Archive for June, 2011

Uh-oh. What have I gotten myself into?

Competition. I love them! Well, actualy, I love to win competitions. And usually only when I’m playing Catchphrase or Scattergories or trying to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. Not winning feels unacceptable to me. I don’t win a lot, like in Words with Friends, so I have learned that childhood lesson. Now I have to apply it to my next big adventure. Drum roll, please.

I will be doing a triathlon. I don’t know when, and I don’t know where, but the why is easy.

I have not changed almost everything about myself to start going backwards. In my former Nichol incarnation, I did not do things that I wanted to do because they scared me. They scared me because they were too hard, or there would be a lot of people there and they may laugh at me. I’d probably wear the wrong thing or I’d be too fat or I was too ugly (please! Have you seen me? joke!) or say something stupid (note to people who don’t know me: I say stupid things all the time) or I’ll fall down (note to people who don’t know me – I fall down/trip all the time).

I rarely accepted invitations to go out with people I didn’t know and I NEVER did anything that would require me to possibly look/feel foolish. I did not like to deviate from the norm out of fear that I would look – gasp – the opposite of totally awesome, therefore, less than perfect in society’s.

I have been doing things this year that make me nervous (trying new foods) or scare me (accepting social invitations from people who are not my usual social people) or make me look foolish (yoga, running, ZUMBA). I have gone from a zero to maybe a 5.98 on the confidence scale (out of 10) and a zero to a 8.756 on the happiness scale (out of 10). I am a 9.5 on the adventure scale. I will jump out of a plane, but I will not climb Mt. Everest.

I have talked about doing a tri, seriously considered a tri, and am now going to do a tri. I’m going to apply my childhood lesson and remind myself that it’s not about winning. It’s how you play the game. I wouldn’t have played this game one year and 70lbs ago. For me, it’s that I’m even going to play this game at all.

Five Myths Of Heart Health (Guest Post)

Today’s post is a guest post from Millie Bruce (@millie_bruce). She was born in Banffshire, Scotland on August 2, 1944, and earned a basic diploma in Meds at the University of Glasgow in 1962. She has done nourishment counseling and she trained adult nutrition in Adult Daycare Clinics. She worked for clinical journalists and reviewers that wrote and published reports for the New England Journal of Medicine. Now she’s retired and from 2005 to the present she has been a guest journalist for health-related web sites and blogs and forums.

Do You Believe These 5 Myths Of Heart Health?

For both males and females of any age, heart disease is considered the first killer. It kills more people than ALL types of cancer grouped together. If you are black or over 65, your chance of heart disease is greater, but it’s an equal opportunity destroyer. Anyone, anywhere, anytime could have a heart attack [1].

Myth #1: Solely older adults need to worry about their cardiovascular system.

Things that can cause a heart attack accumulate over time. Being a couch-potato, boredom eating, and simply not exercising are bad habits that might begin when we are children. An increasing number of medical doctors are starting to see patients with strokes in their 20s and 30s instead of sufferers generally in their 50s and 60s.

Appearing healthy and at the ideal body weight won’t make you immune to heart attacks. Though both regular exercise and having the right weight help, you still must check your blood cholesterol and blood pressure. A good blood cholesterol (or lipid profile) range is under 200. A very good blood pressure level is 120/80.

Myth #2: I’d feel sick if I had high blood pressure or high-cholesterol.

They name these “silent killers” because they present NO signs or symptoms. One-third of all adults have hypertension. Of those, one-third don’t know they have it.

High cholesterol is a measure of the fats stocked through your blood. Fats may be dropped anywhere in your physique but sometimes congregate around organs, including your heart, with possible genetic predisposition. So even if you’re at a good bodyweight and do not smoke cigarettes, have your blood cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly. Once may not be enough [2].

Myth #3: Men and women DON’T experience the same signs.

Men and women CAN have exactly the same indicators. However, they typically don’t. Women seem to have the subtler indicators and symptoms while males usually experience the kind of cardiac arrest you see in the movies. But, either gender CAN have any signs or symptoms.

These subtler signs or symptoms, including jaw achiness, nausea, difficulty breathing and excessive weakness, are more likely to get explained away. “My jaw hurt mainly because my lunch time sandwich was on whole-grain bread and I simply had to chew very hard,” or, while clutching their stomach, “I should not have had that extra piece of pizza.”

“Half of women have no chest pain in any way,” declares Kathy Magliato, a heart expert at California’s St. John’s Health Center. Put all the little warning signs alongside one another and listen to your own body.

Obviously, both women and men may experience the “grab-your-chest-and-fall-down-gasping” kind of cardiac event. However, that is not the only way.

Myth #4: Given that my sugar level is in check, my diabetes will not be a heart risk.

While maintaining your blood sugar level with a regular range (80ml-120ml) keeps you healthier and stronger, just having the additional blood sugar in your body takes its toll on arterial blood vessels. Doing exercises and eating healthier helps take control of your type 2 diabetes, but don’t forget to measure your blood pressure level and blood cholesterol, too.

Myth #5: My physician would order exams if I were at risk for heart problems.

Frequently, most of us forget to tell the doctor about the little spasms we’re feeling. The health professionals, with no knowledge of most of the things we deem as unimportant, might pass over heart exams.

“Mammograms and colonoscopies are normally prescribed by doctors,” says Merdod Ghafouri, a cardiologist at Inova Fairfax Medical center in Virginia, [3] “and are usually very important, but heart tests are not normally conducted.” A heart scan can find plaque build-up in your arteries before you even know you have a problem.

Do you have the oil pressure and transmission fluid inspected in your vehicle? Have other precautionary repair done? Doesn’t your only heart deserve as much attention as your car?

Links to Supporting Resources About Heart Disease:

– [1] Family Doctor by American Academy of Family Physicians offers honest medical information and tools for patients. They have a nice write-up covering high cholesterol and arterial blood vessels.

– [2] Mediterranean Recipes is a free website managed by Trisha that gives her cooking enthusiasm to help many people discover how to cook healthy foods to protect against heart diseases. She offers a nice recipes for a healthy heart section.

– [3] Health Central is amongst the most trusted sources of healthcare information and facts and up to date stories that feature a doctor-accredited health encyclopedia of health issues and illnesses. They have a decent write-up about 6 steps to Healthier Heart.


About me:

M. Bruce (@millie_bruce on was born in Banffshire, Scotland on August 2, 1944. She earned a basic diploma in Meds at the University of Glasgow in 1962. She has done nourishment counseling and she trained adult nutrition in Adult Daycare Clinics. She worked for clinical journalists and reviewers that wrote and published reports for the New England Journal of Medicine. Now she’s retired and from 2005 to the present she has been a guest journalist for health-related web sites and blogs and forums.

Other People’s Handiwork

As you read this, The Big Man and I are several days into camping at Arches National Park in Utah. There are so many beautiful places out here — so many within a day’s drive! — and I really have not done well in taking advantage of their proximity. We are celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary this weekend as well 🙂

However, before we left, I had no links that I wanted to share with you. My reading week was cut short by leaving, so perhaps there will be a few extras next Sunday.

Hope your weekend has been great!

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

We got today’s recipe from my mother-in-law. I don’t know if she got it from a book, so if you know that this should be attributed, please let me know and I’m happy to give credit where credit is due.

This is a very tasty, easy-to-prepare crockpot dish.

Mom’s Crockpot Chickpeas

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can drained chickpeas
  • 1 cup broth
  • 1.5 cups cooked couscous
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayanne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric

Combine all but couscous in crockpot. Mix; cover.

Cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 3-4 hours.

Add couscous during last 15 minutes of cooking.

Makes 6-8 servings.

This Week In Pregnancy: Week 23

Restless legs!! No good!!

Apparently The Kid has restless legs, too 😉 There is lots of movement going on in there! There has been only once (well, one set of kicking that lasted about five minutes) that really hurt. During the ultrasound, the tech mentioned that The Kid has long legs. Takin’ after Dad already!

This week, I was much better about exercising. I did the stair master, laps in the back yard pool, or went for at least a tw0-mile walk almost every day. It makes my brain happy. I’m sure it makes my body happy, too, but much like a sullen teenager, my body is not quick to admit to things that make it happy these days.

I had an appointment with the oncologist, and he said there were no special precautions or anything. I was glad about that. He also said that should it be an issue, he has successfully treated patients with Hodgkin’s who were as far along as I am or father and the baby was fine. He also stressed that he didn’t believe that it would recur, but we have options if it does.

Next appointment with the midwife is next week. Hopefully, all will be smooth there as well!

Otherwise … not really any news. Things are just plugging along. It’s still pretty wild that in another couple of months, all of this is going to result in a real live baby. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s still not … real?

The Role Of Plastic In My Life

I get a lot of questions about plastics in the context of what I use or don’t use, or what we’re going to use once The Kid comes.

First, an easy list of what I do not use plastic for:

  • food storage (refrigerator, freezer, pantry, packed meals)
  • food cooking/reheating (microwave — not sure anyone uses plastics on the stove or in the oven…)
  • beverage storage

For all of the above, I use either glass or stainless steel.

With very rare exceptions, we do not buy canned food (plastic lining). With very rare exceptions within that, when we buy canned, we buy Eden because their non-tomato-based foods are in BPA-free cans.

I do not drink bottled water unless absolutely necessary. It has been long enough since I drank water from plastic on a regular basis that I can taste the difference now.

How this pertains to The Kid: we’re using glass bottles with silicone nipples for any feedings that are not straight from the source. I cannot find sippy cups that don’t have plastic sippers. (Even the stainless steel cups have plastic tops.) No decision right now on what to do about that. Organic cotton or wooden teething rings.

If we have to go to formula, it’ll be powdered.

If we use a high chair, it’ll have a plastic tray, and that will be OK.

The Big Man and I have ceramic dishes. The Kid, once using dishes, will use ceramic dishes as well, but I think I’ll get some at Goodwill until s/he learns not to throw them. Same with drinking glasses.

We do buy frozen vegetables, which come in plastic. I do not ever buy the “steam-in-the-bag” veggies, and we’ve long since gotten rid of our plastic steam-in-the-microwave thinger.

We do buy a few dairy products which come in plastic, though I don’t eat much dairy these days.

I am less concerned health-wise with dry goods that come in plastics. I still avoid them if possible — preferring beans from the bulk bins instead of pre-portioned plastic bags — but even the bulk bins are plastic.

We have a metal colander and a plastic one, and I use both, depending on what I’m straining and how much of it there is. (The metal one is smaller.)

We use regular silverware, not plasticware, and glass drinking glasses.

Some other kitchen implements have plastic pieces in them — the garlic press has a bit, the hand-juicer is plastic, the Magic Bullet is mostly plastic.  Sure, I would prefer them not to be, but I’m not sure there are other options even available — and when I bought them, I wasn’t really paying attention to plastics. The blender pitcher is glass, which I bought after having multiple plastic ones break several years ago. This one has served me well. The food processor bowl is plastic.

Things that we use that get hot — stirring spoons, ladles, etc. — we use either wood or silicone.

So as far as The Kid goes — it is impossible to go plastic-free with kid stuff. For example, plastic-free car seats do not exist. The plan is to be plastic-free with cooking/feeding items and with anything else that is likely to spend a lot of time in the mouth, including baby toys. (Of course, one needs to be diligent about where wooden toys are from as well, especially if they’re painted.) As more and more research surfaces indicating that BPA-free plastic items still have high levels of estrogenic activity (that’s what makes BPA bad), just having a “BPA-free” label isn’t sufficient for me.

I hope that answers a few questions! If you have more, feel free to ask!

Are you concerned at all about plastics? Do you think the concern is all rubbish? Do you have some concern but the convenience and price tag outweigh your concern? Do you have environmental concerns besides health concerns? (I didn’t even address that one here…)

This time last year

About this time last year, I was sweating my face off in the humidity of Orlando, standing in 4 hour lines to get a wand at Olivander’s, some Bertie Bott’s at Honeyduke’s, and some butterbeer (and real beer) at the Hog’s Head. This should have made me happier than ever (big Harry Potter fan = Nichol, please don’t ask about the number of times I’ve read the books/seen the movies). But at that point in my life, I most definitely was not happy, mentally or physically. I was 120 pounds overweight and walking that theme park was the most exercise I had done in a very long time.

I spent my time, inside and outside of Hogsmeade, eating crap and sitting on the couch. I never really expected that I would be one of those healthy people. But here I am today, all healthy and junk. Where has that gotten me?

Well, as Telly Savales says, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” I eat my veggies, I eat in moderation, I don’t starve myself, I did not have to inject myself or have surgery, I know when to splurge and how much to splurge on (I’m still working on the whole pizza thing, but it’s PIZZA!), and a whole mess of other things.

But more than any of that other physical junk, I’m most proud of my mental change. I have never felt this good about myself.

When July 1st rolls around (I’m claiming that as my official start date), I plan on celebrating. How? I really plan on just taking a moment to enjoy the changes I have made and all the changes still to come. I still have a ways to go (about 60 more pounds), but at the conclusion of this year, I’m just going to be grateful I have had the gumption to make this leap and say thanks to all the people who have helped, encouraged, and advised me along the way, and maybe pizza and beer from Grimaldi’s, Next July 1st, when I will be half the person I am now, I’ll celebrate, with pizza and beer, only then I’ll be wearing a bikini.

How do celebrate your successes (big and little)? Food? Beer? Big party?

Do You Warm Up Before You Exercise?

This article about warming up before exercise came through my Twitter feed (@2CFC) and caught my attention. I clicked through.

The premise was that many people overdo it when they warm up and are tired by the time they start exercising. Interesting.

But it didn’t take too much reading before noting that the warm-ups in question were ridiculously long and intense. The first ones noted were just shy of half an hour in duration, and included both intervals and hitting 95% of max heart rate.

That’s a warm up?

My recommendation to clients is to warm up for about five minutes. Movements should be gentle to muscles — including the heart — but work them more than their typical daily movements. When I warm up, sometimes I will use movements that mimic the exercises to come, and sometimes I’ll just do a generic warm up such as walking/jogging.

Studies are inconclusive, but, much like studies done on stretching, most are done poorly and don’t take many mitigating factors into effect. I know that I feel better when I have my heart pumping a bit before I get into heavier work. Has it decreased injury? I can’t say for sure, but in the years I’ve been exercising and racing, I’ve only had one injury — a ridiculously tight hamstring — over two years ago. Not a bad record.

Do you warm up? Do you notice a difference if/when you don’t?

Other People’s Handiwork

My 6-month appointment with the oncologist was this week. As usual, a quick in-and-out, everything-looks-fine appointment. The nurses were especially excited that I am pregnant, since passing through that office as a patient often renders a young person sterile. The doc assured me that while he does not believe the cancer will recur, it is treatable while I am pregnant without harming the fetus. While that was nice, I would have liked treatment that was successful without harming me! (I have difficulty believing anyone could take chemo while pregnant and it have no effect whatsoever on the fetus…)

Anyway, I have no special precautions as a result of my history. Hooray!

And, of course, happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, regardless of your biological role in your dad-ness.

I read a lot of interesting things this week — I hope you find a few that interest you.

New to this weekly collection of links are Twitter handles (if I know them) for those whose writing is being shared.

Almost 20% of young adults have hypertension from Disease Proof (@diseaseproof): Myths of the normalcy of high blood pressure in old age, and the rewards we’re reaping from processed diets in current 25-35-year-olds.

FDA: Sunscreens Will Get More Scrutiny, New Labels from NPR (@NPRHealth): Finally! Suncreen labeling will be slightly less deceptive and confusing than it is now!

National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society skewered in new book by leading cancer expert from Natural News (@HealthRanger): A long, well-written piece on the money and politics behind the ACS, and how they aren’t the go-to place for cancer prevention. My only experience with them echoes pieces of what is written here.

Avocados Or 5 Dollar Bill? from Everyday Tips and Thoughts (@edaytipsthought): Kris puts a slightly different spin on food that goes from the store to the kitchen to the garbage.

GM regulators chose ignorance over science from the Guardian (@guardian): Genetically modified pesticides are showing up in human adult’s blood, as well as in the blood of human fetuses. Why is this a big deal? “…the global safety regulators of GM crops … have argued that this was impossible.”

Is Coffee Really Good For You? from Naturally Savvy (@naturallysavvy): This isn’t a proclamation one way or the other about drinking coffee — a more well-balanced look at what the studies actually say and how you can get information from them pertinent to you.

It’s O.K. to Change Your Course from Man Vs. Debt (@manvsdebt): Despite all of the name-calling to those who don’t stay the course, often recognizing a mistake and correcting is the best course of action.

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted a recipe. Unfortunately, it’s because the new recipes we’ve been trying … well … not worth sharing, though none were bad enough to call out for pizza.

This week’s recipe was from Cooking For Two, but I don’t know what edition — years ago, my mother-in-law made this recipe, liked it, thought we would like it, and gave us the page. In our recent purge of many loose recipes, we found this one and decided to give it a whirl this week.

Instead of bratwurst, we used Tofurkey Italian Sausages. Tons of flavor, tons of protein, and organic soy. Also, as a side note, I’m not typically a huge fan of cauliflower (it’s OK), but it worked well in this meal. We were also a little worried because it smelled strongly of the vinegar, even when it was fully prepared, but it tasted good 🙂

Bratwurst Dinner


  • 6 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 fresh baby carrots, cut into thirds
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 fully-cooked bratwurst, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup fresh cauliflowerets
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 1/3 cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil


Place the potatoes, carrots and water in a large skillet. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are crisp-tender. Stir in the bratwurst, broccoli, cauliflower and onion. Cook 3 to 5 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar and oil; add to sausage mixture. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by half.

Yield: 3 servings.

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