Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chickens don't like ice and why I am scared of lye

Today Seattle reached the hottest day EVER. Not just the hottest June 30th on record, but the hottest day ever in the city of Seattle. I don't think anyone here doubts the reality of global warming-- first the biggest snow storm we've ever seen, followed by the hottest week ever-- weird weather is upon us. I am one of the lucky few in Seattle who has air conditioning-- almost no homes have it because we so seldom need it. The only reason we have a/c is because we upgraded our heating to a heat pump this year for better efficiency, and it comes with a/c.

My poor chickens are so very hot. I have been trying everything I can to keep them cool-- I let them roam the yard even when I'm not home because the coop is hot, and all they do is lay under their favorite shrub and pant. Yesterday I tried making them some slushy ice in the blender. They took a couple sips of the water but didn't like the ice. Today I tried giving them ice water with blueberries floating in it. They just picked some of the blueberries off the top and didn't bother with the water. I came back later to find the ice all melted and the blueberries on the bottom underwater.

Yesterday in 97 degree heat, my friend Allison taught me and a couple other girls to make soap. The process is simple, but scary as it involves mixing lye (a caustic base-- think the hand burning scene in "Fight Club") with water. We did this part of the process outside, but it was still strong enough to burn our lungs and make our eyes water. All of us new to soap making were a little scared of the lye and Allison did most of the pouring and measuring. The rest of the process was simple, as we mixed our melted fats (Crisco, Olive oil and coconut oil) and essential oils with the lye/water mixture and added some herbs for texture. Soap has to cure for a month to make sure all of the lye evaporates, so it will be awhile before I get to try it out.

After the soap making, two of my girlfriends came over for dinner. We made gluten free pasta with basil, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, salad and berry cobbler. It was a really lovely meal and nice to get to spend time with my friends in my air conditioned house (it is getting so I never want to leave the house because it's so miserably hot out there!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mt Rainier adventure

Despite a few communication hiccups today, we had a fantastic trip to Mt. Rainier. We were making up for a trip we tried to take there a couple years ago when the fog was so thick we couldn't see three feet in front of us. Today was a gorgeous, sunny day, rather hot in the mid-nineties. We had made plans to go hiking with my friend Laura and her boyfriend Chris, but somehow had communication errors about where we were meeting, and with no cell service on the mountain, we ended up hiking it separately because we never found each other.

We began the hike on the "Sunrise" side of the trail (Eastside). We had the lovely trail almost to ourselves. We spent about two hours wandering through the blooming wildflowers, which smelled incredible-- the air was permeated with a sweet honeysuckle scent. We hiked down to a glacier-fed lake, through trees and across snow. The only negative to the East side was the prolific mosquitoes, which would swarm if we stopped moving for any length of time (I woke up this morning with 22 mosquito bites!). Marc said they were like tiny personal trainers-- pushing us to keep going to avoid getting bitten. I had meant to bring repellent, but decided at the last minute not to bring it-- decisions made before 6 in the morning are seldom good ones! It was a very romantic hike-- the relative solitude, beautiful scenery and a lovely breeze. After our magical hike, we sat near the visitors center and ate our lunch-- hummus and gluten-free crackers for me, PB&J for Marc, with carrots and cherries shared between us. We next set out to drive to the West side of the mountain, to hike the very popular "Paradise" trail. The main road was closed, and we had to go more than 20 miles out of the way to go around. When we finally arrived at Paradise, it was incredibly crowded-- we were lucky to get a parking space, and the space we did get was about a mile from the trail head.

Paradise was lovely of course, but after our near perfect hike at Sunrise, it seemed contrived. The paths at Paradise are all either paved or gravel, with steps on much of the steep portions and the edges between the paths and the wildflowers are very carefully manicured. This combined with the sheer volume of people there made it feel more like a Swiss Alps theme park to me than a real mountain. Not that some of the hikes there weren't steep or a good workout, but it was annoying having to fight "traffic" going up and down the paths. We did find a less popular and less manicured trail on our way back to the car past some waterfalls which was fabulous-- but much of Paradise seemed very surreal.

