Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Running and Yoga

A recent issue of Runner's World had a cover article about barefoot running.  As I am getting into running in my Fivefingers I wanted to give it a look-see.  While flipping through the pages I also came across a short yoga routine in and thought to myself that I really should start practicing yoga again.  I really enjoy it so I am not sure why I go through bouts of "falling off the wagon" about it.  So, I copied the page and took it home.  After practicing it for two or three days in a row my muscles were sore from the effort.  It is so surprisingly effective.  Bend, stretch, and hold.  It hardly seemed like an intense work out.  But, it is!  Most importantly for me is that it is fun and fairly easy, requiring no special equipment or trainers or gyms.  I also am blown away by how much it is all around health improving.  It soothes my soul while soothing and strengthening my body as well.  I am not sure if it will help with the running or not, but it certainly can't hurt.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Confusion and Panic at the Bird Feeder

I was in my house wrapped up in the tense grip of a suspenseful segment of the book I am reading when I hear the bird bush come noticeably more alive and agitated.  There are louder peeps and chirps and the rustling of leaves and wings beating about.  I unwrapped myself from my quilt cocoon and head over to peer out the window to investigate.  Then: thump, thump, thump!  Three sparrows crash  into the window pane in rapid succession and bounce off again out of sight.  The vision of this makes my heart start pounding.  Another follows wildly out of the bush and smacks the window.  I want to scream at them to stop, but I can tell they are escaping something.  The flight into the window is impulsive.  However, the thought of the sweet little sparrows, all round and fluffy this time of year, injured or dying really makes me feel dreadful!  What can I do?!  What can I do?!  I run to the to other window still trying to see the source of the panicking mob of birds.  Thump!  Thump!  More smash into the glass as they frantically flee the bush, but I still cannot see anything out of the ordinary.

"The cats," I thought to myself!  That has to be it!  There are several neighborhood cats which I am trying to discourage from hunting at my bird feeder.  I run to the front door, water bottle in hand and with more poor sparrows smacking the glass as I pass the living room window, and rush outside to ward off the attacking feline and stop the terrible glass-smacking thuds.  Rounding the corner of the house I actually have to duck out of the way of a speeding bullet of a sparrow that had launched right in my direction.  They are flying in scattered direction faster than I have ever really seen before.

As I begin up the drive way I hear a larger sound of scuffling, leaves rustling, wings flapping from in front of where the car is parked, just out of sight.  Suddenly, a small raptor launches from the ground catching me completely off guard.  I must have taken a few seconds to look back to the bird bush, which is basically empty by this point, during which time the raptor took off and disappeared from sight entirely.  I didn't even really get a good look.  Accipiter I think though.  Then, with some dread, I looked around under the windows in the garden and under the bird bush.  At least I can say that there were no immediate fatalities which I had to tend to, but, on the other hand, I don't think the raptor got any dinner either.

Nature is tough...who to "root" for: predator or prey?  I instinctively want to cheer for the safety of the sweet little balls of feathers that perch and chirp out my kitchen window all day, but it doesn't really seem fair to the streamlined blur of feathers and claws that need to eat them.  So, I try my best to cheer for both.   In order for life to go on, there must be death somewhere.

And, at least it wasn't the cats!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Old Fall-back: Spaghetti

At one point in my life I used to always make spaghetti whenever I had to cook.  It is easy to make and quite hard to screw up and that suited my lack of cooking ability.  I hated cooking.  Oh, the past is funny in retrospect.  I enjoy cooking now, or at least find it easy.

Last night however I was struck by a lack of cooking motivation.  Nothing sounded like what I wanted.  Then I realized how long it had been since I had eaten spaghetti.  However, I can no longer eat just a pile of pasta and sauce and feel good about that as a meal.  It seems crazy to me now, but at one point I didn't bother myself with considering if vegetables might be in order.  So, I scrounged around the kitchen and came up with some lentils, spinach, and bell peppers (from our garden) and thought that might make the sauce passable as a robust meal.  It was awesome!

I cooked the lentils and peppers for 10-15 minutes or so in a tiny bit of water so they were both at least partially softened by the time I threw them in the sauce.  When all the water was evaporated I added a can of our homegrown tomato sauce and spiced it up with some Italian herbs and salt and pepper.  I ran the spinach through the food processor and then mixed it in with the sauce. 

The end result was a very nice thick and chunky red sauce.  I love cooking with our tomatoes as they are so delightfully sweet.

I also made bread sticks, which I never DREAMED of doing years ago.  Who knew that making bread as so easy?!?!   I love it and am hooked on it because, really, nothing beats warm, fresh bread.  Especially topped with nutritional yeast.....

Easy Bread Sticks (or Pizza Dough)
2 1/4 t yeast
1 1/2 C hot water
3/4 t salt
3 - 3 1/2 C flour (plus some for kneading)
oil, salt, spices, nutritional yeast, etc for topping

Put yeast in a bowl and add hot water.  Stir until yeast is dissolved.  Stir in salt.  Add in flour.   Mix until well combined and then dump out on to a floured surface.  Knead for about 3 minutes.  Let raise for 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Knead for another couple minutes adding a bit more flour if it is too sticky.  Let raise for 10-20 minutes.  Roll flat, brush with oil and top with spices as desired.  Cut into desired size bread sticks and bake for 20 minutes.  For fluffier, fatter bread sticks try hand rolling (think play-dough snakes) individual bread sticks instead of rolling flat and cutting.

This can also make a simple pizza crust if you just roll it out and prick it all over with a fork before adding toppings!  Baking time is about 35 minutes.