Monday, November 29, 2010

Seek and you shall find.

This is about ice cream, and some other things.

Today was a long day. I left home at 6:30 a.m., made a quick pit stop at home again in the late afternoon to shovel down some mashed potatoes and an English muffin, and between work, school, and picking up new tabs for my car, didn't come home again until 9:30 at night. 15 hours makes for a long day.

But you can bet I'm appreciating my couch, my music, my cat, and my pint of pumpkin ice cream now.

Pumpkin ice cream, in fact, was all I could think about for the majority of my evening. I considered going to Trader Joe's after class, but it was pretty out of my way; QFC has better produce, and I also needed some greens for my morning Unpalatable Chlorophyll Juice.

I scanned the ice cream freezers long and hard for pumpkin ice cream, almost to no avail. The cases of Ben 'n Jerry's and Haagen Dazs both failed me utterly; no pumpkin anywhere. I thought I was going to have to settle for a vat of Edy's low-fat pumpkin stuff when suddenly my eyes landed on a modest little pint of pumpkin custard ice cream from a local company, Snoqualmie Gourmet. + On sale. + I got the last pint.

Fate, no doubt.

It's the second time recently that I've walked into a store with a very deliberate idea in mind of what I want to walk out with, and the universe has worked in my favor. Last time was an impulsive nighttime venture to Elliot Bay Books in the hopes of walking out with a new novel. I had a really specific sort of book in mind for myself, and I spent a good hour browsing, reading book jackets and first pages, and nothing seemed to be speaking to me.

I'd just about given up when I cycled back to the original table of bargain books I'd been browsing and my eyes lit upon the One. (I'm about 70 pages in, and it's wonderful so far.)

So often, it can feel as though the universe is conspiring against us.

But I'm trying, more and more, to consciously acknowledge and appreciate it when it's not - which, honestly, is most of the time. After all...I do not have cancer! I have no broken bones! I'm on good terms (I think) with everybody in my life! My car did not break down today! I did not get in any accidents! While traffic was frustrating, and my schedule exhausting, and getting new car tabs a hassle, I have a home, and a job (or 3ish), and a vehicle, and I can afford to go to school. I did not lose anything important today. So many horrible things didn't happen to me today!

There ARE, in fact, things - good things - that have happened to me, things I should be writing about: the glorious ten days in a row Alan and I got to spend together, the plethora of amazing dinner parties attended and hosted this week, Thanksgiving awesomeness at Seyeon and Andrea's lake house, the crazy snowstorm and the giant car accident pile up on our icy hill of a street, the amazing snowy hike Jeff and Kate and I did a couple weeks ago, the usual Seattle love stuff...

...but it'll wait for another time. Tomorrow's a (more modest) 12 hour day, but I need my sleep. Good night, good world!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Running Meets Politics: 300 mile foot races vs. changing the world

When I was at Oberlin, I got to attend free speeches, lectures, and performances by famous people all the time. (Toni Morrison, Michael Pollan, Newt Gingrich, Jerry Springer,etc...) Once you're no longer paying great sums annually into the system, however, there are fewer "free" perks. However, every now and then, I still luck out.

This week at REI, we had our annual all-store meeting. Some ambitious soul recruited world-famous ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes to speak at it. Again, I realize that for most people, "famous runner" is sort of an oxymoron, and the vast majority of you won't even recognize the name. (I know Natalie will, though! What Would Ultramarathon Man Do?) However, a short list of Dean's accolades: Ran 350 miles nonstop without rest or sleep, Ran 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days, Ran a marathon at the South Pole in -40 degrees F, Voted one of Outside Magazine's Ultimate Top 10 Outdoor Athletes, Voted one of the GQ's Best Bodies of the Year in 2004, Winner of the 2004 Badwater Ultramathon (135 miles through Death Valley in the middle of July), etc etc etc.

He's been called "The Perfect Human."

The gist of his motivational speech to all of us was that what he does isn't so miraculous after all; it's just a matter of yearning to test his own limits.

Whenever I go for more than a few weeks or months without running a lot, I forget how much I love it. I forget how good it makes me feel, how simple it makes the world seem, and how much my mind and body alike appreciate me for treating them. I forget the surge of creative energy and flow that comes when I run, and I forget the natural high I get, and I forget, most of all, what a perfect metaphor running is for everything in life.

I've always said that I could probably be a fiscal conservative, under one condition: that how hard one works actually corresponds with how much money one makes. (A terribly gross oversimplification of my political beliefs and interpretation of the world, but allow it to suffice for now.) In such a "perfect world", it's easy to get behind the idea of straightforward economic incentives to motivate people to contribute to society, in whatever way they best can.

On a tangential but related note, my favorite quote find of the week, on the Facebook profile of a Seattle ultrarunner I met briefly at my Vashon Island run..."Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman.

Anyway. Distance running is that "perfect world." Dean summed it up yesterday when he gave his tongue-in-cheek demonstration in response to the question "How do you run 300 miles without stopping?" He sort of did a little jog across the room in front of all of us and said, "That's pretty much it. Except instead of stopping, you just keep doing it until you've gone 300 miles."

Me smiling at the end of my first ultra!

In the world of distance running, anyone can excel. It doesn't matter if you're big, small, long-legged, short-legged, old, young, male, female, have a high V02 max or not, see 55-year-old women kicking 25-year-old men's butts at ultramarathons. The only things that matter are: how hard you trained, how well you fueled your body, and how hard you pushed yourself mentally during the race. Sure, injuries and weather and other minor unpredictables can happen and throw you off course, but for the most part, there is a direct correlation between how hard you work and how successful you are. The playing ground is level, how much time you're willing to devote to make yourself great corresponds with how far you're able to go, and ultimately, anyone can win.

I'm finding myself more and more confused about how close or far our American society, as it stands right now, is from mirroring that world of "anyone can win." How level is the playing field? So many important people in my life, all whose opinions I value and trust, have completely different answers to that question. How much more level is the playing ground than fifty years ago? How much more level should it be? And how do we get there?

Big questions without easy answers. As opposed to...Q: "How do I get better at running?" A: "Run more."

I wish the world were like running: simple and easy to navigate. The path to running success is long, but at least it's clear cut. The path to other goals is so much trickier to identify and get started on. Seyeon, for example, wants to design and implement an entirely new school system for adolescents. I want to be a better asset to this world and use my words to help people feel more connected and understood, less isolated and hopeless. America wants to stay true to its founding ideals and ensure every one of its citizens is given the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Where do you even start with such goals? If you want to run a marathon, the first step is a literal one; you pick yourself up off the couch and put one foot in front of the other. And you keep going. I sure wish I could figure out the first step on all the other things I'd like to change about our world...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Night Thanks

A short list of things I feel grateful for:
(Note: Just things. If I included people, the list could go on forever.)

1. Pandora
2. WriteRoom
3. Dark, leafy greens
4. Public libraries
5. Mountains
6. Tulsi tea
7. Autumn leaves in Seattle
8. Paper and pen games
9. Open source projects
10. Audio books
11. Freezers
12. Fresh air
14. The entire Adobe Creative Suite
15. Yellow notepads
16. Merino wool socks
17. Groupon
18. Rosemary (the herb)
19. Sunny November days
20. UTNE Reader magazine

Saturday, November 6, 2010

ZOOM ZOOM goes the rocket over the elephant shooting ants out of its nose!

Weekends are lovely. Why did I ignore this fact for my first year in Seattle?

More FoodBlog! Homemade raw broccoli/zucchini hummus.

Yesterday, James and I trekked down to Burien to cash in LivingSocial deal coupons we'd purchased months ago for hourlong massages. We spent the rest of the afternoon having various adventures in Ballard, at Grocery Outlet (duh), and just hanging out at my apartment, watching the latest Office episode on Hulu (five years and counting since I've lived with a TV), listening to bluegrass and cooking stuff. Dinnertime brought new guests, and the five of us had a lovely evening of butternut squash soup, fresh bread, vegetables with various hummus dips - homemade and otherwise, wine, chocolate truffles, and pumpkin cookies to round it all out.

Who recognizes the table?

We all stayed up until well into the wee hours of the morning playing games - everything from Balderdash to a paper-and-pens game that Leo suggested. As he explained it, I didn't think I'd played it before; everybody sits in a circle, and each person has a sheet of paper. You make up one narrative sentence, write it down, then pass your sheet to the right. Then everybody has to illustrate the sentence they've been passed. Then you fold the sheet over so that only the illustration appears (and the original sentence is hidden), and pass again. Now everyone writes a sentence to describe the illustration they're handed. And folds it so only the sentence appears, and passes again. And so forth.

Essentially, the game is like telephone, on paper. The worse of an artist you are, the better, and the more ridiculous the sentence becomes as it gets passed around and altered with each new rendition. We were down to four people by then, so each sheet only got a few passes, but it was still amusing. My original sentence evolved as such:

Elodie and I continued the excellence of food tradition today with a lazy morning around the apartment, baking banana bread, drinking Dutch chocolate milk and green smoothies (grapes + pineapple + peaches + banana + kale + cucumber today), and making a scrumptious egg scramble with all the orphan veggies in my fridge, plus goat cheese. Delicious!

So here's the funny thing...and the real point of this blog entry in this first place...(aside from reveling in how awesome my friends are, and how nice it is to relax together over delicious food) also last night, after playing Leo's game, I went digging through my personal filing system and found a sheet of paper I'd saved from one time when I'd played what I remembered as a similar game to the one Leo proposed. It was, in fact, the exact same game, and one that Seyeon and I had played six years ago at Stanford, when we'd just met each other. And guess what? My story sentence back then was eerily similar to the one I wrote last night:

Six years later, apparently I'm still fascinated with abused, down-on-their-luck anteaters.

