Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Running... well, sort of?

I had my second day of "running" today. And by running, I rather mean limping down the street. But Ian comes with me and times and says encouraging things.

On Day #1 (... yesterday) I ran, and walked, and ran, and walked, and then had an asthma attack. Exercise Induced Asthma anyone? This seriously only happens when I run or get into a kick boxing frenzy while doing a Julian Michaels workout. Plus my shoes were terrible (some old cross-trainers?), and my right foot really hurt.

Ian and I stopped at Bivouac and bought me some Vibrams. A note in Vibram Five Fingers: Ian LOVES them. He's been running in his for over a year now, and swears by them. They're excellent quality shoes, and while they may look ridiculous, are supposed to be much better for running.

It meant a more serious commitment to running, or at least extreme walking, but it was a commitment I was willing to make. So, after previewing their choices in my size, so, two options, I came home with these:

Yes, they're BRIGHT PINK and very... loud, shall we say? But I figured if I was going to wear silly-looking toe shoes, it was best to go all out. Plus they breathe better and were a little cheaper (and cuter!) than the other option, a pair of black, high-topish ones available.

I ran for the first time in them this evening. I ran a mile. It may not have been all at once, but I ran at least one mile all together, and walked a bit in-between each running period. Gosh, it's weird to actually take this sort of thing seriously. I've been successful at starting other workout programs, like kickboxing, or yoga, or, yes, aerobics, but every time I've tried to run, I'll make it about 5-10 blocks, feel like I'm going to die, and immediately give up.

This time, I'm taking is ssslllooowww. Which means starting by walking for two-three minutes, running for one-two minutes, keeping my heart rate up and my breathing under control. For some reason running exhausts me so much faster than seemingly every other type of cardio, but I really want to be able to do this with Ian, and... be able to do it at all. So, one week at a time, one day at a time, one small stretch of running at a time! My goal is to be able to run for 30 minutes straight, without needing to stop and walk. Realistically, it's going to take awhile to get there, but that's the goal. So, right now, it means walking more than running, and eventually I will be running more than walking. But I think I can do this.

 - - -

On another note, along with our asian fish (broiled in a black-bean garlic sauce - yum!) and stir-fried green beans for dinner tonight, I threw some chicken breasts on the stove-top to brown, then put them in the crock pot with some onions, cumin, authentic New Mexico chile powder (we literally have a cookie-jar full of this stuff and it's continually growing, god knows why), pepper, and chicken broth. Our nice, big crock pot is in storage right now as our apartment was too small to store it in, so we're stewing up out taco meat for tomorrow's dinner in the famous football crock pot, or... THE PRO POT. This was Ian's and my first purchase together, and, if any of you know us at all, you will understand it was an ironic purchase. It was at Meijer, on clearance; could you say no to that?!?

I thought not.

Anyways, I'm getting hungry just smelling it being all delicious in the other room.

 - - -

My new position is going splendidly so far. My coworkers are great and pretty fun to work with, but all hard workers, I enjoy having my own office with a window and a view, and that I don't have to talk so loudly all day, or really as much at all. I can already feel Stress Ball Rachel melting away into Relaxed Rachel (she is much nicer to be around, has more energy, and doesn't have a constant headache, or at least, that's the hope). I come home happy and carefree. I'm sure this will adjust some when classes start next week, but right now I feel like I could conquer the world. Or at least my block, if Ian came with me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Honey Milk Custard & The Start of a New Week

This recipe should be tried by everyone (except for my mom and other people that don't like honey - shame on you all!). It's my first recipe out of Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts, the recipe that inspired me to purchase the darned cookbook in the first place.

*** Addendum: Mom, even you would like this custard, it's silky and soothe, only about 130 calories a serving if you use skim milk, and doesn't have a strong honey flavor. ***

Honey Milk Custard
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts

3 cups milk
1/2 - 2/3 cup honey (depends on how dark/rich your honey is)
pinch kosher salt
3 eggs + 1 yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla or 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

Bring the milk, cream, honey, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes to reduce the milk and concentrate the flavor. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk to combine.

Preheat the over to 350°F.  Bring a kettle of water to boil for the hot water bath the custard will bake in. Place 6 ramekins in a large baking dish.

Whisk the eggs briskly while slowly adding the milk mixture. Stir in the vanilla. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a spouted measuring cup. Divide the mixture among the ramekins. Place the baking tray in the oven, and pour the just-boiling water into the dish around the ramekins, until it reaches 1″ up their side.

Bake until very nearly set, about 45 minutes. Remove the custards from the hot water bath and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

My custards are cooling as I type. While they don't have the lovely golden hue of the ones pictured in the cookbook itself, I did use my farmers market clover honey. It's not as richly flavored as some of the other honeys, but I added a little extra to compensate. I plan to eat mine tomorrow for breakfast with fresh raspberries.

 - - - -

I start the new counseling position in Ann Arbor tomorrow. I'm nervous. What if clients won't take my advice or help seriously because I'm so young? I know I sound young over the phone, but when you  have a 24 year-old sitting across from trying to empathize about being late on your mortgage payment or losing your job, it's just a whole different thing, isn't it? And what if the other staff don't like me?

Jitters. Things always turn out alright, I just work myself into an unnecessary frazzle because I like to worry about things. George.

On another note, I'm going to try to start a new running program tomorrow. Well, by new running program, I mean a running program other than being forced to run laps in high school, which remains a sensitive topic for all involved. I originally found a running plan in a Mayo Clinic exercise/health book at the library, and although I copied it into my planner, I've both misplaced the written copy and returned the original, so Ian and I have been scrambling around online trying to find the plan, or at least something similar.

The first week has three days of running, and by running, I mean running/jogging for one minute, then walking for two minutes, and alternating these until you reach 30 minutes. I think I can handle that! It also has two days with 30 minute walks (I think I may throw yoga or pilates from Ypsi Studio in here), and two rest days.

We'll see how it goes. I will certainly never be as fast as my handsome husband, but I really would like to be able to enjoy this activity with him. Ian has also offered to do this portion of my workout with me before he goes on what he calls, "his real run." And it's true. But you've got to start somewhere, right?

 - - -

Last but not least, we actually planned a menu this week for the first time since we moved! Huzzah! Here's whats on the list:

   Soy-glazed trout, served with stir-fried tatsoi
   Fennel-leek frittata with goat cheese and black olives, served with oven-roasted beets
   Coconut shrimp with pineapple salsa, served with sauteed green beans
   Carrot ginger soup
   Chicken tacos
   Parmesan barley risotto, served with mashed acorn squash

Nom nom nom!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Good Things

Things I'm enthusiastic about right now:
  • plumcots!
  • fruity iced teas
  • this lovely weather we've had all week on the Eastern side of Michigan
  • Ian's vegetable pate. You don't know love if your husband doesn't make this for you.
  • My new cookbook (see last post)

This week was strange. Starting things off to a not great start, I came down with a whopper of a headache on Sunday night, which prompted much complaining as Ian can attest, and the swallowing of my migraine meds, which of course did little if anything to stop the headache from progressing.

I went into work Monday all spiffed up as I had an interview for the Ann Arbor counseling position. The interview went well, not great, but pretty well. I was told that I would be considered and would hear back by Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, I got up to go to work but was so nauseated and felt so terrible in the shower, I called in sick. How many days this year have I had to do that? Too many. I told my manager I would go the doctor. My primary was on vaca, lucky lady, but I was able to get in the same day to see the physicians assistant. My wonderful, wonderful husband (I just love calling him that) drove with me to the doctor, sat in the waiting room with every sick person in Ann Arbor for an hour and a half, and bought me Chipotle when the whole ordeal had ended. The physicians assistant didn't really seem to think anything was wrong with me - he kept slamming the examination room door around, shined bright lights in my eyes, and told me I didn't look like I was in pain. Thanks dude. He didn't even want to talk about changing my prescription, which doesn't seem to do a lot of anything, but did refer me to a neurologist and gave me a shot in the hindquarters to help with the pain. I don't think I've had a shot there since I was a baby.

I ended up sleeping the rest of the afternoon, much to Ian's relief, I'm sure. He's great, but there is only so much cuddling, encouragement, and head-rubbing one man can give, especially when his schedule is so tight.

On Wednesday morning I met with the head of the department to discuss my impending GA position. She was, I think, horrified to hear that I would be working 20-30 hours in addition to my schoolwork and the 10 hours they are requesting for the GA. I walked home wide-eyed and nervous, head pounding. Am I taking too much on? Will I have time to breathe? Ian had to calm me down (it's been a 'tending' week for him!). Yes, we will be busy, and yes, I will be doing a lot. But I think I can handle it. I hope I can handle it.

When I went into work for my shift, I found out that I was chosen for the job in Ann Arbor! This is really exciting - it means a much shorter commute each week, a less stressful position (working in a call center is only for the brave of heart and the stiff of ear), fewer headaches (the loud conversations, phone voices in my ear, and overhead lighting all make headaches more severe), and... a nice change of pace, I think. I've really missed working in a small office, and while I am sad to say goodbye to my beautiful and fun cube-mates, I really like the small office environment. I start on Monday afternoon, which makes tomorrow morning my last shift at corporate, at least for the foreseeable future.

On Thursday morning Ian and I trekked back into Ann Arbor to visit the neurologist. It was a fast, easy visit compared to trip to the PA. He decided to try to prevent the headaches as a strategy, as treating them isn't going terribly well, probably because I don't get any warning/auras beforehand, which is usually when you are supposed to take migraine meds to ward off the headache, so by the time I realize I have a migraine, it's usually too late to effectively treat it. Huh. Anyways, he gave me the following options: Vitamin B2, Magensium, anti-spasmodic/seizure, anti-depressants (no thank you, I remember how terrible those made me feel back in college!), or blood pressure medication. I'm starting with B2 - seems a little safer, not so troublesome or side-affect heavy? We'll see how it goes.

This current headache is still from Sunday. Yipes. Hopefully this is the last time I'll have a six day headache.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

All Settled In

Well, it's been a three weeks since our move now. Ian and I have been working hard to get settled in and have been slowing exploring Ypsilanti. We spent the first week in our new place vacillating from wild panic at our lack of storage (not even room in our bedroom for a dresser!), and loving the necessity of further downsizing. In the end, I reduced my clothes by half... again, and we found a child-size (literally) dresser in the baby/kids section of Ikea that fits into our narrow bedroom closet. Ian, with a flash of brilliance only somewhat brought on by my dismay of parting with my vast collection of little black dresses, built a second row of hanging space in the closet.

We also purchase a new rolling island and a nice new bookshelf for the living room/kitchen space. We sure have crammed a lot of furniture into this place, but it's very homey, we've been enjoying the necessary 'purging,' and it's been a whole lot of fun nesting and making this our new home. Our new kitchen table and stools arrived today. Ian built them while I cooked dinner.

Part of the project was dealing with all of our PAPER. Apparently, Ian and I love paper more than we love.. other things (?). Stacks of old college notes, psychology and philosophy articles, personality quizzes (sure, I admit this is a phase I went through in high-school and I've sort of hung on to a lot of things), etc. We also dug out THE GRAND RECIPE PROJECT, a binder I started to consolidate our 40+ cooking magazine recipes that were worth keeping. This was started at the beginning of our relationship, and after a brief and enthusiastic burst of activity, was dispersed in depressing piles of recipes, magazines, and piles of copied cooking tips about the Ann Arbor apartment. Now, faced with zero room for extra clutter (new family motto: if it doesn't have a home, it goes!), I was faced with the necessity of finishing my long-abandoned projects.

I am proud to report that as of tonight, I've tumbled through dozens of copies of Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times (rather forgettable, sorry veggie dudes), Bon Apetit, Gourmet, and America's Test Kitchen / Best Recipe magazines and brought together a finished project. It's huge, thick, and organized by a crazed sure-I-can-find-this-again optimist, but it's done and on our shelf with all of our other cookbooks.

Speaking of cookbooks, I saw the most beautiful cookbook in Crazy Wisdom a few nights ago. First, let me defend myself being in Crazy Wisdom, the scary New Age shop of incense hell. We met up with some friends at ABC for a birthday celebration of sorts, and needed to work off the Framboise before trekking home. Crazy Wisdom was the only store that sold books within a 6 block radius that was open, and our defenses were down.

Anyways, we walked in the door and I saw this:

Can we all take a moment to breathe? Seriously. SERIOUSLY.
I'm in love?

I've been told (ahem) that if I still really want this cookbook in... negative three days ago, someone (ahem, again) would buy it for me. Someone who really likes it when his lady surprises him with delicious (cough) fruit desserts.

 - - -

Well, I have one week of work left in my normal, full-time schedule. I'll then have one week working part time before my semester starts at Eastern University. As I've been telling my clients that I'm transitioning into a part time position (so if they call and I'm not there, they don't freak), I've been asked again and again, "What, are you like, having a baby?"

No. I am not pregnant. To you, my clients, who I have a strictly over-the-phone relationship with, and to my anxious cube-mates, whom have seen me put on about 10 pounds since the wedding three months ago. I'm not pregnant, I'm just really lazy and my breasts are overwhelming all on their own (oh, that I could tame the girls!).

Anyways, back to work: I saw a job posting for an Ann Arbor counselor position, working under my old manager - I think he liked me? I wrote him an email, has he thought about a part-time counselor as he already has one full-timer in the office. He wrote back, hadn't considered it but let's interview and chat. Sooo... suddenly I have an interview scheduled for Monday. Me and... ten other candidates. BUT... I have been the performing well in my current position, would be an asset to a manager as a part-time employee doesn't have a benefit package and so is cheaper to employ, I would still be working 20-30 hours weekly, and he's worked with me before and knows I'm consistent and a fast learner. I'm really crossing my fingers for this. It would be awesome to have a shorter commute, more regular hours (what, no late nights?), and be able to do face-to-face counseling instead of over the phone, which can be challenging.

Certainly my current position has benefits as well, in that there is more scheduling flexibility, my current plan only involves driving over 2 days a week (two ten-hour days), and I can wear jeans. I think I'll be happy either way, and my lovely, lovely husband is so terribly flexible and supportive, so we'll make it work, whatever happens.

 - - -

I had mentioned above gaining back almost all the weight I lost before the wedding. Bummer, huh?

So, starting this Monday, some changes:
  1. Really avoiding eating out. Ian and I have been less conscientious than we have been in the past about our eating habits, in that if I'm late coming home from work or we're tired, we're much more likely to drive somewhere and get food instead of making it. Expensive and unhealthy. Also, we have this great farm share right now and haven't been using all of our vegetables and fruits before they had south, a travesty! So, avoiding eating out, unless it's a special occasion. 
  2. Regular exercise. There is a great facility, Ypsi Studio, a few blocks from our apartment. They offer yoga, pilates, zumba, kickboxing, spinning, etc. Their schedules change a bit week to week, but I'm planning to start a few classes when I can. I'm especially excited about the prospect of kickboxing again, love it!
  3. Tracking calories. Super boring, right? But if I don't, I just eat too much, I'm terrible with portion sizes or telling myself no when I want something. Plus, since I'm so short, I'm really only supposed to have 1600-1700 calories daily to maintain current weight, which is hard to stay within if you're not careful.
So there's all of it, having basically to retrain all of the good habits I established in the months before the wedding, and then misplaced on the honeymoon, and never quite picked up again after coming home.

I have to say, I guess I've realized that I was slipping back into old habits after coming back and let it happen. I have a lot of resentment that I really have to work so hard against my body to be in a healthy weight range and to look how I want to. Perhaps a deeper issue that needs be dealt with in all of this? Accepting genetics and that I do have to work harder than some of my friends or co-workers to be in a healthy place.

Well it's almost one in the morning now, and we woke up before 7:00 am today, so time to read and drift off to sleep. (Currently working on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. Good so far!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first I felt a little fluffy choosing this as my audio book for my commute. Although I liked the movie (Julia's portion more than Julie's, it must be admitted), I didn't love the movie, but I'm a sucker for a nice story, a little relationship drama, and food (especially food).

I was pleasantly surprised by Powell's voice and like her much more than the Julie the movie portrayed. While she's quite the drama queen and did have bouts of negativity, I loved her dark sense of humor, and hey, I don't really mind the swears (sorry everyone) and loved her constant jabs at Republicans.

I think what I like BEST about this book is that it portrays Julie's transition from an individual that was coasting in life to a women who is strong and proactive. When we meet Julie, she is reactionary and lets life happen to her - she is a temp, is almost 30 and doesn't feel like she's accomplished anything significant and is unhappy with life. As the story progresses, the Julie and Julia project gradually helps her transition into a more positive force; instead of letting life happen to her, she is making decisions, appreciating her marriage/husband, and has met her goals and feeling great self-worth.

Overall, this is a great summer read - fast and lots of fun.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Bright-Sided

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I usually love Ehrenreich and was thrilled when I spotted "Bright-sided" at the library last week. Maybe I had inappropriate expectations, but I disliked most of her book and I feel her introduction and title were misleading. I had several issues with this book.

For starters, her cynicism regarding others' reactions to breast cancer. While I'm with Ehrenreich and would be angry if this happened to me, not to mention driven crazy by overly-optimistic people, every person has a right to experience illness and trauma in their own way. You do what you need to do to get through the day, and as long as you deal with the fact of the illness, why not re-explore or reinvent your life and attitudes? Yes, it's erroneous to say that being positive will help recovery, but making the best of a bad situation can be emotionally healing. Also, a near-death or a loved one dying often makes an individual reevaluate what they care about in life. I don't think this is a bad thing.

Next, her seemingly unending focus on the positive thinking movement. I feel this could have been reduced to a chapter. Yes, the positive thinking movement is pretty stupid and illogical, and has nothing to do with physics. But tearing apart every single conference and positive thinking icon was tedious and unnecessary.

In this portion of the book, Ehrenreich also attacks using motivational speaking and coaching, and I have to disagree with her. Having grown up in a household where we were taught to set goals and make plans on how to reach them, to "dream big," (although not unrealistically), I find goal-setting a very valuable tool in my financial and mental life, and in my career path. Coaching can be a valuable tool in building a business and sharing ideas with others. This is different from motivational speaking that ignores situation/limitations, realistic goals, and focuses on being able to get anything you want just by wanting it.

All of this said, I really LOVED how Ehrenreich wrapped up "Bright-sided." Her final thoughts on how positive thinking played a significant role in America's mistakes in the Iraq war and the financial meltdown and housing crash in 2008. THIS is what I wish she would've spent more time thinking about and investigating. What can we do to prevent this from happening again? What were the steps that lead to these decisions? How does positive thinking ACTUALLY harm us as Americans (this is really what I thought her book would be about, after reading the title of the book, and all), and what would a healthy dose of realism do to our country and economy?