Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Accountability, redux

Yes, I've been absent for the last few weeks. It's because I've been plotting and planning like a madwoman for my company's ShapeUp fitness and weight loss challenge. I was busy as a bee crafting two weeks worth of motivational e-mails (for the two weeks before the challenge began) to send to my team of 10.

Plus, I've been designing my personal strategy, including a finely honed meal plan and workout schedule.

I am a machine. I am the Terminatrix.

So, even though I haven't been accountable via this blog, I have been so highly motivated in my quest for leanness that you need not fear: I have been a good girl.

I'm not going to publish everything I eat and do here. Instead, I'll just do the highlights. For example:

Monday, April 20
1,358 calories (36%C/30%P/34%F)
21,055 pedometer steps
185 minutes of moderate exercise

Tuesday, April 21
1,709 calories (35%C/27%P/39%F)
20,078 pedometer steps
205 minutes moderate exercise

There. Short and simple.

As a twist on the accountability idea, I will be starting a new feature on my blog: "What's in your cart?" It will feature weekly pix of what's in my Costco cart (and PCC reusable bag).

Here's the pix from two weeks ago:

2 loaves sprouted grain bread
18 large eggs
6-pack o' peppers
Box of sweet potatoes
2 bins of mixed salad greens
Tub of hummus
2 bunches of bananas
Cream cheese (for Easter dessert)
We also bought yogurt (organic, plain, nonfat) and organic lemons at PCC, but I don't remember what else.

And, here's last week's pix:

Big bag o' broccoli
2 loaves sprouted grain bread (forgot we bought 2 the week before)
Lowfat cottage cheese
3 half-gallons organic 1% milk
18 large eggs
1 bunch bananas
Turkey breast
1 bin organic mixed salad greens
1 bin organic baby spinach
French roast coffee
6 mangos
6 pack o' peppers
2 jars of peanuts
Chicken raviolis (a final pre-competition splurge)

At PCC, we bought yogurt (organic, plain, nonfat), kefir (organic, plain, lowfat), steel-cut oats, muesli, a few fig bars and organic mint chocolate chip ice cream (the rest of the splurge).

Ciao, until tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Consider the glass

Yes, this glass. What does it make you think of? Paris? Accordions? Edith Piaf? Crusty baguettes borne in bicycle baskets? Black berets and walks along the Seine? Well, of course it does! I mean, this is the quintessential bistro glass. It is, the Duralex Picardie, and it is a joy to behold.

If you recall my post about my restaurant supply store wanderings from the other day, you'll also remember my expressed love of anything that looks like it might hold food or drink in a diner or bistro (somewhat redundant, I know, since a bistro is a French diner).

Anyhoo, I can't tell you how many time over the last decade-plus my eyes passed over the lovely Duralex Picardie (not that I knew it's name, then). In Williams Sonoma, Cost Plus, Sur la Table, heck probably even in Anthropologie (can't swear to that one, but it seems like something they would stock). Each time, my thoughts were along these lines: "Heavens, that's a lovely, classic glass. I really must get some of those sometime."

My interest in these sweet glasses had reached a heightened sense of urgency in Buenos Aires, where the smallest sizes were used liberally in cafes for juice and for the mineral water that always accompanies an espresso. "Sometime" became "very soon." On Saturday, with the heady rush of Saturday's Buffalo china score making me giddy, I decided that "very soon" meant "now!"

I didn't see these lovelies at any of the stores we were in (which surprised me), so I did a Google search for "bistro glasses." I quickly learned my beloved's name...only to discover shortly thereafter that these glasses had been discontinued and were essentially elevated to "collector's status," fetching some pretty (read: high) prices on eBay!

Nooooooooooooo! This is not fair!

I continued to gnash my teeth and Web surf, finally learning that my best bet was to head to my nearest Cost Plus World Market and hope they still had some stock on the shelves. J suggested I call around to the stores in our area, but I hate doing that. No, I would wait a little longer.

Enter Tuesday. At high noon, I don my coat and hat and walk down to the CPWM near Pike Place Market. I enter. I do NOT take a shopping basket (why tempt fate?). I calmly walk to the glassware section. Scanning...scanning...OMG! They have them!

I am now the proud owner of 12 8.75-ounce Duralex Picardie tumblers. I opted not to buy the 12+ ounce and the 17+ ounce specimins, because I find the shape more appealingly curvy in the shorter, smaller glasses.

So now I need to find the 3 oz., the 4.4 oz., the 5.4 oz. and maybe the 7.5 oz. Rumor has it that the orignal Duralex factory has new owner and may start regular production and distribution, so I don't think I'll resort to an eBay auction quite yet. I mean, I've waited this long, haven't I?

Tuesday, March 31
Morning workout: "Beautiful Technique" DVD (flow practice)
Breakfast: 1/2 c. muesli + 6 oz. plain NF yogurt; 12 oz. Americano; 32 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz. water; green tea.
Noon workout: Walk around downtown.
Lunch: 2 oz. pasta (dry weight) with 1 c. veggie/meat sauce; carrots; pea pods; 6 oz. V8; 16 oz. water.
Snack: 1/2 orange; 4 oz. 2% cottage cheese.
Dinner: Green salad w/ oil & vinegar, 4 oz. turkey breast, 3 oz. yellow pepper, 1/4 avocado, 1 oz. walnuts; 16 oz. water.
Evening workout: Power Belly dance class (1 hour); performance class (about 30 minutes of actual dancing).
Snack: Cocoa LaraBar; 16 oz. water; 2 small truffles; 3 hard coffee candies; 5 small pretzels; 1 c. pineapple-ginger juice; green tea.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kids today...

