A health and fitness blog: With an occasional food item

Monday, December 31, 2007

Um, yum?

At an interview today with a Mormon missionary who just got back from two years in Japan, said missionary gave me this gift: octupus, left, and squid. Brandon Riggs, 21, is a sophomore at Brigham Young University. He said he loved the people there, as well as the food. Brandon, I'll let you know about the food. Maybe.
Welcome home.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

All My Chi'ren

"Jack, Erica, Aidan, Sean and Lily fear the worst as Greenlee hovers near death. Aidan goes to the chapel to pray and encounters Father Clarence, who reminds him just how powerful love can be. Greenlee miraculously begins breathing again as Aidan cradles her in his arms. Zach and Kendall profess their love for each other."
If that reads like a soap opera, it is. It was the Dec. 24 episode of "All my Children." I only know this because it was a repeat Saturday on one of the TVs at the gym.
Don't know about you, but soaps sometimes suck me in like tornadoes grab up trailers. Even though you tell yourself, "This is fake; this is so corny and everyone's a drama queen," you find yourself interested and saying, "Come on, Greenlee, you can make it!" and your eyes tear up when she comes back to life.
Also, actors such as Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) never seem to age. Twenty years ago, she looked the same. Go figure.
For more riveting information about "All My Children," click here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

No resolution

We at the Spin Cycle typically do not make New Year's Resolutions. That either makes us pessimists or realists. (We pick the latter.)
Here are some good quotes about resolutions, which we thought you could ponder for the next few days:

Mark Twain
New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.

Brooks Atkinson
Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.

Bill Vaughan
Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.

P. J. O'Rourke
The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you're married to.

Jay Leno
Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average… which means, you have met your New Year's resolution.

James Agate
New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.

Eric Zorn
Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.

Bill Vaughan
An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.

Charles Lamb
New Year's Day is every man's birthday.

Oprah Winfrey
Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.

Mark Twain
New Year's Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Judith Crist
Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let's just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that.

Anais Nin
I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.

Oscar Wilde
Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.

Robert Paul
I'm a little bit older, a little bit wiser, a little bit rounder, but still none the wiser.

A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other.

Leonard Bernstein
From New Year's on the outlook brightens; good humor lost in a mood of failure returns. I resolve to stop complaining.

Friday, December 28, 2007

House wine of the South

This is great. Stumbled on this guy John's blog (sourcetosea.net) and here was this post about sweet tea, which we at the Spin Cycle lovingly refer to as the House Wine of the South.

The End of the Sweet Tea Drought
August/26/2006 07:00 PM Permalink
I had a HUGE glass of sweet tea at Bojangles the other day and thought about this journal from the river. God bless sweet tea, and all those who make it.

June 25, 2005
Hannibal, Missouri
1045 miles

The End of the Sweet Tea Drought
I’m from the south, raised in the grand metropolis of Climax, N.C. Sweet tea is just a matter of life in the South, as is barbecue. I’m not going to get into the argument on western vs. eastern-style barbecue, as I think it's best to not take contentious religious matters lightly.
I have not seen or heard about any sweet tea in 47 days from the time we left North Carolina to drive to the backwoods of Minnesota. It was a dark point in my life, and not to be repeated if at all possible. That black cloud of despair lifted yesterday.
We rode into Hannibal to take in the sights and eventually ended up at Bubba’s Catfish House for dinner. Looking over the menu, the first thing I skimmed over the entrees, side dishes, or desserts, and scanned their drink selection. Looking past the array of soft drinks, coffee, and beers, I found the Holy Grail. One simple, glorious statement: Tea: sweetened or unsweetened
The heavens parted and a soft ray of shimmering light shined on the menu. A choir of angels sang out the Hallelujah Chorus.
We ordered a round of that precious nectar then asked them to just leave a pitcher at the table. After almost a month and a half without that delicious liquid, my thirst was finally quenched.
It’s the little things that make all the difference.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas montage

Summations: The guy with the dog is my editor Dawn's husband, Jeff, who also works at the L-E. The dog in the dog house is Molly, my parents' Golden Retriever. It was raining and she sought shelter. (Smart dog.)
The people in the paper hats are my aunt and uncle. There's this British tradition (you just can't get away from those Brits, see next entry) with this paper baton-looking thing you pull and it pops; and out come paper hats and prizes.
A lovely day in C-town.
Hope it is "in your neck of the woods."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve potpourri

We at the Spin Cycle wish to share several things today (in addition to our photo of our refrigerator; see next entry.) First up is this essay that appeared in the Times today. It's about how the Brits' equivalent of fruitcake is something called Christmas pudding, and how we escaped it. We probably ditched it during the Revolution--with all due respect to my "kind," the Church of England/Episcopal Church.
Second: In Spin class today, I learned something really cool from my friend Rachel. She's headed to Atlanta today to be with her family, and they all started a tradition about seven years ago, in which they go to a Waffle House at midnight and eat and leave the waitresses a HUGE tip. She didn't say how much (yes, I asked). Rachel also said the crowds are hilarious that time of night, as you can imagine--everything from drunks to Elvis to people dressed like Jesus. God, I love the Waffle House.
Third, click here and scroll down to play, to hear some beautiful choral music from the Mother Country.

Fridge art

For some reason I felt like showing you the front of our refrigerator.
It's our little gift to you.
(I especially love the card with the nuns smoking.)

