Monthly Archives: July 2012

July week 3: Bread… again

So I said that I was going to move on and make something else.  However, I just couldn’t get the “crouton” out of my mind.  I made a different recipe, and also used half wheat flour and half white wheat flour, rather than all wheat flour.  And look!

It rose!

It may not look it, but it definitely rose.  It was incredibly sticky (even with floured hands), but I formed it into a ball, let it rest for a bit, popped it into the oven and then…

It’s bread!

It might have been a tiny bit under done in the middle or it was just moist.  These are things I am not sure about yet.  However, look!  I made bread!

Mmmm…

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July Week 2: Making Bread… (not very well)

Despite choosing a “no fail” type recipe, it didn’t go well.  It wasn’t even a kneading recipe!  How can I mess up a recipe with four ingredients?  Really: water, flour, salt, and yeast.  I’m looking into that.  That was it.  I, apparently, made something similar to a dense crouton.

I did let the dough “rise” a few hours longer than it recommended, but it didn’t really rise so much as it spread.

Current theories:

The flour/water ratio:  Some websites say to alter the amount of liquid if using whole wheat flour vs. white flour.  However, some say that there is no difference.
The yeast:  According to some websites, I should have added more yeast or “activated” the yeast, which was not specified in the recipe.

Overall, after popping it in the microwave and slathering with butter, it was edible.  Very chewy and dense, but not too bad.  “Rustic” would be very apt description.  I may try to make it again later, but there are so many other things to make in the meantime!

No pictures of the bread, as my camera battery was dead.  (Well, that was an unintentional rhyme.)  Here is a picture of something completely different.

Boardwalk though the dunes in Destin, FL

Next week… Something…

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The worst distance and ALL THE FITNESS ADVICE!

For me, the worst distance to run is three miles.  I can knock out one or two miles easy, because I know that it won’t take very long to run them.  However, three miles is just long enough that my mind hasn’t told my body that we are in it for the long haul on this run.  The whole time I am thinking about the run: how long it is taking, how far I have gone, how far I have to go, step, step, step.  At four miles and beyond I can slip into the head space where I am not thinking about every step I am taking.  Beyond four miles my mind can drift to other things: the music from my mp3 player, the environment I am running though, the events of the day, and other important and unimportant things.

I am making an attempt to train for a half-marathon in August, with this plan I am now running much more per week than previously.  For the 5Ks and even the 10Ks I was only running 2-3 times per week and totaling about 5-10 miles per week.  With the half-marathon looming I am now running 4-5 times per week and will be averaging 20-25 miles per week.  It is almost hard to believe that eight months ago I could barely run one mile at a time and now, just Tuesday, I ran seven miles!

There are some concerns I have about running long-distance races.  More and more often I read snippets, blogs, and articles about how long-term steady state cardio (SSC) isn’t as beneficial to overall health as it was once thought to be.  As with all research, X is recommended and then ten years later medicine/science/pop culture says that X isn’t good for you and you should Y.  Ten years later Y causes damage to your joints/heart/soft tissue and you should really do Z!  So now, fitness gurus/trainers are saying that you should really be doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)and SSC isn’t as good for you as it was once promoted.  The thought is that your body adapts to the new stresses of SSC and doesn’t work as hard as it did when you first started running five miles a day, three times a week, ten years ago.  To keep your body working hard, it is recommended that a change of routine is good and that HIIT should be incorporated into your cardio component of your workout once or twice a week.

It seems that I just read too much.  From every direction (twitter, tumblr, fitness websites of all flavors, etc.) I am being told to:

  • run (weight-bearing exercises are good for bone health and builds endurance)
  • not run (reduces muscle mass over long-distances)
  • lift weights (builds muscle which in turn burns more calories)
  • swim (good for joints and cardiovascular health)
  • try P90X/Insanity/CrossFit (TAKE YOUR FITNESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL!)
  • NEVER do P90X/Insanity/CrossFit (risk of injury is high due to quick movements and improper form)
  • try Intermittent Fasting (save time in the day and feel full/satisfied when eating)
  • NOT try Intermittent Fasting (may be no actual health benefits and potentially harmful if you are prone to obsessive tendencies)

So, what’s a budding fitness enthusiast to do?  I think I may just try to take a little advice from here and there.  After all, life is about balance.  Some running, some lifting, some HIIT (eventually), and just try to eat healthy… most of the time anyway.

Hey look, a picture!

Beach in Destin, FL

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July Week 1: No Processed Food!

Well, not really no processed food.  I have decided that each week I will make something that I would normally buy from the store.  The first week of July I chose to make corn tortillas!  The corn tortilla recipe was from allrecipes and was very simple to make.  The biggest problem was to form uniform tortillas without a tortilla press.  I did attempt to try a few different methods for making uniform tortillas: rolling-pin, rolling-pin and a bowl to cut around, and even pressing with a cup and using a biscuit cutter for round tortilla chips.  I finally gave up and just made ugly tortillas.  They tasted pretty good though!

Sorry no pictures of cooking… Here is one that is not related!

Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) in Destin, FL

Next week…. I’m not sure!

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June Week 5: Biography and Summary

This week I decided to read Up: a Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventureby Patricia Ellis Herr.  While it is not a complete story of someone’s life, this book caught my eye.  The story chronicles Herr and her daughter, Alex, ascending the 48 mountain peaks in New Hampshire that are over 4,000 ft tall.

Peakbagging in New Hampshire

Herr is a home schooling, stay-at-home mom who spends a fair amount of the book discussing her views on child rearing.  Primarily expounded on is how she feels about allowing her children to grow as individuals, without societal pressure to conform to one mold or another.  Herr also mentions how important nature is to her and her husband, and their desire to get their children out into nature early and as often as possible.  After learning about the peakbagging program in New Hampshire, Herr mentions it to Alex, who responds enthusiastically to the challenge.  At the time of their first climb, Alex in 5 years old.

The book doesn’t talk about every experience at every peak, but rather chooses memorable stories from several.  Herr and Alex come across moose, slugs, spiders, and a particularly cross spruce grouse.  They hike in all seasons and Alex develops a fondness for winter hikes especially.  Towards the middle-to-end of the book, they begin to hike with others on occasion, but still do a fair amount on their own.  There are a few “life lessons” along the way;

  • the dangers of carelessness – the husband, Hugh, told his story of how he lost both legs while hiking
  • ageism – many others assumed that Alex couldn’t, or was being coerced to, hike large mountains
  • sexism – they were asked if it was safe to hike without a man present (it is!)
  • life and death – a lone juvenile moose exhibiting odd behaviors sparks a conversation on where his mother could be

The husband, Hugh, and second daughter, Sage, are not featured very prominently within the chronicle.  Sage was three years old, so hiking several miles at a time was a bit much for her and so she only joined Herr and Alex a few times.  Hugh was described as a very supportive partner who took care of Sage while Herr and Alex hiked every other weekend.  At the end of the book, Herr mentions that she began writing the book before she realized that Sage would be quickly following in Alex’s footsteps, otherwise she would have waited to be able to include Sage’s exploits.

Overall, it was a quick and easy read.  I did read some of the amazon reviews prior to buying the book so some of my comments may be a bit biased.  Herr stated repeatedly that Alex was: mature for her age, not like other kids, stronger than she looked, etc.  Perhaps because they encountered many people and situations where Alex’s competency was questioned, but I felt that she could have cut down on that a bit.  I would have liked to have learned more about Sage and Hugh, though this may have been a bit outside of the scope of the story since they didn’t come with Herr and Alex very often.  Other than those two minor issues, I would recommend this for a light read.

June Reading:

I enjoyed getting out of my “comfort zone” genres, particularly with the history/biography weeks.  I would be very interested in reading more travel biographies, as I had a hard time picking one from all the other interesting sounding books.  I would call June a success!

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June Week 4: Mystery

I am a bit late on this review, here we go!  The fourth week of June was my opportunity to read a mystery and I chose The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, which happens to be her first published work.  The novel introduces Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who shows up in a fair number of her mysteries.  It is a bit difficult to give a summary of the story without giving away clues, so this will be quite short.

The novel is set during World War 1 and is in first-person narrative by Lieutenant Hastings, a former British Army Officer who was wounded and ends up taking leave with an old acquaintance, John Cavendish.  While staying with Cavendish, Hastings runs into an old friend Hercule Poirot, who is staying in a nearby village with other Belgian refugees.  Shortly after arriving at Styles, the lady of the household dies.  Due to the suspicion of murder, Hastings advises that Cavendish ask that Poirot investigate her death.  The plot takes many twists and turns, with each main character in turn acting in a manner that is not entirely innocent.  Hastings alternately admires and scorns Poirot’s methods and theories, though oftentimes wishing Poirot would speak more plainly of his thought patterns and why some clues were important and others were not.  As expected, the true murderer, method, and motivation is revealed at the very end of the book with Poirot explaining to the main characters how he deduced all of the above.

Truthfully, I did not find the story especially engaging.  Hastings is too judgemental and emotional which cloud his observations, not a quality that is desirable in a man who wishes to be a detective.  Poirot is a caricature of a foreign detective, very exaggerated in his mannerisms and eccentric, though it may make him a better detective in some respects.  I did find the other main characters to act fairly “human” in their individual ways; obscuring evidence to protect a loved one, telling lies to protect personal reputations and family name, and arrogance that they can conceal feelings and facts in a small town/group.  Overall, I may try to read some of her other works later, but I’m not going to rush out for another any time soon.

Week 5: Biography

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