Monday, September 29, 2008

Anti-bacterial or Anti-shmacterial?

My third week of TreeHugger training is related to the home... "Greening Up Your Act: Cleaning and Interior Décor." Probably the scariest part to me is the section on "Antibacterial Products," which starts with the sentence:

"With our society's increasing tendency toward hyper-cleanliness, we are weakening our bodies and creating virulent strains of resistant germ and bacteria."

You know what's scary about this? (Aside from the fact that we are ending up with germs we can't kill.) We already know this and we keep using the anti-bacterial stuff! I am guilty along with everybody else. My kitchen soap is anti-bacterial. We have anti-bacterial wipes for wiping down sinks and counters. Because it seems safe.

However, recent research (this decade) seems to indicate that anti-bacterial cleaners and soaps are the opposite of safe. Regular soap and water is just fine unless you have someone who is seriously ill or has low immune system in your household. Those marketers got us again, making us believe that we need the spray that will kill 99.9% of those pesky bacteria. (I guess the 0.1% are the virulent strains we've created...?)

And it's not just cleaning. I mean, you can actually buy anti-bacterial clothing for your newborn baby. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself: Baby Pink or Blue. Or how about anti-bacterial placemats? Now that's a good start to your kid's life - weaken that immune system while you can!

Needless to say, one of my goals will be to rid the house of anti-bacterial everything.

One bottle at a time...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

To Negative Split or Not to Negative Split - That is the Question

I ran my first 5K in about five years today. My goal was to cross the finish line in less than 30 minutes. I had been training to a slightly slower goal pace (10 min/mile), but I thought the adrenaline would probably help me get there.

I placed myself in the 9 min/mile section at the line up, knowing that most people don't pay attention to the signs and I didn't want to be trying to navigate strollers and walkers once the gun went off. The crowd I was surrounded by went out pretty hard. After a few minutes, I was thinking to myself, "I'm running at least a 9:30 min/mile pace. Hopefully, I will be able to keep it up."

Todd and Rebecka were on the curb cheering for me as I ran by the first water station (why they even have water stations at a 5K is beyond me, but whatever...). I slowed down so Rebecka could snap a picture:

I kept running, thinking that surely I would have passed a mile by now. Looking at the stop watch (which was Rebecka's pink cell phone), it said 11 minutes and something. Yeah, I was definitely past the one mile mark. Great - I had no idea how fast I was going. So, I continued at the same speed. It was hard. I was starting to get worried that I would not be able to achieve the negative split effect (running the second part of a race faster than the first part) and croak and pass out on the sideline before I reached the finish.

However, before I knew it, there was the (very small) sign for mile 2. I glanced at the pink phone. 17 minutes! Good Lord - I was going fast (for me). An 8:30 min/mile pace is unheard of in Tabita race history (fastest 5K was 8:36 min/mile, but that was five years and five less pounds ago). It was a relief to know that I would definitely make the 30 minute cutoff. At the same time, I wanted to finish strong and I was tired. I slowed down slightly (agaist the definitive rule of the negative split) to make sure I would make it all the way. I focused on my breathing and tried not to let it bother me that people were passing me left and right. I trudged on for a few minutes knowing that I was getting close. And sure enough, there was the finish line ahead. Running is 75% mental (in my opinion). Once I saw the goal, I forgot about being tired and started picking up the pace. I finished in 27:48 (unofficial time a la pink phone). Thrilling!

After hugs, pics, bananas, water, warm shower, and yummy lunch, I went to sit down to look at my upcoming training schedule (yep - I'm a little insane). I know I mentioned in a previous post that I would do a 10K training plan next, but I got so pumped by the race today, that I decided I would focus on some more 5K training (plus, I'll most likely be running a 5K, not a 10K). I went to and started looking for articles on 5K training. The first one was called A Fast 5K. Sounded good to me. To my surprise, it talked about recent studies showing that for moderate runners (like me), going out fast actually works better than the traditional negative split. Wow - it seems I was onto something! The next article, Race Your Best 5-K Ever, contained the same message: Negative splits or even a steady pace is not the way to race your best 5K!

Then I went back to my original 5K training plan (after all, it worked out pretty well) and noted that under "Race Day Rules," the author quotes: "It's all about negative splits." Interesting...

