Monday, September 1, 2014

Gluten Salt

While cruising a strip mall in the greater Beaverton metropolitan area I spotted this on an Asian restaurant window menu:

Now, either they have an incredibly dry sense of humor and are mocking gluten free, or they lack imagination in making sauces.  I hope some slick salesman didn't pull a fast one and get them to buy gluten free salt in addition to their regular salt!!

Seriously though, what we likely have here is a proprietor knowing that customers are asking for gluten free items but having no idea what that means in practice.  They probably scratch their head and think 'these crazy people'.  Ironically, I imagine most traditional Asian food WAS gluten free and it is only now that gluten pops up in all manner of products.

It reminds me of people born and raised in the post Depression years who now scoff at 'organic' foods like fruits and vegetables.  Some of them truly think it's a scam because they didn't have organic way back when.  However, the sad part is that their food was by and large organic back then and it is NOW that it's different.  Someone, or a group of someones, changed the rules without upsetting the apple cart so to speak.  

Okay, I'm just ranting at this point, but I truly did get a chuckle from the above gluten free sauce menu items.  I can just hear it now 'Yes, I'd like your gluten free salt and pepper sesame oil sauce' 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Still Hanging Around

August is coming to a close and that means my 'duties' looking after my niece and nephew this summer are ending as well.  It's been great spending so much time with them, even if that means tolerating occasional tantrums and such.  We formed a bike 'gang' and cruise the streets of Beaverton most days, sometimes racking up 12 or more miles.  We stop at stores, parks, the library, we're all over the place.  They dig it, and I'm super glad to have instilled in them a love for biking.  

Next up is a trip to Europe in early September.  I've been keeping an eye out for international flight deals and finally found one to Copenhagen.  Just after I booked my ticket my mother asked if she could come along, so we are now in the process of planning our trip together.  We're going to spend a few days in Copenhagen, then Paris, Salzburg, Munich and back out of Copenhagen.  I'm really looking forward to it as I've never visited mainland Europe.  And traveling with my mom, who has similar eating habits, is going to make things that much more fun.

A few updates:
  • I'm still doing the Farmers Walk once a week.  I loves it.  I'm currently carrying 120 lb in each hand for, oh, about 100 meters. I think.  That's just a guess on the distance, but it matters not.  I do it twice, then maybe once more with a little less weight before I call it good.  After realizing that I didn't want grip strength to be the failing point of the Farmers Walk, I fashioned myself some fabulous looking wrist straps made out of an old road cycling tire (see pic).  These work amazingly well with a wristband.  Now I end the Farmers Walk because of exhaustion and not my sissy grip strength.
  • I've been tinkering with eating most of my food in the evenings between 5:30 and 7:30 ish.  I skip breakfast as usual, but now sometimes I skip lunch as well.  Some days I'll have sardines and eggs for lunch, but nothing big.  I think I've discovered the cure for EVERYTHING here!!  Just kidding.  I'm tinkering because I can.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Probably the most interesting thing is to feel what it's like to be really good and hungry before a meal several times a week. *
  • I've literally been 'hanging' around on monkey bars at the playground and here at home on a pullup bar.  After hearing Christopher Sommer talk about it on a podcast some time ago, and seeing my niece and nephew swinging effortlessly on bars, I decided to practice one and two handed hangs and swings.  They've been great for strengthening the tendons and ligaments in my shoulders and arms, but it's a slow process.  If someone were to just jump into doing one arm monkey swings without first doing some prep work, it would be bad.  Total protonic reversal bad.  I'm not trying to connect with my inner monkey or become a gymnast or anything like that, I'm just playing around with movement because I can, and it's fun.

* I think I've mentioned this before, but one of the most impactful quotes I've ever heard about nutrition keeps playing back again and again in my mind.  It was uttered by Sir Bradly Wiggins in an interview during the 2012 Tour de France (which he won).  He said, and I'm paraphrasing: "It actually doesn't take a lot of food to keep in top form.  Surprisingly little, in fact."  This from someone competing in and winning, arguably, the top endurance event in the world.  Imagine how 'little' food a normal person might well need.

Now, to be fair, he had to be leaner than he 'likes' to be in order to win.  Riding fast up mountains is all about your watt to weight ratio, but still, this point is glaring right at me every time I think about it ... It really doesn't take that MUCH nutrient dense food to keep us in top form.   Sure, most people's problems go much deeper than merely overeating, but there is that too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dear Vibrams

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Vibram company for helping to:
  • Strengthen my foot muscles
  • Reduce my potential foot injuries
In case you haven't heard, Vibram USA just settled a Class Action Lawsuit against them for $3.75 million stating that they made false and unsubstantiated claims about their footwear.  Specifically, the two claims that I'm writing to thank them for.

I'm not going to dive into the discussion of how crazy and absurd a litigious society we've become.  This is nothing new, nor the most egregious, wackadoodle example out there (remember that case where McDonalds was sued for putting toys in their happy meals).   However, it's a fine time to illustrate my favorite theme here lately:  take ownership of your own health.  Apparently this is a bit of a stretch for a lot of people out there.

I want to make this much clear ... I understand the lawsuit.  Don't make false claims.  I get that.  But I'm left scratching my head on this one.  If you wear Vibrams or even go barefoot, how can you NOT strengthen your foot muscles?  Especially if you're coming from what passes for shoes in this day and age.  And if you strengthen your foot muscles, won't you be less likely to get a foot injury?  Hmmm, not really rocket scientology in my mind.

Anyway, I'm just wanting to give Vibrams some love when they may be feeling a little perturbed.  I've owned at least 3 pairs and so has my mother.  She uses them to walk on the beach while I use mine every chance I get, which is a lot more now that I live in a warmer climate.  I sprint in them (the best!) and as you can see from my pic in the last post, I Farmers Walk in them as well.  Interestingly, just yesterday I had a mother stop me in order to show her little daughter the Vibrams I was wearing.  I'm pretty sure most people are familiar with them by now, but the little girl was fascinated.

If you recall my tale of transitioning to barefoot running (and walking) you'll remember that I caused a stress fracture in my 4th metatarsal on three separate occasions.  This was before Vibrams had started up and I was using those old school Puma's you can see in the link.  If I had Vibrams back then would've I prevented the stress fractures?  Probably not.  I just did too much too soon.  Successful transitioning to walking and running midfoot for people that have worn regular shoes since childhood is a slow and deliberate process.  If you persevere though, there are many benefits to be had.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you what those benefits might be, otherwise I could get sued. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go actually DO something to improve my health and fitness.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

DIY Farmers Walk

Since moving to Oregon I've wanted to build some Farmers Walk implements for use here at the house (I don't go to a gym).  As the weather has been getting nicer, and after much deliberation, I finally got motivated and have done the deed.  I had several criteria that I considered while addressing my build:
My brother

  • Cost effective 
  • Weather proof
  • Safe and sturdy
  • Adjustable weight

Cost effective:  Most people build Farmers Walk implements to hold weight plates ... usually 45 lb size ones.  I don't own 45 lb weight plates, nor do I plan to.  Weight plates generally cost a dollar a pound and that can add up quickly for a heavy load situation.  Since this is the only thing I will need heavy weight for, I looked for other options.  I finally settled on plain old bricks.  They were 49 cents apiece and weigh 6 lbs each.  In addition to being cheap, they lend themselves to easily making the weight adjustable. 

Weather proof:  Since there is no room in the garage, these will be sitting outside all year.  The eight foot long 2x6 I purchased is pressure treated, I got lids for the buckets, and most of the hardware is galvanized.  The exception are the four 2 ft. threaded rods, which are zinc, and I will end up brushing or spraying some sort of coating on those to make the whole thing weather proof.

Safe and sturdy:  I made the handles tall so that I don't have squat down too far to pick the up the load from the ground. The handle height is also adjustable ... a nice feature.  The buckets are 'notched' and bolted into the 2x6's to make them sturdy.  The threaded rods holding the handles look 'skinny' in comparison to the whole unit, but they are more than adequate for the task, especially considering that the vast majority of the force they take will be vertical and not shear.  

Adjustable weightBricks are easy to add or subtract for the load.  If somehow I ever need even more weight, I could add sand or dry quickrete to each bucket as there is plenty of space 'around' the bricks.

The parts

Once I decided on the final design and purchased the items, the assembly was fairly straightforward.  The hardest part was drilling the holes through the handles.  Our neighbor has a small, portable drill press that I used for this situation.  I went with 1 1/2 in. diameter pipe (1 ft in length), which is pretty thick and a great way to work that grip strength!  Another nice thing about the design is that if I want handles of a different diameter I can cheaply purchase more pipe and cut the same size holes in them for an easy swap out.

1:  I came up with a bunch of ideas for how to build Farmers Walk implements.  I was literally loitering around hardware stores looking at everything on their shelves as pieces to a puzzle.  The concept I came up with is by no means the 'best' way to do it.  It was merely the one that met MY criteria the best.  If anyone is considering making some of these and needs someone to bounce some ideas off of, I'd be more than happy to help. 

2:  As I've said before, safety is a top priority for me while exercising.  I generally don't lift heavy weights because there are safer methods to achieve strength and conditioning that are just as effective and efficient. With that said, the Farmers Walk is heavy weight.  There is no way around that.  BUT, I'm not going to be doing this exercise for weight (or time or distance), if that makes sense.  I'm doing it for the effect, with as light of a weight I can get away with to achieve that effect (without it taking forever).  No need to go all macho taco.  I simply see a benefit to adding a loaded carry back into my routine.  Perhaps I'll post more on how I go about the details of this as I figure things out.  Actually, I can already tell you that, like my regular training, it's just going to be by feel.  I suspect some days will be heavier with less distance and some days the opposite.  Anyway, weird as I am, I look at this kind of stuff as fun
notched with holes to attach to the 2x6
3: Each bucket can hold 9 bricks with the lid on and 11 with it off  (and the bricks still being secure from the bucket lip).  At 11 bricks a bucket the total for one whole side is approximately 160 lbs (bricks vary slightly and the 2x6 and handles add some weight). 

4: While living in Aspen, there was a time when I carried a big rock around as a way of doing a loaded carry.  The great thing about that situation was that I left the rock on a ledge where I could pick it up and set it down at chest height.  It's probably still in that very same spot on that ledge to this day.  I wonder if I'll get as many strange looks carrying my Farmers implements around the neighborhood here as I got carrying that rock up and down the sidewalk?

Finished product 
Yep, grip strength was the limiting factor

Good height and did not rub against the legs
Rock in Aspen

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Picture Post III

I was in an Asian grocery store the other day and spied these 'health cookies'. You probably thought it was some other factor of their diet or lifestyle that made them healthy, didn't you?

I found a chocolate that I'm not exactly in a hurry to try   What a waste of good chocolate!
You can always pick out the type of car you learned to drive on ... I spotted this Toyota Celica in a nearby parking lot.  Ours was a 1977 silver version and my dad was very patient with me in that Rite Aid distribution parking lot all of those years ago.  When I was learning, I couldn't compute how hard it was to drive and yet how many people could do it.  Only after I drove a car other than a 1977 Celica did I realize how cruel my father had been to me. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to peel a green banana

I've been eating green bananas the past couple of months, usually one or two a day.  I'm after the resistant starch in them there greenies.  Potato starch (aka tooty juice) was fine, but I'm all about whole foods these days. 

Stores seem to be pretty hit or miss with having green bananas out on their sales floor, but I'm pretty sure if you just inquired with a produce clerk at most places they could go in the back and grab you some.  I know we usually had green ones in the back of the store where I worked in Aspen.  

I did happen to find a place here that sells green bananas bagged up and they are super green, as you can see in the video.  Those two in the bag are the last of a bunch of 10 and they are still that green.  I do place them in the refrigerator though.

Most people that hear I'm eating green bananas cringe at the thought.  To be sure, they are not like the ripe yellow ones.  But in all honesty, they really are not bad.  You just have to get in the mindset that you are not eating the type of sweet bananas you're accustomed to.  Think of them as a different food altogether.  

Anyway, green bananas are a little tricky to get open and I've found a good method that I'll share with you in the video below.  Please note that it is not kid safe.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ownership of your health

This is a quote from an article I read in the paper today written by Doctors Oz and Roizen.  It's titled 'Link between a jelly bean and brain drain'
"Say 'no' to palm and coconut oils.  These tropical plant oils containing saturated fat have been at the center of debate for several years now, but a new study settles the spat.  Lose them.  They promote body fat in the worst possible spots:  your abdomen and your liver."

'but a new study settles the spat'  

Imagine for a moment it was in fact that easy.  New studies just settled things.   Things like what foods are healthy and which ones are bad.  Things like what exercises are good for you and which ones are not.  Sure the hell would simplify things don't you think?  I believe people would mostly choose the healthy options, becoming and remaining healthy in order to get on with doing whatever it is in life that makes them happy.  Done and done.

