Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Basic Tuesday

Ran my go-to 4 miles this evening. Imported some 80s & 90s music to help me out. I'd have to say that the second mile was the hardest; I think I was running at a quicker pace for the first two miles, and at my normal pace for the last two. Because of my post-vacation respiratory infection, I haven't run since last Tuesday, so I'm really glad that I'm well enough to get back to my regularly scheduled workout.

Dinner is straight out of The Front Burner: millet cooked with half water, half vegetable broth topped with sauteed green beans, seasoned with a tsp of coconut oil and some fiery crushed red pepper. Plus some mystery melon for dessert!

Still trying to use up all the strawberries. I've got a batch cleaned and hulled and ready for use.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Strawberry fields

On vacation for a week, sick for a week. Still finishing up the illness, in fact, though I can tell I'm on the mend because I'm being productive once again. Especially in the kitchen.

After reading Tartelette's recent post about blueberry sorbet-filled macarons, I was in the mood to try my hand at homemade sorbet. Alas! I live in a land where blueberries are not laying in flats around every corner. There were a few baskets still available at the farmers' market, but in nothing even close to my price range. So I went with the old So Cal standby this time of year: strawberries. Pesticide free!

Three baskets were $4. A half flat of six baskets was $5. I bought the half flat, thinking, "I'm going to need a lot of berries for sorbet."

Eh...not so much. Here's the recipe I went with, out of my Cuisinart ice cream maker recipe book: 1 C sugar + 1 C water to make a simple syrup, 1/4 C corn syrup, 1 quart strawberries, hulled, pureed, and shoved through a strainer. Mix well, chill, and then process in the maker. Currently everything is at the "chilling" stage. I do, however, have a delightfully red goo taking up space in my fridge, which is always a plus.

So I used up 2 pints. Which leaves me with four. What am I going to do with four pints of strawberries? Yes, I know: eat them. However, I know they're not going to keep in the fridge for that long, which means I may have to tip into the recipe in a section at the back of the book, which specializes in boozy frozen drinks.

Strawberry daquiris, anyone?

So now I have four pints left.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

And the number 5.

Today's run was brought to you by the letter V. For Vasen Street.

Like most people, I have many different types of music on my iPod, including one album by these three fabulous string players. It was very pleasant to listen to, and actually helped me be a little bit more playful on the second half of the run. Somewhere during mile four, I thought to myself, "Okay, I'm doing five miles. That's about one-fifth of a marathon. Could I do this five miles five times? I think so." Somehow five times 5.2 miles doesn't seem nearly as daunting as 26.2 miles.

I dunked my feet in a bucket of ice water after I finished stretching. I was chatting on the phone with my sister (she rules!), and making all kinds of "oh, freezing!" sound effects. Eventually I realized that I didn't have a towel nearby, so after I hung up I got to toddle through the house with wet, numb feet to the linen closet. Left ankle was still not so happy, so I've got it wrapped up for a bit in an elastic bandage. (FYI, left leg has suffered some nerve damage, so it has, shall we say, "special needs".)

Today was also brought to you by the letter Z. For zucchini!

Anyone who has ever planted zucchini before knows the the slightly fuzzy-prickly outside of a ripe young zucchini. See, if you don't get them while they're young, they turn into mutant monster gigantic zucchini that threaten to take over your neighborhood. The only solution is to foist them off on people; the zuc I broke into this evening came all the way from friends in Ventura.

Zucchini is mostly water and a cell wall, i.e. it doesn't have many calories. Half a cup provides but 13 or so, nearly all from carbohydrates. Like most vegetables, it provides Vitamins A and C in respectable amounts, along with some Potassium and Folate.

