I went to a step class. (Fitness updates!)

I did a step class on Sunday morning because I wanted to add another group fitness workout to my workout week. It had to be cardio (preferably kickboxing; definitely not Zumba),* and it had to be on Sunday morning. I combed the schedules for all of my gym’s Phoenix locations and found the Sunday morning “Step Plus Abs” at a location as near to my house as my regular gym. Yay!

Turned out that the class title on the schedule is a misnomer, as there are no Abs in “Step Plus Abs.” It’s just Step Plus. The instructor let me know at the beginning that it was “advanced” step.

I’ve taken step before, but I went to Sunday’s class assuming that I’d forgotten how to do it. I was right. The only familiar moves were “basic right” and “basic left,” so BASICALLY I remembered nothing.

The first person I saw when I walked in was a woman I recognized from Body Pump, who asked whether I’d ever done step, to which I replied, “Yeah, but it was a really long time ago.” She smiled mirthfully and said, “You’ll be fine, then.” I answered with “We’ll see!” while looking into the future and seeing myself clueless. Because when I say I did step “a really long time ago,” I’m talking about 25 years ago, as in, decades ago. 25 years ago, I was 25 years old. 25 years is long enough for me to forget how to do step.

The class was kind of fun. Weirdly enough, I worked up a decent sweat (not Body Combat-level sweat, but enough to roll down the sides of my face), but I still had a full tank of gas at the end of it. I was breathing normally. I was speaking effortlessly. I felt like I’d exerted no energy at all. How is it possible to sweat and also feel fresh and energized after a workout? I didn’t feel anything the next day, either. My muscles gave no indication that I’d moved my body in ways it’s not used to moving. I felt nothing.

It wasn’t a challenging cardio workout for me, but it was still cardio. Any cardio is better than no cardio! I kept going with step-knees and step-kicks when I got totally lost, so I did maintain continuous on-and-off-the-step movement for 50 minutes, or whatever it was.

I’ve decided that I’m going back to that Sunday morning step class because:

  • There’s no regular Sunday morning kickboxing class at any of my gym’s locations
  • Step isn’t high-impact, but it’s a sweat session nonetheless
  • It’s easier getting myself to a group fitness class than onto a treadmill
  • Step class amounts to some crazy-ass agility training

Agility training is an important component of fitness, I feel, and step class is nothing if not that. The instructor had us skittering all around the step bench and up across it every which way with intricate footwork in complicated patterns and switching directions and feet straddling the bench and turning and turning back and up the step and down the step and now do the same thing on the other side and so on and so forth. There’s choreography, and it’s fast. There’s terminology, and you have to know it. Your brain has to be fully engaged in order to keep up.

Step is sweat-inducing physical and mental agility, and totally different from what I normally do.

I’d still like to find a morning kickboxing class somewhere in the week, though! (And not on a Body Pump day!) I’ll keep looking through the group fitness schedules for my gym’s nearby locations, in case anything changes.

In lieu of a pic relevant to this post, please enjoy this ridiculous pic from the day my hair freaked out after I washed it and it ended up complimenting my t-shirt.


Basking. [18 Jan 2019]

The End.

*I’m not dissing Zumba. It’s just not something I’m interested in trying right now.




i.e. stuff I eat in a week. (Food post by request!)

People love food posts, and I’m here today to honor this popular request. And I get it. I like seeing what other people are eating, too. I don’t often post food pics on instagram, but I’m making up for it now with these pics showing the stuff I’ve eaten in the last week. It’s all vegan and gluten-free and delicious.

If you’re here for it, enjoy!

(Please to pardon the weird, yellowish overhead lighting in the dinner pics.)


Kale salad with green onion, fresh jalapeño pepper, grape tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, coarsely ground black pepper, hummus (my favorite: Trader Joe’s Mediterranean hummus); gluten-free whole grain toast; avocado


Kale salad


Brown rice spaghetti with vegan pesto and nutritional yeast; arugula salad with olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt, and coarsely ground black pepper


Spaghetti with pesto


Miso soup; brown rice, tofu with shoyu (soy sauce) and fresh grated ginger, kimchee, green salad with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and nori (seaweed)


Miso soup with plate of Asian randomness


Amy’s Rice Crust Roasted Vegetable No Cheese pizza with nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes; arugula with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and coarsely ground black pepper


Pizza buried in arugula


1-Pot Vegan Minestrone Soup: navy beans, brown rice pasta, carrots, green beans, onion, garlic, kale, zucchini, vegetable broth, canned fire-roasted tomatoes; gluten-free whole grain toast (not pictured)


Minestrone soup


Get this fabulous Minimalist Baker recipe here! I modified it slightly to our tastes by using less sugar (my preference) and no red pepper flakes (Callaghan’s preference).

Quinoa salad with brown rice, chickpeas, cucumbers, red bell peppers, red onions, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, coarsely ground black pepper; cold roasted sweet potato; kale sautéed in olive oil with fresh garlic


Quinoa-chickpea salad


Asian salad: Black Sesame Cold Noodles with Spring Veggies; fresh pan-fried teriyaki tofu; fresh green beans with shoyu and sesame seeds


Cold Asian noodles


Get this awesome Thug Kitchen recipe here! I modified it to use the veggies I had on hand. Rather than asparagus, I stirred in a “superblend” slaw of green cabbage, broccoli, kale, and carrots. Also, I made this with brown rice spaghetti rather than soba noodles.


Hummus sandwich with spinach and grape tomatoes on gluten-free whole grain toast


Hummus sandwich


Peanut butter and jelly on gluten-free whole grain toast (creamy natural peanut butter and no-sugar-added black raspberry jam)


Open-face PBJ


Chickpea “tuna” sandwich on gluten-free whole grain toast with arugula; grape tomatoes; sliced organic gala apple


Chickpea “tuna” salad sandwich


Junk version lunch! Amy’s Gluten Free Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap with Garden of Eatin’ Blue Corn Tortilla Chips and Frontera Jalapeño Cilantro Salsa with Roasted Tomato and Garlic; sliced pickled jalapeño peppers


Tofu scramble burrito



Gym mornings: Bear Naked V’nilla Almond Granola with Silk plain, unsweetened soy milk and creamy natural peanut butter


Granola with peanut butter


Non-gym mornings: Van’s Gluten Free Original Waffles with Earth Balance buttery spread; raw, unsalted mixed nuts


Gluten-free waffles with mixed nuts


Go-to snacks and desserts every day: fresh fruit; roasted and salted nuts and sunflower seeds; protein/energy bars.


Go-to snacks and desserts


There you go! I’m hungry. Oh – that Asian noodle salad is what we’re going to eat right now; I took the pic after I made it today. It’s been chilling in the refrigerator.

Happy Friday Eve, everyone!



Rant N’ Rave with the Stray Cats. (On small events.)

Ever notice how little wrenches thrown into the pattern of a 24-hour day make life interesting? I’m understanding the truth of this more these days, and that’s a good thing, as I mean “interesting” in a good way. I’m thinking small wrenches (nuisance) as opposed to giant ones (catastrophe).

Late Tuesday night last week, I got halfway into bed, all content, clean, and warm from the shower, cozy in my nightshirt and jammie pants.

A few hours later, I was not in bed. I was out on the back patio, working in our outdoor laundry room. I took a garbage bag and bagged up soiled, smelly blankets and linens. I dragged the carpet out of the room so I could remove everything else, and then I mopped, swept, and mopped a second time. I washed a wall. I wiped down shelves. I finally made it to bed three hours into Wednesday. And that was how last week Wednesday began. I shuffled through the day, because there’s a big difference between staying up late for normal reasons and staying up late due to unplanned, vigorous physical work in the middle of the night.

Parents of humans must feel something like this, I imagine. Kid throws up in the middle of the night, parent cleans up the aftermath and shuffles through the next day. Am I right?

I’m a cat parent; what happened on Tuesday night was an un-neutered stray cat availed himself of our outdoor laundry room’s cat door. When I rushed outside to confirm my suspicion, the stench slapped the confirmation onto my face the second I opened the door. Have you ever smelled un-neutered male cat spray?

This cat felt the need to make inhospitable a place where a different stray cat takes refuge. This other cat is female and spayed. She’s a black cat. This is the second time in three years I’ve been adopted by a female black cat, and I feel quite honored by this, I’ll have you know. (Some of you may remember Cita.) We call this one “Salem” after Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s black cat.

