The longest night — Chronicles from Concordia

Dr. Stijn Thoolen is the ESA-sponsored medical doctor spending 12 months at Concordia research station in Antarctica. He facilitates a number of experiments on the effects of isolation, light deprivation, and extreme temperatures on the human body and mind. Find this blog post in the original Dutch below. Concordia, July 10, 2020Sunlight: noneWindchill temperature: -84°CMood:…

via The longest night — Chronicles from Concordia

Healthy Journey – Appetite

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m going on a healthy journey, a path that I call “The Journey to Genkijima.” 

I drew a map that showed a path to this mythical, but still very important island, the island of my own good health.  “Genki” is a Japanese word meaning, among other things, “energetic good health.”  “Jima” means island, similar to “Shima.”  It’s not just about being healthy, but being vigorous, positive.  You can see the map I drew here.  I placed gold and silver star stickers for every pound I lost.  I’ve set up different landmarks on the map and the destination, in my mind, looks a lot like the Fall Forest in Horse Isle 3.

At this point I’ve gotten past the lighthouse at One-Derland, and am crossing Bravery Bay.  I had to put more spots on the map to make a longer path because I realized that I should really end up at a hundred and forty pounds, not a hundred and fifty.

That’s been going pretty well actually, even after quarantine, and I’m sixty pounds lighter than when I started.  I still have forty-five or so to go but I already feel so much better.  My blood pressure is way down and my resting heart rate is sixty!

In any case, now that I’ve seen some real success over the long term, I’m going to start sharing some of the strategies that have worked for me.

So today’s topic is appetite.

Big topic! But it can really help if you learn to manage it. Since everybody knows the standard tips about using caffeine or drinking lots of water or eating lots of fiber, I want to go beyond that. As far as I’ve been able to find, appetite has three major causes.

Actual need for fuel/nutrients
Gut biota, number and types
Emotional and mental habits

I’ll take these one by one and show how I have been able to manage my appetite by keeping these things in mind. I have had no uncontrolled binges for about six months now and honestly… I haven’t gone that long without an uncontrolled eating session since I was maybe seven or eight years old, when I wasn’t in charge of how much I ate. I freakin’ love food. Always have. Especially sugar and carbs. So how did I manage half a year without any binges, and without going off the rails after a holiday meal?

Need for fuel/nutrients

A person will have massive cravings if they aren’t eating enough or if the food they are eating doesn’t give them the nutrients they need. If you are missing major nutrients that your body needs, you’ll run into problems, so I try to get a good range of foods to make sure that I am getting the right kinds of fuel. Also I’m eating more and more whole foods because they are likely to have nice little added bonus vitamins and trace minerals that other foods may not.

Gut biota

Increasing amounts of research is saying that the gut bacteria that helps us digest our food has a massive impact on what we crave or even want to eat. The good news is, you can change the population in your gut by persistently eating more and more of the foods that are better for you. Within a week or so, you can see some pretty big changes. For example, now lentils seem really good to me. I’ve also noticed that eating some fiber and prebiotics (the food that survives to the intestines and feeds the bacteria) can make me crave other foods. For example, I started off by cutting way back on sugar and eating more apples and veggies I liked, such as carrots, broccoli, that sort of thing. Before long I was really loving the idea of eating lentils, spinach, red cabbage, whole wheat, and more. Healthier foods actually tasted better to me because of this population change. Also my sugar cravings backed off so they weren’t so insane.

Example of an effect of this change: I thought I’d stashed some gourmet jellybeans for my birthday. My birthday was a “holiday” so I could eat sugar if I wanted to. These were some wicked nice jellybeans, bought at Trader Joe’s, made in Ireland. Yet, because I wasn’t craving sugar nearly as much, I was able to realize that they were left at work, where I couldn’t get to them, and I was able to go “it’s okay, I won’t have them” and continue on with my day. Previously I would have obsessed about it.


Our emotions can have a huge impact on our success. Most of us know that. For example, if there is a lot of self sabotage lurking behind the scenes, we might put ourselves in situations that could hamper our success. Habits are a huge part of this too. For every old habit we have, we need to replace it with a new habit. Habits can definitely cause us to be hungry at certain times of the day, and emotions can cause false hunger as well. So we might really need to do some work on ourselves to get to the point where we are ready to gain that health we so richly deserve, and convince ourselves that the effort is really worth it.

Being in touch with what is going on inside us can help us think “I’m not hungry, I’m just bored” or “why don’t I go have a cuddle instead of that bag of chips? That’s what I really want.” Doing that can help you realize that our bodies actually do crave what’s good for them, but sometimes those cravings are harder to hear at first.

With that in mind, I found it really helpful to plan my meals around when I am least and most hungry, and plan the type of meal accordingly as well. For example, I am not all that hungry in the morning – unless I eat a carb-rich breakfast with little protein. At lunch I know hat I’m not usually that hungry either, when I’m busy with work. When I’m not, I get bored more easily and also want more food. I usually have a mid afternoon slump, around teatime, where I really need something to get me through. My spouse and I both like a big dinner, and sometimes I snack in the evenings.

With all that in mind, it works best for me if I do something like this:

Small breakfast, invariably including protein, and caffeine when I want it. No sugar in the caffeine, and carbs must be complex. Example: eggs, a protein bar, a whole wheat flatbread with lentils, or oatmeal with a scoop of PBfit and a couple ounces of blueberries, or pizza if that’s what we had the day before.

Lunch needs protein in it too, so I’ll do something like a protein bar (my go-to if I don’t know what else to have), eggs and veggies, avocado with toast or flatbread, green soup and flatbread, leftover chicken from the dinner before, one of my breakfast options, or something random like roasted chickpeas, or an apple, PBfit, and a beef stick. Once I get back to work I’ll start eating more salads, or maybe sooner provided I can keep them good long enough to finish the leafy greens.

Afternoon snack is handled nicely with a protein shake or an apple with PBfit.

Dinner can be any number of things. It might be pizza, hommade sushi, a cup of rice with chicken on top, soup, chili, whatever. I usually save enough calories from before that I can have a bit more for dinner. I try to add vegetables when I can, and when we have something like udon or other noodles I weigh them carefully and pick a better option like buckwheat soba or brown rice vermicelli. Or we might have rice and baked salmon or a burger and grilled corn. I allow more in the way of carbs at dinner, but still weigh carefully.

Snack might be a square of dark chocolate or maybe some wasabi peas, nothing big. I might have nuts or something like that but I weigh those carefully too. I have a secret weapon if I wake up hungry in the middle of the night or need something right before bed – nonfat cottage chese.

I think this illustrates how appetite tracking works. If I know when I am likely to be hungry, and when I am likely to be not hungry, I can plan ahead and balance things so I get what I need when I need it. I can also plan ahead so if I am unexpectedly hungry I can do something about it – like have a cup of hot tea, or a protein shake, or some cottage cheese for example. I try to make my supplemental snacks either calorie free, or high in protein. Though I eat a lot of low fat foods, I do have fat in my diet, usually in the form of avocado or salmon or nuts or something like that, not usually in condiments. Besides, I would rather spend my calories on protein or good carbs, given a choice.

Other tips that have helped me:

Aside from the above strategy, sometimes it helps for me to have some warm miso soup (about 40 calories) or some tea, whether herbal or caffeinated. The warmth in my stomach gives me that full, warm sensation I’m looking for as well as hydration. This is good for when I know I’ve had enough to eat but I still want a bit of a snack.

Find the healthiest version possible of your favorite foods and work them into your diet.

