Thursday, October 21, 2010

shoe romance

You know how I wear these on bike rides?
i gotta get some better shoes

It's because I can't not feel cute; it goes against my nature. These shoes may be ratty as hell, but they're better than my $18 Target no-name sneakers.

I'm usually all for frugality and simple pleasures; but I've also always loved shoes. Red shoes, platforms, clogs, boots, purple shoes, green shoes, heels, ballet flats. I love them. When I take up a new hobby, it's invariably a good excuse to get new footwear.

So when I started cycling, I was counting down the days until I proved to myself I was taking it seriously enough to get cute shoes. And the day has come (what with our Sunday bike rides, the Creeper Trail adventure, and some solo bike rides that I've taken up fearlessly).

So I got these!!!

saucony jazz low pro vegan

I've wanted Saucony originals since I was in college (where all the cool girls were wearing them). That was 10 years ago. And you know what? There's no math behind it, but waiting 10 years to get something I really wanted totally justified me paying full price. Right?

Also ... pink? I'm not normally a pink girl, but I've always been a red shoe girl; this was the closest to red, and I think they may be turning me pink ...

(PS: they're vegan! Bonus.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

links from all over, wherein we read about microwaves, aprons, bread!

Living Without a Microwave (Re-nest). In the world of simplifying, this is in the back of my mind somewhere. I'd say Patrick and I use the microwave most to reheat dishes. What did the author do about that? Just reheat on the stove. I actually prefer that ... our microwave sucks, and there's something about heat directly coming in contact with food that makes it tastier. Imagination? In any case, this is at the bottom of our "simplify" list, but it's good to see someone else having success at it.

Harvest (Kath Eats Real Food). OK, I just discovered Kath, and basically I'm in love. The photography is gorgeous, the food even more beautiful. I especially love her harvest oatmeal buffet, though. The indulgence of a buffet, the whole-grain goodness of oats. Bonus: feels just like fall.

Great whole grain cereal loaf! (The Fresh Loaf). One day — when I'm a grown-up bread-baker — this is the bread I'm going to make sure we always have fresh-made in the house.

Sew Amazing (Sifting Through). My friend Melizza made that apron! And then, I happen to know, pizza dough. It's her direction on bread-making that's gonna get me in the kitchen, kneading. This week. Today? And then I'll have to see about sewing myself an apron ...

My First 10K (Loser for Life). When I read about accomplishments like Marisa's I'm so inspired to keep pushing and setting higher goals for myself. I actually asked Patrick the other day what the best first bike race would be for me to enter, being a newbie. (He said cyclocross, by the way, which would keep me safe from the masses of riders you get in road races [not ready!], and give me time to hone my skills before I tackle the narrow, knobby trails of a mountain bike race.)

Happy reading!

Monday, October 18, 2010

favorite meals: hummus & veg sandwich

The loveliest thing about vegetables is how high you can pile them without overindulging. The other loveliest thing is all that flavor.

it's as delicious as it is pretty

some things i especially love about this meal:
- the crunchiness of the celery or pepper, which gives my tooth something to work against, which somehow makes it eat more like a meal
- the saltiness of the olives
- whole grain goodness. There's something I find almost sweet about whole grain breads, but not sugary sweet ... more like an earthy, nutty sweetness. In any case, it's got complex flavor, and it provides two servings from my daily grains food group. (Note: when I took pictures, we only had whole wheat bread in the house.)

a note on balancing points
I may add a dozen tortilla chips, with Patrick's rendition of my dad's salsa recipe (3 points all-told); an apple for dessert (1 extra point). But there was a day when eating 7 points in one sandwich (stacked with vegetables as it may be) seemed ... like a waste? Like I wasn't getting my money's worth?

This is something I'm trying to get over: the idea that I should eat as much food for as few points as possible. Because I don't know how healthy that attitude is. This sandwich is nutritious, appropriately filling. It may fit conveniently in the palm of my hand, but it's full of color, flavor.

