The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bahamian Vacation

Paradise Island, The Bahamas....... very nice this time of year! We are staying at a time share villa, which is down the beach from the "action" at Atlantis, and I am happy about that. It's kinda interesting, DH and I spent a few days here about 15 years ago. We stayed at Atlantis, when it was rundown and in need of a makeover. Well, now it is a sprawling mega-resort. We walked over there last night. DH and son#1 spent some time (and money) in the casino. I had to pretty much babysit son #2 since he isn't old enough to gamble. Nothing was going to make him happy, but I refused to allow him to make me miserable. We settled on watching some football at their Sports Book and then hit up Ben and Jerry's.

Today we went to the Blue Lagoon Island for an interactive program with dolphins-- a dolphin encounter. The "swim with the dolphins" program was sold out, so we got to play with a dolphin named Shawn with 9 other people. These animals are amazing, very beautiful and intelligent and trained to entertain. They dance with you and kiss you and you get to hug them and of course, the photographers are there documenting all. I thought my kids might have outgrown this kind of thing, but they both enjoyed it immensely. And we all took something away from the experience

I have been taking walks on the beach and of course, taking lots of pictures. Yesterday son #1 and I went on a photo safari to these amazing "Versailles" gardens at one of the nearby hotels. I would like to take more pictures of the local people and the island culture, instead of Americans on the beach and vacation culture. Hopefully I will have the chance over the next few days. Island life is good.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The winter solstice marked the end of my winter pre-season with mixed results. Overall, I feel like I made good progress in building in some good habits, but it was difficult to get them all aligned simultaneously. I think I underestimated the reach of the "holiday season." Cookies and treats seem to abound and party buffets make it way too easy to overeat. As the days get longer and move toward the equinox, I know it is time to establish some goals and begin to plan how I am going to get there. So my fitness goals for 2009 are:

  • Harriman Triathlon
  • 100k bike ride (a metric century)

Training for a sprint triathlon is not rocket science (although some people may be tempted to develop spreadsheets with workouts and mileage goals, etc). Basically, you have to swim, bike and run, and mix in some strength training, core workouts and stretching. Some cross training keeps it fun, and for me, being outdoors is always a plus. Riding 62 miles requires riding progressively longer rides until you are ready for 100k. You can ride as slow as you want, so it’s more about focus than physical strength. For both of these goals, you always have to provide your body with good nutrition (and by that I mean food and not “products”).
I have decided to break my plan for achieving these fitness goals into months. This will give me the flexibility to re-evaluate and reconsider what is or is not working. My goal for January is to start getting all the pieces in the mix. From now until January 31, I plan to swim, bike run, lift, stretch and do core workouts. No mileage goals or emphasis or set number of days per week. I just want to start doing these activities to get a sense of what feels easy or hard. It’s more about making a commitment and mentally focusing on the roadmap to get there. The theme for the next 38 days will be “focus.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

12 Inches

Snow, 12 inches of snow. Today I met my friend Nick at the golf course with our snowshoes. Nick is a great athlete and during the winter he competes in snowshoe races. He was kind enough to slow down for me and we snowshoed about 3 miles around the golf course. It was still snowing when we started but it cleared up, the sun came out and it morphed into a beautiful afternoon. Moving through 12 inches of snow (even on snowshoes) is hard work! When we were done, I was done, but Nick took off for a 2nd loop around, with much more speed. Anyway, it was a great way to get outside and celebrate the winter solstice. Much better than burning calories on the treadmill or even the expresso bike!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Expresso Bike

My gym has 2 Expresso bikes. Today I rode 4 miles on the recumbent and it was so fun! There is a video display and you pick your tour. You can do laps in a velodrome or a ride through a redwood forest. You have to steer to stay on the road and there are other riders on the tour. The resistance automatically changes as the terrain changes. You can set up an account and track your progress. It was much more fun than any of the programs on the regular exercise bikes.

I got in the pool with my iPod and the lifeguard got sooooo excited when she saw me swimming with my tunes. I told her the Otterbox/H20 Audio Waterproof Headphones totally rocks and she probably went straight home and ordered them. At my last Masters swim session, the coach really had me focus on connecting my breathing to my arms and emphasizing rolling to the air. Something clicked and my swimming feels much more connected. Swimming this morning and Wednesday evening reinforced this. I'm liking it. Swimming well is so much more difficult than most people realize. Making itsy bitsy improvements in your stroke can translate into big improvements in your efficiency. Eventually, that will make you a faster swimmer. But remember, slow is beautiful. I am becoming a beautiful swimmer if not a faster swimmer.

