were still living in Belize up until April 9, 2013, I wrote this new article upon the request of successful best selling author and health advocate, Jonathan Bailor.  

Retired Minnesota Couple’s “Living SANE, traveling the world”

By Jess Lyman (pictured above)
As we sit on our veranda  less than 25 feet from the Caribbean Sea, the constant calming sound of the sea as background music to our ears, we remember when  we were no different  from  average baby boomers; content to stay home, cook  great meals, visit  with family and friends, and  spend  our requisite lounging time in front of the TV.

We left it all.  On January 3, 2013, we boarded the Celebrity Century in San Diego  on our way through the Panama Canal, to begin a five to ten year long journey we’ll continue  until we don’t want to travel an more, until we tire of hauling our luggage, or until we feel a compelling desire to stay put.

Nineteen months ago,  we began another journey of drastically changing our diet.We no longer eat wheat or other grain,  processed gluten free foods,  starch ( corn or corn based products, no beans)  soy or soy based products, no sugar ( agave or other purported safe sugars all of which raise blood glucose levels),  or  fruit other than a few berries. We now eat grass fed meat,  wild caught fish  free range chicken and eggs,  non-starchy vegetables, coconut, almond and hazelnut flour, raw nuts, hard cheeses, cream cheese, unsweetened coconut milk, real butter and coconut oil.

Here’s my story.  From the time I was a teenager, my life revolved around limited portions, denying myself favorite foods and constantly being on a diet.  With a family history of severe diabetes, morbid obesity, debilitating  joint and spine disease, and rampant heart disease,  I began my adult life on a mission to stay slim, frequently going up and down in weight, often as much as 50 pounds, to eventually lose it all on some radical “diet of the month.” I exercised rigorously most of my life.   I tried it all.  I was determined.

I was always hungry, always looking at other people’s plates, wondering why I couldn’t eat that burger, those fries, that triple-decker sandwich on toasted white bread or that lofty piece of gooey chocolate cake topped with a large dollop of ice cream.

Was I eating more “calories” than I needed,  consuming  recommended amounts of carb-laden foods?  What I had perceived to be “healthy” foods packed on the weight;  whole grain breads and pasta,  lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, dried fruit, beans, whole wheat pitas and bagels, yogurt with fruit,  corn on the cob, winter squash and sweet potatoes.   Wasn’t I eating exactly what the medical profession described as a healthy diet?

Over the past 20 years, no manner how hard I tried to be healthy and escape the ravages of my “genes” I suffered with high blood sugar, high blood pressure, chronic debilitating pain and had already had one heart surgery.  I was told a total spinal fusion, from C1 to L5, was the only way to reduce the pain.  My life was going downhill fast.  A wheelchair was imminent.

I refused the surgery instead going on a mission to save my life.  I started with Dr. William Davis’s book, Wheat Belly, 19 months ago, beginning the radical changes in diet  After three months on the diet, I awoke one morning, for the first time in over 20 years, pain free.  I thought it was a fluke.
Then Jonathan Bailor’s book, The Smarter Science of Slim hit the market.  I devoured every word from cover to cover in one day and sent the Amazon link to no less than 10 of my family members and friends.

Prior to reading the book, I worked out six times a week at a local health club, an hour and a half a day, compared to a gerbil  running on a wheel, running into oblivion, performing the same mundane protocol and seeing little results.

After reading Jonathan’s book we changed  our diet to include more protein, from 60 grams a day to around 125 grams, upping our non-starchy vegetable consumption four fold.  The day after reading the book, I couldn’t wait to go to the health club to try my new protocol, instructions on my smart phone in hand, learning high intensity interval training.

It was hard to believe that two  ten- minute  sessions a week plus an active lifestyle of about 10,000 steps per day would dramatically change my health,  body composition, strength and endurance. The eight pounds I was carrying around my mid-section literally fell away. I am full for the first time in my life!  So satisfied that I  forget to eat.  So satisfied that I don’t  go rummaging around the kitchen at night craving something sweet. So satisfied that my waistline has shrunk by 3 inches and I don’t have to lay on the bed to zip my otherwise well-fitting jeans.

The pain is gone, the sleepless nights are a thing of the past, my muscles have grown  into noticeable definition, my strength has increased and I have more energy.

Why, if calories do count, can I now consume 1800 calories a day, 400 more than in the past while desperately trying to maintain my weight?  If calories do count, by now, I should have gained 66 pounds!  Instead, I’ve lost 8!

But most of all, the pain is gone. Yes, gone. After the first year, my lipids are normal for the first time in my adult life!  My blood sugar is normal.

My dear husband Tom has lost 45 pounds since we read Jonathan’s book, 45 pounds of pure and simple toxic belly fat.  Also, months ago, he was able to quit taking seven prescription pills a day, no longer has irritable bowel disease, acid reflux and constant abdominal bloating and pain.  Months ago, he quit smoking and hasn’t gained back a single pound!

Combined, we are a team to be reckoned with!

Twice a week, we walk to a resort next door that has a little health club where I spend 10 minutes, lifting weights, the HIIT way, surprised that I can do it, invigorated by the results and still in awe as to how little time it actually takes.

Currently, we’re living in Placenica Belize, departing soon after a 2 1/2 month stay in a villa on the Caribbean Sea. The cows here are skinny. Yes, skinny. They eat grass and wild vegetation, not grain. They use no pesticides or chemicals here to grow their produce or livestock. Chicken, the main protein source,  roaming free in the farms. Their eggs are all organic, brown and $2 a dozen. This has been a heavenly experience.

Every few days early in the morning, we walk to the adjoining town to buy fresh organic at the outdoor vegetable stand.  The cauliflower is not perfectly shaped, the broccoli is sparse in places, the carrots are uneven shapes and the cabbage,  not as dense as I recall.  Why?  No chemicals. The produce grows unencumbered, a product of clean, non chlorinated spring water, a soil free from “Round-Up Ready” modified seeds and merely subject to varying weather conditions and the loving hands of the local people who  pick it.

Now, as we travel to our next adventures–  Dubai this spring;  Tuscany, Italy this summer; Kenya in the fall;  South Africa in the winter;  Morocco the next spring and on and on, we’ll continue to seek out the simple foods we choose to eat, a safe place to walk, a little corner to exercise and we’re home free… albeit, we don’t have a home… but, in any case, we are free.
For more about our story, please visit us at:

Enjoy the new Smarter Science of Slim podcast on iTunes

The Slim Is Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort