Half Marathon 2013

(Before I get into this post, just a quick reminder that I’m giving away a copy of Gather: The Art of Paleo EntertainingClick here to find out how you can earn SIX chances to win!)
If you’ve been following me and this website at all for the last couple of years, then you know that running is my Moby Dick.  I should say that running confidently and well (and fast) is what always seems to elude me.  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I’m terrible at it, but that’s why I want to do it.  It is uncomfortable, but I have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I am Ms. Slowpoke McGhee, but I have to challenge myself to keep going.
However, one of my goals for 2013 is to become a more confident runner.  Still my expectation is low.  I’m not talking about becoming one of these folks who casually rocks out 14 miles on a workday morning.  I just want to be someone who feels good running 4 or 5 miles at a time without stress or fretting.  I want to be able to feel good about going out for 45 minutes or so and running and feel great after I’m finished.  That’s all.  I have no desire to break records, nor am I under any illusion that I will ever win anything with my running skill.  I just want to get out there and move and not have it be a major stressful event where I’m in agony before, during, and after.
Last year when I ran the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon, I had some very difficult moments.  I went into the race not really knowing what to expect, I didn’t train properly or enough for it, and although I had a good time with it, it wasn’t exactly a shining moment of fitness for me.  I was proud of my (not-so-bragworthy) time of 2:46:33 because that was as well as I could do with what I had.  I told myself that I wasn’t going to do it again, that once was plenty and I should probably stick to shorter distances.
Then I hurt my ankle.
My doctor and physical therapist told me that I would probably be able to run again, but it would be a very very L-O-N-G time before I was back to normal – IF I could even get back to normal.  They were very candid about my ankle never being the same again.
So, here I am, NOT running, and all I can think about is how badly I want to run.  I would have dreams about it.  Just a month before I injured myself, I (kind of) swore off running.  Isn’t that the way it always goes?  You don’t want something, but the minute you are forbidden from having it, it becomes all you want.  Oh, Jill.  You’re so predictable!
September of last year rolls around and I’m finally back on my feet – running!  I ran a few 5Ks and they were really really slow.  But! I was doing it!  YAY!  Celebrate!
And then something happened.  I got swept up in the excitement of my fellow Steel City Road Runners Club members and I impulsively registered for the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT!  Is that the lamest thing you’ve ever heard?  I got all excited about the pretty significant discount I got on registration for being a member of the club and just did it. I even posted a photo of my registration on Instagram labeling it an impulse buy.  It totally was.
So, I was locked in to it.  I had mixed emotions about it after the fog of peer pressure dissipated.  Part of me was regretful.  Part of me was excited.  Part of me was dreading the training.  Part of me was excited about the challenge.  Part of me thought I acted too quickly and forgot about my ankle.  Part of me knew that my ankle was stronger each day and I’d be fine.
I immediately started training.  Casually at first, but then I kicked it up over the winter.
I don’t know about where you live, but here in Pittsburgh we had a really weird winter.  It lingered.  Temperatures were unusually frigid, there was a large amount of snow and rain, and it lasted much longer into the springtime months than normal.  This made for some frustrating training runs.  I got so sick and tired of running with 4 or 5 layers of clothing.  I was sick of being cold all the time.  I was starting to really second guess my judgement and kick myself for registering.
I was lucky to have a few different sources of support, however.  My friend Kelly and I started running together and that was terrific for me.  I had someone with whom I had to keep my running dates.  A small group of Pittsburgh area CrossFitters started a half marathon training group and I ran with them a few times.  They kept me accountable each week for long runs.
By this past Sunday, I was as ready as I was going to ever be.  I had run the training miles.  It wasn’t easy because of the weather, my ankle flared up a few times, and I am just painfully slow.  But, the work was in the books.

prerace(My pre-race selfie in my bathroom mirror.  Check out that snazzy First Comes Health shirt!)

I was nervous.  I knew what to expect, but I was afraid of the pain and the fatigue.  I didn’t know how my ankle would react.  Plus I was running it all alone.  Last year Dude and I stuck together the whole time. This year, I was out there all by myself.  Not really a big deal, but when you’re already nervous and anxious, the thought of doing something like this alone seemed quite daunting.
So!  The race!  Turns out, it was FANTASTIC!  I enjoyed almost every single minute of it.  There were times when I flagged a little bit, but I kept my thoughts focused on the goal of finishing.  There were moments when I kind of lost myself a bit, but a few deep breaths and a figurative kick in my own behind was all it took.

part of my cheer posse(A few members of my cheer posse!  Kelly, Ann, and my Dude)

Like last year, miles 8 through 10 were very tough.  I just wanted it to be over.  But breaking those miles down into little sections (Just get to the corner of Carson Street and Smithfield Street! or Run as fast as you can until you reach the block where Piper’s Pub is!) made them tick by like nothing.  There were even moments when I was whizzing past people and felt like I was flying.
Jill mid half marathon high fives

(Here I am at the halfway point high-fiving my cheer posse!)

By the end I felt really good.  There were a few moments when I had to walk for 10 or 15 steps just to regain a bit of my composure and reaffirm myself, but I crossed the finish in 2:35:47.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than last year.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than my pre-injury time!!!
banner
I had a super secret goal of 2:30:00 or less and I didn’t tell a single person about it.  Obviously I didn’t make that, but I am really really excited and proud of how I did perform.  It may not be the most brag-worthy half marathon time, but for me, it’s everything.  I am really pumped up.
So, here are my final post-race reflections:

  • Don’t underestimate yourself – I do this all the damned time and I really need to cut it out.  Up until the moment the race started I doubted whether or not I could really do it.  But then the next thing I knew I was 5 miles in to it and I felt great.  Confidence, confidence, confidence.  Believe in yourself and trust in your own hard work.  This is what got me through the entire race.
  • I’m a real runner now – I wholeheartedly believe that no matter if you’re running your first 5K or your 20th ultra-marathon, you’re a runner. However, I just didn’t believe that for myself for some reason.  I don’t know what I thought I needed to accomplish before I could consider myself a true runner, but I just couldn’t allow myself to accept that title no matter how many races I’ve participated in.  But after this race, I feel like I’ve earned the right to really call myself a runner.
  • No more impulse buys – Sure, this one worked out for me, but I won’t get swept up in the madness again and register for any races without thinking about it first.  I don’t ever want to back down from a challenge, but there were times when I felt like I painted myself in to a corner with this race by spending the money on it before really thinking about it.
  • It is fantastic to have family and friends cheering you on – My Dude, my dad, my coaches from my CrossFit, and a whole gang of my friends were at the halfway point with signs and loud cheers for me.  I loved that!  It gave me something to look forward to and helped me shake off my nerves.  It also helped to know that another friend of mine, Ashley, was waiting between mile 9 and 10.  That’s where I really needed a high-five.  Seeing friendly and encouraging faces along the course really made my day.
  • Use visual cues to distract yourself when the going gets tough – You’ve heard it a million times (even from me!). Running is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one.  In order to overcome any self-doubting thoughts, I did everything I could to distract myself.  One of the tricks I picked up during my training was to plan to think of people or things each time you spot a predetermined object.  So, each time I saw someone wearing a running skirt, I thought of my friend Diane.  She wears them all the time!  I would see a woman in a running skirt (and I even did this with the few guys I saw in kilts) and spend then next several minutes thinking of my friend, how she would be cheering me on and encouraging me to stay strong.  I highly recommend this little technique.

final(Yay! I’m a Runner of Steel for the second time!)

So, there you have it.  2013 Pittsburgh (half) Marathon is in the books!  I’m really proud of my achievement, but I know I still have much work to do in order to keep improving.  My next running goal is to finish Pittsburgh’s Great Race 10K in late September at around 1 hour.  We’ll see.  I’m going to keep on running and I’ll keep you posted.

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Giveaway! Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining

The winner of this giveaway has been chosen and notified and the contest is closed.  Thanks for participating!
Can I just say that I had the best weekend?  I did.  First of all, yesterday I completed my second half marathon!  Yippee!  I plan to give you all the details of that accomplishment in a post later this week.  Saturday was one of those days where I got many things finished around my house. A quiet day.  But Friday was something special.  Dude and I went to a local restaurant and celebrated our friends Hayley and Bill‘s latest book, Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining!
Gather
First of all, I have to offer my most hearty congratulations to my dear friends.  First, because now that I have written my own book (You know it!) I have an ENORMOUS amount of appreciation for the amount of heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears that goes into an endeavor like this.  Here’s the thing, however: I wrote my book, meaning I wrote all the text.  Beyond that, I had someone take all the photos (Bill!) and I have another person putting it together to look like a real book.  These two have not only written this masterpiece, but they took all the photos, AND put it all together in a gorgeous (not-so) little package.  If you don’t already know, that requires dedication, time, and most of all, skill. In tremendous supply.  This isn’t some weekend project.
I knew this book was going to be something special – it is created by two cooking devotees who just love real food, they’re both artists who have a special eye for beauty in all things – but I must be honest that when I finally got a copy of this book in my hands, I was blown away.  It. Is. Fabulous.
And not in that “the sizzle sells the steak” kind of way.  Sure, they could have devoted all their time to the pretty photos and skimped and cut corners on the recipes, but they didn’t.  Even if this book had line drawings instead of dozens of fantastic pictures, the recipes on their own would stand out as nothing short of masterful.
Can you tell I love this book?

