Archive for February, 2010

46 Day Challenge update
February 27, 2010

To keep myself honest and to set an example to anyone else attempting the 46 day challenge, here is a summary of the past 11 days.  (35 more to go!)

2/17 – Run 2 miles
2/18 – Walk 1.5 miles
2/19 – Run 2.1 miles
2/20 – Hooping workshop for 1 hour + Walk 1.5 miles
2/21 – Hoop-walk 6 miles
2/22 – Walk 4.5 miles
2/23 – Run 2 miles
2/24 – Walk 1 mile
2/25 – Run 2 miles
2/26 – Run 1.7 miles
2/27 – Hooping workshop for 1 hour

As you can see I am not necessarily “burning it out” every single day, but getting some kind of exercise is the name of the game.

I use Daily Burn as a way to keep track of my workouts online.  I’ve been using it for over a year and like it for keeping track of all kinds of workouts, determining calories burned, and finding new workouts.  I like that it is online (and free) and I can post my workout at any time from anywhere without having to carry a journal with me or “remember” my workout until I can log it later.  There are several different types of programs out there if you search online.

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Dining Out
February 25, 2010

In this day and age of people choosing to eat vegetarian or vegan for whatever reason*, I am sometimes genuinely surprised when I review restaurant menus.  There are still restaurants that do not carry at least one vegetarian menu item.  It’s not that hard, steam some vegetables, add some rice, done.  It may not be fancy, but it works.  I am also surprised when I find a restaurant that has salads on their menu, but every single salad is topped with meat.  Since when did a salad become a plate for meat, instead of a bowl of fresh vegetables?

Let me be clear, I am not talking about a BBQ joint or a steak house.  I fully expect “meat with a side of meat” at those places.  Heck, “meat” is in the name of the restaurant.  I’m talking about nice restaurants that the closest thing they have to vegetarian is a salmon dinner (um, yeah, that’s pescetarian) or a salad with bacon (not only is that not vegetarian, it’s not kosher or acceptable to many religions).  I’m not necessarily saying it is a bad thing, I’m just surprised that some restaurants that cater to a high-end, diverse crowd might not want to be a little more diverse in their menu as well.  I am personally fairly flexible and don’t mind asking for something different or sometimes eating around something I don’t like, but not everyone is as laid back or brave as I am and I sympathize with them.

* This post is not intended to be a slant for or against vegetarianism or veganism, nor does it intend to suggest that vegetarian, vegan, omnivore, pescetarian, carnivore, kosher, raw, gluten free, etc. lifestyles are healthier or better than any other.  Everyone chooses to eat how they prefer and the reasons behind it are not necessarily appropriate subject matter here, but I do encourage open-minded in-person discussions with people who are different from you.

Sally’s Helpful Hints
February 24, 2010

Back by popular demand, I have more goodies to share.  Thanks to everyone for the great tips and comments on the last Helpful Hints post!

Garden
Two things used to drive me nuts when I had a nice flower-herb-veggie garden.  Rodents (squirrels and moles mostly) would dig up my bulbs and munch on other delectables, and cats would pee on the roses.  Both killing my chances of beautiful and useful landscaping that I slaved over the previous season.  I don’t actually want to harm the animals or taint my garden either.  So I discovered MOTH BALLS work really well.  Cats and squirrels especially do not like the smell and will avoid the garden altogether.  Can you blame them?  To make it particularly effective I buy the moth ball crystals and sprinkle them around the garden to have more coverage than one large ball and less concentration in the soil of the chemical in one spot.  Just beware that rain will dissolve them and you will need to re-sprinkle.  But it’s a cheap and relatively safe way to help that pest problem.  Usually it only takes a few sprinkles to train them to keep away.

Brain Freeze
Ever eat ice cream or drink a smoothie too fast?  I do it all the time, and you’d think I’d learn to slow down, but it’s so so good!  But that pain between your eyebrows is miserable and you want it to stop.  One of my friends, who’s a singer, told me about HUMMING.  Yep, that’s right!  Hum through your teeth to create a vibration in your sinus cavity and in that painful brain freeze spot and it will go away quickly.  I’m not sure if it’s the actual vibration that does it or it’s the heat and friction from the vibration to melts the freeze, but it really works!

