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2I began adding floor exercises to my walking last week. This came after doing a knee bend to fill the cat’s bowl and realizing unless Rick had come to give me a hand up, I would still be crouching there. Starting slow is important. Rushing into exercise when you are somewhat out of shape leads to injuries. Also, if I kill myself the first time out, there isn’t liable to be a second time. To begin, I decided on leading off with twenty jumping Jacks. When I was in my teens I could do 100 jumping Jacks, play two sets of tennis, and participate in the triathalon and have energy left over to do laps in the pool. Those days, my body would suggest, have passed. Always in P.E. we had to warm up with 30 jumping jacks and other vigorous cardio type exercises before playing whatever sport was on the agenda for the semester. Do they still have P.E? I don’t think in the structured way we had it when I was in school. Fourth or fifth period Physical Education showed on my schedule every day during high school. One of my granddaughters said at their school they have the students walk the track three times a week. Technically, from what I understand, they’re supposed to jog, but no one does. Mostly they tap, tap, tap on their cell phones and visit. That gets my heart going, but I’m sure there’s is just plodding along.

Not being a particularly coordinated being, I won’t say I loved pulling on my gym shorts and heading out to whatever field I was playing on. Baseball, in particular, was my nemesis. Twice I got hit on the head with the ball suffering a concussion both times (this explains a lot), and once I got hit full swing with the bat across the center of my face resulting in a broken nose. The universe was trying to tell me something, and definitely it was not that I was headed for the major leagues. Basketball wasn’t my thing either. A girl about two feet taller than myself stepped soundly on my big toe while making a shot jamming my nail into my skin. Pain shot up through my spine and exited out my mouth. I’m sure that scream was heard by a peasant herding goats somewhere in Sicily. That toenail continues to come and go at whim since that day. Good news though, I didn’t have to play basketball the rest of the semester. In my defense I was fast on my feet and quite good at football. Not a sport much taken up by women back then, but I often played at the local park with friends getting by without embarrassing myself. Swimming and tennis were more my style. I was on the tennis team and took up space at the local courts often during the summer. Another sport of a sort I loved was roller skating. Surprisingly I was quite graceful at it. After showing continued interest my mother purchased skates, a case, and toe stops and I was off and running. For four years I spent weekends skating, then high school came along and new things captured my interest, but many times during adulthood I’ve tied on skates and been surprised that my feet continue to remember the experience.

In elementary school we had recess and lunch to get our energy out. When the bell rang students poured out of classrooms like roaches out of a burning building. A teacher with a whistle around her neck passed out all variety of balls from a shed by the gymnasium. Excitedly we hooked them up to tether ball strings, or played four-square or dodge ball until the bell rang calling us back to class. Hopscotch was another popular pastime during breaks. Girls carried lucky lagers used to pass from one square to the next. I’ll have to check with my grandchildren to see if such things still go on. My guess is not. I think the sound I’m hearing is my bones creaking. Sigh.

I walked with a friend this morning. Several times a month we walk, then go to lunch. Sort of a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. Smile. She has nine-children. Whew. Definitely needed a hobby when she was younger. I have four, if you count my two step-children, and I do. Her nine children have four children combined, and my four children have nine. My oldest granddaughter, Breanna, or Bre to those of us who hold her dear, was born not long after my forty-second birthday. Being a grandma before you go through menopause is sort of a treat. Lots of needed energy left to draw on to crawl about the floor or go for bike rides. Bre is studying to be a yoga instructor and is a strict vegan. When we are together meat is not a subject I throw down on the table, if you will. If I do she is liable to ask me if I pictured the cow’s face when adding catsup to my burger. Since hamburgers are up there with the manna of the gods for me, I prefer to keep meat and vegan separate when enjoying my time with her. Sometimes it is best to agree to disagree. I respect her views on making a better and healthier earth, however. Even if I don’t choose to follow the same path where my food is concerned, I can admire and support her passion for standing up for what she believes in. One thing I will say about processed food is that it most likely is doing us in, but other than limiting my diet to nuts and berries, I don’t for the life of me know what to do about it.

While living in the south I have to admit I don’t believe I met any vegans, not even any looser vegetarians. Meat was pretty much a mainstay on tables where I lived while there and I wouldn’t suggest bringing up the “have you pictured the animal’s face” query to your host before sitting down to dinner. Number one most likely he has seen the animal’s face, and number two you may find yourself eating a bowl of raw corn out behind the barn.

Last night was meatloaf night at our house. I have made so many variations of meatloaf over the years it always surprises me when a new one crops up that I can file in the “keep” file.

Mediterranean Meatloaf

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup finely crushed Saltine crackers
1 onion, chopped fine
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1 small can chopped black olives, drained
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium zucchini
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together well. Spray loaf pan with cooking spray. Put meat into bottom of pan.

Mix together cherry tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and olive oil. Spoon over meat. Cook for 1 hr. and 20 mins. Drain if necessary.

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finalfinalI’m heading out for a walk. Bathing suit weather is coming and I’m ill prepared for the challenge. Many blogs back I believe I mentioned I got a membership at one of the large local fitness centers. Since that post I have gone exactly once. Sigh. Walking is exercise I easily throw myself into. However, when floor exercises and treadmills are added to the mix somehow you lose me. When it comes to structured exercise my mind will accept any excuse thrown in its direction to avoid becoming involved. “It’s not healthy to exercise on any day of the week ending in d-a-y. Somewhere in the world it’s most likely night. My second smallest toe is larger than the big one making my balance questionable”. You name it, I can run with it. Not literally, naturally.

During a recent shopping trip my friend and neighbor suggested I join her for yoga. Couldn’t we just do lunch and call it good? Before committing myself I needed to acquaint myself with what yoga entailed. I watched a video on the subject. Really? Gumby couldn’t accomplish some of the positions shown. My oldest granddaughter is going to school to become a certified yoga trainer so I suppose in support of her aspirations and my well being I could give it a try. Getting in the spirit of the idea I picked up a yoga mat at the dollar store. No point in investing heavily in equipment in case its a short run.

Fortunately, all my workout clothes are nearly brand new. Their only function until now being gathering dust in my closet. Pulling on some Spandex, I hopped in the car with my trusty mat tucked under one arm heading for an exhilarating morning of stretching and posing. My anticipation at auditing the class was palpable. Not. The last time I attended a structured fitness group I chose Jazzercize. A bad choice in hindsight. Inadvertently I signed up for an advanced group. While the well choreographed women seamlessly moved about the floor doing their routines Susie floundered about in the middle of them like a recently caught trout in the bottom of a boat. Humiliation isn’t a big enough word to cover that morning.

As expected on arrival the yoga bunch was a mixed age group of about thirty. Mats of different hues were tossed about on the floor. With a peaceful brook gurgling in the background a perfectly toned instructor took her place at the front of the room. Speaking in tones that would lull a meth addict to sleep, we began with stretches. For the newbies she explained the basics. If these were the basics, I definitely wasn’t ready for whatever followed. Then, meditation. I found this part relaxing and certainly not asking too much of my body. Next we were asked to extend ourselves face down with our hands and feet on the floor and stick our behinds up in the air. Hmmmm. I believe this was called the dolphin. I’ve been to Sea World on numerous occasions and don’t remember ever seeing the mammals assuming such a position, but okay. Inside my head I heard my spine creaking and shifting as I assumed the position. Ouch. Secretly I was wondering if there was a chiropractor on the premises. One might be needed before the hour is over. Why can’t humans be born in perfect condition, with perfect teeth, and move on from there? I’m adding this to my list of questions should I make it to where it is we go once we leave our bodies behind. Several positions with “dog” in them came next, which I managed to execute without totally embarrassing myself. Quickly it became evident whoever originated yoga had been sitting on their porch observing wildlife while the concept took shape. Many of the positions were a tribute to animal agility. Certainly most were not a tribute to mine.

Towards the end she did three or four positions for the more advanced students suggesting those of us just getting started observe but not participate. No worries here. After seeing what they were doing even if I’d been enthusiastic about trying these there surely would have been body casts and EMT’s involved somewhere shortly afterwards. One she called an “ear pressure pose”. Made my ears pop and I was sitting on the floor as they executed it trying to keep from throwing up.

I will go back I decided, contributing $20 towards the next lesson. In between it was suggested we review videos on-line and become familiar with the various positions on the paperwork they gave us. Uh huh.

After our company left I had bananas leftover. They went in this scrumptuous banana cake. Yum. Better add running to the yoga.

Banana Apricot Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. apricot brandy
1 cup mashed bananas
1/4 cup drained and finely chopped canned apricots
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13 x 9″ pan with cooking spray.

In large mixing bowl cream butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat for 2 mins. Add vanilla, brandy, bananas and canned apricots. Beat for 2 mins.

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 mins. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on rack until completely cool. Frost cake once cool and sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. pkg. soft cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Whip together cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla. Slowly incorporate powdered sugar, mixing well.

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Chilly or not, the view from the deck was so alluring this morning that I pulled on my warm fuzzy socks, tossed a throw around my shoulders, and had a cup of coffee outside.

I started out for my walk while the low-lying clouds quite prevalent in the early morning were still hovering over the lake. Chillier than usual, I came back in for a jacket and, eyeing my camera on the counter, on a whim hung it around my neck.

There was no hint of a breeze, but definitely it was cool enough to find myself pulling my jacket closer around me from time to time. I passed no one and no one passed me for the hour I was gone, other than a fat gray squirrel cheeks puffed with whatever treasure he was hauling back to his nest. For a moment, he stopped and looked at me with curiosity. Then, apparently not finding me noteworthy, scurried under the fence and up the side a tree trunk.

Faithfully I walk 2 miles every other day. This, both for how much better I feel when I do as well as trying to whittle off that ten pounds that I gained after I quit smoking. Blessed with a high metabolism and some appropriate genes when it comes to weight I’ve been thin most of my adult life. Up until eight months ago when I puffed my last puff, I ate pretty much what I wanted to. Not a sweet eater particularly, nor a big snacker I stayed within a pound or two of the same number on the scale from day to day. Sadly, those days are gone. Even if I could manage to get the zipper up on my favorite size 4 jeans, there would be more of me out of them then in I’m afraid, and it would take the jaws of life and four EMT’s to get them unzipped again. Sigh.

The holidays are looming and I just want to make sure that the size 6 jeans aren’t sitting in the same donation pile as the size 4’s by the time I reach the new year. To this end, I have signed on the dotted line at a local gym. Let me be the first to say that other than fun sports like water skiing, swimming, and walking, I would rather gnaw off my own big toe than enter an exercise program. However, it seems vanity has taken the lead in this internal fight and I find that I want to wear my fun holiday clothes without having them look like glittery sausage casings. So, hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work out I go.

Thanksgiving being less than two weeks away, and recognizing my passion for stuffing, I saw no choice but to write the check for gym membership and bite the bullet. Truly, a gun to my head, I would throw out the bird, and sit in the corner with a mixing bowl of stuffing and a large spoon. At our house we make “day after sandwiches”, or so we refer to them, that include turkey, stuffing, thinly sliced jellied cranberry, light mayo and salt and pepper. Quite often I’ll have them for breakfast. Perhaps this year I’ll have my other half put a padlock on the refrigerator door or put one of those gadgets inside that emits oinks every time you open it.

I’m cooking this year. I’ve already started early shopping so as to avoid finding myself sitting twelve deep in line carrying one tub of whipped cream at the last minute. For me, doing as much as I can ahead of time and freezing it works best. That way, when my guests arrive I don’t spend the entire day wearing my apron.

For a change of pace from sweet potatoes, give this a try. It’s lighter but has a lovely flavor.

Spicy Mashed Butternut Squash with Meringue

Butternut Squash

3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. group ginger
1 Tbsp. good bourbon (optional)

Topping

4 egg whites
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
Chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Place on baking sheet and roast for 30 mins. or until fork tender.

In food processor puree 1/2 of the squash until smooth. In large mixing bowl mash the remaining 1/2 of the squash until chunky consistency. Mix in pureed squash.

Heat butter, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in small saucepan until butter has melted and mixture has begun to steam. Add bourbon. Heat 2 mins. longer. Combine cream mixture with squash mixture.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Pour squash mixture into a 2 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Whip egg whites with hand mixer on med. speed until soft peaks form, about 2 mins. Gradually add marshmallow creme, beat until stiff peaks form and meringue has a glossy finish, about 5 mins. longer.

Mound meringue on top of squash. Use spoon to create peaks. Bake 4-5 mins. in oven until peaks are golden brown. Sprinkle with pecans.

As a note, it helps to use a potato peeler to peel the squash. 8 servings.

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