I did one of Funk Roberts’ MMA workouts. (Garage gym workout!)

I thought I’d do something different in the garage this week and do one of Funk Roberts’ workouts.

Funk Roberts is a Canadian MMA Conditioning Coach and Certified Personal and Metabolic Trainer who creates and posts workouts on his YouTube channel. I’ve been a subscriber for a couple of years, at least, but I’ve never done one of his workouts. I don’t watch all of his videos… mostly just those that don’t involve gym equipment that I don’t have.

As an MMA conditioning coach, Funk Roberts creates his workouts to get you into fighting condition. I love his tagline: “Get It Done!” I find this to be motivating. I need to get it done. At the moment, I’m nowhere near fighting condition. I think I’m in better-than-average condition, and that’s great, but there’s a ton of room for improvement. Getting back into fighting condition is my main fitness goal these days.

When Funk Roberts posted his recent Ultimate Full Body HIIT Workout (“full body metabolic workout”) video, I thought, that’s one I can do here at home! I knew I had to try it.

I did the workout on Sunday. By the end of the following day (yesterday), it hurt to stand up straight. I went to BodyPump this morning feeling wary of the ab track and anything involving the glutes. My glutes were fine for BodyPump, but my core wanted none of it. I actually stopped in the middle of the crunches at the end and flipped over into plank, instead, because it was less sore that way.

I’ll post some screenshots of me attempting the workout, but take a look at his video, too, so you can see what I was attempting! I appreciate that Funk Roberts keeps his workout videos short. He gets to the point with no filler content and lays out the workouts with clear instruction.

Without further ado:

 

 

Here are stills of me attempting the workout, in order. I went light on the weights because I didn’t know what to expect. In some cases, I didn’t know what I was doing, at all.

1). Dumbbell Burpee Snatches.

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (1)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (2)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (3)

 

This one wasn’t difficult for me, but I felt awkward because I’d never done snatches before, and I wasn’t sure I was doing them correctly. I’ll increase my weights when I can perform the technique more smoothly. The weight I used here (8 lbs) was not challenging.

 

2). Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise.

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (side)

 

I actually felt this one destroying my abs as I was doing it. I used 5 lb weights, and while they were light for the shoulder-work, itself, the fact that you’re stabilizing yourself with your body set up like a lopsided tripod makes it a killer core workout.

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (front)

 

3). Side to Side Rotational Lunges.

 

Side to Side Rotational Lunges

 

Otherwise known as absolute hell (for me) and not something I’m doing again without shoes. Yes, please laugh. I am! Seriously, though, I felt all kinds of clumsy and wrong doing these plyo twisting side-to-side lunges. I always feel like my lunge form is wrong, anyway. I’m always working on it. This is a great core workout (obliques, especially)!

 

4). Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls.

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (pronated)

 

I’d never heard the term “Zottman curls” before. As Funk Roberts says in the video, they’re done with a pronated grip (palms down). I’m assuming that this works the forearms. The 10 lb dumbbells I used felt appropriate given the speed component.

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (hammer)

 

5). Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs.

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (start)

 

I loved this one! This was one of my two favorite exercises in this workout. I used the 10 lb dumbbells this first time, and they weren’t challenging. Next time, I’ll increase the weights to 12.5 lbs, at least.

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (press)

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (pull-over)

 

6). Predator Hops.

 

Predator Hops

 

This was my other favorite exercise. The technique is fairly easy, so I could go faster and get more out of it. This whole workout is supposed to be done for speed, and I probably only achieved that in half of the exercises. This was one of them.

 

7). Ab Walk-Outs.

 

Ab Walk-Outs (mid)

 

Ab Walk-Outs (extended)

 

I didn’t feel that I was getting anything out of this one. It wasn’t difficult. This says to me that I wasn’t doing it correctly. I’ll study Funk Roberts’ example again to prepare for the next time!

 

8). Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings.

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (bottom)

 

This one also felt too easy, and in this case, I know it’s because the kettlebell we have is way too light. 8 lbs isn’t enough. I’ll go back to Ross and get one or two heavier ones for next time.