We did see a few creatures-- a chipmunk very unafraid of people, and a hoary Marmot that was happy to hold still and pose while I struggled with the camera focus. (We didn't know what it was called at that time and dubbed it a mountain bunny.) I also loved the funny flowers shown in the top picture above-- they looked to me like alpine dandelions, (or alpindelions as we named them-- we like to give names to things.)

We left the house yesterday morning at 6:30am, and returned just before 9pm-- tired, hungry and absolutely filthy (the dust we kicked up stuck to the sunscreen we applied when we got there). It was definitely worth the long drive and tired muscles.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kitchen Sink Smoothie

I was going to take a picture of my smoothie, but they aren't that pretty (red berries + kale = brown smoothie) and my camera batteries were dead.

I really like smoothies in the morning. I got out of the habit because I was trying to use up some detox protein powder and couldn't stand the taste of it anymore, but I made another one today. I am calling it a "kitchen sink" smoothie, because sometimes I put everything but in them. I really do not enjoy swallowing pills, even though I'm a supplement junkie, so I put them in my smoothie. I always notice my skin is extra nice when I do smoothies regularly so I try to keep them in the rotation.

The base is always:

1-1.5 cups non-dairy milk (often Almond or hemp, today I used watered down coconut milk)
1-1.5 cups frozen fruit (bananas help with sweetness, then I always use berries or cherries)
1 big handful of dark leafy greens-- we have kale and collard greens taking over the garden so that's what I used (this practice gets expensive in the winter when greens are $3 a bunch!)
Rice protein-- a couple tablespoons is 20 grams
1 packet of stevia-- it has to be the Sweet Leaf brand-- it's the only one without a weird aftertaste. (I will sometimes use 2 packets if there's no banana and a lot of kale).
1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon of fish oil (i really hate swallowing oil and this almost completely hides it).

Occasionally I'll use a little cocoa or carob in it and I always drink it through a straw-- I don't know why exactly but I suddenly am not in the mood for a smoothie anymore when I realize I'm out of straws.

Then I throw in whatever supplements I'm in the mood for
prebiotics, adaptogens, multi-vitamin, vitamin D, calcium etc. Whenever possible I buy powdered or capsule supplements so they can go in the smoothie more easily-- the down side is I almost never take them when I'm not doing smoothies!

Sometimes this tastes amazing, other times not so delicious, but it always makes me feel good. It also is variable how long it lasts me-- sometimes I don't get hungry again for 5 hours afterward-- other times I'm ravenous in an hour. I'm sure it has to do with the ratio of fat and protein to everything else.

A note about putting greens in a smoothie: I own a vitamix, the best blender in the world. (Acquiring this expensive appliance was not without hardship-- i used to play flute and piccolo and I sold my piccolo two years ago to buy the vitamix-- it was totally worth it). My blender can make greens (and almost anything else) smooth as butter-- when you use greens in a regular blenderv(even a nicer one) there are consequences:

First, always blend in segments-- put the liquid and greens in first and get the greens as blended as possible before adding the other ingredients. Second, if you have a cheap blender, avoid frozen strawberries-- they are much harder than other frozen fruits-- I burned out two kitchen aid blenders before I got my vitamix! Third, there will always be some level of grittiness to a green smoothie made in a regular blender-- there's no getting around it. If you have a vitamix, just throw everything in and blend. I'm sure some of the past tenants we've had in our basement apartment HATED me and my smoothies because sometimes I'd be up blending at 6am (last summer I left for work at 6:30am even on weekends!) and the vitamix is LOUD-- so loud that I wear earplugs when I use it because I read somewhere that it is loud enough to damage your hearing and I use it nearly every day!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Crossfit- week in review- plus, chicken antics

This week I made it to Crossfit every other day-- a first for me. After today's workout I'm exhausted! This week I ran 1.5 miles, did 230 squats (200 of them in one day), 140 situps (110 of those sit ups were today!!) something like 75 pullups, 60 dips and 80 kettlebell swings and 40 handstand pushups (with assistance). No wonder I'm starving all the time! I liked this week because it was a lot of body weight circuits-- next week is more heavy lifting which is not my favorite.

