Posted by: Michal | June 18, 2014

5 Weeks To Go

Five weeks til my Spartan Sprint!

Life has been too busy for regular updates here. One take-away from Spartan training for me is that as much fun as the race will be and as much as it has rounded my training – it takes a lot of time! I had very lofty goals to do running, yoga and CrossFit every week. Here’s what my training really looks like:

  • Different every single week
  • I avoid double-workout days
  • One CrossFit class a week, though I’m making an effort to make it to two.
  • No yoga, though I have the habit of doing full-body stretches practically anywhere and anytime.
  • Two runs a week, but I’m trying to push it to 3 – 4.
  • At least one long run on the weekends

I’ve really been neglecting the running part, to be honest. The temperatures rise high early these days, with humidity to match. Since I’m already falling asleep before 10 each night, and sometimes before 9, I can’t logically expect myself to start getting up earlier to run and have enough energy to get through each day – but I may have to make it happen anyway.

But – my cross-training is definitely, definitely paying off. I’m just all-around stronger, and it shows in everything I do.

The Next Five Weeks

The next five weeks are pretty hectic, especially on the weekends. So I’ve planned out all my training workouts between now and the race. I’ll be getting in 2 – 3 runs a week and 1 – 2 CrossFit classes.

I’m actually leaving tomorrow for a work conference, so one of my goals today is to look up core exercises I can do without equipment at the hotel. I won’t have much time, but a few minutes of core exercises is about all I can do, anyway!


I’ve already started thinking about my fitness post-Spartan. I’m going to drop the yoga membership since I never make it there anyway (I’m locked in for a four-month deal, but it ends the day of my race). But I’ll probably be picking up my rock climbing membership again, which will include yoga classes! So that works out nicely.

I picked up a deal for an intro to parkour class, which I’m super-psyched about! I’m hoping to do that in August. I also want to continue with CrossFit. And, obviously, with running – though I may take a break til the weather begins to cool in September.

So August looks something like: Parkour, CrossFit. Some climbing and yoga.

Then the Fall will be a lot of running, CrossFit and climbing.

And Winter will probably be a lot of climbing, CrossFit, and some yoga.

I have been thinking about training for another race next Spring, but at the moment I’m thinking a regular 10k. We’ll see how I feel closer to the date!

Posted by: Michal | April 16, 2014

Lessons From 28 and Looking Forward

It’s another year gone by – an eventful one, mostly of my own making. Over the past year I ran my first 10K in memory of several people I’ve lost to a rare disease and ran a 5K to have fun with it, found a new roommate, did a day-long sailing class, got involved with several new volunteer organizations, traveled to a good friend’s wedding and to Florida and Israel to see family, roadtripped to the National Storytelling Festival that I’ve been wanting to go to for years. I wrote a kids’ book that I’m really proud of, went on a lot of really bad dates and a few good ones, tried paragliding, took Historic Swordsmanship courses and an aerial yoga workshop, grew my own pumpkins, started training for the Spartan race, learned how to make my own yogurt, started CrossFit, and finally played lasertag and airhockey again for the first time since high school.

But it’s also been a year of a great deal of growth, and I’ve found myself feeling introspective (who, me?) as I approach my birthday.

Here is some of what I’ve learned this year:

You have to tell people what you want, especially the people closest to you. This goes for nearly everything. The type of emotional support you want. The kind of food you want. The kind of work environment you want. I’m still working at it. It goes against a lot of our societal training to not make a fuss. But if you don’t tell people what you want, it’s on your shoulders when you don’t get it.

And it’s okay if sometimes what you want is a little silly. I’ve had to learn to lean on people. And truth be told, it’s hardest for me to lean on people when it’s a really scary big thing, when I need that support the most. But I’ve also had to learn that it’s okay to complain a little or ask for support with the small things, too. I have this terror of whining, that I’ll become a negative person or that people will think poorly of me for needing help. I also have a tendency to write off my own achievements or struggles as something that no one else would be interested in. So it’s taken a lot for me to learn that it’s okay for me to blow off steam with a friend over some stupid thing that happened that day.

