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Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Back in the Saddle...

Wow.  What an abandonment of the primal diet this weekend was!  The most primal day I had was actually Thanksgiving, which I heralded in Wednesday night with a pizza and sweet treats from Domino's (yuck!).  Friday was going well until DQ, and Saturday and Sunday, well, let's just say it was a carb-fest.  Although delicious on the intake, all the binging made me feel yucky, so I fasted this morning and am gently submerging myself in the primal diet with a bowl of turkey soup (all real meat and veggies here, folks).  

I also skipped the gym much more than I had planned.  I did go for a walk around the best lake in the city with friends on Saturday, which was very nice.  Yoga totally kicked my butt yesterday morning as well.  Tonight, I'm looking forward to punishment from the bike and medicine balls as something more high-intensity.  

Friday, November 27, 2009

No Christmas for the Shorebirds :(

After fifteen minutes of moving boxes and looking forlornly into the storage unit, it has become apparent to me and my husband that we will not be decorating for Christmas this year.  Our wreath is on the bottom of a floor-to-ceiling (light) stack of boxes; I don't have a clue where the other trimmings are.  So, we're dependent on the few ornaments my mother sent from Mass and reindeer napkins that happened to be in the apartment already.  I'll probably go out and get some red candles for the holders on the table as well.  Our apartment will be the most sadly-decorated home on the shore, I'm afraid. :(

On another note, Thanksgiving was awesome, and I need to give a shout-out to our hosts who did a fantastic job feeding 20 people (up from 19!).  My husband and I have an entire salad and bowl of mashed potatoes left over that we'll be nursing for a few days...yum!  I got to talk greyhounds with a couple that was there, and that was awesome as well.  I can't wait to buy a home! :)

Happy Black Friday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Stuff yourselves with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the like!  :)

This is shout-out to all who shared our massive turkey in Milan Thanksgiving 2004--40 pounds, baby!  It broke the grates in the oven and spilled its delicious juices all over the floor.  My roommate then carved it up and all the parts fit into about 4 aluminum roasting pans...the thing was enormous.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lucky Kitties

Don't you wish you could spend your days like this?

Slow, Gray Day on the Western Shore

Not a whole lot going on today on the western shore.  It's almost snowing (but not quite--sky's stuck in that dull gray color), it's quite chilly, and I didn't go to yoga.  I plan on spending the rest of the day drinking tea and writing, and I will also probably have to go to work at some point during the evening. 

Thought I'd share some sites that I visit on a frequent basis.  Most of them reveal my ridiculous obsession with animal rescue (ridiculous because I'm not yet even a volunteer and I cannot foster because I rent).

Animal Folks MN (Campaign to legislate against puppy mills in MN)
Grey2K USA (National organization to end greyhound racing across the country)
The MLS Online (MLS listings!)
Stop Puppy Mills Campaign (Humane Society of the United States website; watch a video of a rescue to see why puppy mills are so evil)
Minnesota Greyhound Rescue (Anti-racing greyhound rescue)
Click To Give (Click a button, donate a bowl of food to animal shelters!)

Happy perusing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Water's Out...

Well, the water's out...again.  This time without warning.  I feel that this warrants the creation of a list of reasons why my husband and I desperately want to buy a home:

1.  The water won't go out unexpectedly.  If it does, it's in your power to fix it asap.
2.  We can finally get a greyhound.
3.  We'll have a yard.
4.  Greyhound.
5.  We can finally bring our loveseat/piles of books/rest of our stuff out of storage.
6.  Greyhound!
7.  Free laundry!
8.  We'll have an office.
9.  We can have parties and we won't have to run down three flights of stairs to let people in.
10.  GREYHOUND!!!!

There you go.  Add "counterspace" to the list and it will be complete.  

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving: A Week-Long Labor of Love--for 19!

Given that Sylvan is open everyday this week except Thursday, this week doesn't really feel like a holiday week.  However, that doesn't mean that I'm not preparing (part) of a holiday feast.  The hubbie and I were graciously invited to a Thanksgiving feast at a local friend's home, and the guest list is up to nineteen!  The hosts could not of course create an entire feast for nineteen, so everyone is bringing a dish or two.  We're bringing a salad and mashed potatoes.  After doing some internet research, this is the shopping list I've come up with:

Winter Salad
Four heads of lettuce
Three green apples
Three red apples
One cup of toasted walnuts (eww!  But, I can pick them out!)
A block of sharp white cheddar cheese

Dressing: 7.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 18 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Mashed Potatoes
Eight POUNDS of yukon gold potatoes
Three cups of milk
Two sticks of butter

Yum!!  I tried to keep everything as primal as possible (sneaky little Grok!).  Potatoes aren't really on the list, but they're a better source of carbs than, say, white sandwich bread.  I'm going to leave the skins on (both for the nutrients and so I avoid carpal tunnel from peeling them all), and probably use whole milk and full fat butter.  

The salad is entirely primal, right down to the cheddar cheese, which is allowed.  As long as I avoid the rolls and limit my dessert consumption, Thursday should be a primal feast!   

Friday, November 20, 2009

Foodie Friday: Salad for Salad-Haters

I'm a salad hater.  I never ate salad until I went to college, and then (and now) only reluctantly.  I don't like most salad accoutrements--cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sesame seeds, cauliflower, onions, beets, etc. etc. etc.  However, I do realize that there is a lot of nutrition in dark, leafy greens and the things that go on salads, so I've tried to create one that is palatable to my salad-hating tastes.  This is what I've come up with.

Salad for Salad Haters

1. Leafy Greens--I use red leaf and romaine primarily, but have been known to use baby spinach as well.
2. Protein--I like to switch it up between grilled chicken, grilled steak, and hard boiled eggs.
3. Sweet Thing--Apples, pears, golden raisins, and craisins make good choices, and add crunch.
4. Dressing--I make my own dressing!  Equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, pepper, and garlic salt.  Shake well and you're done!

So, the salad for salad haters is incredibly basic and uninventive, but it suits my tastes and nutritional needs.  It's especially satisfying post-workout with lots of protein.  

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Medicine Balls: A Panegyric

Writing two gym-themed posts in a row isn't what I had planned, but I had such an excellent workout today, I needed to express my absolute (albeit exhausting) delight with the medicine ball.

Before getting to the medicine ball, I did a random hill workout on the bike, which was bearable only because of Van Morrison and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping.  All told, it wasn't too terribly bad, but 45 minutes was enough.  Then it was onto the most random part of the gym--the area where there's a mat, a wall of mirrors, and a myriad of random items--little free weights, Bosu balls, weight benches at 45 degree angles for ab workouts, and a rack of medicine balls.

Before I came to the gym, I looked up several workouts using medicine balls online.  Since I did a strenuous workout for my lower body with a personal trainer on Monday, I wanted to focus on abs and arms today.  Unfortunately, my memory didn't serve me too well (I'm going to print out the exercises and keep them in my bag for next time), and I only sort-of remembered a couple of exercises.  To start, I did two sets of standing oblique twists for one minute apiece, two sets of wood chops (I went from the ball over my head down to the outside of one ankle, then up again and down to the opposite ankle) for one minute apiece, and finally two sets of sitting in a sit-up position, back at a forty-five degree angle to the floor, passing the medicine ball straight-armed from one side to the other, one minute each set.  Then, I repeated all sets/exercises.  All of these exercises were with a 10 lb ball.

Next, I took the 4 lb ball and did some ab work on the angled ab work bench.  I held the ball up in front of me and aimed for several different areas on the ceiling, hitting different sets of abs or my obliques each time.  I did two sets of ten reps for each ceiling area. (I realize this part of the workout sounds bizarre; I made it up!).  By the end of these repetitions, I was totally beat and stretched out.

Right now, my shoulders are sore and my biceps ache, but I'm sure that it'll go away soon and I'll have stronger arms and core!

So, the next time you're in that random area of the gym (and every gym has one), try out some medicine ball exercises.  They're great for engaging multiple muscle groups and are downright exhausting.  I'm sure they won't disappoint!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My New Gym

Since it's becoming a little too chilly to take a daily walk around the lake, a couple of friends and I joined a new gym on the western shore.  We got quite a deal on the membership because they gave us a "family" membership, even though we don't live together.  All of us are dedicated to going a few times a week, which is good because the trainers we met with on Monday told me that I still had about 15 pounds to lose, off of the ten I've lost since eating primally for a few weeks.  The goal is to replace my body fat with lean muscle, which I am really looking forward to.  My goal weight is a weight that I've never been before in my adult life, which makes it a little daunting. What else is neat about this membership is that my per month fee is completely reimbursed by my health plan, as long as I go to the gym at least twice a week.  So basically, I've paid 80 bucks for full use of a gym (and its lap pool!) for a few years.  

One class that I'm dedicated to attending is yoga.  I don't want to spend 40 minutes a day on the treadmill, then run through the weight machine circuit.  I really want to focus on flexibility, long-distance endurance (like walking a few miles a day), and bodyweight training.  Yoga seems to be a great way to focus on core strength and flexibility.  My friends and I took our first class this morning, and it totally wore me out.  My muscles feel fatigued but in a relaxed, not strained, way.  My joints also feel a lot more relaxed than they did before.  I can't wait to go back on Friday!  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's Time to Consider the Greyhound

As many of those who live on the western shore with me know, I am an avid animal lover, and desperately want a home, not for my and my husband's sake, but so we can get a dog.  After a search that began when my beloved childhood pet Kelsey died in 2003, I've decided that the dog that would suit my husband and me best is a greyhound.  Since the last Wisconsin track is due to close next month, an influx of dogs will be coming Minnesota's way.  If you're considering adding a dog to your family, it's time to consider the greyhound.  

Let me explain why I desperately want a greyhound.  First, I've made a pledge to adopt the animals that come into my home, due to overpopulation and the risk that any dog or cat bought may be the victim of a puppy mill.  When narrowing my search down to shelter dogs, I realized that I could help out yet another population of victimized dogs: greyhounds.  By adopting a greyhound from a rescue group that does not support greyhound racing, I would help put an end to the cruel sport and be able to provide a home for a retired racer, who is often not more than two years old.  

Aside from my "political" motivations, however, there are several more important reasons a greyhound would be our ideal pet.  The dogs are MELLOW.  They've been racing their entire lives.  Why would they want to continue?  Most greyhound owners will mention the phrase "45-mile couch potato" when describing their dog.  Although my husband and I would like to think we're the "ran a half-marathon today" type, we'd rather just sit on the couch and watch a movie.  Many greyhounds also do well with cats, which is a major consideration for us as kitty lovers.  Fortunately, we have cats that will stand up for themselves, which usually throws a dog off upon meeting them, so, as long as the appropriate pooch is selected, we're confident that a greyhound, Quigley, and Aveh would get along just fine.  I also admire the greyhound for its rich history.  In ancient Egypt, the birth of a greyhound was only second to the birth of a son, and the breed was reserved only for aristocracy during the Middle Ages.  Racing is only the latest chapter in this animal's long biography (read this book by Cynthia Branigan to learn more).

I realize my love of greyhounds is quite bizarre, having never actually owned one, but I'm dedicated to ending the cruel sport of greyhound racing and opening my home to a retired racer.  If the trend in track closures continues,  retired racers may not be around much longer, and we may become more accustomed to seeing puppy greyhounds instead of only adults.  If you are thinking about adopting a dog, please consider the greyhound!     

Just in case you'd like a look at what happens after greyhounds are finished racing (HBO Real Sports report):        

Monday, November 16, 2009

Frugal Festivities: How We're Celebrating on a Dime

Since my husband and I moved here in July and didn't have a steady, full-time job paycheck until four weeks ago, Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities are going to be difficult.  We both love to spend time with family and friends and shower them with gifts, but this year the showing (and even the visiting!) isn't in the cards.  I know that there are people out there in the same predicament, so I thought I'd write about some of the things we've done to cut the costs of our holidays down a bit.

1. We Planned EARLY.  I had a "Christmas Gifts 2009" Google docs spreadsheet up and running around September, in which I have listed our recipients, gift ideas, and costs.  Creating the list early not only gives us enough time to make sure that we've included everyone we'd like to, but also helps us keep track of costs and stay within our budget.  Another spreadsheet we created back in August was our Christmas card list.  All we did was import names and addresses from our wedding invitation list (heehee--we cheated!), and created a "Completed" column next to each name.  Finally, we looked for flights out to Massachusetts (where my family lives) in late September and early October.  Unfortunately, due to the airlines' new policy of charging a "holiday fee" for travel between Thanksgiving and New Years, plus the ridiculous price of airline tickets during this time anyway, we can't fly out to visit my family for Thanksgiving as we had planned.  Sometimes even planning early doesn't help!

2.  We Set a Budget.  This was extremely important to us this year given the recession and our recent job situation.  We came up with a large number, then split it equally between our gift recipients.  We decided we could devote as much money to Christmas as we could to a monthly car payment.  Budgeting not only set a reasonable limit that won't send us into debt, it also gave our gift shopping a clearer focus.  A new iPod or couture sweater is out this year.  We also will create gifts for some of our recipients, which will help us not get carried away on gift spending, too.

3. We Didn't Go Crazy with Gifts for Each Other.  We got married, went to a friend's wedding two weeks later, and moved across country a week after that, all this past summer.  We've spent a lot of money on ourselves this year (with good reason--our cake was spectacular!), and decided it was silly to go overboard with Christmas gifts for each other this year.  Instead, we're exchanging small gifts and saving the money we would have spent to pay for our wedding album, which we still haven't ordered.  Plus, neither of us could think of anything we needed, and we definitely don't need to add to the clutter we already have.  We've decided to go with thoughtfulness over volume.

