Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Discovery of Trails!

I've written before about my love of trail running.  I loathe the dreadmill.  I am sort of okay with roads... but I associate them with pounding and tight hamstrings and sunburns.  I run because I must and because it's good for me and because I hope that one day I'll become good at it.  

But trails, I love.  The Ridgeline was my regular route in Eugene.  Sure, there was also some nice trail around Amazon park.  But I loved the Ridgeline.  So I've spent the last year being pretty grumpy that Tysons Corner had just about zero unpaved trail runs.  And don't try to tell me something is trail if it's paved.  That's a manicured park. 

Last Friday, I decided to go for a run.  I had an errand to run in Dupont Circle, which was a short bus ride or a good walk away.  So I tied on my running shoes and ran down instead, doing a pretty strong set of miles to get to the knitting store.  I literally RAN my errand!  (ha ha ha ha!) 

Then I realized that I was about 1.5 miles away from my gym, and that Andrew Giant Muscles was about to begin the Wreck'em Boot Camp Class* in 15 minutes.  I thought if I pushed it, I could just barely make it... so off I went! 

As I started out, I realized that the run TO Dupont was all downhill, and this was going to be all uphill.  So I quickly started bargaining down the class, thinking I'd beg off the sprints or the leg raises in favor of extra stretches and crying.  I defend the crying.  I was sprinting(ish) uphill.  You'd be crying too.  

But then my GPS led me to a deadend... right next to a bunch of ambassadorial residences.  You know, the big huge houses marked with no trespassing signs that you are just certain also have tripwires and secret security and random electric fences around to keep riff raff like me out?  

Luckily, I saw the small sign and a trail-like area that suggested it might be an entrance into a park.  And lo and behold, I found myself dropped into Dumbarton Park.  So I ran through Dumbarton.  I slowed to a walk a lot, so I could check my app and be sure I was still pointed in the right direction or to kick some extra mud out of my shoes.  I don't know how long I was in the park... just that I lost track and I had a blast.  

I got to the gym at 12:12, too late to join the class (so I did stretching, abs, and weights) but I consider it a win over all.  I have finally discovered trails, near my house!  That makes me so happy I could scream.  

And I'll definitely be more cheerful about going running now.  In fact, I pulled my trail runners out of the closet.  




*Not the teacher's real name, nor the real class name.  Just what I call them in my head. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Whoops... 10 day break?

Whoops.  Just realized it had been a 10 day break since my last post. It's not that I haven't thought of possible blog topics.  It's  more that I haven't been near a computer, and haven't had a notebook handy, and was perhaps a little too busy playing games on my phone during the commute to do any scribbling.  Hm.  Simplicity fail, perhaps. 

In the meantime, there's been several positive developments.  I'lll say more over time, but it suffices to say now we are embarking on a period of normalcy in our lives.  That will be so nice, indeed.  It's been a complex journey.  At last, we are able to think about "well, in a year, we should think about buying a house..."  (I have no doubt that we could get approved for a mortgage right now.  But I do want a little more financial security and a small downpayment before that. I don't want to rush something about important as our home!)  

I've stayed off Facebook for Lent, but I have definitely been tempted to go on quite a bit.  I always said that I was on Facebook because it kept me connected, but truthfully, when I reach for it or think of checking it, it's always for a mindless break.  So that has me thinking about why do I really want Facebook in my life.  Do I just want to see people's cute baby pictures?  Or do I want to use it for actual networking?  If it's the latter, then I might have to unfriend family and friends to keep from getting sucked into the reel of goofy articles and baby stories.  If it's the former, then it might be time to unfriend work-only colleagues.  But I think this practice has taught me that having Facebook be both work and fun at once is overwhelming and annoying.  At the end of Lent, I will definitely be doing some major gleaning.   

In the time I've saved from being off Facebook... welll, on one hand, yes, I'm knitting more even though I just frogged a whole project (frogging is when you 'rip it, rip it, rip it' out) because my gauge was a half size off.  But it'll go back together quickly now that I have replace my needle with the right size.  

