Thursday, March 31, 2011

The March Project, part 2

The March Project is swinging on towards a triumphant finish here. I have been working out at least 3 days a week for the entire month of March and I feel great! At least, I did, until today. I was getting a little cocky. After all, I've been attending Nand, Becky and Deanne's classes all month regularly. I should be building some muscle, some endurance, right?

So tonight, I decided to go for the holy grail of YMCA fitness classes...Karlton's Klass. You'll notice that, while all the other instructors have generic, YMCA issued class names, Karlton's is named after him. Plus, he has the whole K theme going on there with the Klass. Karlton's Klass is held just before one of my old lady classes that I religiously attend, so I see them, every week, with the sweat coming through their t-shirts and their extremely flushed faces as they leave Klass, looking as though they are high on mad illegal endorphins. Karlton even winked at me one day, as he left, as though to say, "yeah, keep on coming to your little old lady Klass would KILL you!". I always thought...One day, I'll be ready for Karlton. he'll never be ready for ME though.

Well, today was that day. And Karlton Killed me in his Klass. I actually thought I was in danger of suffering a cardiac arrest. In fact, I longingly thought, at one point, of how cool it would be (kool) if someone ELSE suffered a cardiac arrest, because then I could perform life-saving resuscitation efforts on them, plus I wouldn't have to do any more mountain climbers. Actually, to be honest with you, Karlton isn't that Kool. He and Mr. Zerrahn from middle school gym class could have been teaching the same stupid Klass. And I didn't like it any more this time than I did back in the 8th grade. I felt like that same geeky un-athletic girl who would surreptitiously drop down to her hands and knees after one push-up while the gym teacher looked disgustedly on. When Karlton finally called an end to his endless drills, and ordered us all to grab 3-5 pound dumbbells and head outside for the "neighborhood mile" I slinked off to child watch to collect my spawn and escape. With my double stroller and two children. Karlton caught me on his way back in, after having run, presumably, a 2 minute mile (with his stinkin' perfectly formed calf muscles). He smiled and...winked. Jerk.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The March Project

Yeah, that was it for the February Project. It was fun (not) and I'm not so sure I ever want to repeat it, but who knows? Maybe I will be inspired to make it an annual thing, kind of like Lent. Only earlier. And I'm not Catholic.
This month there is a different project entirely afoot. It certainly has nothing to do with abstaining from purchases at the store, as Sheila from White House/Black Market can attest to, cough cough.
I decided to challenge myself this month to do as many of the classes that are offered at the Y (as in, YMCA) as I can. They have tons of fitness classes all week, Monday through Friday, as well as free childcare and it suddenly occurred to me that, what with us paying 50 bucks a month to belong to the gym and the fact that I am available all week with little else to do, that maybe I should take advantage of the classes. See, we've used the gym so little since the children began being born that we have frequently toyed with the notion of just stopping our membership. The only thing that has stopped us on a number of budget crunching occasions is the pool. They have a delightful pool which is less than a mile from our own pool-less residence, so we have always ended up keeping the membership despite our lax attendance.
We used to go all the time. When I was a normal citizen and worked normal hours, me and Hugs would go to the gym together after work a few times a week. We would also use the pool.
When I got pregnant I attended yoga-lates (a combo of yoga and pilates frequented by a large number of citizens more senior than I). All the old ladies would fuss over me and I actually found it to be quite a positive part of my pregnancy. Becky, the instructor, is a former Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming and she would serenely call out modifications for me that didn't involve me laying flat on my face, and stomach, on the floor, AKA child's pose, also NOT known as "with-child pose" since it's impossible for a pregnant woman to do. I found that doing yoga while pregnant helped me enormously with my balance and that breathless "can't take a normal breath cause I have at least a 15 pound baby lodged in my diaphragm" feeling. Also, seeing my reflection in the huge mirrors as I did warrior 2 pose was absolutely frickin' hysterical.
Even yogalates had to go though, after Sofia came along. Child watch is only for infants 6 months and older, so I fell out of my normal Friday routine of yoga and never really picked it back up when she got to the 6 month mark. Possibly because back then I was terrified of leaving my precious bundle with anyone other than her father. Also because I was working nights and weekends and Hugo was working days during the week and for a good year and a half there I was a complete zombie trying to navigate my way through a world rife with perils and insomnia and second pregnancies and, well, you get the idea.
Now I seem to be on a slightly more even keel. I work and sleep on the weekends and then I pretty much switch out of nurse mode and into mom mode and, aside from being a terrible housewife (which I'm pretty sure Hugo has resigned himself to at this point), I seem to function pretty well. Maybe I'm flattering myself. I guess the jury will be out on that one until my kids are grown and can give an objective opinion.
Anyway, I finally decided one day that my kids aren't apt to be very proud of their flabby white mama when she comes to pick them up at school (if I ever decide to send them there; the jury is still out on that one as well). No sense sitting around the house getting fatter when we are paying good money to belong to the gym, right? Come to think of it, maybe this months challenge IS related to the February project. Maybe it's a continuation of my newfound thriftiness and abhorrence of waste.
I first dipped my toe into the waters, timidly, by re-attending my old favorite, yogalates. Becky still teaches it, she still smiles serenely throughout the entire hour with her eyes half closed, and I still love it. I still look ridiculous doing warrior 2 pose. Now it's just because of my gut though, not my cute protuberant pregnant belly. Not nearly as hilarious.
Next, I decided to try the stretching class offered by Deanne. Ok, I know, a whole hour of stretching? Even the senile old ladies who make up 99.9% of the rest of the class looked disgusted by me as I sidled in, attempting to look as old and decrepit, and therefore inconspicuous, as possible. Yeah, I admit it. It's an exercise class that takes place while mostly seated in comfortable chairs. I'm a loser. Deanne kindly approached me after class and suggested that I might enjoy, as did most of the other participants of the stretching class, her hourlong total body fitness class that precedes total body stretch. Ok, now I'm really a loser. I skipped the REAL workout and attended the hourlong cool-down class instead. Freak. The problem is, I'm not an old lady. I have kids. I can't hang out at the Y all day, attending hour warm-up sessions followed by hourlong exercise classes and then hourlong cool downs. There's a strict 90 minute limit to the free childcare offered. So I made a mental note to come to the real work-out class next time.
The next one I tried was step and tone. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a real exercise class. It involves fairly loud music and is attended by people who are not eligible for Medicaid. Or is it Medicare? Dammit I'm a nurse and I still can't keep those two straight. Anyway, you use those stepper thingies and you have to follow the instructors ridiculously complicated instructions for stepping on and off the thing in specific sequences while your heart is racing at 200 BPM's and you have sweat dripping into your eyes and down the crack a yo ass. As it would turn out, Deanne was again the instructor. She approached me, again, after class (am I starting to feel a little conspicuous?) and gently asked me if it was my first step class. Umm, what was your first clue? The horsey laughter coming from my mouth as I attempted to keep up or the part where I almost broke my ankle falling off the stupid stepper? She told me that it takes, like, 4 or 5 classes to "get it". Well, thanks actually. I feel like somewhat less of a loser.
After step and tone I actually felt really sore. The kind of soreness that sort of feels good because you can tell that any minute now a total 6 pack is gonna burst forth from the flab and your going to be, like, the queen of Olympus. I was encouraged by that queen of Olympus feeling. I decided to press on. I attended Deanne's total body class and she kicked my butt. I literally thought I was going to die. I don't know that anyone has ever made me do lunges and squats before. I have no muscles below my waist. I should say, I HAD no muscles below m waist. I have no attended total body class every week for 4 weeks and I'm getting to where I
can hold my head up high around those ubiquitous old ladies. I'm telling you, the Y is filthy with old ladies. It really should be called the OLCA because there really aren't that many young men frequenting it these days.
I attended a real yoga class led by an honest to goodness Indian yogi named Nand. It was a keeper. Total body was a keeper. Yogalates is a keeper. I didn't care for Dance Trance, Zumba or belly flab blaster. Those are all evening classes and I just don't feel like working out as much in the evening. Plus, as pertains to this newfound dance-inspired fitness craze...I just don't get it. If I'm not wearing heels, dressed like a hooker and drinking a dirty martini, I just don't feel that much like dancing. Y'know?
So my March Project has been fun and the girls have become household names in child watch.
I am enjoying the slow reawakening of different muscle groups which is going on, mostly unnoticeable to the visible eye, under the layers of fat formed by too many late-night trips to the vending machines at work. Maybe one day Nand will suggest to me, while I'm in a yoga-induced coma, that I really don't want to seek spiritual enlightenment in 4 slices of delicious homemade thin crust pizza from Annies Eats (my new FAVORITE food blog) anymore and I will shed some pounds and reveal my Queen of Olympus 6 pack. Maybe. Hmmm. Haha. Doubt it....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A way to use leftover sugar cookie dough OR jam-packed sugar cookies

I had a ball of sugar cookie dough left-over from Valentines Day, when I made heart shaped sugar cookies and iced them with royal icing using the tutorial on When the craving for something fresh baked came on after dinner tonight, it was natural for me to grab the dough but I wanted to do something a little different. I decided to try making jam thumbprints cookies using the sugar cookie dough, even though I know recipes for thumbprints usually call for a shortbread cookie base.

I played around with a few different methods. I used a smallish round cookie cutter with a crinkled edge and cooked some plain and some with little globs of jam in the center (I used seedless raspberry jam). The ones I cooked with jam had to be scrunched up around the edges to make kind of a basket shape since they weren't thick enough for a real thumbprint. When they came out of the oven (I cooked em at 375 for 8 minutes) I allowed them to cool.

Then I used the plain cookies to make little jam sandwiches. I laid them next to the ones cooked with jam and sifted confectioners sugar over all. To my taste, the jam sandwich cookies were tastier than the thumbprint ones. They had more jam, plus a double layer of cookie. What's not to love? Not to mention, they were easier.

It would be really easy to whip up a batch of these jam sandwich cookies from a tube of store-bought sugar cookie dough (no need to roll and cut; you could just slice and bake) but it literally took me less than 10 minutes to make a double batch of sugar cookie dough and throw the extras in a big ziplock bag in the freezer. Annie's recipe uses vanilla extract AND almond extract and I could definitely appreciate an intermingling of the almond and jam flavors in the final cookie. Additionally, the fact that the dough had spent some time in the freezer meant it rolled out and transferred to the pan really easily.

A little trick I invented (I'm sure someone else has already used this idea before, but it came to me organically, so I claim it as my own):
If you want to sift powdered sugar over some sweet treat, or pancakes, or a Monte Christo sandwich (?) but you can't be bothered to get your sifter out and you don't happen to have room for a dedicated shaker in your's what you do. Get one of those little tea balls (it's a tiny little strainer for loose tea leaves that you can use to brew a single cup of tea) stick it in the bag of powdered sugar and fill it up and voila! You have a miniature sugar sifter that holds just enough sugar to dust a single batch of cookies, a cake, or any of the other plethora of things that is made all the more delicious by adding a sprinkling of powdered sugar. It comes out in a perfect fine mist just like if you had one of those enormous strainer/sifter things that Ina and Martha love to use. I'm willing to bet that Ina and Martha don't do their own dishes or they would likely be a little more frugal with their use of kitchen unitaskers.