Friday, October 31, 2014


I just turned off the porch light and blew out the candles in the pumpkins. I knew the party was over when a pair of 16-year-olds in hoodies showed up at my doorstep. I winked at them, gave them the last of the Kit Kats I bought this afternoon at CVS for only 26 cents (yes, I'm that good) and told them they were scamming the system. I was tempted to explain how to stack coupons so they could get candy for 26 cents on their own, but I thought better of it. We all laughed and I'm hoping the laugh and the wink means they aren't going to egg my house in an hour.

Now I'm surfing Facebook, reading all the articles about how we're supposed to manage the onslaught of treats our children are getting for Halloween.

I'm reading 'let's give out cheap plastic trinkets instead of sugar-filled candy! We can stimulate the Chinese economy and contribute to landfills! Yay!'

I'm reading about all the swap out candy schemes and let's send candy to the troops! Because, yes, these people are defending our country so what they really need to maintain mental clarity and physical prowess is high-fructose corn syrup and red #5!

We're not going to be doing any of these things.
This year's haul. Pretty manageable.

Here's how we handle Halloween: we don't go to scads of houses. We hit about a dozen. It's getting cold around here, we're not seeing the neighbors quite as much, so we visit the near ones, have a wee chat and let the kids collect some candy. We also end up with a few made-in-China trinkets and a pack of Doritos, but that's about it.

We don't end up with an 'onslaught of treats' because we don't make a career out of visiting 50 neighborhoods. The kids will enjoy a treat or two everyday for the next few days, then it will be over and we'll move on. Really, this is not a long-term dental-cavity-waiting-to-happen kind of thing for us.

One article I read included a comment from a woman saying, "I hate it when people say, 'It's just once a year!' They're getting junk all the time!" Umm... really? Mine aren't. In our home, Halloween really IS just once a year. As a parent, I stoke my kids up with uber-nutrient-dense foods and limit the living daylights out of sugar so they can enjoy treats on Halloween. A few treats, from the near neighbors, and then it's over.

Though next year I'll be saving up some coupons. For the 16-year-olds in the hoodies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two Buck Cluck: The Blessing of the Backyard Chicken

We love eggs. In fact, it was Darling Son #1's first word. Not 'Mama.' 'Egg.' (He's very food-motivated.)

Eggs are a wonderful food. An egg delivers easily-assimilated protein and other nutrients, including vitamins D and B12, the latter of which is especially important if you're not eating a lot of other animal foods. But here's the catch: you have to....


I wish I had recorded my aunt's rant when she learned back in the 1990's that we were supposed to pitch the yolks. The yolk contains the cholesterol, which it turns out, is actually good for us. The American Heart Association recanted it's position on eggs in 2000, but Auntie called foul from the beginning. "That's ridiculous! That's the most absurd thing I have ever heard!" And she went on. Auntie is quite entertaining when she gets her knickers in a twist. I should have her do a guest rant on the blog some time.

Recently I was in a supermarket and overheard a man telling someone he eats Egg Beaters, 'you know, because of the cholesterol.' I really wanted to shout, 'No! Eat the yolks!' But I restrained myself. That's why I have my blog. I can shout at people without being the crazy lady in the supermarket.

So much of the good stuff is in the yolk. I would tell you that's the end of my lecture, but wait! There's more!

Not All Eggs are Created Equal

Chickens are meant to roam around. They travel in packs and peck around at the ground, gobbling up bugs and worms. Chickens are not vegetarians. They are omnivores--big time. And they make great pets!

Our friends Adam and Annie keep chickens in their backyard. They purchased each of these delightful little creatures for -- wait for it -- TWO DOLLARS! What a deal!
Annie introducing Hezzie the Hen to a somewhat reluctant DS#2

Adam and Annie's hens are fine layers, too. Sometimes they have a surplus and sell a dozen to us. I love buying eggs from them for several reasons:

They eat what chickens are supposed to eat. Annie feeds the chickens table scraps. They supplement with a bit of chicken feed, but mostly they eat what the family eats. And they eat bugs, worms, grubs on the lawn, you name it. Annie told me they used to have to pick ticks off their three boys every night, but since they got the chickens, they don't have to anymore. The chickens eat the ticks. Win-win!

When you read a label on eggs or chicken in the market, it will often say 'all-vegetarian diet.' I guess this sounds healthier? Well, it's not. Chickens are not vegetarians. Feeding animals what they're designed by their Creator to eat is not only good for them, it's good for us. A well-fed chicken produces better quality eggs.

Annie's hens live in the open air. They get plenty of sunlight, which means (the yolks!) of their eggs are rich in vitamin D. Many people (including me) tend to be low in vitamin D. (Well, I'm not low anymore, but I used to be.) Because we slather on sunscreen and many of us work indoors, we just don't produce enough D from the sun, which really is the best source. I also live in a part of the world where it's mighty chilly much of the year, so people like me really need to maximize D in our diets.

If you don't have a friend with backyard chickens, look for eggs from chickens that are free to roam in the open air, ones that get plenty of sunlight and delicious bugs. Sadly, the term 'cage-free' doesn't always guarantee this. You kind of have to do your homework.

The downside is cost, and they're not available everywhere. Eggs from pastured chickens are more expensive than those from chickens cooped up indoors. You can find them at some supermarkets and farmer's markets. Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) offers an egg share, too. Even though they're more expensive than eggs from poor little chickens kept in battery cages, they're a bargain compared to other high-quality protein sources.

I like to support these smaller, local family farms, and I love to support our friends Adam and Annie. They co-founded a great organization called Waypoint Adventure that offers outdoor sporting opportunities for people with disabilities. It's win-win!

Honestly, I never thought about egg quality until I met Adam and Annie's hens and did some exhaustive internet researchtm. But even lower-quality supermarket eggs are better than a lot of other breakfast options. You have to do the best you can. If it's a toss up between eggs and Pop Tarts or even a so-called 'healthy' cereal, the eggs win every time!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Barre Crawl: barre3!

Barre3 is the only major barre franchise I hadn't tried. Based in Portland, Oregon, barre3 is understandably best represented on the west coast. There are a few here and there in the east, but none were near me or convenient to anywhere I have traveled lately.

I was itching to try it, though. I know people in other parts of the country who *love* barre3, so I was very excited to learn that a studio was opening up near me! Really near me. They opened this week, so I headed over this morning to take one of the (free!) opening week classes.

Before I go any further, I would like to mention that this review is based on only one class. Normally, I like to try a few before I share my abundant thoughts and strong opinions with the world, but it didn't work out in this case. And just so you know, the 'b' is meant to be lower case. Like e.e. cummings. And exhale. This is a thing, apparently. I'm going to capitalize it at the beginning of sentences, though. It looks too freaky otherwise.

About barre3

Barre3 was founded in 2008 by Sadie Lincoln, her husband Chris, and some other guy. Sadie is cute as a button and is definitely the face behind the brand.
Isn't she cute? Image:
In addition to the studio classes, barre3 has a very large and affordable online workout library, for which they offer a free 15-day trial. (I'll link it at the bottom of the post.) I've tried the online workouts and honestly, they didn't light me up, but some people really click with them. 

Sadie has also written a book, and there is an iPhone app that offers a variety of fun stuff. I'd generally say barre3 gets an A+ for accessibility.

Barre3 has definitely targeted a niche audience: mothers. In fact, the owner of my local greeted me at the door with someone else's baby on her hip. Studios offer childcare at certain classes for a small additional fee. This is a huge plus for mothers of little kids. It costs an arm and a leg to hire a sitter in my area, especially during the week as the cheap labor force (read: middle and high schoolers) are otherwise engaged. 

There are studios in 24 states, including Washington, DC, which isn't technically a state (but I won't open that can of worms.) There's also a studio in Canada (Toronto) and several in the Philippines. Quirky, huh?

The workout is a hybrid of barre, yoga and pilates. Honestly, lots of barre classes I have tried have yoga and pilates overtones, so I was interested to see how the fusion schtick would play out at barre3. 

The Class

Barre3 is definitely different.... not because of the yoga or pilates elements so much, more because the brand uses a lot of compound exercises. This means you're working the upper and lower body simultaneously. I really like compound movements. It brings extra challenge to the workout and it gets your heart rate up. And there were some large range-of-motion exercises sprinkled in among the up-an-inch-down-an-inch movements you usually do in a barre class.

The format was also a little different from most barre classes I've tried. You work various body parts throughout, rather than isolating parts as other barre brands tend to do. On one hand, this made the class a little more interesting than the standard arms/thighs/seat/abs format. But wow--there were a lot of reps. The instructor said there were a lot of reps, and she wasn't kidding. I'll admit that had me watching the clock a bit. Are we done yet?