...have no clue about the Dark Ages, when details about their favorite band were not available at the click of a mouse or the swipe of an iPhone touchscreen. Forget the whole "I had to walk to school in the snow five miles uphill both ways" thing. This lack of information was serious!

The first band I ever luvvvved was ABBA, in like, the 5th grade. There was no MTV back then, let alone the internet (although I'm sure Al Gore was hard at work on it). I remember pathetically trying to watch "Abba: The Movie" on a pre-HBO movie channel that we didn't even subscribe to (think audio and nausea-inducing wavy video).

I cobbled together whatever shreds of information I could find on that fab Swedish foursome and recorded it in my diary (which had a gold lock and an ethereal pastel fairy princess motif). Those lovingly written words probably make up 1/1000 of what I can find today in the band's Wikipedia entry. Sigh.

Heck, they broke up decades ago, and they even have an official Web site. Do you know what I would have given to have this information 29 years ago. Do you?!

Anyway, my current bout of Abba-mania started a few weeks ago after we watched the trainwreck of a movie that is "Mamma Mia!" (I do have it on reliable authority that the stage version did not suck, however.) Let me say this: Pierce Brosnan should not sing...EVER!

So I let my fingers do the walking to my library's Web site, where I find not one, but THREE DVDs featuring the pop superstars in their 1970s-very early '80s glory. Really, did any band make better use of spandex?

Even though their costumes make me giggle, there's no denying that ABBA produced some insanely classic pop songs, performed in voices so lovely that any Hollywood actor or karoke enthusiast who dares to attempt replication will suffer mightily by comparison.

Monday, March 30
Morning workout: "Beautiful Technique" DVD; "Baladi" DVD (maqsoum drills).
Breakfast: Leftover quiche; 1/2 c. fresh pineapple; cafe au lait; 2 0z. fresh squeezed orange juice; 32 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz. water.
Noon workout: 30 minutes free dance; "Baladi" DVD (various drills).
Lunch: Green salad w/oil & vinegar, 4 oz. turkey breast, 3 oz. yellow pepper, 3 oz. cucumber, 1/4 avocado, 1 oz. walnuts.
Snack: 4 oz. 2% cottage cheese; 4 oz. fresh pineapple.
Post-work workout: "Body Fat Solution" workout B.
Dinner: 2 oz. pasta (dry weight) with 1 c. leftover veggie/meat sauce; green salad w/ oil & vinegar; 4 oz. red wine.
Snack: Cafe Americano; olive oil/yogurt/lime loaf cake.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sloppy Sunday

More signs of spring! Just look at that rhubarb plant. I think it's doubled in size since last weekend.

No discernible signs of life from the vegetable seeds I planted outside last week, but it's early (and cold) days yet. Jeff helped me tie one of our grapevines to it's overhead arbor, and I finally got around to planting my Cascadia peas.

I didn't get a lot of gardening done, because I was busy in the kitchen. I don't make quiche Lorraine very often, what with all the cream and egg (2 + 2 yolks) and Gruyere and bacon and buttery crust, but I hadn't made it in ages, and it sounded perfect for lunch with a green salad. Quiche fall under the category of things I don't make often because I make them the right (read: delicious) way, and not the compromise low-fat, low-taste way. I'd rather have it a few times a year and really enjoy it. (Ezell's chicken also falls in that category, although we don't make it ourselves, clearly.)

Dinner's main course was a grass-fed eye of round roast (always wonderful...I so love our beef people), prepared with a rub of Dijon mustard, red wine, minced garlic, salt, pepper and dried herbs. Dessert was a simple, delicious EVO and yogurt loaf cake.

The weather made long walks and gardening much more appealing on Sunday, which, along with the large servings of vegetables I downed, provided some semblance of balance against the liberties I took with the home bar. [Hangs head in shame.]

I was planning on, and looking forward to, enjoying a glass of porter while I made dinner, and a second one with dinner. I was not planning on the martini and the red wine. Sheesh. That's a lot of calories, although according to a recent study I read about, I'm protecting my bones!

Sunday, March 29

Breakfast: Cafe au lait; one piece sprouted grain toast w/ 1 tbs natural peanut butter and 2 tsp marmalade; 1 c. fresh pineapple and mango; 16 oz. water.
Morning workout:
4-mile speed walk (with some hills)
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz. water; cafe au lait.
Quiche Lorraine; mixed green salad w/ oil & vinegar; 4 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice; 16 oz. water.

Afternoon workout:
2.2-mile walk (with stops, thanks to dog).

Cocktail hour:
2 12-oz glasses of porter; 1 small (1 oz.) martini w/ 1 olive & 1 onion; 1 oz. mixed nuts; 16 oz. water.

5.5 oz. lean roast beef; mixed green salad w/ oil and vinegar; 1.5 c. steamed broccoli; 4 oz. red wine; 8 oz. mineral water.

Snack: Olive oil/yogurt/lime cake; cafe Americano.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Superfantastic Saturday

The amazingly craptastic weather on Saturday derailed our outdoor plans, so we decided to finally checkout some of the restaurant supply stores we pass regularly in the SODO neighborhood.

Our Plan B did come with a mission: to find a most excellent juicer. One of the tiny addictions we picked up in Buenos Aires was fresh squeezed orange juice. The stuff was everywhere down there. Cafes, bars, street corners. A little glass came with breakfast in our favorite cafe, and in the busier neighborhoods, you could get a plastic tumbler full from a street vendor for less than $1.

Our apartment had a lever-operated manual juicer, and juice oranges were cheap and plentiful in any grocery, large or small. Since we returned home, we'd been making do on the weekends (the only time we have delicious as fresh-squeezed juice is, we don't drink a lot of juice on principle) with our little low-tech Pyrex juicer.

We knew we wanted an OrangeX juicer, and we were hoping to find it for less than the slightly discounted price on Amazon. Which we did ($40 less) at Dick's Restaurant Supply. That's it in the middle of the top shelf. The white one. Sturdy as hell, and a thing of beauty.

But the real story begins when I walked into the back room of used merchandise. Dear reader, I do believe my heart went a pitter-pat. You see, I have a deep and abiding love for chunky, plain, off-white china that was born to live in a diner or no-nonsense bistro. Like-new 9-inch Buffalo china plates for $2 each? Hand me a paper bag, please, I think I might hyperventilate. Hearty little teacups that allow for just the right proportion of espresso shot-to-hot water (for an Americano) or milk (for a cafe con leche)...for only 50 cents each? How I limited myself to six, I'll never know. Short, round dishwasher-safe wineglasses, the stemware equivalent of eating off a smaller plate, for $2 each? I'll take four, please.

"When I die," I whispered to J after he wandered over, "I want to be buried here!"

Even at those prices, I didn't buy everything that captured my fancy (wouldn't be prudent!), but I came home with enough goodies that I had to do an impromptu reorganization of my kitchen cabinets (and run the babies were dusty!)

I was pleased that my new Buffalo china almost exactly matched the four Syracuse china dinner plates that we bought 12 or 13 years ago at a Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma outlet in Manhattan. A real outlet mind you: It was in this funky unfinished space (truly unfinished, not "shabby chic" unfinished) space in Chelsea, where the goods were helter skelter with no discernible method of organization. Those plates have held up with nary a chip or crack, despite almost daily use for more than 10 years. That's quality merchandise, people! I might note that W-S sells the 8-inch Buffalo plate for $36 each...the 10-inch for $60 each. Ahem!

One more deal of the day: The extra-fantastic-super-delicious 9 Pound Porter from Georgetown Brewing Co., only $6 for a half-gallon growler of goodness. Slurp!

P.S. If you haven't seen the movie "In Bruges," please do. It's very funny, and a hit with both the male and female constituencies in our household (even though the male one claimed the cold he was coming down with was making him too tired to stay up and watch a movie and he couldn't possibly make it through more than 10 minutes....he was laughing harder than I was).

Saturday, March 28
Breakfast: 2 fried eggs; 1 piece sprouted grain toast w/ natural peanut butter (1 tbs) and marmalade (2 tsp); cafe au lait; 4 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; a few Costco samples; 16 oz. water.
Lunch: 1 c. chili w/ 1/4 avocado, 1 tbs. LF sour cream, salsa; large mixed green salad w/ oil and vinegar; 16 oz. water; cafe Americano.
Afternoon workout: "Rhythm Workout" DVD
Snack: 12 oz. Porter + 1 oz peanuts.
Dinner: 2 oz. (dry weight) whole-wheat pasta; 1 c. sauce (tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, onion, grass-fed ground beef, herbs and spices); 1 grilled Italian sausage; mixed green salad w/ oil & vinegar and tomatoes; 6 oz. red wine; 16 oz. water; cafe Americano.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Frugal Friday

One of the joys of the morning this time of year is trotting down to the basement to say hello to my tomato seedlings. I plug in their lights, check that their heat mats haven't crapped out, feel the soil to make sure it's moist enough (giving them a little spritz on top and a dollop of water in the seed tray if they need it).

Garden centers these days are better about offering a wider variety of tomato starts than the ubiquitous "Early Girl," but since I have the time, space and inclination, it makes me pretty happy that I can create my own starts for a fraction of the price, AND have as much variety as I want. Well, not quite as much as I want [sigh]. This year, I am severely limiting myself to 11 varieties (and 11 plants):
  • Gold Nugget (orange cherry)
  • Green Grape (green cherry)
  • Koralik (red cherry)
  • Sungold (orange cherry)
  • Supersweet 100 (red cherry)
  • Sweet Gold (yellow cherry)
  • Black Plum (heirloom plum tomato)
  • San Marzano (classic Italian plum tomato)
  • Japanese Trifele Black (heirloom with 2.5- to 3-inch fruit)
  • Siletz (small slicer)
  • Silvery Fir Tree (3+ inch slicer with the prettiest carrot-like foliage)
Just as I appreciate variety in my vegetables, I appreciated them in my cookbooks. That must be why I have so freakin' many of them. Either that, or I have an addiction. Who's to say. With so many cookbooks, it's a common occurrence that when I crack one of them open for a specific recipe, I come across some amazing discovery elsewhere in the volume.

