May
28

Lemon Raspberry Sorbet Cocktail

After spending much of our time working outside over the long weekend, it seemed fitting to finish up with a new drink recipe at the end of a long but satisfying haul. Although this is far from any low-calorie concoction, in moderation and after a lot of physical exertion it really hit the spot. Of course, I’d have two if given the chance…but there was just enough for one each. Good or bad planning – hard to say.

Lemon Raspberry Sorbet Cocktail

The initial sorbet recipe is based on a couple of different recipes I found online as well as in the instruction booklet for our ice cream maker. Sorbet is a pretty simple thing to make: Create some simple syrup, add fruit and some sparkling water, and throw that into an ice cream machine for 30 minutes. But with a few twists, this is definitely our new dessert drink for summer entertaining.

Serves 4-6 cocktails (depending on who is doing the pouring)

Ingredients:

  • grated lemon peel from one lemon
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons-worth)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup carbonated naturally sweetened orange cream soda (cane sugar preferably)
  • Fresh mint, for garnish
  • 4+ shots lemon vodka
  • 1/2 to 1 shot Tuaca (Vanilla citrus liqueur), to taste

Steps:

  1. In a saucepan, combine the water, grated lemon peel, and sugar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to medium to simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.
  2. In the ice cream maker’s frozen bowl, pour together the lemon peel simple syrup, raspberries and soda. Follow the ice cream maker’s instructions on how to create the sorbet. In our case, it turned for about 30 minutes.
  3. At this point, you can either serve it virgin by scooping some of the sorbet into a bowl or cup and adding a little mineral water, stirring until it has a smooth consistency, Or, you can add the alcohol – the following step.
  4. Fill a shaker about 3/4 full with sorbet, scooping lightly (no need to pack the sorbet, as you’ll be creating “slush” with it). Add 4 shots of the lemon vodka, and about 1/2 shot or so of Tuaca, to taste. Shake vigorously, remove the lid, and pour the slushy mixture into a glass. Add a sprig of mint for both garnish and aroma. Repeat as needed.

Notes: This version is pretty sweet and tart, and I suspect that substantially reducing the sugar would be a no-brainer (and successful). To start, you could very easily cut the orange cream soda with mineral water. The key is the carbonation, which adds a light sparkle to the mix.

The Tuaca is also probably not strictly necessary, but seems to add a finishing quality that really smooths everything out.

Bring on the summer heat – I’m ready.

Jul
08

Our Kids Know Real Food

My son at 5It seems that our kids are paying attention to what we eat.

Over the weekend we went to visit our friends at Ma Petite Maison in Port Orford, Oregon (I wrote previously about their beautiful place here: “A Taste of France on the Oregon Coast“). Port Orford is a tiny town with about 1100 people, no stop lights, a handful of restaurants, and a lot of virtually empty beachfront. It’s an exceptional spot to visit if you want peace, quiet, long uninterrupted walks on the beach, and more than just a little local quirkiness.

Port Orford has it’s share of 4th of July weekend activities not unlike most places: a morning parade of local groups ranging from muscle cars and fire trucks to a family of 4-wheelers with kids dressed in camouflage shooting high-powered squirt guns (I was not aware that this was a symbol of patriotism, but I now know better); a man who wakes the town each year by driving a truck around with loudspeakers attached, proclaiming, “GOOOOOOOOD MORNING PORT ORFORD. SEVEN AM ON YET ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL FOURTH OF JULY!”; A craft fair and quilting exhibition; a pretty good fireworks display, and a variety of weekend food-related activities.

I decided to get up early with my almost-6-yr-old and take him to a pancake feed that was being presented at the community center. I didn’t think much about the food that would be available; I was more interested in doing something just as father and son, since his little sister being a feisty 3-yr-old often grabs much of the family’s attention.

When we arrived, we stood in line for a while waiting for the food, stomachs rumbling and my son hopping on one foot from time to time. I eavesdropped that the griddles were not getting very hot, and thus the wait – but folks didn’t seem to mind. Eventually we were handed our Styrofoam plates which laid the foundation for pancakes, scrambled eggs, and a slice or two of ham. From all appearances, this is a reasonable meal – unless you are a 5-yr-old in Real Food training.

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Jun
29

The “Lose 25 lbs Before Camping” Plan

Daily iPhone photos: spokes on a Sunday morningEd. Note: Welcome to AlmostFit. This is a personal entry on my plans to lose 25 pounds this summer. The diet choices I’m describing are my own, and are not recommended for everyone – in other words, consult a doctor before you make any significant dietary changes.

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest, and it certainly was a long time in coming this year. Between a worn out pair of shoes with holes in the soles letting my socks get soaked daily from record rainfall, some pretty big bouts with seasonal depression, and some employment ambiguity, it has been a rough spring. But with 75-degree temperatures and mostly sunny skies, a new pair of hole-free shoes, and the kids out of school for the summer, things are looking up.

An Opportunity in the Making

One of the summer activities we have planned is to go camping with my wife’s extended family in mid-August. Her family has an annual family camping reunion each summer, and it generally involves lots of activities during the day, a fair bit of lounging and visiting, and not just a little food and drink. We always have an absolute blast, but I remember last year how it really would have been so much nicer to be a little thinner when we’re hiking around the mountains or swimming in the rivers.

With all of that on the roadmap, it occurred to me that this is one of those golden opportunities to use an imminent event to my weight loss advantage. Some folks will recall that I lost about 20 lbs at the beginning of the year using a combination of intermittent fasting (IF), whole foods, and reasonable indulgences. But the biggest motivator? An event – a weekend getaway trip with my wife to central California. I used that event as a focal point to lose weight, and it worked. Couple the food plan with exercise, and I was able to lose that weight pretty quickly.

Once the event was over, I wondered how well I would do with keeping the weight off. And to my surprise, I have kept most of it off since then. I say surprise because a) I wasn’t sure whether the quick loss of 20 lbs with IF would be a permanent thing, and b) I’ve taken my eye off the ball exercise and moderation-wise for the last few months. I think what is saving me here is that I’ve developed better food habits over the last couple of years, so my default foods are now whole foods rather than the junk I ate when I was younger. I have crept back up on the scale between 3 or 4 pounds from my low this year, but I can guarantee that its a direct result of a few too many craft beers combined with a lack of an exercise plan, and a whole lot of stress (stress and boredom eaters of the world, unite!).

But that ended earlier this week, with a conscious decision to make some changes to meet my family camping trip goal.

The Plan

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May
14

A new toy for working out? Taking a look at the Sony Cord-Free Walkman

In case you are wondering, Almost Fit is NOT turning into a product review site – But I had the opportunity to take a look at one of the new cord-free MP3 players from Sony, and thought readers who listen to music while exercising might find my impressions helpful. But before I go further, here’s the legal bit:

Disclosure: This post is not a paid review or endorsement, but Sony did send me the product to get my thoughts. I am in no way affiliated with Sony and have received no compensation for my impressions. And also, the legal bit makes me feel weird, like going to the principal’s office for something I actually DID do this time, but it turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought. OK I feel slightly better.

sony cord-free mp3 playerSeveral weeks ago I received a note from Melissa, a Community Ambassador for Sony letting me know about a product line that they are promoting: the Sony W series cord-free mp3 players. I receive a fair number of these notes and offers to review products, but to be honest I rarely give them a second thought. In general I don’t do product reviews, mostly because 9 times out of 10 the offer is for packaged/processed foods that I already know how I feel on principle, so I don’t think it would really be fair. (The other exception has been cookbooks which I do review on occasion.)

This product on the other hand, since I’m not eating it :) , seemed like something I could check out – and the words “cord-free” piqued my interest. Plus I’m kind of a gadget junkie, though I usually take forever to buy them. (Note to Apple: I will gladly write up a review of the iPad or one of the new Macbook Pros if you want to send one to me. No, seriously.)

To provide a little context, lately when I run I use my iPhone with some 3rd party ear buds to listen to music or my ever growing list of podcasts. As many readers know, I am also an active iPhoneography enthusiast, so I generally have my phone (a.k.a. camera/ipod/everything-I-need-in-one-gadget) with me wherever I go. So, my iPhone with headphones is my primary source of comparison, though I am a product of the 80′s Walkman generation, so I have a long history with portable music. In addition, I am also an amateur musician with a home recording studio, so I do use studio-grade headphones for music production – which means I’d like to think I have a reasonable ear for audio quality.

Overall, for readers of Almost Fit I think this product has value as a good workout tool, and as you will see in the review I LOVE not having to deal with headphone wires. The ear buds that I usually use with my iPhone are great both sound and comfort-wise, but I am continually fighting with them pulling during exercise routines. I also find it tough to do things like take photos with my phone along the way, or use exercise tracking applications (of which I’m a fan) while listening to music on my phone. So a separate device makes sense to me in some cases. That said, this device is not without it’s flaws.

With that, here’s the review. Read the rest of this entry »

May
07

On the upswing

Cutting to the chase: Clearly, I’ve been away for a little while. I think that the reasons are fairly mundane, but I will simply say that sometimes life has a way of catching up with you when you are paying attention to other things. All is well, and I do apologize for the mysterious drop-off in posts.

The good news is I have used the break to work on some new pieces that I’m excited about. At this point they are little more than a pile of notes and a lot of ideas, but hopefully they will be something that you’ll be interested in reading, and if I’m lucky, sharing your thoughts on as well.

On the personal health side, my weight has been reasonably stable; I have gained back a few pounds since my last post, but I am not too worried about it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not thrilled about it; but I’m ready to get back to business, and am very pleased that I’m still 15 lbs lighter than I was at the start of the year.

On the plus side I’ve started a new simple exercise habit that seems to be sticking, all based on keeping my laundry in order. What does laundry have to do with weight loss? I’ll get to that in a future post.

On the real food side, this is the time of year when things start to get easier food-wise in the Pacific Northwest. Every week that goes by in my neck of the woods, more and more farmers markets come back to life; more fruits and vegetables start their journey from the soil to my plate :) , and the sun starts to make the acquisition of vitamin D much, much easier. All in all this is a great time of year, and I am really, really ready for a break from the winter doldrums.

chicksOne last thing: My little family has had a slight change: we find ourselves with a few additions to our house…Nine of them in fact. We’ve adopted a small troop of baby chickens. The chicks are about 4 weeks old now, and are one of the things that has kept me a little busy lately (though truth be told my wife has done most of the work – though I am building a chicken coop this weekend). The goal with the chicks is to eventually harvest eggs, which is a staple in our house. If you are interested in keeping chickens feel free to drop me a note, as I have a few online resources that have been helpful. And tips are very welcome.

All in all, things are on the upswing. Thanks for continuing to read Almost Fit, even if the posts have been few and far between over the last couple of months. Good things are coming. Thank you as always.

Mar
05

Using Your Dieting Experience to Your Advantage

Welcome to Almost Fit. If this is your first time here, Almost Fit focuses on losing weight and improving your health through eating real food in moderation. If you enjoy this post, please consider subscribing – it’s free, as always. Thanks.

Brake or Gas http://www.lintlife.comTo begin this post, I have two choices for an opening sentence – I’ll leave it to you to choose which you like better:

“It was a dark, stormy, sawdusty and bloated night…”

- Or -

“Once upon a time, in a far away land, I was an overweight cabinetmaker.”

(I’m leaning toward the latter.)

During college, I worked as a cabinetmaker in a small shop in the San Juan islands. One of my shining moments as an apprentice (and by shining, I mean horribly painful and incompetent) was during one of my first installations.

As the apprentice my job was primarily to fetch tools, carry heavy things, and clean up, leaving the real installation work to the more experienced installer I was helping. On this fateful day however, things went slightly different.

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Feb
22

Secrets of a thrift store shopper

I want to let you in on a little secret:

I love thrift store shopping.

And not just to save money.

In addition to being pretty frugal on certain things, I enjoy shopping at thrift stores for more than just the savings. Don’t get me wrong – I love finding that amazing deal, but that’s not quite enough to keep me coming back to the mysterious color-coded tagging systems, “vintage” kitchy glassware, and dusty late ’80s electronics bins. And although you might question how this is connected to improving my health, I assure you there are logical reasons.

There are also a few gigantic, impossible, James-Cameron-like stretches of reason – but hear me out.

Before I get into that, let me be clear that there are a few things I don’t buy ever at thrift stores. Old non-stick cookware is out. Old electronics? Very rarely, if ever. Underwear? No way ever ever ever. And the king of things to never buy? Intimate items for your significant other, which amazingly they do sell (never never ever, gentlemen).

Reasons I love shopping at thrift stores – oh yeah and that health tie-in thing

Here’s a list of some of the reasons why I love shopping at thrift stores when you’re trying to lose weight.

- Rewarding yourself with clothes that fit – on a budget. One of many great tips I come across repeatedly (and use to my advantage) is to “reward” yourself with clothes that fit as you get in better shape. Similarly, you can set up a goal by buying something that you love but that is a little too small – Its a great motivator for me.

However, clearly this could get expensive if you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, and especially if you’re eating higher quality food that may force you to rethink your budget priorities a little. And that’s where thrift stores come in.

Case in point: The pants in the picture.

I bought these pants today knowing full well that they do not fit – YET. They are about a size too small in the waist, but the quality was too good to pass up. So, these pants become a great weight loss tool: they are an affordable source of motivation to get down another pants size.

And these pants are luscious. Yeah, I just said “luscious”.

They are pants that normally retail for easily more than I’d spend on 3 pairs of pants, but being a find at the thrift store means they’re within my inner cheapskate’s boundaries. And the best part? Today was blue tag day at the thrift store, so they were marked down by an additional 50% to $7.47 – an almost 95% discount off of retail, and never worn as far as I can tell. But they will be soon, proudly.

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Feb
13

February: Behind, but finally feeling better

Daily iPhone photos: winter persimmonEd. Note: Welcome to Almost Fit. Almost Fit focuses on enjoying real food in moderation as a core weight management principle, rather than common diet methodologies (a.k.a. “fads”) for weight loss. This post is a check-in on my goals for the year, which include losing 75 lbs through moderation, intermittent fasting, and a varied combination of eating methods. Thanks for reading – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

It occurred to me this morning that we are now in the “teens” of February, and I have yet to post anything on Almost Fit this month – not exactly in alignment with one of my year’s goals of regular posting, but so it goes. Time to get back on track.

Illness finally finished – I hope

As I mentioned in my last post, I fell ill to the flu at the end of January – illness of the swine variety apparently. It knocked me down much more  than I expected, considering nobody else in our family had symptoms as severe (we each got sick to some degree, but it really hit me the hardest especially in the lungs). I felt like I was recovering a week later, but even walking up a flight of stairs made me have to stop and sit down, sweating and out of breath. As it has turned out, it has only been this week that I feel that I’ve completely returned to normal. And hopefully that means a short run – my first in February – is on my itinerary today.

I decided to go easy on the diet and exercise while I recovered, which as you might imagine was pretty darn easy, right? Actually that is not strictly true – while doing “nothing” is certainly easier than working out regularly, for me it was frustrating to be making such progress in the “feeling good about exercise” department only to be held back by my own health. It’s a good lesson though – I can’t afford to take my health for granted. I plan to use that as a key motivator.

Ahem – did I just say “go easy on the diet”?

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Jan
24

January health and fitness goals – my two minute warning

At the beginning of this year I described 3 major goals for 2010 with regard to my overall health and fitness (“2010: Setting them up and knocking them down“). So how are things progressing? I will do a summary post after the month is over, but with about a week to go I want to check in to give myself enough time to push a little if I’m coming up short. Here’s a quick summary of my goals, sub-goals, and the milestones I’m shooting for.

  • Year goal: Complete at least one major running event this year.

Sub-goal: Beat my aversion to running in the Oregon rain.

Milestone for January: Return to running 3 miles 3 times per week, with one 5 mile run by the end of January.

  • Year goal: Lose 75 lbs this year – and if I lose it early, keep it off.

Milestone for January: Lose 10 lbs this month.

  • Year goal: Start writing at least one meaningful post per week for Almost Fit.

Milestone for January: you guessed it – 5 Almost Fit posts.

So how am I doing so far?

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Jan
12

20 hours without eating: Intermittent fasting part 2

Ed. note: This is part 2 of a series that was written after a day of trying intermittent fasting, or IF. As I explained in part 1, fasting is not starvation, and is a discipline that has been practiced for thousands of years by cultures around the globe. Here’s how it went.

On Saturday I decided that it was the right time to try intermittent fasting (IF). As I explained in part 1 (“20 hours without eating: the intermittent fasting experiment“), IF is essentially giving your body a break from food for a set period of time, and then eating the calories and nutrients you need during a specific window. If you are trying to lose weight, the key is during your eating times you take in the appropriate nutrients while maintaining a reasonable and healthy caloric deficit.

In my case I chose to fast for 20 hours, starting at 9PM the previous evening and having only water (and a cup of coffee) until 5PM the next day. I also asked my wife to make dinner for the family to be ready at 5 or so, just so that when the fast was over I could actually eat something substantial and more importantly, planned (in my mind, no plan might equal disaster food-wise). I also asked her to make something extra tasty ;) .

Of course, I wasn’t sure if I could even make it that long mentally. Could I actually last 20 hours without giving in to cravings of, well, anything? How would I do physically and more importantly, emotionally? I decided to go for it, knowing that if things got too out of hand I could always stop. The results were pretty surprising.

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