Back in Florida Now

I like to run/walk the trails in a park that has that old Florida feel. Plus it has hills, which is a rare find in the sunny flatland that is Florida.

I like to run/walk the trails in a park that has that old Florida feel. Plus it has hills, which is a rare find in the sunny flatland that is Florida.

I’m back in the Tampa Bay area now. I’ve been here for about 2 months. I resisted buying new running shoes at first, but I finally drove over to the American Running Company in Clearwater and bought a pair of Asiscs. I tried on a pair of Brooks, but was hesitant to get them because the tongue is loaded with extra memory foam and it was kind of irritating the top of my foot. I have high arches, so finding a pair of shoes is quite the fiasco. I decided to stick with the old standbys because they were cheaper.

My new shoes pretty much match anything.

My new shoes pretty much match anything.

Since I’ve been gone, I’ve noticed that at least two of the parks I used to frequent now charge $2.00 per day to park! I honestly believe that the park system is trying to discourage people from using the parks. I have no idea where this business model came from, but I wish it would go away.

However, the park with the old Florida feel doesn’t charge to park and as an added bonus, the park has an abundance of hills, which is a real treat.  My legs are already starting to look better.

This little guy lives in the lake. He is not a threat to humans, so don't freak out if you see him.

This little guy lives in the lake. He is not a threat to humans, so don’t freak out if you see him.

The other day, on two separate occasions, I saw an alligator swimming alone in the lake. People frequently go fishing in the lake and last year I even saw some guy gunning his cigar boat like a maniac. It’s quite the lively little park, especially on Saturday mornings.

Fortunately, I landed a sweet gig selling Medicare, so while I’m in training and building my business, my run/walk schedule will be disrupted. Since it is unrealistic to even consider going outside to exercise after 8:00am, I am considering buying a monthly pass to a local gym. The problem is that I don’t like going to gyms and I find treadmills to be tedious at best. Once I establish myself, I’ll revisit my schedule and establish some sort of routine.

 

 

Back on the Hamster Wheel Again

(Wow! I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything here since 2012.)

I'm back on the low-fat, gluten-free, vegan hamster wheel again and I feel soooo much better.

I’m back on the low-fat, gluten-free, vegan hamster wheel again and I feel soooo much better.

I’ve been off of sugar, wheat and dairy for almost 4 months now. I fell off the hamster wheel a few times, but got right back on again the following day (or two). Although, I haven’t seen a reduction in weight, I’m able to concentrate and be more productive. I’ve got several projects going in addition to working a demanding full time job.

My goal is to continue to get up every morning at 4 AM (ish) write until 6:00 AM, then when I come home from work, continue to work on less mentally taxing projects, while my food is cooking. Now my challenge is where do I fit in exercise? So I got this idea, based on a productivity tool called the Pomodoro technique, I decided to flip it. Work for 25 minutes and then, exercise for five. As a writer, I spend too much time sitting on my kester. The trick is to incorporate it into my lifestyle.

I’m always full of ideas, some great and some admittedly not so great, so I’m going to give this flipped Pomodoro technique a try. Today I have on my flamenco shoes and I’m watching my favorite flamenco DVD at 0.6 speed so I can follow the dancers movements. It’s lots of fun. For me, I think the trick will be to keep things from getting too repetitive and boring. I think I’m going to see about downloading some new farruca footwork for later use. Now where’s’ my USB stick?

Links to free Pomodoro apps for the Mac:

http://tomato-timer.com/
http://www.marinaratimer.com/
http://pomodorotechnique.com/timer/
http://www.marinaratimer.com/uRkWxqIt

A Pomodoro technique primer

http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730

A Flexible Gluten Free Quick Bread Recipe

Gluten free quick bread is a forgiving recipe, especially if you’re just starting out on a gluten free life journey.

Please remember that I’m in China and some ingredients that I was used to back home  just aren’t available here. For instance, normally I would use blue agave nectar instead of sugar. Unfortunately, that product is nowhere to be found, so I have to use sugar or honey instead, but if you have access to agave nectar, then by all means please use it.

Regarding gluten free flour, one of the fantastic things about China is that you can take your little bags of millet, brown rice or whatever over to this little kiosk in the center of the grocery store. There, they will grind it up for you. From my understanding, they don’t use the grinder to grind wheat. They use it for other ingredients, which I’m not particularly familiar with. However, if you are a true Celiac survivor, then you will have to make some hard choices about what is acceptable for you and want isn’t.

As an egg replacement, I prefer to use ground flax seeds mixed with a bit of water. Why flax seeds? Well, sometimes it’s difficult to get my hands on apple sauce. It’s considered an imported luxury here. With that being said, tofu is plentiful and cheap here. I just haven’t whacked up the courage to use it yet. Although I do have a cozy little memory of making some tofu carrot muffins when I lived in St. Pete, FL. That was a long time ago, pre-internet days. I have since lost that recipe, but I may try to find it online somewhere and try it out again at some point in the near future.

Ingredients:

300 grams of flour – I prefer millet flour, but I’ve been known to break it up into random ratios based on what I have on hand. The important thing to remember is the ratio of flour to starch, which should be about 60 percent starch to 40 percent flour.

400 grams of starch – Yeah, yeah, I know it isn’t exactly 60 percent, but it’s close enough for our purposes. As far as starch goes, I’m lucky enough to have lots of choices, but I usually stick to my favorites, sweet potato starch and plain ‘ol potato starch, although I have a bag of pea starch in my pantry. It sounds exotic, doesn’t it? The thing is that I doubt it will taste exotic. It is just starch after all.

Egg replacement – Click here for a compressive list of vegan egg replacement options.

3 tablespoons of oil – I like to use rice bran oil. It’s plentiful and cheap here. Also, it has a nice neutral taste and does well when exposed high heat. (I also use it as skin moisturizer. I’ll blog more about that at some later point.)

1 cup of sweetener – As mentioned previously, I prefer agave nectar, but unfortunately I don’t have access to that ingredient in Chengdu. Maybe some specialty import shop in someplace like Shanghai or Beijing may carry it…

1 and a half tablespoons of guar gum – One popular website suggests:

Cake, muffin and quick bread recipes: Add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup of gluten-free flour used.

You can follow their suggestion if you want, but some people have reported gastrointestinal upset after using guar gum and xanthan gum in their gluten free recipes. So far, using only a teaspoon and a half of guar gum has been fine as far as this particular recipe is concerned. And I’m happy to report that I haven’t suffered from any gastrointestinal discomfort at that level of usage and if appears that the recipe hasn’t suffered either.

1 and a half teaspoons of baking powder – Of course, I use the aluminum free type of baking powder. Fortunately, we have an import store here that carries it.

1 and a half (or more) cups of liquid – I usually use water, but you can use whatever vegan alternative you chose. I’ve been known to use rice milk/soy milk/almond milk and orange juice in my recipes. It’s really up to you and whatever you have on hand at the moment.

Optional flavoring choices – As always, you can add vanilla extract or any other extract your little heart desires, but for a period of time, I was unable to lay my hands on a bottle of vanilla extract. Guess what? I didn’t miss it.

Recently, I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar  on top of the quick bread just prior to placing it in the oven and it turned out great. That was the time I mashed up two bananas and threw it into the recipe, which by the way,  isn’t such a bad idea if you are going to go light on the guar gum.

I’ve also added cardamom to the basic recipe. That resulted in a very tasty,  light flavor.

So you get the picture, right?  Optional flavorings are only limited by your imagination.

Directions:
Mix the dry ingredients together until they are thoroughly mixed together and the color is uniform in appearance.

Then add the wet ingredients. A word of caution, if you don’t want the batter to come out all lumpy, mix the wet and dry ingredients together with a whisk. The result will be velvety a smooth batter.

Place a bit of oil in your pan and wipe it thoroughly with a clean paper towel.  Now you’re ready to pour the batter into the pan.

Place it in a preheated oven, set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes. Keep an eye on it. When you poke the center with a fork and it comes out clean, it’s done.

Staying in Touch…

The baby bird is all grown up now and has left the nest, now the mama bird has to figure out what to do with the next phase of her life.

I’m an empty nester. I’ve blogged about it before. It’s no secret.

My son moved back to FL last July and I’m still here in Chengdu.  Thanks to Skype, I can keep in touch with my him. I’m thankful that. I can talk to him and be a part of this phase of his life. It’s not easy being so far away, especially when Skype isn’t cooperating, but it’s better than nothing. And frankly, if I couldn’t communicate with him on a regular basis, it would be very difficult.

I’m sure that as time goes by, I’ll get used to being an empty nester and eventually come to enjoy it. I’m not there yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially since, I’ve been mulling over my options regarding my future teaching assignment.

So far I’ve considered: Tunisia, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Dubai and Kenya.

I’m still waiting for a few more documents so, my application profile on TIE isn’t quite complete yet. I’m not looking forward to the interview process. In fact, it’s my least favorite thing to do, besides move…

Update:

Well, I flunked an interview for a school in Egypt. No worries. It was my first interview since 2006, s0 instead of beating myself up over it, I just jotted down a few notes on what NOT to do for the next interview. A few weeks later, I had another  interview via Skype. This time it went much smoother. Skype was cooperating and it went well. In fact, if I had to grade myself,  it would have been a B+ and just to make a long story short, I got the j0b!

Greasy Pink Icing and a Whole Lotta Hurt

Chun Mei warmed the creme under the heat lamp before applying it to my legs.

See the ridges? The gloves have little nibs on them.

You may or may not be able to see it here, but the runner gloves she has on, have little nibs on them, so in addition to getting my legs all beat up, the skin is also getting a workout from the little nibs.

The creme she uses is a pretty pink color. It looks like greasy strawberry icing.

Apparently, I must like pain, because I went through a whole lotta hurt yesterday. Chun Me talked me into to trying something new. As you may or may not know, I have restless leg syndrome (RLS), it has gotten to epic proportions just recently after returning from Nanjing. I mean, it was still a problem before that, but it was manageable.

Anyway, since the problem escalated this summer, I found myself becoming denser and denser withe each passing day of insomnia. I’m not kidding. Don’t laugh. I literally could feel my IQ slipping. It was an intelligence thing and my brain wasn’t functioning up to full speed. Also, I was having visual disturbance on top of that. The poor quality of sleep I was receiving was causing my eyes to go all wonky too. It was reminiscent of my early years.

Dyslexia was rearing its ugly head again. The words were swimming and dancing on the page. I didn’t freak out about it, because I knew that one night of quality sleep would fix it, but for weeks and weeks that one good night of quality sleep eluded me, until it felt like my head had turned into a concrete block, unable to think clearly and problem solve on a dime.

The worst part of it all was the creative, lightning fast epiphanies I used to have all the time were gone. Gone! And I was left a stupefied mess, dully clinging to a washed out colorless view of the world that left me feeling, well, rather depressed.

The good news is that now I have hope. I’m hoping that this more aggressive treatment will solve the RLS problem and I can go back to getting a good nights rest and be on top of my game. Well, on top of it as I can be, for me that is.

Taming of the Frizz

Mike is probably one of the few hair dressers in Chengdu that knows what to do with my hair. He always does a fantastic job. My hair was an out of control mess when I walked in.

Mike wanted to get my profile.

After the scalp massage and special hair treatment, my wild tresses were under control.

 

After getting an aggressive massage on my legs by Chun Mei, I decided to follow through on my original plan and get my hair cut. I’m glad I did because Mike was there.

I got some sort of hair treatment that got my hair under control, however, I still like the curls, just not the frizz. We’ll see how it goes in the morning.

The shampoo girl spent like a half hour massaging my scalp. Mmmmm…that felt good.

Here’s Hoping…

I’m hoping for nothing but the best for my Aussie friend and his Chinese wife.

I probably ran about 3 quarters of a mile the day before yesterday and about the same this morning. I thought today was going to be a washout, but I went back to sleep and when I got aback up it had quit raining.

I bought a new pair of Asics 2170 on Saturday. My shoes wear out every other month. I can always tell because my knees complain. I must have let it go far too long because it took a few hours for my lower extremities to adjust to to the pronation support of the new shoes.

Unfortunately, I have to wear men’s shoes here in China. They actually have my size in women’s at Decathlon, but they are made for Chinese feet and the toe box is too small.

The campus is all but deserted now, so I was able to run without the gawk squad, however, I did see my Aussie colleague come home from a beer run at 10:00 AM.

His wife is pregnant. I think he’s really stressed, as last year he broke up with her, swearing never to reunite. Then a few months later they were back together again, which isn’t really surprising, but now she’s pregnant. They got married in a hurry.

I spoke to him briefly at Friday night’s BBQ. He seemed kind of  sullen. I assured him that it was OK not to be excited about the baby, because men can’t relate to babies until they are old enough to pick up a ball and throw it. I told him that was only natural. I think it was little solace…I’m hoping his mood will improve once the little tyke arrives.

I remember feeling trapped and miserable when I was pregnant with D. Fortunately, I had Cranial Sacral Therapy thorough out the pregnancy and D was a full term baby, quite health actually, but the stress was palatable. I sure hope things are better for my Aussie friend and his wife.