Anyway, I’m a black cat foster mom, is what I am, and my current foster baby is being bullied by this other cat. He’s long, tall, and fluffy, and he’ll be damned if another street kid finds a comfy refuge in a yard he can access. He must go in and do his duty of ruining it for her by marking “his” territory with a noxious spray. He sprayed in her bed, with everything around it winding up as collateral damage. Floor. Wall. Shelves. I don’t know how he did it, but he did. It was like he turned on his damn sprinkler system full-blast, rather than just using his hose. Or maybe that’s just how spraying works…?

[Sidenote: We’re trying to figure out how to stage a trap-neuter-release (TNR) for this cat. The challenge lies in trapping him, and not Salem or some other cat.]

I actually don’t know whether this male cat is a stray or simply someone’s roaming indoor/outdoor cat, but our little Salem is definitely a stray. She needs us.

[Second sidenote: sorry about the confusion of three similar words dotted throughout this post. I’m trying to keep “spray,” “stray,” and “spay” in separate paragraphs.]

If you’re wondering how I knew that a cat had gone into the laundry room, the answer is SURVEILLANCE. We have sensors and a camera with sound alert that also delivers images to our email inboxes. Someone goes into that laundry room, we hear it and see it.


Salem inspecting her laundry room bed two days post-incident


Speaking of cats! I’ll leave you with this picture of our Nenette, because I can. I got lucky with this one. She wasn’t as lucky. Neither was Holder the plant.


She thought she could get away with this.


All of this to say, I’ve realized that a nuisance caused by an unplanned event can keep me nimble mental health-wise, and I rather appreciate this. I wish it wasn’t at the expense of my foster kid, though.




Just a little something. (January Favorites!)

I sat down to work on my January Favorites post, then realized that I don’t have enough to form an actual list. Sudden events opened a black hole that swallowed the entire month. All good things, though! January vanished in a good way, but by the end of it, I’d noted nothing for this list. January was Big Things, not Little Things.

I can tell you that we loved the Netflix series You and Hemlock Grove. The former was unique (to us) in that we hadn’t seen a thriller series of the stalker-as-protagonist variety before. The latter is a horror series we couldn’t believe we hadn’t seen yet.




I can also tell you that we enjoyed 15 days of Grand Sumo Highlights… the first tournament of 2019.


(Grand Sumo opening ceremony)


I developed deep feelings for The Body Shop’s Vanilla Marshmallow Shower Gel (vegan and cruelty-free) and Amy’s Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap (vegan and gluten-free).


The Body Shop Vanilla Marshmallow Shower Gel


Amy’s Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap


(I have these wraps for lunch, though. Not for breakfast.)

What else? That would be it for this first Monthly Favorites post of 2019. It’s like January 2019, itself: short and sweet!

Happy Friday Eve, all.



Office tour, redux. (Plant babies!)

The title starts with “office tour,” but my main idea, I admit, is to be that person showing everyone (including innocent bystanders such as many of you) pics of my plant babies… as if everyone cares. I don’t have human kids, so you get to see my cat, tortoise, and plants, instead. Ha!

Wild exaggerations aside, the question du jour: How are my plant babies doing? I actually have been asked, so I will answer… with pics, of course. If you’ve been here a while, you may be interested in seeing the current plant situation chez moi. If you’re new, this post might be engaging for you, too, if you’ve ever wanted to peek into the office of a crazy plant lady.

I can’t say enough how much I love my plant-filled office. It pleases me greatly that the only color in here is green, and that my creative space feels fresh, clean, and alive. In the summer, my office feels cooler than any other room in the house, and I swear I can always breathe and think easier here. This space feels calm and light even when I crank up chaotic, dark, heavy music. Nenette (my child of the feline persuasion) stays in here with me most of the time, and she loves it, too.

Without further a-dew, the tour! Starting with what I see from my desk:


View from my desk


Behind me:


View from the doorway, looking to the left (corner behind my desk)


The plant stand on the right looks like it’s crooked, but it’s not. We’re looking at a trick of angle, I guess. Holder seems to love his position on that stand!

The plant on the stand beneath the shelf is Jerome, Holder’s buddy. Jerome has been struggling lately… I’m considering possibilities in helping him.


