Thursday, January 9, 2014

Saúde 2014

It is raining heavily outside.  It has been dark since just after 4:30 pm.  Water is running down my street, filling the downhill gutter with a moving mass of dirty rainwater and wet leaves.  I drove home from the Y, my Seattle gym, in dark pouring rain.  I was satisfied with my work-out but apprehensive in the thickening traffic and the poor visibility on the arterial.  After walking everywhere in Brazil I am still not used to driving in Seattle’s traffic.

This is the Pacific Northwest in January.  I’m beginning to understand snowbirds.  Taos and San Diego sound pretty tempting.  What happened to my Brasilian sunshine?  My daughter, who is in graduate school in Southern California, kids me about eating lunch outside in shirtsleeves.  I only wish.

I‘ve made my new year’s resolutions.  I am trying to accomplish them everyday.  Today I got my exercise done.  It included a 30-minute intervals (high resistance alternating with lower resistance) session on an elliptical trainer where I kept my heart beat up above target for more than half the time; a full weight training session pulled from my trainer in Brasil that focused on hamstring and glut (butt) muscles followed by five different stacked and free weight upper body and arm exercises – all done in sets of three by fifteen repetitions; a mat session of core exercises – mixing it up with traditional crunches, leg raisers, bicycling, and full body lifts; and finally a good slow series of stretches – legs, arms, back, neck, shoulders, quads and calves.  Stretching is really important as you age.  Don’t forget it.  The whole thing took me an hour and a half or more and I drank a full bottle of water during the session. 

At 64 I need to make a daily commitment to exercise if I am going to live independently in my seventies and eighties.  I want to be able to carry my trashcan out to the street, work in my garden and carry heavy things up and down stairs.  This is just practical.  If I don’t have strength as I get older, I will not be able to do basic activities…things as simple as putting out the trash or moving the vacuum cleaner around.  Let alone go for a walk in a beautiful place.  I watched my mother-in-law lose those abilities during her eighties.  I want to do what I can to avoid losing these basic skills as I age.

My husband thinks I don’t need to worry about what will happen twenty years from now.  I disagree.  I want to be ready.  With physical strength you have to do it all the time especially as you get older.  My husband knows this – he is at a spinning class right now.  If anything, he is likely more nutty about keeping up strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity than I am.  Either way we both enjoy working out and even working out together. 

We spent the New Year’s week up on Lopez Island and biked around its glorious fields and beaches.  On our last day we rode our bicycles under cold blue sunny skies.  We decided to stop at a local shellfish farm and buy clams for dinner.  That was at the 30 + mile mark.  It was almost 4 pm and the sun was dropping low in the sky.  We bought our clams; put them into a thick plastic bag and into the daypack.  We jumped on our bikes.  We were FROZEN!  My hands felt like little blocks of ice and my feet were no better. 

We had more than 6 miles left to cycle.  The sun was so low in the sky I couldn’t see it but the clouds were coloring up – rosy and orange.  I pushed my pedals as fast as I could – racing to get warm again.  Jeff was racing behind me and we took the shortest route home.  As we neared the last corner we could see the final dip of the winter sun across the San Juan straits.  The clouds lit the sky brilliantly.  It was a spectacular sunset – I feel so lucky to have the strength to bicycle in this beautiful part of the world.  When I did my hamstring exercises today at the Y, I thought about how these inside exercises enable the outside exercises.  It is well worth it for now.  Not just for when I am in my eighties.  For right now!  But I hope to still be biking and walking beaches in my eighties.  

Last night two of my writing friends came over for dinner.  I wanted to cook something warm and delicious.  I had the Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Italian Recipes ( 
on my coffee table.  I chose to make the Chicken Cacciatore recipe.  It is SO good.  Basically the recipe is chicken thighs; Portobello mushrooms; onions; garlic; salt; pepper; thyme and a secret ingredient cooked in red wine and broth.

Try it tonight.  It is easy and I would never have guessed the secret ingredient…by the way one reason I keep exercising is that I love cheese…especially parmesan and pecorino…guess what the secret ingredient is?  It is likely sitting in your fridge right now.  It was in mine.  Ok  …I’ll tell you: it is a piece of Parmesan rind.  Don’t tell me you don’t have this in your fridge.  If you don’t, go next door and ask your neighbor to lend you some!

The recipe is available on the Internet in a couple of different places.  It is an easy recipe and you don’t have to be a skilled cook to make it.  Here is a good source:

The bottom line: buy eight chicken thighs…the best you can find.  Buy three big hunky Portobello mushrooms.  Make sure you have some good red wine.  Follow the recipe but I suggest you don’t skin the thighs…I trimmed the fat and just left the skin on.  That is a lot easier….  I figured if my guests wanted to remove the skin they could.  BTW no one did.  I also baked the dish covered in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit…that is easier for me than stovetop.  Just don’t have to worry about the simmering.  But I did turn the thighs over at about 30 minutes.  Do that.  The other change I made was to add chopped up rosemary at the end instead of sage.  The sage in my garden is at the back and it was pouring with rain and too dark to see it.  I have a big rosemary bush right by my front door so I used that instead.  Fresh herbs make all the difference.

So what do you serve it with?  Good question.  There was no advice in the recipe in the magazine or on line.  I needed a whole dinner, not just the main course.  Here is what I did and it was delicious.  Make mashed potatoes and rutabaga (together).  I used Idaho russets and nice big rutabagas peeled and washed.  Remember rutabagas are those yellow/purple things that look a bit like turnips.  I peeled them and cut into uniform pieces and then cooked both potatoes and rutabagas together in salted boiling water.  I mashed the soft veggies in a heavy warm pan (the one I cooked them in) with plenty of salt, pepper, butter, chicken broth and a little milk.  It was seriously tasty especially with the wine gravy and the chicken.  We ate it all with a big winter greens salad…kale, arugula, mizuna, and baby spinach.  Dressed with lemon vinaigrette.  Try it.  You will be a happy camper.

So – despite the rain and the cold – it is good to be back in the Pacific Northwest.  It is great to see my friends and family and cook up winter food.  I am trying to hang in the moment – eat right, stay strong and write.

Saúde!  Cheers to you in 2014!

Fisherman's Bay, Lopez Island, Washington, USA

1 comment:

  1. How convenient that I have some chicken thighs in the fridge right now, looking for the perfect treatment!