Monthly Archives: October 2010

Safety first

 

Can you smell when it's about to rain? The air is completely different. I can always tell.

 

My darling boyfriend likes to give me grief for my claims that I can smell when it’s going to rain. I really can, I’m not making it up, but he doesn’t always believe me. Actually, come to think of it, he might believe me but just likes to let me think he doesn’t . . .

I digress.

After a very long summer, it seems that the rainy season has finally hit the Bay area. Today’s weather made me so incredibly grateful that I managed to get new tires for my car yesterday — talk about good timing.

I’m looking forward to rainy trail runs — something tells me that as much as I like trail running, I’m going to love it even more when I’m sloshing through puddles, dodging mud and leaping over slick rocks. Okay, that last part is a bit of an exaggeration, but hey, it could happen.

You’ve probably heard it a zillion times, but safety is so important in rainy weather. Walking to the office at my apartment complex in flip flops this afternoon was a bit treacherous — with soft bottoms on the shoes and slick tile on the walkway, I darn near slipped more than a few times. (Note to self: bring this up to the manager — I can’t be the only one experiencing that.)

Here are a few ways I’m trying to stay safe as the rain works its way into my season:

For my car:

– New tires. My old ones were pretty much bald. If you need new tires, now’s about the time to do it — get them on now before the roads start to get really bad. I cannot stress this enough. My tires were causing braking problems — my brakes weren’t slowing the car fast enough at times. I took my car to America’s Tire and I cannot speak highly enough of them. Seriously wonderful — lots of selection in stock, several budget-friendly varieties. Get your tires checked and make sure you have enough traction before you end up in traction.

 

What my old car looked like after my brakes failed. The smashed windshield is from where the airbag deployed -- kicking up a panel that popped the glass.

 

– Brake check. Midas will do a comprehensive brake check – for free. Jump on this. Check your brakes now before you’re more likely to see sudden, weather-related stops on the freeway. The photo to the left was taken two years ago after my car accident. I tried to brake when traffic suddenly stopped on a busy street but my brakes were soft and I skidded into the back of someone’s Honda Accord. Nobody was hurt (shaken up and a little sore, but no injuries), though both of my airbags deployed, leaving me with a small scar from the rugburn I got as the driver’s airbag came out at 120 mph (for serious – airbags come out that fast.) Take my word for it – GET. THE. BRAKES. CHECKED.

– Windshield wipers. When was the last time you replaced their blades? My mom told me to do this at least once a year. I don’t know how true that is (ask a mechanic), but if you’re noticing that they’re not wiping your windshield as clean, it might be time to put a new pair on — they make a world of difference for visibility, which makes a world of difference when you’re talking about not colliding with someone else’s car . . . or just someone else.

While I’m running:

– LED lights. I actually need to get a new one, but be as bright as you can (physically and mentally) when you’re out running. As it’s getting darker earlier, wear bright colors, wear light colors, wear anything you can that’s reflective and get yourself some bright little lights to clip/strap on you so you are as visible as you can be.

– Run facing traffic. Bicycles need to ride with traffic, but smart runners know that if you can’t see a car, it’s just as easy for a car not to see you. Run facing traffic so you have the ability to dodge a rogue minivan if need be — but watch driveways and parking lot exits to your left, they will be turning right to go with traffic. Be vigilant!

How are you staying safe in the rain?

Because every girl needs standards.

 

candy corn

Pretty sure you could power a car with this stuff. Nasty!

 

I have always considered myself an equal-opportunity food taster, which has led to some rather interesting habits and ‘isms’ over the years. My mommy taught me early on that you shouldn’t turn your nose up at something you’ve never tried — an adage I have taken quite seriously throughout my life.

But some things I just cannot palate and there are some things I just cannot do when it comes to eating. I try not to think of myself as a hater, but some things are just not meant to be enjoyed by everyone and a girl’s gotta have her standards.

Recently, Katie asked about her readers’ “food quirks,” citing her aversion to blue M&M’s and her hubby’s affinity for brown bananas as examples. It got my wheels turning and got the coffee pot percolating and as a result, I’m sorry I’m not sorry, but it’s time to do some cathartic confessing.

I truly, deeply, passionately HATE candy corn. And I mean really, really HATE it. I won’t touch it. I can’t explain the aversion — I used to enjoy it quite a bit as a kid. As an adult? Nope, sorry. Just can’t do it. If it were between candy corn and a pile of dirt, I’d choose the dirt. (Now, as Halloween is almost upon us, I should confess that my strategy at work is to keep a large bowl full of candy corn — that way everyone else eats it and I’m not even tempted. Wicked or brilliant? Your call.)

I love the flavor of pears — but I still won’t eat them. It’s a texture thing. Eating pears is like eating syrupy-sweet sand, to me. Gross. One day, I do hope I get over this.

I eat green bananas. Green. Not yellow with freckles, not yellow with green tinges . . . Green. I think I get this from my mom. She only eats green bananas because she says that yellow ones are “just too sweet.” There isn’t a whole lot that I 100% agree with my mom on, but this is one of those things. (Sidenote: My boyfriend told me shortly after we started dating that the fact that I eat green bananas was his favorite thing about me — he loves ’em too. Clearly, a match made in heaven.)

On a similar topic of sugary things I won’t touch: mint chocolate anything. No Andes mints, no mint chip ice cream, no Ghirardelli chocolate squares with a “hint o’ mint.” No . . . freaking . . . way. My boyfriend (who loves candy corn) doesn’t understand. “It’s so good!” he pleas. Don’t get me wrong, I like chocolate. I even like mint. But eating them together is just so wrong — you wouldn’t scarf a bar of chocolate and then go brush your teeth, would you? (Okay, maybe if you were going to the dentist and wanted to pull a fast one, but still . . .) You wouldn’t. Because chocolate is delicious and you should savor the flavor. End of story.

Other foods that induce gagging: Swiss cheese, licorice (both varieties — the black stuff tastes nasty and the red stuff? well, that’s not technically licorice and it tastes like plastic regardless), ham (not that it matters anymore – I’m a vegetarian now), and coleslaw.

But on to the ‘isms’ . . .

I only eat one food on my plate at a time. If I’m eating soup and bread, soup first and then bread. If my plate has three things on it, I eat them one at a time. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t mix-n-match, so to speak. My dad thinks it’s incredibly bizarre — “It all goes in the same place!” he cries. No, no, no. I mean, yes, it does, mixing the foods in my mouth is just beyond weird to me. The textures and tastes melding together . . . I’ll pass. (I was that kid that really enjoyed sectioned lunch trays in school.)

“Hello, my name is Robyn and I’m an ice-a-holic.” Seriously. Love to crunch ice. Believe me, I know it’s bad for my teeth — so don’t even go there. But I just can’t help it. I love the cold and crunchy. I even have a mental list of fast food places with “good ice.” (Seriously. Sonic is best. Trust me on this.)

Any time is a good time for something spicy. If I can put Tapatio or Cholula on it, I probably will. Sometimes I regret this, but those few minutes of, “Oh, God, what was I thinking?!” are quickly quelled by “Oh, God, this tastes SO GOOD!”

I will put black pepper on EVERYTHING. Unless it is meant to be sweet, it gets pepper on it. I almost never salt my food, but I regularly crust different foods with a healthy dose of pepper.

Okay. Shameless lifecasting done with. Something meaty tomorrow.

What about you? What foods top your list of things you just cannot possibly eat? Any strange and fabulously quirky habits about food? Spill it!

Climb on.

 

Don't bother asking me when I'll actually climb outdoors. Most days, I'm still working on getting myself to the gym.

 

I have a gym membership, but I don’t use it as often as I’d like. I seem to have found two great groups to join — a team of climbers who like to climb in the morning and a team that climbs in the evening, but I rarely get to the gym out of total insecurity.

Stupid, I know. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? But when you’re a rookie who pants at the top of a 5.6 (easy-to-medium difficulty) and your climbing buddy for the day is flying up a 5.11 (very hard), you feel a bit like a joke. Or at least, I do.

A couple of years ago, a careless mistake in a climbing gym (my mistake, no less) led to an accident — a 12-foot fall to the ground. I wasn’t properly clipped in and I fell hard. The fall knocked the wind out of me and left me with a couple of ripped fingers (I tried to grab the rope on the way down) and a twisted ankle. But mostly, it just left me shaken up. In a split second, my security was gone.

It’s the kind of thing that you just can’t even believe happened — frustrated with a route I was attempting to master, I unclipped myself to reevaluate my method. I stood back, worked out a new plan, and then went back to climb. I didn’t look. I didn’t see. I didn’t comprehend that my safety was at risk — that I had not properly clipped in and if I fell, nothing would stop me from plummeting to the crash-pad flooring, which is exactly what happened.

I picked myself up off the ground, gingerly put some weight on my hurt ankle to assess how badly I’d messed up and glanced at my fingers whose skin was opened up from the friction of the nylon rope. I caught my breath, got a sip of water and walked into the locker room, where I sat on the bench to process what had just happened.

And then, without even really thinking, I left the gym and I didn’t come back for over a week.

More than anything the experience was humbling — I saw just how quickly, easily my mistakes could take a fun experience and turn it into something that transformed me into a bundle of nerves. But my biggest mistake after the fall wasn’t that I beat myself up mentally (though I’m sure that didn’t help), it was that I didn’t immediately get back on the climbing wall.

When I did, I clipped myself into the auto-belay, took a deep breath and nervously grabbed the handhold. Then another. And another. My feet were probably 3 feet off of the ground — I’ve hopped off of counters higher than that. But I couldn’t shake the need to check my harness every .4 seconds. Clipped in? Good. Grab a hold. Clipped in? Good. Grab the next hold. But as I glanced down, I could actually feel the blood leaving my face. And then I put my foot on one hold lower, another hold lower, until I could step back down onto the ground. I was done after climbing 4 feet.

I tried climbing one more time that summer before deciding that I needed a break. My (relatively) fearless self became paralyzed by nerves and apprehension. Almost two years later, I joined a climbing gym in San Jose (actually, it’s in Sunnyvale, but whatever). I signed up determined to conquer whatever lingering fear was there — I’d been away from it for almost 2 years . . . that’s enough time to suck it up, right?

Well, I’m not there yet. I’m still incredibly nervous when I start climbing over my belay partner’s head. I still check my harness with almost every step up. And I still grip those handholds like my life depended on it — because when you’re climbing a 50-foot wall and you’ve had an accident before, you’re acutely aware that at such a greater height, your life could be dependent upon it (not to sound all dramatic, but it’s pretty true).

But in spite of all of my nerves and apprehension, I still love doing it. It exhilarates me and leaves me so proud of the accomplishment, even if it’s a lower-grade route.

For me, climbing has become more metaphorical than just a fun exercise, which is what it started off as. I started climbing when a dear, sweet friend‘s enthusiasm for the sport sparked a curiosity, an interest and eventually lit a flame for a new hobby I wanted to pursue.

Now, I’m learning how to fall back in love with the sport one foothold at a time as I’m working through releasing the fear and anxiety that come with climbing higher and higher. I guess the moral of the story is “Please don’t ever think you’re infallable . . . because you’re really not” “Always check. Always be careful. They don’t warn you about this stuff for no reason — especially when you’re taking on a hobby where safety truly matters.” (And the secondary moral would be, “Please bear with me — I’m still learning!”)

And I’ll get there — the grace of my climbing buddies and my determination to kick that anxiety to the curb will really help, I’m sure.

(And if you ever see me at the gym, hugs are always appreciated — they’re heart-healthy and have nerve-calming properties.)

Climbing? Climb on.

P.S. On a completely UNrelated topic . . . I came home to find one of my fish eating the other fish. I have a cannabal fish and I do not know how to process this (aside from being a bit grossed/freaked out.)

Procrastinate now!

Notepad

Git'er done!

Or rather, don’t. That’s what they tell you to do, right? Get things done early, before deadline, don’t dilly-dally . . . Blah. Sometimes, it feels good to put something off. Or maybe it just feels good to get it done when you’re finally ready.

I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I try not to be, I do my best to get things done on time, but when I really, really don’t want to do something, I drag my heels a bit. I lollygag, to use my mother’s expression. In college, I occasionally (erm, usually) waited until just a few days (and in all honesty, occasionally just a few hours) before a paper was due to get started on it.

“I write better under pressure!”

I’ll go halfway on that one . . . Most of the essays I wrote were good. Some were excellent and the excellent ones were almost always the ones I started earlier on, but that wasn’t always the case. Not to toot my own horn, but I scored a nearly perfect analytical writing score on my GREs — timed writing. That’s writing under pressure, and apparently I did it well. (Or maybe the grader was drunk.)

I digress . . . (Or maybe I’m just procrastinating on getting to the point?)

Some days, I’m overloaded and filled up with a lack of energy for tasks and chores and things I’d really rather not do in that moment. While I try to suck it up, make like Nike and “just do it,” sometimes it feels so much better to put it off than begrudgingly try to get it done.

But tomorrow I’m tackling the chores that need to get done, that should be taken care of, that haven’t been touched in a while — taking the recycling (my porch looks like a frat party just happened), getting new tires, renewing my lease, taking old clothes to Goodwill.

But as lame as all that sounds, I couldn’t be giddier to finally cross those things off my list.

Kabocha squash and spinach soup

Pulled this recipe from my Whole Foods iPhone app. (If you have an iPhone, I seriously recommend getting this app.) I love squash and when I was at the farmer’s market on Sunday, I saw a beautiful kabocha squash. To my knowledge, I’d never tried it before, so I picked one up — there was bound to be some way to eat it, right? (Plus, Teri recently professed her love for kabocha and made it sound really easy and good. Gotta love some good word of mouth, right?) The fall weather that is slowly, but surely making its presence known in the Bay area added to my enthusiasm for culinary adventure this evening.

Here goes . . .

1 medium kabocha squash, cut into 1″ chunks
2 cups spinach, packed
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic (I used 2 tsp of pre-minced garlic, so I really don’t know how close I got to this estimate)
4 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
shredded mozzarella or crumbled feta to garnish
sour cream

Put broth, squash, onion and garlic into a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Boil until kabocha squash is soft (about 15 minutes). Use a potato masher to mash squash. Add spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve, salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with sour cream and/or feta.

My modifications: I used feta and sour cream, but when I went back for a (smaller) second bowl (hey, it’s 130 cal per serving – ain’t no shame in going back for seconds), I used goat cheese instead of feta. DELISH!

 

Kabocha spinach soup.

 

A casualty of cooking — my poor, broken wine glass. It slipped out of my hand as I was pulling it out of the cabinet and smashed on the granite counter. There was glass EVERYWHERE. That was fun. On the bright side: I couldn’t remember the last time I’d swept my floor and now I can — today. It was also from IKEA — it was cheap.

 

Broken wine glass. (Sad. So very sad.)

 

The recipe made four servings — and I mean HEARTY servings. I put some in a container for tomorrow’s lunch and I STILL had enough to freeze two servings. Wow!

Also on tonight’s agenda:
– a glass of cabernet sauvignon (okay, two)
– pieces of chocolate (72% cacao, baby!)
– curling up with a book, my chocolate and wine in bed
– early bedtime

Do you like squash? What are you cooking lately? Any seasonal foods working their way onto your menu these days?

On my bad days . . .

After a rough day, I like to come home, slip into something comfortable and pour myself a glass of wine. (If I’m celebrating, it’s two, but since we’re talking about bad days, here I’ll get back to the topic at hand . . . )

I cook some dinner, though my hunger level usually dictates what’s being cooked. If I’m not super hungry (stress, surprisingly, doesn’t usually trigger “Oh-man-I’ve-gotta-eat-everything-in-sight”), I’ll linger over something more process oriented. For me, cooking is therapeutic. There’s nothing that makes me feel better than cooking — my shoulders relax, my neck de-tenses and I’m breathing slower, deeper (mostly because my face is hovering over a pot of yummy trying to savor the smells and fragrances of food).

After dinner, I climb into bed, burying myself further and further below my down comforter. (Seriously – if you have never owned a down comforter, you don’t know what you’re missing. I splurged on mine at Target after I graduated college (because I’d always wanted one) and I must confess . . . I will *never* own anything else again.)

My stress is melting away as I wrap my cloud around me and I turn on . . . something ridiculously funny. I hate going to bed upset, which is why my go-to on bad days is something that will lift me out of the funk. Here are some clips from favorite comedians.

Megan Mooney:

Jokes.com
Megan Mooney – Drinking Race
comedians.comedycentral.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:193893
Funny Jokes Funny Videos Daniel Tosh Stand-Up

Eddie Izzard:

Laughter is my ultimate stress relief. I honestly try to laugh every single day.

Five Things That Probably Don’t Make Me a Very Good Wellness Blogger

1. I am dehydrated sometimes.
Okay, a lot of the time . . . I’m honestly working on better hydration — I can feel it when I’m doing right by my body in this department — my skin, hair and energy levels are SO MUCH BETTER.

2. I overdo it with the caffeine.
This makes me very susceptible to energy highs and lows as it’s often coupled with a less-than-optimum amount of sleep (see below). I need at least 7 hours to function like a human. I need more than that to do it without caffeine. Anything less than 7 hours, though, has me pulling into Starbucks on my way to work without fail.

3. I don’t sleep enough.
This is a HUGE stumbling block for me. I have such a hard time not going to bed when I know I need it. I’m up reading, surfing blogs, chatting with Alex on the phone or otherwise procrastinating on actually doing something good for me — sleeping!!! Sleep is so crucial to overall wellness and I know I need to move this up on my priority list.

4. When I overdo it, I overdo it.
When I fall off the proverbial wagon, I fall pretty hard. Saturday night was a spa night with cocktails with one of my best friends. We made something new, something we’ve dubbed a Pineapple Princess (recipe to come, but the gist is pineapple juice + sprite + lotsavodka).  Well, I had a few . . . if we’re loosely defining ‘a few’ as ‘five.’ Not exactly large drinks, but more than any advocate of “moderation” would accept. Whoops.

5. When I’m tired, I wanna sit on my butt.
Sorry I’m not sorry for this, but after a stressful day, I like going for a run. On other more stressful/exhausting/draining days, I like to self-soothe on the couch . . . with reruns of Law & Order: SVU or Without a Trace as I’m sipping a glass of wine and mindlessly surfing the internet.

There you have ’em. My dirty little secrets. I’m hoping these will become less frequently seen habits of mine, but for now, they’re what make me . . . me. They may not make me a good health/wellness blogger, but I’m also a work in progress. After all, I’m well-purposed . . . not well-perfect.