Thursday, March 21, 2013

Duck Eggs!

A surprise awaited me when I picked up my monthly meat shipment from Marin Sun Farms.  A free sample of two duck eggs!  They're trying to lure us into adding on to our usual boxes.  I honestly don't know what to do with a duck egg besides eat it like a normal egg, so I'll keep you posted as to how that goes.

My shipment was a little odd this month, which has me slightly vexed.  Instead of five separate 1 pound packages of ground meat, I was given two large packages of ground beef.  Very curious, and difficult to portion down.  I may have to invite all my friends over for tacos, or make a huge batch of goulash for freezing.  Also received was a large pork loin (excellent--just the thing to roast medieval-style) and a small chunk of lamb leg.

As it was simply a gorgeous, sunny afternoon, I started planting a garden when I arrived home from work.  One small section of cilantro is in the dirt, and a dozen cress seeds have been started inside.  The seed peas are soaking to plant tomorrow.  I'm going to plant in batches, so not everything flourishes at the same time.  There are also some pumpkin seeds in the ground, which I saved from a kabocha.  I have never before planted using saved seeds, and neither have I attempted to grow pumpkin, so it will be interesting to see if anything actually appears.

Green Lantern runs on Saturday!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gender Stereotyping

Earlier this week, I read a nice blog post over at Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty.  Gender Stereotype Reversal in the Gym.  Disclaimer: I have not watched the video referenced in the posting.  I have not had any particular gender-related issues at my gym, probably because it is at my workplace, and the various gym goers see each other as coworkers and (potentially) teammates, rather than along strict gender divides.  I've never had a guy offer any unsolicited comments about my presence in the weight room (and, believe me, there are a few muscle-bound grunting guys in there), but I have encouraged the other women who show up to lift heavy things.  (Note: I've also encouraged the men who show up to lift heavy things, but only the men that I know.)

This morning, the issue of gender stereotyping in the gym was at the forefront of my mind.  Our gym is much longer than it is wide.  At the front is the cardio equipment, then the weight machines, and at the back is the free weight room.  As I strolled in at 7 am, I walked past all the guys working out on the ellipticals, treadmills, and machines, then I stepped into the weight room, where I was the only person.  So this girl got a nice quiet session with the free weights.  My favorite part was grabbing a 45 pound plate off the rack to hold while doing lunges.

Who has two thumbs, likes wine and weight lifting?  This girl.

Giant Trees

[Here's a post that was intended for publication on Tuesday:]

Had an experience yesterday morning that made me think. I was stretching after my regularly-scheduled exercise routine (deadlifts, split squats, lat pull-downs, bicycling intervals, etc.) My position against the wall outside the group exercise class room meant that anyone leaving the room would walk right past me. There had been a new class in there that morning--some kind of high-intensity interval training sort of class--and one lady, an older woman, had stayed afterwards to speak with the instructor about her physical limitations. As she walked past me, she piped up.

"You're welcome to join us," she said, brightly.

"No thanks," I replied, smiling, "I'm good with my weight lifting."

I found it interesting to note that the class had been full of women, and here I was, another woman, being invited into the class. I'm going to make a generalization here: most women like doing things in groups. They get a sense of camaraderie and support. For a woman who's not very partial to exercising, who hasn't yet solidified within herself all the fabulous reasons to exercise, it can be a boon to have group exercise classes.

However, I prefer to exercise alone. Sure, I have been know to do things in teams, but even then I was working on my own while there were teammates around me. We'd call out encouragement at each other and such, and I'd be quietly bemused by the weird exercise routines the guys would come up with. Weight lifting: pumping iron by myself. Running: cruising the trails by myself. Perhaps it's an introvert thing--I like having the quiet time to stay in my own head. (Plus, I don't love it when other people slow me down.)

Which way is best? You and I both know that the best way to exercise for a particular person is under the conditions which encourage them to exercise. You may like best to run with a group, while I prefer to stay quiet and solo. We're both running, though, and that's what really matters.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Don't Be That Guy

Me: "How'd you like to get together for a drink/come over for dinner at my house/take advantage of an opportunity to make out?"

Guy: "Sure, sounds great."

Me: "Friday/next Thursday/pick a date?"

Guy: "Let me check my schedule and get back to you."

. . .

Me, in my brain, 'cause he never got back to me: "Dumbass."

