i survived survival school

I spent Saturday up in the Hudson Valley, practicing surviving in the woods. As a Canadian, I feel like surviving wilderness is one of those things I should be able to do. Doesn’t anyone else remember that one lost in the woods video that was actually part of the elementary school curriculum? The one that taught children how to survive in the woods overnight? (And that was before reading Lost in the Barrens as part of the Requisite Farley Mowat Reading in seventh grade). I tell my Scout colleagues and parents that I’m Canadian, and that seems to automatically better qualify me for my job as leader of a troop of 5 – 7 year olds just as much as my decade with Girl Guides does.

However, this doesn’t mean I would actually survive in the woods. I am a city kid. But I spent my formative years in cities that had major wilderness culture going on in them, and therefore, assume that I am also at least partially a wilderness person. Hence: taking survival school this weekend, JUST TO BE SURE. After all, I had a Groupon for it, and it was a chance to practice and learn some skills for the woods. And it was a chance to learn some skills to teach the kids, to be better at my Other Job as Otter Leader.

And survival school turned out to be awesome! I took it under the tutelage of Destination Backcountry Adventures, whose company founder and leader absolutely loved the outdoors. Being outside with someone who really believes that nature is something you can work with, a place we belong in, makes a huge difference. We had two teams of four people, and each team were given our Survival Scenarios, the story of why we were lost in the woods, and why we only had (in my team’s case) a bag full of odds and ends to survive with. We then had to go practice the skills we learned in class and demonstrate that we would last a few days out in the woods.

My team had what I called the ‘Drunken Dumbass’ scenario: amateur campers who didn’t register at the trailhead, didn’t camp at the legal campsite, and after some bourbon, pass out in their tent next to a river. Cue the flash flood. Gear gets lost, someone’s ankle gets broken, and they’re lost in the Adirondacks without much of anything. The rangers have evacuated everyone who registered at the trail head, but not these people. We had to pretend we were in it for a few days, and that we would have to prepare accordingly.

First step: rescue. The guy on our team tied clothes up in the trees, in a set of 3 to indicate an emergency. Next step: shelter. We built a debris hut, a skill I already had from taking the Scouts to an Urban Park Rangers program last year. We incorporated a sheet of plastic that was in our Miscellaneous Survival bag. Third step: fresh water. There was a nearby pond, easily found because of the frogs croaking in it. Fourth step: fire. We set up our fire ring with tinder, and put out a bunch of twigs to dry on a sunny rock so we would have flammable wood to get it going. And that was the morning session. In the afternoon, we practiced Fire Without Matches, Orienteering with a Map and Compass, and Eating Frog Eggs (I didn’t try them, but a few people did sample the frog eggs that said frog pond was full of).

The skills themselves were great, but it was the mentality of survival, of not letting a fear of the unknown take over, that I learned the most about this weekend. I learned about prioritizing when in a survival situation, about accounting for basic human needs: shelter, water, and hope for rescue. I also learned a lot about backpacking, and how to make a backpacking trip better. It was a great trip, and a great experience. I’m really glad I went.

But OMG, I was so tired after Saturday! We spent the day scrambling up and down a ridge in Fahnestock State Park, bushwhacking through off-trail terrain. I went up and down that damn ridge multiple times. My legs yesterday felt like I’d done a CrossFit workout. I was actually so tired on Sunday that I HAD TO REST part of the day, which is not something I enjoy taking time to do. (I like to GTD on weekends, dammit). But it felt good – all the scratches and cuts, sunburn and bruises, feel good – like I’ve been doing something real. It’s good to be outdoors. It was good to be in the woods. It wasn’t the coastal rainforest I’m used to, but it was still forest.

Now that I”ve recovered though, it’s time to prepare for Passover! Tonight is our family Seder dinner; tomorrow is community Seder at the synagogue. Tonight, I’m making lamb, the leftovers of which will go to Philadelphia with us this weekend so Ben and I have a protein to eat while the rest of Paul’s family eats ham at Easter. And I only have two days of work this week because I am taking the rest of the week off for Spring Break with my son: Mama-Ben Adventure Camp! I am SO excited about spending two days with the kiddo, doing things in New York City we don’t always have time to do.

Surviving done; outdoors appreciated. It’s time to get back to city life, and time to get to work.

March 10th, 2014: spring!

20140311-205229.jpgIt’s another beautiful day today, so here’s the view from my bedroom window, at left, looking across to other homes on the next block over.

It feels like spring today: the air is soft. Walking home last night, I could just pick up on the smell of the park, with all the grass exposed again after a month under snow. It smells like spring is coming. I missed this moment, in L.A., where there were no seasons. I missed the moment just when a northern city starts to see spring appear.

It is so nice out there that I actually walked to Staples and back to pick up construction paper for the Scout opening craft tomorrow. It’s just nice to be outside again, in soft, cool air, instead of the OMG face melting cold that we’ve had this winter. It’s nice to walk for pleasure again, and be able to smell the grass and leaves that have been under the snow for months.

Finally, I finished CrossFit Foundations this morning. I’m now clear to actually start taking classes. This mornings mini-WOD was really tough, and I still hurt from it (that, and learning “the clean” weightlifting technique), but I am probably going to go back and keep training. This is the kind of muscle building training I was looking for, that I knew I needed in order to shift my fat/muscle ratios.

And since I’m blogging again, I may as well start writing up more of my diet and exercise in my blog posts:

Sleep: 5h, which is pretty terrible. Need to get to sleep earlier tonight.

Exercise: WOD was AMRAPs, with a partner. We took turns doing a 130m sprint, followed by 12 wall balls (squat and medicine ball throw). I did four rounds, and I know I maxed out on effort, so go me.

Meals:

Breakfast: eggs with cabbage/broccoli/carrot shred mix; paleo banana bread with grass-fed butter
Post-Workout: plantain grain free tortilla with half a chicken breast
Lunch: chicken salad (paleo mayo, curry powder, apple, celery, collards, the rest of the chicken breast) and garbage soup (beef broth, turnips, yam, carrot), with three quarters of an apple. Ended up eating the salad at lunch and the soup and apple with a few almonds after getting back from meetings at 3.

(Also, I brought two servings of soup to work which I am reheating in a mini-crock-pot at my desk because I am THAT BROOKLYN)

Dinner: Cowboy chili (made with stew beef and butternut squash) with spinach and avocado, a few lamb meatballs, and a plantain tortilla with avocado.

Evening snack: another apple and some raw almonds. I am not supposed to be eating evening snacks, since it’s teaching my body to rely on more glucose after dinner when I’m supposed to be winding down, but I was desperate for energy so I could get back up and work my “second shift” (finish work for the day & prep for tomorrow’s Scout meeting) I was exhausted when I got home, and had to take a half hour nap before I was able to get up and function again, and then I just wanted that apple because I desperately wanted the fruit sugar to jumpstart my body again when I woke up.

And now, it’s time to go work that “second shift”: finish the work I didn’t get to complete because I had to leave early for a parent teacher conference. Prepare for Scouts tomorrow, by preparing the opening craft/activity and revisiting marching band commands for parade practice. Tidy the kitchen and set up meals for tomorrow (Paul is back at work, since he had to take the afternoon off to keep an eye on Ben, who had a half day due to parent teacher conferences. Therefore, I want to do something nice to help him, which will consist of kitchen cleanup)

But first, I’m going to drink a cup of tea and chill out for a few minutes. It’s spring. I’m going to open a window and enjoy that for a few more minutes.

from santa monica to the sunshine coast

sekhmetrix:

And now, ten years later, here I am with a child of my own, and another troop of six and seven year olds to spend time with. A decade has passed, and I still feel the same way about being a leader: that I’m lucky if I’m able to give these kids great memories, that I’m lucky to see them experience joy in Scouting. But most of all, I’m on the motherhood journey that I realized, as a Brownie leader, that I might someday travel on.

Originally posted on Jillian's Blog:

In the course of a week, I have gone from Los Angeles to Sechelt. That’s the most extreme contrast I can think of inside of a week, inside the boundaries of my known world of the West Coast.

I sneaked out of the campsite last night while the kids were asleep and went down to the beach to make phone calls. I finally connected with the girl at the house in Los Angeles I want to live in. I’ve been overstressed since Thursday night with regards to the whole roomate and housing issue.

I’m better now though, because I’m going to be living at this Mar Vista house, which is right around the corner from my adopted aunt in Westlake Village. It’s also less than three miles from my office in Venice Beach. And it’s in a house, with a yard – which is something I really like the idea…

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six year symbol:iron

Paul and I are celebrating our six year anniversary this month. While our real celebration is happening on the 22nd, our actual date was the 8th (For those of you who didn’t remember that, you should have checked your reusable shopping bag we gave out at the wedding). March is also special to us because it is the month we met. We met on the 18th, a date I only remember because it is the day after the St Patrick’s Day my sister met her husband.

