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?