Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Attempt at Buckwheat Pancakes

Writing about pancakes in my post yesterday spurred me to research how I can make pancakes and eat them too. I stumbled upon The Pancake Recipe. Here I found many recipes for pancakes made of flours other than the white flour I'm used to using. After browsing for awhile, I felt armed with enough information to make a trip to the grocery store and buy what I needed.

The first store, just up the street, didn't carry any buckwheat flour. In fact, the store didn't stock any flours other than the standard all purpose and whole wheat. As I didn't have any other evening spectacular I had to be off to, I asked Hubby to ferry me to the one store I knew would have what I was looking for. I dashed through the aisles, knowing exactly where this store shelved their specialty flours. Standing in front of the many packages lined neatly side by side, I scanned the labels. On the second to bottom shelf, all the way to the right side, an empty space caught my eye. I bent down and read the tag for what was supposed to be in that space: buckwheat flour. Hubby thought this incredibly funny, so for his laughter, he earned himself another ferrying job, to the one natural foods/organic foods store in town.

I love this store and can browse the shelves for hours, looking at the variety of products available. My mission this time, though, was to find buckwheat flour. Hubby and I stood looking at the many different types of flours, and Hubby's eyes found the flour before mine did. Two choices presented themselves to me. One was an already prepared mixture, just add milk and egg. The other was just the buckwheat flour. I chose the already prepared mixture. For what reason, I really can't say. I was just so caught up in the idea of having buckwheat pancakes that I didn't take the time to read the ingredients' list carefully. It was only when I was standing in the kitchen after we got home that I saw the mixture contained, gasp, all purpose flour! How could they?

Buckwheat Pancakes with Bananas and Maple Syrup
Thankfully the package is a small one. I'm sure I'll go through it fairly quickly. Maybe having a ladies brunch and plying everyone with faux buckwheat pancakes will do the trick of getting rid of the mixture. I did go ahead and fix some for myself this morning, enjoying them very much. (Though they really weren't all that buckwheaty; my mom fixed buckwheat pancakes for my dad many, many times when I was a kid, so I know what buckwheat tastes like. These weren't even close.)

So overall, the first great, non-white flour pancake attempt flopped due to my carelessness in label reading, but this just means I get to continue my quest for the just-right buckwheat flour.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stepping Away from Yummy White Flour Products

Part of my eating lifestyle change is to move away from white flour products, such as white breads, white flour pancakes (which will be terribly difficult; I love, love, love pancakes), and anything else that contains the standard white flour as one of its main ingredient. This move has been easier than I thought it would be as I'm good with whole grains bread. So many different varieties exist, and right now, I'm enjoying a flax seed whole grains bread. I especially like it for breakfast, toasted with vegan "butter" and dipped into my hot decaf coffee. This evening, for dinner, I tried Ezekiel spaghetti noodles topped with an organic sauce full of veggies and soy crumbles. The sauce rocked, thick and tasty. The noodles, well, they didn't rock so much. They were downright gluey (which makes me think I overcooked them), and it was only because of the sauce that I was able to finish my meal. I might give them another try, but as of right now, I'm really thinking the hunt for a yummy whole grains pasta noodle is on.

One thought I had was to make my own noodles. I'm kind of thinking that a normal extension of changing my eating habits is that I will prepare my meals from fresh ingredients. So why not make my own pasta? This could lead to my own breads, my own sauces, etc. Time is definitely a factor I can't overlook, as my schedule come Monday will change significantly. I won't be home all day everyday like I have been for the past three weeks. I'll be waist deep in prepping for classes, attending meetings. and doing all things connected to my job. Around the teaching schedule I've penciled in workouts, writing hours, and family obligations. Is there any time left to prepare healthy, yummy meals? The answer will show itself next week.

This week I have enjoyed fixing my meals, something I'd gotten away from over the past year. Going with the pre-packaged products is just so much easier (especially when others in the family aren't on board with eating more healthfully). But after an egg white omelet with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and sharp cheddar cheese, a spinach salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberries, and this evenings spaghetti with the organic sauce full of veggies and soy crumbles, I'm ready to commit to using fresh ingredients along with more nutritious products and spending time preparing my meals. Sounds like an adventure.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting the Eating Under Control

My brother-in-law invited us to join his family and my hubby's other siblings, their spouses, and children for brunch on Christmas day at a very nice hotel in Chicago. When we walked in, the kids and I ohhed and ahhed over the chandeliers, the mirrors, and the Christmas decor throughout the lobby. We'd eaten a light breakfast, so all of us were ready for brunch.

