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?