Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Thanksgiving Hangover

While many got boozy and schmoozy with family and friends and those funny relatives that you’re not sure are really family but you’ve been taught to call them Aunt/Uncle/Grammy/Whatever all your life, my family’s Thanksgiving festivities were a bit more low key. Just the four of us, we got busy in the kitchen whippin’ up deliciousness. I am always in charge of the cranberry sauce, and this year, I tried Mama Pea’s recipe — with many praises (this year, I am thankful for Mama Pea and her delightful recipes and stories).

I wouldn’t expect any sort of tryptophan-induced hangover this year (it is my second vegetarian Thanksgiving), but I did anticipate eating a lot . . . Boy, did I eat a lot. But even though I’ve read page after page of magazines/blogs/books/whatever offering up information and advice on how to not stuff myself silly or ruin fitting into anything without an elastic waist, it still happens sometimes. And that’s okay. When it comes to Thanksgiving, Nancy Reagan may have been wrong — you cannot “just say ‘no'” to your mother’s made-from-scratch apple pie.

But you can regroup.

Today, I remedied my stretched out tummy with small portions spread throughout the day. I drank lots of water to undo some of the dehydration of several glasses of wine (and a few beers . . . but who’s counting?) . . . and . . . I went for a run.

It was not a fast run . . . it was not a long run . . . but it was a run. I went for a run. And that’s gotta count for something, right?

More tomorrow, but for now, I’m putting my face in a pie plate . . . Hope everyone had a wonderful Hug-A-Turkey Day!!! May your Thanksgiving holiday be full of family, friends and plenty of vegetarian side dishes. Cheers!

Eggnog French Toast

It’s worth mentioning that the alternate title to this post was “Buy Yourself Stretchy Pants on Black Friday Because We’ve Got a Lot of Holidays to Go.”

California Weather is FINALLY starting to figure out that it’s not time for us to be in swimming pools or cranking the A/C and I am relishing the wet, rainy weather that is creeping in. Using my defogger in the car, seeing frost on the grass outside my apartment, and feeling the sharpness of the air when I’m running . . . Gah! It’s sooooooo wonderful. I love fall and winter the most. But truth be told, winter edges out fall just a bit . . . and that bit has to do with my birthday. (Sorry, Fall, I just wanted to arrive on time.)

The best part, though, might be all of the seasonal goodies. While I don’t partake in the mint-chocolate (gross!), there is one thing I truly, deeply LOVE about the swiftly-coming-upon-us holidays . . .

Eggnog.

Up until I was about 16, I’d never tried eggnog. My parents both hate it, so we never had it in the house. I definitely think it’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it kinds of foods and I simply love it. For someone without much of a sweet tooth, I’m amazed at just how thrilled I get seeing little red and green cartons of deliciousness. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

But I am not always a fan of a one-trick pony and a visit this weekend from my boyfriend prompted some creativity . . . What else could I do with eggnog aside from drinking it?

I stocked up (two cartons — I don’t mess around with eggnog) and thought about the substance itself — eggs, cream/milk, vanilla, cinnamon . . . The ingredients list goes on, but I’ll be darned if the first thought in my head wasn’t, “French toast!” as I whipped around to stare at the woman behind me at Whole Foods, dramatically of course. (She, of course, gave me quite the perplexed look as I stammered about bread and eggnog and tried to explain what I had been thinking but thought I’d actually articulated to her. Smooth, Robyn.)

So while Alex snoozed on Saturday morning, I took to the kitchen, giddy and eager to whip up some culinary magic. (Side note: I seriously wish I could do breakfast like in the movies where the girl has just woken up yet is effortlessly adorable with barely-taussled hair and no makeup. However, in my grubby sweats, my curly, unruly hair and sometimes-failed-makeup-removal, I usually look like Robert Smith upon waking.)

I got my supplies: eggnog, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and maple syrup (not shown, but check out the bar of dark chocolate for cooking-in-progress nibbling).

Necessary supplies: eggs, eggnog, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate. (Okay, the chocolate was for nibbling during the process. Shh!)

I dipped two pieces of crusty, whole wheat bread (possibly the only redeeming ‘healthy’ component) in a mixture of the ‘nog, eggs and spices and then laid them in a pan to fry with butter (because you might as well go all-out at this point).

Using anything other than butter for this would be the breakfast equivalent of the Diet-Coke-with-your-Big-Mac phenomenon.

After they were done, I put on another pat of butter (Paula Deen much?) and some maple syrup and I was done. Seriously, stick a fork in me D-O-N-E.

It was soooooooooooooooooooo good. Alex’s thoughts? “Simple creative deliciousness.” (I bribe him into saying stuff like that with food. Sorry.)

I’ll have to make it again soon because I have some baggy pants to fill and I scarfed it down before I had the chance to take a picture of it.

But seriously . . . Wellness is more than being skinny, it’s more than hours-long workouts, and it has every bit to do with a well-purposed state of mind — the one that thinks, “Hmm, something tasty would be a fun breakfast treat for my hunny” and understands that food is not the enemy and that little indulgences are part of longer-term happiness.

I hear the road to Hell is paved with good intentions . . . 😉

Robyn’s Get-Out-Your-Stretchy-Pants Eggnog French Toast (serves 2)

Ingredients:
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup eggnog (full fat, folks – go big or go home)
– 1 Tbsp nutmeg
– 1 Tbsp cinnamon
– 1 Tbsp vanilla (I’m really not sure why I added this other than it was a Pavlovian response to the French toast process — so, consider this ‘optional’)
– 4 slices of bread
– butter (use about 2 Tbsp to fry the French toast, use however much you want to put on the toast when it’s done)
– maple syrup

1. Break eggs into a bowl and add eggnog, vanilla (if you’re using it), and spices. Whisk until it’s smooth and pour into a baking dish (or some other dish with an edge high enough to keep the fluid in).
2. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a frying pan over medium heat.
3. Dip bread in mixture and set in frying pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes and flip.
4. Serve with butter and maple syrup (the real stuff . . . no fake crap, please).
5. Try to make sure you’re using up the last few slices of a loaf of bread — that way you can’t make it again immediately following the finishing of the meal.

Bon appetit! Time to go waddle to the gym . . .

What are some of your favorite holiday/seasonal treats? Do you repurpose fun things into ingredients for other recipes? What’s your most creative dish?

The baggy

I'm not 135 -- not by a long shot -- but maybe someday I'll be closer to that. I think my happy weight is about 140.

I’m losing weight? I’m LOSING weight?! Whoa!

About a month ago, I started the Eat to Live plan with one of my best friends. The diet part was pretty straightforward — LOADS of vegetables, plenty of fruit, and healthy amounts and sources of protein, with limits on starches and grains and absolutely no meat/dairy. I gotta say, I was pretty stoked — I had energy, felt good, and I never once went hungry. But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve definitely strayed from the designated path — letting some half & half fall into my coffee, occasionally reaching for an Oreo as they’re left out on the counter at work . . . but this morning, my jeans were baggy. Are baggy.

These jeans, purchased just two months ago, fit then without being snug . . . but now? I’m having to hike them up when I stand. When I pull the top away from my hips, I can clearly see my undies. It feels awesome. But I haven’t stepped on a scale in weeks . . . I really have no idea what I’ve lost (if anything, I could be in that gaining muscle stage too) and I’m surprisingly okay with that . . .

I still eat a load of vegetables, take in healthy fats and proteins and I’m going to the gym because I enjoy the activities I’ve been doing (spin, climbing, running, yoga) — not because I feel obligated to do so. I haven’t hit the weights as much (okay, haven’t hit them at all), but if climbing isn’t strength training, I don’t know what is. Maybe I’ll do weights tonight . . . for kicks. 😉

Anyway . . . I feel healthy, I feel good about myself and my body, and it’s starting to show on the outside, too . . . which is really the icing on the cake, right? 🙂

Happy Friday!

Germ warfare

The temperatures in California are FINALLY going down . . . For several weeks, the weather has been playing a bipolar game of Cool, Crisp 50’s and Warm, Sunny 80’s — which is pretty ridiculous given that it’s November. (Folks, nobody should EVER need air conditioning in November.)

But as we’re heading indoors more often and pulling our sweaters and scarves out of the closet, it’s easy to forget that there are some sinister sidewinders waiting to attack at every door handle, gas pump and ATM machine we encounter on our way to the local Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte.

I’m talkin’ about germs, people. In the interest of staying healthy, it’s important not to forget a few, simple things we can do to better arm ourselves against bugs this winter.

It almost looks cool . . . until you think about the hours of daytime television you'll have to endure.

– Hand sanitizer/hand washing. Now is the hour of our discontent, made glorious summer to a host of germs. Okay, Richard III adaptation aside (I majored in English, folks – don’t act so surprised), germs are just as prevalent in the summer as they are in the winter, but we are more susceptible in the winter because we’re indoors. We keep windows closed, we’re all cozy with the heater on. Wash your hands, disinfect surfaces that you frequently touch and keep hand gel around for “just in case.” I always have it in my car — because gas pumps and ATM buttons are germ orgies. Gross. Bath & Body works makes this stuff in at least a dozen different scents and sells them for about a buck a bottle. I try to grab a half dozen or so every time I’m in the store.

– Drink up! When you’re dehydrated, a lot of things don’t work as well as they could — like your immune system. When you’re dehydrated, your blood slows down and lymph fluid (the fluid that carries bacteria to your lymph nodes to be destroyed) thickens, making your immune system sluggish. Keep a bottle of water at your workspace and refill it often. For iPhone users, there’s a nifty little app called 8 a Day where you track your water intake by tapping a glass for each glass you consume. When you open it back up, it shows you how many glasses you have left to drink for the day. Pretty sure this is a free app, so why wait? Bottoms up!

– Get a flu shot. Yes, your arm will be sore and it’s possible you’ll have a day where you’re feeling a bit off after you’ve gotten it, but a flu shots make a difference. There are some who feel that flu shots shouldn’t be necessary — that our bodies fight off the flu and that we’re ultimately making ourselves weaker by not allowing ourselves to fight the virus. I’m not a doctor, but reading that many people die every year from flu complications makes me think that a vaccine certainly couldn’t hurt. A pretty good flu shot FAQ recap can be read here. For more information about seasonal flu, check out what the Center for Disease Control has to say. (In the interest of transparent honesty, though, I feel like I should mention that California state law requires me to get a flu shot as I work for a hospital. I’m happy to comply, knowing that walking in and out of the hospital, touching elevator buttons or door handles on my way to meetings might mean a few days on the couch miserable without a preemptive strike against flu.)

But if all else fails and you find yourself sick, curl up on the couch with a hot toddy and reruns of something awesome. It’s a home remedy guaranteed to work . . . unless you have ebola. Then you’re pretty much hosed. (Sorry.)

Spinning, spinning

Many will play, but she of strong mind and bottom tissue will prevail.

Last week, I took on a bold challenge in fitness: my very first spin class. I left work promptly at 5 and drove down to Planet Granite. My intention was to make it there in time for a 5:45 yoga class, but apparently there are no Monday night 5:45 classes. Not really wanting to wait it out until 7:30, I grabbed a snack and some water and checked out the class schedule — there had to be something else, right?

And there it was: “Cycling — 6:30 — Carole.”

Bingo.

Now, as I’d mentioned, I never tried this. I knew it would be hard, I knew it would probably hurt the next day, but what the hell. At the beginning of class, Carole got us warmed up and worked her way around the room to check out the bike set-up for any newbies (yours truly). I’d set mine up almost perfectly without any assistance, so you can imagine that after giving myself some mental kudos, something pretty humbling would have to occur next — because, of course, when I get those little ego boosts, inevitably something ridiculous has to happen. It’s like gravity.

Well, having gone to the gym with the explicit intention of doing yoga, I hardly came prepared with the appropriate footwear. Most of the people in the class donned snazzy looking spin shoes, but of course, I was left with the Sophie’s choice of this-is-not-a-smart-idea-Robyn-Elizabeth footwear: rock climbing shoes or my Vibram Five Fingers (another post for another day — I have drank the barefoot running Kool-Aid).

I opted for the Five Fingers.

Are you wincing?? (Rachel, did you just slap your forehead? I know. I. KNOW.) Yes, I often have to learn lessons the hard way — like “Why You Should Always Wear Stiff-soled Shoes to Spin Class.” Carole advised me not to wear those shoes again and to be very careful if I wanted to spin. Since she wasn’t outright kicking me out, I happily nodded and pedaled on. (Seriously, this is where the ominous music starts playing…)

And then the class really got going. We did jumps, we did hills, we spun fast, we spun slow, we cranked the resistance (whimper!), and we let up the resistance (aaahhh!) until an hour later, our class was just one big hot mess. I never knew my own body contained that much fluid to sweat, but apparently it did. The guy next to me had his own puddle under his bike. (Yeah, gross, but impressive!)

After the class, my knees really did not like me. They were angry with the workout (undoubtedly, their rage was misdirected — the shoes were the culprit). My butt REALLY, REALLY did not like me. (When was the last time I’d ever been on a bike? Ouch.) I’d found myself doing more jumps in class just to get my derriere off of the saddle. I wonder if Carole thought I was pushing myself. I just thought I needed to keep my butt bones from boring through what I assumed would be adequate padding…

Aside from being sore for a few days (the good kind of sore, mostly), I really liked the class — so much so I did it again tonight… with better footwear. I’m still trying to decide if it’s my good fortune or not to have decided to try spinning when the instructor is in the middle of her “Extreme November!” challenge — this week’s theme was “Extreme Strength!” — Oh. Goodness.

But in the words of our out-going Governator, “I’ll be back.”

Have you ever tried spinning? What was your first time like?

On Hairdo’s and Spider-Slaying

Two weeks ago, I decided I needed a change — something fresh and new. Usually when this feeling starts, I get itchy and antsy to do something to my hair. The justification is always that it grows back or could be dyed over. So I called a new salon that I’d seen amazing reviews of on Yelp and made an appointment for Friday night.

Armed with photos of adorable short and shaggy cuts and the color I wanted, I showed up after work that Friday, sat in chair and in a few hours, my new stylist took my long, curly brown locks from this:

The designated 'before' photo.

To this:

After!

I was overjoyed — despite the fact that my hair was a bit, erm, ‘fluffy’ from all the washing in the appointment, I was still very pleased with the cut and the color. (I’ll also try to get another ‘after’ picture — this one seems like it’s even shorter than it is, but it is short.) I haven’t had hair this short since I was a kid . . . when it was growing out from nothing, so that was a pretty big change, but so far, I’m in love with it — it’s easy to style, I don’t wash it every day, and I’ve developed an intense love affair with dry shampoo.

Unfortunately, my joy soon turned to terror when I arrived home, and discovered an intruder was there. A giant, hairy, icky intruder perched on my wall.

Heart attack-inducing.

I spotted him on my living room wall from in my kitchen. I moved closer, inching little by little to assess what I had been asking, “OH MY GOD! WHAT IS THAT?!” to no one, of course, because I live by myself. Realizing that not only would nobody answer me, there would be no one to rescue me either — and that’s when horror began to sink in . . .

I stepped back and assessed the situation — that was a big effing spider. So big, in fact, I could see its EYES!!! I could see HAIR!!!! HAIR people!!!!! Knowing it was me against the beast, I knew I would have to find some way to document the size of this giant, obviously man-eating spider in case he got the better of me and all that anyone would find left of me was the tiny, prickly little just-cut hairs that were still sloughing off or the photo on my phone.

So I grabbed my wallet, whipped out my AAA card, took some tape from the kitchen and slowly moved closer to the leering, manacing spider so I could do this:

Yes, I am aware the size-comparison photos of a spider makes me a pretty big nerd.

Huge, right?? It dawned on me that I didn’t have any bug spray or even napalm with which to fight the beast. Thinking quickly, I knew it would try to run . . . and I knew I would have to freeze it in its tracks. I flung the doors of the bathroom cabinet open and scanned its contents — Hairspray? Maybe. Victoria’s Secret Divine perfume? No. Scrubbing Bubbles foaming bathroom cleaner? Ding, ding! We have a winner!

Armed with the Bubbles, their cartoon mascots smiling up at me confidantly, I tiptoed back into my living room. The spider still hadn’t moved. “Maybe it’s dead?” I thought. No, I’m never that lucky. I climbed up on the couch, aimed my spray and quickly sprayed the bug with a healthy dose of Fresh Scent foam. To my everlasting horror, it moved . . . and worse still, it fell. Down the wall, onto the carpet next to my couch, where it began to move towards the back of the couch. I screamed and aimed and fired again onto the carpet to no avail.

IT WAS STILL TRYING TO RUN AWAY! The beast scurried to the back wall, and over, hiding itself behind my couch. With a superhuman strength I didn’t know I had, I grabbed the couch, flung it out and jumped around it to have one more go with the Bubbles that were doing minimal damage. It was coming down to the wire . . . And it was me, or the spider.

At the end of my couch, I keep my resistance bands (innocent bystanders in this foam spraying). But I also have a couple of handweights and an 8-lb. medicine ball. As I watched the spider struggle through the foam, reaching it’s creepy hairy legs through to crawl its way out as if it were in some war movie, I knew this was my last chance. Who knew how resilient this thing would be?

I knew what I had to do.

I picked up the medicine ball, hoisted it over my head, and with the same adrenaline-fueled strength that helped me fling my heavy couch, I hurled the ball at the spider. It was David versus Goliath, folks, but at last, the spider had stopped moving.

Even in death, the spider still scaled nearly matchbook size.

The spider was not squished by the medicine ball, which of course, is freaky. My boyfriend came to visit that night, and his remarks about the spider — which of course I’d scootched into a tightly-lidded jar to show him as evidence of my Spider Slayer status — were this:

“Wow, honey. I really wish I’d been there to see this. It has ‘YouTube’ written all over it.”

Thank you, Alex. Thank you.

For the record, before this event, I was never really afraid of spiders. I kinda thought they were cool. But getting up close and personal with the largest spider I have ever seen that wasn’t behind glass? Not okay. And I will never, ever, EVER tease any of my friends about their spider fears again. (Because clearly, what goes around, comes around.)

In case you are wondering, and if you are NOT skeeved out by articles and photos of creepy, crawly things, some Google detective work showed me that this was the culprit.

Are you afraid of spiders? Do they give you the heebie-jeebies?

The Morning Person Experiment

alarm clock

My alarm clock doesn't look like this -- it looks like an iPhone. But have you ever woken up to one of these? Frightening.

Good morning!! I promise, I haven’t been *completely* absent — last week, I posted about a diet/health book I’m test-driving with my best friend only to find WordPress had cut off half of my text. (Seriously? What gives?) Anyway, I didn’t have time at the time fix it, so closed my laptop and vowed to do it tomorrow . . . except tomorrow kept getting pushed back.

But here I am, already jumpstarting November’s experiment — being a morning person. Yesterday, without rhyme or reason, I got up around 5 am. I wasn’t “up” up, but the alarm went off at 5:05, and without fail, I flipped on my bedside lamp, rolled over and dozed for another ten minutes, when I got up and turned on the tea kettle to boil water for coffee (I use a French press), and then snuggled in bed for a few minutes more until the water was ready — hey, it was Monday.

I’ve never really been a ‘morning person,’ someone who rises before dawn and manages to accomplish half of their day’s to-do list before they even hit work or something else like that. I’m usually in bed until 7, when I finally decide that I *have* to get up because I *have* to go to work (a girl’s gotta pay bills, people… plus I really like my job — that helps).  I stumble about my day, caffeinating as necessary and find that when I get home, I have little energy to work out so I cook some dinner, work out a bit if I can muster it and collapse in bed later.

Yesterday, I took my new-found early riser status slowly — making coffee and toast, fixin’ my hair (oh yeah! I gotta post pics soon — I got it cut… reeeeeally cut), and ticking things off of my morning routine.

This morning, the alarm went off at 5:05, I snoozed for 1o minutes with the lights on and got up to make coffee. This is the part where I feel like my body’s been snatched — I put on a Core Fusion DVD. And then I did it — just a couple of segments (start small, Robyn, start small).

I am so confused. Who is this person inside me??? Why is she waking up so damn early? There’s something seriously the matter… isn’t there?

Obviously, the rest of the week hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll keep you posted. Last night, I was surprisingly defensive of my sleep — on the phone, I told Alex I’d catch him tomorrow right at 10 pm. Tonight, the goal is to be asleep by 9:30 — which will require some more complex maneuvering as I’m planning on taking a yoga class that goes from 7:30 to 9:00ish (they usually end a few minutes late).

For now, though, I think I’ll finish my coffee.

Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you have a hard time getting out of bed first thing in the morning? Do you work out in the morning?