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Friday, June 27, 2008

Going the Distance

There's something about going on vacation that makes me so incredibly anxious, excited and full of nervous energy that I can scarcely sleep. It's going on 3 am, and I have to be up in about 2 hours to shower and pack the last of my stuff. This isn't too unusual for me, I often am packing moments before I'm ready to leave the house. We're heading out to Colorado for a week; flying into Denver and then driving down to Pueblo to visit with some of Liz's family. We are also driving further south to New Mexico, stopping in Taos and Sante Fe to visit with Donald and take in the natural southwestern beauty and New Age hot spots. While we're both not much into the New Age aspects of the South West, I do get a kick out of seeing what life is like in environments completely unlike the North East Coast. I'm hoping to see a few aliens and UFO's too, though I suppose those things don't really exist, but there seems to be a lot of talk and activity out in that desert...

The tri training has slowed down a bit this week. I tried to get in a few work outs before we go away. Monday I did some weight and strength training, increasing my weights and reps. Tuesday we went bowling with Liz's co-workers from the Opera Company. It wasn't exactly exercise, more like exercise in futility. I bowled a pathetic 66, an all-time low for me. We had a great time nevertheless and it was nice to spend time with her co-workers during a non-work related event.

Wednesday was by far my most ambitious day. I woke early and went swimming. After work, I left early and made an attempt to ride my bike to Paoli. After a brief false start, I was on the wrong route out of the city, I found myself hammering along some familiar trails and inclines with greater ease. The new Fuji Road Bike is definitely a faster machine. My neighbor, Michele, said that as I decrease in size, so does my bike. The bike and I are able to take on the routes faster without as much effort. Boy! Am I ever glad I bought this new bike. The ride I took was a ramble out to Devon, via a cue sheet from the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. I've taken the ride home from Devon twice, but much of the ride is downhill, so it's easy. This is the first time I felt strong enough to attempt the ride out there. The cue sheet directions were pretty straight forward, taking me through Wynnewood, City Line, Bryn Mawr, Merion and out to the Main Line. I was doing well enough until I reached Bala Cynwyd, where I got my first flat on the new bike. A good practice lesson in how to change the tires. I wasn't daunted, though I did lose some valuable time. I figured I could make up for it by going a bit faster. Then I hit some steep hills. Climbed them slowly and steadily and I only had to walk up one hill, mostly because I was nervous about where I was. Then came the winding narrow roads with lots of traffic. Managed to navigate these without getting clipped or knocked off the road. Then the next thing I knew, I was lost in the wilds of Rosemont, at least 8 miles away from where I needed to be at 6:30, with less than a half hour to make it to my destination. I rode a bit further. I stopped and asked somone for directions, only to learn that I'm really far from where I need to be. Okay, I regroup and ride through the campus of Rosemont College. I figure out where the train station is. And then it all starts to go very very wrong. I find the train and go up to the platform. At first I'm on the wrong side of the train platform. I run down the steps, carrying my bike, up the other side and onto the platform towards Paoli. The train pulls in within a minute of my getting there. It's now 6:10 and the conductor takes one look at me and the bike and tells me, nope, you can't get on this train with a bike, as it's still rush hour and bikes aren't allowed. I'm an anxious, exhausted, sweaty mess and I can't control the tears streaming down my face. The train pulls out and I'm trying to figure out where I am and how I'm going to get to Paoli in the next 15 minutes. I make a call. I figure out where I am in relation to the distance I need to go. Then I walk back down the train station stairs and head over to Lancaster Avenue which is a block away. When I get there I look up the road and it appears as steep as the Levering Street Wall in Mannayunk. There's no way I'm going up this autobahn on my bike during rush hour and making it in one piece in 10 minutes. I call my therapist, because by this time, the appointment I had, I really really need! We wound up talking on the phone for my session, while I sat on a rock along Lancaster Avenue on the lovely Rosemont College Campus. It was surreal but at the same time kind of grounding.

