Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dark Chocolate Cake with an Unexpected Ingredient

I was really surprised to find a whole cup of sauerkraut as an ingredient in this cake!! It's vegan except for the butter which is easily substituted with Earth Balance or another vegetable-based margarine. The cake is a Weight Watchers recipe and I've never actually tried any from the site. Sauerkraut is a "filling food" which means it's a food that's good for you and keeps you feeling full long so it's pretty nice to find it in a dessert like cake! I was going to try it for Z2's little birthday celebration but since it's a new recipe to me, I think I'll use my tried-and-true recipe and experiment this one out later.

Anyway, here is the Weight Watcher's recipe:
Dark Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
1 spray(s) cooking spray
2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup(s) sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup(s) unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup(s) butter, melted
1 1/2 cup(s) hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup(s) sauerkraut, pureed until smooth
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a Bundt pan with cooking spray. 
In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and 2/3 cup of cocoa. Add melted butter, hot water and vanilla extract; mix well. Add sauerkraut and blend thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake in center of oven until a tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Cool cake in pan for about 20 minutes and then turn out onto a baking rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder before slicing into 14 pieces. Yields 1 slice per serving.

Notes: You can easily change the flavor of this cake by adding strong coffee instead of the hot water or adding cayenne pepper and cinnamon with the vanilla.
POINTS® Value: 4
Servings: 14
Preparation Time: 8 min
Cooking Time: 60 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy

If you try it before me, let me know how it goes!

On another note . . . it's snowing where we are. Again. I've lived here all my life and I still hate the snow. (((sigh)))

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coats and Car Seats

I'm admittedly anal very strict when it comes to my kids' car seats. No, I haven't had them inspected by a professional although I keep saying I will. But I'm 99% sure they are installed correctly and they don't ride in cars without a car seat. (There was that one time in the middle of winter when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Z2 and decided me and Z1 could walk to the avenue--him in his snowsuit. He got so tired and absolutely refused to walk anymore. I tried carrying him but that couldn't work for too long with my huge belly so I sucked it up and took a cab home--with no car seat!) Z2 is also still rear-facing and will be until he reaches the 30 pound limit for rear-facing on his car seat. Z1 is in a seat that harnesses up to 65 pounds. Car seats laws are hardly enforced and most folks I know with kids had their infants forward facing when they turned one and used belt positioning boosters with their older kids (and sometimes even backless ones if one at all). So I know that I'm more concerned about car seats than most folks are (in real life, at least). Heck, I'm more concerned than the hubby who really just does not see the point and lets me alone worry about the car seats.

A few years ago, I first heard the warning that bulky winter coats interfere with the ability of car seats to keep children safe in the event of an accident. The idea is that in the event of an accident, the coat would compress and the child could get tossed out of the car seat.

I really want to keep the kids safe in the car and I'd feel horrible if anything happened that I could have potentially prevented. But we only have street parking and I really can't swing the $199 to get a remote start installed. I had been trying to run out there and start the car but I can't lock the doors with the engine running and no one in the driver's seat. I devised a plan to use the spare key to lock the doors manually. That was working but I have to say, it's really cold and another added step to the numerous steps it already takes to get out the house is just . . . exhausting.

So what I've been doing is just getting to the car, hurriedly turning it on, while we just sit in our coats. Then after I get the engine warmed a little, I turn on the heat full blast, take the kids' coats off and proceed to strap the kids in sans the bulk. They usually have a fleece jacket on underneath their bulky coats and I have fleece blankets to cover them up with.

But let me tell you, yesterday it was bitterly cold. The wind was whipping around. I did not want to be fussing with taking coats on and off (although I did) and so I've just been thinking about a better way to go about this while keeping the kids the safest.

I did a google search and (surprisingly) didn't find many "official" sources on the dangers of bulky coats in car seats. Nonetheless, it makes sense to me that the coat would compress in an accident and I'm always surprised to see how much space there is in the harnesses if one of the kids was wearing something bulky the day before and is wearing something thin the day of.

In doing my google search, I found this:


And here's another good link with pictures how safely wearing a winter coat in the car seat should look.

I think it's a good compromise. All you have to do is make sure the harnesses are as tight with the coat on as they are with the coat off. So I think I'll try this safer way to wear jackets in the car seats.

Not today . . .

Well, I went to sleep last night determined to wake up this morning and do a strong workout of yoga and high-impact aerobics to make up for yesterday's completely inadequate workout. Thing is, I went to sleep late last night (at 11:00PM) trying to squeeze in some alone time (aka time without the kids) with the hubby. But this morning, I woke up with a massive headache. I tried to get moving even with the headache but any movement (especially downward dog) only intensifies the pain. I can't even think about doing any plyometrics today. I've tried to drink water and just sit for a while but all indications say I should have just stayed in bed on this cold, cold, cold morning. (((Sigh))) It seems I really do need nine full hours of sleep at night to be okay in the morning. And napping during the day doesn't help at all.

When will I get it? Wednesday morning workouts have to be short and sweet because Tuesday, usually the hubby's day off, is a late night. (((Sigh))) I wish I could go back to bed but the kids will be up in just a few minutes. (((Another huge sigh)))) These are the times when going somewhere to work out is a better situation than staying at home. I probably would have just laid out on the couch and slept another hour or so then gotten up and gone to the gym before the kids woke up. (((Yet another huge sigh)))

I'll get back on track tomorrow, hopefully.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy 2nd Earthlight!

Today is Z2's second birthday and I can hardly believe how the time has blown by. Z2 is still nursing but only to sleep and when he wakes in the morning. I had to reduce the frequency of nursing sessions because it was starting to annoy me. So here he is, this big boy, who still enjoys to nurse. He is such an amusing nurser, humming songs, "snapping" his fingers, taking breaks to dance a little jig. It's amazing how much he loves music!

Z2 has been acting like a two year old for some months now telling me "NO!" and demanding that things are his by screeching "MINE". I love his little 2 year old vocabulary. I love how he is such a huge mimic of his brother. I mean everything Z1 does, Z2 is going to try to do to. It's so cute watching him do it too. Well, cute and treacherous because as you can imagine, Z1 is much more steady on his feet so Z2 trying to do the exact same things sometimes is . . . dangerous. But Z2 doesn't care and I am tickled (and frightened) by his daring adventures.

So Happy Happy Birthday Z2! And many, many more!!

Today's Workout was a Fail!

All right . . . this morning's workout was really a lackluster disappointment. It was just fail-tastic!