Except, of course, it doesn't work like that.  For like a gazillion reasons.  It would be easier if it did, but life ain't so generous.  You have to take ownership of your own health and well being, and that means you actually have to make TIME to do it.  How much time, where you look for information, which advice you choose to follow ... that is all up to you.  There are no perfect answers, surely as there are no single nutrition studies that 'settle spats'.

PS  Having purchased my first gallon of coconut oil from the Philippines in 2001 and not looking back, according to this new study, my liver and abdomen should have exploded by now.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Old Times and Spry

 My grandfather
While I was visiting my mom in Florida a couple of weeks ago she pulled out a disk my uncle had made a few years ago with some information regarding my paternal grandfather.  Mom had forgotten about this so it was new viewing for us.  I never met my grandfather as he passed away several years before I was born.

Most of it was a lengthy and mildly interesting FBI and Immigrations file on him (they tried to deport him several times), but what caught my eye was some food related information in letter correspondence from his relatives in Scotland.  

Just a quick background here:  My grandfather had come over from the UK to Canada in 1925 and quickly (and illegally) found his way to the States.  It wasn't until early 1948 that he tried to contact his family from abroad again.  On the disk are these first contact letters, saved by my grandmother, from my grandfather's sister, brother and sister in law.  

They, of course, start out with excitement that my grandfather is still alive and well, then get into some catching up, mostly about their families.  It was fascinating reading, basically eavesdropping on my family goings-on in 1948 (in Scotland).  That it was in their own cursive handwriting made it even more special.

One more tidbit here before I drop a few quotes.  My grandfather sent over some 'food' packages to his brother and sister in Scotland for the Xmas of 1948.  They were overwhelmed with the generosity and it was telling:

'The Spry we haven't seen since before the war, and it is such an excellent fat'
'The spam was marvelous - it costs too many 'points' for us to buy it here'
'The ration of 1 egg each per week we keep tenderly for Sunday's tea'
'I think the lack of meat and fats over the last 8 years is now beginning to tell on us all.  We are all becoming easily irritable, and the least effort tires us out.  However, as each year comes along we hope it will be better than the last!  We must not grumble - or is that an Englishman's privilege?!'

I didn't realize they were still rationing food in England in 1949.  That's crazy.  In the letters they were also elated over some sugar being sent.  

Spry* I had to look up.  It is the equivalent of Crisco.  For some reason it surprised me that vegetable oil was not only used, but considered 'good fat' even before WWII.  I knew that Crisco was brought to market in like 1911 or something, but did not realize how quickly it must have surpassed butter and lard.  At least in some areas of the world. 

Spam costing too much?  In my mind Spam is synonymous with cheap.  Apparently not back then.

And then there is the whole lacking meats and fat quote.  It didn't take a rocket surgeon back then to figure out what gives people energy in their diet.

Anyway, this post is not to make a point or anything, I just found it interesting.  Two more for you:

'I baked the 3-tier wedding cake in early February, and marzipaned it late March, and had it Royal-iced by a local baker, who finished it very prettily'
'Aunt Maggie is much frailer and has to spend much of the day on her back owing to a groggy heart'
Now, I don't know what about what in regards to wedding cakes, but I suspect if I take a cake I baked a couple of months ago to a local baker and asked them to Royal-ice it, well, they would probably think I'm Scottish or something.

Although it could be worse.  You could have a groggy heart like poor old Aunt Maggie.  Yikes! 

* I asked my step-dad if he had heard of Spry while I was down in Florida.  He was born during the depression and, indeed, remembered his family using it.  Happily, Mom has Kerrygold in their house these days! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Oregon's Closed

Not only is it snowing a good bit here in the Portland Metro area, it's actually the dry fluffy stuff.  It very much reminds me of home.  Except this stuff will be gone in a few days time.

Of course they have pretty much shut down the whole state at this point.  Seriously.  Anyway, the weather is no big deal, but it did afford me the opportunity to do something I didn't plan on - skate skiing.  On the road.  Around the neighborhood.  In addition to blowing peoples minds, it was shockingly quite good skiing.  The few cars on the road matted down the center just right and there were no bare spots since they don't plow or toss gravel on anything but the major highways. 

