Monthly Archives: February 2011

February 2011

Inspired by the blog Kelly’s Healthified Kitchen I thought I would do a brief month summary with pics – hers are very cool.

February was the month I…. celebrated a year with ‘im indoors… did my first ‘off trail’ climb down Peavine…. successfully kept Bala Sharks for more than a week… cooked my first GOOD baked cheesecake…  learned how to make a treehouse (VERY COOL)… ate my first taco… built fires in the woods from scratch… did HIIT plyometrics (ouch)… went to an 80s party… got to do biking on a decent bike… took a 2 1/2 hour Zumba class… submitted my second grant as PI… got ‘im indoors to ask to go for a bike ride (TWICE!)…. saw the start of the Alabama summer…. actually did something (willingly) for Valentines Day… nearly killed someone in the gym… taught the dog 2 new tricks he only does with me…


Today’s dinner

Mmmmm…. so I used to be one of those bloggers who blogged what they ate, inspired by one of the original food porn blogs. But then I realised that I ate a lot of the same stuff day in day out. So my blog petered out. Now I have a blog that doesn’t have a unified theme, I’ll just write up food logs when I feel so motivated. And today, due to the awesome nature of my dinner, is one such day 🙂

Fasted training: HIIT plyometrics, 1 hour.

Breakfast: Muscle Milk ‘n’ Oats

Lunch: Jim N Nicks…mmmmm…. good. Hickory smoked chicken salad – light on the cheese, no croutons or dressing. Cheeky mouthful of cheese muffin 🙂 Orange for dessert.

4 pm snack: 1/2 cup fat free cottage cheese with splenda and cinnamon. Handful of apple crisps. 1 tsp sunflower seeds.

Dinner: 9 oz of chicken breast (yes, it was a monster), sugar snap peas, mushrooms stuffed with turkey pepperoni & low fat cream cheese, tomato and cilantro mix, green pepper grilled and smeared with laughing cow light and turkey pepperoni. Throw a load of fat free cheddar on top and grill and serve with fat free sour cream. 500 delicious calories that have left me feeling a bit over full 🙂

IF I digest this 70 grams of protein (yes, really… whoops) and stop feeling so very, very full, my pre-bedtime snack will be ‘pudding’ – cottage cheese blended to a smooth consistency with splenda and cocoa (and maybe a dash of sugar free hazelnut syrup). Toooo good.

Snickers Cheesecake of awesomeness

The. Greatest. Cheesecake. Ever.

What we have here – ladies and gentlemen – is a peanut and caramel chocolate graham cracker base, a layer of cheesecake, a layer of melted snickers, a layer of chocolate cheesecake and then a layer of copped snickers chunks.

If this doesn’t make you hungry, you have a heart stomach of stone.

Bala woes.

Ergh. I love Bala sharks. Even though they are plain and simple they are easily my favourite fish, I think I love their graceful yet languid movements. I tried to keep them in Britain but they are very shy, schooling fish. I would buy three, one wouldn’t make the move… it would die after a  few days… I would have to get another one to make the school, but it would take a couple of days to get to the pet shop. By this point, one of the remaining Balas would have cast a beady eye around, figured out it was no longer in a school, and started its slow but inexorable decline into death – usually occurring about 2 days after I had put the new Bala in. Leaving two Balas. Leading to one of the remaining Balas to look around, see there was only one Bala… and refuse to eat until it was floating upside down, stuck to the filter, distressing the remaining 2 Balas (because I had of course replaced the 2nd dead Bala) and so the exorable cycle continued with me literally throwing money into a fish tank and watching it waste away. If by some miracle a Bala did survive and three schooled, anything could set one on a ‘I’m not eating, and I am going to die painfully and look mournful until then’ trip. These included:

1) Noise near the tank

2) Changes of light around the tank

3) Looking in the tank

4) Thinking about looking in the tank

5) A day ending in ‘y’.

It was a distressing time for all. Now, afresh in this new country of freedom and choice, I decided it was time to give the Balas a go again. I set up a tank. A large tank. I actually cycled the darn thing properly (so frikken boring). I put a big plec in it – a peaceful but bacteria promoting little buddy. Eventually, I went and got 3 beautiful Balas. I slowely lowered them into their new haven, I kept the lights in their room dimmed, the dog was banned (too big, too noisy), ‘im indoors was screamed at mercilessly if he moved too quickly around the tank. All was zen. Until my cats decided that this was the best toy ever and took to jumping up and hurling themselves against the glass, meowing endlessly by the tank, and – I kid you not – dropping things into the feeding hole at the top of the tank.


2 Balas stopped eating. They wasted away in literally days. One took to swimming upside down. They stopped schooling. All was lost. I hid the signs of my failure under a black blanket and mourned the loss of my buddies. Eventually I removed said blanket, and lo! The fish were fat, healthy and swimming about. Until they caught sight of me, when one glared (and yes, it glared) and slowly turned himself upside down and floated to the top. I threw the blanket back on, and peeked under it. The fish was zipping about happily. Until it saw me looking, whereupon it stopped, practically gave an audible sigh, dropped 2 lbs immediately and floated upside down.

I am at a loss. I am being bullied by Bala sharks. They’re winning. I even built them a special covering:

It looks crappy. My beloved study looks crappy. I have to tiptoe around in it and be quiet. I can’t have guests in it. ‘Im indoors has to peek at them from the doorway. I feed them expensive bloodworms. The whole house is miserable. Only the Balas are happy. I hate Balas.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I almost don’t know where to start with this review. Normally I would give a summary of the plot… but that does the book so little justice, it captures so little of its brilliance, that I am reluctant to. “Ma” was kidnapped in her early 20s, incarcerated in a room, and raped repeatedly. At 22 she had a little boy, Jack, and ‘Room’ opens on his 5th birthday. “Room” is written in Jack’s voice, an altered English, which although slightly jarring at first, is done with the wit and insight of ‘Alex’ in “A Clockwork Orange” (incidentally one of my favourite books). And it has the same effect – to draw you utterly into a character totally alien to yourself, and to help you lose yourself in his world view and experiences. It is a popular question why, at the end of “A Clockwork Orange”, you feel such empathy with the rapist, remorseless murderer that is Alex. I think Alex himself answers this question when he says (paraphrased): you have been on this journey with me, every step of the way. The subtle changes in the language stop you seeing the world through Alex’s eyes through yours, and cut out the middle man such that you see them right through his. As with Jack – a boy who has had a life we can barely imagine, by using a very strong voice for him we leave behind our view, and take on his.

I lost myself in this book. I found tears streaming down my face, without even realising they had started. This book is absorbing, disorientating, and haunting. It is about ‘Ma’ and ‘Jack’s relationship, and how they have bonded and tried to sustain each other in the strangest of circumstances. It is about human relationships in general – about how we do the best for others, and about how our own private insecurities and needs can prevent that. It touches on the fine lines between love and obsession and the resentment that can come with the loss of freedom that is loving another.

It’s a quick read, and a really good one. It has been called a ‘brave’ novel; I am not sure about that. And I don’t know how original it is – the voice is not that different to the child in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night’ and the story itself lifted (or ‘inspired by’ to quote Donaghue) the Fritzel case. But it is a beautiful novel, beautiful in the gentle treatment of human failings, in its empathy and in its love of those who are ‘different’.

Ice creams of healthful-ness

Here are two ice cream substitutes I like to make when I want something sweet at the end of a meal (which is currently pretty much everyday).

Cottage-cheese based ice cream.


1/2 cup fat free cottage cheese (publix is one of the best brands as it is the least tangy; or 1-2% is a little nicer)

2 packets splenda


Blend everything in a food processor until it is very smooth and thick like greek yoghurt:

Put into a ziplock and freeze for around 40 minutes, occasionally smooshing the bag to give it a softer texture

I meant to have a pic for y’all of the finished product… but I ate it to quickly 🙂

Calories: 70; Carbs: 5; Fat: 0; Protein: 15

Mix it up with cocoa powder, or vanilla essence. Makes a great ‘last meal’ for body builders…

Almond Breeze icsicle

1 cup unsweetened Almond Breeze Vanilla

1 packets splenda (or more to taste)

Vanilla essence

Put all ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake. Put that bag inside another bag filled with a mixture of ice and rock salt. Shake the two – in about 10 minutes the almond breeze will have become like a cross between ice cream and a slushy…. very addictive…

Why I don’t blog… and why you should…

So, my friend Dom posted a good link on facebook today: why all graduate students should blog:

Which then made me feel guilty about my own lack of blogging recently. I wondered why I tail off on these things. I think it comes down to:

1) Time. My life gets hectic… my job (postdoc) is busy, at grant time it gets even busier. I look after 2 cats and 4 aquariums, and soon 1 Chinese water dragon….not to mention partial responsibility for my boyfriend’s dog, while weightlifting 4 times a week, doing 3 dance classes a week, reading a book a     month, trying to keep up with my friends in England (I don’t do an awesome job at   this), travelling where possible and trying to spend at least one full day a week  hiking or biking. My ‘to do’ list spans from ‘repaint the exterior of the flat’ to ‘put my laundry away from last week… and the week before… and the week before… and (ad infinitum). Sometimes it feels that I don’t have time to blog. But then I can  spent a lot of time surfing the ‘net, throwing things at my boyfriend, mindlessly watching said fish tanks, or just staring into space. So…. I guess I do have time.

2.  Lack of confidence “Oh, I have nothing to say”… “no one wants to read it” “what I do have to say is silly”. Well, the link above shoots that down. The fact that I am a postdoc is practically a qualification to talk about my work (which I admit I rarely do) , and I have received some great emails from people about my recipes and posts… so I should give up on that one. I may not have a lot to say about one particular topic… but that was the point of getting a wordpress account – you can write about anything, and just keep them under different categories.

3. Lack of consistency – with time and topic. Well… it doesn’t matter. You can just pick up a neglected blog anytime.

4. Technology.  Sometimes I am awesome with it… occasionally it confuses me… often it makes angry. Apple screwed over their mobile me customers a while ago – once I missed a load of important emails, and once it told me that I didn’t have enough storage space for my blog… made me buy more… then said it was wrong all along and didn’t refund my money. So I stopped using mobile me. And lost my blog. I would like to copy the old entries over here, but that is on my ‘to do’ list (see #1).

So really…. after Dom’s enthusiasm I am resolved to get blogging more regularly. And I will. Because the no.1 benefit is:

1. I love a record of my thoughts / experiences. I moved from London to Alabama and wrote a blog about it – I love reliving all that. Just for my own edification, it is a great thing.