I've definitely worked out more.  I do the strength classes pretty regularly, and I've started adding in runs.  On one hand, it is beneficial and I love the steam room.  I ma go to the gym sometimes just to earn some steam room time!  On the other hand, I am also thinking about MyFitnessPal.  I'm trying to drop a few pounds by summer, and calorie counting is good and not good.  I find I really miss the WeightWatchers plan where you count points, not calories.  That seemed to help me make right choices more often.  I feel a little frustrated when MFP shows me that I should eat another 1000 calories at 7PM, thanks to the hard workout I just did and the walk there and home.  But  it's just not practical.  So I'm taking a break from tracking while I establish the habit of just working out again.  

And finally, the lactose program seems to be working.  I have had a few times when I tried something that would have been on the very strict no-list... and been OK.  (Most recent success: Cadbury Creme Egg!)  I'm still going to keep my life mostly dairy-free, but I think I can start to relax a little.  I still haven't tried cow dairy, but sheep and goat seem to be OK in small amounts.  However, in the meantime, I've found so many other options... that I don't think I miss dairy the way I did in the beginning.  I don't miss random ice cream any more and I don't sorrow over pizza like I did in the beginning.  It was certainly a very hard change... but I think I've adjusted.  

I'm off to finish some writing for tomorrow... and then I am going to meander off to the store to pick up a few somethings. 


Thursday, March 5, 2015

DC Snow Day

So whaat do you do in 700 square feet on a  snow day?  Both of us are home from work, and for me, it's yet another freaking snow day.  I do like my Metro commute, but Metro often slows or stops in Weather, which means that commuting out to the suburbs can sometimes become impossible due to anything from "cold temperatures" to "cracked rails", even if in the city, the underground part of Metro COULD be running.  

Aiyah.  

So far today, I have made Thug Kitchen biscuts and lentil gravy, Mark Bittman "How to Cook Everything" French Bread dough, and baba ganoush.  I had to roast an extra eggplant (I like my baba ganoush more eggplanty), and the dough takes its time to rise, so it's a good snow day experiment.  M plans to make salsa. I should also put on a pot of rice since I like to have brown rice on hand.  I've gotten totally hooked on the Thug Kitchen brown rice and edamame breakfast bowl. 

On the breakfast front: I've realized that on mornings when I commute on an empty stomach, I get way more motion sick than when I have a little something.  So I've been trying to eat SOMETHING before leaving the house.  It's hard because I just don't feel hungry early in the morning.  We both like the Fueled and Focused energy bars that our friend Cristina has created.  (We crumble them up and pair them with almond milk or sometimes sheep yogurt.)  

There was a car accident on the street below earlier- looked like a Tbone awhere at least the striking car left the scene.  It's the second Tbone I've seen in the last 16 hours on Wisconsin NW.  Seriously, people, rain and snow are slippery and shiny and make it hard to see.  Slow the eff down.  4 Wheel Drive does not mean you can drive like it's a normal day out there.  And, frankly, no matter how careful you are, sometimes bad stuff happens.  (AKA, accident.)  

As for the rest of the day, in between the slow cooking (beans, rice, bread, salsa), I'll do a little work (the last remaining dregs of my to-do list), do some cleaning and tidying, and probably binge watch Outlander.  Which means I'll have a VERY free Friday and Saturday.  I'm  getting a pretty serious case of cabin fever here, and Virginia does not have an easy escape to the wild ocean like Oregon did... Eeeekkk!  

Which means I'm hitting the place where giving up Facebook is a little challenging.  I used it to occupy mindless time, but now, I have to FIND OTHER THINGS TO DO!  It's not go-outside-and-play weather.  My piano is in storage, my viola is at my office, and I only have 200 books and a sweater to knit to keep me busy.  WIthout Facebook, I can't eavesdrop on other lives and see what they are up to or vaguebook and whine about our weather.  I repeat... Eeeeekkkk!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

More Snow, Seriously

An update to yesterday:

M's moratorium on eggplant is removed.  Because I'm going to get yummy baba ganoush tonight, and crusty bread, and he made seitan from scratch, and has more roasted eggplant plans, and as long as he's cooking it into wonderful things, I want all the eggplant.

It helps that we both like our veggies in this house.

I, and all of DC, are preparing for a SNOWMAGEDDON tomorrow.  We might have 4-8 inches, or more, or less, but probably a lot of snow.  I don't own a parka anymore.  I don't own snow boots.  I moved away from Parkaland (aka, CT) because I hate being cold and getting snow in my shoes, so I am way over the horrible snow.

I am over the snow before it even got here.