But it's my fault. I forgot the hubby was going to be off to work early and had planned to do The Firm Classic 2. I had wanted something low-impact but if I'm going to do low impact aerobics, I need to devote 1 hour or more to really burn the calories. I didn't have that much time to today so I was trying to think fast about what else I could do. I decided to to do Self: Bikini Ready Fast!--low impact with lots of weight. I've done it before but I guess I forgot: I could have gotten more of a workout folding laundry and mopping the floors! I thought about stopping in the middle and doing something else but time just wouldn't allow. Plus I knew nothing would be really effective in 20 minutes unless it was high-impact and I just wasn't in that kind of mood today. So, working out was huge truck of fail today.

I'm going to make up for it tomorrow though. Tomorrow I'm supposed to practice yoga and I will but I'll do a short 20-minute routine and then do my Women's Health Train for Your Body Type DVD. I'm planning to do step aerobics on Thursday and Jillian Michael's Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism which I did for the first time last week and which was frickin' awesome (especially considering that I just can't stand 30-Day Shred). I'll be back to yoga on Saturday (Yoga Zone: Power Yoga for Strength and Endurance).

As you can see, I've got lots of variety going on which is definitely keeping me from getting bored and keeps me looking forward to working out in the mornings. Z2 is sleeping straight through to 7 o'clock consistently and I'm feeling really positive about my exercising and weight loss. I hope to have my 2010 goals listed on the sidebar soon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Authentic Traditions

So whether you know it or not, today is the second day of Kwanzaa. I blogged about it last year and expressed how it feels a bit contrived/made up yet I still see a lot of value in the Kwanzaa principles (Nguzo Saba).

Well, this year, I took a book out of the library on Kwanzaa and even though we don't have a Kinara set up or anything, we're going through each day of Kwanzaa. Today's principle is kujichagulia or self-determination. Or course, if you know me, you know this is one of the biggest principles I'm trying to engender in my own life, i.e. living my life on my own terms and it would be a tremendous blessing if I could pass this principle on to my children.

Anyway, as I share these principles with my children, I still can't shake the feeling that Kwanzaa doesn't feel true to me. I am not African-American. My parents are relatively recent and voluntary immigrants to the United States. I know the geographic location where my family hails from. And I ache for authentic traditions.

My parents, being the staunch Christians that they are, made it a point to avoid all traditional celebrations and holidays. In fact, there are no pictures of my parents' traditional wedding (I don't think they had one) and I'm pretty sure my mother was not pleased that my cousin had her traditional wedding with "all that unnecessariness". I can't say that had we been exposed to our ancient traditions, I would still embrace them today but I feel like a part of who I am is missing.

This is complicated by the fact that although I understand my mother tongue of Igbo, I cannot speak it with any fluency. It makes communicating with my grandmother, who only speaks Igbo, a serious challenge. I feel like she is a treasure trove of information, history and wisdom and I am cut off. I've googled to find an organization of my dad's village people have here in the States. I know that folks are celebrating our traditions but I feel awkward. I don't really know anyone having lived in the States all my life, I don't speak the language and since I'm married, I technically am not from the village my father is from anymore but from the village my husband is from. Since my husband is American, technically/traditionally speaking, I'm from whatever "village" in America he comes from. In fact, because of this I could really only be an honorary member of that organization to which I linked above.

It's kind of frustrating that I should have a direct connection to my history and culture along with the traditions and celebrations but I don't. Do I try to forge one with my strangers from the village my dad comes from? Or do I just suck it up and embrace Kwanzaa as my own? After all, every tradition was made up/started sometime. If we really get into it now and take it seriously, it will be a real tradition for our great-great grandchildren.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One Doesn't Always Equal One

I was at the gas station yesterday putting gas in my car. This particular gas station is self-serve so I had to get out and pay for the gas. Well, inside they have a whole bunch of stuff--you know the regular coffee, tea and . . . candy. I got a Tootsie Roll pop figuring I'd work the Weight Watcher's points at home.

That sucker was 1 point. Know what else is one point? A cup of grapes which certainly would have been more satisfying and healthier. Now, I know that sometimes I'd just prefer to have the Tootsie Roll pop and I can give myself that but it's interesting to go through the list of one point foods and think about just how many other things are also one point but that pack a lot of bang for that buck.

I just took note of that for future reference: one doesn't always equal one. And I'm really liking the program so far.

Photo Credits: "Tootsie Roll Pop" by william couch on Flickr.com and "Grapes" by joyrex on Flickr.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's Really Real.

I've been in a reflective mood of late. It most likely has something to do with me marking my 28th year on this good Earth and also me starting a new moon cycle.

I think about how sometimes I get into the craziest funks because I didn't do "all the things" young people are supposed to do like party and travel. I didn't even live on my own because when I got married, I was still living in my parents' house. I start to feel like somehow I missed out and will never be able to get my youth back. But then I look around me and hear so many Black women worried and/or complaining about how difficult it is to get (and keep) what I have and I feel so grateful. I may not be doing what most other 28 year old folks are doing but I'm doing what I want to do, what it's my joy to do, what I'm supposed to be doing and I'm doing it now when I'm young. By the time my children are grown, I'll still have the get-up-and go to still do those things I "missed out on" (albeit with a different set of folks and a whole different mindset). I won't begrudge or be jealous about the road someone else chose to take. I won't covet the perceived success of my peers. Instead I'll focus that energy on doing my best where I am and on santosha.

You see, my road has not been the straightest road or the easiest and definitely not the most popular but I've come to see that some of my actions were actually reactions--responses to the actions of someone else. In that realization, I'm empowered to make my future actions authentically my own.

I think about all my past relationships and I can give heartfelt thanks for the good ones and the bad ones. I give thanks for the good ones because it felt good to be wanted, accepted and loved. In these good relationships, I learned things that will carry me through life. One old boyfriend in particular stands out as the person who helped me shed my prudish upbringing (where everything about one's body was a sin) and to learn to appreciate my body. It was liberating and pleasurable. Other particularly terrible relationships helped me to really understand how damaged my self-esteem was. I watched myself do things that I knew were not healthy but I felt powerless to stop. Even in those relationships, I learned a lot. One boyfriend helped me let go of the idea that the Bible was the end-all-be-all when it comes to The Truth. He introduced me to Fela and some of the best vegetarian restaurants in the city. This boyfriend also brought me unspeakable pain. I think about the man who I was so passionately attracted to in such an inexplicable way who played with me like a toy and never even acknowledged how he hur t me. Somehow after all this time, though, I'm able to embrace all the things and people that are a part of the tapestry of my life. It's all that stuff that makes me who I am today.

