Monday, March 21, 2011

A new perspective on fitness....

I like to pretend that I'm of "above average" fitness. I mean, come on, how many people do you know that can run 10 miles at a time?

Don't answer that yet.

Until a few weeks ago, I thought the answer was "very few, excuse me while I bask in the glory of my fitness." Okay, I'm actually very humble about my running, being of the opinion that I should always be able to go further, faster, have a better stride, etc. Never mind that my average pace on long distance runs rarely breaks a 9-minute mile.

Then I made the enlightening mistake of engaging with an army recruiter who asked me about my fitness level. I responded, between footfalls, "I'd say above average." (I was running 7 miles on a treadmill at the time, and used that as evidence.)

When I got home, I did a quick search of the Army Physical Fitness Test minimum requirements, and set out to compare myself to that standard.

For a woman my age, I would need, TO PASS, run 2 miles in 19:36. Easy-peasy. If I don't mind throwing up at the end, I could very well score a 96 right now, finishing in 16 minutes, and give me a few weeks of working at JUST the two miles and I'd hit 100.

Then I looked at the push-ups and sit-up requirements...

80 situps in 2 minutes is 100 points, and the pass rate is 50. No problem. I used to do 60 inclined sit-ups with a 25 lb weight on my chest, and had the six-pack (well... 4 pack) to prove it. I insist it's still hiding under the fine layer of fat I've accumulated over the last four years, but anyway, let's try some sit-ups, shall we?

For all of minute-1, I felt awesome. I banged out 30 sit-ups with no problem, and was well on my way to passing, and then... The timer went off. Forty-seven sit-ups. That number looks like a 4 followed by a 7. I failed. FAILED.

Not feeling quite so sure of myself anymore, eyes glazed over and face beat-red from effort, I asked Aaron, "How many do I need to do?"

Seventeen. In two minutes. How many can you do?


I did manage to get out 14 push-ups in one minute, with ample rest time in between, but no more than two in a row.

So what does it mean to be fit? I realize the subjectivity of the term, because for someone who can't run a mile and sees me running five, to them, I might be fit. But at the same time, they may bang out 50 push-ups without a second thought, and I see that as fitness. Or for me, I can barely touch my toes, and see fitness as a yogi who can fold themselves into a paper crane.

This is going to be the framework for the next few months of my "fitness journey." Whatever that means. Haven't figured that out yet.

Maybe after dinner. And a nice long run.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Year Rawsolutions

So I'm not much for making resolutions for the new year, since I know without a doubt that I'll wind up abandoning them all sometime mid-January. Hence why my decision to go vegan occurred mid-year, spur-of-the-moment, and thus was the most successful resolution I've made to date.

Well, not really spur of the moment. I did a lot of research, experimented, found what worked for me and what did not, and went from there. The turning point, though, was browsing through one particular baking cookbook that made my resolution that much easier. Eat less cholesterol, have more cookies. Win win!

Now I've been vegan about a year and a half, which is no amazing feat. It is easy, inexpensive, and more or less healthy. Not that I've lost weight or anything. It's time to ramp up my love for plant-based foods just a little bit more by incorporating more raw and unprocessed foods.

In the last few months I have added to my pantry:

- more flaxseeds than I'll ever eat in my life (featured in the picture above: raw flax, almond meal and cacao "pancakes" with syrup and banana-blueberry softserve)
- goji berries
- chia seeds
- buckwheat groats (still not sure what to do with these...)
- cacao nibs... my favorite thus far
- sundry raw nuts
- cold pressed coconut oil
- more bananas than a banana republic (say, one whose primary export is not bananas...)
- agave nectar, which has been in there for a while and I'm just starting to use in recipes other than in tea
- nut milks

Slowly I am removing from my diet:
- processed sugar
- wheat

And I want to, but never will get rid of:
- soy. I love soy. Yeah, it's tough to digest, but I love it.

These are life changes. This is not a diet, just like my transition to veganism was not as part of a fad diet, or to win me cool points; that happened naturally. I can feel benefits immediately from a gluten-free, uncooked meal versus a wheat-heavy, soy-heavy dinner.

Not very good at ending blog posts, so... The End.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

At my job, we have a huge assortment of delicious-smelling awful-for-you unvegan pastries that have been assailing my senses for the last three weeks.

This week though, the coup de grĂ¢ce was delivered when I opened a package marked "banana chocolate chip coffee cake" and was literally knocked back on my feet. It smelled like heaven!

I'm at a point in my veganism where non-vegan foods are non-foods for me. This pastry though, it drove me nuts. So I searched high and low to find a veganized version of this recipe... which just didn't seem to exist.

So I made one!

The chocolate chips I used in this recipe I found at my co-op last night. I was content to use carob chips (which don't melt very well but I love the flavor), except that I found vegan grain-sweetened chips last night that tasted so much like milk chocolate I nearly offed the entire pound and cried.

I also used this as the breaking-in recipe for my thrited springform pan. I'd been wanting to buy one, but couldn't justify the cost. I think $2.50 for a USA-made pan was just fine, especially since the donation goes to a women's crisis center.

Banana Chocolate Chip you-won't-ever-make-another-kind-of-Coffee Cake

For the streusel
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp cinnamon

For the cake
1.5 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt * (I omitted this, but will include it next time)
2-3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp soy or coconut yogurt (or 3 tbsp soy milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar if you're desperate)
1/3 cup room temperature unhydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance did the trick)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch diameter baking pan.

In a small bowl, mix the streusel ingredients together. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In yet another bowl, mash up your bananas. Whisk in the oil, sugar, yogurt and margarine. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture.

Divide the batter in half. Spread one half on the bottom of the pan (it doesn't have to be perfect).

Layer with half the streusel. Spread on another layer of the batter (it won't be perfect this time, guaranteed.)


Spread the final layer of streusel on top.

Pop it in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until a butter knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven, allowing it to cool for a few minutes so your knife doesn't get melted chocolate all over it. But if you're okay with that, then have at it.

Craving satisfied.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Pursuit of Badass

In my pursuit of badassery, my first major purchase as an official Floridian was this beauty here


I've never been mountain biking before. When my boyfriend told me about it, I silently called him crazy. But, this is the same guy I told that I would never stop eating meat, never sleep in the woods, and certainly never move out of New York City.

So, I gave it a chance.

We went to Higher Ground, a locally-owned bike shop that touts itself as being the highest bike shop in Florida (though considering that the elevation is still under 400 feet above sea level, I stifle a chuckle). The associate who helped me spent a lot of time asking questions, taking measurements, and pulling down various models for me to try out. It turns out that proportionally I'm more male than female, so female-targeted bikes were taken off the list. (Thank goodness; they were more pricey.) What I liked about this guy was that price was not the concern. He didn't push me to the more expensive options, knowing it was the first time I had even ridden a bicycle since I was 12 or 13 years old. Certainly I had never been mountain biking.

My first trip out was incredible. I whined and moaned a lot about how hard it was; my boyfriend reminded me I needed to shift out of third gear when I was going up steep inclines. Overall though, I had a lot of fun.

And came out of the woods looking like this.


Actually, the second ride was a lot worse since the blood literally dripped down my legs, but since there were no major arteries hit, no infections to speak of, I definitely kept up with it. After three months, I'm still no pro with picking the bike over large logs, but I'm getting better at the trails I'm familiar with.

Last week, I decided to start taking my bike to work with me. The four mile ride to and from work up and down those steep Tallahassee hills was a great workout. For sure, I'd show up to work a little sweaty, but I was prepared with Tom's of Maine deodorant (a placebo, at best) and a fresh change of clothes. Except Friday afternoon, as I was pulling into the driveway after a refreshing post-work ride home, my back tire went flat. No idea why. Not that a mountain bike is really suited for roads, but come on! Thankfully it waited until I had less than a three-minute walk home to explode, but this week, I'm taking the car in with the boyfriend until I can have it replaced.

So much for my eco-consciousness. At least I saved a week's worth of gas!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Home brewing!

My favorite thing recently (besides a hundred of my other favorite things) has been thrifting and garage sale hopping. I really should do a post just on the swag I've picked up on the cheap, or free, someday. Several Saturday mornings ago, my partner and I happened to stop by a moving sale that turned out to be pretty fruitful. Actually it was a pretty awkward exchange to begin with, as I always feel garage sales are. Essentially you're picking through someone's life and offering them a quarter for a piece of it, something I'm still getting comfortable doing. The couple we shopped from was young and friendly, and unloading their belongings before a cross-country move. We wound up purchasing a floor lamp, new USA-made mason jars and a wooden print painting of the Buddha.

After our purchases we got to chatting, and lo and behold, the girl of the couple ran the local raw-food meet-up group. My partner told them I was vegan, and the girl offered me some kombucha she had brewed. Which I had never had, commercial, home-brewed or otherwise... but I said yes anyway to be polite.

And walked out with a scoby!
Lots of scobys hanging out in this one!

It was recommended that I brew it for an additional two weeks, which I did (not taking into account that her apartment was much colder than mine). I wound up with 2 gallons of vinegar and more scobys than I could keep up with. I threw out all but one, which I brewed using the directions she gave me when I said, "So what do I do with this again?" I started a new batch, waited two weeks, and yesterday I bottled it up ...

We like wine in this house, mmkay?

And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the corks don't fly off as the kombucha sits for 3-5 days its post-bottling fermentation cycle. I flavored each one of these bottles a little differently, but being the genius I am, forgot to label them! So it will be a surprise.

I've already started brewing a smaller batch, testing out my organic assam tea. My most recent bottled kombucha is still a bit vinegary, just past the point of being sweet but not entirely unpleasant, so this is going to be a smaller batch with a shorter brew time.

One day later and I already have a daughter scoby
forming on top!

The jar sitting on my counter is just another reminder of the steps I'm taking in my transition from the Standard American Diet to a living foods-centered lifestyle.

Even though I've cut out most of the SAD components of what I eat, there are things that I just can't give up. Things that at this very moment are causing a fair bit of mumbling and grumbling in my stomach.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Leah Eventually

My partner has given me this loving new nickname to describe my personality. I am now Leah Eventually.

All right, I'm a chronic procrastinator that uses the excuse "I work better under stress!" Everything from doing the laundry to writing my 20-page master's thesis gets put off until the last pair of socks is on my feet and the timer is ticking down to the last few hours before my final class. I'm sure the appearance of several gray hairs over the last year are due to the stress caused by waiting until the last minute to get big projects done, be it something for work, school, home or (yes, even) leisure.

I woke up a few weeks ago in a sweat at 3 AM. There was an awful pain in my chest, and every breath was insufficient for bringing oxygen into my blood. I started panicking, and woke up my partner to find the blood pressure monitor. I thought I was having a heart attack.

My life started flashing before my eyes as my too-calm partner wrapped the cuff around my left arm. What did I do wrong? Was I eating too much junk food? Not exercising enough? Exercising too much? Had all this stress finally done me in? Who would cry at my funeral? Would anyone even show up?

According to the monitor, my pulse was 65 beats per minute. Normal for me. Blood pressure? 100/70, slightly higher systolic than normal, but otherwise... normal.

So one drink of baking soda diluted in water later, and I realized that for the first time in my life, I had heart burn. And realized it's about time that I reduce the stress in my life. I've been under a lot of stress in the last two months for various reasons, and I think it's time for it to stop.

That day, I meditated silently for the first time in my life. I've done yoga before, and consider that a movement meditation, but sitting quietly and just being aware does something for me that I didn't think possible: I calmed down. It felt good!

I haven't meditated since then, honestly, but I'll get it into my routine....eventually.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Farmer's market, dinner, gluten intolerance and.. oh yeah, writing

Summer in Florida is Brutal, with a capital "B." Whereas my brethren in the northeast have endured their heat wave with much valor, I can't help but look at our own forecast and see that we are in a perpetual heat wave. Fortunately, the state of Florida is air conditioned.

Which would be fabulous, if the central A/C in this place weren't making me so congested.

Yesterday was spent furniture hunting, running from garage sale to garage sale to World Market (because it's here, so why not?). We wound up with two large picture frames and a drawing of the Eiffel Tower in a beautiful frame, all for $15. My DP (that is, dear partner) is always on the lookout for new frames. We have more frames than we have pictures to put in those frames.

Now we look pretentious. Yes!

I was getting cranky, and food shopping always cheers me up! After being completely disappointed by the price of produce in Florida supermarkets, we did finally get to a farmer's market before they closed up.

7 yams, 6 cukes, 6 squash, 5 peaches. One peach
didn't make it to the photoshoot, it was too delicious
to wait!

This guy was on sale at Target... it's been a long
time since I've had animal crackers, and well, I
needed a cute cookie jar. You can see his foot in
the previous picture!

Almond-oatmeal crusted spicy chik'n seitan
and agave candied yams

For $9.50 I got enough produce to last a few nights ($3 for the peaches, but worth every penny). DP also picked up a jar of hot pepper jelly for $5 from the same elderly couple who sold us the squash, cucumbers and yams. It was delicious, so I'll forgive him for trying to convince me that they use gelatin to make jam.

The yams were candied in canola oil and agave nectar last night as a side dish for dinner, to complement the oven-fried seitan with an almond-oatmeal crust. The gluten certainly didn't agree with me a few hours later, but it was still so tasty. I love making my own seitan; I kneaded some ground chickpeas in with the wheat gluten which kept the inside soft while the almonds baked into a solid crust.

On the writing front, I've definitely been doing some procrastinating. I reached my 10k word goal, but coming up to the final scene I decided I'll be doing a major rewrite of the entire bit and target for a different publisher.

This is why I consider myself more of a pantser than a planner. I do have a pretty good idea of where I want a story to go, by I let the characters take me in a direction that is most suited for them. The scene I wrote last, I had an entirely different idea of what was going to happen before I reached the end. Upon rereading it, I realized I was putting too much of a censor on myself and it was making the characters struggle in their dialogue and actions.

Still on the market for some cheap furniture to get this place set up by the end of the summer. Every day is a search for a desk so I don't have to write from a folding chair with the laptop getting warm on my lap, or from the floor...