Today I also tried to do a "kipping" pull-up. Basically you put your foot in a large rubber band and swing back and forth allowing momentum, the band, and upper body strength to get you up. I couldn't quite get the hang of it-- I wasn't quite sure if it was a lack of coordination, a lack of strength or both, but I'll keep working at it-- when you watch people do it, it looks easy and fun, but it was actually much harder than I anticipated. Here's a video of what it looks like (minus the assist rubber band thing).

At today's workout there was a woman I haven't seen before who is training for a women's figure competition (this is like body building competitions only without the drugs). Before I learned she was doing this seeing her there made me want to quit crossfit. She has really very sizeable biceps and lats-- not freakishly steroid induced large, but much bigger than I'd ever want to be. Her quads were not small either. In our warm up, we three ladies that showed up for the early class today ran a half mile holding 15 pound medicine balls. We were supposed to run in a line, with the person in the back sprinting to the front each time. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up, seeing as how I can't run a 1/2 mile without the ball and sprints, but Ms. Muscles was complaining and practically walking the whole way. Apparently she is three weeks out from her competition and not really eating carbs, and likely eating no where near enough calories. She was dragging! I've tried that before-- working out a lot and not eating much, and it's a recipe for rebound weight gain. Bodybuilding is a very unhealthy sport in a lot of ways-- nearly starving yourself to get to single digit bodyfat only to regain most of it seems unnecessary and dangerous.

As for my chickens, they are being naughty. Every night they get on top of the chicken coop and then fly into the apple tree and hope we don't notice. First it was just Liz Lemon and Skittles, but tonight Miss Kitty and Muffin were up there too. Olive wisely went to bed in the coop with the little kids. I think they are doing this because they are usually cooped up most of the day and only get a couple hours to free range around the yard in the evening when we are home. They figure if they sleep in the tree they won't be stuck when morning comes. So every night we have to climb the tree to get them down. Last night we got home late from a movie and had to use a flashlight and a ladder. I think it is time to clip their wings so they can't fly, but it seems too mean and I don't want to do it. It doesn't hurt them, but they get so much pleasure out of flying horizontally all over the yard I hate to take that away from them. However, I am worried that eventually they will get tired of the tree and go on an expedition over the fence.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What does it mean to be an athlete?

Some people seem to be born athletes. My husband is this type of person-- he played and excelled at just about every sport. All-star baseball, varsity basketball, soccer, (no football because his mom wouldn't allow it). In law school he once ran a 5K without training in old shoes with a friend who was in the midst of training for a marathon. Marc's feet were a bloody mess but he completed the 5K in a respectable time. He seems to have a base level of fitness that returns to him quickly when he ramps up his exercise. Even when I'm in great shape he seems to be able to out run, out hike and out endure me every time.

Other people, like me, lack that atheleticism gene. I did try-- first soccer for one season when I was seven. Most of the other kids started playing when they were five and I just naturally lack coordination (so much so if my parents could have afforded it my mom would have sent me to an occupational therapist as a small child to help improve my spacial awareness-- it is one of my mom's biggest regrets that she never did). My mom was big on following through on commitments, so I was not allowed to quit soccer until after the season was over but I hated it. Thank goodness I did some ballet as a little girl-- that probably saved me from being a complete klutz. I did basketball for a year around fifth grade. Again, all of the other kids had been playing for several years and again my lack of coordination got the best of me. On top of that, I went through a major growth spurt that year and suffered aching joints. I remember after one game my dad giving me a lecture on being more assertive after I got my ass kicked by some very aggressive 11 year-olds on the court and being upset because I really didn't want to do it. The next year I tried softball-- the first year was fun. My friend's dad was the coach and it was very laid back. We were pretty good but more importantly my friends were on the team and it was fun. My second and last year, my friend's dad wasn't coaching anymore and I ended up on a team of girls that were all star champions and dead set on winning. It was not fun for me-- I wasn't at their skill level and we weren't friends. (I did once make my coach's day by accidentally catching a pop fly in left field that literally landed in my mitt!) I did better with individual sports-- for two years in high school I was on the swim team, which I loved. My friends were on the team, we only really competed against ourselves (I still hated competing in meets, but practice was fun). I would have continued all four years, except I had to choose between doing theater and swimming and chose the former. Sophomore year I ran track to try and stay in shape for swimming. I think I have mentioned that I am not a good runner. Track was brutal-- I hated every practice. I signed up for field events-- long jump and triple jump because there was less running involved. I'm not sure if I even made it the whole season. I also tried club swim team briefly. When the coach assigned me additional strength workouts on top of the three hour a day swims and told me I needed to lose weight (when I was at a perfectly healthy weight-- a good 12 pounds less than I am right now) I quit the team.