(Looking closer at the corner behind my desk)


Looking toward my closet from the corner (to the left of the window):


View from the left-hand corner in front of my desk (window wall opposite the doorway)


Barclay was my first plant in this house; I brought him home in 2014. He’s the one who started it all! Barclay has flourished, and he’s now delightfully out of control. He cascades, drapes, coils, entwines, and generally goes in any direction he pleases. He is lovely.

The mason jar on the little wall shelf on the left holds Barclay cuttings to be planted later:


(Looking closer at the wall on the other side of the window)


Looking toward my desk from the window wall, you can see eight of the 11 plants, including Flamingo (the potted tree on the right).


View from the window wall opposite the door


We get a better view of Flamingo looking diagonally across the room from the corner behind my desk where we started!


Back to the corner behind my desk: view of the whole room


And that, my friends, is it. What makes your personal space special to you?



Finding the fury. (Fitness post)

I don’t love cardio, but I need to do more of it – my fitness refrain over the last 12 months or so. Followers of my group fitness endeavors, remember when it was the opposite? When cardio was all I did, and I wanted to add strength-training? Now it’s strength-training (Body Pump) three times per week, and one cardio (Body Combat), the latter being consistently sporadic for one reason or another.

I don’t love cardio, but I do love combat sports training, which happens to be straight-up cardio when you do it as a group fitness class. I made it to Combat this week and realized why the focus there feels so different than my focus in Pump: it’s because my focus in Pump is inward. In Combat, it’s outward. It’s the same degree of focus, but projected in opposite directions.

This realization adds a dimension to my “I need to do more cardio” refrain. The balance of strength-training (Pump) and cardio (Combat) attracts me more in an energetic sense than a physical one. Eastern Philosophy 101.

My mental focus is different in Combat because in combat sports training, I’m focused on an opponent (hence the outwardness of it). This means that I have to first work myself up into a state of anger, or at least strong annoyance. That’s my pre-Combat prep: hone in on an opponent so I can direct my energy at a specific target. Sometimes, I’m mad at more than one entity or situation, and then I’m fighting multiple opponents.

Thus, my best cardio workouts are fueled by rage.

I get the most out of cardio when it’s combat-oriented and I’m fighting to the death. By the time class is over, I’m flying high on victory. I’m a finisher, and I won. It’s a post-workout euphoria that’s different than the post-workout euphoria I experience after a good Pump class; I need equal amounts of this euphoria in my life, and that’s the actual reason “I need to do more cardio.”

Everyone has a fitness epiphany in them somewhere. Find yours… find it to get your fitness journey started, or to refresh your fitness mojo. Whether you need to get off a couch or a plateau, finding what drives you to action can help.


[30 Jan. 2019, post-Combat water-guzzling]

Happy Friday Eve, everyone!



And so on. (Taking requests!)

You know how it is when you’ve been – and still are – consumed by activities related to an exciting, personal life event and you have all kinds of stories and anecdotes to share with your readers about said event but you’re not able to talk about it so you try to think of other blog offerings and you keep coming back to the thing you can’t mention and then your written thought process devolves into a run-on sentence with no punctuation?

Yeah, I know the feeling.

And so I shall regale you with… (fill in the blank).

Yes, please feel free to tell me what you’d like to see in that blank. I’m taking requests!

I do get asked for posts on specific topics now and again, and I like to at least consider them. I actually honor most of them. There’s also the occasional nudge for updates on some of the life areas about which I regularly blather… mental health; fitness; minimalism; food; writing; poetry; music; plants; non-review movie reviews; veteran-related subjects, and so on. In any case, don’t be shy. I often keep comments here private, but I do read and reply to them.

I’ve been told that selfies and pics of oneself taken by others are always appreciated, so I’ll try to post more of those. The same applies to pics of fur-babies and scale-babies, so you’ll be seeing more of the kids, too. Nenette remains as difficult to photograph as a shy cat can be, but I do get lucky every once in a while. Geronimo, on the other hand, is as easy to photograph as any tortoise. He’s a ham, anyway, that guy. You know there’ll be an exuberant Geronimo update post when he emerges from hibernation!

On that note, may this find you enjoying a good (or at least okay) start to your week.