Two New Fruits

March 18, 2012

Last weekend, I tried a delicious fruit that I never tried before: the sumo tangerine. This weekend, I ended up trying two new fruits… how my heart races just typing that sentence!

FRUIT #1: Cara Cara Oranges. I picked these up last weekend at the farmers market. Cara Caras are a variety of navel with a bit of a mysterious past: they’re likely a cross between two other navel varieties, but only one, the Washington navel, is known for certain. Cara Caras were “discovered” in Venezuela in the mid 1970s, and have only been available in the United States since the late 1980s, so they’re a relatively new fruit to the fruit scene. The new fruit on the block:

The distinguishing characteristic of a Cara Cara is that the flesh is pink, as opposed to orange. My Cara Caras weren’t overly pink – I’d say they had a pinkish hue, as opposed to being fully pink, like some pictures I’ve seen online. Even so, the flesh is a very pretty color.

They’re tasty, too. I’m not enough of a citrus connoisseur to describe the taste in too much detail, but they were very sweet and less acidic than other oranges I’ve tried. Oh, and very juicy, too. I bought three Cara Caras, and I ended up eating one, and juicing the other two. And because I busted out my little juicer, I ended up juicing two other pieces of citrus I had lying around…

BONUS FRUIT! Blood Oranges. I’ve bought and enjoyed blood oranges before, and they are a gorgeous piece of fruit. The name is fitting – the insides are the color of blood!

My two blood oranges were tiny – the size of large limes – but I juiced both of them, as well as the two remaining Cara Caras, and ended up with a delightful little blend of fresh-squeezed OJ.

One of the best glasses of OJ I ever had!

FRUIT #2: Mini Kiwi. There’s a Trader Joe’s right next to my new gym, and after my Saturday workout (5 minutes warm-up on treadmill, 45 minutes lifting weights, 16 minutes adaptive motion trainer), I wandered in to purchase some pre-hard-boiled eggs as my post-workout protein fix. I wandered TJ’s a little, and stumbled upon this package, which immediately caught my eye:

I didn’t think twice before buying these guys! They’re cute little buggers:

When I held them in my hand like that, I couldn’t quite imagine what the insides looked like, so imagine my surprise when I started slicing them open, and…voila! They looked like kiwis!

How cool is that?!? I love these things! They taste like kiwis, too, and you don’t have the hassle of peeling them, like you do kiwis. I did a little research, and found a great article about their history. They’re native to China, and they were first found in the 1800s, but they were never cultivated very widely as a crop, because they were difficult to harvest, didn’t ripen consistently, and spoiled quickly, which made transportation a bitch. But scientists in New Zealand worked on it, and they’ve cross-bred mini kiwis to be hardier and easier to pick.

I definitely recommend both the Cara Cara orange and the mini kiwi… I wonder what new fruit I’m going to find next?

Keep it up, David!

Broken Technology

March 16, 2012

The technology is my life is crumbling around me, but I’ll survive.

Exhibit A: Padlock. I have a cheap little padlock that I use at the gym to lock up my stuff, and the other day, it wandered off. It’s nowhere to be found. It’s not the end of the world – I only spent $6 on it, and I’ll swing by the store and spend another $6 on a new one, but it’s still annoying. Especially since, in all likelihood, the minute I come home with a new one, the old one will miraculously appear.

Exhibit B: iPod. I go through iPods much quicker than any normal person should. I use mine all the time – for all my workouts, and whenever I’m driving. I’m currently on my fourth iPod in a year. I can’t remember what happened to the first – I think I lost it. The second was a Shuffle that I left on an airplane (that wasn’t the end of the world, I didn’t really care for the Shuffle anyway). The third was a Nano Touch that stopped working altogether. I took that one to the Apple store, and they replaced it, free of charge, with the fourth, my current Nano Touch.

Recently, I had my arms full of stuff as I headed down to my car – gym clothes, a bag of recycling to drop off in our trash room, reusable grocery bags to put in my trunk, and I ended up dropping my iPod. Twice. Once on cement. And this is what happened:

D’oh! Thankfully, it’s just the glass that cracked – the screen itself is fine and readable and the iPod still works. I’m not going to rush out to buy iPod #5, mainly because I don’t want to spend the money. I plan on nursing this injured baby as long as I can, hoping, the entire time, that its injuries are indeed just cosmetic and not fatal.

Exhibit C: Microwave. My microwave stopped working. Microwaves are one of those appliances where replacing them are often times more cost-effective than servicing them, but my microwave is a built-in microwave/hood dealie above my stove.

I was lamenting to my sister about my broken microwave, and she goes “I thought hippie healthy people don’t use microwaves.” I laughed, but I do use a microwave regularly: reheating leftovers, making oatmeal, cooking frozen veggie burgers when I’m too lazy to use a skillet. I’ve gotten really cook at cooking eggs for breakfast sandwiches in the microwave – and that’s one of my favorite grab-and-go morning meals.

A comparable replacement microwave would cost in the neighborhood of $300 – a lot of money that I don’t have. So I started doing research. After scouring the interwebs and taking note of my unit’s symptoms, I was pretty confident in my own diagnosis: My microwave had a faulty/broken door switch. All microwaves have door switches – they’re sensors that tell the machine the door is closed. The microwave won’t turn on if the door is open, so a door switch is a key microwave component.

I live down the street from a Sears, and they helped me identify which door switch I needed. They also recommended a new fuse, in case that was blown. They couldn’t get the parts in stock for a week, so I didn’t order them – I figured there had to be some place in Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, that had these parts in stock. Sure enough, I found a place that did. The very next day I had a new door switch and a new fuse, and I was determined to make the repair myself.

With help from the interwebs, I figured out how to take my microwave apart, and I found the door switch in the microwave’s innards. And this was where I encountered my first problem: my microwave has two door switches, and I didn’t know which was the broken one. I don’t own the equipment (an ohmmeter?) to test them, either. Then I realized that even if I knew which door switch to replace, I was lacking some tool that was needed to remove them from their internal homes.

I ended up calling a repairman from Craigslist, who came the next morning, charged me $80, swapped out the fuse and the door switch, and got my microwave working again. Add in the $65 I paid for the parts, and I spent $145 – significantly less than a new microwave, and significantly less than having a professional diagnose the problem (I had priced that out, and it would’ve cost $139 just to get a technician through the door, before parts and labor). I’m a little bummed that I wasn’t able to actually fix my microwave myself, but I’m incredibly proud that I correctly identified the problem, ordered the right parts, and saved myself $150 (at least)!

A few updates before signing off: Thank you all for your input on my rest day dilemma – I ended up taking a rest day on Thursday, and I’m glad I did. I’m off to the gym now to hit the weights for the first time in almost a week – looking forward!

Lastly, A big thank you to everyone that’s donated to my two upcoming stair climb fundraisers! Between the two events, over $1,000 has been raised – a figure that completely bewilders me! I’ve upped my goals multiple times for each event, and there’s still lots of time for you to get in on the action. All the money goes to one of two great charities: Whaley Children’s Center or the American Lung Association, and every little bit, even $5 or $10, really makes a difference. Have you donated yet? CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT MY STAIR CHALLENGES AND MAKE A DONATION!

Keep it up, David!


When’s My Next Rest Day?

March 15, 2012

I’m usually pretty good at listening to my body. I like working out and pushing myself, but I understand the importance of giving my body the occasional day to recuperate. Right now, my goal is to exercise six times a week (five is acceptable, but six is ideal), and even though I switch up my workouts, it still takes a toll on my body.

Sometimes, I plan rest days into my schedule. My last rest day was on March 5th, which was my birthday – the perfect day to relax and focus on more important things (like the major fitness challenges I gave myself). Other times, I just listen to my body, which is pretty good about letting me know when it needs a break. My body’s main modes of communication are fatigue and soreness (above and beyond standard post-workout soreness), but it’s sending mixed messages right now. It’s probably because my workouts have been a little bit different this week.

First off, I haven’t lifted weights since Saturday, when I spent about a half hour in the weight room, after using the StairMaster for 20 minutes (more on this later). It wasn’t an intentional plan to go most of the week without strength training – it that happened that way. And now, five days later, I’m itching to lift weights.

Secondly, I tried something new on Sunday, and it was completely successful, and by ‘successful,’ I mean ‘brutally difficult.’ I’ve been doing a lot of StairMaster lately, in preparation for my two big upcoming stair climb fundraisers (donate here or here, won’t you?), but I wanted to climb actual stairs in an actual building as part of my training as well. There are no super-tall buildings in my immediate neighborhood, but I concocted a challenging plan anyway.

On Sunday night, I ran about 3/4 of a mile to a 5-story, completely empty parking garage. Without ever stopping, I ran up one stairwell to the roof, ran across the roof to the stairwell at the other end, and ran down it, doing that loop over and over and over. Sometimes when I reached the bottom, I immediately turned around and ran back up to the roof and continued in the opposite direction. My goal was to do this running/stairs combo as long as possible, without stopping. About 10 minutes in, my side started cramping, but I pushed through it, and I soon settled into a cramp-free rhythm.

After 35 minutes, I knew I was close to calling it quits, so I started running home. Three minutes later, I finally stopped. Add in 5-6 minutes of both warm-up and cool-down, and I was on the streets for about 50 minutes. I lost count of the total number of flights I ran, but it was a lot. It felt great. And the next morning, I was sore in every part of both legs.

My legs didn’t get much of a break, though – I spent all of Monday at Disney California Adventure, which, while not a dedicated workout, still involved a ton of walking – miles and miles of it, I’m sure. On Tuesday, I took one of Richard Simmons’ classes at Slimmons (which always involve a ton of leg lifts), and yesterday, I went on an hour-long early-morning hike (with a substantial elevation change) with a friend.

I feel like it’s time to give my legs a day off. On the other hand, I feel like my upper body has been sorely neglected the past few days, and I wanna do something about it. Help – I don’t know what to do!

I’m writing this post late Wednesday night, and my current plan is to see how I feel on Thursday morning. I have  a hunch I won’t wake up terribly sore (the hike, while rigorous, was still less intense than most of my standard workouts), so maybe I should push myself for one more weight-intensive session at the gym, and then rest on Friday. On the other hand, I have exercised the past nine days in a row. Do I postpone an upper body weight training session another day and rest, just because I feel I’m due for a rest day? I’m not quite sure what to do when half of my body could benefit from a break and the other half is jonesin’ for more!  I’d love your thoughts on the matter – and that’s why I have a comments section, so speak up!

Before wraping this up, I wanna rewind back to Saturday. I’ve already mentioned above that I spent 20 minutes on the StairMaster, and it was a good 20 minutes. I didn’t get nearly as frustrated with the machine as I did last time – I just found a pace that was comfortable, covered the display with my towel, and didn’t overly concern myself with my Steps Per Minute. The end result was 300 calories burned and 84 stories climbed!

EIGHTY-FOUR STORIES! You know what that means, boys and girls – time to add a skyscraper to my collection! The newest addition to my collection is all the way on the other side of the planet – in a country (and a continent) not yet represented. That’s right – it’s off to Australia!

Check out the Q1, the tallest building in Australia:

At 80 stories, the Q1 is the fifth tallest all-residential building in the world, and the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. Located in Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, it has apartments that vacationers and tourists can rent – check availability/pricing here. The Q1 has an observation deck called Skypoint, on the 77th floor, overlooking the beach. Once you’re up at Skypoint, you can then opt to do the Skypoint Climb – where you go outside onto a platform, and climb 298 stairs to the pinnacle of the building – where you’re 885 feet above the sidewalk. YES, PLEASE! I wanna go to Australia just to do that!

I just added the Q1 to my Skyscraper Collection – so click here to see how it compares to the 26 other skyscrapers that I’ve theoretically climbed!

Damn – I love how the Q1 dominates the skyline in that first picture… and I climbed that building, all the way to the top!


Disney California Adventure

March 14, 2012

I love theme parks. Love ‘em! I love the rides, the atmosphere, the rides, the scenery, and the rides. I’ve written pretty regularly about my theme park adventures on this blog. I debuted this blog with a post that recounted my first visit to Magic Mountain – a momentous occasion, since it was the first time that I wasn’t too big to fit on a roller coaster in almost a decade. Since then, I’ve visited Knott’s Berry Farm and made a triumphant return to Cedar Point, the park I grew up visiting but hadn’t been to since college, when I was kicked off a ride because of my weight (details about that horrible experience here).

At the end of January, I visited, for the first time, the most famous theme park in the world: Disneyland. I had a wonderful time with my friends Heidi, Tom, and Keith – click here to read about it and see pictures. I had gotten a good deal on a park ticket, too – Disney offers southern California residents a 2-day pass for $99 (a basic 1-day pass is $80). And that meant that I had to go back to Disney a second time before my pass expired in June.

Luckily for me, there are two Disney theme parks in Anaheim. There’s the classic Disneyland, and the much newer Disney California Adventure, which is literally a few hundred feet away. So on Monday, I gathered up Heidi, Tom and Keith again, and we checked out Disney California Adventure. I love a theme park I’ve never been to before!

DCA opened about 10 years ago – it was built where the Disneyland parking lot used to be – and since I had never been there before, I had no idea what to expect. I had briefly heard about a few of the rides but knew very little about the park. Heidi and Keith are Disney junkies that know everything about everything – the perfect theme park companions!

I’m squinting in that photo, but here I am with Paradise Pier in the background. Paradise Pier was my favorite themed area – it’s a big carnival midway section of the park that wraps around a big lagoon. Screamin’, the roller coaster, wraps above and around a lot of it, and there are smaller carnival style rides. The ferris wheel, called Mickey’s Fun Wheel, is 160 feet tall and has both stationary gondolas, like a regular ferris wheel, and swinging ones, that add a thrill element. We waited in the longer line for a swinging one, and I snapped this photo of myself while we waited:

Here’s Heidi, Tom, and I on Mickey’s Fun Wheel:

My favorite amusement park rides are roller coasters, and Screamin’ is a good one – it’s fast, has great dives and air time, and it’s long. Paradise Pier is also home to what turned out to be one of my favorite rides: Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s a fantastic mash-up of ride and carnival game. You wear 3-D glasses, and sit in cars equipped with toy guns that whip you through fun carnival-themed environments. The cars stop in front of 5 or 6 giant screens, and you compete against the other people in your cars in virtual carnival games populated with Toy Story characters: there’s a ring toss, and games where you break plates with baseballs, pop balloons with darts, and shoot at moving targets. The ride keeps track of your points, and at the end of the ride, you can see who won! I rode with Tom…

…and I won (I was Player 2)!

Heidi, who was one car over, handily beat me by an additional 30,000 points or so. Well played, Heidi!

While Toy Story Midway Mania was a blast, my favorite ride at DCA was Soarin’ Over California, where you sit in chairs that allow your feet to dangle. When the ride starts, the chairs get repositioned in front of a giant concave IMAX screen. There’s beautiful footage of scenery and landmarks from around California, and it comes together to make it seem like you’re hang gliding over all of it. The ride isn’t scary – it’s simply beautiful, and wonderfully done.

I don’t have too many more pictures to share – I didn’t take many to begin with, and then my battery died halfway through the day (whoops). But I did photograph my lunch, because even though I was at a theme park, that didn’t mean I was going to make poor food choices. We ate at Paradise Garden Grill, which serves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food – cuisines I’ve never seen in a theme park before!

That’s a beef kofta skewer. Kofta is basically a Middle Eastern spiced meatball. There’s cucumber salad, rice pilaf, and a piece of pita on the side. They offer 4 sauces, but I couldn’t pick just one, so I got all four to try. The white one was tzatziki (a yogurt and cucumber sauce), the green one was chimichurri (an Argentinean herb and oil-based sauce), and I forget what the other ones were, but I think one was a Moroccan-spiced chili sauce.

Later that night, we got a quick bite at Downtown Disney, a shopping and entertainment area next to the park. I got two chicken tacos at a taco stand, with lettuce, onions, cilantro, and salsa (no cheese or sour cream). I’m kinda happy to report that I wasn’t even tempted by any of the unhealthy theme park options, although I did love this vending machine, which we saw while waiting in line for the Monsters Inc. ride:

The “Sugar Salt & Fat” snack is my favorite! (It’s probably pretty delicious, too.)

Apart from the rides, we saw a couple really cool shows. DCA has a Broadway-style musical production of Aladdin that was well done, and, after the sun sets, the lagoon becomes home to World of Color, a very impressive, bright event that involves dancing fountains (like the Bellagio in Las Vegas) that shoot up walls of water that images and film clips are projected onto.

I’m excited to go back to DCA at some point i the future – two big parts of the park were under construction (opening in June): a Cars Land (themed around the Pixar Cars movies), and Buena Vista Street, a tribute to Los Angeles in the 1920s, when Walt Disney first arrived in California.

The best part about theme parks: I was walking all day long. Mile after mile after mile. Normally I’m very diligent about keeping track of my exercise, but every once in a while, it’s fun to have a very physical day (I was exhausted by the time I came home – we were there for around 11 hours!) and not worry about minutes or resistance levels or calories burned.

Keep it up, David!

Birthday Lunch AND Farmers Market

March 13, 2012

Over the weekend, I shared a few photos of food I’ve been eating lately – check it out if you missed it. Consider this post an addendum to that one, because I have more food photos to share!

Even though my birthday was on March 5th (read about the fitness challenges I gave myself as a birthday present), I didn’t get together for a family birthday celebration until two days ago, when I headed out to my aunt and uncle’s place for lunch with them and my cousins. Annie made a delicious meal that was light and healthy, and built around a protein that I had suggested: salmon.

Annie baked the salmon with salt, pepper, and lemon, and also sauteed brussel sprouts (lower left), and mushrooms (lower right), which went over quinoa (also lower right, under the mushrooms). A big ol’ salad (top), that I ate without dressing, completed the meal. Everything was fantastic, and I went back for seconds, without a second of hesitation or guilt.

For dessert, Annie made carrot cupcakes from scratch. Annie is an excellent baker, and it’s one of her favorite pastimes – so when she asked what kind of birthday cake I wanted, I opted for cupcakes, mainly for built-in portion control reasons.

I hope, by the way, that Annie is enjoying this post, because she only asked on about four separate occasions if I was going to blog about her meal. “Am I going to be in the blog, David? Because I really want to be in the blog.” “Are you taking pictures for the blog, David? It’d be so cool to be in the blog.” “If my face is going to be in that shot, than I should put on a little lipstick. I want to look my best for the blog.” You get the idea.

I ate one of the cupcakes, and it was delicious – moist and fluffy like cake should be, with big chucks of carrots, walnuts, pineapple, and golden raisins. Here’s what they look like on the inside:

“Are you getting my finger in that shot, David? I just did my nails – they’ll look really good in the blog.”

My birthday lunch was fantastic (thanks again, Annie!), but it’s not the only delicious food from that day – that morning, I went with a friend to the farmers market! It’s actually been over a year since I’ve been to a farmers market, and it was good to be back. So much gorgeous produce! I didn’t need much, but I still picked up a few things:

There are brussel sprouts at the top, asparagus to the right, a bag of sprouted mung beans, fenugreek, and wheatberries in the center, and a type of orange on the left that I’d never heard of before, called cara cara oranges. Like satsuma tangerines, cara cara oranges are sold with some of the leaves still attached, which makes them a beautiful addition to my fruit bowl. I’ll let you know what I think after I bust one open.

If there’s one thing that always catches my eye, it’s oddly colored vegetables, like the purple cauliflower I picked up recently. And the was definitely something that caught my eye at the farmer’s market… purple kale! And there were two varieties! There was this kale, that has purple veins:

And there was this kale, where almost the entire leaf was purple (I learned this variety is called nagoya kale):

I couldn’t choose which kale to buy, so I bought both. I think I’ll make kale chips with some (or all) of my purple kale bounty!


Exciting Gym News AND Photo Shoot!

March 12, 2012

If you were reading this blog back in January, than you’ll remember that I struggled with a big, important question: whether or not to switch gyms. I had been a member at my local, no-frills neighborhood gym, and was tempted by Crunch, a big national chain that was opening a new location nearby. I weighed the options, went back and got more information, and ultimately decided to join Crunch.

Since the new location is still under construction (hopefully opening in early April), I’ve had access to their other Los Angeles location and I’ve been going there regularly and really liking it. It’s big, never too crowded, full of eye candy, and I’ve quite literally run into 4 old friends there in the past two weeks. Three of them are college friends, and, on Saturday, I ran into my buddy Bryce, who I’ve known since kindergarten. Small freakin’ world, especially since Bryce and I were in kindergarten thousands of miles away!

One of my initial hang-ups about joining Crunch was that it’s expensive – about three times as pricey as my old gym, even taking into consideration my great pre-enrollment rate. I decided the money was worth it, because Crunch offers three times as much as my old gym, and I was ready to shake up my workout routine.

This is where the story gets really interesting.

The first time I went to inquire about Crunch’s rates and facilities, I filled out a little card and, on a lark, entered a raffle. I soon forgot all about it, and a few days later, I read all the fine print and signed the contract, committing myself to a $50-per-month rate.

Since then, I’ve learned that they pulled my name out of the hat, and I won a free year-long membership to Crunch! A whole freakin’ year! That’s $600 that will never leave my wallet! I was informed of the news via voice mail, and when I returned the call, I made Bethany, the membership coordinator, repeat the news very slowly, because I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it!

Bethany asked me to come by the membership center a few days later for a little photo shoot, so they could publicize that they’re actually giving away the memberships that they said they’re giving away, and I was more than happy to oblige. I was expecting someone with a little point-and-shoot number, but NOPE. Crunch doesn’t mess around. They brought in a fancy-pants professional portrait photographer named Innis Casey.

Innis was a really great guy. He’s smart and funny and knows what he doing, and he put me at ease, which is good, because I don’t consider myself very photogenic (for every photo of myself that I post on this blog, there’s at least 10 that never see the light of day). We knocked out the photo shoot in about 15 minutes, then went through all the shots, and narrowed it down to the four best ones, which Innis kindly sent me, via email, the very next day.

Wanna see them?

This isn’t technically the first time I’ve used these photos – they’re featured on the two fundraising pages I set up last week (Click here to support my Lung Association stair climb, click here to support my Whaley Children’s Center stair climb, and click here to read why I’m doing all these stair climbs to begin with!), but this their debut on the blog.

Fun fact about the photos: While it looks like I’m just standing around, I’m actually balanced on the seat of a piece of exercise equipment, while Innis was perched on the top step of a five-foot ladder. We’re both up in the air, although you’d never guess it!

I love the photos, and I’m super critical of pictures of myself. What do you think? Which one is your favorite? Innis ended up using the upper-left picture for Crunch’s purposes – he applied a sepia-like filter on it, stuck it on a frame, and now it’s on display in the Crunch Membership Center:

Innis also gave me a beautiful print of it, which he mocked up to look like an actor’s headshot:

I just need 499 more of those and I can start auditioning for roles like “third man on left”!

The photo shoot was short and sweet, but I think the photos are great, and I had a lot of fun with Innis – he really couldn’t have been a nicer, sweeter guy. If you’re in the Los Angeles area and looking for a portrait or headshot photographer, check him out – he has tons of his work on display on his website, which you can see here (his contact info is there, too).

Free gym, free photo shoot… I’m on a roll!

Keep it up, David!


Salad and Sumo Tangerine

March 11, 2012

Are you eating well this weekend? Staying away from junk food? My eating has been pretty good, and I wanted to share a couple of the things that have ended up on my plate.

I made a kick-ass salad the other day. I used my new salad spinning bags to prep some red leaf lettuce, and I added some sauteed vegetables: yellow cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and baby bell peppers. I love sauteing (or roasting) cherry tomatoes – they pop in your mouth with you eat them… absolutely delicious. The salad was huge and filling.

A couple of ingredients I forgot to mention above: I added, to the sauteed veggies, a serving of lemon pepper tempeh. Tempeh is a vegetarian meat alternative made from fermented soy. It’s my least favorite meat alternative (I prefer seitan and tofurky), but I had never seen the lemon pepper variety before, and thought I’d give it a shot.

After I combined the tempeh and veggies with the lettuce, I added a tablespoon of fake (soy) bacon bits, and then a few tablespoons of a new feta and red pepper dressing (fat-free, 15 calories a serving) that I tried for the first time.

The salad was delicious, mostly. I wasn’t nuts about the lemon pepper tempeh, even though I usually like lemon pepper anything. And the lemon pepper didn’t go well with the dressing. But I really liked the combo of warm veggies and cool lettuce, and even a few minor flavor problems didn’t prevent me from eating the whole thing. And it was big.

Yesterday morning, I dug into the new type of produce I picked up the other day. A sumo tangerine!

It’s the biggest tangerine I’ve ever seen (the size of a small grapefruit), although there’s nothing in that photo that suggests scale (my bad). I was digging around online, looking for information about the sumo tangerine, and I came across an Los Angeles Times article written about them last year. The article was fascinating – turns out the sumo tangerine has had a short but very colorful past!

The sumo tangerine, also called a dekopon, is a hybrid fruit created in a Japanese government lab in the early ’70s. It grew to become the most prized citrus in that country, selling for $10 apiece. Import laws prevented them from being brought over to the US, but branches of the sumo tangerine tree were smuggled into California, and the LA Times writer spent over a decade trying to track down sumo tangerines in the US. His journey included learning about an illegal orchard near Fresno that was burned to the ground, a visit to a “farming cult” in Ventura County, and contacting lots of farmers, some of whom wouldn’t take his calls for three years, and others who had signed confidentiality agreements preventing them from talking about the rare fruit. The article is a great read, and if you have a few minutes, you should click here and check it out. You don’t think of fruit growing as an industry with tons of criminal activity, but the history of the sumo tangerine proves you wrong!

The sumo tangerine is well worth all the trouble. It’s large and peels easily, and it’s delicious. The segments pull apart easily, and it’s a great mix of sweet and a little tart. I took some pictures during its consumption:

It sounds like the U.S. sumo tangerine harvest is still pretty small, and I don’t know if you’ll be about to find them if you don’t live in California, but luckily for me, that’s not a problem! I’m definitely picking up a few more if I see them again.

Keep it up, David!

Record-Smashing Workout

March 9, 2012

I’m in training, so the additions to my Skyscraper Collection are gonna come fast and furious. I have two big stairs-related challenges on the horizon – at the end of the month, I’m doing a charity climb in an actual skyscraper in downtown LA (click to donate; it benefits the American Lung Association), and I also challenged myself to climb 163 stories on a StairMaster, which is the height of the tallest building on the planet (this has evolved into a fundraiser, too – click to donate; it benefits Whaley Children’s Center).

For preparation’s sake, I’m going to push myself to do two StairMaster workouts a week for the next few weeks. I’ve already completed both of them for this week, although I only blogged about the first (read about it here; I added a skyscraper in Dubai to my collection). Before I get into the specifics of the second (and, based on this post’s headline, you might have guessed it’s somethin’ special), I wanna talk through my current StairMaster frustration.

Crunch, my new gym, has a different brand of StairMaster than my old gym. I was quite familiar and comfortable with the old brand, and the new brand is completely identical in every way, except for one key difference: how speed is measured. The old brand had levels, from 1-20, just like ellipticals and exercise bikes have levels of resistance. I knew what the levels felt like, and had a good routine down: I’d use level 7 or 8 to warm up, slowly ramp up to level 12 or so during my workout (occasionally up to 14 if I really wanted a challenge), and then I’d cool down on 5 or 6.

The new brand measures speed by Steps Per Minute (SPM), which means the numbers are completely different. If you want to climb 30 stairs in one minute, than you set it to 30. If you want to climb 50, than you set it to 50. You get the idea. The problem is that I have no idea what my SPMs are. The old brand offered that statistic on their display, but I never once paid attention, because I got used to setting the machine based on levels (which was the only way to do it).

Now I’m struggling to find my pace. I’ve done the StairMaster three times at my new gym, and it’s completely frustrating. I’ve been playing around with different SPMs, and then trying them out for a few minutes to see how they feel, but after doing that a couple times, it’s hard for me to evaluate them anyway, since I start to get tired and sweaty, as I’m in the middle of my workout. I feel like I have to relearn how to use the StairMaster, and it pisses me off.

I’m slowly (very slowly) settling into what I think might work for me: a warm-up pace of around 60 SPM, and then slowly amping up to 70-90 SPM during my workout, and then down to 40-50 during my cool down. But I feel slow and out of the groove, and that’s irritating. The other day, I caught myself being really negative about the whole thing, so, midway through my workout, I closed my eyes and paused my music, and told myself that I can’t compare these workouts to the ones at my old gym. Just focus on the machine I was on, and get the most out of my time on it.

That seemed to help, so it’s something I’ll repeat to myself at the beginning of my future StairMaster workouts, at least until I feel more familiar with the settings.

I take that back – my internal pep talk didn’t seem to work, it flat-out worked. I ended up breaking all my StairMaster personal bests during that workout:

  • DURATION: 25.5 minutes (previous best = 22 minutes)
  • CALORIES: 400 burned (previous best = 350)
  • FLOORS: 109 (previous best = 104)

That’s right, bitches, one hundred and nine floors. Holy Shit. ONE HUNDRED AND NINE FLOORS! Time for another iconic addition to my Skyscraper Collection! Can anyone think of a building that has 109 floors?

That’s a trick question. There aren’t any 109-story buildings, not anywhere in the world. But there is an 108-story building that, unless you live in a cave, you’ll definitely recognize. Here’s a hint – it’s the tallest building in this picture:

WILLIS TOWER! Or perhaps you know it by its former name. SEARS TOWER!

Willis Tower has been the tallest building in the United States since it opened in 1973, and it’s currently the ninth-tallest building in the world (a record that it held until 1998). There’s an observation deck called the Skydeck on the 103rd floor (the restrooms on that floor are the highest restrooms in the western hemisphere), and, in 2009, glass balconies were added so people could step out and have only glass between their feet and the ground, 1,353 feet below:

Very cool. I wish I had taken that picture, but alas, I did not. Even though I’ve been to Chicago more times than I can count, I’ve never been to the Skydeck. I really really wanna go!

Some other fun facts about the Willis Tower:

  • It leans 4 inches to the west.
  • The tower was half vacant for the first ten years it was open – Sears overestimated their own growth as a company, and the building was less of a draw for outside renters than anticipated.
  • There are 104 elevators, including 16 double deckers.

Yep, I climbed that! And I just added it to the top of my Skyscraper Collection.


March Produce Haul

March 8, 2012

Do you mind if I start with a couple housekeeping items?

Fundraising. My fundraising is off to a fantastic start! I’m raising money for two causes: The American Lung Association, sponsor of the skyscraper climb that I’m participating in at the end of the month, and I’ve also turned my own fitness goal into a fundraiser for Whaley’s Children Center, an amazing organization in Michigan. A number of you have already generously donated cash – about $300! I’d like to raise $700 between the two drives, so there’s still some ground to cover! Learn about both fundraising drives here, and if you’re able, click here to donate to the ALA, or here to donate to Whaley. Thank you so much!

Slimmons Video. I mentioned yesterday that Michele, who works with Richard Simmons, may have gotten video of the two of us dancing in class the other night… and she did! Michele is the best – she edited together this little montage from Tuesday night’s class: first, footage of when Richard pulled me into the big circle to dance with him, and, after that, footage of him leading the entire class as they all sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Thank you so much, Michele, for your help – this is fantastic! Watch below (or click here to watch on YouTube):

Speaking of videos, way back in January, I blogged about how I got to feed a 5-foot nurse shark while in Curacao. I wanted to share the video of it, but I couldn’t get it to properly upload. Well, I just figured it out. Better late than never! Read the blog post about the shark encounter, and then click here to see the feeding (it’s short – 36 seconds!).

Let’s move on, shall we?

I had a fun time at the store yesterday picking up a whole lotta new produce! Here’s my haul:

What have we got here? From left to right and top to bottom (roughly): rainbow carrots, two containers of strawberries (on sale!), a bag of washed and trimmed green beans, green onions, blueberries, pre-cut broccoli, comice pears, red bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, bananas, celery, 2 blood oranges, and baby carrots.

I was excited to see these guys at Whole Foods…

…watermelon radishes! To be honest, I had kinda sorta completely forgotten about their existence until I saw them in the salad at the surprise party I went to last week. They are a tasty and vibrant variety of radish (see pictures here), and I happily snapped up two of them when I saw them at the store.

Lastly, I came across an intriguing produce item that I never heard of before, and you know what I like to do when that happens, right? I like to BUY IT, and then I like to EAT IT. This week’s victim is called a Sumo Tangerine:

It’s the largest tangerine I’ve ever seen (the size of a small grapefruit), so I suppose Sumo is a very fitting name. I don’t know anything about Sumo Tangerines (I’ll do my research, don’t you fret), but if you’re familiar and have any helpful info or tips, than please share in the comments section!

As I type this, I realize that I never shared what happened with the stunningly drop-dead beautiful Romanesco Broccoli that I shared in my last produce haul post. Seriously, drop everything and click here to see pictures of one of the most gorgeous pieces of produce I’ve ever seen. Long story short: I ate it. It was delicious. And I was a bad blogger that day because I didn’t photograph any of it. My bad.

So, I owe you one Romanesco Broccoli blog post. I even made myself a reminder note so I wouldn’t forget:

Now I just gotta find another Romanesco Broccoli! The West Hollywood Whole Foods that I was at yesterday didn’t have them. I bought the first one at the Glendale Whole Foods, so maybe I’ll head back there.

In the meantime, I got all sorts of fantastic produce to munch on.


Chart Update AND Slimmons Birthday Photos!

March 7, 2012

First things first: yesterday was a weigh-in day. After going most of February without weighing myself, I’m back on my once-every-two-weeks weigh-in schedule. Here’s how I updated my weight loss chart yesterday:

Down one pound! It was a lovely thing to see the morning after my birthday, and a welcome change from my last three weigh-ins, each of which resulted in a gain. In the grand scheme of things, a weight of 238 equals a total lost of 164 pounds. I’m 6 pounds above my all-time lowest weight, and 18 pounds away from my next goal – and still happily chugging away!

It’s hard to tell because that photo is so close-up, but with this weigh-in, my chart moved onto a new page! It’s officially my chart’s eleventh page (!), but in December, I reconfigured the chart because I was running out of space, and condensed five pages onto two. Here’s the eleventh page, waiting to be filled up:

Here’s the chart in its entirety:

I’d love your input on a chart-related matter. I’m thinking of retiring the weight-loss chart altogether. I’ve been updating it for over two years now, and it was most helpful during year #1, when I ended up dropping 150 pounds in twelve months. Updating the chart every week and seeing my progress was a huge motivator. Now, though, it’s less motivating. In the past year, I’ve oscillated between 243 and 232 – an eleven-pound range (eleven is turning out to be the number of the day!). I’m certainly proud of that accomplishment – keeping off weight loss is no easy feat – but I don’t find myself rushing to update the chart or relying on it as much as used to. On one hand, I’d like the satisfaction of keeping the chart active until I reach my 220-pound goal, but on the other hand, reaching that goal has proven to be really difficult (I’ve been working on it since December 2010), so how much longer should I update a chart that just features a line wavering between a 10-pound range?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. You’re an insightful bunch, and you regularly help me see things in a new light, and I’d love to know what you’d do if you were in my size 13 shoes.

In other news…

Last night I took one of Richard Simmons’ classes at Slimmons, and at the end of class, my birthday was celebrated. Richard pulled me up in front of the entire class and had everyone sing me happy birthday (which he does with birthday celebrants at the end of nearly every class). Earlier, during the workout, he pulled me into a big circle to dance in front of everyone. Both moments may have been captured on video by Michele, one of the other instructors at Slimmons, so if they were and she’s able to send them to me, I’ll most definitely share them here.

When it’s your birthday at Slimmons, Richard gives you a little present: it’s a little, hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind Richard Simmons doll on a ribbon that he puts around your neck. He commissions a doll artist in the Midwest to make them for him. The one he gave me is jumping out of a package:

Cute, right? It’s the third birthday I’ve celebrated at Slimmons, so I’ve received three of these little guys:

And because it was my birthday, I couldn’t resist getting another picture with Richard (see all my pictures with Richard in the Photo Gallery). Wanna see it?

Yep, those are hundreds of colored puffs all over Richard’s tank top. As he said during class, “it takes a lot of balls to wear this top!” It sure does – quite literally!



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