And now I am home watching it snow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rock My World

I bought myself 2 "holiday gifts" (This works well because my family is relieved of the responsibility of figuring out what I might want to receive as a gift). The first self-gift is an 18 ounce pink stainless steel water bottle. It is perfect. It fits in the mesh pocket on my backpack and accompanies me on my daily travels -- commuting into NYC, various meetings and other work-related activities, driving around suburbia. I may have to give my pink companion a name!

The second self-gift is a waterproof "otterbox" for my Nano and waterproof headphones. The idea is to be able to listen to music while swimming. I used it last night for the first time and I have to tell you, it TOTALLY ROCKS. It took about 10 minutes to get it right-- to get the headphones positioned to create a waterproof seal and to get the volume right. But I'm sure it will be easier the next time I use it. But it is very comfortable, including having the ipod clipped to the side/back of my bathing suit and the sound quality, while not great, is good enough. I absolutely spent more time in the water because how can you turn off your ipod when you are listening to ultra classic rock like the Grateful Dead's Bertha or Springsteen's Born to Run. Or even new music like Ray LaMontagne. I just fell into my freestyle rhythm and kept on swimming propelled by my tunes. It felt awesome to be moving through the water.

So I am doing much better with my workouts in this Winter Pre-Season, but the holiday parties are wreaking havoc on my nutrition. Why is it so difficult to get all the pieces working simultaneously? I have also been making an effort to spend more time with DH and other people I love and cherish. We had dinner with some dear friends last weekend and tomorrow I am hosting a pot luck holiday dinner for my bookclub and our spouses. The bike club holiday party was Sunday and it was a good time. I hope to bring the feelings of love, friendship, and community into the new year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

WPS Update

The Winter Pre-Season has been going well in some respects and a disaster in others. I have been preparing meals based on fresh good-for-you ingredients—soup, stir fries, oatmeal for breakfast. I have packed lunch most days, usually leftovers. I also have a stash of lunchables in the freezer—mostly generous single servings of homemade soup, so I really don’t have an excuse for not bringing lunch to work. I have been microwaving my leftovers in cheapo plastic containers and I know this is bad. So today I brought some old dishes into work and put them in the little communal kitchen. This builds on my already established habit of packing real utensils and a cloth napkin in my lunchbag. As a result of this good habit, I am definitely spending less cash. But, there are days when I don’t get outside at all even for a walk down the street to buy lunch. I think I need to work on this (more about this later).

I am drinking more water during the workday. I fill my water bottle from the water fountain. I don’t drink bottled water. I have decorated my water bottle with reminders of my goals such as “100 k = 62 miles.” I plan to ride a metric century in 2009. As a holiday present to myself, I ordered a stainless steel bottle. I want to eliminate nalgene bottles from my life (I ordered bottles as gifts for my nieces and DH too).

I have not been inside the gym in just about 2 weeks. I had a nasty slow-moving cold that kept me home for a couple of days and feeling like total crap for over a week. Then I got my period just for good measure, which marked the beginning of the headache that will not leave. And finally I just felt sorry for myself for a few more days and convinced myself that I deserved to go home and sit in front of the TV.

I have had a headache off and on for about 4 or 5 days now. I think it’s from a combination of “triggers,” but not getting any exercise and not getting any real exposure to natural light is definitely not helping! The exercise part is easy to fix. It’s called “driving to the gym when I get off the train instead of driving home.” I also think I need to spend time outdoors. This is tough when sunrise is at 7:13 am and sunset is at 4:27 pm, but I need to make this happen. When the weather was warmer I used to bring my camera into the city and sneak out for walk around the neighborhood. Haven’t done that in a long while. And there is so much going on in NYC this time of year, starting with the holiday market across the street in Bryant Park. So the next 2 weeks of the WPS will be about getting to the gym and getting outside. And maintaining the other good habits I have put into play.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why I Like Winter

I’m definitely a summer person. I would much rather have a 90 degree day, than a 30 degree day. Winter is my least favorite season, but winter is okay. The more I think about it, the more reasons I like winter. Okay, so I’m stretching it. I am trying to rationalize why I shouldn’t totally hate every minute of winter. But isn’t it better to be an optimist and to see the glass at least half full? So here are the reasons I like winter.

