A health and fitness blog: With an occasional food item

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

$22/lb. for cheese?

Daniel Gross has this poignant essay over at Slate.com.
It's about the recent suffering of food snobs, of which he is one. Suffering as in financial. But of course, it's all tongue in cheek, while the "lesser" classes among us (for which I qualify) are having a hard time gassing up and buying milk.
Sometimes at lunch I like to get away to another part of town--for a change of scenery, mostly. But the other day, I said, "Nah, can't waste the gas." My parents, who recently moved farther out from town, have started taking "drive-free" days and are more selective about running their errands.
What are some ways you're cutting back?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


This has nothing to do with the faux meat.
Today in my AOL inbox (among other spam): "Japanese Miracle Sheds Body Fat?" (I suppose it does since they asked); "EHarmony Could Help You Find Love" (I'm lucky--I've got plenty); "Cleanse Yourself of Excess Weight" (whose address started with the word colon, hmmm); "Are Your Feet Nice Enough to Show?" (Again, I suppose they want me to answer a certain way); and "Your Papa John's Pizza Offer Has Arrived."
So. I figure I need to order the pizza, then cleanse my colon and get the Japanese miracle so I can rid my body quickly of the pizza fat, then prop up and get my feet pampered; and after that, Find True Love?
Wow. What a day.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Caught up with some reading and found this gem from the April 13 NY Times.
Joan Benoit Samuelson, longtime marathoner, announces here that she's cut her mileage roughly in half — from about 120 miles a week to about 70 or 80. (Whew! I get tired driving that far.) And also, Samuelson says she's learned to work in running in her daily routine rather than the other way around. Bravo.
Is it all things in moderation? (And, whose definition of moderation?) On one hand I applaud and look up to hard-core discipline types like this; but at the same time, if I called her up and found out she was taking the day off to sprawl on the couch, I'd say, "You go, girl."

This McClatchy Co. photo is somewhat dated (probably by about a decade), because her kids are nearly grown.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A different kind of church

Returned home awhile ago from what's called an Open AA meeting, at which my friend Beth (not her real name) shared her story, in celebration of one year of sobriety. She gave quite a talk--some parts humorous, others sad and tragic but in all ways hopeful. She did a great job and I am honored to be her friend.
I've heard AA compared to a church. Though the organization has a spiritual basis, it has no religious emphasis per se; it's just that the people there, like a church or synagogue, have a singular purpose. And that is to get help among people who are also seeking help in their sobriety. Among other lessons, AA teaches you that you can't recover in isolation. You need such a community of people who have traveled in your shoes. And then eventually, you help bring others along who will be walking in your shoes, and so on.
Here's the link to the national AA Web site.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Thanks to the Lowdogs, Maggie and Bandit, we have a cool video featuring bonafide engineers telling us all about cats.

Traveling sperm

It's Friday so we're all about levity at the Spin Cycle.
This story tells of a guy who stole vials of sperm from an India sperm bank where he worked. He and another guy got arrested for trying to sell said sperm.
They face an uphill battle, ar-ar.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In a slump, don't slump

Our friends at MSNBC are telling us that in an economic slump (or, the R word--RECESSION!), your diet and exercise habits don't have to slump. Read the story here.
When you're stressing over money, or anything for that matter, think twice when you reach for the cupcake.

Script warning labels

Here's a "safety checklist" from a prescription I got Wednesday:
1) May cause drowsiness. Do not mix with alcohol. (Like I'm going to be making marguaritas with it.)
2) Use caution when driving or operating heavy machinery. (I don't normally drive a tractor.)
3) Use caution during hot weather and while exercising.
4) May cause dry mouth and/or blurred vision. (Good thing I wear glasses.)
5) May cause sensitivity to bright light.
Yikes! And I'm sure you've seen, as I have, the commercials for medications that make this one seem mild. Sometimes the warnings include death. I figure, the drug co's don't want to be sued in case you come down with, say, sudden mortality--they can say, We told you so!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Calling all grillers: Any good recommendations for cooking chicken or fish on the grill?
Mr. Owen, who is the Grill Master, does a stellar job at hamburger and steak and other kinds of red meat. ... But he wants to branch out. (And he has a new grill, which you may have read about here, from our little explosion incident. We're over that.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spinning in a parking lot

That's right, you too can spin your wheels in a massive parking lot, at Gold's Gym Max on Saturday, May 10.
It's a benefit for the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Here's how it works: You collect $100 for the 9 a.m. class and $50 for the 10 a.m. class. Don't ask me why they're different amounts.
Afterwards there's a block party and awards. (Presumably for the highest money raisers and such.)
Being a major spinner (in a very enclosed space), the thing I can't figure out is how the music thing will go. I can see how the sound will be flying every which-way, even if they'll have massive speakers and all that.
But whatever. It should be fun, and it's for a great cause.
Call 706-653-1444 for more information.
Location is 3049 Tower Road. See you there!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

How to put a cat to sleep

Bisquick was slap-out of food, we discovered this morning, so this afternoon I got him this treat. He also got some new dry food.
(Let me back up. He always has SOME food at the bottom of his dish but he likes to alert The Staff every morning that he would like more. So even though we know he has food and won't starve, we still feel the pangs of guilt when he cries.)
Upon sticking the Meow Mix under his nose, he shot off like a rocket, following me to his dish.
He ate it all and has pretty much been immobile on the couch for about three hours. Michael thinks there was really crack in it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Springtime in the ATL

Just back from Atlanta and I daresay there is not a prettier place on earth in the spring. I went for a seminar, as a participant, held at this place and had a great time and met some cool people and ate too much food and spent too much money and came back fat and happy. Tired, but in a good way.
This is the person who led the workshop.
Michael didn't go, which didn't mean he wasn't invited but let me just say this wouldn't have been his cup of tea. At dinner tonight I was showing him some of the materials, and I said, "Would you have slit your wrist if you had to go to this?" and he said, "Not if I couldn't find a pistol first."
For the record, he serves the Church in his own way, and wonderfully, but this wouldn't be his thing.
So anyway, because this isn't a religious blog, I'll get to some of the highlights of the fitness part--all 30 hours spent there:
1) Took a long-ish walk Friday from the hotel to the Cathedral and back. You can find out a lot about a place on foot. Popped into a few shops along the way, one of which is a newly relocated fly-fishing store. Also discovered that when a construction fence butts up too close to the sidewalk, it's best to walk on the opposite sidewalk.
2) Those buttons you push at the corners for the signal to change don't really work. They're just there to make you feel empowered.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Now for something healthy

There's a guy in our office who is a complete health nut. He sits very near my husband, and Michael will often come home to tell me something this guy said about nutrition--for instance, that 70 percent of the food sold in grocery stores is processed and not worth eating.
He has a point. Not sure where the stat came from, but if you wander too far from the produce aisle, you can start to believe this.
So in honor of Ben, I give to you a recipe for a healthy drink:

Pineapple-Strawberry Smoothie

1 1/2 cups chilled pineapple juice
2 tablespoons BioSan flax oil
4 tablespoons nonfat yogurt
10 frozen strawberries
ice cubes
In a blender, combine ingredients in the order listed and puree to a smooth consistency, adding ice cubes as needed. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Egads, a personal trainer!

Yes, it's true. Starting Monday I will meet for the first time with a personal trainer who by that time will have come up with a plan for me on the weight machines. I do a lot of cardio--A LOT--(did I say a lot?) and I tell people all the time that if I had to defend my life, I'd have to kick the person to death. Mostly I cycle, hence the name of this blog.
I really have no upper-body strength whatsoever. People Who Know About These Things say weight training and core training (your back and abs) only improve your cardio.
So this woman Megan will devise a plan.
I'll let you know.
If I die on Monday, will someone kindly take over the blog? Bisquick will help. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More than OK

So I'm going up to the Big City this weekend for a church-y thing and the first item on the agenda is this place.
An old friend of mine introduced it to me years ago, and I/we usually plan around it at mealtimes. It's kind of pricey — more than McDonald's (and better for you) but less than, say, here. Fast service, even if you have to wait for a table.
If I'm there alone, sometimes I like to sit at one of the seats overlooking the grill. The hustle and bustle of the cooks and the person standing there barking orders is a sight to behold. It's like you have to have a PhD to keep up with everything.
Conveniently located off I-75 at the West Paces Ferry Road exit. Enjoy. Or, if you have been, what do you think? What's your favorite menu item?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Picture-perfect finish

What a beauty of a finish.
PGA Tour player Trevor Immelman held off Tiger Woods (and other contenders) to win The Masters by three strokes Sunday. He's originally from South Africa and lives in Florida.
His brother Mark coaches golf here in Columbus, at our state-supported university.
Read our local columnist's report here.
And the story from the Times.
This guy has nerves of steel.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

About those ascetics ...

More thoughts on asceticism, from the previous post about sitting in a chair for hours on end to meditate.
I remembered learning in grad school about Christian ascetics who sat atop columns (from the Greek, stylos), or pillars.
The first to do this was St. Simeon Stylites (the Elder), who took up residence atop a column in Syria in A.D. 423. The best known among his imitators were his Syrian disciple St. Daniel (409–493) in Constantinople, St. Simeon Stylites the Younger (517–592) on Mount Admirable near Antioch, St. Alypius (7th century), near Adrianopolis, St. Luke (879–979) at Chalcedon, and St. Lazarus (968–1054) on Mount Galesion near Ephesus.
This puzzles me no end.
So I did some more research: From Wikipedia: Asceticism is a life-style characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures (especially sexual activity and consumption of alcohol) often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals. Christianity and the Indian religions (including yoga) teach that salvation and liberation involve a process of mind-body transformation that is effected through practicing restraint with respect to actions of body, speech and mind.
The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions (e.g. Buddhism, Jainism, the Christian desert fathers) lived extremely austere lifestyles refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. This is to be understood not as an eschewal of the enjoyment of life but a recognition that spiritual and religious goals are impeded by such indulgence.
Asceticism is closely related to the Christian concept of chastity and might be said to be the technical implementation of the abstract vows of renunciation. Those who practice ascetic lifestyles do not consider their practices as virtuous but pursue such a lifestyle in order to satisfy certain technical requirements for mind-body transformation.

There is remarkable uniformity among the above religions with respect to the benefits of sexual abstinence. Religions teach that purifying the soul also involves purification of the body which thereby enables connection with the Divine and the cultivation of inner peace. In the popular imagination asceticism is considered a sort of perversion (self-flagellation by birch twigs as the archetypal stereotype of self-mortification) but the ascetics enjoined by religion functions in order to bring about greater freedom in various areas of one's life, such as freedom from compulsions and temptations bringing about peacefulness of mind with an increase in clarity and power of thought.
I respect practitioners of the above no end--though still confused about the pole-sitting thing--but I eschew the idea that "the body"/flesh is something that must be overcome. Given that anything, including the body can be abused, and another's body for one's own gain, the "body" in and of itself is good and God-given. Depends on how we are stewards of it.
And what do you think? (If you are currently meditating atop a pole, you can get back to me later.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

Am making my way through this 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, which has been a recent No. 1 bestseller on the New York Times list. It's about Gilbert's search for herself and for God, following a failed marriage and a depression whose symptoms included crying her eyes out every night on her bathroom floor.
After receiving what was obviously a hefty book advance for what would become "Eat, Pray," she took a year-long sabbatical to Italy, India and Indonesia. In that order.
I'm in the "Pray" section. This is when she's in India, staying at her Guru's Ashram.
I'm having a difficult time relating to this part, being a Westerner (as she is). Part of my discomfort with the practices in the Ashram is theological. For instance, the participants rise at an ungodly hour (3:30 a.m.) and begin praying soon thereafter. She has a difficult time at first with the long periods of chanting and meditation, but eventually adjusts.
She writes of meeting a woman who practices an ultra-orthodox form of Buddhist meditation called Vipassana. "Basically, it's just sitting," Gilbert writes. "An introductory Vipassana course lasts for ten days, during which time you sit for 10 hours a day in stretches of long silence that last two to three hours at a time. It's the Extreme Sports version of transcendence. ... It's physically grueling, too. You are forbidden to shift your body at all once you have been seated, no matter how severe your discomfort."
While I get the point of learning to live with our discomforts in this life, fighting the reflex to be pampered all the time and being undisciplined, I'm not sure prayer or meditation has to be this way. (And also I'm aware that we Americans could learn from this, since most of us have the attention span of gnats.)
Yet, what does this extreme practice say about our view of God, and our relation to God? That God hears our prayers and sees our meditations only when we are suffering through them? Or that we must torture ourselves to be heard? This is the part that gives me the willies.
What do you think?
And also, if you were to write a book about your life, or summarizing a period of your life like Gilbert did, what three verbs would you use?
Today, mine would be Eat, Cuss, Pray. Or Spin, Shower, Eat.
Click here for an interview Gilbert did about another book with Powell's Books.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Guy who tops leader board has local connection

Trevor Immelman, who leads (so far) after the second round of The Masters, has a brother who's the Columbus State University golf coach.
Read local column here.
Immelman finished early today, so now he gets to sit around and wait while others try to catch him — and while everyone scrambles to make the cut.
He's at -8.
Go to The Masters link here.
And here is a link to a video interview with Immelman after Thursday's round. The text is below in case you miss something.
Happy Friday.

P.S. A nice couple in Spin class Thursday heard our instructor say how much he was looking forward to watching the tournament all weekend on TV. They said to him after class: "We have two tickets for Saturday if you want to go." Spin instructor didn't even blink. Of course! He'll take his son, he said. What a great gift. (At least for rabid golf fans.)
Photo of Immelman taking his second shot on the 9th hole today.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"I'll have the salad"

At the Waffle House?!
While on my lunch break today, I pulled into this little slice of Americana and a woman was eating with her son in the next booth. Son appeared to be a teen-ager and, true to form, ordered a waffle with a side of eggs and bacon. His mom opted for the salad, with low-fat dressing.
Fine if you want to do that, but when I think Waffle House, I normally think "scattered, smothered and covered," not "time to graze."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Green mania

Tomorrow is the first round of The Masters.
Or, as they say it simply in Augusta, "the tuna-mint."
I get nostalgic this time of year, because I lived there (Augusta) for about five years in the 1990s.
You may recall from this blog last year the following story: My dad came over one year to go to a practice round with me. In Kroger one evening, we bumped into Bernhard Langer (PGA player from Germany) and his coach. I'd met him before, having interviewed him, so I re-introduced myself and then to my dad. My father, who is probably the funniest person I know, said dryly: "Do you know where we can find the German potato salad?"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

To recap

Today, a local preacher drunk-dialed me (about mid-day). I am not making this up. He's done this before. I seldom call him back because, well, what would be the point?
Bless his heart.
And two, I saw this great slogan in our downtown bike shop. It's from the makers of Specialized.
Sounds good to me!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bang, Part II

This photo is from a Web site of the manufacturer of the aforementioned chimney. It's in a section warning not to heat the charcoals on concrete.
(I assume the crack in the pavement was there but, like at our house, not the round burned circle pre-explosion.)
Here is a column about it, which Michael wrote for the Tuesday paper.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dinner, with a bang

So last night we grilled out with some friends using Michael's new grill that he got for his birthday. It's not a gas grill (he prefers to use charcoal), and so he heats up the coals initially in this metal device, called a chimney.
Because it was raining, we rolled the grill into the carport instead of the back deck. Michael set the chimney on the concrete next to the grill. We also set up some of those canvas chairs that come in the bags, and three of us were sitting in them as Michael picked up the chimney, to pour the hot coals into the grill.
During this process, it went BOOM! Pieces of charcoal went everywhere. One hit me on the lower part of my neck. Some hit one of the chairs and burned holes in it. The oddest thing of all was an indention in the concrete where the chimney had been heating up.
Can someone out there, such as a chemist, explain this explosion?
We figure the cool air from the pavement interacted fiercely with the heat and combusted, when Michael picked it up off the ground. Normally he heats the chimney in the grill itself but he said something about using the grates for the first time (which he heated in the oven for an hour, coated with Crisco.)
Who knew grilling could be so complicated? And potentially deadly?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Eat your veggies!