In the meantime, I got home in just enough time to change my clothes and get ready to head out to Barre class where a really tough, super fun teacher is going to wreck me/supertone my quads.  If I get there early enough, I can spin out some of my whirling anxieties on the spin bike while I wait for class to start.

I better run so I have time to also have a snack!


Magical Hours, Sheep Yogurt, and Eggplant

Well, last things first.

M is going to be put on a temporary moratorium from buying EGGPLANT.  A few weeks ago, he came home with an eggplant, wanting to make me a grilled eggplant/garlic dish that makes a fabulous rice bowl ingredient.

A few days later, he brought home another eggplant.  Since he wanted to make a double recipe.

Then yesterday, he came home with two more.

So my spouse is impulse-buying eggplants.  Which I suppose is a much healthier habit than, say, betting on ponies, but now I have four eggplants in my fridge.  Which is why I'm cooked one into a Thug Kitchen dish and roasted another for baba ganoush, which is going to come to work with me.

He's going to have to come up with something for eggplants three and four.

SHEEP YOGURT:

I'm still trying to find dairy products that hit me with protein and other good stuff without hitting me with the high lactose that makes me so miserable.  The doctor believes that if I find something I can tolerate, I'll be able to gradually increase my tolerance to better levels.

I recently discovered sheep milk yogurt.  It's outlandishly expensive ($5.99 for 16oz), but so far, I've been having a good result.  Of course, I'm only eating 3 tablespoons a day! However, I crumbled a homemade energy bar over it yesterday for breakfast and it was delicious.

MAGICAL HOURS:

I do love our tiny postage-stamp of an apartment.  At sunset, this is just the most magical place.  The buildings on our side of the street cast a shadow, and the far side of the city lights up in a really gorgeous sort of glow.  I don't have a good camera right now, so I can't even try to capture it.  But we can see the National Basilica and the Washington Monument from our windows, and it is so good to watch them glowing in the setting sun.  The Cathedral is also gorgeous- the stone turns a sort of rose gold.

It encourages me to get home in time for sunset (which is easier as sunset gets later).

In fact, this place reminds me a bit of my first apartment in Arlington.  I used to pour a glass of wine and watch the sun set over Arlington, being happy that I didn't have to drive in the crazy traffic.  Things are a little more complicated as both M and I are figuring out our new commutes and when we get home, so it'll be a little while before we have a regular welcome home hour, but maybe we'll get there in a few months.

BTW, "welcome home" hour is not always cocktail hour.  Sure, sometimes we have wine (or beer for M), or a cocktail, but we are just as likely to make seltzer or OJ spritzers or tea for me in the cold months.  It's more about the act of a Delightful Beverage and the relaxing.

AS FAR AS GETTING HOME:

Cleveland Park is the metro that has the prettiest neighborhood to walk through.  That's mentally relaxing, to get a break from citystreetseverywheretraffic.  Tenleytown is the place to go to best see the sunset on the walk home.  But if the weather is bad, I grab a bus out of Foggy Bottom, which drops me off right in front of my apartment.  The bus in the evening is slow as molasses in an igloo, thanks to traffic, so it's a last resort.  If I'm trying to get to the gym or if I don't mind a walk, I found that the Georgetown Circulator can get me right to the gym, which is a short walk to home.

The Georgetown Circulator costs a 50 cent transfer (instead of $1.25 for the regular metro), and is really very accessible.  I'm going to see about dropping a set of clothes at the gym, hopping the circulator, and then the metro to work, meaning that my stuff will be waiting for me at the gym for later.




Sunday, March 1, 2015

I Sewed Stuff

This weekend, I made a terrible mistake.  I went to a consignment store (not the mistake) and I bought a pair of trousers (also not the mistake). As anyone who ever has to dress for work might know, women's dress pants are a minefield, designed more to bring you to tears and swearing in the dressing room than to make you feel good about your butt.  

Is it any wonder that so many women end up addicted to wrap dresses? I actually tried on a pair of pants that were roomy up around my waist and butt, but the legs were so skinny I had to physically massage my leg meat to get my gams in there.  And my legs are one part of my body I have always like. They are muscular, yes, but not overly large.  

I don't spend untold amounts of time checking out other women's bodies but this one pair of pants I was trying on... Let's just say you'd have to be built like a few pieces of PVC pipe topped by a beach ball to make the look work.  

