Sunday, December 16, 2012

What is a christmas movie?

Around the holidays, I usually put on Little Women as I work on various projects. It's firmly a Christmas movie in mind. So when L asked if I wanted a Christmas movie, I said, "Hey, Little Women." "That's not a Christmas movie," he replied.  However, he has claimed in the past (and I'll actually agree with him) that Die Hard is totally a Christmas movie.

What makes something a Christmas movie anyway? If it has a bit of Christmas in it, is it then meant to be associated with the holiday season? Is Die Hard  really a Christmas movie?

When I was in college, each Winter Break, I'd return to my parents' house.  My mom and I would do Christmas-y things, like set up the tree and bake. And, inevitably, we'd always watch Little Women.  For me, the movie is associated with time spent with my mom and Christmas, and it does have Christmas for about half the movie.  So every year, I watch it at least once around Christmas while I'm working on addressing cards or knitting or any of my other crafts.

Besides, if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, Little Women definitely is.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

a wheat-less existence

Now that I've figured out that wheat is the root of some of my issues, I feel a sense of relief. No more wondering if what I eat is going to make me feel bad--it seems that as long as it has no wheat, I'm safe, at least so far.

I was initially angry and in denial. But then I had some friends leave me encouraging notes--I reached out and talked to them both and made plans with the friend who lives near to go to lunch at a GF place (yum).  Then last night, my very sweet and wonderful friends brought me all manner of wheat-free goodies, including apple cider and crackers and wafers. (The cider and crackers were tasty, the wafers kinda weird with their potato flour.)

I went to a potluck yesterday and ate only healthy things, so wheat-free is also mostly going to mean eating a lot healthier at functions--veggies and fruits and other nice things.

And I've already ventured into new kinds of baking.  I baked these delicious cookies from Oh She Glows: Crispy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I modified them a by substituting almond butter in for the peanut butter (we have a giant thing of it, so why buy PB if I don't need to?), and they were really good. We hosted a Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring viewing last night, and they were completely gone by the end of the night.  Don't skip the little sprinkle of salt after they're done baking--it really adds a nice element to them.

Luckily, I feel like it's not going to be a huge adjustment to our way of eating. We already eat lots of veggies and wheat-free foods, and since I'm no longer a vegetarian (if I still were, I would definitely not be now), I still have lots of delicious things I can eat. And plus one for me: it'll keep me clear of the trigger foods that I tend to overeat.  It's also more difficult to find a random nibble while out and about, which I usually don't really need anyway.  And Lance has already launched into cooking mode, finding recipes for flat breads and other things I can have to replace the bread he enjoys making.

I'm looking at it more as an adventure now instead of a burden. Holidays might be a bit tough, but we always bring dishes to family gatherings and help cook, so even that won't be too much of a challenge. And I'll get to play around with and experiment with new ways of cooking, baking, and eating.  Fun!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

what? no cupcakes?

For as long as I can remember, I have had acid reflux.  At some point, as I learned to eat healthier, I learned what the major triggers were and began avoiding those foods and no longer had much trouble with it.

Recently, though, I was finding myself with stomach aches and worsening acid reflux. I felt miserable. I thought it was connected to eating sugar (and some of the other triggers), but when K. suggested that I might be experiencing a reaction to wheat, I decided to try no wheat for a couple of weeks, along with sugar and other processed grains.  Even though I was sure wheat wasn't the problem, I felt pretty great.

I honestly didn't think it was wheat. But then I ate half a falafel sandwich (on pita) and some fries and felt bad.  Well, falafel and fries are fried, and fried foods have always been a trigger. Then I ate a couple of cookies yesterday (I baked for the last day of class!) and felt bad.  Well, those cookies have lots of butter and sugar, which I always thought were triggers. (Even though I'd eaten chocolate the day before problem).

The plan was to test to see if something without sugar or oil (but with wheat) would cause a reaction. I was positive that it wouldn't--surely, there's nothing wrong.  Why would I suddenly be experiencing symptoms? (K explained how sensitivities can develop, but I was in denial).  So I ate a hearty bowl of wheat flakes and then waited.  Fifteen minutes later, I had a stomach ache and was completely uncomfortable.  It was miserable. After the stomach ache faded, I felt (still feel) lethargic and drained.

After googling, I found some sites that talked about a connection between wheat and acid reflux. Not a lot of scholarly stuff, but it seems that something's going on with me and that wheat is the cause.  It makes sense with my symptoms, though.

I'm pretty upset about it, but also glad that perhaps I found a way to feel better without taking acid reducers or other medications.  And perhaps it will be an opportunity to explore a new way of cooking (though I'm planning to stay away from most heavily-processed wheat-free stuff).  Once the dismay fades (and I know I will still be able to make stuff for other people to enjoy...), I think I'll be all right.

Off to do more research...and try not to be too glum about being unable to enjoy Christmas cookies or Little Bread Company bagels or Lance's homemade bread.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful

Several FB friends posted things they were thankful for all throughout November.  I liked the idea, generally, so I decided to reflect on things I'm thankful right here.

1. I'm thankful that I have the opportunity/resources to go visit my family and friends over Thanksgiving Break.  I got to see one of my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my darling niece, who was all over the place, talking and playing. We played a lot together, and even though I didn't get as much work done as I wanted, I didn't mind so much.  I also got to see some of my best friends in the whole world and spend lots of time with them too.  A wonderful week.

2.  I'm thankful for a supportive, caring partner. He's generous, sweet, and an amazing person to come home to--I can't imagine finding a better person to be with.

3.  I'm thankful for my health.  While I've been having some stomach aches/reflux issues lately (boo!), I'm still generally healthy.  I'm rarely ill and get plenty of sleep (usually) and eat well and am a healthy weight.

4. On a related note, I'm thankful for my physical ability. That I can a run a sub-4 hour marathon, a 23:45 5k, that I can randomly go out for a speedy 9 miler with my brother and feel great afterwards.  I'm thankful that I can do push ups and have a strong, flexible back. I'm even thankful for my tight hamstrings and other tight parts of me because they give me a challenge to work toward in yoga and the knowledge that limitations can also be doors to better things.

5. I'm thankful to be in school, to be teaching, to do be doing what I love, even if sometimes it's stressful and frustrating and I don't always feel like I'm on track.

6. I'm thankful for my life here in Fayetteville, the wonderful friends I have, to be generally close to most family members. To be able to talk to those who are far.

7.  I'm thankful for my snuggly kitty, even when she bites me. She's warm and furry and comforting in the winter.

8.  I'm thankful for my house--although it's small and a bit crowded sometimes, it's cozy and full of who we are.  I'm thankful that we live close enough to things in my town that I can ride my bike or walk many places.

9.  I'm thankful for access to delicious food: local produce, quality ingredients, a garden for fresh things, nice restaurants.

10. And, finally, I'm thankful that I'm able to be myself. I'm thankful for all of the love and support I feel daily, that I never feel alone in the world, that I have lots of friends and family members who have my back.  I'm thankful that even if we don't always agree, I can be myself around my family.  I'm thankful to know that where ever I end up after I graduate, that while I will be able to make new friends, I will still maintain relationships with those near and far.

I have a lot to be thankful for--it's a good, satisfying life I have.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

the joy of running

I somehow, inexplicably didn't run all week.  I know why--I was furiously, crazily busy. I was trying to meet with students, do my own work, finish up projects, read student work, etc.  When I came home, I'd prepare dinner (or lay on the couch while L did) or go straight to bed.  I'd get up early to work.  In the end, though I'd intend to run, it'd get shuffled in favor of sleeping more or working more.

And I missed it.

Worse yet, my body doesn't take well to a lack of running.  The first few days, my legs feel refreshed.  I had run 12 miles on Sunday, so I felt pretty good until Wednesday.  Then I began to feel achy, sore.  My legs hurt. Even though I was biking, it just wasn't enough.

Each day, the aches in my legs got worse.  They felt tight and sore and awful.  All I wanted to do was lace up my shoes and hit the pavement, but I kept getting distracted.

Today, I finally got outside.  It was a glorious day, the perfect temperature. The sun was out and the air was crisp, fresh, and the humidity was low.  I started out just intending to run 4 since I slacked all week...but it felt so good that when I hit the 2 mile mark, I just kept going.  I turned around at 3 to get in 6 miles total.  At first my legs complained a little, but I hit my stride about a mile in and it felt AWESOME.

Running, in other words, is getting higher billing in my priorities.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

making bacon pancaaaakes




Lance forced me to listen to this the other day. It was doom. You're welcome.

My real purpose for blogging today is to extend my conversation from yesterday and talk about recipes. Flinn pointed out how a lot of inexperienced home cooks are afraid to tamper and modify recipes.  When something turns out badly, they blame themselves rather than the recipe.  I used to be a religious follower of recipes, which is good when you're baking--you don't want to tamper too much with proportions--however, I discovered ways that I could fiddle with recipes.  Occasionally, it failed miserably, but that was okay.  I learned from it.

Yesterday, I decided to cook a recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day, Miso-Curry Delicata Squash.  Problems: I didn't have enough delicata, I didn't have any kale or pepitas, and I strongly dislike cilantro.  So, I added some sweet potato to replace the delicata, stir fry chard to replace the kale, and use almonds and basil instead of pepitas and cilantro.  The result was pretty delicious.

It was startling to think about how something that seems so natural to my way of cooking was once alien--and that it is something that is anxiety-inducing among many.  It's a lot like elements of teaching writing (like revision): we often forget things that are second nature to us, but were once hard and problematic when we were inexperienced.  It's the same for cooking with recipes.

Recipes are like guidelines, but (depending on what the recipe is) there's a lot of ways to adapt.  Once you get a sense of how much you can change (and what flavors go well with each other), you begin to see how recipes are infinitely adaptable.  Wonderful.

And I'll stop now before I start making all sorts of crazy parallels to the teaching of writing, since I've been in read-all-the-papers-and-meet-with-all-the-students land.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

cooking books

I've been frequenting the library lately in an attempt to plow through my reading lists (another post for another day).  Being surrounded by books, I inevitably end up browsing and checking out a few home, though I really don't have time to read for fun. (Though I do anyway.)  As I snagged the very interesting Language Matters: A Guide to Everyday Questions about Language (Napoli and Lee-Schoenfeld, 2010), I also grabbed Kathleen Flinn's The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (2011).  And proceeded to neglect reading other things (including my student's work) to rapidly consume it.

Flinn's other book, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, is part of my scholarly project on the genre of cooking memoirs, so I was intrigued.  In The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Flinn decides to find volunteers who feel apprehensive in the kitchen and teach them basic skills.  The experiment begins with a chance encounter with a woman in the grocery store; after giving her a few tips and helping her shop for more wholesome foods (instead of processed foods), the woman left excited and grateful.  Flinn sought out ultimately nine women who shared similar fears about cooking with real ingredients and gave weekly lessons on knife skills and cooking vegetables, chicken, beef/pork, bread, and soup, not to mention what to do with leftovers and how to reduce waste in the kitchen.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it made me think about my own kitchen and habits.  While I don't particularly rely on convenience foods and feel comfortable in the kitchen, I sometimes opt for eating out or boiling a box of macaroni and cheese (it was organic! and on sale!) in lieu of cooking.  Flinn's purpose is not to make her readers feel guilty for the occasional foray into convenience/processed foods, but to point out how these foods are often easy to make with a bit of planning--and that the flavor is usually immeasurably better.

Her volunteers discover the same things.  Flinn visits their houses and has them prepare a meal for her; the majority prepared foods primarily from cans or boxes.  When pressed if they enjoyed the flavor, they invariably shrugged and said not really...it was just easy.  It seemed that the major transformative moment for the volunteers was when they discovered that all the additives and chemicals in processed food actually tasted horrible, and that fresh, real food was far superior.

More importantly, the volunteers lost their fear about the kitchen.  They learned that cooking doesn't have to be overly complicated or difficult--a few simple flavors can turn something simple into something simply delicious.  They learned how to wield their knives to chop vegetables with skill and ease; they learned how to take a whole chicken and break it down. They stopped being afraid to cook with whole ingredients, and discovered the joy that can be found in cooking.

For me, it was a refreshing reminder of how far I've come as a cook, conquering my own fears in the kitchen.  While my own mother wasn't a terrible cook, we far too often relied on processed, flavor-less dishes, so the way I eat now is a far cry from what I grew up eating.  I'm lucky that I managed to figure out how to cook with often "strange" ingredients, that I get a lot of joy out of trying new recipes, and that I'm not afraid to experiment and try new things.  Flinn's book made me realize that my story isn't typical of the majority of American cooks.  Even Flinn herself--a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu--found herself rethinking her approach to cooking and food.

If you're looking for a good read with some good tips for basic, simple cooking (it has some delicious recipes!), check out Flinn's book.  It has inspired me to cook a bit more this week--I have set up a chart on my fridge with the contents in my fridge and some possible recipes to make with those ingredients to try to avoid food waste and to actually use what I have on hand.  More than that, it was a prompt to reflect on my own cooking experiences and seek out the opportunity to continue learning more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

marathon numero dos.

So I went to Wichita (and had this song stuck in my head the whole weekend) to run my second marathon.  We set out early Saturday morning after fueling up with coffee and LBC treats, arrived, checked into the hotel, and found an awesome microbrewery downtown to have (one) beer and eat mac and cheese (with broccoli!).  L didn't come on this trip because he was busy celebrating with friends, so it was me and my two lady runner friends, A and K, and A's husband.

We woke early the next morning. I had slept fitfully, as I do when I'm in new places or slightly anxious (or both), so I got out of bed when the alarm chimed and began to prepare myself for the race. Clothes, muffins (vegan almond quinoa!), a tiny bit of coffee, and then...some waiting. We were a mere 10 minute walk from the race location, so we were able to dodge the porta-potties by walking down shortly before the race started.  It was a chilly start, and we were all in our tank tops, so we huddled together for warmth and moved around a bit to loosen our muscles up for the task ahead.


The Prairie Fire Marathon was smallish--there were around 700 marathoners that day, but over 2,000 half-marathon runners--so the start was all at once.  After the first mile or so of dodging large crowds of people, the field thinned a bit, and we were able to set into a good pace. K took off (we would not see her again until mile 17--she was flying!), but A and I stuck together for most of the race.  

I had thought I would have a similar experience as the Little Rock Marathon, but this was a lot different. For one, the first six miles didn't feel great. I had some mysterious soreness in my hips, and my legs felt a little stiff and heavy.  I wasn't happy. But sometime after mile six, I started feeling great.  I was running a good pace, the weather was lovely, and A and I were running side-by-side, making jokes and cheering each other up.  I started shouting "wooooo!" at the spectators, to be delightfully rewarded by enthusiastic cheers in return.  The middle part of the race breezed by as we picked up our pace.

Around mile 18, A began to pick up her pace, but I couldn't quite keep up. At this point, I hit a bit of a wall. I was tired, sore, a little nauseated.  I couldn't eat any more gels; I drank the gatorade/water, but my stomach didn't really want it.  It was grueling and miserable, and at that moment, I swore I would never run another marathon.

The last half mile, something magical happened.  I slowed (again) to a slight walk, but then I heard "You can do it!" from a fellow runner.  It was someone I had been running with the last chunk of the race, and her encouragement bolstered me--I began running again at a good clip, pulling on the strength I had.  I crossed the finish line in 3:55:56, sobbing slightly from pain, relief, and joy.


Of course, I am going to run another marathon.  The reason these events are so wonderful is the delight of being surrounded by all these people who are striving to accomplish the same goal.  While we run individually, we also run together, and we encourage and hold each other up.  I wish I had thought to thank that woman who encouraged me to keep going--she knew I just needed one more boost to make it that last half mile, and she gave it to me.  I'm lucky that I'm able to be a part of something so amazing and rewarding.

Running a marathon is a little crazy.  And while it hurt a lot at the time, the knowledge that I was able to train for and finish such an endeavor makes me feel like I can do anything.  Not only that, but I also have an incredibly supportive group of friends (runners and non-runners alike) who encourage me and cheer me on.  While I was the one who had to run those 26.2 miles, it's those friends who support me along the way and give me the confidence to tackle any challenge, no matter how crazy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

return from the edge of nowhere

So I sorta dropped off the face of the earth for a while.  We were in full swing with Pancake Week when this tragedy occurred:

Ouch.  Anyway, that combined with an influx of work and running caused me to forget to update this lovely blog.

Oh, how did I break my phone into a million pieces? Well, somehow when I was getting my keys out for my office, it leapt from my bag, hit the railing, and landed three stories below. On rocks (face up).  I peered over the edge and observed as it lit up and thought, well, maybe not so broken.  Oh, broken. Indeed.  However, it actually still functioned, once I wrapped it in a bit of plastic that was formerly index card packaging. After three days, my friend fixed it, and there wasn't even a scratch on the LCD--amazing! (His comment: I've never seen one quite this shattered.)  I figured if this phone could survive a three story fall, I should not replace it until it absolutely dies.  It's like the cat of phones.

The rest of the post will be photographs of what I've been up to (and the remainder of pancake week).
Corn pancakes with guacamole, yogurt, and sriracha

Oatmeal chocolate chip pancakes with yogurt and bananas

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie from Oh She Glows

My first Birchbox!

Using the polish from my Birchbox--Color Club in "Tweet Me"

Pumpkin bread and vanilla bean tea (Mighty Tea, also in my Birchbox) for tea time 

Post-Winslow Half Marathon snack: boiled egg with sriracha. Long live the rooster sauce. 

This week's tea treat: blueberry cranberry bread. YUM.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

MOAR pancakes (espresso chocolate)

On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, I teach at 7:30 am, which requires me to get up at ridiculously early hours if I wish to be alert, caffeinated, fed, and prepared for class.  Earlier if I wish to add running or some other activity to that list.  This morning, I needed to finish reading student work so I could hand it back to them, so I made a pot of coffee, mixed up the ingredients for my pancakes, read student writing for 45 minutes, then woke L up to make today's pancakes.

He didn't even begrudge me the missed hour or so of sleep.

Today's pancakes: chocolate espresso.  I spotted the recipe in my Runner's World, and I think they will be good--in theory. Today's batch didn't taste very chocolately or espresso-y, so they need tweaked.  I'll give you the recipe and let you try it out and decide.  (They have a forum going on pancakes too...with more recipes!)

In a twist of fate (and a slight lack of ingredients), I turned these pancakes into vegan delights.  But you can feel free to substitute back in all the non-vegan ingredients you like.  The main trick was to use flax "eggs" instead of real eggs, which work effectively to bind the ingredients together and still produced a nice pancake.

In terms of filling-ness, these pancakes stuck with me almost until lunch time, so they are winners as far as that goes.  I plan to remake these (perhaps not this week) and up the espresso and chocolate flavor. Suggested adjustments are listed at the bottom of the recipe

Day 2 Pancakes: Chocolate Espresso
(adapted from recipe in the October 2012 issue of Runner's World)
Makes 16 decently sized pancakes.  Serves 8 (2 pancakes is PLENTY, believe me).

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup barley flour (or other whole grain flour)
  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar (I completely forgot to add this...oops. It'll be good with it, but wasn't bad without)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (with juice of 1/2 a lemon added to curdle. Alternately, buttermilk works)
  • 1/4 cup espresso
  • 2 flax "eggs" (mix 2 tbsp flax with 6 tbsp warm water. Let sit until it's gooey)
Mix dry ingredients in your batter bowl (what? You still don't have a designated batter bowl?).  Make a well, then add all your wet ingredients.  Add more water/milk if you need to thin it out a bit (or a bit more flour if you need to thicken it).  Cook it on a griddle and gobble it down hastily as you dash out the door for class/work/important appointment/to lie on the couch.

Adjustment ideas:
My main complaint is that these didn't have enough chocolate or espresso flavor. So, I might try doubling the espresso to 1/3-1/2 cup (and reducing the milk to keep liquid levels equal).  I also used instant espresso powder, so I might add some of the powder to the dry mix AND use the liquid.

I forgot the sugar, and I suspect that it might also help the chocolate/espresso flavors pop a bit.

But, more importantly, I see some potential for a chocolate/espresso syrup to top these.  If you didn't want them to have the sheen of healthfulness they have with my hippie flax eggs and my crunchy-granola whole grain flours.  If you feel extra crazy, you might try throwing CHOCOLATE CHIPS (or chopped chocolate) into the batter. Or on top. Or both.  Sometimes you have to live on the edge like that, so you may as well add whipped cream and make them dessert pancakes.  That you maybe went ahead and ate for breakfast because they have whole grains and stuff.

If you want to de-vegan these, simply use buttermilk and eggs in place of the almond milk and flax eggs.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

PANCAKE WEEK

I am so excited about pancakes after spending time at L's parents' home, eating delicious pancakes (Swedish pancakes and oatmeal pancakes).  I also got a thrill when I cracked open my newest Runner's World, and there was a whole page full of pancakes.

You know what this means: I plan to eat pancakes. And a lot of them.  All week long.

For you, this means: pancake recipes!  (More pancake recipes, anyway.  Here's a link to all my posts where I've talked about pancakes or given you pancake recipes).

Pancakes are so good.  They are quick (generally), infinitely modifiable, and have the potential for as many add-ins and toppings as you can dream up. And I can dream up some, believe me.  They can also be pretty hearty, meaning that when I'm in a hangry daze because I've been running ridiculous amounts, pancakes will bring me out of zombie/angry mode and back into the land of satiety.

I'll talk about the RW pancakes later (I plan to make some of the recipes, so...), but today, I threw together a batch of pancakes out of what I had on hand.  I had to go buy coffee, and a package of Bob's Red Mill barley flour was lurking in the discount bin--score!--and some overripe bananas, which are always a cheaper way to buy them. Plus, they are perfect for baking with.

I've gotten really good at just throwing things together and emerging with delicious pancakes.  It's problematic, though, because I have a hard time translating that into a usable recipe.  Here's an attempt, though:

(and, sorry...no pics this morning. I was too hangry to think about it)

Banana Barley Pancakes
Makes 8 hearty pancakes, enough for 2.5-3 people of varying appetites.