At noon, we were told we could follow one of the servers to our seats in the dining hall. On the way, we passed tables bearing turkey, salmon, ham, roast beef, shrimp, lamb and other meats. We passed tables with tiered plates of deviled eggs, crab cakes, oysters Rockefeller, and many other delicacies. A part of me filled with anticipation at being able to eat foods I don't normally get an opportunity to eat. A larger part of me filled with disgust at the amount of food available for this one meal.

While I totally appreciated my brother-in-law arranging this get together and footing the bill for the entire family, I found it incredibly difficult to truly enjoy the event. I tried to ignore the amount of food people were heaping on their plates and the amount of food that was left on plates because the person either didn't like what had been chosen or merely wanted to try something else. I tried to focus on my kids' enjoyment of the different foods available. But it was with relief that I walked out of that dining hall.

Lifestyle Option
Since that day, I've been watching my diet very closely. I did a pretty good job at the brunch, filling up on fruit and salmon along with bite-sized pieces of quiche, strawberry crepes, and crab cakes. For dessert, I enjoyed a half piece of triple chocolate cake. All in all, not bad considering. I do, however, want to get back on track. I want to make 2011 the year of mastering the diet, starting first with not calling it a diet. It's going to be a lifestyle. That lifestyle is going to be all about staying away from sugar, excessive carbs, and meat. I'm doing pretty good with the not eating meat since I started avoiding meat several months ago. I've eaten a burger here and there, when I feel like having one, but more often than not, I don't eat beef, chicken, or turkey. Today I read an article that suggested not eating anything with a face. I kind of like that idea.

2010 is ending on a fine note. I'm happy with my fitness level and the dietary changes I've made. I'm looking forward to 2011, fine-tuning my eating lifestyle further and seeing how this affects the cycling, the running, and the swimming.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best Christmas Gift

After much consideration, if I were to give the award to something tangible, it would go to The Walking Dead Compendium, given to me by Hubby. Coming in a close second would be the Blackbush Irish Whiskey my Lovely Daughter's boyfriend gave to me. I have two other gifts I haven't tried out yet, a waterproof mp3 player and a lap counter for swimming, and I'm eager to see how both work out. Who knows--perhaps after their inaugural use, both of these just might surpass The Walking Dead Compendium as the best tangible Christmas present.

However, contemplating this further, perhaps the best Christmas gift isn't the tangible one but rather the intangible, like the one I received over the course of several days. It started Wednesday, when I met a friend at the coffeehouse, where we chatted, wrote, and drank coffee or tea for several hours. That same day, I met another friend for lunch, and we talked until late into the afternoon. Then came Christmas Eve spent at home, all day long, with my boys, just hanging out. When Lovely Daughter arrived with her boyfriend, we ate dinner. Before the last bite had been eaten, the boys carried their gift to me, insisting that I open it right there at the table. The laughter, the fun, the love my kids have for one another all added up to being, if truth be told, the best Christmas gift I could have ever received. These moments in my life I just want to grab onto and hold tight, never losing how they make me feel.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Working on Speed

I ran a sub10 minute mile this evening. I should qualify this by saying I did it by switching to the trainer and cycling for five minutes after each quarter mile. For one quarter I ran a 5.5 mph pace, then the trainer. The next quarter mile I ran at a 6 mph pace, followed by 5 minutes on the trainer. I continued this until I had one full mile at 9:44. While on the trainer, I did one-minute intervals to increase my heart rate. By the end, I'd worked up a good sweat, which is saying something since it's only 36 degrees in the garage. After not working out for all of November, and only sporadically at best during the last two weeks, this was a good workout for me.

I'm realizing I really need to do some kind of workout on a daily basis. Having that time to focus on improving an area I'm weak in helps me in every other aspect of my life. During the last two weeks when I let myself slip out of my routine, away from the working out, the writing, the reading, just the structure I had in general, I felt completely discombobulated. I think I have a pretty good idea how the Walkers on The Walking Dead feel as they wander about with no idea what's going on around them. I don't want to be so directionless again any time soon.

