strategies, just in case

Returned to exercise class after being absent for 3 weeks. Luckily I can depend upon muscle memory; once the music starts it’s all about bumping and grinding to the rhythm. It takes a few minutes for my brain cells to fall in line, moving to the beat as one, with my body. But I know that in older age it’s going to take many more classes, as well as walking the track in the evenings, to peel off the pounds I put on while visiting my daughter. I made sure she ate well, unfortunately I partook of the same bounty. Because my husband and I share the same health concerns, it’s easier to return to a stricter diet, lots of veggies and fruits, much less carbs, absolutely no butter, and no snacking whatsoever. My daughter could afford to digress from her normal diet of salads, veggies, fruits and protein, because she exercises all day, every day.

I received a hearty welcome from Kristina, the instructor, as well as my exercise cronies. It’s nice to be missed. Quite a few ladies were absent from the group. But once the weather reaches down into the 40 degrees, the rest will return. Chilly weather correlates to heartier meals like soups and stews, while the holidays seem to give us carte blanche to overeat. Only when we’re sufficiently guilt-ridden, and have packed on enough extra pounds, do we make our way back to common sense, and exercise. So I’d better undo what I’ve already done, in preparation for what I’m about to do. Make sense?

After class, Kristina and I made our way to a charming coffee-house which I’d not been in before. The owners of the adjoining wine bar, Vino Bella, opened this deli which serves up breakfast and lunch sandwiches, in addition to espresso drinks. Will definitely return with my husband on the weekend to sample the food. Over lattes, Kristina and I chatted about topics ranging from politics to families. Of particular interest was her advice about bear encounters. She’s a fan of the great outdoors, having seen a fair number of wild animals while hiking. We decided that avid hikers learn not to panic, as well as what they should, and shouldn’t, do during encounters. My guess is that practice makes perfect. Problem is, I don’t want to practice meeting up with wild animals, in order to figure out how best to deal with them when I do. I would like NEVER to encounter a wild animal, period. But if I do, I’ll try to follow Kristina’s advice.

  • It’s her opinion, and others, that black bears are not as inclined as grizzlies to attack humans. In the rare case that a black bear does harm a person, there’s probably an extenuating circumstance. In the recent case reported on the local news, it was found that the bear was malnourished, and afflicted with parasites.
  • If I encounter a black bear (Kristina assures me there are no grizzlies in the area), I should not look it in the eye, I should not run. Both responses will trigger the bear’s defensive and predatory instincts. Instead she recommends I go limp, and “play dead,” covering my vital organs and head. I’ve seen this recommendation enacted in a TV documentary where the speaker slumped to the ground in a fetal position, hands cradling the back of his head, fingers intertwined. Kristina related the recent Yellowstone incident where 3 people were attacked by a bear. A woman who was bitten, screamed. The bear responded by biting harder; the woman screamed louder, and so on. Realizing she needed to change her strategy, she went limp, playing dead. The bear ceased biting her and, unfortunately, went after another person.
  • Kristina and I also discussed what I should do if I came across a cougar (or mountain lion), because they’ve also been seen in neighboring backyards. She enlightened me to the fact that, unlike black bears who subsist primarily on grass and berries, cougars are predators. Because they fear other predators, my best defense is to present myself as one, by making noise, swinging a rake or some other weapon, and even pulling my jacket or shirt up over my head to appear larger.

We hadn’t planned on discussing defense strategies should I come face-to-face with black bears or cougars, but I can never arm myself with too much information, just in case. I just hope  my brain’s muscle memory will go into automatic cruise control. It’s little consolation that while assuring me black bears don’t attack humans, Kristina admitted that on the rare occasion one does then, unfortunately, it must be that victim’s destiny. Okay…

A cousin of Kristina’s is here in the U.S. from his home in the UK. Like her, he’s an avid outdoors person. Since mid-July he has been hiking mountain ranges, making his way through  several western states. Kristina and her daughter have joined her cousin on some of his treks. He told them of 3 encounters he’d had with black bears, who all took flight at the sight of him. The speed with which they turned and ran, confirmed his knowledge that a human could never outrun a bear, so best not try. Through his binoculars he saw a grizzly with 2 cubs in a field, some distance away. That would still be too close for me, unless I was safely ensconced in a huge tour bus, surrounded by fellow travelers.

Like you I think bears and wild cats are cute, when they’re behind glass or across moats, in a zoo, or on the African plains, but not roaming around my neighborhood. And if you live where there isn’t the slightest  possibility that you’ll come eye to eye with a wild animal, then thank your lucky stars. I don’t mind co-habitation, as long as we’re not doing it in the same spot, at the same time.   

you never know, you just never know…hugmamma. (local news just reported black bear seen “hanging out in a grassy area” down the road from our neighborhood, same place where another one was hit and killed by a car last week. hmmm…we may have to build mocha an indoor bathroom. not sure i’ll be walking her anymore, unless it’s around the track in the gym.)

veggies and watermelon, quick and easy

I love to cook, probably because I love to eat. By the way my recent visit to the doctor bore good news, my muscle inflammation is at an all-time low, in the mid-200 range, 20+ points above the desired max. Unfortunately the bad news is that my cholesterol count is still too high, over 200. Statins are not an option because of my tendency toward muscle inflammation. So doc and I decided that I’d continue to focus upon dieting and exercising. I’ve done it before, 20 years ago when Weight Watchers and 4-mile walks contributed to a cholesterol reading of 162. But can I do it now when metabolism is on the down-swing, not on the up-swing, and looking at a peanut can pack on 10 pounds? Well, stay tuned…

Eating fruits and veggies is a conscious act, unlike savoring a slice of Hawaiian sweet-bread, slathered with butter, real butter, and chocolate peanut butter. There’s not as much crunch and fiber as the healthy stuff, but there’s a whole lot more mouth-watering, sensory overload, smooth-as-silk flavor. But never mind what I’d rather, here’s a tip for those lacking time and motivation to prepare the good-for-you stuff. Just figured this one out for myself, and I like its simplicity, versatility, and the taste’s not so bad either.

I purchased a prepared, large veggie platter from Costco for $9.99. At home, I distributed the veggies into quart-size storage bags. My bags contained sweet baby carrots, plump cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of broccoli, and another of cauliflower. A tub of Litehouse peppercorn ranch dip came with the platter. I munched on these assorted veggies randomly throughout the day, sometimes spooning a little (goes a long way) of the dressing on them. I also served the raw veggies as a side to a meal of chili. Finally, I tossed the broccoli pieces and cherry tomatoes in with salad greens along with other items like sliced almonds and blueberries. Then scooping a couple of tablespoons of the dip into a small bowl, I added a little water to thin its consistency. Pouring the homemade dressing over the salad contents, I combined them until everything was nicely coated. I do this with all creamy dressings so that we eat fewer calories, but enjoy the same mouthfuls of flavor.

For the price of individual packages of carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, not to mention a jar of dressing, the Costco platter was quite a savings. And there’s always waste in purchasing big bags of carrots, a carton of cherry tomatoes, a head of cauliflower, and a head of broccoli, as well as having half-empty bottles of dressings sit in the refrigerator for weeks or months or years. (I’m guilty of years’ worth of liquid dressings that have congealed beyond recognition. I’ve yet to toss some out.) Each one of the aforementioned, packaged items can run half, or higher, the price of Costco’s veggie platter. The convenience of not having to cut up the heads of broccoli and cauliflower is an added bonus, not to be downplayed when fast foods are more tempting than good foods.

Watermelon is a favorite of my daughter’s. I use to serve it up regularly for play groups at our house. Though it’s not so commonplace for us anymore, my husband and I are still fans when the fruit is in season, like now. I still dish it up as I did for toddlers, …oh so long ago.

I recently bought a third of a watermelon. I first sliced it crosswise into pieces we’re accustomed to eating. Then I slid the knife between the edible red portion and the pale green rind, cutting around the entire rim, separating the red from the green. Finally, I sliced lengthwise across each side of the red, juicy fruit, separating it into bite-size chunks. Leaving the fruit intact, we ate the chunks directly from the fruit “bowl.” With some adjustment the same method for cutting and eating can be done with whole or halved watermelons.

For those of you who bypassed the “hawaiian goodies” detailed in a previous post, this one’s for you…

bon,bon, bon appetit!!!…hugmamma.