Gather 2(Hey! That’s the back of my head! Did you know the New Year’s Eve party was photographed at my home?! Totally.)

I have already tagged some favorites and have put them in heavy rotation around my house.  Teriyaki Country Ribs, Braised Pork Belly, Sweet Potato Hash with Rosemary, Sauteed Japanese Eggplant with Onions and Sage.  Just a sampling of some of the favorites that have emerged so far.  But to be honest, I’ve barely dug into this book!  I anticipate it never seeing my bookshelf, and instead it will find a permanent home on my kitchen table so I can have it ready for quick reference and inspiration.

Gather 3(This photo is so beautiful! It almost looks like a painting!)

So, here’s the good news for you!  I have a spare copy to give to a lucky winner!  I don’t want anyone to be without their own copy of Gather.  Seriously.  And if you play your cards right, I might even be able to get it signed for you too.  Let’s get to the details on how you can find yourself with your very own copy…..
There will be a random drawing for the winner from the entries received.
For one entry in the drawing, comment below and tell me whether or not you like to entertain in your home.  Let me know why or why not.
To earn additional entries, join me in the following ways:
1. Like First Comes Health on Facebook
2. Follow First Comes Health on Twitter
3. Follow me on Instagram
4. Sign up to receive my newsletter
This gives you the opportunity to earn FIVE entries into the Gather giveaway drawing!!!  Comment, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, newsletter.  Do it!
And because I’m feeling generous, I’m going to give you a sixth way.  Pre-order my book Fermented from Amazon.com and email me the confirmation to score another chance.
How do you like that?  That is six whole chances to have my pull your name as the big winner.
It all starts today and ends at Friday May 10, 2013 at noon Pittsburgh time (EST).  Don’t delay!
(By the way, It’s not a secret that Hayley and Bill are my friends, but my opinions are my own and I’m always brutally honest.  For more info on my policy on reviews, check out the legal tab at the top, or click here to see where I stand.)
 

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Kombucha Series Part 3 - Choosing Sugar

Are all strapped in and ready for part three in my kombucha series?  I sure hope so.
In case you missed the previous hoopla:
Part 1 focused on making your own SCOBY from scratch.
Part 2 was all about choosing the right tea for successful kombucha brewing.
If you’ve been following along so far, you are well on your way to successful home kombucha making.  Your SCOBY should be in fine shape and hopefully you have some tea on hand that will eventually be turned in to some delicious ‘buch.  Before you get started, however, there is one final element needed to get the fermentation ball rolling.
Fuel.
That SCOBY you now have is a bundle of living creatures whose very nature it is to eat and procreate.  Now, you won’t have to put on any Barry White music to encourage those little bacteria yeasts to make wee babies, but you will have to provide them with food to eat to fuel their reproductive efforts.  That is where the sugar comes in to play.
Right about now I anticipate a comment like this:  “But!!!  But!!!  But!!!! Isn’t sugar BAD for you?!?!?!”
Yes.  It isn’t called the white devil for nothing.  HOWEVER!  We’re talking fuel here.  We aren’t talking about added sugar to be consumed by the teaspoonful.  We aren’t even talking about making something that is even considered “sugary”. The bacteria and yeast need food to eat so they can proliferate and therefore ferment our tea into ‘buch.  By the time it is all said and done, there will be far less sugar in a bottle of ready-to-drink kombucha than there was when you started brewing it.  My point is, do not freak out over the use of sugar.  It’s a necessary part of the process.
barbados sugar cane

(A sugar cane field in Barbados)

The deal with sugar is this: There are almost as many kinds on the market as there are types of tea.  What to use?
Let’s first talk about what all of those sugars are, how they’re made, what their individual merits are.  Then we’ll move along to a recommendation or two.
Sugar comes from one of a few sources – sugar cane, sugar beets, a beehive (honey), leaves (stevia), various grains (corn syrup, rice sugar), and even sap from various plants (coconut sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.)  Generally speaking the raw materials are harvested, refined in some way by removing impurities, and then packaged for sale and consumption.  That is REALLY watering down the process, but for what we are covering here, the exact tedious and history-rich process is not important.
Sugars

  • White sugar – The ubiquitous white sugar is very processed sugar cane (or sometime sugar beets) that has all impurities, molasses, and excess water removed from it.  It is usually sold in five-pound bricks in any supermarket.
  • Raw sugar – Although calling raw sugar “raw” is a bit misleading, it is not as processed and manipulated as its cousin, white sugar. When sugar cane or beets are processed into table sugar, they go through several steps of refinement. The original crop is chopped, crushed, and essentially juiced of all the liquid inside. That liquid is boiled to concentrate it and the resulting product is molasses and molasses-rich raw sugar crystals. Further refinement of these crystals extracts more molasses and turns the crystals white and into the common white table sugar. The reason that raw sugar has a light brown color is because it is only partially processed and molasses has not been completely removed.
    Other names that raw sugar is sold under include turbinado sugar, demerara sugar, and the brand name Sugar in the Raw.
  • Barbados or Muscovado sugar – This is a type of sugar found very commonly in the United Kingdom and has a very high molasses content. The sugar crystals are a bit larger than one would expect from standard white table sugar, and the texture is slightly sticky. Elsewhere in the world, Barbados or Muscovado sugar is called Panela sugar or Rapadura.

  • Brown sugar – Unlike raw sugar or Barbados sugar which are indeed brown, brown sugar, the kind commonly used in baking, is not actually partially processed sugar. Instead, it is processed white sugar that has molasses added back into it to give it a brown color, sticky texture, and the ability to be packed like wet sand.
  • Cane juice – Cane juice is another name for the liquid that is yielded in the preliminary steps of sugar processing when sugar cane is mulched into small pieces. The resulting liquid can be bottled and used directly as a sweetener and is sold as cane juice.
  • Evaporated cane juice – It is exactly what it sounds like. The cane juice, which is a product of grinding up sugar cane, is heated and the water content evaporated leaving sugar crystals behind. Evaporated cane juice is often sold under the brand name, Sucanat.

There are several other types of sugars and sweeteners out there, but they are not at all recommended for kombucha making.  This list of no-nos include honey (unless pasteurized), molasses, stevia (leaves or liquid), agave nectar, coconut sugar, rice sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, or any artificial sweetener like aspartame, saccharine, xylitol, etc.
So, given the list of acceptable sugars, which one do I highly recommend?  The answer might surprise you!  Plain old, highly-processed, inexpensive white sugar.
Because it is just about pure sucrose, there is really nothing in it that will interfere with SCOBY growth and development, taint your kombucha with a molasses flavor, or discolor it in any way.  It has the right chemical compound in the right proportion that is easily accessible to the bacteria and yeast that will fuel the SCOBY’s fermentation power.
A drawback to white sugar is that it is difficult to find organic white sugar.  In the previous installment I was adamant about using organic tea to make kombucha because you just don’t know what else is on the tea leaves when they’re not organically grown and handled.  The same is true for sugar. Do you know what they put on sugarcane or sugar beet fields to keep pests at bay and to facilitate crop growth?  Me either, but it’s typically chemical laden garbage that ends up in your food and there for in your body.  Blah.  Chemicals and fertilizers and pesticides do not make good SCOBY food either.
Also, if you are avoiding GMO goods, white sugar made from GMO beets are an obvious do not use product.
So, what to do?  Truthfully, I grit my teeth and use regular white sugar anyway.  On the off day that I can find organic white sugar, I buy some and use it happily.  But most other times, I just use the conventional white sugar made from cane.
Lionel cream and sugar

(Yeah, this is a Lionel Richie cream and sugar set.  Wanna fight about it?)

A few words about how much sugar to use
In upcoming installments, I will share my kombucha recipe with you.  It will contain proportions and measurements for each ingredient.  Please do NOT skimp on the amount of sugar called for.  Remember, it is in the recipe because it is SCOBY food/fuel.  It is a very important part of the yummy chemical experiment you will be conducting in your kitchen.  I know that as a healthy eater it seems almost counter-intuitive to use heaps and heaps and cups and cups of sugar, but trust me on this one.  You will be rewarded with a healthy SCOBY and delicious fizzy kombucha.
Ok!  That’s all for this week.  Please let me know if you have any questions, problems, or concerns.  I want to hear from you!  Email me, contact me via Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.  And heck you can even find me on Instagram.  Tell me about your own kombucha experiences or what you would like to experiment with in the first place.
And don’t forget that these kombucha posts will be a weekly occurrence for a while so if you have issues, questions, or topic suggestion for future weeks, tell me in the comments or through one of my aforementioned social media outlets and I’ll do my best to address it.

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2013 Goals Project - April Review

2013 Goals Project
Hi! It is the last day of April, but that won’t stop me from reviewing this past month with my Goals Project folks.  It is usually around this time of year New Year’s Resolutions are long forgotten and the first of the year determination has diminished greatly if not completely disappeared.  However, we soldier on!  Goals may be adjusted and tweaked and revisited as time passes and we get deeper into the year, but it is our determination to have changed by the start of the next year that counts.  So, let’s get to the action and see what’s happened this month!
Austin K.

Family goals:
1. Remember to help out with the more disagreeable chores (cat litter/bathroom cleaning)
2. Go on a date at least once a month
Suze (my fiancee) and I have gone wine tasting a couple of times within the last month. Both times were overnight trips that were great as it allowed us to get away from the busyness of work and wedding planning, although we did use the opportunity to finish our wine purchasing for the wedding :). I have been much more consistent in remembering to take care of the litter box.
Fitness Goals
1. Complete 200 push ups a day
2. Complete 4 or more races of the 1/2 marathon, Olympic triathlon, long obstacle race, open water swim variety
3. Continue to workout in the A.M. before work at least 4 days a week
So far I have completed two 1/2 marathons and one open water swim. By the time this gets published I will have completed the 100 mile version of the Chico Wildflower Bike Ride. I have been doing significantly more cycling to prepare for the Black Butte Triathlon in early June. This will be an Olympic distance triathlon and depending on how this goes I am considering training for a 1/2 ironman in the fall. I am also looking at running the Tough Mudder in Tahoe in July. I will definitely exceed my goal of four races this year and am now just looking to do as many as make sense for training purposes and to become more competitive when participating.
I recently joined the “Chico Triathlon Team” and have started going to some of their workouts. I am hoping that participating with this group gets me more plugged into the sport, meet some new people with similar interests and helps me improve my performance in these future events. So far it has been fun and motivating.
My other fitness goals have been going very well other than a three or four day hiccup when I was traveling with my buddies for my bachelor party. I definitely didn’t workout like I am used to or do all of my pushups (although I did do a good amount of them). I have since gotten right back into my routine and have been adding extra pushups each day to make up for the days where I neglected them.
 Nutrition goals:
1.  Sign up for CSA box (and utilize it)
2.  Find at least 5 new healthy recipes that I enjoy and can cook easily
3.  Continue using ‘myfitnesspal’ app to document diet and exercise
The myfitnesspal app continues to be the biggest help in maintaining a healthy diet.  I had logged in for about 75 days in a row before going on my bachelor trip.  While the trip certainly not good for me from a nutrition standpoint, I have since gotten back into my routine here as well and am back on track with about 15 days of logging in a row.
Since I started using this app I have lost about 25 pounds and am under 200 pounds for the first time since Jr. High School.  It has really helped me reevaluate my ideas of what healthy eating looks like.  For instance, I was very surprised to see how much more sugar I had been eating each day, even on days when I was well under my overall caloric goal.  I have changed many of my habits without feeling like I am starving or depriving myself.
This reevaluation has helped me with my goal of finding 5 new healthy recipes, as I have had to seek out new recipes that are convenient, less processed, and nutritious.  Lately I have been making a couple of egg/egg white frittatas with lean meat and veggies.  Making two batches of these on Sundays lasts me all week and I can take them to eat after my morning workout instead of the more sugary protein bars I had been relying on.
I still haven’t signed up for the CSA box, and honestly probably will not until we are going to be in town more consistently.  However we do shop at our local farmer’s market for fresh produce which was the basic idea behind this goal.
Work goals:
1.  Obtain high scores on yearly reviews
2.  Get superior ratings for my bands at festival
I just had my final yearly review and it went very well.  My principal is clearly happy with the work I have done this year and has passed onto me the praise she has heard from community members.  I am satisfied with the amount of progress the band has made this year and I am looking forward to being able to implement even more ideas and strategies next year to build off of our work thus far.
I truly appreciate the support structure that this group has provided.  I feel like I have accomplished quite a bit so far this year in respect to my goals.  As my wedding date and beginning of my married life gets closer, I feel that I am in a good position to continue working on these goals and to push some of them even further.
Bill R.
April has been a whirlwind — getting back from AZ, visiting PA and then NC!!  I am holding my own on my goals — having trouble getting down below 235, but will push these last few weeks.  My nails are better than they have been, so I am confident I will be ready for the wedding.  I have cracked the flossing roadblock once and for all and am continuing to meet that goal.  My wife (a dental hygienist) is happy about that one.  We are walking almost every day, biking some, and playing golf — so my exercise goal is on track.
Brian R.
Get stronger!  I’m back on the workout wagon, and I’m feeling stronger each week.  I made a measurable improvement in one area (back squat), and I am optimistic about where things will go this year.  I feel like I’m starting to see the benefits of planning, consistency, and getting good advice.
Finish things I write (and get them to a workshop or a publisher.)  I’ve stalled a little bit this month with a book proposal I’m trying to get to a publisher, but this is because I’m trying to make sure it’s pretty well tuned before sending it on.  I think I’ve come to the point where I need to remind myself that some things may never be ready, but they have to become finished.
Excel at my job.  Still feeling very confident that the plans I made at the end of 2012 to address my frustrations are coming to fruition.  I’m not receiving any more feedback, positive or negative, from my co-workers than I have in the past, but having a plan to follow through on helps keep me focused even without reinforcement.
Finish 36 books.  I finished no books this month, so I have some catching up to do!

Jill C. (that’s me, yo!)
Turn in my fermentation book to my publisher on March 13 without too many book-related freakouts. – Goal accomplished last month.  I’m still in shock that it happened.  Just as an update, I’m working on edits, promotions, and soon the design.  This whole book thing is becoming so real!
Complete the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 5 and beat my 2012 time – The race is in 5 days!  EEEK!  I didn’t get as much running in during April as I probably should have, but that’s just the way it has gone for me.  I’m not going to beat myself up over it and I’m going to go into Sunday’s race determined to do my best.  I’ll have a recap for you next week.
Confidently turn 40 on November 19 – 203 days left in my 30s, and I’m feeling really positive about it.  I still haven’t decided where I want my birthday trip to be.  I was considering Hawaii, but it seems a lot of people I know are going there this year.  Hm. I’d rather blaze my own trail.  Any suggestions?
Complete a home makeover – Our pantry makeover is humming right along.  I mentioned last month that we are going to wallpaper two walls in the pantry.  I got some estimates for some wallpaper pros to help us, but for the small area that will be mostly obscured, the cost seemed too high to make it worth it.  We are going to attempt it ourselves, I think.  We have done some painting and demolition work (I wielded a crowbar and took down a doorway!).  Next big task is to spackle some holes and skim coat the walls in preparation for the wallpaper.
I also mentioned last month the thought of us painting our cabinets.  Well, we might be back pedaling on that thought.  I’ve been pinning a few ideas and nothing is concrete.  I’ll keep you updated.
Become a more confident runner – The rubber will hit the road this Sunday when I tackle this half marathon.  We’ll see if I gained any confidence.  I’ve been building up to this race for so long that it’s all I’ve really thought about.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that the half marathon distance is NOT my distance.  I’m more of a 5k and 10k distance person.  An hour’s run is enough for me and I believe this will be my last half marathon.  I’m just not enjoying the training at all.
But! This doesn’t mean I’m finished with running.  My new CrossFit box has started a runner’s group and my friend, Edith (an excellent runner!) is going to be offering some coaching and leading group runs.  I’m sticking with it and hoping for a 60 minute 10k in Pittsburgh’s annual Great Race at the end of September.
Have more in-person interactions with those I love most – To make a short story long (ha), I am now going to a FABULOUS new CrossFit box (Industrial Athletics/CrossFit Alloy) and to start totally anew, I signed up to take the fundamentals course.  It is designed for those who are completely new to CrossFit, and although I am not a total newb, I decided to take the class anyway because I wanted some detailed instruction on my technique.  Turns out, I really needed it.  I am so happy I took the month-long course.  What the course also afforded me was the time to hang out with some of my friends who also took the class.  Plus (BONUS!) I made some new friends too.  The whole endeavor was very much worthwhile both fitness-wise and friend-wise.
Post more on my blog! – I started the weekly kombucha series (installment 3 coming tomorrow!) and I’m gearing up for TWO giveaways!  Details soon!
So, there you have it.  April is finished and we’re looking ahead!  There is still plenty of room for YOU to join us!  All you need to do is come up with your own list.  Here are some helpful hints and tricks to get you started.  Send me an email containing your list and you’re good to go.
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Kombucha Series Part 2 - Choosing Tea

In case you missed Part 1 about making your own SCOBY from scratch, check it out here.
Let’s move right along with dissecting the art of kombucha making by getting to the very essence of what it is all about – tea.  Kombucha is fermented tea, of course, so without it we have a whole lot of nothing.
There are approximately a million and one teas on the market (scientific counting method!) and the range in quality from artisan fancypants teas that bloom a flower in your cup to disgusting little paper bags of tea dust that was swept up off the floor of a teabag factory.  There are teas that make you sleepy, pep you up, settle an upset stomach, and one that are supposed to make you do a number 2.  It is almost overwhelming how many teas there are in the average supermarket aisle.
Teas
What Is Tea?
When you break it down there are only a few kinds and styles of tea.  True tea comes from the leaves and buds of the plant, camellia sinensis. Without getting too complicated or too scientific or muddy the waters with details that aren’t essential to kombucha making, there are four types of camellia sinensis and they come from different regions of the world.  Do not worry about these finer details, however.  For the purposes of casual kombucha making we’re just going to talk about camellia sinensis in a general way and leave it at that.
Ok, so camellia sinensis is the actual true tea that you think of when you think of tea as a beverage.  Generally speaking, after the leaves and buds are harvested from the plant, they are dried and oxidized and possibly subjected to a whole host of physical treatments in order to bring out the certain flavors. This one kind of leaf goes through different processes depending on what the desired outcome is.  Look at this table to see the different ways leaves are handled to produce various types of tea:

Teaprocessing.svg(Courtesy of Wikipedia, click to enlarge)

Let’s focus on the most common types of tea; the ones you are most likely to find in your local market or from your favorite tea purveyor.

Types of Tea

  • Black tea -Black tea is the most common type of tea produced in the world.  It is what is found in the most common and most inexpensive teabags that are widely available in every restaurant and supermarket in the western hemisphere.  As you can tell from the table above, black and oolong teas are the most “processed of all the teas because they go through the most handling before they are finished. Black teas are the most popular choice for kombucha making.  It offers a nice flavor and is widely available.
  • Green tea – Another popular tea and often touted for its health benefits, green tea is still made from camellia sinensis, but once the leaves are picked it goes through a vastly different series of processes than its black tea cousin does.  Green tea tends to be a bit milder in flavor and have grassy notes whereas black tea can be almost woody, fruity or even smoky.  Green tea makes excellent kombucha and personally speaking it is my tea of choice when I brew my ‘buch.
  • Oolong tea – This is a compromise tea between black and green.  It is processed in much the same way as black tea, but the oxidation session is not as long.  The tea’s flavor profile sits between fresh/grassy/light and woody/robust/strong.  Oolong teas can be found in supermarkets, however, they are overshadowed by the overwhelming number of black and green varieties.  Kombucha made from oolong tea is terrific.
  • White tea – While still coming from camellia sinensis and still subjected to a few processes before it is ready for brewing, white tea is made from immature leaves and buds.  If you are brewing white tea to drink hot or iced, it is a fantastic light tea.  For kombucha making, however, it is not the strongest choice.  There are chemical compounds that are present in mature tea leaves that are needed to successfully brew kombucha.  Because white tea has not fully matured, it is a bit more difficult to make a batch of ‘buch with it.
  • Rooibos tea – The one exception to the rule!  Technically rooibos (pronounced ROY-bus) tea is a type of herbal tea and is not made from our friend camellia sinensis, but rather made from aspalathus linearis, which is native to South Africa.  Rooibos teas are generally sweet and grassy or sometimes smoky and naturally caffeine free.  Also commonly known as red tea, rooibos teas make really good kombucha especially for those wanting to avoid caffeine.
  • Herbal tea – While extremely delicious and flavorful, herbal teas are not really teas (that is, they often do not contain any measure of camellia sinensis) and therefore cannot be brewed into kombucha.  Sometimes called “herbal infusions” because technically they don’t contain any tea, this type of tea simply does not have the stuff needed to make kombucha. There are some herbal teas on the market that are blends of herbs AND genuine tea leaves, but they just aren’t quite strong enough to ferment properly.  If you are looking to flavor your tea with herbs, I recommend doing so after the kombucha has fermented (this will be covered in future posts!)
  • Flavored tea –  This type of tea is not recommended at all for kombucha making.  While flavored teas are typically black, green, rooibos, or oolong teas, teh artificial agents used to give the tea a specific fruity or herby flavor can interfere with SCOBY growth and development.  There are kombucha-friendly teas commercially available that contain dried fruit and herbal extract, and these can make wonderful ferments, but if a tea is merely coated in artificial flavorings, steer clear.

IMG_6827
Ok, so now you’ve settled on a black tea, green tea, oolong tea, or rooibos tea.  Now what?
Details

  • Organic or Conventional – Because you are cultivating a living, growing creature during your ferment (your SCOBY), you want to make sure that you are giving it the best, most optimal environment in which to grow.  This is why I choose to use organic teas when I make kombucha.  There is no telling what in the world is sprayed on to your leaves while they are still in the field, and because they go through some heavy processing to become brewable you want to make certain that the whole system is as natural and as clean as can be.  Spend the extra money and get organic tea.  Your SCOBY will thank you for it, and you will have a better final product when you’re sipping your ‘buch at the end of the process.  Verdict: organic all the way.
  • Tea bags or loose tea – There are many reputable companies out there that sell top-quality teas in teabags.  It would be incorrect to say that you cannot find a decent tea in a teabag.  It simply isn’t so.  However, it is really very easy for a tea purveyor to hide tea dust poor quality tea inside a bag.  Caveat emptor! Teabags do not equal bad tea, but you have to do your due diligence and find out if you are getting a good product.  Rip open a bag and see what the leaves look like.  Do they actually look like leaves or are they shards of leaves and dust?  Remember, tea comes from a plant and it ought to look similar to its original form.
    Obviously loose teas cannot hide in a bag and you can very easily see, smell, taste, and feel what you are buying.  Their only drawback is figuring out how to brew a large quantity (a gallon or more) of loose tea, but we’ll get to that in a future post.  Verdict: It depends.  Good kombucha is made from good products so if you find a quality bagged tea, use it.  Loose teas are often less expensive per pound, plus their quality is readily visible.  What really matters is that you are using the best tea you can afford whether it comes in a bag or not.

IMG_6669

  • And now here is the part where I will go against everything I just said – Yes, you can buy inexpensive store brand teabags full of cheap tea and make kombucha out of it.  It will work and the tea will ferment.  It might even taste just fine.  However, I strongly encourage you to go for quality on this.  Get the finest tea your budget will allow because the quality of what you are making hinges upon it.  Sub-par ingredients yield a sub-par final product.  Quality matters.

Where to Buy?

  • Supermarket or co-op – Your local market probably has an enormous tea section.  Most places do.  If you belong to a food co-op you may even have a section where loose teas are sold in bulk.  Before buying anything, be sure your choice contains camellia sinensis, or it isn’t tea and won’t ferment into kombucha.  (Unless it’s rooibos, but see above for that exception.)
  • Asian or Indian markets – Because tea is widely grown in China, India, and Japan (among many other areas), some really unique and delicious teas are available at Asian or Indian markets.
  • A coffee and tea specialty shop – If you happen to live in a larger metropolitan area, then chances are you have a gourmet coffee and tea purveyor nearby.  You will find teas imported from all over the world in shops like this (often sold in bulk), and if you get to know the owners and buyers for these places, you can get some serious education about their coffees and teas.  Plus they’re often locally owned so not only will you get some terrific tea, but you’ll support your neighbors too.  Win-win.
  • The Internet – Research, research, research.  And then buy teas online.  Be sure you are getting what you pay for.

The Take Home
In a quick little nutshell, here is what you need to know about tea selection for kombucha making:

  • Viable tea candidates – black, green, oolong, rooibos
  • Buy organic
  • Loose or teabags, but be sure what you are buying is top-quality tea
  • Available nearly anywhere – mainstream supermarkets, food co-ops, Asian or Indian markets, coffee/tea purveyors, online

Please let me know if you have any questions, problems, or concerns.  I want to hear from you!  Email me, contact me via Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.  And heck you can even find me on Instagram.  Tell me about what you have been using to brew your kombucha, or what you would like to try.
And don’t forget that these kombucha posts will be a weekly occurrence for a while so if you have issues, questions, or topic suggestion for future weeks, tell me in the comments or through one of my aforementioned social media outlets.