For example, I LOVE pizza, so I figured out how to make my own, which is not only tastier, but when I make it I can keep it to about 600 calories for two generously sized slices. That’s not only better than any other pizza you can buy at a pizzaria, it’s real pizza, not pita pizza or cauliflower pizza or anything like that. If you made those you could probably do way better than me on the calories. My pizza is a handmade crust where I weigh the flour so I know how much is going into each quarter pizza, with turkey pepperoni, reduced fat mozzarella, black olives, boneless skinless chicken breast, mushrooms, and tomato sauce. The reduced fat cheese and the turkey pepperoni help shave off fat but don’t really affect the taste all that much.

Another example is chocolate. Love the stuff. So I found squares that fit into my calorie counts and I eat them slowly. Dove Promises work pretty well for this and Ghiradelli squares all have the calories on the individually wrapped square.

PBFit has been nice for my peanut butter fix, I make an apple dip by mixing it with cinnamon and water. I also have a favorite brand of protein shake that is lower in calorie and includes some added vitamins.

Weighing food has helped train my eye so that I can more accurately estimate what a proper portion is. It’s a learning tool as much as it is a tool to help me know exactly what’s going into me.

Along with understanding appetite and what causes cravings, thinking of my food as a “budget” helps me out a lot. When I want a huge bowl of noodles I think “is this actually going to satisfy me or is this going to make me want more, when I’ve already reached my limit? What could I do to this so I still get my noodles but I’m better satisfied?” So I’ll cut my noodle portion in half and add veggies. Or I’ll think “this looks delicious but if I start eating it, is the normal portion really going to be worth it, when I’ll just want more and this other thing will be better for me?”

Understanding not only when we are hungry, but why, really helps when we’re trying to retrain ourselves. It can be the difference between steady success and yo-yo dieting. It can also make our journey a whole lot more comfortable!

Green Summer Soup

It’s a green soup for a green summer!   It’s also savory and filling, full of good veggies, and is only about 150 calories for a 1.5 cup serving.   You don’t really taste the spinach all that much, the basil and dill improves and brightens the flavor.    The soup is good hot or cold, freezes well, and keeps well in the fridge for at least a week.


1 pound of frozen spinach
1 12 oz package of frozen broccoli and cauliflower
1 package fresh basil (about 6 oz)
1 15 oz can chickpeas
Few ounces mushrooms (to taste, roughly 4 or 5 oz)
4 or 5 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TB dried dill weed
4 large chicken bouillon cubes (I used Caldo de Pollo but you could use any, including vegetarian bouillon or even homemade stock)
Water as needed

Cook spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and garlic gently until just tender. Turn off heat. Blend 1 can chickpeas, with liquid, until smooth. Add part of the bunch of dill, plus any water needed for processing, and blend till smooth.

Blend all vegetables until smooth and well mixed, including garlic. Return vegetables to pot and heat gently, adding bouillon cubes, dill, salt, and pepper to taste. Freshly cracked pepper is the best.  Add sliced mushrooms and stop simmering when they are tender. Do not over-cook, color should still be a vibrant jade green.

Serve hot or cold with whole wheat or sourdough bread, naan, pita, or any other bread/flatbread.  This can also make a good sauce or dip.

Tips:  Remove stems from basil before blending, if you want to avoid a funky fibrous texture.

Work in smaller batches and use extra liquid if your blender isn’t very strong. Can also use a food processor.

Variations: Experiment with other vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, etc to initial simmer. Can also use pure broccoli or pure cauliflower.  If you use fresh spinach, remove stems first unless you have a really powerful blender.  Puree and add more canned chickpeas, white beans or butter beans for additional protein and fiber.  Adjust spices as desired.


Green Summer Soup

Horse Isle 3 – Horse Barbers are here!

We’ve been waiting for this for quite a long time, the ability to alter our horses’ manes and tails.  There is a note on the horse profile that makes it possible to always see that a mane or tail has been altered.  Also, you can always go back to a horse’s natural mane and tail shape by paying $1,000 in gold dust.  Otherwise these changes are permanent.  Of course, changes don’t pass on to foals.  You can use the Barber by going to any club with an Ostler.  The Ostler also still cares for horses.

The great part about the Barber is that they can dye manes and tails, usually a base color and a tip color.  I have made all my example images using a white horse with black base color and red tip color for easy visibility but you can choose from a fairly wide palette.

Options and prices are below!

Mane Natural
Natural Dyeable Mane $1,500
Mane Short Silky
Short Silky $2,500
Mane Medium Silky
Medium Silky $2,500







Mane Long Silky
Long Silky $2,500
Mane Short Coarse
Short Coarse $2,500
Mane Medium Coarse
Medium Coarse $2,500
Mane Long Coarse
Long Coarse $2,500
Mane Short Standing
Short Standing $2,500
Mane Medium Standing
Medium Standing $2,500
Mane Long Standing
Long Standing $2,500
Mane Messy Standing
Messy Standing $2,500
Mane None
No Mane $2,500
Mane Chess Pattern
Chess Pattern $2,500
Mane Forelock
Forelock $2,500
Mane Roached
Roached $2,500 (1 color)
Mane Triangle Pattern
Triangle Pattern $2,500
Mane Wave Pattern
Wave Pattern $2,500

Mane - Standing - Tricolor








Mane - Standing Polka Dot






Polka Dots

Mane - Hunter Braids



Mane Button Braids
Hunter Braids $3,000

Mane Button Braids

Button Braids $3,000

Natural Dyable

Natural Dye-able Tail $1,500

Tail Short Natural


Short Natural Tail $2,500






Tail Medium Natural


Medium Natural Tail $2,500






Tail Long Natural

Long Natural Tail $2,500







Tail Braided


Braided Tail $3000

(Can choose color of base, tip, and ties)





Tail Bang


Banged Tail $2500






Tail Braided and Banged


Braided and Banged $3,500






Tail Braided Arab


Note:  The base of your horse’s tail will remain the same, so if you braid an Arab’s tail, for example, you’ll get something like this.





Interested in joining? 

Click  HERE or go to the HI3 site and put in my user ID, 1023.   Whenever you buy your first subscription, you’ll be rewarded with 10 Esroh Essence (good for more energy) and 1000 gold dust to help you along!

Our webmistress is nearly 13 weeks old!

Here’s a progress report on the Webmistress, and her brother!

Little Nishiko is growing like a weed.  She already likes to help me on the computer – and her training as a webmistress is going well.  It’s truly amazing how many traits she shares with Nezumi.  She even likes lettuce as she did!  She likes the same flavors of cat food, dislikes the same things, and has similar body language and habits.  It’s like having sweet Nezumi back in our lives again – and perhaps that is so.

Nishiko’s brother, Hiroshi, is wonderful and active and friendly.  The two of them play/fight every morning and every evening.  One of the things I love about Hiroshi is that the moment he sees me or the spouse, or if not then the moment I start petting him, he begins a deep, loud purr.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Sometimes when he’s a rascal I call him “monkey”  because of his really long tail and habit of grabbing everything.

These kittens are a trial sometimes, but they bring me true joy and have healed the deep well of pain that Nezumi’s passing left.  Sometimes I spend time just looking at them, drinking in their perfection.  The spouse and I both feel such love for them, there aren’t words to express it.

Shinji is being a wonderful foster father, doling out discipline with a gentle paw, even when he’s annoyed.  He also grooms them and cuddles them, and even once in a while plays with him.  Hiroshi wants to be like Shinji when he grows up, I can tell.  Nishiko plays with Shinji less but relies on him more for comfort and occasionally protection.

All three cats are just wonderful.  I’ve maintained a mostly grain free diet, including occasional treats of cottage cheese or unseasoned grilled chicken, that I make in little foil packets so that it’s protected from any salt.  They have boundless energy and are developing into truly beautiful cats.  They are also INTO EVERYTHING and on an endless quest to learn everything possible about their world.