'Pros' about barre3

  • It was a little different and it was challenging. Not crazy hard, but still quite challenging. I'm sure I'll feel it tomorrow. 
  • Childcare is a huge feather in barre3's cap. They are the only studio in my area that offers this. I don't need it now that both the little Darlings are in school, but wow... If they had opened a year ago, I would have been banging on the door with cash in my fist. I'm very happy for mothers in my area to have access to a barre with babysitting!
  • Barre3's pre-opening deal was a little unorthodox. The terms weren't such that I was willing to bite, but their overall standard pricing is a bit more affordable than other studios near me. 

'Cons' about barre3

  • I didn't get a single form correction or individual challenge. The instructor called out general modifications, but there was very little personal interaction. Granted, the class was quite full, and as expected for free opening week classes, there were a few newbies. Instructors tend to channel their attention on beginners, but still... I didn't see a whole lot of form correcting going on. (I'd say this class was middle of the pack in terms of instructor engagement.) This is kind of a thing for me, as I've mentioned before. As a more experienced/advanced practitioner, I'm really looking for that extra something-something from the instructor. It's hard to find, and I definitely didn't find it at barre3 today. 
  • This isn't really a 'con' for me, but at my local studio, the children's space is just a half-walled corner of the reception area.
    It's filled with books and toys, very cute, but the presence of children plus people coming and going made the environment slightly chaotic. This doesn't really bother me, but for some people, this might distract from the lovely lalala feeling of getting to a class.
  • I didn't love the actual studio space. The acoustics weren't great, the floor was hard, and only one wall was mirrored, so it was tough to check form.
  • For a brand that targets mothers, I found the core work in this class to be pretty light. And let me tell you, my abs are NOT my strongest part, so it's not that I'm such an ab badass. Maybe it was just this particular class? I don't know, but I definitely didn't feel challenged in my core.

Would I go back?

Sure, I'd consider going to barre3, but I can't say I was hopelessly over the moon about it. Maybe I'll be looking for something different in the future, and if they offer a super deal, I might bite at some point, but it wasn't enough to lure me away from the Bar Method, even though barre3 is closer to home. 


If you're interested in barre3, you can find studio locations here. The link to the free 15-day online workouts is here. There are DVDs and also some workouts you can try on youtube. (FYI, I found the live class significantly more challenging than the online workouts.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We're Going Nuts! Week 1 on the 21 Day Sugar Detox and All About Almonds!

I'm just finishing up my first week on the 21 Day Sugar Detox and I thought I'd delight you all with a little update.

What a crappy week. Really, it was a crappy week. I developed a miserable head cold, and I have this wonky shoulder thing going on. I have to do push-ups from the knees. Not that there is any shame it that, but do you know how hard I worked to get to full-form push-ups?? HARD. I worked hard. And now I'm on my knees. Harumph.


Anyway, this week was a good indicator of how often I tend to comfort myself with food. 'Oh, I feel lousy. I'll have some dark chocolate/greek yogurt with maple syrup/carby yumminess, etc.' No can do on the 21DSD. So I've had to stare down my addiction.

But the good news is, I'm winning! Cravings have diminished and... I've lost 3lbs. So that's nice.

I've also become quite intimately acquainted with the almond....


Almonds are nutrient rich and very versatile. You can make 'milk' from almonds, as well almond meal, which can be a substitute for grain flour in baking. Growing them apparently sucks up a lot of water, which was kind of an issue for California almond growers. They had a crazy bad drought out there this summer.

Anyway, I've been keeping almond milk in my fridge for a few years now. I never drink it straight, but use it in place of cow's milk pretty often. I'd never tried making it on my own before, but since I'm not eating sugar, I have a little more time on my hands. (That's sad. I know.)

Here's how you do it:

Start with two cups of raw almonds.

Soak almonds in water for about 8 hours. This may seem like an unnecessary extra step, but soaking the almonds disables the anti-nutrients. Nuts contain enzyme inhibitors, which can make them difficult to digest. They also contain a component called phytic acid, which binds to minerals, preventing your body from properly absorbing them. If you're just grabbing a few nuts as a snack, it's probably not a big deal, but if you're consuming a lot of nuts, it's a good idea to soak them first.

Mix 'em up! After soaking, drain the water, rinse the nuts and place them in a high-speed blender with three or four cups of water. (The 21DSD recipe calls for three cups, but my mixture was really thick, so I added a little more.)

Blend until smooth. I recently bought a Vitamix, and it worked great for this! I'm not sure how this would fly in a regular blender, so... blend at your own risk.

Next, you strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag. If you think you'll do this a lot, I'd highly recommend a nut milk bag. I bought this one. It's makes the whole thing much easier. And, as you'll see, it has other uses, too.

Squeezing out the nut milk is probably the hardest part of the whole process, and it's really not that hard. It's also great for developing grip strength. Silver lining!

You're left with the pulp in the bag, which you can dry out in an oven or dehydrator. Pulse it a few times in a food processor to break up any lumps, and you can use it as almond meal in a host of grain-free baking recipes.
I found texture to be a bit different from store-bought meal, but I'm still working on it. I think I dried the living daylights out of it. Oops.

Well, I had so much fun making my almond milk, that I wondered...

How it would be as yogurt??

I've been making my own yogurt for years, but I'd never tried it with anything other than cow's milk. I found these directions online and gave it a whirl. The only thing I'd add is to strain the finished yogurt through cheesecloth or nut milk bag for up to 24 hours, depending on how thick you like your yogurt.
I tried using a fine-mesh strainer (which is what I use to make a Greek-yogurt consistency with cow's milk yogurt) and it did not work. You need something even finer than fine-mesh.

Of course, I can't add my beloved maple syrup to my almond milk yogurt right now. So I'm using it in my 21 DSD smoothies. It makes them almost like ice-cream!

'Almost' being the key word.


If you're an almond milk drinker, I highly recommend trying the DIY route. It's way creamier than store-bought, and cheaper, too.

Before I go, I do want to mention an everything-in-moderation caveat to nut consumption. Properly prepared, nuts can be a great addition to a healthy diet, but be forewarned--if you're using lots of nut flours and milk, you could be consuming kind of a ridiculous amount. Almonds contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and most of us get plenty of PUFAs already. Not that PUFAs are bad, you just don't wan to consume too much... like so many other things in life.

So, there you go. Enjoy, but don't go... well, nuts. (sorry... couldn't resist...)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

100 Classes in 100 Days?

Most people aren't workout badasses. This is true. Most people struggle to get in some exercise. Most people seem to need more motivation to workout... not less. Modern life lends itself to sedentariness. Is that a word? Well. It is now.

However, there is this trend in the workout world--push yourself. Hard. Daily.

Much of it comes from nauseating 'fitspo.' If you don't know what that is, don't look it up. I'll tell you--it's almost always an image of a muscular, lean and scantily-clad woman with some ridiculous caption like 'pain is weakness leaving your body' or some other such nonsense.

If you read my blog, you know I'm a fan of that burning, shaking feeling you get in a good barre class. It's true that strength building requires at least some degree of discomfort.

But you know what? Strength building also requires something else: REST.

That's when your muscles repair. It's when you rest. You need rest. I'm writing this from my couch. I'm wearing my warm, fuzzy blue robe. I didn't go to the barre today. Or yesterday. I have a head cold and a wonky shoulder.

I was tempted to hit the barre this morning. I'm doing a monthly unlimited at a local studio. It's tempting to go as often as possible to get my money's worth! And I love the barre! But not today. I 'late canceled'. That means I didn't cancel early enough so I lose the class. And I'm ok with that, because today, rest is more important. But that can be a hard call for some people to make, including me.


A few months ago, I saw a shout-out on Facebook from one of the barre brands I follow. Someone at a distant studio had completed 100 classes in 100 days.


On one hand, wow! That takes a lot of diligence. And time.

But on the other hand, wow... that's over three months without a single rest day.

Fast forward another couple of months, and I'm attending a class at a studio affiliated with this brand, and I meet a sweet 25-year-old who saw the same Facebook shout-out. She has decided to try to do the same--100 classes in 100 days.

I'm trying really hard not to be her mother. She has one, and it isn't me. So I ask questions... why do you want to do this? Do you have any injuries? Are you sure this is a good idea? She tells me she just wants to see if she can do it. She says she's young. She 'should' be able to do it.

I try so hard not to give her advice. I try to be cool. But I can't help myself. "Don't get too hung up on the goal," I say. "Listen to your body," I say. "Don't push yourself everyday. Some days, just focus on the stretching," I say. I can't help myself.

I see her a few weeks later. I ask how it's going. She says she's so sore, but she's on track to complete 100 in 100. She says she lives in a state of soreness. But it's 'a good sore', she says.

And a few weeks after that, I see a post on Facebook. She's done it--100 classes in 100 days.

I'm noticing it's becoming a thing. 100 classes in 100 days. Posts are popping up from time to time. And the comments are all 'WOW!' 'You're amazing!!' 'Way to go!!!'

I don't know these women. They're all really proud of themselves, and the brand is over the moon! 100 classes in 100 days!

I struggled with writing this. Exercise can be so empowering, and I don't want to take anything away from these women who set a goal and reached it. But it makes me uncomfortable. Not so much that these women killed it. Like I said, I don't know them. This may have been a fine goal for them, safely accomplished, but I'm uneasy that it's institutionally celebrated. Is 100 classes in 100 days really better than 100 classes in, say, 114 days?

I don't think so.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Tale of Two Sugar Detoxes

As some of you may recall, earlier this year I did a sugar detox. (It was the best of times. It was the worst of times, etc.) I followed Australian journalist Sarah Wilson's book I Quit Sugar. I don't think I adequately recapped my experience here on the blog, but over on Facebook I've discussed it with several people.

I found the experience to be very positive. I really felt like I had come to a good place with sweets--and this was a beautiful thing. I felt like an addict who had finally reached a sobriety goal. Like I should have gotten a medal. Yay!

But like any addict will tell you, there can be relapses. I found, little by little, that I was dipping back into the chocolate chip bag. I hit rock bottom yesterday when we finally got around to celebrating Darling Son #2's third birthday. Despite having already resolved to detox, I had cake. And not just one civilized piece sitting around convivially at the table. There was a rather unsavory amount of clandestine schnarfing (yes, this is a word) in the kitchen as I was 'cleaning up.'

So I'm declaring to the world that I'm off sugar. This time, I'll try Diane Sanfilippo's 21 Day Sugar Detox instead of going through I Quit Sugar again.

To explain, I'm going to pretend I'm being interviewed by some hard-hitting journalist (HHJ.) Here we go!

HHJ: So, Stephanie, tell us about your sugar addiction.

Me: Oh, HHJ, I'm so glad you asked. I really do struggle with a sugar addiction. It's terrible. It's like sugar is a bad boyfriend--all sweet and lovely in the beginning, but in the end leaves you sobbing on the floor after cleaning out your bank account. Sugar is bad news, but I've always loved it. I do tend to be pretty picky about my sugar. I've never been one for hard candy or gummy worms, but give me the right mix of creamy, sweet yumminess and I'm hopeless. Cake, brownies, ice cream... I just can't have it in the house.

HHJ: How is The 21 Day Sugar Detox different from I Quit Sugar?

Me: I Quit Sugar (henceforth IQS) deals pretty much exclusively with fructose, which I've discussed in an earlier post (see here.) Fructose is the sugar found in fruit, which gives it a healthy-sounding glow to many, but when isolated from it's fruity packaging, is anything but good for you. It's also a component of other types of sugars, like sucrose (table sugar), high-fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, honey, maple syrup and, well, most other sweeteners. IQS completely prohibits fructose or anything containing it, including fruit, for a couple of weeks. You can eat pretty much anything else, like bread, pasta, etc. on IQS, but you will find eliminating fructose will naturally limit your options.

The 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD), on the other hand, allows for limited consumption of not-very-sweet fruits like green-tipped bananas, green apples and grapefruit, but restricts overall carbohydrates, which your body basically reads just like sugar.

I think both give pretty similar nutrition advice, but they differ on ideal sweeteners. IQS recommends fructose-free brown rice syrup to sweeten your occasional treats, while Diane's sweetener of choice is raw honey. (I should mention, neither recommend sweets very often, but when you do enjoy a treat, they'll use different sweeteners. And while there are sweet recipes in IQS, there are only non-sweet treats in 21DSD.)

In short, I'd say Diane is generally less hung-up on fructose, and looks more at the overall sugar/carb consumption.

HHJ: Why are you doing 21DSD this time around?

Me: I found I was relying too much on carbs for my fix when I did IQS. I recall sort of transferring my sweet addiction to Ezekiel bread and noodles.

HHJ: So would you not recommend IQS?

Me: Well, HHJ, I'm so glad you asked. Really. You're a great interviewer. You're asking all the questions I had hoped to answer. It's like we're of one mind.

Anyway, I wouldn't not recommend it. In fact, I'd say it depends on the individual. If someone is presently sucking down Cokes and hoovering Krispy Kremes on a daily basis, I'd say start with IQS. The program is a little simpler.

The 21DSD is a little more involved. There are three levels you can do. Level 1 allows for limited grains and dairy, level 2 is no grains but allows for dairy, and level 3 is full throttle squeaky paleo. She also makes recommendations for various health conditions, pregnancy, fitness badasses, etc.

But there is also more hand-holding--Diane provides full menu plans and recipes, or you can just follow a yes/no foods list. IQS gives you some recipes, but no menu. You have to pay for the full online 8-week Program for that.

HHJ: So let's talk about the cash. I know you're painfully cheap. How do these program stack-up, value-wise?

Me: Both come in two formats: online or hard-copy books, which I love since I'm old enough to remember life before the internet. I prefer a real book that I can hold in my hands.

As for the online options, IQS is an 8-week program. I believe the online plan costs $150AUD, which is about $130USD, though I'm not exactly sure since they're not very forthcoming about the cost, which annoys me to no end. Why is it so difficult to find out the price? Seriously? I'm sure they'd tell me if I were willing to provide my name, rank and serial number, but I'm not interested in getting scads of emails, so I found the $150AUD on Sarah Wilson's site. But really--what's with the secrecy? That annoyed me.

I do have a reader in Australia who is doing the IQS 8-Week online program. Hopefully she'll chime in with her thoughts.

The 21DSD online program can be accessed at various subscription levels, the priciest being $97, which also includes copies of the 21DSD books. There is the print program book and also another cookbook. And props to the 21DSD for making it's pricing far easier to find.

So from what I can tell, 21DSD seems to be a better value. It's also a shorter program, though, so I suppose IQS fans might take umbrage with my assessment. In fairness, I've never done either of the online programs.

HHJ: So you're doing the 21DSD book?

Me: Yes, and I just have the program book, not the cookbook. I'd say the program book is very complete. And that's one of the things I really like about it. There are a number of free companion resources available on the website, too. Printable PDFs and other links to support you as you navigate your break-up with Bad Boyfriend Sugar.

HHJ: Well, I really should be going as I have to prepare for interviewing Edward Snowden or some other Very Newsworthy Person. But I will be following your sugar detox with great interest!

Me: Why, thank you, HHJ! So wonderful to have met such a fabulous interviewer. I'll be sure to keep you posted with my progress.

Well, that was thrill. Can you imagine such a hard-hitting journalist would want to interview little me? Wow!

So I'm on day 1...ish of 21DSD. I actually started Sunday but then there was the whole cake debacle yesterday. But I'm not going down the path of self-loathing... I'm going to pick myself up, dust myself off and move on. No self-loathing! That's on the 'no' list.

Follow me on Instagram (@momsatthebarre) or Twitter (@stephaniehsiang) for more tweets and non-sweet treats on the 21DSD! Yay!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why 'All About the Bass' is 'Rude'

Recently a CD got stuck in the player in our car. On a longish trip. Oh dear. Music is very important on road trips with small children. You can have only so much meaningful conversation with a 6 and 3 year old before someone starts melting down. You need music.

So we were left with the radio. News is out. It's not long before there is a story on Jerry Sandusky or some other horrible thing that we don't want to discuss with small people. You need music. And so, our children were exposed to Meghan Trainor.

If you're not familiar with Meghan, she is the artist behind the hit song All About the Bass. From the moment the small people heard it, they loved it. *LOVED IT.* And I can dig it, it's a fun song with a good beat. If you don't have small people around, have a listen--with lyrics:

At first, I kind of liked it, too. I listened to some of the words and I was heartened. Trainor speaks of appreciating your body: 'every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.' She also slams the all-too-common practice of photo-shopping images, which we've talked about before. Well, that's just great. I love that.

Then it goes downhill. She sings:  "My Momma said don't worry about your size/boys they like a little more booty to hold at night."

What?! Since when is 'what boys like' the goal of any teachable moment? I'm tempted to shout to the backseat--"you boys better not be holding onto anyone's booty!" But I think better of it. The last thing they need is another word for 'bottom.'

There is further talk of 'skinny bitches' and I'm ready to change the station, but there is mutiny in the backseat. The only reason I consent to letting the song play out is that the small people never get the lyrics right. "I'm bringing booty back" comes out as "I'm eating fruity crack."

We dodged a bullet on that one.

Next on the list is Rude, a story of a man going to ask for the hand of his beloved. The father totally shuts him down and he defiantly claims he's going to 'marry her anyway.'

I tell Darling Son #1, "I don't like this song."

"Why not, Mommy?"

I begin ranting thus:

"Well, it's about a man going to ask the woman's daddy if he can have his blessing to marry her. And that's a very nice way to honor the daddy. But the daddy says, 'no,' and I don't think it's very wise to say he's going to marry her anyway. I mean, she's a grown woman and can make her own decision, but let me tell you, son, that's not a good way to start off on the right foot with your in-laws."

Did I mention he's six? Well, you can never start too young.

"You know, Daddy went to talk to Nana and Grandpa before he asked me to marry him and if Grandpa had said, 'no way,' Daddy would have rationally ascertained Grandpa's objections and addressed them until Nana and Grandpa were on board with the whole thing. That's because Daddy is respectful and isn't just going to railroad Grandpa. That's why they get along to this day and we can all eat Thanksgiving dinner together in peace and harmony."

I look back in the rear view mirror and DS1 is giving me a blank stare. "Umm. Mommy? Can I just listen to the song."

Oh. Ok. I'll comfort myself with some fruity crack.

A few days later, the Darling Husband comes home from work and says, "I heard that song the boys like on the radio. The All About the Bass song. It's horrible." I KNOW! And so after dinner, the DH fixed the CD player and we're back to listening to Thomas the Tank Engine songs in the car.

Pass the fruity crack.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Life as a Vegetarian

I used to be a vegetarian. I started dabbling in it when I was in high school, and then got really into in college. I even lived in a vegetarian cooperative house my senior year. That was actually a very funny experience. I was a semi-practicing Christian. I wore leather shoes and I only dated men. Let's just say I wasn't exactly in the majority. I loved what one of my housemates said to me--'It's great that you're here, Stephanie. You make us diverse!'

I still laugh out loud when I think of that.

The terms of the co-op were pretty simple. We didn't eat meat. The year I lived there, however, there was a omnivore among us.


She signed on to the co-op because she wanted to save money. Indeed, the co-op was cheap and chipper. We paid $300 a semester for food, which was waaaayyy cheaper than the college food plan. We did all our own planning, shopping and cooking. We belonged to an area food share and supplemented that with weekly trips to the market. It came out in our first house meeting that Cavegirl ate meat. She said, "Wait a minute--you're vegetarians??!"

"Why yes, Cavegirl, we are. You didn't know this??"

"NO! I'm just here to save a buck! You mean I can't eat meat here?"

And so we gathered together and decided Cavegirl could eat meat if she was willing to cloister herself in her room. Occasionally she would exercise this option. The smell of burger take-out would waft it's way up the stairs and into her room. We'd all cluck with disapproval, but man... it smelled good.

Honestly, we were tempted to chuck Cavegirl out onto the street. One of my housemates said, 'there are vegans starving in the college houses and Cavegirl is taking up a coveted spot in the Veg house?!' (Side note: we don't call them 'dorms' at Smith.) We were filled with righteous indignation. But no, we didn't kick Cavegirl out. The semester was already underway. Where would she go? No. She had to stay. We were compassionate. We were vegetarians.

We had a chore wheel and worked with partners. Somehow I got stuck with Cavegirl. She was actually kind of a fun person, but a really bad work partner. Cavegirl was very flaky. Obviously. How did she not know we were a vegetarian co-op? We were hardly secretive about it. By the way, we didn't call her 'Cavegirl.' We called her by her name, but I can't remember it now.

Anyway, every week you and your partner had a job--shopping, breakfast, making dinner, doing dinner dishes, that sort of thing. Dinner dishes was generally regarded as the worst job and you were really psyched when your washing week was up. I mentioned this to one of my housemates as she was slaving over our big, industrial sink. She said, "Oh yes, but it's so much better here than my work-study job in the college house--having to wash up after those yucky meaty dinners!"

Meals could include eggs or dairy, but if you used them, you had to provide a vegan alternative. So we made tempeh and used soy cheese. You want to talk about yucky? Soy cheese. YUCK. This is where I formed my opinion that if you can't eat the real thing, don't bother trying to come up with a substitute. Just find something else to eat.

Even with the soy cheese, I am really thankful for my experience in the veg house. I learned a lot about cooking and budgeting and how bad I was at resolving conflict. Like many young people with high ideals, I was positively nauseating to be around during this season of my life. I'm kind of shocked when I think back that some of the people who knew me then have stuck with me and actually read my blog. (Hi Tracy! Hi Dad!)

After I graduated, I kept up the veg thing. I moved to New York City where I subsisted on a minuscule paycheck. The vegetarian cookbooks I collected at the veg house came in handy--I lived on the carrot soup from the Moosewood Cookbook until payday--33 cents a serving with carrots from the corner bodega!
The vestiges of my veg days... and I still use them!

But the veg thing started to fall away little by little. You see, it was like a religion. We had creeds and dogma and moral outrage... and that no longer seemed relevant as I started loving Jesus more and more. Sweet Jesus, who cuts through dogma and moral outrage with grace and mercy. Jesus, who freed us from the laws, dietary and otherwise. Jesus, who, like an animal, gave His life so we could live.

Jesus wouldn't have kicked Cavegirl out onto the street. He also wouldn't have talked smack about her behind her back. But I don't look at Jesus as a role model. I look to Him for forgiveness--Oh Sweet Jesus, forgive my hypocrisy and nastiness to Cavegirl... and he gives it. He gives it freely, from his abundant stores of mercy. And he remembers Cavegirl's name... whatever it was...

I moved on to Scotland. It's easy to be a veg in Britain. All those Hindu immigrants, and let's face it--the food's not that good anyway.

It's the French who got me to throw off vegetarianism for good. Oh the French. They seriously do not understand why someone will not eat something that is just... yummy. 'Comment? Tu ne veux pas la belle viande?! POURQUOI?!?' I no longer had a good answer for why I didn't want the beautiful meat. So I ate la belle viande....

And I eat it still.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shocking News about Stretching!

I like to arrive a little early to the barre. If I'm flying in at the last minute, it stresses me out and I fear stress might inhibit my lovely post-class lala feeling. I don't like to do anything that might jeopardize the lalas. But then, of course, I'm just kind of hanging out... waiting for class to start... so historically, I've stretched to pass those few minutes, thinking I was doing something oh-so-beneficial for my body.

Lots of people stretch before exercise. When I first started formal exercise back in the early 1990's, you did a little warm-up, then you stretched. It was the done thing. By 'warm-up,' I mean a little bit of movement, and by 'stretching,' I mean the static kind--you assume a position (like bending to touch your toes) and hold there for 20-30 seconds. Stretching cold muscles was always a no-no, but since I'm usually moving quite briskly so I can get to class EARLY, I consider myself 'warm.' Yes, I play the hurry-up-and-wait game.

However, I recently read a few articles casting aspersions on this sacred cow of pre-workout stretching.
Well. This rocked my world. Clearly. So I did a little exhaustive internet researchtm.

I'm a huge fan of stretching and there are some very good reasons for it--maybe the best one being the Dr. Wayne Westcott study that indicated people see 20% greater strength gains for having stretched muscles after working them.

But that's post-workout stretching, which is a different animal from the I'm-just-hanging-out-early-at-the-barre kind. A few studies (here and here) have indicated that pre-workout or -competition stretching actually resulted in reduced performance. Athletes who stretched beforehand showed a temporary decrease in strength. The whys of this aren't really known, but study authors suggest the loosening nature of stretching made the athletes wobblier. That's a totally official scientific term, by the way.

It should be noted that holding stretches for more than 45 seconds is what seemed to inhibit strength--anything less than that didn't seem to affect it significantly.

There is a fair bit of conjecture about stretching in general. It is kind of toughie to research. As noted in one article I read, you can hardly do a randomized/double-blind study on stretching. People will figure out if they're in the stretching group or not, you know? I found some articles (like this one) that seemed to suggest stretching at any point in a workout might be of little benefit, but I can't get behind that. Stretching does restore optimal length to muscle, if only temporarily. The jury seems to be out as to whether or not it reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness or helps prevent injury, but it certainly feels good and helps with lalas. I should mention that no barre class I have ever taken has employed long-duration static stretching as part of the warm-up. The stretches always follow working the muscle to shaking, burning bliss.

So should you completely avoid the pre-workout stretch? From the former study, "We conclude that the usage of SS [static stretching] as the sole activity during warm-up routine should generally be avoided."

Well, harumph. I guess this leaves me with taking selfies to fill the time.