Monday, September 30, 2013

The Limbo Remix

Most people who know me know that I'm a freaky Zumba girl. And us freaky Zumba girls, we love our Daddy Yankee songs. One really popular one is Limbo. Jae introduced it over a year ago and both of us agree that we never get tired of it. Like...ever.

For the moment, let me set aside my love of songs by DY (and the list is long...) and talk about someone else's music that I love. Or rather, two someones. Wisin Y Yandel. These guys are awesome and I have never heard anything by them that I didn't like. In my class we've done both Abusadora and Sexy Movimiento, but their stuff comes up on my Pandora pretty often so I've heard a great many other songs besides just those two. Something about their Reggaeton sound just speaks to me, in spite of the language barrier.

As you all know from a post about a week and half back, I've discovered Pinterest. So just for fun last night, I decided to see what Wisin Y Yandel had out there up on the great digital cork board. My curiosity was rewarded in spades because I found this...

I was online with my half-sister Mel at the time and that conversation went like this:

Me (a little giddy): Holy cow! I just found Limbo featuring W&Y! This is like biting into a piece of cake and finding a brownie inside!! Must buy!!
Mel: I heard that one before. It is pretty good.
Me: I didn't know this existed. I have to have this.

Yeah, I totally bought the MP3 in a heartbeat. Why didn't I search Pinterest for these guys a week and a half ago? I could have been enjoying this song for ten days already! So many remixes out there really kind of suck...and they come across (at least to me) like a money grab, as in how can artists capitalize on popular songs even more. But this...this combines everything I love about King Daddy's song, with the sound of Wisin Y Yandel that I love so much. It's the best of both worlds, a glorious hybridization, and I couldn't not make a post about it. The only thing left now, is to see if I can apply Jae's awesome Limbo choreography to the remixed version. I've got to try it because I just can't not try. This is going to wind up like that time I discovered the official Boujé choreography, I just know it... The Zumba plan for tonight was supposed to be: fix the middle of Pose - the transition from the chorus into the shoulders/knees section is really sticky. Now the plan is: 1) fix Pose, 2) try Limbo remix. I can already feel the Zog coming on. Dale.

Best advice: Pinterest is a font of knowledge.  

The "mommy & me" yoga class - a good postpartum exercise plan

As of two Fridays ago, my yoga class started back up again for the fall. It's a "mommy & me" class. My friend Don has been teaching this class for years and she's great at it. She knows what the moms need as far as intensity of poses, and also how to keep the kids (ages 0-5) engaged. I started taking mommy and me yoga when our oldest son was only three months old. He's five now and in kindergarten full time these days. Last year, I took both boys to mommy and me yoga, this year, I'm back to just taking one. Class is from 12:30 to 1:15pm so it happens while the older one is in school. This is a very different kind of yoga class. It's noisy, the lights are all the way up so it's bright, and there are fairly frequent breaks where the mommies have to stop and attend to their child's needs. Frequent breaks mean that the sequences are shorter than they would be in a regular class just so that there's still enough time to keep both sides even.

Ideally, you'd have a cooperative baby who lets you hold him on your thigh while in warrior, and doesn't resist when you do the baby yoga exercises. Reality paints a different picture. The reality is that it's a challenge to hold your balance in warrior with a squirming baby on your thigh. Reality is that your baby is trying to kick his legs free of your grasp so he can crawl away and get back to playing and exploring. And snacking. Yes, in mommy and me yoga, the mommies are allowed to bring toys and munchies for the kiddos. My little one has his own yoga mat cut a little smaller than my own full sized one; he inherited it from his big bro. I'll set out a couple toys and a little container of snack, and a sippy cup of water for him. Does he sit on his mat next to me? Briefly. When I want him on my lap, he is all about that little blue mat. As soon as it's time for him to sit there so that I can do some poses, he decides he'd much rather used the end of mine.

Me (trying to do a down dog): Little Buddy, where's Momma supposed to put her feet?
Baby (eating a handful of cereal): Ghee blah!

Photo Credit: Yoga On York
Mostly, I try to work around him as he crawls under and around me. I also try to work around the crumbs - the big downside of snacks during yoga. Actually, I do my best to try to keep the crumbs -on- my mat and/or on his because then I can just take them outside and shake them out on the sidewalk. That way, Don doesn't have to sweep and the evening yoga people don't step on cereal bits.

***Side note: Sorry evening yoga people if I missed any! Sincerely, The Zumbamommy***

This past Friday while trying to avoid stepping on a cereal-O, I stepped on something wet. Huh. The sippy cup of water is three feet away so that would be drool on my mat. Sigh. That comes with the territory I suppose. Note to self: wash mat before next Friday.

***Side note: Hey evening yoga people! It could be worse than cereal! Sincerely, The Zumbamommy***

When I first started mommy and me yoga with our older son, it was with the idea of getting back in shape after having had a baby. Isn't that what every new mom wants? To lose the baby weight and that funny little abdominal pooch? I'm here to tell you ladies, those of you who have not yet discovered it for yourselves, that it doesn't happen quickly or easily (sorry). This is especially true if you were fairly sedentary through your pregnancy. Which I was with my first pregnancy, though not with my second. I did Zumba and yoga through my second pregnancy, as much and as often as I could while staying healthy and safe (SAFE - see your physician). So I know the difference between an active pregnancy and a sedentary one. I also know the difference between the recoveries and this includes getting back into shape. After giving birth the second time, I was back at Zumba in six weeks. Yoga was on hiatus by then since the mommy and me class doesn't run June through August. Because I'd done Zumba before I was pregnant, I was in shape and had the endurance for it and was therefore able to continue my regular class through my pregnancy. Likewise, after I'd delivered, I was able to get back to Zumba almost right away because I was still in shape for it, having done it through my pregnancy.

After my first pregnancy, it was wise to start off nice and easy with the exercise. The mommy and me class has a slow pace and is not especially intense. Great for new moms looking to get back in shape and have some bonding time with their babies. Perfect for moms ( me...) who spent most of their pregnancy sitting around. It took a long long time for me to get back in shape after our first son. I am one of those moms who cannot lose weight while nursing; many mothers can, I'm just not one of them. The one attempt to do so caused me to lose milk supply which was not good; that's part of what took so long. Almost as soon as I weaned him at 14 months, the extra weight started melting off with the slightest amount of activity. By the time he was 18 months, I'd discovered Zumba, and by the time he was two, I weighed ten pounds less than when I'd become pregnant with him in the first place. Pretty good, even if I do say so myself.

Doing mommy and me yoga with the older one was some wonderful quality time. We both got so much out of it. I'm hoping to have a similar experience with the younger one and I think we're on the right track. I like to use my yoga class as a counterbalance for my Zumba. It works my muscle groups in a different way than Zumba does. Yoga is pretty low-key and it helps keep me from burning myself out from all the Zumba I do. Those are two very good reasons for why I'm willing to put up with a mat full of crumbs and drool.

Best advice: Post-baby, don't expect results overnight. Or even over six months! It's a rare woman who can walk out of the hospital after giving birth in anything other than maternity clothes. Here's an old saying that about sums it up, "It took nine months to gain the weight, give yourself at least that long to loose it."

Second best advice: Here are some nifty tips for taking care of your skin post-pregnancy and/or post-weight loss.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The fit friend

Picture credit: Skinny Mom
I recently came across an article on Skinny Mom. Cute name, I know... It's a good site though, with a lot of interesting things about health and fitness, recipes, and family. The article I found was called Redefine Your BFF: Best Fit Friends written by Lauren Yost. Reading it got me thinking about my own life.