Found an interesting recipe for green beans, and we'll try it tonight for company:

1 lb. fresh, crisp green beans
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
One-fourth cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Garlic salt to taste
White pepper

Trim beans. Soak for 2-3 minutes in cold water.
Boil in 4 qts. salted water (1 Tbsp) salt for 6-7 minutes if young and tender (the beans or the cook?, haha); or 10-12 minutes if not. Drain when just tender to the bite.
Put beans and butter in a skillet over medium heat. As butter melts and begins to foam, turn the beans to coat them.
Add cheese, turning beans to coat. Add white pepper and correct seasoning if necessary.
Turn beans once or twice again, transfer to a warm platter and serve at once.
Serves 4-6.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fat, muscle or bone?

Internet, I am going to vent about something near and dear to my heart: the newspaper industry. Depending on whom you ask, we are a) on life support; b) need to be; c) not quite there; or d) going to BOUNCE RIGHT BACK!, as soon as this little recession/housing market thing is over. This vent session comes on the heels of having read this piece in Esquire and this one in the New Yorker within a few days of each other. The first is a first-person account from a former reporter at the Baltimore Sun. The second is more academic about the industry. I pay attention to such matters because our local newspaper is how I make my living, as does my husband.
News of layoffs and cutbacks and other fat-trimming in our industry has been the daily fare for some years now. Massive layoffs at the big dailies like New York and L.A. Paper chains bought and sold (as ours was about two years ago). Top editors quitting, in protest of having to cut news staffs down to the bone.
Adding to the need for surgery: An increasing number of people under the age of 30 get their news from the Internet, via computer or hand-held device, and often tailored to their news taste. People like me, increasingly, are dinosaurs because we start the day at the breakfast table reading the daily paper. I have done this for as long as I can remember.
Also compounding: We in the industry generally have not adapted easily to the times, eg, the Internet. We've been hauty in our belief that people need to read the newspaper "in its traditional form, dammit!" Meanwhile our stocks and revenues are tanking. We journalists bear some responsibility. (Slow though we may be, we are playing fast catch-up locally, at Ledger-Enquirer.com. A shameless plug.)
The writer of the New Yorker article predicts, based on research he uncovered, that the last newspaper in the U.S.--THE VERY LAST--will roll out in the year 2043. But before that, what is the tipping point? What is the point where people (readers) say, "You have cut to the bone and we don't recognize you anymore"?
Internet, what say you?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Or, if you are outside Charleston, S.C.: The Cooper River Bridge Run.
I figured I needed to tell you about this, because in the past two days I happened upon two friends who are running in it. It's this Saturday, in our state to the east.
The 10K race starts in Mount Pleasant and crosses the bridge (the longest single-span bridge in North America) and ends in downtown Charleston. Last year, 38,000 people ran in it. What a great city, and a great time of year, before things get too sweltering.
Best of luck, Mick and Mike! (As well as Mick's son Mike--not the same Mike--and Mike's wife Liz.)

Update on Wal-Mart suit

Update from Saturday blog: Superchain Wal-Mart has dropped its suit against a former employee.
Read the CNN story here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Eat dessert first

The Christian Science Monitor ran this cool story
the other day about a pasty chef in Vermont named Marshall Faye. As the story goes, he revealed to friends as a child that he one day wanted to be a pastry chef. They all laughed, and his high school guidance counselor discouraged it.
But Faye got the last laugh.
Among other things, he bakes linzertortes – his signature creation for the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., where he has been the executive pastry chef for 30 years.
(Incidentally, the Trapp family is the same who escaped the Nazis. Johannes von Trapp and his mother, Maria, who died in 1987, begged Faye to work at the bakery and tearoom of their hotel, near Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak.)

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill