Adventures in Semi-Vegetarianism

To answer Erin’s question about what program I am using to move towards a more vegetarian (or pescatarian at least) nutrition model, at the moment I am just attempting to replace one of my usual two servings of meat per day with a vegetarian or seafood option. I normally have some kind of lean meat at lunch and dinner, with breakfast and snacks leaning more towards eggs, soy, nuts, and protein powder for my protein sources, so cutting out the red meat and chicken without using dairy as a crutch will be the major change.

Since I am still eating fish and eggs, this isn’t as big a transition as, say, going full-on vegan or even just strict vegetarian. In fact, I just gobbled down some innocent pre-cooked shrimp as a snack. 😉

What I’m having a difficulty with is making time to try out new vegetarian recipes that really feel like full meals instead of side dishes, especially those using beans. Beans are not really a staple of the Taiwanese diet and don’t feature prominently in most of my staple recipes like Beef Noodle Soup, stir fries of any kind, and Korean BBQ burgers. I think I need to give veggie chili a try (I WILL miss my ground meat in this…sigh) as well as some soups and stews. I also need to learn some better ways to prep tofu. Don’t get me wrong–I love pan-fried firm tofu with a blog of hot sauce, but some veggies would be nice in there, too. I’ve been too busy with other projects and social commitments to just buckle down, crack open Vegan with a Vengeance, and get cooking, except for my recipe-less Pingtung eggplant, scallions, jalapenos, and tofu in oyster sauce last night, which totally rocked my socks off. Quinoa and brown rice will have to make a come back, too, because I am sick of sweet potatoes, and I cannot have just fruit as my carb portion with lunch.

This is Day 4 of the experiment for me, and it has not been an unqualified success.

  • Monday, I developed a headache by 7 PM that I couldn’t shake off. I think I didn’t quite eat enough that day or was sensitive to something I ate–possibly a banana or a Nature Valley Fruit and Nut bar. Worked out anyway and felt better after chugging more water.
  • Tuesday, I stupidly consumed a boiled egg that I could tell wasn’t quite right in texture (too soft/mealy) as a snack, and then proceeded to reap the rewards of food poisoning for the rest of the day, including a major migraine and some really unproductive nausea. Didn’t work out as even turning my head too quickly made me want to boot. On the plus side, did no evening snacking. 😛
  • Wednesday, I had to rejoin the ranks of the actively eating, but I stuck with bland foods and lots of water. My stomach no longer rebelled. Still had a residual headache.
  • Thursday, my head felt fine in the morning, and I am so far feeling pretty good. I don’t think I drink enough water when I’m eating meatless meals, though. CLX Burn Intervals and Abs should be on for tonight.

So that is my semi-vegetarian week so far. I went into it not quite prepared, but I’m muddling through as best as I can until I have the time to really plan out a good menu for myself.

Hell(Sack)Boy

I put the final touches on Hell(Sack)Boy today including revised legs, shorts with a hole for his tail, decorative top stitching, and a cigar. I kind of liked him without the decorative stitches, but he’s cute this way, too.

Custom Crochet Sackboys Galore

Welcome to all of the visitors from Kotaku. Thanks for checking out my dolls, and sorry for the slow site. I didn’t expect this many people stopping by. 😉

Sometimes, I amaze even myself.

From left to right: Hellboy, Spock, Daft Wullie (a Nac Mac Feegle from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books), and Sackboy Classic.

Each of these custom dolls takes between 4-8 hours to make, and the average size is around 8-9″.

And yes, I take custom orders. Prices will range between $30 for a basic doll to $50 and up for custom characters depending on complexity and cost of materials. I can pretty much hook up any character you like. Contact me if interested. 🙂

More photos of the dolls are up at:

By Jove, Bananas!

Once upon a time, I ordered a dwarf Cavendish banana plant from Park Seed on clearance for $4.95. It was cute. It had 6 little leaves poking out of a quart container. I put it in a bigger pot and moved it out to my apartment balcony with a southeast exposure.

My lil’ Nana got bigger, but not too much bigger.

Dwarf Banana (MUSA DWARF CAVENDISH) received from Park Seed on 7/14/2005.  This tree arrived with about 6 big leaves...and has b

Then I moved in my my boyfriend (now DH), and we bought a house together. I decided that my baby banana tree needed more room to grow. I transplanted it into the ground by the garage.

It liked the Florida weather and sandy dirt a LOT. It is now over 10 feet tall and has sent up enough pups to make it around 5-6’ in diameter. The main tree is the one with the tallest leaves on the left.

Oh, and it has finally shot out a giant dingle dangle loaded with green bananas. (Again, from the tallest trunk on the left.)

DH wants to chop it all down. I convinced him to hold off until we at least get some ripe bananas off of it. It’s got until mid-February or so, then DH will be going at it with a chainsaw. Let’s hope the bananas are ripe by then and not blackened by an unexpected frost, because there is enough to make a whole year’s worth of green smoothies.

Garden Geekery

Down here in central Florida, it is already time to start our warm weather vegetable and flower seeds and to direct sow our cold weather vegetables. My indoor seedling nursery has not been set up yet, but I HAVE cleaned up the square foot garden, raked in more compost, and replanted with lots of leafy greens, stir fry peas, edamame, and my favorite, Bright Lights Swiss chard.

I love watching the little green seedlings pop up out of the (temporarily) weed-free raised bed! It’s just as much fun as seeing the first indoor seedlings appear in their little peat pots. This spring I would like to try to successfully get a small container herb garden going as well as plant my usual variety of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants again. Some heat-tolerant leafy greens like mustard and malabar spinach are also on the list…and I MIGHT risk some zucchini, even though I don’t have a ton of room for it.

And while the Vardaman sweet potatoes are now firmly established and self-propagating (check out my mid-winter harvest below–and those are just from the volunteer vines I had to tear out of my raised bed, not the main patch!), I want to order an assortment of end-of-season white sweet potato varieties from Sandhill Preservation Center to plant in June.

(I’m getting my spring seeds going this weekend after consulting my handy seed starting spreadsheet and Almanac.com’s Outdoor Planting Guide.)

Are you gardening yet in your part of the country, or just scanning the seed catalogs for this year’s must-have crops? What do you plan to grow this year?

ChaLEAN Extreme Preview

I’m going to be terribly ADHD this month and switch programs mid-month. I just got BeachBody’s ChaLEAN Extreme program (retail price $119.95) yesterday, and given how packed my gym has been this month and how little free time I have, the 30-minute workouts in the package are very appealing to me right now. Despite the admittedly goofy name, the program actually focuses on heavy strength training for 30 minutes three days per week in combination with more cardio-based workout sessions on off days to produce results. It also comes with a nutrition plan with 80+ moderate carb recipes divided into three phases to match with the three month-long workout phases of the program: Burn, Push, and Lean.

ChaLEAN Extreme

Workout preferences for me are kind of cyclical, and at this time I am just not feeling motivated to do 60-minute workouts of any kind. This is killing my motivation to commit to another round of RCR-style circuit workouts, even if they ARE with heavier weights, and it’s also making a full cycle of P90X (which also runs 60 minutes per workout on average) really unappealing. Frankly, I’m unenthusiastic about my workouts this month, committed to a LOT of non-exercise projects and work, and ready to stop thinking so much about things and just go on autopilot for a couple of months. ChaLEAN Extreme looks like it is a step down from P90X in difficulty and intensity, but higher than the Turbo Jam, Hip Hop Abs, and Slim in Six BeachBody products. The lifting tempo appears to be slower than what is used in P90X, and the rep range is 10-12 reps for most exercises. Looking at the calendar, the workout schedule includes 3 strength circuit days, 2 interval style cardio days (one also includes ab work), and 2 rest days per week.

I’m reinstating my lunch break walks at a minimum, with skating on days when I feel the urge and the weather is dry. I’ll start the ChaLEAN Extreme program with the fitness assessment and first Burn phase 1 workout tonight and schedule in the rest of the program in my workout journal. I have to finish reviewing the diet and workout schedule during my lunch break, but hey, I can do that while walking. 😉 If the diet seems reasonable, I will give it a go with some protein source substitutions to keep it more in line with my semi-vegetarian goals for this year.

So here we go with the contents of the ChaLEAN Extreme basic package:

  • 5 Workout DVDs and an instructional DVD to show you proper lifting form with free weights and resistance tubes (in a thin pak folder with an additional empty slot in case you purchase the add-on workout disc)
  • “Muscle Burns Fat™” Guidebook – This is a printed book, not a digital file, and contains an overview of the program, the reasoning behind its design, lots of convincing verbiage about the importance of lifting heavy weights to build muscle which will in turn burn fat, motivating before and after photos of the most dramatic transformations from the program’s test group, workout calendars showing exactly which workouts to perform for the three transformation phases of the program and the ongoing maintenance phase, pages for your progress photos and stats, and exercise descriptions and photos.
  • Fat Burning Food Guide – Another printed book that includes 80+ recipes, the ChaLEAN Extreme three-phase nutrition plan, and lots of pretty pictures of some tasty looking high-protein meals
  • Fat Calipers – These come with an instruction card printed with male and female charts for determining body fat from a single suprailiac skinfold.
  • Thigh Toner Band – Looks like a giant flat rubber band about 6″ wide. I’ve seen similar items sold in the pilates section of Target.
  • Chalene’s Personal Motivational Audio CD – More explanation about how Chalene Johnson came to design this program as she hit her mid-30s and discovered that her body was changing — heavy cardio-style workouts were not enough and building muscle became key to keeping her metabolism fired up. Also includes motivational “You can do it!” messages, a list of behaviors that fit people exhibit, and strategies and tips for getting past roadblocks.
  • “Healthy Eats” and Kitchen Makeover DVD (on the same DVD as the workout instruction videos) – Tips and techniques for cleaning up your eating and kitchen as well as low-key ways to eat on plan at any restaurant.

The DVD folio, Muscle Burns Fat guidebook, and Fat Burning Food Guide all fit into a handy cardboard slipcase to keep everything tidy and in one place.

Additional equipment needed for the workouts is pretty basic: Pairs of 5-30 pound dumbbells for women and 12-40 pound dumbbells for men, or the equivalent in resistance tubing (the kind with handles). I’ll be using my adjustable Powerblock dumbbells, and the folks in the videos appear to be using Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells. Since the instruction video didn’t show anyone doing pull-ups or chin-ups as they do in P90X, I’m assuming that this program does not integrate those exercises.

I’ll get my starting stats this weekend and post my impressions of the Burn phase of the program as I complete each workout this week.

It might be January if…

…your fitness blog’s page views and visitor numbers spike like crazy right after the holidays end, and your #1 referring search engine term is “P90X.”

Caustic Musings January 2009 Stats

Stay tuned this week as I kick off a recap of ALL the fitness programs I have tested out in the past 5 years and let you know which ones I recommend for different goals, budgets, and personality types.

Happy exercising!

Spockboy (Custom Crochet Mr. Spock Sackboy)

So I was approached by a co-worker recently who was aware of my minor obsession with making Sackboy dolls from the PS3 game, Little Big Planet.

Well, this co-worker wanted a Sackboy, too, but not just any basic old Sackboy.

She wanted one dressed like Mr. Spock from Star Trek.

“OMG”, thought I. “How funny would a SPOCKboy be?”

After a bit of planning, a bit of improvisation, and about a day of work, here he is:

(More pics of Spockboy in my Picasa album!)