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (top)

 

As a whole, this workout was hard. I couldn’t go as quickly as I wanted to go, and in some cases, I barely finished the third round. Here’s a walking-back pic, because a picture speaks a thousand words:

 

Dying.

 

This isn’t even at the end of the workout. This is me hauling myself off the floor and lurching toward the timer somewhere in the middle.

Based on this experience, my impression of Funk Roberts’ workouts is that they’re hardcore and well-designed. I’m definitely coming back for more! I can also incorporate some of his techniques into my standard garage gym workouts, alternating rounds of his exercises with bag-work.

I’m loving the Les Mills On Demand, but it’s always good to changes things up in your fitness routine.

 

Looks like it’s officially off-season in the garage.

Here’s that (promised) status update on the garage gym: it’s not happening this summer. A/C installation, I mean.

We’ve had A/C and insulation professionals come to evaluate the situation, and after looking at their estimates – the total cost of the cooling project – we decided to hold off on it this year. We figured we’ve put enough into the house in 2017, and we still have some costly, out-of-the-ordinary agenda items on the books for the summer. For one thing, we’re going to be chasing that eclipse in August, a pursuit that will take us out of state. Surely some moola will be involved there.

So that’s that! It’s fine, of course. Talk about a first-world problem. We have a roof over our heads and A/C in the house. We don’t take that for granted here in the Valley, where it’s already been so hot that numerous flights had to be canceled this week. We live 10 minutes away (if that) from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, pretty much under the flight path, and it was eerily quiet for a day or two. It was like someone shut off the volume switch in the sky.

There may be a garage gym post yet, though, before October! Certain types of workouts will be safely doable in there if done very early in the morning, workouts that don’t involve much movement. Knuckle-conditioning… I could document a Part 2 of that. Stretching, maybe. We shouldn’t do more than that, even if early. After all, one wall in there is the metal garage door, which transforms the garage into an oven.

Happy Friday, All!

Fight or flight? How about both. (Garage Gym workout!)

On Sunday night, Callaghan commented that it’d been a while since I’d posted a garage gym workout. I checked my planner (in which I track pretty much everything I do). Indeed, it’d been two months since I last documented a garage gym workout.

I did this plyometrics-based martial arts workout in my garage yesterday morning, before it got hot. I did it early, so of course, 10 hours later, the after-effects were setting in; I opted to let my body rest instead of putting it through my normal Monday night kickboxing class at the gym. Not great planning on my part, but I had no regrets!

This morning, I’m mostly feeling the workout in my core, especially in my obliques (side torso part of the core). I feel my legs secondarily. This makes sense, considering my current level of fitness and the techniques I practiced. And it’s good. Something better be sore after a 1.5 hour workout!

As per usual, I didn’t record all the segments of the workout. My warm-up included jump-roping, alternating between regular skips and double-time high knees. I also did some dynamic stretches across the floor (walking knee raises and front stretch kicks). For the main workout, I stuck with basic techniques… nothing fancy (i.e. no spinning moves).

I’ll say it again: I value these recordings because they show me where my form is off. In this workout, I found more need for improvement than usual. For what it’s worth, though, I’m here with the customary pics for those of you who enjoy these peeks into our home workouts! The pics come with my usual disclaimer: I’m not a trainer, and I don’t post the pics with the idea that they demonstrate perfection. They most certainly do not.

Callaghan’s been working out in the garage, too, by the way. Maybe one day he’ll let me post pics of his workouts!

Getting right into it, then…

1). Jump tucks.

 

Jump tucks

 

Since the theme of this workout was plyometrics, aka jumping, I went through some moves like this one.

Jump tucks are done from a stationary position. You squat and jump straight up while tucking your knees and feet up to your body at the top of the jump.

 

2). I have no idea what this move is called. It’s a good core/plyo exercise where you sit back on your knees and then spring up to your feet without using your hands for support. This is not easy, and I definitely need to keep at them.

 

Floor to feet jumps

 

3). Flying knee strike.

 

technique: flying knee

 

I had nothing to actually strike here, so I practiced the technique on an imaginary target.

