April 10: Training for 10K back on

Since the early hill on my 6.2 mile course challenged me more than I anticipated last Sunday, I opted to run the route backwards. Unfortunately, because I didn’t advance in the route enough last week, I managed to get lost *smile* I didn’t run the entire time because my compartment syndrome constricted blood flow to my lower legs making it uncomfortable to endure for more than a couple miles. I walked until blood flow returned to normal then began to run again. Once I shortened my running stride considerably more, I didn’t have as much constriction; by then, the damage had be done, so to say. I really need to be sure to watch my stride, especially on race day. Now that I am more cardiovascularly fit, I want to go hard early in a long run. But I have to be patient and save my juice until the end. Lesson re-learned.

I am travelling again for several days later this week, but I will have access to a fitness room and presumably a treadmill. I won’t make the same mistake of slackening off training this time!

April 7: Samsung Galaxy S 4G

My mom and I have been on a family plan for about 8.5 years, most of which has been with T-Mobile after they acquired Voice Stream. Until recently, I would never say a bad thing about T-Mobile. Basically, my life with the company has been rocky since I purchased a Sidekick Slide in 2008. All hell broke loose when not only did my phone have repeated, unresolved issues but the server that kept our data crashed. You really see what a company is made of when ish hits the fan! Let’s just say T-Mobile wasn’t what I thought.

Since 2009, my mom and I have contemplated taking our business elsewhere. Sadly, dealing with the incompetence that is T-Mobile was the best option since we have grandfathered rates. A new wrinkle in my relationship with the company came a few months ago when I was notified that due to the dissolution of the partnership with Microsoft, which serviced the Sidekick data plan, I basically had to get a new phone if I wanted to continue to access the internet and send picture messages from my phone. Aside from the fact these clowns told me 2 years ago that my phone “would not work properly” without a $20/month data plan, I was upset that I had to come out of pocket for a new phone because of a business deal that obviously didn’t take much into consideration customers with operational Sidekicks.

Now that my mini-rant is over, I come to the part where I went waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone and bought a relatively new phone model: the Samsung Galaxy S 4G. It’s been available since February of this year from what I can gather. I’m pretty much a technophobe. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. I talk and text on my phone and do the occasional web surfing.

After a month of casually researching phones online, I settled on the Samsung because it had the best reviews from not only other T-Mobile customers but also technogeeks on the Web. I do chemistry, so I’ll trust others who do mobile technology. The price was reasonable after rebates and not-so-veiled threats to Customer Care, so I thought I would use the opportunity of buying a new phone to try the latest technology.

There isn’t a 4G network within spitting distance of me out here in the corn fields, but that seems to be the immediate wave of the future, and I’m trying my best to not be in the corn fields once I finish my post-doc next fall. The AMOLED screen was appealing to me, particularly because I synthesized small organic molecules like those in the screen. The properties of the molecules allow for a wider viewing angle and less glare, which will come in handy when I watch Inception on my phone next week as I fly to Louisiana for vacation *smile* I also like that as an Android phone, I have access to apps which I expect to make my life better as someone without internet access at home.

I am still tinkering around with the phone, but I’ve figured out pretty quickly the basics like making phone calls, working with a virtual keypad, and setting my alarm clock. Some features are intuitive (e.g., making, receiving, and ending phone calls; accessing the internet and pre-loaded applications; etc.) but some things I really had to use some brain power for. It took awhile for me to figure out the Swype feature for texting and entering text. The unhelpful tutorial made it look like I can just whiz my fingers around and the algorithm would magically figure out what I wanted to say. Uh, no! I have to pause on each letter. Now that I figured out Swype, I do find that it’s quicker to text than using the virtual keyboard. Swype still doesn’t hold a flame to a physical QWERTY keyboard in my opinion.

All in all, I must say that I’m not disappointed in the money I spend on the phone. It’s frustrating at times to learn the new features that should be so simple (can we say Power off?), but it’s also really exciting when I figure out something new that I never thought a phone could do. I sent an audio text today that had my picture in a kitschy faux frame! So, while I don’t need the bells and whistles of this really cool smartphone, I’m kinda liking the dings and shrills *smile*

April 4: Roasted summer squash and eggplant

Visiting a section of the produce aisle that I only see from a distance, I learned of the existence of baby eggplant and Mexican squash, the latter resembles a short zucchini with a nutty taste. I have never bought an eggplant in my life, though I rather enjoy the flavor on the rare occasion I eat it. Mexican squash is entirely new to my palate. I found that the skin bruises very easily, so I peeled it prior to cutting. I removed residue and dirt from the vegetables using Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash. I sliced the eggplant and squash crosswise. Some slices were further diced into quarters so that all the pieces were approximately the same size. I placed the slices into a glass bowl and drizzled them with olive oil before spreading them onto a foil-lined baking sheet. I liberally seasoned the vegetables with a store-bought blend of Moroccan seasoning and a wee bit of kosher salt. The baking sheet went into a preheated oven at 450 F for 20 minutes.

The eggplant was soOoo delicious. The Mexican squash provided a subtle, distinct background flavor. I served the roasted veggies with plain quinoa on a bed of mixed greens all alongside a pan seared salmon fillet. Yum! The produce isn’t quite in season, so it cost about $4 for one eggplant, one yellow squash, and two Mexican squash. I will definitely incorporate eggplant and Mexican squash into future meals.

April 3: Training for 10K stalled

I’m sad to say that my week long trip to Anaheim, California for a conference last week pretty much derailed my 10K training. Well, not the trip itself, but the fact that I was so off my normal routine. Our hotel did not have a fitness room, but I managed to workout for about 30 minutes each morning doing body weight exercises in circuits. Our hotel was at least one mile each way from the site where my division held symposia, so I at least exerted myself somewhat. By the time I learned my surroundings enough to figure out where I could run and have some sense of direction, I had lost the motivation to do that much exercising. I’m sure the most unhealthy food choices I made had a lot do with my lethargy. While I know I should have mustered up more willpower and just eaten house salads twice a day for six days, I couldn’t resist the 30th anniversary chocolate cake cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory; the BBQ shrimp and grits and gumbo; chicken sandwiches and fries; or Subway cookies. Yes, I lost my mind.

So, you see where this is going. Sunday morning, I mentally prepared to run 6.2 miles. I basically made it 1.25 miles before my hamstrings and calves just said “Eff you!” I couldn’t take the fussing out, so I hobbled on home rather than continuing to run or walk anymore of my planned route. I was truly heartbroken because I had been making such great progress in my training. I expected setbacks but not quite like this. I’m making sure to hit group fitness everyday this week and running a mile on the indoor track. I will try 6.2 again Sunday, even if I have to walk most of it.

March 23: Cooking 101 Sensational Seafood

It has been some time since I posted about new things I’ve tried. I haven’t been diligent with making all the recipes from the previous cooking class. I did however sear salmon for dinner one night last week. I bought a small fillet that was pre-seasoned with honey and bourbon. Since it was a busy week, I wasn’t able to buy and dice bell peppers, so I didn’t make the quinoa salad to accompany the seared salmon. Despite life happening, the honey bourbon salmon on top of a bed of mixed salad greens with a few tablespoons of lemon vinaigrette was delectable! Speaking of lemon vinaigrette, I learned the hard way that I can’t make it in huge quantities. The oil and sugar coagulate over time forming hard to disperse globules.

Anywhoo, so the new cooking class was all about seafood. While I didn’t have nearly as much fun in this class (different chef, different set up), I still managed to cook some great tasting food and learn a few things. For this class, we simply used the tabletop gas burners at our cooking stations. Since we only made three dishes, we paired up and prepared periwinkle soup; moules marinière; and fresh flounder with shrim, bacon stuffing and New Orleans butter cream.

Periwinkles are little snails. The chef had already cooked them, removed the meat, and ground them into a paté-like paste for us. I’ve had escargot before, so I was familiar with the chewy texture. Something new I learned was how to clarify butter. It’s really not that hard; just melt the butter and remove the foam before pouring the clarified butter off the whey remaining on the bottom of the pan. In chemistry, we call the second step decanting, so I could visualize the process without actually seeing it. The reason we used clarified butter was because removing the impurities increased the flashpoint of the butter so it would be less likely to burn at the high temperatures we needed.

All three dishes from last night relied on clarified butter which provided an excellent base for meals; the meals really tasted like something I would buy in a fine dining restaurant. That being said, when I need a menu for a nice romantic dinner, I’m using these recipes. The butter does make the dishes heavy on the stomach, but it also means that I can consume less and still be satiated.

The soup was ready to be simmered within 10 minutes of beginning the recipe. We added sherry which was super fragrant. Love those aromatic compounds *smile*. Sorry, that’s the organic chemist in me. Once the soup was simmering, we learned about buying, preparing and cooking mussels. Emeril has a great summary with his moules marinière recipe. The simple mussel dish was awesome because of the sauce. I added a little too much sherry because the sauce was really salty. The seasoning was not so overpowering that the dish was inedible, though. We didn’t have any french bread, but I highly recommend it as it makes enjoying the brothy sauce much easier!

Finally, we prepared the flounder dish. With my newly developed expertise in searing salmon, I felt quite at ease. The difficult part is still learning which temperature setting to use and for how long to avoid oil/butter splatter. The flounder had a nice golden brown thin crust and flaky meat inside. I absolutely loved the butter cream sauce with this dish.

Overall, I learned how to make really great sauces and creams that I can use for a variety of dishes. For example, the periwinkle soup base will work well with any seafood. Snails aren’t my thing, so maybe shrimp or tilapia when I prepare it at home. Of course I can’t wait to sear some salmon and try it with the butter cream. I can even use the fried flounder as a salad topper with the quinoa salad! So many great choices *smile*.