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Kombucha Series Part 1 - Make Your Own SCOBY

A few days ago I mentioned on Facebook that I get a lot of questions about various aspects of kombucha making.  First of all, keep them coming.  I love getting questions!  Secondly, kombucha is one of my very favorite things in the whole world so talking about it and answering questions about it makes me happy.
Many of the questions I get are from first-timers who want to start fermenting tea into kombucha and yet do not have the very basic materials to start and/or are hesitant about the procedure, troubleshooting, etc.
Kombucha SCOBY
Well, short of saying, “Wait until August 6 and BUY MY BOOK!”, I’ve decided to put together a few posts about the kombucha making process and hopefully answer some common questions around the procedure.
Today’s topic: Make your own SCOBY.
As mentioned in previous posts, a SCOBY is a gelatinous glob of bacteria and yeast needed to ferment tea.  In fact, SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  It is necessary to have one in order to turn tea into kombucha.
IMG_6660
SCOBYs are not hard to come by if you have a friend who makes kombucha.  Each batch of ‘buch creates a new SCOBY and if your friend is a prolific kombucha brewer then chances are that he/she is overrun with SCOBYs and will gladly give you one along with some starter tea in order to get your new batch going.
However, if you don’t know anyone who brews ‘buch and you still want to give it a go, you will find yourself wondering just how to begin without this essential piece of equipment.  Fortunately there are other resources for you to turn to.
As weird as it may sound, you can sometimes find a SCOBY for sale (or for free!) on Craigslist.  Give it a shot.  You can also order a SCOBY from a reputable online source like Cultures for Health or Kombucha Kamp.  But if you’re like me and you’re cheap and like to save money wherever you can, making a SCOBY at home from scratch is quite easy.  It takes a little bit of forethought, a few materials, and time.
Materials needed:

  • A few cups of raw kombucha – I have always used store-bought, but I have read that using commercially bottled kombucha has an additive that inhibits SCOBY growth.  Personally I have had much success using store-bought, but your mileage may vary.  Also, I use plain (not flavored) kombucha when I grow a SCOBY.  For no reason other than if I am going to buy flavored kombucha, I’ll probably want to drink it.  Plain is plenty tasty, but I love flavored ‘buch.  Plain kombucha has fewer things added to it, obviously, so it makes it a logical choice for me.
  • A few cups of strongly brewed tea – Do not use herbal tea for this.  You must use real, honest to goodness camellia sinensis for this – more commonly known as black tea or green tea.
  • A few tablespoons of sugar – I use regular old white sugar, but you can use evaporated cane juice (Sucanat), or raw sugar.  Do not use powdered sugar, honey, stevia, or any kind of artificial sweetener.
  • A glass jar – Large enough to hold 2 or 3 cups of liquid.
  • A cloth or coffee filter to cover the jar and a rubber band to secure it.

Procedure:

  • Brew the tea using the traditional method.  When it is still hot or warm, stir in the sugar until it dissolves.  I use a tablespoon of white sugar per cup of tea.
  • Set the sweetened tea aside on the counter until it comes to room temperature.
  • Pour the room temperature sweetened tea into the glass jar and add the raw kombucha to it.  Lightly stir.
  • Cover the jar with the cloth or coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but will keep bugs and critters out.
  • Allow the jar to sit at room temperature for several days, or up to two weeks.  During this time, a SCOBY will grow in the jar.  It will start out as a thin, milky film on the surface of the liquid and get whiter and thicker as days pass.

Notes and Troubleshooting:

  • As you can tell by the equipment and ingredients list, measurements do not have to be exact.  A few cups of room temperature sweetened tea plus a cup or two of kombucha is about as precise as you need to be.
  • The amount of time it will take a SCOBY to grow depends on the ambient temperature of your house.  Fermentation, generally speaking, goes more rapidly in warmer temperatures than in cooler temperatures.  My place, for example, is generally very warm and things ferment and grow rapidly in my kitchen.  However, my parents’ house is usually very cool and ferments take a bit longer there.
  • There are no hard and fast rules about how thick a SCOBY has to be in order to be fit for kombucha making; however, I allow my SCOBYs to grow to between a quarter inch and a half inch thick before I use them for fermentation – this can take a couple of weeks.  The only reason I have to doing this is because at that point it is solid enough to handle and I know that the bacteria and yeasts are robust and healthy after a few weeks.

IMG_6662

  • Do not discard the liquid the SCOBY grew in!  This is the starter tea you will need to use when making your first batch of kombucha.  It is full of bacteria and yeast and will keep your SCOBY hydrated and well fed.
  • If you see brown thread-like things floating in your tea or growing off of your SCOBY, do not worry.  This is good!  Little yeasty goodness that will help make your first batch of buch healthy and full of probiotic goodness.
  • Kombucha and SCOBYs smell like feet.  Do not be alarmed.
  • Mold, insect eggs, rancid garbage-like smells mean that something went wrong.  Discard the whole enterprise and start over from scratch.  DO NOT USE!
  • If nothing grows after a week or so, start over using a different kind of kombucha to start.  Get a cup off a friend, or try a different store-bought brand.  As mentioned above, I have never had a problem making my own SCOBYs from store-bought, but you may run into a snag.

Please give this a try if you are considering making your own kombucha.  If you have made your own SCOBY, share your tips and hints and tricks in the comments.  ALSO! I will be doing a weekly post about kombucha making and I want your input!  Leave me a comment.  Email me.  Contact me via Facebook or Twitter.  Let me know what you want to learn about, what your burning questions are, and how I can help you to get going and brewing your delicious delicious ‘buch!

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Boston - a reaction

Boston Marathon logo 2015

Friends, by now we have had the chance to try and digest what happened yesterday in Boston during the marathon.  Two bombs went off at the finish line killing three and injuring dozens others, many critically.  A horrific act perpetrated upon innocence and I hope and pray that those responsible will swiftly be brought to justice for their awful crimes. I also hope and pray that those affected both physically and emotionally are able to one day find a way to deal with the events and ultimately find peace.
Like any normal person, I’m repelled by terrible things like this – bombs, mass shootings, violence of any kind.  But this one hit a little close to home for me. I don’t have any connection to Boston.  I didn’t personally know anyone who was running yesterday. I don’t even ever see myself being a strong enough runner to ever qualify for Boston.  However, if you’ve ever run a race – be it a 5k fun run or a world-class event like the Boston Marathon – you know why I feel this was a shot close to home.  It was an assault on the running community.  Whether or not these bombs were meant to target the running community or to assail the government, peace, or the city of Boston, is a moot point.  The running community was hit.
Road races are an everyperson’s opportunity to triumph over their own obstacles.  Running is a sport of fitness of course, but more so it is a challenge of the mind, at least for me.  I originally started running shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh and watched those participating in The Great Race cross the finish which was just a few yards from my front door.  I was in awe.  So impressed by the frontrunners who seemed to sail over the finish with unimaginable speed and grace.  So inspired by the average Jane or Joe who just wanted to finish and do well regardless of age, weight, or how in shape they were.  There were celebrations and tears and hugs and victory for each person who crossed the finish.  This is what running is.  Overcoming whatever stands in your way to achieve something great regardless of speed or distance.  It was THIS kind of community that got me started with running.  It is THIS phenomenon that keeps me running no matter how much it hurts or how slow I go.  This is what keeps me running.
So yesterday, when someone (singular or plural) purposefully sought to ruin this triumph of the human spirit, to kill, maim, and terrify those who were celebrating some of the best we humans can do, I cannot help but to be sickened and disappointed, and revolted to an extra degree.  Violence against anyone disgusts me, but it is especially difficult to comprehend violence against those who are trying to overcome enormous obstacles.  It is especially shameful when it is perpetrated upon those who are most vulnerable.
In light of all this, I admit to being quite confused about what to do next.  I’m not sure how to directly help those affected by yesterday’s blasts other than to give to the Red Cross and other organizations that reputably help victims in times of crisis.  But what I do know is what I can do to keep the best of the human spirit alive and well.  I’m going to keep running and keep doing my best to overcome my own obstacles.  I will try each day to better serve my fellow man.  I’m going to endure and stay out there on the road, putting one foot in front of the other until I cross the finish.
If you run, I hope you’ll join me and keep running.  Keep the special warmth that can only be felt on race day alive and well.  If you don’t run, I hope you can somehow become a part of the running community by volunteering at a race or supporting those of us who choose to chase pavement.  Regardless if you run or not, please put kindness first and keep peace in your heart.  Love one another.

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2013 Goals Project - March Review

2013 Goals Project
Hi! It’s April now and I hope the weather has turned in your neck of the woods.  I just came back from Austin, TX where I attended the PaleoFX conference.  It was fantastic!  I will post about it in the next couple of days.  But first, there were some very fascinating developments and accomplishments this past month!  I am so so excited for all that’s happened to the Goals Project folks in March!  Let’s get right to the business:
Diane D.
Business Goals:
Book 16 weddings during 2013 – Three weddings are booked with deposits.  I had a verbal commitment on a fourth but they have since changed their minds.  I hope to get more prospects in the pipeline soon.
Develop 30 new LF recipes and successfully implement them into 2013 events – No changes since February.
Update and publicize all LF menus by June 1.  Update both online and print menus throughout 2013 as new recipes are developed (see above) – No changes since February.
Update the LF website each month with portfolio and/or recipe entries – No changes since February.
Consistently maintain the LF Facebook page to remain current and relevant.  Increase viewership – Since I haven’t been working, I haven’t been posting. But during April, my goal is to develop a strategy for posting relevant content despite not working.
Personal Goals:
Re-commit to fitness using a method that will work on a consistent, life-style basis and keep a journal of progress and/or set-backs – After April 25, I will be able to put some weight on my foot. I will then re-start CrossFit by doing seated WODs and getting some targeted work with personal training.  After attending the Open House of my new CrossFit box, I started a blog entitled “Back on Two Feet – A CrossFitters tale of foot (and mind) reconstruction“.  I have three posts that can be viewed at https://crossfittingcaterer.wordpress.com.
Increase vegetable garden production through improved efficiency – I am changing this goal to “Enlist volunteers to plant vegetable garden. Have garden planted by May 19.”
Increase charitable efforts both personally and professionally – I have volunteered my catering services for an upcoming fundraiser for a local historic society.
Shed all superfluous items – I will be unable to do a Spring garage sale but I am working on a date for a Summer sale. Selling will become a priority once I am mobile.  I have also accumulated several boxes for the Veteran’s pick-up as well as for delivery to the local thrift store.
Austin K.
Overall, I’m feeling great about my stated goals.  I just did two races in one day on Saturday; a half marathon and a mile open water swim. I’m looking forward to an Olympic distance triathlon in June.  I feel like I’m in the best shape ever, and this is due to being able to consistently fit the gym in my schedule and continuing to log everything I eat. Still hitting my push-up goal each day as well.

 I’ve been much better about chore stuff and especially have been all over the cat box lately.  My fiancee, Suze and I are continuing to make quality time for each other and have a few nice dates planned coming up.
As far as work goes, my band didn’t get the ratings I wanted, but what we got was fair.  Most importantly my students had a really positive experience and they left ready to stat working harder so I’m happy with that result.
Brian R.
Get stronger!  My workout situation has changed a little bit over the last couple of months, but I’m pretty proud of myself that I’ve kept things going despite these issues.  The most significant thing that happened to me this month was that I made the decision to not run the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon.  This was a tough call for me, but it required me to realize that I had set a goal for myself that I wasn’t enjoying pursuing and that was causing me enough stress that it was working against my actual goal for the year of getting stronger.  Even though it felt like quitting,  the decision came after a lot of introspective thinking regarding what my goals really are and what it will take to accomplish them.
Finish things I write (and get them to a workshop or a publisher.)  My morning routine of getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual to write has now been extended to 60 minutes every morning.  Even though I dread getting up even earlier than usual, this is now my favorite time of the day.  I’m almost ready to wrap up a book proposal to send off to a publisher, and I have not felt this consistent about writing in my life.
Excel at my job.  Things have gotten a lot less organized at work, but I remain committed to my plans for working smarter and staying organized.  This month I put a lot of time into professional development, and I’m sure it will pay off.  I can already start to feel myself getting frustrated because I just won’t ever get the feedback on my performance I would like to have, but I think I’m getting better at figuring things out for myself in this regard.
Finish 36 books.  Four more books done (although one of them was really a novella, but I’m counting it.)  That puts me 1/3 of the way through to the target.
Matt C.
What a great month!!! I continued to attend my workout classes at the YMCA and even signed up for my first 5K mud run! I’m running the Rebel Race on May 18 with three brothers in-law, my sister in-law and my sister. While I set a goal at the beginning of the year to run the Warrior Dash in August, this may have to suffice as the completed goal since the Warrior Dash itself is when our family goes on vacation.
Other exciting news from the month is that my wife and I sold our house, bought a new (and bigger!) house, and are preparing too move out of our current place. There will be a lot of stress management going on between now and May 10 when the moving van arrives.
The most exciting news, however, is that I achieved the main goal that got me involved in this project in the first place. On March 23, I refereed in the state championship game! It was an incredible experience and to have such a great game in an arena filled with about 9,000 people, being broadcast on statewide television with all of my friends and family sitting in the front row. It was more than I could have imagined. I can honestly say that the confidence I have gained from being more comfortable with myself after being more fit has helped me this year. I may not be bigger, but I know who I am and I know that I can achieve big things.

Ref 1

Bill R.
Well — March has definitely been a “one step back” month in the old adage “two steps forward, one step back”!  No excuses though!!  I just need to refocus myself down the stretch to June !!

Gained back 2 pounds — now at 237.  Goal still 230 for the June 1 wedding!!
Bit back a couple more nails somewhat — guess I was just nervous about leaving AZ and getting back to the cold Midwest!
Still exercising regularly though — lots of walking and hiking and golf in March — BROKE 90 FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE ON MARCH 20!
Flossing only about 3 times a week — this is proving a particularly perplexing tough one for me!!  I think I need to try to do this at a different time than right at bedtime.
As I mentioned last month, I am waiting until after the wedding to concentrate on the 5K run goal.
Had my annual Physical Exam yesterday — all checked out very well — blood work excellent all around, and I feel great.
Jill C. (that’s me, yo!)
Turn in my fermentation book to my publisher on March 13 without too many book-related freakouts. – GOAL ACCOMPLISHED!  This was a big one for me.  I actually turned the book in a whole day early! I’m pretty proud of that. And there were no freakouts to speak of.   You can still pre-order my sweet baby on Amazon.com!
Complete the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 5 and beat my 2012 time – I really stepped up my running in March and did some long (for me!) runs that really made me feel great.  I have just about a month to go until the race!  I’m starting to get a bit nervous, but the more I run this month, the better I’ll feel about it all on race day.
Confidently turn 40 on November 19 – 230 days left in my 30s, and I’m feeling good.  Dude and I are planning to take a trip somewhere over my birthday to celebrate the milestone, and to celebrate the book.  The destination has yet to be decided. I’m torn between somewhere adventurous, a fabulous city we’ve never visited before, or a tropical getaway where we can chillax on the beach and not talk to anyone.  It’s a rough choice.
Complete a home makeover – March got away from me on this front, but I did make some headway with planning.  We are going to wallpaper a little section of our pantry and I’ve been contacting professional hangers for estimates.  We are also considering new furniture or perhaps reupholstering a few pieces we currently own.  Again, more estimates.  And in a total change of course, Dude and I are cautiously toying with the idea of painting our kitchen cabinets.  This would be an HUGE undertaking for us and we’re not natural-born DIY-ers, so we are proceeding with caution.
Become a more confident runner – The long runs I did in March with the Pittsburgh Area CrossFitters Half Marathon group were real accomplishments for me.  I’ve been pretty candid about getting over the mental blocks of running and breaking through some mileage barriers has done wonders for my confidence.  This weekend I have a seven mile run coming up.  It is not my longest run or anything, so I’m feeling good about it.
Have more in-person interactions with those I love most – As mentioned above, I went to PaleoFX and had a ball.  A big highlight was hanging out with Hayley, Bill, Diane, and Scott. I also got to hang with two new friends, Sean and Suzanne.  I also got to spend some much needed time with family after the trip to Austin.
Post more on my blog! – I must do this and I promise I will.  Stay tuned for more goodness.
So, there you have it.  March is finished and we’re looking ahead!  There is still plenty of room for YOU to join us!  All you need to do is come up with your own list.  Here are some helpful hints and tricks to get you started.  Send me an email containing your list and you’re good to go.
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Book Making: What I Learned

