Sunday, July 22, 2012

Helmet head

I bought my first bike helmet last weekend. I've never worn one.

Thing is, there weren't bike helmets when we were kids doing wheelies and riding around without holding onto the handle bars. We wiped out, sure. Got scraped up, bled a little, maybe even broke an arm. But I guess we were lucky; no one I knew sustained a head injury.

But I knew I probably should wear one. I had been pushing the envelope whizzing down the area bluffs on my granny bike. I don't know if a bike helmet is really going to help much if I catapult over a guard rail and slide down an embankment, but at least my head might not crack open. That is, if I have the helmet on right. Which I found out isn't all that easy.

So last weekend I went to Walmart to buy a helmet. I picked out the cheapest one I could find in my favorite color, periwinkle. As soon as I got home, I decided I'd test it out and go for a spin on granny bike. I cut the tags off and looked at the directions.

The first line read: PROPER FIT IS CRITICAL TO HELMET PERFORMANCE. Boy, I better do this right. I read on.

1. Put the helmet on. I got that part.

2. Adjust the side straps.  The directions said you could adjust each strap in front and behind the ear for a more custom fit. This stumped me. The front strap pulled my eyebrows to the side so that I looked like I had a bad face lift.  And the back straps were so loose they'd flap in the wind. I fiddled with the straps until I was ready to throw the helmet across the room. Finally, I enlisted Dave's help. He easily moved the straps into the right position. I moved on to the next step.

3. Adjust the chin strap. I was to make sure the strap fit snugly against the throat. Make sure the buckle is flush against the skin under the chin and that when you open your mouth, it is snug on the chin and hugging your head. Okay, this really presents a problem to those of us who are older and have loosey goosey skin under the chin.

I was afraid I was going to get the stretchy neck skin pinched in the buckle. I looked in the mirror. I tried to pull the skin back with one hand while I fastened the lock in place with the other hand. Problem here too. I couldn't see and had to get my cheaters.  I was starting to get a really bad headache.

Finally, I got the helmet fastened. The helmet was loose. It easily moved back and forth when I turned my head. I had a vision of myself taking a spill down the Norwegian Hill, the helmet jerking my head back, and me being strangled in the straps.

I started over with step 1.

After 45 minutes, bad words, and a full-blown headache, I had the thing in place. I think I had the PROPER FIT.

I sighed, took the helmet off, and went to taste test wedding cakes in the kitchen with Matt and Paige. I really didn't want to go for a bike ride anyway.

P.S. Maybe I should go for this kind of helmet. No kidding. It's for real. Inflates on impact. Might be the solution, if I can figure out how to put it on.

Read more:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's Greek to me

All of these were in my fridge. Yes, I love yogurt.
Greek yogurt is the thing. I've been the skeptic. I figured it was a marketing ploy to charge $1.19 for a six-ounce container or $6 for a quart ($9.59 at the Good Food Store). Rip off.

See? Only milk.
I have my own yogurt that I love, love, love. I buy Dannon Low Fat Vanilla yogurt by the quart. It has saved my butt (literally from getting bigger) when I'm craving dessert. Dannon plain or vanilla has recognizable ingredients. Milk.
Uccky, gunky yogurt

Most other kinds (including the cheap Greek brands) have weird gunk in them like carrigeen and guar gum. (What the heck is guar gum it even natural? Is it from a guar tree?)

But finally I caved and bought Greek. I saw Fage Greek at Aldi's. I tried it and I admit it was quite wonderful. Still expensive though, even at Aldi's. I decided to make my own.

Found out the only thing that makes Greek yogurt Greek is that it's strained. The whey separates from the solid part. Whey is the watery stuff.

Anybody can do this.  Use good yogurt; gunky won't work. Stick a coffee filter into a colander and place it over a bowl. Dump in the yogurt and put it the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Keep it in longer and it gets thicker. Voila! Greek yogurt--nothing short of glorious.

The other way is to make it from scratch. I used to make yogurt when my kids were little. They loved eating it with a little little freezer jam mixed in. Only thing it was kind of runny. I decided I'd try again but strain it after it had set in the fridge overnight.

You need just milk and a couple tablespoons of good quality plain yogurt for the starter (like Dannon, Fage, or Old Home). You can use nonfat. But I use low fat which makes a less tart yogurt,  is yummier and only a few calories more. A good bargain, I'd say.

Making yogurt is kind of like doing a science experiment. Not really time consuming once you get the hang of it. Just putzy.  Here's the best set of directions I found.

I made two quarts. Both are already gone. I ate it all, I admit, in a few days. I eat it with fresh berries. Sometimes I add a little vanilla, honey or sliced almonds. It's so good, I could weep.