But it’s going to be okay, eventually. I’ve really taken to the idea of life as a journey. We have to be active participants – I’ve always believed that we create our own meaning and that we choose the path. But I think it’s a logical fallacy to believe that we control where life takes us, or that we’re supposed to have it all figured out. When a child makes a mistake, we call it a learning experience. Why don’t we extend that same understanding to adults? After all, adults are also encountering new experiences and challenges every day that will shape their understanding and knowledge. So I’ve learned to be more forgiving of myself, to trust that I tried to do my best in that moment (and that “my best” for that moment may not be “my best” on a different day under different circumstances) and am learning as I go. And I’ve come to learn that when everything falls apart, it’s just a step on the journey – I can’t see where it’s taking me, but I’m going to get there eventually and it will be okay.

Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. This has been SUCH a big deal for me. I am a helper, a people pleaser, the sort of person who strangers decide they can talk to and ask advice from. And in my line of work … well, you can give everything you have, but then you won’t have anything left. And with friends … it’s easier for me to take all the responsibility on my shoulders for everything being good. It’s a control thing; it’s a fear thing. Developing boundaries has helped me make time for myself when I need it – whether taking time off work or blocking out “introvert time” and saying no to plans with a friend or significant other. Boundaries help me understand that someone might be having a bad day that has nothing to do with me, even if it spills over into their interactions with me. Boundaries help me step away from the things that could consume me in my line of work if I let them.

Trust is a choice. It can be a hard choice. But at a certain point, you have to give trust to receive it in return.

Have a little forgiveness for yourself. Two of my best friends have both told me variations of, “You’re quick to think the best of others and the worst of yourself.” I don’t know that this is necessarily true, but I certainly have a tendency to say things to myself that I would never say to a friend. And if I’m not my own friend, then who is?

Positive Reframe. Positive reframing has become a big part of my life. I don’t pretend that everything is good, but if I can at least find a way to laugh at my situation, I will feel better. And if I feel better, I can handle what’s going on with better grace and clearer thinking.

Sometimes people just have a different interpretation. Real life is messy. Mostly because it involves other people. And sometimes you say one thing and the other person hears another and neither of you realize it. And when you have a relationship develop on those assumptions – I said this to them so they must understand what I meant – those assumptions build up and the relationship can become fragile. I’m still figuring this out, but I think the key is to watch for incongruencies – Why don’t they do this the way I wanted? – and to recognize that the incongruencies are based on mis-assumptions and mis-understandings. Then you can discuss the underlying communication instead of it blowing up into an argument about a detail.

Here is some of what I hope to work on in the coming year:

Gratitude. There are times when I wish I could go back and change a lot of the choices I made. I’d spend time with a different social group in high school; I’d do more jobs and internships earlier, and develop a clearer career path that allowed me flexibility if I switched fields but gave me a good grounding for a career; I’d have understood finances and loans and debt better and planned ahead for them; I’d have developed this or that skill or experience. It’s so easy to look backwards at could have beens, and look forward at could bes, instead of looking at what is and recognizing how much you have to be grateful for.

Lean Into Discomfort. I’m awful at conflict. But conflict is natural in life. My improved boundaries help, but I need to get better at coping with conflict. I’m thinking of looking at conflict mediator trainings – it seems like I could learn a lot and maybe use it to help others as well.

Patience. When there’s an issue, my instinct is to work at it until it’s fixed. And when I have a thought meant to be shared with someone, I want to share it right away. Patience has never been my virtue, but sometimes (okay, often) it’s valuable.

Lifting Others Up. A friend recently asked me what my superpower would be if I could choose one. I found myself describing how I’ve found people in my life this year who have a gift for seeing the best in others and building them up for it. When you are around people who regularly tell you that you’re great because of xy and z, you can’t help but begin to internalize that perception of yourself. All that positive talk begins to counter the negative self-talk you subject yourself to, and offers a counter-balance on the days when others around you make you feel like you have less worth and less value. I am so grateful that I’ve found people like this in my life, and I want to practice being that for others.

Posted by: Michal | March 21, 2014

Figuring Out My Training Schedule

I’m halfway through my CrossFit intro month! So I’ve started thinking ahead to what I want my fitness routine to look like for the rest of my training. I know that I want my training to include:

  1. 2 – 3 runs each week, at least one of which needs to be a long trail run.
  2. CrossFit
  3. Yoga
  4. Ideally 2 rest days each week.

Both the CrossFit and yoga gym memberships are for 2 classes per week, which is more or less what’s probably good for my training anyhow. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between their schedules, trying to come up with the right classes to fit in all my workouts without completely overwhelming my body or my schedule.

I don’t know yet if this will be the magic plan, and I’m not married to doing it exactly this way each week, but here is what I’m going to try starting in April:

SUN: Vinyasa Yoga; long trail run
MON: Run
TUES: CrossFit
WED: Rest Day
THURS: CrossFit
FRI: Hot Vinyasa or Restorative Yoga
SAT: Rest Day

One thing I’ve historically done is schedule my runs around the weather – early in the day during the summer, late afternoon in the winter. But my race is going to be at the end of July, so I won’t have the luxury of a cool morning run. I need to train to be able to run in the heat. I’ll be making a lot of homemade Sports Drink this summer!

I’ve never done hot yoga before, but I was really excited to see a class offered by this particular teacher. So I texted a friend who has done hot yoga before to ask if she would recommend it, and she said absolutely yes! So – we shall see. The Restorative Yoga is another good option if I need a lower-key workout instead.

The other thing that will be a big change is that I’m switching to evening CrossFit classes. I have loved, loved, loved doing CrossFit in the mornings. But it doesn’t really fit with my work schedule, and it became a choice between being able to do CrossFit and yoga in the evenings, or having to choose only one or the other. Plus – my body really needs more sleep than I’ve been getting with the early morning CrossFit intro class. So this should be a good fit all-around (and following my longtime rule, none of my workouts will be late in the evening, so they should not interfere with my sleep – actually, they’ll probably help me crash quickly at night!).

The one thing that makes me nervous is having my runs so close together in the week. I don’t think it will be bad for my training, but we’ll see and I’ll revise the plan as needed.

Other things I’m thinking about in relation to training:

Food. I’m really, really hungry on CrossFit days! I’ve been planning lots of healthy snacks and meals that will be easy to prepare in advance. I get really frustrated with myself when I end up eating junk food or spending money because I didn’t plan ahead.

Clothes. In the winter I can get away with wearing my workout clothes a few times between washes, but not so much in the summer. The other issue is that I bought all my workout gear years ago – before I started getting fit! It’s really distracting to be running and feel like you have to pull your pants up every few minutes because they are too loose. So I have a list of things to look for during the Memorial Day sales.

I also bought new running shoes! Truth be told, this was prompted more by the state of my walking shoes (which are old running sneakers) that are basically falling apart. So eventually when it’s time to retire my current running shoes, those will become my walking shoes, and these new running shoes will step up for their turn on the trails.

Although I must admit, it’s hard to resist taking the new shoes out for a run…

Posted by: Michal | March 14, 2014

Spartan Training, Week 1

I’m not going to post every week about my training, but since this week included lots of “newness,” I figured it was worth a blog post.

Here is what my training looked like this week:

Saturday: 2.5 mile trail run and a very light WOD (workout of day):

Basically, I replaced the 20 minute warm-up run with my trail run.

I’ve done very little trail running, but whenever I do it I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world. Trail running gives you the chance to enjoy so much natural beauty. The trail was covered in ice/snow/mud patches, but I found that wasn’t a problem. I was intimidated by some of the hills – but primarily because I was scared of running down them. I kept thinking I’d fall on my face! I ended up being fine, though.

I found the WOD pretty easy, except for some trouble I was having with my left wrist that forced me to pretty much do my planks one-handed.

Sunday: Rest Day. Actually, I had volunteering and that means being on my feet for several hours in a row. Plus I wanted to be rested for Monday!

Monday AM: CrossFit!

I had my first ever “real” CrossFit workout on Monday. I’m in an introductory class where we first learn various moves, and then do a WOD. We went over air squats, goblet squats, ring pulls and suitcase deadlifts. We also tried out foam rollers, which help your muscles.

One funny story: Our instructor likes to teach us a move, have us do repetitions of it, and then ask us again what the name of the move is. I had told the instructor about my hearing, so I was right in front of him during the class. I guess he wasn’t thinking about it, or didn’t quite get it (understandable), because the first time he asked us to recall the name of a move, he pointed at me. Now, I had been desperately curious why this move was called “goblin squats” and come up with all sorts of ideas. Turns out it’s goblet squats (which makes minimally more sense). I’d blame all the fantasy that I read, except that I don’t use “goblet” much in everyday language!

