Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blue Lifehacks Her Diet

I'm not going to do this every day because that would be obsessive. (But doing it every-so-often is more of a lifehacking kind of thing.)

Today I tweeted everything I ate, which comes out as follows:

Small bento with Kashi, plain yogurt, and raisins (approx. 320 calories)
1 cup coffee with turbinado sugar (20 calories)
1 cup dark chocolate cocoa (which is a pinch of pure dark chocolate mixed with water -- unbelievably, according to the box, only 5 calories and much, much better than Swiss Miss)
1 Luna bar (180 calories)
1 banana (80 calories)
1 peanut-butter-and-prunes sandwich (believe me, after eating that, one isn't hungry for a while... also about 500 calories)
1 apple (60 calories)
5 white-chocolate mini-Reeses (200 calories)
1 apple-and-cheddar-cheese sandwich (360 calories)
1 orange (60 calories)
1 Luna bar (180 calories)

Total: 1965 calories.

Even if my estimates are a little off it's still nowhere near overeating. It's also not junk food, although arguably I could have skipped the candy.

I'll keep compiling data just long enough to pick up the trend (because calorie-counting is obnoxious, in the long run) and to see if there are nifty little ways to "lifehack" it.

Edit: Add before-bed "stomach is growling" pbj and three prunes. New calorie total 2365. Perhaps therein lies the problem.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Critical Mass

Part One

I've reached a sort of "point of no return" stage in my Ashtanga practice (probably the first of many). My teacher has given me enough positions that my practice now takes close to an hour to complete, and the time commitment is only going to increase as I get further into the training.

In other words, I'm at the point (again, probably the first of many) where I have to decide whether I can work out my life to fit the requirements of my practice or whether Ashtanga "isn't for me."

Luckily, the choice is easy: I can absolutely re-arrange my schedule to sleep earlier and get up earlier so I can have enough time to practice before work, either on my own or at Mysore class. But it's interesting because this is about the same time limit I found myself butting up against when practicing the piano: once I hit the hour mark, I would get up from the piano and leave. My teacher in college always tried to sell me on the virtue of practicing three hours per day, and I never exactly took that advice.

So, fine. I'll get up a bit earlier and spend an hour on Ashtanga. No big deal.

I wonder what will happen at the 90-minute mark.

Part Two

From teh internets, on how yoga practice affects weight:

If you are not overweight, your weight will remain about the same. If you are underweight, you will gain weight. The weight you gain will be healthy firm muscle tissue, not fat. That is, yoga will tend to produce the ideal body structure for you. This is due to yoga's effect of fixing glandular activity.

Now, I have no idea whether or not these particular internets are reliable. (Glandular activity what now?) But the idea of yoga producing the "ideal body structure" for me is intriguing.

Unfortunately, the body structure it seems to be producing is one dress size bigger than the body structure I used to have.

I've been studying Ashtanga now for three months. I've also been walking 3.4 miles five days a week, to and from the office. I've toned up a bit. To put it in plain English, my stomach is firm and my underarms do not wiggle!

But I've also gotten... larger. And this is distressing me to the point where I am spending far too much energy perservating over it.

Before everyone gets all "dude, muscle weighs more than fat, so of course the scale should be going up," let me re-emphasize that I am increasing in mass as well as in weight. When I finally bought the ATL dress that I had followed from the front display to the discount rack, I found out that an ATL size 2 no longer fit and I was (gasp!) a size 4.

What to do?

I started out by doing what any self-respecting young woman would do in this situation: I instantly put myself on a diet. Starting October 1, I told anyone who cared to know that I was on "The Last Days of George W. Bush Detox Diet," which meant that I wasn't going to be ridiculous and restrict actual food, but I was going to swear off the stream of free cookies, donuts, etc. that continually poured into our office, just to see if that was causing the problem.

So between October 1 and October 15 nary a cookie, cake, muffin, or Hershey's Kiss crossed my lips. (That's part of the reason my Obama-Biden Pie was made out of fruit and yogurt.)

Between October 1 and October 15, two things happened:

1. I got extremely constipated


2. I put on three pounds.

On October 15 I canceled the "diet" and celebrated by enjoying an organic pumpkin cupcake at Hello Cupcake.

Between October 15 and today I enjoyed several more cupcakes, because they were just that good.

Currently am no longer constipated and remain the exact same weight I was on 10/15.

So. What to do? Y'all have seen my eating habits and my exercise habits, and for all intents and purposes I seem to be living a healthy lifestyle. Is this a metabolism thing? Does it have something to do with the fact that I turn 27 on election day?

Or is the yoga website right and this is in fact "the ideal weight" for me? ^__^

Blue's Grocery Spree

Today I went to the grocery store hungry. Not on purpose; I was at a friend's apartment for a birthday tea-&-coffee get-together, and by the time we were all leaving it was just about dinnertime.

Anyway. Usually when I go to the grocery store I get the following:

Whatever other fruit is on sale
Seasonal vegetable
Plain yogurt
Whatever protein bar is on sale (lately it's been Luna bars)

Every couple of weeks I get bread/peanut butter/jelly, and also when I run out I stock up on beets and cheese.

(Just in case you're curious: breakfasts are always Kashi in yogurt with sliced fruit on top; lunch is the seasonal vegetable cooked to one of Madhur Jaffrey's recipes, and dinner is either PBJ with more fruit or beets/cheese/crackers with fruit. Although last night, because I scored an unexpected free lunch at work, I took the cabbage-'n-dal I had packed in my bento box back to my apartment and cooked a delicious chickpea pancake to wrap it up in.)

But today I was starving, and so I kinda went a little overboard in the produce section:

5 Gala apples (two lbs for $1.99)
5 McIntosh apples (ditto)
6 oranges (two oranges for a dollar!)
6 bananas ($0.49/lb)
1 bunch asparagus ($1.99)
1 rutabaga ($0.99)
1 squash ($0.49!!!!)

Plus yogurt, Luna bars, bread, a giant tub of all-natural super-crunchy peanut butter, and a tin of Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder, which I am going to use to make hot cocoa (yes, I know cocoa powder is not sweet by itself, but this stuff is 100% pure cocoa, unlike, say, the chemical mix that Swiss Miss churns out, not to mention that dark cocoa is full of flavanols and antioxidants and it is only 15 calories per tablespoon, so... I'll stir in some honey to sweeten it up).

Anyway, my refrigerator is now overflowing with vegetables, which is kind of good because this morning all it contained was a half-empty jar of strawberry jam and some beets-&-cheese, but now I'm thinking "ZOMG I have to eat these all before they spoil!!!!"


I told my sister that when I go to the grocery store hungry I end up buying rutabagas. She said I was weird.

So I Promised You A Picture...

In an earlier post, I sent out a challenge to my mom: send me a picture of me-as-a-little-girl wearing a dress made out of the same fabric as a shirt I recently found at ATL.

She called me and said "I don't think we have any pictures of you wearing that dress."

I thought about it, and she was right. I don't think we have any pictures of me wearing that dress. Never mind that I have a romanticized memory of wearing it for what seems like an entire summer, visiting my cousins at my grandparents' house in Portland, OR and eating fresh blueberries off of a bush in their backyard.

It was probably the same summer where my grandmother bought me an entire Charleston Chew bar at a grocery store and then kept it in the freezer for me, doling it out piece by piece.

It may have been the same summer in which I ran around with another set of cousins at their home in Washington, re-enacting Grimms' Fairy Tales because we were dorks like that.

It was likely it was the same summer in which another uncle in Idaho (we were taking the extended-relatives tour) promised my sister and I that if we climbed to the top of Moscow Mountain we would find a McDonalds at its peak and he would buy us ice-cream cones. (We didn't believe him; we knew it was just an excuse to drag kids along on an extremely boring all-day nature walk, and no, he didn't buy us any ice cream at the end.)

But I know it was the summer in which, at the end of the vacation, my mom told me it was so good to see me running around and acting like a little girl instead of a like a miniature adult. ^__^

Here's the ATL shirt, again:

And here's the dress.

(Which my mother MADE. By HAND. Just so you know.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Phonebanking for Obama: The Undecided Voter

I've put in a lot of phonebanking hours in the past week, left countless answering machine messages, and talked to a handful of people (usually one out of every ten calls results in an actual contact).

Most of the conversations were very brief: "Yes, I'm supporting Obama, kthxbai," or "No, I support McCain, get off my phone." I was able to talk to one woman about how she could start phonebanking herself. No one, unfortunately, seemed interested in learning how they could support Obama by voting early.

But, in all this mess, I did get to have a substantial conversation with one undecided voter.

She said "Listen. I don't know who to support right now because I don't know who is going to have the better economic plan. They're all talking and talking but first of all I can't tell which plan is better to begin with, and second of all I have no idea whether either of them will actually follow through."

I thought for a moment, and this is what I told her.

"I can't say for sure that Obama is going to do everything he is promising to do. I'd like to think he is, but you're right, we can't ever say for sure. But if you're thinking about the economy, if you're thinking about who is going to take care of your money and of the country's money, think about this: Obama made the choice, early in the run, not to accept public funding and instead to run his campaign on donations from supporters. McCain chose public funding. But Obama's choice allowed him to raise more money than any other presidential candidate in history.

Think about this, too. In his personal life, even before he decided to run for President, Barack Obama had no credit card debt. John McCain has thousands of dollars in credit card debt, despite his wealth and his seven houses.

So I don't always understand the details of these economic plans either, but I know which of the two candidates seems to have a better idea of how to manage money."

There was a pause. Then the undecided voter said "That's a really good point. I never thought of it that way before."

Truth be told, until that moment, neither had I.

(And now I think Obama needs to make it into a commercial. ^__^)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Am My Own Mithaiwallah

So for the first debates... well, I didn't make anything because we were planning to go to Busboys & Poets (which we didn't because it was too packed).

For the second debates, the VP ones, I made Obama-Biden Pie.

For the third debates I made "Elitist Rice-Krispies Treats," which were rice-krispies treats with chunks of dark chocolate mixed in. (This was mostly because I had half a box of Rice Krispies left over from the last time I made rice-krispies treats, which was when I was entertaining a friend who had just flown in from Bombay and with whom I wanted to share an authentically American dessert. My friend didn't like them all that much.)

And for the final debates I made, or tried to make, besan barfi.

Again, part of the reason was practical: I had a giant container of chickpea flour sitting in my cupboard. The other part was that Madhur Jaffrey made the recipe look so easy.

A (different) friend told me afterwards that most people find Indian sweets too difficult to attempt on their own. I was a little surprised, because Ms. Jaffrey is all "fry up the chickpea flour in ghee until it turns all brown and good-smelling, let it cool, and then stir in sugar syrup and cardamom." In terms of recipes, it is about as "basic" as one can get.

So how did they turn out?

It's pretty clear where I went wrong. Too much sugar syrup. To be fair, I don't have any measuring cups and so I cook using the "eyeball method." (To be fair again, that's a pretty stupid way to cook. [To be fair a third time, this method generally works for most recipes.])

Still, even if they weren't exactly 100% barfi, they had that unmistakable "Indian sweet" taste (which comes, no doubt, from mixing ghee, chickpea flour, and cardamom).

And yes, they were well-received. ^__^

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Everything Old Is Still New Again

A fall shirt, from ATL.

Original price $40, but I got it for $8 thanks to savvy coupon-handling.

The whole time I had it on I kept thinking "I've worn this before."

The smocking, the burgundy... and something was very familiar about those little roses.

Then I remembered. When I was nine or ten my mother made me a dress out of very similar material. The same little rose pattern, nearly the same color. It even had rows of smocking across the front, all hand-sewn.

Mom, if you scan/send me a picture of me wearing that dress I'll post it on the blog, along with a current pic of me in the shirt. ^__^

Monday, October 13, 2008

Phonecalls For Obama

With three weeks to go, I finally got my rear in gear and did something I swore I would never do again: telemarket.

This time I was shilling Obama.

Have to hand it to him -- the setup they've got at My.BarackObama.com is pretty sweet. It's exactly like the old days... the names and numbers pop up automatically, I click a little box that says "answering machine" or "number disconnected" or (ideally) "supports Barack Obama," and the next number appears.

Only this time, of course, I'm using my own resources and phone minutes. ^__^

Unfortunately, the experience seemed to me much more symbolic than effective. I can tell my grandchildren that I played a role in getting President Barack Obama into the White House, but truth be told nearly all of my calls were answering machines. Which I expected; I don't pick up for unknown numbers either. (If Obama's campaign were really smart, they would set up some kind of Skype-like thing where all of our numbers could be routed through something which would cause the display on the cell phone/call waiting to read "Barack Obama." That would at least tip off the people as to who was calling.)

I did two sets of calls (one in the morning and one in the evening) and only spoke to two people. One woman told me to get off her phone, and one man spent a long time explaining to me exactly why he didn't vote.

"The country isn't even going to be here in five years," he told me.

"Where is it going to go?" I asked him. "Do you think it's going to be taken over by another country?"

"I think we'll have started moving to Mars by then," he said. "I keep hearing on the television about how they want to move us all to Mars."

Anyway. I suppose "every little bit helps," as they say, and I will do my civic duty and continue to sell Obama over the phone, but... it wasn't quite the exciting political experience I was hoping for.

Still, I'll be able to tell my grandchildren.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Being The Ant

So I'm caught up in the social whirl, which on the one hand is a great thing (yay people!) but on the other hand can be a bit expensive.

My friend Gaurav, who is off-consumption, would solve the problem by saying "I'm off-consumption; but I'll sit with you at this restaurant and not order anything."

Not being off-consumption myself, yesterday I tried the approach used in personal-finance books: when my friends suggested adding dinner to movie plans, I said "I'd love to, but I think that's going to overblow my budget -- I'll meet you at the cinema."

The personal finance books say that telling people things like this will help inspire a mutual feeling of spendthriftery; e.g. speaking honestly about spending and saving will help others to do the same.

In my case, it prompted my friends to ask me, concernedly, if I were a little hard up for cash right now.

No, not at all. Nowhere near it. Not that I wonder if I couldn't be, if every week were as busy as this one (four dinner invitations, two happy hours, the movie, and the weekly debate party).

I told them that I wasn't at all hard for cash, but I was playing the ant in the "ant and the grasshopper" story and my goal was to save up two months of living expenses by Christmas. (Originally I thought I could save three -- it looks like two will be the goal I'll actually reach.)

However, contrary to what the personal finance books wrote, even this admission did not spark a conversation about the "necessity of saving vs. spending."

Instead, I think my friends thought I was a little weird.

Maybe I am.

But I've got my cash-flow budget, and my "expenditures-by-category" budget, and... well, doesn't the ant come out on top in the end?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Not Meeting Famous People

I've twice missed the chance to meet Salman Rushdie, and today I skipped what would have been a great opportunity to meet Kate Beaton.

I thought about it, really I did. But the only way I would have gotten to meet either of the above was if I had bought one of their books for autographical purposes.

And, first of all, I don't want to shell out for hardback, and secondly at the end of it all it would be me standing in some line waiting for a famous person to write my name in something so I could say "I really like your work" and they could say "thank you."

So... well, there's always the opportunity of skulking around without buying a book, but then it would be like going to some event just to stand at the back and get the glimpse of the top of a famous person's head.

So it makes sense not to go.

At the same time it feels weird. Like, shouldn't I be at SPX so I can say hey to Kate 'cause I read her webcomic, like, every single day and I've even bought some of her merch as gifts for friends? (And, like, Jeph Jacques was going to be there too but he totally bagged at the last minute, so like, if he had been there I could have met both of them!)

And then my economical head says "and you're going to pay the SPX entry fee so you can stand at the back of a crowded room and see the tops of their heads? Or, at best, go up to one of their booths and paw through the merch even though you're not going to buy anything and then be too embarrassed to actually say anything to them if they happen to be at the booth at the time? And what exactly would you say? "I like your comic?" Obviously. You don't need to pay money to be the 100th person to tell a webcomic artist you like his or her work."


What would you do?

Seriously, ATL, I Would Totally Let You Photograph Me Wearing Your Clothes

So today I was in the Ann Taylor Loft, pricing things. I go in about twice a week to check the price tags on a few items I particularly like, to see if they've been discounted; currently I'm sitting on four "50% off" coupons, and I want to get the most out of them.

They've been redoing the store for fall; last week they painted the entire thing "Autumn brown," and today there was a woman bustling around the place with a clipboard. Clearly "from corporate," this woman was busy telling all of the sales assistants where to set up the yet-to-be-revealed fall displays.

Then she saw me and stared at me for a very long moment. I was wearing ATL, which is no surprise because I buy most of my clothes there now. Today I was wearing this dress:

and I was wearing it over a pair of jeans because it's starting to get a little cold outside.

Anyway. The woman "from corporate" looked me up and down. Then she said "I've never seen anyone wear our dresses over jeans before. I like it."

It was my brush with greatness.

(Pic taken from eBay 'cause ATL's not currently advertising that dress on its site.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Obama-Biden Pie!

I've been watching the debates with a group of friends (and will continue through to the debates' end). We began our adventure by deciding we would go have dinner together at Busboys and Poets, a DC joint which advertised that they would blast the debates over their loudspeaker.

Unfortunately, we were one of about 500 groups of people who had that idea, and there wasn't enough room for us in the cafe. We ended up retiring to one of the group's apartments (not mine -- I don't have a TV!).

So for the VP round we decided we would skip the cafe and begin directly at the apartment, and would make up for lack of cafe dinner by bringing food to share.

Thus, I present to you:

The Obama-Biden Pie.

Why it is an Obama pie should be obvious... but what makes it a Biden pie? I racked my brain thinking of something that could represent Biden besides, say, a Dunkin' Donut (because the Obama-Biden Pie is healthy), and then came up with the following solution:

Biden comes from Scranton.
The Office takes place in Scranton.
Office character Pam Beesly's favorite flavor of yogurt is mixed berry.

Yes, it's a stretch... but it makes for a very healthy and delicious pie.

How to make:
  1. Get your favorite no-cook pie crust from the grocery store. I picked graham cracker.
  2. Dump in enough no-fat mixed berry yogurt to cover the bottom of the pie crust.
    1. You could also use ice cream, whipped cream, or any other sweet-sticky base you like... but yogurt is so good for you!
  3. Arrange blueberries, strawberries, and yogurt-covered raisins to form the Obama logo.
  4. Refrigerate until set.
  5. Serve and enjoy!
So that's my Obama-Biden pie. There are two more debates, so there are at least two more chances for you to make your own!

You Can't Spell "Pancakes" Without "Pan"

In my previous life, I was of the opinion that I just "couldn't" make pancakes. Or fried eggs. Or anything else that required me to let it set in a pan and then flip it over.

I would let it sit, then try to flip it... and some part would always stick to the pan and ruin the whole thing. Adding more oil or butter only made a greasy mess. So I decided I just didn't have the "technique" necessary to cook pancakes.

But I've found that the new pots-and-pans I bought for my dream apartment have somehow, miraculously, enabled me to cook perfect pancakes and fried eggs and grilled sandwiches and all the rest of it.

I think it's because they're coated with Teflon. Or maybe because they're brand-new and not all chipped and gummed up.

But it's very exciting, and it's opened up a whole new series of recipes in my Madhur Jaffrey cookbook.

In other words: this week I want to try making masala dosas. ^__^