This is my conclusion: I'm going to use the same training plan, but adjust it for a 26:30 finish time (that would be a PR for me) and forget about the negative split.

Jingle Bell Run, here I come!

Eating Your Way Green - Results

According to my TreeHugger training program, I was supposed to accomplish the following this week:
  • Buy at least three organic vegetables or fruits
  • Research Farmer's Markets and CSAs in my community
  • Eat one or two fewer servings of meat
  • Use reusable bags for grocery shopping
  • Recycle any remaining plastic bags

So - how did I do?

  • Well, I'm definitely trying to buy as much organic (and local) produce as possible. In fact, I'm rather suspicious now to anything conventional (although I can't let go of bananas). And as much as I love "fresh" berries, I have decided that I will wait to buy berries until they are in season in my region. One thing I've decided is that starting to eat local in the fall is not a great idea, because it doesn't give you a chance to preserve the delights of the spring and summer. So I'll spend this winter learning as much as I can about local foods and eating it as much as possible and then try to become a more hardcore locavore come spring.
  • On the second goal, I have tracked down all the Farmer's Markets in the area. The most convenient location being across the street from where we live. I haven't had a chance to do the CSA research, but I'm sure I'll have lots of time this winter. Finding Outpost was a great step forward as well. I'm now a member and plan to go back today and get my produce for the week.
  • Since I don't really eat much meat anymore, this one didn't really apply to me. However, for our weekly dinner out on Friday, I twisted Todd's arm (Rebecka chose to stay at home) and took him to a totally natural, vegetarian restaurant called Cafe Manna, where the floors are made of bamboo and the menu covers wear a soft cork. I had the special (yum!) and Todd had a noodle dish with tempeh, which was adequate.
  • Hello - I've been using reusable tote bags for my groceries since we moved up here! Every now and then, I forget and feel really guilty. I was excited to find that our grocery store for the basics, Pick N Save, conveniently located within walking distance from our apartment, gives you a 5 cent credit for each reuable bag you bring when you shop. That makes me happy!
  • N/A - got rid of these a long time ago.

Of course, there is a lot more to do under the "So You Want to Do More" section:

  • Avoide purchasing two or more processed foods (bye bye Balance Bars...)
  • Bring your lunch to work (always!)
  • Read labels and find out what's local (very challenging in regular stores, but Outpost rocks when it comes to labeling local/regional foods)
  • Plant your own garden (OK, this is one I'm going to be reading up on this winter)
  • Read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (I chose Animal, Vegetable, Miracle instead)
  • Join the Slow Food movement (I'm in! And $60 poorer...)
  • Purchase extra fruit in the spring and fall and dry or can it (back to my point about starting locavorism in the spring rather than the fall)

Hmmm - I'm doing better than I thought I was...

I'm off to run a 5K!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Training Plans Totally Work

I am two days away from my first race in about 17 months. It's a 5K Race for the Cure (Milwaukee version). Thanks to a training plan, I feel totally prepared.

The beauty of training plans is that they allow you to not have to think at all about what your run should be (which is especially challenging at 5 AM in the morning). You don't have to wonder: "Should I do intervals or a tempo run or is it perhaps time for an easy run? How far should I go? How fast should I go? It's all there handed to you on a silver platter (or rather a 8.5 x 11 printout). As long as you can figure out converting meters to miles, you're good to go. An added benefit is that a good plan prevents over training, because it inserts "off days" every here and there (great time to do weights!).

The very best part is the feeling of getting stronger, more in control, and more confident. I'm such a fan of training plans that I've already picked out my next one: "Your Ultimate 10-K Plan." I don't have a 10K to run yet (and there doesn't seem to be one in the vicinity), but there is always the 2008 Jingle Bell Run.

I've always wanted to run with jingle bells tied to my shoes...

Ummmmm...... ME!!!!!!!

This is a guest post by Rebecka:
\ /
that should b easy 2 figure out!!!!!!!

heeeeeeyyy every1 its me tabitas AW-Some daughter doing a guest blog. why? i have absoLUTEley no idea!!!!!!!! if u cant read my lang. SORRRY!!!!!! you shouldve thought of that!!!! now...... y am i not using my own blog? well,..... bcause......... idk i guess im lazy!!!! weelll now i guess most of u hoo check this site out daily,,,,,,, u saw my horrible day yesterday,, yes those days do happen (sigh)....... if u had a bad day 2 well,...... :( sorry... but I had a much better day 2day, w8 of course i did its friday, duh!!!

4 those of u who dont know (which u should) i started school,,,, 4 wks ago, yup 7hrs of long droning lectures from teachers..... PURE TORTURE on mon., tues., wed., half of thurs., .....lunch and p.e on occasion when they dont make you run half miles w/o stopping... oi!!!!!

well, THATS all out of my system and i cant think of anything else 2 write about sooooooooo........ byebye and have a good weekend/life!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tabita and Rebecka's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Because I'm so exhausted from my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, this post will mostly contain bullet points of events and allows you to piece it all together using your imagination:

- Day started off great: When I turned VH1 on in the workout room ("gym" is a stretch), the latest John Legend video was on. It's my favorite.
- Half-way into my workout, one of the cleaning guys (the tall, skinny one) came in and started spraying down the equipment, as usual. However, this time, something was different. I felt the chemicals settle in my throat and turned to see what in the world he was spraying. 409. Great - that stuff will kill a jumbo roach with 1-2 sprays. Opening the windows did not help. I cut my workout short and headed back to the apartment feeling nauseous.
- Showering and grooming was uneventful. However, when I walked into the living room, ready to head out to the office, I found little Sophie chewing on the remnants of a pen I had left on the kitchen table. This is a fairly common occurrence (Sophie loves pens!), but this time there was blue ink on the carpet (a lot of blue ink). I went to get our miracle stain remover solution (really!), but I guess it doesn't work on ink. I rubbed and rubbed, but it would not come out.
- Work was fine aside from not looking forward to the evening ahead (Thursday is Cleanning Day).
- At school, Rebecka suffered from heat (no A/C at her school) and hyperventilated as she completed a science project involving circuits in 30 minutes.
- When I got home, Rebecka was in the bathtub and there was a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Let the work begin!
- Rebecka had to help with my part of the cleaning, because I was grumpy and stressed. She did a great job dusting and vacuuming.
- Thursday is also Soup and Swedish Pancake Day. When I went to get the ingredients out of the fridge, I noticed there was water all over the bottom shelf. On further investigation, it was actually Rebecka's last bottle of Propel. No Propel for Becka's lunch tomorrow.
- Rebecka had used up almost all the ReddiWip for her spa treatment (remember the bath...?), so we only ate one pancake each (it's just not the same without fake whipped cream).
- As part of the spa treatment, Rebecka had dripped her honey and cream mixture on her bath mat. So I decided to wash them (it was time anyway). Half of the mats ended up as fuzz in the washer. I spent about ten minutes picking fuzz off the mats and out of the washer. (They're currently on their second round of drying - I'm scared to see the results.)
- After dinner, we had a language arts fire drill. Rebecka had to find a realistic fiction book set in "the present" at her reading level (why did the child have to score so high on the diagnostic??). After much agony and amazoning, we decided that The Penultimate Peril (part of the A Series of Unfortunate Events collection) had to be realistic fiction.
- This led to a walk to the library (with evil, ink-stained Sophie). At this point, we were both delirious and basically laughed our way all the way over there. Sophie made lots of friends while we stood outside waiting for Becka as she retrieved the book.
- During and after the walk, things got progressively better: I proved my theory about the buttons for the cross-walks, Sophie did her business, I had some yummy yogurt, and Rebecka had a big glass of milk.
The moral of the story is this:
Bichons cannot be trusted.
Do not buy bath mats from Target.
When you think things can't get any worse, they can.
Do not store Propel bottles horizontally.
Always keep an extra bottle of ReddiWip around.
Laughter is the greatest medicine.

My Grandparents Had It Figured Out

In the spirit of my TreeHugger-in-Training theme of the week, "Eating Your Way Green," I am reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. In one of the first chapters, Kingsolver points out that over the course of a couple of generations, we have unlearned how to take advantage of locally grown food and make it last throughout the year.

I have made the same observation as I have been inhaling "Simple Living" books for the past several weeks:
My grandparents had it figured out!
Let me explain. My maternal grandparents had a huge yard and garden surrounding their quaint, yellow house in the small village of Rappestad in southern Sweden. There grew every fruit tree imaginable (at least the cold weather varieties), berries ranging from raspberries to red and black currants to gooseberries, and beds and beds of vegetables.
As a child, I got to help thin the carrots to allow the remaining carrots to grow big and strong. If we needed chives for dinner, we would just run outside with a pair of scissors (OK, don't run with scissors...) and cut a few stems. Likewise, during the summer months, lettuce always came from the garden.
Every summer and fall, we harvested the bounty: Apples, cherries, pears, berries, rhubarb, potatoes - you name it. Then the fun began as we converted these gifts into goodies which would last all year. We filled dozens of jars with fresh apple sauce (in fact, I didn't know you could buy apple sauce in the grocery store until I was in my late teens), black and red current jelly, and picked onions. Strawberries and raspberries were turned into "saft," the Swedish version of juice concentrate. We packed the freezer with blueberries, rhubarb, and strawberries to fill pies and cobblers and top our ice cream during the cold winter months (yes, we eat ice cream in the dead of winter). Nothing went to waste.
My paternal grandparents had the same concept going on, but on a slightly smaller scale. Yet, they managed to fill their root cellar with winter apples which lasted all the way until Christmas. We ate local, because it tasted good and it was available.
How sad it is that most people in my generation and definitely my daughter's generation have no idea where their food comes from. We eat it because it is available, not because it's good. Strawberries have lost their magic for me, because I can get them year around. It used to be that the best weeks of the year were when the strawberries were ripe. At least once during these golden weeks, we would go to a strawberry farm and pick, eat, and pick some more all day long.
It was magical.
The good news is that my parents still have these skills. They still freeze blueberries for the winter and they still make applesauce. I intend to start paying attention and learn from them and make sure I pass on the knowledge to my child - because she will most likely need to know when we run out of gas to haul strawberries from California so we can eat those poor, tasteless specimens whenever we want.
Why did we ever forget?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yellow Raspberries

I found organic yellow raspberries at Fresh Market today.
I'm in heaven.

It's happening...

I know this is old news, but I just received an email that made me want to post something here:

On Friday, around 75% of Nashville's gas stations ran out of the gas due to a rumor that the city was running out of gas (how ironic is that!?!?). It's obviously a preview of what we will be experiencing one day in the probably not so distant future, but the best part about it is this video.

Is that funny or what?

Monday, September 22, 2008

I found it!

The second week of my TreeHugger education is "Eating Your Way Green." I have to admit, I had already jump started this several weeks ago when I discovered there was a Farmer's Market across the street from our apartments on Saturday mornings. I have also been trying to eat more organic and less processed for a while.

However, it was not until last Sunday that I made my first trip to the local Co-op (Outpost Natural Foods). I was like a kid in a candy store. All this organic and natural stuff in one place! This trip was actually inspired by a previous visit to the Co-op in Decorah, IA (where Dr. Green resides during the weeks), where I had found real bread (not the spongy grocery store variety) and real soup. I knew there must be something like that in my neck of the woods. And sure enough!!

I strolled merrily down the aisles until I came to the dairy section. My favorite! I checked out the large variety of cheeses (reminding myself that I already had an almost untouched piece of Havarti at home), marveled at the fact that they actually had three different brands of Kefir, and then, I saw it...

Traditional European Style Yogurt
I thought to myself, "This is too good to be true...." I had been searching for something at least closely resembling Swedish yogurt since I first emigrated 13 years ago, with no luck.
I performed the first verification step: Check sugar content. Only 13 grams per serving in the Raspberry variety. Check! US yogurt typically has twice that.
"Made with live cultures." That's always good...
"From the makers of: America's Best Yogurt." OK, this is sounding really promising!
"100% grass-fed." Bingo!
I took it home. I did a taste test. It was wonderful.
I'm on my second bottle.
Going green rocks!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Culture Abounds

This week, I attended two cultural events. This is more than I typically attend in a month or even a quarter. (I'm about to change that, btw...)