A lot of my inability to do these sports revolved around my asthma which seemed to come and go at random. I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma and given an inhaler, which never really helped that much. I wonder now how much better at these endeavors I might have been if I had known about my food allergies 15 years ago. I know now that dairy and gluten cause serious tightening of my airways, and gluten and dairy were all I really ate as a teenager.

I received a lot of concerned comments and emails from my friends about my last post, saying I was being too hard on myself about not keeping up with the hike. It was interesting to me that my chagrin at being unable to keep up was all people read. What I was discovering about myself in that post is that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for-- I couldn't keep up with my endurance trained friends, but I did complete the hike, something I didn't think I could do. I am finding that exercise really is cumulative. At a recent party I was talking with these same girlfriends about push-ups. None of them thought they could do more than one or two full push-ups (without their knees down). Even before cross fit I could do at least 12 or 15 of those. I attribute this strength to weight training since my swim team days-- it hasn't been consistent all of this time, but I think muscle memory is retained longer than we are led to believe.

I have lived my whole life with this self-imposed label as someone who is not athletic that I think ultimately I hold myself back from reaching my potential. I am interested to see how far I can go without the mental constraints that have kept me down my whole life.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Testing limits

This is Marc, me and a dog that made friends with us at Lake Blanca.

This week I learned two things: that I'm even more out of shape than I realized and that I can push myself physically farther than I thought I could (two things that seem at odds, but aren't).

On Thursday I finally buckled down to the dreaded "Eva" crossfit workout. It's supposed to go:
800m run
30 kettlebell swings
30 pullups
and repeat 5 times

My scaled version was
400 m run
20 kettlebell swings
20 jumping pullups

It was tough but I made it through-- I had been dreading the workout for over a week and I knocked it out. It was hard but not horrible. Mainly my problem is a lack of stamina and inefficiency of oxygen flow due to deconditioning (in other words, I get out of breath quickly.)

Today Marc and I went hiking with 6 of my friends from Bastyr. My friend Stacy is a fairly hard-core hiker and I was worried I would not be able to keep up. I did hope that some of the rest of the group might be more on my level-- I was wrong. The hike, to Lake Blanca, up near Mt Baker was nearly 8 miles round trip, and at least 3 of those miles were steep switchbacks up the mountain. Within half a mile I was already too winded to keep up with my friends. (That's not to say that it wasn't a tough workout for everyone, but it was definitely a lot harder for me than for the rest of my friends.) Thank God for Marc, who was my loyal champion, staying back with me and cheering me on as I tried not to die while scaling the steep incline, never complaining no matter how often I had to take a rest. Mercifully my friends went ahead without us as I requested-- I would have been embarrassed to have them watch me huff and wheeze, though I'm sure they would have waited dutifully for me if I had wanted them to. Three- quarters of the way up we encountered some slushy snow-- which was a very welcome relief from the heat (you know you are hot when it feels good to put snow down your shirt!) We finally arrived at gorgeous Lake Blanca, which is fed by a glacier. We sat to eat our lunches and I stupidly ate my entire turkey wrap even though I was too tired to be hungry. We had to go up a particularly steep, nearly vertical half mile from the lake before starting back down the mountain and I started up too soon after eating and nearly lost my lunch. This time my friends waited at the top of the incline and we all started the downhill slope together. Downhill I did much better and kept up easily. We did not need to stop the whole way down, though it was very hard on all of our knees and my feet started to really hurt, we made it down in one piece.