 

4). Flying punch (“superman punch”).

 

technique: flying punch (“superman”)

 

5). Flying down elbow strike.

 

technique: flying down elbow

 

In case it’s hard to see: it’s my left elbow striking the dummy. My right arm is chambered back for a follow-up, but I’m not sure that this is practical in terms of preparing for a counter-strike. It’s probably not. This is something to keep in mind for next time.

 

6). Jumping front snap kick.

 

technique: jumping front snap kick (land)

 

With this kick and the next, the biggest problem I see is… everything! No, really, I’d have to say that I need to work on gauging my distance, first and foremost. Since I needed the bag to be in the camera frame, I had limited space for running to gain momentum, a fact that in itself provides a valuable training opportunity: in a real-life situation, you can’t control the parameters of your environment. Granted, in real life, I wouldn’t execute this move with limited space. That being said, being able to adjust and control distance is yet a skill I’m working to hone.

 

7). Jumping side kick.

 

technique: jumping side kick

 

Now in this pic, my problem with distance is very clear!

 

8). Post work-out selfie.

 

flying techniques practice DONE

 

A few times in this series of posts, I also posted what I ate following the workouts, and of course there were the silly “walking back” pics. I’m leaving it at this for now.

And that was that! The workout didn’t seem as long as it was… I wasn’t overly affected by the increasing heat of the morning. I kept well-hydrated throughout (always important to do, regardless), and I had the garage door and the back door open for whatever cross-breeze could be had. We’re still researching A/C options for the garage!

The end.

SHAKA beach workout in Hawaii! Capoeira-inspired! (But still a garage gym post.)

[Edited To Add: Pidgin English ahead! The pidgin words and phrases are in italics!]

It’s Friday! Howzit?!

Essential elements in Sunday’s beach workout: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a partner-in-crime with a willingness to take pics, and a nephew whose photobomb game is hilariously ON. You’ll see da pictures!

Knowing that I was going to miss three workouts while in Hawaii, I intended to slip one in somewhere. When there’s a beach in front of your rented condo, no can work out anywhere else, yeah? I mean, why would you?

Neither could I help but keep it light. No to da max this time. I was on a beach in one of my favorite childhood places, on the Pacific, my favorite large body of salt water. My workout wasn’t hardcore by any means, but whatevahs. “The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do” – !

Was good fun!

There was no plan other than fo’ do da kine. A little shadow-boxing. I jumped in and went with the flow, and the flow swerved in the direction of capoeira, because, I guess, the setting invited it. You play capoeira… it’s a game, not a fight. Energetically speaking, capoeira makes more sense on the beach than anywhere, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t train in capoeira for very long, but I loved it and still love it. I practice the techniques here and there. Why no do it more often? I should do it more often!

Anyway, enough talking story. Here are just a few pics from my mostly capoeira-inspired beach workout. You’ll notice that I mixed it up with a little Muay Thai:

 

Warming up: squats

Warming up: squats

 

Warming up: lunges

Warming up: lunges

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Burpees

Burpees

 

Sprawl (from burpee)

Sprawl (from burpee)

 

Kick-throughs

Kick-throughs

 

Hanging loose with my nephew!

Hanging loose with my nephew!

 

Front kick chamber

Front kick chamber

 

Bencao (push kick)

Bencao (push kick)

 

Roundhouse chamber

Roundhouse chamber

 

Ginga

Ginga

 

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

 

We had other pics that showed better execution of this esquiva, but I chose this one because HELLO, epic photobomb. (Click to enlarge!)

 

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

 

Spinning back elbow

Spinning back elbow

 

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

 

Push-ups

Push-ups

 

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

 

AH hahaha!! I seriously love my nephew.

 

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

 

(Cringing at my form here… I should be lower, closer to the ground for this one, yeah? Gah.)

 

Resting

Resting

 

I finished the workout with a dive into the water and a 10 minute swim for a little more cardio – I like frog stroke – then floated for a minute to rest. Or, I tried to float. I don’t float well. (I sink.) Regardless, it felt fantastic! Callaghan said he likes this pic because I look like an otter. I suppose this is a compliment of some sort.