  • 1/2 cup barley flour (or whole wheat or all white, or a mixture that you try)
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • ~3 tbsp wheat germ
  • ~2 tbsp flax meal
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • cinnamon (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • almond milk (or buttermilk and no lemon juice)--no idea on the quantity, maybe ~1 cup??
  • 1 banana, chopped
  • 1/4-1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
In your pancake batter bowl (or a regular one), put your flours, wheat germ, and flax meal in.  (I add things like wheat germ and flax meal to up the nutrient quotient because eating pancakes can otherwise seem like a big ol' sugar/white flour fest.)  Add in sugar, leavening, and cinnamon (and any other spices you might like).

Make a little hollow in the middle of your flour, and put egg; mix briefly.  Add some almond milk and stir, then add the lemon juice.  Continue adding almond milk until your batter is the right thin-ness--not soupy or too liquid, but smooth and pourable.  (There's not really a good way to describe the consistency. It should be relatively thin. Maybe thick like a milkshake that's drinkable with a straw! Yeah!)

Mix in your banana and walnuts, being careful not to stir it up too much (I just use a fork and stir until everything is incorporated).

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto a hot griddle and cook.  Eat with your favorite toppings: mine is yogurt and fruit, L's is sriracha and honey (which I also like. I just like yogurt more).

*********************
Think of this recipe as a playground.  I might post what seems to be my master recipe later in the week, from which you can play (though I'm sure you'll get a sense of it here).

Pancake week, y'all.  It's going to be awesome.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

taking time for tea

I am always hungry in the afternoon.  It never fails, never, that I'm going to be hungry when 4pm rolls around--and it's that awkward time when it's a little too early for dinner, but a piece of fruit isn't quite enough.  I tend to overeat because of this tendency because I get hangry (especially during marathon training) and inhale all the things.

Yesterday, I ate my watermelon for my afternoon snack...and found myself starving at 5.  I forced L to to go eat dinner early, but it didn't really suit either of us.  We tend to prefer to eat later.  So today, I got a little substantial nibble (a piece of morning glory bread and a coffee) when I was at the library working, and I felt fine.  So...I have decided to establish a tea time for L and I, complete with a healthy baked treat.  This will give a chance to do a bit of weekly baking, give me an outlet for a little sweet treat (without overdoing it!), and hopefully solve my hungry problems.

Culturally, tea time is a moment to take a break from work, pause and savor a little tea, a cookie or a scone or a slice of bread.  It's a moment to take a breath before going back to work for a bit longer.  I like this idea a lot.

Tea time this week will be accompanied by these ginger peach scones and probably some chai tea I have in my office:


I found the base recipe in Joy the Baker's cookbook, Joy the Baker Cookbook.  I love her blog, and her cookbook is pretty awesome too.  I had a little nibble as they came out of the oven--crunchy, lovely, delicious.  This will do quite nicely as my first tea time snack.

Oatmeal Ginger Peach Scones
(makes 18 scones)
adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook's Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I suspect some whole wheat would be good too)
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 3 small/medium peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

 Combine egg and butter milk and set aside.


Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger in a large bowl. Cut in cold butter (or throw it all in the food processor and pulse until the butter is pea-sized).  Mix in buttermilk/egg mixture with a fork or dough whisk until dough comes together.  I ended up using my hands to get it together after I stirred it with the dough whisk, but try not to handle it too much--the secret to a good scone (or a good biscuit) is keeping the butter cold.  Mix in the peaches/fresh ginger.


Using your handy 1/4 cup scoop (which is also fantastic for cupcakes), scoop out the dough onto your cookie sheet (or baking stone, which works fabulously).  I did this because rolling out the dough and cutting it is for suckers (and you then handle it less).


Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and top.  Delicious.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TV girls

I spent parts of the summer watching decently "bad" TV and not feeling too guilty about it.  I needed a counterbalance to all the theory reading I've been doing, and fluffy, drama-filled shows with implausibly lovely twenty-somethings posing as 16-year-olds fit the ticket.  It started with Pretty Little Liars, a high-school drama/mystery, whose web I found myself entangled in, despite the ridiculousness of some of the story, and the frustration I felt at not being given quite enough clues to begin unraveling the central mystery after two seasons (unlike Veronica Mars...though, perhaps that's why it only made it two seasons).

L mocks me for my mild obsession, but the pacing, the cliffhangers, the nailbiting moments are addictive.  And since I'm an academic in my heart of hearts, I began to analyze it in terms of feminism (of course).  I actually like Pretty Little Liars quite a lot because its central characters are four (well, five sort of) female characters, with plenty of other female character lurking at the edges--and the central four aren't competing with one another for boys or grades or attention.  It's stunning, really.

The female characters are the ones protecting the boys in their lives, not the boys protecting them.  They take on the threats toward themselves and make sacrifices and exhibit bravery.  There are many instances of male characters who are kind and generous and sensitive.  And there's actually one gay character and several peripheral gay characters.  (The show could use a little more diversity, but at least one of the main characters is some indefinite non-white ethnicity).  They talk about drug/alcohol abuse, safe sex, and the difficulties of the gay characters coming out to friends/family.  I think all these things are positive.

While there are still some decidedly non-feminist elements to the show--I mean, the make up and outfits are picture perfect, and there's a fixation on relationships.  There are also some feuds and fighting among the girls in the high school, and fundamentally, the show is about the ways girls keep secrets and stab each other in the back. These characteristics are not positive (and feed the stereotypes of catty teenagers), but they are at least balanced out by the examinations of close female friendships and family relationships.  Although fluffy, it has some interesting dimensions that I may try to explore further.

Netflix threw another show in my direction, so I decided to watch it because it only has a few episodes--Jane by Design.  This show is more traditional: there is one, central female character (Jane), and most of the other female characters are competition for men or power or attention, and they are all bitchy and mean (except for Jane).  This bothered me for reasons stated above: too many shows portray women as incapable of getting along with one another, feeding the stereotype of cat fighting, bitchy girls and women.  Obnoxious.

The show has its charms, however, one of which being the ingenuity and intelligence of Jane and her adorable outfits that she fashions out of various finds (the show has several scenes where she is shown sewing, drawing, and creating her outfits).  The other charm for me was that there was a male/female platonic friendship--there was no indication that they wanted anything more than friendship (they were both interested in other people), and I believe that more shows should portray a male/female friendship without insinuating they want each other (or like How I Met Your Mother, demonstrate that exes can be friends, even with lingering feelings).

However, that shifted in the final episode available on Netflix.  Out of the blue, the male character "realized" he was in love with Jane, shifting the whole dynamic and chemistry between them.  Uggh.  I might keep watching since there are only 6 more episodes, and the show got cancelled, but why did they have to do that?

Finally, the last show I've been watching is Bunheads, a delightful little show by Amy Sherman-Paladino.  The show is like a rebooted Gilmore Girls (with a lot of the same cast), but with a lot more girl power.  All of the central characters are female since they got rid of the one central male character at the end of the pilot, and it moves between the horrible delight of being a teenager and the more adult drama of a woman with no roots or home who suddenly finds herself tied down to a place.  The juxtaposition between the young ballerinas and the adult world expose Michelle's (the main character) nature with her immature tendencies coupled with moments of insight and wisdom drawn from her experiences, making her a unique mentor for the teenage dancers. The show had a ten episode run this summer, but it was picked back up, so I'm interested to see what they do with it--the interaction between Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop is one that can continue to develop in fascinating ways.

