Thursday, March 31, 2011

Great Balls of Fire

For this step on my journey to wellness, I actually revisited something from several years ago and added a new piece of exercise equipment to my regimen.

It used to be called the Power-bee (or something similar). It is now called the DynaFlex Pro and has been somewhat remodeled. I owned one several years ago and had largely forgotten about it until I saw the DynaFlex Pro on the shelves of our (relatively) local Eastern Mountain Sports store. Given that I had a little extra cash thanks to a check I had gotten for my birthday, I bought myself a new one. So, what the heck is it?

The DynaFlex Pro is a wrist and hand exerciser. It is essentially a ball encased in an outer shell that works like a gyroscope. By spinning the inner ball and holding on to the shell. Getting the ball rolling can be tricky, at first. Once it is spinning, you keep it spinning by making small movements with your hand and wrist. The spinning ball generates considerable torque. The combination of maintaining your grip on the shell, the torque generated by the spinning ball, and the small hand and wrist movements really gives the muscles in your forearms quite the workout! As far as this being a step along my journey to wellness...well, forearm exercises are not huge calorie burners. They certainly are going to help me get back into shape all by themselves. For me, though, it is great to feel the burn in my muscles - even from a relatively small muscle group - as it helps me get motivated to do more exercise. Sitting in a chair and watching TV or surfing the internet isn't terribly motivating and I can easily end up wasting a lot of time this way. By picking up the DynaFlex Pro and giving it a spin for a couple of minutes, I get that wonderful feeling in my arms and get motivated to get out of the chair and do some more exercises that will have a greater impact on my overall wellness.

The DynaFlex Pro is not terribly quiet when in use, so using it while watching TV or while sitting at your desk at work might not make others around you very happy. Also, it does require a bit of concentration to maintain your grip and to keep it spinning, so using it while driving is not advised.

The song reference for today - well, the 'ball' itself isn't on fire (though, it does tend to get a little warm while in use) but it does give your forearms a good burn. I couldn't resist paying homage to Jerry Lee Lewis with Great Balls of Fire as the title for this post, though technically while the ball is spinning, there is also a Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On.

A-Z Challenge

For a change of pace, I have accepted the A-Z Challenge for the month of April. The idea behind the challenge is to post a new article every day during the month of April except for Sundays that have a topic that begins with the corresponding letter of the day - starting on April 1st with the letter A and working your way to the letter Z (30 days in April minus the 4 Sundays = 26 days). The post could be a written article or simply a picture of something that begins with the letter of the day.  For this challenge, I am not sure that I will be able to continue the trend of linking the article to a song title. In fact, these posts are simply going to be titled with the letter of the day. As well, I plan to make these A-Z posts in addition to any posts that are specifically about my journey to wellness. While my current plan is to write articles about things that have an impact on my journey for this challenge, they just may not be quite the same as the rest of this blog.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Master Cleanse Reprise - 'Not' Wasted Time

Today marks the second day of this round of the Master Cleanse. It is going to be a bit of a struggle - not because I am having a hard time sticking to the fast, but because we have a busy day scheduled. Though it is better to consume the lemonade within ten minutes of squeezing the lemons, I have prepared four servings worth of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper - no water added yet - to take with me to our various appointments. I will add the mix to a bottle of water when I am ready to drink it. I am not worried about hunger. When I am keeping myself busy, I don't usually feel hunger pangs. As planned, I skipped my daily serving of VIDACELL and will continue to do so for the duration of the cleanse.
I checked my tongue this morning - already turning white. This indicates that there are toxins present that need to be purged. Even though I am careful with what I eat and have already done the cleanse twice before, I am still exposed to toxins. Really, this just provides rationalization that doing the cleanse periodically is the right thing to do and I am not wasting my time - hence today's song tie-in, Eagles' Wasted Time.

Yesterday, as a quasi-birthday present to myself, I bought myself a new pair of sneakers. The last pair I had (well, still have until the new ones are fully broken in) was not a very nice pair of sneakers. I had gotten them for about $15 and they were worth every definitely get what you pay for. Part of my problem is that my feet are what are affected most by my disorder (I still don't believe MS is the answer, but...). Buying cheap shoes is not really a great idea. Honestly, cheap shoes tend to be a bad idea for everyone considering how much we ask of our feet on a daily basis.
Up until recently, I was really interested in getting a pair of Vibram's FiveFingers shoes. The FiveFingers shoes mimic being barefoot but protect your feet from rocks, broken glass, and other foreign objects. As you might expect, the FiveFingers shoes have separate pockets for each toe - just like a glove for the feet. I was a bit concerned that this would be more aggravating to the pins and needles sensation that my feet are constantly feeling. I found a local store that sells them so I was able to try them on. There are several styles of the FiveFingers to choose from. The pair that I wanted - one that would have been suitable for daily, normal wear - just gave me issues in trying to put them on. Getting all of my toes into the right pockets was just not possible. My toes - and probably yours - are just so used to being crammed into ill-fitting shoes (any shoe is ill-fitting when you realize that our feet are not designed to wear them). I spent about 15 minutes just trying to make them fit. Not one to give up on a good idea too easily, I tried on a different pair of the FiveFingers and had no problem getting them on. The second pair, however, was not at all suited for cold weather as the one thing that made them easy to get on was that they didn't fully enclose my feet. They were more like a sandal or slipper. Sure, they would protect the soles of my feet, but not the tops. As well, due to their unique design, wearing socks with the FiveFingers is out of the question. Mind you, I don't mind not wearing socks - I actually prefer it - but sometimes you just need that extra warmth.
Though I decided to pass on the FiveFingers, I am still considering them for warmer weather.
The other style of shoes that I wanted to check out is made by Skechers. These are the Shape-Ups. Shape-Ups have a different style sole that provide a workout for your legs just by walking in them. Yeah, I know...walking is already a great exercise and I try to do it as often as possible. My rational behind getting the Shape-Ups is that I can maximize the benefit that I get when I am able to walk - even if it is around the grocery store. Well, I haven't been able to find any local store that stocks the Shape-Ups. As with the FiveFingers, I could order them online. My problem with doing so is that I really want to try them on to get the feel of them before buying. It would be one thing if I were looking for a pair to replace the ones that I already had, but buying a new style of shoe over the internet just doesn't suit me.
What I came home with yesterday is made by (or for) Dr. Scholl's. They are from their Personal Trainer line. Similar to Shape-Ups, the soles are different than the average shoe and are designed to more fully engage the leg muscles while walking. I found a pair that I actually liked (I am not too picky about the appearance of my shoes, but some are just plain ugly) and tried them on. While the box was simply labeled as size 12, the shoes in the box turned out to be 12W. My feet aren't particularly wide, but these fit really well. Had I seen 12W on the box, I wouldn't even have tried them on. Hopefully these shoes will continue to be comfortable as I wear them for longer periods of time. My last pair would actually start to hurt if I wore them even for reasonable periods of time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Am Singing The Lemon(ade) Song Again

It is time once again for me to do the Master Cleanse AKA The Lemonade Diet. Starting tomorrow morning, I will be singing that song again. (Song reference: The Lemon Song by Led Zeppelin) Technically, though, I have already started by taking a dose of senna tonight. Because I have class and a generally busy day tomorrow, I won't be starting my day with the salt water flush - I'll save that for Saturday morning when I have nothing to do until later in the day.
I won't be using VIDACELL during this cleanse. I don't think VIDACELL would interfere with the it, but I'd rather be sure that I get the biggest benefit from the cleanse - besides, it can't hurt to save the money. I bought enough lemons for at least a couple of days, today. I already had the maple syrup and cayenne pepper, so I am all set to go!

My hope this time is to continue the cleanse for at least 14 days but possibly even longer. Because we are now in maple sugaring season, I fully intend to buy some locally harvested grade B maple syrup when I am close to finishing my current supply. It may not save any money, but it is certainly a better option to buy local products over those shipped in from far away.

Monday, March 14, 2011


One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands, Limelight by Rush, is the title of today's post. The lyrics say; "Living in the limelight, The universal dream..." It has long been my dream - sometimes acted upon (no pun intended) - to be involved in theater and/or radio. I don't really care if I am in the limelight, myself. I have always just enjoyed being involved in theatrical productions. I have worked on stage, backstage, under the stage, over the stage, and just about any way you can relate to a stage. Circumstances in my life led me away from a career in theater, but it has always been a hope of mine to get back to it.
Today, I am once again starting down a path that will lead me to a related career. I am going back to school! My first class at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting starts in about 90 minutes!

While my Journey to Wellness is far from over, it has taken me to a point that I feel like I can handle a job in a 'light' capacity. Classes will certainly be a test of my capacity for extended, regular activity. I will be attending classes for four days per week for the next 8 weeks - about 5 hours per day.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Steam is good, especially when it comes to compost. The song for this post is Steam by Peter Gabriel.
This morning, when I took Ginger out for her morning walk, I took two of the mason jars with my beet kvass out to add to my compost heap. As I had taken the filtered kvass, I decided to add it directly to the soil in my raised bed rather than the compost. While I was out there, however, I took the lid off of the compost bin in order to stir things up. Really, I just wanted to see if it was frozen solid or not. I have been a little concerned that the compost would not be ready for this planting season. Well, my concerns have evaporated. The compost is no longer frozen solid so I was able to turn over the pile. In the process, I noticed that the materials were a lot further along in the decaying than I thought it would be. Not only that, the pile was actually steaming - generating its own heat! On the down side, I was hoping to have enough compost to fill the raised bed. It doesn't look like that will be the case, so I am going to have to buy some top soil to blend with my compost.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gimme Some Water (Kefir)

Yesterday was a pretty encouraging day. Each Thursday for the last several weeks we have been going to the local YMCA for an hour of pool time. We ended up getting there a little early for our scheduled hour, but they are not strict about our arrival time and let us in. Rather than heading straight to the pool, I took a side trip to fitness room and ripped off three 'supersets' of seated row and bench press. A superset is basically just chaining two (or more) different motions together with no rest in between. Commonly, the motions will work opposing muscle groups - back and chest, bicep and triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings, etc.. It is a good method to use when you are looking for a workout but are pressed for time. By chaining opposing movements together, you can reduce downtime. One muscle group rests while the other works.
I didn't want to take too much time in the fitness room, so doing a superset of exercises that I cannot easily do at home just made sense. I didn't pay much attention to the weight I was pushing (or pulling). I started with the seated row machine and did about 20 reps before switching to the bench press machine to do about 15 reps. In both cases, I would have been hard pressed to do another repetition without a rest. I could have physically done more, but I felt that I had already taken too much time.
In previous visits to the pool, I hadn't really done too much actual swimming. Mostly I just spent the time playing in the pool with the kids. This time (as I had done during the previous visit) I spent some timing swimming laps. While I had always been a decent swimmer, I am currently closer to a manatee than I am to Michael Phelps in speed. I am also more of a sinker than a floater.
Already tired from the supersets and the lap swimming, I wanted to see how long I could maintain treading water. I went to the break from the shallow end to the deep end - deep enough so that I could effectively tread water but shallow enough that I would be able to stand if I got too tired. I held on for about three minutes for my first bout - not spectacular, but I am not complaining.
After swimming and grocery shopping, we came home and I went online to do some writing. Recently I started writing on a site called List My Five. This site asks contributors to create a Top 5 list of anything they want. The goal for the contributor is to create lists about popular topics that will bring in readers and generate ad revenue. More readers = more revenue which gets shared with the contributors. As a result of my new venture, I have increased my presence on Twitter trying to draw in some traffic to my lists. This has also had the effect of drawing in new twitter followers.
One of those new followers asked me if I had ever tried water kefir and directed me to his website. While I have not yet tried water kefir, I am more encouraged to do so. My experience with milk kefir has been excellent and my experience with kvass has not. I just don't like it and I am not going to continue making it. I have decided to add what remains of my attempt(s) at kvass directly to my compost heap - I am just not impressed. I am giving serious consideration to brewing my own kombucha and now will likely add water kefir. I encourage you to check it out at Tom's site:
As usual, I started my day with a packet of VIDACELL blended with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Because of my last cycle with the Master Cleanse, I have quite a bit of VIDACELL on hand, so not only did I start my day with it, I also ended my day with another serving. As I intend to do another cleanse in the next week or so, I will build up an even larger stock of VIDACELL (I decided to refrain from using VIDACELL during the cleanse). My plan is to use an extra serving or two per day until I start the cleanse.

Given yesterday's encounters with water, I am using Eddie Money's song, Gimme Some Water as the title of today's post.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Rite of Spring

As Spring approaches - and it seems to be approaching very quickly, today - I am planning to do another cycle with the Master Cleanse. I have decided to do a cycle every season. I am not exactly sure when I will begin
The Rite of Spring but I will likely start on the first day of Spring, March 20. For this post, I borrowed the title from Igor Stravinsky but it seems fitting. In my case, the master cleanse will be my rite of Spring (as well as Summer, Autumn, and Winter!). Stravinsky's piece also came up when I included it in a list of my favorite classical music pieces. Check out the rest of the list here: List My Five.
Before I start the cleanse, I want to use up the whey that I got from Deerfield Farms. I don't want it to go to waste. I have been adding it to the smoothies that I make for an added protein boost.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I'm Not Crazy About It

While it is stated in the recipe to let the kvass sit at "room temperature for two days before transferring to the refrigerator," I gave it an extra day. As well, the instructions say that "when most of the liquid has been drunk, you may fill the container with water and keep at room temperature for another two days" for a 2nd batch.
I decided to pour off most of the liquid into new jars and refill them instead of waiting to drink it all. While it hasn't been refrigerated, I wanted to taste the 'brew.' Well, it tastes a little better than the store bought stuff, but I am still not crazy about it. (Song reference, Crazy by Seal). I am hoping that a little refrigeration will aid the taste. If not, I might try to tweak the recipe and try again. If after a second attempt it still doesn't suit me, I will just stick to the kefir.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

...but if you try, sometimes you get what you need. In all of my posts that use songs or song references as titles, I don't think that I have ever used a Rolling Stones song. It seemed about time and You Can't Always Get What You Want seemed the perfect one for this post. When I got the whey from Deerfield Farm last Wednesday, I was all excited to try my hand at making beet kvass. When I went to the grocery store on Thursday, I was fully intending to buy some beets for the same purpose. No luck - I couldn't get what I wanted. But I tried again today, and I got what I needed! So today, I started the kvass-making process.

Sally Fallon provides a recipe for beet kvass in her book, Nourishing Traditions. It is as follows:
  • 3 medium or 2 large beets, peeled and chopped up coarsely (I cubed them)
  • 1/4 cup whey
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • Filtered water
Add all of the ingredients to a 2 quart container (I used two 1 quart mason jars). Add filtered water to fill the container, stir well, and cover securely. Leave the container(s) at room temperature for two days before transferring to the refrigerator.
That's it!

I gathered all of the ingredients and got ready to put it all together. For a little variety, I added a couple of baby carrots and a celery stalk to the recipe. As I don't have a larger jar to use (other than a plastic container that I don't want to use as the beet juice might permanently stain it), I am using two of my 1-quart mason jars. The 1/2 gallon container to the right of center of the picture is the whey.

I cubed the beets, carrots, and celery (though the celery obviously didn't result in cube shaped pieces!). It is not recommended to shred them as that would produce too much juice and the fermentation would happen too fast. This would result in more alcohol and less lactic acid. It is the lactic acid that we are after, here.

I divided the vegetables equally into my two mason jars to which I had already added 1/8 cup of whey (half of the called for quantity in each jar) and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. From feedback that I have read, following the recipe as written results in a too-salty drink. Rather than using the full tablespoon of salt, I used only the two teaspoons. I am hoping that adding the carrots and celery might produce a somewhat sweeter tasting kvass.

Finally, I added the filtered water to the jars and screwed on the lids. The jars are currently sitting on the kitchen counter (right next to my most recent batch of kefir!) where they will remain for the next 48 hours.

According to Sally Fallon, after most of the liquid has been consumed, I can simply top off the jars with more filtered water to make a second, slightly weaker batch. So, at a cost of $2.49 for the beets I will have about a gallon of kvass when all is done. This is considerably more affordable than buying bottled beet kvass at retail!

While I was in the 'creating' mode, I decided to be experimental with my smoothie for dinner. I used my standard 1 cup of frozen mixed berries (Trader Joe's Very Cherry Berry Blend) as a starter. To this, I added whey, kefir, some milk and raw honey, and a couple of prunes. For the experiment, I added a celery stalk! I wasn't sure if my blender would do a decent job of turning celery into a puree, but it worked. I was really surprised at how good it tasted. The celery was evident but not overpowering. Adding it is going to be a regular thing.