 

"Walking off" - ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

“Walking off” – ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

 

All pau! Mahalo for reading.

Muay Thai. (Garage Gym post!)

On Wednesday – at the very last minute – I missed the gym. I made up for it yesterday, though, in the garage, because the heat has now dropped to manageable temperatures. At 95 degrees, it was cool enough to get in a solid workout without creating a heat injury situation for myself, as almost happened last time! I did the workout in the middle of the day, too… had I done it in the morning, it would’ve been quite pleasant.

It’s been a while since I’ve trained Muay Thai, and I was really feeling it, so that’s what I did. I focused on just a few techniques, which I mostly practiced in shadow-boxing. I did work the bag a little with some kicks, punches, and spinning elbows, but not much.

So here we’ve got a whole slew of pics, because I thought I’d include some of my warm-up and stretching. Also, I included what I inhaled ate afterward. I went into the garage when I would usually be eating lunch, so I was famished!

I started with a light warm-up of jogging around the mat, then side-skipping each direction to warm up laterally. I threw hook punches while side-skipping.

 

Warming up (side-skipping)

Warming up (side-skipping)

 

Some agility work in with the warm-up… this is also a lateral exercise, alternately crossing one foot in front and behind the other while moving around the ring.

 

Agility drill

Agility drill

 

From the ground up, I warmed up my major joints in circular movements. Hip rotations are my favorite to do before any combat sport workout; the exercise loosens you up at the core, which helps loosen the whole body.

 

Hip rotations

Hip rotations

 

Next, I did a little stretching, as in, I probably only spent three minutes on it. This is not advisable… stretching is important. I’d usually spend a good 15 minutes stretching, minimum. My entire workout was only 40 minutes long, though, and only 30 of it was actual technique practice… in cooler weather, I’d do a longer workout.

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Then I got started. I spent a minute just moving around in Muay Thai stance so I could get comfortable in the feel of it again – it really has been a while! – before starting on the techniques I wanted to practice.

 

(Muay) Thai stance

(Muay) Thai stance

 

Muay Thai stance is not the same as boxing stance. The difference starts with your hips… your hips face forward in Muay Thai (toward your opponent). You stand taller, keep your guard up higher (and it’s an open hand guard), keep your elbows out a little bit, rather than holding them in tight… and rather than standing rooted, you’re constantly moving your feet, shifting your weight (kind of like walking in place) so you can react quickly with leg techniques. You have to be able to easily lift and maneuver your front leg, especially, to check (lift your leg to guard against) low roundhouse kicks!

The techniques I worked included striking defense, like slipping…

 

Slip to the right

Slip to the right

 

…pulling back…

 

Pull back

Pull back

 

…slipping to the other side…

 

Slip to the left

Slip to the left

 

(already pretty warm at this point)

 

Changing angles

Changing angles

 

Working the teep (front push kick), which can be used in offense or defense…

 

Teep (front push kick)

Teep (front push kick)

 

Some elbow strikes… a lot of elbow strikes, actually.

This one’s the downward chop, a brutal way to get hit (this will cut you). Chambering my right elbow…

 

Downward elbow chop (set-up)

Downward elbow chop (set-up)

 

…and smashing it down.

 

Downward elbow chop

Downward elbow chop

 

Working the low roundhouse defense… this is the leg check. Also, my right hand is up in helmet guard, while my left arm guards in front with palm facing out. With your palm facing out, you can catch and grab kicks.

 

Checking (roundhouse defense)

Checking (roundhouse defense)

 

Jumping in with a flying downward elbow…

 

Flying downward elbow

Flying downward elbow

 

Not sure what was going on here; probably chambering a teep…

 

Teep chamber - ?

Teep chamber – ?

 

Front knee strike…

 

Knee strike

Knee strike

 

(working around to the back)

 

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

 

I just threw a few kicks and strikes on the bag. This is a cross punch…

 

Cross (punch)

Cross (punch)

 

Then down to the MMA dummy for some ground and pound. I also worked elbows on that bag.

 

Ground and pound

Ground and pound

 

Here I was resting, but also taking the opportunity to work my knuckles and forearms a little bit…

 

Resting

Resting

 

That was enough! Getting up to walk back.

 

Walking back (hey, I was wiped out)

Walking back (hey, I was wiped out)

 

I have to say it again: I’m so grateful to have this gym at home. It accommodates a lot in the way of working out.

 

Garage gym workout! (Nunchaku practice, because my ninja skills are laughable.)

My plan to do an actual garage gym post turned into a whim masquerading as a garage gym post. By that, I mean that the garage gym shenanigans pictured here actually happened in my office on the spur of the moment.

It’s a nunchaku practice session. I would normally have done it in the garage, but that day last week it was a case of why bother with the hot garage when all I’m going to do is basically stand in one place while I get reacquainted with this weapon. It made sense to do it in the air-conditioned comfort of the house; plus, I was just taking a break from writing.

So it’s not the garage… it’s my office. And it’s not a workout… it’s a practice. Still, it’s martial arts training, which many of you seem to find enjoyable to view. I’m happy to provide!

As you may know, nunchaku are a Japanese (specifically, Okinawan) weapon. Ironically, it’s the only Japanese tradition in my martial arts background, and I never got far with it, unfortunately. That I’m rusty with the nunchaku now is an understatement. I lost track of my last set of practice ‘chuks years ago and I rarely used them years before that, so I can’t even tell you how long it’s been since I’ve last engaged. I recently got this new set online.

 

Your standard 12" foam-covered practice nunchaku

Your standard 12″ foam-covered practice nunchaku

 

I set the camera/phone on the window sill, leaning it up against the glass… just as professional a set-up as in the garage! Haha.

 

Quick glance out the window before grabbing the nunchaku from the corner of my desk.

Quick glance out the window before grabbing the nunchaku from the corner of my desk.

 

My form is poor, I know. Working on it.

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

I warmed up with some basic spinning techniques, but the ‘chuks go too fast to be seen in those, so I didn’t bother picturing them here. Here’s a slow starting helicopter spin…

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

What is up with my hand?! Even transitioning into a block, that looks totally wrong.

Please pardon the hilarious expression on my face in these pics. Let’s just say it’s from concentrating so hard on not knocking myself out.

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

Also, what the hell is going on with my stance??!!!

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Nunchaku_1

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

[**cringing**]

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

I don’t even… why am I leaning back so far??

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

If this made you laugh, then my work here is done.

So, yeah, slightly embarrassing, but there’s a reason why I’m working on this weapon again. I’ll keep practicing what I know, and I’ll learn some more.

I do have to say that the lighting in here is fantastic compared to the lighting in the garage! Natural light is the best, in my opinion, especially for a weapon like this that’s hard to capture in a recording.

Body Combat Release 67 – Informal Review!

1). I’m stoked to be here talking about the new Les Mills Body Combat release (#67), because that means the class still exists at our gym! So far, all is well in the aftermath of the great gym take-over.

2). I’ve done the new release a few times at this point, so I can say with zero hesitation that this tracklist is my least favorite of them all… of all the ones I’ve done, that is. I enjoy the workout, itself, but… the music.

I can train with no music at all, but if there’s music and it’s unappealing to me and it doesn’t motivate me, that’s a challenge. The first time I worked out to music was in Army basic training, where drill sergeants yell melodic cadences at you and you have to yell them back. The “songs” are meant, among other things, to motivate troops during company runs and marches, and they inspire a strong esprit de corps among the ranks. That experience set my standard of a motivational training soundtrack. I’m beyond hope with Body Combat #67’s music. Dear Les Mills Body Combat music-selecting team: It’s not you, it’s me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still getting in a kick-ass workout with #67. I’m just having to reach deeper to seize motivation from within, which, actually, is probably a great exercise in and of itself. So really, no complaints. I’m just saying.

3). Since the music does nothing for me, though, I’m not going to list the names of the songs and my thoughts on them in this review.

