Summer is for Playing Outside

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Even now that I’m an adult and I have to work full time year round, summer is still a magical time.  A time of vacations, BBQs, fireworks, ice cream, sunburns, flip flops, patriotism, wildfires, bikinis, bug bites, minor league baseball, and most of all, lots of time spent playing outside.  As usual, it is hot as all balls in the valley, but as long as you’re not trying to go running (which I’m not, for the first time ever!) there are tons of fun things to do outdoors.  Biking!  Hiking!  Swimming!  Rafting!  Stand up paddling!  There are as many possibilities as there are flavors of ice cream at Gunther’s, which you will have earned after a day spent burning calories while getting fresh air and having fun.

I’ve spent the past few weekends going on long, amazing bike rides out on the river trail, and last weekend my husband and I went stand up paddling on Lake Natoma.  The weather was gorgeous, the lake was beautiful and it was nice and cool on the water.  I was even cooler because (more than once) I lost my balance, fell in and had to scramble back up onto my board.  There was quite a strong wind that pushed us waaaaay out into the middle of the lake and made it something of a challenge to paddle back in, but we made it and it was a really, really good workout.

It seems like any time Colin and I go away in the summer, instead of lying on the beach relaxing with a cocktail like we’re supposed to, we spend the whole time running around getting scraped, sunburned and dirty outdoors.  It’s not what most people consider a vacation, but it’s what we do.  Our honeymoon featured an all-day, partially-off-trail-because-we-got-lost hike through Waimea canyon and an incredible but exhausting and sunburn-inducing 16 mile sea kayaking adventure.  Our usual formula for an anniversary celebration is long hike + shower + good food, and it always turns out to be a good time.  The shower part is key, though; while I enjoy the outdoors, I equally enjoy washing off the dirt, eating a hot meal and sleeping in a real bed safe from rattlesnakes and bears at the end of the day.

The big vacation we planned for this summer was a trip to Oregon, including two days in Portland, a day in Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood, and two days in Eugene.  Because the weather in Oregon is so nice in the summer, the plan was to spend almost all of our time outdoors, biking and walking around the cities, visiting beautiful parks, and hiking.  We going to drive up this week and we couldn’t wait to leave.  Yesterday, I called and confirmed my hotel reservations and was getting ready to pack when I checked the weather so I could decide what to bring.

I opened my weather app and typed in “Portland, OR.”  When it showed me temperatures over 100 degrees every day of our trip, I assumed it hadn’t registered and was still showing me the Sacramento forecast.  I tried “Eugene, OR” with similar results.  Then I saw the article about the horrendous, horrific, historic heat wave hitting the Pacific northwest and the “extreme heat warning” in effect for Oregon and Washington.  They were urging people to stay indoors out of the sun.   Our much-anticipated outdoor vacation was going to be a sweaty, miserable disaster.

So we made a last minute executive decision, and three hours and lots of phone calls later, we had cancelled all of our reservations and rescheduled everything at the last minute to the first week of August.  We couldn’t get any decent hotel reservations, so we booked everything on Airbnb and it will be an adventure.  We also decided to screw it and take a whole week off of work this time so we can also spend two nights hiking, biking and drinking beer in Bend.  It’s also our wedding anniversary that week, which will make it all the more fun.  Let’s just hope the weather cooperates the second time around, because summer vacations are for playing outside, and playing outside is what we’ll do.

Transitioning to a Low-Impact Life

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So I got a repeat MRI and saw the ortho specialist again, and my hip still hasn’t really healed.  I am supposed to keep resting, so I can bike and do yoga but I can’t run or jump at all for another three months until the next MRI.  But even after it heals, as we know I can never return to long distance running or any frequent high impact activities like boot camp or kickboxing.

The doctor also told me that the neck and head of both of my femurs are about the size of a child’s, which is not only very weird to imagine but also pretty scary in terms of how easy it would be to sustain a serious fracture.  So, I have to do two things:

  1. Learn to stop tripping over my own dumb self/accidentally smashing my body into things
  2. Transition to low-impact exercise.  For life.

Accomplishing #1 might be impossible, but #2 has actually been pretty fun so far.  Before I got injured, I had thought about starting adult ballet classes, but I didn’t have the time or money because of all the damn running.  Now that I’ve healed enough to start exercising more, I actually started taking classes at The Ballet Studio in Sacramento.

These are not Ballet Beautiful or Barre exercise classes, but actual classical ballet, which I adore.  I did ballet for 8 years as a kid/teenager, and I loved it, although I wasn’t very good because

  1. I’m just not very coordinated (see #1 above)
  2. I have serious flexibility limitations, which I was made to believe were a personal failing by mean ballet teachers (“you just don’t stretch enough!  Now do ten splits as punishment”), but which I now know are because my bones are just put together wrong.

But even with the above facts, plus the fact that I haven’t danced at all in 10 years, I called up Heidi at The Ballet Studio and she encouraged me to come in to the adult beginner class.  I’ve been going for three weeks, and I am in love.  It’s a hard workout, but one where you get to wear a pretty outfit and do pretty dances while listening to pretty music.  It’s elegant and orderly and relaxing.

I am still really, really not good at ballet, but I don’t mind looking like a fool because I’m having so much fun. Heidi always encourages me to modify wherever I need to so I can keep from jumping or doing any of the many things I’m not supposed to do, and I think all the stretching and leg exercises we do will actually be really good for my hip.

So with ballet, plus yoga, plus weekend bike-ride-and-picnics on the beautiful part of the American River trail which I now live near, I do not really miss running.  Sometimes when I’m biking on the trail and it’s already 80 degrees at 9 am, I see someone who is clearly at mile 19 of a long training run and feeling like they are going to die 10,000 deaths, and I yell “You’re kicking ass!” to spur them on through the final slog, and I do not feel jealous, not even 1%, because I’ve been there and deep down I don’t really care to be there again.

Despite having a blog called HungryGirlRuns, I think I can learn to live with a low-impact life.

HungryGirlGardens

As you may know, I have never been very diligent about caring for plants.  I like plants that can take care of themselves, because there is maybe a 50% chance that I will take care of them.

But, I bought a house that already had a beautiful yard, and I am trying my best not to mess it up.  My best still may not be very good, so it’s lucky that my husband is trying even harder.  The timing is not ideal for this undertaking, given the extreme drought conditions in California and the Level 3 water use restrictions, but we are being creative.

As it turns out, gardening is kind of great for a few reasons.

1.  It can be really, really, really good exercise.  We had about 30 cubic feet of gravelly sand delivered in a pile in our driveway, which we (by which I mean mostly Colin) shoveled into a wheelbarrow a little at a time and trucked to the back of the yard where we raked it across 75 square feet.  According to my new Jawbone UP, I got 26,000 steps that day.

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2.  You can grow things that you then get to eat, assuming you (or more likely your husband) take care of them and they don’t die.  Such as:

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Olives!

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Figs!

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Approximately a jillion pomegranates!

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Tomatoes!

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Tomatillos!

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Zucchini!

3.  You can grow things that you can’t eat, but that look and smell amazingly pretty.  Such as:

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Hydrangeas!

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More hydrangeas!

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About a million roses!

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A gargantuan lavender!

It looks lovely now, but check back in August after another horrifically hot and dry summer and we will see what remains.  Until then, happy gardening!

Yamadillas, Yamadillas

I did not invent the Yamadilla, though I really wish I did.  I will admit I was skeptical when I first heard of this exotic dish, but I gave it a shot because it’s vegetarian, full of vitamins, and takes less time to make than ordering takeout.  As it turns out, Yamadillas are pretty delicious and satisfying, and they went over surprisingly well with my husband and our friends, too.

So what is this Yamadilla, you ask?

Yamadillas

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This is the Yamadilla before you put the top tortilla on, to show you what the inside looks like.

Ingredients

  • 2 small to medium yams, raw, skin on
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • 1 can of Trader Joe’s Cuban Black Beans, drainedCorn tortillas
  • Crumbled feta
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • Greek yogurt, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pierce the skin of the yams a few times with a fork and microwave on high until soft, about 6-10 minutes depending on the size of the yams and the strength of your microwave.
  2. Let them cool slightly before slicing them open, scooping out the flesh into a bowl, and mashing with a potato masher. Discard the skins.  Stir in the cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.
  3. In a small pot, heat the black beans on the stove until warmed through.  I like Trader Joe’s Cuban Black Beans because they already have seasoning, peppers and onions cooked into them, but you can use regular black beans and add your own seasonings and veggies.
  4. Warm the tortillas in the microwave.  Place them on a small plate in a stack of about 4 to 6, and cover with a damp paper towel.  Heat on high for 30 seconds, flip them over, re-cover with the paper towel, and heat for another 30 seconds.
  5. To assemble a yamadilla, spread a large spoonful of the mashed yams on a tortilla.  Spread a large spoonful of beans on top and sprinkle with feta, avocado, and cilantro.  Place a second tortilla on top, cut into quarters, garnish with Greek yogurt and enjoy!
  6. Bonus points if you make this while singing “yamadillas, yamadillas–yaaaamadillas” to the tune of the 80’s hit Rock Me Amadeus.  This is something that seems unavoidable in my house with even a passing mention of yamadillas.

Homemade Almond Cookie Hand and Lip Scrub

So in addition to being into food and fitness, I am also a little bit of a beauty junkie.  Not the kind that posts pictures like this to my Instagram feed, but the kind that has a drawer full of free Sephora samples and 20 different kinds of nude pink lipsticks and sheer pale pink nail polishes that you can’t even really see that I’m wearing but still I want more.

This DIY hand scrub takes about 5 minutes to make out of things you may already have in your kitchen, smells amazing, and leaves your hands and lips feeling soft, smooth and moisturized.

Homemade Almond Cookie Hand and Lip Scrub

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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, soft enough to scoop but still solid
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vitamin E oil (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

Instructions

  1. In a small jar, mix the coconut oil with the honey until smooth.  Add the brown and white sugar and mix just until it forms a uniform paste.  Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and vitamin E oil.
  2. Hint: The vitamin E oil is not edible, so if you want to see what this tastes like, do so before you add it.  Keep in mind that once you taste it, you might want to eat the whole jar.  You have been warned.
  3. Gently rub the mixture over dry skin using small circular motions.  Rinse off with water and pat dry.  Enjoy your pretty, lovely smelling skin!
  4. Store in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Breaking: Science says the Quality of Your Diet is Related to Long-Term Weight Gain

In a large-scale study that confirms basic facts we all already know, researchers confirmed that eating lean protein, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables helps people avoid gaining weight in the long term. Eating refined carbs, red meat and processed meats is associated with long term weight gain.

These findings are not a surprise, but its always nice to have more evidence that healthy eating doesn’t require crazy restriction or adherence to fad diets.  Also, the study was partly based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which I participate in and which has found out some really interesting things about women’s health over the years.

So in honor of Cinco de Mayo, get your veggies and lean protein in and give this recipe for Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream from Cooking Light a try.  It’s one of my favorite easy weeknight meals–bonus points if you have some whole-grain chips and fresh salsa on the side!

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