  • Winter solstice-- Winter officially begins on the winter solstice—the day with the least amount of daylight, the “shortest day of the year.” So, winter means the days are getting longer!
  • Root vegetables—winter means roasting carrots and parsnips, turnips, and yams. I love root vegetables. And kale. Yes, I really like kale. (kale is not a root vegetable).
  • Hot chocolate—spend some time outdoors and you are entitled to a big mug of hot chocolate when you are done.
  • Hard core status—when you go out for a run or a bike ride or even a walk on a cold winter day, people are very impressed by your dedication. They typically comment, “wow, you are hard core.”
  • Books—it is okay to spend time indoors, curled up on the couch with a good book. Napping is also acceptable.
  • Snowshoeing and cross country skiing—if its going to snow, you might as well enjoy it. I love these winter sports. Also see #3.
  • Body heat—not the movie. The best way to warm up when you get into a cold bed!

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Long Sudafed Night

I'm still sick. This is some rhinovirus! It seems intent on staying with me for as long as possible. On Wednesday night I was so stuffy and sneezy that I took a Sudafed. One little 30 mg expired little red pill. And it kept me up until at least 4:00 am. That's an awfully long time to lie awake in your bed and not sleep.

I am one of those people that does not like to take medicine. Luckily, I am healthy enough that I don't need to take very much medicine. I am also one of those people that believes that one way to prolong a cold is to take cold medicine instead of just letting it run its course. So why did I take that 1 stupid little Sudafed!?!? I guess I was just so miserable after coughing and sneezing for 96 hours (but who's counting) that I just wanted to sleep. That's the irony!

Now, the active ingredient in this Sudafed, which has probably been hanging around the house for years, is pseudoephedrine, the chemical that is used to manufacture crystal meth. Hmmm, I'll bet crystal meth is a stimulant! According to Wikipedia, methylamphetamine " is also used illegally for weight loss and to maintain alertness, focus, motivation, and mental clarity for extended periods of time." Damn, all that alertness, focus, motivation and mental clarity and I was trying to sleep through it! I could have spent the hours between 11 pm and 4 am cooking and cleaning and writing articles for publication in prestigious journals. I didn't even get up to watch TV. I just listened to DH breathe and stared at the clock for hours through the darkness of that sudafed night.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Green Thoughts

Still sick. My cold has marched northward from my lungs to my nose. The intense coughing has subsided, but the runny nose and sneezing has commenced. I did go to work today and got some things done, but left a little early, after coating all available surfaces with rhinovirus. Getting out of the house and not wearing pajamas all day was a delightful change. But I must admit that the option of planting myself in front of the TV for yet another day and watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of television shows that I never really watched did have a certain appeal. The X Files—might be worth renting on Netflix. Ditto NCIS. And of course, there’s always episodes of Law and Order or Law and Order SVU or Law and Order Criminal Intent on at least one channel within the Direct TV spectrum. But I digress.

The other activity in which I invested some time while home was blogatation; reading other blogs and pondering where I want to take my own blog. But that assumes I want to take my blog in a specific direction, which I don’t believe I do. I actually prefer to drag my blog along behind me, wherever I am going, instead of the other way around. On the other hand, reading other blogs has taught me a great deal and has provided me with many moments where I have had serious conversations with myself about what I believe and how I should behave. My sick days were spent pondering blogs about living simple, green and frugal. My general feeling is that while I have made some small steps in this direction, there is more that I can be doing. But far more thought provoking is trying to decide how far I should expect my family to accompany me along this road. As the person in charge of 90% of the food functions in this household, my family is getting dragged down this road, whether they know it or not. But son #2 will be off to camp this summer and then off to college and DH and I will become empty-nesters. We will have more opportunity to change our lifestyle and daily routines. We have already had a few conversations about selling the house, downsizing and moving to a community with lower property taxes. As much as I hate the idea of sorting through everything we own and selling, freecycling, and trashing a good chunk of it, I love the idea of having less stuff. I think that means I have to start thinking about downsizing my life now, regardless of whether we decide to sell the house or not. It’s far easier to keep something than to make the decision to get rid of it and then devise a plan to actually make that happen. What ever happened to the 7 Things Project? It may be time to resurrect this promise to myself to get rid of stuff I don’t need.

Monday, December 01, 2008


I am sick. For the past 2 or 3 days. Didn't go to work today. No energy. Television. Reruns. Tea. Bathrobe and slippers.

On the bright side, I made root vegetable-split pea soup in the pressure cooker. Carrots, parsnips, celeriac, onions, and green split peas. 10 minutes at high pressure, immersion blender, green creamy goodness. Yummy.