Monday, December 15, 2008

Tea: A holiday gift that warms you all winter

One of the best holiday gifts is tea. It's healthy, it tastes good, it has a long shelf life, and it comes in elegant containers.

I favor black teas, and this season I've gotten two fabulous ones.

Peet's Holiday Breakfast Blend is part of Peet's Signature Blends. Like most breakfast blends, it has quite a bit of Assam, but it avoids any bitterness. It's an extremely complex tea. My only problem with it is that it won't be available for very long; the "Holiday Breakfast Blend" is a different blend every yet. Rush out and get more of the 2008!

Morning Glory Chai, which is served at many of Seattle's independent coffee houses, is also available in brew-it-yourself packages from stores including The Ballard Market and Tenzing Momo at Pike Place Market. Each package contains spices (add to boiling water and simmer) and tea & herb mix (steep in the hot, spiced water). With sweetener (honey or brown sugar) and steamed/heated milk, it's as robust as a latte.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dinner for the 21st century

So much has changed in our society in the past 100 years. I think it's time for dinner to catch up.

We are no longer an agricultural or industrial society. The vast majority of adults hold desk jobs. The idea of sitting at a desk all day and then coming home and eating salad with dressing, meat, vegetables, starch, and dessert borders on the insane. Particularly because early evening (that period still known as dinnertime) is the only time many of us have to work out — and you don't want to eat a large meal either before a workout or before bed time.

I've switched to eating a late afternoon snack of fruit and protein (usually and apple with cheese or peanut butter) or sometimes a small bowl of soup. After my workout, I eat a small serving of polenta or pasta with cheese, or sometimes an two-egg omelette. Other times it's a stir fry with brown rice.

Of course I miss traditional dinners! I was raised on them! And on days that I don't work out, such as weekends, I try to get in moderate exercise during the day (such as walking or hiking) and then enjoy a traditional evening meal.

I suspect that our society will, in the next hundred years, shift to eating four or five mini-meals during the day. But we're far enough from that now that I still feel odd about "missing dinner."

Friday, December 5, 2008

A leftover-turkey triumph

I loathe turkey soup, with those slimy little noodles and suspicious bits of last-ditch poultry from which you hope someone removed the little bones and gristle.

Having already wrestled the turkey carcass several times (raw, brined, roasted, and refrigerated) I was damned if I was going to go a final round with the dregs before my conscience let me dump it. And I was determined not to fill the space the turkey had hogged in the refrigerator with a huge pot of turkey soup that no one wanted to eat and that I would dump a few days later.

So, this year I simply took the last of the palatable meat off the bird, dumped the fatty skin, bones and weird stuff, and combined the shredded meat with the (intense and salty) skimmed pan drippings, and water (chicken broth could be used instead of the drippings and water). Once that soup base was simmering, I added a half cup of wild rice. When the wild rice had cooked, I turned up the heat and then slowly stirred in one-third cup of a fine corn meal (polenta), let it bubble for a moment, and then turned down the heat and let it cook slowly. The result was stew-like. Served with a sprinkling of currants and toasted pine nuts, it was delicious.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

York apples

I just put an heirloom squash stuffed with sausage, chanterelles, and sliced apples in the oven to roast. Now I'm eating the apple peels.That's because the apple was a York apple. Yorks turned up at the Ballard Market in early November, and have since disappeared. That's sad, because the York, a slightly top-heavy trapezoidal apple with a tough red skin, was the most apple-y tasting apple I've had since childhood visits to upstate New York. In other words, the York is a real apple.

Well, of course, I Googled it. It turns out the York Imperial, found in York, Pa., in 1830, is known for "intense tart/sweet flavor, firm flesh and distinctive shape." It keeps well, it cooks well, and it's intoxicating when eaten raw. While I usually pair my afternoon apple with sharp cheese or some peanut butter, it would be heresy to do that to a fragrant, delicate York.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Power Belly Dance

I've always wondered if I were communicating clearly when I talk about belly dancing with a weight belt, which I do every Tuesday or Thursday at Delilah's Visionary Dance studio in Fremont. Fortunately, Delilah's just done a promotional video about it! (Yes, she really does teach the class in jeans and a tank top.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shopping: Purple people, purple store

Some people are drawn to the color purple, the color of spirituality, royalty, and healing. When purple people shop, they shop at The Purple Store, an online emporium dreamed up by a Seattle entrepreneur.

Admit it: You want a seven-and-a-half-foot tall, pre-lit, purple Christmas tree.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Low-fat Thanksgiving dinner

As heard on KUOW-FM's "Weekday" show this morning:
And, on the same topic, but not on the radio: A creamy pumpkin pudding tip.
Bon appetit!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Take a tasty bite out of the Pike Place Market

One of my favorite ways to take an in-city vacation is to spend a day at the Pike Place Market.

Now my friend JanMarie Johnson is offering guided tours of the market, combining historical tidbits with delectable "bites" at a dozen of the shops. Check it out at Seattle Bites Food Tours.

Known locally as the creator of the famous Mount Si Chili Cook-off, JanMarie has a true passion for food. She's made some great connections with Pike Place Market vendors. I've got to know where she found the "truffle-butter adorned popcorn!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On reading

At my annual checkup today, my doctor asked me if I watched TV. I said my TV isn't even hooked up to broadcast sources -- I only use it to watch DVDs when friends come over to visit.

He laughed, admitted that he doesn't watch broadcast TV, either, and commented that he sees a direct correlation between lots of of TV watching and poor health among his patients, particularly the elderly. He said the problem isn't just sitting and watching TV instead of exercising; it's letting the mind slip into passivity instead of engaging with games, discussions, puzzles, writing, and reading.

I love reading, but recently have been spending what used to be my reading time writing instead. And instead of reading new books, I've been working my way through science fiction classics (such as Cordwainer Smith's Norstrilia) to get a better understanding of that genre.

Thus, I have yet to read any of the books on Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year list. But, seeing the list made me realize how much I want to get to some of these, particularly Michael Connelly's latest, The Brass Verdict, Donald Ray's Knockemstiff, and Greg Bear's City at the End of Time.

(cross-posted on Writer Way)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Food shopping and pumpkin pudding

A tip from Cook's Illustrated about using maple syrup instead of sugar in pumpkin pie has resulted in the most delicious, creamy pumpkin puddings!

Someone has just reminded me about the great imported San Marzano tomatoes at Big John's PFI. I'm embarrassed to report that I've never been there; probably can't really call myself a Seattle foodie until I go.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My fantasy Thanksgiving dinner

Roasted turkey with garlic cloves and olive oil (no stuffing, just herbs inside) served with a mushroom-infused reduction of the pan juices
Fresh cranberry orange relish
Butterleaf lettuce salad with pear (or tomato) slices and vinaigrette
Grill-roasted herbed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, and chunks of squash
Sourdough and butterfly rolls (store-bought) with whipped butter
Baked Granny Smith apples (baked with liquor-and-ricotta filling)
Individual pumpkin puddings (same recipe as pie filling, but substitute brown sugar and double the ginger)

Yes, this is Thanksgiving dinner without gravy, stuffing, pie crust, and whipped cream. I think eating it would make me feel satisfied but not overwhelmed. But I can't imagine having the nerve to serve this for fear people would think I'd joined the food police.

What do you think?

Monday, October 13, 2008

That feels better

A thousand years from now some archeologist will be pondering over early 21st century skeletons and wondering why we all had hunched shoulders. Or perhaps some of us will be buried in our Aerons and the answer will be obvious: deskwork.

Massage therapist Larry Swanson has assumed the persona of The Office Rat to help us bring a fitness mentality to our office jobs. His Office Rat blog provides a tip a day, many with You Tube videos, to help us combat desk debilitation. Larry interviews fitness and bodywork experts like Reta Wright-Kinghorn (a sleep disorders clinician) and Lara McIntosh (from Wassa Dance), and draws on his own experience as a massage therapist.

Larry is the therapist who helped me figure why I was having trouble with the warrior poses in yoga. He showed me how years of hunching over a keyboard had shortened and tightened the muscles in my chest, making it very difficult for me to release and extend my arms back and out to the side. Some assisted stretching, and persisting with the yoga, eventually solved the problem.

Check out his latest tip, on stretching your forearms.

(Cross-posted at The Mysterious Traveler)

Monday, September 29, 2008

L'Shanah Tovah

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two years later

Two years ago this week, an ad on Craig's List changed my life. I didn't even read it, but my friend Angie did, and she posted to a Yahoo list we both belong to, and invited people to come with her to a yoga-based exercise class being taught by Susan Powter.

I barely remember the first class, I was so exhausted. Fortunately, I keep a digital journal, which records that after the class I went to QFC, got whole grain bread, came home, and made French toast. "Watching Susan Powter in action is like going to a show in Las Vegas," I wrote.

One week after starting the classes (four of them a week) people noticed a difference in my appearance. Two weeks later, I had my first encounter with muscle fatigue -- I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. That was scary. A few days later I had my annual medical checkup, and there was a strong reflex reaction from my right knee for the first time since I'd herniated a disk 10 years earlier.

As I read through the journal, I remember taping my feet (they were too weak to work out barefoot), living on Ibuprofen, having a second round of muscle fatigue in mid-November, and the horrible grinding sound in my right shoulder. I can't believe I finally got past all that!

I'm thankful every day that I did.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time crunch

I'm in the middle of separating from my husband, attempting to refinance the house, and my writing business has suddenly gone into high gear.

More time spent in negotiations, digging through financial records, and turning out project work on deadline means less time to work out. And, of course, my health isn't the greatest with all this going on.

Because I'm now likely to miss one, or even two, of my three weekly exercise classes, I've started putting in a daily 30-minute power walk during lunch. This means setting my iPhone alarm to 30 minutes, turning on the iPod music (usually bluegrass) and walking 40 long blocks (and a bit more) through the neighborhood. The alarm lets me enjoy the walk without checking the time, and using the iPhone means that I don't miss any phone calls.

What I really like is the way the music automatically resumes as soon as I get off the call.

But I'm missing the yoga. I did yoga in the back yard one day last week, and it was fascinating to see how beautiful the garden looked from strange, upside down positions.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting fresh

The Fu Man Dumpling House on Greenwood Avenue in Shoreline makes absolutely exquisite food. The fresh-made meat-filled dumplings, served with a fresh garlic-ginger dipping sauce, are legendary. But just about everything else on the menu is exceptional, too. A complex hot-and-sour soup. A won ton soup with a peppery chicken broth base. A complex fried rice done with a light, almost buttery, oil, with fresh peas and some of the tastiest shrimp I've had in a long time. And I didn't go wrong tonight by ordering a little seaweed-in-garlic-sauce side dish, which combined the cold seaweed with cilantro in a slightly sweet dressing.

The distinctive element at Fu Man Dumpling is the quality and freshness of the ingredients they use. Realizing this is making me a bit less grumpy about paying top dollar for organic, heirloom, and local produce for my own cooking. It makes such a difference.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ouch! My toe

Grrr! I stubbed my second toe yesterday, and this is going to keep me out of fast-moving exercise classes — though only for a few days, I hope.

It's down on the yoga mat today, doing Susan Powter's Trailer Park yoga. I purchased Susan's new yoga video, and was impressed with the quality of the workout. However, it covers only about 20% of the moves we were doing in her Seattle class. I'll have to keep doing those on my own until she does an advanced yoga video.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Diet or exercise?

Ten years ago, while editing a magazine for a major healthcare system, I asked several doctors which they would prefer their patients do, watch their diets or focus on exercise.

The doctors all said "exercise."

Mike Howard at the excellent Diet Blog reports on a study that compared people on diets with people on exercise programs, measuring not just weight loss but body fat percentage.

I was betting that exercise returned the best results, but what the study found was far more complex.

Unfortunately, the criteria I was most interested in were apparently not part of the study -- measurements of hips, waist, chest, upper arms, and thighs.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Out of the fashion loop

Am I missing something, or has fashion sort of flopped recently?

All the clothes I see this summer look pretty much like the clothes I saw last summer. So, while last year I was excited about all sorts of trends, this year about all I have to say is that The Gap's curvy dress pants (they sit just below the waist, not too low) are fabulous. And they must be good sellers, because they never go on sale.

If there's some hot casual or officewear trend this season, would someone please tell me about it?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer salad sandwich

When the thermometer creeps into the 90s, I pretty much lose my appetite. Which is bad, because shortly thereafter my energy ebbs, too. No, three tall glasses of sugared, lemoned ice tea, no matter how wonderful the black tea used to make them, are not nutrition!

Wandering out in the garden to water some parched plants, I noticed my lettuce and greens. Went back in, chopped some Walla Wallas and started them sauteeing. Then went back out and picked the lettuce, arugula and mustard greens. Chopped them, tossed them in with the carmelizing onions, sprinkled on salt and pepper, toasted a sesame-seed hamburger roll, and there was lunch. Well, I also added a dollop of a very plain goat cheese to the sandwich.

This recipe comes from somewhere back in my New Haven days -- perhaps one of the vegetarian restaurants? A nice ingredient to add, sauteed with the onions, is finely chopped celery. Or you can get that flavor by adding some celery seed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yoga with Susan, again

I just opened Susan Powter's new yoga DVDs and am incredibly excited to see that one of the DVDs has exactly the routine she developed with our Seattle group last year. Well, it's the beginner version, but one that can be easily revved up to a higher level.

It's a bit amusing to hear the new age music in the video, since Susan always worked us out to a fairly raucous combination of rock, club/dance, and hip-hop. But it's just so great to hear Susan, saying those things like "big huge oxygenated movements" and "stay in breath." I can hardly wait to put the PowerBook in the dining room tomorrow morning, roll out the mat, and do yoga with Susan again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Some notes on belly dancing

I've been belly dancing for the past six or seven months, and I'm trying to decide what I think of it as exercise. Here are a few observations:

• Beginning classes (for technique and basics) aren't much of a workout.
• Power belly classes (the basic moves done in rapid succession while wearing a 10-pound weight belt) are pretty effective as aerobic, fat-burning exercise. And they are very easy on the joints.
• Two-hour performance classes (done for endurance and skill) can be quite strenuous. They're good for burning calories, but watch out for repetitive stress injuries (and other injuries) to feet and ankles if performances are done on non-studio surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt.
• Performances are exhausting. Even your face muscles will hurt from smiling for two hours.

I haven't tried tribal-style belly dancing, but based on my experience with mainstream belly dance performance classes, I have high expectations of them for aerobic benefit. Tribal troups do a lot of fast traveling across stages.

Belly dancing twice a week has not kept my muscles as toned as a similar amount of Vinyasa-style yoga did, so that is a disappointment. But it certainly can and does burn fat. I'm going to try to do it once a week as a good (fun) workout to mix with yoga.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trailer Park Yoga video?

For 15 months, three days a week, I did yoga with Susan Powter at a studio in North Seattle. When Susan moved to Los Angeles, I have to confess that there were times when I regretted not having surreptitiously audio-recorded one of the classes. For while I can remember all the moves, I can't push myself through the workout at the pace to get the amazing benefits I got from working out with Susan live.

It looks as though Susan has issued the yoga routine on DVD, and I just ordered it from her website. Stay tuned for a full report when FedEx delivers it next week.

If it is indeed the Trailer Park Yoga workout I remember, we're all in for a treat.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Something new: Moo Doe

As part of my exploration of fitness options, I did some web research on Seattle area martial arts programs. But, somehow, nothing called to me.

Friday, after leaving the car to be detailed on Aurora Avenue, I walked over to the Greenwood & 85th business district. It was cold and rainy and not a very exciting day to be out and about. Not much is open before 11, except for a couple of tiny local coffeehouses. One of the closed businesses I walked by was a martial arts studio, of the very traditional variety: many faded black and white photos of masters, a few stacks of simple brochures by the door. I was staring at the brochures when I realized someone was beside me, opening the door. He asked if he could help me, and we went in and talked about the School of Oom Yung Doe (for that's what it is).

I was impressed by the explanation that Adam, the master, gave about the relationship of the martial arts to yoga, and by his insistence that each individual's practice be tailored to her or her own body and capabilities. (I will not be expected to go flying through the air, kicking people! The emphasis is on health and efficient use of energy, not on combat moves.)

Today I stopped by the studio with Zorg, who practiced martial arts some years ago and talked with Adam again. Starting the week after next, I am going to give Moo Doe a try. I remarked to Zorg that my renegade yoga teacher, who had nothing but disdain for paternalistic Eastern programs with people bowing to "masters" and murmuring in foreign languages, would be horrified.

"She left," he said. "You can study anywhere you want."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fashion changes, at the foundation level

When I was a little girl, my mom wore a rubberized panty girdle with garters to hold up non-stretch stockings. That get-up was hideous then, and, unless you are some sort of fetishist, hideous now.

As a teenager, I remember my mother borrowing a pair of my stretchy pantyhose and the look of amazement on her face when she realized how incredibly comfortable they were.

Fast-forward 40 years: Not only have girdles, garters, and silk stockings gone the way of the rotary dial telephone, but nude pantyhose, the great liberators of the 1970s, are about to vanish from the scene.

No less a business-fashion authority than the Wall Street Journal has concluded that 20- and 30-somethings simply won't be caught dead in hose. (They wear tights in the winter and have bare legs in the summer.)

"The fashion shift has left some baby boomer managers feeling that their hose make them look frumpy," the article goes on. There's a lively discussion in the WSJ forums.

Pantyhose are hot and miserable in the summer, so I'm happy to jettison them to avoid looking like a clueless old bat. But my legs don't look particularly good bare (unless I take up residence in Key West or Southern California).

My solution has been to wear below-the-knee-length skirts in the summer, or to wear pants or capris with dressy platform sandals. And, no question, to maintain a fastidiously updated pedicure — more fun and less expensive than a buying drawer full of pantyhose.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Almost everyone who toys with the idea of making a major lifestyle change can point to some "aha" moment when they realized that The Time Had Come.

In my case, there were two things led me to exercise:

The first was a plant sale at which I found myself surrounded by hundreds of out-of-shape, disheveled, sloppily dressed women my age and I realized "We've given up on ourselves and are focusing on nice-looking plants instead. I'm not ready for that yet!"

The second was a meeting with a prospective client, a privately held company making big profits doing bariatric surgery. There seemed to me to be plenty of legitimate reasons why adults long incapacitated by obesity-relate physical problems would need surgery to jump-start life-saving weight loss. But when I heard the program was anticipating government and health insurance approval to start doing bariatric surgery on teenagers, that stopped me in my tracks. When kids over-eat and under-exercise, surely the wrong message to give them is "oh, you can just have an operation." I came away feeling as though our culture was in such extreme denial about fitness that I would need to move dramatically more and eat dramatically better than "what everyone else does" -- or I'd end up a client of the bariatric surgery folks.

Reeling from the revelations of the plant sale and the bariatric surgery center, I followed a friend into a yoga program and never looked back.

Apropos of this, several friends sent me copies of an article in the June 1 Seattle Times about a local bariatric surgeon who closed his practice and changed careers to become a yoga instructor. Now that's a dramatic (and expensive) change!

I'm interested in the "aha" moments that propel people from "I know I ought to do this" to actually doing it. What was yours?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fear of food

I like food. Some foods I like quite a bit. So the past three weeks have been extremely odd for me. I got the flu, and my stomach never really recovered. I'm fine as long as I eat bland foods (cereals, breads, bananas, yogurts, rice, a bit of mild cheese or an egg, poached or boiled meats, and that sort of thing). But anything spicy, or greasy, or anything like a raw vegetable, and I'm miserable and sick.

This certainly keeps me away from most restaurant food!

I'm taking lactobacillus supplements and gradually introducing small amounts of "real" (or surreal, in some cases) food.

This experience has given me a completely new perspective on food.

First of all, most of us are very rarely hungry, in the sense that we've burned up available fuel and are starting to draw on our bodies' reserves. But that happened to me a few times...I didn't get hungry, but I certainly felt exhausted.

I didn't get hungry because I have a pretty strong aversion to food after the flu experience. That was another revelation. I didn't realize that an active aversion to food could psychologically overpower years of liking food. Now I see certain foods (like tomato sauce) and cringe.

I am finding myself having to remind myself to eat, and to make sure I'm getting things like potassium and calcium.

By the way, if anyone thinks this is a good way to lose weight, it's certainly not. It robs you of the energy you need to work out and maintain fat-burning muscle. I have been able to do moderate exercise, but noticed at the dance festival this weekend that I needed to eat carbs and a little protein every two hours to keep moving. And even then, it seemed as if my balance was a bit off.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Whole foods

I was just watching Susan Powter talking about healthy eating and fitness on a NY morning news show. Susan was explaining the difference between drinking vegetable juice and eating ("mulching," she called it) actual vegetables.

This is particularly ironic because I came down with a stomach virus Tuesday morning and haven't been able to get near food for the past four days. I had no idea you could go this long without eating solid food, but, of course, it turns out you can as long as you drink plenty of fluids that contain sugar, salt, potassium and a couple of other elements. It seems inconceivable to me that I'll ever again want to eat something as fiber-y looking as, say, broccoli, but the doctor I checked in with yesterday assured me that this will happen. In the meantime, she suggested trying chicken and rice soup, which apparently has the magic sugar/salt/potassium combination. And, of course, there are those weird electrolyte drinks. Still, at the moment they sound much more appealing that something I'd have to mulch!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Culinary Improv: The Apple Basil Tart

Filo dough crust. Creme fraiche with cinnamon. Pink Lady apples and fresh basil. Citrus-marmalade-and-Calvados glaze.

It's a pretty assertive dessert!

My friend Tom said the idea for this pastry came to him in a dream. Yesterday I assisted as he transformed the inspiration into a first-draft recipe. Today friends are stopping by to taste-test my half of the final tart.

Some of their (and my) thoughts:

The creme fraiche base tastes amazing, but is a little too soft when the tart is at room temperature. How could this be made more substantial without losing the taste and smooth texture of creme fraiche? (I'm concerned getting ricotta involved would make the texture too grainy.)

The Pink Lady apples were a particularly flavorful choice. And they held their shape well, even when sliced thinly.

The basil (many leaves of it) gets stronger by hour. Which is fine, right up until I find myself chewing on a cooked basil leaf. How could you get the same intense basil element in the tart without having the whole basil leaves? Chop them? Puree them?

The marmalade-Calvados glaze (my contribution to the beta version) add a second savory element, the marmalade being a bitterish citrus (crafted by my friends John and Sally). But now I'm thinking that with the filo crust, the tart might be better with a sweeter, honey-liquor glaze.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Which yoga is right for you?

Whether you run, lift weights, dance, or just laze around on the beach like this guy, chances are someone has suggested that you add a yoga class to your workout schedule.

To avoid disappointment, check out this MSN UK guide that matches you by your workout preferences and fitness level to one of the several styles of yoga.

The guide describes
• Ashtanga ("Power Yoga")
• Kundalini
• Bikram ("Hot Yoga")
• Iyengar (which makes use of blocks, straps, and incline devices)
• Anusar

Unfortunately, the guide does not cover the classic Hatha yoga or Vinyasa ("Flow") yoga, which is very popular in the U.S.

I've been going around dabbling in yoga classes since my favorite yoga teacher moved to L.A., and continue to be amazed at the differences between the styles. (And I haven't even tried Bikram yet!) I feel as though I learn something important from every teacher in terms of improving my yoga.

Thanks to Melanie Crow's blog for pointing out the MSN article.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Is this "a guy thing"?

My neighborhood newsblog, My Ballard, has a post about two local men who started a weight-loss competition that turned into a website.

At ("you bet your ass") you and friends can set up weight-loss challenges. Your actual weight is kept private; members of your group can see only the amount you want to lose during the challenge time frame.

I'm wondering if (and hoping that) they'll expand this concept to cover fitness challenges (miles biked during the summer, martial arts levels attained, miles walked per week, etc.).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bidder beware

Confessions of an online shopper: A good portion of my wardrobe comes from eBay. These are mostly items like bras or shoes where I've purchased a particular item somewhere at full price, like it, and feel confident about getting a second item online. In most cases, I can get the item "new with tags" on eBay for less than half price. (In fact, because many brands discontinue styles after just a few months, eBay is often the only place I can get a second item.)

So, I'd been following a pair of Corso Como shoes that sell fairly reliably for $129 online and in stores. When the eBay bidding edged up past $60 (not including shipping) I thought, "Hey, hold on here..."

I then did a quick re-check at and found the shoes new, from Amazon itself (with free Prime shipping) for $59. I bought them.

A couple of hours later an email from eBay informed me that someone had purchased the eBay shoes for (ouch) $89.

Speaking of shoe deals, I won't be able to make the warehouse sale in Mukilteo tomorrow because I'm joining my neighbor Theresa having a yard sale. She has a whole garage full of furniture and kids' stuff she is most anxious to unload. I've got mostly plants, planters, fountains, and some home decor.

We start at 10 a.m. Early birds will be shot and stuffed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April is the cruelest month

I love summer clothes, fall clothes, and winter clothes, but I've never liked spring clothing.

I guess I remember junior high school in Virginia and all the pastel floral shirt dresses and John Meyer matched cardigan-and-skirt outfits (and, one year, a lime green polished cotton dirndl skirt with white fishnet stockings) I suffered through.

For me, spring is the season when it's too late to stride around in my favorite black boots but too cold to start showing off beautifully pedicured toes in my favorite strappy sandals. Instead, I have to deal with pantyhose (creepy), uncomfortable shoes, and socks -- and end up freezing to death anyway.

Worse, spring is the one season when I can't wear all black, so I end up realizing that no two grays (or beiges) will ever match, and that denim doesn't quite work for business meetings -- though I've certainly tried to get away with it.

As it would happen, I have a client meeting early tomorrow morning with a client known for her impeccable and expensive Eileen Fisher wardrobe. I'm thinking this is the moment to wear understated black pants and tank top with the long silver-beige Eileen Fisher jacket/sweater I snagged at a thrift shop and have been wondering about. It's an idea, but I don't think I have a raincoat long enough to cover the damn sweater.

Oh, please. Isn't it June yet?

The one glimmer of hope on the horizon: I have a few VIP passes for the warehouse sale in Mukilteo Saturday morning at 9 a.m. (General public isn't admitted until 10 a.m.) My friend Kim and I went to the fall sale and each came away with five or six pairs of the most stunning shoes and boots, and we each spent less than $120.

Interested? You know how to reach me... I'll be happy to give you a pass.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Perfect popcorn in a frying pan

I used to make popcorn in an old Revereware pan and then groan when I had to remove all the sticky residue from the hot oil. Microwave popcorn certainly bypasses the pan cleaning, but it always seems so greasy or strange tasting. Have you ever looked at the ingredients on the package? Ewwww.

Today I took out the old cast iron frying pan, put some peanut oil and three corn kernels in, turned the gas on high, and put on a lid. When the three kernels popped, I tossed in 1/4 cup of corn, lowered the flame to medium high, and popped the corn. (The little pouring spout on the pan was perfect for letting the air escape; I didn't need to try to angle the lid.)

The batch popped very quickly (all that frying pan surface area!) and, to my shock, when I poured it into a bowl, there were no unpopped kernels. (This in spite of the fact the corn had been in a jar in the fridge for three years.)

I wiped down the pan with a paper towel. Now I had a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet and some of the most delicious popcorn ever -- all it needed with a tiny bit of salt.

Step-by-step yoga

I've been enjoying this website with animations that demonstrate yoga exercises (asanas) and poses. I'd never seen the Revolved Triangle pose before.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harder! Faster!

As I search for the perfect workout (am I as tiresome as my 20-something girlfriends searching for the perfect guy?) I've been looking at two local yoga programs.

Today I tried one. It was great. But it was wrong. (Yes, I do sound like my 20-something girlfriends searching for the perfect guy.)

The teacher is a delight and an inspiration, and explained sequences of activating muscles to achieve amazing pre-backbend poses. I learned a quite a bit, enjoyed the people, and plan to keep taking the once-a-week class. But workout value? Not much. This was the perfect warm-up for a workout. And fortunately, I'd logged a fast two-mile walk mid-day.

So, back to my workout search.

Unfortunately, what would be great workouts for lots of folks aren't appropriate for me. The issue is risk. I need a tough workout with very low risk of injury because, at my age, recovery time from an injury is measured in weeks, not days—by which time my fitness level would be zapped. (Were it not for this, I'd be trying out for one of the roller derby teams, or doing African dancing or capoeira.)

When I got back from yoga I did some online research and think I've discovered something. Ever heard of "tabatas"? Stay tuned.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The garlic cure

Like quite a few people I know, I've spent the past few weeks suffering from a mild but seemingly endless cold. Or was it two colds in succession?

It had been quite a while since I'd had colds like this, and I think I made the mistake of treating the symptoms instead of the colds themselves. I tried resting. I tried cough suppressants. I tried going about my work and workouts as if nothing were wrong. Finally, I tried garlic.

This was not just chopping up some garlic and eating it. This was the full garlic ceremony at the High Temple of Garlic, Fu Man Dumpling House.

I went there for lunch, and had a little salad of cold vegetables in a garlic marinade, followed by a cup of hot and sour soup redolent of black pepper. And then I had dumplings, smothered in the thick garlic and ginger sauce for which Fu Man Dumpling House is renowned.

Four hours later, all symptoms of the cold had vanished. I was almost sorry to see them go, because I had vowed to return to Fu Man Dumpling House for lunch every day until I was cured.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Boutique fashion

I'd been toying with the idea of a fashion post yesterday, but after getting a tip about this sale in Bellevue Saturday, I knew I had to write.

The topic is boutique fashion. There are classic clothes (Eddie Bauer, J. Jill, Nordstrom, Sundance, Isabella Bird) and there are...clothes. I first got the bug for boutique clothing at a Naked Ladies party—a clothing exchange hosted by women in the area dance community. One of the items someone brought to the exchange was a tan corduroy skirt. Sounds plain, but it had details: Hollywood waist, a hidden zipper with a very slim pull, and asymmetrical ruching that brought the skirt up to knee level at one part of the front. This sounds weird; it looked great.

Boutique clothing is characterized by lush and extreme materials; lots of detailing; lots of drape; and (often) exotic colors. There's nothing cookie cutter about it. If you like the bright turquoise crocheted sweater but want it in red, you're out of luck. It's often discouraging to try to mix a piece of boutique clothing into a regular wardrobe because it speaks a whole other language. Or at least talks with a very strong accent.

That skirt from the Naked Ladies party got me to venture into Anthropologie, a store of which I'd once said "if I buy anything here, shoot me."

Shopping trips to Anthropologie are trying because only one out of every 10 or so things I try on looks good. But that piece doesn't just look good; it looks incredibly good. (I handle the coordination issue by making sure that whatever I buy at Anthropologie, it either goes with a black top or a black skirt.)

So...I ventured into Anthropologie at University Village Thursday and found an amazing dress. However, I ran up against another of the weird phenomena of the boutique clothing world: skimpy sizing. I wear an 8 or a 10, but the manufacturer of the dress only made the item up to a size 8 (which they label a large!). And I thought I really needed a 10.

The led me to search online, where a store called Tobi carries the brand (Velvet) and has similar styles of dresses that do come in a 10. And this morning, when I came across the info on the Eastside Upside-Down Sale, I noticed that one of the brands at the sale will be Velvet.

One of the boutiques at the sale will be the intriguing Tatters from Mercer Island. I got a quick look in their window a few weeks ago, and am definitely interested. Bringing it all full circle: One of the skirts shown on Tatters' homepage is remarkably similar to the tan corduroy skirt that got me interested in this type of clothing in the first place.

Monday, March 24, 2008

More brown rice tips

I try to eat a cup of brown rice every day (from a batch I cook up on Monday morning). Staring at the bowl of rice today, not really wanting my usual cinnamon, milk and honey, I thought: Curry!

That meant sprinkling on curry powder, cumin, and raisins, mixing it up, and heating the rice in the microwave. When it was done, I added a heaping tablespoon of yoghurt and mixed it all up. Delicious! Probably could have used some nuts for protein...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I've been Peeped

You've heard of Peeping Toms? I have a Peeping Mark — a former boyfriend who has for the past 13 years come by the house and hung a bag full of boxed Peeps on the front door.

I was in the basement doing the laundry today when the Peep-and-run occurred. This year it's a batch of traditional yellow Peeps. Very nice in their traditional Bartell bag. (Somehow, I don't think this would work if they weren't in a Bartell bag.)

I've been thinking quite a bit recently about the sentimental pull of food. Since very few of us were raised with treasured recipes for tofu and salad, these sentimental foods tend to be on the unhealthy side. This, then, introduces the question of how to avoid overindulging in Aunt Helen's fudge, the five-pound box of chocolate from the candy store in your old home town, and the deep-fried goodies at your family's favorite clam shack (forgive the East Coast reference).

My solution? Eat one meal of the goodies and then ask someone else to make the leftovers disappear. Face it, you will never be able to put even a tablespoonful of Cousin Guido's lasagna down into the trash. Another approach is to tuck the items into the back of the fridge until they are no longer appealing. And yet a third approach is to let someone else in your house finish them off (unless, of course, this gets into the territory of "sabotage.")

Not being a sweets person, I'm most likely to have these eat it/toss it interior dialogs in front of a bag of bagels and tub of cream cheese, or looking at a piece of fried chicken. So, fortunately, the Peeps are harmless. I'll eat a package of them today and then put the rest in a basket for the Easter bunny. He'll burn it off hopping around tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The "organic" label makes me roll my eyes

A friend of mine is obsessed with New Age housecleaning products. When she sees my Cheer Free laundry detergent (the big, bad corporate version of perfume-free products) her shoulders tense up and her smile becomes fixed. At her urging, I purchased an alternative laundry detergent. I'm pretty sure it's exactly the same as the Cheer Free, except that the PR department killed the bright label and replaced it with a soothing beige-and-green label bearing words like "eucalyptus."

Think I'm being cynical?

Are you a fan of Boca Burgers, Naked Juice, Silk Soy, Gardenburger, Odwalla, Seeds of Change, Dagoba, and Arrowhead Mills? Let's see...that would be: Kraft, Pepsi, Dean, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, M&M Mars, Hershey Foods and Heinz (which likes to call itself Hain when it's feeling organic).

Really! Chart here. And thanks to The Diet Blog for pointing this out.

Eating locally

A friend turned me on to Mashiko in West Seattle last week. The meal — plates of sashimi composed for us by the chef as we sat at the sushi bar — was amazing. Toro. Monkfish liver. Scallops wrapped in proscuitto. Geoduck. Mashiko offers a sampler of three types of saki, and, that, too, was stellar; one type was redolent of cedar.

The next morning I woke up feeling so healthy and energized. I think it was the food!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Walking weather

I'm visiting family in Florida this week. It's reminding me of what an important role the weather plays in fitness—at least for me.

The temperature here is in the 70s during the day, and, especially when it's overcast, this is pleasant weather for walking or biking. No bundling up or raincoats required—I just put on comfortable walking sandals and head out the door. There are sidewalks everywhere, and there's something very pleasant about chugging along while watching the egrets and various other birds in the palm trees.

No question, getting in a 45-minute walk every day is much easier in Florida than it is in still-wintery Seattle. That's more than 14 miles a week—14 miles a week I haven't been logging at home.


Friday, February 22, 2008

In defense of carbs

(cross-posted on The Mysterious Traveler)

Ten years ago, fat was the bane of dieters. Today, it's carbs.

But there are carbs, and there are carbs.

One one hand, you have Minute Rice, Ritz crackers, instant oatmeal, and white bread. And on the other hand, you have brown rice, Rye Krisps, steel-cut oats, and breads like Ezekiel Bread and Dave's Killer Bread.

The difference is whole grains and fiber. The high-fiber carbs are very filling and nutritious. Eaten with a little cheese or peanut butter, they're a whole meal.

Somewhat to my amazement, I've come to love brown rice. I cook a big pot of it every Monday morning, and live off it for the rest of the week. (See the brown rice recipe, below.)

Brown rice heated up with a little cinnamon and brown sugar and chopped apples makes a quick breakfast. Leftover baked chicken or leftover vegetables (or curry) can be mixed with brown rice for lunch. And brown rice pudding with currents makes a very good dessert or evening snack.

My favorite brown rice dish is brown rice pancakes. I mix cooked brown rice with lots of browned onions, eggs, a little potato flour (or regular flour) and a pinch of baking soda. Then I drop the batter by 1/4 measures into a frying pan with oil to make something very similar to potato pancakes.

It turns out there are many types of brown rice. I've been using the plain, large-grain brown rice. Here's the basic recipe:

• 2-1/3 cups of rice to 4 cups of water
• or 3 -1/2 cups of rice to 6 cups of water

Rinse the uncooked rice three times and drain well. Put the water on to boil in a separate saucepan. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, put two tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a heavy, tight-lidded sauce pan, then sauté the well-drained rice in the oil while you wait for the water to boil. Do this over fairly high heat. It has to be stirred constantly, otherwise it will scorch. This process coats the rice with the oil and evaporates the water from rinsing. The rice will begin to smell very nutty after a minute or two.

When the water in the other pan has come to a vigorous boil, pour it over the rice in the sauce pan. It is very important at this point not to stir the rice anymore, not even once. Let it come back up to a vigorous boil, put the lid on, turn it down as low as you can and cook for 45 minutes. During this time,
do not lift the lid or do anything else to it. When 45 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the rice sit undisturbed for at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Am I too sick to work out?

I've had a cold in my chest for more than a week, but no fever. I get tired in the late afternoon, and start coughing when I'm tired. The first day this happened, I took a nap, but now I'm chugging along at pretty much my regular rate.

I've been doing yoga, but skipping the African dance aerobic cardio workouts.

Mulling over whether to get back on the track with the cardio class tonight, I did some online research. The best article I found quoted Mayo Clinic physicians advising against doing a major workout after a cold has settled in your chest.

So it's yoga at home again tonight.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Comfort food (and drink)

There's something about being sick that strips your life down to basics: Bathrobe, shearling slippers, bed, and food that doesn't have to be cooked much, if at all.

I drink black tea (Yorkshire Gold) all the time, but when I have a cold it's just Lipton, since I'm going to squeeze half a lemon into every cup anyway!

Clear soup works for me. We have some natural chicken soup base (paste in a jar that you refrigerate, not the powdered stuff) and spicy Thai Kitchen soup (canned). Zorg cooked me scrambled eggs for dinner — perfect.

My comfort-food favorites are extremely dry ginger ale and raspberry sorbet, neither of which we generally keep in stock. And, since I'm only slightly under the weather, I can't justify wheedling for a special trip the grocery store to get those.

What are your favorite comfort foods?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Who moved my workout?

Suddenly none of my fitness classes seems to adhere to a schedule. The every-other-week extreme yoga class is now happening two weeks in a row, but not the next week, and then who knows?

The dance/yoga class is canceled for three weeks, then starting up again in March.

Power belly dancing was on hiatus while the instructor went to Hawaii; now it's back for a while — until she goes to Egypt. The new start time is earlier than it used to be, so I spaced out and didn't get to the class on Tuesday. Argh.

As you can probably tell, this is driving me nuts. I was so proud of myself for getting to three workouts a week, no excuses, but now I'm finding the schedule changes are making me crazy and cranky.

I considered trying out a yoga class at a new studio, and penciled two classes in on the calendar this week, but then I wimped out. I find breaking into a new class pretty stressful. I worry about things like will the teacher teach the whole hour using terms I've never heard before? Will the class be made up of model-thin 25-year-olds wearing strappy pastel yoga tops?

So I ended up in the dining room this afternoon, doing "trailer park yoga" on my own. I guess that's the new schedule: If class is canceled, take that time slot and do 50 minutes of yoga in the dining room. While I have trouble pushing myself to do the fast aerobic vinyasa transitions, I can push myself to do the really long poses and long balancing moves, plus the weight lifting, so I'm definitely getting a good workout.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who's in charge here, me -- or the menu?

There are people who enjoy making charts, counting calories, and weighing and measuring, and generally tracking everything they are going to eat.

It doesn't work for me. It doesn't work at potlucks, at other people's houses, or in most restaurants. It doesn't work because I don't like a way of eating that makes a fuss or calls attention to me.

To my way of thinking, the American way of eating (out) is so far removed from what's good or recommended that it feels almost ludicrous to count and measure and nickle-and-dime it ("Let's see, I can have one-fourth of the bacon cheeseburger, with three french fries..."). So I've found that I need whole new strategies to deal with eating out.

Currently, I'm playing around with these three:

1. The 1-in-9 strategy. Eat eight healthy, low-fat, high-fiber, yada-yada, meals at home or at your desk and get one meal out in High-calorie Land. And enjoy it.

2. The half-of-what's-on-the-plate strategy. This works particularly well with American breakfasts. Order the standard bacon-eggs-toast breakfast and eat half of it. This also works well with "one-dish" types of meals such as pasta dinners and sandwich lunches, where you can get a doggy bag and take the rest home. And it's also a life-saver when you're on vacation and none of the menus are within your control so the 1-in-9 strategy can't be applied.

3. The two-appetizer dinner plan. This is for elaborate multi-course meals in special restaurants where everything looks delicious and, of course, you aren't going to sit there and nibble the boring Caesar salad while everyone else vacuums up the trout meuniere or fettucine quattro formaggio. Quite often much of what appears on the dinner menu, surrounded by potatoes, rice, sauces, etc., is available in a smaller, less starchy, version as an appetizer. So when everyone else orders an appetizer and a main course, you can order two appetizers, having the second as your main course.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fashion: Computer bags get beyond "basic black"

I'm mad for bags, and got to write about the laptop bags I saw at Macworld Expo for TidBITS, the Mac news site. Here's the article, and a slideshow.

The photo at right shows me wearing my fave bag, the beta version of a sling bag due out in May from the highly regarded Brenthaven company.

It turned out I wasn't the only one prowling the aisles at Macworld in search of the coolest bags. You'll find more bag reviews at Geeksugar (Melissa Beth bags), ars technica, SlipperyBrick (Targus bags), Laptops Arena (Clark & Mayfield bags), and Techie Diva (Urban Junket). Some reviewers were all about fashion and others were all about function.

Ironically, while Crumpler blanketed the blogosphere with press releases about its new line of Squirrel briefcase bags, and won oohs and aahs for its creative booth (a castle) and swag (playing cards), the non-squirrel bags that make up much of the Crumpler line failed to impress me. Most are unconstructed, limp affairs that would look lumpy with a laptop in them, particularly if you tried to stow any odd-shaped accessories as well. Better save the Crumpler for when you're packing just your iPod and a trendy sweater.

Workout Review: Beginning Belly Dance with Dahlia Moon

Since Visionary Dance has been kind enough to let me take the Power Belly weight-belt workout without actually knowing how to belly dance, I thought it was time to learn the basics. The introductory class turns out to be yet another great group of women (and one young man, who seems to be with two women from his high school). And Dahlia Moon is great teacher.

Dahlia Moon does "modern Egyptian" belly dance, which is a very elegant style associated with movie and cabaret performances. Delilah, who founded Visionary Dance and teaches Power Belly, does what's called American Style, but I'm told she does a take on it that's uniquely her own. There's a third style called American Tribal that has New Age and, sometimes, Goth elements; the photo (above) is of Tribal belly dancers.

A few of the warmups we did tonight were similar to the ones I did last night at the African dance-based workout. The "snake arms," on the other hand -- those were something else entirely.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Workout review: African Fitness Jam

Tonight I drove over to Capitol Hill for the African Fitness Jam workout with Eric Wilson, the founder of CompFit. The class focuses on African dance moves that strengthen your core (lower abdomen and back). I definitely found some muscles in my lower back that I'd been neglecting!

