Friday, November 27, 2009

Is it Possible to Calorie Count During the Holidays?

It's pretty easy to figure out the trend under scrutiny for this blog entry by the title, but if not, it is "Calorie Counting." A very popular trend out there in the world of staying fit, getting in shape, or shedding the pounds. Around 3,690,000 websites came up when googling "calorie count;" including sites for determining one's daily calorie intake or counting up each individual ingredient in your meals, snacks and drinks throughout the day.

Now I am by no means a skinny-minny, nor am I trying to be, but while I was training for the 1/2 Marathon it was incredibly important that I didn't try to run 7 miles on 1,000 calories or I was asking to pass out in pure embarrassment amongst the sportsbra-wearing/protien-shake toting athletes of the gym. So about 4 months ago I jumped on the bandwagon and began eating through my days by numbers. 

However, the beef I have with calories counting, no pun intended, but I like food. I enjoy eating and in fact once I am finished eating I am thinking about my next meal choice. I plan my days around what will be cooked and what meals will be spent eating out. My mouth begins salivating the moment the Food Network channel flips across the screen. And just like every other American I plan my social life around food. But if I were an avid calorie counter my numbers would put many bank deposits to shame. 

I don't know how the Kate Moss's of the world can handle their lack of food. Moss is again lighting up more than just the cameras with her most recent verbal throw-up: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." She probably doesn't care to calorie count because then that would require her to actually insert food into the dark hallows of her cavernous cheeks.

For example on a random day the Southern Style Chicken Breakfast Sandwich; 400 calories. Barbacoa Chipotle burrito bowl; 1230 calories Doritos; 250 calories Twix Bar; 560 Bottle of Dr. Pepper; 250 calories. That's 2690 calories and I haven't even had dinner which could add an additional 600 calories. 

But it is a hard battle between eating too little and eating too much. I feel like a wafe if I miss a meal and I feel like a walking lard bucket if I eat too much. So I have decided, as long as used in a healthy manner, calorie counting could be a good mathematical balance between eating enough and avoiding overeating.

I've decided to test out my eating habits on Turkey Day. Looking through multiple calorie calculators I have determined on an average day I should eat around 2200 calories to maintain my weight and around 1700 calories to lose weight. This is based on many different calculations; my age, weight, height, and activity rate. 

If this is what I should do on a daily basis I am obviously going to give myself a little breather room for Turkey day, but I thought it would be interesting to actually see how far over I am or how conscious I actually am of the food. (I am running a 4 miler the morning of to help establish a similar activity level for the rest of my daily caloric intake). 

So here goes:

The Turkey  - 450
Stuffing - 400
Mashed Potatoes - 350
Gravy - 300
Apple Pie (1 slice) - 400
Pecan Pie (1 slice) - 650
Dr. Pepper (2 cans) - 500
Broccoli Salad with Bacon - 350
Wine (2 glasses) - 600
Chocolate Covered Pretzels - 200
Chocolate Covered Bananas - 200
Rolls w/butter (2) - 600
Beer (2 bottles) - 320
Veggies and Ranch Dip - 400
That comes down to a total of ..........wait for it......wait for it.....5,720!!

In conclusion, I have decided counting calories is not very successful during the holidays. In fact, the thought that I was even going to keep track of what I was eating, threw me off a bit. It made me second guess what I was putting in my mouth and what the caloric repercussions would turn out to be. 

It looks like I probably should’ve run a marathon before the American day of food consumption and turkey comatoses.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Taking Leaf Peeping to New Heights

Walking around Boston to see the fall foliage: 

Taking a scenic drive through the hills of New England: 

Going on a hike through the woods and taking pictures: 

Stepping off a a platform, attached to a tree, zipping along suspended from a metal latch and dense wire 200 feet in the air, and checking out the fall foliage from above...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When in the Bronx...

When in the Bronx do as the Bronxzonians

I have found that New Yorkers do not like to eat at chain restaurants, in fact a sure-fire sign that you are either new to Manhattan or that you are a tourist is where you eat. As convenient, cheap and tasty as Chipotle might seem, if you take one step into that mexican fast food joint, it is like standing in a cage at a zoo under a sign that reads "NON-NEW YORKER." Instead, if you want to blend in and do as the New Yorkers, find the smallest, unassuming, hole in the wall joint for breakfast, brunch or lunch and dinner.

So, thanks to my producer and fellow camera crew, all New Yorkers I might add, we were in the Bronx for a shoot and instead of grabbing a quick Subway sandwich we decided to feast our taste buds on some local cuisine. Thanks to a Bronx native, we made our way to a tasty Puerto Rican restaurant on the corner of Jerome and Ginn Mill meticulously named for it's famed cuisine: Mofongo.

I like to try new things as much as the next person, but my bravery began slipping out the window when we walked in to find English as a second language, giant costume masks ominously protruding from the walls, life-sized mannequins snug in the corner adorned with traditional garb, and the dinning area complete with cork-board tables.

This was definitely going to be an experience and although I am no saint when it comes to eating healthy, I do have my limits especially if I am planning a 5 mile run after work. 5 miles doesn't come easy on fried fatty meats, but it looks like I was going to have to bare down and unbuckle.

The main entree if you didn't guess, is not so much the entree as the consistent side. The Puerto Ricans like to do things in backward fashion. Mofongo the main dish and protein the side dish.

The menu was like a scene from Forest Gump: Mofongo and steak, Mofongo and chicken, Mofongo and chicken chunks, Mofongo and friend chicken chunks, Mofongo and rotessire chicken. Mofongo and breaded chicken filet, Mofongo and shrimp, Mofongo and a seafood burrito, Monfongo and pork chops, Mofongo and spanish sausage, Mofongo and friend fish filet, Mofongo and crab meat, Mofongo and...

But what is Mofongo you ask?

Everything including the Kitchen Sink

"Mofongo is a popular Puerto Rican dish generally made from fried green plantains, although fried yuca or breadfruit are possible, which is mashed together with broth, garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings or bits of bacon. It is often filled with vegetables, chick, crab, shrimp, or beef and is often served with fried meat and chicken broth soup," according Wikipedia.

In other words, Mofongo is everything, the left overs, the extras, the additions from the special; Mofongo is a yellowish pile of mush in the middle of your plate.

This hybrid mash potatoes, if you will, was crunchy, mushy, and altogether interesting. But "don't forget the gravy," reminded our waitress. In other words, if you don't feel like you have clogged your arteries with something that has been fried and then fried again, don't forget to add the fatty liquids to the mix.  (I was going to have to run more than 5 miles to make a dent into this heavy intake.)

Thanks to my need to fit in and meet the New Yorker trend, I left the tiny restaurant 20lbs heavier, greasier than a garage monkey, and in a complete fried fatty comatose. I had been "Mofonoged".

I won't say I plan on adding it to my favorite food's list any time soon, however if someone believes they have a more tasty mixture of this Puerto Rican dish...I will try it. Again, when in New York avoid what you know is good for what you hope won't kill your insides.

However, if you feel you have the appetite and are so daring to attempt this exotic concoction check out the recipe for Mofongo, but remember there are several variations...

  1. Peel three to foantains under running water to make the process easier, and chop or slice them into small pieces.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan (1 ½ in.) or deep fryer to approximately 350 degrees or until crackling hot.
  3. Fry the plantain pieces for approximately four minutes. It is important that the plantains be cooked through but not hard. Keep in mind that they will be mashed to make the mofongo. Remove the plantains from the hot oil and place them on a paper towel to drain.
  4. Cook ¼ lb. of salted pork or bacon with a bit of salt in a separate pan. The point of this step is to liquefy the pork fat and crisp the meat.
  5. Add three to four minced cloves of garlic and 1 tbsp. of olive oil to the vegetable oil and pork. Saute the garlic and oil briefly to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor but not scorch the garlic or smoke up the olive oil. Overcooking garlic will make it bitter, and olive oil has a tendency to burn if left over high heat.
  6. Combine the plantains, oil, garlic and pork into a food processor or mixing bowl. Mash all of the ingredients together. Proceed carefully if using a food processor. Pulse the mixture until you reach the desired consistency because liquefied mofongo is not always appetizing.
  7. Form the mashed mixture into balls. Make the balls any size that fits your meal plans. This mofongo recipe usually feeds approximately three to four people.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dance Your Socks off; Or Watch Someone Else...

We are fascinated by other people doing things. Ever since television has taken it's turn towards reality shows, we spend so much time on the couch seeing others live the lives we are not living. Whether it be traveling with "Road Rules" or losing weight with "The Biggest Loser" or even breaking up and falling in love every season with "The Bachelor," we have decided it is not the life for us to live...but to watch.

It used to be shows with relationships and social drama that reigned over reality TV, but now we've risen a bit in our snobby expectation for at least some sort of talent aside from sex and drunken revelries. It is as if we've almost descended back through to the immaturity of our youth. We are now back to elementary school 'Talent Shows."

We all remember in 4th grade when our parents dressed us up in vibrant oversized costumes, bright red lipstick and pastel ballerina tights only to perform a 2 minutes number filled with "step-togethers" and "walk walk poses." Now the on-air talent shows that take over primetime spots today involve a few more lights and cameras...but it's still the same. You've got your off-key misfits and your 8-year old child prodigies. We love the success and misfortunes of these modern day talent shows. It is as if Ed Sullivan never died but morphs between Simon Cowell and Sharon Osborn depending on the night and network.

I will admit I am a big fan of reality shows, just as much as the next person. Occasionally, I get sucked into the superficial drama of "The Hills" or the taste bud teasing of the Food Network. And of course I can't resist "So You Think You can Dance" or to those of us who are obsessed "SYTYCD."

It is interesting in a country teeming with sporting events Americans love their dance shows. ABC's Dancing with the Stars is one of the top rated primetime reality shows attracting 22.5 million viewers for it's 2009 season opener. Following right behind is FOX's So You Think You Can Dance, and on cable; MTV's America Best Dance Crew. It would seem we are a nation of closest Freds and Gingers.

But what is the difference between DWTS and SYTYCD? Looking solely at numbers, DWTS has higher ratings and won more Emmys than SYTYCD, but the quality of performance on SYTYCD has helped it grab Best Choreography over DWTS. 

But who danced on SYTYCD this season? Last season? Two seasons ago? Unless you are an avid follower like me, the name Jeanine Mason doesn't ring a bell. But even I will admit without watching DWTS, I do know that The Republican Hammer Tom Delay had to drop out of the 2009 DWTS season based on injury, Olympic Gold-Medalist Shawn Johnson won last year, and dancer Karina Smirnoff offered lovable co-creator of Apple Steve Wozniak to walk her down the isle.  

Granted a tangoing boxer and clumsy old lady are beyond their capabilities to gracefully foxtrot across the ballroom, but the surprising stamina, creativity, flexibility and rhythm of these specialized celebs draws in the viewers with often hilarious results. We want to see Rocker Chick Kelly Osborn complete a graceful Pas de Deux or Football Player Emmit Smith get down and dirty with a hot Salsa. This juxtaposition intrigues our sensations cementing us to the edges of our seats.

SYTYCD on the other hand, maybe not as popular, is an expected success. Same formula as American Idol, but it is more humorous to watch off-key 20 something year olds make fools of themselves, rather than a wishful couch potato flopping around on stage like fish out of water. We actually want to see something impressive when toes start a taping. You won't really find yourself attached to the TV to see these guys fall on their faces. The dancers of SYTYCD will be today's Gene Kelly. They will go on to be performers. 

In other words, if you are or were a dancer or even have great appreciation for dance you will most likely find yourself in the I LOVE So You Think You Can Dance category. However, if you are the average common day layman, Dancing with the Stars gives you hope, or at least a comical attraction to the show. Even if you never put on your dancing shoes; if Steve Wozinak can keep rhythm and not make a complete fool of himself...than why can't the next guy?

Pet Owners are Squealing over Mini Piggies

(An article I wrote for ABCNews; images have been provided by Tanglewood Farm )

Miniature Pigs , Micro Pigs , Mini Piggies or Teacups, however you want to say it these itty bitties are the latest pet craze to hit Britain. These teacup sized oinkers have become competition to the already popular toy puppies. Watch out Chihuahuas and Yorkies these micro pink cuties are no longer just your county fair blue ribbon prize winners. Micro pigs have taken wanna-be pet owners by storm.

Only 3 lbs at birth, micro pigs will reach 25 to 55lbs by adult maturity similar to that of adult Pugs. Mini piglets are barely 3 inches tall and are tiny enough to be carried and fit snuggly in a tote around town, but as adults they will mature to reach between 10 and 15lbs, much like a small Beagle.  
“They make excellent pets and are easily housebroken. They are not finicky eaters, don't bark and rarely shed. Their tremendous intelligence and amiable nature are quickly making them a strong contender as America's favorite house pet,” according to Tanglewood Farm  a Miniatures Farm in Canton, GA.

With the H1N1 Virus on the spread swine are getting to get a bad name, but according to breeders a person cannot catch the H1N1 virus from pigs. In fact, these tiny friends have hair rather than fur, making them less troublesome to allergy sufferers than many dog breeds, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Only a recent trend, Miniature Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs came from Southeast Asia to the United States in the 1980s. Mini piggies can range from black to white and even some white pintos with ocean glass blue eyes.

These little bitties cost a pretty penny. Depending on breed and/ or sex the price of a Miniature Pig could range from $700 to over $1000. However popular it is in Britain, the trend hasn’t caught on just yet here in the States. Many places like New York still consider pigs as farm or exotic animals and will not legally allow residents to own one as a pet.

But don’t worry; there won’t be a run out of miniatures any times soon. Micro pigs hit sexual maturity within a couple of months after birth and produce 13 litters a year making these pint-sized Wilburs readily available.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Andrea Is....

I got to edit a video for Good Morning America, as a part of their Quick Fix segments they do for ABC News. Our very creative and expert technology correspondent did a piece on social networking. In fact both Becky Worley and Bill Weir have done a Quick Fix on social networking.

I've decided to give brief examples of the different kind of FB/Twitter status out there:

The Brag Status
Jessica is going to the Beyonce in concert tonight!

The Sarcasm Status
Sabrina is okay doc, my baby's broke: she's had 5 stinkies so far today and there's this weird white thing trying to make it's way out of gums... I think she might be defective!

The Pity Party Status
Michael is studying all night for a test that his professor sprung on him yesterday.

The Boredom Status
Beth is watching Grey's.

The My Husband Got ahold of my FB Status
Andrea is making travis sit in agony while she tries on a whole bunch of clothes... is that mean?

The TMI Status
Sarah is had too much to drink last night and can't tell the floor from the ceiling, where her clothes are, and how to gain back the 20lbs she lost last night to the porcelain throne.

The Ambiguous Status
Jake is if there were any way to make it all stop... I would.

The Clever Status
Tara is Peanut Butter Captain Crunch + some VH1 music videos=perfect getting ready for work morning.

The Weather Forecast Status
Meredith is so over weather that can cook an egg on the sidewalk and looking forward to the cold front...nothing like 80 degree weather finally!

The One Sided Conversation Status
Mark is why is that when I decided to change my status to "still at work until 10p and back up at 6a"...I actually thought that is no big deal...BIG DEAL!...What happens the day 3am call times no longer seem to be a big deal...Wait! That was last Saturday!!!!

The Political Discussion Striker Status
Micah is Happy National Coming Out day! I'm going to continue enjoying my white straight privilege today, but hope that one day VERY soon, my queer friends can fling themselves off to war or enjoy the crappy health insurance their partners' have or even [gasp] get married or divorced like me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Don't Let the Clothes Do the Talking

Oh the amazing Lisa the center...wearing the pink jacket....multi-colored pants...That is if you didn't recognize the 6 foot 5 retired center for the Los Angles Sparks. My child hood hero in the flesh!

Thanks to my internship at Good Morning America I was lucky enough to participate in the shoot with Lisa Leslie and Marysol Castro; Weekend GMA's 5 foot 2 correspondent. One of the best shoots I can say I have gone on since the start of my internship.

That being said, you can see that I am the shrimp standing next to her in the bright orange sweater trench coat. This unmistakable jacket has become a trademark for me. One Wednesday in a bit of freezing rain during this summer's randomly cold June I walked out of the apartment in shorts. Incredibly cold and shivering uncontrolably I thought I would run over to the college book store and grab a fun Boston University sweatshirt. But as soon as the price was revealed my pocketbook screamed sending me on my way. The shivering subway ride to my summer internship at PowderHouse Productions was going to have to do.

After 20 minutes on the train and still shaking like a stage phobe on opening night I ran into a fun vintage store in Davis Square, Poor Little Rich Girl. Right there on the rack was the coolest jacket in the entire world. A trench coat, but not a trench coat. It was warm, it was cute, it was unique, and it was definitely cheap. Off to the internship.

Now PowderHouse Productions fits its hip location of Davis Square. For those out there who know the hippie area of Cambridge/Somerville will understand that a post production company filled with 20something editors and production junkies fits in just right. And so did my awesome vintage apparel I recently purchased in haste. Compliments for my jacket poured in. The steal of a deal. The intricate hand sewn look. The offbeat color choice. And of course the sweater jacket material. All of a sudden I fit in with the emo/hipster/hippie atmosphere of this up and coming post production house.

Fast forward to the Lisa Leslie shoot. Fall has hit NY. It's late September and it's chilly. What a perfect time to pull out the awesome orange trench! Wait...I am no longer in Boston characterized more for it's brown granola feel and hippie/hipsters who frequent coffee shops. Nope, I am in NY, Manhattan to be exact, where high fashion finds it's home every season in Bryant Park. Where people prefer black in every area; black pants, black boots, the black of night, the black of the club, the black of the bar, and the black trench coat. My coat...not black.

But that's ok, I'm just an intern. I have time. I'm not an anchor or correspondent. I am safe to wear slightly fashionless attire, right? Well I felt ok until the cameraman came up to me and asked "Are you part of GMA?" Which I answered of course. And he responded..."Well, you don't look like you are part of the industry. You don't see coats like yours in the broadcast world."

What?! Really, my jacket was that bad? I don't look like I just crawled out of bed. I have make-up on. I am wearing nice pants, a nice shirt, nice shoes, but my jacket is different. Not the normal fashionable cut Banana Republic or J. Crew. The nice thing he said, "But it is a really neat jacket. Makes you unique. And it is still really nice even if it is different."

I think I will stick with the compliment and go from there. But I will have to say to much sadness, I took the comment personally and hit up the mall last Tuesday night looking for professional "in-style" work wear. Over $140 dollars to be exact. Should I have to do that? Spend money? Yes my jacket may not be your typical reporter news wear, but does that change my credibility? Does that mean I need to spend money during a down economy?

I've decided it doesn't, but I have become more aware of the importance of clothes whether I like it or not. When I first started temping at a construction job in Boston one of the executive assistants always came in wearing a suit. Many people don't wear full on suits anymore. Well I asked her why. She said that her boss, the Executive, was mistaken for a secretary one day while out getting coffee and decided to wear suits from then on out so that people would for sure know who she was.

But again why can't someone simply correct another person? Can't a person simply say "No I am an executive." Or "No I work for Good Morning America." Do my clothes really need to do the talking for me or can I simply exert the energy myself and tell them?

I've decided I won't dress horribly and I won't spend tons of money down at Macy's, but I will open my mouth a little more if needed.

A Shot from the Wild Wild West

So in training for the Boston ½ Marathon, I have come to realize that it is incredibly hard on many levels. The diet alone is by no means easy for a person who is commuting between Boston and New York once a week, living on the budget of loans and a part-time salary, and working often 17 hour days. The easiest thing for me to eat is the frozen pizza that cost 2 bucks at the local grocery store. And let me tell you 8 miles on a frozen pizza doesn’t exactly calculate for the of best times.

But aside from the nutrition, hydration, stretching, and just plain putting in the miles, I’ve noticed that what I wear is really paying a toll on my miles. And I don’t mean the shoes or workout attire I’ve picked for the day; that I have solved. I am talking about what I walk around in on a day to day basis.

You name it; heels, flip flops, boots, sandals, new shoes, or even old shoes. Unless my feet are in a good pair of running shoes, they won’t have it. And it’s not just my feet that are taking a beating. During a simple 1.5 mile run, my calves felt as if they were being pulled apart by two vice grips while being set on fire by a blazing campfire. Is it really possible for your calves to cramp up before you’ve even stepped on the track?

Just like any good runner in training would do, I ran (no pun intended) to the internet and begin my educated search on Google. Ignoring the widely popular but untrustworthy Wikipedia, my search came up short on the cause, but received amazing advice for getting rid of the muscle strain: icing, the typical stretch, drink lots of fluids, and eat bananas.

It wasn’t until I begin cleaning my bedroom in a bout of research distraction that I found my cause. The cause that was attributed to the painful sensation that made my pathetic 1.5 mile run, seem like a marathon. Tucked beneath a bohemian dress and hidden amongst shoes just under the bed of my so called shoe rack lay the innocent brown cowboy boots I wore for the day.

At first glance these naïve boots contribute to a multitude of cute styles adding that western touch, but a closer look reveals the sinister soul of the boot and its evil gliding line to the base of a 3 inch heel. Here in lies the culprit.

I didn’t need a physical therapist. I didn’t need a coach. I didn’t need Rachel Zoe. It dawned on me like a 14 year old Tomboy who realizes dresses will get you boys faster than the dust you kick in their face. The muscles in my calves had been activated since pretty much 7 a.m. No leg muscle is going to want to run an inch after standing in heels for 12 hours. My evening run was shot before I had even laced up my tennis shoes.

It seems my need to be fashionable took a bite out of my calves. My feet enter a war zone every time I go out. Maybe I’m bandaging up an unwounded ankle to avoid BEING wounded by the Payless plastic of my faux fashionable sandals. Or it’s the archless defying flip flops offering a mere ¼ of an inch protection from the debris enriched sidewalks of the city. A mine field to destroy the two things I need most! From hip to toe, I have named my two legs my stylists for the next week. What they don’t like I don’t wear. Even if it means throwing on a bulky pair of tennis shoes in a skirt.

No one is going to disagree with my investigative work that heels aren’t the best thing for you to wear. Any podiatrist would throw a light bulb over my head and shout “DING!” But who would’ve thought it was more than my feet that would reap the destruction of the trendy fashion mutilation we like to call footwear?

So to say the least, until Sunday my feet will find refuge in a simple pair of ballet flats. But I can definitely envision a cute pair of blue boutique pumps that would go nicely with the blue dress I’ve wanted to wear after the race…