4.  We Passed on a Christmas Tree.  Horror of horrors!  I thought I'd NEVER forgo the traditional evergreen, even if it was bought at Target.  We donated our little 4 footer before we moved this July, and wanted to get a nice, prelit, average-sized tree, but it's not in the cards this year, and frankly, we don't have a place to put it.  Plus, we won't even be in town to enjoy it on Christmas Day.  A nice sway on top of the TV hutch should suffice.  Plus, the kitties can't get up there to knock it over!

5.  We Shopped Early.  We're almost finished with our Christmas shopping.  Our goal is to wrap it up by the end of the week.  Planning early helped facilitate this, since we could shop with a list and didn't need to wait to be inspired by the endless Christmas carols and bell-ringing Santas at the mall.  In fact, only one of our presents is coming from a mall.  All others are free-standing stores or were bought online (where you can usually find the same holiday deals, often with free shipping!).  There's nothing my husband and I hate worse than crowds at the mall, not to mention HOLIDAY crowds.  We'll be enjoying some mulled cider at home with the kitties on Black Friday.

6.  We Forgot the Kitties.  Another thing I never thought we'd do.  Those who know the kitties know how darn adorable and irresistible they are, and can understand how intense our need is to shower them with kitty gifts.  Green fluffy mice, glitter and tinsel-covered fishing poles, and reindeer-shaped fishy treats all come to mind--a type of holiday cat nirvana.  The fact is, they don't use ANY of it.  The festive mice have permanent residence in the kitty tree, and the most-loved toy in our home is the oldest fishing pole, stripped of its catch, with only the string remaining.  Quigley, our male cat, is getting hefty, so the fishy treats would be off the table anyway.  We provide them with a loving, safe home, entertainment, great food, and constant affection.  For kitties, it couldn't get much better than that.

7.  We Planned Quality Time.  We're arriving in Lincoln, where we'll spend time with my husband's family, a day early so we can have a quiet first Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together.  This will probably be the best gift of all.  Christmas has always been an important time for me--full of family, food, and fun.  Now that my family has grown, this time has become even more important.  And who better to spend it with than my new husband. :)

Well, this post got pretty long, so I'll wrap up here quickly (no pun intended...haha!).  Hope this helped some of you that are cringing at the thought of holiday shopping and spending.  And no, fellow shorebirds, I'm not going to reveal what you're getting for Christmas.  It's already planned; you'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Foodie Friday: Homemade Granola Bars

So many of my shorebird friends (and my landlocked sister in PA) have drooled over and asked me for a recent recipe for homemade granola bars, I thought I'd share the love today with my first "Foodie Friday."  I have tweaked the original recipe to adapt to what was originally in my kitchen the first time I made the bars.  The excellent original recipe can be found on the wonderful blog Joyful Adobe.

Alright, here it is.

Homemade Granola Bars

4 cups prepared granola (I use Target's blueberry flax mix)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1.  Line a 9x13 pan with greased wax paper (I used Pam; you could use butter, shortening, lard, etc.)
2.  Pour prepared granola into a large mixing bowl.
3.  Combine brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Stir constantly until combined and simmering.
4.  Pour honey and sugar mixture onto the granola in the mixing bowl.  Fold into the granola.
5.  Carefully spread the granola mixture evenly into the 9x13 pan.
6.  Grease another piece of wax paper and use it to cover the granola.
7.  Now for the important step: Use your hand to firmly press the granola.  Get into all the corners.  PRESS HARD.  This will help the bars stay together after you chill them.
8.  Chill 2-3 hours in the fridge.
9.  Carefully peel the top piece of wax paper off and discard.  Turn the granola onto a cutting board, and discard the bottom piece of wax paper.  Let sit 10 minutes so cutting the bars is not a heroic feat.
10.  Cut the bars into the shape you desire.  My husband and I prefer to individually wrap ours with plastic wrap so they are portable to work, etc.  If yours are staying home, you can store them in a container with wax paper between each layer.

ENJOY!!  These bars are truly delicious!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Western Shore?

The western shore of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, of course.  My husband and I recently relocated here from Florida in July, and moved into a nice apartment complex on the western shore of Lake Calhoun, and have been enjoying the fruits of our housing choice ever since.

This oft-overlooked part of Minneapolis is on the western edge of Uptown, almost in the western suburbs. It bridges the space between trendy downtown and stodgy suburb; a stop along the road from recent grad to "settled".  We don't stay out quite as late around here (well, most of us), and we prefer to chat at bars rather than blow our eardrums out listening to the newest pop/hiphop/rap star, but we still enjoy spending our nights with good food and good friends rather than in front of the television.  We've graduated from boxed wine to Two Buck Chuck, but can't reason spending over $25 on a bottle of our favorite red.

Life is pretty nice over here.  Plenty of excellent restaurants, good shopping, and a beautiful lake to walk around.  It's no mistake that the more peaceful, sylvan part of the route around the lake is the western shore.