This morning about 20 or so volunteers of literally all ages came together at Harriet Wetherill Park for a clean-up effort. The park has only been officially open since April, but it quickly became on of my favorite little spots to get in some quick walks or meet a friend for lunch. It's a great space intertwined with farmland growing corn, peppers and I'm sure other crops. My favorite is watching the horses on the way up to the Butterfly Garden. While I always tell people who ask about the park and promote it to my colleagues, a little part of me wants to selfishly keep it to myself.
This mornings activities involved weeding, mulching and planting new greenery in the Butterfly Garden. It was a gorgeous morning for it--quite warm, but the breeze was perfect. And the garden looks amazing! It never ceases to amaze me what such a small group can accomplish with a few tools and some determination. And the entire time we were out there, I could not help but think about how ironic it is that when I was the age of the children there today with their parents, I did not want to have any part of my folks' gardens and now, here I was getting up early after a late night out--enjoying the moment and not thinking twice about my obligation as a resident of this community and park user that I needed to be there.
Today marks the completion of a full three weeks of reintroducing strength training back into my schedule. After a significant time apart (due mostly to the surfing injury of last summer), I might have found a way to make it work for me--until I weighed myself this week. All rational thought and knowledge informs me that a gain of two pounds is quite normal when beginning strength training (even for the millionth time). But, for as analytical and logical as I am, it's taken me a few days, a conversation with my doctor, my health coach, a co-worker and a friend to accept it does not warrant cutting back on the calories. The discussion actually ended up that I might not be getting enough calories, but we won't get into that... after all, after a several day craving, I indulged in a Reese Peanut Butter Cup--that has to count for something (aside from 210 calories).
Contributing to my freak out a week of high, unexplained anxiety and a day where I quite literally forgot to eat, which then turned into a reminder of that all powerful feeling of purposely not eating--just before I weighed in. It didn't leave me in a good place for a while, struggling yesterday to not just have coffee for dinner. I did, much to my own surprise, recognize the rabbit hole I was getting into and found ways to break the pattern. It surprised me, not that I recognized what I was doing, but that for so long I've been going along thinking things were "normal" but the ghosts of the past are still very much present, just lurking.
Tonight, ever aware of not only how easily it could be to slip into old bad habits, I still hate those two pounds and the inability to lift my arms without "feeling the burn." I'm also ever aware that I set a 4-week goal, and there is only one more week until a massage. It's all worth it. Also worth it will be the day I don't have to fight to open non-automagical glass door (or I can attempt surfing again). Until then, I'll just continue wearing my SuperGirl pjs because, after all, we all need a little boost.
Today is: Talk Like a Pirate Day, my friend David's birthday and wedding anniversary, the date of the first nuclear detonation in Nevada (1957), football Sunday... it is also the date I moved to the Philadelphia area three years ago. In so many ways, it doesn't feel like it has been that long and then there is the inevitable flip side where I say it feels like I've been here forever. I blogged before that I had intended to try water ice this year to mark the event but was going to pass having went to the Phillies game instead, but during a little office party when it was learned I hadn't ever had it, I was scooped a cup of mango. I've had the water ice--it needs vodka; I shall say no more on the topic.
Last weekend, I also decided to purge the "big chair." It was so named because it was, in fact, big--able to seat two very... cozily. It's name also was a play on "The Big House" as the University of Michigan calls its stadium. When I first moved to Ann Arbor after undergrad, I didn't really get that they called the stadium that (since when I heard it I thought they were talking about a nearby prison)--I was also quite convinced that the roads around the stadium intersected in some weird vortex of time and space continuum (as it turns out, I was just a little challenged by east versus west at that particular spot for some reason). Nonetheless, I found it somewhat ridiculous a name to call a stadium and since I bought the chair when there was a game going on at the Big House and was challenged by traffic, I called it the Big Chair. It's a dumb story, not even funny, and I'm certain because of that I've probably never shared it with anyone, but since the chair is gone and since I went to a college football game last night and have had this wave of nostalgia hanging about this weekend... I decided to bore my blog readers (or the two of you left at this point).
So the game: a friend had tickets to a UPenn game last night and I tagged along, because well, I knew how to get to the stadium and despite the story above, I'm quite a hoot. Besides, even though I avoid watching it on the telly, I really do love live football. It's been a while since I went to a game, too; probably since I would watch Central Michigan University play at Eastern Michigan. CMU was where I did undergrad, EMU grad school--but my heart is with Central. And as I sat amongst the drunken freshman, the horrible scent of Bud Light from Dixie cups wafting through the bleachers, I was so glad to be past the drama of being 19 or 20. The drama of being in one's 30s is far better: for starters the liquor is much improved, a hot dog is not considered food, our hormones do not drive us to run up a flight of steps only to issue a loud screech in no general direction for no particular reason, and we dress better--much better. Of course, I'm speaking only for a certain segment of the 30somethings, but it's the segment in which I know and live.
The game made me long to see a CMU game again though... it's been years and sadly, I just missed them playing at Temple last weekend. There are other opportunities as they play within driving distance a few more times this year... but even more so, being at the game and having Middle Eastern food just before found me wanting--just for a weekend--to be in Ann Arbor, cursing The Big House traffic on a Saturday, having brunch at Amer's, swearing I will not stand in line for Zingerman's (no matter how much I love the pickles), drinking a Bell's drought at Ashley's and then some end of the season sangria at Dominick's... and of course, doing all this with friends I haven't seen in over a year.
Despite the moments this weekend of wanting to live in the nostalgia, I love where I am now. For all the differences some things remain the same; I can always curse traffic, but my favorite is Shore traffic--and I love mornings when I can stop over at the Conshy Bakery to pick up a bagel for breakfast, or a coffee at the Gryphon Cafe, or drinks (and sometimes even dinner) at Great American Pub or The StoneRose. These are the places that now feel like I'm home and it no longer feels foreign (nor has it for the last year). And just maybe there is room for a road trip to A2 in the future--in the meantime, I still take some pleasure in pulling out the Michigan sweatshirt for my Penn State friends (can you sense my evil laughter?).
Each year since I moved here, I've promised myself that I would get to the orchard for Honey Crisp picking the following year. This year, I held good on my own promise--barely, but I did it. Part of the convincing myself to make the trek out to New Hope was not only the allure of picking my favorite apple directly from the tree myself, but the awesome vegan restaurant not too far from the orchard.
I have to admit, as much as I love heading up to Solebury Orchards, it is not an event I particularly enjoy going it alone for and I usually grab a friend if only to have someone to endure with me the inevitable crews of unwieldy children and their oblivious parents. While I do have to admit, some of the little rugrats are cute, they (and I) do not have the patience for their parents incessant need to pose them with the tractor, eating an apple or propped up in some other variety of treasured memory. However, given the short window allowed to pick your own Honey Crisps, I had not time or available friend to force into my car for the adventure... so I went it alone. And, despite having to weave my personage and my apple picking bag through throngs of adults shouting, "Bobby, pick THIS apple!!" I managed to fill a bag to the point where carrying it was, at best, difficult, in almost no time. Partly because the some of the apples were as big as my head. Ok, a slight exaggeration, but only slight as many are two-handers. In the end, I netted 28.1 pounds of Honey Crisps.
From the orchard, it was onto Sprig & Vine. I've still not had a chance to make it there for their dinner menu (though I desperately want to), their lunch menu is amazing. Perhaps it is the simple excitement of knowing that I can order anything on the menu without having to ask for something removed or having to compromise in any way my vegan diet, but the choices on the menu are not easy... but in the end, I had to go with the sandwich that has literally been on my mind since the first visit there--the Oyster Mushroom Po'Boy. Bearing in mind that before going vegan I wouldn't have eaten a traditional Po'Boy (a fan of shellfish I never was), this version sold me as mushrooms and pickles make almost anything better with their very presence let alone being the mainstays of the sandwich. Simply stated, it is amazing.
Having learned my lesson previously, I had half the sandwich wrapped for later. I was just about ready to finish up my iced tea and pay my check when the waitress casually slipped me the dessert menu (clever pixie, of course as a former waitress myself, I would have done the same). My will weakened and still having over 30 minutes on the parking meter, I decided a few bites of the chocolate mousse pie garnished with a coffee ice cream wouldn't be so bad... and it wasn't, excepting I ate more than just a few bites. Still, it was worth all the calories I'm sure I will have to run an hour to burn later this week.
And of course, today found me waking with the question: what do I do with this 28 pound bag of apples? Not ready to make my yearly applesauce, and not wanting to use this variety for said sauce, I decided on making the pie I had promised... well, I decided to make two since the crusts come in packages of two (Whole Foods sells pre-made crust that are not only whole wheat, they are "suitable for vegans") and well, I have more than enough apples. If the bag of Honey Crisps were not quite enough, I still had some apples left from my CSA share this week... so with the pies in the oven, I decided I would give a try to the chili recipe I found earlier in the week in Veganomicon... well, sort of... their recipe was for a verde chili and I adapted it to using red tomatoes since that's what I had on hand. A rich combination of poblano peppers, jalapenos, onion, garlic and other spices coupled with a hint of lime and loaded with potato and, you guessed it, apples. I realize this may not sound very good on first presentation, but I can assure you, it all works together--and nicely. And since I still have over 20 pounds of apples, I'm now taking some suggestions.