Food satisfaction shouldn't come from hugeness, nor should it come from feats of limitation. This is, I guess, where learning balance is key. Count me as a pupil.

all dem veg, just one sammichbreads
hummus, dollophummus, spread
tomatoes: favorite vegolives: little bites of savory
these red peppers are so deliciously sweetthe feta: just enough cheese!
lookit that mess!tall, tall sandwich

hummus & veg sandwich, 6.5 points
whole grain bread (2 slices, 3 oz), 4 pts
hummus (1 1/2 oz), 1.5 pts
crunchy veg (usually celery or bell pepper) (3 oz), 0 pts
tomato (1 roma, 3 oz), 0 pts
fresh spinach (1 oz), 0 pts
olives (2, each halved), 0 pts
feta (1/2 oz), 1 pts

sunday rides are here to stay

Because I love them. Patrick and I headed out to recreate a ride we did several weeks ago, when I still just had a mountain bike at my disposal. I listed it as one of my Stinger goals when I knew the bike was headed for an overhaul.

I'd originally thought a long ride on a road bike would be harder for me; mostly I was nervous about what seems to be a more unstable posture over the bike ... and those hand positions: so far from my seat! But honestly — and I've said it before — that road position is ultimately more comfortable. And the thin road tires make for a smoother, quicker ride. I find it easier to keep my speed up on Stinger.

ride highlights
apple friggin donutbest coffee in knoxville

Coffee & donuts. By a stroke of good luck, we ran out of coffee beans at home, so just had to stop by Old City Java to get our morning cup. Where we also got an apple spice donut. Fuggedaboutit. Also, a fresh pour of coffee is exactly right before 15 more miles on a bike.

Pedaling along the flats at 14 mph. Half the reason this feels good is I know I didn't have to keep up a good clip but I did anyway; the other half is that I felt like I was in good shape as I was doing it. It's not an incredible speed, but it's faster than I usually rode at zero incline. Progress!

Learning how to shift. I've got some experience on bikes, but I'd never ridden one with shifters affixed to the stem. Changing gears means I have to balance my ride with one hand, find my shifter with the other, and keep pedaling as I shift. I'm new enough that this is still a freaking big deal. It's meant until this ride that I usually spend more time in the wrong gear than I want to, because I've not been comfortable enough to make the change. But by the end of this ride, I was feeling a little expert.

hill of doomRiding down the hill of doom. There's a slope just after one of the left-hand turns. The first time we did this ride, I turned and jumped off of the bike; it was ominous. I knew it was coming this time and I was nervous but determined. So this time: we turned and I immediately put on my brakes, but I stayed on the bike. Accompanied by screaming and expletives. "Mother flipper [actually said it] I feel like I'm on a f-cking rollercoaster holy sh-t!" Patrick, meanwhile? Laughing. Hysterically. So next time my goal: no cursing. Time after that: let off the brakes.

Riding up the hill of doom. Different hill. When we got back to the neighborhood, I deviated from our normal ride home because, see, there's this hill. I felt so good from my other feats that I thought I'd at least give this one hill a go. My little monologue: "doesn't hurt to try; it's OK if I get off my bike; there's only one way to know." I sped through a little downhill that precedes the up, shifted to my lowest gear (!!), then I climbed. And did it. And seriously: huge grin on my face all the way home. I even swayed on my bike.

Friday, October 15, 2010

weekend warrior

Productivity, fueld by coffee (PS: I totally photoshopped myself a clear complexion ... forehead pimple! I almost gave myself more eyebrows, too ... )
OK, OK. So I admitted to falling down a little with the no-tracking thing. That's Step 1.

Step 2 is to get back into warrior stance and do some stuff. Including starting to track food again. Hey, wanna see my spreadsheet? I knew you did! I'll explain how it works in a future writeup.

It's nearly ridiculous how much focus this tracking thing brings to my food decisions.

I recorded my breakfast, and I've already written out my lunch (hummus sandwich with veg and feta). I'll be going out to dinner with Patrick this evening and I know I have 6 points left for the day (plus a few extra weekly points if I want to use them). I'll probably drink a beer (3 points) and have a piece of pizza (5 points).

And you know what? I don't feel deprived. I feel in control and happy to know I'm making good choices.

other plans for the weekend
A nice long walk. I haven't exercised since our long ride along the Creeper Trail. I could go to the gym or get on my bike, but after such a long absence — and being in need of re-centering — a walk is perfect. I love, love, long walks. I like the fresh air and the time to reflect.

Brewer's Jam! Patrick and I are going to help man the homebrew club's booth, and I plan on having fun, drinking beer (counting points, of course), and helping my husband hand out tasters. I also designed the homebrewers' tab cards, which was a super fun good time. Aren't they nice?

Write up the next entry in my tracking tools how-to. I can't just let a series sit unattended! I may even write up the third entry, too. (My first entry in the series, by the way).

23-mile bike ride! It's one of my Stinger goals, to replicate a ride Patrick and I took several weeks ago when I still just had a mountain bike. When I originally set the goal I'd assumed it would be a big deal to ride that far on a road bike, but after our neighborhood tour a few weeks ago, I think it's gonna be pretty comfortable. Still, it's sitting there, unfinished. Oh, and it'd be our Sunday bike ride. Another goal, chipped away!

Here's to getting up and dusting yourself off ...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

why tracking my food is important

Omuhgod I've started this blog entry about five bajillion times. Because it's half reflection, half confession and I don't know which one should come first.

bullet points
- Tracking is important to me because it helps me focus on healthy decision-making.
- I have not tracked for at least a month. Isn't this funny? Because I've just finished part one of four-part series detailing how I built my tracking tools.

This may read very heavy, but I share it with a light heart, and the objectivity of a lab study. These are facts (for myself) I'm laying out. Some of them talk about guilt and shame and the like, but I don't feel guilt or shame for having an area that needs improvement. I think of this as the coach telling me I really need to work on my follow-through, because I keep sending the baseball directly to right field.

what it means & what happens when i don't track
Not tracking my food is something like a harbinger; it's also something like a symptom. Not tracking usually comes as the result of something; but it also results in things. Some background on what tracking does do for me ...

Tracking assigns eating cues. I have never (ever) been someone who eats out of hunger. Left to my own devices, I grab the food that tastes good and that I imagine will make me happy in that moment. It doesn't matter if that moment is 8 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 7 p.m., 11 p.m. When I track my food — within a context of how much is appropriate to eat in a given day — I'm much more aware of how much fuel my body actually needs.

Tracking brings focus. My good habits require attention in a way that my bad habits don't. Tracking food is a ritual I repeat throughout the day, throughout the week. It requires me to stop and think about the food I choose to eat, and to answer for the decisions I make. That attention to cause and effect is enough to help me make good decisions. I feel more power to wait between meals, or to snack smartly.

... then when I'm not tracking ...

I lose focus. When I lose that sense of direction (sometimes for very innocuous things, like happy celebration times), I tend to let my good habits fall aside. I fill in idle moments with a bite of cheese, or a mindless grab at chips. Without innate hunger cues (which I suppose I may never gain), I have no idea if I've eaten too much on any given day (and usually the answer that I conveniently avoid by not tracking is that I have, indeed, eaten too much).

Giving in. ... to the cheese. And bread and butter. Cookie dough. More cheese. Things that don't contribute to my nutritional needs for the day. Indulgences. Every day. Isn't indulgence meant to be occasional? Isn't it meant to be special? I have nothing against the cheese, or bread and butter, or cookie dough. I think they're all a fine part of a healthy diet. But within the context of mindfulness.

I feel I have a terrible secret. Because when I'm not tracking, I give myself a pass to eat whatever I want, whenever. And that feels really good in the moment. And I don't want to give up those moments. So I keep them to myself. And a secret is terrible. Mostly, it reflects shame or a level of self-awareness that I'm not willing to face. This is food for Christ's sake! I should feel empowered enough to admit that I ate that block of cheese, damnit, and I won't let it get in my way of making the right decision next time! But I don't admit it, and keeping it to myself becomes a reason to make the next bad decision.

so, i confessed
Officially, I suppose. And it won't be the last time (it certainly hasn't been the first). But I would like to gain something for next time, maybe cut it off earlier in the pass.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

tiny celebration of old accomplishments

new & old lindsay

Patrick came across this photo on the right from our very first trip on the Creeper Trail (we started in Damascus for that trip, up to White Top, back to Damascus for 28 miles). It also coincides with my very first few weeks on Weight Watchers.

While I'm in the midst of trying to get in serious shape these days, it would do me well to remember how far I've come since I first decided to get my weight under control.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

food philosophy & grocery shopping

veggie samplerdry goods
apples and bananastomatoes
sweet potatoes & squashasparagus

Will you get a load of this?

quick facts
Patrick and I ultimately want to make absolutely everything from scratch. We've worked up to peanut butter, salsa, pesto, most desserts and granola. Things I know I want to add: whole wheat bread, jam, pasta (and when we get fancy: crackers, mustard, marinades & sauces, and basically anything else we put in our bellies). In the meantime, we buy what we don't make, and mostly that's produce, honey, breads, pasta, rice, beans and sauces.

Eventually I want to shift our shopping habits to reflect the season, and to buy local where possible. Currently, we buy almost exclusively at Kroger, Fresh Market (only occasionally, because it's expensive; but it was founded in my hometown, so I must!), and a warehouse chain (which will remain nameless, because we would choose another chain if it were in our area; but we can't, so we've given in to a chain we don't absolutely love). Our shopping habits are about as far from my goal as you can get, and I admit it's mostly a matter of breaking old habits and being lured by the amazing savings of bulk shopping.

filling our pantry
So in our little limbo, straddling an old way (pseudo processed foods; shopping at big-box stores) and the new way (see above), I am happy with how healthfully we eat.

You see, my strategy during my first go at Weight Watchers was to simply get the points values of all the foods I loved and portion them accordingly, sometimes choosing to "save room" for treats by eating less food elsewhere in the day.

Treats included desserts, buttery grilled cheese sandwiches, creamy sauces with my pasta ... you get the picture. And even when I did "save room" for these treats, I had to eat less of them than I wanted, because they were points-rich options. Which made me grumpy. I would look longingly (with my grump face) at Patrick's plate, full of delicious food. He, of course, rode his bike all the time. And can't sit still for more than an hour. He could get away with that plate-full.

I was an unpleasant lady.

Now, though, it's like I discovered that fruits and vegetables are not only delicious, but worthy of being the center of attention. And what that means is that I fill our grocery cart nearly to the brim with fresh spinach, squash, tomatoes, apples, bananas, berries, peppers (to make fresh veggie sandwiches with hummus; a bowl full of oats and fruit for breakfast; big salads; veggie saute mixed with pasta or rice).

I do look forward to the day that I update this entry with photos of all our farmers market goodies, but in the meantime I'm kinda proud of our bounty.

Monday, October 11, 2010

creeper trail, fall 2010

creeper trail panorama

One of my goals, completed! And we had views like this all along the Creeper Trail.

So, how can I sum the whole thing up? Something like this: It was beautiful, difficult, painful, rewarding, long, arduous, fun, body-killing. And I want to do it again.

Patrick's brother, Eric, joined us. We started in Abingdon and the three of us rode the 31.5 miles up to Green Cove Station. Patrick (who is amazing) added an extra 8ish miles to his trip by getting up to White Top Station.

Math: Eric and I clocked 63 miles; Patrick, 70 miles.

CIMG6497creeper trail: boys & bridge

the fun
The first 10 miles or so were beautiful and carefree. Abingdon to Damascus (about 16 miles) is nearly flat. As the first leg of the trip, it's great: constant pedaling but without strain (I'd say I averaged about 13 miles an hour); lots of pasture to ride through; a faint whiff of optimism in everything.

creeper trail: cows!

A few miles before you hit Damascus, the path gets more loose-gravely, which provides just a little resistance. I started slowing down (not too much, but noticeable, probably down to 11 mph).

We took a nice long break in Damascus, where we snacked on peanut butter sandwiches and apples (Patrick has gotten expert at spotting apple trees; he picked us about half a dozen).

From there on, it was a 14-mile climb to Green Cove Station. And this is where I started to work. The first 8 miles or so of this leg of the trip wasn't so so bad; I probably kept it around 10 mph. But then the grade increases ever so slightly, and I could feel myself dragging. If we do this ride again, it's one of the places I want to improve significantly: I slowed to about 9 mph, then 8 mph, then I'd say I hovered around 7 mph until we hit Green Cove.

Awesome Husband Move No. 1: Patrick could tell I was dragging, so he decided we'd celebrate every single mile. We called them out and cheered. It helped, if only to know he was trying to make things easier.

When we got to Green Cove, we bought snacks (trail mix for me), Patrick set out on his extra ride, and I totally napped. On the porch of the station building. I woke up refreshed.

the pain
But wait. Then I got on my bike. And my butt was sore as hell, and my thighs were burning. And I had 31.5 miles ahead.

Some lessons I learned:

1. Your rear end may be sore at first, but if you just get over it and keep going, it's not so bad after a while.

2. Your thighs will not stop hurting, no matter what, so just live with it.

3. Nearly all 14 miles between Green Cove and Damascus is down hill, and it's fun as hell to hit 20 mph around little mountain curves.

4. My husband is the best husband in the world. More on that ...

When we hit Damascus again, I kept riding while Patrick stopped to buy us some Starbucks in a can (Doubleshot: easy and quick). He caught up with me about four five miles down the road (that's awesome husband move no. 2). I was proud that I'd been pedaling that entire distance at about 12 mph average, but after we stopped to take our drink break, I was slow in the saddle.

And that flat ride that was so pleasant as a first leg was painful as a last leg. Patrick helped me to push my speed when I could, he rode slowly when I couldn't push, and (oh did I mention this? there are gates all along this stretch of the trail) he rode ahead to open all the gates for me so I could glide through.

Overall, I probably averaged around 8 mph in the final 10 miles of the ride. I was in serious pain (my seat, but mostly my thighs, which seemed impossibly used up). And by the last seven miles, we were  celebrating every, single, mile.

The last three miles, I set my sights on being in the car, collapsed in the passenger seat. If I thought about what I was doing, it was hard to comprehend that I had what it took to finish.

And awesome husband move no. 3? This is the best one. The last mile, Patrick — who was tired but much more able than I — reached over as he rode alongside me and placed his hand on my back. And he pushed me.

My body and defenses were so warn by the ride that I nearly cried, it was so goddamn sweet. "You love me!" (I totally said that; twice.) And whereas I'd been going about 7 mph at that point, his help got me to 12 mph.

Just knowing he was there to help was a great relief, not to mention how good it felt to go faster, which meant being done faster.

When we got to the car, I did collapse into that passenger seat, and we set out to eat some Pal's (sauceburger, fries, vanilla milkshake).

pal's vanilla shakepal's vanilla shake
pal's friespal's sauce burger

And now? I'm ready to go again.

lessons for future long rides
Drink more water!! My muscles may have been less sore if I'd been more hydrated. To do that, I either need to learn how to balance on my bike as I reach for my water bottle, or be willing to stop more and drink up what I need.

Train on the bike more. I probably would have benefited from more experience on long rides before I set out for a 63-mile stint.

Work on my core. As much as I hate standing on my bike to pedal, it would have been a great help if I'd been in the kind of shape to do it more often throughout the ride (both for climbing and for relief as we neared the end of the ride). I was able to stand a little bit, but with great effort. What will prepare me more for those moments is a stronger core, to help keep me stably in that upright position.

Eric B. gets a special mention for flying down the 31.5 miles from Green Cove to Abingdon in 2 1/2 hours (despite probably being as sore as I was) so he could return his rented bike by 6 p.m. The world should know.

Friday, October 8, 2010

building my tools: step one, gathering data

Note: I spent about a month building food and exercise tracking tools. I could have used prebuilt tools available online (Calorie Count comes to mind), so why do this myself? I love spreadsheets, organizing information and owning the process. I'm writing this brief series to detail how I built these tools for anyone interested in doing something similar. My resources include the USDA's food datasets, dietary guidelines, the University of South Carolina's Compendium of Physical Activities, Excel, Google Docs spreadsheets and a heart rate monitor.

step one: data collection
Food datasets. I wanted to use high-quality, scientific datasets. The USDA seemed a clear choice for nutritional information. They provide downloadable, comprehensive files for use by Excel (my choice) or database software (which I may actually look into for a future project, but that's a whole other series of blog entries).

Here's a snippet ...
usda food dataset, original file

A little overwhelming, no? You'll see later that I filter down the content to make it more useful and useable (I also edit the heights on those rows to build in a little white space and improve readability). If you download this Excel file, you'll find it comes with a documentation PDF. I suggest using it to understand the abbreviations and organization the USDA applies to the dataset.

Food guidelines. We all know about this ... five food groups (updated to the food pyramid a few years ago). But did you know that the USDA publishes a ridiculously thorough handbook for those guidelines? I'm using the tables found in Appendix A: Eating Patterns (numbered pages 51 and 52 of the handbook; if you use Acrobat to navigate, go to pages 62 and 63).

Another snippet ...
usda guidelines

Ultimately, this data feeds my calculations for, say, how many servings of vegetables are in 1 oz. of spinach. Crazy, right? I'll go over that in my equations entry.

MET(s). Also known as metabolic equivalent, or a unit of measure used to help calculate calories burned doing various exercises. The University of South Carolina publishes a Compendium of Physical Activity with MET data for dozens of exercises (including household chores, gardening, etc.).

Snippet ...

This is probably the most unfriendly dataset I worked with. I could only find it in PDF format, and I had to copy and paste the content into a Google spreadsheet. In so doing, though, I chose to only include activities that are relevant to my routine.

I'm also using a heart rate monitor to collect data for additional exercise calculations, but I'll go over that when I discuss my equations.

step one, complete
And on that note, I'm done with data collection. Step two will cover how I filtered this huge mass of data; step three, the equations I use to make the data meaningful; and step four, how I integrated everything into a daily food/exercise tracking tool.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

simplify: a wardrobe of 12 items or less

So, remember how I organized my office to help bring some order to my life? It was great; it's still organized; and I was inspired to let that momentum carry me.

I was also inspired by the Six Items or Less project, which encourages people to see what it would be like to pare down their wardrobes considerably.

reasons the idea appeals to me
1. Simplify. It's a thing I want to do everywhere in my life.

2. Focus. I love clothes (and shoes and scarves), but my dresser tends to look a bit ... war-torn. I interchange going-out clothes and work clothes and lazy-day clothes. No piece of clothing is assigned any particular meaning or purpose, and then I find myself with a huge mass of fabric and colors to sort through as I try to figure out what to wear.

3. Quality and care. That huge mass of fabric? I treat it like a huge mass, like an amorphous heap. In other words, I don't treat it very well, and those clothes I have get to looking worn quickly. The vision I have for my ultimate 12 Items: that it be a collection of carefully crafted, quality pieces of clothing that I'll be able to hold on to and look good in for a decade if I want to. And how much easier would it be to properly care for only 12 items?

so i did it
I dumped all my clothes onto our den floor ...

the mass

... sorted through them, and came up with these piles:

giveawaysbaking clothes
giveaways / baking clothes

exercise clothesloungy clothes
exercise / loungy

and my 12 items
1. gray wrap dress2. pearl cap-sleeve blouse
3. gray pinstripe skirt4. black crew-neck T
5. gray cap-sleeve T6. gray long-sleeve scoop neck T
7. gray tank8. black billowy tunic
9. purple skirt10. black skirt
11. high-waisted jeans12. cowl neck sweater

so many possibilities
My 12: neutral colors, simple cuts, easily accessorized. I'm a scarf and shoe girl. I'm gonna start taking photos of my outfits to see just how versatile 12 items can be.

And then those other piles ... exercise and work clothes are absolutely necessary. And loungy clothes? I wanna make sure my 12 items stay nice, which means not wearing them around the house while I'm cleaning, watching TV, napping, cooking, etc.

next up: phases two & three
two. As I was staring at those exercise and lounge piles I thought I could whittle those down to 12 items or less each, too. But I'll live with my current setup and see which clothes I gravitate to ...

three. And then ... I like the clothes I have in my 12 items, but very few of them are good enough to hang around in my closet for 10 years. As I get in better shape and need to buy smaller clothes, I'll use it as a chance to replace my 12 items, one by one, with higher-quality pieces.

and this relates to food & do how?
Like I said when I reorganized our office, a cluttered space is a cluttered mind is a weak foundation for making good decisions. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the overfilled dresser looming in our bedroom.

I feel like I exacted control over it, and that I've crossed one more thing off my list of things to worry about.

So now I have more energy to worry about tracking my food and exercise ...