On Thursday, I had the fortune to get invited to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Gala kick-off event. We had awesome seats and got to partake of Beethoven's 5th as well as the marvelous Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra by above-mentioned (pretty famous) composer. The violinist of the evening was "living-legend" (I didn't know this until I just read it on the Symphony's website) Itzhak Perlman. This man does not at all conform to the stereotypical violinist character. He is overweight, old, can barely walk (due to childhood polio), but boy can he play. So much for stereotypes. I generally get really nervous for soloists because I know how hard it is and how horrible it is to make a mistake. However, once Mr. Perlman put his chin to his violin, all nervousness on my part dissipated. This guy knew what he was doing. He played effortlessly as if he was just playing around at home in his studio (on his Soil Stradivarius). Amazing.

Today, we all went to the Hidden River Art Festival right here in the neighborhood. There were 80 artists showing off everything from paintings to jewelry to weird stone monsters (Sophie would be scared). It was a good time. I did a good job not buying jewelry. It was hard. I almost justified one purchase because it allowed Kenyan women to have a good and reliable income by making the beads for the jewelry. Maybe at the next art show in November... :)

Culture is good and required.

Testing, 1, 2, 3...

I just added an "Add to Google Reader" button to my blog (yes, I am slightly behind the times...). Anyway, I also added my blog to Facebook, so I'm trying to figure out what is going to happen when I write a new post. Let's see...

A Budding TreeHugger

For a few weeks now, I have been neglecting my passion for writing in favor of my passion for reading. I start each day with my book (and a bowl of cereal) and end the day reading in bed until I convince myself that I should turn the light out. The last three books have been a combination of simple living and living green themes (they all really go together):

I started with a book called Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle by David Wann. This book is awesome! It truly inspires you to think about what you really need. I learned all about co-housing (did you know it started in Denmark?) and the beauty of having your own organic garden.

This led to the second book, Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth by Jim Merkel. This author lives on $5,000 per year and has a homestead in Vermont where he grows a lot of his own food and stores it in a food cellar (I want a food cellar!). He shares interesting experiences with people around the world who have sustainable living figured out and are happy with what they have. Merkel also provides tools which allow you to calculate your carbon footprint, etc (yikes!).

All this made me want to learn more about how I might contribute less to the destruction of our planet, so I dove into Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living by the folks at This book breaks it down by areas of improvement (e.g. Eating, Cleaning, Traveling, etc). It is a nice, practical guide which gives you a weekly "Save the Planet in Thirty Minutes or Less" list and a more ambitious "So You Want to Do More" challenge.

The first week is called "Thinking Like a TreeHugger: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." It's so straight-forward really... Don't buy as much (this also a cornerstone of simple living), keep using what you have (mend clothes, fix your bike, etc), and when something just doesn't make sense to keep anymore, give it to someone who wants it or make sure it gets converted into something else.

So far, here is what I've done on the Thirty Minute list:
- Purchased Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles so I can stop using the disposable plastic kind.
- Recycling as much as I can (I still need to check out to figure out what to do with hazardous waste, etc).
- I'm trying to buy as little prepackaged food as possible, since this creates more waste (and is generally better for you).

I'm also working on going paperless as it relates to bills and such. Unfortunately, not all companies offer this option yet, but many do. I don't understand why they wouldn't, because email is definitely cheaper than sending out a snail mail bill, but anyway...

It's amazing how easy it is to make a big difference in consumption. And it feels good! The only remaining consumption addiction I have is buying books... I am an Amazon junkie. To round off my first week as a true TreeHugger, I should probably go check out the library across the street. Perhaps they have Your Money or Your Life, which is the next book on my list.

Next Week is "Eating Your Way Green: Food and Drink." Stay tuned!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Zero Inbox!!!

OK, so I am eight days late, but I am at this very moment at zero emails in my Inbox. I do have ten items that I am waiting on, but they are in a special folder called "Waiting" (makes sense, huh?).

This is an historical moment.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tired, but happy...

It's 8:05 PM and I'm tired. Probably because I got up at 4:30 AM. It's so awesome getting up early though... Nobody is awake yet. The workout room is empty. I can watch whatever channel I want and nobody is changing it to ESPN. I get to have breakfast three times (pre-workout, post-workout, and mid-morning snack). All before 10 AM. I'm like a hobbit.

Anyway... Now I'm going to snuggle up in bed with my new book (Radical Simplicity) and read until my head starts nodding and I can hit the pillow and be asleep within 60 seconds.

That's the way I like it.