4). Someone on Facebook posted a handy meme with the number of techniques done in release #67, so I thought I’d share the info here. Within an hour, we do:

720 jabs, 294 crosses, 389 hooks, 432 uppercuts, 30 circular elbows, 36 ascending elbows, 43 back fists, 80 karate punches, 418 knees, 56 roundhouse knees, 118 front kicks, 44 side kicks, 29 roundhouse kicks, 32 jump kicks, 30 shoots, 32 lunges, 32 scissors, 88 jacks, 64 plank climbers, and 32 push-ups.

And that doesn’t even include the ab track with that one move that always makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. You know the one. That side plank thing where you lift and lower your hips a million times.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Les Mills Body Combat 67

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up

  • Jabs
  • Combinations: hook/cross, jab/cross, double uppercuts
  • Lateral shuffle to scissors (I like how they always finish the upper-body warm-up with a move to segue into the lower-body warm-up)

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up

  • Shoots
  • Kicks: side kicks; double front kicks; roundhouse kicks
  • Down on the floor? During the warm-up? Plank climbers. Gah.

Track 2: Combat 1

  • Double upper/hook combo
  • Roundhouse knees
  • Back fists; back fist/roundhouse kick combo

Track 3: Power Training 1

  • Jabs, crosses; double jab combo
  • Hooks; hook/jack combo

Track 4: Combat 2

  • Karate punches
  • Roundhouse knee/side kick combo
  • Roundhouse knee/side kick/repeated front kick combo
  • **Dying**
  • Down on the floor for push-ups/plank climbers

Track 5: Power Training 2

  • Uppercuts
  • Upper/cross combo
  • High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.): running/wide-stance running/4-second sprint intervals

Track 6: Combat 3

  • Back knee/front kick combo
  • Jump kicks
  • Lunges and jump lunges

Track 7: Muay Thai

  • Circular elbow/front knee combo
  • Ascending elbow/knee combo
  • Double knee/single knee combo
  • Running man knees

Track 8: Power Training 3

  • Jab/cross combo
  • Jab/cross/hook combo
  • Jabs (variations)

Track 9: Conditioning

  • Abs: Pulsing side planks super-setted with another torturous plank exercise, then
  • Ab-work lying down
  • Admittedly, it does help that this track is Rihanna. Rihanna makes abs easier somehow.

Track 10: Cool-down!

*****

In summary, #67 is a great lower-body destroyer and upper-body stamina squeezer… shoulders, in particular. I also feel my calves more than usual (during Track 4). The release is heavy on knees and kicks, but light on footwork. The H.I.I.T. sequence in Track 5 isn’t as killer as the H.I.I.T. in the last few releases. #67 brings new challenges, and that’s what’s awesome about it.

For lack of a pic that makes better sense here, I’ve got a selfie I took yesterday morning. This post was in progress and I was thinking how great it is that we still have Body Combat at our gym!

 

T minus 8 hours before heading to the gym.

T minus 8 hours before heading to the gym.

 

BC #67: Great release overall!

Garage gym session! (Martial arts knuckle conditioning)

Knuckle conditioning for martial arts is a controversial topic. Criticism of the practice smacks of reason (pun intended), mainly claiming that it’s dangerous for the practitioner, it’s unnecessary, and it’s a waste of time.

Still, I do it. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided to include it in this series.* Reiterating for the sake of anyone new here: strength-training is one of my New Year’s resolutions; I learned last year that documenting my resolution efforts has a positive effect. (“Strength-training” now broadened to “any and all manner of garage gym work-outs” as far as documentation goes.)

So knuckle conditioning is “dangerous for the practitioner, unnecessary, and a waste of time.” Why do I do it, then, assuming that the claims are true?

Because I enjoy it.

Because I like knowing that if I have to punch someone in a situation, damage to my hands would be minimized since they’ve been conditioned to sustain impact.

Because I have no aspirations to work as a hand model, anyway.

Here’s a slew of snipped pics from video footage of my latest knuckle conditioning garage gym session. There are probably many methods and apparatuses that people use… in this session, it’s just me and my trusty MMA dummy and a heavy, solid piece of particle board covered in wood veneer (which I’ll refer to as a “wood board” for ease).

