Hurrah for the Farmer's Market!

I typically am not shopping’s biggest fan.

The exception is the Farmer’s Market.

The local farmer’s market is right in town on Thursday afternoons, so the kids and I can walk there easily, do some shopping and get the good stuff.

I like local, really fresh food and buy it when I can.  Living, as I do, in Northern New England, I don’t get to enjoy a long growing season.  But the fresh greens are already coming up, and the fresh eggs are marvelous.

I got to try raw milk for the first time today.  It’s good.  Next week when I go to get milk, I’m going to buy some.

I went to get an eye for what’s sold there to plan my shopping around it.  Yeah, the grocery stores where you can get something pretty much year ’round are nice, but it’s more fun and more… “real” feeling to buy it right from a farmer.  I know, technically food’s food.  I don’t even really believe it when they say that local food is more nutritious, though if someone can point me to a study that proves it, I’d be delighted to read it.  But there is something really satisfying about going to an open-air market and buying food from the people that actually grew it.

When I lived in Fredericksburg, I’d walk down to the Farmer’s Market in Hurkamp Park many mornings during the summer.  We’d get most of our produce there from about May until September –fresh snaps and butterbeans, sweet baby watermelons, cantaloupes and strawberries…  I still remember Hanover tomatoes and sorely miss them.

Up here it’s a lot of locally made cheeses, a elk farmer (don’t wince, elk is delicious.  I don’t care how expensive it is, I’m picking up some at least once this summer), local honey, and the really early spring stuff right now.  Strawberries aren’t even in season yet, and I’m already yearning for them.  I’m also looking forward to late summer, as there’s not much that can touch the really good cold-weather squashes.

There’s a lot going on about trying to eat food grown within a hundred miles of your home.  While it’s not really practical for me to do that 100%, I do prefer the local produce when I can get it.  I like buying directly from the farmer and certainly intend to get as much of my produce as is practical locally.  I was internally cussing the fact that we had a fridge full of lettuce, as I wanted to try the fresh greens for sale.

I picked up some eggs (and if you’ve never tried fresh eggs straight from the farmer, give yourself a treat.  They really do have a richer taste), some honey, and a little pot of rosemary so I can have my little herb garden.  I found out herbs grow really well in my jungle room along with the rest of the plants, so I think I’m going to treat myself to a year-round herb garden.

There are also bakers here, and the children tried cannolis.  It’s not something I’d generally think of as a farmer’s market type treat, but the kids sure liked ’em.

My Lunch, Let Me Show You It

This is a picture of a Bento LunchI’ve been doing the No S Diet for a few weeks and wanted something cute for lunch today.

Technically I’m supposed to have three meals a day, and keep portions to whatever will fit on a plate — one plate per meal, no seconds.

You can’t really screw up portion control using a bento, though!

I had onigiri wrapped in nori, tuna salad, apples and carrots. Yummy.

The gym was cool today. There’s this huge bodybuilder type with a friendly face, but otherwise pretty intimidating-looking. He’s a grunter, but I think I’d grunt, too if I were trying to do dumbbell flys with 80 lbs.

When I got in and got started with my deadlifts, he was working with this little old lady (I hate the cliche, but it would have been the first thing that came to mind to anyone who saw her) who had baby blue dumbbells. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t work for the gym. I think he was just helping the woman out to be friendly.

I like seeing stuff like that.


This is gonna talk about body, weight and weight loss issues. Stop reading now if that stuff offends you.

I’m thinking about this because I’m feeling unmotivated to go to the gym. One day, more or less, really doesn’t make a big difference in health or fitness or weight loss. I’m going to do it anyway because I’m interested in keeping my habits strong. It may be a real slacker workout. Who knows. But it’ll be a workout, by damn.

I’m in a funny place body-wise right now. While I am, indeed, trying to take off some excess adipose tissue, I don’t look in the mirror and hate what I see. I look fine. I’m using the clinical term because it’s not too terribly emotionally charged.

I don’t look at my eating habits with any disgust. I’ve switched to doing No S and ya know, it’s a nice, sustainable and sane way to eat. It contains excess, is non-invasive, and I can have treats on weekends if I want them. I’ve been losing about a pound a week, which is about as fast as I care to do so. (Much faster and you’re risking losing muscle. I run my thumb over the calluses on my palms and shudder that the work might be wasted. No thanks).

So where is the funny coming from?

Well, I’m writing a book about getting fit without getting too caught up in the weight loss aspects. I almost feel like I shouldn’t lose weight because of the book. On the one hand, I’m saying, “Look, you can get fit without being focused on getting skinny/thin/whatever.” and on the other? Well, while I’m changing my eating patterns about as moderately as is humanly possible, that change is causing a loss of adipose tissue, and that’s kind of why I chose to do it.

Am I thinking about getting thin when I’m working out? Not at all. If I’m in the weight room, I’m thinking about form. I’m doing the arithmetic twice to make sure I’m lifting the correct amount of weight for my workout. If I’m walking, I’m probably listening to music and thinking about what I’m going to be writing next. In the pool, I’m probably also mentally composing something I’ll be writing — a Misanthrope article, making notes about how the workout is making me feel to talk about motivation to get fit, working out a scene in Stoneflower.

Does, “This will help you lose weight” get me into the gym? No. Not even a little. I have a fair idea of the calories burned by my workouts and they’re not high enough to be a great immediate motivator. (Exercise is important, but it’s not the big calorie burner people think it is). I’m actually feeling unmotivated today. I’m visualizing how much I liked the feeling of accomplishment after a great set of bench presses. I’m running my thumb over the calluses in my hands with a certain measure of pride. I’m thinking about how cool it feels to have Dream Theater’s “Learning to Live” playing on my iPod while I’m doing squats, and the anticipatory rush I feel as I hear the keyboard intro, flip my ponytail over the bar and load the iron on my shoulders. (I have a “weights” playlist and for some reason my iPod will trip to “Learning to Live” when I start my squat set about 80% of the time).

If I feel unmotivated to swim, I visualize the moments where it felt good. I imagine being an Orca, moving sleekly through the water. I think about how I love the blue of the water and the way the light plays off the ripples when I’m doing breaststroke. I think about how the water feels moving past my body. I visualize the stroke technique and the way the stretch and reach feels good when I get the crawl correct. I think about the sense of accomplishment I feel when I haul my exhausted butt out of the water after completing a mile. I think about sensation of my hair coming down with a hot slap on my back when I pull off my cap — and the feeling of pride at how hard I had to work out for my hair to be hot in the cool water.

That is what motivates me on a daily basis, even if I have other long-term effects. The scale? It’s a number. Body shape? I only spend about a few minutes a day in front of a mirror. Doing? Ahhhh, that does feel good.

The No S Diet

The No-S Diet I’m in favor of simple, workable solutions. The No S Diet is exactly that. The basics are simple. You could read the cover of the book and get the whole idea of the diet.

No Sweets.

No Snacks.

No Seconds.

Except (sometimes) on days beginning with S.

That’s it.

Reinhard Engels, librarian-trained computer programmer, came up with the diet as a way to control his own weight issues.  Over a period of time, combined with some other systems he came up with for exercise he lost about forty pounds.

Did he stop doing the diet afterwards?

No! No! No!

And that’s exactly the point.  The No S diet is a long-term solution rather than rather than a short term patch.  You won’t lose ten pounds in two weeks on this.  On the Everyday Systems bulletin board, the successful No Sers are more likely to talk about losing 20lbs in a year than something more dramatic.  There’s even been a “throw away the scale” thread among people who get more focused on scales than good habits.

Not that the more dramatic losses don’t happen, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.  (I also note they tend to be male.  Men lose fat easier, damn them. I used to cuss about it internally when I was a Diet Center counselor).

So?  Friends, I’ve gained that much in a year many, many times.  Yes, I’m awful when it comes to yo-yoing and it’s one of the reasons I like No S.

This ties in to the Kaizen post I made a few days ago.  The constant simple refinement often gets the best and most lasting results.  It’s a non-invasive, sustainable habit — certainly more so than my gym fixation.  You would not believe what I go through to make sure I have the money to keep that up! (I just like lifting heavy stuff and swimming, what can I say?)  No-one has to make special meals for you, and it includes the idea that yes, you’re going to have a treat sometimes.  It just contains the excess.

I’ve actually put the concepts to the test — three single plates of food three times a day.  I don’t stint.  I eat enough to carry me through to the next meal.   And you know what?  When I do a caloric analysis using FitDay, I’m eating about what I need to to lose weight at a gradual pace.   Not only that, you’d be amazed how good food tastes when you’re genuinely hungry.

When you get the book, do pay special attention to his section on snacking.   It’s a real interesting eye-opener.

I will note that Mr. Engels did include exercise in his routine.  He Urban Rangers a whole bunch, and does Shovelglove every N day (Normal day.  Weekdays and non-holidays).  It is the combination of portion control and exercise that worked for him.  I think only one or only the other would not have had nearly the effective results.

"Eat Real Food"

I read an interesting article called Unhappy Meals recently.

Do you eat real food? When is the last time you chopped up a bunch of veggies on a bed of dark greens and sliced some tasty protein source over that (eggs, beans fish, meat)? Little olive oil, some garlic, OM NOM NOM NOM NOM…

Breakfast? Did you eat it? It’s a good time to get some whole grains in.

Now, I eat five small meals a day. It’s what works for me, but I’m not saying everyone has to do this for optimum health. (In fact, I’m quite a fan of the sensibleness of the No S Diet).

So, this is a fairly normal day for me:

Breakfast: Cottage cheese pancakes (1/2 c. cottage cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 c. raw oatmeal. Whizz it in a blender, cook it like a pancake). It’s a good pre-workout meal. Some people mash a banana on it. I could see doing that if you like bananas. I don’t. I actually salt them, rather than add something sweet.

Second Breakfast: Apple, 1T natural peanut butter.

Luncheon: Dark lettuce leaf salad with red peppers, mushrooms, carrots, celery, 1T chopped bacon, 1T olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing and 2 boiled eggs.

Tea: A dip made from 1c cottage cheese mixed with 1/4 c. chopped olives and some soy sauce. 1 whole sliced red pepper as dipping veggie. (Could be anything, but it’s what I had on hand that sounded good. It’d be tasty with almost any veggies).

Dinner: 2c. Homemade chicken soup (chicken carcass soup. Leftover chicken carcass cooked all day with water in a crock pot, take the meat off, toss the bones, then add some carrots, celery, garlic, fresh ginger, and salt) and a small sweet potato with a pat of butter. I could have added some brown rice to the soup, but was craving the sweet potato.

(A large male should probably add “Supper” and eat like a real hobbit. I’m just five two, so five meals is plenty for me).

Yesterday was heavy on the eggs and cottage cheese. Some days it’s tuna — depending on my mood. But the point is that it’s “real” food. Obviously, I don’t exactly believe in going hungry and because I lift, I try to get some protein with every meal. The apple and peanut butter weren’t ideal, but not bad, either. I was having a sweet craving.

My basic nutrition plan is to make sure I eat five small meals a day and have some protein and really complex carbs with either veggies or fruit for each meal. (Breakfast was a fail for this day). My complex carbs tend to be things like oatmeal or brown rice or sweet potatoes. (Nothing wrong with white potatoes in moderation. I just happen to like baked sweet potatoes a lot). <grin> It’s a reasonably easy way to get your “five a day”, if that’s what you’re shooting for nutrition-wise. I also, you notice, do not do as many weight lifters do and use MRP (Meal Replacement products) very often. Oh, sure, I’ll chug a protein drink on days I teach just because it’s not practical to stop the class to sit down to a salad at Second Breakfast. But, I consider that sub-optimum.

I think real food is best. I think it satisfies better than the plethora of low-fat, low-carb “products” out there. I also think starving yourself is unhealthy. I think shopping the outside aisles of the grocery store is a good habit. Obviously I hadda go down the cereal aisle for the oatmeal. But I think that trying to make sure that most of what you eat is stuff that grows, rather than has been processed all to hell is a good idea.

When you want a treat (I have one about once a week), have something “real” again. Go ahead and buy a freshly made doughnut. Have a serving (1/2 c. by the way!) of Ben and Jerry’s. Have the really good chocolate truffle. I had a wonderful cannoli on Sunday as my treat, as well as a glass of wine with dinner and it was delightful! Life’s too short to eat crap food.


Mom and Dad have the kids (and brought my nephews up) this week.

After they picked up the children and we had a bit of a visit, I went grocery shopping. I’m back to low carbing and there wasn’t a veggie in the house. I don’t so much count carbs as just… eat meat and vegetables when I’m trying to clean up my diet. As long as I’m not eating the “products” in favor of say, salad greens and bell peppers, we’re all good.

Found some whole chickens on sale for .79/lb, so snapped them up. simplykimberlysimplykimberly, I know you’re really busy with school and all, but any time you wanna do a video on how to debone a chicken fast, I’m all good with being an eager student.

I also splurged and got some portabella mushrooms caps (I bake them with a slice of tomato, some mozzarella cheese, olive oil, seasoning and salt) an artichoke and some macademia nuts. I’ll keep the last in my purse for when I am teaching so as not to be tempted by the donuts bought for the students.

I was passing through one aisle and saw these vitamin water thingies. A couple was debating the health properties of the various brightly-colored water in plastic bottles.


Now, before you think I am on a high horse here, allow me to point out that I did buy some flavored seltzer water, so I was basically paying for some carbonated water with a little lemon in it. I’m aware of it. I just don’t feel virtuous for buying a health drink.  I bought it for fun and to splurge on something tasty and enjoyable to me.

I mean, you want kool-aid with vitamins in, go for it. It’s probably marginally better than kool-aid alone, but you’re paying a lot for a marginal health benefit that would do you better if you’d eat a bloody apple or a damn carrot.

It’s a goofy peeve, I know. It goes along with the people who say they have to eat unhealthy because they can’t afford to eat healthy. Ummm… chicken… $.79/lb. Better for ya than Ramen. Oh, you don’t want meat? Beans, equally cheap. I can make a kick ass bean soup for about $.50/hearty serving. (Actually for those of you who like to eat low-fat, riverspirit54riverspirit54 has a recipe for an absolutely fantastic chili heavy on the veggies. I’ve never priced it out, but it wouldn’t be expensive at all to make.  It’s very tasty, especially over rice).

I think the thing that bothers me is something of a philosophical thing about food and nourishment.   I find a well-prepared meal, nutritious meal a nurturing thing — whether cooking for myself, or if it’s shared with people.  The dieting philsophy that food shouldn’t be a replacement for love (true enough) should never have been taken to mean that good meals, carefully and lovingly prepared, shouldn’t be expressions of love or nurturing.  When we’re eating badly, we’re probably eating mindlessly.  When we’re eating well, we’re probably giving the food focus and attention.

Being A Foodie (Sorta)

You couldn’t call me a full-blown foodie. I will use the occasional preprocessed ingredient in my cooking. Canned, crushed tomatoes? Bring ’em on. Minced garlic in a jar? In a pinch. (A fresh-chopped clove has a better flavor, though).

I when I travel, I do my very best to try the “local” food. I’ll hold off on trying a dish at all until I can have it where they make it right. I didn’t try clam chowder until I went to Boston, and I’m holding off until I visit New Orleans to try gumbo. I don’t even bother to eat crab cakes up here in New England, preferring to eat them on dockside restaurants on the Chesapeake Bay.

Now, I’ve enjoyed pasta dishes well enough, but the only one I got really excited about was when I was in EPCOT center a couple of decades ago and went to Alfredo’s there. Of course I had the fettuccine Alfredo.

Even though I learned to make a decent Alfredo sauce (cream, garlic, and Parmesan cheese), I was never quite able to get the umph of the dish, and remained an indifferent pasta eater. To me, eating pasta was what you did when you were exhausted and didn’t feel like a creative meal.

A friend of mine gave me one of those hand-cranked pasta makers for my birthday, then taught me how to use it. Ignoring my mother’s rule (never have a new dish or cooking technique when you have guests coming over), I made home-made pasta (with copious help from my friend) and we had fettuccine Alfredo for dinner.

I feel totally in love with homemade pasta that day. Oh sure, it’s delicious — and that’s the point of food.

But it has an added element.

Making homemade pasta is just fun. My friend says that homemade pasta was a treat in her household, and if they’d been good, they’d be allowed to turn the crank on the pasta machine to roll out sheets or to cut the dough. I’ve made it with my kids a few times, too. It’s a fun way to have ’em in the kitchen and have a good time when you’re getting a meal together.

The funny part is that making pasta really isn’t all that hard or time consuming. Now, I’d be unlikely to make it after a long day on my feet, but just for a regular meal? Sure.

Lately I have been keeping boxed noodles in the house, so when my kids want to cook, their basic staple when cooking for themselves is gone. Perhaps I oughta teach ’em how to make it themselves, huh?

Just total randomness

I’m choosing to be a little lazy and swimming later in the morning today, instead of getting my butt in the pool first thing. I had an idea that I wanted to put in some notes on right away. So I did.

I’m kinda stuck for an idea for a Misanthrope column for next week. Honest, it’s no joke trying to find a weekly topic on the theme of “Don’t be a fucking idiot”.

I got a pasta machine for Christmas, and I’ve been using it a lot. I’ve been doing an experiment with whole wheat pasta, and you know? It’s pretty good.

I need to think about sprouting some herbs soon, actually. I prefer fresh herbs in cooking and haven’t had an herb garden of any sort since the summer 2005 (which wound up being my “pesto year” as my basil went out of control). I’ve got dirt. I have a sunny, south-facing window. It’s no trick to get a seed try and germinate a few plants. I’ll even get myself a bukkit, and I’ll have a nice, portable herb garden for my porch this summer.

Has anyone had much success growing fresh herbs indoors? I do have a room where a philodendron, a Boston fern, a Christmas cactus, several spider plants and a calendiva are pretty happy. Would this be a place where herbs would do well? I’ve only ever cultivated them outside and in the summer.

I also want a bukkit for some mint. I’ve been yearning for a good mint julep lately.

Cookin' Cheap

I’ve really become distressed lately at this idea that cooking/eating healthily is expensive.

Let’s give Ramen a score of ~$0.50 a package. (I’ve seen it on sale for less, yes)

For $.50 a serving, I can have (according to this week’s local grocery story circular):

  • Two Apples, or
  • A serving and a half of fresh broccoli or
  • Two servings of rough cut oatmeal or
  • Five ounces of chicken (if I’m willing to cut it up rather than buying pre-cut parts, and that’s gonna keep you full longer than the fucking ramen)
  • Four servings of brown rice or
  • A serving of flavored yogurt or
  • Four ounces of grapes (which is a lot of grapes)

Sorry, I don’t buy that a crap diet is cheaper. I’ll grant that there are plenty of people who don’t understand how to make a menu, or how to use leftovers well, or how to employ home-made soups and a freezer to prevent product waste, or don’t understand how to use fat healthily to promote saiety (read: Olive oil is your friend). But I don’t buy the idea of a crap diet being cheaper.