I promise, if I keep blogging, I won't make this into a foodie blog. There are enough good ones out there with amazing pictures and awesome layouts. My photographs are more the point-and-click variety and my layout is the basic template from Blogger. My skills are limited.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Tale of Kale

Last week Paige and I met with the florist to decide upon flowers for the wedding.  The florist suggested several flowers that would work nicely with the wedding colors. She also gave a few options for greenery around the bouquets and boutonnieres. She asked, "Have you thought about kale?"

Ironically, yes, I had thought about kale.  Up until an incident a few years ago, I can safely say that I had never given a thought to kale. Like if there was a list of any manner of random subjects that I would never have occasion to think about--Nascar, men's Brylcreem hair cream, three-toed sloths--kale wouldn't even make it to the bottom of the list.

I really didn't even know what kale was. I had a very vague recollection of being in a restaurant when I was young and being served something green and wilty beneath a square piece of lemon-lime jello with shredded carrots. I remember tearing off a small piece of the green stuff and then spitting it out into a napkin. I think I spit out the jello as well. (Only in Minnesota would a restaurant serve grated-carrot jello.)

But I do think of kale now--admittedly more than I care to. Here is the story of how I came to ponder kale.

Awhile back I worked in a position where I served customers on a one-to-one basis.  My work was similar to a hair stylist's. It required me to make conversation with a total stranger for a good half hour.

It's amazing where a topic of conversation can go when talking with customers. Especially when the customer is another woman. There are so many things to discuss--the whole gamut of fertility: pregnancy, childbirth, nursing babies, perimenopause. Husbands. And, aging: what's with the stretchy thing under my neck? (All subjects, I realize, that I've covered in my ongoing blog which I keep saying I am going to quit writing.)

But there was one conversation I had with a particular customer that took a very different turn.

I don't remember her name, and if I did, I wouldn't share it. But I'm certain her name wasn't Lenore. So that is what I will call her: Lenore. Lenore told me she was recently retired. An attractive woman, she was well groomed, very put together.  In other words, reasonable and sane looking. No signs of craziness at all.

It was the week after Thanksgiving. She sat down at my station. To get the conversation rolling, I asked if she had gone anywhere for the holiday. Lenore said it had been a very different Thanksgiving, just her and her husband.  She said they didn't have turkey. They had ham. I responded, "Oh, ham would be good."

"Yes," Lenore said. "And, we had kale." I politely said, "I see."

She began to tell me a bit about kale. She was getting her husband to eat it. Lenore said he was getting healthy. She didn't say he was exercising more or that he had cut down on his fat intake. Just that he ate kale.

She leaned over and whispered somewhat conspiratorially, "Not too many people know what kale is." I asked if it wasn't the thing that garnishes grated-carrot jello squares.

Oh, yes, Lenore, told me. Kale is indeed a garnish. But it was so much more. After Thanksgiving, she informed me, she made a split-pea, ham and kale soup. Oh. There you go, I thought. That's a way to make kale. Not that I was ever going to do it. But now I knew you could. In case I was ever asked.

She told me other ways to prepare it: in salads, steamed, sauteed, chopped, baked. She told me where you could get it. You could find it at Walmart, but it really is better at HyVee.  Her favorite place, though, was at the farmer's market in the summer.

I thought that I had heard all that I was going to hear about kale and decided to change the subject. I asked her if she and her husband had kids. She said they did. Two. Both grown and married. And, they ate kale. Their spouses did too. She had grandchildren. I had a pretty good hunch what was coming. Sure enough, her grandchildren all liked kale. In fact, they loved it. Sometimes they even packed it in their school lunches.

By now, I was feeling challenged to see if I could divert the conversation from kale all together. I asked where her children lived. One, lived in Colorado. "Did you know, kale is really popular in Colorado? Not so much in Minnesota. But people eat it all the time in Colorado."

I sighed and cut my eyes to the clock on the wall. I wondered how much longer I had with this woman and her kale stories. But, to be polite, I asked about her other son. He lived in Germany with his wife. They were both professors there.

Okay, here was an in-road. I was going to get her off the kale. I asked if she had ever visited them.

She had, in fact, last spring.

Now, if you had visited Germany, wouldn't you think there would be a ton of things to discuss?  I don't know, I've never been there, but like, cultural differences, hostels, wienerschnitzel?

No, Lenore had a one-track kale mind. She began to tell me about the wonderful farmer markets in Germany. I held my breath. She continued. They went every day they were there and bought huge, beautiful bundles of kale, not at all like the small bundles that you got in America.

I asked if they did anything else while they were in Germany. She told me they took a trip too to France. Now, I don't even have to tell you. You know where this is going. The French eat kale by rolling it up and drizzling it in olive oil with a squirt of lemon juice. They had a special name for it too, which she shared with me, and which I tried to quickly forget.

Finally, we were done. We had talked about kale for 45 minutes.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I never thought about kale. In fact I didn't flippin' care about kale. But after my encounter with Lenore, I find that I cannot escape it. I see kale in the lettuce section at Walmart, at the farmer's market, featured in magazine articles. In fact, last week I saw it in Section D in the newspaper.

And, now, kale will even be making an appearance on the altar, front and center, at our daughter's wedding.

What the kale?

Kale picture:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Here's the skinny on this

I happened to see Bob Harper's book, "The Skinny Rules." I didn't buy it. Someone else did.

In any case, I wasn't terribly interested in reading it. I've read enough books on weight loss in my life to make me want to spit. None of them helped me lose weight, or if they did, it was for the short-term. I'd gain it back, feeling even more defeated.

After most of my adult life struggling with my weight, I finally figured out how to lose the fluff on my own--not with the help of someone telling me what to do and making  money off my fat. I wrote a whole blog about the journey--my foibles and attempts to finally lose the weight and keep it off. Losing It-A mom's story of weight loss and transformation

After no longer being on the rollercoaster ride for a few years now, I am not tempted to read weight loss books or magazines with titles like Lose 23 Pounds in 31 Days! on their covers.

But, since I like Bob Harper and do one of his workout videos, I picked up the book. I perused the rules on the contents page. Bang! These are same things that I've been doing and found that works. I feel just a little bit gratified, I admit.

I haven't read the whole book, and probably won't, but I've scanned portions. And I gotta say, "yep, that's true " to almost everything I've read so far.

Bob Harper doesn't have the patent on what it takes to be healthy, but I think he is right on in his book. If you don't want to invest in it, order it from the library.

It debunks some popular myths and makes sense. Not that there's an easy fix. You have to make permanent changes in your behavior. But being at a healthy weight is doable. And you can get to the place that you are (as Bob says) "someone who can not only resist all the jumbo colas and supersized fries that get waved in front of our noses, but not even feel tempted by them."

Check it out:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dressing for the Mob

Paige announced last night that she and Matt would be married in exactly four months. All of a sudden I feel a twinge of panic. Four months isn't so far away. I'm thinking we should be panicking because we're not panicking.  We should be, right? We're so relaxed chillaxed about the whole thing, it feels wrong.

Maybe it's because everyone asks, "So, how are the wedding plans coming?" Umm. Fine. I think. And then the next question, "Are you stressed?"  Umm. No. Should I be?

The fact that they mentioned this though makes me feel like we must be missing something. But we just did one daughter's wedding, so it's not like we don't know how these things go.

We can check off church, venue, pastor, DJ, photographer, bride's dress, bridesmaid dresses, engagement pictures. We're meeting with the florist, and Amber's making the invites. What are we missing?

It's the MOB dress. Because that's the other question. "Have you found your dress yet?"

I don't know why getting the mother-of-the-bride dress really is such a big deal. But if you look at any wedding site, there is always a whole section for what is appropriate for the mother of the bride and groom to wear.

Mother-of-the-bride dress, aka prom dress for the middle-aged
When I was shopping for our first daughter's wedding, most of the mother dresses looked like grandma dresses. Or prom dress for the middle-aged.

Kind of hideous. In pastel shades with names like "moss" or "choral," they're made of heavy polyester. And, they're hot. Not hot as in your-mom-is-a-hottie. But hot as in I'm-getting-a trickle-of-sweat-running-down-the-inside-of-my-pantyhose.
The other extreme. The Queen Mother of the Bride
Not the look for the MOB

I got lucky with Amber's wedding. I scored with the first and only dress I tried on. I saw the perfect one online at Nordstrom's for $298. I found it at Penney's for $98. There was just one left in my size, half off. With my $10 coupon, I snagged it for $39. I loved that dress. It was short, simple, and I didn't get a trickle of sweat running down my leg.

The first time around
This time around it's going to be tougher. I guess dress manufactures have recognized that mothers don't exactly want to look like the Queen Mother. It's gone the other direction. Online you see dress descriptions like "curve-hugging jersey and spandex sheath flatters and bold scooped neckline leads into a deep back for an alluring hint of skin."

Spandex? Curve hugging? Alluring skin? Flattering? ...Serious?

Good grief. What 50-year-old woman has the right to wear a spandex dress, let alone to her daughter's wedding?  There are just two rules for the mother of the bride: 1) don't be trashy, and 2) don't make a scene.

I'm going for something that won't be embarrassing. After all, it's the bride's day. Our beautiful daughter is marrying her best friend. He's a wonderful man who cherishes her. We love him and couldn't be happier.

On Paige's day, I'm going to be her cheerleader. And, I won't be wearing spandex.


P.S. I still haven't come up with a new name for my blog. But I did finally get a check from Google for their advertising.  I figure that I've netted approximately 12 cents an hour blogging for the last two years.

Pink dress from: