Sunday, October 09, 2016

Obsessed with fungi

At Metea County Park this time.

(See the slug?)

And a white hickory tussock caterpillar (poisonous!)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More fungi

This time it was my son and I (and no dog), at Lindenwood Nature Preserve. Once in the dense woods, the traffic noises were far away, so even though the park is within the city, it was very quiet. Almost all the flowering plants were asters of one sort or another. Otherwise, it was fungus, fungus, fungus. Again, my phone camera was not quite up to the task, but the fuzzy pix we will describe as "arty".

After visiting a friend who owns a (mostly) English lab, I am leaning toward getting a dog, a puppy even. All my dogs up to this point have been mutts, mostly hound mixes, of limited intelligence. It might be nice to have a smart dog for a change. I've been waiting for the urge to go away, but so far, it has not. S/he would not be able to accompany me to Lindenwood, though, as no pets are allowed.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fall = fungi

My daughter, her dog Kingsley, and I took a walk at Kokiwanee Nature Preserve this morning, the first relatively cool day of this endless season. I had forgotten how great fall is for fungus spotting. Unfortunately, I had only my phone camera, which ordinarily takes halfway decent photos. Not so this time, maybe because the white of most of the fungi contrasted sharply with the surrounding detritus and it was an overcast day. A few pics came out okay, though.

I don't know much about mushrooms or fungus other than I can recognize the puffball. I'm too lazy to look up the rest. Or not interested enough, at least not right this minute.

I know a little bit about wild flowers. Above, we have goldenrod, below a (presumably native) hydrangea. There were also asters of various sizes and colors, jewelweed, boneset, lobelia.

Walking in the woods is definitely preferably to hoofing it around the addition or across a golf course. With more moderate temperatures, I will have to get out more. The great outdoors will be even better once the bugs are gone.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Interval training for walkers

Once upon a time, I averaged four miles an hour when I walked. This was based on a treadmill's calculation, but from experience, this seemed accurate. I even maintained this pace when shopping at the mall, embarrassing my then teenage children. It's not cool to walk briskly.

Then I aged. And picked up some sedentary hobbies. And grew lazy and complacent. Enter my Fitbit and RunKeeper, an app on my phone that tracks my outdoor exercise. Between the two, the fantasy that I was exercising enough was dispelled. The FitBit ticks off my steps, while RunKeeper coughs up all kinds of data, including miles/hour. The news was, four miles an hour was ancient history.

The NYTimes recently published an article headlined "1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion". As a retiree, one would think I had all the time in the world to exercise, but I don't. There are just too many other (more fun) things to do than slog around the neighborhood for an hour a day. So this article caught my attention.

While athletes have used interval training to improve performance, there were no scientific studies to support this practice. The NYTimes article described a study that not only supported interval training but also demonstrated that short bursts of intense exercise have benefits comparable to longer workouts. Hmmm.

I bought an elliptical trainer a while back. This was shortly before my month of illness, which interrupted my post-purchase motivation. Consequently, as is common with exercise equipment, the elliptical has been rather neglected.

After reading that NYTimes article, though, I started jumping on the machine and going hell-bent for leather, for (less than) a minute at a time. I don't do this every day, but often enough, apparently. Today, while walking the nabe (and perhaps spurred on by imminent rainfall), I neared the four mph mark for the first time in years. And my hips did not hurt while doing so.

I wouldn't recommend one-minute intervals of intense exercise as one's only activity. I will still walk, preferably outside, and do yoga and, if it ever snows again in these parts, cross country ski. But those bursts feel like they make a difference and are boosting my overall fitness. Not a bad cost/benefit ratio.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eat like a bachelor

When I first retired, I went on a cooking spree. All those recipes that pile up and never get tested got tested. And then suddenly, I was done. I discovered better things to do than cook and wash dishes.

Here is a typical day's worth of meals for me now:

Breakfast: (paleo) bacon and egg and vegetables, plus OJ
Lunch: meat and vegetables
Snack: popcorn with a little butter and Parmesan
Supper: yogurt, fruit, nuts
Bedtime snack: Cheerios, banana, nuts, milk

The source of my midday serving of meat is the freezer. I bake about eight boneless, skinless chicken thighs, then freeze them individually. Or I cook a 4-lb pork roast in the slow cooker and freeze that in individual sizes. Or I might fry up four quarter-pound hamburgers and freeze those. Or I eat a (paleo) hot dog.

The veggies are also cooked in batches, but not frozen. For example, I'll nuke a baking potato, but get three meals out of it. Or I'll cook a whole package of green beans or peas and eat them a serving at a time, until they are gone.

I don't mind eating the same thing for several days in a row. Since I live alone, there is no one else here to complain. And since I mix up the meats and veggies, it doesn't seem all that monotonous to me. It's just plain.

I do eat out two or three times a week, usually at Panera or Freshii or Penn Station or Culvers or even McDonalds, so rest assured I am getting some SAD (Standard American Diet) food stuffs, too. Today I went wild and crazy and substituted a ciabatta roll and cheddar cheese for my snack and supper. I even had a beer last Saturday, with Lays potato chips and a Snickers bar.

So now I have a kitchen full of equipment that rarely sees the light of day. If I were downsizing, most of it would probably go, but there is a chance that some time in the next 20 years, the cooking bug will resurface. I still make my own yogurt, after all.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Is email passe?

I used to be rather anal about email, constantly checking it, responding quickly when necessary, cleaning out the detritus with regularity. At some point, I segregated my friends and family to a gmail account while preserving my yahoo one for everything else. Notifications are turned on for both, but only the gmail one is audible.

Maybe it is because I am retired, but I barely pay attention to the yahoo account anymore except for notices of bills that are not paid automatically. I try to unsubscribe when possible, but a lot of junk just keeps showing up. Instead of dealing with it, I ignore it. The inbox is beginning to look like I am deceased.

Texting, however, is alive and well, at least on my phone. In many ways, it has replaced email, just as email replaced phone calls. Anything that helps eliminate the need to actually talk to a living person is okay by me.

Is FB passe, too? My FB friends do nothing but repost other posts or post links to articles, videos, quizzes, games, etc. When FB started showing me everything each of my FB friends "liked", I found it overwhelming. So I stopped "following" almost all my friends and even some family members. I can still visit their pages and see if there is anything worth knowing (rarely is there), but at least my news feed is relatively clear. I would quit FB altogether, but for the groups and businesses that make use of it.

I do Instagram and Twitter, intermittently. I especially like taking Twitter surveys, to let them know I did not notice any of the ads at all. I know there are other, more recent social media sites out there, but I think I've reached my quota. Besides, there are so many other, more interesting things to do. Like make chalk art with my g'daughter.

Monday, March 28, 2016

And I was doing so well!

I was so proud (and smug) about how I continued to exercise outside this winter, and then along came March. And a virus of some sort, that laid me low for a week or so. And then the worst cold I have had in decades (thanks, g'daughter!), which is on day 17 and finally loosening its grip. I missed the last two yoga classes from the winter session, then spent most of the two weeks in between sessions prone on the couch, so no, no walking occurred. The new session started last week, and I was able to drag myself through both classes, but just barely. I may have to rethink my lackadaisical attitude toward flu shots - if I got the flu, I might be down for a month. Unacceptable.

However, I did manage to binge watch all seven seasons of "Nurse Jackie". Gah - what a cautionary tale!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Keep moving

After a brief period of hibernation, something (pants too tight?) got me out and about this winter. Almost every morning, I go for a long walk, outside, regardless of the weather, which recently has been schizophrenic. Some days are springlike, others bitterly cold, but so far, none have been absolute deal breakers. The trick is to hit the road early, before the wind picks up. Then even 2 degrees (F) is tolerable, provided one dresses for the weather one has, not the weather one wants.

Product plug: This winter I invested in some wonderful long underwear, purchased from Vermont Country Store. The dual-layer set has cotton on the inside and a merino/cotton/nylon blend on the outside. They provide a yummy level of comfort even in the coldest weather.

I confess to being a calorie counter again. My calorie counting app (MyFitnessPal) is linked to my Fitbit and to Runkeeper. When I exercise, I earn extra calories, which is surprisingly motivating. I still consume a bit too much, so the weight loss has been disappointingly glacier. However, I have lost some inches, so while my pants are still too tight, they are now less so.

I have my usual solo routes around the neighborhood, but sometimes I enlist the help of others. My SO and I have been mall walking twice a week, in the afternoon. We have found that, by ourselves, we can barely stand one circuit, but with company, two laps pass quickly. Then we reward ourselves with iced Americanos at Barnes and Noble.

I am not above inviting my daughter and granddaughter along for a hike in the woods. I also purchased an eliptical machine, to exercise those muscles that are neglected because I live in a ranch-style house (no stairs). My granddaughter can pedal circles around me on that thing. Even on a playground, she goes non-stop at full speed while I trail along, trying just to keep an eye on her. The energy of a five-year-old is inspiring... me to take a nap.

The best thing about getting the bulk of my 10k steps in early is I can make an ass dent in the couch for the rest of the day, while I knit or read or watch TV, without (too much) guilt.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Multi-directional cat





Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Habits of the heart

Last night I took refuge in the three gems: the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha. This annual ritual that involves some chanting and tying a red knotted string around one's wrist is as formal as my meditation group gets. I debated whether to do this, decided I would attend the session regardless, then went through with it. Right now my reaction is "meh".

Don't get me wrong. I will continue my meditation practice and attend sangha when I can, maybe even take in a retreat sometime. It's the ritual that leaves me unmoved. Too churchy, I guess.

(An interesting aside: Attendance last night was up. The first meeting of the year attracted some peripheral members who are not on the mailing list and who don't attend often enough to know what was planned. They were nonplussed to say the least.)

In The Barn at the End of the World, author Mary Rose O'Reilley spends a month at Plum Village, where someone addresses her struggle with the precepts by describing them not as commandments, but as "habits of the spirit". She also defines the precepts differently, making them more resonant with her life. I've done the same:
  • To the best of my ability, I will develop the habit of compassion for all life.
  • To the best of my ability, I will develop the habit of contentment and sharing.
  • To the best of my ability, I will develop the habit of responsibility in all relationships.
  • To the best of my ability, I will develop the habit of listening mindfully and speaking kindly.
  • To the best of my ability, I will develop the habit of health.
These "goals" don't meet the criteria of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-related). In fact, they are vague, loose, idealistic, cosmic, and open-ended. And that is okay. I know what they mean to me today; their intent may change with time and context. And that is okay, too.

Besides, the precepts are preferable to my usual resolutions of eat less, exercise more, and keep a cleaner house. And probably more achievable.