Sunday, April 29, 2012

My refrigerator looks so happy and colorful. I already want to punch it and tell it to go get me a brownie.

In approximately 12 hours I will know how Bill Withers felt. That's right, my sunshine includes (but is not limited to)...
Big doughy bread:
Coffee, chocolate, alcohol:
After-supper desserts (and I do have them every night):
As mentioned about a week ago, I'm starting my "cleanse" tomorrow morning. My goal is to make it to Sunday, May 13. I know most cleanses are more strict than what I plan to do, but I had to modify and make it remotely realistic. I'm not going to juice everything. I don't plan to drink expensive shakes for two weeks. Under no circumstances will I consider drinking my pee (I'm not making this up; some "cleanses" will suggest as much). I'm basically cutting out those things that I know I'm addicted to and/or stuff that I really enjoy, but that has no nutritional value.

Here are some things I'm going to try to cut out:
Caffeine (typical culprits: coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper)

Most breads (I can sit down and just eat white sandwich bread - and really enjoy it - if that tells you anything)

Processed sugary desserts (my Friday night BBQ plate and DQ blizzard routine probably needs to be changed anyway)

Meat (not that big of deal for me)

Most dairy (including butter, egg yolks, 1% and skim milk)

Alcohol (again, not that big of deal for me)

Peanut butter (this one makes me cry)

Here are a few things not typically found in cleanse diets that I plan to keep in:
A little olive oil
Egg whites
Homemade yogurt (in moderation)
Whole grain brown rice (in moderation)
Two slices of whole wheat toast every two days
Crystal Light (I'm sorry, I have to. Water is gross.)

Things you would probably expect:
Fresh vegetables
Almonds, walnuts, pecans (in moderation)
Almond milk

Just made up some pico de gallo a few minutes ago. I plan to put this on everything.
Caroline's breakfast suggestion:
"I do love those smoothies (like what we had when you visited). I prefer kale to spinach, and kale probably has more nutrients than the latter. Beets do make it a beautiful color, and I liked the added flavor, too. Mine typically consist of greens, a banana, and some juice (I've done orange, carrot, "green" juice). You can definitely mix up the fruits to your liking (berries, mango) and add in stuff like flax seeds, dates, etc."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm More Clark Griswold, Less Cory Matthews

By: Zach Edwards (my soon-to-be brother-in-law who had the good sense to put "No Diggity" on the recently-created reception play list)

I'm not very good at making plans.  As I've gotten older, I guess I've improved somewhat in that regard, but most of my life I've definitely done things off the cuff.  So many times, my mom would call me on a Friday evening and ask what my friends and I were going to do, and my answer would almost always be "Ah, not really sure yet."  And I guess we liked it that way.  It's easy for things to live up to expectations, and exceed them, when you don't have any to begin with.  Some of my fondest memories with my friends started with a couple of us just hanging out, and ended with whatever direction the wind took us.

But, when I was growing up, my Friday nights were pretty much set in stone.  I'd be in front of the TV to watch Family Matters and Boy Meets World on TGIF, and there was rarely a week that I missed them.  To be honest, I don't know what pre-adolescent kids do nowadays...Without Cory Matthews and Shawn Hunter to teach them how to deal with everyday hardships, how do middle-schoolers even survive?  Why doesn't every inner-city high school have a P.E. teacher like Mr. Cooper?
When I was entering those formative years, I always imagined high school and college would be like a Boy Meets World episode.  I figured I'd have some kind of drama going on seemingly daily.  I expected I'd probably live in a downtown apartment in the city where I attended college.  I wanted so badly to make flannel shirts seem cool, and I just knew I'd find my Topanga sometime before my 15th birthday.

Obviously, none of those things really came to fruition.  For the most part, my high school years were drama-free...Or as drama free as a high school student's life can be.  My housing in college was nice (for the most part), but they were very typical living quarters for the average college student.  I quit wearing flannel in 5th grade, and I didn't meet my Topanga until I was on the north side of 25. In short, the life I envisioned as a 12-year old was a lot different than the one I ultimately led.  And thank God for that.

That really hasn't changed much.  I think back to me as a 20-year-old, and I honestly can't remember what expectations I had at that point.  I was probably more focused on getting through college and having fun with my friends than anything.  But, I'm sure there were times when I worried about what was to come.

There is no question that happens now...On the verge of marriage, I stress about jobs and living arrangements on a near daily basis.  I wonder how Adrienne and I are going to make it in a world that seems to be hell-bent on making that impossible.  I wonder what it's going to be like to be a father (way, WAY down the line), and how I'm going to handle that immense responsibility.  Quite frankly, those thoughts scare the hell out of me.  Not in a dreading kind of way, but just in a "all of this is so new and different" kind of way.  It's overwhelmingly exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Some people may say they'd do things totally differently if they had known what the future held.  I don't agree with that sentiment...I wouldn't want to change the way things are, because I love my life.  And honestly, I don't want to know what the future holds. The question I would ask anyone that would want that is this, "What if you don't like what you see?"  You could argue that if you knew the future, you could make choices along the way to change it.  But, if that were the case, then you wouldn't really be seeing the future at all.  You'd be seeing a possible outcome. You wouldn't be able to change anything...You'd just have to wait out the inevitable.

 It'd be like waking on Christmas morning with a bunch of unwrapped presents laying on the living room floor.  You miss out on the joy of ripping the paper off a box, and being genuinely surprised when you see what Santa brought you.

I think this quote by John Steinbeck explains my stance better than just about anything I could come up with:

"A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."

Life is a roller-coaster of twists and turns, tall climbs to the top, free-falling drops to the bottom, and sometimes a blind curve into a tunnel.  You lose sight of where you are, and before you know it, you come out on the other side screaming your head off, posing for a camera.  If you know what's coming, that thrill-ride simply becomes a way to kill a couple of minutes.
The best part of life, and what makes it worth living, is just that...Living.  Knowing the future would take that out of the equation.  If you knew the destination, then what's the point of the journey?  Getting there is half the fun.

If the show had been called Boy Knows World, my Friday nights would have been a bit more open.

*Do yourself a favor and check out more posts by Zach at his own blog, This is Earth...This is the World. Indeed it is.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I'm not one for defeatism, but there's absolutely zero chance I'm going to make it two weeks.

I write this tonight for two reasons:
1) If I die at the Derby mini-marathon on Saturday (and thus can't write it next Sunday), you'll know I had good intentions.
2) Since I now have it in writing, I can't spend the next seven days talking myself out of the foolishness I'm about to describe.

I've decided to do a cleanse. And no, not for the reasons one might logically assume. I have no interest in spiritual growth or physical or mental epiphany. In fact, I think the whole notion is rather stupid.

Suzanne Morrison, author of Yoga Bitch: One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment (one of my favorite books of the past few years), perfectly captures my attitude in this article for Books for Better Living online journal:

"'I’d like to put you on a cleanse,' he [her doctor/nutritionist] said.

'I make fun of people who cleanse,' I said.

'It’s only for three weeks,' he responded. 'It’s not forever. It’ll end.'

'Yeah,' I said, picturing the half-empty wine bottle waiting for me at home. 'Just like life.'

Here’s what a cleanse is: it is hell. First, you omit everything you might describe as delicious from your diet—coffee, alcohol, meat, dairy, sugar and wheat— and replace them with nutritional smoothies, supplements, and three weeks of abject boredom. Next, you wait for the three weeks to be over. Which, curiously, lasts an eternity."

I'm choosing to do this simply because I want to see how long I can make it. I'm curious. End of story. Even though I have a relatively healthy diet and exercise schedule, I'm no stranger to indulgence. I love my coffee, diet soda, and after-dinner desserts. I enjoy having a glass of wine on the porch and talking to friends. Convenience store crap makes me smile.

BUT, I also know that I like the environment I invariably associate with this stuff as much as the calories and caffeine themselves. That's a good sign, I think. I'm likely addicted to the experience, but not necessarily the product.

That's a lie. I'm going to explode or punch someone without caffeine.

Anyway, here's the plan: From Monday, April 30-Sunday, May 13, I will be on a strict plant-based diet. I also plan to give my body a break from running, sticking instead to walking the pups, yoga, and strength-training. Throughout the two weeks, I will document my journey on here. I do foreshadow a noticeable increase in cuss words and illogical rants with each post.

Dr. Melissa, you're going to be so proud of me!
(well, for a few days/possibly hours at least)

I'm now taking bets: How long do you give me?
Until then, though, here's a recipe for homemade brownies I tried today. I finished a giant one right before writing this post.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs (I used three because they were small)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
*I also added about 1/4 cup of leftover morning coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. 2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter (I just put in the microwave). Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla (and coffee if you so choose). Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan. 3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook. 4. Add frosting if desired: Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Le Road Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France

Tomorrow is the day I've been looking forward to since I turned the last page of When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

"Road trip: those are still the two most inspiring words to vagabonds and couch potatoes alike; after all, the great American spirit was forged by road trippers from the Pilgrims to Lewis and Clark to the Dharma Bums. Le Road Trip combines the appeal of the iconic American quest with France's irresistible allure, offering readers a totally new perspective of life on the road.

Le Road Trip tells the story of one idyllic French honeymoon trip, but it is also a witty handbook of tips and advice on how to thrive as a traveler, a captivating visual record with hundreds of watercolor illustrations, and a chronicle depicting the incomparable charms of being footloose in France. Armchair travelers, die-hard vagabonds, art journalists, and red wine drinkers will all find something to savor in this story." ~ Bloomsbury
"Veteran globetrotter Swift set out to chronicle her French honeymoon but ended up penning a quirky love letter to travel filled with cultural, historical and literary references. Delightful watercolors illustrate this wide-ranging field guide, which offers hilarious travel survival tips for every clime as well as ruminations on subjects as varied as Parisian windows, Breton sailor-stripe shirts, and lettuce (not to mention a highly idiosyncratic A-to-Z on vagabonding in the Bordeaux region)." ~ France Magazine

Oh, and here's a cute picture for you, too.
For some reason this just says "classy French vagabond" to me.

If you were to write your own "quirky love letter to travel," what would it say?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Everyday moments, caught in time" and the versatility of Diet Rite

Trust me, you'll enjoy this. (the video, not necessarily my post)

Billy Collins was U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003, and has been both poet and English professor for most of his career. A quick internet search will yield an extensive review of his accolades, but I enjoy him - and include him here - simply because I find him to be witty and approachable, neither falling into the "everything-has-deep-meaning-and-thus-I'm-going-to-add-a-bunch-of-flowery-adjectives" poetry trap nor seeming to take himself too seriously. I love that.

Creative task to consider: Write a poem about the everyday, mixing ordinary observations with quirky or unexpected details. Think about (or, better yet, draw) how it would look in animation.

Some everyday moments from my weekend...

The faint sound somehow softly echoes from the unencumbered kitchen walls.
I pull the green curtains open, the ones I obsess over daily,
for I like them to be "even" as much as I like the subdued color.
The quiet, little chirp inexplicably seems louder with a gentle tug.
A quick glance to the left and I see a flash of the culprit,
a small blue wing that seems even smaller with each wayward stroke.
I guess that little tin can contraption works,
the pair of vintage mugs bought less for nature's benefit and more for my hazel eyes.
I love that recycled, upcycled, junk-into-art piece.
I love the day it reminds me to remember,
a day at a craft fair, in a vineyard, with bluegrass bands and organic food,
a day that "looks like me."
You ask, "what bird so sings?"
The bird stealing breakfast, the bird that made me open the curtains.