high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose. Now is the time to read this post.

The Easter Bunny doesn't just bring jelly beans
Sitting here at the tea house for the last time updating my blog, because in case you didn't know, today marks the end of the 2011 Lenten Challenge, and the tea house will soon magically transform back into the coffee house.  At the stroke of 5:53pm Eastern Standard Time, the tea house will politely excuse itself from the party it is attending, mount a Segway drawn by 50 magical gerbils, and go on a careening ride through the greater Columbus area before returning to its original location.  The patrons found caught inside the tea-transforming-back-into-a-coffee house during this journey will be given free refills.

I plan to continue drinking tea in many instances when I would have previously had coffee, as tea gives the image of being healthier and has the desirable placebo effect of making you feel healthier, too.  The timing is perfect, because spring is now here, and while most people make their New Year's resolutions at New Year's, I make my New Year's resolutions at Easter.  It makes much more sense to align the resolutions with the change of seasons because the transition from winter to spring is also the time when you do spring cleaning, clean out junk accumulated through the winter, and experience much more of a feeling of rebirth all around.  At New Year's the feeling is more like a hangover.

In terms of diet and exercise, I have a few simple objectives.  Looking at exercise first, I'd like to work up to being in good enough shape that I could run a half marathon on any given weekend, and be able to  ramp up to a full marathon periodically.  The intent is not to actually run a half marathon on most weekends, but rather have the ability to run one if I chance to see one advertised that looks interesting.  Today included a nice 5-miler along the lower part of the bike trail, so things are progressing in good fashion.  In my college days I didn't think much of the lower part of the bike trail, but as the years have passed I've grown to appreciate the stretch of running enjoyment between King and Confluence Park.  A primary reason is that I've gotten better at utilizing the trick of picking out landmarks to make a run more manageable.  Rather than running along blindly and wondering how much further it is to the end, a run can be effectively broken into chunks, giving you a gauge for your progress.  The key landmark on the lower part of the trail is what I call "the Jurassic Park shed."

Hold on to your butts
As you're running along the bike trail, you come to a little rise that is approximately parallel to the Neil Avenue exit from 670.  At the top of this rise is a shed-like structure, seemingly random.  There is nothing around it, you never see anyone going in or out of it, and there are no signs indicating its purpose.  In my mind, this shed is quite similar to the shed that Samuel L. Jackson goes to in Jurassic Park to get the Park "back online," only to be summarily devoured by a velociraptor.  Many will remember how Dr. Sattler goes to find him along with Muldoon (who is summarily devoured by a velociraptor), and has the unpleasant experience of latching onto Jackson's severed arm.  Now, I'm not saying that "the Jurassic Park shed" on the bike trail is full of bloody carcasses.  It's just that it looks like that type of shed, and serves as a good landmark when running.  And is full of bloody carcasses.

With that primer, let's talk a little about diet.  The collection of recipe books in the house has grown in the few years that Nate and I have been in the house, and rather than letting these valuable sources of information collect dust, I've decided to choose one recipe per week to make, as stated in this previous post.  The reason I'm limiting it to one recipe per week is because a) many of the recipes require obscure spices that we don't have readily available, b) they usually require more than an hour to prepare, and c) it is easier to maintain a healthy diet when sticking with a few staples, like beans and vegetables, rather than expanding into a lot of beef and chicken recipes that are less healthy.  Nevertheless, the one-recipe-per-week plan (recipe) promises to bring much enjoyment, and already has, in fact.

Probably the best way to ensure that you stick with the idea of using one recipe per week is to invite people over for dinner.  You want to impress and create an enjoyable meal, so a recipe is a natural substitute for the usual blander fare.  Along with the various cookbooks, Mom and Dad got us a fire pit with grate to use in the backyard, and it can be fun to cook stuff over the fire on a nice evening.  Therefore, a good way to host people is to set up the fire pit and use a recipe for dinner that can be cooked on the grill.  Once again in alignment with the change in seasons and warming weather, an idea started formulating for what could be made as the first grilled meal of the year.

The original idea was to make some kind of fish, just to do something different than the standard steak or burgers.  Our grill isn't really the kind that you would do salmon on, but one of the recipe books had an interesting option for swordfish kabobs.  However, the creative juices started flowing, and I thought "Why stop at fish?  Why not have surf-and-turf, in kabob form?"  No objection to this proposal came to mind.  Then, thinking that surf-and-turf kabobs were reasonably clever, but not overwhelmingly so, and wanting to overwhelm my guests, I thought "Let's take the surf-and-turf idea one step further and add the sky!!!"  Yes!  Surf, turf, and sky, in one meal.  Sure, it doesn't rhyme anymore, but the idea is to take the original concept of land and sea and build upon it, not to be a poet.

Now, the original thought was simple: swordfish for surf, steak for turf, and something for sky.  Immediately my answer was "chicken."  Easy to prepare, people like it.  But then it occurred to me that chickens don't really fly.  Neither do turkeys.  Neither do ostriches.  I don't think you're really supposed to grill goose.  Duck seems too exotic for a backyard grill.  Sparrows are too scrawny.  Bald eagles are endangered.  As the options dwindled, so too did my elaborate plan...

In the end, it is no matter.  Having people over for some grilling will still be a good time, especially if a creative side dish is proffered.  I recently purchased some sweet potatoes from Aldi, so one option would be sweet potato fries.  Sweet potatoes are a little more "special" than regular potatoes, and these sweet potatoes are a particularly good choice.  I say this because I found a little tag in the bottom of the bag that reads:

Arkansas State Plan Board
Little Rock, Arkansas
Matthews Sweet Potato Farms
18 CR 377
Wynne, AR 72396

These Sweet Potatoes were grown, stored and surveyed in a weevil free area of Arkansas.

Weevil-free, eh?  I think we're back at overwhelm.

Spring cleaning this year worked out well because we just finished my room upstairs in the house, so I was going through stuff to move up there anyway.  For some time now I've prided myself on keeping things to a minimum, relatively speaking, and making sure that the stuff I have is potentially useful or significant in some way to warrant keeping it around.  Judging on these two available criteria seems straightforward, but at times can actually pose an issue, because "potentially useful" is pretty open-ended.  For example, when I was in high school I purchased one of those giant rubber bands used for stretching (primarily your hamstrings).  It got a lot of use in high school, but for the most part has laid dormant since going to college.  May as well get rid of it, right?  Well, a knee-jerk reaction would be to discard it or give it away, but when you think about it, a giant rubber band can be quite useful.  Here's how...

Definitely something I can get rid of now
A few years ago I had to get some physical therapy for my back, because sitting in a computer chair at a desk for hours day after day is wonderful for you, in case you didn't know.  The remedy was pretty simple: the physical therapist put me on a regime of back stretching that basically consisted of lying on the ground and pushing up with my arms while keeping my legs flat on the ground.  Essentially the instruction was to arch my back, using the floor for leverage.  To ensure that your legs stay flat, it is beneficial to have a partner help you by pushing down on your lower back while you are pushing up with your arms.  Unfortunately, I was living alone at this point, so I had to resort to other methods.  One suggestion from the physical therapist was to strap myself to an ironing board and then push up off the ironing board.  How on earth do you strap yourself to an ironing board though?  Well, when you have a giant rubber band just laying around the answer is clear.  Thus started a nightly routine, unwitnessed by any except maybe some spiders or dust mites in my efficiency, of looping the rubber band around my ironing board (which, incidentally, had also gone un-used for years), wriggling up between the rubber band and the ironing board, and then gracefully lowering myself to the floor to begin my exercise, by which I mean crashing to the ground already out of breath.  

In case you were wondering, it worked like a charm.  No more back pain.  And the rubber band will be retained for at least one more year.

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