Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Boot Camp Babe

I once wrote a list of 100 things about me. I looked at it the other day and saw this: "I have never been able to do a regular push-up." By regular I meant an on-the-toes, heeyah!, kind of push up, as opposed to an on-the-knees, whimpy one.
Well, never is no more. I can do one now.
It happened this way. About two and a half years ago I started attending a boot camp-style exercise class at a nearby church building. The instructor had us running and lifting weights and lunging and yes, doing push ups, and I hated it. I'd be so sore the next day, I could barely stoop down to move the laundry from washer to dryer. And shall we talk about trying to get up from the toilet? No, we won't. 
But, hey, I'm all about free exercise, and it was a change of pace from walking every day, so I continued to go, even though I often dreaded it. Especially the push ups part.
The instructor told us we could do them from our knees. Then she encouraged us to try "just one" on our toes. We could drop to our knees after that if we had to.
I'm a law abiding person. If someone tells me to do something, I'll do my utmost to comply. So for a few weeks, I creaked out one push up on my toes before dropping to my knees. Then I got up to two. Then five. Then finally, all ten.
She kept adding more push ups to the routine, spacing them out throughout the hour-long class. One day she had us do something called a pyramid, starting with one, then building up to ten, then back down again. It was only ten at a time, I could do that.
At the end of the hour, I realized I'd done 100 push ups. All of them on my toes. Not once had I dropped to whimpy formation. Exultation.
Two and a half years later I look at myself in the mirror (yes, I admit it, I have flexed in front of the mirror) and I see muscles on my shoulders and arms that were never there before. Never.
Where did those come from?
Could it be that they were there all the time, just needing some encouragement in order to show themselves?
It makes me wonder how many other hidden muscles I have. What else is lying dormant, just waiting for a little encouragement from me to show itself?
I also wonder how many times I've said, "this is me, this is who I am," when in reality some effort could change that part of me.
Thinking of it makes me want to experiment, try something new, something hard, something scary, something I might hate at first, dread even, just to see what will happen--what new muscles I can grow.

Friday, March 23, 2012

On The Hunger Games and why I love Phillip Phillips

Premier of The Hunger Games movie today. We've got our tickets, electronically, anyway, and will be seeing it later this afternoon. I can't offer a critique on the movie, then, but I can say why I love Phillip Phillips.
Philips has reached the top nine on American Idol, an enviable position, no doubt, for any singer. You'd think he'd do anything, then, to give him an advantage, to push himself past the other contestants.
Even sell himself out?
Not Phillips. The other night on American Idol he was told by a highly regarded fashion consultant that his style was sloppy, "wrong" even. He shouldn't wear gray, and especially not two gray shirts together. He was told by two musical mentors to lose the guitar. It was a shield, they told him, he should do his song without it. So what did Phillips do on performance night? He came out wearing gray on gray, guitar in hand, and sang his heart out. The smile in his eyes and the joy in his face won me over, and they gave me hope.
I've only read The Hunger Games once. Often, I'll read a book multiple times just to revisit a world that I enjoy. But while I was gripped by the story and the characters in the Hunger Games, I haven't been in a hurry to go back to that place. Perhaps because in it, I see possibilities of what my own could become. Reality TV and violence exist already in my life. And I watch it, some of it. Just to admit that makes me cringe. Am I so far removed from the citizens of the Capitol?
I wonder, then I remember Phillip and his defiance toward those who would mold him into something he isn't. I reveled in that defiance, and I hope that I, too, would defy the morals of the Capitol, if I were ever in that place.   
So, I'll go to the movie tonight and remember that it's a fantasy world. And it will keep on being one as long as there are people in ours like Phillip Phillips.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Corn Chowder

I'm usually a recipe gal, especially when it comes to baked goods. I've never created a cake or cookie or bread without a recipe right next to me. But soup, that's where I get a bit adventurous. I've been making chowder without a recipe for years now. The type depends on what I have, or don't have, in the fridge. But the basics of it remain the same. And they've remained in my head, until now. It suddenly dawned on me, possibly because one of my soup-loving daughters will be heading off on her own soon, that I couldn't pass on an exact recipe to her if she asked. Not that she will. She hates to cook. But maybe she will someday, or someone else will. In anticipation of that day, I actually paid attention while making my corn chowder last night. And now I'm writing it down. If only for myself for when I'm old and forgetful and, oh yeah, I'm already that way.
This by the way, is the pantry-friendly version because it uses canned corn and evaporated milk. Fresh or frozen corn would also be good.

Corn Chowder

Serves 4-6
Four potatoes cut into bite-sized cubes
2 cups chicken broth or the equivalent of water and boullion
1/2 Tbsp dried onion
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 15-oz can of corn (about a cup and a half of frozen or fresh kernels)
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1 heaping Tbsp cornstarch
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Suggested toppings: cheese, bacon bits, green onion
In a large saucepan, combine cubed potatoes, broth and onion and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and simmer about ten minutes or until potatoes are tender. Open can of corn and pour off half of the liquid. Pour the corn and remaining liquid into a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until about half the corn is chopped up and the liquid has a creamy look to it. (Skip this step with frozen. With fresh, cut it off the cob and use the back of a knife to scrape some of the cob's juice in with the kernels.) Add corn to soup and simmer until corn is heated through.   
Add the dill and all but about 1/4 cup of milk to the soup. Pour the 1/4 cup into a small bowl and mix with cornstarch until lump-free. When the soup begins to steam, add the milk-cornstarch mixture and stir until the soup thickens. If not thick enough for your liking, repeat process with another tablespoon of cornstarch combined with 1/4 cup milk. Add two or three turns of a pepper grinder, but taste before adding salt.
Serve with suggested toppings or others of your choice.