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(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish: February 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Join a Classics Book Club

The Internet is consuming more and more of my time. When we leave the house for anything, my boys groan when I have to “just check Facebook,” and it inevitably becomes a delay.

So while reading classics isn’t really new for me, I notice that I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. This is true unless I count mindlessly clicking from political blogs to Facebook to entertainment blogs as reading, which I don’t.

For this challenge, I picked up Anna Karenina, which my local library’s classics book club is reading this month. I heard about it only a few days before the meeting, so I didn’t quite get through its 817 pages in time. Nevertheless, a librarian sent an encouraging email for readers to come even if they didn’t finish the book, so there I was discussing Russian literature on a Wednesday night.

I have a lot more reading to do.

If I really want to challenge myself, maybe I should give up the Internet for a week. That idea will require some serious deliberation.

Next month: Emma.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Going Meatless Monday

Cutting the Cornbread
As a follow-up to my week of vegan eating, I have taken the Meatless Monday pledge. My family is even on board for dinnertime. (“Huh?” the boys gasped in alarm.)

For our first family Meatless Monday, I went all out.

Our Meatless Monday spread

I made a few dishes that were featured on the Meatless Monday web site:
Tahini Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I added a dish that I loved during my vegan week that was featured on the Zen Habits web site:

I also made:
Lentil and Vegetable Vindaloo (I just simmered lentils and veggies in a jarred curry sauce.)

I added a few dishes to make sure my youngest had something to eat:
Brussels sprouts (leftovers)
Read more »

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

105 Degrees and the Awkward Pose: My First Bikram Yoga Class

I am sweating. A lot. 

I am in a 105-degree room with 40 percent humidity. I balance on my right foot and hold my left foot with my left hand. I lean forward and point my right arm straight ahead, raising and stretching out my left leg behind me and above my head. Or that’s the idea anyway. I am wobbly and dizzy and drop my leg to regain my balance, along with some of the other beginners in the back of the room.

I am trying Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) for the first time.

A little background would help at this point. I hate the cold and love the heat. Two stories come to mind. Once, while taking Tae Kwon Do lessons, it became a running joke among the huge men in my class to point out how little I was sweating. While huge drops splashed off them, they would point to my barely glistening forehead and laugh. Another time, I got into a baking-hot car in the summertime with my family. My husband secretly did a little experiment on me. He started driving down the street without cracking the windows or turning on the AC. I was reading a magazine and perfectly content. After lasting only a minute, he blurted out, “Are you kidding me?” I hadn’t noticed that it was hot.

OK, back to the yoga studio. I am sweating and dizzy. I find it hard to breathe at times. I push myself to my “edge,” but I worry I will fall over on some of the poses. 

Savasana (Dead Body Pose)
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TT&S’s Et Cetera: 50 Greatest Rock Songs

50 Greatest Rock Songs

What are your favorites?



Friday, February 18, 2011

Buying local eggs

Boys and eggs
Which is which?

I cracked the egg open and was struck right away by the yolk’s rich orange color.

I have wanted to find a source for locally grown, non-factory farmed eggs and meat, and I finally bought some eggs from a local farm today. I had a nice talk with James of the Potrepka Farm in Plantsville, CT. While his chickens are not free range, he said he keeps them in a large coop and lets them range as much as possible. If he went completely free range, foxes and hawks would get them, he said.

The eggs were noticeably different when side by side with the eggs I got from Stop and Shop. In addition to the difference in their yolks, the shell was harder to crack, too.
Read more »


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vegan for a Week, Part Two

Sweet potato enchilada

After a week of vegan eating, I am surprised how little I missed meat. I missed dairy a lot more, especially cheese and yogurt. I am sure, though, that if I did this for a longer time I would develop some serious cravings. I can’t imagine never having a cheeseburger again, or pancakes, or butter. I missed animal-based accents to meals more than big servings of the foods themselves. I wanted to sprinkle Parmesan on my soup and cheddar on my chili. I wanted to make a roux with butter. I wanted to scramble an egg in my stir-fry.

I did feel really great throughout the week. There were times when I felt pleasingly “clean” after a meal. It’s hard to describe—sort of a hungry feeling without being hungry, an absence of that bloated feeling that a greasy meal can cause.

Here are the rest of my meals from the week and some final thoughts.
Read more »


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gimme Some Nudgin': Ideas for Future Challenges


Any more ideas out there?

I have gotten some great ideas for future challenges, as well as some not-so-great ones.

Some are in the hopper:

  • Take a flying trapeze lesson
  • Shoot a gun
  • Sweat through a Bikram Yoga class (hot yoga)
  • Get a pedicure (I’m squeamish about it)

Others I’m not sure I could do, or I know I don’t want to do:

  • Attend a nudist colony
  • Go bungee jumping
  • Prepare a live chicken for cooking
  • Belly dance
  • Jump off the cliff at Brownstone Quarries
  • Skydive

Then there are some I have always wanted to try, but don’t know when I could get to them:

  • Swim with dolphins
  • Go SCUBA diving
  • Travel solo

And then there are the not-so-great ones that my husband and sons recommended:

  • Juggle live snakes
  • Swim through sewage
  • Shave my head
Read more »


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vegan for a Week, Part One

Butternut squash, chickpeas and green beans, brown rice, and spinach

I am three days into a week of vegan eating. So far, so good. Some things I've learned:

Animal products are everywhere
I was surprised to learn that many foods that I would have assumed are vegan contain trace amounts of animal products. While I am eating a cereal on a “vegan-approved” list (Special K Red Berries) that I already liked, I decided not to worry about trace amounts in my food this week. I figure if it’s good enough for PETA, it’s good enough for me. Long lists of ingredients in processed foods do disturb me, though. From bone char used for refining sugar to insects used for coloring, it’s complicated to be absolutely vegan.

Something fishy about Guinness
I was shocked to discover that Guinness (along with many other beers) is not vegan. Guinness especially shocked me since I had toured the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which has exhibits based on its four ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. There is no exhibit on isinglass, a substance from the bladder of a fish that is used “during the clarification process as a magnet to get rid of excess yeast.” Some vegan lists recommend German beers because Germany’s Beer Purity Law regulates what ingredients may be used.

Honey don’t
Honey is debated in the vegan community, although the majority of vegans seem to be against it since some bees are killed when it is harvested. Others point out that many more insects are killed in organic farming and many animals that may have died survive due to the pollination that domestic bees do. 

What have I been eating?


Coffee with soy milk  
Cereal with blueberries and soy milk
Vegetarian chili over brown rice

Hummus with toast

Spinach salad
Day 1 went well. I am used to occasionally having soy milk in coffee and cereal, bringing my lunch to school, and having a quick dinner on Mondays before going to a tennis clinic, so it didn’t feel that different. When my husband was standing in the kitchen, though, eating what he called “a big bowl of meat” while I having salad, it did feel a little strange. That’s not his usual meal, but they were left over chicken wings from Super Bowl Sunday.

Coffee with soy milk

Cereal with banana and soy milk

Vegetarian chili over brown rice


Read more »


Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's Pho Time

Pho Tai

Fragrant steam rises from the big bowl, the perfect thing on this frigid February night in the city. Cilantro, lime, basil, beef -- I am finally having a bowl of Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. I have been driving by this little restaurant for years and wanting to try it. It comes out of the kitchen with a plate of bean sprouts and other condiments to arrange on top. I add some hoisin and sriracha sauces from squeeze bottles at the table. Delicious. 

Pho Mai is located at 570 Main Street in Middletown, CT.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Push-ups Challenge

It's getting tough at two weeks in. I am trying a push-ups challenge and repeating days as often as needed. I plan to stick with it for at least six weeks and see how far I get.

One thing I like about it is that it breaks the number of push-ups down into sets, rather than having me try to do my maximum every time. As I write this, though, I am procrastinating from actually doing the push-ups!

One hundred push-ups training program

Update: I broke through the procrastination and completed the Week 1, Day 3 workout. On the fifth set, I had to do my maximum, which was 10. Grueling! I did it between bouts of walking on the treadmill while watching a “Sex and the City” rerun, though, so that made it kind of fun. 

Update 2: Push-ups, revisited