Such was the case with Donna Hay's The New Cook, which I referred to Thursday for my favorite risotto recipe. (I hadn't made risotto in so long that I had to remind myself of the ingredient proportions.) I had taken chicken out to defrost for Friday, but had no idea what I was going to do with it. Then I spied Donna's recipe for grilled balsamic chicken with lime. So perfect! A simple marinade of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic and salt and pepper, grilled and served over a bed of salad greens, with the juice of halved and grilled limes(!) squeezed over it. It met my main recipe ideals: healthy, simple-yet-interesting and made with ingredients I have on hand. As a extra-special bonus, I have a Costco bag of limes that I need to use up while they were still in good shape (also on the weekend's agenda is a lime-yogurt cake).

Speaking of no waste, I got four free eco-friendly lightbulbs today! Someone from the city's Climate Protection Initiative was going door to door handing them out and signing people up to receive more information. Cool!

Friday, March 27
Morning workout:
"Beautiful Technique" DVD (practice flow + choreography); "Baladi" DVD (maqusom drills).
Breakfast: Cafe au lait; 1 egg + 2 whites scrambled with onion and 1/2 red pepper, with 1 tbs feta cheese and 1 small tomato; 1 slice sprouted grain toast w/ 1 tbs peanut butter & 2 tsp marmalade; 1/2 c. fresh pineapple; cafe Americano; 32 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 32 oz water.
Noon workout: "Luscious: the Bellydance Workout" DVD (45 minutes)
Lunch: Green salad w/oil & vinegar, 4 oz. turkey breast, 3 oz. yellow pepper, 3 oz. cucumber, 1/4 avocado, 1 oz. walnuts.

Snack: Orange; 1/2 c. 2% cottage cheese, 1 tbs peanuts; 16 oz. water.

Post-work workout: "Body Fat Solution" workout A

Dinner: Grilled balsamic-lime chicken breast; mixed greens; 4-inch section of baguette with 1 tsp butter; 4 oz. red wine; c
afe Americano.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ms. Motivation

My company will be starting a 12-week "corporate fitness challenge" next month, which I was quite excited about when it was first announced a few weeks ago. One of the categories is "most steps walked" and another is "most exercise minutes logged."

Come to mama...that prize is MINE!

Fast forward to Thursday morning, when we all find out there is no prize, other than the satisfaction of meeting goals...oh, and recognition on the company intranet site.

Color me underwhelmed.

But wait, there's a new twist!

I am captain of my own team, made up of my department (five including me), and three free agents that I swiftly bagged (including one who was quite in demand). Two have a proven track record of exercise (even though they will be of no help in the weight loss portion of the competition...they're pretty darn lean), the third is motivated by his dismay that working at home and having two young children has contributed to a number of excess pounds.

Everybody on my team (except for one) seem truly ready to make changes. And I'm just the person to motivate them...because I've traveled that road before, yes I have.

All I have to say is, "Bring it ON!"

Thursday, March 26
Morning workout: "Baladi" DVD (taqsim & sekkat drills)
Breakfast: Cafe au lait (1% milk); 6 oz. plain NF yogurt + 55 g. Kashi GoLean Crunch; 16 oz. fruit smoothie; cafe Americano; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz water.
Noon workout: 3.25-mile speed walk (with some hills) + .75 miles running (flat).
Lunch: Mixed green salad with oil & vinegar, 4 oz. turkey, 3 oz. yellow pepper, 3 oz. cucumber, 1/4 avocado, 1 oz. walnuts; 4 oz. 2% cottage cheese; 16 oz. water; caramel frappucino (bottled).
Snack: Orange; 4 oz. 2% cottage cheese; 1 tbs peanuts; 16 oz. water.
Post-work workout: "Rhythm Workout" DVD (45 min.)
Dinner: 1 c. risotto (made with short-grain brown rice) w/ 1 oz. parmesean; 1/2 leftover chicken thigh with apricot sauce; mixed green salad with oil & vinegar; 12 oz. mineral water; 4 oz. red wine.
Snack: Cafe Americano + 3 dried dates.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring is springing

Even though it's still freakin' cold outside, it's gratifying and encouraging to go on a noontime walk in the actual sunshine (still needed gloves, though) and come home to find fat robins hippity-hopping through my front garden, and my hellebores gloriously in bloom.

I've found hellebores to be an amazingly low-effort plant. Since I think they look good year round, the care-to-reward ratio is quite remarkable. Their dark green foliage doesn't die back, and in fact looks quite handsome all year (sometimes some of the oldest foliage gets a bit ratty, but it's easy to snip off).

In other news, I went to watch a bellydance classmate perform at a Moroccan restaurant downtown. The food was good, although I'm not sure if I would go there only for the food. Seating was on the floor on big, reasonably comfortable cushions...but my foot did fall asleep after a while.

I was disturbed to learn from my classmate (who recently turned professional, and is starting to get booked in better venues, such as this restaurant), that her gig would get canceled if not enough people made dinner reservations. Her performance was set for 7:30 p.m., which meant she needed to be there with hair and makeup done, ready to go (other than changing into her costume) by 7 p.m. Yet she didn't even know if she was performing until 5 p.m. Insane!

Even more insane, at another of her regular bookings the dancers don't know if they will actually get to perform until after they show up. Which in her case, means driving over to the Eastside. It makes me crazy that someone can be completely dedicated to her art form, spend hour upon hour and dollar upon dollar:
  • Taking classes and workshops
  • Rehearsing
  • Building a music library
  • Buying professional-quality costumes (which run several hundreds of dollars each...used!)
  • Creating a Web site
  • Networking
  • Paying dues by dancing in non-paying "amature-friendly" venues
  • Learning specialty skills like zill-playing, veilwork and sword balancing.
And then have to drive to another city to be told "Sorry, we don't need you tonight"? WTF?!

(OK, stepping off my soapbox now...)

Wednesday, March 25
Morning workout: "Beautiful Technique" DVD (practice flow and choreography)
Breakfast: Cafe au lait; scrambled eggs (1 whole, 2 whites) with 1/2 red pepper; banana bread; 1/2 c. fresh pineapple; cafe Americano; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz. water.
Noon workout: 30 minutes free dance + "Baladi" DVD (maqusom improv drill sections).
Lunch: Mixed green salad w/olive oil & vinegar + 4 0z. turkey breast, 1/2 yellow pepper; 3 oz. cucumber, 2 small tomatoes, 1/4 avocado, 1 oz walnuts; banana bread; herbal tea.
Post-work workout: "Body Fat Solution" workout B
Snack: Orange; 16 oz water.
Dinner: Lentil soup; two small pieces bread with eggplant dip and diced vegetables; b'stilla (sweet/savory pastry with ground chicken and powdered sugar); 2 chicken thighs with apricot sauce; milk pudding; sweet mint tea.
Late cocktail hour: 3 oz. red wine (while watching "Lost").

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Now that food waste recycling is mandatory in the city of Seattle, we're actually doing what we should have been doing years ago (since most of the currently allowable foods could always be thrown in with the yard waste).

This turn of events is somewhat surprising to me, since I tend to rebel against authority in small ways (i.e., not in any way that might land me in jail). For example, I started reading when I was 3 and don't believe it's possible to own too many books, yet just have an English teacher dare to tell me to read a certain book on a certain time frame, and you'd think I would rather eat dirt than read.

But food waste recyclers we have indeed become, mostly because J spearheaded the change and nags me like a fishwife if I happen to throw so much as an apple core or the seeds from a bell pepper down the disposal! Neither of us is very fond of taking the bin outside to be emptied, but we suck it up.

While part of me would love to have one of those cute little countertop food scrap receptacles, I'm really pretty satisfied with our cheap (well, free) solution of using one of those clear plastic tubs that the mixed salad greens come in at Costco. I love these tubs so much, I should write a book about their many varied reuses. Here are my personal favorites:
  • Cloches (mini-coldframes) for tender seedlings in the garden during the shoulder seasons (see Sunday's post for a photo of this).
  • Mini-greenhouses for indoor seedling starts.
  • Organizers/dividers for lightweight craft/sewing supplies, toolshed/greenhouse odds and ends, pantry items, toiletries, small linens (like washcloths).

As of today, I'm adding a "new feature" to my food/exercise log. I'm putting any items that I should not have eaten (because I wasn't really hungry, or I was giving into a craving, I didn't plan to eat it, or it was just too many calories) in red. Honestly, this is more a tool for my benefit, but it also plays nicely into the accountability thing.

Tuesday, March 24
Morning workout: "Next Level" DVD (warmup and hip layering drills)
Breakfast 1 (at home): Cafe Americano; 1/3 c. fresh pineapple; 16 oz. water.
Breakfast 2 (at work): 12 oz. nonfat latte; banana bread; 16 oz water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 1 Girl Scout cookie; 16 oz. water.
Lunch: (Bridal shower for a co-worker, so no walk today)* 1 2X3" turkey wrap; 2 tortilla chips with shrimp dip; 1/2 c. tortellini salad; 1/2 c. broccoli salad; 1/2 c. fresh fruit; 1 piece spice bread; 1 3x3" piece chocolate cake; ginger tea.
Snack: 1 2x3" turkey wrap; orange; 12 oz. Americano; 16 oz. water.
Post-work activity: Practiced drum rhythms; "Killer Ziller" DVD (drills section); dance class (With more talking than dancing AGAIN. Sigh.).
Dinner: Mixed green salad with oil and vinegar and 3 oz. turkey breast; banana bread; 16 oz. water.
Snack: 2 oz. mixed tequila drink; caramel corn; pumpkin seeds.

* In retrospect, should have bagged the drum/zill practice to fit in a workout.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Muscling through

I'm fortunate to work from home four days a week (usually), making it easier to fit in workouts. No gym bags to cart around...just a 30-second walk to my closet and then another to my yoga/bellydance room, to my basement weight room, or to the sidewalk outside.

It would be even easier if I allowed myself to work in workout clothes...but I don't (well, maybe twice a month). Why? Because I am firmly convinced that stretchy yoga pants contributed to my reaching my all-time-high body weight before I broke an ankle and gained a boatload of motivation 2 1/2 years ago.

On the one hand, you would think that wearing stretchy pants would be a visual reminder of creeping weight gain. In reality, Lycra is powerless against the sheer brute force of denial. We've been going through old photos recently, moving them from boxes into actual albums. If I had a nickel for each time the words "Oh my GOD! Burn that! No, wait, don't...I need the reminder!" crossed my lips, I could buy myself a boatload of toxic bank debt.

No, my casual home office attire of choice runs to jeans or other woven pants that button and zip and have a minimum of stretchy stuff in the fiber content (if any at all). You can't slip up too much before these pants let you know it.

I commuted into the office Friday, Monday and again today, so I've been feeling a little twitchy, with my workout time slashed and burned by my office time. I can only fit in an abbreviated dance workout in the morning, and while running errands on foot at lunch does get me out of the office and moving, it's not enough to truly qualify as a workout. I also find it harder to lift weights when I arrive home, hungry and tired, after a 45-minute bus ride (on the plus side, I do get a lot more reading done on days I commute).

I know, you're thinking, "Boo hoo, poor you!" I did suck it up yesterday, muscling through my workout even though I wanted to be doing something else, making a healthy pasta dinner, doing dishes and baking two loaves of banana bread (the six bananas were THIS close to being too ripe for even banana bread...after a week of stalling, I had no choice but to act).

I also managed to fit in one of my current favorite bellydance instructional DVDs, Autumn Ward's "Bellydance: Beautiful Technique from Step One - The Beginner's Path to Flawless Artistry." It includes an extensive movement and posture breakdown for beginners, then a practice flow series and choreography for the intermediate-advanced set. The choreography she teaches, to a song from Solace's "Iman" album, is the only choreography-on-a-DVD that I've ever wanted to actually perform in public. I love it SO much! I've included the promo video below. Unfortunately, they only show a tiny bit of the performance (one of two on the DVD) from the choreo she teaches. You'll catch a tiny bit of it from about 1:45-1:53 (she's wearing red harem pants and has red flowers in her hair).

Monday, March 23

Morning workout: "Next Level" DVD (warmup + hip layering drills)
Breakfast 1 (at home): Cafe Americano; 1/2 c. fresh pineapple; 16 oz. water.
Breakfast 2 (at work): 1/2 c. muesli + 6 oz. plain NF yogurt; Americano; banana; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz. water.
Noon workout: 2-mile walk while running errands downtown.
Lunch: Ethnic Gourmet chicken biriyani; carrot sticks; pea pods; herbal tea.
Snack: Orange; green tea.
Snack: 1 tbs. peanuts; 16 oz. water.
Post-work workout: "Body Fat Solution" workout A.
Dinner: 1.5 oz. pasta (dry weight) w/ 3 oz. turkey, 1/2 orange pepper, broccoli, 1 tbs. pine nuts, 1/4 c. pesto, 1/2 oz. parmesan, 2 small tomatoes; green salad with EVO & vinegar; 4 oz. red wine; cafe Americano.
Evening workout: "Beautiful Technique" DVD (practice flow + choreography).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Missing the point

On Sunday, after a 5-mile walk/run, we stopped by our local natural foods coop (PCC, for the benefit of local readers) for a few odds and ends. On our way out, we were behind a family of four—two parents and two children under 5. Each parent was pushing a loaded shopping cart. Almost every shopping bag in the carts was one of the PCC’s bright purple purchaseable, reuseable bags, so I assume they are regular customers.

Now, I’m trying to state the facts as I saw them, without passing (too much) judgment. Both parents were significantly overweight. One of the children, a boy of about age 3, was sitting in his mother’s cart, voraciously snacking on grated cheese out of a plastic deli container.

Now, in moderation, cheese can certainly be part of a healthy, nutritious diet. But it does have a lot of fat and calories. As J put it: “Why isn’t that kid snacking on apple slices.”

The incident brought home the fact that many people simply have no idea what a healthy diet is.

You’ve got people who don’t care what they put in their mouths, as long as it’s cheap, fast and it tastes good (I’m talking about you, McDonald’s value menu).

Then you’ve got people who know they should eat better, but feel like they can’t, because they “can’t afford organic food.”

They you’ve got your people who can afford organic food, who can afford to shop at Whole Foods or PCC instead of Safeway, but who make the error of thinking that if it’s organic and from a “health food” store, it’s healthy. This assumption is false for at least two reasons:

I’m sorry, people, but there is a lot of junk food to be had at Whole Foods and its peers. An organic potato chip is still a potato chip, albeit with fewer chemicals. And don’t even get me started on the concept of organic Coke.

Too many calories are too many calories, regardless of whether the food is organic or non-organic, processed or whole. If I stuff my face with organic cheese, then plop my butt on the couch with a bag of organic root-vegetable chips, I am NOT being healthy!

After spending quite some time ruminating on this subject yesterday, imagine my delight when I discovered this morning that the New York Times’ Mark Bittman apparently read my mind.

I wanted to pump my fist in the air and scream “Yes!” (I didn’t, since I was working from the office today) when I read this: “The truth is that most Americans eat so badly — we get 7 percent of our calories from soft drinks, more than we do from vegetables; the top food group by caloric intake is “sweets”; and one-third of nation’s adults are now obese — that the organic question is a secondary one.”

In an ideal world, we would all sit down with family and friends three times a day to meals lovingly prepared from organic, locally-grown, in-season whole foods. But is anyone ready to argue that we’re living in an ideal world? The reality is that we have to make choices, all of the time. Hopefully we make the better choice most of the time. Better to bring a simple sandwich from home than to stop for a Big Mac. Better to eat a non-organic apple than organic cheese puffs. Better to drink water than soda pop. Better to eat frozen vegetables than to not eat vegetables at all.

Sunday, March 22
Breakfast 1:
12 oz. fruit smoothie; espresso with 1% milk; 16 oz. water

Morning workout: 2.5-mile brisk walk + 2.5-mile run walk.
Breakfast 2: 2 whole eggs (fried in small amount of olive oil); toasted baguette with light cream cheese & marmalade; fresh mango and pineapple; cafe Americano; 16 oz. water.
Lunch: Leftover lamb & couscous; 16 oz. water.
Cocktail hour: Martini w/green olive; 1/4 c. peanuts.
Dinner: Grilled burger w/sauteed (in olive oil) mushrooms; mixed green salad with olive oil & vinegar; 1 c. baked beans; 4 oz. red wine; 16 oz water; cafe Americano.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday at Ye Olde Homestead

Saturday actually brought some sunshine along with the chilly temperatures, so J and I jumped at the chance to work in the garden without getting rained on. While J dug trenches in on half of the front garden so he could finish installing an irrigation system, I toiled in the back garden, planting the first of the season's vegetable seeds and freeing our strawberry patch from invading weedy marauders.

Two weeks ago, I put down sheets of plastic to help the soil warm up and dry out nominally. It was still pretty soggy, but the top layer was fluffy and lightly damp, hopefully exactly what the seeds desire. (Sidenote: I was extremely spoiled in our previous house, at which I did all of my vegetable gardening in foot-deep, wood-framed raised beds, built by J and filled with lovely soil mix from Cedar Grove. For this garden, we tilled up the weedy lawn and have been gradually mixing in loads of compost. The clay soil is improving, but it's still far from perfect.) The leafy stuff you see are remnants from the late summer-fall garden.

I planted arugula, beets, lettuce, carrots, radishes, spinach and turnips. I meant to plant peas, but I forgot to soak them the night before. Oh well...there's always next weekend.

While the gardening season is making it's shaky start, so is the garage sale season. On our drive back from our walk/run at the park, we were lured by the sirens call of "Estate Sale." There's always something sad about pawing through the material remnants of a deceased mother's life (or she may have been moved to a nursing home, I suppose), but we came away with a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup (which I have been needing/wanting for some time), three cute blue and white plates, a silver jigger (which J has been wanting for some time), two sturdy dineresqe bowls and a pretty blue-and-yellow print bowl made in Luxembourg. All for $13. If we had been a little earlier, we could have picked up some cool metal garden bed edgers. Grrrrrrr...

A thought about how this whole "accountability via blog" thing is working: Normally, I lift weights on a MWF schedule. I skipped my Friday workout because, frankly, after going to happy hour I didn't feel like it (normally I workout after work before J gets home). But I resolved to reschedule the workout for Saturday, because of the blog. And I followed through on that plan...because of the blog. It's very hard for me to lift weights on weekends, because my schedule, while not hindered by things like working for a paycheck, tends to be fluid and variable, and I find myself getting involved in other things and running out of usable time. In this case, I was certain of two things: I was going to post that workout on the blog AND I was not going to do something pointless like lie!

Saturday, March 21
Breakfast: 12 oz. fruit smoothie; espresso w/ 1% milk.
Morning workout: 2.5-mile speedwalk + 2.5-mile run/walk.
Brunch: 1 whole egg + 2 whites, scrambled in olive oil with 1/2 yellow pepper, 3 large white mushrooms, 1 oz. feta cheese; fresh mango and pineapple; 1 slice sprouted grain toast w/ 1 tbs natural peanut butter and 2 tsp orange marmalade; espresso with 1% milk; 16 oz. water
Mid-day workout (sort of): 4 hours gardening.
Snack: Apple; 1 oz. white cheddar; 4 oz. turkey breast; 10 almonds; espresso; 16 oz. sparkling mineral water.
Snack: Larabar + 1 tbs peanuts.
Post-gardening workout: Weightlifting (Body Fat Solution workout B).
Snack: Orange; 16 oz. water
Dinner: Lamb stew w/ couscous, caramelized onions, raisins and almonds; small martini; 6 oz. red wine.
Snack: espresso; 16 oz water.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy and healthy

Can Happy Hour be Healthy Hour? Why, yes, I believe it can.
I worked in the office Friday (instead of from home) which meant that at the end of the workday, I was badly in need of a drink. So I walked from downtown to meet J and one of his amusing coworkers at the Westlake outpost of Tutta Bella. 

We enjoyed tasty $2 pints of Tutta Bella Ale, and J and I split a pizza crust-style flatbread with marinara, a small dish of mixed olives and a beet salad with goat cheese and pistachios. Delish, non-greasy and with actual nutrition included! Among the other tempting items on the menu are a cauliflower salad and a salad with arugula, proscuttio and I can't remember what else...

Friday, March 20
Morning workout: "Next Level" DVD (warmup and hip layering drills).
Breakfast 1 (at home): 12 oz. fruit smoothie, espresso with 1% milk, 16 oz water.
Breakfast 2 (at work): 1/2 c. muesli + 6 oz. plain NF yogurt; 12 oz. Americano.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz. water.
Noon workout: Short urban walk.
Lunch: Ethnic Gourmet Chicken Biryani; pea pods; carrot; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Orange; green tea.
Post-work workout: Brisk 1.5 mile walk.
Happy Hour: 16 oz. ale; flatbread w/marinara sauce; beet salad w/goat cheese and pistachios; 6 olives; 1/4 c. hazelnuts; 16 oz. water.
Dinner: Large mixed green salad w/ olive oil + vinegar; 4 oz meatloaf; 1/2 c. mashed potatoes; 6 oz. red wine.
Snack: Espresso; 16 oz. water.

Guilty pleasures

I came home from Buenos Aires last month with several things, including two leather jackets, an appreciation for international travel (yet a loathing for 12-hour flights) and an addiction to "Gossip Girl."

I had the opportunity to catch two episodes on our Air Canada flights and completely agree with the assessment that it is "Sex and the City" meets "Cruel Intentions." Having attended high school in Eugene, Oregon, I of course can not relate at all to life at a richie-rich boarding school in Manhattan, but then I suppose I can't exactly relate to life as a worker in a paper company ("The Office"), as a plane crash survivor on a really weird island ("Lost") or a corseted English lass living in a huge, drafty house (take your pick of "Masterpiece Classic" airings).

So I Tivo "GG" each Monday, delaying my gratification until Thursday, when I enjoy the drama and hijinks while I fold several loads of laundry. Divine!

Thursday, March 19
Morning workout: "Beautiful Technique" DVD (practice flow + choreography)
Breakfast: 2 espressos (1 with 1% milk); 6 oz. plain NF yogurt + 58 g. Kashi GoLean Crunch; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Apple + 10 almonds; 16 oz. water.
Noon workout: 4-mile speed walk.
Lunch: Mixed green salad w/ olive oil + vinegar, 3.5 oz. yellow pepper, 3 oz. cucumber, 4 oz. turkey and 1 oz. walnuts; green tea; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Handful of pea pods; Mini Babybel; 16 oz water.
Dinner: Mixed green salad w/ olive oil + vinegar and 1 oz. blue cheese; 3 oz. meatloaf; 1 c. mashed potatoes; 6 oz. red wine.
Snack: espresso; 16 oz. water.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bringing the sun indoors

Cold, damp weather often makes one long for something warm and comforting to eat. Since finishing The Fourth Queen last week, a partially-based-on-real-historical-events novel about a Scottish lass who is abducted by pirates and sold in the harem of the Emperor of Morocco, I have been badly craving some sort of lamb-and-couscous concoction, laced with cinnamon and some sort of dried fruit.

I found just such a recipe in a cookbook I already own, Claudia Rodin's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. I lusted after, then asked for (and received) this book as a Christmas gift in 2007. I've yet to cook from it, which is sad, true, but not too surprising, given the massive heft of my cookbook collection. Just look at this book, though. Isn't it so very pretty? Really, have you seen a prettier cookbook? I didn't think so.

The recipe in question also calls for caramelized onions and raisins, which I have in my pantry, of course, along with couscous, which I restocked last week. And I happened to have a package of lamb stew meat in my freezer. Oh, happy day! I can't wait until Saturday!

Of course, my lamb-and-couscous yearnings (and my reading of The Fourth Queen) were inspired by dreams of traveling to Spain and Morocco next spring. Those plans have been derailed by the need to go to Hawaii for a wedding next January. Since we're flying there anyway, we figured we had better make that our main 2010 vacation. Plane tickets are cheap (free for J with his Alaska Air miles, just over $400 for me), and we'll be spending only a few days on more-expensive Maui (the wedding location) before hopping a puddle jumper to Kauai. We're planning to rent a small cottage (inexpensive but really cute!) with a full kitchen and a gas barbecue, since it's cheaper and healthier to not rely on restaurant meals for 2 weeks.

I can't say Hawaii is my first choice of vacation destinations (which is why I've never been), but it will be warm, there will be sun, and I'm sure it will all be just lovely.

Wednesday, March 18
Morning workout: "Beautiful Technique" DVD (flow practice + choreography)
Breakfast: 2 espressos (one with 1% milk); leftover steel-cut oatmeal with pecans, almonds, dates, raisins and coconut; 1/2 c. fresh pineapple; 16 oz. water.
Snack: Apple; 10 almonds; 16 oz. water.
Noon workout: "Next level" DVD (warm up + hip layering drills); "Baladi" DVD (Baladi 1 maqsoum drills).
Lunch: Mixed green salad w/ oil & vinegar, 5 oz. turkey breast, 4 oz. red pepper, 3 oz. cucumber, 1 oz. walnuts; sparkling water; green tea.
Snack: Large carrot; handful of pea pods; Wasa cracker + one LF Laughing Cow cheese wedge; 16 oz. water.
Post-work workout: Drum DVD (rhythm practice: malfouf, ayoub, masmoudi, baladi); "Killer Ziller" DVD (drills section); weight lifting ("Body Fat Solution" workout A); 2.2-mile walk (with some hills).
Dinner: Mixed green salad w/ oil & vinegar, 2 oz. red pepper, 3 oz. cucumber, 2 tbs. feta cheese, 4 falafel balls (from Costco); rest of leftover black bean enchiladas (about 1/3 portion); 16 oz. water.
Snack: Espresso shot; orange.