How I fell in love with TRX Monday, Jan 28 2013 

I had never been one to join a gym or take fitness classes. In fact, I was the kid in school that hated P.E.  I always preferred to get my exercise in the ‘real world,’ by being active: hiking, gardening, biking, etc.  I got away with this for a very long time and I appeared to be ‘fit.’ I should mention that I am blessed with a fast metabolism so weight loss has never been an issue.

However, about two years ago I noticed I wasn’t as strong as I’d been in the past, and I was getting minor injuries from doing normal tasks. I kept getting back pain from gardening or from lifting boxes during organizing projects. I also had Tennis Elbow from throwing the ball for my dog. I decided it was time to do something about this loss of strength.

I knew I wanted a fitness class as opposed to joining a gym and working out on equipment. I wanted to be taught how to properly do the exercises and I wanted the class atmosphere for motivation. I also knew I didn’t want a ‘Boot Camp’ style class. Boot Camp classes remind me too much of High School Phys Ed, plus I didn’t want someone pushing me to do movements beyond my capability. My goal was to build strength and flexibility without injury. I’ve never been a fan of Yoga, but Pilates seemed interesting.

It turned out that most Pilates classes on equipment, which was what I was looking for, wanted you to first have some private lessons if you were new to Pilates. I signed up for three Pilates classes with a Pilates trainer to see if Pilates was right for me. It may have been my instructor, but I found Pilates to be boring. There was so much concentration on breathing (which I know is important) and the progression of the workout felt very slow moving — an hour workout felt like an hour, or longer. I learned that Pilates was not right for me (at least not from that instructor). And, I learned the importance of breathing, posture and connecting with my body.

Photo by Patrik Sklenar

Photo by Patrik Sklenar

I was still determined to find some type of fitness class that would work for me — that’s when I stumbled upon TRX (Total Body Resistance Exercise). TRX, as seen in the picture (courtesy of The Fuse Fitness, Kensington, CA), is a suspension training tool that uses your body weight as resistance against gravity.

I liked the fact that all levels of experience and all body types could do TRX. The straps adjust, and you adjust your body to change the difficulty of each move. There are so many different moves/exercises you can do with TRX. You can get strength training, flexibility and aerobics all out of one class (dependent on the instructor).

I have to admit it was intimidating going to my first TRX class. It was the first time I had been to any type of fitness class as an adult. After feeling a little stupid and uncoordinated, I began to get how the TRX straps worked. I’m glad I listened to my body and pushed myself to go. I also learned that not all instructors are the same and some may push students more than others. It is important you know your body, your limitations and remember your reasons for taking the class. I did and it saved me from injuries.

I found TRX classes to be fun and to go by really fast – an hour class can seem like only a few minutes. And for me, the best part is that I see improvement relatively quickly and without doing a million reps of the same thing (which would be boring). For instance, the first time I did a Side Plank I could not do it without using my free arm for support. Then after about a month, even though the classes I had been in had not incorporated a Side Plank as one of the exercises, I was able to do the Side Plank without support, and I was even able to hold a weight with my free hand. The fact that all the exercises work your core means you can improve on a specific movement without doing that movement a gazillion times.

I have been taking TRX classes for almost a year now and I am not bored yet. I am more fit now than I ever was, and I’m having fun keeping fit. So me, the non-gym/fitness person, now looks forward to fitness (TRX) class.

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Nuts! Thursday, Nov 29 2012 

Give the gift of nuts.

IMG_0717Here is an easy recipe for spiced nuts:

2 Cups Raw Unsalted Nuts (Walnuts, Pecans, etc)

3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

1/2 Tablespoon Water

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1/4 Teaspoon Ginger

Heat the nuts in a cast iron skillet until they are toasted. Remove the nuts and wipe out the skillet. Add the butter, sugar, water and spices to the skillet. Stir the ingredients until the sugar and butter are melted. Add the nuts back and stir until well coated. Spread the nuts on parchment paper and let cool. Once the nuts are cool package in pretty, airtight containers. This is an easy homemade gift that anyone can do. You can change the spice mixture to make different flavored nuts — this is just a starting point. Enjoy!

Make it Last Wednesday, Oct 31 2012 

These days every where you look you see buy local, buy fresh, shop at Farmer’s Markets, and so on. Buying local and fresh is great. However many of us don’t have time to shop every few days, so I have some tips to help keep what you’ve purchased last longer.

If you plan ahead and allow a little extra time after you shop to package and prep items you will find you can shop less often and still eat great food.

Here are some tips for keeping items longer:

Bread: Buying local fresh made bread is great but it doesn’t last long. One trick I use is to freeze bread. If I buy a loaf of fresh bread I ask the baker to slice it for me and then I freeze it the same day I bring it home (minus what will be used that day). I usually freeze the slices in heavy ziplock bags, then when I need a couple of slices I take out what I need, wrap it in foil and pop it in the oven (toaster oven’s work great for this) at about 350 degrees for 5 – 10 minutes. I will also freeze baguettes. I will cut a fresh baguette into sandwich length pieces and wrap each piece in foil and then freeze the individual pieces. When I need a baguette for a sandwich, garlic bread or just to eat I pop the frozen baguette piece in the oven, and in less than 10 minutes I have fresh bread.

Bagels: Bagels freeze well in freezer bags. I usually do not pre-slice the bagels. I will put the frozen bagel in the microwave for about 15 seconds (just until it is soft enough to slice) then I slice and toast.

Pastries: I will also freeze muffins and scones that I have either purchased or made from scratch. Take the fresh (must be at room temperature before freezing) pastry and wrap each one in foil (remove any paper first) and freeze. Then when you want a fresh muffin just pop one in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Fresh Produce: Buy extra produce you really like when it is in season and at its peak. Take the extra produce and freeze, preserve, pickle and/or make sauces and soups with it.

  • Fresh berries freeze well. Gently rinse and dry off the berries and then spread out on a flat tray that you can slip in your freezer. Once the berries are frozen you can store the berries in air tight containers in the freezer.
  • Tomatoes can be slow roasted and/or made into sauce and then frozen.
  • Carrots and celery can be washed and prepped for snacking on the go. Put the cleaned and prepped vegetables in a container with cold water in the fridge. The water will keep the vegetables fresh and crisp. Change the water every day or so.
  • Bell peppers can also be cut in strips and stored in the fridge in a container between damp (paper) towels.
  • Lettuce and leaves of fresh basil can be washed and dried then layered in (paper) towels and kept in a container in the fridge.
  • Garlic is great when peeled and kept in oil in the fridge. You can use the garlic in cooking or just the flavored oil.

Fresh Herbs: Soft herbs like cilantro, tarragon, sage and basil can be pureed with (olive) oil and then frozen in ice cube trays. Once frozen the cubes can be stored in the freezer in labeled containers or freezer bags. Then when you need to flavor a dish just pop in a cube of the frozen herb. Hard herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen in ziplock bags. First clean and dry the herbs, then place in a small freezer bag and freeze on the stem. They can be kept on the stem or once frozen it is easy to remove the leaves from the stems and then seal the leaves in small bags or containers in the freezer.

Home Cooked Meals: Soups, sauces, casseroles and stews are all good items to make extra of and freeze. When freezing make sure the food is at room temperature, and it is best to freeze food in small quantities (one or two portions per container). If using freezer bags, squeeze out the excess air and then seal, label with the date and name of the item, then freeze flat with nothing stacked on top. Once the item is frozen it can be stacked. If using a container allow a little room for expansion (about 3/4 inch) and then make sure the lid is sealed, label and freeze. Here is a source for (Martha Stewart) freezer labels you can print at home with adhesive backed paper: Clip Art Freezer Labels

Remember to always label and date frozen food. Also, in the refrigerator and in the freezer make sure the older items are used first by keeping the older items in the front and the newer items in the back. Every week or so go through your refrigerator and throw out anything that is expired. Here is a basic guide to how long many items will last in the refrigerator: Storing Fresh Food Audit your freezer about every month.

More helpful tips at Every Day Food

The Pantry Tuesday, Apr 10 2012 

Whether you are moving to your first home or just doing some Spring-cleaning, having a well-stocked pantry can make throwing together a quick meal much easier.  When cleaning out your pantry (which could be one cabinet to a walk-in closet, preferably away from heat and light), take out everything and check for expired items. Dispose of any expired items and donate any items you no longer use (unless the containers are open). Next, put dry goods in airtight containers that are labeled with the date. Then, organize your shelves by like items (oil and vinegar on one shelf, pastas and grains on another, etc.) Below you will find a list for stocking or re-stocking your pantry. You will then be able to create meals on the fly even if your fridge is bare. This will come in handy if there is a natural disaster, as well.

For a well stocked pantry start here, revise and make substitutions based on your dietary needs and tastes:

  • Vinegar (Balsamic, Red Wine, Apple Cider, Rice, White)
  • Oil (Olive, Extra Virgin Olive, Vegetable)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Hot Sauce
  • Hot Chili Oil
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard (Dijon, Grainy)
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Crackers
  • Cereal/Granola/Oatmeal
  • Rice (Jasmine, Long Grain, Brown, Arborio, Basmati, Etc.)
  • Grains (Couscous, Bulgur, Quinoa, Kasha, Etc.)
  • Pasta (Assorted Shapes)
  • Canned/Boxed Broth (Assorted Flavors)
  • Canned/Boxed Tomatoes (Whole Peeled, Crushed, Diced, Pureed)
  • Canned Soups
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Canned Tuna
  • Capers
  • Jam/Preserves (Assorted — if you bake, include Apricot)
  • Nuts (Assorted)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Raisins/Currants
  • Dried and Canned Beans/Lentils
  • Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • Olives
  • Olive Paste
  • Canned Peppers (Diced Mild Green, Chipotle in Adobo, Roasted Red, Etc.)
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Onions
  • Flour (All Purpose, Cake, Whole-Wheat, Etc.)
  • Sugar (Granulated, Brown, Confectioner’s, Etc.)
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Chocolate (Semi-Sweet and Unsweetened)
  • Corn Starch
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Spices (Assorted)

Get Spicy! Thursday, Mar 3 2011 

I was not a fan of coleslaw until I discovered spicy, no mayo coleslaw. Here is a quick and healthy recipe. It goes great as a side dish or as a condiment to sandwiches: pulled pork, fried chicken, sausages, etc.

Spicy Coleslaw

1 head of cabbage shredded

1/2  red onion thinly sliced

1 fresh serrano or jalapeño chili diced

2 lemons juiced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

Make a dressing with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Pour the dressing over the cabbage, onion and chili. Mix well and let sit for about one hour. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Grind It Up Saturday, Nov 27 2010 

I don’t know why it took me so long to purchase an immersion blender, they really reduce cleanup time and speed up the soup making process for pureed soups. I went with the basic Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender, because I was mainly planning to use it to make pureed soups. The Cuisinart CSB-76 was about $30 and well worth it. If you are going to use yours for ice or on raw food you might consider a model with a stronger motor.

I love products that simplify tasks, before I purchased the immersion blender I would end up with several dirty pots and a dirty blender when making pureed soups. Now all I have to do is blend right in the pot and when I am done the hand blender comes apart so I can either hand wash it or put in the dishwasher. The soup making time and the cleanup time are greatly reduced.

Get The Mess Out! Friday, Sep 24 2010 

It happens to everyone, all of sudden you look over and you can’t see your desk anymore or your floor or the back of your closet or…  and you know it’s time to tackle the mess.

I have my own system for organizing. First of all, if you feel overwhelmed you might want to get help. The other thing to do if you feel overwhelmed is to pick a small area to focus on – instead of the bookshelf do one shelf. The process works the same whether it is one shelf or an entire house.

The Steps:

  1. Choose your area and make some space to put sorted items. Cover as large an area as you can handle.
  2. Remove items starting with one area (shelf, desktop, drawer, portion of the room, etc.).
  3. Place the items into piles: Keep, Trash, Recycling, Donate, Unsure. The reason I do an Unsure pile is to keep down the time it takes to sort the items, for many people sorting is the hardest part. If you aren’t sure if you can give the item away then just stick the item in the Unsure pile.
  4. Once everything is sorted take the items from the Keep pile and place the appropriate items back in the area you have been organizing. You may have things in your Keep pile that don’t belong in the area you’re working on and those will be placed where they belong or dealt with later.
  5. Now the trash and recycling can be put out, and the items to be donated can be bagged or boxed and given away. See my lists of local resources for donating  https://bayareaassistant.com/2010/06/25/taking-out-the-trash/ & https://bayareaassistant.com/2010/06/28/taking-out-the-trash-part-two/
  6. Take a look at your Unsure pile and ask yourself these questions: When was the last time I used this? How often do I use this? Will I use this? Is there a place to keep it? Would someone else be happy to have this? Now sort the items accordingly.
  7. Next continue to move through the rest of the clutter until you are satisfied. You can do this in small blocks of time or all at once if you are motivated. See https://bayareaassistant.com/2011/11/03/keeping-it-together/ for tips on how to store items.

Where To Shop Sunday, Jul 11 2010 

ORGANIC/NATURAL GROCERY & SPECIALTY SHOPPES

  1. Alameda Natural Grocery – Alameda, CA http://www.alamedanaturalgrocery.com/retailer/store_templates/shell_id_1.asp?storeID=AE5AB4DB016748B1BA0E76226F298C63
  2. Arizmendi Bakery (great breads, pizza) – various locations http://www.arizmendibakery.org/
  3. Berkeley Bowl Marketplace – Berkeley, CA http://www.berkeleybowl.com
  4. Bi-Rite Market – San Francisco, CA http://www.biritemarket.com/
  5. Bryan’s Quality Meats – San Francisco, CA http://www.yelp.com/biz/bryans-quality-meats-san-francisco
  6. 4505 Meats — San Francisco, CA http://4505meats.com/4505-meats-butcher-shop
  7. Cheeseboard Collective (great cheese, bread & pizza) – Berkeley, CA http://cheeseboardcollective.coop/index.htm
  8. Beauty’s Bagel Shop — Oakland, CA http://www.beautysbagelshop.com
  9. Diablo Foods — 3615 Mt Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA 925-283-0737
  10. Haight Street Market – San Francisco, CA Haight Street Market
  11. Hapuku Fish Shop – Oakland, CA Hapuku Fish Shop
  12. Mill Valley Market, 12 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley, CA. 415-388-3222
  13. Monterey Fish Market – Berkeley, CA http://www.montereyfish.com/
  14. Monterey Market (great for produce) – Berkeley, CA http://www.montereymarket.com/
  15. Paradise Foods – Corte Madera, CA http://www.foodsofparadise.com/
  16. Real Food Company (delivery available) – San Francisco, CA http://www.realfoodco.com/retailer/store_templates/shell_id_1.asp?storeID=85CF1454F27047F58B04F3FC719A8669
  17. Woodlands Market – Kentfield, CA Woodlands Market
  18. Western Boat & Tackle for fresh seafood – San Rafael, CA http://www.westernboatshop.com/seafood_market.htm

HAVE IT DELIVERED — when you can’t get to the farmers market

  1. Eat Well Farm http://www.eatwell.com/
  2. Eat With The Season http://www.eatwiththeseasons.com/
  3. Farm Fresh To You http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/index.php
  4. Organic Grocery Delivery https://www.spud.com/index.cfm?action=logout&L=1&t=0
  5. Tera Firma Farm http://www.terrafirmafarm.com/

FARMERS MARKETS

East Bay, CA

  1. Alameda Farmers Market  https://www.facebook.com/AlamedaFarmersMarket/
  2. Berkeley Farmers Market http://www.ecologycenter.org/bfm/
  3. El Cerrito Plaza Farmers Market http://farmersmarketonline.com/fm/ElCerritoPlazaFarmersMarket.html
  4. Grand Lake – Oakland Farmer’s Market
  5. Jack London Square Farmers Market – Oakland https://www.fahttps://www.facebook.com/jlsfarmersmarket/
  6. Kensington Farmers Market http://www.aboutkensington.com/farmersmarket.html
  7. Lafayette Farmers Market http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lafayette-CA/Lafayette-Farmers-Market/140191441192
  8. Montclair Village Farmers Market – Oakland http://www.urbanvillageonline.com/markets/montclair.php
  9. Old Oakland Farmers Market http://www.urbanvillageonline.com/markets/oldOakland.php
  10. Orinda Farmers Market http://www.cccfm.org/pages/orinda.htm
  11. Temescal Farmers Market – Oakland http://www.urbanvillageonline.com/markets/temescal.php
  12. Walnut Creek Farmers Market http://www.cccfm.org/pages/wc.htm

Daly City Farmers Market http://www.cafarmersmkts.com/daly-city-farmers-market

Marin, CA

  1. Marin Farmers Market a) Farmer’s Market  b) http://www.marinmagazine.com/Marin-Magazine/About-Marin-County/Marin-Grown/Farmers-Markets/
  2. Marinwood Community Farmers Market http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Rafael-CA/Marinwood-Community-Farmers-Market/10150150123540311?v=wall
  3. San Rafael Farmers Market http://www.sanrafaelmarket.org/

San Francisco, CA

  1. Alemany Farmers Market http://sfgsa.org/index.aspx?page=1058
  2. Castro Farmers Market https://www.facebook.com/CastroFarmersMarket/
  3. Crocker Galleria http://www.cafarmersmkts.com/san-francisco-farmers-market-at-crocker-galleria
  4. Divisadero Farmers Market https://www.facebook.com/DivisaderoFarmersMarket/
  5. Ferry Plaza Farmers Market  http://www.cuesa.org/markets/
  6. Fillmore Farmers Market https://www.facebook.com/FillmoreFarmersMarket/
  7. Fort Mason Center http://www.cafarmersmkts.com/fort-mason-center-farmers-market
  8. Heart of The City Farmers Market http://heartofthecity-farmersmar.squarespace.com
  9. Inner Sunset Farmers Market https://www.facebook.com/InnerSunsetMarket/
  10. Stonestown Farmers Market https://www.facebook.com/StonestownFarmersMarket/info/

Eat Fresh Sunday, Jul 11 2010 

I love to eat good food. When you cook with fresh, in season ingredients you benefit from flavors at their peak. I like to cook simple dishes where you can really taste the freshness of the ingredients. For instance, in the summer when tomatoes and basil are at their peak I make a pasta dish with fresh tomatoes, basil & garlic. I just barely cook the garlic and tomatoes before adding it to the al dente pasta. Then sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top — simple, easy and delicious. We are lucky to have so many places to buy fresh, locally produced food in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have compiled a list, “Where To Shop,” of places to try – from specialty shops to farmers markets. The List

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