Favorite Songs of 2012

My favorite 10 songs for 2012 may closely correspond to the only songs I know from 2012. I admit I've been kind of out of it culturally this year due to not being on the radio and working more hours, and other stuff. Anyway, thanks G for asking the question about 2012 and forcing me to actually make this list!

Sheila: Memory Tapes

Here's what I like about Memory Tapes—he uses all the buttons. First it's the Space Pad, then some kinda galloping bass that dreams of Joy Division, then the angelic choir... and that's just in minute one. Many more noises come along, and I love all of them, mostly because I love Tomita, and therefore love anything by Memory Tapes. Grace/Confusion out on Car Park Records.

Memory Tapes - Sheila by Carpark Records



That's What's Up: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

Everybody loves them, right? Because of "Home" a few years ago. That NPR-friendly boy-girl affirmation was such a great song--"Home is wherever I am with you." Yes! I like this new song because it reminds me of Home.

   That's What's Up by Edward Sharpe Mag Zeros


The Theory of Relativity: Stars

Such a serious intro, Stars! As much as I want to think you're not still bringing it after a dozen years of loving you (witness my problems with U2 and REM), you ARE bringing it. Thank you my fellow Canadians.

   The Theory of Relativity by Stars


Genesis: Grimes

Montreal brilliant songstress/synth lady strikes again with her third album. Why have I not heard of her before this? Even New York Magazine name-checked Grimes in Nitsuh Abebe's year-end wrap-up. Good Canadian stuff.

   Grimes - Genesis by The Vinyl District


Faster Horses: MNDR

MNDR sounds like Goldfrapp, which is good. She/they also sounds like Mark Ronson's Bang Bang Bang, and that's good. I think I might like MNDR a little bit extra because she/they have a good social media campaign and bug me just enough via email for me to pay attention. Voila!

MNDR - Faster Horses (GRVRBBRS Remix) by GRVRBBRS


All I Heard: Mitzi

Just last night my beloved was telling me about the idea of a lost decade that occurred between 1979 and 1980, and how we may be getting messages and artifacts from that never-lived era. I would submit this song by Mitzi, label-mates of Cut Copy (and fellow Australians) as proof. This song is a wonderful fry-up of disco and 80s sounds and hidden what-all.

Mitzi - All I Heard by future classic



Only in My Dreams: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

How does Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti keep turning out these totally retro and charming songs? (And how do they make me keep typing out "Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti"?) This song makes me feel like I'm at a sock hop or something. I'm sure I'm getting my era wrong, but if there's a song this year that Mr. Buddy Love might like, I bet it's this one.



The Guillotine: The Coup

"We got the guillotine! We got the guillotine, you better run!" In the video The Coup are dressed up like Wizard of Oz characters, so presumably this song has something to do with the fakey over-industrialized establishment. That's right, right?



Ruin: Cat Power

Two things about this song. One is that it reminds me of her songs from 1998's Moon Pix, and I've been missing that sound with all the sparkle and Lagerfeld she's been up to since then. The other thing is that I'm fascinated by the simple lolloping piano subject of this song. It sounds easy, but it's syncopated and skips around measures and the effect is stirring and propulsive. Nice.

Cat Power - Ruin by artsandcraftsmx



Gangnam Style: Psy

Because of course.

30 Paleo Ideas for Your Whole30

Around this time, people are gearing up for January resolutions, cleanses, detox programs, and perhaps the Whole30. If you're looking for Whole30 resources, their website has a bunch planned for January 2013. I thought it might also be helpful to list some of the dishes and meals that got me through the Whole30 30-day plan back in September. I've had some trouble posting photos, so instead here's a slideshow--30 ideas! Let me know in the comments if you're curious about ingredients and I'll try to remember.

I also have a Pinterest board of Paleo ideas, some of which aren't Whole30 compliant but may be inspiring.

Holiday Breakfast Strata

I probably first heard of "breakfast strata" about 10 years ago when a sophisticated family friend served it for brunch. As a geographer's daughter well-aware of the study of stratigraphy, a layered breakfast of eggs and bread and whatever else sounded exactly right.

For the past few years I've been making a breakfast strata on Christmas Eve to heat & eat on Christmas morning. So far I haven't been following a firm recipe, but I'm ready to commit this year. They're always a hit!

  • 1/2 pound (or more) of breakfast sausage (I use our co-op's sausage which isn't in casings)
  • about 8 slices of your favorite crusty bread (whole wheat or white)
  • 8 ounces grated fontina cheese (or more)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • salt & pepper (used an herbed or garlic salt if you like)

  1. Fry up sausage and make sure it's in little bits. (If you're using links, I guess you should cut them up at some point)
  2. Place half the bread in the bottom of a glass baking dish--I used an 8 x 11.5 dish. Just use enough pieces to make a fairly covered layer. A few gaps are OK.
  3. Sprinkle one-third to one-half of the cooked sausage, and the same fraction of grated cheese over the bread.
  4. Repeat with more bread to make another layer, then the rest of the sausage and the rest of the cheese.
  5. Beat the eggs with a fork and then add milk, scallions, and salt & pepper. Whisk all together.
  6. Pour the egg-milk mixture over the ingredients in the dish. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  7. In the morning, preheat oven to 350˚. Remove covering from strata and bake about 30-35 minutes (you should see bubbling in the bottom through the glass dish).
  8. Let cool slightly before serving. You can also hold it in the oven (with heat turned off) for up to an hour if you are expecting guests soon.
This was really yummy! The point of the crusty bread is not so much the crust but the nice yeasty loft and open structure you get from a bakery bread--unlike a loaf of sandwich bread that is thick and would probably turn out pudding-y.

Happy Christmas to all! Do you have an easy go-to breakfast for Christmas morning? When I was a kid it was often Sara Lee coffee cake. Mmmm.

Global Positioning System on the run

Garmin Forerunner 410

So I bought this fancy GPS watch from Amazon during an after-Thanksgiving sale (see Dec 1 post). I've been trying it out on some of my favorite running routes, particularly a 3.39 mile run that I like to do at least once a week. (Only since getting this watch do I know that it is 3.39 miles exactly! Though sometimes 3.38 for some reason.) I wanted to report back on how the watch works... which is very well so far!

I've been uploading my runs to the Garmin site, and it lets me do all kinds of analytics (that I don't need, but it's fun to find out). I can even see my run "play back," showing the changes in elevation and pace and even heartbeat throughout the run.

Here's a comparison of the last 3 times I ran my favorite 3.39 miler. The results on the left are from today (12/23/12), in the middle are 12/11/12, and on the right are 12/7/12.

Clearly I have a lot of room for improvement. If you'll notice, my time got faster by about a minute with each run. That's pretty significant, and I read it as my being lazy before now because I didn't really know exactly how much I could push it. Now I'm faster because I'm running against the watch rather than just running whatever way feels right. Is that an improvement? I don't know if faster is better or more healthy. But it sure is faster. So the Garmin is working in that sense. I'm learning what a 7:XX mile feels like as opposed to an 8:XX mile, and learning that it's not SO hard to make the 7s happen. I'm also consciously trying to improve my gait (mid-sole footstrike, footstrike under the hip bone, arms not crossing the midline, leaning slightly forward, etc etc.) It's all a work in progress.

That's my Forerunner report for now. The watch has a lot of features I still haven't figured out. I do like the "Virtual Partner" feature, allowing me to try to beat an imaginary running partner (or telling me how far I'm behind her).

Do you have experience with these GPS things? Have you heard about this footstrike stuff runners are talking about these days? Do you know the mileage of your favorite route or hike? (Before I was using mapmyrun, which was OK too.)

Beyond the End of the World

Left: First grade ornament
Right: Kindergarten ornament

I would not have been surprised if the world ended yesterday as predicted. With very good news (I got a raise!) and very bad news (heartbreaking events in CT), plus the usual stresses and delights of the Christmas season, plus two old communication issues coming back up on the same exact day (which was the same exact day the shadow of Mercury in Retrograde passed... coincidence??)--things have just been wild and crazy. Have you felt that way too?

Yet here we still are (I think). That means Christmas is really going to happen so I gotta get organized! Guess what--a list!

  • Waffle dance party! "Gangnam Style" Kinect dancing has been promised.
  • Gift assessment--what did we actually get for people, and are there any gaps? We'll spread everything out, make piles, and hopefully wrap.
  • Cookie dough making.
Tomorrow (Sunday):
  • Baking day
  • Last minute shopping
  • Cheese platter pickup. I'm excited about this one--I ordered a selection of three cheeses from Brattleboro Cheese . You just place your order (I did a custom selection and they were totally accommodating), pay, then return on the designated day to pick up your cheeses.
  • Run. The snow seems to be melting, so maybe I can run outside tomorrow. 
  • Watch Elf. Or maybe part of Lord of the Rings.

Monday, Christmas Eve:
  • Work until noon or 1.
  • Go to my NEW GYM (same as my old gym) to run and maybe take a sauna.
  • Bake ham (I plan to glaze it with red pepper jelly... thanks Ma!)
  • Bake pie (I already have my lucky 9 apples picked out)
  • Assemble my first ever Christmas Eve dinner. Besides ham and pie, I will make my famous Light & Silky Mashed Potatoes (with help from the food mill) and try a brussels sprouts recipe that involves both mustard and mustard seeds
  • Have the traditional reading of Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs and The Night Before Christmas with Douglas W. Gorsline illustrations
  • Hang stockings with care
  • Wrap anything else that needs it, assemble baked goods
  • Listen to a lot of Christmas music 
  • Devise breakfast strata to refrigerate overnight (sausage, eggs, bread, scallions, etc)
Tuesday, ChristmasSSSSSS!!!!!
  • Children's eyes all aglow
  • Eat strata, make full pot of coffee
  • Family times
  • Finger foods--cheese platter, crackers, a mozzarella/tomato salad, carrots, olives
  • dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry Solstice and happy winter. I hope the next few days are cozy and bright and satisfying for you and family. It is a special time of year... GO SUN!!!!

Personal styling with Stitch Fix

With my new(ish) job, my newly rekindled love of running, and my new paleo-ish way of eating that has allowed me to get a bit leaner, I've also been trying to build up a new wardrobe. I've been ruthlessly cutting out things I never wear or that make me look or feel the least bit frumpy. Actually, "new" wardrobe might be misleading. Most of my clothes come from Boomerang, the awesome new, used, & vintage store here in Brattleboro, Vermont. I also order online from Garnet Hill and the Gap and sometimes J. Crew if I'm feeling really profligate.

Also I recently hired a personal thrift shopper who I love, but that's a whole 'nother story.

This story is about Stitch Fix. My first box came today!

What is Stitch Fix? It is brilliant, that's what. Well, it's brilliant if you like to fill out forms, avoid stores, talk about yourself, and buy things online, all of which I do. Stitch Fix is like a virtual styling service. You fill out an online style profile, give your credit card #, and set up a "fix." They select clothes and sometimes accessories (new) based on your profile. Stitch Fix charges you $20 for each box they style, but if you buy anything from the box the $20 turns into a credit. You try everything on and just return whatever you don't like. What you keep you get charged for. It's kind of like Netflix for clothes. You have to return items you don't want within 3 days.

Here's what I wrote in my style profile under "Anything else you'd like us to know?":

I hate crew necks, except on cardigans for which I require crew necks. I feel uncomfortable in skirts that are much shorter than knee length. I am a huge fan of very drapey cowl necks. I won't wear yellow but I love orange. Skinny jeans are not a good look for me and I refuse to wear boots over pants. I adore gauzy layers, ruffles, ruching, and odd seams. I love grey, black, and white/cream "uniforms" that I perk up with pops of red, green, purple or orange, be they a simple belt, a peek of tights, or an entire top. I have a horror of appearing middle aged or soccer mom-ish. Thanks for your help! I'm a busy mom and frugal, but always excited to find something that makes me feel like I look good.

I had no idea what to expect, not even what kinds of items would be in the box or how many. I was a little worried when I found the box was so light.

And when I opened the box, it wasn't heaping full either. There was a modest bundle wrapped in tissue, and an envelope with an invoice, some explanations, and a little gift of stickie notes. They sent me five items to try on.

Collective Concepts, Ivy Paint Stripe Tab Sleeve Blouse

First up was this gauzy collarless blouse with tab sleeves. It is very sheer (I'm wearing a camisole here) and a lot paler than my usual clothing choices. It is taupe-ish with rosy horizontal stripes. I am not sure about horizontal stripes actually, and this is not a color I'd ever try on in a store. Looking at this picture though I kind of like the pirate-sleeve effect the tab is giving. I'm undecided on this one I guess. I'm not sure what I'd wear it with besides jeans, and I really need stuff for work.

Lola & Sophie, Thayer Jersey Crossfront Top

Excuse my smudgy mirror in this pic. This crossfront top was kind of bananas. I loved the color--a rich royal purple that doesn't come through in the photo. I love the sleeve length. I love the idea of drapiness in the center there. But this piece had 2 problems for me--it was a little tunic-like in what I think is a matronly way. Also, it has deep cleavage both coming and going.

Problem area #1
Basically the whole front is only joined together where it crosses, so there are huge flaps both at the decolletage and at the tummy. The slightest breeze or shift or lean could expose half your torso. So this one was a NO.

Natural Life, Chaimbers Knit Cowlneck Top

Love. Simple. Grey. Soft. Cozy. This is definitely where my $20 credit is going. Boring old grey, je t'aime!

Ark n Co, Paseo Long Sleeve Wrap Dress
What the heck, Stitch Fix, did I not say "I feel uncomfortable in skirts that are much shorter than knee length"?? This is much shorter than knee length. That said, it looks kind of good. However, I don't have any call for a short dress with a plunging neckline in my life. It doesn't seem crazy enough for party-wear, yet it's too crazy for work.

Spun Scarves by Subtle Luxury.
Here's that darn dress again with the fifth item, a gigantic gorgeous rayon scarf. This thing is about six feet long and three feet wide (I may be exaggerating) and costs about twice as much as I'd ever want to pay for a scarf. $55.

Scarf detail: "antique fleur"
The scarf is really pretty though. Just the kind of subtle green and muted pattern that I like.

Stitch Fix tag
Each piece has a hang tag with styling ideas. The other side is a written overview of the piece, like catalog copy.

I like Stitch Fix! It was fun to have an impromptu Monday night fashion show. My immediate problem is to decide what to keep and what to send back. What do you think?

If you're interested in Stitch Fix, here's a referral link where you can get on a list: http://stitchfix.com/users/signup/?referrer_id=3030348 . This is still a beta thing so I have no idea how Stitch Fix is ultimately going to pan out. Just for disclosure, I was not compensated for writing this post (I paid for it, actually). But I would get a $25 credit if you signed up through the referral link. :)

First Snow

We woke up to the first snow of the season this morning. Perfect, since I just finished my last Pile on the Miles run at 6pm last night. My goal was to run 45 miles in the month of November. Since I'm bad at math, I ended up running 46 miles by mistake! As the month went on and my goal got closer, I started bargaining with the universe to just please hold off on snowing until December. I don't prefer to run in snow. Thank you universe!

Behold my goal list for November:
  1. blog at least once about something that isn't running or eating Paleo DONE!
  2. run 45 miles for Pile on the Miles 2012 DONE, YAY!
  3. look into a gym membership so I can keep running even if it's freezing/snowy DONE! We picked a gym we like
  4. run the annual 3-mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day DONE!
  5. go on the Putney Craft Tour DONE!
  6. make Sangkaya--winter squash with coconut custard baked inside FAIL.
  7. figure out holiday cards EARLY DONE! All ordered from Shutterfly
  8. do a bootcamp/kettlebell workout at home at least once a week, probably Monday evenings I did this on two Mondays. That counts, right?
  9. Devote Thanksgiving long weekend totally to family (and the Putney Craft Tour) DONE
  10. figure out about gymnastics classes for our 1st grader DONE
  11. convert our toddler to a "big boy bed," and also persuade his to stay there all night (he can now vault out of his crib at will, and has done so at least once a night since Halloween) DONE

For this month, here's what I like to accomplish:

  1. Organize Christmas gifts with a minimum of stress. I need to make a list first
  2. Actually join the gym that we scoped out and go there 3 times a week
  3. Figure out my January trip to Santa Fe--what to take where, where to be when, etc
  4. Figure out how to work my new Garmin GPS watch (!!!)
  5. Make more of an effort with Sunday food prep, since I rely on it all week
  6. Sign our 1st grader up for winter sports program at school
  7. file a Freedom of Information Act request I've been meaning to do
  8. send out the holiday cards!

About that Garmin watch. Apparently Amazon knows this is my dream acquisition, because for their Cyber Monday sale they put it RIGHT on my homepage. And it was HALF OFF. I was unable to resist and purchased the thing almost immediately. (First I had to check with my spouse, because we have a deal that nobody buys something over a certain amount without letting the other person know.) It can be my birthday present to myself... just a little early.

It came yesterday and it's gorgeous. For a chunky Swiss appliance.

What is the point of this thing? Part of it is wanting to be like the running bloggers I admire. Seems like everyone has one of these GPS-enabled watches! The watch uses satellite info to figure out where you are at any given moment, and thus calculate how far you've gone and how fast you're going. So I'll be able to tell if I'm running an 8-minute mile (which is my race pace at the moment), or faster or slower or whatever. You can also upload all this and have Garmin track your stats over time, even your heart rate for each workout. I think it will be a fun and useful training tool. But, it comes with a lot of stuff and is kind of high-tech (for me) so I need to sit down and figure it out.

Garmin and entourage. What ARE all these things?

So how was your November? Any concrete December plans? Thanks for reading my goals--writing them down really helps!

White Bean Soup with Kale & Sausage

This is the soup with kale on top--see below for options!

A white bean soup with kale and sausage is pretty normal, right? I think it's a standard Portuguese or Spanish recipe. What's funny about this particular soup is that I found the recipe during my regular weekend menu planning, wrote down what I'd need to make it (4 CANS OF BEANS!), and then totally forgot where I'd seen the recipe in the first place. When soup day rolled around, I was at a loss.

So I made it up. All I knew was it involved 4 CANS OF BEANS, sausage, 2 carrots, and a box of chicken broth. I also remembered that I'd written a note on the recipe to add kale if available. Here's what I came up with. It was yummy!

  • 1 t butter
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 sweet Italian sausages (I used turkey ones), squeezed out of casings
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 box (32 oz) chicken broth
  • 4 cans (15 oz each) cannelini beans (I used Goya)
  • salt to taste
  • bunch kale, chopped (I used Lacinato kale)

  • Saut√© onions in the butter and olive oil until fragrant. I suggest using a Dutch oven. Then add carrots. Stir until they're looking a bit cooked.
  • Add the squeezed-out-of-casings sausage and stir/poke as it cooks. The goal is not to have huge pieces in there.
  • Add the garlic and briefly stir until aromatic but not burned, then add chicken broth.
  • Add 3 cans of beans. With the fourth can, empty it into a smaller bowl and use a potato masher or similar implement to squash the beans into a creamy mess. Then add to soup.
  • Stir and simmer, add salt to taste. The sausage should be pretty much cooked by now, so your goal is to get the carrots to whatever tender-soft consistency you desire.
  • For the last step you have a choice. Either steam the kale separately and add on top of the soup after serving (see photo above). This is recommended if you have fussy children. OR, if nobody will mind, add the chopped kale directly to the soup and simmer a bit more until everything is gorgeously intermixed.

Serve! This soup is super tasty on a fall evening, especially with buttered toast or your favorite comfort carb.

Do you have a white bean & kale soup recipe too? Do you remember where it is?!

Happy Fruitcake Day!

I guess in the last few years the day after Thanksgiving has come to be called Black Friday. I don't really get that. I like to think of this particular Friday as Fruitcake Day. It's a perfect time to take part of the afternoon (and today's was sunny and gorgeous) to make the family fruitcake recipe. Making this fruitcake several week before Christmas is essential, because it must be dosed with sherry every week to become properly palatable. I play Christmas music in the kitchen and try to enlist young helpers (and old helpers!) when I can.

Today I looked at the recipe typed up for me by my mother and she noted that the first time she made this was December 1, 1972. We've made it many, many Thanksgivings since then. My father used to be assigned the job of cutting the brown paper to fit the angel food cake pan. He always did a very, very careful job, with reading glasses, pencil, and scissors and he even created slots and tabs so it would all fit in the pan perfectly. Happy 40th, fruitcake!

This is also the weekend of the annual Putney Craft tour, which I try to attend diligently. Here is a quick shot of paintbrushes in Carol Keiser's studio. She makes gorgeous, colorful art tiles--like the ones hanging above the cabinet. Thanks, Ma, for accompanying me yet another year!

So do you do the Black Friday shopping thing? Or do you have your own special "Digestion Day" traditions?

Happy Thanksgiving 2012!

Happy Thanksgiving! Sorry for the dearth of posts this month. I've been having technical difficulties (old OS, old browser) and haven't had time to update stuff. But here's a quick update on moi:
  • Work has been super busy this month, with no end in sight--but it's interesting stuff so no complaints 
  • It hasn't snowed yet so I'm still following my routine of running 3 days a week. When it gets too cold or snowy I'm planning to get a gym membership and move to the treadmill.
  • I'm excited for Thanksgiving! Delicious food, mellow family times. 
  • I ran my first Turkey Trot this morning (3 miles) and it seemed like a perfect run. 
  • I'm excited to start playing Christmas music the moment it becomes "official," which is the moment Thanksgiving dinner is through. I am a Christmas music dork. 
  • We've been watching the Marx Brothers as a family. We seem to own all of their movies. They are awesome.
Have a fabulous holiday!! What are you doing for this long weekend? Traveling? Working? Chilling?

Happy Time Change: Turn on the Dark

I just set our kitchen clock back an hour. Thank goodness for the phrase "Spring ahead, Fall back," right? Otherwise I'd always be confused. With the oncoming dark, it worked out perfectly that I'd scheduled this weekend for my first trip to Ted's Shoe & Sport in Keene, NH. But I'm getting ahead of myself. My initial goal for this Ted's pilgrimage was to look for some Brooks running shoes, possibly the Brooks Ghost 5.

Ted's did carry this shoe, but unfortunately not in my size. They also had the Mizuno I wanted to try, but not in my size. I did have a helpful conversation about how one would switch from a "regular" supportive shoe to a more miminalist shoe that's closer to neutral (i.e. barefoot-like or zero difference between toe & heel). The associates reminded me that because a more neutral shoe has less heel cushioning, I would have to be sure not to heel-strike while I'm running or I'll do even more damage than heel-striking in a normal, cushioned shoe. They suggested easing into a minimalist shoe by only going a mile or so at a time, or using it once a week, and the rest of the time running in something more supportive. So basically I would need two pairs of shoes if I wanted to work on changing my gait. Since I need to research that more and I really want to try the Brooks before I spend at least $100 on shoes, I said I'd think about it.

So I switched gears and decided to shop for safety and visibility. Because I'll probably be running in the dark most of the time (either 6:30 am or 7pm) until snow or freezing cold cuts me off for the season.

New Balance Visto Shoe light
It also flashes madly and that's the setting I'll use.
Gave it a spin tonight. It fell off because I didn't know how to put it on correctly.
Nobody was around though, and I found it on my way home.

Here's the shoe light turned off and unclipped.
It just squeezes around the heel.

I love this groovy Brooks half-zip jacket.
I have vowed that all my running tops must be either be pink or purple.
This is perfect.

It has a neat thumb-hole detail, my first.
I also got a pair of Nike thermal running gloves for very chilly runs.

Unlike Brattleboro, Keene has a Target. I stopped there and had to score these ridiculous slipper boots.
How many snow leopards died to make these?

Fortunately zero snow leopards were harmed, because these are pure flammable viscose or whatever, including a hot pink fuzzy lining. Our first-grader made me take these off and give them to her as soon as she saw them, even though they are a million sizes too big. I only got them back at bathtime.

I also got a 12-pound kettlebell because I want to try a workout from Women's Running magazine.

That brings me to my November goals, especially the first one:
  1. blog at least once about something that isn't running or eating Paleo
  2. run 45 miles for Pile on the Miles 2012
  3. look into a gym membership so I can keep running even if it's freezing/snowy
  4. run the annual 3-mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day
  5. go on the Putney Craft Tour
  6. make Sangkaya--winter squash with coconut custard baked inside
  7. figure out holiday cards EARLY
  8. do a bootcamp/kettlebell workout at home at least once a week, probably Monday evenings
  9. Devote Thanksgiving long weekend totally to family (and the Putney Craft Tour)
  10. figure out about gymnastics classes for our 1st grader
  11. convert our toddler to a "big boy bed," and also persuade his to stay there all night (he can now vault out of his crib at will, and has done so at least once a night since Halloween)
What are your November goals? This may be one of my favorite months--lots of good food, not yet stressed by Christmas and winter, lots of excuses to be cozy and wear my new slipper boots.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! We went for mellow this evening. Carved pumpkins. Fried sausages. Bathed children. Gave candy to the usual 8 trick-or-treaters. No trick-or-treating ourselves because our first-grader doesn't seem to like a. costumes or b. talking to strangers with candy. I'm totally fine with that.

Now we're roasting pumpkin seeds and spaghetti squash, listening to "Good Times" by Chic and drinking Sierra Nevada Torpedo ale (whoo! that stuff tastes strong).

Fun fact: We used electric tealights in our jack-o'-lanterns this year! You can hardly tell what with all the filters and exposure tweaks I threw on this photo.

Did you have a happy Halloween? Can you believe tomorrow is November?? Happy bday ACB!!

Running While Dressed as J.S. Bach

I'm impressed by how well my 5K season has been going! Here's a recap. First I came third in the Brattleboro Walk-In Clinic 5K at the beginning of September. Next I was 1st woman in the Maple 5K that came at the end of that month. Then I ran in the Newfane 5K in October and placed... not at all.

Then today, I got my ultimate challenge (a giant Vermont hill) and better yet, dressed up as one of my favorite dudes IN HISTORY. Because it's Halloween. Basically, dressing up as J.S Bach in today's race makes me proud to be alive. I won as first woman. Also my husband pointed out I won as first eighteenth-century composer.

The hour before dawn

Outside by 6:30am, running in the dark, in the rain. My hood is up and shutting everything out. My iPod blasts "Gangnam Style." It's my own little world--and I love it. Here's what my iPod selected for me this morning:
  • Gangnam Style: Psy
  • Go!: Tones on Tail
  • Astronaut: Shy Child
  • Mirror in the Bathroom: English Beat
  • I'm in the House: DJ Aoki
  • Future: Cut Copy
  • Invaders Must Die: The Prodigy
  • Pop Song Automaton: Glory Glory Man United
  • I Wasn't Made for Fighting: Woodhands
  • FU2 (an awesome remix of Lady Sovereign's "Love Me or Hate Me") 
Do you have favorite running or workout songs I should be adding to my playlist?

Whole30 Reflections

I've been thinking about the Whole30 "paleo" eating plan that we did for the month of September (technically, September 3 to October 3). I still haven't gone back to the way I ate before. I still generally avoid grains and legumes, and my dairy intake is very moderate. I do have some sugar and some alcohol, but a lot less than before (ha!).

Why? I felt clean and good during my Whole30 month, and I'm not ready to mess that up. When I go off-plan, such as staying up until 11pm on a Saturday drinking beer with one of my oldest friends, I just get back on the paleo wagon afterward and feel fine again within a few days.

A random list of what I've learned:
  1. Hey! Don't buy asparagus in the fall.
  2. Read labels on anything that has a label. Did you know certain club soda has sulfates? Did you know certain turkey sausage has sugar? Did you know certain tomato sauce has agave... stuff? Don't just TRUST that an item has nothing bad in it. Check out the label before spending $$.
  3. There's no need to go crazy with meat consumption. Look to boost veggie intake instead. I took to grouping vegetables into three categories: salad stuff, greens (kale, spinach, string beans, etc.), and starchy (winter squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, etc.). I tried to have some of each every day, sometimes two per meal.
  4. I liked Well Fed, the Whole30 approved cookbook by Melissa Joulwan. It is a slim paperback, but useful and beautifully done. It was a relief to have as an inspiration and a reference.
  5. It was key to have easy snacks like apples and sardines on hand. Apple slices with almond butter was a fabulous snack for me, especially after a 5K.
  6. Coconut oil, avocado oil, and organic grass-fed ghee were all worth the investment. At our local coop, these cost at least $10 each. The coconut oil and ghee are great for cooking (roasting, frying). Avocado oil is lovely for drizzling, such as over a pile of steamed kale with salt.
  7. As I wrote in one of my posts, the Whole30 seemed to break down into four week-long periods. The first week was "This is totally weird." The second week was "This is weird and also awful." The third week was "I think this is working!" The fourth week was "This is working, and now it's going to end, waaah." I do miss it, but it could just be because it took an immense mental effort so I'm proud of myself for that.
  8. It was useful to have special food prep time on the weekends and/or in evenings, such as steaming sweet potatoes & beets, baking up winter squash, making sauces & mayo.
  9. To replace our usual adult beverages, we invested heavily in seltzer. We shared at least one liter of seltzer a day to try to forget we weren't drinking yummy beer or wine. It worked.
  10. I recommend paying the $14.95 for the daily whole30 email. It's not that you can't find the basic info on the Whole30 website and forums. But that takes time and effort. The daily email chunks info up into useful bits, and provides some good links. It wasn't 100% applicable every single day, but I liked it. It also helped me keep track of what day we were on. Thirty is a large number for some.
  11. I'm glad I had an exercise plan and ran every day for my Whole30. It was a good test for how my body was working and feeling that day. It helped me clarify what I needed food-wise and rest-wise. And I'm sure it helped the "diet" (weight loss) aspects of the program be more effective.
  12. I like to think of the Whole30 as non-inflammatory, not as a "caveman" or "ancestral" diet or whatever. The health aspects are what resonated the most with me, and seemed to resonate with people who were interested in what I was up to.

Whole30 Surprises!
  • Sweet potatoes did become palatable. In fact, I am still enjoying them for breakfast on most days.
  • We ate two dozen eggs a week! That is about 2.3 times the normal rate, wouldn't you say?
  • Cauliflower is amazing! Also, acorn squash! Who knew?
  • The Whole30 is expensive. As mentioned above, the specialty oils cost about $10 each, and they last about 2 weeks. Plus, we spent an average of $200-250 a week on groceries, which is WAY more than we're used to. A lot of it was on high quality stuff though--dropping $50-90 at the farmer's market meant we had local meat, tons of local produce, and plenty to eat and choose from over the week. (Also some of it was on non-Whole30 stuff for the kids.)

Favorite Whole30 meals: 
Most hated Whole30 meals: 
  • bean-less chili
  • anything with jicama

So, would I recommend the Whole30? 

Yes, with reservations. I am a geek and a Capricorn and a mom and a runner, all of which may contribute to my being very willing to invest a lot of willpower into allegedly bettering myself and feeling like I've accomplished something FOR ME. However, I am so glad my eating partner did this with me, because his experiences really emphasized that this program is NOT for everyone. Some people will have problems and just hate it the whole time. He seems to be right back to where he was before and completely happy with that. No problem. But if the Whole30 appeals to you, give it a try!

Still mostly Paleo, I can't help it

I'm still pretty much eating the Paleo diet (animal protein plus vegetables plus healthy fats, with nuts, seeds & fruits thrown in) after completing the Whole30 thirty day eating program last Tuesday. I haven't had any more achey episodes (I slowed down what I was introducing each day, thanks for the support on that). I really miss running every day, which I stopped at the same time. I'm still collecting my thoughts for a big Whole30 wrap-up coming in a few days.

Here are some random recent food pics:

Saturday haul from the Farmer's Market: Apples, kohlrabi, leeks, peppers, cucumbers, black tomatoes, cauliflower, "perpetual spinach," acorn squash, peaches, lettuce, carrots, blueberries. Pricetag: about 50 bucks.

Cooking up Scotch Eggs for lunches

Steaming up assorted sweet potatoes for breakfasts

I made myself a little paleo dessert—roasted peaches stuffed with dried fruit & nuts

Ohhhh--it's not paleo anymore. Vanilla ice cream, baby.
Yeah, I've managed to reintroduce a few items that aren't paleo despite my general reluctance to return to my old ways. I put sugar in my coffee (still using coconut milk though). I had wine last week and beer over the weekend... not quite sure about those two yet. Vanilla ice cream is yummy. I've had some white potatoes. I ate Indian takeout without worrying too much about what was in it (though I avoided anything that was clearly legumes or dairy--I had the saag, but not the paneer). In general, it's slightly stressful trying to recalibrate to my own eating plans after the blissful strictness of the Whole30. I'll make a complete "normal" dinner for my family, then fry up some leftover chicken and roasted acorn squash for my own meal. I cling to the clean feelings that I had all last month, but it's hard because now I'm slightly... dirty.

Have you ever roasted peaches by the way? Or grilled them? I've cooked them up for peach ice cream, but roasting was new.

After the Whole30: What do I eat?

They don't tell you at the beginning that coming OFF the Whole30 is kind of difficult. Because after all, I'm treating my body as a giant science experiment. Eating clean for 30 days was just the first part, as I created my control condition. Now I get to play with the variables, also known as finding out which foods don't agree with me.
Yesterday, Day 31, seemed fine at the time, but it made today, Day 32, pretty sad. Below is not an exact representation of what I ate, but the caterpillar pretty much represents how I felt today.

"That night he had a stomachache!"

I didn't think I was going that crazy, but I had things like aioli, ranch dressing, wine, half & half, cheese, other cheese, salami, pepperoni, teriyaki steak tips--all of those are off plan (the cured meat because it probably has sugar, the teriyaki because it probably has soy). I'm starting to wonder if I'll even be able to eat "normal" food again. Or if I'll want to. I went back to Paleo food today to try to regain equilibrium. Can you believe I'm saying that?? That Paleo food is now what seems normal?

Ah, sweet paleo dinner: salad, chicken & acorn squash.

Because the Whole30 is over, I also got to weigh myself. I didn't weigh myself before Day 1, but I know what I usually weigh. I was VERY SURPRISED to find that I am now about 17 pounds lighter. That's over 10% of my body weight gone. And it felt like it disappeared in the first few days--I felt less puffy almost immediately, and started getting comments early on. That makes me think there is something to this inflammatory foods thing. I don't think I lost fat, I think I lost inflammation! I can't put it any better than just saying I feel less puffed up. (That phrase always makes me think of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.")

More good news: For those who have read some of my Whole30 posts, I would like you to know that the broken owl mug with the condensation forever trapped inside is no more. Here's the replacement:


Whole30 Day 30, DONE!!!!!

Is it strange that eating a certain way can make you feel really proud of yourself? I have had a pretty good month because of this Whole30 madness. The first two weeks were not great, but things turned around on Day 14 and I've been having a good time. Sure, I still don't have the energy I'm used to on my regular runs (except for that crazy 5K. I was well caffeinated!). I still don't quite know what to make for dinner. But I have more clarity in my thinking and functioning, like I am using more of my cylinders (to use car talk) or directories (to use server talk) than before. It's kind of exciting and kind of scary, because it took a lot to get to this place, and I am pretty sure that I can't maintain this place for very long.

Still, I found out what the Whole30 was like. That was the whole point. I would recommend it, but with reservations. Take my fellow eater for example: he found little or no benefit from the Whole30 (that he'll admit anyway). He has stocked the fridge with non-Whole30 foods that he's going to start eating ASAP tomorrow morning! I'll try to get him to take photos of what he eats tomorrow, ha.

Here's the food recap from Day 30:

Avocado-salsa omelette, yummy black tea


Lunch: leftover chorizo & cabbage, fresh veggies

Snack: orange

Dinner: steak tips & mushrooms with cauliflower rice & salad
Day 30 reflections: People have been so kind about this diet thing, asking about it, being encouraging, congratulating me. I am very touched and feel so supported. THANK YOU!

I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Theoretically I could eat anything, but I won't. This experiment has taught me to be think twice. Also because I've clearly lost weight and am feeling good, I don't want to mess that up by plunging into a Happy Meal and a chocolate sundae. I love those things, but I don't feel like I NEED them. I think my basic plan is to wait for a signal that there's some other food that I NEED. And also, red wine. And also, white wine. Here's another strange development on par with liking sweet potatoes--I actually don't mind coconut milk in my coffee. It's been so long since I've had milk and sugar that I can't tell the difference. The other day I walked by a row of chocolate bars without flinching. I know these things are actually kind of easy when I'm inside the strict realm of the Whole30. It's easy to say "Not for me" when I know it's a finite challenge. Will I keep saying "Not for me" about these foods—dairy, grains, legumes, sugar—when I'm on my own? You know I'll keep you posted.

Whole30 Day 29, almosttherealmosttherealmosthere

One day left after today. Thank you so much to everybody who has been reading along and supporting me on this mad experiment. Just knowing you're checking in now and then has been really helpful! And to the readers of the future who are researching the Whole30 and have come upon this blog, I think you can do this thing. If I can go without wine or cheese or crackers or chocolate for 30 days, anyone can do just about anything. Poke around on this blog under the whole30 tag if you're looking for food ideas or "what it's like." I'll also be writing an overall roundup in the next few days.

So yeah, one more day and we'll be done! We're basically just running out the clock, using up the plantains and chorizo and other unusual foods that we probably won't be replacing any time soon. Here's today's food!

Breakfast: egg & sweet potatoes (we forgot to buy kale this weekend)

COFFEE. My coffee mug is totally falling apart. It has been through a lot.

Lunch: leftover Gilfeather turnip & crab soup

Teatime: tea

Snack: apple

Curried veggie hash, chicken tenders, acorn squash
Day 29 reflections: I'm in disbelief that we managed to get this far! Back on Day 1 at the Guilford Fair, October seemed like a long way away. Now I am a paleo machine who loves things like fruit and vegetables. Before this I pretty much hated fruit, and couldn't be bothered figuring vegetables out. But when they're all you've got for nutrition besides grass-fed beef (kind of), you learn a lot about their virtues and possibilities. I have learned to love sweet potatoes! I have been eating kale voluntarily! I have considered an APPLE a decent and satisfying snack! I actually tried pretending that spaghetti squash was anything like spaghetti! (It's not.) I made a salad with every color of the rainbow! You know things are strange when a carrot or a dill pickle becomes a fancy treat.

Then there's the witnessing of work lunches--incredible tapas, whatever you want to order from the local Chinese place, wine evenings, the apple pie à la mode party... I had none of it. One time I ate some tapas olives and once I had that lone takeout salad. People were very kind trying to think of things I could have, but I was honestly happy with my rabbit food salads and such.

Happy October my dears!