Men, please don't be that guy.  When a woman likes you and asks to spend time with you, there are two options.  Decline gracefully, or make the date.  Girlfriends, same goes for you, too.  I have enough to worry about in my life without stressing over whether you only chose me as a placeholder friend until you could find someone cooler to spend time with.

See?  We'll both get to hold hands and wear fabulous headgear.  Cocktails are in the next room!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One of those days

There are times when you go to the gym on a Monday morning, and an exercise which should be totally doable is really difficult--you just can't make it through all the reps of your sets.  Maybe you're still a little tired from a weekend of fun.  Maybe you're hormonal, seriously PMSing, or due to start your period any minute now and in the early stages of cramping.  Maybe you're just having a slightly off day.  That's okay: lots of factors can contribute to not being quite able to lift as much weight as you'd thought.  The important thing is that you're there, in the gym, working out, building up consistency and executing the exercises you can do with the best form possible.  Know that it'll be better next time.

Of course, maybe you're a misremembering squid like me, and put two 10 lb plates on the bar instead of two 5 lb plates, unintentionally trying to lift rather more than your body expected.  Now I *know* it'll be better next time.  On Friday, when I repeat this workout, I can try it with two 5s and two 2.5s, because obviously my muscles are capable of a little more weight, just not quite the jump I tried to do this morning.

Obviously, I was the dumb belle here.  :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Recipe

Follow my train of thought on this one: Valentine's Day features prominently both hearts and chocolate.  Next, the early civilization of the Inca Empire also feature hearts (human sacrifice) and chocolate (cacao beans are indigenous to Central and South America.)  Therefore, since I can't get a sacrificial heart on this short notice, here's a little recipe involving chocolate.

Mesoamerican Chocolate Pudding
(Serves 4 generously, 6 adequately)

2 Tbsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp powdered sugar (it's the sugar I currently have on hand, since I'm out of honey)
Dash of salt
1 egg
2 C milk
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped or broken into chunks
1/2 - 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp powdered cayenne pepper
1 tsp rum or vanilla

Mix the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Add the egg and beat well with a whisk so there are no lumps.  Stir in the milk.  Heat over low heat, whisking frequently until the mixture starts steaming, then constantly as it thickens and comes to a boil.  Boil and stir 1 minute, then remove from heat.  Add the chocolate, spices, and rum or vanilla.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate completely melts.  Spoon into serving dishes (I use 6 oz custard cups), press plastic wrap directly against the surface to prevent any undesirable skin from forming, and chill at least 90 mins to 2 hours.

The warm spices combine so nicely with the chocolate, the pudding is not too sweet, and you can pretend you're the high priestess at the top of a pyramid with a chanting populace below.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Eat Smarter, Not Harder

I'd like to introduce a new paradigm in health and fitness: Eat Better, Move More.  [EBMM]

I get rather irked whenever people say that Eat Less, Move More [ELMM] doesn't work for weight loss.  It does.  They also say that it's not about Calories In Calories Out [CICO].  It is.  At least, it always has been for me.  Every time in the past 20 years that I have kept track of my calorie intake to ensure it didn't get out of control and maintained a consistent exercise regimen, I have lost weight, and I have maintained that weight loss.

This all started back in high school: my senior year I kept a food diary (for the entire year) and went for regular walks, took water aerobics for gym class, etc.  In college, the "freshman 15" was never an issue for me because the dining hall had a well-stocked salad bar and great vegetarian options, and the gym facilities on campus were great (weight room, dance studio, indoor and outdoor running tracks.)  Nowadays, I keep track of calories on one of the convenient websites ( and I'm fortunate enough to have a gym at work and dance classes twice a week.

Presumably, the reason that it has worked for me is because I realized that "eat less" doesn't mean "put yourself on starvation rations."  Back when I wasn't exercising as much as I do now, my weight loss intake was around 1700 to 1800 calories a day.  I couldn't imagine going on one of those diets--like you see in women's fitness magazines every month--that takes you down to 1200 or 1400 calories a day.  At 5' 7" tall, that's like the food supply in a concentration camp.  Nowadays, since I'm actively trying to build muscle, my calorie intake is more like 2000 to 2100.  That's a very reasonable amount of food.

We can all agree on certain things.  Exercise is good--our bodies were not designed to be stationary all day.  Junk food--processed food high in calories and low in nutrients--is not good for you.  If you eat too few calories, your body will respond by assuming that there's a famine, and slow down your metabolism.

The intent of Eat Better, Move More is to demonstrate that one can consume a healthy, natural, filling diet with a reasonable caloric intake while enjoying pleasurable, dynamic physical activity.  What real foods do you like?  Eat them!  They'll provide calories in the form of protein, carbohydrates, and fat; plus all kinds of micronutrients like Vitamin B12 and potassium.  What sorts of physical activities do you like?  Do them!  Whether you're lifting weights, or walking at sunset, or playing baseball, it'll give your muscles some reason for being, lift up your mood, and maybe even strengthen your bones.

What do you think about the concept of EBMM?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


OMG, so there I was, scooping the leftover carcass bits out of a crock-pot full of chicken stock, and I decided to get some of the meaty bits still clinging to the bones to add to my dinner.  The skeleton had been boiling for nearly 24 hours, and one of the bones--a humerus, I think--broke in my hand.  First I was just like, "Man, these are some fragile bones," and then I was all like, "Bone marrow!  Awesome!"  Of course, the bones were way too frail for me to adequately extract the marrow with a bamboo skewer, like a chimp poking a stick into an anthill.  So I just crushed them a little and dropped them back into the pot to simmer for another couple of hours.  Just means that I'll have to strain it for real through a sieve, rather than with the slotted spoon, in order to get all the broken bone slivers.  Soon all that delicious fat and iron will be mine!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Secondary Colors

You know how they say, "eat the rainbow"?  Well, for dinner I managed to eat half the rainbow.

Red Cabbage

Add to that some homemade goat sausage patties, and you've got a delicious, nutritious meal.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Babies: They're Not For Everyone

Obviously, mental health is an essential part of one's overall wellness.  For some reason, this article particularly resonated with me today.  It's by Jill over at  I am a committed feminist, so certainly an article on a feminist blog would appeal to me.  With assorted friends and relatives gestating and popping out babies right and left these days, however, I've got more reason than usual to be thinking about babies and their place in my world.

To be clear about this, I have nothing against babies.  I love my friends' children and the children of my kin.  I, personally, do not want nor have I ever wanted a baby of my own.  I'm turning 34 this year.  I'm sure my body knows that it's reproductive days are numbered, yet I have neither felt any impetus whatsoever to reproduce, nor heard any sort of biological clock ticking.

I love this quote, on the benefits of being childless:

 I am also sure that right now, I vastly prefer being able to disappear for a weekend on a moment’s notice, stay out too late on a Wednesday, take an uninterrupted nap, jet off to Paris for two weeks and sleep on a friend’s couch, have lots of sex, have loud parties, meditate for an hour, live in an overpriced small Brooklyn walk-up, have a long brunch, own a white rug, spend all day and all night writing in silence.

I have no sanctimonious women around me right now, thank goodness.  My parents have always been overwhelmingly supportive of me and my choices, and have never pressured me to have kids, so big props to Mom and Dad.  (Certainly statements along the lines of, "Grandchildren would be dandy," are to be thought of more as guidelines than actual rules.)  Then my sister went ahead and had some babies with her fabulous husband, so I am really off the hook as far as the family genes being passed along.  Plus there's a chance that my youngest brother might have kids with his fabulous wife, which would just be gravy as far as that reproduction thing is concerned.

There was a time just last year--a few months, in fact--when I had a sort of understanding with someone who I would have married and had children with.  Then he called and told me that he wanted to start dating someone else.  "That's great!" I said.  "It's just what I wanted for you." I said.  And, yes, his emotional health and happiness really was all I wanted.  Part of me knew I was just a placeholder while his life turned around a bit, but part of me really did think about the possibility of having the same life as lots of other people: sharing a home, having a family, seeing the dad's face light up getting to hold his newborn for the first time.

On the other hand, the only reason that I would have married and had children with this particular fellow is that he was well suited for what I would want in a father for my children.  Good genes in terms of health and looks, an overwhelmingly sweet and patient and helpful disposition, and a willingness to be a stay-at-home dad so that I could continue with my career.

So thanks to all the people around me who understand that the life I'm currently leading is the right one for me.  And to those well-meaning aunts who wonder out loud when I'll settle down, or say that "of course I'll want to have kids one day," I'm going to give you a long list of reasons next time why my life is so awesome.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stumptuous = Stupendous

Today I'd like to share one of the blogs/information websites I enjoy very much, and, obviously, highly recommend to you.  It is

See, it's so awesome, it deserves its own color and gigantic size.  Mistress Krista has put together a lovely site full of

Weight lifting
Workout ideas
Inspirational stories
Basics of supportive eating
How to get started in weight lifting
Creative weight lifting of ordinary household objects
Rants on "kids/diets/craziness/etc. these days"
Weight lifting for all ages

Oh, and did I mention weight lifting?  In a nutshell, the way I see Mistress Krista is along the lines of, "Life can be tough.  We all make mistakes along the road to our true selves.  Ya know what helps me focus?  A solid clean-and-jerk.  You'll feel better after some squats.  Get to it."  Then she pats you on the head while pointing towards the dumbbells.

I seem to have very nearly signed up for a 5 mile Mud Run come late March.  Just need to make the registration official.  With that in mind, I'd changed up my training a bit and returned to the...ugh...treadmill.  I only have to run indoors as long as it is still dark in the mornings during weekdays.  Thankfully I can run/hike/gambol through the county park on weekends (when I'm not being too much of a social butterfly.)

Just for funsies, here's a picture of me juggling at the Edwardian Ball last weekend.  I love this outfit so much--mostly because I imagined it burning the retinas of all the goth wanna-bes.  And the skirt is so poofy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dear Body,

Dear Body,

  First up, thanks so much for effectively squashing that cold I felt coming on Sunday.  A few days of sniffles I can certainly handle, especially with the aid of an array of Ricola-brand lozenges.  Also, big props to you for continuing to support my efforts at the gym.  Those were two good negative pull-ups this morning, and the squats are really coming along.  Plus you totally kept up on the cycling intervals.  Just wait and see what sort of fun I have in store for you tomorrow morning.

  Sorry about the stress these days.  Deadlines at work are getting to me, and that tension headache this afternoon was not helpful for either of us.  Thank goodness I keep all that tea in my desk cupboard, eh?  Yeah, I felt you relaxing as I poured the first cup.  Sorry about the dry winter air, too.  I've just refilled the humidifier here at home to make things a bit easier.

  In gratitude for your continual positive efforts on my behalf, I'd like to say that I'll continue to feed you nutritious food (including lots of protein to make up for the muscles I deliberately break down MWF), give you at least eight hours for sleep, and move you around as much as possible every day.

  Lots of love--


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Catching up

To dispel any rumors that I've disappeared yet again, here's another post!  What happened this weeks is simply that I was never at home and at leisure long enough to sit down at the computer to write anything.  Here's how my evenings went down:

Tuesday: ballet class
Wednesday: spent with friends up in San Francisco
Thursday: folk band practice in Oakland
Friday: salsa conditioning class, then cocktails with girlfriends in Palo Alto

I take dance classes over at the Peninsula Ballet Theatre.  They have a good selection of adult dance and fitness classes in a variety of styles.  After taking only jazz dance last year, I've decided to branch out a little.

The ballet class on Tuesday was all right in terms of technical execution, but it appeared that no one in the class was having any fun.  The teacher was a substitute, so I will be trying the class again just to see if the regular teacher is any better.  If that fails again, I think I'll just go back to jazz.  Ballet offers such a great opportunity for muscular isolation and control, and provides a basis for all the other dance forms, that I thought it would be good to spend some hours doing it again.  Brushing up on first principles and all that.

Salsa Conditioning, on the other hand, was everything I wanted it to be.  With the amazing Norberto teaching the class, I knew it was going to be high in energy and, frankly, fabulousness.  Norberto is a dynamo of a Latin man, an amazing dancer, and a very capable teacher.  (He also teaches the jazz dance class, plus Mexican folk dance.)  He's incredibly physically fit: able to teach intense dance classes for 2, 3 hours at a stretch without showing any signs of slowing down.  Salsa Conditioning involved salsa moves in an aerobics atmosphere--basically an hour of moving one's body.  I will be waiting to see if the soreness kicks in.

If the San Mateo area is convenient to you, I really recommend Peninsula Ballet Theatre for your dancing needs.  The classes are very reasonably priced.  After dropping in to try out a class, you can purchase a punch card to get a bulk class discount.  I think they have also had specials on Groupon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Recipe success!

The malfatti went over a treat, I think, and the tomato sauce was just dandy.  So I have achieved some level of Italian cuisine success.  Hooray!  What's awesome is that I now have lots of tomato sauce stored up, which is perfect for making one of my favorite dishes, Vegetables Maddalena.

Vegetables Maddalena

Tomato sauce

Preparation instructions: cook your vegetables however you like.  Steam that broccoli, roast that cauliflower, saute those fennel bulbs!  Pour sauce over.  Serve it forth.  Really, the vegetables provide a medium by which to consume tomato sauce; just like pasta, except with a lot more nutrition.  Plus it's easy to add some protein: homemade sausage, chicken parts, giant lima beans, some asiago fresco cheese.

Did not get enough sleep last night, so I gave myself the evening off from any sort of chores.  Probably a good idea, considering that I'm still awfully sore from all the delightful extra exercising I've been able to undertake lately.  It was a little bit of an easy weightlifting session this morning--even though I did 3 sets of 6 reps of pull-ups with a 30 pound assist.  I also discovered that if I elevate my heels just a bit, using one of the 3/4" foam mats at the gym, my squat form is so much better.  I'm really focused on form right now, but once that is solid I'll get back to lifting heavy things.

Tomorrow after work I'm heading off to my first dance class in months--a beginning ballet class at the Peninsula Ballet Theatre in San Mateo.  I declared that 2013 would be all about joy, and there is nothing more joyous to me that the sheer pleasurable freedom of movement.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

...And we're back!

Here it is, another blog post!  And you know what that means: I must have eaten kale recently.  It was for dinner this evening, as a matter of fact, and here's the recipe:

Heat your fat of choice (olive oil, butter, dripping) in a large frying pan.  Add 3-5 anchovy filets (packed in olive oil) and mash them into the fat as it is heating.  Add 1 clove garlic, minced, and saute until golden brown.  Finally add 1 bunch kale (or any other greens), chopped, and cook until it's done, adding red or black pepper to taste.  I tend to deglaze the pan with a little water, so you get all the nice golden flavor bits mixed up into everything.

I was able to get out hiking in the nearby county park for the first time in, literally, months.  I put it out on Facebook on Thursday that I was doing a long hike, and did anyone want to come with?  There was actually one taker, (surprised there weren't more) so I had a reasonable walking companion for the hike.  Alas, he did slow me down a bit.  Listening to his huffing and puffing behind me, I couldn't help but take a slower pace than I'd anticipated.  However, it did secretly make me feel awesome for not breathing heavily.  We did six miles on the park trails, plus I got in an extra 2 1/2 for the round trip from home, which makes for an awesome 8 1/2 mile total.

Don't be fooled by my laissez-faire typing, gentle reader.  I was definitely feeling it by the time the hike was through.  Especially since I did so many squats in the weight room yesterday morning.

This evening I am doing something I hope to do more of this year: improve my cooking expertise by actually executing recipes from my collection of cookbooks.  See, I am totally happy eating relatively boring food a lot of the time.  Some meat, a potato, a couple of veggies.  It is in order to impress other people with my grasp of varied cuisine that I am expanding my horizons.  I had a friend over for dinner a week or so ago, and utterly failed to deliver an amazing meal.  Since I now have time to get back in the dating game, plus having ladies over for tea parties, etc., it's time to up my game.

Since one of the fellows I'm keen on is half Italian, and I was gifted two Italian cookbooks by a lady in the CSA, and Italian home cooking is appreciated know...everyone, it made sense to begin here.  So I've started two recipes from Salt to Taste by Marco Canora.

That's how I ended up with tomato on the ceiling.

This evening I'm doing the prep work for Swiss chard and parmigiano malfatti, aka ravioli nudi, which are "tender dumplings of cheese and chard 'filling' that can be served topped with tomato sauce".  Takes prep work because you must eliminate all the moisture from both the Swiss chard and the ricotta cheese in order for the malfatti to hold shape.

The second recipe, which is just finishing up simmering, is for Tuscan tomato sauce, an all-purpose tomato sauce with all the fabulous ingredients you'd expect to find.  I stripped my little thyme plant bare to get the tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves required.  I minced onion, celery, carrot, and two more fresh herbs.  I carefully created a "soffritto" and then simmered everything for over an hour to give the sauce the right depth.  Just tasted it, and, dang, I think I'm channeling the Nona I never really had.

The recipe makes a huge batch of sauce--uses four 28-ounce cans of tomato puree.  However, Whole Foods only had tomato puree by the fancy organic brand, instead of the house organic brand, which would have cost an extra dollar per can.  So I went with Whole Foods organic diced tomatoes and decided to puree them myself.  Not realizing the fluid dynamics of diced tomatoes dropped at height into the curved blender, I created an amazing force of vertical splatter, directing a goodly splash of tomato goop right onto the ceiling.  I laughed.