If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know that yesterday was a monumental day for me.  One that I have been working towards for months and a significant milestone in my personal biography that won’t soon be forgotten.  I officially turned in Fermented to my publisher!
It was a rather easy process, although lengthy.  The manuscript took about 4 seconds to upload, but the 117 photos took over 5 hours, and even after all that I still had to manually upload a group of them one by one.  When it was all over, it was an enormous relief.  I was sitting on my couch, kitty nearby.  I was alone. All was quiet, it finished uploading, and that was it.  Months and months of hard work was sent through cyberspace into the hands of my publisher.
There are many steps to take between today and when it is available (August 6!), and I still have a lot of work to do, but the hardest part is done.  After it was finished uploading I sat for a moment and just thought about all that it took to get to that point.  I don’t know about others’ experiences, but for me book writing was very difficult.  These past several months have been grueling at times and more than any other experience I’ve had in my adult life, writing Fermented has been the most formative.
So, I’m going to share with you the reasons why.  I honestly don’t think these lessons I’ve learned are exclusive to writing a book.  I fact, I know they aren’t.  We all find ourselves faced with life altering circumstances, good and bad, and we learn from them.  I’m just listing what I’ve learned from all this and hoping that someone can relate.
You can do whatever you put your mind to – From the moment I was offered this book contract until I actually turned it in, I doubted my ability to complete the project.  Sometimes it was only a little sliver of doubt but in the first 3 or 4 months of writing and planning I made myself ill with doubt.  All I could think about was EVERYTHING I had to do before turning it in and I couldn’t figure out where I was going to find the time to do it all.  I doubted my ability to adequately research food fermentation.  I doubted my culinary skills.  I doubted my intelligence and my legitimacy.   Finally, around Thanksgiving, I told myself that I was on this book train, it was happening, people were counting on me to write it, and I had two choices: Write it, or don’t.  Really in my mind I had one choice and that was to suck it up and do it.  I re-purposed my doubt and turned my attitude around.  I was writing a book for heaven’s sake, not going to the electric chair!  From that point on, the words flowed more easily, the work didn’t seem like drudgery, and I started to really enjoy what was happening.  Obviously I finished it and I even turned it in early!  And these last several months of work were so much easier than the first several months because I believed I could do it.
Cut the static and noise out of your life – I had two sources of noise in my life.  The first was literal noise in the form of my next door neighbor’s seemingly always cranky baby and their yappy little dog.  The other was in the form of figurative noise – life drama!  How does that Internet meme go?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  If I wanted to complete this project, I had to find a way to focus on my job, focus on my goal, and focus on accomplishing something great.
To solve the first problem, I found the best website ever created, SimplyNoise.com.  No joke, I thank them in the acknowledgements of Fermented.  Everyday I’d crank up some pink noise and it was like that child and dog didn’t even exist.  Easy solution!  Highly recommended.
For the second, I had to do something that did not come naturally to me.  I had to put myself first.  It was very difficult to tell people no.  It was hard to say that I didn’t want to be a part of things.  It was awkward to just disappear from life.  It felt unnatural and cruel to tell people that I didn’t have time for their problems.  But if I wanted to accomplish my goal, I had to make my needs a priority above those of the people around me.  Call it selfish, but I call it necessary at times.
Many people understood and were quite supportive of what I had to do.  Others weren’t, but maybe it’s just because they weren’t getting the attention from me they once were.  I had to stop feeding the drama and participating in others’ ordeals to get this book finished.
Now that I’m on the other side of the project, I’ve vowed to return to my previous habits of putting others first; however, not blindly so.  These past several months of living in a drama-free zone have been quite nice and have lowered my tolerance for unnecessary static.  I’m definitely adopting that new attitude for the long haul.
It is very easy to let your healthy habits fall by the wayside – I’m not proud of it, but there were days when I was eyeball deep in writing when my lunch would be a few medjool dates and some coconut butter.  And maybe a chunk of a chocolate bar.  And some chocolate chips.  There were days when, out of necessity, I had to skip workouts and there were days when I had just had my fill of not being lazy so I’d make an excuse (“I worked SO HARD today and wrote a zillion words! I just want to veg on the couch!”) and not go.  It all happened so fast and so easily.  Many times, I’d have a chocolate chip lunch and not workout and I wouldn’t even feel guilty about it.  Just being honest.
I don’t have children to care for and my only full-time job during this whole book endeavor has been writing, so it isn’t even like I had to write it AND hold down a job to pay my bills.  But still, the healthy habits flew out the window with remarkable ease.  Frightening ease!  It made me truly realize how quickly one’s health can get away from you!
I’m not completely out of shape and I haven’t even grown out of my clothes, so the situation isn’t extreme, but I do have some ground to make up if I want to be the fit and ripped 40 year old I say I want to be by the end of this year.
Sleep is your friend – Seriously, if I learned nothing else from book making it is that I need to get more sleep.  I had some weird sleeping rhythms before the book, but throughout the past several months my sleep habits were stressed to the max.  BTB (before the book) I would fall asleep very easily and usually stay asleep until about 5:30 or 6, regardless if I had gone to sleep at 9 pm or 1 am.  I just woke up and would be awake for the rest of the day.  DTB (during the book) I would sometimes fall asleep quickly, but often not, and then I would wake up for 2 or 3 hours at a stretch, and THEN I’d still wake back up at 5:30 or 6.  This went on for months.  Sometimes I’d get up and work/write in the middle of the night, but more often I’d just flop around wishing to fall back to sleep. Sometimes I’d cruise Pinterest in hopes of lulling myself away to slumberland (I know! Electronics in the bedroom mean no sleep!  I was desperate!).  I have developed dark circles and bags under my eyes.  My skin is dull. I’m doughy and I don’t have much energy.  I know this sleeping mess contributed to my poor eating habits, which contributed to my poor sleeping, which contributed to my poor eating habits, which….. You’re seeing my pattern here.  I have a lot of napping and sleeping to do to get back to normal.  I feel so tired and I look so tired.  I’m ready to get back to sleeping!
Lean on the people you love and trust most – No matter what’s going on or how busy I am, I always make dinner.  However DTB there were a few weeks where I was preparing for photo shoots and writing where I didn’t even think about meal planning or cooking dinner.  Finally I told Dude that he was in charge of dinners for a while.  And you know what?  He was great at it.  Just one example of how I had to let go of some of the things that I regularly control and put them in the capable hands of someone trustworthy. I’m not Wonder Woman, and I had no time or interest in trying to “do it all”.  I knew when I had reached my capacity and then asked for help.
In the midst of a crazy period maintain as much normalcy as possible – Although things were often turned around for me and my schedule, I tried very hard to maintain normal working hours.  For the most part, I wrote Fermented on weekdays from 8 to 5.  Now, there were MANY weekends where I worked, and there were the aforementioned middle of the night sessions, but I still maintained my workday no matter what.  I had to keep myself on a schedule in order to maintain some regular life rhythm.  I’m a schedule and routine person and without that I’d be lost.  I couldn’t afford to keep crazy hours and possibly allow the wheels to fly off my momentum train. I needed the regularity.
The same goes for my workouts.  I wasn’t anywhere near perfect with it, but I still managed to start training for my upcoming half marathon, go to yoga, and catch an occasional CrossFit WOD here and there.
Taking a mental health day now and again is really worth it – There were days when the words just wouldn’t come.  There were days when the ideas just weren’t there.  When this happened, I mostly just pushed through it and kept working.  I just kept typing and revising and typing and revising until something materialized.  But there were two or three difficult days when I just didn’t work at all when the going got tough.  I watched TV, I napped, I went on a drive.  And then I started up again with fresh ideas.  I felt guilty at the time, but realized that the break was just what I needed.  For my readers who are runners, I thought of it as the Galloway Method of book writing.
Crying is good – I am really not a crying type of person.  My mom gets emotional very easily, mostly at good things, but I have never been that way.  Sure, I cry now and again like anyone else, but it’s rare.  Funerals, tragedies, immediately after meeting the Farriss brothers, etc.  The usual tear-worthy events.  During the writing of this book, however, I cried a lot.  Sometimes it was hysterical panicked “How am I ever going to do this?!” kind of crying, but most other times it was just a release of pent-up anxieties.  It felt so good to cry a little bit.  I recommend it.
So, there you have it.  Like I said above, these are the lessons I learned throughout my unique opportunity, but they certainly aren’t unique lessons.  We’ve all been tested and we’ve all had stressful experiences that have changed us for the better.  I’m curious to know what you have gone through and what you’ve learned.  For better or for worse!  Please share with me in the comments or on Facebook.
Oh, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Fermented A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods!  You now have an insight into what it took to make it, and putting it into the hands of eager readers who are interested in food fermentation will make it all worth it!  Thank you!

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2013 Goals Project - February Review

2013 Goals Project
It is March already!  Can you believe that?  Here in Pittsburgh we’re not quite seeing much springtime weather.  Right now there is still snow on the ground.  I hope it is warming up wherever you are!
Here is what happened to the Goals Project participants in February!
Diane D.
Business Goals:
Book 16 weddings during 2013 – Since sending custom menus to four wedding prospects, I have had two meetings and one food tasting.  Deposits are pending.
Develop 30 new LadyFingers recipes and successfully implement them into 2013 events – Developed 15 new recipes and am actively proposing them to new customers.
Update and publicize all LadyFingers menus by June 1.  Update both online and print menus throughout 2013 as new recipes are developed (see above) – A complete hors d’oeuvre menu overhaul is complete on paper.  Will need to contact my web developer for an online update.  Food station and buffet menus still require work.
Update the LadyFingers website each month with portfolio and/or recipe entries – No updates in January or February.
Consistently maintain the LadyFingers Facebook page to remain current and relevant.  Increase viewership – Still posting but without a plan to ensure consistency.
Personal Goals:
(no change since January)
Re-commit to fitness using a method that will work on a consistent, life-style basis and keep a journal of progress and/or set-backs – Re-thinking this goal due to upcoming surgery
Increase vegetable garden production through improved efficiency – Re-thinking this goal due to upcoming surgery
Increase charitable efforts both personally and professionally – Am reviewing ways to donate my services to benefit the community, and also considering potential volunteer efforts in areas of literacy, neighborhood revitalization, and historic preservation.
Shed all superfluous items – Cleaning closets and sorting items (online sale, Spring garage sale, donation).  Cleaning Facebook page and unsubscribing from those whose posts are a constant annoyance.
Austin K.
Family goals:
Remember to help out with the more disagreeable chores (cat litter/bathroom cleaning) – Doing better, especially with the litter.
Go on a date at least once a month – Suze, my fiancee, planned a nice sushi picnic a couple of weeks ago which was awesome.

Fitness goals:
Complete 200 push ups a day – Haven’t missed a day since the last update.  I’ve calculated that I have done over 10,000 pushups since I started this goal (First day was Jan. 7th).
Complete 4 or more races of the 1/2 marathon, Olympic triathlon, long obstacle race, open water swim variety – Ran a half marathon in a couple of days here in Chico.  That was number one.  A couple of days ago I also joined the Chico Triathlon Club, which will hopefully plug me in to other like minded athletes and help me push my training.
Continue to workout in the A.M. before work at least 4 days a week – This is the first week I have failed to complete this task.  I got really sick on Monday, so I decided to sleep in and try and get better, especially with my 13 miler coming up in a couple of days.
Nutrition goals:
Sign up for CSA box (and utilize it) – Still haven’t done it.
Find at least 5 new healthy recipes that I enjoy and can cook easily – Still using the Men’s Health pancake recipe which I really like.  I also tried a paleo pancake recipe from Civilized Caveman, which was pretty good.  Have also made a couple of dry rubbed BBQ pork loins.
Continue using ‘myfitnesspal‘ app to document diet and exercise – I’ve logged in for 41 days in a row.  This has probably been the single greatest thing I’ve done in terms of my nutrition.  Using the app has really shed light on what I’ve been eating, how much I’ve been eating, and what is appropriate for me to eat on a daily basis.
Work goals:
Obtain high scores on yearly reviews – Had my second review for the school year.  Everything went well.  My administration is very happy with what I am doing with the music department.
Get superior ratings for my bands at festival – Festival is a week away.  I’m a little nervous as we still have a ways to go, but we are continuing to make progress.  A superior rating may be a little out of the band’s reach at this point.  Even if we don’t make it this year, I’ve seen enough progress to be optimistic about the future.
Brian R.
Get stronger!  I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in terms of overall fitness and working out on a regular basis.  I’m limited in what I can do with regards to strength work because my gym is not quite outfitted properly for this, but I think I’m creating a good basis for the rest of the year.
Finish things I write (and get them to a workshop or a publisher.)  Okay, so I haven’t finished anything this month, BUT I have started a new schedule for myself.  I decided that because I hate the idea and because it goes against everything I am comfortable with I’m going to start getting up 30 minutes earlier every morning (to start) and get some writing done before the day starts.  This has been tremendously successful in terms of my attitude about what I’m doing.  This comes from the notion that if everything you’re comfortable with doing isn’t making a change then it’s time to do something hard.  And it’s working.
Excel at my job.  I really feel like I’m on top of things, and all of the ups and downs of 2012 are starting to pay off.  By that I mean the fits and starts of trying different productivity tools and strategies have resulted in a few that are working to help me stay on top of what needs to be done and proactive about what I need to do in the future.  An important result of this should be a better balance of work / personal life so that I’m no longer angry and frustrated about work while I’m home with my wife.
Finish 36 books.  Three more books in February, although to be fair one of them I had a head start on.  I’m branching off into some non-fiction here, too, to keep things balanced.  This is really a blast, and I think it helps me keep my other goals in perspective.  I had in mind that it would be a matter of supporting my interest in writing, but it has in itself helped keep me focused on the notion of forward progress and, to be frank, not wasting time on things that don’t move me forward on some goal or another.
Matt C.
It’s been one year since I saw my picture in the paper and decided to get in better shape and build up some muscle. While I haven’t gotten a lot bigger in the past year, I know that I’m more fit and more healthy. I feel much more confident about myself and don’t feel embarrassed to go to the beach!Basketball season is starting to reach its conclusion. I was awarded the biggest game in Philadelphia and got to work on the biggest stage in from of nearly 10,000 people! The state tournament and the ultimate prize is hopefully on the horizon.
Bill R.
Weigh 230 or less by June 1 – My weight is down to 235 – gaining on my 230 goal.
Have perfect finger nails by June 1 – Eight of ten finger nails are looking good!!  I will put the push on growing out the other two in March!!
Run a 5k by October 2013 – I have decided my 5K goal is going to wait until after Suzanne’s wedding on June 1.
Exercise at least 3 times per week – I have been using the workout facility here in AZ regularly — have been meeting my 3 times per week goal regularly.
Floss at least 5 times per week – I am flossing at least 5 times a week.
Lori B.
Health and fitness goals:
Complete the Pittsburgh 1/2 marathon: feel strong for the entire race and finish with a better time than my first attempt in 2011. (goal of 2:20:00?) – Continuing to train with Fleet Feet and am really loving the program. Longest run so far is 8 miles on one of the snowiest and coldest Sundays we’ve had this winter. I consider that one a character builder! Running several times mid-week with a friend who’s also in the program and continuing long runs with the group on Sundays. Also signed up to run the 8.1 mile Just a Short Run in North Park at the end of March as part of the training program. Looking forward to doing that as tempo run to see how it goes.
Drop 20-30 lbs – Lost 4 more pounds this month!  Tough month, but a loss is a loss….I’ll take it.
Professional goals:
In pursuit of something new….not sure what I’m looking for, but plan to actively network and investigate new options this year to see what career avenues might be available. – Didn’t actively accomplish a lot on this one in February because I was too busy with work (go figure!)  I did register for an evening Networking event that will be held during the first week of March and have also identified a few areas where I could actually create an “opportunity” for myself.  This coming month will see a renewed focus on this area.
Professional Development….take some courses and find some avenues to increase my skills and/or keep up with changing technology and systems. – Signed up for two free Open Course Content classes via Coursera. Both have start dates TBD…one is via Wharton School of Business: “The Global Business of Sports”. The second is via Nortwestern Universtiy: “Content Strategies for Professionals: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization.  Also finding time to read the books I purchased in January on inbound marketing and social media.
Social and personal goals:
Make more time for regular connections w/friends. There are so many friends that I do not see or talk to regularly and I need to make time for that! – Reached out to a number of friends that I haven’t seen in awhile and everyone is eager to get together (thankfully!)  Have set a few lunch and happy hour dates for March and looking forward to fitting more social time into my life in the coming weeks.   Also took advantage of a last minute offer and free tickets to see Bon Jovi with a dear friend who I see often!
Expand my boundaries and add some”new”….new people, new experiences, new skills, new adventures! – I’m disappointed in myself — I think I was kind of boring in February!  Though I did accept an invitation to attend an information meeting about a new adventure that would take place in June….does that count?!

Jill C. (that’s me, yo!)
Turn in my fermentation book to my publisher on March 13 without too many book-related freakouts. – There are only six days until my deadline.  SIX DAYS!  It seems like I’ve been working on this book forever, and at the same time it seems like I just got the contract yesterday.  I feel like I am right on track to handily meet this goal.  In fact, it is a distinct possibility that I may turn it in early.  Don’t hold me to this yet, though!  All the photos are finished thanks to Bill Staley and Hayley Mason.  AND!  Ta-da!  Fermented is available on Amazon.com for pre-sale.
Complete the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 5 and beat my 2012 time – Due to the pressures and schedule of book making, February was a rough month for this.  I did run, but I faltered slightly from my three day per week training schedule.  I may have lost a little ground, but I’m certainly not back to square one.  I’m just going to keep moving and do my best.
Confidently turn 40 on November 19 – 257 days left in my 30s, and I’m feeling good.
Complete a home makeover – I feel like all the progress I made in January went right out the window in February.  I am embarrassed to say that my house is currently a disaster of piles of things that need to be put away.  I keep telling myself, “After the book is done……”  During the brief amount of down time I have between turning the book in and starting to work on edits, I plan to power wash and purge the place.
Become a more confident runner – Last month I wanted to do more CrossFit to help with my running goals. Well, it didn’t happen.  Again – the book!  Soon I’ll be starting fresh at a new CrossFit box and I know that doing so will help my running.  On other running confidence fronts, however, I got new running shoes and while I was at the shoe store I talked to a veteran runner, Gary, who let me know about a class they regularly hold on good running form.  I plan to attend one of these in the near future.
Have more in-person interactions with those I love most – I feel like I did well with this one.  I had lunch with my beautiful friend, Julie (who always looks like a model! I admire her style so much.) and I went to a birthday party my parents had for my brother.  There, I got to catch up with a lot of his very good friends who are also people I’ve known for years.  It was fun reminiscing about old times!
So, there you have it.  January is finished and we’re looking ahead!  There is still plenty of room for YOU to join us!  All you need to do is come up with your own list.  Here are some helpful hints and tricks to get you started.  Send me an email containing your list and you’re good to go.
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