Friday, February 14, 2014

Mud and Feasts

I love the rain, and a week-long soaking had me out with the puppies for hikes every day.

The first few minutes they hated it, they'd drag behind me and look back wistfully at the house wondering why I would so cruelly rip them away from their respective warm spots, but once we got moving they'd succumb to the inescapable allure of sniffing and adventure with enthusiasm; they love a good soggy hike as much as I do, if not more.

Our walks have been longer lately, in part because I was loving going to the very tippy top of our hill to check out the little creeks that the rain made. Since our part of the mountain is all clay and sandstone, in areas where the water regularly makes it way down the slope, it's eroded a small, ancient-looking river that's created small pools and waterfalls as it flows over and around roots and rocks.

But, the mud can be precarious, so our walks during the rain and since have been not only longer, but slower. I've slipped a few times, and only suffered momentary injuries in both falls because I was able to catch myself, and control my fall to an extent. I would have been hurt far worse only a year ago, because my arm wouldn't have had the strength to stop my fall without injuring my wrist, my legs wouldn't have been sturdy enough to slow my slip, and my core muscles were virtually jelly and would have contributed nothing to my rescue. So again, hooray for fitness.

My head has been consistently reacting to this increased exercise, unfortunately. I was hoping I'd see the pain and symptoms decreasing over time as I built my stamina, and they did -- to a point. I'm dedicating this academic quarter to my physical fitness, and like school, this endeavor is taking up most of my energy. I've been hiking my heart out every morning I can, then spending most of the rest of the day curled up in my comfy chair, nursing my head and trying to be productive on the internet (or giving up and watching a star trek marathon). My next priorities are cooking and dishes and laundry, but also, more working out. If I have more energy, I often put it to crunches, squats, pushups, yoga, and maybe even another walk. I am serious about getting my body back into shape, and believe that the harder I work now the easier it will be to maintain when I return to school.

I'm continuing to see improvements in my stamina, so much so that I accompanied a friend who is also a dogwalker on four 30-minute hike/walks in one day, with lots of dog handling and conversation, and I barely felt the pain at all. Well, later I did, but the repercussions weren't any more than usual.

Another side effect of all this exercise is that every few weeks I get to pull out the box I've had for at least 7 years, labeled PANTS! that don't fit, and see where I am with the stash I've collected over the years. I'm slowly creeping down the sizes now, which is kind of fun; it's like my birthday once a month, except I have to give my old pants up to get the new ones. There are a few pairs of jeans I've become unreasonably attached to, and I find myself hesitating in disposing of truly unremarkable and often damaged items. I mean, just because they are several sizes too big, ripped and really obviously repaired, and at least five years outdated in style, doesn't mean I have to get rid of them, does it?? (Yes, it does. Stop hoarding pants, weirdo.) Ok, then.

And on the food front: craving healthy foods is one benefit of eating well that I never really believed when anyone else said it. When I get that night-time sweet tooth, I definitely still indulge when I really want to, but usually I can satisfy those cravings for sugar with fruit. An orange or a banana might just hit the spot, and if not, GRAPES. I have never had a sweets craving that couldn't be cured by eating a cup or so of grapes.

And celery is a new and surprising love. I have historically never liked celery, but suddenly I am literally jonesing for it, I love the flavor and the crunch, and it's a perfect carrier for this white bean/peanut butter spread I'm also fascinated by.

I made a superbowl vegan feast, though I had to cook it slowly over two days to manage it all. I made buffalo cauliflower with a tofu-based ranch dip, and a flatbread with homemade pizza sauce, pineapple and teriyaki tofu; these were my vegan versions of my childhood football favorites, buffalo wings and hawaiian pizza. It was completely satisfying and the success gives me more confidence in cooking big meals in the future.

I'm so inspired by plant foods and refocusing my diet from dairy and flour to plants has made me want to learn more about food, nutrition and agriculture. I want to cook more, I want to grow my own food, and I want to know how it all works, from the growing to the digesting. I have to eat several times a day, every day. I want to make the most of it.