Cookies & Bread
Ever have bread that goes dry or stale from sitting out?  Or overcook cookies a little too much and they get hard and crispy, but you prefer soft and moist?  It’s really just a moisture issue.  The easiest way to fix it is to put a slice of APPLE in the bag or container with the bread or cookies until the desired level is reached.  The moisture from the apple will transfer to the bread or cookies and bring them back to life.  Just remember to take the apple out when you’re done, because it works both ways.   You can also use a slice of dry bread to dry out other things, like cookies that are too chewy.  This is basic biology that water wants to go to where it is absent (hypo- and hypertonic), so just remember that once you’re done with your experiment remove the fruit or bread or else the moisture will just go back and forth and you’ll be frustrated.

Baking
Run out of parchment paper?  Making several batches of cookies in one day and only have a couple cookie sheets?  Hate cleaning cookie sheets?  Use ALUMINUM FOIL to line the cookie sheet and clean up is a snap!  I always spray a little cooking spray to make sure the goodies don’t stick to it.  But this is great if you don’t want to clean a huge, airbake cookie sheet.  It also makes it easy to transfer a whole sheet of cookies to a cooling rack without mess and begin again fresh on the same sheet immediately for different cookies.

Bee Sting
Ouch!  These are awful, but there is a quick way to cure the pain.  Thanks to my Granny for this one, because I used to step on bees all the time as a kid.  TOBACCO wetted down with water placed on the sting will literally take out the sting!  One of the funniest things I ever did as a pre-teen was walk around a pool asking all the adults for a cigarette, trying to convince them I really needed it because my friend was stung by a bee.  Just keep in mind that some people are allergic, or can develop an allergy, to bee stings so they should be monitored for any other reactions and seek immediate medical care if conditions worsen.

The Second Month
February 22, 2010

For as long as I can remember, February has always been the most stressful, insanely busiest month in my life.  I don’t know why that is.   It’s a shorter month, so it should fly by quicker, right?  But maybe that’s it!  We are always trying to squeeze 30-31 days worth of stuff into 28-29 days.  There literally just aren’t enough hours in the days of the month.

46 Day Challenge
February 18, 2010

This time of year, many people are giving up things that are valuable to them.  I do not follow the tradition of Lent, so I do not really give up anything for the same reason I do not really make resolutions.  Instead last year, I started a new tradition, the 46 Day Challenge, and I add something for 46 days instead of give it up.

Starting on the day after Fat Tuesday, I exercise every single day until Easter.  To answer several questions.

1. Yes, I had to count out how many days it is between Fat Tuesday and Easter.  Twice, just to be sure.

2.  Yes, we should all be getting some kind of exercise every day. But admit it, we don’t.  I don’t even do it when I’m in training.  I relish my “rest” days.

3.  No, you don’t have to run a marathon every day for 46 days.  I’m not Eddie Izzard.  A 1 mile walk is sufficient if that’s all you have time for.  But it is intended to get in some sort of intentional exercise every day, preferably with some intensity in addition to the intentional.

4. No, it’s actually NOT as easy as it sounds.  Life, weather, and our own mind gets in the way.  We all get busy or just want to be lazy (or *gasp* want to clean house) on a Sunday.  Does not matter, go for a walk.  This time of year is notorious for its bad weather.  It’s cold in February and no one wants to go outside.  It rains a lot in March and no one wants to go outside.  Time to start developing indoor routines.  And just our plain own stubbornness will get in the way…but I JUST DON’T WANT TO.  Tough, just do it, even for a few minutes.

This isn’t really about sacrificing anything.  It’s about getting back into a good fitness routine after the winter and the holidays, and making it a habit again.  The first couple weeks are hard and require some creativity, but after 46 days it’s easy to go for a quick jog or lift weights, or find a yoga class.  I will have some help this time, because we’re in training to Hoop the Half Marathon.  So I already need to be walking and cross-training and hooping.

Oh yeah, and I challenge any of my readers to take up their own 46 Day Challenge.  It’s not too late to start!

Happy Cheap Heart Candy Day!
February 15, 2010

If you haven’t already gone to get the discount candy, you may be out of luck!  Don’t worry, the bunny holiday and all of its wonderful candy is on the way soon.

Oh…and…it snowed.  AGAIN!  This one I’m going to blame on Barbie, because she drove down from Canada for a few days and she probably brought some of that cold weather with her.  Ok, maybe not, but I do feel bad for her for two reasons: 1. She left the great white north in hopes of better, sunnier, and less snowier weather (yeah, no luck there sweet cheeks), and 2. Her bucket (how I lovingly refer to her vehicle) may have finally kicked the bucket, so to speak.  Good news is I will get to visit with Barbie!!

Beloved Cake Balls
February 12, 2010

A few weeks ago, I went to one of our fabulous locally owned coffee shops for a bake sale to benefit the Haiti relief efforts.  I picked up several goodies, but the little baggie of “cake balls” was the biggest hit.  So much, that all I heard about was the beloved cake balls from my Beloved.  I corresponded with the original baker to get some tips on recreating her treat.  So when we were snowed in a couple weekends ago, I promised to make them.  What else was I going to do all weekend?  (Besides drink hot toddies and bust my back on a sled.)

A few warnings about these cake balls.  1. They are beloved by everyone.  You will have a hard time getting them done without several “stolen” from the pan.  2. The cake recipe below makes a LOT of cake, feel free to cut it in half.  3. You will need to run several extra miles after eating these, but it’s so worth it.

Beloved Cake Balls

(*Haitian Cake recipe adapted from CrumpyCakes, Cake Ball recipe adapted from CrumpyCakes and AllRecipes.)

2 cups softened butter
2 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Rum (optional, or if you’re me…required and you’ll put in a couple tablespoons)
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest (required for lemon flavor)
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1 container of white frosting (I opted for “butter cream” flavor and I think it was the perfect flavor complement!)
Blocks of chocolate candy bark (chocolate or white or both depending on your preference)

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Start with a very large mixing bowl.  Cream the butter (using a mixer, beat butter with sugar, gradually adding sugar, until light and fluffy).  Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.  Gradually add egg yolks to the butter/sugar mixture.  Stir in vanilla and Rum.

In a medium bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest).

Alternately add small amounts of the milk and dry ingredients to the batter until it is all fully mixed.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into a cake pan that has been greased and floured.  (Note if following full recipe above, I used a deep 9×13 pan and it baked about 3 inches thick.  Make sure you have at least a 9×13 pan if you plan to bake it all at once.  You can also use several small loaf pans or several round cake pans.)

Bake for at least 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (I actually needed closer to an hour because the cake was so think, but might need less in a larger pan or split up into several small pans.)  Let cake cool in pan for a few minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool more until it can be handled comfortably.

In a large bowl, crumble the cake while still warm.  I started with 1/2 of the cake, slicing into strips and crumbling the strips.  Add the entire tub of frosting and mix with cake crumbles.  Add more cake to reach a good consistency.  I actually ended up using only about 2/3 of the cake.  That’s a lot of cake!

Using a melon baller or (my favorite) a rounded teaspoon, scoop out “balls” of the cake-frosting mixture, rolling in your hands if necessary.  Place balls on a wax paper covered baking sheet or other easily stackable flat surface that will fit in your freezer.  Place sheet with balls in the freezer for at least 30 minutes until hardened.  (Note they can be left in the freezer for longer.)

Melt chocolate bark according to instructions on package on very LOW heat.  (Note if you’re using white bark, keep stirring and make sure it doesn’t get too hot; it will scorch and will turn brown.  This isn’t as much a concern with the darker bark, but you’ll have to throw out the white if it scorches.)  Remove from heat.

With a fork, dip the balls in the chocolate to coat.

Shake off any excess chocolate and run tines of fork across pan if necessary.  Place on clean wax paper to set and dry.

Continue until all balls (or desired amount) are covered.  Store in fridge or freezer in airtight container once dry.  I also like to make both colors and run the tines of the fork across a different color ball for an added effect.

Sally’s Helpful Hints
February 10, 2010

Here’s another new regular posting.  I’ve been planning to do these forever, because friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers always ask how I come up with such strange, but easy ways to handle stuff around the house and life!  I have no idea how I have learned all of these random tips, most of which are natural remedies, but they always come in handy.  Now I’m sharing them with you!

Burns
Ever burn yourself while cooking, or on an iron, or actual fire?  One of the best and safest ways to treat a minor burn is HONEY!  Yep, it acts as a natural antiseptic.  Do not put ice or freezing cold water on it.  Run cool water over the burn, then apply honey.  I do not like honey very much, but I am incredibly clumsy in the kitchen and around hot objects (except my fire hoop).  So, I keep honey around just for that purpose and it works much better than an aloe plant.  However, if the burn is severe enough, always seek emergency medical treatment.