A great way to get your zucchini is in the form of tasty bread. I decided to try this recipe, because I wanted to use whole wheat flour. I substituted applesauce for the coconut oil and honey for half of the maple syrup. It baked up in one large and three small loaf pans, so I have some to wrap up and share with friends. What I like best about zucchini bread, especially the recipes with so much of the vegetable in them, is that they're so moist it's almost half-pudding, half-bread. I would totally add nuts (walnuts or pecans) to the recipe next time. I only left them out this time because I want to share with my nut-allergy friends, and only want them to die from deliciousness.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Frankenstein Shoes & Strange Fruit

Looking at the pile of laundry, list of chores, and list of currently sore, potentially unstable muscles led me to make an executive decision on the way home from work to not go to yoga this afternoon and instead take today as my rest day. I can greet tomorrow morning with a little warm-up walk and personal yoga session, and give my muscles an extra day to recuperate.

Yesterday's run was an easy 3 miles in 32 minutes around the college track. This plan was approved by my unofficial running coach, who said I should definitely take an easy run after the rigors of my 5 miles on Tuesday.

NPR was a font of great radio stories this afternoon. I'd like to talk first about Frankenstein shoes. (Technically, Frankenstein's monster's shoes.) These are the new, rounded-sole toning shoes that have been purchased by a number of my coworkers, and I saw on two girls walking around the track last night. You can read it here, which also has a link for listening to the story. Scroll down a bit so that you can also check out the studies. Or let me lead you directly to that of the American Council on Exercise, the one on the Masai barefoot technology, and the one on walking in negative heeled shoes.

Always, always, always check the sources of claims by a commercial organization. Always check the sources of claims by anyone, really. I read the studies. I analyzed the charts. I sifted through the language. The end result is that the two studies specifically on new shoe technology said that the shoes could be used in a therapeutic fashion to strengthen the legs. It might be considered good training for the enhancement of the lower leg muscles.

All of the studies had small sample groups (12 or 13 individuals) and the study was conducted over a short period of time. In order to conclusively show that these shoes are more effective than ordinary athletic shoes, you'd need to have a larger population of individuals and conduct the study with people exercising in a controlled fashion over a long period of time, so that you can accurately measure actual muscle tone changes.

I'd throw in some barefoot walkers, too, just as an added study.

I agree with the spokesman for the ACE study, in that these shoes cause one's gait to be altered. That alteration forces you to use muscles in a different way to stabilize. This alteration would be caused by any different kind of shoe. Improvements in physique are mostly likely caused by people simply exercising more in order to get the most benefit out of their fancy, expensive shoes. Like my friend (a trainer of personal trainers) said, anything that gets people out exercising is a good thing.

Now on to the other story. It involves something emotional, rather than physical. NPR also presented a very moving story on the August 1930 lynching of two young black men in Marion, Indiana, a photograph of which inspired Abel Meeropol to write the poem and song "Strange Fruit". You can read about it and listen to the full story here. I'll give you the same warning that I was given by All Things Considered: it contains language and images that some people may find disturbing. They certainly disturbed me--I started weeping three times.

Earlier today, I read a story posted on my brother-in-law's blog about what it's like being a nerd of color, so race was definitely in my mind this afternoon. I find it interesting to note that, now that my sister has married interracially, I really am much more aware of matters of race. Growing up white in Salt Lake City, racial issues were definitely something that happened other places. Now that I live in Southern California, I go back to SLC and am shocked that everyone looks the same. We've made some progress in this country since that lynching 80 years ago, but really: fourscore years and we still don't have real equality. I can be upset at that, I can weep at the atrocities that were committed in our country's past, but all I can do myself is work every day to show each individual on this planet the same equal treatment and compassion.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Change the Way You See

I'm too late to be on the official bandwagon for this, but I thought I'd do my own personal post in honor of Operation Beautiful Week.

The mission of Operation Beautiful is to end "negative self-talk", partly through awareness and partly through extending that awareness to other people through anonymous notes posted in public places. Caitlin has been posting the personal stories of health and wellness bloggers across the country. I've been reading them over the past few days, and have decided to write about about what this means to me.

But first I want to put on a little avant-garde jazz.

I was the fat girl in my elementary school class. There was one fat boy, too, so the class had a matched set. I wasn't pretty, either. I was picked on as a child because of my size and my brains and my introverted ways. I stood up for myself now and then, but what's a kid to do? It's tough. It sucks to be the fat kid. To this day I haven't let go of some of the bad experiences. Things were a bit better in junior high school, and a bit better still in high school. It was funny: all I had going for me, really, was my academic prowess, so I worked hard and practiced at physical education just because I wanted to get a good grade in gym class.