Even though I missed my appointment in person, I was able to reconnect and regroup without any serious damage. I rested, drank some water and ate the peanut butter sandwich and bananas I packed. I Called home and decided that I should take the train home. A good plan, except I just missed the train back to Philadelphia and the next one wasn't for another hour. Here we go again! So back onto the bike I go, through Rosemont, Bryn Mawr and into Ardmore riding down Lancaster Avenue. I get off track and realize that my determination is getting me lost instead of leading me home. Luckily I was near enough to the train tracks the I could get to the Wynnewood Station easily. I wound up taking the same train home that I would have been on had I made it to my appointment, had my therapy session and came home sans bicycle. The moral of my story - being determined to get somewhere by sheer will and force is fine, but you have to have a plan and a back up plan just in case. I realized that I have the ability to carry myself and make it up many hills and overcome whatever obstacles that might be in my way, but I still need to take it slow, stop and ask for help and directions when necessary, and I must, at all times, be aware of my limitations.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tri Time


I had the chance to watch a full-on Olympic length triathlon on Sunday, along West River/Martin Luther Drive at the Schuylkill River. It was the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon. Since the SheRox Tri is a little over a month away, I thought it would be a good idea to witness one first hand so I have some idea of what to expect. I'm glad I made myself get up at 5:30 am and out of the house by 6:30, as what I watched was jaw-dropping intense. I reached the start of the swimming by 7 am. I caught the first wave of swimmers, the professionals, in the river. There were hundreds of spectators and participants out at this early hour, so many that it felt like a mid-day party along the waterway. An Olympic Triathlon - 1.5 K swim, 40K bike and 10k run, is roughly in miles and feet - a 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike race and a 9 mile run. I am lucky that the SheRox Tri is less than half these distances. From what I saw on Sunday, I can say for certain that while I'm not in the best shape to do my mini triathlon, there would be no way I could even complete part of the full-on Triathlon. My mouth was open the entire time I watched the swimming and I kept saying to myself, out loud, over and over again - "OH MY GAWD". Swimming in the river isn't freaking me out, it's the distance. Once you see the visual, it is daunting, even at the half-mile distance. I thought that over the past two weeks I've stepped up my workouts and swimming. I realize how much further I need to push myself and work. In the coming weeks, I'll be concentrating on swimming more, biking more and running outside. I also want to figure out how to reserve my energy and use it efficiently for the transitions from one event to the next and when to really pump my legs during the biking phase.
It is a well coordinated event, moving from the swim to the bike race. Once the first wave of swimmers came out of the water, I watched them transition to the biking. Athletes have to sort of dry off, fueling up with powerbars and energy drinks, don helmets and bike shoes and pedaling off onto the course within minutes of pulling oneself out of the river. The bikes and gear are set up on racks in rows upon rows with all the gear neatly arranged in a line next to or in front of the bikes. It looks like a giant garage sale! Aside from a slight bottleneck at the cycling starting point, the athletes get onto the road seamlessly. I witnessed a few jams and one or two people who had flats to be fixed. One woman appeared to not be able to change her tire, it took well over 20 minutes for her to get her bike in riding order. I'm not even certain she ever got onto the race course. Since there were hundreds of athletes, I didn't stick around to watch all of them head from one event to the next. I rode the loop once to try out part of the course and to see how the riders build up speed. Part of the bike course veers off up some side roads and inclines; roads that were closed to the non-participants.
After one lap around the River Drives, I then caught the first wave of athletes transitioning from the bike race to the run. It's another interesting operation. Cyclists bring their bikes back to the racks, change from cycling shoes to running shoes, removing helmets, refueling again and adding water belts as necessary. By this time the spectator areas are mobbed with friends and families cheering everyone on. The streets are littered with water bottles, cups, Gatorade and discarded packets of Goo - a glucose shot that you take to give you a quick burst of energy. All around you can hear cheering and clanging cowbells. The air is charged with excitement and energy. Not only are the crowds encouraging everyone on - "nice job" "you can do it" "you're half-way, almost there..." but the athletes themselves are gracious and encouraging. I saw many teams and pairs of couples during the bike race waiting for their partners or riding together to go the distance. Yes, it is a competition, but it also appeared to be a team effort. During the run, by far the hardest part of the tri, runners helped each other on. They weren't slowing down, but you could see people matching and keeping pace with each other.
The spectators are also a huge part of the event. The overall feeling is one of encouragement. When I was riding around the river drive loop a second time, I got cheered on by the onlookers. I kept slowing down to say thanks, but I'm not in the race and people wished me luck anyway! This even happened when I climbed up Lemon Hill to practice the incline. The remaining people up there were so pumped up, cheering and ringing their bells. I stopped to chat and told them I was only out taking in the sights and getting in a practice ride for the SheRox. These folks were so enthusiastic they wanted to spread the happiness around so they cheered for me. Like the the Spectators and volunteers, the participants don't give up either. I saw swimmers in the water well over an hour into the race. There were probably ten swimmers still in the water, going slowly but still swimming. The crews were right there next to the swimmers, making sure they were okay, and urging them onward. During my second loop around the drive, a good two hours into the race, I saw two or three cyclists still out there, more than a mile to the run transition. Volunteers and fans were there to support the riders. It was odd to see some people so far behind, but encouraging to see that they were going to finish no matter how long it took. I don't think I'll be in the dead last place of the swim or bike. I might possibly be in the last heat of the run, but no matter what, I will finish.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Biker Guys


When you start in on a hobby, you begin to notice parts of its existence everywhere. Take for instance the bike messengers who hang out in Rittenhouse Square. Most days I notice their cool bikes. For a few months I was photographing their "fixies" and other unusual bikes. Today I noticed the guys. I think it was the pack of them all together and the dude fixing his flat in the middle of the pack. It was a moment of camaraderie, action and guys just hanging out. It's a scene like this that makes Rittenhouse Square so diverse and interesting to me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shedding my security blanket

I've had this old yellow fleece blanket for over ten years and lately it's been tucked away in a trunk or in a bin somewhere in my closet. This spring, we pulled out our trunk of summer clothes that we put away last September. At that time, Liz and I had each lost over 20 pounds but for one reason or another, we hung onto some of our summer things. Imagine our surprise when we went through the clothes this spring and nothing fit. All the tops and capri's were swimming on us! We had some good laughs about how ridiculous things looked on us, and we both marveled at the changes our bodies had undergone. It was amazing to see the transformation from plus sizes to regular sizes in less than ten months. So off we went, weeding through clothes, discarding stuff with spots and putting old and fairly new items into a give-away pile. Since both Liz and I are "clothes horses" we had a lot of sorting to do. It was time to get rid of the dressy suits & fancy jackets, including the halter dress I wore to her brother's wedding two summer's ago. At the time I had no idea then that it made me look like I was dressed as a Hawaiian Chaise Lounge Cover. Geesh, I thought I looked good when in fact I was huge! Now the dress can wrap around me twice! In our summer trunk was the old yellow fleece, a ten dollar Target bargain. Liz asked me what did I want to do with the blanket - give it away, keep it for the dog or just, I don't know, put it back in the trunk. Without giving it a second thought, I said we need to get rid of it. A few days later I was thinking about the cleaning out process and suddenly I remembered the blanket. For years, I've held onto things and clothes, even the pieces that I no longer used or wore. Now I can't wear any of my old clothes, even things I bought eight, six and three months ago. Why in the world did I hang onto these old rags? I'm shedding clothes faster than my dog sheds his fur. I want to wear clothes that fit and that are appropriately sized for me. I can and want to wear sleeveless shirts and tighter fitting pants and t-shirts. I can tuck hirts into my pants, wear a belt and notch it close to the last hole! I don't remember the last time I could do that without looking like a balloon cinched in the middle ready to pop. What occurred to me was that putting this old fleece schmatta into the give-away pile represents being ready to be free of my fat from behind which I've been hiding for the past 20 years. I am ready to give up my security blanket. Finally!
The pay-off from this is, of course, buying new clothes, as well as continuing to lose more weight. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working out a lot. There's been a renewed commitment to getting to the gym and training for my triathlon. Over the last two weeks, I've really seen a difference in my physique and stamina. My swimming is slowly improving and my over-all workouts have been good. Tonight I got a reward. I hit my 60 pound mark at the Monday Night Weight Watcher's Meeting. Or as the check in lady said, I've entered "a new decade!" I'm feeling pretty in pink.