Who wants to psychoanalyze me?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

For the love of vegetables

I feel long overdue for a food blog entry. It's been about six months since my last food/cooking frenzy, and given that a lot of big things have been happening in my kitchen lately, I feel like it's time.

My grocery hauls have been really colorful lately!

Exactly two years ago, Seyeon and I took a fall break trip to Austin, Texas together. She was interested in scoping it out for grad school and future living, and I went along for the ride. Given that we were both wrapped up in our busy lives prior to the trip (I was in the final stretch before the 5K that I'd organized and stressed out of my mind about it), we had no time to plan anything, including where we'd stay once we got there. We found a decent hostel for the first couple nights, and from there, coordinated a couple homes to stay in after that via FANTASTIC website.

Our first couchsurfing host was a guy named David Ansel, who'd started his own soup-making-and-delivery business in Austin, The Soup Peddler. Our next couchsurfing host was the self-proclaimed "Team Sprout" - three young, enthusiastic raw foodists who hosted us for a craft night and a board game night and made us delicious raw food and smoothies to take with us on our daily adventures around the city. The three of them - Kaye, Chris, and Kristy - have been in both Seyeon's and my mind since we visited Austin for the first time, and their introducing us to the raw foods lifestyle irreversibly piqued our interest.

A quick overview on raw foods: essentially, a 100% raw diet (though many raw foodists will only maintain a 70% or 80% raw diet) excludes anything that's been heated above 116 degrees Fahrenheit. The theory behind is it that heating foods above 116 changes the actual chemical structure of the food, introducing carcinogens, zapping nutrients, and essentially killing the life energy out of the food. There are countless stories of people reversing cancer, heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, and various otherwise life-threatening, degenerative diseases by switching to a raw foods diet. People report soaring energy levels, because their digestive system no longer requires huge amounts of energy to break down weighty, nutrient-depleted foods. It's like veganism on steroids; not only no meat or dairy, but no cooked grains (only sprouted ones) either. Even coffee and tea is technically not considered raw. ("Sun tea", in which herbs are left to steep in a cup of water in direct sunlight, is permissible.) No bread, no oatmeal, nothing pasteurized.

Of course, there's nothing practical about being raw in our modern society. Virtually nothing at restaurants fits the bill; you have to pack all your own food when you travel or go anywhere; our culture is truly built around cooked food and the sharing of it, and people will think you're crazy. Raw food is extreme, yes. But if you all could meet Kaye and Chris and Kristy in Austin, you'd want to give raw foods a try, too; you couldn't meet happier, kinder, more energetic souls in your life.

Don't worry; I haven't totally gone off the deep end with it yet. But I have been fascinated with raw foods over the past two years, and am trying to incorporate more raw foods into my daily diet. Finally having a powerful juicer and blender on my kitchen counter has made a huge difference. Already, just with incorporating juiced greens and green smoothies into my morning routine, I've entirely cut my dependency on or cravings for coffee. I switched to black tea for awhile, but now, I don't even need that. Some blended kale or spinach with fresh fruit really gets me going first thing in the morning.

A huge thanks to Alan for the juicer (birthday present!) that got me from just thinking and reading about raw foods to putting it into action in my daily life and seeing what happened. The 2-horsepower Vita Mix blender was a present to myself, with help from both Elodie and my mom, who contributed to my ongoing "blender fund" that's been pending since that trip to Austin. Amusingly, it was a sentence from Leo Babauta's "The Power of Less" that convinced me to get it - something about how if you think you really want something, to wait 30 days, and only if you still want it then, to go ahead and buy it. I realized I've been telling everybody in my life about how much I want a Vita Mix for two years now, so it was just time.

Here are a few of my raw food experiments so far:

Raw guacamole

Raw corn chowder (yup, cool soup...surprisingly good)

Green smoothie: Before.

Green smoothie: After.

So am I giving up on cooked food altogether just yet? Absolutely not. I just ordered a ton of yummy organic groceries from, via a fantastic Groupon yesterday, when I got home from school, two giant bins of produce and loaves of bread and chocolate milk and fancy cheeses and hazelnut granola and locally made pumpkin cookie dough were awaiting me.

I've tried to do a few days of eating 100% raw, and my body wasn't happy about it. A lot of raw foodists would argue that my body sees cooked food as a drug, and trying to quit it cold turkey will elicit withdrawal symptoms...who knows? Otherwise, I can't imagine lots of fresh vegetables and fruit giving me headaches, but I have been especially headachey the past week or two.

Bottom line: I will continue to experiment, and probably write about my findings here. Last bit of awesome food-related news: My neighborhood just got hooked up with food and yard waste pick up! So now all my food scraps (of which there are many, especially with my juicer!) can get composted. Good news.