Monday, January 23, 2012

That Inner Hoarder

This past 'winter break'--the time where my husband has vacation days to burn through home alone--was very productive. Tyler did a major basement project that took pretty much all of his vacation time to complete. We now have a dedicated beer-making and canning area in the basement. I took advantage of the Container Store's January sale and got some bins for organizing the linen closet (that was my mini project). I've now rolled all of my hand towels and washcloths into bins (a la Martha). I even...wait for it...labeled the bins.

The basement is now complete with an old 1950s era stove top and a gun cabinet made into storage for Mason jars. Very New England, right? The 1950s stove is gas and was salvaged while the rest was sent to the dump. Instead of having to buy a new gas stove top (it's the basement after all) Tyler was able to utilize the top and keep the cool looking features intact (neat clock, timer, etc.)

The back wall is still storage but there's new shelves for all of the holiday decorations, camping supplies and hoard of food from BJ's. Speaking of hoarding...this post here titled 'Stop Feeding your Inner Hoarder' really spoke to me. Each time we spend a day cleaning and making piles of stuff to donate we feel cleaner. More free. A few months later it happens again. It's not us buying more stuff (I have a 'one in, one out' rule for my closets). It's us accepting gifts from friends and family. "Sure, I'll take that Wok off your hands...oh no...we already have one..." (shoves Wok under steps for safe keeping).

Have you re-purposed anything in your home as we did with the stove top and gun cabinet? We've tried to tell family members on both sides "we don't really need anything" or "Can we do something instead of Christmas gifts this year?" Both attempts have failed. We've decided just to keep our mouths shut and stop putting things in the attic (after the last yard sale we established a 'no adding stuff to the attic' rule).

Do you hoard? Do you keep a lot of duplicates around 'just in case' (my Wok example above). I'd love to hear from you...and feel free to make a gun cabinet into a glass-front Mason jar storage. It looks great!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Making a Thoughtful Choice on Where to Live

On Tuesday before heading to the gym I did what I usually do on Tuesdays and Thursdays (at around 5pm). I grab a pre-gym snack and watch 'No Reservations' on the Travel Channel. I TiVo it so it also tapes older episodes. Yesterday I was pleased to discover an episode on the Hudson Valley. I immediately pictured rolling hills, woods, and farmland. I've never spent time in the Hudson Valley but in my mind that's what it looks like.

I was not disappointed. As usual, Anthony Bourdain led the viewer through what it's like to live in the Valley. There were towns that time forgot. Towns where once a Nuclear power plant moved in, people and progress moved out. There were families who are hanging on to old traditions and embracing new ways of gathering and cooking. There was a backyard feast involving Korean food (looked amazing) and a very bright 10-year old girl reading college neurology class textbooks for fun.

The scene that stuck with me was this one. Bourdain sits down at a restaurant that has New York city on the horizon. It's on the water and he's eating with Bill Murray (of all people, right?). It turns out Mr. Murray lives near to that restaurant and has been friends with the chef/owner for 25+ years. Murray explains that he is passionate about living in New York City but he finds it can get nutty. He jokes that in the summer if you clear your throat or cough people will think you're insulting them and freak out.

Murray advises that it's important to carefully select where you live. He wanted to be within visual distance of the city but have his own privacy and peace. It's easy to forget how a comedian like Murray can also be very wise. Everything he said made sense. It was also clear he was passionate about good food, good wine, and supporting local businesses (being loyal to this chef for a quarter century in fact).

It's easy to see a show like 'No Reservations' as just another "let's eat food and drink a ton in a foreign country" type show. It's really not. Bourdain always teaches us about the culture, the people, and the traditions. He supports fresh and local ingredients and different was of doing things. He's rude, he's funny, and a brilliant writer while really making a lot of people angry. He's just, you might say, a normal New Yorker. Coughing the wrong way and getting people to think he's insulting them.

Bill Murray brings up an interesting point. Why do we live where we do? It made me glad I spend 2 weekends per month in Maine. Fresh air, woods, wilderness, and nice people are often refreshing after living in MetroWest for all these years. Why do you live where you do?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rediscovering the Joys of Pineapple

I don't eat pineapple that often. I mean real pineapple. Not from a can. From the fruit that is a pain to slice (thank you, Tyler for taking all of the eyes out). Over the weekend we had this smoothie (serves 2):

-Handful of fresh pineapple chunks
-2% Fage Yogurt (couple of scoops)
-2% organic milk (just a splash)
-Two ice cubes
-Blend well and add a handful of wild frozen blueberries (my favorite ones are at Trader Joe's in the freezer section).

Per serving calorie count: 188. Experts say an under 200 calorie snack is idea. Low fat, high protein, high in vitamins and antioxidants.

Today at work I just had a plate of pineapple slices. I don't think I can eat the kind from the can again. By the way, that was a VERY large serving glass, not a small dose.

Do you have a favorite way to eat pineapple and a recipe to share. My favorite drink of all time is a Pineapple Mojito made at this little place in Philly: MIXTO

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hand Sanitizer: An Obsession

This morning on Morning Living (SiriusXM Ch 110) they were talking about skincare in winter. The doctor that was as guest spoke about people at her gym using hand sanitizer in between each cardio machine. She explained this is not only excessive but it damages your hands. Basically you are just sanitizing the dirt on your hands. Also, it can lead to cracking and small cuts that make the issue worse--and leads to infection. Another thing that was discussed was the overuse of things like Neosporin (that can lead to being allergic to that product).

This brings up several things in my mind. Every office in my company is equipped with a GIANT jar of hand sanitizer. The first thing I did when I moved in was to throw it away. This morning's show also explained that hand moisturizer in between washing of hands is really key. If your hands get dry and cracked in winter and you touch your face that is really how nasty germs get spread. They spoke about using a hand sanitizer after riding the subway is one thing but using it all day long is actually doing more harm than good.

Some hand sanitizers have nasty things in them (chemicals that are known hormone distruptors that are outlawed in places like Europe and Canada but okay here in the US). Others are mostly alcohol which is extremely drying to the skin. Now I know parents of small children are going to get upset by what I'm saying. "What, I should not carry hand sanitizer in my diaper bag or purse?" No. And no. Just wash your hands when you need to, be careful to use hand cream in between washings and keep any small cuts clean. I highly recommend a cream by Aveda or even Curel for the office. That way it does not smell funky and is not greasy for keyboard use.

Listen to the experts and the doctors. They say not to use hand sanitizer. The last time I was sick (knock on wood) was January 2011. I work with germy college students and just wash my hands on a regular basis. I also carry moisturizer with me. You can bet I don't squirt sanitizer on my hands in between each machine at the gym. Just use the wipes to wipe off the machine and move on. If hand sanitizer works why is everyone around me (that has it on their desk) sick? It's not the germs on your hands, it's when you stick your finger in your eye....sanitizing the dirt already on your hands is 0 help.

Stay well this winter. Or as my doctor says to me: "Be well." If you use hand sanitizer I'd love to hear from you. Did you know you are actually drying out your top layer of skin and just sanitizing the dirt on your hands?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Recording an Accurate Calorie Burn

I used to wear a heart rate monitor. I hope to again this year (I need to get the batteries replaced). The only tough thing for me is I don't like to wear an HRM during Yoga. I also do not typically wear it during skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing, or even ice skating for that matter. A Polar HRM is the best brand out there that I've seen. I'm also a bit biased since I used to work with Polar.

If you are considering a Polar for 2012 you'll find that has the best prices. Polar also features a free website for logging your workouts and tracking your progress. Back when I got my first Polar you needed to buy a separate device for the logging. Since Polar uses a chest strap it is more accurate than any other type of HRM. Wrist only does not log an accurate burn. I know research tends to go one way or the other in terms of the 'fat burning zone'. For me, it was just a nice way to know what I was burning.

I also suggest this site for figuring out what you burned on a hike or out on the bike or pretty much anything. Last winter with all of that snow I logged what I burned shoveling. The snowbanks were over my head at one point so I wanted to log all of that effort.

Some of you may be wondering "why log anything?" or "Does it really matter?" It turns out, it really does matter if you are trying to maintain or lose some weight. I learned in 2011 that I needed to log every workout and every bite of food. I lost .5/week over the course of 9 months and could not have done this without logging. For many of us that are active if we don't log our workouts and our food we're actually operating at too great of a calorie deficit each day (and not losing an ounce of weight). For example, to lose .5/week I have to eat 1460 calories/day NET. That means if I burn 500 calories doing Zumba I actually NEED to eat 1960 on that day to meet my goals. Sounds weird right? It did to me until I realized you have to fuel that engine in order to lose any weight. If I wanted to lose 1lb/week I would need to NET 1260/day during every single day of that week.

It sounds like a lot to digest (pun intended) but I wanted a free app to take the thinking out of it. I downloaded MyFitnessPal for free and really started to enjoy the process. It even has a bar-code scanner to log your food. I really love the reports to track my nutrition and exercise. So yes, I'm that girl that scans my organic milk and Kashi bar codes or oatmeal or eggs and sausage as I start my day.

If you're not into the logging check out Polar products--you don't have to log to see your progress. It's a fun gadget to include in your weekly routine. You might even find you get a little bit hooked on doing so...there's something so gratifying about actually seeing what you are doing during that hour you are sweating at the gym (or at home playing Wii).

What sort of tracking do you do? Do you keep a journal of what you do for activity or food? Sometimes if you see a nutritionist they ask you to track. I say put down the pen and paper and use a free website or app. It makes life much easier and helps me to meet my goals without added stress.