Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Comparing obsessions

Since I've been accused of having an unhealthy obsession with food (OMG, she constantly writes about health, nutrition, and fitness on her health-, nutrition-, and fitness-themed blog!) I thought I'd confess my ACTUAL unhealthy obsession:


It's not even funny how excited I am about our trip to Maui in May. I've been talking nonstop about how we should just pack up and move there, to the point of pricing real estate and comparing the pros and cons of different cities. I've been on eBay shopping for swimwear and beach accessories nearly every day since we made our reservations. I sometimes go on Google Maps—when I have actual work I should be doing, mind you—and just "drive" down some road on some island. Or I visit the website for our rental house and just sigh.

So let's compare. My obsession with food causes me to:
  • Eat natural products that are healthier for me and better for the environment.
  • Spend less money eating out.
  • Become a better and more creative cook.
  • Spread the word about issues that are beneficial to everyone.
  • Educate my children about nutrition and teach them to cook.
Sounds fine to me. Whereas my obsession with Hawaii causes me to:
  • Waste money and fossil fuels having swimwear shipped to me from foreign countries.
  • Goof off when I should be working.
  • Spend more time alone at my desk.
  • Feel dissatisfied with my current state of residence.
  • Eagerly anticipate the day when my children leave the nest and M.H. and I are SOOOO OUT OF HERE.
Sounds awesome. Let's go!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Recouping and remodeling

I've been hitting the gym pretty hard lately, and I think I might have overdone it. I woke up groggy today and never really snapped out of it. At least I hope it's just from too much working out, because I haven't felt this blah in a long time—New Year's Day comes to mind—and it's kind of terrible. But I tell you, this is the beauty of caring only about my health and not some giant, looming athletic event: I can skip my usual classes, take the day off, sit at my desk for 12 hours straight (which I pretty much needed to do anyway), and have no qualms about it whatsoever. Not a single qualm. Not an eighth of a qualm.

Well, okay. I have to acknowledge that all this sitting is really bad for me, too. So I confess to an eighth of a qualm. But I have a plan in the works on that front!

When I rearranged my office last week, besides making it beautiful, my other objective was to create a sitting station and a standing/kneeling station that I could switch back and forth between as needed. I already have two monitors, and now I have the space and the chairs I need for the two workstations. All that's left is some way to elevate the monitor, keyboard, and mouse for standing/kneeling.

I was going to do it the cheap and ugly way, by propping it all up on books or whatever, but once I saw how beautiful and serene my new office was (there is plant life, for goodness' sake), I couldn't bear to mar it with piles of junk. So I hired my dad, who's an excellent metal- and woodworker, to make me an adjustable workstation. As it happens, he's an excellent inventor, too, and he seemed really interested in getting me precisely what I needed. In fact, he said he'd make me something "spectacular," and I believe him. Aren't I lucky?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Flawed eCard of the Day: There's no secret diet?

A Facebook friend had this to say today:

This friend is a great person, and I'm sure she posted it because it motivates her, but unfortunately it's wrong. And of course it's not my job to tell my Facebook friends when they're wrong, but here on my own blog…it's even better than a job. Telling people when they're wrong is a pleasing recreational activity.

Of course the part I take exception to is that there's "no secret diet." There's something about that that sounds so wholesome and true, but it's actually playing right into the hands of the junk food manufacturers. They need you to believe that you can eat their products and still live a healthy life…that if you're fat, it's because your faulty willpower made you eat too much, not because you were eating their deadly and addictive "food" in the first place.

Have you heard about Coca-Cola's new anti-obesity campaign? It's a concerted effort to perpetuate the calories-in-calories-out myth, which is easy because it sounds like such common sense. But the fact is, drinking sugary, or fake-sugary, beverages spikes your insulin levels, messes up your hormones, and tells your body to store fat. If you want to do that to yourself as a "treat," that's your own business, but there is absolutely no basis for believing that Coke products are part of this nutritious breakfast. (Yes, including their diet drinks. Yes, including their sports drinks.)

So just to clarify: Getting off your ass is good. (Running for miles on end is less so, but I'll save that for another eCard debunking.) But there is a secret diet: Don't eat sugar or artificial sweeteners. Don't eat grains. Don't eat soy, legumes, or vegetable oils. Wish it wasn't such a secret.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A triathlete again?

The little swimming group at my gym has a name now: We're the GATORS—Granite Adult Triathlon Or Recreational Swimmers. (Granite is the name of the gym.) Cute, huh? I suggested we just go ahead and be the GATARS and change that strange little "or" to an "and," but apparently we've got to choose one reason to swim or the other.

Almost everyone else in the group is there because they do triathlons, but me, I'm definitely in the recreational camp these days. That said, the GATORS are putting on an indoor triathlon in April, and I agreed to participate because I'm fairly supportive of the concept and more or less a team player. And Mik wants to do it, so that will be fun.

The downside is now I've got to get on the treadmill and the stationary bike every once in a while and train for the thing. Well, the stationary bike is a downside (so much so that I haven't actually gotten on one yet), but the treadmill is actually turning out to be kind of fun. Remember when trying to run a single 10-minute mile nearly killed me off? Back when I was a "runner"? Now I can do it with little to no previous training—and the first five minutes feel like a warm-up.

This makes me happy, but it also irritates me a little. Because I can trace that improvement to my diet, 100%, without a doubt in my mind. This is great news for me and the whole human race, and I'd be more than pleased to share the wealth. But still no one believes me; apparently I'm "crazy" now.

Monday, February 18, 2013


A few days ago I came across this video about how much life goes better if you don't put off the little chores that you know you need to do. For example, you're going to have to wash your dishes eventually, so why look at them stacked up in the sink all day when you can just do them as soon as you notice they need to be taken care of? Why not deal with and file away each new email as it arrives, rather than letting them pile up in your inbox? The catch phrase (and title) of the video is "Do It Now."

I remembered my mom had a similar saying that she was told growing up on the farm: "Never walk past a weed." That seems more poetic to me, plus it reminds me of my heritage, so naturally I've adopted it as my New Life Plan.

Here's the problem, though: You would not BELIEVE how many weeds are in my house. The first day I tried this, I barely made it out of the bedroom. The kitchen is a minefield of things that need to be cleaned, and especially cooked—yesterday I came home from yoga and got stuck in there for two hours. My office was such a mess of weeds that I enlisted M.H. and Dex on Friday to help me empty it out completely, purge it, clean it, rearrange the furniture, and redecorate it. (The 15-minutes-at-a-time file reorganization continues, however.) I had to deliberately walk past four or five weeds just to get up here and blog sometime this century.

I guess things will get easier as the weed problem gets gradually dealt with. In the meantime, I'm really delighted with my office. It's a little garden of tranquility and productivity right now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to hove a gad Valttimes dae

Just the other day I was telling my sister how downright easy it was getting to go without sugar, but I forgot the very important caveat: AS LONG AS NO ONE PUTS IT IN FRONT OF ME.

Today was the last day of school for the week, so of course Mik came home with a bunch of pink cookies and fun-sized candy and lollipops and (ooooh) conversation hearts. My mom, a first-grade teacher, also left us with her own bag of school goodies before jetting away for the weekend. (Mom, we threw out all your cards, but Daniel hops you hove a gad Valttimes dae.) The teacher treats were way more tempting—more of the nicer chocolates and stuff.

I knew holidays in general were going to be a challenge, but I plum forgot how much I adore goodies that are heart-shaped or come in heart-shaped boxes. That makes Valentine's Day probably the toughest holiday to get through, except that I just remembered how much I also particularly enjoy a certain egg-shaped chocolate confection. The Egg Which Will Remain Nameless.

Oh, well. I coped, if you want to know, by picking out some of the best chocolates and handing them over to M.H. to hide for me until January 2014. (Don't think I'll forget.) Plus I made more magic brownies and decided, as I was eating them, that my destiny probably lies in creating more delicious sugar-free Paleo treats and selling bajillions of cookbooks. Such genius should really not be wasted.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Grain-free, sugar-free, egg-free, dairy-free Paleo brownies

It's my birthday! Here's your present. If you're adventurous, own a food processor, and like your chocolate DARK, then I think you'll love it.

Don't-Knock-Them-Till-You-Try-Them Brownies

1 cup walnuts
1 cup almond flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12-14 Medjool dates
1/2 cup warm water
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1-1/2 cups ripe, sweet blueberries and/or cherries (frozen OK)
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tsp. vanilla
coconut oil for greasing pan
roughly chopped nuts (optional)
1. Pit the dates and soak them in the 1/2 cup of water. I put the water in a short drinking glass and then pushed the dates into it so they were all covered.

2. Preheat oven to 350, and prepare a 9×9 pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper and greasing the sides with coconut oil.

3. Grind the walnuts finely in a food processor, and pour them into a large mixing bowl. Add the other dry ingredients to the bowl.

4. Now put all the wet ingredients—including the water the dates were soaking in—in the food processor and process until smooth. (Just for fun, call someone over and tell them this bluish-gray goo is going to be brownies in a minute. More for you.)

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl with the dry and mix until combined. Mix in chopped nuts if desired.

6. Pour into prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An idea to steal

The other day, as I was skimming through the bajillion blogs I follow, a mention of pull-ups caught my eye. This guy wrote about how he had installed a pull-up bar at the top of his staircase, and every time he went downstairs he'd take a minute and do as many pull-ups as he could (he was up to six).

The post went on to explain how you could use "triggers" like that to maintain good habits, but I really didn't read on, since I was planning to steal the example outright.

We actually already owned a pull-up bar, the kind that you can slip into a doorframe. It's Dex's, but he hadn't been using it, so I installed it just outside my office. I figured I would just try to do a chin-up every time I walked by, and that would be better than nothing.

Turns out I'm not as far from being able to do a chin-up as I thought! (Note: "Chin-up" means your palms are facing toward you, and they're a lot easier than true pull-ups, which are with your palms facing away.) If I start with my feet flat on the floor, my elbows are already bent, and I found that I can—with some struggle—pull myself the rest of the way up. I guess I'll work toward being able to do a chin-up from a hang, and then work on pull-ups.

As a bonus, having the pull-up bar more visible has gotten the whole family interested in using it. It's fun for them to show me up.

P.S. Seven push-ups.

Friday, February 8, 2013

No matter where I start, it always comes back to nutrition

My mom offered to buy me a flute for my birthday, but my better judgment kicked in and I decided it wouldn't be such a bad idea to wait and see if I still want one in, like, September. I checked, though, and they aren't really all that expensive. And I could always resell it on eBay when the bloom is off the rose. IF. I mean IF the bloom goes off the rose. (And I think I might need to invest in lessons, too, if I want to keep that puppy blooming.)

Why a flute? Why any instrument? I swear it's not some learn-a-new-skill-in-your-old-age-to-keep-your-brain-alive thing. If I want to do that, I'll just brush my teeth with my left hand. I think it started last time we went to the symphony, and there were some haunting-sounding flute solos and some suh-weet piccolo high notes. And I thought, "I really wish I could do that." Plus, I'd be good at it, maybe. I swam a 50 free with no breathing the other day, so I know I have the lung capacity to go along with my extremely musical genes.

By the way, I'm skeptical that "keeping your brain fit" is actually all that helpful in preventing Alzheimer's. It would probably just mask the symptoms for a while longer, yes? This is how you actually prevent Alzheimer's.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

See me strength train

I've been working on push-ups but not really pull-ups—I've been living in my office lately, and it is equipped with a floor but not an assisted pull-up machine.

Anyway, two days ago, I could still do only three. Then yesterday I did five, and just now I did six! Take that, gravity!

Monday, February 4, 2013


The more I nibble on these magic brownies, the more I think I'm a genius. They are so moist and good, and it's not going to take much more tinkering to get the kinks out of the recipe. Because of the presence of avocado (secret ingredient, REVEALED!) in the batter, no one else in the family will even try one. I'm still deciding if that's a bug or a feature.

I've suddenly got it in my head that I want to learn to play the flute. I envision keeping it on my desk and practicing for 5-minute intervals during the day while waiting for documents to show up for editing—a pretty frequent occurrence. (That's my Facebook Scrabble-playing time.) I told M.H. I wanted a flute for my birthday, and he reminded me that we weren't doing birthday presents because we're saving money to go to Maui for our anniversary (fabulous vacation plans, REVEALED!) but I guess that's okay. If this turns out to be an impulse with staying power, I can just ask Santa to bring me a flute instead.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

First try at the brownies

Showing my usual restraint, I waited two whole days before trying to make Paleo baked goods again. But I did good! My brainstorm, brownies sweetened with dates and blueberries, was a fantastic first try, just not quite sweet enough. I think I'll make them again for my birthday with more dates (and 42 candles), and they should be perfect. Wait till you hear the secret ingredient. (The secret ingredient that's even weirder than blueberries, that is.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

TGI February

Yay! The Whole30 is over! One set of self-imposed eating restrictions is giving way to another, slightly looser, set of self-imposed eating restrictions!

I celebrated by having a little cheese and a whole lot of Paleo orange scones, minus maple syrup. I was disappointed at first because the two tablespoons of sweetener turned out to be really not that optional. But then I ate a few more with thawed strawberries on top, and all was right with the world again. This recipe was a great find—really, it satisfies all the important elements of the sugar fantasy, without the actual sugar. Take that, tricksy brain!

We ate out only once in the month of January, and M.H. said he ended up with nearly $200 extra in the monthly "miscellaneous" budget that's getting moved to the "vacation" column. Happy dance! I'll tell you some other time about our fabulous vacation plans.