A long post, but a bit about some silly TV I've been watching and the ways that women are portrayed...and perhaps should be portrayed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

the first day

It was the first day of school, a day beloved by me and dreaded by others.  I always was eager to begin school, though a little sad at having to say farewell to the easy laziness of summer.  But I can only be idle for so long, and I always look forward to getting back to a structured, scheduled life.

And my students.  I can't tell you how much I love teaching, and how much I look forward to meeting each of my new students.  Getting to know them. Learning what kind of writer they are, what kind of person.  I like them a lot at this point of the semester, with their eager, young faces. Knowing that they likely have set goals for themselves that I can possibly help them accomplish.  It's a kind of delight, the new semester, and the fall semester is always more glistening than the spring.  Fresher.

I taught very early this morning.  Well, first days are usually all about taking care of business, passing out syllabi, learning names and faces.  I woke up at 4:50am, got in a 4 mile run (what?), and copied my syllabus before being in class at 7:30am.  Luckily, I'm a morning person, and teaching always fuels me with a kind of energy that's hard to find in a cup of coffee.

I'm sleepy now, though, and the day's barely half over.  I headed over to my new apartment office to try to work.  I organized the space as best I could, though I discovered the troubling absence of trash cans, file cabinets, and hand soap, and the even more troubling presence of spiders and dead bugs.  And the place is a bit filthy.  And empty--just me here all day.  I miss the camaraderie of my old office, with the regular stream of students and fellow TAs and faculty members wandering by and saying hello.  While I'm a bit (very) disgruntled by the change, I'm trying to make the best of it and be positive.  It'll only make me miserable if I dislike the space.  Luckily, I have other campus haunts and alternative working spaces.

This semester is all about trying to figure out a good schedule for myself, since I'm not taking classes any more, but I have to read a mountain of books.  But for today, I'm enjoying the first day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The beginning of the thirties

I kept starting this post in my head and never quite got it going...until today. I kept telling the gals on the run this morning that I had things to say that I want to write a post about, but hadn't yet.  Ooops.

So...I'm now thirty years old.  It's seem surreal to me.  I had a teacher in eighth grade who turned thirty, and I remember thinking back then (at age 14) that thirty sounded so old.  This teacher was unmarried and had no kids, which I thought that was weird.  She seemed on her way "downhill," and hadn't even done major things yet!  Why did she seem so cool with her aging and impending decline?

Fast forward 16 years and my perspective on thirty has changed for the better. (If I still believed what I believed when I was 14...well, we'd have other problems).  I no longer see thirty as the beginning of the end or anything silly like that--in fact, it seems like there's so much still ahead of me.  I'm in this wonderful phase of life where I've accomplished a lot, but I still have so much yet to do.  I'm young.  I really am--and I generally still get carded when I go to the bars (yes, I know they card everyone under 40. But I can still feel happy about it).

I still can't quite wrap my head around being 30, though.  I mean, when I turned 20, I might have felt the same way, like whoa, I'm no longer a teenager.  Being in my twenties defined me for, well, ten years, so it's strange to take on the new identity of being in the thirties.  Perhaps it's also a little anticlimactic: I heard tales of those who freaked out a little upon hitting thirty, but I felt strangely disconnected from any sense of panic.  Instead, I felt weird because I didn't feel any alarm about entering my thirties, but I thought maybe I should.

Today, I assisted with graduate student orientation, and one of the newbies made a comment about not reminding him that he was about to turn 24.  Ha, I thought, 24 is nothing.  The twenties were a great part of my life--especially my mid to late-twenties--and I won't forget them.  But now that I'm into the thirties, I believe I'm entering a new, perhaps even richer, stage, and I can't wait to see what's in store for me.

*********
My mom baked me a chocolate Kahlua cake, shaped like a cupcake. Yum.
Actual birthday: So how'd it go, you might ask?  Well, it was low key.  I had kicked around an idea to go somewhere or do something cool, but it turns out that my lack of income this summer put a bit of a damper on that.  I didn't want a big party because I did that last year--and it was too hot to do what I really wanted to go do, which was to hang out at the lake/river and have a summer picnic.

Instead, I spent a lot of Saturday with my parents, which I enjoyed.  It'd be a while since my birthday had been celebrated with them, and it made me remember back to my childhood birthdays.  With five kids in the family, I didn't often get to do what I wanted, and birthdays were the one day that we got to be the center of attention and pick what we wanted to eat and do.  It was marvelous, and I was happy to have a reminder of those happy childhood memories.


My dad made me this awesome airplane from "Drank" cans.

Yes, I baked my own cake. Isn't it lovely?
On my actual birthday, we had breakfast out and a generally relaxed day. We hosted potluck, and I baked my own cake.  Most people were appalled at first when I told them this.  I love birthday cakes, though, and I love baking them. L is usually in charge of my birthday dessert, though, and he likes to make crazy, creative, awesome treats--but rarely a birthday cake.  I love what he makes, but I always miss having a cake, so I decided this year, I would make my own.  And make bunting to put on top of it because, bunting is totally in right now.

I thought about it all week, carefully selected the recipe...and baked it, using fancy chocolate and everything.  It was a vanilla date triple layer cake with a chocolate sour cream frosting.  Everyone who ate it loved it, and I was happy.

Overall, a relaxed and quiet birthday.  I might have to make up for it next year and celebrate 31 with a BANG.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

the land of enchantment

Welcome to lovely New Mexico, the current place I am. After returning from Montana, I rested for two days and departed on the third. We (me and three other intrepid scholars) drove the twelve hours. It turns out that there's not much between Amarillo and Albuquerque, though the owners of little holes want you to think there is.

Tomorrow, I'll be running with other WPA folks. Right now, I'm enjoying the view from the back patio (see pic). It was too early to go to bed, so we are sitting outside. Tomorrow, we begin conference stuff. We had our opening banquet tonight, with a fascinating talk.

Today, I worked, swam, worked out in the tiny gym, met some people, and had a generally relaxing pre-conference day. I'm glad we came out a day early.

Now that I'm rambling, time to sign off!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

running all over town

The joys of running in a new place are hard to describe.  Not only do you get a break from the scenery that maybe has grown a little too familiar, but you get a chance to explore a place on foot.  I always feel like I get a great sense of a town when I'm able to run through it, running around in unfamiliar paths and having to find my way back home.  I rarely have trouble locating myself in a new place when I run it--my brain remembers directions very well when I run them.

Bozeman has become a trip I look forward to each year, and a minor part of it is running.  (A lot is hanging out with L's fabulous brother and sister-in-law--my brother- and sister-in-law now!--and our niece, who is amazing.)  I love escaping the muggy Arkansas heat.  I love running in altitude, the lack of oxygen more than made up for by the cool temperatures and the great views.

I got up early this morning and set out for a little 4-miler, which was relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable.  I ran in my Vibram Fivefingers, a pair I purchased in Bozeman two years ago when I first began running barefoot/minimally.  Today, I picked up a new pair of New Balance Minimus to replace the pair I purchased last year that are ready to be retired.
Old Mimimus (gray) meet New Minimus (black)
The old ones I have are the Minimus 10 trail runners--I ran a year in them including training for and running the Little Rock Marathon and three half-marathons in them. They got me through a lot of runs, and they completely converted me to a more minimal shoe.
Hello, my lovelies
The new ones, however, are Minimus Zeros, meaning they now are completely flat from heel to toe.  Normal running shoes have a stacked heel, which means they have a bit of a higher heel than forefoot--the Minimus 10s have a 4mm drop from heel to toe.  It's not much of a drop (a LOT less than "regular" running shoes).  And they also have a bit more padding in the soles.  When I heard NB released a zero-drop, I was intrigued.  So today I tried some on and was amazed at how they felt.

The Zeros are lighter by far--I picked them up and was stunned at how light they are.  The 10s are a lot lighter than regular running shoes, but these felt like air.  When I put them on, it felt like I barely had anything on my feet.  The Zeros are also a lot more flexible in the sole than the 10s--you can actually fold them in half!
Crazy!
I walked around in them tonight as we went to the farmers' market and ran a bit to avoid the incoming rainstorm.  I liked how they felt--they were a part of my foot, molding around them and flexing as my feet flex.  I plan to run in them a bit tomorrow to see how they feel on a regular run--I'm sure it'll be an adjustment, but since I've been running fairly regularly in my FiveFingers, I'm sure they'll do just fine.

And now to leave you with a picture of some awesome scenery: Hyalite! Even a crappy iPhone picture looks beautiful--the skies here are amazing.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

morning run + pictures

As promised, I post again! Here's some photos from my run early this morning.  We picked up a bike trail near our house and ended up at a tiny lake, so I ran a couple of loops around it before turning back.


As I rounded the corner and stopped to take the photo around the tiny lake, a mama duck thought I was too close to her nest and came quacking and flying toward me. I wasn't there to hurt her babies, though, and you can see them in two of the photos.  I also saw a gosling with still with down instead of feathers up close (she hopped in the water when I ran too near), and tons and tons of ground squirrels in their colonies, which L biked through to watch them scurry and chirp with alarm.

Credit: fieldguide.mt.gov
I had 12 miles on my schedule for today, but I was unable to run the full amount because it take a day or two for me to adjust to the altitude.  I took it easy, but after 8 or so, I was definitely feeling the miles in a way I don't normally--my legs felt like lead. For the whole run I felt like I didn't have quite enough oxygen, which I normally don't really feel unless I'm running all out.  It was a lovely morning for a run, and I decided that the stress of altitude and running on some of the trails would make up for the mileage reduction.

I talked L into biking along with me while I ran because I was a little apprehensive of finding my way and getting back home.  Mostly, though, he kept the run fun, and I had someone to talk to since I wasn't able to run with my normal running gals.  They got their runs in yesterday back in the muggy state I left behind for a week, though apparently it rained and made the temperatures more tolerable.

We're about to head out to Hyalite for a day trip: canoeing, fishing (for L and his dad), and grilling.  It should be fun and relaxing, and I promise to take some photos with my better camera.

And before I go, here's a pic of my niece's piggy--it's a big mama pig with one of her six babies! (The babies store inside of her and zip up, and there's velcro for them to attach to her.  It's like the best thing ever.)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Cooler temperatures, lighter hearts

It's amazing how oppressed one can feel when it's hot and muggy.  The world moves slower, time seems to inch along.  I feel weighed down, sluggish when it's hot; I have a heart time motivating myself to move a bit more quickly, to do a bit more even when I have more time to do it in.  It's the effect of summer: the body is not meant to do a lot when it's hot and is meant to rest and relax poolside or take a nap.

Yesterday, halfway through South Dakota, the air cooled off to 64 degrees.  Clad in shorts and a tank top, I was actually a bit chilly as we walked around during a rest stop and later when we stopped for dinner.  L and I both felt our spirits lift; not only were we on the way to visit family, but we were freed from the leaden heat.

Today, we arrived in Bozeman where we'll be staying for the next week.  Our little cottage is cozy; we are near L's fam and we have spacious accommodations.  L and I have commandeered the downstairs for our own little space while the in-laws have the upstairs bedroom, so we each have our own little space in the house.

Tomorrow, I'm heading out for a 12 mile run where I'll explore the town a bit (and hopefully not get lost!), then we're off to the mountains for the day to fish and hike and cookout.  I will take photos and post regularly while we're here. :)

Yay, Montana!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

the summer slips by.

I blink and suddenly it's the end of June. Where does the time go?

Last weekend, I spent some time near Tulsa, OK playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament.  Our team ended up winning the whole thing, going undefeated all weekend! It was a great learning experience for me and a fun chance to play some frisbee with great women and fabulous athletes.

Unfortunately, the tournament meant utter bodily exhaustion, so I returned to Fayetteville and promptly slept for 12 hours.  It felt awesome, and I realize I need to make getting a full night's sleep a regular priority.  Challenge...accepted!

Last week was my final week of work at the writing center, and it was a busy (but fun!) week.  The summer is super intense, and I found myself with a group of clients that kept returning for me to help, so it was enjoyable to see their progress over a few short weeks as they developed as writers.

Today began early with a 10 mile run with my lady running group (so begins the marathon training!), which was great.  Then, market and the pride parade.  After lunch, I returned home to clean and prepare for our upcoming trip...and fell asleep.  Oops!  After I woke up, I straightened things up a bit, then headed to the pool with A. and swam laps. Because I love swimming laps, and it feels like it helps me work out muscle soreness that running builds up.  My swimming is coming along nicely--I have more stamina, and I'm feeling more comfortable with the freestyle stroke, being able to hold my breath for up to 5 strokes.  Sweet.

Tonight, we shopped for our trip and made pickles.  We made about 8 quarts of these guys: Garlic Dill Pickles from one of my favorite preserving site, Food in Jars.  L had tons of cucumbers from his garden, and we bought about 12 lbs of small pickling cucumbers at market this morning, so we set forth to make sweet gherkins, garlic dills, regular dills, and bread and butter pickles (which have to sit overnight, so we'll be canning them tomorrow).  An impressive array of pickled things to add to our dilly beans that we made a few weeks ago.  NOM.

Also, it turns out that pickle juice is an excellent electrolyte replacement.  After swimming, I was feeling woozy and headachy, which I initially took as the need to eat something.  But then I recalled that I moved a lot today (running, biking, swimming, walking, etc), and it was hot, so I sweated a lot.  I don't generally eat a lot of salt, so I was a bit low on salts, I think.  Once I took a couple of swigs of the pickle juice leftover from last year's batch of dilly beans (which I was craving, weirdly), I felt much better.  It sounds a bit gross; however, I don't generally crave salt, but I occasionally want pickles really badly. So, pickle juice it is!

Tomorrow will be filled with more tasks, but I hope to blog a bit more regularly on our trip. Travel is always fun, and I should have internet access to chronicle this trip.  Off for another summer adventure!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Better Take on 'Left Behind'

When I was in high school, I started reading the Left Behind series.  At some point my freshman year, I realized the books were crap--and much, much later, I found this awesome blog who took it upon himself to painstakingly read and comment on the series as a way of exposing the problems with a particular religious mindset.

Since then, I've encountered other takes on the theme: what would happen if the Rapture were to really happen?  A particularly excellent version was this graphic novel that postulated that if the Rapture happened, it would open to the door to all sorts of supernatural occurrences, such as avenging angels and talking animals.  So when I heard about Tom Perrotta's new novel, The Leftovers, I was intrigued.  Having previously read his excellent The Abstinence Teacher, I added the novel to my to-read list after I received it for Christmas.

Perrotta places what he calls The Sudden Departure in a prologue, and he focuses his novel not on the event itself, but on the repercussions of the random disappearance of millions on a few characters in the small town, Mapleton.  There's the Garvey family, who lost no one in their family, but whose four members react differently to the event, including Laurie (the mother) and Tom (the son), who both turn to fanatical religion as a way to make sense of the post-event world.  There's Nora, who lost her husband and children to the event and who struggles to reconnect with the world of family and relationships.  Because Perrotta writes the disappearances as having no reason, the vanished individuals sharing no common characteristic, the quest to understand why drives the characters to cope in often extreme (or not-so-extreme) ways.

The beauty of the novel is that it doesn't attempt to examine the effects of such an event on some large, global scale.  Instead, Perrotta focuses on the small ripples, the reactions of a few individuals to dig into their psyches.  Characters turn to religion, to other people, to themselves, to drugs in an attempt to comprehend the event, to forget it, or to deal with the gnawing hole in their hearts.  And Perrotta doesn't moralize or attempt to establish universals; he portrays the characters and their relationships to one another, their conversations and their thoughts, to demonstrate the trauma and sense of desperation these characters experience.

Overall, I thought the book was well conceived and well written.  It takes what used to be an eye-roll inducing theme and turns it into something intriguing.  While some characters are not as well developed as others, and some story lines are dropped or never reach a close, the novel is executed well.  It was one of those books that I find myself thinking about long after I read the final words and shut the cover.  If you're as intrigued as I am with authors who use small snapshots of everyday life to explore the depth of human emotions and motivations, you'll enjoy this book.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Experiencing Hunger

The hunger-satiating salad
It was long past my lunchtime, but a full docket at the writing center left no time to consume my lunch. I left work a little after 1pm, heading home to eat lunch there.  When I arrived, I was so hungry that I was verging on dizziness as I prepared my meal; however, my salad never tasted so good, the flavors strong and satisfying.

Why did I wait so long to eat? I am trying to listen to my hunger signals a little better, to pay attention to when I need to eat, and when I'm just eating because it's time to eat.  So I could have eaten early to avoid getting hungry, but I refused to.  I don't obviously advocate not eating until one is to the point of dizziness or passing out, but I'm learning to experience hunger.

Okay, I know that seems weird (and possibly disordered), so I'll explain: because I sometimes have issues with my blood sugar dipping (though not eating sugar/refined grains reduces it drastically), I have an aversion to being hungry for longer than a few minutes.  When I start to feel a few pangs, I usually eat something, which frequently leads me to eat when I'm probably not actually  hungry.  I eat from boredom and habit rather than because I need sustenance.

L's brother once said something offhandedly that has stuck with me: in response to a question about if he needed food before the next meal, he commented, "It's not bad to feel hungry."  (or something like that).  It has stuck with me because I always felt like it was a state to be constantly avoided.  But what if hunger isn't as bad as I feared?

I had a cat who didn't have constant access to food when she was a kitten. As a result, she was always concerned about the state of her food bowl: she would constantly come into the house simply to check to make sure her food was still there.  As someone who is lucky enough to always have access to food, I nevertheless picked up a strong fear of not having enough to eat.  Maybe it's from growing up in a big family (with hungry, growing boys) where if you didn't jump in, you might miss out on getting something.  It's also related to the bad experiences of being lightheaded from hunger before lunch in school or moments of hangry that wash over me if I don't eat.

These fears and the distrust of my own body are something I'm coming to terms with.  Hence, waiting to eat until I really am hungry, even if I accidentally push myself into a red line.  I'm learning to trust my body, that if I treat myself right, my body will tell me what it needs if I'm willing to pay attention to its physical signals.  It isn't bad to feel hungry, especially if it means waiting a little while to eat something delicious.

***********************************************************
Last night after dinner, I wanted a little dessert.  L's mom is staying with us for a few days, and she brought cake for us to enjoy.  I decided that I'd have a bite of cake with some fruit.  As I was eating my cake, I realized that I didn't really want it after all.  The first few bites were okay, but I really just wanted fruit and yogurt. So I stopped eating it and gave the rest to L.  Not only did I get a tiny portion to start with, but I recognized when my body had enough and I stopped.

I'm not certain how to convey how big this is for me, but believe me: it's big. Almost unheard of, in fact. I'm actually still a little shocked that I managed to do it.  I usually blow by those signals and keep on eating to the point of misery, so I'm starting to understand how trusting and listening to those physical signals can help me to eat in a way that is balanced and healthy.  And I have to say, I like it a lot.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Week's Thoughts

(Every time I'd think of something to write, I'd forget to come over here and type it up. So instead of trying to string some of these thoughts over a couple of separate posts, I thought I'd just dump them all into one.)

1. Running
As I was driving away to run some errand, I noticed the little old man shuffle by me.  He wore running shorts, white tube socks that hit midway up his calf, and well-worn running sneakers.  It wasn't the first time that I'd noticed him, with his slow shuffle-jog.  He runs by my house frequently.  I don't know if he runs every day, but he seems pretty committed to running, even though he's not very fast and his limbs are a little too old to move with strength and agility.

As I watched him, I thought to myself: being a runner isn't about speed.  It isn't about ability, even.  To be a "real runner," requires a certain mindset.  The little old man was a runner, through and through.  This is why I encourage newer runners (or slower runners, even) to not compare themselves to anyone.  Run for the joy of running, for how it feels, for the strength and peace it brings.  If you do that, you're a real runner.

And I only hope that when I'm 90 years old, I'm still out running, even if it's barely faster than walking.

2. Eats
My meals these days have been (mostly) sugar-free and full of veggies.  And lovely to behold and to eat.
Sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts and carrot
 with tofu meatballs and beets
Shredded Brussels sprouts and carrots,
topped with scrambled egg, salsa, and avocado
Mixing bowl salad: beans, sweet potato,
avocado, salsa, cucumber
Caprese with freshly-picked basil/tomato
topped with homemade ricotta



 3. Sugar-Free
In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't been on 100%...but I've come to realize that it's okay.  The little diversions and "cheats" have helped me keep on track about 80-90% of the time.  And I've been very selective with how I cheat, turning down cake that wasn't homemade or distinctive but drinking a (single) beer with friends out.  And so on.  It's helped me not feel anxious for how I'm going to eat after the 21st day--because I've already figured out a way to balance it, though it's sure to still be an ongoing challenge.  Plus, I felt a bit more motivated after eating a bit of excluded foods, which made my stomach hurt and drained my energy.

4. Shopping
When you're on a limited budget, shopping is not something I can do at this point. This weekend, I dropped by a friend's yardsale and scored some great shoes and a few accessories for not much money, including a pair of red flats that I love, love, love.  On Tuesday, I headed to my favorite thrift store to look for some shorts (a post for another day).  Among other things, I found these little lovelies:

For a few bucks, I became the proud owner of (yet) another pair of flats--these were Nine West and in almost perfect shape.  I've noticed that I'm slowly acquiring more and more flats and getting rid of heels that are uncomfortable or not a good fit. Flats are nice because I can walk on campus with them, but they can still look dressy for teaching.  And I can wear them with jeans or skirts.  (I also got a great pair of Kenneth Cole Reaction heels--so I'm not entirely giving up heels).  After returning home, I cleared out several pairs of shoes that needed to go, more than balancing out the new acquisitions.

I try to keep my closet pruned, and I'm learning to not even purchase clothes or shoes used that are not quality brands--I'm constantly finding Forever21 stuff that is cute but is sure to fall apart after a few wears.  Not worth my time or effort, even if it is purchased used.

5. Handmade
When I saw the new Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders book, I knew I had to get it because of the bike pannier pattern.  Panniers would be the perfect answer for how to transport myself and my load of stuff to campus, enabling me to bike more regularly and consistently.  So, finally, I made them on Sunday, staying up until 2am because I got fixated on getting them finished:

They turned out perfectly.  The bags are a good size to hold my stuff, and while I'm working on campus this summer, I don't have to bother with a backpack, saving my back from sweating disgustingly as I commute back and forth.  And I can detach and carry them easily into the building with little fuss.

I made it from a yard of oil cloth and some small supplies, so they were cheaper than buying my own--and I got to use this awesome vintage-patterned oil cloth.  I might even make a few more (with some adjustments to the design) for my friends who are interested in one. All-in-all, a good DIY experience.


And that's it...for now. :)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Swimming! (And Other Things)

The pool opened up last Friday, and (true to my word), I decided to pay for a summer pass so I can go to the pool ALL THE TIMES.  Thus far, I have been two for two--we went yesterday, and I went today.

I love the water, but it also freaks me out a little to be in the deep end (sometimes).  Today, though, I felt fine in the deep end, so maybe I just have to get used to it.

I tend to swim laps, even though they're hard, and I get really tired.  It's strange that I can run for hours and hours really fast (see 1:52 half marathon last weekend!), but I can only swim half a lap in the pool before I have to stop to breathe a bit.  I suspect part of it is not knowing how to breathe well; when you run, you can breathe all you want, but when you swim, you have to be okay with not breathing all the time.

I think by the end of the summer, I want to get up to swimming a full mile without stopping (with a 0-1650 yard plan!).  So this week's goal is to get to a full lap. I think I can do it now, I just need to not get freaked out by my inability to breath every stroke.

I also need to figure out strategies to keep my hair from drying out from the constant chlorine.

Maybe my next task will be to jump off the diving board...

*******************
I've begun gathering my books for comps, which is both exhilarating and a little scary. Now I need to read and keep searching for things.  I'm supposed to have the list together soon, so that's what I'll be working on.

The sugar detox has been going reasonably well.  I feel better than I have in a while, I don't really worry tons about food, and I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, which is exactly what I want to be like.  My fellow sugar detoxer talked me into not completely starting over.  I have decided that while I'm not going to be 100% off sugar, it's going to be a rare occurrence (along with refined grains and other processed things). In other words, I'm going to be eating a bit differently from here on out.

As LS and I keep saying to each other sugar=devil. Also, the diabetes.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Athlete--That's Me?

I think I can officially add a new title to my list of descriptors: athlete.  I've probably already thought of it before, generally.  I mean, I did finish a marathon and all.  But after this weekend's big PR in the half marathon (by over 6 minutes!), I am feeling that athlete is an appropriate label to claim for myself.

Yesterday, I went out and played Ultimate Frisbee for the first time in two years, and I was amazed at how comfortable I felt.  I feel more capable in my running, I was quick and able to stay with my person (even with recovering legs), and I was able to throw and catch decently.  I also feel like I'm better understanding the logic of the game, of how to run and where to be, the strategies and the requirements to play well.  I'm by no means the weakest person on my team, and that made me feel good.

Better yet, my team is friendly and encouraging.  I didn't feel anxious about messing up, and I asked questions from the better players, and I had a great time.

Running is wonderful, but even in a group, it's a solo sport.  Only you (the runner) can affect what happens on the run.  While running with other people helps pass the time and improve running speed, at the end, you're in your own head and in charge of your body.  You have to run your own race at your own pace.  But even as much as I like the solitary aspect of running, I miss the camaraderie of being a part of a team, of contributing to a larger entity.  I enjoy team sports (especially when I feel like I'm actively contributing), so I'm really glad I got talked into signing up for summer league this year.

The confidence and the comfort I feel in my skin is one of the best results of owning my athleticism.  I'm looking forward to this summer as the time I continue to hone and develop my skills and see what my body is wonderfully and awesomely capable of.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Busy/Full Weekend

It's the end of a long and busy weekend. Fun, productive, but tiring. :)

On Friday morning (early), we got up and I rode to Kansas City with my bro and sister-in-law and their darling child.  (They've been in town most of the week, so I've been spending lots of much-needed time with them!) It was fun because we talked and I played with C and got to know her--she likes me, even though I accidentally bit her finger.  Ooops!

CUPCAKES RULE!
We then headed to pick up our packets for the Hospital Hill half marathon, where my brother, B, found himself a GPS watch, and I found myself a sweet pair of bright orange running shorts.  I blame the lack of food and a bit of encouragement from my sister-in-law, A, for why they overrode my cautious spending.

We then went and picked up cupcake baking supplies.  We were in KC to get set up for C's 1st birthday party, and I offered (very insistently) to bake the cupcakes.  A picked out some recipes, and B begged for German chocolate. We (me and my baking minions) ended up baking red velvet cupcakes, marbled cupcakes, and German chocolate cupcakes, half in ice cream cones, half regular.

The next morning, we got up and headed to KC for the half marathon.  A and her friend were running the 5k, and my brother agreed to run alongside me for the half.  We couldn't have asked for a better day for running in early June: the temperature was 53 degrees when we began the run, and it was sunny and clear and only got into the 60s by the time we finished. Perfect weather to PR--and I did.  While I didn't remember that the run was all that hilly (it feels a lot hillier when you're running 8:30 miles for 13 miles), I felt great for most of it, coming in at 1:52:11.  My brother had to slow down a bit because of an injury, but he came in 2 minutes after me.  It was amazing--I love that every race I do, I learn more about how to run better, faster, and stronger.  I think I see a possible 1:45 in my future.

Running siblings--and my bright orange shorts!
Not only did I PR, but I got to run with my brother, something we enjoy doing together.  It was a great experience for all of us, and I was so happy that I could share running with my family in this way.  I think B and I will have to find other races to run together.

After the run, we headed back to A's parents' house, cleaned up, ate some food, baked a tiny cake for C's birthday, and then headed down to Fayetteville.  They went to an event, and I chilled at home, taking a much needed nap.  I was so tired, I skipped out on going with them to the bar to hang out and went to sleep instead...

Frosting the cupcakes with a minion
Then, at 4:40am, my alarm went off, and I got up and ready to leave by 5:30am to head BACK to KC.  Yep.  We got there around 9:30am this morning, and I got to work making frosting, and everyone else got to work decorating and prepping for the party.  I made coconut pecan frosting for the German chocolate cupcakes, cream cheese frosting for the red velvet, and chocolate and vanilla Swiss buttercream for the marbled cupcakes and C's tiny tiered cake.  My minions (yes, I had baking minions! it was great!) decorated as I stirred and beat and whipped and creamed.  They turned out beautifully--my favorite moment was when one of A's aunts bit into the cupcake, looked up in surprise, and commented, "That tasted a lot better than I thought it would! You can tell they were homemade."  She took another one home with her.


C's little birthday cake, ready to be SMASHED

C's party went off great--there was baby cake smashing and presents, and much fun had by the guests and the parents.  Food was eaten, games were played, and L showed himself to be an adept helper (as usual) as well as volleyball player.  We make a great team. :)

After much birthday partying was had, C took a nap, and we gathered ourselves to leave.  We finally departed around 6, and drove back home.

And here I am. Home. This next week will be filled with running and ultimate frisbee and working on my comps lists (summer break is over!)

[For those wondering how I did surrounded by such delicious cupcakes...well, I managed to stay sugar free for the most part (except for a few things here and there because of the run yesterday and tasting my recipes), but I did eat two cupcakes today.  But I don't feel bad about it because I enjoyed them a lot.  I will be back on the sugar-free wagon, though, and I'm going to begin again at Day 1.]

Anyway, great and busy weekend, but a joy and a delight as well.  I feel like I've packed in as much brother and sister and niece time as I can, and I hope it's a lot sooner when I see them next.