Sunday, February 28, 2010

Namaste, Kiai!

So, as you may have heard, having workout buddies is the bomb. Beth and Erin and I (all from book group) are training for this triathlon, so we have been meeting up every Sunday morning for our swim. It makes such a difference, having someone count on you to be there. This week, however, Beth and I swam Saturday, and then ran 3 miles. She and Erin wanted to swim this morning, and I wanted to do something new and exciting, so I opted for the exercise classes.

Last Tuesday I took what they called "Body Combat." It's a cardio-kickboxing class, mostly, except the instructors were scaring me. It was all "Take your imaginary assailant and SMASH SMASH SMASH his head on your knee! Now use your elbow to break his nose, BAM BAM BAM!" I mean, I'm all for self-defense, but I think we killed our assailants a number of times. I felt a little bad about it.

So today I took a Body Pump class, which is you, a small pile of different weights and a weight bar, a yoga mat, and a step … thingie. It was fantastic! I'm getting me some Michelle Obama arms now! The nice lady in the front says, now squats, slow squats, fast squats, and hold for 4 counts, etc. And bicep work, 2, 3, 4. And so on. The hour flew by, believe it or not, and I was pretty shot. But I decided to stick around for the next class, which was supposed to be Yoga/Pilates but really was just yoga. I knew it was time to throw in the towel when I started translating all her yoga-speak into the errands I wanted to run after class. She said, "Release your head and let it hang down. Lower your spine into the floor." And I heard, "Release all your cash at Costco. Lower your expectations at Aldi." So I went upstairs and ran a mile instead.

Then I showered and started running my errands. Perhaps you have already noticed where I went wrong. I'll run it by you again. Lifting weights in class for an hour. Then going to Costco. The trip took a lot of internal monologue. Engage the core and pick up the case of beer. And turn and lower, lower, lower. OK, good, 10 pounds of oats. I can … do … this. Ow.

We here at Bluestem encourage you to work out safely.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh, it's the Ennui, is it?

I posted faithfully for over two years before my first big onset of Blog Ennui. I think that's pretty good. Frankly, I also have Work Ennui and Parent Ennui, so if I'm still missing at the end of the week, check behind the garage. I'll probably be facedown in the snow, whimpering quietly about the lack of growing potential in Zone 5.

Damn winter. It'll be the death of us all.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies

At our house, these are called Mama cookies and are a well-received treat. Heh heh. My kids are so snowed. Costco has a new flour they call Ultragrain, which is a whole wheat flour that pretty much resembles white flour in recipes. Try it out.

1.5 sticks butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree (or butternut squash)
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A little fresh ginger, a little ground clove or nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit - apricots are wonderful in this)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or Ultragrain)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla and pumpkin. 3. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, raisins and flour. Stir into pumpkin mixture.
4. Drop cookies by the heaping teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly and bake 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. They remain fairly pale even when baked correctly.
5. Remove from oven and place on cooling racks. Dust with powdered sugar or leave plain.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Warning: geek book talk ahead

It's funny, I used to almost exclusively read fiction. Is it common in middle age to turn to more non-fiction? Maybe during our educational years there are just too many facts and too little immersing oneself in alternate worlds. I have every copy of the Best American Short Stories from 1985 to the present. But more and more I'm enjoying the non-fiction side of this series, such as The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009. This one was fantastic! The 26 selections came from 16 magazines including Harper's, National Geographic, Discover, and New Yorker.

Here's a short description of my favorites.

Andrew Curry - the Stasi, the East German secret police, and how they tried to destroy a staggeringly enormous amount of paper as the Wall was beginning to fall.

Frederick Kaufman - the story of POOP and how it is dealt with daily in New York City. Processing, decontaminating, and profiting from human waste. An amazing story, although I'm sure you wouldn't necessarily agree until you read this. I bet you didn't know that NYC has the world's 4th largest navy. For moving around human waste.

Virginia Morell - Understanding animal intelligence. I always love a good Alex the Parrot story, and this article contains so much more.

David Quammen - All about an infectious cancer in Tasmanian devils. And what it means when a cancer evolves like this.

Oliver Sacks - Covers what Darwin did other than write "Origin of the Species". A great guy, that Darwin.

Mark A. Smith - A beautiful piece on the wonders of little animalcules in pond water as seen under a microscope. My favorite bit is: "When Arcella divides, it first makes a second shell, into which the daughter cell is born. These are single cells making snug little homes for themselves and providing the same for their offspring. I smile at how utterly ingrained and universal these domestic activities turn out to be."

Michael Specter - A thought-provoking article on Tesco's attempt to label all the foods they sell with a carbon label, explaining the carbon footprint to get that food from seed to production to the supermarket shelf. It's a lot more difficult to define than you'd think.