Had Marc not come with us we all would have had a bad day. First of all because he was the only one to check the road conditions before we left and discover that the main road to the hike was closed and how to get there alternately, but second, because I would have been very embarrassed at my slow pace and everyone would have had to wait for me. However, had Marc and I done this hike alone we likely would have not gone the whole way and we would have missed the spectacular view at the end. I found out that even though it was very hard, I AM capable of such a hike and I'm proud of myself for getting through it to the end and back.

I do not want to find myself at this level of unfitness again-- I feel very inspired to push myself into a more consistent and rigorous exercise routine so that I never again have to feel like I'm holding up the parade.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I have a kind of a compulsive personality. It's a good thing I don't particularly enjoy drinking beyond a glass or two of wine and I've never done any kind of recreational drug. I get compulsively into things I enjoy: I check my email over and over, I start cleaning and then everything has to be perfect, I buy a shirt I like and then decide I need three of them etc. One of the most absorbing is when I get into a book-- especially when it is a series. This has happened a few times: first I read all of the Left Behind series in a couple of days. I got into reading Harry Potter right before the fifth book came out and I also read all of those in a few days as well-- I have also re-read the Harry Potter series four or five times. I get so absorbed I really can't do anything else until I finish the whole series. I know this about myself, and so when several of my girlfriends came back from Spring Break having read the Twilight series I knew I couldn't start reading them until the quarter was over. It's a good thing, because I did nothing for the past three days but read those books-- I got completely lost in them. I also am a fast reader, and it is because of this that I can re-read books a couple of times, because I often don't retain the details on the first read through-- I get the gist but I'm so excited to find out what happens that I don't savor the pages. I also have been staying up too late and waking up unrefreshed. I'm trying to stop myself from immediately re-reading all four books.

This applies to other aspects of my life as well-- I struggle with eating mindfully and with being happy with what I have instead of wanting things I don't need. It's a constant battle to try and be in the moment in all aspects of my life, but it's something I'm working on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Crossfit Incapacitation

Yesterday crossfit did me in. The workout was simple, but for an out of shape non-runner like me it was brutal.

As many rounds as you can in 20 min:
Run 400 meters
pull-ups to failure

There were no breaks between sets-- you just go until the man with the stopwatch tells you to stop. Unfortunately my lungs were not capable of taking in enough oxygen to support running that long. By 3/4 of a mile around I was having to stop and catch my breath and then walk the back side of the building (400 m is a loop around the building). I was a little frustrated because my legs are so much more capable than my lungs-- if it weren't for the need for more oxygen than I can take in the running would have been so much easier! I haven't run at all for years due to a knee problem (actually an IT band problem- which is still on the fringes all of the time) but I was never much of a runner before that either. The jumping pullups were an effort due to the lack of oxygen too and I was surprised to wake up with sore arms and shoulders this morning-- I was pretty sure I was giving up due to lack of air and energy rather than muscle failure.

I came home and had a shower and breakfast and then the headache hit. I had a splitting headache and dizziness until 3pm when I finally broke down and took an Aleve, which I hate doing because it's hard on both my stomach and my liver. I spent about 14 hours yesterday lying on the couch nursing my headache and reading (my girlfriends have got me sucked into reading Twilight and it was hard to put down).

Today I'm resting in preparation for what will be an even harder workout tomorrow-- tomorrow is the much dreaded run until you die workout very innocuously named "Eva."
Five rounds for time of:
Run 800 meters
2 Kettlebell swing, 30 reps
30 Pull-up

Given how hard yesterday with running 400 meters repeatedly was, I can't imagine how, um, fun 800 meters will be tomorrow.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cranky Fourth of July

I am not getting enough exercise. I know this because I am incredibly cranky all the time. I went to crossfit on Tuesday, but then was side-lined by a short but intense summer cold of some kind. Marc had been suffering from what he thought was extra-bad allergies for over a week. When I came down with a raging sore throat on Tuesday afternoon I realized it was not allergies but a cold, since I don't have seasonal allergies. My head was stuffy and I was dizzy for three days-- it mostly seems to have passed now. Unfortunately what I'm left with is an attitude problem. I am anxious all of the time-- I think this is partly to do with the fact I have three part-time jobs, all of which are work-from home which means I need to organize my time and I have been feeling behind on projects, and partly because much of the details of the next year, such as where I will live and where and when my rotations will be is still unknown. I am a person who likes to plan-- I get uncomfortable without a planner and a spreadsheet. This doesn't mean I am inflexible-- I changed my major in college 4 times, and each time I had a carefully designed spreadsheet and list of how I was going to meet all of my requirements and finish my degree. My internship does not mesh well with this aspect of my personality, as they seem to withhold information or otherwise are wildly disorganized. Neither bodes well. I need to get back to near daily exercise to burn off some of my anxiety and hopefully help me sleep better at night.

Today for the fourth we stayed close to home and did some chores in the morning, and then spontaneously invited Marc's sister and her husband over for a BBQ. I grilled grass fed beef hot dogs and corn on the cob, and served it with my friend Carol's recipe for cherry relish, guacamole, corn chips and watermelon. It was very delicious but once again my gut reminded me it is not a fan of corn-- I need to test to see if this applies only to processed corn like chips, or also to fresh corn since I had both today.

Afterwards we went to the local Lynnwood fireworks display which is held every year at Lynnwood High School, across the street from Alderwood Mall. There was something ironic about leaning up against the front window of Nordstrom watching the fireworks-- it seemed a truly American holiday, to sit at the mall to celebrate our consumerist nation's birthday. I have never sat so close to the source of fireworks before-- I had to cover my ears it was so loud! Tonight there won't be much sleep for us, since our house is not within the city limits and thus fireworks are allowed. Some of our neighbors set off huge firecrackers that are so loud they shake the house-- every year this goes on until 1 or 2 in the morning-- it's a tradition I could do without!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Inside outside house

We have gotten to a critical phase with the chickens.

The big chickens are nearly full-size and are clucking like real chickens, instead of making baby sounds, which actually made me sad when I realized it because I am going to miss Muffin's funny kazoo sound.

The babies are about six weeks old, and getting bigger all the time, but still definitely mini-sized. One month from now Marc and I are going on vacation for a week-- leaving our "kids" to the care of an elderly neighbor. We want very much for the chickens to all learn to get along and make friends by the time we leave so our neighbor doesn't have to do double the work. When all the chickens are out in the yard ranging free, for the most part the little kids stay far away from the big kids. This is because the big kids chase them and peck at them. Actually, mainly Liz Lemon and Skittles are the aggressors, although Miss Kitty is a little cranky in general. Roxie does not help the situation because she cries and freaks out whenever any of them gets near her, even if they aren't doing anything to her, and then she gets pecked because she's annoying.

As transitional housing, Marc built a cage within the coop for the little kids to play in where they can be near the big kids without getting picked on. This works relatively well, except that it requires us to manually move them at night. The inside of the chicken house also has a fenced off portion so they can sleep near the other chickens, without getting pecked. So every night we scoop up the little kids and put them in their safe corner, and every morning I go out to the coop in my PJs and garden boots and move them into their cage within the cage, which is not easy since the big chickens try to get out when I come in, and the little kids don't really want to be put in the box. Roxie is such a good girl-- all I have to do is put my hand out in front of her feet and she will step up on to my hand and perch there, ready to go with me. Flea knows how to do this, but rarely wants to be picked up and usually I have to chase her.

Last night we had unexpected progress. After the big kids had put themselves to bed (as they do at exactly 8pm every night) we had left the little kids inside the coop but not in their smaller cage. Marc went to go put them to bed and they weren't there. We peered in the windows and the little kids were roosting on the same beam as the big kids! The big kids were all scrunched in tight together so Miss Kitty, who was on the end, wouldn't have to actually touch the little kids, but this was certainly progress. We almost left them there overnight, but watching through the window, Roxie kept getting up and shifting and annoying Miss Kitty who would then peck at her. Roxie then hid her head underneath Flea to hide from Kitty which was so funny we could hardly contain ourselves. We finally decided that no one was going to get any sleep like this and moved the little kids to behind their safe fence, but I am optimistic that in a couple more weeks of this arrangement they might learn to tolerate each other.