And I'm happy to say that I am loving who I am more and more each day as I become more adept at sorting out the bullshit from what's really real.

Photo Credit: "Tapestry Box Project 26" by slowlysheturned on Flickr.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

. . . and all the shiny accessories

It's winter time and I drink much less water than I do in the summer time especially while I'm out and about. The other day I was on my way to work packing my lunch. I was getting ready to put my 40-ounce stainless steel water bottle into my bag and realized that it just took up way too much space in light of the fact that I didn't actually need forty ounces of water that day. I thought about what to do. I went to my cupboards and got out a 20-ounce plastic Rubbermaid bottle but I felt . . . funny. I remember feeling a similar way when I forgot my reusable bags for my groceries at Trader Joe's. I remember feeling a similar way hoisting out my mismatched hodgepodge of re-useable bags at the "upscale" Whole Foods.

"What's this?" I asked myself.

My mind flashed back to this article and I had myself a good chuckle. See, far too often, it's the shiny accessories that announce that one is living a green lifestyle that become most important. It's the highly visual evidence that one is not a mindless consumer but rather a consumer that puts careful thought into each of his/her purchases. It's the symbol that says, "I care about the Earth" and "I am doing something". Or so the merchandise would suggest.

I thought about buying a smaller stainless steel water bottle for myself. Maybe borrowing Z1's (after a good scrub down, of course). But I decided to take my little plastic Rubbermaid bottle. I was only putting plain water in it anyway and certainly not in the mood to spend any extra money. I already had something to carry my water in.

I'm not interested in the look of being green. And I'm especially not in it for all the shiny accessories.

Notes on a Scandal . . .

The title is so scintillating as to be a complete let down but I was pleasantly surprised by this very interesting novel. What was She Thinking?:Notes on a Scandal is Zoe Heller's second novel and while I'm not running off to read her first, I do have to say that I enjoyed this book tremendously. How it's described:
Barbara Covett, a sixtyish history teacher, is the kind of unmarried-woman-with-cat whose female friends sooner or later decide she is "too intense." Thus when a beautiful new pottery teacher, Sheba Hart—a "wispy novice with a tinkly accent and see-through skirts"—chooses Barbara as a confidante, she is deeply, even rather sinisterly, gratified. Sheba's secret is explosive: married with two kids, she is having an affair with a fifteen-year-old student. The novel, Heller's second, is Barbara's supposedly objective "history" of the affair and its eventual discovery, written furtively while she and her friend are holed up in a borrowed house, waiting for Sheba's court date. Barbara has appointed herself Sheba's "unofficial guardian," protecting her from the salivating tabloids. Equally adroit at satire and at psychological suspense, Heller charts the course of a predatory friendship and demonstrates the lengths to which some people go for human company.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

I think the book was masterfully done and the way that Heller reveals the nature of each character is what held my interest so much. When I finished it, I was convinced that Barbara was really out of her mind and it's so ironic that at the end of the novel, she's the only one Sheba had left--and that's just fine by Barbara who can't imagine going back to her previous existence--one of abject loneliness. I don't want to give away the story but I can say that this read was fun. It wasn't terribly heavy and it was humorous but not in an outright kind of way. You definitely get a feel for the British sensibilities and I always get a kick out of reading things that refer to a flashlight as a "torch"--like my parents do. Tee-hee.

It's funny how I ended up reading this book. I had wanted to watch the movie after hearing Oprah talk about it some years ago. I couldn't remember for the life of me the name of the movie but I knew that it had won an Oscar. So I searched for all the Oscar winners for the last ten years until I finally found it. I went to put it on hold at the library and mistakenly put the book on hold. By the time I realized my mistake, the book had already come in so I couldn't cancel it. I put the movie on hold and I picked up the book at the library but since I was still reading The Color Purple, I didn't get into right away. A couple of days later, the movie actually came in (shockingly fast) and I went to pick that up. Since I intended to read the book and I absolutely hate seeing movies before the book, I powered my way through What was She Thinking? Now, I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No-Knead Bread??

So by now you must have heard somewhere about no-knead bread.  Unlike traditional bread, in stead of kneading it, you just let time do the work.  It's a great concept and I keep wanting to give it a try but something keeps stopping me.  And now I realize what it is: TIME!! It takes too much time! I also don't have instant yeast but I have a whole truckload of regular yeast--I don't want to buy yeast just to make this bread and I don't have the time to figure out how to substitute regular active dry yeast. Furthermore, I don't actually knead my bread.  My Kitchenaid stand mixer does!  Eight minutes in there on the lowest setting and voila! Perfectly kneaded bread that passes the windowpane test.  But the no-knead method is a great method to master especially in the event that we no longer have consistent electricity.  I am determined to try the no-knead recipe one day but today is not that day.  I'm so comfortable making bread the old way that I just can't seem to bring myself to try it.  Not to mention that the effort it takes to make bread keeps from eating it all willy-nilly. 

My current batch of bread is in the oven rising right now. I'm a little worried about the activity of my yeast as my bread seems to be rising a bit more slowly than usual. Well, it could be the yeast or the fact that it's colder. Anyway, here's my recipe for simple, filling, whole grain bread again:

Tall Sandwich Bread
1 1/4 c warm water (105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 T oil
3T sweetener of your choice (I use sorghum)
1 t salt
1 c white flour (I use King Arthur unbleached all-purpose)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour)
1/2 c gluten
1 1/2 t dry active yeast
To this I add: 2-4 T ground flax seed


Mix with a bread hook in the Kitchenaid on Speed 1 for 8 minutes or until gluten is well developed. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise till doubled (about 1 hour) in a warm. draft-less place (I place a bowl of hot water in my oven and cover with a damp towel). Punch the dough down, transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Tightly roll the dough as if making cinnamon rolls, tuck the end under and pinch closed. Transfer to lightly oiled bread pan. Let rise again. Bake for 40 min at 350 F. Transfer freshly baked bread to cooling rack (remove from pan).
 
I usually double this recipe so I get two loaves:  one to freeze and one to refrigerate.  Here's the recipe for the original no-knead bread.  Anyone have any tips for this type of bread?  Please share!

Edited 12/21/09
  1. It's not my yeast that's the problem.  The oven is 68 degrees according to my thermometer which means it's too cold in there for the bread to rise properly.  I sat my dough covered with a damp cloth on the heater and in about 45 minutes, it was totally risen and ready to be baked.
  2. One slice of this bread is 3 Weight Watcher's points--a lot in a way but it's a very wholesome and filling bread
  3. I figured out that my issues with pictures and things in Blogger had very nothing to do with my Mac bu rather with Safari, which is the browser I was using.  I downloaded Mozilla Firefox and it works perfectly. 

Photo Credit:  "No Knead Bread" by Cbruno on Flickr.com

Friday, December 18, 2009

I started Weight Watchers!

I signed up yesterday but today I've really been trying to figure things out.  Initially, I thought I'd go for the online only program but I think I will also go to meetings at least for the first few months.  So many folks have had positive things to say about the program and since I'm very ready to drop the weight, I'm excited to really get into it.


Today, I had 28 points to use.  I entered all the food I ate (and will eat today) and ended up with 32.5 points which means I went over.  I entered all the food I will eat tomorrow and have 2.5 points left over if I stick to it.  I think it's really helpful for me to think about everything I put in my mouth.  Today, I was about to polish off the last of the kids' lunch and I immediately thought, "How many points would this be?" and since I a) didn't want to be bothered looking up the points and b) knew I was over already, I passed.  Accountability, for me, is good.

I will say though, that it feels a little limiting but apparently, thats what I need.  I am really surprised at how much extra stuff I put in my mouth that's not a meal but since it's there, I put it in my mouth.  I'm looking forward to when I would have totally changed how I eat.

My current weight is 158 pounds.  My ultimate goal is to reach and maintain 130 pounds.  Right now, that's kind of lofty so my first goal is to go down to 150.1 pounds.

Luckily, my tea is only 1 point.  Since it's so cold, I've been having 2 to 3 cups a day.  That my be where tomorrow's leftover points go.

So I've started to work on one of 2010 goals already.  I think that's a good sign.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Voluntary Frugality vs. Necessary Frugality

This season is one in which everyone thinks a lot about money.  I think even more so this year when the country is in the midst of a terrible recession (or depression by some accounts).  You hear the word "frugal" tossed around a lot too.  "This will be a frugal Christmas" and it sort of implies that this will be a Christmas where everyone will have to deal with having less because the money simply isn't there.  It's a total misunderstanding of what frugal means.

Frugality simply means doing more with less.  It doesn't necessarily mean doing more with less because you have less.  In fact, you could be a billionaire and still embrace the ideal of frugality.  It doesn't mean being cheap either.  A frugal person would rather buy good quality merchandise, would rather put out the money than spend (or rather waste) money on something that is subpar.  Frugal people generally learn that you can find good quality merchandise second hand often for the same price as brand new, lesser quality stuff especially if you know where and when to look.


I think the confusion comes in when we start to look at voluntary versus necessary frugality.  Is "necessary frugality" an oxymoron of sorts?   If you need to be frugal, can it really be called frugal at all?   I think so but it brings up some interesting issues.

I am frugal by nature.  I don't like spending money when I don't have to.  I like to save up my money so that when I need it, it's there for me.  I like to save up my money so that I can buy good stuff because I don't really enjoy shopping.  But since the hubby is the sole breadwinner, being frugal, even though it's natural to me and I enjoy it generally, it's also a necessity.   We just couldn't swing this lifestyle if we spent money all willy-nilly.

What happens when frugality is a necessity though, is that sometimes it feels like a burden--no matter how innately you like to be diligent with your money.  You're holding on to your dollars and cents trying to make the wisest decision with your money.  You sometimes agonize over the best ways to make the money go farthest and you ruthlessly sort out your needs and your wants.  But then sometimes the line between needs and wants starts to get a little blurry.  This is when it gets difficult.  This is when it starts to feel like a burden, an annoyance and not a tried-and-true means to an end.  Of course, your financial goals are paramount in your mind but the goal is lofty and what you're wanting/needing now is so small (or not) in comparison.  You want to maybe throw caution to the wind (for a minute) and just get it already or do it already and have that satisfaction.  After all, there's only one life to live right?  Right.

Frugality, in general, is not about denying yourself simple pleasures in life.  But when frugality is driven by necessity, there's a lot less leeway in how much or which of these simple pleasures you can allow yourself because there's a lot more to lose.  And no matter how you look at it, sometimes you feel a little . . . annoyed?  Frustrated?  Exasperated?

Frugality, to me, is a discipline.  I know not everyone finds discipline enjoyable but I really do.  Sometimes people say I'm rigid and I know I can be but there's something comforting to me about being in control and not letting something else control me.  That's what being frugal means to me.  It means controlling my money so that my money doesn't control me.  Somedays, despite the frugality or maybe because of it, I will admit, it feels like money is running the show.  It dictates what I can and cannot do.

Still,  I kind of compare it to how a marathon runner approaches her race.  She knows that she has to eat and train a certain way to achieve the goal.  Now, that sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving may be really tempting but discipline dictates that she stay away.  But if that pie would give her great joy and pleasure, I don't think it a sin if she has a small slice.  Discipline says she stops there, though.  I may be way off with my comparison (marathon runners, feel free to chime in) but what I'm learning with frugality is that I  have to have some built in wiggle-room to my discipline so that I don't feel imprisoned or trapped by it.  So that I'm not rigid.

When I start to feel that way confined, I give myself one of those small things I've been wanting, realizing that it won't derail the whole frugality train.  One small thing crossed off a long list of needs and wants goes a long way to helping me re-focus on my financial goals while bolstering my spirits.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The "Secret" Ingredient is getting too pricey!

One of the first things you learn when cooking vegetarian foods is that it's important to find ways to infuse the food with flavor.  You don't have the fats and flavors from meat/fish to rely on so you have to find that elsewhere.  Perhaps the most important way is through fresh and interesting ingredients including spices.  Another important way is through vegetable broth.

Now, making vegetable broth is not that hard and it's what I used to do when I first became vegetarian.  I would make a whole pot of it and freeze it and use it in portions.  But because I was only feeding one person (myself) I found that I wasted a lot of it and it was taking up a lot of space in my freezer.

Growing up, my mom had always used Maggi cubes to enhance the flavor of her food and so I went off in search of a vegan version of the bouillon cube.  I found what I was looking for at the health food store and was happy to use them until I realized a key ingredient found in both Maggi and health food store bouillon cubes is derived from MSG (that's yeast extract).  There's really one bouillon I've found that doesn't contain the ingredient and it's actually a vegetable broth powder by Vogue Cuisine.  There are other makers of vegetable broth powders but I like Vogue Cuisine's the best in terms of taste and the others still have the yeast extract.  I have only been able to find Vogue Cuisine's vegetable broth powder at two health food stores, one which is close by rather expensive (so I can't buy anything else there--I have to go specifically for the broth powder) and the other a bit further in the city (although I can do all my grocery shopping there).  I have been opting to buy it at the closer store.  This additive was worth it and I was willing to pay the $4.50 for the 4 ounce jar.  Well, today I went to buy it and they were charging $5.15 for the 4 ounce jar!  I laughed out loud shaking my head.  It's one teaspoon of broth powder for ever cup of liquid.   Today's split pea soup had about 14 cups of water--so it would need almost 6 tablespoons of vegetable broth powder!  That's making what should be a relatively cheap soup much more expensive.  I still ended up buying four jars with the clear understanding that I have to do something different--either suck it up and drive to the city and get it or . . . try this recipe for vegan chicken-style broth powder or this variation.  I can get nutritional yeast pretty inexpensively from the bulk bins at whole foods so this might be worth a try.  If I had a deep freezer, I would really just prefer to go back to making the broth from scratch.  It's so simple!  But then again, I like the idea of freezing the broth in in ice cube trays--that would reduce a lot of waste.  I will try that too.  But, oh, the broth powder was so . . . easy.  (((sigh)))

Are there any other inexpensive flavor enhancement tricks that I'm missing?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Power to the Peaceful Yoga


This is the yoga DVD I did today.  I wish I had read the Amazon.com reviews a little more thoroughly. While I'm not a rank beginner, I wouldn't classify myself as intermediate yet.  Usually, that's not too big an issue because yoga instructors on the DVDs will offer and/or demonstrate modifications to the advanced poses.  Not so in this DVD.  At first, it seemed there were some modifications as a nod to folks who are not as advanced.  And then the instructors completely forgot about beginners.  "Next pose, head stand."  They're in headstand for almost all the breaths before one of the instructors says that if you can't do it, lean against a door.  And if you can't get into the pose leaning against a door?  Just sit there and watch them do it!!  There was also very little in the way of detailed instructions as to what your body should be doing/feeling like in each pose which made me have to stop what I was doing and really get close to the computer to see exactly what they were doing. And then many times realizing there was no way I was going to get my body to do that--at least not today or anytime in the near future. :)

Anyway, I liked the DVD because it introduced me to some new poses after doing some real heat-building preliminary poses (sun salutations--fast).  I wished for a little bit more or at least (like Baron Baptiste does in Trainer's Edge Yoga) re-building the heat a bit after you've been doing more stationary poses.  I actually liked the music and didn't find it distracting.  The instructors counted breaths which helped me keep my mind focused on breathing.

The only thing I really took issue with was Sharon Gannon pushing vegetarianism and veganism.  I get it.  Some folks feel the way the eat is activism and is spiritual and can change the world and all that.  It's important to Ms. Gannon, I get that.  [I know that a dietary change including no animal products has changed folks' lives. Mine?  I think I complicated things for the worst.  I eat tofu?  Takes forever to digest sometimes with  massive amounts of gas. I eat a piece of salmon, by dinner, I'm completely empty--literally.]  Anyway, say it once and drop it.  Instead, she mentioned it once.  And then really pushed it a second time which was annoying.  I just wish folks, especially those traveling alternate paths from the dominant practices, would let up on certain things at times and give others space to do what makes them feel best/better.

I didn't mind the other philosophical speak that the instructors shared throughout the workout because I actually agreed with a lot of it. Much of what they said was in line with my own world view.  I really liked that the instructors on this video made such an effort to connect the practice of yoga in a meaningful way to our everyday living.

I skipped the mantra part in the beginning.  I need to look up the meaning before I jump right in to chanting it.  My relaxation/savasana was cut short by Z2 screaming.

I will probably look to do this DVD again in a few years when I am more advanced.  It's very different from others I have done and as much as I could, I enjoyed it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Broad Musical Palate

Since I grew up in a very conservative Christian household, we were not allowed to listen to secular music.  In fact, the radio was usually tuned to Family Radio which was unexciting to say the least.  So for the first thirteen years of my life, I had no idea what was going on in music.  Around this time, though, my father joined Columbia House and we finally got some interesting (though unwanted) music like Baroque Duet by Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis (Eternal Source of Light was one of my favorites but I actually learned most of the album in Italian), a Ray Charles "Best of" double CD, a Motown compilation CD, the soundtrack to The Phantom of the Opera.  These CDs kind of were just around but my parents didn't listen to them and I'm sure they wouldn't have approved.  (In fact, I think I got in trouble one time when my dad found one opened that he didn't open.)  I played them constantly and enjoyed them whenever I could--when my parents were out or busy.  I entertained dreams of becoming an opera singer and was told by a few folks that I was pretty good.


Anyway, I was so woefully removed from popular music for so much of my life, I feel like I've been playing catch-up ever since.  Since I hang out with folks who are usually 10 years older than me, they usually try to clown me about not knowing obviously popular songs--that I was just a thought when the song was hot.  Sometimes it's true.   Sometimes it's not.  Sometimes I can't say for sure.  Did I simply miss it because I was under a parental rock it or did it really come out before my time?

I've been doing a good job of catch up I think.  It started with my Walkman that I got freshman year of high school when I started to take the bus by myself.  My little Aiwa Walkman gave me a chance to listen to music privately (it definitely didn't cost as much as the one I linked to).  I began listening to Hot 97 and pretty soon, I knew all the currently popular songs.  But then I started to feel guilty thinking that Christian people should listen to music that glorifies God or at least music that didn't talk about sinful things like sex.  So I stopped listening to the radio.  My school friend was able to procure two tapes for me: Erykah Badu's Baduizm and Room 112, 112's second album. Around junior year, I went back to listening the radio again (starting to feel trapped by Christianity or at least my parents' version) and got hooked on Jay-Z.  I bought his albums and hid them lest my parents find out and bug out.

In college, I was all about reggae and built a pretty impressive reggae collection.  It started out with Bob Marley (of course) and it went from there.  I played this music in the house and it was the source of many, many fights between my father and I.  He would swear that he smelled marijuana in my room (but it couldn't have been).  But I loved reggae and needed it at that time in my life.  I still love reggae tremendously but I'm sometimes surprised at how much I've branched out and reached back in time with my musical choices.  I will listen to Otis Redding just as readily as Luciano or Ludacris (clean versions now because of the kids--and some tracks I have to skip altogether).  I still pop in Kathleen Battle from time to time.  I love soukous and rock to Fela (who was introduced to me by an ex-boyfriend).  To say my tastes in music are eclectic would be a spot-on observation!  I wouldn't know even know how to describe what I've got going on in I-tunes.  Almost every genre (including gospel because I loves me some Clark Sisters, Tramaine Hawkins and Fred Hammond) is represented.

What am I listening to now?  Peter, Paul and Mary.  It's not something I would have dreamed I would like so much ten years ago but I really do.



So it's been an interesting musical journey--and it's not over yet.  I still wish I could have been musical myself in some way.  I think that I might like to be a back-up singer for someone.  I wonder at times should I take up piano again--I did enjoy it.  I'm hoping to find a secular choir or singing group to join once the kids get a bit older.    I want to make sure the kids are surrounded by all kinds of music too.  I'm not going to wax poetic about the importance of music but if I can convey to them the value of music, I think I would have given them a priceless gift.

I may be a very picky eater but my musical palate right now is quite broad and ever-broadening.

Jump, Baby, Jump!!

As you know, I've been looking for ways to change my workout routine to make it more challenging.  I got a aerobic step bench on Freecycle and I've been rocking it.  I find it to be a lot of fun (i.e. learning the routines) and I really work up a sweat and get my heart going.

I was thinking to myself, "What else could I add to the mix?" and it hit me:  jumping rope.  I have a beaded jumprope that I've had since I was about 12 years old.  It's an excellent quality rope and I already have it--no money spent.  I googled jump rope exercise and discovered that they have a jump rope workout on DVD (of course--why was I surprised?).  Also turns out that it happens to be right there at my local library.  So I picked it up.  It's called RopeSport and the one I got is the Basic Video.  Now the little 15 minute introductory workout on this DVD is really a joke.  It's more stretching and breathing than really working out.  What's truly valuable about this DVD, though, is that it teaches you techniques and various jump styles as well as discusses the proper length of the rope and how you should be holding it to get the maximum benefit.   So what I did this morning instead of following the DVD was to do 30 second intervals alternating between jumping and resting.  I was trying all the different styles of jumping and learning that some are more intense/more complex than others.  One instructor on the DVD claims you can get the same benefit without a rope.  That's simply not true.  You really have to make more an effort to clear a rope.  I found that if I got tired (towards the end of 30 second interval), I would just clear the rope or not clear it at all and so I had to put that much more energy into it.  I'm hoping to work my way up to 3-4 minutes continuous jumping.  Overall, it was a fun workout I'm going to stick with.  A plus is that I felt very comfortable doing my own thing without any instruction--maybe because I jumped so much rope as a child.  It just felt natural.

So I've got my step and my jumprope.  The hubby also has this AirClimber thing I was clowning him about because it makes so much wheezing noise. But I think I may give that a try too.  The most important thing right now, I think, is to get a heart rate monitor so that whatever I'm doing, I know that I'm on point.

I still want to get P90X but I keep thinking about the money, money, money but P90X wil probably be my next step once I master step aerobics, jumping rope and air climbing.  :) All that combined with Weight Watchers, i.e. re-figuring how I eat should help me reach my 2010 fitness goals, which I will be posting  on my sidebar soon.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

May their ways be lighted . . .

I was driving home today and stopped at a stop sign.  I noticed a woman walking with her two daughters (or at least I assume they were hers). Lately, since I know I probably won't be having any daughters of my own, moms with girl children do make more of an impression on me and I have a soft spot for girls. Don't get me wrong . . . the more I think about it, the more I think I was supposed to have boys and there are some parts of having sons that are really just priceless. Anyway . . . I thought they looked sweet all walking together (the girls had matching coats).  The girls had to be about 8 and 5.

So by the time I cleared the stop sign, parked and collected my things to go into the house, the mom and her two girls were close by.  I climbed my front steps, expecting to catch one more delightful glimpse of the three and the next thing I knew, I saw this mother shove the oldest girl.  Hard.  So hard she stumbled.

And the next part I don't even want to tell.  Because if these girls are being treated like this in the street, I shudder to think what happens at home.

She says to this girl child, "You fucking idiot.  I swear to God you do that shit again I will  punch you in your fucking face.  Both of you fucking idiots!"

I don't know what this little girl did but there is simply nothing that could have warranted this kind of reaction from her mother.  No amount of annoying or disobedient behavior could have warranted that kind of violation of that girl's personhood.  Especially since she had no way of defending herself.

Oh, I was on the verge of saying something.  It was all just so inappropriate and uncalled for but I quickly remembered that I had just parked and I was in front of my house.  The last thing I want or need is beef with the hood element in this town.  So I didn't speak up for those two little girls.

I feel a bit guilty about it and every time I close my eyes, I imagine all kinds of horrors happening to those two beautiful, Black girls.  I think of that movie Precious and my eyes start to sting a little bit.  It was so saddening, ya'll.  I mean, I've seen it before in this town but often it's directed towards Black boys.  I'm not saying that boys are more capable of handling it but it never made such a painful impression on me.  I keep thinking about how damaged their self-esteem will be and all the sad and costly repercussions low self-esteem has on girls.  (((Sigh))).  Maybe it's because my moon time is soon coming that I'm so sensitive . . .

When you pray or meditate next, would you please hold these girls in your thoughts?  I surely will be doing that tonight.  I'll be wrapping them in love and lighting a candle in hopes that their ways will be lighted.

Photo Credit:  "In Memory of Keks" by co L on Flickr.com

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Dirty on Dirty Cloth Diaper Storage

Typically, when folks think of what to do with dirty diapers, if they want something fancy, they turn to a diaper genie.  It contains the smell like a charm.  If they want something basic, they just toss it in the trash, maybe wrapping it in a plastic bag to contain the smell.

So when I first stepped into the world of cloth diapering, this was one of my biggest questions: how do we store the diapers until washday?  We needed something that would do a good job containing the smell so we knew it had to have a tight lid.  It needed to be big enough to hold a good amount of dirty diapers.  It needed to be kind of small so it could fit in the bathroom since we quickly learned the storing dirty diapers in the bedroom was a stinky idea.  We went through a bunch of different containers, mainly different styles of garbage cans and while some of what we tried were serviceable, none were perfect.

And then while in Target one day looking for a new garbage can, one that would actually be used for garbage, I came across this:  Home Logic Pet Food container.  It was no where near the garbage cans since it is marketed as a "pet food container" complete with a scoop.    But this thing is perfect for the diapers.  It snaps tightly shut and even though it's large enough to hold a lot of diapers, it's small enough to fit in a small area.  And as a plus, I can open it with one hand.  It's perfect.

So there's my recommendation for how to store dirty diapers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Children are People. Just little.

It's true.  Children are indeed people, albeit little people.  It's so easy to forget that especially since in many cultures, children are not considered.  You don't become a real person until some arbitrary age (18 in our society).

Something happened today that drove this message all the way home in my heart and in my mind.


We were practicing our reading (using our Hooked on Phonics program) and Z1 was weepy and upset.  It was like he was totally frustrated for some reason.  As if we'd been going at it for hours and making no progress. I was getting annoyed because I was feeling like his crying was pointless.   I said all right and made moves to put he program away--he clearly wasn't ready to do the work.  It made him cry even more.  So, we try to continue on with the work and he cries even more.  I put away the work and now he's bawling.  Nice.

But then I thought back to this wonderful and highly recommended book that I'm working through called Connection Parenting by Pam Leo.  I suddenly realized that his tears really did not have much to do with the reading.  I mean, a small frustration with one word had touched off something else--something that needed to be released.

So I put the book away and instead of asking him to go to his room and collect himself like I would usually do, I asked him to sit next to me on the couch.  I asked him what was wrong.  And do you know what he said?  "I miss my Daddy."  I was blown away and saddened too.  There are times when I miss someone but I'm an adult and I know what to do to make myself feel better.  Bake.  Knit.  Write.  Call.  He's little so what can he do?  The only thing he really can:  cry.

So I empathized with him and offered some solutions that might make him feel better.  Did he want to call his dad?  No.  Did he want to make a card for his dad?  He brightened up and enthusiastically said yes and could it have a race car on it.  Great!

So me not being all that crafty got on the computer and found this handy dandy custom greeting card maker.  After looking through all the options, he decided he wanted a motorcycle instead of a race car.  He dictated to me what he wanted the card to say, we customized it and then printed it.  He cut it out (scissor practice which is always good) and then taped it to the computer for his dad to see when he comes back from work.

Oh, it made him feel so much better.  He was smiling and happy and ready to do his handwriting.  And I can't even believe how wonderfully he is forming his numbers in this positive frame of mind.

This book Connection Parenting is totally transforming how I approach this whole parenting thing.  It is an answer to prayers.  It is helping me really see my children as legitimate people not half-people or beings on their way to becoming people.  They feel real emotions as strongly as we do and we should never discount or belittle their feelings.   Children are people.  Just little.

Joining Weight Watchers

For my birthday.

Have you done it?  What's your experience?  Do you go to meetings or just do it online?

I am thinking I'll just do it online because I don't really feel like I need any support to keep with the program.  Also, I just don't need one more thing to try to squeeze in but I think it might be good to go to meetings just so to hear what others think or have done and maybe to point out things I'm not doing the right way.  I don't know.

I'm excited about it though!

Change is . . .

Fun.  Well, sometimes.

I'm not the biggest fan of change.  In fact, most of the time, I like things to be steady, predictable and constant.  I don't find it easy to roll with the punches, hate to travel (rather would just get there already) and generally, I take great pains to prepare for any change.


So it's very interesting that when it comes to certain things, I'm all about change.  Like my computer desktop.  I have to change the picture at least once a week.  My screensaver?  At least once a month.  My Gmail theme?  I may change that 2 or 3 times daily!  My blog layout? Well, if you read this blog, you know I change it pretty often (although, I have to say, I'm *quite* pleased with the current design).

And then there's my hair . . .

I've been wearing a lowboy for a while now.  I'm lucky because the style actually does compliment my round face.  Any longer, even just a teeny weeny afro, and I don't think it really does my face justice.  I've come to realize that styles that don't frame my face such as a lowboy, cornrows or a pulled back ponytail/puff really do look best on me.  I've also realized that square eyeglass frames work best for a round face too.  Generally, what works best are styles that don't add to the roundness of my face.

Wearing my hair this way is the most practical style for me.  It allows me lots of access to my scalp so I can easily treat it when it flares up.  It's super low maintenance.  The hubby shapes me up every two weeks (or so)--free of cost.  In the morning, I may or may not brush it because it's so low that it doesn't really matter.  I mainly brush to stimulate my scalp or because it feels good to rake the bristles over my itchy scalp.  I wash it every 2 to 3 days with Head and Shoulders (or T-Gel if I'm having a particularly nasty flare up), oil it with jojoba oil to which I added tea tree oil.  That's the full extent of my style maintenance routine.  It's so basic, I wonder if it can even really be called a style especially since (even though I gave it a noble try) I am nowhere near consistent with wearing larger (read:  largely more entangling and largely more likely to get painfully pulled) earrings or make-up (allergies, i.e. itchy, watery eyes and mascara/eyebrow pencil/eye shadow are mortal enemies; one kiss of a kid's boo-boo and I can kiss my lip gloss goodbye and since I usually forget it at home or it slips down to the bottom of the diaper bag, it's really just a funny situation).

But recently I started to feel the itch . . . I want to see something else when I look in the mirror yet practically speaking, it's just not realistic.  I could grow it out but just thinking about the cost of getting it cornrowed makes me shudder.  I could work on really getting some length so I could do pulled back styles but eh, I don't have the time or patience to fuss that much.

Thought about a wig but with the scalp issues, that might be a bad, bad look.   Should I color it?  Any natural, quality hair colors out there?  And what color?  I have never, ever colored my hair but since I do have a bit of gray hair with more popping up every day, I had started to contemplate whether I would color it or not.

So any ideas?  What can you do with a lowboy to "freshen" it up?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Good Thing about the Cold Weather . . .

 . . . Is that when I have a whole list of errands to run, I don't have to put the most tedious of the errands, grocery shopping, at the bottom of the list.  I can do it first because it's just as cold outside as it is in my refrigerator/freezer.

What is it about grocery shopping with two kids in tow that is so stressful?  I guess it's because I need to think.  And the non-stop chatter/reaching out and grabbing things/asking for everything they see is just not conducive to smooth mental functioning.  But at least when it's winter, I can get it out of the way first, when I have the most energy and patience.

Hey, you gotta find something good about winter because scraping ice off your windshield ain't it.   :)

Photo Credit:  "It's Cold!!" by Mr. T in DC on Flickr

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finally . . . Emma's sweater!

Remember Emma's Sweater that I started last year?  Well, it's finally, finally, finally done.  And I am too through.  I am so incredibly happy that this project is finished.  It took me forever and I swear to never undertake a project like this again.  It was too much of the same stitch (stockinette) in a yarn that I wasn't fond of.  I really hate 100% cotton for knitting because the stitch comes out so unevenly (cotton doesn't give).  But I was determined to finish before the year was out and I'm happy to say that I did.

So without further ado . . .






That last picture is Z1 modeling it.  As you can see, it turned out huge (this is the largest size-supposedly for a four year old).  One of these days, I will knit swatches and check gauge instead of diving into projects head first.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the sweater.  It's not my best work and we no longer see the little girl I made it for.  I have a book of her mother's though . . . should I try to reach out just one more time?  Return the book and gift the sweater?  Perhaps I will.  I probably would without a doubt if I were more satisfied with the workmanship.

Anyway, I have two projects that I'm looking forward to starting:  the Clapotis for a good friend of mine with a birthday soon approaching and the Sideways Grande Cloche (both are Ravelry links).  I already have the yarn for the Clapotis.  The yarn for the hat is KnitPicks Cadena in the Cranberry colorway and even with shipping and handling it will cost less that $15 (which is way less than the recommended yarn would have cost--way, way, way less).

I'm so excited about starting something new that I (almost) forgot that I have one more sock to finish. I'm so excited I can't even really get into my latest Octavia Butler book (I just finished Wild Seed which was sumptuous and I completely loved). So, hopefully, there'll be some beautiful FOs soon.  But don't hold your breath!

The Second Time's a Charm


I'd asked for an aerobic step bench on Freecycle before but no one responded. I figured what could be the harm in asking again and this time, I received.  It seems like the second time is a charm.  Yes, I would have to drive about 30 minutes to get it but I was going to be going up north anyway.  It's not that I would have been closer to the pick-up spot but at least I would already be in motion. I called the Freecycler to arrange and what do you know?  She works in the town that neighbors mine! So I had a ridiculously easy and quick pick up and I'm now in possession of a step bench.


I have this tape that I bought at the library for $1 eons ago called Fat Burning  Breakthrough by Kathy Smith. I didn't realize it needed a step bench when I bought it so the tape had just been sitting there. So now that I finally had a step bench, I was eager to give it a try. And I was surprised to find out that I really liked it. It was a challenging and balanced workout although I think the challenge came mostly from trying to master the choreography. Kathy Smith could have done a better job of cuing but  the routine is not over-the-top complex.  I think once I'm comfortable with the steps, I can really ramp up the intensity on this workout. It was a pretty long and comprehensive workout--lots of cardio with strength and flexibility thrown in.  More than all of that, it was fun and very different from the style of my other workout DVDs.  It's a little annoying that it's on tape because I have to use the television as opposed to the computer.  Our computer is positioned in our living room in such a way that it's more conducive to working out.

In any case, it's something really good to add to the mix while I try to figure out what I'm going to do next exercise wise.  I'm going to check at the library for other workouts that use a step.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

They've taken me as far as they can . . .

Yeah, it's true:  I've plateaued when it comes to my workout DVDs.  I currently have only one that really challenges me (Women's Health Train for Your Body Type) and even at that, the cardio is too short (only 22 minutes).  This is quite exciting to me because it means that I am in much better shape than I was when I started consistently working out in January.  It's not so exciting because now I have to think of what to do next.

I'm determined to get into the best shape of my life which means I need more intense cardio exercise for longer periods of time.  I've thought about the gym but I personally can't stand to be on a treadmill or an elliptical for more than 20-25 minutes although I know I should be pushing cardio to almost an hour.  It would be great to take classes but the gyms I can afford don't offer that many options.  And to be honest I enjoy working out at home.  [When I strike it rich, my home will have an exercise room (and a crafting room).]

So I'm back to looking at DVDs again . . . but I know they will have to be very different from what I'm doing now.  With the ones I have now, half the time, I don't even break a sweat!  The hubby says it's really up to me to push up the intensity of the DVDs I currently have--to use them only as a rough guide because really only I know my body.  But at the same time, I want a real guide and if I had it, I know I would have already hired a personal trainer.  I don't want to think too too hard because I really have a lot of other things I'm thinking about.  I just want an effective workout already laid out for me.  I want to get in there, work hard,  sweat a lot, and lose the weight.

I've heard about P90X, Chaelean Extreme, and TurboJam and all the other Beachbody products but I just don't know!  I thought about the TransFirmer System too . . . something different from what I'm doing now (since it uses a step) but previewing the workouts, I don't think they are anywhere near as intense as I need--especially since some are only about 30 minutes long.

My sister says there's only so much you can do with DVDs at home.  I wonder if she's right.  Will getting in the best shape of my life require a gym membership?

I am actually thinking about hitting the pavement and running.  I've always wanted to be able to run miles.  But I kind of know my body is not built for it . . . it's really difficult for me to run for long distance.  But maybe I can train myself?  And it's winter . . . will I really be down for running in winter?  I know once you start you warm up but brrrrrrrrr . . .

Have you any experience with any of the Beachbody products?  Care to share?

Bananas and Blueberries . . . a winning combination!

I have a large bag of frozen blueberries sitting in my freezer leftover from summer smoothie making. In the winter, I just can't drink anything cold.


On Sundays we usually have pancakes for breakfast and since I had a whole bunch of very ripe bananas, I decided to try a banana blueberry pancake, which I've never had before. Z1 loves banana chocolate chip so I just made up the batter for pancakes* (adding two mashed bananas). For half of the pancakes, I used chocolate chips and for the other half I used blueberries. (I don't mix the add-ons into the batter--I just drop them onto the uncooked side of the pancake while it's cooking. I got this tip from Alton Brown and I have to say, this works out a whole lot better.)


Well, it turns out that I really like the banana blueberry combination so yesterday, I decided to do the same combo in a muffin. Weeks ago I found the best banana chocolate chip muffin recipe I have tried so far. It's super moist and delicious and all that. I've substituted nuts for the chocolate chips and so yesterday I thought, "Why not try blueberries?" I did and it was really good. Even Z1 who's not a fan of blueberries was gobbling them up.





I had wanted to raise a berry bush in the back last year and didn't get around to doing it. This coming year, though, I think it would be a great idea. I really liked these muffins and we use lots of blueberries for smoothies and stuff. Supposedly, berries are pretty straightforward to grow so I'm kind of excited to try.


*I have since decided that the recipe does indeed need 1/4 cup of extra liquid which is what the original recipe calls for. So the recipe I am using looks like this:


Pancakes Like Mom Used to Make (Except Vegan)
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or other flavorless oil)
1 1/2 cups soy milk

1/4 cup water
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Put your oven on "keep warm".

In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add the dry to the wet and stir until everything is well combined and all the lumps are gone.

Oil your griddle or pan lightly with some flavorless oil. Pour 1/3 cup batter onto skillet and cook until bubbles start to form on the top or until the bottom side of pancake is as brown as you'd like. Flip and cook the other side.

Makes 8 pancakes.
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