A Few Days on Mackinac Island

July 7, 2014

I’m baaaaack! Hope you all had a great Fourth of July week. Mine was wonderful – I spent it hanging out with family in Michigan, where I grew up, visiting places we used to go to all the time when I was a kid.

First stop: Mackinac Island. Located in the very northern part of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is known for a few things: its history, its ban on motor vehicles (which means bikes and horses are the main means of transportation), and its many fudge shops. As many brochures and websites point out, visiting Mackinac Island is like stepping back in time – specifically, to the late 1800s, when many of the island’s buildings were constructed.

The island is only accessible by ferry, and my in-law Anne took this great picture of me as we pulled away from the mainland.


We used to go to Mackinac Island every Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas and New Years Recap 2012

January 6, 2013

Howdy folks. I don’t think I’m 100% better yet, but I’m feeling like this cold is definitely on its way out. Time to fill you in on my holiday adventures! As I mentioned in my last post (with much excitement and perhaps an exclamation point or two), I managed to make it through my holiday travels without gaining any weight. I made a concerted effort to make healthy choices and stay active, while still enjoying some of the pleasures of the season.

I’ll start with exercise. No, on second thought, I’ll start with what I was most hoping for: A white Christmas! There wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground when I landed in Michigan on the 23rd, but it started snowing in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, and by Christmas morning, there was a nice white blanket covering everything in sight.


It snowed more the next couple days, and I loved being back in winter weather, if only for a little while!

Moving on to exercise! Read the rest of this entry »

Finger Limes and Calamondin

December 25, 2011

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Mine was great: the gifts I gave resulted in excitement and appreciation, and I got some great gifts myself. There were lots of laughs and good times with my family, and I didn’t overeat to the point where I fell into a food coma or wanted to unbutton my pants – which have both happened in the past, many many times.

The gym I’ve been going to in Michigan was closed on Christmas day, but I had great workouts for the four days leading up to Christmas. After the gym on Christmas Eve morning, I went to Plum Market, an amazing local grocery store with three Detroit-area locations, for some last minute shopping for dinner that night.

The produce department at Plum is beautiful, and even though I only needed a couple items from it, I wandered the whole thing, and I’m glad I did, because I stumbled upon two new things that I’d never seen before.

Item #1 were finger limes, and in this case, it wasn’t the produce itself that caught my eye, but the price tag:

FIFTY BUCKS A POUND? For produce? Are you kidding me? All I wanted to do was toss a couple in my cart, but this boy’s on a budget, and I need to save some more pennies before making an investment like that! Usually I take a ‘buy now, research later’ approach to produce investigation, but in this case, I think the opposite approach is in order. I know, I know, they’re tiny, and buying one or two would only cost a few bucks, but still. I need to know what I’m getting into!

I’ve learned a little about finger limes since them. Todd, one of my Facebook followers (follow me on Facebook here!), told me about a wonderful iPhone app called Specialty Produce, which has all sorts of information on fruits and veggies (duh). Here’s what’s written about finger limes:

“Known as ‘the caviar of citrus,’ these tiny digit-shaped limes are practically in a category all their own. Their aromatic skin appears in a triad of colors and the flesh holds caviar-shapes vesicles that pop crisply in your mouth with an assertively tart punch. The flavor is a lemon-lime combination with herbaceous undertones.”

Another website describes them as having “A caviar-like appearance and… a delightful pop rock texture.” Pop rock texture? Caviar or citrus? Vesicles? Damn, I wish I bought a finger lime! I’m keeping my eye out for these when I get back to California. Have you had one? What did you think? Share, share, share in the comments section!

Item #2 were calamondins, and at first, I thought these were the tiniest tangerines ever:

Until I saw the signage – and look, they’re much more reasonable than finger limes!

If you’re a fruit with a nickname like ‘sour bomb,’ how can I not eat you? Plum Market gets big-time bonus points for this informational placard – thanks for doing my research for me!

See that part at the bottom about asking a staffer for a sample? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret if you promise to not tell Plum Market management: I just ate one, without asking for permission. Shhhhh! Don’t tell on me!

Sour bomb is actually a perfect description – it’s like a kumquat on steroids. I definitely puckered from the sourness, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I liked it!

I did a little more research and learned that the calamondin is native to southeast Asia, and there’s some mystery as to its history. Call Nancy Drew! Scientists have figured out that calamondrin is an ancient hybrid, but they can’t identify the precise parent plants. It’s thought that it’s a mix of something from the citrus family with something from the kumquat family, but there’s a lot of head-scratching when you delve for more details.

Turns out the calamondin is a wonder fruit! Check out some of the ways (beyond eating and cooking) that the people of the Philippines and Malaysia use them:

  • Frozen whole, as ice cubes in beverages
  • Rub the juice on insect bites and abscesses to relieve itching and irritation
  • To clear up acne and bleach freckles
  • The juice, when diluted, can ease constipation
  • As an anecdote for poison
  • As an phlegm expectorant (when combined with pepper)
  • To remove ink stains from clothing
  • And, lastly, as a hair conditioner

And, like other citrus fruits, it’s high in vitamin C!

It’s been a good week for trying new foods. A few days ago, I tried moose meat for the first time, as well as apple pears (read my blog about both here), and now, I can add calamondin to the list!

Keep it up, David!

Henry Ford Museum

December 23, 2011

I’m back on the exercise wagon! A few days ago, I wrote about how unmotivated I was feeling to exercise, but I’ve been to the gym three days in a row, and I feel great. All three days I’ve done variations of the same formula: 5 minutes of cardio warm-up, then 30-40 minutes of weightlifting, then 15-25 minutes of cardio. One of my sisters has joined me at the gym for the past 2 days, and today, I was joined by both sisters. Three cheers for family workouts!

Yesterday I got a bonus workout: a couple hours walking around the Henry Ford Museum with my sister, nephew, and niece. Located in Dearborn, Michigan (adjacent to Ford world headquarters, and about 40 minutes from my parents’ house), the Henry Ford Museum is an enormous history museum (the size of 10 football fields, literally – that’s not an exaggeration) with a focus on technology, inventions, and transportation. The museum’s collection is vast and amazingly impressive: they have the chair from Ford’s Theatre that President Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot, the bus that Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to give up her seat, and, in the adjacent Greenfield Village, Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop (which were both moved, brick by brick, from New Jersey and Ohio, respectively). And those were all things that we didn’t see!

I brought a camera and got a few shots of some of the stuff we did see. Here I am, with my nephew Sam, in front of one of the original 1952 Weinermobiles:

They have an exhibit on early aviation, with about 12 or 14 actual airplanes on display, including this 1939 Douglas DC-3:

They have 5 Presidential limousines on display, dating back to the very first official Presidential vehicle,  which was used by Teddy Roosevelt. The highlight of this exhibit, for me, was the Lincoln Continental that John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was shot. It was humbling to be standing so close to a defining moment in U.S. history:

They also have one of the rarest and most expensive cars of all time: a 1932 Bugatti Royale. Only 6 of these were ever made, and its sticker price, in 1932 dollars, was $43,000. The last time one of these cars was sold, in 1999, it went for $20 million! Here it is:

The planes and trains and automobiles are all very cool, but I also love that the Henry Ford Museum has a huge display honoring domestic life. They have a big furniture collection, and tons of vintage appliances and electronics. They currently have displays recreating kitchens throughout time, and being a kitchen-loving dude, I couldn’t help but take pictures. Here’s a kitchen from the 1860s:

From the 1900s:

From the 1930s:

It will be fun, when I’m an old old man, to go back to the Henry Ford Museum and see a bunch of kids gawking at a kitchen from the 1980s!

I’d say the stroll around the museum equaled a couple miles, but with so much to look at, I never once thought about the exercise.

Keep it up, David!

Greetings From Michigan!

December 20, 2011

I’ve landed in the Great Lakes State – my home state – and I’ll be here through the day after Christmas. Then it’s off to a whole different part of the world… but that’s an announcement for a whole ‘nother day!

My flights today were great. I had a short layover in Phoenix, and, during the Burbank-Phoenix leg, I had a window seat… except that, as you can see in the picture, I got gypped out of a window! From Phoenix-Detroit, I had an aisle seat, which I like because I can stretch a leg into the aisle. Added bonus today: the middle seat next to me was empty, so I could stretch my other leg in that direction!

Tomorrow morning I’m heading to a local gym – the same gym I frequented when I was here in September – and seeing what kind of deal they can cut me for a week. In September, they charged me $25 for 2 weeks, so their 1-week rate must be less than that, right?

I’m hoping the change of fitness-related scenery will provide me a little boost. I’ve been struggling lately to motivate myself to work out. Last week, when I was terribly ill with a cold and/or flu, I ended up missing four days of exercise in a row. I’m not complaining – just an observation. It’s the longest stretch of non-exercise I think I’ve had all year. Plus, two days prior to that little stretch, I had a planned rest day, so, in total, I worked out twice that week, instead of an ideal six times.

Normally when circumstances prohibit me from exercising for a day or two, I start feeling antsy to get back in the gym. Apparently when circumstances prohibit me from exercising for four days straight, I lose all interest in the gym altogether, because that’s how I felt when I got healthy and strong enough to resume exercising. My motivation had disappeared quicker than Santa up the chimney! My first workout back after recuperating was a run. I hadn’t gone running since Thanksgiving Day (when I ran my first 5K with my sister), and at first I felt great. About 15 minutes in, though, my tune had changed, and I couldn’t wait to finish. I had pre-determined my route, so I was nowhere near home by that point, so I kept running, and banned myself from checking the time. All told, I spent 41 minutes on the sidewalks of North Hollywood, and went exactly 4 miles. My route:

I calculated my speed at 5.8 mph (and, yep, I’ve added it to my running chart!). Even though I was fairly miserable by the run’s end, I was happy and proud I stuck it out.

The next day (Monday), I hit the gym for the first time in a week, and had a good workout – 40 minutes of weightlifting and 16 minutes on a bike, plus a little warm-up on the treadmill. Today was a looong travel day – I left my house in California at 5am and walked in my parents’ door at 6pm – so no workout. Tomorrow, it’s gym time. I can’t miss many more workouts – not with all the holiday goodies around!

Keep it up, David!

PS – Wondering why I didn’t weigh myself this morning? It’s because I vowed to not weigh myself again until 2012, as a way to combat a developing obsession with my scale. I found a new hiding spot for my scale, and it’s working like a charm! Find out where it is here.

PPS – Remember the micro red amaranth I purchased last week? A few days ago, I included it in a big kale salad I brought to a dinner party:

The salad was simple and easy (pre-chopped and washed kale, tomatoes, persian cucumbers, micro red amaranth, and bottled nonfat balsamic vinaigrette), and it was a big hit. I thought the amaranth tasted a little like lawn cuttings (in a wheatgrass sorta way, not an off-putting sorta way), but a couple of my friends thought they tasted like beets. Or maybe it was just the color that reminded them of beets!

OK – I’m off. Because of the holidays, my posting schedule may be a little erratic, but I’ll be keeping it up, and so should you!

Downtown Detroit

September 9, 2011

A quick plug: My first public speaking gig is now less than two weeks away!  I created a “See Me at Whole Foods” link at the top of the page that has all the details.  So click on it, and RSVP.  I wanna see you there!

I have strong feelings about the city of Detroit.  While I’ve never considered myself a Detroiter, as I’ve never lived within the city limits, it’s always been there, not that far from my childhood home in one of its northwest suburbs.  It’s a major American city with a long and rich history (it’s the oldest city in the Midwest – founded over 100 years before Chicago, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee) that has given the world everything from mass-produced automobiles to Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross to the ice cream soda.  The first regular radio reports were broadcast from Detroit, and Detroit was home to the first paved road, the first tri-colored stoplight, and the first urban freeway.

You don’t hear many good things about Detroit in the news; it has a pretty bad rap.  Detroit has plenty of huge problems, and people tend to say plenty of terrible things about it.  I’m not one of them.  I like to think that Detroit will, one of these days, get out of the slump it’s been in for past 40 or so years, and rise again as a place where people will want to live and want to visit.

It’s easy for me to be positive – I live 2,000 miles away, unexposed to the crumbling infrastructure, the poverty, the rampant unemployment.  I just don’t think that being negative is very productive or helpful.  I have fond memories of Detroit from my childhood, and have heard many more wonderful stories from my father, who grew up there.  You may think me naive or unrealistic, but I think the city has a lot of potential, and I will always root for it.

My attitude towards Detroit are best reflected in this 1985 television commercial produced by the local ABC affiliate.  It’s dated and super-cheesy now, but it used to air all the time, and I remember loving it as a kid.  And since I’m sharing local commercials from the ’80s, check out this one for the Detroit Zoo, which is one of my favorite commercials of all time.

Thank you for indulging me in my little pro-Detroit rant.  It’s been on my mind because yesterday I headed downtown to meet up with a buddy for lunch.  Matt is a friend from high school who lived in Los Angeles after college, then moved back to Michigan with his wife and started a family.  He’s the author behind The Dad Scene, a funny and smart blog chronicling his experiences as a first-time father.  Matt is a tremendous writer, so you should definitely check it his blogno, really, check it out.

Matt works at Compuware, a software company that moved their world headquarters to Detroit about 8 years ago.  Their building has an impressive atrium that rises up 16 stories, and that’s where I met Matt:

We apparently just missed a doggie fashion show in the atrium that wrapped up minutes before we got there.  I hate when that happens.

Here’s the both of us:

For lunch, we headed a few blocks away to Vicente, a Cuban place that Matt likes. 

I’ve had Cuban dishes before, at restaurants that featured cuisine from across Latin America, but this might have been my first visit to a full-fledged Cuban restaurant.  Everything on the menu sounded good, but I settled on the Pan con Bistec, a pressed sandwich with skirt steak, swiss cheese, grilled onions, mustard, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.  I considered having them hold the cheese and mayo, but decided that since I eat Cuban food so rarely, I should enjoy it as it’s intended.  My sandwich (with a side of plantain chips):

Matt’s sandwich was similar, but with chicken:

I love a pressed sandwich.  They’re dense and flavorful, and this sandwich was fantastic.  It was also huge, and both of us ended up eating only half.  We boxed up the other halves to take with us, but as we walked back to Matt’s office, we were approached by two homeless women who asked if we’d consider sharing, so we gave the food to them.

After I parted ways with Matt, I did something I haven’t done since I was a kid: I rode the People Mover.  The Detroit People Mover is a rather silly example of mass transit.  It’s a 3-mile-long monorail that encircles downtown Detroit and doesn’t really go anywhere.  No stop is more than 10 blocks from any other stop, so it’s not very efficient for commuters, but for someone like me who just wanted to see a little more of the city, it was perfect.  Here comes a train now!

I took some pictures from the monorail’s windows (it was gray and rainy, so they’re not great).  Here’s Woodward Avenue, which extends from the heart of downtown all the way out to my neck of the suburbs:

The old Wayne County Building:

The skyline, looking east from Joe Louis Arena (where the Red Wings play).  The towers on the right are the Renaissance Center, which I’ve blogged about numerous times before (most notably here and here, and it’s featured in my Skyscraper Collection):

I like that picture because you can see raindrops in it.

Time to get international!  This is a picture of a totally different country – it’s the skyline of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is directly across the river from Detroit.  I took this picture specifically for my trainer Craig, who grew up outside Windsor and asked that I say hello to it on this trip.  Hello, Windsor!

Finally, one of Detroit’s most famous landmarks, the 8,000-pound statue that honors Detroit resident Joe Louis, the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937-49:

OK – bedtime for me.  Gotta hit the gym in the morning!

Keep it up, David!

Weather, Nancy Drew, Pop, and MORE!

September 8, 2011

It was wonderfully rainy yesterday in Michigan.  It was wet all day, ranging from drizzly to a few occasional downpours, and I loved it!  The rain wasn’t so severe that it’s prohibited me from going about my business (although the power did go out for a minute in one of the buildings I was in), and it’s nice to have weather.  There’s not much variety in Los Angeles.  It’s consistently hot and dry (not a bad thing), so to be somewhere where’s actual rain falls for longer than 10 minutes is a nice change of pace.

There’s a few odds and ends that I want to get to today, and since I’ve already mentioned the weather, I thought I’d start by talking about… more weather.

1) Cedar Point Weather Update.  My big Cedar Point trip is the day after tomorrow!  Yesterday I bought discounted admission tickets at Meijer, and I checked to see if the weather forecast had changed.  The last time I looked (at the end of this post), there was a 40% chance of rain.  Here’s the update, courtesy of The Weather Channel:

CRAP.  Now a 50% chance of rain, and not just rain, scattered thunderstorms.  But it’s not going to rain.  I’m willing it not to happen.  The park doesn’t open until noon on Saturday, so if it does rain, maybe I’ll all be over by, say, 11:45am.  Yea, that’ll work just fine!

2) Nancy Drew.  I found this book on the shelf in my parents’ house:

It’s “The Mystery at the Ski Jump,” a vintage Nancy Drew mystery, copyright 1952.  I opened it randomly to page 12, and found this paragraph, which introduced Nancy’s friend Bess:

“I’d rather stay inside,” said Bess, blond and pretty.  “Maybe we can make some fudge,” she added hopefully.  Bess loved sweets and worried little about her weight.

Oh, Bess, you and I are nothing alike.  Except that we both love sweets.  And staying inside.  And we’re both pretty.

3) Pop.  I had another fun reminder that I’m back in Michigan the other day, when I had lunch with my friend Laura, and a word showed up on the bill that I’m not used to seeing anymore:

Michiganders, like most midwesterners, use “pop” as the generic term for soft drinks.  That’s the term I grew up saying.  Sometime during the past 9 years, though, I switched teams, and started referring to soft drinks as “soda,” like everyone else in California.  It wasn’t a conscious switch, it just happened, so it was fun to see “pop” on a restaurant bill. What do you call soft drinks?  Check out this fun map that breaks down who says what in every county in the country.  I don’t drink soda or pop anymore – it was Laura who ordered the pop, and it was Vernors, an amazing ginger ale that was created in Detroit in 1866.

Laura, by the way, is a huge Cedar Point enthusiast who goes every year (she gave me some great park-navigating advice). She’d totally be there screaming alongside us this weekend, except for one little snafu: she’s 7 months pregnant.  It would’ve been fun for Laura to join us at the park, but it will be more fun (if that’s possible) to meet her baby the next time I see her!  Cedar Point isn’t going anywhere – Laura and I can always go another year.  We’ll just leave the baby in the car, with the window rolled down a crack – he’ll be fine!

4) Amazing Super-Local Dinner.  The other night I went to Ann Arbor, my college town, and spent the night with my friend-since-sophomore-year Jim and his husband Aric.  Shortly after I arrived, we sat down to a very impressive and delicious meal that Aric put together.

I’m so amazed at how Jim and Aric eat.  Being healthy and eating well are very important to both of them, as is eating organically, eating seasonally, supporting local farmers, and knowing where their food comes from.  My plate (and bowl):

I can’t remember the specifics of everything on the plate, but the meal included tons of vegetables that came from a variety of wonderful sources:

  • Their backyard.  They have a garden and grow all sorts of things, including the tomatoes and lots of herbs.
  • Farmers’ market.  They go every week and personally know a lot of the vendors.
  • CSA box.  They participate in Community-Supported Agriculture (sometimes called farmshare).  Basically, they pay a fee at the beginning of the summer, and every week, a box is delivered to their door with all sorts of just-picked produce from the fields outside of town.  Sound like something you want to try? Learn more and find a CSA near you here.

A couple more fun things:

  • In the lower left of the plate is homemade kimchi, a Korean dish of fermented vegetables.  This was the second time in a week I’ve eating Korean food (here’s the other time), a new record!  Aric made the kimchi, and I visited on a good night, because I got to see the kimchi get unveiled.  Aric has a fermenting crock (similar to this one), and this batch has been fermenting for a couple weeks in their basement.  The kimchi was delicious, and now I’m toying with the idea of getting a fermenting crock for myself.  Maybe.
  • Two of the dishes had fresh mushrooms in them, and Aric found them, himself, in the woods.  There’s a whole underground culture of people who go looking for wild edible mushrooms, and Aric’s a pro at it.  What’s funny is that mushroom foraging is very hush-hush and top secret, because you don’t want to give away where you’re finding the good stuff!  Aric’s a mushroom expert: he knows the scientific names and can identify tons of mushroom varieties, and has found all sorts of varieties in the woods around Ann Arbor.  He just found this beauty, called Hen-of-the-Woods, which is the size of a football:

My god, I have such interesting friends!

I spent the night in Jim and Aric’s guest room, and before leaving in the morning, I grabbed a peach:

Where did the peach come from?  The peach tree in their backyard, of course!

5) Chart/Exercise Update.  It’s been slightly over two weeks since I’ve updated my weight loss chart, mainly because it’s on my wall in California, and I’m in Michigan (see my two-weeks-ago update here).  I actually don’t even know how I’m doing, weight-wise, because I don’t have access to a reliable scale.  My parents’ scale is way off-base – the last time I used it, I weighed myself 3 times in a row, and got 3 different weights in a 30-pound range, none of them in the ballpark of what I should have weighed.  The gym I joined for these 2 weeks in Michigan has a physician’s scale where you slide the thingamajigs back and forth until the lever-thingie balances, but it’s not accurate either – I used it the other day, and the thingie stayed perfectly balanced for every pound in an 8-pound range.  Not helpful.

I don’t need a scale to know that I’m doing well, however, and it kinda liberating to just live without feeling tethered to a number (although I know my curiosity will get the best of me and I’ll jump on my scale the morning after I get back).  I’ve been eating well and making good choices, and my exercise has been strong.  I took a rest day today, after 7 workouts in a row, and on Monday, I started weight training for the first time since I hurt my lower back.  All went well, and it felt great!  I’ll be hitting the gym again today – I’m looking forward to it!

Keep it up, David!


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