As for progress, Nishiko and Hiroshi know their names, sort of come when called, and know “up,” “down,” and “no.”  They don’t always listen to “no” but they know what it means.  Tip for fellow kitten parents:  Get a squeaky toy that is as loud and shrill as possible.  It mimics a kitten’s distress sound so is a pretty good auditory deterrent, like if they start climbing up your bare legs or biting your fingers.  It tells them “ow!  That hurts!” and they understand it pretty well.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!  They are taken during the past couple weeks.

Nishiko belly
I’m as big as Foster-Dad!  See?
all three in window June 28
A well deserved nap
Crazy Hiroshi
Brother, you’re such a goof
Hiroshi on chair large
I, Hiroshi, survey my domain
I meant to do that
Time for a streeeeeeetch



Our Webmistress is growing up…

…and discovering a passion for hockey.  Nishiko and her brother Hiroshi are nine weeks old as of yesterday and they are rambunctious and full of play.  I hope you enjoy these various kitten photos.  At the end we even have two videos!

nishiko perfection 1500
Nishiko knows all about staying hydrated.
Nishiko near window 1500
Here she is near the window
nap with brother 1800
Brother’s asleep and Nishiko’s full of mischief
Senpai instructs 1600
Uncle Shinji instructs his two padawans
Happy cat family at 9 weeks
Uncle Shinji keeps Hiroshi in line and entertains Nishiko with his tail.

And now for the two videos – I hope you enjoy.


Webmistress Update – They’re He-ere!

Two lovely and rambunctious kittens have now made it to their new home.  Our wonderful little calico webmistress, Nishiko, already rules the roost with her brother and also my older cat, Shinji.  They are settling in well but have a LOT of energy.  I wouldn’t have it any other way but I confess, sometimes I’m exhausted.  Here are picture of them at 8 weeks – taken during the few seconds they held still.


kitten serious face june 7 2000
Kitten royalty – such serious faces!
kittens sleeping june 7 2000
Sleeping – for now
perfect kittens june 7 2000
Big brother and little Webmistress

Greetings from paradise! — Chronicles from Concordia

Dr. Stijn Thoolen is the ESA-sponsored medical doctor spending 12 months at Concordia research station in Antarctica. He facilitates a number of experiments on the effects of isolation, light deprivation, and extreme temperatures on the human body and mind. Find this blog post in the original Dutch below. Concordia, April 7, 2020Sunlight: about 10 hoursWindchill…

via Greetings from paradise! — Chronicles from Concordia

“A little pile of love and paws”

…or so a friend of mine called the picture of the kittens in the basket.

Here are the latest pictures of our webmistress, Nishiko, and her protective brother, Hiroshi.  They are getting nearer to adoption age!  Their current two-legged guardian tells me that they play together a lot, so I’m very happy I’ll be able to take them home together.  As a reminder to all other kitten guardians, I’ll be having Hiroshi fixed before he reaches four months – probably at about the three month mark.  I’ve heard of females going into first heat as early as four months so I’m being extra careful.

As of Monday, they were six weeks old!  They are using the litter box, have been weaned for a couple of weeks, and are roughhousing with their mother and each other.

Enjoy the pictures!

week 6 cropped
Hiroshi is the gray, Nishiko the calico
Week 6 Hiroshi and Nishiko
Hiroshi makes a great pillow, says Nishiko


Meet the Experts: Isolation in Antarctica — Chronicles from Concordia

Cold, dark, remote, Antarctica is as close to space as you can get on Earth. Humans conduct research in Antarctic bases on a wide range of topics, from climate studies and astronomy to glaciology and human physiology and psychology. Dr. Stijn Thoolen, the ESA-sponsored research doctor based at the French/Italian Concordia research station in Antarctica,…

via Meet the Experts: Isolation in Antarctica — Chronicles from Concordia