At Home Gym Equipment

While we’re on the subject of gyms, let me share with you my thoughts about at-home gym equipment.
Because I often attend gym classes that use all kinds of exercise equipment, I’m always wanting yet another new toy.  I ambitiously think, hey I could do this at home! As if my butt can lift off the black hole that is the couch.  So let me preface all of this by saying that I hardly ever use any of my at-home gym equipment. I do use them but most, only a few times a year.  Here are the items I do use – even if infrequently.

  • Foam roller – It helps tremendously with sore muscles. Sometimes no amount of stretching works as well as rolling pin the heck out of your legs or sides – like a self-massage.  I don’t know though, sometimes I wonder if maybe I could have just used the one at the gym and saved the space.  Ok this is a take it or leave it.
  • Yoga mat – It’s not just for yoga.  The grippyness of it helps when I use a foam roller, or if I just want to do some stretching or calisthenics.  I probably use this the most regularly – as in, I aim to use it at least once a week.
  • Jump-rope – This is a very effective cardio equipment.  It’s portable and takes up minimal space. The few times a year I use it, I jump for 5-minutes at a time (with minimal breaks) with squats and weightlifting in between the jump roping repeating three or four rounds. It’s an effective workout.  I don’t use this a lot because at the end of the day, I still need to take it with me to a place that has the room to skip rope, which ends up being a gym.  So… I could just use the gym rope.  BUT!  This one is tailored to my height and it’s to my liking so I jump rope more now that I have my own.  I am glad I have it for the times I want to do cardio but don’t feel like running.  Realistically though, I use it maybe a few times a year.  Which I suppose is still more than I used to jump rope, which was hardly ever.

That’s it! That’s all I have or would get (for now)
The other items I have and why I wouldn’t recommend them:

  • Weights of any sort – This includes kettlebells – which I almost got, but thankfully decided against it.  While I like kettlebells and other weights, they’re heavy! They can dent the floor when you drop them, which will happen.  And they take up a good amount of space because they will eventually multiply.  Lets say you get a set of 5 lb dumbbells to start.  Eventually, that gets easier as you get stronger and then you’ll need to buy the 7 lb or 8 lb ones.  Then the 10 lb.  So on and so forth.  Or if you choose to stop with the craziness, the sets that are too easy aren’t really going to be as effective and you basically have dumbbells that you’ll never use. A better alternative to weights, resistance bands.  For use at home, they’re definitely better than dumbbells. These things are light, portable and just as effective and frankly more versatile than dumbbells.  I didn’t get them though because I can’t see myself really using them enough to justify owning them.
  • Exercise balls – These big balls take up space.  I rarely use them except as auxiliary chairs when we have more people over.  Yes, there are some moves I can do with them but I can do similar moves that activate the same muscles without the balls just as effectively.  Mine is more furniture than exercise equipment.

OR save your money and just do what I do most days, which is sit on the couch watching Netflix or YouTube.

Loud Gym Update

So you know how I mentioned the deafening volume of the music and instructors at the gym classes I go to?  And how even with earplugs, the music and microphones were still too loud? I ended up filling out and submitting the form for gym membership cancellation. Ten days later, I asked them to cancel the cancellation. The reason was because in those 10 days, I noticed the music in the classes were less deafening. Still loud, but bearable. And even though I still feel the need to wear earplugs, it’s been a lot easier on my ears to the point where I can go back to enjoying the activity rather than focusing the entire time on the loudness of everything.  And the whole reason why I joined in the first place was to have some activity to do that got me out of the house.  So if it wasn’t this gym, it would have been another studio of some sort.  I was considering a yoga/pilates studio.  And now, since it’s not going to be a yoga studio, I am doing it at home.

If you’re interested, one of my favorite YouTuber’s is Fiji McAlpine.  She is an excellent verbal cue’er.

Cheap fountain pens

I have come to regret purchasing my quasi-disposable cheap fountain pens. The ones that cost less than $10. I thought apart from the ink filling mechanism (cartridge converters and syringe cartridge refills being less expensive compared to piston or vacuum fill), they would all be the same, especially carrying the Pilot name. Not so. At least by my experience. My cheapies leak more. They run dry. They’re scratchy. The caps crack. From now on, I will be staying away from the “toy” fountain pens (under $10, and look almost disposable). One of the reasons for using fountain pens is to be able to use and reuse them for many years as opposed to tossing one plastic disposable pen after another. If cheapies can’t last but a couple of years before they start falling apart, that defeats that purpose.  And if they’re a chore to use, I don’t want to be stuck with it for years either!

I’m talking about my Pilot Petit1 and Kakuno. The Petit is not pleasant to use but otherwise has no issues. I still use (put up with) it.  It’s scratchy and rather short, too small for my hand. The Kakuno runs dry. I’ve swapped the nib and feed with the medium nib from my Metropolitan and it’s improved. The cap cracked just a few months after use. Fountain pens should be pleasant to use, not a never ending chore to drag about.  On the plus side, the Kakuno fine nib swapped on the Metropolitan is a pleasure to use.

Also, one detail I’ve noticed about my nicer pens versus my junky ones is if I pause to think about what I’m going to write, the nib doesn’t dry out immediately.  For example, with the junky ones, I can’t do a crossword puzzle without constantly uncapping and recapping the pen.  With my Pelikan, it can withstand a pause for a little while longer.  Minor detail but it’s a significant improvement to my pen writing experience!

 

 

The key to good alfredo is pepper! Lots and lots of pepper!

I found a bunch of recipes for vegan alfredo online and mixed them up for this:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1.5 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for a few hours
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • lemon juice (1 lemon) – I didn’t have this so I substituted with apple cider vinegar, and it was fine.
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper.  One can never have too much pepper in alfredo sauce.

I don’t remember where I got the idea or learned that alfredo requires mucho pepper.  The first time I had it was from a local Kentuckian chain Italian restaurant and a strong pepper flavor stuck out to me.  I know.  Kentucky, Italian.  This was a memorably good alfredo pasta though.  I think I ate an entire family sized bucket of it in a couple of days.  And it was over a decade ago and I still have fond memories of that bucket of pasta.  Who doesn’t enjoy a nice bucket of pasta?

  1. Stir fry the garlic and onions with a bit of salt and oil. Onions and Garlic
  2. Cut up the cauliflower into big chunks and poach it in maybe an inch of water with some seasoning.  I used a vegetable broth powder, but regular salt and pepper is fine.Cauliflower
  3. In a blender, blend the ingredients together.
  4. Cauliflower Alfredo SauceI added more nutritional yeast at the end to have a richer flavor. I also added about a tablespoon of cracked black pepper. I would have added more but my wrists were tired from the grinding.
  5. Simmer the sauce over low heat for about 30 minutes.  Stir the entire time and cover it with a lid.  Keep the lid over the pot as you move a spoon around in there because this thick sauce tends to spurt bubbles all over the place.

I like to serve it over pasta with green peas. It’s rich and creamy without the after effects of eating rich and creamy. I could eat a bucket of this sauce.

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day!  It’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday.  How fitting.

It snowed pretty hard last night and today.  I went into the office late and most people weren’t around.  It’s kind of nice to watch a satisfying snowstorm before winter is over.  I guess the groundhog, Phil, was right after all about a long winter.  It was springlike weather all winter long and just as we’re a week away from Spring, we get this.

Gym Classes and Noise Level

I’ve been going to gym classes for the past six months or so and I’m fighting a losing battle when it comes to ear protection.  They blast the music to the point where the ground is rumbling and then to make sure we can hear the instruction, they then turn their microphones even louder.  I’ve tried every corner of the class, asking instructors to turn it down, speaking with management, and even wearing ear plugs. As much as they have helped to make it less painful on my ears, the classes are still deafeningly loud, even with earplugs.  I’m considering cancelling my membership to save my ears.

