Monday, March 22, 2010

On health and fitness and not going to the gym

Item #1: At some point in the near-ish future, Serdic and I are planning/hoping to at least start talking about starting a family (how's that for vagueness?).

Item #1a: This will not be until at least after he finishes school in August, and is gainfully employed again. However, as I am rapidly approaching my mid-thirties (I will be 34 this summer) it is something that we do not want to put off forever, even if we are not quite ready at this particular moment.

Item #2: I am not at this point in time healthy enough to consider pregnancy (in my own mind, I have not discussed this with a doctor or anything, just I know that my weight and general fitness are an issue and of course I want to be as healthy as possible not only for myself but for any hypothetical baby). I'm not even so much interested at this point in numbers on the scale or weight as general health and fitness. So taking items 1 and 1a into account, I have a few months here to make my health/fitness/weight a priority, and focus on getting myself into the best health possible to be ready when Serdic is done school to start talking about the next step.

Item #3: My eating habits have greatly improved over the last couple of years -- I still make some bad choices, but not nearly as many as I used to make. It helps that we are so rarely eating out these days, and sticking to the meal plan -- it makes eating healthy a lot easier!

Item #4: Where I really need to make some improvements, therefore, is in exercise. I sit all day at work, and now with the car I'm not even walking to and from the bus stop anymore. I have finally admitted to myself that I'm not going to get to the gym regularly. It's just not going to happen. I have a membership at Goodlife Fitness, which is a perfectly fine gym and one I would happily recommend to anyone, but when we moved to this part of the city we moved away from any convenient Goodlife locations. When I lived downtown there was a Goodlife where I changed buses during my commute, so I had no excuse and was pretty good about going on my way home from work two or three times a week. Now, not so much. Even with the car and the shorter commute, there just isn't one conveniently located. And I guess I could find a different gym that is more convenient, but paying the hundreds of dollars in start up fees that a new gym would want just isn't doable right now, especially since, honestly, I probably still wouldn't go often enough.

So, taking all the above items into account, what's a girl to do? Well, I can do little things like taking the stairs at work, or trying to go for a walk in the evenings, but those aren't the kind of major changes that I need to make to be more active (they don't hurt, of course, but I need more than that). A couple of weeks ago, however, a friend started posting status updates on Facebook (yay Facebook!) about these great online workouts she was doing. Being the curious type I am, I decided to check it out. What I found was a site called Goodlife Fitness at Home. You don't have to be a Goodlife member to use the site, but it's linked to them somehow, I guess. (Not sure how, as I believe Goodlife is a Canadian company, and most of these instructors appear to be based in, of all places, Denmark.) The site has dozens of exercise videos, about eight different varieties (pilates, yoga, aerobics, kick boxing, dance, etc.) and different lengths (5 mins up to 45 mins) and intensities (beginner, advanced, etc.). It's completely free, although the site is crammed with advertising (which is ok with me, given how much content is available that you would have to pay for elsewhere, and the videos themselves are ad free ... unless you count the Nike swoosh on the instructor's shirt!). You do have to sign up and make a profile, and there is a whole community aspect as well -- you can post pictures, give status updates and goals, "friend" people, etc. I've locked my profile down to completely private, as I'm not interested in that aspect of it, but it seems very Facebookesque for those who are interested.

So I dug out my old work out clothes and gave it a try. I do like the videos very much -- I like the instructors (not too perky!) and the kind of movement, particularly in the aerobics section. I also really like the convenience of doing it at home. I have settled into a routine of doing two of the five minute videos in the morning before work (usually aerobics and dance or kick boxing) and the longer videos a couple of times a week after work and on the weekends. I tried the 30 minute aerobics video for the first time yesterday, and was quite pleased with how well I kept up (it was the first time I had tried that length all in one go, although I had tried two different 15 minute ones back to back, but that included warm up and cool down in both, so it wasn't as intense for 30 minutes straight). Doing the short ones before work is particularly great for me, as I am never, ever, ever going to go to the gym before work, but a quick kick in the ass to get moving and get the blood pumping is perfect. I am finding a difference in my energy level -- after the mini-workout, coffee, and a shower, I'm ready to go in a way I wasn't before. (I'm also trying to eat breakfast regularly, which helps as well, I know.)

A side note -- we live in a top floor apartment with creaky floors, and one of the things that has stopped me from working out at home before was an awareness of our downstairs neighbours (not that they would have the same consideration for us, but two wrongs don't make a right). I have discovered, however, that the floor in the kitchen is not nearly as creaky, and is actually better for working out on than the hardwood elsewhere in the apartment, so with my new laptop I am able to do my workouts in the kitchen and everyone is happy. I did kick over a bag of potatoes the other day, though.

I haven't noticed any change in weight or fit of clothes, but it's only been a couple of weeks and a fairly slow start. Also, my scale is an old one and varies wildly within a ten pound range from hour to hour, so I think I may need to invest in a new one. I'm definitely feeling it in my legs and core, though, so I know the muscles are working and, hopefully, becoming stronger. And I feel good mentally -- excited and hopeful about making some changes and doing something about an issue that has been on my mind more and more over the last couple of years.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

As mentioned in my previous post, I am taking on more of the cooking responsibilities at home. Serdic still does the majority of the cooking, but I'm trying to branch out a little bit. I am not a very imaginative cook -- I can follow the recipe and recreate the dish competently, but I'm not good at improvising, or coming up with a meal without a recipe (something at which Serdic excels, by the way). One of my other issues is that I used to be a very picky eater, and while I still am to some extent I have really broadened my horizons in the last few years. A big part of that was when I lived in Denmark I forced myself to eat everything as I didn't want to be rude or difficult (and I am quite proud of myself that the only dish I didn't finish that entire year was the jellied eel), but also in the last few years I have been pushing myself to try new things, including things I didn't think I liked when I was a kid, and while there are of course still things I don't like it's surprising to me just how much is out there that I do like.

I have also realized that when I used to cook for myself before I met Serdic, I would cook very bland meals and rely on the salt shaker to make them taste better. Not exactly the most healthy choice! I realized after a few months of eating Serdic's cooking that I was rarely reaching for the salt anymore, and that was because he cooked much more flavourful meals to begin with. I still like my food salty (and chips remain my biggest weakness, while chocolate can sit on the table for months before it's eaten!) but I rarely add salt after the cooking process anymore. We also have discovered the joys of sea salt, in all its varieties, and use it almost exclusively now. A little pinch of that will do more to flavour a meal than a tablespoon of table salt!

So all that is just the lead in to what I really want to blog about, which is the fantastic meal I cooked (with Serdic's help as sous-chef!) for our dear friends Jay and Dee this past Sunday night. When Serdic left his job in January to go back to school several of his coworkers gave him a going away gift which included a nifty new cookbook: Bite Me. One of the recipes in there seems to have been crafted just for me, given how many of the ingredients are things I have learned to love over the last couple of years -- pasta with spinach, feta, sundried tomatoes, parmesan, and carmelized onions. I made it for us a couple of weeks ago and we loved it, so I decided it would be a good thing for a dinner party. It's not an easy recipe, as it involves a lot of ingredients and several steps, but the end result is worth it. I improvised (!) and added some chicken breasts (just baked in the oven with minimal seasoning as there are so many flavours in play already, then chopped up into bite sized pieces and added to the rest) to up the protein. I did a spinach salad to go with it -- kept it simple (again because I didn't want to add too many flavours) with spinach, dried cranberries (wanted pomegranate seeds, but no pomegranates to be had anywhere in Ottawa this week!) and red onion.

Dessert was planned based on the dishes. As a wedding gift Serdic's Grandma gave us a set of crystal trifle dishes, which are lovely, but not something we use on a daily basis. So I decided to choose a dessert we could serve in said dishes, as they're too pretty to just sit in the cupboard. I settled on chocolate mousse (this recipe, to be exact) and it was DELICIOUS. So yummy. Fresh raspberries and whipped cream to go on top, and had planned to drizzle Bailey's over the whole thing, but Serdic suggested instead mixing a splash of Bailey's into the whipped cream as it was whipping. Divine. Two thumbs up on that idea, let me tell you.

So by the time it was all said and done, I was pretty proud of that meal. The best part, of course, was getting to spend the evening with fantastic friends and having a nice long visit, something we have not been able to do a lot of recently. But the food was pretty damn good, too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Still alive out there?

So all the cool kids appear to be blogging again, and I am nothing if not a wannabe cool kid. So let's see ...

As usual, I haven't been blogging not because there is nothing to say, but because life moves so quickly these days and when I finally get a chance to stop and take a breath it feels like I've blinked and two months have gone by. So how has 2010 been shaping up so far? I guess the biggest change is that as previously mentioned Serdic has quit his job and gone back to school full time. So far we are coping pretty well on one income with not much adjusting -- there's a little less left over in the bank account at the end of the month, but we're not suffering too much (knock on wood).

We have been making a real attempt to rein in the spending in one area specifically -- we are not eating out very often and making a real attempt to make a weekly meal plan and stick to it. A lot of the time when we ate out or got take out before it was a "so what do you want to do about supper?" "oh, I don't feel like cooking, what do you want?" "let's just get Swiss Chalet" kind of exchange, and now we are challenging ourselves to stick to the meal plan. So far we are doing pretty well, I have to say. Part of that challenge is that I'm taking on more of the responsibility for cooking -- Serdic is such a good cook and I enjoy the food he prepares so much, so it was easy for me to get in the habit of just letting him take care of all the meal prep in our house, and get take out if he didn't want to cook. I have never been an adventurous or gifted cook (I would term myself "adequate" or perhaps "competent") but having been with Serdic for just over three years now (can it be?) I have broadened my horizons quite a bit and discovered a new enjoyment in being in the kitchen. I'm branching out a little bit, exploring some new ingredients and cooking styles, and I have to say that I'm pleased with the results. Serdic isn't complaining, either -- or at least I'm taking the nights he licks his plate clean as a good sign.

In other news, the belt hasn't been tightened all that much, as I will shortly be winging my way across the Atlantic for one last visit with PetDoc and Noise before they leave London for good in June. It's hard to believe that their two years are almost up, but I have to admit that I am thrilled they are coming home ... although losing the free place to stay in London is too bad! (I can't really complain, I have after all been to visit them three times in two years!) But having them home again with us will be even better. I'm really looking forward to this trip as I've done most of the really touristy things in London I want to do, so this time I can just relax and explore a little bit and, most importantly, spend some quality time with two of my favourite people in the world.

So that's a quick update on how things are going at Casa Double S. Life is grand, spring has sprung (knock on wood), and there are lots of good things to look forward to in the next few months. I'll try to keep more on top of the blog as the good things happen.