Ants
I don’t mind bugs too much, but they do not belong in the house, and ants especially do not belong anywhere near a kitchen with food.   But with Diva Kitty in the house, I do not like to use a lot of chemicals and set out traps that her curiosity will lead her to discover.  (and believe me, she will find them!)  Find where the ants are entering the house (near a door, a window, etc.) and sprinkle a heavy line of CINNAMON.  Ants will not cross the cinnamon path.  I have no idea why this is, but it really works.   At my old house I always called summer “Ant Season,” because they would always cover my counters until I tried cinnamon.  Sure I have a window sill covered in brown cinnamon, but I don’t have any ants!

Tomato Plants
Do you like to plant tomatoes in the summer?  But hate the bugs that may infest the plant and don’t want to use chemicals on the summer fruits?  Do you love the smell of lavender?  Plant LAVENDER with the tomato plants.  They repel most bugs that bother a tomato plant, as well as many other plants.  Look up other companion planting tips for other do’s and don’ts for planting.

Salad
Need a way to spruce up a salad?  If you’re out of salad dressing or, oops it’s expired, use olive oil and balsamic vinegar on it.  I usually opt out of the olive oil to save a couple calories.  But if that’s not your cup of tea, you can always use the juice from a fruit that you put on the salad, like mandarin oranges or pineapples.  If you’re particular to a sweet or fruity salad, sprinkle a little cinnamon (again!) on top for wonderfully earthy, sweet addition!  Cinnamon is particularly good with apples (especially tart Granny Smiths) and almonds.  You don’t really need much more than a good lettuce mix, fruit, nuts, and cinnamon to have a healthy and unique salad.

Jellyfish Stings
Ouch!  I have something in my body chemistry that just attracts jellyfish when I’m at the beach.  Basically, what is stinging you is a type of protein, so you need to denature the protein (remember high school biology?).  MEAT TENDERIZER is something you should pack for the beach.  Just make a paste with water and the tenderizer and smear on the injury to take out the “sting.”  Also, I’m sure you’ve heard that in a pinch you can pee on it, well yes that works too for the same reason but I’d really rather smell like meat tenderizer.

Sunburn
Speaking of the beach, have you been out in the sun too long and fear you might burn a little bit?  Take a couple IBUPPROFEN.  It’s an anti-inflammatory and will take out some the redness and sting from the burn.

Acne
Ok, I have to admit I have NO cure for acne.  Believe me, I’m a thirtysomething woman who still has breakouts on a regular basis.  Argh!  But if you want to tone down some of the redness from a spot, put some EYE DROPS on it.  “It takes the red out.”  No seriously, it really does help.  I use it before I put on make up and moisturizer sometimes.  It usually won’t last all day, but long enough for an interview or a date or a photo op!

Snow Triptych
February 8, 2010

It’s snowing.  Again!  Three significant snowfalls this year is unheard of!  You’d think we were a few hundred miles north, and not in the Southeast.  I’ll take the snow over ice any day!

Last week’s snow, this week’s back
February 6, 2010

We had some serious snow last weekend.  (though it is nothing compared to what the East Coast is getting this weekend!)  But due to the rarity that is snowfall and our city’s complete lack of preparation and logic for such a thing, we were pretty much snowed in.  Seriously, people joke about the city shutting down schools if snow is even ‘mentioned’ in the forecast, but the city just cannot handle it if we actually do get snow.

After work on Friday, I let Diva Kitty venture for a moment (that’s as long as she could stand it) on to the back porch.  By late Friday night and early Saturday morning, you could no longer see the cute paw prints.

So, with snow on the ground, what does a mature thirtysomething and her friends do…go sledding of course!  Saturday we played in the snow for several hours and discovered the hills behind my house are perfect for it!

We met again on Sunday for more sledding.  On my first trip down the hill, I demonstrated a move worthy of the Winter X-Games.   Unable to stop the makeshift sled at the bottom of the hill, I hit a ditch, went airborne, and continued down the smaller hill.  All of that sounds cool and apparently it looked cool, but it did not feel cool.  I injured my back pretty badly from the impact with the ditch.  I turned down requests to go to the hospital for fear of having to sit for hours in uncomfortable waiting room chairs, and opted to go to the doctor the next day instead.  All is ok, my body did what it is supposed to do to protect vital parts like my spine and organs, but that also means my back muscles are in a total spasm.  It is getting better and I am very thankful that I am otherwise a very strong, healthy person, because it could have been much worse.  But to speed along recovery I made an appointment with my acupuncturist.  I want to be able to laugh, cough, sneeze, and hiccup without worrying that my kidneys might explode.  Nothing starts a giggle fit more than laughing that sounds like…”ha, ha, ha, Ouch!, ha, ha, ha, Ouch!”