I am seriously going to try those Betabrand trousers that are made for weightlifting women.  In my last few years of trying on pants, I have have a horrible time with anything that is not wide legged.  Basically, as my bike skill and endurance went up, my ability to fit pants went down.  

That means I could drop kick you over a mountain, but I will have to wear spandex to do it because so few real pants will fit me.  

So I found a magical pair of trousers.  They are a nice warm wool, they have pinstripes, and they had  a cool 3" cuff.  They may have never been worn... And they were made for someone about 6'2".  They just needed to be hemmed.  

On the way home, my cheapskate nature overtook my good sense, and I skipped the tailor and carried them right home. THIS was my mistake.  But I own a very nice sewing machine. I have hemmed a few pairs of pants in the past. How hard could a cuff be?  

Answer: pretty effin' hard.  

Bonus answer: tailors have skillz for a reason.  If you don't have six hours, a sewing mother, and a deep reserve of swear words and a sense of adventure, maybe just pay the tailor the $20. 

The Internet YouTube tutorials were next to nonexistant and mostly written for men's pants. You know what men's pants are not that my pants are? Flared.  It's a very slight flare, but it's still a flare, so that the pants are more snug around my thighs, and loose and swingy at the calves.  This makes them look good on my athelete butt because it balances out those fierce quads.*

This also means that the fabric does not line up perfectly and no matter how carefully I tried, I kept ending up with extra fabric. 

My text message to my mother said, in part, "I am going to set all the sewing machines in the world on fire. And then I'm going to find the evil lady on YouTube who tells lies lies lies."  The series of messages ended with the woe-filled, "you should write to me and make me feel better that I can't hem stupid flare pants on a stupid sewing machine.  Die sewing machine die."  

My mother, in a facetime call, said things about ease and hand sewing.  What she means is that the fabric won't line upon matter what you do, so you kind of shove it and bunch it up and pray to your deity of choice that it doesn't show.  Sewing people call it "easing". I call it, "really, people? You've been CHEATING all this time!?!" 

It really burns my butter that people have started charging for tutorials on YouTube. I got sucked in by a lady with fat fingers who was folding fabric and looking happy and who promised that sewing would save us money, make us happier, and teach us a skill that would make us feel more self-sufficient.  But her video cuts off in the middle of the first turn so you can't figure out what she is doing.  She marks stuff, cuts stuff, and then, boom, the pants are finished while she intones that you must buy her tutorial, to learn the magic of making a damn cuff.  

Did you know that every time someone charges money for an ameatuer quality video with crappy lighting that a baby unicorn drowns** in my tears?  

I'm too too cheap to pay so after I had trimmed my excess fabric, I was up a creek.  

That's when the swearing started. And the crying.  

It took me two hours plus today, but after my mother explained easing/cheating, I was able to hem the pants. It's not a beautiful effort on the inside and no real tailor will be fooled for a second.  But if any tailors are crawling around on the ground looking up my pants cuffs, they deserve to get stepped on. That's creepy behavior.  The pants are perfectly in order for a casual observer who will not be obsessed with my feet.  (And again, if you are that obsessed with my feet, you have more problems than I can help you with.). 



*dont even think about writing to me about toning exercises for those legs. I come from a muscular people and my power quads have hauled me up mountains on my bike.  I have plenty of body issues, but I have earned these quads.  I will not hesitate to dropkick haters to the middle of next week.  I can, you know.  

**no baby unicorns were harmed in the hemming of my pants. I threw them life preservers inflated with all the hot air from the copious amounts of swearing I was doing.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Thinking about skyrocketing food costs

Friday's are my Priest Saturday.  It's my big day off.  Since my husband works a normal week, it means I get to be a bum and sleep in and lie around like a slug for a few hours.  And then I get up and get down to buisness. On Fridays, I usually tidy and clean and cook.  Since today is the last Friday of the month, it also means I balance the bank account and start planning next month's budget and think about food stuff.  

Today I'm also going to make a nice meal for dinner.  You know, with candles and stuff.  And I'm pretty sure I'll make something amazing out of what we have in the house.  Yesterday, as we were walking home from a movie (I had gotten free tickets so we decided to make a date night of it), we were remarking on the insane costs of eating out and then M wanted to stop by the grocery store to buy food.  I managed to argue him down by reciting all the food we currently had in our house, and by correctly deducing that he was just hungry and his brain wanted gummy frogs for a snack.  I got him home before he starved to death on the sidewalk and he made a late night nosh.  Whew.  Dodged that bullet.  

I will say that ever since he started this vegan challenge, he really is being more creative with food.  He likes the Thug Kitchen cookbook a lot- perhaps because of all the swear words and the fact that it's written by men and not by a sweet vegan chick who likes flowers and stuff? (I'm all over the flowers and sunshine, but that's me.) For him, changing his thinking around easy food will be his big struggle.  He tends to forget all the food we have in the fridge and pantry and go out and buy new food.  

When we were both in grad school, we used to play a game called "eat down the pantry". Near the end of the month when money was tight, we tried to see who could make more complete meals out of pantry food.  Since I tend to stock it with staples like canned tomatoes and beans, I usually won.  Nothing left but noodles, tomatoes, beans, flour, and spice? (And odds and ends of random fridge veggies like kale and carrots?) That's either pasta with rolls, stir fry, or tacos.  M would probably make soup. That dude could live on soup.  

But lately I've been thinking more about food. We are blessed that we have never really faced a significant food crisis.  Even though I feel very financially anxious often, I know that I have never had to choose between paying a bill or buying food.  If I'm honest, at the end of the month, I always have cash left over for kale.  

But I have noticed, strikingly, over the last decade, how sharply food costs have risen.  As a vegetarian living alone, in Arlington, 10 years ago, (city girl with a propensity for places like My Organic Market and no farmer's market available), I could do my weekly groceries and wine for the week for about $60, maybe $80 if I got some fish for a treat.  This included chocolate goodies.  Almost everything was organic.

When we were first married, in Fredericksburg, $25 could buy us three huge bags of veggies and eggs at the farmer's market nearby, $20 more took care of everything else, and for $40 we could go out to a date night every week.  

These days, we are lucky if $80 buys us the basics.  It's not bad planning.  It's that the costs of food has gone up so dramatically. In the recent past, it was cheaper to be a vegetarian and to cook.  Now, it seems as if being vegetarian and whole foods cooking is the most expensive way to live.  

Sometimes I wonder what effect global warming has on the food supply.  (Probably a big chunk.) sometimes I wonder what effect our loss of seasonal eating has on our food supply. (Probably related to global warming.  If we insist on eating tomatoes in February, we aren't choosing the most ecological options. Says the girl who has a pack of grape tomatoes in my kitchen right now.) but I also suspect that it has something to do with the fact that is is cheaper to buy processed prepared food than to make your own.  Taco shells, I'm looking at you, and that one is not on me.  

We never use coupons because they don't seem to make coupons for the stuff we buy.  Raw almonds, kale, tofu... Dry beans.  Canned tomatoes.  Plain flour. None of this stuff has coupons, and it costs more now than it did a few years ago.  Meanwhile, it seems meat prices stay stagnant, and prepared food, the worst stuff to be eating, is rock-bottom.  Coupons abound for taco shells and cookies and  premade kiddie type snacks.  Now I also buy premade snacks to keep meal bars in my purse to stave off the starvings... But it scares me that it is cheaper and more subsidized (read: more encouraged) to buy "food" premade by a handful of companies, than it is to buy plain vegetables.  

I also know that we have had to adjust our food choices due to my lactose intolerance.  We buy raw almonds to make almond milk.  I was told it's cheaper to buy almond milk... But store bought almond milk has so many strange ingredients.... I want to know what I'm eating.  We buy sheep or goat yogurt so I can try to build my tolerance.  That's more than 3 times as costly as cow yogurt.  We can't go out to just any restaurant because of the dairy thing and I find I usually can't get the cheapest thing on the menu.  Burgers, for example, are usually the cheapest thing, but most veggie burgers have whey protein and many burger buns have butter or milk.  That means I'm spending more to eat. It's frustrating! 

Well... I'll continue to buy my plain veggies.  Maybe we will try a community garden again this summer.  Perhaps I can find a CSA in DC.  I am glad that we live where we can get to Eastern Market for the farmers market. I feel like we have to dig in our heels a bit and buy those plain veggies... Even though they cost more.  I have no illusions that one person can turn the tide of junk food that currently rules our grocery stores. But I hope I can help keep life in the farmers markets. In ten years, I want to feel like I can still make ethical choices in my eating.