Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's not about fat

Research on diet, exercise, and weight is good. I especially appreciate a focus on gender differences in these areas. It's obvious that the battle women fight against weight gain as they age is more brutal. And so, I think, is our perception of that battle. I look at a pooch or sag on my husband and smile, focusing instead on how awesome it is that in his fifties he can kick pretty much anyone's butt on a bike. I don't let myself off nearly so easy. I tend to focus more not on what my body can do but how it looks.

It's my personal issue with which to grapple, and I'm working on it. But a recent New York Times article didn't help. Or maybe it has: The fact that it pisses me off may be a sign of progress.

Whereas the results reported identify some interesting gender differences (women have a biological urge to almost immediately replenish calories they burn, as in "Give me a sandwich RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!"), the focus is largely on whether exercise will help you lose weight. They conclude that for women at least the answer is not really, or at least not the way one would hope (you eat the same amount, exercise more, and tada!) because for most people, exercise will cause you to eat more.

Fine fine fine. It's good to know this hasn't been my imagination. But the article pulls up short of another point to exercise:

What about being STRONG?

Exercise not because of how it will make you
LOOK but what it will help you DO.

For the first time in a couple of years, I started off this ski season feeling not as strong as usual. I had been rehabbing a shoulder injury, traveling across town for physical therapy at lunchtime when I normally would have been at the gym, and otherwise refraining from exercise that just hurt too much. Shoulder surgery three weeks before the season started had me off exercise as well. By the time I got on the snow, my shoulder was feeling better, but the rest of me felt like crap.

So I worked. Hard. I skied nearly every weekend and squeezed in as much exercise as I could during the week. Of course I ate like a horse. Skiing makes me HUNGRY. Although I'm far from the machine I would like to be (I am not a naturally muscly person), I got stronger and felt better. The funny thing is that when I shifted my focus to strength not weight, I lost five pounds. But who cares?? OK, I do. I've got a ways to go, both physically and mentally.

So here's my standard spring/summer workout schedule. I aim for six days of exercise and usually hit five. Thank goodness my office is only several blocks from the world's greatest YMCA.
Monday: Spin at lunch

Tuesday: Body sculpt at lunch

Wednesday: Pilates at lunch + hike/jog in the evening

Thursday: Spin at lunch

Friday: Spin at lunch

Saturday/Sunday: Something outside one day / Day off on the other
I'm a creature of habit, and I love me a schedule. Having a schedule helps by removing whether I am going to exercise from a decision process. It's Thursday, so it's spin. Speaking of which . . . time to go. :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

I kill two birds

Really, I just make two things out of the Meyer lemons growing in my backyard. (I like birds.)

Now that the MIL is convinced I make the best lemon drop martini (her favorite cocktail), it behooves me to have a little homemade limoncello on hand. I can buy it at Trader Joe's but it's fairly expensive and a little too syrupy.

It's easy to make: Instructions are here and here.

But what to do with all the lemon juice? And what was more the question this weekend, how to turn it into dessert for Sunday dinner with the least possible effort and use of the oven? The oven (poor me—I only have one) was busy roasting chickens (one to eat, another to send home with the MIL) and then asparagus.
Note on the asparagus: I tried the New York Time's recipe for slow-roasted asparagus in paper packets, and whereas it was fun tying up the asparagus in a little paper package, ninety minutes for cooking asparagus is insane, and I still prefer it seared quickly on a grill and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.
So I decided on a lemon granita.

Granita is a fancy name for ice.

Lemon Thyme Granita

Fresh lemon juice
Baker's sugar
Fresh thyme, minced

Start this at about three hours before you wish to serve it.

Juice as many lemons as you have. Add baker's sugar (it dissolves easier) and water until it tastes like . . . well, lemonade. You could stop here, pour mixture over ice, and have a glass of lemonade or, if you are a very disciplined person like I am or more interested in a cocktail at this point anyway, proceed toward dessert.

Stir until sugar is dissolved. Mix in minced thyme or other fresh herb (mint is good).

Pour mixture in a square or rectangular baking pan so that mixture is about an inch to an inch and a half deep. Place pan in freezer.

Every half an hour or so stir mixture with a fork. When mixtures starts to freeze, you will be raking it with the fork. To serve, scrape across the top of the frozen mixture with a large spoon. It will be sort of the texture of snow.

I served mine with store-bought madeleines I had been hiding in the freezer (most have enough butter that if you leave them in the cupboard for too long, they will turn rancid). Dessert problem solved. More lemon cocktails coming up in a few months.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I have been very busy


Really. I have to work very hard at relaxing. It's not what comes naturally. Which is GOOD considering the schedule I've survived this winter.

It is fun but not easy being a ski racer mom. Instead of sitting comfortably in a lawn chair, you stand on the side of a race course, sometimes in very cold blustery weather, waiting waiting . . . waiting. This picture is slalom, which is Sophie's least favorite event. Midway through the season, she developed Osgood-Schlatter disease, a growth-related condition (she grew nearly an inch in the month of March alone) that causes her a lot of knee pain, and cranking around the tight curves in slalom was hard for her. GS was her favorite, and she was able to get in more of a tuck and really let it rip. Watching her drop right into a tuck out of the starting gate always put a lump in my throat because I knew she did it with a lot of pain. We tell her to do what she feels she can and remind her that she will outgrow this in a year or so. In the meantime, it was liquid ibuprofen every morning before she headed out. I'll probably keep a bottle in my car's glove compartment for the next few years.

Around the busy race season schedule, we took full advantage of our Squaw season passes. We are now official Squaw junkies, which does not come without its price. Everywhere else we skied during the season, including Mammoth, left me thinking "Well, it's good, . . . but it's not Squaw." Squaw is the best: a beautiful valley and mountains (Mammoth looks sort of like an elevated golf course, don't you think?), with terrain that keeps everyone in my family engaged and challenged.

After a horrible accident last year at Alta, followed by nearly half a year of no weight on his leg and a zillion or so hours of physical therapy, my dad rejoined us on the slopes. I knew he would be back. Hats off also to my mom, who in spite of having to nurse him through his long injury and not skiing herself, totally supported him getting right back out there. Thanks, Mom.

It was great to have three generations of us out on the snow!

We celebrated the end of race season and Sophie's spring break with a trip to Mammoth. It worked out really well: My dad brought some brownies my mom made, a Honeybaked Ham, and a one-bedroom condominium, borrowed from a friend of my mom's. I brought my family of three, the neighbor kid, and three guys. Cozy!

Fortunately, everyone played well together and adhered to the same eat-ski-sleep schedule.

And soak! After skiing most days, we headed out to the wild hot springs in the Owens Valley.

Hot Creek has been closed for four years following a geothermal burp that cooked several soakers. We took our chances and hiked in about a mile past the road gate and were rewarded with a perfectly soakable spring, as long as you didn't mind swimming through a very cool river to get to the warm water on the far side. Swimming back to get out was harder.

Crowley's is always nice, and we even had it to ourselves for a little while.

My wintertime favorite is Travertine, which we stop at on the way home. Clean water, a mud bottom (see picture above), great rock formations, and that amazing eastern Sierra view. Could it get any better??

The snow? There was snow . . . and ice and slush, and no wind, which was sort of amazing given the time of year.

It was great, . . . but it wasn't Squaw.

We were happy to finish out the season last weekend back at our home mountain. By the last day, conditions were falling apart, but I skied some of KT that I hadn't done all year, and in the morning we caught a ride on Squaw's springtime secret stash, Smoothie. Fun! There's more snow headed for the Sierras, but we have school events and a violin concert and so probably won't be back to ski this year. As usual, I was a little teary on my last run. It was my best season ever (39 days!!). We've reloaded our season passes for next year (prices go way up May 9!), and we'll be putting the skis in storage wax. Now we just have to figure out what to do with ourselves for the next seven months.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I have some new dishes

I know . . . stop the presses. But really, it's sort of a big deal for me. My current black dishes (yes, black—I love them) have been slowly showing signs of wear. Black dishes are sort of like red nail polish: They look great until they start to chip a little.

The last time I saw dishes I liked I dithered and when I returned to buy them, they were gone.

This time I acted and bought.

They're a touch on the kitschy side, but I like that they remind me of Inspector Clouseau—in the kitchen. This picture shows the pasta bowl on one of my black plates, which I think is a nice combination. And the colors go nicely with my kitchen, which you surely remember from the world-famous kitchen tour over at, right?

But don't worry. There are limits with where I will go with this collection.

I would die before serving chips in this.

For Sunday dinner we had Daube Provencal, egg noodles, and green beans in browned butter, followed by a green salad and then individual molten chocolate cakes with sweetened whipped cream for dessert. Is it any wonder we don't all weigh a total of several tons?? Stay tuned for an explanation of why we don't (yet).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Procrastination takes
the shape of wee vegetables

When I had finals to study for in college, it was always really important—urgent, really—to vacuum my dorm room.

It's the day before Easter, and I have tomorrow's dinner to get ready for, laundry to do, and a trip to pack for, and so

making vegetables out of marzipan cannot wait.

And, of course, things have escalated. What began as a carrot project soon involved potatoes

and then radishes.

In case you're also looking to waste time, there's a nicely illustrated explanation of how-to here. I used rosemary sprigs for the greenery.

Did I mention I completed my taxes this afternoon? And that I did them myself using TurboTax? And that it was actually really fun? I decided that I did not want to spend hundreds of dollars again being bossed around by a small woman at H.R. Block. But regardless of how delighted I am with myself, I did think I deserved a reward. And these were more fun that vacuuming.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I used that word

Sometime I think I've just got this mom thing going on. I've laid down one of my daughter's favorite dinners (beer-can-up-the-butt roasted chicken, buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted zucchini with balsamic vinegar glaze, capers, and ricotta salata—on a weeknight), and I'm cheerfully frosting away at cupcakes for the next day's school party to celebrate the upcoming spring break, and then I just totally lose my shit.

Truth be told, I wasn't frosting cheerfully. I was tired and cross. So I needed kind words rather than a dose of reality. I did not react well to receiving the latter.

Martha thought it up, of course.

Loooook! It's a butterfly!!

Oh. Well, it doesn't look exactly like a butterfly. . . .

That's because IT'S NOT. It's a fucking CUPCAKE.
Two dozen fucking cupcakes, but who's counting?