I read a Reddit thread not too long ago about the one thing people would tell their younger selves.  An inordinate amount of responses had to do with not being stupid in their young age about their hearing.  We’re already surrounded by a constant barrage of noise pollution all around us.  Traffic, sirens, television, the hum of fluorescent lights.  I want to be physically fit and strong, but I want that without sacrificing my hearing.

Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

After my uninformed purchase of the Bourjois foundation which turned out to test on animals (and isn’t very good anyway), I started looking up more information on cruelty free beauty products. It turns out that a lot of cosmetics that carry that label aren’t necessarily so. If a company sells to the Chinese market, they’re required to test on animals. A brand that’s technically cruelty free could be owned by a parent company that tests on animals. So the list of truly cruelty free brands is actually pretty short. Which in a way simplifies things for me. Fewer options makes for easier decision-making.

Based on what I’ve found these are the ones I use or have used that I think are still truly cruelty free:

  • 100% Pure (they sell to China but explain on their website how they do it without testing on animals).  I like their products but they’re expensive.
  • Rejuva Minerals – I like their loose powder foundation, which I use as a finishing powder or just by itself as a lighter foundation.
  • Mineral Fusion – Only tried the lip tint and 3-in-1 Color Stick and like them both.  The Color Stick is a natural looking blush for everyday.
  • Andalou Naturals – Excellent BB and CC creams for everyday use.  I love their 1000 Roses line.
  • Pacifica – My only gripe about their stuff is the perfumes.  It’s on the stronger side.
  • Juice Beauty – Good but expensive.

Revelation from Hawaii

On my first day in Hawaii, the Big Island, we hiked from South Point (the southern-most tip of the U.S.) to Green Sands Beach.
Green Sands Beach
It was about a 3 mile hike there and I lamented that I belonged on my couch in fronna the TV! Why am I here in this sun and dusty dirt road!? We went on to hike 5 more trails and I realized how much I like being outdoors. I don’t belong enclosed in walls for hours a day. Even outside, I’m surrounded by tall walls of buildings and pavement and concrete beneath, so I still feel enclosed. So all this time, we train ourselves to adapt to this way of being. Breathing exhaust and stale air and crated. And it doesn’t even have to be in Hawaii, although it was unimaginably beautiful.  I just have a newfound appreciation for outside. Trees. Dirt roads. The sound of water. It makes me feel more connected to the world. To people. To my body.

Mahalo National Parks.  You have preserved for us all the most spiritual places on earth.

Why I love plants

Along the same lines of my love for calendars, plants are like living calendars to me.  In 2 years time, this grew from a cutting to a 9 ft tall plant.  I got that one in 2005 when I worked with this lady who gave me a cutting.  This one came from a leaf I picked up off the floor.  They’re like diaries.  And watching a plant grow reminds of of how slowly and quickly time passes.  Like watching the clock during the last half hour at work, if you stare at a plant, time seems to stop, the plant doesn’t change.  But if you look back to years past, the plant has grown to a huge weed and I realize how many years I’ve known the people at work.

I have talked myself into and out of growing plumerias many times.  I don’t have ideal light or space.  This isn’t even the right climate.  But I was in Hawaii.  And plumerias were in bloom all around me.  I got these three.

Plumeria cuttings planted

I’m crossing my fingers they thrive.

Aloha!

I had been talking about visiting Hawaii for years! But it’s just so much easier to watch YouTube vids of other people’s trips, or drive to a local weekend destination than to plan a trip to Hawaii. As much of a homebody as I am, it took but the mere mention of a wedding and I booked the trip, packed up, and was ready to go.

Food:
If you’re looking for vegan food, stick to the Asian joints. Many traditional American/Hawaiian places also had vegan options due to Asian influences but there were times when I had to settle on a carb turducken (a breakfast of fruit and hash browns on toast). Towards the end of the trip, I was craving sweets (which I rarely do). Not sure how true it is, but I’ve heard that it’s a sign of a protein deficiency.  In the end, I was feeling insatiably hungry and weak so I relented and had egg at one breakfast joint.  And then I chased it down with a vegan snickerdoodle.  Protein and sugar!

This was one of the best meals I had during the trip. It’s kabocha curry.
Pineapples' Kabocha Curry

The fruit is phenomenal. On our second day there, I got myself a cheapo santoku knife so I could cut some Hawaiian pineapples in the hotel room. Their papayas and pomelos were also amazing. Too bad we can’t get them around here easily. Still, I got my fill – three pineapples in a week.

Sights and Activities:

Big Island

  • Hike to Green Sands Beach – Not an easy hike but the beach at the end of it was such a sweet relief.
  • Kona coffee tour – This is like Napa Valley for coffee.  But rather than getting sloshed, you get buzzed.  Holualoa CoffeeCaptain Cook’s is such a beautiful area so I still felt relaxed in a chatty way.
  • Place of Refuge (Pu’uhunoa O Honaunau) National Park – A beautiful and historic park where they share the history of native Hawaiians.  1812 Trail at HonaunauThere’s a wonderful trail here too.
  • Volcanoes National Park – When people say the Earth is alive, this is what they mean.  Kilauea is pouring out lava.  During the day, it looks like smoke and steam.  Kilauea via bicycleAt night, it’s bright orange red and spurting out.
  • MaunaKea summit tour – MaunaKeaEven just on the side of a highway at night, I saw more stars than I ever have.  On MaunaKea I saw the Milky Way galaxy for the first time.  It’s a breathtaking evening.
  • Check out the waterfalls.  There are many and none of them are as impressive as say, Niagara or Iguacu, but we went to a few of them and they were pretty.Hi'ilawe Falls

Kauai

  • Hike the Kalalau Trail on the Na’Pali Coast – If I did nothing else on this island, this was the one thing I wanted to see – the Na’Pali coastline.  It’s breathtaking.  The first section of the hike starts at Ke’e Beach and ends at Hanakapi Beach.  We heard later from friends that this was not a very safe trail.  I guess ignorance is bliss?  To be honest, I was ready to turn around at the 0.25 mile marker.  Then I was ready to turn back at the 0.50 mile marker.  Muddy hike on the Kalalau TrailSomehow, we got to Hanakapi and the way back was easier.  In the earlier part of the day, parts of the trail were wet, muddy, and slippery.  By the afternoon, much of it had dried.
  • Waimea Canyon – This was the most beautiful hike.  Waimea CanyonIt was relatively easy and relaxing under the cool canopy of a forest.  Even though I’d say this was the easiest hike we did, I slipped twice.
  • Allerton Botanical Gardens – With a return flight not until 10 PM, this was a nice little something to do.  They guide you around the gardens and describe the plants and trees.Loulu

Learn from my Fail:

  1. Hawaii and Kauai’s airports are small. Eat beforehand or bring food. There’s nothing good at the airports.  Even the water from the fountains taste funky.
  2. Bring your own knife or better yet, just get pre-cut fruit from the grocery store.  It didn’t occur to me to do that until after I’d purchased the knife.  I now have a crappy santoku knife.
  3. Stay on the Hilo side of the island at least for a night or two.  Driving to see volcanoes from Kona is a bit of a trek.
  4. Restaurants close early (generally 9 PM).  Plan accordingly.  We missed dinner a couple of nights because we stayed out to see volcanoes and the stars at MaunaKea. Both worthwhile and I had pineapples on hand, but still, dinner would have been nice.
  5. Speaking of MaunaKea, the drive up there is all up hill.  There are no gas stations.  Fill up your tank before you ascend.  We cut it a bit too close.  Luckily, on the way down, you barely use any gas.  We cruised on neutral for some portions of it.
  6. Packing: You don’t need fancy clothes in Hawaii.  This isn’t a fancypants posh kind of trip.  Plan to get dirty.