When Bry and I lived in Lansing some years ago, I exercised a lot but I did it alone for the most part. I would fit my exercise into whatever my schedule of college classes was and all my friends at MSU each had their own crazy schedule and work load it seemed. Bry would join me on occasion but he was working full time -and- finishing his own degree. All of that was okay though, I didn't mind working out alone. I'd go out for a long power walk and I'd have my MP3 player strapped to my arm and it was good. Incidentally, that thing was huge. I'm surprised I wasn't walking in a circle because of the added weight...but hey, it was 2004 and technology has come a very long way since then. I really didn't mind exercising by myself at the time, but I think I would now. I've gotten very very used to exercising with other people thanks to Zumba.

When I first started Zumba 3.5 years ago it was with apprehension and trepidation, so I didn't want to invite a friend along and embarrass myself in front of them. After a couple of classes I realized that regardless of my own ability (or lack thereof...), Zumba was something special and awesome and I felt compelled to share this fact with all and sundry. If you ask any friend of mine about me, she'll tell you, "Oh her? Yeah it's always Zumba-this and Zumba-that."
I asked them to join me on multiple occasions and got a couple of them to give it a shot with me. But everyone is different, and for their own reasons (legitimate ones, not the crappy excuse kind...) they decided it wasn't for them, or maybe not something they could do all the time the way I did. And that was okay. It just meant that I was back to working out alone. Except for that I wasn't really alone. I was in a room full of other people women who, by and large, felt the same way about Zumba as I did. That makes for really great energy during class, but it can also be the foundation for making some great friendships too. The article gives six ways to redefine your best fit friend, here's number 3:
"Strike up a conversation at the gym. You know that woman who is frequently on the treadmill next to you? The one you also see in your yoga class? Talk to her! Chances are that if you’re running into each other on a regular basis you’ve got some common interests. Move your yoga mat next to hers at your next class, or greet her when you see her on the treadmill. You never know, she could become a BFF!"

Okay, so treadmills and yoga mats don't apply in Zumba, but the general concept is the same. You keep going to the same Zumba teacher's classes, you're going to run into a lot of the same people repeatedly. For me, that's exactly what happened. I am one of those freak students (every teacher has at least one if not a few...) that will show up to class each week no matter what the weather, no matter if there's a holiday that weekend. Basically, no matter what. It could be raining brimstone on the July 4th, and I'd still show up for class. Hrmm, raining brimstone? Guess I'd better grab a hoodie on my way out the door... As I said, every teacher has a few, I wasn't Rae's only "die hard" as she called us. Before Jae was herself a teacher ( teacher), she was my fellow classmate, and like me, she was pretty much always there every week.

Having a friend like her to be fit with has had a profound impact on me. I'm 32 and I'm in better shape today than I have ever been. Much better shape than when I was 23 and going on power walks alone. Having a fit friend means that someone is there supporting you and your goals and that you in turn are supporting theirs. Having a fit friend means sharing similar goals, and that you're walking the road to greater health together. Aren't all journeys more fun with a friend along?

Best advice: Don't let pride get in your way, get a fit friend. Let go of worry about being embarrassed or judged and get a fit friend. It matters, it works, and it's way more worthwhile than going it alone. I for one, am never going back to going solo.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The attempts to learn Spanish

As I've mentioned in the past, Zumba uses a lot of Latin American music and most of these songs (if not all...) are sung in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish beyond a marginal level though and me being me, I can't not know what they're saying. Can't. Not. Know. There are a surprising number of Zumba songs that have already been translated to English by someone (thank you whoever you are). But there are also a lot that are not. I can run the lyrics through a translation program, and get a very basic idea of what the song is about but the A.I. translates things quite literally and the result is often something very weird. let me give you a "for instance"...

Danza Kuduro [the chorus only] by: Don Omar feat. Lucenzo

Here's the Spanish
La Mano Arriba
Cintura Sola
Da Media Vuelta
Danza Kuduro
No Te Canses Ahora
Que Esto Sólo Empieza
Mueve La Cabeza
Danza Kuduro

Here's the English translation  (courtesy of Lyrics Translate)
Put your hands up
Moving only the hips
Turn half around
Dance to Kuduro
Don't lose your breath now
Because this has just started
Move your head
Dance to Kuduro

Here's what the same thing looks like put through an online translator
Hand up
Single waist
Turn around
Danza Kuduro
Not tea tired now
This only starts
Move the head
Danza Kuduro

See what I mean? I love the "not tea tired now". Tea? Really? Trust me, nothing in this song is about tea. Well I shouldn't knock the translator too much, it's handy in a pinch and I can get the general idea. Lyrics Translate is where I typically find songs translated from Spanish into English. They will put both versions side by side for comparison which is nice. I've noticed that by reading enough of these translations, most especially if I have the actual song playing while I read, I remember a lot of the words. Then I start picking the words I do know out of other Zumba songs. You'd be amazed by how many times the words caliente and calor are used in a single class. Both are words describing heat. When I first started doing Zumba, I'd pick out maybe one word of Spanish in every ten based on my one semester of high school Spanish (more about that in a minute). Now, three and half years later, it's more like five in every ten. Assuming of course that the artist isn't rapping because then that's just too fast for me to follow. I've dubbed this process of pseudo-language-learning "The Daddy Yankee School of Osmosis Spanish". It's actually not -just- DY, there are a lot of other artists you could easily substitute in, he just happens to be one who gets a lot of air time in a lot of Zumba classes.

This past spring, I finally decided to buckle down and actually take learning Spanish a lot more seriously. I got some books from the library to read. Some were good, some were not. It's difficult to know what fits your learning style until you dig in. And you do need to dig in, if you really want to teach yourself a new language for real; you need crack a book and study. I did this, and I got some listening CD's from the library for the mommy-van. Those weren't as easy as the package proclaimed. I quickly realized that while intended for commuters, it would be better for those who didn't have to commute by actually driving; more for train and bus riders. I'd be listening to the CD and then I'd need to focus on traffic and miss most of the track. After one chapter, I sent it back. That method was not for me.

I thought about buying some learning software and when I checked into it, I about fell off my chair. Do you, dear readers, know how much Rosetta Stone Spanish costs? Right this minute, as I type this, their Latin American package (levels 1-5) is on sale for 40% off so it's...choke...only $299.99. Originally...gasp...$499.99. Okaaaay then, that method is also not for me because I'm not shelling out that much money, period. But just for fun, I read some reviews which was interesting as they were very mixed. Most of the other cheaper software options looked okay, but by cheaper, I mean $30 to $60. Searching Amazon, I came across something called Babbel which said "free app". They have a lot of different languages to choose from, available for PC and Android. I checked them out on the PC, since I don't have an Android, and the -first lesson- is free and, though it was fun and I liked the format, I didn't want to keep paying for the subscription.

Bry ultimately came to my rescue. He keeps up with what's new in the tech world since he works in computers. He read about a new online program called Duolingo that had recently started up and it was completely and totally free. Free forever! On the day I sat down to write this post, Duolingo posted the following video to YouTube. Talk about serendipity.

Boy, the price sure was right! There's nothing to download if you're using a PC, you just create an account and log in. They do make apps, but only for iPhone and Android right now.

***Side note: Dear Duolingo, I have a Windows phone and I'm really not feeling the love. Please make an app soon so I can take my Spanish to go. Sincerely, The Zumbamommy***

This program formats the learning as if it were a game, with skills trees. You level up, and move higher up the tree as you progress. If you don't log in to practice often enough, the skill bars decrease and you have to review what you've already learned to get them back up to full again. As a former World of Warcraft player, I know a little something about leveling and skill trees, so this sounded right up my alley. Duolingo currently offers Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. It also offers English to people whose first language is Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese. I won't get into the how-to's and make this a product review. All I will say is that I love this, it makes learning a language fun as it presents you with the materials in an intuitive way. I highly recommend it!