Health class in 10th or 11th grade (I forget now) made me start thinking more about nutrition. I stopped eating red meat, and then in the fall of '95 I became a vegetarian. Not that I was a particularly healthy vegetarian, mind you, but I started being more mindful of what I was eating. Then we had this test for gym class, where we were supposed to run 1 1/2 miles. First time I did it, I ran the first half lap, and then walked the rest. Again, I wanted to get a good grade, so I was over at the track practically every evening, jogging where I could, walking the rest, to the point where I could run a very slow 12-minute mile. (I think I got an A on the test just because I showed such improvement and dedication.)

The highest weight I ever remember seeing on the scale was 190 pounds. This was when I was fourteen or so, at my full height of 5' 7". When I became vegetarian, I started to lose some weight, down to 170, 175 or so. My senior year of high school, I wrote down in a steno notebook the calories and fat in everything I ate (my sister will remember this), working off of a calorie chart in an old diet book we had in the house. I remember that I had three meals and two snacks even back then. I was also back at the track three or four nights a week, walking and jogging.

Even though it seems crazy in retrospect, that food diary was a great thing for me. I went away to college, where we had three meals a day in the cafeteria, everything paid for in our residence fees. There was a great big salad bar in the center, next to the dessert tables. Burgers & sandwiches & pizza on one side, hot foods (vegetarian & non) on the other side. Sometimes I would go nuts on Sunday sundae occasions, where I would have a little ice cream with my caramel sauce and sprinkles, but often I would eat as well as I knew how: fresh vegetable salads, pasta with tomato sauce and carrots on the side, roasted mushrooms with polenta and a side of broccoli, oatmeal and melon for breakfast, and fat-free frozen yogurt. Combine this with the fact that there was a gym I could go to regularly meant that, for me, the freshman 15 was an imaginary thing that happened to some other people. I exercised, I ate well, and I got down to my normal fit weight: mid 140s.

However, being at an average weight (still not skinny) didn't do jack for my social life. It didn't guarantee that I had a boyfriend, or that guys even paid attention to me at parties. Even now I feel like the last girl in the group to get any attention. So the shape doesn't really matter. How you approach the world does. I never expected that losing weight would solve all my problems, I just thought it would be a good thing to do for myself.

I know that if I want to receive anything, first I should give it to the world. It won't necessarily come back to me, but I'm fine with that. If I want to be social, if I want attention, maybe I should go out and ask for it, nicely. I'll have a party and invite all kinds of people. I'll find people doing stuff and ask them about it. I'll just make eye contact and start interacting with someone. I'll be a good listener, fair and open and non-judgemental. All the qualities that really matter in yourself and other people, none of them depend on height or weight or hair color or shoe size.

All the running I've been doing has really made me think about my thighs. My body has its fat deposits in the upper portions of the extremities. I'm certain that my upper arms will never be skinny and there's an 11 inch difference between my waist and hips that makes it impossible to find pants that fit. My thighs, though, they might have muscle definition at the bottom, but they're definitely soft and comfy pillows at the top. Badunkadunk does not even begin to describe my booty. I think the fat is here to stay, and really, I'm all right with that. It's the way that I'm made, obviously; it's all natural. So why hate on what's natural? And, you know, one of these days, my thighs and I are going to run a 10K. Then my thighs and I are going to run a half-marathon. Then my thighs and I are going to run a full marathon. Because that's also the way I'm made.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Well, gentle reader, I have to say that 5 miles yesterday has not been particularly kind to me. Ankles, the left one especially, have been grousing all day. There were definitely some interesting sensations just now during yoga class. Everything else has been fine. I think maybe it was just a little too much pavement. However, I am looking forward to tomorrow's run: 30-35 minutes of intervals over at the track.