Sunday, December 23, 2007


A column in our paper today by Col. (Ret.) Bob Simpson sparked many memories of Christmases past. It's beautiful, if you have not read it. The main memory he wrote about was the one year when he, as a child, got up in the night with his older brother to peek at their Christmas candy in shoe boxes under the tree--and how they were happy with little things like candy and fruit--and later on books, and eventually his own children got presents much more elaborate.
Which sparked a conversation at our table tonight about our own reminiscences. Mine include throwing sticks into massive pecan trees in my grandmother's front yard, and doing the same up the street at my great aunt's house. Stick after thrown stick, to yield what seemed only about six pecans. Then my mother and her mother and aunt and other relatives would sit around, cracking those pecans and catching up on all the news, which of course was gossip.
As a child, this stick-throwing was a rather enjoyable task but as I grew older, it seemed lame and old-fashioned; and of course now it's come full circle to this: "I wish we still did those things, and with those people, and I wish my grandmother could have lived forever."
Michael remembers when, especially at Christmas, his Aunt Catherine baked the cakes that come in three layers. Her speciality was caramel, that thick, gooey, sugary-sweet caramel (my grandmother made them too); but he said Catherine would cut each layer in two, to make six layers, and therefore the caramel was even more gooey and abundant.
Funny. I don't remember when I got my first bicycle or my first record player or my first doll, but I do remember throwing sticks up at trees, as we squinted at the sun.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Twain on health

“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.”
— Mark Twain

Friday, December 21, 2007

Keillor on Christmas

By Garrison Keillor, from Salon.com

Dec. 19, 2007 | It was Christmas in the New York subways last week, musicians heading off to play Christmas gigs, and in the Times Square station a wild-haired old man out of a George Price cartoon pounded out "Winter Wonderland" on an electric organ, a rhythm attachment going whompeta-whompeta-whompeta, and two crazed battery-powered Santas dancing the boogaloo, nearby a young trumpeter giving "O Holy Night" a good working over, and then the doors closed and we racketed uptown as an old codger came into the car and launched into "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" as he limped up the aisle, jingling his Styrofoam cup.
I am pretty much hardened to Christmas music, except at the end of the Christmas Eve service when the lights dim and the glories stream from heaven afar and the heavenly hosts sing Alleluia and then, from long habit, tears well up in my eyes and I weep for the dead who enjoyed Christmas so much and for humanity in general, and then we go sashaying out into the cold starry night and walk home.
A big orange and some fresh pine boughs and "Silent Night" are all I need, and cookies, of course. They are the strings that when I pull on them I pull up the complete glittering storybook Christmases of my childhood. Even in Manhattan, the combination of orange and evergreen and the holy hymn brings back a snowy night in Minnesota and the colored lights, the mound of gifts, the deluxe mixed nuts in the cut-glass bowl, the candles, the faint air of Lysol from the toilets, and the cologne of my uncles as they sit munching their peanut brittle.
I stood in line at a pine-bough-decked-out Starbucks behind a tall, beautiful, dark-haired woman who ordered a venti mocha latte, 180 degrees, seven pumps, 2 percent, no foam, and though the headphones around her neck were playing the Beatles who were back in the USSR spreading their broken wings and learning to fly, and finding Gideon's Bible to help with good Rocky's revival, the smell of chocolate and pine brought back the lights, the snow, the whole blessed day. The advantage of age: a few details stand for the whole, just as in poetry.
The aim of a festive season is to attain amiability, and perhaps actual joy, which we may find in our private moments but which at Christmas we seek to attain together, thus it is a true test of the power of the community to elevate its members, without which we may as well take to the woods. The family gathers, with its checkered history of jealousies and resentments, hoping to share warmth, to instill the most sullen member with a measure of cheer, and if it cannot do this, then it will break apart.
We left our families to escape our disapproving elders and find friendlier authority figures who give us permission to be original and write our own stories. All we parents, no matter how wonderful we may seem, have said and done bad things to children, and so we are relieved when they escape us without apparent permanent damage. And we hope for forgiveness, and for them to want to be with us at Christmas. But how can we make them happy this time, when we have failed so often in the past?
The beauty of Christmas is that it is not about us, our creativity, our fabulous d├ęcor, the glittering gifts we can afford, but about a story and ritual that lift us all. The other night I saw a young man standing on the corner holding a gas can and asked him if he needed a ride. He said he'd been to a party at his sister's house and a guy started beating up his sister and the young man jumped the guy and the cops came and broke it up and the young man had forgotten to ask his sister for money to buy gas for his car which was now out of gas and here he was on a cold night, far from home, a little drunk, and very broke.
I did what anybody else would've done, and all the way to the gas station and back he was a little incredulous, but that's Christmas. It isn't about me, just as it isn't about the shepherds in the pageant who are worried about forgetting their lines. Not a problem. We all know the lines. Just do what the others do and try to beam when it seems appropriate.

(Note: We at the Spin Cycle will return to our regular programming, eg, health and fitness, sometime soon--in other words, when we feel like it):

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fading to white

Did y'all see this?
It seems a TV anchor in Detroit suffers from a disease called vitiligo, in which one's pigmention begins lightening slowly but noticeably. Think Michael Jackson.
The anchor, Lee Thomas, is 40 and says he's known about it since he was 25, while getting a hair cut. Only a few other people knew of his condition. He's being forthcoming about it now, and has written a book titled "Turning White: A Memoir of Change."
What would you think, Internet, if your skin changed color? Even if it took years? Talk about a drastic alteration, whether black to white or white to black. People can say they're colorblind all day long but let's be honest: Race is part of our identity.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Southern woman's nightmare

So tonight I went to this church service, featuring this professor,
who sculpted a piece of religious art out of clay, right there in front of God and everybody. Pretty incredible. Anyway, beforehand I was chit-chatting with the oboe player and the piano player and the narrator for the service. The piano player said, "I remember you; I played for your wedding." And then I (sort of) remembered her and there was this pause and then she said, "You're welcome."
And the whole next hour, I was obsessing. Did I write her a thank-you note? If not, did she think I am the World's Biggest Loser?
(Now, before you think I should remember the person who played for our wedding, know this: The usual person, a guy named Jack, was sick that day. And we got married during the regular service, on a Sunday. And it's a pretty big church. And the organ, which is tucked away up front with the choir, is not real visible anyway. So.)
Nancy, a thank-you note is on the way.

Go, pizza! Go ice cream!

Imagine my glee, Internet, when I spotted this here article in Health magazine.
It says you don't have to avoid pizza or red meat or what I'd call Real Deal ice cream (the kind that actually has dairy products in it). Take the red meat, but take it leaner. "A study of 100 women from Australian researchers found that overweight women who ate reduced-calorie diets rich in protein from red meat and dairy lost more weight than those whose reduced-calorie plans had little meat and more carbs," says the article.
And, go ahead and have that glass of milk everyday.
And, furthermore!, eating fewer cookies that are "bad" for you is better than consuming a gazillion that aren't.
Another link lists the Top 5 foods for women: cranberries, walnuts, tomatoes, fish and beans.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mind over matter

This recent piece in the Times explores the concept of mental focus in a grueling physical challenge, such as running a marathon. People who endure things like marathons say they have little mental tricks to get them through the pain. (There's a fine line, though, between recognizing that your leg has fallen off and overcoming the immediate challenges.) What tends to work, as some point out in the article, is focusing on what's right in front of you (a good lesson in life, for that matter), such as concentrating on something simple like breathing, or the person's shoe right in front of you, rather than the collapsed bodies on the side of the road.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

He's on to something

"The human soul cannot be equated with the brain, consciousness or behavior. The soul is the very breath of our vitality and the unfathomable source of our identity. It is not a problem to be solved, but rather our very life that needs food and nurturing. The best food for the soul is a mixture of love, beauty, and excursions out of time where we glimpse the eternal.
"We need love, we need beauty, and we need at least passing acquaintance with eternity. To the soul these are absolutes, and yet in modern life these three graces of life and values largely neglected. We reduce love to interpersonal relationship and then treat relationship in an emotional problem. We seem numb to ugliness and allow our world to be shaped and adorned according to the exclusive principle of function. Even religions seem to have forgotten the central place of the eternal in the development of reverence, ritual, and contemplation.
"The soul longs for love that is unconditional, unending, and without a tangible object. Beauty relieves us the limitation of functionality and pragmatism--dehumanizing signals of a loss of soul. And eternity is the proper time frame of the soul, whose immortality is ever present and whose endurance knows no limitation."
--from "The Education of the Heart," edited by Thomas Moore.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holy smokes!

Here's a news flash, which friend and fellow blogger Brad passed along today: Georgia ranks 48th in protecting kids from tobacco, according to a newly released report from a group of public health organizations including the American Heart Association. Here's the more troubling news flashes from the news flash:
-- Georgia currently spends $2.2 million a year on tobacco prevention programs, which is 5.3 percent of the minimum amount of $42.6 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
-- The tobacco companies spend more than $444 million a year on marketing in Georgia. This is almost 200 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.
--Georgia this year will collect $405 million from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than 1 percent of it on tobacco prevention.
-- Only 20 states – including Maine, Delaware and Colorado – are funding tobacco prevention programs at even half the minimum levels recommended by the CDC.
-- Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing nearly $100 billion in health care bills every year. Nearly 90 percent of all smokers start at or before age 18. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
Let me also state, for the record, that several friends are smokers and this is not meant to demonize them, as if smoking is the worst thing people ever do to themselves.
But it is recorded fact that tobacco (say, smoking) significantly heightens one's risk of heart and lung disease, among other maladies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hot and cold

If you are feeling toasty here in the South, which we are, our friends in the Midwest are suffering on the other extreme. Click here for a story and also check out the slide show. Wow.
Until a few minutes ago, our heat was on in our building and we were/are dreaming of ice cream. I am wearing open-toed sandals. A co-worker has on shorts.
By the weekend it will be cold here again (relatively speaking).
Depending on where you're reading this, bundle up. Or put on your bathing suit.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

$54,000 for WHAT?!

Internet, check this out.
An anonymous buyer purchased a $54,000 bottle of Scotch at a Christie's auction today.
My first question is: I wonder where he/she will drink this?
And alone or with friends?
And, will said buyer tell the friends, "You wouldn't believe how much I spent on this"?
Or will he be nonchalant, putting it in the cabinet between the Sprite and the Wheat Thins?
Also, before we get all self-righteous about a) drinking Scotch b) drinking at all or c) spending that much money on ONE ^&*!$% bottle, what is it that we ourselves might buy for that amount and other people could say, Are you NUTS?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Breakfast makes champions

It's a common refrain that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Click here to watch this CNN video about breakfast and its the benefits. (There is an ad at the beginning, sorry.) In a hurry and don't have time for eggs and bacon? Try a piece of fruit or a protein shake.
Most anything is better than nothing.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dips to dodge

Picked up this little ditty from Fitness Magazine at the gym the other day: "Prevent party pig-out." Among the other features about saying no or "not so much" at holiday parties, they list four dips often seen at parties (not to be confused with your Dippy uncle): Smoked salmon with cream cheese; spinach; hummus; and salsa.
Guess which two have more calories, and higher in sodium? Yep, the spinach one and the salmon.
By contrast, hummus has 54 calories and 2.6g of fat; salsa has 9 calories and .1 grams of fat.
Click here for a 7-layer chip dip. Mmmmmm tasty.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday blues: Take II

Around this time of year, we in the Liberal Media (as we are often nicknamed, among other monikers) start running stories about holiday blues--what it is, how you can differentiate between holiday blues and the REAL blues in which you might, for instance, find yourself cussing out the sales clerk for short-changing you by a penny.
A couple of people at the office, including Dear Husband, say they don't get the infamous holiday blues until they start seeing the influx of stories about holiday blues.
Even so, you might want to check out this rather concise yet informative piece
from the University of Maryland about this topic.
Heightened stress and grief is normal this time of year; but if you find yourself about to boil a rabbit on the stove like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction," seek help immediately.

Monday, December 3, 2007

King of the house

You can see who rules the roost around here.
(And this old stuffed animal of mine, whom we call either Dead Kitty or Old Kitty, is not too fond of Bisquick. For good reason.) Usually Old/Dead Kitty sits atop a table and Bisquick likes to reach through the rungs of a chair and take him down with his paws. Tonight we gave him an extra treat--we put the two on the couch.
Some people blog about their kids. Us? We have a 16-lb. cat who needs to be on a diet.
C'est la vie.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Do you know what today is?!

Internet, run to the calendar.
It is Dec. 1. That means only 24 shopping days left (or 25 if you are the Biggest Procrastinator Ever). And if you are Jewish and you have children, you REALLY need to start hopping. You've got three days until Hanukah.
The following realization is pretty much my annual sentiment: I am not ready. Brief panic has already set in, especially when some friends and family announce, "Oh, we finished all our shopping back in July." Smack. Then there was Santa Claus out at the stores today, all decked out in his red suit in 70-degree weather, and don't you know he was about to sweat to death? "Excuse me, dear cherub, while I wipe this flop sweat off of my head."
Internet, for the record, what do you wish for this holiday season?

Friday, November 30, 2007

'Pace, don't race'

Worried about putting on the feed bag (and not being able to remove it) during the holidays? Here's a story with 10 tips on how to pace yourself. Pretty sensible stuff.
My favorite is "Pace, don't race." In other words, don't plow through your food like a power mower on an uncut field.
In case you want to ignore these, here's Imaginary Tip 11: Eat and drink with reckless abandon then check into the Betty-Ford equivalent for food bingers. Eh?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Working more or working better?

Bisquick helped me find this Forbes article about workaholics and how they can become even more productive. More power naps. Setting better boundaries. Getting more sleep. (Bisquick would say, "Paws up to that!" The Feline of the House would not recommend working too much, or at all, or in human terms putting an unhealthy burden on one's job for one's well-being.)
We at the Spin Cycle don't advocate being a 'holic of any kind even though, to be honest, we are all addicted to something.
A man featured in the story missed KEY life events because of work. Including his own daughter's graduation. Now that's just insane.
Which leads us to this quote by Studs Terkel (author and radio personality): "Most of us, like the assembly line worker, have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people."
Make it a great Thursday. Whether you are headed to work or not.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Dr. Gatorade," RIP

The Spin Cycle is sad to report that Dr. Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade, died Tuesday. He was 80. Click here
for the story from Fox Sports. Cade died of kidney failure, which seems sort of ironic, eh? One of my co-workers just said, Maybe he put too much vodka in it. "But wait a minute," he added. "That affects the liver, right?"
Here's how the idea for the sports drink, the Granddaddy of all sports drinks, got started: The football coach at the University of Florida in 1965 asked Cade: "Doctor, why don't football players wee-wee after a football game?"

Monday, November 26, 2007

Next to the triathlete

There's this dude, I'll call him Steve, who comes to Spin class. Tonight he was on the bike next to me. He does these half-marathons and triathlons (when he's not working or in Spin class) and so I should not have been surprised when he didn't take the breaks between songs. They aren't long, mind you, but you usually need them for water or a towel break. He kept pumping the gas even on the breaks. He told me before class that he would do that because, he figures, he doesn't take such breaks on his runs.
A couple of times, the Competitive Gene reared its head in me and I kept pedaling between songs. Then I thought to myself, "Self, you aren't training for a triathlon."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Last Supper?

Though a bit morose, renowned chefs weigh in here on what they'd pick for their last meal--if they knew it was to be their last meal. There's quite a range here, with recipes.
What would it be for you, Internet?
Me? Probably a filet, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans. A glass of red wine. Dessert? Bread pudding made by my friend Jenny Lind Berry. Then I could drift on out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The measuring cup

Hope that all of you in Cyberspace are having a stellar Thanksgiving weekend. We are sufficiently bloated here.
When the holidays roll around, inevitably thoughts bombard of loved ones who are no longer around. Today I kept thinking of my maternal grandmother, Mary Charles Bradfield, who died two years ago this coming Valentine's Day. What a character. I'm pretty sure we spent most every holiday with her when I was growing up, before we started having The Feasts at our house. She had this thing about drinking out of glass measuring cups, standing in the kitchen with the fluorescent lighting and wooden cabinets. Most of that had to do with obsessing over serving everyone else first (especially the menfolk and boyfolk; she would walk over hot coals to ensure they had vittles.)
Also, drinking out of the measuring cup didn't mean she was short on glasses but rather, I think, time. Get thirsty? Dip the measuring cup under the water faucet.
Most of the time I can't remember her eating at the table with us, especially before my grandfather died. She was always finishing up something in the kitchen. After Granddaddy passed away, she took his seat at the table--if she took a seat at all. (In retrospect I wish she'd been able to relax more but then again most cooks, unless they are Martha Stewart, share that frenzied feeling at holiday time.)
So whenever I measure something for a recipe, I think about her. God Bless the cooks, and especially grandmothers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving thoughts

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
~Erma Bombeck, "No One Diets on Thanksgiving," 26 November 1981

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
~William Shakespeare

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

39 things to do at Thanksgiving

Why 39? Because that's the age I am today (go, me!); and also because tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So we need a little list for something.
39 ways to spend Thanksgiving Day:
39) Around the crowded table, ask everyone who they're voting for in the presidential election and why.
38) Then ask everyone to talk about his or her religion. (Get religion and politics out of the way early.)
37) As soon as the meal is over, head for the nearest TV and watch sports so you don't get dragged into a conversation with your crazy relative who's pitching Amway.
36) Pull out the Ipod or computer and zone out.
35) When your mom reminds you that you don't have children, say, "Yes, we do; they're in the trunk."
34) Go for a walk.
33) Feign illness and spend all afternoon in bed.
32) As you're washing dishes, throw water on the kitchen floor and create a slip-n-slide for the kids.
31) Secretly tape record people at the dinner table then play it afterward. Tell everyone you're practicing for the CIA.
30) Volunteer to pray over the meal. Pull out the Bible and start reading from Leviticus.
29) Announce at the meal that you're really not D.E.'s uncle; your his father. And that the past 28 years have pretty much been a lie.
28) Fall out of your chair then jump up and say, I meant to do that!
27) Start a discussion at the meal about which TV news show is better-- Fox or CNN.
26) When your crazy relative starts jawing and boring you to tears, say, "I'm sorry, I have an ear infection and I can't understand a thing you're saying."
25) Play with the animals. Take them for a walk.
24) Ask your dad about the benefits of Viagra.
23) In front of any racist relatives, say, "I think African-Americans should get reparations for slavery."
22) Announce to all that you're going into the convent (if you're female) or the Catholic priesthood (if male).
21) Start a debate about the early Pilgrims. Were they Christians? Or narcissistic pagans who just wanted to hunt and fish and take over the land?
20) Before the feast, say to the cook that you are a very strict vegetarian who needs her own separately prepared meal.
19) Crawl under the dinner table and take off everyone's shoes.
18) Tell your family you want to start a business but you need $50,000 from everyone, immediately.
17) Announce this: "I have a week to live." In the silence say, "Just kidding, folks. I'm only gay."
16) Chew with your mouth open.
15) Yell "fire!" and when everyone clears out, eat from their plates.
14) If people come to your house, offer to show them photos from your last six vacations.
13) And the video of your wedding.
12) Contact everyone who ever broke your heart and say, "Hey, I'm thankful that didn't work out. Whew!"
11) If you have to work Thursday or Friday, bring in leftovers, but make it celery and carrots.
10) Wash the dog and have him come in the house soaking wet and splashing water.
9) Announce your divorce.
8) If you're traveling out of town by car, honk and wave at every vehicle you pass. They will wonder if they really know you.
7) If you speak another language, do so during the meal.
6) If the turkey doesn't turn out, send out for pizza.
5) Laugh at inappropriate times.
4) Practice "Shhhh-ing" your relative(s) who can't help but point out fat people in public and on television.
3) Get your niece to describe for everyone what the food was like back in prison.
2) If you go to a religious service, try to sing louder than anyone there; and
1) Be thankful for the ones gathered 'round. They helped make you who you are.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No-guilt pie crust

Just in time for Turkey Day, click here for what seems to be a heart-smart pie crust recipe.
Hope everyone is dusting off the feed bag. Thursday will be here before you know it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A heroine worth a read

Caroline Knapp was someone I "met" through one of her books, "Drinking: A Love Story." Picked it up about 10 years ago while in grad school. It's one heck of a read--her own personal battle with alcohol addiction (among other obsessions) and getting through treatment and sobriety. Major applause for anyone who has gone through or is going through something similar. Here's an excerpt from the book. Imagine my surprise a few years ago upon discovery that she died. Young. Of lung cancer, presumably because she smoked like a chimney.
Here's her obituary from the Boston Phoenix, where she was a journalist.
Here's a column she wrote for Salon, just four years before she died.
What a sad tale. She likely knew what she was doing to herself, smoking so much, and so I don't mean to suggest she was a total victim. But still, it's tragic that she made it across a huge hurdle in her life only to face another and die.
Rest in peace, Caroline Knapp. I wish I'd gotten to meet you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Party to health

As we're coming up on the holiday party season, Prevention magazine tells us that partying is good for your health--the social aspects, that is. (On the site, click at bottom on "Party your way to better health.") I'm not sure they'd condone all the boozing and calories that take place (the Spin Cycle stresses moderation), but gathering people together is good for you. Builds comaraderie and friendship and all that. Apparently, we in the U.S. are getting slack at entertaining. Americans have people over half as much as we did in 1975.
Guess it's time we all got on the horn.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

'Ruff' and tumble

Exercise is good for your dog. Maybe that's not a newsflash, but this here article offers some ways you can vary your dog's routine. One creative thing is to take a play toy with you--say, on your daily walk--and add chasing to the walking. (The dog, not you.) As for cats, as Husband and I can attest, they are more prone to short bursts of cardio, rather than longer periods of exercise. Think sprinters vs. marathoners.
On the subject of canines, we ran this story today about a Top Dog show this Sunday at a local park. There's also a track so maybe you can run around with Fifi before the Big Event.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

7 days till '40 Eve'

Yep. Thirty-nine is lurking. Then 40. Not sure what I am doing for either birthday, but many people tell me (jokingly?) that everything starts going going downhill right about now. Yikes. Better stockpile some water and ammo. Of course I'm kidding. (We don't have the storage space.)
Recent check-up brought good news and good numbers but you do have to wonder: What's in an age? If it's just a state of mind, why aren't there more giddy 90-year-olds? And why does our culture bow down to the 18-24-year-old set? (We all were that age once, so I don't knock them personally. I just tire of Youth Worship.)
Bring on the tips for surviving the final year of one's 30s. I have a week until that age actually strikes, however. (Which means that you, Internet, have only seven shopping days remaining. Go.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jonesin' for a ham soda?

If this doesn't beat all I've ever seen. Doesn't sound too appetizing.
On the other hand, think of all the money you and your family might save at Thanksgiving: Just line up all the specialty drinks amid the fancy china and silver. "Aunt Betty, can you pass the ham? And be careful not to spill any."

P.S. The Jones Candy Corn Soda remains on my desk. Any takers? It'd make a great stocking stuffer!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

'Winning 9 months after? Yo!'

Did y'all see this?
This year's female winner of the New York City Marathon gave birth nine months ago. First of all, it makes me tired to think of running a marathon WITHOUT being pregnant; but Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain not only kept up her training regimen while pregnant but, obviously, after. She looks a bit, um, anorexic but I guess that's how most long-distance runners look. Let's just say I am not one.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Metabolic rate

This is really cool, sent to me by faithful reader Leslie. Click on this link and find out how many calories you burn a day, which gauges how much you need to eat. Click on your gender then adjust height, weight and exercise frequency.
Mine? 3,077. Seems rather high. Yours?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Atkins out, South Beach in

This new report says the Atkins Diet, which came on the scene several years ago, can be damaging to blood vessels and has been proven to raise LDL, or bad cholesterol. In contrast, the South Beach Diet (a more recent one, along with the Ornish Diet) does not offer the same results.
Click here to read the Reuters story.
Long term? Most studies have shown that diets that stress vegetables, low-fat sources of protein such as beans and legumes, and whole grains provide the best long-term weight loss.
We at the Spin Cycle are not so much into diets. We tend to take a longer view, although we understand how the plan of a diet can create discipline.
Have a great Thursday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Political health

"Well raise my rent," as we say down South. In our mailbox today: Newsweek presents us with a cover story on the possibility of Michael Bloomberg, mayor of NYC, running for president as an independent.
Well why not?
The field seems so crowded. Some days it seems that people who aren't running for President are fewer in number than those who are. So you think, One more? But as Bloomberg points out in an interview with editor Jon Meacham, the two-party system has become this either-or set-up in which the choices are really quite limited, despite the number of people running. The candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, have to kow-tow to their bases; and then there are the huge lobbies that can so easily corrupt.
Bloomberg is worth $13 billion. (Not a typo.) The article states he's willing to pony up one of that billion for a chance to be Prez. (Don't you just know his kids are gasping for air?) In my idealism, I wish we didn't have such a political system in which any ol' billionaire can enter the race based mainly on wealth (and I do realize Bloomberg isn't a Johnny-Come-Lately, having run New York City and all); but that's the system we got. Money talks.
We might could use this Independent, for the health of the body politic. And "Bloom" says he won't run unless he thinks he can win. Internet, what say you?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tide to go-go

In the area of clothing health, let us now praise famous detergent sticks. We at the Spin Cycle (which, if you think about it, can be translated to laundry) love, love, love our Tide stick. In fact just this morning it helped me out of a pinch. I was driving down the road, coffee cup in hand and I spilled some on the front of my white shirt. Must have hit a bump. Or something. Instead of having to drive back home and change and be late for work, I pulled into a parking lot and practically doused the front of my shirt with the Tide stick. Didn't take long to dry, either. Good as new.
Dear Mr. Tide Company President, the Spin Cycle thinks you're a genius.

P.S. In case you didn't know, the stick works best when you have JUST spilled something. If you have old pizza on your clothing from, say, 1979, it probably won't work.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pre-workout fuel

So at about song 5 of 7 today in spin class, I started feeling sluggish and more out of breath than usual. A little bit sick to my stomach but not bad. Knocked the pace down a notch and finished, but felt quite tired and kind of lightheaded. Now, a "normal" class will make one tired but this was different. So I just found this article about eating before working out. It also offers tips of food types that are best.
The bottom line? You definitely need fuel, but not too much (I think this is where I erred, and too close to exercise). And if you don't have enough food in the ol' system, you'll feel that too.
Any other horror stories?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Community health

This might be a stretch for the Spin Cycle, but we feel compelled to report what a great concert Gregg Allman and friends put on last night. Michael and I went with two friends. As superb as the music was, it was also entertaining to watch audience members. Some young, some old(ish). One guy near us was thrusting his cane in the air at times. Some danced. (All that qualifies as cardio, yes?) Many people up and down, going (presumably) to the open bar in the lobby and/or the restrooms.
The band was quite the energetic bunch, despite the fact that Allman is pushing 60 and he and his crew hardly took a break for two hours. Rock on.

Friday, November 2, 2007

R and R

If you're an exercise nut, you might think "time off" is bad for you. Not so. This article extols the virtues of taking a regular rest from your routine. The amount of time depends on your regimen, and also your own body and what it's accustomed to. If you overtrain, you risk the release of a hormone called cortisol, which actually can lead to more abdominal fat.
The key thing is to listen to your body. It knows.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Exorcising fitness demons

Here's a little post-Halloween tip sheet for confronting your health and fitness demons and exorcising them (or exercising them, haha). Also, as of yet, there are no takers for the Candy Corn Soda. ... It's not to late! Otherwise it'll remain as desk decoration.
Hope everyone had a safe Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Just in time for Halloween: Soda that tastes like candy corn, among other limited-edition assortments by Jones Soda. I only know this because my friend and co-worker Sandra Okamoto brought around Halloween goodie bags to all of us in her/our department. Hope she's not offended that I don't drink mine; my stomach turns when I pass by batches of the REAL candy corn. Any takers? E-mail me at work if you want this stuff and I will personally deliver it to you. (But only if you live in Columbus or Phenix City. If not I will mail it): AKennedy(at)Ledger-Enquirer.com. I hate to waste food or drink.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ethical dilemmas

So this doctor was in Columbus today from "up the road," in Atlanta. Dr. Nicolas Krawiecki, associate professor of neurology and pediatrics at Emory, is also a renowned ethicist on end-of-life issues — when to take someone off life support? How to balance the physician's knowledge of disease and the dying process with the patient's and family's?
Quite an interesting talk he gave, followed by a panel that included a chaplain, a nurse administrator, a surgeon and hospital lawyer.
The most fascinating thing to me was the collaboration aspect of such weighty decisions. Used to be, Krawiecki told me, the physician's word was law. "This is what is going to happen, no questions asked." Not that doctors are left out of consultations now, but more weight is spread among patients and their families and other support systems. (I imagine part of that has to do with malpractice suits.) The pendulum swings.
He included a quote from one Dr. Bernard Lown, professor emeritus of cardiology at Harvard: "Americans are the only people who think that death is optional."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Salazar unplugged

Here's a guy I'd never heard of: Alberto Salazar. What a cool name, too. Like Ricardo Montalvan.
(Around the time he was setting records running marathons, I was entering the naval-gazing phase of life called High School. No wonder I missed him.) We at the Spin Cycle, who prefer to cycle, are amazed by runners. We have a few friends who are serious runners and who themselves run marathons. But it's not in our nature. Hat's off to them.
Salazar flamed out relatively young and survived depression and a heart attack. Now he's coaching up-and-comers and working at Nike. Interesting fellow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This is way cool

It has nothing to do with health and fitness, but what the heck, sometimes you have to live on the razor's edge. :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Extra fruit

Check this out, about how some people in Portland are harvesting fruit in plain view:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why we love George

... Foreman, that is.
Internet, I cannot believe we've not posted about how much we love our George Foreman Grill in this house. It's such an American appliance: It cooks most everything within 5-7 minutes. Hardly any waiting. Sometimes it can be a pain to clean, but the efficiency makes up for all that scraping and dirty paper towels.
If you are Michael's doctor, quit reading here.
Tonight we grilled steaks. Very thick, marinated steaks from a local place called Burt's Butcher Shoppe. They'd have been better on the outside grill, of course, (and my husband is The Grill Master) but when you're eyeing dinner preparation at nearly 7 o'clock, George is a fine handyman to have around.
Anyone out there have good ideas for food on the George?

Monday, October 22, 2007

A 'latte' decisions

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat ... So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino."
--Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), "You've Got Mail (1998)

This quote came to mind recently as I have delved--albeit, tepidly--into the world of specialty coffees. Not at home, where we start the day with "regular" coffee. But most every day about mid-morning, as that is wearing off, I have found myself staring at the endless menu boards at various local beaneries. I know what kind of drink I like (from another movie that stars Meg Ryan: "I know it like you know a good melon"); but equating a taste with something printed on a board? It might as well be in Chinese.
So my new best friend, a barista down the street from the office, has been patient and coached me in what to say. This feels like a breakthrough. I almost feel like I've re-learned how to speak.
Here's what I like: Mocha Frappalatte. ("Mocha Frap" for short.) A real peppy drink.
Who, exactly, came up with all these coffee variations? Mocha. Espresso. Latte. Cappuccino. Skinny latte. Likely, he or she is sitting happily on a beach in the Bahamas with a brimming Swiss bank account, sipping, of course, one jolt of java after another.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Low-fat chili

Here's a great chili recipe. I may have posted this before, but for those of you just joining us, it'll be new.

12 oz. ground beef (Three-fourths pound)
Half-cup chopped green pepper
One cup onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
2-3 tsp. chili powder
One-fourth tsp. black pepper
1 can (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can (14.5 oz.) tomatoes (cut up)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
One-half tsp. dried basil, crushed

In large saucepan, cook ground beef, onion, green pepper and garlic--until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain. Replace in pot and stir in kidney beans, tomatoes and sauce. Then added spices. Bring to boiling then simmer for 20 min. Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

'Burning' questions answered

This article in Men's Journal, offers a non-traditional way of looking at exercise and burning calories. The general theory is that you lose a pound when you burn 3,700 calories (which is the equivalent). But if you work out like a madman, only to pig out afterward, and/or collapse on the couch, you defeat the purpose. And you might not get around to doing other calorie-burning activities you would normally do (such as walking the dog), because you're so pooped from the workout.
Just so you know, Internet, I am preaching to the choir that includes myself. Like a friend of mine says about himself, I work out partly so I can eat like I do.

Friday, October 19, 2007

This is good to know

The brand of toilet tissue in our women's room at work is called Reliable. Noted.
Happy Friday, Internet.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

That's nuts!

Today's foodie topic: The benefits of nuts. Gerald Gau, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic weighs in, in this piece about such benefits. Even though nuts are high in fat and calories, they also are heart-friendly. (In moderation, of course.)
Internet, what kind of nut is your favorite?
Me? Unsalted cashews.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More about 'Sparky'

A recent review in the The New Yorker is about the late Charles Schulz, aka Sparky. Quite an interesting guy, with much of his work autobiographical. His life reinforces the theory that when you scratch beneath the surface of most of us, we're pretty complex and complicated. (For instance, despite his marriage, he had unfinished business with an early love, who shows up in "Peanuts.") And his fame and drive were reportedly overcompensation for a feeling of inadequacy as a child. What a talent, though. "Peanuts," at least for me, was a magical escape into a world where a dog and his friends ruled the world.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Kids, don't try this at home

My co-worker Brad Barnes passed along this recipe. He's writing a column about it for tomorrow's paper.
Here in the Deep South, we are prone to fry anything. ANY. THING.
In that spirit, here's a recipe for fried celery:
Ingredients: 1 bunch of celery
2 tsp. corn flour
150 ml milk (.0338 fl oz)
7 Tbsp. flour
Oil for deep frying
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Wash the celery and cut into 2-inch pieces. In a bowl of milk, gradually add the flour and corn flour, taking care that no lumps form. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a pot of boiling water, place the celery for hardly a minute and drain out the water. Then heat oil in a pan. Dip celery in the batter and fry until light brown. Drain and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Personal vs. private

In a sermon this evening, our bishop made a distinction between personal and private--he meant it on the faith level, eg, that one's faith in God is deeply personal but it can never be private. And that faith was meant to be shared and shaped in community.
For the purpose of this blog, I'd argue the same is true if you are a person of faith or not. Despite the American notion of the rugged individualist (which he also mentioned), we can never really go it alone. We might think we can. It is a terribly romantic idea--that we are strong in and of ourselves and don't need anyone. But the truth is, we are stronger when we're part of a community. That can mean a marriage or a church or one or two good friends or a business support group or AA, or what have you.
There's also a danger, too--that TOO MUCH community can make one whacky. Think of the cults (or cult-like groups) you have known, where a group of individuals, in an effort to belong, sign on then lose their souls. Sometimes we don't know who we are, apart from one person or group of people.
Seems that there can be a healthy swing of a pendulum in which you are willing to stand apart from the community if you have to, but also to recognize the real need of one, or at least a healthy one.
(All of which reminds me of an engagement party some friends threw for us in 2003. Near the end, my mom read a poem in front of the group. Its message was that in order to be strong together we had to be strong apart. "Maintain your separateness," or some such. It seemed to put a lot of stock in standing apart. Then Michael asked a pertinent question: "OK, but can she move in with me?")
Internet, what do you think of all this?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Take the age test

Take this cool quiz to calculate your "real" age, based on nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle habits. Mine came out to be 102.
Just kidding.

P.S. You have to put in an e-mail address and it sends it back to you, within 1-2 hours. Also make sure you keep scrolling through all the screens. There are at least 10.

Friday, October 12, 2007


"Yoga means bringing together mind, body and spirit, but in Western yoga, we've distilled it down to body," says Shana Meyerson, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles. "That's not even yoga anymore. If the goal is to look like Madonna, you're better off running or spinning."
Meyerson is among those featured in a recent Time cover story on yoga. Though all the rage, with more people taking courses, this piece outlines the downsides: it's relatively non-beneficial if you're looking for a calorie burn; and if you aren't used to exercising or stretching, it can do damage.
Read on.
And happy Friday.