Hitting 60 pounds lost is a milestone. Since March I've been seesawing with the same eight pounds. What I neglected to look out was how much weight I've lost since the beginning of this year - a number closer to 20 pounds. Looking at it in the larger context, the overall number feels significant. I'm not sure how many inches I've lost, but it's at least nine, counting the waist sizes I've gone down from an old pair of shorts I pulled out of the trunk compared to my new JCrew seersucker field shorts I bought a few weeks ago. Better than the actual numbers, pounds, inches or clothing sizes, is the fact that I'm healthy. I can run, a bit. I can bike a lot. I can swim more than ten laps without drowning. I can lift weights and have increased the weights by 5 or 10 pounds a set. I'm doing GREAT and I love it! And I no longer need the old blanket to wrap myself into to feel good, safe or secure. I just want to keep "soldiering along" one pound at a time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Big Bike Week



The past eight days have been nearly jammed packed with biking, swimming, weight lifting, cooking, work, and a bit of house cleaning. That's why I haven't written in almost ten days! First things first - on Sunday, June 8th, well over a week ago, I finally attended the big Philadelphia bike race - Commerce Bank's Triple Crown of Cycling. Back in the day (like when I was young and fit and new to cycling - we are talking a long time ago) this race was called the CoreStates Bank Race; that's how old this race is - nearly 25 years old. I had long hair, tight thighs and no problems wearing spandex. I always wanted to go up to the Art Museum and Parkway to watch the race but for one stupid reason or another, I never went. I wasted 25 years missing out on the most spectacular bike race event in the country, right here in Philadelphia. So, I made up for all the lost years and thoroughly enjoyed the race, starting at 7 am to bike and enjoy hours of the hot crazy cycling day.

At 7 am on the start of the morning, I entered a "Family Fun Ride" along the bike race course from the Art Museum to Mannayunk and up to the "Wall". The Wall is on Levering Street, which is a 17% grade steep street that the racers climb 10 times during the course of their 10 laps of the 156 mile race. The women racers do 4 laps, climbing the wall only 4 times. I know it's possible to drive and walk up Levering Street, though I barely could do either. As for biking it, not in my lifetime, or at least, not on the bike I rode on Sunday.

Because I missed the meet-up start of the morning ride by about 5 minutes I was 5 miles behind the pack. I don't know if I've ever ridden quite so fast before. I huffed and puffed my way along Kelly Drive, a route I bike on a regular basis. Between the late start, the frantic riding to find the meet-up, the heat, and just sheer nervousness, I felt like I was weighted down by anchors. I couldn't catch up to the riders until near the end of the race. Small consolation that I wasn't dead friggin' last - I managed to pass two sets of fathers and their young sons, though the first family only rode into Mannayunk and smartly decided to by-pass the Wall; the second family left me in the dust along the pavement of Levering Street while I was heaving out of breath trying to haul my 40 pound albatross of a mountain bike-hybrid up the street. Luckily I only had to traverse the mountain once; my reward was a ride down Mannayunk's wide open streets blissfully fast.
When I reached Kelly Drive again, I caught up with Rabbi Stone and his wife, Annie. The Rabbi is an amazing bicyclist. I credit him for reigniting my bicycling passion. He started riding in 2006 and has been going strong over these past two years. I purchased his old Trek Navigator last August, when he wisely upgraded to a lighter road-style bicycle. Rabbi is in great shape and had no problem climbing the Wall. As a matter of fact, Sunday morning was his third ride in as many days. On the Friday prior to the race and rides, he actually rode up the Wall on a Brompton Folding Bike, setting a biking record. Though he said it wasn't a great record, as he came in last, but still, he did it, and on a folding bike! Whoa! Color me impressed.

Our amateur ride ended around 8:30 and we were treated to sports drinks, orange juice, bagels and t-shirts. After a quick stop, I went over to the front of the Art Museum and watched the real racers. The men complete three laps around Eakins' Oval and Logan Circle before riding the ten laps of the race. The start of the race is great fun to watch. There are motorcycle police escorts; pace cars and camera film crews in cars and on motorcycles. Then the hundred or more riders come flying by in a close knit pack, blurring together in spandex and whippet thin bodies on two wheels. After the cyclists there are the team cars loaded with bicycle on roof racks. Along the streets and grass islands are party tents, vendors, concessions and bike clubs set up all along the Parkway, at the Art museum and along Lemon Hill. There are all kinds of cyclists and wannabes out and about clanging cow bells and enjoying the rush of it all. In any direction near the Parkway or along Kelly Drive it is a non-stop cycling event from 7 am until 5 pm. And it's glorious. I was out with my people! I felt as though I found myself all over again; reconnecting to a world I had only glimpsed before and now I am finally entering. I figure it's not too late for me, at 41 to be rejoining the cycling sport.
After watching the start of the race and catching the racers' first lap back from Mannayunk, I rode up to Lemon Hill to meet up with the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. Somehow I found the energy to head out on another ride. I went on a 20 mile ride with a BCP leader, through Fairmount Park; past Memorial Hall, the Mann Center, the Japanese Tea Gardens and through Merion out to Wynnefield (or was it Wynnewood?) I kept hydrated, I went slowly when it was necessary, which was a lot, and made it in once piece. Jeff, the bike leader, was another one of those great riders, encouraging me along the way and giving me biking tips. The best of which was, to get a faster lighter bike. He said that the small inclines we took would be so much easier if I didn't have the heavy mountain bike. It could have been the heat stroke, but I was convinced. Among the many things I learned on Sunday about my physical abilities and lack thereof, I realized that there was no way I could ride the bike portion of the triathlon and not be dead friggin' last or laughed out of the competition.

The rest of the day I spent hanging out with the Bicycle Club and watched more laps of the race along Lemon Hill. Then mid-day I went home to recuperate after logging in almost 44 miles for the day. I didn't pass out and I had energy for a concert and event we attended that evening.

The rest of the week I spent working out, and figuring out what to do about the bicycle situation. I posted the Trek Bike on Craig's list Wednesday morning. By Wednesday night I sold it. Thursday and Friday I visited bike shops and test rode a few road bikes. On Saturday I bought a new Fuji Newest 3.0 road bike, with toe clips, shoes and assorted gear. I gave it a test spin up Kelly Drive and Ridge Avenue and did well using the new shoes and pedals. The bike rides fast - hardly have to put any effort into pedaling, it just flies. Except for one mishap in town when I tried to stop suddenly and I couldn't get my foot out of the pedal clip, I did well on my maiden voyage. I have a nasty gash on my knee and a bruised finger, small scrap on the bike break and gear, but otherwise, Fuji and I are just fine. Gearing up for another good week of triathlon training and exciting tales about rediscovering my passion for cycling. Now if I could only managed to make it up the Wall once without killing myself...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Grilled Sweet Potato & Hummus Sandwich

Here's a vegetarian sandwich idea that is filling, tasty and easy to prepare. I discovered this idea when I was in Arizona back in April and just got around to making my own version of it today. There is minimal prep and ingredients, and it can be varied to suit your tastes or what vegetables you have on hand. The grilled sweet potatoes took no time to cook and as an added bonus, they got a bit caramelized which added fantastic flavor. If you don't have an outdoor grill or can't be bothered firing it up, a grill or pannini pan, even a George Forman Grill will work just fine.


Ingredients - per sandwich:


  • 1 Small Sweet Potato - scrubbed clean, blemishes cut out; cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

  • 1 Roasted Red Pepper - make your own or jarred/canned in water are just fine

  • 3-4 Grilled Asparagus Stalks

  • 1 or 2 Slices Grilled, Roasted, Sauteed Red Onion (optional)

  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

  • 1 Tablespoon Hummus

  • 1 Whole wheat or multi grain roll

Directions:


  1. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat.

  2. Clean and slice the sweet potato into 1/4 inch slices on the diagonal.

  3. Brush each sweet potato slice on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.

  4. Grill the sweet potato slices over medium heat on a grill pan or grill surface for 5 minutes per side, or until the sweet potato slices begin to slightly char and feel soft or knife tender.

  5. Remove from grill, plate and cover with plastic wrap to finish cooking via steaming and cool off.

  6. Grill Red Peppers if making your own.

  7. Grill Asparagus Stalks - lightly sprinkle with olive oil and grill until stalks are lightly charred and turn bright green. Stalks should be slightly knife tender but still retain some crunch. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

  8. Grill, roast or saute red onion slices - brush lightly with olive oil.

  9. Assemble Sandwich: Spread whole wheat or multi grain roll with 1 tablespoon of hummus and layer on 2 or 3 slices of the grilled sweet potato, 3-4 stalks of grilled asparagus, a slice of red onion and several slices or pieces of the roasted red pepper. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On the road to a triathlon game

Finally! I have lots to things to blog about - if only I can stay focused long enough to get these musings out here! First things first - it's about biking and the SheRox Triathlon. I haven't been writing a lot about my "training" for the tri that is coming up in August. Mostly because there wasn't too much to say and it seemed so far away. However, if you noticed, there is a count-down clock to the bottom right of my blog. There are two months remaining for my training before my official day of madness. I am training, just not hard enough, long enough, and probably not efficiently enough. Then again, I am hard on myself, but...I am being honest here, I'm not training enough.

Sunday, June 1st, there was a swim clinic sponsored by the mentors of the SheRox Tri. It was at the Cricket Club of Philadelphia in tony Chestnut Hill. Boy it sucks to be poor and living in South Philly. This country club was so beautiful in a laid back, genteel old blue-blood sort of way. Huge open lawns for Cricket and real grass tennis courts. A nine-hole golf course at the main grounds and an full course in Flourtown, 15 minutes away. The pool water was sparkling crystal clear and had enough lanes for all 30 of the women clinic attendees to swim comfortably together. The Cricket Club pool made my gym's pool look like a cesspool. I'm skived to go back to my gym now! Seriously, I don't know that I've ever seen such clear water before.

I learned a lot of things in an hour and a half, most of which is that I don't know how to breath properly when I swim; I don't roll and reach with my shoulders enough; I need to remember how to peek up in between strokes every so often to reorient myself; and I need to get into my pool and swim laps at least 2 times a week. Add that to 2 weight lifting sessions a week; consistent Bricks I should be doing every week; jogging on real paths and streets, and if possible, biking more. What have I been doing? Getting to the gym at least 3 times a week and riding a long ride once a week. There is muscle development and I am building my cardio endurance, however I sure did feel like a lumpy mess in that pool Sunday morning. And just when I was thinking in my ego-manical self-centered way: that my body doesn't look so bad in a bathing suit these days; that there were other swim clinic attendees who seemed not to be in tri-shape - Girl was I ever more wrong! One's body type or physique truly does not indicate the whole fitness picture. There were women who were excellent swimmers with great endurance that I would have never have guessed to be remotely athletic. Just goes to show me, you cannot judge an athlete by her skinny thighs and muscular shoulders. I will not be judgemental. I will not be judgemental. I will not be judgemental...