I mentioned a little earlier in the post that I took a semester of Spanish in high school. That was an awful class. I didn't like the teacher, actually hardly anyone did, she earned the nickname La Vaca ("the cow" in the feminine form). That's not something that I came up with, that's something I was told from people who had already taken her class! So deciding to try to learn Spanish again was a big deal for me considering how my high school teacher put me off it. I've found success with this program but I am by no means fluent. Frankly, trying to string a sentence together is still pretty hard. There are a lot of nuances to the Spanish language (as with any I'd imagine...) that I simply overlook because I'm not experience enough. I'm hoping in time, that won't be as true. What I can do fairly well at this point is read and hear; well...provided the person I'm listening to is speaking slowly enough. I've actually begun to feel confident enough in my reading to order a novel from the library that is written in Spanish. I was inspired to do that by my step-mom.

And this brings the topic around to my family and one of the key motivating factors in my desire to learn Spanish. What, you thought it was just for Zumba? It is a little, but my family is more important. My step-mom is originally from Peru, as are my half-sister and half-brother. We have our very own little modern blended family. They are native Spanish speakers and are now also English speakers from living in Canada. When they were here visiting this summer, my step-mom had a book that she was reading that was written in French. My dad, step-mom, and half-sibs all live in Québec, so knowing some French is fairly important there, especially in terms of employment. For my step-mom and half-sibs, learning French has been a real chore. French is a legally required subject from preschool through ninth grade. And when I say legally required subject, I don't mean we took French once a week as a special. I mean learning French was given the same importance as learning say, science or social studies. It was an everyday thing so I actually know quite a bit myself having grown up in Ontario. Am I fluent in French? No. You start to loose language skills when they aren't practiced. I don't know anyone in Michigan who knows French (much less Québécois French). I empathize with my family's struggle to learn French. In some ways, the language is similar to Spanish given that both languages have a foundation from Latin. What I discovered when I first started learning Spanish was that when I was asked by Duolingo to translate something from English to Spanish, my brain would reach for the French word first. I had to work, not only at remembering the Spanish I was working on, but at actively pushing the French away into the nether reaches of my brain. This is where I wish the Vulcan Mind Meld was a real thing. My step-mom and I could really help each other out that way.

Best advice: Don't let yourself believe that you "don't have a head for languages". You do. All you need is for the material to be presented to you in the way that works best for -you-. I believed for years that I'd never be able to learn Spanish thanks to La Vaca. Here are two things that Zumba has taught me these past 3.5 years: 1) I CAN dance and I do have rhythm. 2) I CAN learn Spanish in a form that fits me and with the right motivation. That's the beauty of Zumba, it is full of "I can's".

Friday, September 20, 2013

The way I organized my Zumba accessories

If there's one thing a crazy Zumba girl like me likes almost as much as Zumba clothes, it's accessories. I'm talking about the bracelets and all the little hair do-dads (clips, elastics, etc.). I have managed to collect quite a few in the last six months or so and yes, if you're counting backwards in your head the number of weeks since my bright color makeover, they do in fact coincide. Prior to that, I never bothered with hair things or wearing bracelets to class. Back then, I'd put my hair back with black elastics and call it good; very utilitarian. I've never been one for leaving my hair down for Zumba. At least not since that faux pas my first class. If you look at Zumba's online store, you'll see a lot of pictures of the Zumba models with their hair loose and flying everywhere.
Prime example!
This looks great in photos, it really does, but I know for fact that it's completely impractical. Aside from my very first class, I've left my hair down twice at home. Once, I wanted to see what it would be like...would I look like the model while I did Zumba on the Xbox in my living room? NO! The answer is no. It got it my eyes and blocked my view of the TV, it got snagged under my merengue arms, and I was constantly spitting it out of my mouth. After three songs, I paused and quickly got something to tie it back with. The second time was by accident. I got into practicing and I was so focused on the song I was working on (and on and on - hello Zog) that I really didn't notice until I was so sweaty that it was plastered to my neck and cheeks. So the point here is that if you have long hair, it's a good idea to tie it up/back in some way. And in that case, you may as well have some fun with it and tie it back with some style and flash! Forget black.

Since acquiring so many lovely bright tops (and couple pairs of bright capris), I thought I'd shop for hair ties and clips that match and/or coordinate. Walking through the aisle in the grocery store where these things are sold, everything was black or brown or burgundy or navy, or worse still - tortoiseshell! Oh my no... Great for everyday professional wear, not so great for Zumba. Where were all the bright colors and neon things? Walking a little further down the aisle I saw the little girls' section. Hrmm... Meh, so be it...and besides, why should kids have all the fun? So as the weeks went by, I kept an eye out in all the usual stores I shop in to see if the girls' hair section had anything new and gradually I accumulated. I accumulated them into a box in a drawer. Things got very jumbled up very quickly. I'd grab an outfit for class and start rifling through the box in the drawer searching for not only what matched my outfit, but for a -pair-. I was forever finding one of something and then having to dump a bunch of it out to find the other. In the last two months, I wised up and started saving the original cardboards that the hair clips and elastics came on and I'd keep them on that and put the whole thing in the drawer instead of putting them all into the box individually. That was (slightly) more organized and I was able to find (some) matching pieces.

If you caught my post on Wednesday, you'll know I recently discovered how to navigate in the ocean that is Pinterest. Well, in the course of my travels I found a great set of boards called DIYnCrafts. Approach with caution for these boards are like the Sirens. They'll lure you, the unsuspecting Pinterest sailor, in with their songs of inexpensive organization, recipes, and tips for re-purposing things. One thing I found while exploring their Pinterest page was an inexpensive way to organize scarves. You buy a package of shower curtain rings from the dollar store and then hang them on a regular clothes hanger. Loop the scarves through the rings and you're done. I have a bunch of scarves and all of them are hung on the same one hook so this idea really appealed to me and I decided I would do it.
And then it occurred to me...couldn't I do the same thing with my hair elastics? My bracelets which were sitting in my socks basket? My hair clips? That last one might be a challenge...but I knew I wanted all my Zumba stuff out of that drawer and organized. So I bought three 12-packs of shower curtain rings from the dollar store. $3 for 36 rings, yay! It turned out to be more than six rings... The bracelets and free-floating hair elastics were easy, I just put them on a ring according to set. The hair elastics that were still on their cardboards... I debated taking them off and putting them on a ring but I noticed the hole in the cardboard where it used to hang on a shelf in the store and what do you know? The ring fits right through that. So I just hung up the whole thing and -that- gave me a great idea for how to deal with all the little clips whose cardboards I'd long since thrown away. I went to the recycling bin in search of a suitable cardboard box.
Spaghetti box, perfect...and there were two of them. I needed to make some new cardboards to hold the loose clips. I opened them completely so they were flat and then cut them apart into pieces based on the number of clips divided into their sets. Of course I wasn't finished yet... Spaghetti boxes are really kind of ugly. I thought the cardboard needed a little sprucing up, so I went and dug up some bright colored wrapping paper.

I wrapped the cardboards and then I spaced my hair clips along the sides evenly. Once I had them arranged to my liking, I traced their outlines on the backside. I took them all back off again and used a one hole punch to put a hole in the cardboard that I could slide the clip through. This was to keep it from falling off the cardboard. Lastly, I punched six holes at the very top in the shape of a triangle to make a big enough opening to get the ring through. Why a triangle? I don't know, it seemed easiest I guess. I did one of these for every set and suddenly there was no more clutter. Everything was easy to see, each piece was paired with its match.
When everything was on a hanger, I could keep it in the closet on the same bar as all my Zumba clothes. That made getting ready for class on Wednesday night easy. I was able to grab accessories quickly, along with a top and pants. So that was my little DIY for the week, and note that I still have six empty rings... Whatever shall I do with them... More scarves? Probably not. More hair thingies? Possibly. More bracelets? Getting warmer.

And now for the finished product:

If you look at the picture above on the far left, there's a little photo tied to one of the fold-over elastics. That is Suzi Fevens of Nova Scotia, Canada. She is raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada and I got them by donating on her page. Congratulations on reaching your most recent goal Suzi.

Best advice: Organizing is fun when it's easy and inexpensive so go to your local dollar store and give it a try. Some of my Pinterest post was a little tongue-in-cheek, but I was serious about the "150 Dollar Store Ideas" thing. Doesn't everyone have a jumbled up drawer like mine? In the bathroom? Kitchen? Laundry room? You know you've got at least one. I already had hangers and wrapping paper siting around unused, so this whole project was $3. Before I read about the shower curtain ring idea, I was actually looking for some kind of jewelry box to keep it all in and that definitely would have cost more than $3; and it wouldn't have helped with the scarves.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The start of the fall session

A very quick little post - Today's the 18th which means Jae's fall session is starting tonight. Whoo! I'm so excited that I just had to share.

And also...
If we didn't need to stay on schedule, this would probably happen.

The Pinterest revelation (or how the light bulb turned on)

I've recently discovered Pinterest. Some of you may have noticed I added another new button that reflects this. I know Pinterest has been around for some time, so I'm really rather late in jumping on this particular bandwagon. The truth is, it took me a long time to "get it". The Pinterest community is largely comprised of women and since that's my demographic, I always felt like there was something I should know, and yet didn't; like a big secret. For me, Pinterest is the ball-change of social media, and like the ball-change I have since defeated it. Here's the story. Some time ago, I opened an account to check it out and found it completely overwhelming. But it seemed like everyone I knew (okay, really just the women...) was talking about all this great stuff they'd found on Pinterest, ideas and recipes and on and on. "Pinterest closet" or "Pinspiration", even "Pintrosity" which I presume is a bad thing. So if everyone could find these things, why couldn't I? Where was all this stuff people were raving about? I was wading through stuff I was in no way interested in. Such as, planting an herb garden or planing a trip to Thailand. Or how about what's "in" for spring weddings? I don't garden. While I do enjoy Thai food, I'm not big on overseas travel. I'm also already married so I don't need to know about trendy gowns and flowers. I just did not know how to navigate it properly. I suppose I could have read the help section except for that back then, I didn't know how to find that either. Everyone I knew who used Pinterest (again, all women) just seemed to have an instinctive knowledge already.

I'll admit, that I don't always understand things that are aimed at women as a demographic. Odd I know since that's me, but there it is. A good example is a recent car ad where there was a couple dancing around on the roads. It caught my eye because of dancing, (duh) but for the life of me, I couldn't understand why they were doing what they were doing. As it turns out, the man is supposed to represent the car (wait, what?) and he's protecting her because he keeps dancing her out of the way of obstacles (sure, why not?). And the message here is: the car safe. Even as I use this as an example, I still don't fully understand it, I'm more or less repeating what was explained to me. About the same time, another car ad came out for some other make/model where the couple in the car was touring Italy and wound up in the middle of an Indy car race because of a faulty GPS. This ad I get. The message is: the car is fast. I think the second one was directed more towards men. Most guys would like a fast car and if it's also safe then hey, bonus. Women, I think, want a safe car and don't necessarily value speed in the same way, and that much I do understand. I want a safe car too, I drive my kids around in that thing! To be clear about my first example, the message is good, the format in which it was presented is what I struggled with. And so it was with Pinterest! Trying to navigate the pins and boards and so forth felt like a lot of work and anything I was looking at was more like Pin-uninterest. So I gave up after a week and deactivated my account.

Recently I was inspired (Pinspired?) to give it another try. My friend Tay, who lives in Toronto (love you girl), posted something interesting about Starbucks to her Facebook. Starbucks eh? I like Starbucks... According to the article though, most people -don't- like what Starbucks has done with their Pinterest page and boards. Aren't all those Pinterest pages basically the same? What's to like or dislike? So I read on to find out and what I learned from reading this went way beyond Starbucks and their Pinterest problem. I began to understand what the big deal about Pinterest was in the first place. The article was originally from a site called Tailwind which, I learned from further reading, largely deals with marketing. However, they have -a lot- of posts that contain advice on how to use Pinterest in different ways. So I read a couple more of these aaannndd... Cue those mental bells and whistles. Got it. The Tailwind people know how to write a straightforward how-to, or a comprehensive list of do's and don't's. Basically, what I was reading on Tailwind was like the car ad with the couple stuck in the Indy race. I've got to figure that Tailwind probably has a lot of male readers. Sigh. Bry teases me about my thought pathways leaning a lot more towards "guy thinking" and this is just one more thing that proves his theory. But I don't mind, because what he says actually does have some basis in fact. I'll be completely honest, I'd rather watch Bruce Willis blow some stuff up, or watch Jason Statham beat down some villain (dude is the Baryshnikov of martial arts), than watch Hugh Grant go to four different weddings...and one funeral...(gag); no offense if you like that movie.

So I reactivated my account and took a good look at it using my new-found knowledge and realized that I was "following" a bunch of people I didn't know, and had no interest in. How I wound up following a gardener-lady and her herb-growing, I have no idea. So I sorted through the stuff that was useless to me and hit a bunch of "unfollow" buttons and what I was left with was friends. I have Pinterest friends? Apparently so if you connect to Pinterest with Facebook. These are people I actually care about and am interested in. So I decided to find out what they're interested in. This was a -much- better Pinterest experience for me. When you're friends with someone, it stands to reason that you'll have at least a couple of common interests, so reading their boards and pins! Looking at what they had pinned, I saw that the majority of it had come from other places and that following the pins to those places lead me to more interesting things, which lead to still more interesting things. Astounding. Aah, that's where the "interest" in Pinterest comes from... Here's where all the good stuff was hiding. This is what people had been talking about all along. Ways to organize your home using stuff from the dollar store? Heck yeah, I need that!

Bry (pulling open a kitchen drawer): Ack! What happened to this drawer?
Me: I bought little bins and organized it.
Bry: How am I supposed to find anything now?

So as long as I'm discovering this brave new world, I figured I may as well create a few boards of my own. So I started looking for specific stuff. What are the Zumbamommy's two biggest interests? Stuff about family and being a mom, and stuff about Zumba.

Bry (wandering by me as I scroll): Uh oh, she's been absorbed into Pinterest.
Me (looking up): No, I'm looking for specific things. I'm not building a board full of shoes I'd like to own.
Bry: That's because shoes aren't your thing. What if it were handbags? I'll bet you already have a board full of Zumba clothes you'd like to own.
Me: No...I don't. But that's a great idea Babe!
Bry: Oh boy...

In the process of hunting for stuff I thought would fit me and my personality, I learned that Zumba actually has an official Pinterest page. Ooh goody. There are also soooo many fun pins out there about Zumba too. For example:
I know right? How me is this? Well, maybe not quite, I do own regular clothes it's just that my Zumba wardrobe is at least the size of either my warm weather or cold weather wardrobes. Oh, and I totally made that board full of Zumbawear that I want to buy too. Frivolous of me? Maybe, but it's fun. When Pinterest wasn't fun for me, I deactivated my account. Now I'm enjoying it quite thoroughly. And isn't that what social media is really all about? Having fun with it? Otherwise, why bother?

Best advice: Follow me on Pinterest! Just kidding, but thank you if you do. For real this time: Bry jokes about me being absorbed, but that actually does happen to people. Pinterest and it's compatriots are fun but no substitute for real life activities. I'm definitely not going to (as in never ever) forgo my Zumba class in lieu of pinning up stuff about Zumba. Enjoy your online time in whatever form that takes, but, as they say, everything in moderation. Except Zumba. I'm sure whoever "they" are, they didn't mean to include Zumba.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The "upcycling" project

On Thursday, the bottles of Rit dye that I ordered from Joanne Fabrics arrived. I ordered them early last week and lucky me, they were on sale. So I bought six bottles. Hey, there's nothing wrong with some variety, especially when you find it at a sale price. You can see in the box that that there are two shades of pink. One called Rose Petal and one called Fuchsia. The Fuchsia is a very bright pink, so it's probably obvious why I bought that one.
The Rose Petal is considerably lighter but it seemed to be the color closest to those pink capris I recently bought. I thought that if I dyed one of the light grey sports bras in that color pink, I'd have something closely resembling the color of the pants that would look pretty good under that grey tank top I slashed. The others are Tangerine, Golden Yellow, and Aquamarine (of which I bought two bottles). I didn't actually dye anything yellow, the yellow was so that I could mix it with the Aquamarine. What I wanted was a neon-type green but they didn't sell that. Thankfully, Rit has a handy dandy color blending chart on their website that tells you how much of which colors need to be mixed together to achieve the desired result. Unfortunately, the green I wanted required Aquamarine and Lemon Yellow, not Golden Yellow. But Joanne's didn't have that so I took a chance on Golden Yellow with the idea that I could play with the blend a little. And that's exactly what I did! I ripped some paper towel into strips and dipped them as a sample. The first mix was too green with not enough yellow. I added a tiny bit more yellow and voila, I had a neon green I was happy with.

What's that? Enough with the art lesson? Alright, I'll get to some pictures. First off, I'm sure you all remember the horrible grey tank top (if not, look here). Well, it had a twin and here's what I did with that:
This is what the Tangerine looks like on the light grey tank top (left). The existing grey color made the Tangerine dye not as bright, but still a rich orange. I'm thinking ahead to October with this one. I also did the dark grey tank top so now all that's left in the reject pile are some browns and a black, and I think I'm going to look into whether or not I can bleach first and then dye. Here's a "before" picture for you on the right. Extremely dull. Gah, sometimes I want to go back in time and smack my past self and say, "Put that back on the shelf you fool!" Does anyone have a time machine I can borrow? I used the Fuchsia on the dark grey and after the first trip through the dye bath, here's what it looked like:
Yeah, I said -first- trip, which implies a second. You can see that it's better, but only marginally. Well darn. In pictures, it's hard to tell but there really is a pink overtone. Actually, the white tagless label inside the shirt took the dye best. Isn't that some kind of plastic or something? Whatever. All I knew is that this was going to need a second dip. This time, I used a sauteé pan instead of a sauce pan. If you don't know, the difference is that the first is wider and shallower, while the second is taller and deeper. I know that only because Bry has called them that, not because I use them to cook food. I'm the Zumbamommy not the Cookingmommy. Bry looked at me a little askance for using his good set for this project. I kind of don't blame him, but there really wasn't another option. (Sorry Babe, and thanks for being a good sport about it.) The second time I dyed this tank top I used twice the amount of dye to the same amount of water to give it an extra boost of color. I liked the way it looked while it was in the dye bath all wet. Stirring it around, I couldn't resist making a comment to Bry about how it could use some eye of newt. Heh.

So here's what it looked like after I redyed it. My Join The Party top is a really similar color. I'll figure out a way to dress this up a little, but I like it so much better than I did.

I also feel like it's wearable again. Changing the color changes my perception of this shirt. I don't look at it and go, "Ugh, what was I thinking?" anymore. Now I look at and think, "What do I have that will work with this?" Just like when I took that other light grey tank top and cut it up, it felt good to do this; like I'm making something work for me that was previously working against me.

In the other post I wrote about DIY dying, I talked about doing the rest of my sports bras. I did two more light grey bras and two out of three dark grey ones. I'm waiting for inspiration on that third one, so we'll see. I talked about the Rose Petal Pink already, so here's a picture of it for you.

You can see that the different parts of the sports bra took the dye differently. The stitching on the inside is quite a bit brighter than the outside. The original grey shows through a little, but I like the effect. Here's what happened to the other light grey sports bra... I dyed it green. This is the green that I mixed myself. I decided that the most logical thing to do was to dye the light grey sports bras in the light colors, and save the deeper, darker colors for the dark grey sports bras. On that note, here they are.
On the left is the Fuchsia. The dark grey turned it an interesting shade of maroon. At present, I don't have much that goes with this. Just my Join The Party shirt and the one I just dyed. So I think I'll just keep an I on Zumbawear and see what comes out next. On the right is the Aquamarine. It's not the neon blue as it appears on the bottle, the colored turned out as more of an indigo and I was actually pleased by this since I just got a pair of Indigo capris for my birthday; which I'm wearing in the same picture with my Join The Party shirt. So these are my results, and at the very least, they are totally unique to me. Anything unique stands out, so there you go.

But there's more to the story. You see, when I went to grab my basket of sports bras out my closet, I noticed my basket of athletic socks. Well well, what have we here? Lots and lots of white... Hrmm. Why not? Most of them were old, and while they were still holding up just fine as far as wear, they really weren't at their whitest any more. Hey, as long as I was mixing up batches of dye anyway...
From left to right: Tangerine, Fuchsia, Rose Petal, my own green concoction, and Aquamarine. Very different right? This is what the dyes look like on a white base.

Best advice: If you're going to do a dye bath in your good pots and pans, Soft Scrub is a good way to get them clean later.
Second Best advice: Wash the items you dye separately from all your other laundry for a few times before adding them in. Otherwise, you might wind up with strangely colored clothing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Zumba fog

In between Zumba classes I like to practice in my basement. We have a large rec room and Bry showed me how to disassemble the ping pong table and fold it up to make a wide open space. The ping pong table actually serves as a wall and a reminder to a certain boy to stay out of his mommy's way when dancing. Can't you just picture that ER visit?

Hypothetical conversation with ER resident doctor...
Doctor: How did your son get this large bruise on his head?
Me: He was hit by some merengue arms doctor. Can you help him?
Doctor: We'll run some tests. How did he hurt his toe?
Me: It was stepped on by some cha cha heels.
Doctor: I'll get a splint.'s a nice space (even if it is carpeted) and the truth is, most of the time I use it after the boys are in bed. I'll go down there around 8pm with the idea of working out for hour. Getting done around 9pm, I can get a shower and it's only 9:30pm. That's plenty of evening left for me and Bry to check out what's on our DVR. Somehow though, it rarely seems to work that way. The best laid plans of the Zumbamommy and all that... I call it the Zumba fog (Zog?). Have you ever driven your car through a thick fog? I have and when you can't see anything in the distance, any of the usual landmarks, it feels a little like you're just driving forever in the same place. A Zumba fog is the same. I'll go down in the basement to dance, and come back up to find that it's dark outside.

Me: What time is it?
Bry: After 10:30pm
Me: Ack! How long was I down there?
Bry: About 2.5 hours...
Me: Ack!!

Two and a half hours? Most Zumbathon events are two. When I'm stuck in the Zumba fog without the landmark of Jae or Rae calling time on the class and getting us cooled off, my practice sessions just go on...and on. There are just too many fun things to do. Or, if there's one that's giving me trouble that I want to work on, I just restart the song again and again (and again). Basically, what eventually stops me is my body going, "Hey you! Have you checked in with your calf muscles lately?". Huh, yeah...they're pretty sore now that I think about it. Guess it's time to stop and get that shower.

Does this happen every night? Definitely not. I'd probably burn myself out in under a year. In a given week, I'll go to class once, practice twice and take the other four nights off to rest. I figure having rest days in between helps balance out the Zoggy nights. I know what you're thinking, "Why doesn't she just set a timer for 60 minutes?" I've more or less given up trying to keep the time, but if there was ever a night when I needed to make sure to finish by a certain time, I would set a timer. If there ever comes a time when I decide to practice more often than I do, I would always set a timer so that I -don't- burn myself out. Sometimes though, when I'm in the Zog, it feels kind of good. Sometimes? Kind of? Okay, okay... It just feels good.

A couple nights ago, I was working on the same one song for quite some time (around 45 minutes as I later discovered), attempting to get all the little nuances down. The song finished for the umpteenth time and I went over to my laptop with the intention of hitting play one more time, but then I noticed something. My heart rate. Thumpthumpthumpthumpthump!! Okay...time to bring that down some. I did four different songs that I didn't have to think as hard about and took it nice and easy. I also drank some more water. I suppose I could have stopped there, but I felt like I would be leaving that first song "unfinished" somehow. It actually only took another 20 minutes before I felt like I had it and on that note I decided to finish off with two other songs just to cool down slowly. When it comes to things like this, I'm a like a junkyard doberman with a bone. Try to take that bone away and just see what happens.

Here's where I'd usually offer my best advice, something like: "Don't stay in a Zumba fog too long." or "Don't go into the Zog too many days in a week." You get the idea, and I suppose those are good suggestions. But here's the thing, does anyone out there even deal with this issue aside from me, the crazy Zumba-freak? Wait, I've got one! Wear a heart rate monitor.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The DIY dye job

No, not hair! I learned that lesson a long time ago. All it takes is one "walk of shame" to the salon with all your hair shoved under a hat... Anyways, onward!

I've written a couple posts lately about how I've been DIYing it with my dull-ish tank tops, trying to make them class-worthy again. With the two tank tops I've slashed up, I'd like to think I've succeeded. All of sudden though, I had a little aha moment and something became very clear. You see, Zumba makes sports bras too which are just as bright and colorful as anything else they sell. If you'd like to see an example from their new line for fall, click here. I've always wondered why they go to the trouble, when it's just going to be hidden under a tank top. Okay...yes, the girls in the pictures modeling them don't have anything on over it. I always just assumed that was so potential customers could more easily see the product. Thinking about it, there are probably people who just normally go to class dressed that way. Are any of them in the classes I've taken? That's a big negatory. So it didn't hit me until I slashed up my grey top and then put it on over a sports bra. Ding! Aha. Got it: something bright and colorful underneath shows through the slashing.

Well now, who'd like to take a shot at this multiple choice question:

What color are the sports bras in the Zumbamommy's closet?
A) Light grey
B) Medium grey
C) Dark grey
D) One or more of each of the above

Not exactly bright and colorful choices are they? But I don't want to go out and buy all new sports bras when these work just fine. That's a waste of money in my opinion; sorry Zumbawear. I've said before that I have a love/hate relationship with the online store. My sense of style loves it, my wallet doesn't. So here's one of the light grey ones. Pretty plain. Actually, the word "pretty" shouldn't be applied at all. Very plain.

So... Who out there has heard of Rit? If you have, then I think you can guess where this is going, and you'd be right. If you haven't, check it out some time. But before I started simmering sports bras on my stove, I did a little research. Can you dye a sports bra? It depends on what it's made out of. If the whole thing is spandex, then no, Rit won't adhere to the fibers. Polyester is the same way, they are man-made fibers. Some man-made fibers will take Rit dye, just not those two. On the other hand, natural fibers like cotton soak up dye like a sponge with no problems. I also found out that if the material is a blend, and that blend is -mostly- cotton with only a little nylon and/or spandex, you can do it. The color might not be as deep as it otherwise could have been, but you can do it. So I went upstairs to check and see what my sports bras are mostly made of. Of all of them in the style you see above, only one still had a label with any readable care instructions. Yeah, I've had most of these a while but they've held up just the same. One was all I needed though. 90% cotton, with some nylon and some spandex but whatever percentages those are, I couldn't read 'em. 90% cotton? Excellent...cue the Mr. Burns voice and hands...

Now I just happen to have some Rit hanging around the house. I don't remember from what. Hey, I'm weird, of course there's going to be Rit in my house. Heh. Two colors, purple and...kelly green? Wha? I didn't think I was -that- weird... Does anyone out there know why I'd need kelly green dye for anything? No? Figured I'd ask since I sure don't know! So purple it is. Reading the instructions, it says to use half a bottle (4 fluid oz) to every three gallons of water. Three gallons! Even if I were to dye every single one of these at once, I still wouldn't need three gallons. I just wanted to do one as a trial, on my stove. Time for some math. Thanks to some measurement conversions and ratios, I learned that with four cups of water, I'd need roughly 6 teaspoons of dye.

Dye mixed with water...done and done, and into the pot went the sports bra. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Five minutes in, I added 1 fluid oz of white vinegar. A tip I read on the Rit website said to add a half cup when dealing with nylon. I presume that's for the giant three gallon amount so I used what I thought was an appropriate amount for my small scale project. I suppose the vinegar makes sense. If you've ever colored Easter eggs, the little tablets give the most vibrant color when dissolved in vinegar. The Rit bottle said stir constantly, but I mostly just poked it with tongs every two minutes. After I thought it looked okay in the pot, I dumped it into the sink and started rinsing.
The instructions said rinse until there's only clear water, -then- wash the item(s) in the washing machine. Rinsing until the water runs clear takes I can't imagine how long a larger item would have taken me. I was rinsing this thing in the kitchen sink for almost 20 minutes. Blarg. When I -finally- took it into the laundry room, I put it in a bowl. I figured I didn't want drips on my floor in case there was still some purple water in that sports bra.

After It was done in the washing machine, I pulled it out and hung it up to dry. Usually I throw these in the dryer when I do a whole load of laundry, but I figured that in this case the fibers had been through enough heat for one day. And also, running the dryer for just this one thing seemed a bit much. Sooo... What does everyone think? Better than grey right? The color turned out darker than I expected. Based on what I'd read about the man-made fibers in the material repelling the dye, I thought it would be lighter. I'm very pleased with it though. The color is going to pop underneath one of my cut-up tank tops. Now, I need to buy some more colors of dye. A bottle of Rit is generally around $4. I could get five different colors of dye for the cost of a single Zumba brand sports bra...that is on sale... I told Bry about my little project and his comment was, "Why stop with the bras?" Huh? What else would I dye... Oh, the rest of those dull-ish tank tops. I'll have to consider that seriously. Maybe the brown ones can be salvaged after all.

Best advice: If you're going to attempt this too, here's a tip. Those little plastic cups that always come with bottles of allergy medication have lines up to 3 or 4 tsp. Save your good measuring spoon set! Use one of those. I have sooo many of those things hanging around in a drawer, one of the side effects of having kids with allergies.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The new button

This is just a quick little extra post, and unrelated to today's post. It's more of a "housekeeping" (blogkeeping?) issue if you will. You may have noticed today that I've added a new button down at the bottom of the right side bar. This is to make it easier for you my dear readers to follow me with your Bloglovin' accounts. Assuming you have one... If you don't have one, or maybe you don't know what that is, go to and check it out. It's designed to help you organize your many blog feeds into a single place. When you create an account, you can search for the blogs that you regularly follow and add them as "followed". So that list of bookmarks on your web browser becomes obsolete! All new postings are in one place and it keeps track of what you've read and haven't read. Bloglovin' will notify you by email (if you choose that option) when any of those in your list are updated. You can also "unfollow" a blog if you like - although I guess in that case it would be don't like. Heh. You can further organize the blogs you follow into categories or groups. These are created by you, so the title of a category or group is up to you. For example: I have grouping called Health & Wellness and all but one of the blogs I follow is in there. Tay, your blog is in a league of its own.

There are mobile apps, but I believe they are only for i-Whatevers and Android. No Windows phone yet, boo hoo...the Zumbamommy needs to use her PC. And sorry Blackberry people, nothing for you either. If you typically follow me on a mobile device, you'd probably have to view the full web version to see the button. So, if you are reading this on your phone going, "Huh? What button?" that's why.

Alright lovely people, thank you for reading my little post about Bloglovin' and I'll let you get back to your day.

The vegan diet

I've mentioned in a few posts now that our family is vegan. I get asked the same set of questions fairly often, so I thought I'd talk about these in this post. To reiterate, this means we don't eat or buy anything that used to be an animal or that came from an animal. This excludes insects though so we do use honey upon the rare occasion.

Were you always vegan?/Were you raised vegan?
No. Neither Bry nor I were raised vegan, or even vegetarian. We have been eating as vegans since October of 2009, which is almost a full four years.

Are you vegan because of your oldest son's food allergies? 
No. As a matter of fact, we had adopted the vegan diet six months prior to the allergist appointment.

How do you eat?
Very well as a matter of fact. Bry does all our cooking, something he has a natural talent for. A lot of people believe that a vegan subsists on celery and water and that's just not true. Actually, people who become vegan without prior research often will eat that way (the stereotype exists for a reason...) and then wonder why they're not satisfied and healthy. The core of our diet is: whole grains (wheat, brown rice, quinoa), vegetables, and legumes (chic peas, pinto beans, soy, etc.). Bry has lots of vegan cookbooks and plenty of tasty, healthy recipes to choose from.

Where do you buy groceries? the grocery store. Heh. We shop at a regular supermarket just like everyone else. Not everything we buy -must- be bought at specialty store. Most supermarkets these days have a huge variety of foods that accommodate all sorts of different diets. We have a Costco membership too. Actually, we buy a lot of frozen vegetables in bulk from there; very good quality. We do shop at the health food store, I make a trip there every other week to stock up on the items that the supermarket doesn't carry, because they don't carry everything unfortunately. Lastly, we buy some of our groceries online, and if we need a very specific item for a special reason, we go to the Vegan Essentials site. An example would be doughnuts. Our older son's preschool did a "doughnuts with dad" day last year and they provided the doughnuts. Buying a vegan doughnut in a shop or bakery is pretty impossible here in West Michigan so we ordered them in advance and they were mailed frozen. We kept them in the freezer until the day they were needed and then Bry pulled out a couple to warm up and frost (they came with glaze) and then took them to the preschool. Turns out, the school only bought the little doughnut holes so my guys had the biggest doughnuts. Doughnut envy...

Is it more expensive to eat that way?
It depends. If you buy a lot of pre-packaged vegan food, as in most of your meals are already prepared and frozen, yeah it is. Those are specialty items and they cost more and we usually only buy them on the rare occasion - like doughnuts with dad. To give you a comparison, if we want to buy a frozen pizza that is vegan, we can. That exists, but it's around $10 whereas a Jack's frozen pizza is less than $4. So we will typically make our own pizza which is a lot cheaper than buying a prepackaged frozen one; but no more expensive than a non-vegan family's homemade pizza. When we buy vegetables, we buy some frozen, and some fresh, and as far as fresh vegetables go, we shop for what's in season because that is almost always cheaper. For us, buying ingredients to make meals at home is not more expensive.

Do your kids eat vegan?
Yes they do. It's perfectly healthy for them to eat this way. Just as we make sure that we are getting the proper amounts of nutrients in our diet, we make sure the kids are getting what they need too. Our pediatrician knows what our diet is like and we've had discussions about accommodations that need to be made. For instance, from age one to age two, a child needs an increased amount of fat in their diet for healthy brain development. Most commonly, they get that fat from whole dairy milk. Soymilk is lower in fat than whole dairy milk, so we made sure to add peanut butter to the daily menu to account for the difference. Between age three and age four, our older son grew 4" in height when the average at that age is usually 2". Because we have such a variety of vegetables and grains in our diet, our boys are two of the least picky eaters I've seen. It helps too that the rule in our house is: Daddy is -not- a short order cook. If you don't like what's for dinner tonight, there's always breakfast the next morning. If they're hungry, they'll eat; if not, they won't and that's fine too. Both our boys take a multivitamin, just as we do. It helps make up for any deficiencies on days when they choose to eat less.

Is it healthy to eat that way?/Are you getting enough protein? and yes. People don't think of vegetables and whole grains as being protein foods but they -do- contain protein. And we eat a lot of those in our house. Legumes are also protein rich, and what's more, they contain lysine. Lysine is one of the amino acids and aside from legumes, it can only be found in animal-based foods. All of the other amino acids are easily found in a plant-based diet, lysine is the tricky one. I actually buy supplements from the health food store and take one each day. It's a habit I got into while I was pregnant with our younger son. I needed to get enough lysine for me and the baby and it was impossible to do that through foods alone when I was dealing with nausea and heartburn. Back then, I would take three daily. We do take vitamins and supplements, but most people do whether they're vegan or not.

Can you eat out?
Certainly. In the age of technology there are websites that a vegan looking to eat out can visit to see what foods are safe at which restaurants. Here where we live there are several vegan friendly restaurants. Many of them are local independent businesses and we've found these places to be very accommodating as far as providing information about their ingredients; that's important because of the food allergies too. There are a few chain restaurants though. Red Robin for example offers a vegan Boca patty as a substitute on any of the burgers on their menu. BD's Mongolian BBQ has several meatless protein choices and they will also make sure to grill your food separately. Noodles & Company has some dishes on their Asian menu that are vegan. Subway has two types of bread that are dairy free, some sauces that are vegan friendly, and a large variety of vegetables. Those are the ones that are located here in our area that we tend to frequent. Bry has to travel out of state for business on occasion and he's eaten pizza at a chain restaurant called The Mellow Mushroom. He says it's delicious, but they don't have franchises in West Michigan.

Is it just about the food?
No it is not. We do not buy leather products or wool. Certainly no fur, but then most everyone would agree on that one these days. We also have to look at products like soaps and lotions, even candles. Most bath products are no longer tested on animals, but that doesn't mean they don't use animal oils or milk as ingredients. I buy soy candles and honestly, I've found these to be cleaner burning. They also don't give Bry a headache like regular candles.

Why did you decided to become vegan?
This is always the toughest one to answer because of how the idea originated. My late mother-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor and in the course of her treatment, the doctor advised that she would see better results with a plant-based diet. Bry got some books did some research to find out why that might be. I'm not going to get into the reasons here, but if you think you want to know, go find the book The China Study. Some of the other books dealt more with the...I'll say humanitarian reasons. Again, I'm not going to get into that, but if you think you're interested, I'll recommend the book Eating Animals. Want to know why I'm letting you make the choice? It's because I'm not a "loud vegan" or an "evangelical vegan". Our family has chosen to eat a certain way, and that works for us. Other families choose to eat in other ways, whatever works for them. It's hardly my place to tell anyone how they should or shouldn't eat, that's an incredibly personal choice. I'll repeat, the foods people choose to put in their bodies is personal. To put it in baser terms, I won't "yuck their yum". I tell our older son that just because his friend's family chooses to eat meat and eggs and dairy, doesn't mean they can't still be friends; it only means our families have made different choices.

Best advice: If you are thinking about an alternative diet to the typical North American omnivorous one, research it thoroughly. Make sure you're going about it in a healthy way or you could make yourself sick.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The first days of school

For most students, Tuesday was the first day of school. For our oldest son who is starting kindergarten this fall, it was indeed his first day. Or rather, a partial day. In advance of school starting, we were sent a packet by our son's new teacher that outlined a "meet 'n greet" day. So the Tuesday after Labor Day would only be a hour and a half long for the kindergarteners. The students were divided into groups and then each group was given a time slot. The instructions were that each child should come with a parent/care-giver only. No siblings. Hrmm. As someone who has worked as a classroom teacher, I get the one-to-one ratio and I respect what the teacher wanted. As a mom with a 16.5 month old, I was a little put out. Luckily, Bry has a flexible enough schedule working from home (most days) that he could take a few hours in the morning to watch the baby. Otherwise, I'd have had to find somewhere for the little guy to go.

It was a (mostly) fun morning. There was a point where all the kids got to go in a classroom and have snack and play. While all the grownups had to go into a different classroom and watch a presentation. No snacks. To be fair, a lot of it was informative, it's just that there was an inundation of papers and paperwork. But that's a school for you, I've been on the opposite side of that. The most important thing though, is that the boy had fun. He likes the classroom and he likes the teacher very much. In this day and age of modern technology, Bry and I are in communication with the teacher via email. She sent a couple of updates this week, just to let the parents know how the day was going. It has been a good first week overall. Our son came home each afternoon full of excitement and tales of his day.

Wednesday was the first full day of school and the day he rode the bus for the first time. He was very excited to take the bus. He likes the bus a lot actually, but then he's always loved large vehicles of any kind. That's a little boy for you I suppose.
We said bye, and he got on and never once looked back. I was so proud. I've worked hard to teach him independence. I've never wanted to be the mom whose kid won't let go of her clothes on the first day of school. Mission accomplished. Now to start working on the little one.

Something new for me this school year is making lunches. Some of you may know this already, but I am a terrible cook. There are very few things I can cook with success and never an entire meal. In our house, Bry does all our meals, he cooks the family dinner every night. So lunches are a new challenge for me and even though it's only been a few days, I think it's going well. I've been preparing food the night before and freezing the whole thing. I get it out in the morning and by lunch time, everything has thawed; I don't worry about freshness that way. He actually prefers his food on the colder side so it works for everyone.

Why don't I just give the school some money so he can have their food? I looked into it and spoke directly with the school's head chef, and what I learned is that they can't meet our son's dietary needs well enough. In a previous post, I talked about our sons' food allergies. Additionally, we are a vegan family which means all our food is plant-based. The head chef told me that the school is legally required to make sure each child leaves the lunch line with what they consider to be a "protein food". So for example, a hamburger. For a vegetarian, an example would be a cheese stick or yogurt. We don't do meat, eggs, or dairy so the two options they could provide for our son would be peanut butter and vegetarian baked beans. Two choices for lunch for the whole year? That would get pretty boring pretty quickly I think, and it's not enough variety to make a healthy diet. So, legally, they do have a lunch option for our son, but we have declined. The head chef and I both agreed it was best if I just made a lunch and sent it. I have to give her credit though, she really looked hard into the foods available, and the ingredients to see what would be acceptable. I appreciated that so much. She understands food allergies and actually has a child with food allergy herself. I feel like our son is safe in her cafeteria.

What I am doing is following their lunch menu. The school provides a menu for a month at a time listing all the choices every day. So, on a day when they are offering a chicken patty on a bun, I am sending him with a Boca Chick'n patty on a bun. Looking at the whole month, I have a safe vegan option that closely matches the choice for most of the days. I also include a vegetable and a fruit pouch and a thermos of soymilk. Our boy has been very happy with the lunches so far. I sent him with a meatless hot dog on Thursday and when he came home, he asked me how I made it taste so good. So at least my efforts aren't for nothing.

Best advice: Teachers and administrators tend to "get the glory" if you can even call it glory, but the support staff does so so much to keep the wheels of education turning. The secretaries in the office who know everything, the food service providers down in the lunch room, the custodians who make sure the school is clean and functioning, the drivers on the buses who make sure our kids get to and from school safely. These people are vitally important. Everyone working at the school deserves recognition and appreciation.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The trip to the fabric store

This week has been a very busy one what with the start of school and all. Our oldest started Kindergarten this week, and our younger son's OT (occupational therapy) home visits picked up to once a week instead of every three. I had been planning to post about the first week of school, I still am but that's not what this post is going to be about. Next time. For now I've got talk about my shirts some more. Heh.

So I went to the fabric store and shopped for things to decorate the shirt I cut up. I found some really lovely pink ribbon that had little beads already attached. It came in pink and turquoise and I thought it was perfect. What was not so perfect was the fact that it was $7 a yard. Cough... "Excuse me? Oh, no thank you, I changed my mind." I got silky cord instead ($0.99 a yard) and just bought my own beads. After finding out where the bead section was, I browsed around and saw a lot of nice stuff, but it was more for designing jewelry. That's great, but maybe not for just decorating a t-shirt. Plus, none of it, to my eye, was bright enough.

Clerk: Can I help you find anything?
Me: Actually yeah. Where can I find just a bag of beads in a variety of colors?
Clerk: Like what kind of beads?
Me: Those bigger plastic ones you find at a lot of day camps.
Clerk: Pony Beads?
Me: Is that what they're called?
Clerk: Come this way, I'll show you. They're in the kids' crafts section.

Sigh, kids' crafts? Oh well. Sure enough, those fat plastic colored beads from camp are in fact called Pony Beads. It says so on the package. Who knew? Not me.

Clerk (holding out a bag): Is this what you want?
Me: That's exactly it! Do you have a bag of neon?

So that's what I got, along with another variety bag of crystal colored ones. Kids' crafts... Meh. I bought the beads with the intention of decorating the grey shirt I cut up.

But once I'd made a few sets of spangles (that's what I'm calling them), another idea started to form. I'll get to that momentarily. To make my little tie-on spangles, I took a yard of silky cord and cut it into eight even pieces. Then I tied a knot in one end, loaded it with some beads and tied a knot in the opposite end. Then I made sure I had the same amount of beads on both ends when I tied it around a piece of the shirt. The number of spots on the shirt where I wanted to tie these things just happened to be 16, so I made 16 spangles with exactly two yards of cord. They untie really easily so if I want to take them off and tie on a different set, I can redecorate. I started with pink because I wanted to match it to my new pink pants. And yeah, in the picture on the right, the shirt is upside down. Have you ever tried to put a halter top on a hanger? Hang 'em upside down, it's easier! And you're looking at what I plan to wear September 18th. In case you forgot, that's when Jae's new session starts.

Okay, so what was my other idea? Because obviously I didn't use the neon beads on the grey shirt. A couple nights ago, I had actually planned to spend the evening writing but this just sort of took me over. I imagined that the neon beads would look pretty good on black. That they might really liven up a plain black shirt. As it happens, I have just such a one in my reject pile. So I brought it downstairs, grabbed the scissors and set to work. I cut this one into a halter too. When I cut the back into strips, I cut every strip in half and then tied them back together. If you're going to do that, put the shirt on and -then- tie it so that it fits you properly and isn't too small or too big. Both would suck. On each of the fringies (I've decide that's now a word - so there) I tied three neon beads. Definitely brighter right? I wanted to make sure I was choosing colors that would look good together, so grabbed my tie-dye tank top and laid it next to me and followed the color combinations. I think it worked out well, at least as far as it looks... I have yet to field test this one. It needs a practice run before I'll wear out of the house. Again, like the grey one, it's basically tied in place. Only this time, there's the added weight of a bunch of Pony Beads. You follow me?
Uh huh. I'm sure the last thing Jae needs is for me to wear this out to class and..."have issues". In all seriousness though, if the beads fall off when I dance, that would become a safety hazard to me and the rest of the group pretty quickly so it's best to know in advance if things are going to hold. Here's a zoomed out photo. I took two because from a distance, it's hard to make out the individual fringies. Those are indeed bracelets that I made to match sitting next to the shirt. When I cut the edging off the neckline and arm holes, I saved it like all the videos said. Then I thought, hrmm, maybe there really is a purpose to all the hoarding. I sized the amount of beads to my wrist and had a lot of extra edging left. I almost cut it off but decided to leave it since it matched the fringies that way.

I guess the question now is: Am I going to do this to every shirt in the reject pile? Not every shirt. Whether I make more will depend on whether or not I can come up with enough ideas so that they don't all look the same. But I think it's safe to say that when it comes to the brown ones, I'm not even going to bother. Brown doesn't match to anything Zumba makes. Actually, I don't think they've heard of the color... Doesn't. Match. To anything! What was I even thinking?

Best advice: Don't buy brown!! I can't stress that enough here people. If you see a brown tank top, back away slowly and don't make eye contact with it. It may try and jump into your cart or basket. If it lands in there, you should just abandon that cart or basket all together and get a new one. That's probably the safest option.

Just for fun, here's a link that a good friend sent me. I shared it on my own Facebook so if you're friends with me there, you may have seen it. This is really funny, and really pretty true. I know it was true for me when I started Zumba 3.5 years ago. Enjoy!