Here I am getting a good workout going around the block about 10 times or so.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Top Trump Cards

Does anybody remember the original Top Trump cards that came out in the late 70's?  They were awesome.  When I was just a wee lad my family was living in England and we purchased several decks.  I don't think they ever caught on here in the states to any real extent, but my bro and I loved them.  As you can see from the condition they're in, we used them quite a bit.  We even had the tank ones laminated before they completely disintegrated.  

Thanks to Mama Aspen Paleo, who had the foresight to keep stuff like this around, we now have them here in Oregon to play with.  My nephew loves them.  He's only six, but he totally gets it.  Not that it's complicated.  To play, you simply split the deck and have one person start by choosing a category they think their particular card is strong in. Then you see who has the highest number.  Basically like the card game War.  The winner keeps selecting the categories until someone has all of the cards.

They have made Top Trumps on and off since the 70's, but the ones currently marketed here just don't have the same appeal to me (I know, nothing is as good as it used to be).  Some of the decks they make for kids these days are cartoon movie characters that have categories like humor, fame and wonder.  Basically, numbers that are subjective.  However, we do have a new deck called 'countries of the world' that is pretty cool.

Oh well, I just thought I'd share a piece of my past which has resurfaced.  Here are pictures of the 5 decks from my childhood:

With the metric system used for all of the measurements, and spelling like 'tonnes', you can tell these babies are the real deal!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Da Gym

It's been over 4 years since I ditched my gym membership and it looks like I might never be going back.  If I was going to be joining again, right now would probably be the time.  It turns out that gym memberships are quite reasonable in real cities.  Even with that though, I can't say I've been overly tempted.  Mind you, I actually like the gym environment and could stand to meet some people and see some new faces, but I can't justify it based on those things alone.
Room Gym

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again, it takes me about the same amount of time to complete my workout at home as it would to even get to the gym itself.  And the clincher is that I can get just as good of a workout in my tiny room with a very small set of weights.  Heck, you don't even need weights.  Check out Drew Baye's Project: Kratos for information on how to workout with just your body weight.  I've managed to put on some muscle the past year or two by simply upping my intensity and refining my technique.

I realize working out at home is not for everyone though.  I'm sure some people even feel that PAYING for a membership is necessary motivation to get them to the gym for a workout.  To each their own I suppose, but I'm here to tell you that gyms are not REQUIRED in order to work yourself into top physical condition. What is required is consistency.  If you challenge all of your muscles in a safe, effective manor, on a consistent basis, you will be stronger and better able to enjoy the rest of what you do in life.  Amen.

 I'll finish with a quote from one of Drew's blog posts:
Whether you train with machines, free weights, body weight, manual resistance, some other tool, or a combination of all of them, the strength gained will transfer to all movements the muscles trained are involved in. You just have to plan your program so you effectively train all of the major muscle groups - Drew Baye

PS  Check this out.  Considering a monthly fee of $85 (yes, the cheapest in Aspen) from Nov. 2009 to Nov. 2013 I 'saved' $4080 by working out at home. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tooty Juice

Yep, like a lot of people, I've added some potato starch into my diet to feed the little critters in my gut.  It works well for this purpose.  So well, in fact, that my niece and nephew have named it Tooty Juice.  And I must say, I'm having quite a bit of fun tooting up the house with the kids around.  It wouldn't be near as much of a hoot (pun intended) if I was still living alone.  Nothing better than to just walk into one of their rooms, toot, and then leave.  They love that *
This would be Tooty Juice

Tooting aside, I'm actually not a good subject to be reviewing resistant starch for some of it's purported benefits, like better postprandial and fasting blood glucose levels, weight loss, appetite control, better sleep, etc.  The implications of these are potentially huge for some people, but I don't measure my blood glucose, my weight is spot on, I sleep great, and I don't have any stress (life is good!).  I'm merely convinced by the apparent evidence that resistant starch is a good source of food for our gut bacteria and that this bacteria plays an integral role in our overall health. 

I'm way into soluble fiber as well, and have been for awhile.  I usually have onions, beets, carrots, and garlic with my evening meal.  I also want to rotate in leeks and sunchokes soon.  I've been using a little okra for the mucilage content and have seen some big fat cactus leaves in grocery stores that I might get for that as well ( how to cook it?)  Apples have reappeared in my diet for the pectin (carrots have a bunch of pectin too).  All of this in order to keep my gut bacteria healthy and happy.

I'm still not sure if it's a good idea to eat a wide variety of soluble fibers in a short period of time though.  I've read gut bacteria adapt quickly enough that this wouldn't present a problem, but I've also read the flip side, that if you switch it up too often only 'generalist' bacteria thrive and it might be better to eat a few foods for a longish period of time in order to let bacteria that really specialize in feasting on those particular items flourish.  

Interestingly, resistant starch is actually an insoluble fiber.  One that happens to be able to feed the bacteria in your gut.  As you know, I'm not a big fan of stuffing my face with insoluble fiber (looking at you leafy greens).  It's all good in the hood though.  I'm just tinkering away here with stuff I learn.  What you learn and tinker with will be different, but you already knew that.   

Here are some good blogs worth checking out for information on gut bacteria, soluble fiber, resistant starch, and all that jazz.

Mr. Heisenbug

Free The Animal/resistant-starch 
Cooling Inflammation 

PS  It's interesting watching information begin to see the light of day now that we have the internet machine.  One word you'll see popping up is SBO's (soil based organisms).  I recall learning about these from the company Garden of Life at least 13 or 14 years ago (they called them homeostatic soil organisms), and thinking how much sense it made.  Likewise, I tossed a very old bottle of powdered Inulin before my move that I had originally intended to feed my gut bacteria with years ago (I stopped quickly after much discomfort).

*I'm in my nephews room with him when I let a good one rip, after which I say, oh man, that was a horse fart!  Laughing, we quickly evacuate the room.  About a half hour later I'm somewhere else in the house with my niece and sister-in-law when my nephew comes in the room and exclaims: Mom, my room smells like horses!  She is obviously puzzled by this, but I can offer no clarity as I'm in tears on the floor laughing.  

Friday, January 10, 2014


Calories have been on my mind lately with books and blogs discussing them seeming to abound.  You know, calories in/calories out.  People get worked up on both sides of the issue of whether or not calories are important in terms of health and weight loss.  I'm going to put in my two cents by giving you an analogy that I've come up with.  It has to do with comparing calories and health to working and wealth. 

In general, people associate working hard with making money (wealth).  Seems reasonable.  Work hard, or more hours, build your wealth.  Work less, or not at all, and less wealth you will have. 

But, as it's easy to see in this case, your bank account is not defined by how hard or how much you WORK.  It is defined by how many DOLLARS you have.  There are lots of folks who work plenty hard for long hours but are not capable of building much wealth.  One obvious reason for this is that some people get paid peanuts.  Put another way, monetary wealth is about how much MONEY you have, and working is a only a relative measure of  money.  I know plenty of people (hi Aspen) that don't work hard, or much, but have plenty of money.  Let me now show you how this situation applies to calories and health.

Most people associate calories in/calories out with health (and weight loss).  Again, seems reasonable.  More calories in than out, health goes down and weight goes up.  

BUT,  your body does not deal in calories.  It's currency is nutrients.  The reading on a bomb calorimeter when someone flips the swith and literally incinerates an apple is NOT a measure of it's nutrient value.  Your body utilizes the nutrients in food, or it's metabolites, for everything from fuel, to storage, to repair and regeneration.  NUTRIENTS are used to build your health in the same as money builds your wealth.  
Here is the simple analogy:  Your bank account is only correlated with how hard and how much you work. The bottom line is how much money you put into it.  Similarly, your health is only correlated with the calories in the food you ingest. The bottom line is how many nutrients you eat.

While it's easy to fix the above wealth example by merely talking about how much money you make and spend instead of how much you work, things get WAY more complicated when you want to start taking about health in terms of nutrients and exercise.  For example, how many nutrients are actually in food (seasonal/ regional/ soil differences)?   How many of them do you absorb, or don't absorb (and why)?  What nutrients do our gut bacteria feast on and then in return make for us to use? And on and on.

I'm not fond of talking about calories in terms of health and nutrition, but a) it's a rough gauge of food density which is here to stay, and b) there is no simple way to replace it in broad spectrum terms.  Too much variability. 

So where does that leave one in terms of what to think about calories?  That is for you to decide grasshopper.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Skies

Colorado blue is definitely my favorite color, and I do miss it so, but I must confess, it has been very fun getting familiar with a whole new set of skies and weather patterns.  

Several years back I had become very interested in watching the skies in order to see if I could tell what the weather had in store.  This was born out of necessity as I was wanting to play outside and was tired of off the mark weather forecasts.  The difference of it raining at say 6 in the evening, as opposed to 3 in the afternoon, is huge in this regard, and yet, the typical weather forecast only tells you 'afternoon showers'.  So I learned by observing, and if I do say so myself, I became quite good at close range forecasting for Aspen.  

For example, I could tell when riding my bike to work in the morning if the wind direction was 'backwards' or not ... indicating likely inclement weather on the way.  Or things like when it was 'warmer than it should be', which I linked to the leading edge of turbulent systems that would push hotter air in front of them.  And I could pretty accurately tell from the wind if the clouds and rain hanging over certain valleys were going to be headed my way.

I didn't spend hours on the google machine studying meteorology like I do with nutrition and exercise.  No, I merely observed.  I paid attention.  And in doing so, I learned more than just about the weather, I became more connected to the land itself.  I discovered places where the wind naturally divided or split in some of the valleys.  I was keenly aware of where the sun rose and set relative to the mountains throughout the year.  I could tell whether the wildlife would have enough natural food in the mountains by watching the trees and shrubs in the spring (and if they didn't it meant they were more likely to be rummaging through town in the Fall).    It was all quite fun really, and like I mentioned, I'm looking forward to doing the same here as well.

Some of my initial observations are that the typical winter skies here are a 'monochromatic grey'.  Kind of like we're right in the middle of a cloud with no relief in color to be found.  

Grey skies
To be sure, there is a lot of drab and fog, but to my delight, it's not as dark as I'd imagined.  If you have natural light coming in some windows and make sure to get yourself outside, it seems to be bright enough.  And the sun does pip in and out, more often in the afternoon.  Heck, we've even had a few flat out sunny days, like this past weekend.  I think it will be more challenging predicting the immediate weather around here as there aren't as many natural landscape features to break things up, but I will be looking for patterns every time I check out the skies.  (I know, you're saying just predict rain and you'll be spot on most of the time ... I'm looking at you mom!)

Let me give you an example of how my weather observation skills are spilling over already.  As the end of December was drawing near I suspected that it had been a very dry month for this area.  Very, very dry.  Nobody told me this, I just knew that winter is the wettest time of the year up here in the PNW and something unusual was happening (it was also colder than usual and this WAS something that everybody was talking about).    Anyway, long story short, I was able to find stats saying that last month was the second driest December on record for the Portland area. All the while, my family here was clueless about it.  
So all of this blabbering does really come back around to health, and in a big way.  You see, it's all about observing.  Not just the weather, but taking time to become aware of what's going on around you in everyday life.  Being more in the here and now.  And Lord knows, we could use more people in the here and now.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tazmanian Chocolate


A friend of mine from Aspen was visiting Tazmania last month and brought back some of their locally made 'dark' chocolate.  It's amazing stuff.  Top 3 of all time for me in terms of taste and consistency.  However, as you can see from the pic below, it's a bit odd in terms of ingredients.  Maybe their idea of chocolate is different than ours, or it could just be that they're upside down!

As you can see, sugar is the first ingredient so I wouldn't consider this 'dark' chocolate.  That's fine with me though ... I don't hold grudges as far as chocolate is concerned.  The other thing you'll notice is that vegetable fat is an ingredient.  At first I was not at all amused by this.  A chocolate PUFA bar I thought.  Swell.  

Then, to my delight, I deduced that the particular vegetable fat they used in this case happens to be coconut oil.  Two things led me to believe this.  First, the texture.  Seattle Chocolates makes chocolate truffle bars with coconut oil and I love them.  They have a silky smooth texture, just like this Tazmanian bar does.  Second, as you can tell from the pic below, I could actually see the white coconut oil.  They must have used quite a bit of it.  For sure, at first, I wasn't convinced I was 'seeing' the coconut oil.  I thought it might be salt, or even chocolate bloom, but it is neither of those.  

I find it a bit strange that they chose to use the wording 'vegetable oil' instead of coconut oil.  Perhaps in Tasmania people still think of it as arterycloggingsaturatedfat.  I'm sure lots of people do here as well, but in a very positive sign, I picked up 78oz of Nutiva coconut oil at Costco for $19.99 the other day.  And, of course, they had a whole frigging pallet of it.  

Go Coconut Oil!!