The live drumming is so energizing, and Eric is such an inspiring teacher and dancer, that the class (a half hour of warm up and individual consultation, followed by an hour of fast-paced dancing and a cool-down) just zips by. Highly recommended.

Money and fitness goals

The excellent Diet Blog notes that the new StickK website lets you set up a contract in which you set a goal, choose a referee, and then deposit money that you can't get back until the referee affirms that you've met your goal. (If you don't make the goal, the money goes to a charity of your choice.)

StickK ("Put a contract out on yourself!") has online communities for the popular goals of exercise, weight loss, and quitting smoking.

Would this work for you?

C2 Clothes

Turns out that not all "comment spam" is bad.

This blog got a "comment" from C2 Clothes that was all about them...but when I went to moderate it I looked at their site and realized I like the look of their workout clothes and was impressed by the information the website had on the high-tech elements used to achieve comfort and durability.

Has any one tried out any of their products?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rock the routine

I like to do power yoga and resistance work to hip-hop and pop music — tunes I'd never listen to for any other reason. According to an article in todays New York Times, that's because the 120-140 beats per minute of upbeat dance numbers like Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" match my workout heart rate. (Tip: Use the little iTunes-BPM Inspector (freeware) to calculate beats per minute.)

The article goes on to talk about neurologist Oliver Sacks swimming while humming waltzes, and Greek warriors going into battle listening to music played in the Dorian mode.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bill Hartman

If you're intrigued by exercise, and what different types of exercise do and don't do, Bill Hartman's blog is a good read. I liked this piece, which includes a hierarchy of effective exercises for fat loss.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Food news

OK, enough about clothes and yoga. I spent Sunday at the Pike Place Market, unquestionably the highest concentration of gourmet comestibles per square foot in the city.

Nina and I started with brunch at Cafe Campagne, a place that preserves an old-fashioned French urban vibe: Old room, old furniture, everything gleaming and golden and just a bit fussy. The service is attentive and professional and the classic, unabashedly rich food is a relaxing exception to the assemblages of politically correct pedigreed ingredients that are currently in style elsewhere.

I had oeufs en meurette ("poached eggs served on garlic croutons with pearl onions, bacon and champignons in a red wine and foie gras, sauce served with pommes frîtes") and Nina had the cassoulet with lamb, pork, duck confit and garlic sausage. We also had a side of the cafe's thick-sliced rosemary raisin toast, which I thought was one of the best things I've ever eaten. (So where do they get that rosemary raisin bread?)

After brunch we popped into Rose's Chocolate Treasures to buy truffles and ooh and ah at the antique hot chocolate sets for sale (these look like tea sets, except both the pots and the cups are tall and narrow). No, I didn't try the chocolate blueberry basil or the chocolate balsamic tomato truffles pictured here. I had the "plain" toasted coconut truffle.

Next stop was the Perennial Tea Room to buy Yorkshire Gold breakfast tea. They have an extensive display of Henley stainless steel teapots. Pick one of these mid-century modern pots up by the odd-looking handle and you realize that this is not a teapot that is going to pull forward or tip when filled with water. It's beautifully designed. The painted ones (bright colored pots with stainless feet, spouts, lids, and handle) were in a two-cup size but the plain stainless one comes in four sizes, all the way up to a 53-oz. "family" size (at left).

The Perennial Tea Room is one of the area tea organizations sponsoring a Northwest Tea Festival in the fall. Details to come at the website.

What cost fitness?

I was standing in the shower this morning, rinsing shampoo out of my hair and calculating how much my 3-times-a-week workout program costs on an annual basis when I heard someone pounding on the front door.

It wasn't that polite Fed Ex we've-left-your-package knock. It was the your-car-is-blocking-the-neighbor's-driveway; the we've-got-a-report-of-an-assault type of banging. The kind where you know the person knocking isn't going to go away and let you finish your shower.

So I jumped out, grabbed a towel and wrapped it around me, and dashed to the front door. I yanked it open to discover one of my neighbor's contractors on the porch.

"Oops," he said with a big grin. "Terry said you'd have a key."

I dripped over to the mail table, got the key, and handed it to him.

Workouts: $1,500-$2,250 a year.

Being able to comfortably answer the front door wearing only a bath towel: Priceless.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Love is the answer

I just checked my RSS newsreader and saw about 100 posts on exercise and dieting—some from blogs about health and fitness, but plenty from personal and professional blogs.

So, I'm going to blog about what works for me. And why it might not work for you. (And why what works for you might not work for me.)

Confused? OK, let's back up. When I was in college, studying for a degree in psychology, I came across a study that compared three types of therapy: traditional psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, and behavioral (reward/punishment) therapy. Participants were asked which therapy they believed was most effective, but were then assigned randomly to a course of treatment with a therapist. Which therapy was most effective? It turned out that all three therapies were most effective—with those individuals who believed in advance that that therapy would work for them.

Now, extrapolate that to exercise and dieting. The reason most people fail with exercise programs and diets is because they don't enjoy their workouts and they don't enjoy what they're eating. Our lives are busy and stressful enough that there are just too many reasons to give up on something you don't enjoy.

(Can you imaging meeting someone, falling madly in love with them, and then saying you weren't seeing them very often because the person didn't fit into your schedule? Or because you spend all your evenings with your friends, and your friends didn't like the person? Substitute "diet" or "workout" for "person" and you'll see why these are pretty feeble excuses. If you love your workout, or you love what you're eating, you'll change your life to stick with it.)

So the challenge is to find the workout, or the diet, that you love.

In my case, the workout I love is 5 hours a week of yoga classes (or, substitute in belly dance classes if there aren't enough yoga classes available). I haven't found a diet I love, so dieting doesn't work for me.

But it might be different for you. You might decide you love the South Beach Diet. Or running. Or eating primarily organic vegetables and whole grains.

I've found myself rolling my eyes at people who ask, about my workout schedule, "So, how much longer are you going to do that?"

Er, for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Two moves for the new year

Today's workout with Susan Powter.

Put down the mat.

• Breathing
• Step back, reach up.

Now...a little more detail. Susan covers extensions, bends, hangs, sinks, rotations, and all sorts of yoga-derived moves that will strengthen your core and warm you up: