wednesday weigh-in (1 of 26)

Weight is not the only indicator of health. I will repeat this over and over again–the amount of pounds a person carries is not the only factor in determining health. And I am not telling you what to do, what is right, or what is healthy for your circumstance. Good? Good.

Today, January 13, 2021, I weigh 222 pounds. Around this time last year, I weighed 242 pounds. Because of diet and exercise, I affected a slow loss over the first six months of quarantine in 2020, bottoming out at 209 pounds. Since August, I have slowly regained weight because my diet and exercise have changed due to good yet different circumstances.

So I reminded myself yesterday as I exercised and felt like things were hopeless that I met a major goal last year–lose twenty pounds–and that the work this year has to be intentional and ongoing. That said:

  • I have not really watched my diet. I’m grazing, and grazing on unhealthy but delicious things! I have to reign it in.
  • I have not really lost weight in January–I believe I was at 224 at the start of the year. This is probably the new status quo; if I want to lose more of this gut, I have to change my habits.
  • I am trying only to lose three or four pounds a month, which is healthy and slow. I have not decided (or really considered) what it would mean to lose more than that. But that’s not a concern–I have one or two more pounds to lose in the next seventeen days. Doable!
  • I cannot get back into the swing of regular exercise. I like to work out when it is dark in the morning–I do bodyweight exercise in the front room of our house. It needs to be dark because I do not want to be seen and there’s a good spirit at 5:30 a.m. I can’t quite explain. But I’ve only worked out twice. And I need to remedy that. Because exercise helps moderate weight loss.
  • I have drunk more water the last few weeks, getting back into the habit of perpetual hydration.

Is this interesting to anyone but me? Surely not. But I’ve promised to do these–only 25 more this year!

workout wednesday: the thousand reps

While establishing the baseline yesterday for Transformation Tuesday, I said I’d post about my go-to workout in 2020 (and probably for at least the start of 2021): The Thousand Reps. So I found this in early 2020, from darebee.com (which, if you’ve never been, is a marvelous free resource that you should use, and donate to–they are not a sponsor of this blog. Yet?) It’s a challenge to do 1,000 reps of exercises in a day, stacking six exercises however one wishes to do so.

I made two changes over the seven months I’ve been doing this–instead of jump-in planks, I do knee-to-elbows; instead of hop-heel clicks, I do high knees. These changes came over time–I work out on a concrete porch, my knees couldn’t take the hop-heel jumping (and yes, I could have just changed my form!)–but here’s a sample of numbers from workouts.

Please note I’ve kept track of these only since June, when I began this kind of exercise in earnest. (In 2020, I worked toward The Thousand Reps 74 times, reaching the goal three times.)

June 16Sept. 17Dec. 16
push-ups4880125
sit-ups4880125
jumping jacks96200250
squats48120250
high knees (hop heels)(48)80125
elbows-to-knees (plank jump ins)(48)80125
TOTAL3366401,000
four sets, four sets and five sets, respectively

The intention behind the design of The Thousand Reps may have been to do numerous workouts in a day, but I don’t have the time for that. I do 1,000 in less than thirty minutes, with adequate rest between sets. It only took me six months to figure it out–and I more or less took October off.

For the mathematically uninclined, The Thousand Reps is done in five sets of 25 push-ups, sit-ups, high knees and elbow-to-knees, and then fifty squats and fifty jumping jacks. When this becomes easy, I will add a sixth set, or increase the number of reps per set. But right now, in January 2021, I’m happy to aim for 16 bodyweight exercise sessions, and eight The Thousand Reps workouts.

I joked with B. the day I hit one thousand, “Now I don’t have to work out anymore.” It’s sometimes hard to stay motivated, after six months of working toward it. And there were so many plans–I’ll get to 750 by September, and 850 by October–and it took one day to just snap and insist on doing one more set. And here we are.

You can do this too. Start with what you can do, and then do a little more every day. It is possible–I’m living, walking, talking proof–and then you get to say things like, “Oh, I do 125 sit-ups each workout,” and feel smug as you grate cheese on your abs.*

What’s your go-to workout? Do you use equipment at home? What’s that like?

*actual results will vary; I probably have abs, but I also love cheese.

transformation tuesday #1

This is the first in a series of thirteen posts on bodywork, the primarily physical aspect of Project 1827. As this is Day Five of 2021, I guess this serves as a baseline more than anything else.

  • I weigh 222.6 pounds as of this morning. I am weighing in every day, as I need the reminder that it’s not always a downward trend, no matter what is done well or not well in the course of a day. I’m not going to stress about it.
  • I have hit The Thousand Reps a few times working out, prior to 2021. I have taken on the challenge of alternating routines when doing bodyweight. I have not worked out one time in 2021, so far.
  • I am terrible with cardio. It’s cold out! There’s snow on the ground! It’s early and I don’t want to turn off the alarm. If only making excuses increased circulation!
  • It’s going to be a hoot starting Couch to 5K at the end of this month.
  • My biggest problems, when it comes to diet and exercise, are grazing and justification. I had to toss out the candy we had all over the house for the holidays. I’m no longer allowing myself to say “It’s just —–” or “it’s only a little ——” not because people shouldn’t enjoy themselves, or that stupid “it doesn’t taste as good as skinny feels,” (which is a horrid phrase), but because I’m really good at taking a mile if I give myself an inch. If I could stick to inches, I’d take inches.

It is a matter of taking one day at a time, and preferably, the day I’m actually living in, rather than the one before me, or God forbid, the one I’ve already done.

How about you, dear reader? How do you work out? What do you do that you enjoy? That you hate? What goals have you hit before, and where are you seeing transformation in your life?

Oh, come back tomorrow–I’ll post about The Thousand Reps for Workout Wednesday. (I will also commit to doing The Thousand Reps tomorrow, an Epiphany of sorts.)

new year’s dinner

I like black eyed peas, and we eat them year round at Brightsong. (Brightsong is the name of our house. I guess I should explain that somewhere.) We did our part last year for good luck as we had black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, and we did our part again yesterday. There were complications.

I’ll be detailing three recipes in this blog post, with any alterations, substitutions or omissions noted: Hoppin’ John, from Mike Holtquist; Southern Collard Greens from Jocelyn at GrandBaby Cakes; and because I’m always looking for that cornbread recipe, this time I tried Alex Guarnaschelli’s. I did not take pictures of the cornbread process, as there were complications.

…before the cook…

The morning of, after watching it snow for a bit, I soaked one pound (a bag!) of dry black eyed peas in six cups of water. (I didn’t measure the water. I just put a couple inches above the peas, and set it aside.) B. was kind enough to chop up a bunch of leftover ham from Christmas, and to slice off and set aside a lot of ham fat, which I used twice in this preparation.

the greens.

I know, weird to start with pictures of everything but.

The first thing to develop is the potlikker–the broth or brine or jus or whatever you wish to call it that the greens are going to steep in as they braise. I took some of the ham, threw it in a pot, covered it with water, and got it boiling. I’m going to attempt a before-and-after sliding image thing, below? I hope it works:

So I didn’t line these shots up, but I think you can see what’s happened.

Now: I started in my smaller stock pot. That was a mistake. I had to transfer stuff into the big one, and I scraped the smaller pot because I wanted everything in the new batch. I also over-reduced in the beginning. This would not continue to be a problem.

While the ham was doing its thing, I destemmed, chopped and washed all the greens. Four bunches, which yielded this much:

Greens! Greens! Nothing but greens!

I threw the greens in with the ham stock, the dry spices, the Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar, and I topped it off with water. I thought as I kept filling, “Goodness, this is more than what the recipe calls for.”

Tamp down your greens, everyone. Shove those suckers down in there, or they’ll never reduce. Lesson learned! Also, the recipe and technique Jocelyn provides is amazing, and I’m always one for spicy food, but a teaspoon of crushed red pepper is a lot. I reduced the amount, and it’s still a lot. I have a theory as to why it was so overpowering in this batch.

As I brought that up to a boil, I cooked down the onions. That wasn’t in the recipe, but I prefer not to put raw white onion into stocks, stews and braises. So I rendered out some ham fat, and got those onions going for a few minutes.

So gross looking. So delicious.

I finally tipped it all into the bigger pot, brought it to what I thought was a good temperature, and left it to do its thing. Then!

the hoppin’ john!

So I want to say from the get-go, the Hoppin’ John was very good. I also want to say that I didn’t think when I pulled a recipe from a website called Chili Pepper Madness about the heat levels, and I didn’t even blink when making a version of his Cajun spice blend, where he talks about how his personal secret ingredient is ghost chili peppers that he grows himself. Mike Holtquist, I want to be your friend. If that’s not possible, I certainly don’t want to be your enemy.

Here’s all the ducks in a row:

Please ignore the onion hiding behind the jarred garlic.

An aside: I learned to cook, in part, from a friend of mine who was severely Cajun. He once told me “if it don’t start with onions in fat, it’s not worth your time, honey.” I hadn’t realized how much he’d influenced my love and knowledge of cooking until I discovered mirepoix–the French base of onions, celery and carrots–and I was so offended. The Holy Trinity is better–and not just because I was raised Presbyterian-adjacent. Please also notice the fourth person of the Trinity: jalapeƱo peppers.

Oh, also notice the spice rub, because that’s going to come back in a big way later!

Re-rendered ham fat with onion remnants

So I re-rendered the ham fat in the onion remnants, the fond? if that word’s appropriate here, and then browned the sausage and more ham.

I followed instructions after that–sauteed the Four-Ingredient Trinity, added the garlic and meat, then broth and black-eyed peas and the spice rub.

So I never remember if it’s three or four teaspoons make a tablespoon. It’s three. I reduced Mike Holtquist’s Cajun Spice Blend recipe to eight teaspoons, thinking it was two tablespoons. It was two and two thirds. I threw it all in the pot, brought it to a boil, and put it on a simmer.

Bringing it to a boil.

And then I waited. I found my copy of The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, which is a great read in my favorite genre–food history. I’ll write a review of it soon. You can order it here. And then I checked on things.

Y’all. It was so hot. Overwhelmingly spicy. All of it but the cornbread.

lessons learned and meals served.

B. is my shining knight when my cooking collapses under the weight of my hubris. “Throw it out! We’ll have pizza! I’m never doing this again!,” I cried, running to the fainting couch I insisted we install in the kitchen. (I am exaggerating, but not as much as I wish I was.)

  • We added butter to the Hoppin’ John, and that mellowed it out; serving it over rice, the heat was still more than what I wanted, but I found it tolerable. And the overall stew was delicious.
  • The greens didn’t reduce because I did not put them at a rolling boil. So there was so much potlikker, with these really tender greens drowned in it. So we threw it on the biggest burner, cranked it to high, and got it reducing quickly; B. mellowed out the over-hot potlikker by adding soy sauce and the smallest amount of sugar. It was saved!

I know the greens were a hit because The Kid, who has told me every time I make any dish from the dark, leafy green family that she hates collard greens, ate the entire bowl. I forgot to take more pictures towards the end of the process–but here’s a couple from the meal.

They bite back! (I will take better plating pictures moving forward.)
I couldn’t wait on the cornbread, which was lovely–thank you, ICAG.

So do you do black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day? Do you eat as many as your years? Do you despise the tradition? What’s your go-to to kick off a new period of time? Leave me a comment, let me know!