It never fails that the week insomnia hits me hard is the week I decide my workout needs to have strength training added back in and the intensity on the hamster wheel upped. This evening as I thought my already tired legs wouldn't make the increased elliptical resistance while still maintaining pace, I remembered something I used when I was training for my first Komen 3-Day and then later the Avon 2-Day: take everything five minutes at a time. I convince myself I only have to do five minutes at that speed, that resistance, the gym... and then I let my competitive nature take over: Can I do 10? 20? 90?
Five seems to be my magic number. As those who know me well enough to have to on occasion listen to my workout chatter, I hate strength training. I know I should do it and every week I have the very best of intentions to incorporate it back into the schedule. So, when on Tuesday I was trying to move a rolling office chair about three feet (via the wheelies) and discovered that much like the glass door that gives me a challenge at times, the effort was surprising. It was then I vowed strength twice a week: Tuesday and Thursdays. And I did it this week... five muscle groups at a time.
And now it is Thursday night, I am tired, sore and ravenous--having forgotten that strength training will boost the metabolism and not sleeping makes me have no desire to eat; I'm hungry with no appetite. I've been up since 4 a.m. when my Benedryl-induced sleep wore off and can tell as I sit here, sleep is far off once again this evening even though I am ready to go in my old Super Girl pjs. But, I'm thinking this too shall pass, five minutes at a time.
This month will mark my three year anniversary in the Philadelphia area; as I have each September since I've moved here, I venture out and embrace a part of the culture here that growing up in Michigan we simply did not do or have. Some of the things I've tried I love, others have been obligatory and I'm certain one-time events (such as cheese steaks and TastyKakes). This month, I was preparing myself to try a "water ice." It seems so innocuous really, and as a coworker commented today, surprising that I've never had one. But, the name "water ice" bothers me--from the first day in this area when my mom and I looked at each other and said: What the fuck?
It is an issue of language.
As someone who is as easily seduced by words as I am turned off, "water ice" makes my head want to spin. I've heard all the arguments about how it isn't redundant because ice is a different state than water, but I don't buy it as a counterpoint. I know the more proper convention is Italian ice, which really does sound sexy (and much better even than the Michigan equivalent "SnoCone" which I avoided in MI too), but I'm still reluctant for some reason.
Water ice isn't the only regional terminology I can't adapt to even after all this time. The word "hoagie" causes me a visceral reaction I can't quite figure out. Others, like "sneakers" seem like my Adidas are on an undercover mission of some kind; though I admit I've stopped referring to them as "tennis shoes" since moving here, compromising on "gym shoes" since that's about the only time I wear them.
Nonetheless, September 19 will be three years... and I'm wondering if my attendance at a Phillies game on Sunday can count as my truly Philadelphia experience? It isn't something I would normally have done, and if my friend hadn't given me her tickets, I wouldn't have gone. In fact, I take some amount of enjoyment on occasionally pulling out my Yankees hat for my Philly friends--not that I particularly care about the Yankees, either, but I got it when I lived in NYC. And besides, I'm from Michigan, we have the Lions and the Tigers--we NEED a sense of humor. And, since the Phils lost on Sunday, it did feel like I was "at home."
It started to hit me earlier this week as I noticed the night creeping in earlier. On some level, I felt it coming with the chill in the night air keeping the bedroom window closed, but with the need to run the air conditioning much of the week as the 90+ degree days continued to stretch out I ignored the obvious. For a girl that thrives on change--seeks it out to alleviate monotony--I almost always cling desperately to the summer, refusing to acknowledge its frail end as September boasts the comeback of things like Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes or the farmers markets generous offering of squash, apples and kale. These are all things I love as much as I do the 90 degree days, the summer sun hitting my skin and desperate avoidance of buying a new swimsuit; but I resist, with all mental faculties, the acknowledgment of their presence--at first.
Even as I find myself giddy with the prospects of apple picking in the next few weeks, it was with some pain that I found myself so unabashedly enjoying an early season Honeycrisp this week. Today, though, was the first day that acceptance started to set in. Perhaps it is appropriate that I find myself coming around to the changes in season as the Labor Day holiday hits. No latte or apple bumped me over the edge; it was the absolute sheer delight I experienced today as I was able to pull out my favorite sweater and wrap myself in it. It's the perfect accessory to wide open balcony doors as I write this evening. A welcome reason to slowly let go of my grip on summer and start to welcome all the fabulous things the autumn brings. Tonight would only be made more perfect with s'more* and wine in front of a fire.
And with my acceptance, I now want to have this sunset breeze bring with it the smell of crisp gold, orange and crimson leaves, pumpkins baking and cinnamon.
*A s'more is not vegan, but sometimes a fantasy is not and should be indulged where appropriate.