So after about an hour of all these moves, we did our WOD, which was:

AMRAP-7 (as many repetitions as possible in 7 minutes):
7 goblet squats
7 ring pulls (like pull-ups but using the rings)
suitcase deadlift outside to the pole and back

It was tons of fun. I did nearly four reps in the 7 minutes, which is as good as anyone else in the class. And luckily, my wrist was back to normal – it comes and goes.

Despite the early wake-up – 5:20am – so I could go to the class, I felt amazing the rest of the morning. I started to crash a bit in the late afternoon, but my body just needs time to adjust to the new schedule.

Tuesday: Rest Day.

I was expecting second-day ache, but I had no idea it would be quite so bad! I barely did any stretching after CrossFit, and that was a mistake: on Tuesday, my upper legs (bear with me, I don’t know any anatomy – my hamstrings? My quads?) were completely stiff. I walked very slowly all day, and sitting down was a bit of a challenge each time I had to do it. I wasn’t upset about it; it just made me happy because I’d done such a good workout. But obviously I needed to take care of it. So as soon as I got home from work, I ran a very hot bath, and that made a tremendous difference. I followed that with stretching several times each hour til bed, which helped even more.

A friend told me that drinking water helps with lactic acid, and that I should drink 3x my regular water intake. I already drink more water than most people, so I was a bit hesitant about this. But extra water did seem to help. I’m curious if it’s true, so I’m going to do some research into it.

Wednesday AM: CrossFit! Also – RACE REGISTRATION DAY!

I had some slight misgivings about doing CrossFit while my body was still recovering from Monday’s class, but I thought to myself: They purposely scheduled the Intro class for Mon/Wed, and they know what they are doing. Four of us got there early to use the foam rollers, and they helped tremendously. I’m going to look into buying one for home.

My body started producing endorphins while I was foam rolling – whether from the pain or in anticipation, I’m not sure. So I was pretty hyped – it was hard to stay still and focus! When we started our class with a light run and some stretching, I thought I was in good luck – I’m one of the only ones in the class who is a runner and practices yoga. But once we got past that, it seemed like I did everything wrong! I don’t have a great memory for poses, but mostly it’s that I’m simultaneously learning these new positions and trying to do them with more weight than I’ve ever worked out with – the lightest kettlebells at the gym are 8kg, and the lightest weights are 10lb. So I really need to keep working on my form, but I’ll get there.

We learned to do a few new moves, and unfortunately we didn’t review the names, so I’m having difficulty remembering them (it might just be post-workout haze). But one of them was to do actual pull-ups. It turns out there’s a trick! We used these supporting bands. Hilarious moment: I traded bars with another girl, and she had been using two bands. I tried it and they were so strong I couldn’t push my body down or get my feet back onto the step! I had to untangle myself and jump down to the floor.

The way you use the bands is to put one foot in the loop, and one foot crossed over. The band essentially takes some of your weight, and since it’s stretchy, it’s trying to pull you back up. The goal is to slowly use lighter and lighter bands until you’re strong enough to pull yourself up without the support. Here are two photos where you can see the band:



Our WOD was really simple: we used weighted balls (12lb for the women, 15 for the guys). We had to hold them over our heads standing up, then slam them into the ground while squatting, over and over – as many times as we could in twenty seconds, then ten seconds rest – repeated 8 times. I did pretty well – I think I had the second highest in the class. I kept worrying about my form, but our teacher said I was doing it right so I guess I’ve been internalizing the form even while I struggle with it.

On my lunch break, I walked up to CVS to buy epsom salts. A friend of mine asked if epsom salts really worked, which made me curious so I got into research mode later in the week.

Unexpected: I was tired all day, but my boss really needed some support for an evening program, so I signed on. And apparently being on my feet for several hours was exactly what I needed, because my legs felt really good by the end of the night (as long as I didn’t try to move quickly). I also got so hyper around all the people that it was hard to fall sleep!

Also, race registration opened! (for those who had pre-registered). They changed the date by over a month, and it’s not local at all – it’s over an hour’s drive. But – I’m registered! Hopefully they are better at organizing the race than they are the event marketing…. so now I have four months instead of three to train. I have mixed feelings about that, because it’s harder to be motivated when the race is farther away and when the weather starts getting hotter (now the race is end of July). But I’m going to give it my best, regardless.

Thursday: Rest Day.

I woke up feeling pretty good – my legs were 80% fine, though my shoulder blades ached. I figured I’d play it safe, so I took a short epsom salts bath.

I was tempted to run, but we had 26 mph winds all day.

Friday: Rest Day.

The weather was actually lovely, and I felt really good! I had more energy on Friday than I’d had all week. But I decided to save my energy for my weekend running.

Looking Forward

Eventually, when my body is more adapted to CrossFit, I’ll run more frequently. And after I’m done with the intro class, I can choose whatever class I want to go to, and can run there and home when I’m strong enough. I’m also considering signing back up for regular yoga classes – the CrossFit intro class is more expensive than the regular membership, so I’ll be able to re-allocate some of that fitness budget to yoga once I’m on regular membership.

One week of training down, and I already feel stronger!

Posted by: Michal | December 22, 2013

The Frugal Project that Sort of Wasn’t

I’ve been doing my best to stick to necessary purchases only, but I had decided that making a lightbox was a reasonable “accommodation” because it would provide me with hours of no-cost entertainment once it’s made. I still determined to do the project as frugally as possible, which sort of did and sort of didn’t work out.

I’ll write a post about making and using the lightbox once I’ve sorted out the last pieces (the lighting, as explained below). This post is about the attempt (semi-failure) to do the project as frugally as possible (read: almost free).

Making a Lightbox for Almost-Free

The structure of the lightbox itself was completely no-cost. I used a spare box from work, my box cutter blade from home, and reinforced the structure with tape and strips of cardboard that came from the box itself.

Box: $0

The fabric I had wasn’t a go, unfortunately, but I bought some discounted “remnant” fabric at a local fabric store that was on sale – and got an additional discount for signing up for their mailing list.

Fabric: $12, discounted from $19, discounted from unknown price

And Then Semi-Failing At It

Here comes the fail. The lightbox takes three lamps: two for the sides and one overhead. I already had an overhead lamp and one side lamp; I went to Bed Bath and Beyond for a second side lamp. It was $24 with the coupon, so not entirely unreasonable. I did debate returning it and buying online, but the online prices are $16 plus shipping, so the $8 additional at the store doesn’t really seem worth it.

Then when I plugged in my overhead lamp to shine down through the top of the lightbox, the lamp was dead (today of all days?). I’m trying to find a replacement bulb, but it seems like it might not be in stock anymore. I can make my clip-on into an overhead lamp, but I still need three lamps total. So I may need to spend for another lamp.

Cost of Lamps (3): one I already owned, the other cost me $24 after coupon; ??? for third one.

Total Cost So Far: $36, plus ?? for third lamp.

Lessons Reinforced

Here’s what I should have done:

  • Been patient and planned ahead
  • Comparison-shopped
  • Tried Goodwill and Home Goods
  • Kept an eye on the Freecycle
  • Let my friends know what I was looking for in case they saw one/were getting rid of one.

As usual, the biggest factor in my not being as frugal as I hoped to was my own impatience. I could have not bought the lamp at the store and opted to wait for a lower priced item; I could have let people know what I was looking for in hopes that a free one would turn up; etc, etc. I’m not beating myself up but I am trying to learn from my mistakes. And if I keep the final cost under $50, I’ll be satisfied.

UPDATE: My friend has a lamp I can use! Now I just have to be patient because I won’t see her til January 2….

And the Re-Frame

I’m sticking this paragraph in here to remind myself that the more important thing is that I did successfully make my own lightbox (and with only one injury …. there’s a reason I keep bandaids in every room in the apartment). In a year from now, I won’t remember that I spent $50 on it; I’ll remember that I made it all by myself and everything I’ve figured out about how to use it. I’m extremely lucky that I can afford the $50 or so to pursue this hobby of mine. I will try to find a low-cost way to get that third lamp, but nothing I’ve spent on this project has been unreasonable.

Onto Other (Frugal) Things

Freecycle was awesome this weekend. We have a Freecycle corner in our building where people leave things for anyone to take. This weekend I got a stack of books, a green hoodie that fits me perfectly, and a step I can use for exercise.

I’m also attempting a lower-cost approach to something I still want to achieve: homemade yogurt. Last time I used store-bought yogurt for starter and did a crockpot method, but looking at new recipes, I think the one I followed was missing some fairly major steps. I’m going to buy probiotic starter this time, but I bought a kitchen thermometer so I can try doing it without a yogurt machine one more time. If it fails, I’ll buy a machine. I figure that buying the probiotic starter is giving it a really fair chance.

Other Winter Break Projects

I do actually get a “winter break” – we’re closed the week between Xmas and New Year’s. I have volunteering and a few meet-ups with friends, but I’m also planning to:

  • Try making yogurt
  • Look at recipes and possibly try to make a soup breadbowl
  • Make vegan pumpkin tarts
  • Find that light and play with my lightbox!
  • Begin looking up yoga poses to match to some photo concepts I have in mind
  • Catch up on the gazillion articles I’ve been saving to my Pocket app

… More posts to come!

Posted by: Michal | November 17, 2013

Weekend (aka Restful Productivity and Experimentations)

Kitchen Experimentations

I rinsed, picked over, and froze the green tomatoes. I’ll probably throw them in the next time I make chili.

I peeled a 5-lb bag of apples that was on sale and made applesauce. I didn’t want to waste the peels, so I found this super-easy recipe for apple peel jelly. You’re supposed to use the cores, too, but I’d already tossed them. Next time! I don’t own a candy thermometer, so I found this spoon test to use instead. I let it boil away and then poured it into, appropriately, a jam jar. I think it worked except that I was too impatient and may have stuck it in the fridge a bit too early.

The applesauce made for amazing, amazing applesauce-peanut butter oatmeal for breakfast on Sunday!

I also made pepitas! All the recipes I looked at said the same thing: rinse, spread out to dry for several hours, toss with oil and salt, roast at 250 – 300 F, stirring occasionally. They taste pretty bland to me, though … like they need cumin or sweet paprika or sugar.

Happy Discovery

Netflix has The Vicar of Dibley on streaming now! This made my Saturday night that much better.

If it wasn’t enough that the episodes frequently make me laugh until I cry, there was the following exchange:

“We’re going to have a new [church] window, and it’s going to be Noah’s Ark. So I thought I’d ask you children what animals you’d like in it.” (points to first child)
“A velociraptor.”
“That’s in Jurassic Park, right? I’m not sure about that, but okay.” (points to next child)
“A Tyrannosaurus Rex, miss.”
“Um … okay. Hands up for any animal NOT featured in Jurassic Park.”
(no hands raised)

Dinosaur love.

My first WOD

“WOD” comes from CrossFit and stands for “Workout Of the Day.” I signed up to receive WODs from the Spartan Races, which I’m hoping to sign up for next season. Spartan has started sending out a WOD series specifically designed for females, and I tried my first one today!

Here’s the thing …. I like challenges. I’m that person in the front of the yoga class who laughs when the teacher mentions being in a sadistic mood. It’s okay if I can’t actually achieve the pose she’s threatening us with, but I’m going to attempt it anyway and crack a grin when I fall over.

I read recently how runners sometimes find it difficult to feel accomplished doing weight and core exercises because they are so repetitive and it’s not an obvious accomplishment/benefit you can feel+see quickly. I ran into that today – sorry for the pun – with the fact that the WOD called for a “20 minute run/jog warmup.” The run as a warmup? The run without a goal? I tried to remind myself that I needed to pace so I could do the post-run exercises – hence warmup – but what can I say, I like competitive goals. So I decided to (a) try to run/jog as MUCH of the 20 minutes as possible, and (b) practice running hills, which I absolutely loathe.

I actually did decently. I managed to jog nearly the entire 20 minutes. Then I headed back in to my yoga mat to do the rest of the WOD, which included 30-second planks and sets of crunches, bicycles and “bowler squats” (which was a new name to me, but I recognized the movement from barre). You’d think the planks would be easiest for me, being a yoga move, but MAN is it hard to breathe during a 30-second-long plank.

All in all …. it was an awesome workout that left me feeling great. I’m hoping to do this same WOD once or twice more this week, and there are three more in this same series for females that I’ll try in the following weeks. I might also mix them up for variety during my weekly workouts.

Some brain time, too

I’ve nearly finished The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman. He’s an interesting man …. he’s quite clear on equality across gender and race a good 100 years before the cultural revolution, and he’s completely committed to his belief in the immortality of the soul. He has this love for everyday things – men fishing on the beach, walking with friends or sitting in a busy pub – and is baffled that others seem self-centered and closed to the beauty he sees around him in other people’s daily lives and aspirations. At the same time, he writes often of the adventure of being a sailor among comrades on the open sea.

This week is mostly going to be about VACATION PREP! I’ve been picking out what books to take for my flights, figuring out what food I can take through security, and all the other odds and ends that go with being away for two weeks. I can’t wait to see my family!

Posted by: Michal | November 14, 2013

Waste Not, Want Not (Garden Finish-Up)

It was a good season. I got three pumpkins, lots of cherry tomatoes – I loved to pick them on my way out to work to add to my lunch – basil, more burgundy beans than I knew what to do with. The beans are long gone now, but the basil, tomatoes and pumpkins hung around through the end of the season and then some.

Pumpkins. Ah, my beauties. These have been living on my windowsill for the last two weeks or so, but the time has come (the walrus said) to cut them open and cook them – tonight! I took a long while to think about what I want to do with them. I mostly use pumpkin as an ingredient, in its pureed form. Chili, enchiladas, fajitas, oatmeal, mmmm. So I decided to puree and freeze them. It was super-easy to do! I followed these instructions (thanks, Mum!).

My roommate came home just before the pumpkins finished cooking. She was SO excited that I was cooking the pumpkins I grew in my garden!


A story about this bowl of seeds: my friend bought a pumpkin and named it, and I couldn’t understand how she could name it and then gut it. But now I kind of have this evil desire to tell some little kid that these are the guts of their pet. Clearly I’ve haven’t let go of the Halloween spirit.



This picture above is the pumpkin pre-cooking.

This picture below is the pumpkin cooked and pureed!


Basil. This was a fail on my part. By the time I accepted that I really needed to pick the leaves if I wanted to save what was left, a storm had come through and knocked all of them to the ground. Lesson for next year! I really enjoyed having fresh basil, and I’ve been using quite a lot of dried basil recently – so definitely worth getting basil again next year.

Tomatoes. The longest-lasting part of my garden was actually the cherry tomato plants. I didn’t realize that once it hits 40 degrees, they will not do much more ripening – the temps have been fluctuating, so I kept giving them “a little more time.” But tonight I noticed that a lot of the green tomatoes have been knocked off by wind, so I did a quick google search. Turns out, green cherry tomatoes really ARE edible. So I grabbed a bowl and, under the light of the moon (no joke), collected as many that remained on the vines or were on the ground as I could. They look like grapes – all the more so because some of them seem to be leaking a sticky fluid.


I’m still deciding exactly what I’ll do with them! It’ll be a project for this weekend, as will the pumpkin seeds.

I found an interesting article about the best plants to grow indoors (it never occurred to me to plant quinoa!), but I’m not attempting a winter garden this year – the major issue, sunlight, won’t be any better this year. But someday I hope I can garden year-round, even if it means a sunny window and some baby plants during the winter.

Posted by: Michal | November 13, 2013

DIY frugal project

I recently signed up for GymPact, which allows me to earn money for something I do anyway – work out!

The thing is that for at-home workouts, it uses my iPhone’s accelerometer (yes, this is actually a thing) to measure how much I’m jiggling about. And it’s really annoying to have to hold my iPhone while using the elliptical, and it would be impossible for a lot of other at-home workouts that I do (though I should note that because GymPact uses the accelerometer when you’re not at a gym or doing an outdoor run, it can only track activities where you’re really moving – I suspect at-home barre and yoga won’t work at all with it).

GymPact recommends an armband to solve this problem. But armbands run for ridiculous prices. So I decided to make my own!

At first I found really easy instructions online:

1. Find a knee-high sock.

2. Cut the toes off.

3. Pull the sock up your arm, fold over, and secure iPhone in the fold.

… Easy, but not great. The armband kept slipping down to my elbow, and the iPhone kept shifting around inside it. I wanted something more secure, that I wouldn’t have to keep playing with and adjusting during my workouts.

Then I hit on it: elastic. I could sew elastic on. My first idea was to go to my coworker who had a baby not so long ago, but her maternity clothes are all long gone. Then it occurred to me that I still had this really terrible, broken-down, old bra that I hate wearing anyway. So I cut the elastic off. Problem solved!

I will admit openly here that my sewing on this is far from great. But it works, so who cares? I sewed the elastic on three places:

1. At the bottom, so the iPhone weight can’t pull the whole thing down.

2. At the top around my arm.

3. At the top around the iPhone.





I need to fiddle with the part that’s around my upper arm a bit more – it’s maybe just a bit too tight? For the bit that is holding the iPhone in place, I sewed the elastic inside the fabric instead of to the fabric so it would have a bit more “give,” and I may need to do that for the other parts as well.

I’m excited to try it! I couldn’t work out tonight because I had a work program, but I’ll test this out tomorrow after work!

I know some people see frugal projects like this as bizarre – why not just buy one? – but I really get a thrill from finding ways to be self-sufficient, to scavenge from what I already have, to re-purpose things I don’t use into something useful that would have cost me $50 or more to buy, and to figure out how to use the things around me in new ways. And if I want it to look prettier, I can tie-dye it or something, but I kind of like the clean look right now.

Posted by: Michal | October 30, 2013

New Someday Dream

Last night I did a double-workout. Rock climbing and power yoga, back-to-back. I’ve always been nervous about the idea of double-workouts, and yes it was hard. This morning I hurt too much to get out of bed. But after an extra hour of sleep and a hot shower, I don’t hurt at all today – I feel amazing.

Anyway, I just saw this photo of a young girl who participated in a Spartan obstacle course race. She’s covered in mud and has a champion’s pose and looks all-around bad-ass.

I want to be that kid.

I’ve played with the idea of obstacle racing before, but last night’s workout made me believe I could actually consider doing it with enough training. And I’m ready for a new fitness goal.

I’m not going to sign up for an obstacle race yet, but I’m going to start researching how you train for one. Once things settle down a bit more, I can devote myself to race training. Stay tuned for updates!

Posted by: Michal | October 24, 2013

Completely Imaginary Scheduling

I started this post two weeks ago. I let my schedule get the better of me that week … I didn’t have a long workout until Friday, and it rained pretty much non-stop the full week. It didn”t make for a good mood when you add in work stress and friends in crisis.

My happiest moment that week was after swashbuckling class. Even when the classes don’t involve much calorie burn, there’s something about a guy trying to hit you with a bamboo stick that wakes you up and clears your mind. We had our first real bouts and I lost, but only by one point. Considering I was the smallest person in the class by a good bit, I figure a one point loss is quite good.

Anyway, that had me thinking what my imaginary schedule would be that allowed me plenty of time for long workouts, alone time, work, sleep, friends, real life necessities, etc.

Some of it is actually doable. One thing I’ve been doing is scheduling lunchbreak runs again during the workday – rain or shine. I’ve run in rain before and I need those runs. In the winter, I depend on lunchbreak runs because I can run during the warmest part of the day.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a completely imaginary schedule I think I’d enjoy. I acknowledged the need for a full workday, but none of this is based in any research into fitness class availabilities:

Monday: Wake 7:45; Work 9 – 5:30; downtime until shiur at 8:30; bedtime by 11 (we usually run til at least 10/10:30, which is why I’m sleeping a bit late)

Tues: Wake 7:00; Work 8:00 – 4:30 (lunchbreak 5k); 5:45pm swordsmanship class; free time, bedtime by 10:00

Wed: Wake 7:00; Work 8:00 – 4:30 (lunchbreak yoga class); evening free for friends etc; bedtime by 10:00

Thurs: Wake 7:00; Work 8:00 – 4:30; 5:30pm parkeur class; free time, bedtime by 10:00

Fri: Wake 7:00; Work 8:00 – 4:30 (adapt as needed for Shabbat start time); Fri night is downtime-Shabbat.

Sat: Downtime; friends, volunteering, workout and errands; swordsmanship practice would be good, or rockclimbing.

Sun: Parkeur practice; downtime; volunteering, friends and errands; yoga

My schedule has slowly emptied as I’ve finished up a lot of my big things. I enjoyed them, but I’m loving all the open time. I’m setting aside the next few months after my visit to my parents’ before I plan any big adventures again. I’m mulling over some possibilities, though … a 10k, maybe ballroom dancing, maybe the next level in swordsmanship. We’ll see.

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