Even though I'm not putting in a lot of miles, I'm working on speed with a helping of cycling alongside. I've made the commitment to keep the mph at 5.5 or above, working my way up to 7 and 7.5. After only three days of this, I can tell a difference in how I'm handling it. I'm embracing the challenge rather than succumbing to the lazy me of before. Completing just these few days of this goal has shown me I can get faster if I put my mind to it. I knew this all along. I just needed to buy into it fully, not allowing the little "can't voice" to wiggle its way in.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Angels Among Us

The streetlamp illuminated the snow angel, and it made me think of the friend I had just parted ways with after spending a couple of hours talking, sharing, laughing. I can't think of any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Clearing the Fog

I braved the cold garage and walked for an hour, getting four miles in. Just moving felt so good, and while I was walking it occurred to me that my inconsistent exercise regime for the past two weeks has significantly contributed to my lack of feeling the Christmas spirit. I got out of my daily routine which is necessary during the semester in order to stay ahead of the paper load. Part of my semester routine included working out at the same time most days. To keep my sanity through the holidays, that routine needs to be put back into place, along with the rest of my usual routine, including getting up early, before everyone else, to write. I guess I truly am in need of structure. Without it, I don't get things done which equates to not feeling the accomplishment associated with getting things done. The lack of accomplishment leads to feeling blah in general, and the vicious cycle continues.

Today, the cycle ends. I've walked. I've made two mostly-healthy meals so far. Now I'm off to do some Christmas shopping. When I return, I'm going to sit down and work on my classes for next semester. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a second workout in this evening, doing a little yoga, stretching.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Not Feeling the Christmas Spirit

For the first time in my life, I'm not looking forward to Christmas. I'm dragging my feet with the Christmas shopping, baking, and decorating. A couple of days ago, I finally brought home a tree, but I didn't decorate it. My Amazing Daughter spent the evening turning the little, Charlie Brown-esque tree into a sparkling beauty. I have baking materials cluttering up the kitchen counter, and am in the middle of making chocolate covered pretzels. I sort of just abandoned the project. And I haven't bought anything for Hubby that can be wrapped and put under the tree. I see no joy in the whole Christmas thing. In fact, I can't wait for the next few weeks to just be over with.

Okay, enough whining. Time to make good use of the daylight hours and be productive. Maybe I'll go in search of the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lingerie Football League--Really?

In all of my reading and researching as prep for the sports lit class I'll be teaching in the spring, I happened upon the Lingerie Football League, or LFL. Initially I thought it was a joke, but after an hour of reading the website, I realized the "True Fantasy Football" league is no joke at all.

While reading and making my usual snarky comments, Hubby started perusing the same site. His reaction was much different than mine. While I see sexism and inequality, he sees scantily clad women, which brightens up his day. While I get angrier the more I see, he doesn't see what the problem is. At one point, he said, "Why are you getting so upset over this?"

Why? Really? Show me a men's team of any sport where the athletes are required to wear scanty briefs (even in swimming, most swimmers don't wear a speedo any longer). Show me a men's team of any sport where the number one requirement is to be beautiful. I'm pretty sure the number one requirement for any men's team is to be really, really, really good at the sport. So the answer to Hubby's why is there actually are many women who'd love to play football professionally, but they can't unless they strip down do their underwear and show off their boobs and booty. Please.

The idea that having women playing in their underwear will make them "marketable" is basically saying in a coded way that the commissioner is a pimp and these women are his prostitutes. Yes, male athletes are marketed--but not in their underwear. I know of athletes who have stripped and posed for photos, posters, etc., such as Lance Armstrong, but he doesn't actually have to ride the Tour in the equivalent of a spanky. And I'd be very surprised if it was his manager/handler/whatever you call the person marketing you that required him to partake in this shoot. Most likely, Armstrong was approached with the idea and it was he who said, "Sure, I'll pose nude on a bike." He was the one in control. He could have said no. The young women of the LFL have no control over how they're marketed.

In the end, what options do women have if they want to play a sport that is for all intents and purposes closed to them? Unfortunately, they have to accept the terms connected to being able to play, terms designed by men, terms that devalue women, subject them to being objects that gratify men's desires.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Snake With a Head at Each End

from The Phoenixian Book of Creatures
That's what I dreamed about two nights ago--a really, really big snake with a head at each end. I wasn't really scared of it while dreaming about it. Well, maybe just a little. But I woke up wondering what in the world a snake with a head at each end meant. I've never read about one. I've never seen one in all of the lit that I read. I had to find out what meaning lies behind this kind of snake.

In my searching I found out the snake comes from Greek mythology and is called Amphisbaena. It is an ant-eating snake borne out of the blood that dripped from Medusa's head. Okay then. Glad to know a creature from my dream is the spawn of a woman who enjoyed turning men to stone. Is this some kind of unconscious desire of my own?