So how do we celebrate our anniversary? This year, we are going to see Gary Numan! You know, the guy who sings that “Cars” song, which is actually really atypical of his work. His newer albums are all a mix of synth samples and filtered guitars, and the latest one is amazing. Some of it sounds so much like Nine Inch Nails. good Nine inch Nails, Downward Spiral era – that I had to check to see if they had the same producer. (They do not). But there’s a good reason I hear the similarity, in sound and tone: Trent Reznor loves Gary Numan, and actually had him guest performing at the “farewell” tour in L.A. Years ago. What happened there was all the old school fans – who were all goths – went crazy screaming and singing along with “Down In the Park”. The newer, KROQ era fans mostly seemed confused. But Pretty Hate machine is heavily built on Gary Numan and Skinny Puppy, and Gary Numan falls squarely into that dark, melodramatic sound I am hopelessly addicted to. (See also:Depeche Mode)

Paul was actually the one who picked this up and started working through the last ten years of Gary Numan tracks. So we have been listening to his newer work together. So when tour dates came out, I suggested it for our anniversary. Paul actually lit up and said he would like to go. And it just happens to be the same night as Salvation, who we may be able to make an actual night of it if we can stay awake past midnight.

But because the concert is still two weeks away, I wanted to do something this weekend. So I tweeted the host of Darkwave, the classic alternative and goth show that runs on SiriusXM:

requestfordarkwave

Also, I added some background to explain why this song is significant. And then because I mentioned them, I was immediately retweeted by Bar Sinister:

methusbandbarsinister

The DJ responded right away!

yougotitgreatstory

To which I thought I would remind SiriusXM that the reason they get their money is because I greatly enjoy being able to listen to three hours of classic goth every week:

whyikeptsirius

(Well, that, and I get the CBC on Sirius for when I’m driving to and from Pennsylvania. And I like listening to the Lithium station and reliving the good parts of the 1990s)

So on Sunday night, Paul and I actually tuned into the live stream at 10pm…only to find the show at its tail end. It was scheduled for 10. I checked the listings: 10pm EST. Why it was already over by 10:30, I have no idea. I had been looking forward to the romantic moment when the DJ would dedicate a song inspired by a swamp monster as a tribute to our love.

(It’s not really about a swamp monster:)

So tomorrow, we will listen to the Darkwave podcast on demand, once we get through work, the parent teacher conference, and our general existence as adults. And we will remember the two most important dances of our life to “Swamp Thing”. One: the night we met, eight years ago, when Paul FINALLY came over to ask me to dance. And two: the day of our wedding, six years ago, when it was our first dance together as husband and wife.

Happy anniversary, my love.

weekly cook up: march 9th

 

Inspired by The Clothes Make The Girl, I started doing a weekly cook-up where I just do two hours of hardcore cookery.  I plan out some meals that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated, and some meals that can be cooked quickly with ingredients around the house.  This will save both Paul and I at least three hours during the week, since dinner prep time is cut from 45 minutes to 15, and lunches are easily packed out of the leftovers.  And now that we’re cutting Ben’s grain intake, I’m also preparing more baked goods, things like grain-free banana bread, grain-free tortillas, etc.  

Here’s what’s in our fridge today.  This doesn’t include the pre-cooked leftover chicken breasts for my lunch salads, nor the fruit we pack for snacks, nor does it include the few packaged foods we eat (organic hot dogs for Ben’s lunch, yogurt for Paul’s breakfast, etc).  But it should be enough to keep this family of three going until we have time to shop again this weekend. 

Entrees:

Shrimp & Fish Tacos

Cowboy Chili with Squash

Moroccan Meatballs

Soups

Zucchini-ginger soup

“Garbage soup” (leftover kale, turnips, sweet potato, ground beef)

Baked goods:

Plantain Tortillas

Paleo Banana Bread

Veggies for Cooking:

Cut up broccoli

Cauliflower 

Raw veggies for salads:

Red Lettuce

Purple Cabbage

Broccoli/cabbage/carrot slaw mix

Celery 

Condiments & sauces

Paleo Mayo* (made last week)

So how does all this get done in one night?  It gets done in an intricate ballet of cooking.  I put on some music (in this case, Darkwave, the weekly classic goth show on First Wave on Sirius) and then just go for it.  I broke down all the prep work and actions for timing so I could multi-task everything smoothly:

The Weekly Cookup Action Item List! 

1)      Mix banana bread & bake

2)      Put shrimp & fish in fridge for defrosting

3)      Sear the stew meat for the chili

4)      Cut up 5 onions (1 for chili, 1 for zucchini soup; 1 for garbage soup; 2 for meatball sauce)

5)      Crush 1 head of garlic

6)      Start the onion and garlic cooking for chili

7)      Put stew meat, onion, garlic, 500mL broth and 1 can tomatoes in slow cooker

8)      Start soup pot with oil, onion, garlic

9)      Add spices; cut up & add zucchini

10)   Start peeling & cutting up vegetables for garbage soup (celery, carrots, turnips, kale, sweet potato)

11)   Add chicken broth to zucchini soup; move to small pot

12)   Start garbage soup in big soup pot with onion & garlic

13)   Add celery to soup pot; finish peeling & cutting up remaining vegetables

14)   Add remaining vegetables & leftover ground beef to soup pot with 1L broth

15) Mix plantain tortillas & start in oven

16)   Start Moroccan meatball sauce in large skillet

17)   Mix Moroccan meatballs; place in sauce

18)   Put in 2nd batch tortillas

19)   Peel & Cut up butternut squash & add to chili pot

20)   Finish cooking tortillas; set aside to cool

21)   Simmer meatballs until done

22)   Package and label everything!

i now express my politics in the kitchen

foodrenegadefist_150UPDATE: Turns out I’m a food renegade without knowing it, so i entered this post in Fight Back Friday.

I’m taking a break from being a whirlwind of cookery in the kitchen. I figure I need twenty minutes or so right now to sit on my butt and write this blog post. You’re welcome, Internet.

Tonight, Ben and I made N’Oatmeal Cookies. I’ve been doing a full time Paleo diet YTD, Ben is still eating grains, but we’ve been trying to up his healthy fat and protein intake, especiallyt at snacktime during the day. These cookies are basically pure healthy fat from grass fed butter and almond flour, plus raisins and dates, and Ben loved them. Since he went and ate all my grass fed jerky this week, I’m trying to find him another nutrient-dense, low glycemic snack for him to eat in lieu of the Triscuits/Oreos/goldfish he gets fed in after school.

I’m also making chili (using butternut squash chunks, grass fed beef, and a jar of leftover salsa I made a couple weeks ago), and I’m making Paul some ginger snaps using some failed cookie experiment batter. I was seeing if I could replace butter with clean beef fat in cookies. The answer is a resounding NO…unless it’s mixed with molasses and ginger to cover the taste and made into wheat cookies for my husband.

Lately, I’ve also been talking more about my nutrition beliefs. I follow a strict Paleo diet now, which I have found cuts down on my anxiety AND keeps my weight under control. It started as a Whole30 challenge, and then just kept going. But a big part of this was that I read Salt, Sugar Fat at the same time I was reading It Starts With Food”, and I realized that my nutrition beliefs are now dovetailing with a set of political and commercially ethical beliefs.

This is because Paleo isn’t necessarily just about not eating grains, but about eating a “real food” diet, with no processed food. This means I am no longer funneling money to Philip Morris. I am no longer supporting food conglomerates that have bent the farm subsidy system and the USDA guidelines to create a profitable environment for themselves. I’m not going to go so far as to point out that the major food corporations also stand to profit, via the diet and health industries, from the epidemic of ill health they themselves created. But I am going to point out that none of the executives from that industry who were interviewed for “Salt, Sugar, Fat” would eat, or feed their families, their own products.

So I’m basically doing an ongoing “Occupy: My Own Damn Kitchen”. Yes, this takes a ridiculous amount of effort. But I’m no longer supporting a broken food system with my hard-earned dollars, and that makes me happy. Instead of paying for cheap ingredients someone else has processed, I’m paying for high quality ingredients that I will just process myself. I know I’m taking the best steps possible towards my husband and son’s health, AND I’m using my middle-class income to support food suppliers that have ethical practices.

And yes, I recognize that this is very much a first world problem, and a practice that only wealthy Americans with access to specialty food stores can engage in. I’m not advocating that every parent go bake organic cookies for their kids right this moment. But I am advocating that more parents consider what they are trading for the convenience of cheap packaged foods. If it takes me four minutes to cut up an apple and sprinkle some lemon juice on it, why the hell would I buy a pre-packaged fruit flavoured snack?

(And don’t even get me started on fast food. I don’t just avoid fast food with Ben because of the nutritional value. I can’t bear to set place in any fast food places because of their horrible employee pay standards and environmental practices. That, and the fact that most playgrounds in fast food restaurants are literally covered in poop)

Everyone has to make their own decisions on what nutrition is best for themselves and their kids, and how high a priority food and food prep is going to be in their lives. I’ve decided that I need to re-evaluate some of the commonly held values dictated by the USDA, because I’m getting suspicious that the food pyramid we all thought was healthy is actually determined by special interest groups (Actually, I KNOW the food pyramid is bullshit. Potatoes are not a vegetable in Canada. They’re a starch, dammit). In that process, I’ve started eating differently, and putting more effort into feeding my family differently, which in turn, requires me to remove my dollars from the corporations who are contributing to the waves of illness in America, and invest those dollars in food suppliers who match my ethical beliefs. Or, as I put it to Ben, “no one wants to eat a sad animal”.

And now, I must return to the kitchen. I have chili and cookies to finish.

day 18/30

I haven’t written about this because I wanted to get to the halfway point before posting about it, but I am currently participating in a Whole30 challenge. This is 30 days of strict Paleo: no grain, no legumes, no dairy, no sugar…and no alcohol. My goals for the 30 days are:

1) re-evaluate my relationships with food, and my emotional response to food. I have always been a terrible stress eater.
2) re-adjust my body to burn fat, not glucose, for fuel. I want my body go to my fat stores for fuel more often rather than telling me I need a carb-based snack to keep going.

I wasn’t sure that this was working until today. The first week, I was tired all the time, because I had pulled a lot of the easily digestible the carbs out of my diet, and wasn’t supplying as much glucose. I was replacing carbs with caffeine, which wasn’t a good idea, and wasn’t entirely working. I was also kind of in disbelief, because I didn’t think I had been eating that many carbs, but then I started noticing times when I would normally have eaten something: sushi, potatoes, extra servings of fruit, sugar-sweetened Kind bars, dried fruit, Greek yogurt. And I was checking those impulses more often. I also started checking my impulses to snack on sweet things at night, even on paleo approved things like berries with coconut milk, or an apple. And the foods I had been going to for stress eating, things like popcorn, chocolate, Pinkberry…all those things were suddenly completely off limits. If I get an impulse to stress eat now, I have to really think about it to find something to meet the craving, and usually, while I’m doing that, if I drink a cup of tea and distract myself, I can get past it,

But I was getting discouraged because I kept reading that I would get more energy shortly, and that I would feel much, much better by Week 2. That was NOT HAPPENING. A week and change in, I was still falling asleep at my desk, or on the subway, and I was struggling to climb stairs to my apartment at the end of the day. I was also discouraged because I was still ragingly hungry in the afternoons, and was counting down minutes to my 4pm snack every day. According to It Starts With food , the basis for the Whole30, I shouldn’t have felt that kind of blood sugar drop telling me to eat RIGHT now at 4pm after a week focused on protein, fat and vegetables.

But I kept going. It was hard, especially in social settings. When my team went to dinner with a vendor at an excellent restaurant, I couldn’t have the wine, or the amazing looking desserts. When my friends were here this weekend, I couldn’t drink with them, and when they had grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight, I had leftover kohlrabi slaw. But I kept going, because after the first ten days, every day, I felt a little bit better.

And then, finally, this week, I went back to energy levels I used to have to maintain with a steady routine of coffee and snacks. And at 4pm today, I wasn’t even hungry. I actually never ate an afternoon snack today (Ok, I had some fruit gelatin, but it was a lot less of a snack than I usually eat). And now I see this whole project coming to fruition, as my body adjusts it’s hunger cues, away from the usual time-based cues. The theory is that my body will now pull glycogen out of my fat stores, since it is getting used to burning fat, not glucose, for energy.
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This has, obviously, taken a huge amount of organization and planning. I am basically running my own meal service now, where I’m cooking and preparing in batches for the week, and setting aside pre-made meals for later in the week. A lot of this is inspiration from Well Fed, my new favorite cookbook, which explains a weekly cooking routine that works really well in our household. Also, the author of that cookbook is a former roller derby girl. I can get behind that.

But I actually really like eating this clean. I like knowing that every single bite I take is one made of the best components possible. I eat soup made with bone broth that I make by cooking bones in a slow cooker for days. I eat two servings of vegetables at every meal, with ethically raised protein and clean, healthy fats. Everything I eat is nutritionally dense food. And now more of what Paul and Ben eat is nutritionally dense as well. They may add rice to a broccoli, cabbage and chicken stirfry, or add bread to make a leftover roast beef sandwich (while I eat mine in lettuce wraps), or put cheese in their eggs, but they are still eating more foods that have really solid nutrition because they’re adding on to my planned meals. I even made Ben some lemon blueberry Paleo muffins, with eggs and coconut flour, which he loved, and which gave him three times the protein of his morning toaster waffles. I see my baby little boy eating foods that are what his tiny increasingly bigger body needs to get bigger, and I know, I’m doing the best I possibly can for him.

So now I’m on Day 18. I cook a lot, I eat a lot, but it all adds up to 1,500 calories a day or less. My nutrition is split fairly equally between carbs, protein and fat. Let’s see if this kicks off more fat burning. After all, I have a DietBet to win