In general, I am not a fan of Aaron Copland's music. However, there is one piece which speaks to me, and that piece I love. I am speaking of "Fanfare for the Common Man". Listened to it just now to celebrate my victory over a rigorous yoga class with plenty of new moves. In my imagination, as I race towards the finish line of my first marathon, I take a moment to turn my iPod over to this song, so I can cross to the bright notes of brass.

I played "Whatchagot?" with stuff on pasta tonight. I needed to use up some assorted vegetables, so I threw them all together. Here's what I did:

1 red bell pepper
1 bunch of broccoli
1/2 lb brown mushrooms
sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil)
fresh basil
whole wheat pasta

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the pepper and the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and place in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Stick in the oven. Next, clean your mushrooms and slice into bite-sized pieces. Place these in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Stick this in the oven as well. (Mushrooms generally take less time to cook, which is why I put them in second.) Cook for 30-45 minutes.

Boil some water and cook two servings of pasta. (I used the spiral type, what is it? Rotelle? Ah--rotini. That's it. At least according to Wikipedia's handy-dandy chart.) When it is cooked to your liking, drain. Add some sun-dried tomatoes and a bit of the oil and mix well. Throw in all the vegetables. Chop up a bunch of basil and stir that in, too. Season to taste. I like to add a good grind of crushed red pepper, 'cause I'm fiery that way.

If you want a little more protein, crumble in some feta or chevre, or add a can of garbanzo beans.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Out and back

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! It's Super-Me!

I ran FIVE miles.

I didn't time it, because there were lights where I had to jog in place, and I did a lap around the block for cool-down before I was able to check the clock (running into the VP of my department, and you know how it's always kinda weird seeing work people outside of the company. Not as weird as the time I ran into my Japanese professor in the showers at the pool and we were both naked and I had to have a short conversation with her, but still a little unusual. I mean, heck, he was in a t-shirt.) Anyway, a nifty watch/timer/lap tracker sort of device is on my list of things I want for training.

Had a serving of chocolate soymilk right after the run, while I was soaking my feet & ankles in a bath of ice water. Dinner is imminent: tofu, frozen veggies (string beans and carrots) and vegetable gyoza, all from Trader Joe's. I'll be cooking more later: an experiment of roasted mushrooms and peppers, to go with some sun-dried tomatoes and basil, all over pasta. Should make a tasty lunch for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Normally I'm good at math

Somehow I thought that today's biathlon would only take 45 minutes. Yeah, I don't know where I came up with that. I left the house around 8:45 this morning, and came back through the door at 10:30. I was shocked, until I actually thought about it. This morning I did:

10 1/2 miles biking
3 miles running (on the sand)

Add in waiting for numerous traffic lights, stopping to watch the start of a dragon boat race, getting slightly lost and confused when I discovered I was in Naples instead of Belmont Shore, and, yes, that can all add up to 1 hour and 45 minutes of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine.

I felt myself inexplicably drawn to the beach this morning. Plus, I wanted to see how it would be to ride my bike over to Belmont Shore instead of driving as usual. It worked out rather well, except when I finally got to the beach there was technically no place to lock up my bike. Rather discourages one to use the bike as a form of transportation, don't you think?

I'm really glad I did it, though. I discovered the aforementioned dragon boat race. It looked just like this, except without Hong Kong in the background. Watching the people at the paddles really made me think of the two types of muscle fibers: Type I (red, good for endurance) and Type II (white, good for bursts of speed and power). I could see the rowers start to slow down after a little while--it would definitely be hard, continually beating at the waters with that short little paddle.

Also, the sand at the beach was perfect for running. I think they flattened it recently, so it was nice and smooth and able to be packed down. I didn't do the full 4 miles (pier to jetty and back) because the last 1/2 next to the jetty was really soft and inclined, as usual, and full of surf fishermen, and I didn't want to have to dodge all the lines. Plus a three mile run was just fine for this morning, especially since I totally had to pee for most of it. That was the worst part of the run, especially since the beach there has a really nice restroom right in the middle of it. 12 individual, separate toilets, each one of them locked up tight. *Sigh* I just got a little extra workout for my pelvic floor muscles, right?