Further searching unearthed that this kind of snake means being pulled into two different directions. Now that I can buy into. Personal issues have had me in a bit of a funk lately. Some of my unhappiness comes from knowing one of my dreams will most likely never come true unless I make a drastic decision. I can't do this. Doing so would hurt others that I don't want to hurt.

So the snake with the head at each end is myself trying to figure things out. I don't like the answer I've found, but being able to make sense of a part of my life helps to put things into place. I need things in their places. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's the Thought that Counts, Right?

I've thought every single day about going out to the garage and running or cycling on the trainer. And actually, I thought about it many times each day. Added up, I'd say I ran anywhere between 5 and 10 miles a day, cycled perhaps 25 miles a day. If only this truly worked.

I started out good when December began, but then came Monday. Since then, nothing. I have absolutely no motivation. After the beautiful snow over the weekend, the temps dropped to single digits, never getting over 20 during the daytime hours. The cold smacks you in the face as soon as you walk outside. Usually I'm okay with this. I love cold, snow, winter in general.

I do have some snowshoes in the closet. I've only used them once. Maybe this afternoon I'll pull them out, fasten them on, and take a spin around the neighborhood. I also have crampons somewhere around here. Maybe putting those on my shoes and walking outside is what  need. Now I've got some ideas. Now I'm getting enthusiastic about going out and getting a workout in.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Finally, Snow

The forecast called for an inch, maybe two. At this point, I think we're around 4, maybe a little more. And the landscape is absolutely beautiful. With no wind, the snow fell virtually straight down, didn't drift or blow away. It's like a giant, white, goose-down comforter covering everything.

Snow on the Pumpkin
I shoveled our walk, our neighbor's walk, and our back deck. The upper body definitely got the workout, and I'm feeling it in my lower back. Like I said yesterday, core work is a must if I'm going to improve with the running and swimming. At one point, I stopped and had to wipe sweat from my face. Even though the temperature is only 30, with no wind and all the movement, I broke a nice sweat. Later I'm going to add to the sweat factor when I run.

This morning, as I was searching for an event to do that's somewhat close to home, I ran across this. Amazing. Puts lots of things into perspective, like my whining about not being faster. I'm not faster because I don't put in the effort. End of story. And now, end of whining. What an amazing man Jon was, and after watching this clip and reading further about Jon's life, I wiped the tears from my face, went outside, and shoveled snow, giving thanks for being able to dig into the heavy white stuff, for being able to feel the falling snow against my face, for just being. I have a pretty good life. It's time to recognize this and step up to show some appreciation for it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Change of Plans

Well, the Bike the US for MS isn't going to happen. Hubby just isn't on board for it, and I can't go ahead with something that he isn't in favor of. I could be petty and snarky and say he does things I'm not on board with, but I won't. Maybe when all the kids are grown and gone, he and I both can do this ride. The upside is not having a two-month ride on the calendar means the summer is wide open for whatever I can dream up. And I like to dream big.

First dream: seeking a PR at the Sullivan Sprint Tri. This was my first sprint tri ever, where I got behind some s l o w swimmers and couldn't get around them. The plan is I'm going to start swimming in January and really work on my form and speed. Most of my problem at the tri was my own fault, not having an accurate 400 meter swim time. If I had timed myself prior to the tri, I would have been put into a faster slot, thus avoiding being roadblocked by slower swimmers.

Second dream: an event every weekend through June and July. I know of several events in the area and others not too far away, so I'm pretty sure I can load up the calendar without too much trouble. Right now, the thinking is a sprint tri or duathlon one weekend, a long ride the next, and repeat. There's also a week-long ride across Illinois, from Cairo to Chicago, that is tempting me. One of the options of this ride is 100 miles a day, a very difficult and daunting twist put to the event.

Third dream: to improve my run time so I consistently run sub 30-minute 5k's. I just need to stop being a baby and suck it up if I'm going to reach this goal. So, New Year's Resolution to start now is no whining allowed. I really don't know how I'm going to enforce this yet, but I'll figure something out. Maybe a reward, like new cycling shoes and pedals if I run sub-10 minute miles for a week. Or new cycling shorts.

Fourth dream: to get my abs in shape. This ranks right up there with the sub-30 minute 5k's for difficulty. I avoid ab work even more than I avoid running. But if I'm going to get any better, I need to work on my core. Like the smart guy at the sports lit conference told me, all motion comes from the core. A weak core makes for weak movement. A strong core makes for strong movement. And since I have my beautiful new bike that demands I ride in a much lower position than I did on my old bike, I'm going to need a really strong core to go for any length of time. Ab-Ripper X here I come.

Those are my dreams. It's time to start working to make them come true.