After my clinic, Liz and I spent the afternoon wandering around Chestnut Hill. We had a good brunch at Cake and then did a bit of shopping. It was such an early day's start, the clinic began at 9 am and ended at 10:30. Liz and I finished hanging out by 2 pm. Feeling somewhat ambitious when I got home, I pushed myself to go for a bike ride. The weather was so perfect it would have been foolish not to take advantage of the day. I rode the trail to the Wissahickon path and up to Forbidden Drive. I attempted the infamous hill along the trail, aka Susan's Hill, from this past winter. I made it about 1/4 of the way up, but lost my certainty and footing and had to walk a bit until I hit more a more level grade. Then I somehow managed to catch my heaving breath and footing again and made it slowly to the top. I tried to remember the tricks from before, only looking at the trail immediately before me, but I was too unfocused and nervous. I think I made it up the hill in the winter out of sheer force and ego. Without Susan Hill there to inspire me (and my ego to shame me on), I just didn't have the momentum and gearing to make it up the hill slowly non-stop. I was also too nervous to take the wooded trail down though the mountain biking path. Try as I might to remember Susan's words of wisdom - let the bike do the work, trust the machine, get your butt over the back tire - I rode tentatively down the hill gripping the breaks. I did listen to my body though, and I didn't push to go too far, or to do a double loop ride. It will have to wait until some time this week as I try to add another ride to my exercise routine. All told, I got in about a 22 mile ride, with a small added workout climb.

The extra exercise I did this weekend, or rather that I added on Sunday had a beneficial payoff - I lost 2 pounds over the past 2 weeks. Tonight's weigh-in brought me to 58 pounds total lost. The past two months have been a weight seesaw. I'd lose 2 and then gain a half pound. Or I lost 3.4 and then gained it back. Since March 3rd, I've moved down another 8 pounds. Which isn't bad, I just want to make to my 60 pound mark. Still not quite where I want to be but I'm getting there. There are two months remaining for my training but the weight lose can take as long as it takes to happen. Luckily there's no rush for that, it's a lifetime change, not a one day triathlon game.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fresh Almonds & Persian Cucumbers

Green Almonds: Having read about fresh, unripened or immature almonds in obscure and uber gourmet food magazines and articles for years - I finally found the object of my peculiar interest. They are difficult to find in the United States especially on the East Coast. Dibruno's at 18th & Chestnut had a basket full in the produce area. I hardly ever go into that store these days, the foods and cheeses are too tempting and indulgent and the prices too steep for my wallet. I was actually looking for a large bucket of Cerignola Olives Dibruno's carried about a year ago in the "bulk" area. No olives but a chance encounter led me to discover these herbaceous and citrusy green almonds. I bought a pound, then decided to search the Internet for the best way to serve them. The suggestion at Dibruno's was to rinse the almonds, dip them in salt and enjoy. It sounded so simple I was convinced there had to be some other method. A few people suggested sauteing or frying them, but that wasn't an option - too fattening and I was afraid the little fruit-nuts wouldn't hold up at the cocktail buffet table. A couple of websites and blogs suggested just serving them with oil and seasonings or cracking them open and extracting the raw almond. The latter works better with slightly more mature but still unripened almonds, once the nut meat turned from gelatinous to a more recognizable raw nut. The serving suggestion was written in the April 22, 2007 issue of New York Magazine. Rinse, dip in olive oil and then into salt seasoned with a Japanese chili mixture. I opted to use one of my house-made Mexican Seasonings with smokey chipotle kick. The verdict at our swinging cocktail party - "Very different; Unusual; a first for most people; highly original." Oh - and they tasted good too.





Persian Cucumbers: For those of you who like cucumbers but find cucumbers don't like you (ahem, they um, like to repeat themselves...) You might want to seek out these little gems. Persian Cucumbers are smaller and thinner than regular cucs, they remind me of a cross between a Kirby Cucumber and an English Seedless Cucumber. They don't need to be peeled as much; there isn't a waxy coating on the skin. Since they are small, about the diameter of a quarter and 6 inches or smaller in length, the seeds are digestible, you won't have to scoop out the innards. Wash, cut in half length-wise to make two even half rounds. The cut them into small half moons. One of the assistant teachers at our preschool, Hannah, said she likes to use them in Israeli Salads, or in Tabbouleh. The cucs are tiny enough to save time chopping them into small bite sized or minced pieces. I bet they would grate perfectly for a Tzekki Sauce - the Greek Yogurt, Cucumber, Lemon, Mint and Garlic Sauce you get on the side with a Gyro or Shwarma. MMM!