Pardon the snipping-tool ghost that appears in most of these images! I’ll make sure to avoid that next time.

Bare-knuckle hard punching on the MMA dummy:

 

Positioning myself.

Positioning myself.

 

I don’t have a rock-solid heavy bag, but the MMA dummy is heavy enough to do the job. Here I’m showing clips of work I did on its ass end, but I work on all areas of the bag. There’s variation in its density from end to end.

Horizontal punches:

 

Right horizontal punch

Right horizontal punch

 

As you can see from the position of my non-punching hand, all of the strikes I threw in this session were chambered punches (i.e. Tae Kwan Do/Karate, as opposed to boxing).

 

Left horizontal punch

Left horizontal punch

 

Vertical punches:

 

Right vertical punch

Right vertical punch

 

I start the set with the dummy close to my body. Each punch pushes it back, but I stay in the same place. This allows for striking at various distances, from close-range to fully-extended punches. I also vary the height of the punches, aiming for low, middle, and high targets. If I wanted to punch at eye-level, I’d lean the bag up against the wall and kneel in front of it.

 

Left vertical punch

Left vertical punch

 

I usually do 5-8 sets of however many punches it takes to push the bag beyond my reach, alternating slow punches with speed punches from set to set.

Next, what I call “knuckle-walking” on the wood board. This is where I “strike” (but nowhere near full-power, of course) the board with my bare knuckles. I do this from a kneeling push-up position.

Horizontal punches:

 

Wood board right horizontal punch

Wood board right horizontal punch

 

This board is an extra shelf from one of our large IKEA bookcases, by the way. They’re not making that particular bookcase anymore.

 

Wood board left horizontal punch

Wood board left horizontal punch

 

I hit the board with each fist alternately, walking my punches from bottom to top and then back down again.

Vertical punches:

 

Wood board right vertical punch

Wood board right vertical punch

 

Wood board left vertical punch

Wood board left vertical punch

 

I’ll also do sets where I twist my wrist from horizontal to vertical as I go. There are many variations on this that keep it interesting, and variations are always beneficial.

One knuckle conditioning exercise I practice regularly is knuckle push-ups, which I do because push-ups flat on my palms are uncomfortable due to my wrist inflexibility.

When I do knuckle push-ups for knuckle conditioning purposes, though, I do them on the wood board. I like to do a slow push-up and hold the position for about 10 seconds at each level:

 

Wood board push-up, bottom

Wood board push-up, bottom

 

Wood board push-up, middle

Wood board push-up, middle

 

Wood board push-up, top

Wood board push-up, top

 

That was all I did in this session. You know I had to include that silly shot of me walking back at the end…

 

Done!

Done!

 

Weather report in the garage: it’s heating up! This session wasn’t unbearable, though. We haven’t deployed any fans yet. For now, I’m just keeping the door open.

*The usual disclaimer applies: I’m not a trainer of any kind, and I do not recommend doing anything in this post without the supervision of a qualified instructor.

Martial arts fitness workout in the garage!

This is something of a New Year’s resolution update post. I said I’d work on strength-training this year. I haven’t started lifting weights yet, but my garage workouts have involved body-weight strength-training – so does Body Combat, for that matter – and that counts!

I’m going to post training updates regularly to share with any of you who might be interested, and also as a way of holding myself accountable for my resolution. I found this worked well last year when I made my resolution to go cruelty-free with my cosmetic and personal care products.

On that note, as I did with my Tae Kwan Do post a couple of weeks ago, I filmed parts of my last garage workout so I could clip some pics! My workout on Sunday morning consisted of the sort of general fitness workout I enjoy the most, which is conditioning geared toward martial arts. The strength-training aspect is significant in these kinds of workouts, though I just realized that the pics I chose don’t reflect that part as much. Go figure.

Before I get started, I have a few cautionary notes in case you want to use this post for workout inspiration:

[**DISCLAIMER** I’m not a certified trainer or a nutritionist, and I don’t claim to be either one. If anyone finds inspiration here, that’s great, and it’s for that reason that I’ll explain some of what I do in these workout posts. If you have health concerns and you’re thinking about starting any kind of fitness program, get medical clearance from your doctor first, just to be safe!]

1). I got started later than I’d wanted on Sunday morning, so I didn’t have breakfast. I had a Larabar and called it good. The simple fruit and nut combination did the job, but I would normally fuel up on something more substantial, and something containing whole grains. Eat substantially several hours beforehand, or eat something light 30-60 minutes before starting. I feel most energized when I have some combination of protein and complex carbohydrates (i.e. peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain bread) about an hour before working out.

2). Stretching was one of the things I did that I didn’t film. It’s important to stretch! Stretch at the beginning of your workout, but don’t stretch without warming up your muscles first. At least jog in place for 5-10 minutes before stretching.

3). You don’t see me drinking water in these pics, either, but I drink water periodically during my training sessions, usually between rounds/exercises. Hydrate regularly throughout your workout, but don’t overdo it. Just a swallow or two of water at a time will suffice.

4). I incorporated some punching into my abs workout, and, as per usual for me, I didn’t wrap my hands or wear gloves of any kind. This is NOT advisable. Wear gloves or at least hand-wraps when punching things. For several reasons, I usually go bare-knuckled when training in the garage. Do not follow my lead here. Protect your hands with wraps and/or gloves (either boxing or MMA) if your knuckles are going to be making contact with solid objects.

5). Also unlike me during this workout, Wear pants that don’t fall down. (Another thing you won’t see in this post: my underwear.)

Now let’s jump in!

 

Cardio. I don’t know what these are called… you hold onto the top of the bag and take quick, continuous, alternating hops, tapping the base of the bag with the ball of your foot each time. It’s like doing the leg part of mountain-climbers, but standing.

 

100 alternating foot hop-ups (or whatever you call them) on the standing bag.

100 alternating foot hop-ups (or whatever you call them) on the standing bag.

 

I like to start a workout with a few rounds of jump rope.

 

Jump rope intervals

Jump rope intervals

 

You can’t see the jump rope as I’m jumping, but it’s there. Jump ropes in motion are the ghosts of workout equipment. They can’t be photographed.

 

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

 

(These pants are weird, by the way. I don’t think I’ll be wearing them again.)

 

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

 

A jump rope is a fantastic piece of training equipment. Jumping rope conditions the entire body, and you can bring a jump rope anywhere and jump anywhere. Just make sure to wear pants that don’t fall down.

 

I stopped to pull up my pants (I hadn't worn these in a while and forgot that they don't stay up!)

I stopped to pull up my pants (I hadn’t worn these in a while and forgot that they don’t stay up!)

 

I practice front and back rolls because they’re fun and they help you to learn how to fall in martial arts situations. Always roll on a padded floor!

 

Coming out of a front roll

Coming out of a front roll

 

Front rolls in all directions

Front rolls in all directions

 

Here I’m doing what I’d said wouldn’t suffice for my strength-training goals – shadow-boxing with weights. It’s actually great if I do it regularly as a component of a complete workout. These are five-pound dumbbells.

 

Shadow-boxing with weights.

Shadow-boxing with weights.

 

“Keep your hands up and your chin down.” ~Golden rule of boxing~

 

Uppercuts with dumbbells

Uppercuts with dumbbells

 

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

 

Keep moving!

Keep moving!

 

Abs! I usually do these toward the end of my workout.

 

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

 

This is great core work. Hold the bag in place with your ankles, crunch up, and punch the bag diagonally to the opposite side. Lower yourself down, crunch up again, and punch with the other arm to the other side. You can do these without a bag, too. The important part is the twisting to punch diagonally across your body at the top of the crunch, as that works your obliques. Using your ankles to stabilize something like this bag works your lower abdominal muscles.

You can make this exercise harder by ditching the bag (have someone hold your feet, or hook your feet under something stable) and holding a medicine ball or a dumbbell as you crunch up. Thrust the medicine ball or dumbbell diagonally across your body at the top of the crunch. Alternate sides and do as many as you can.

To make it even harder, do it without someone holding your feet. In any case, your abs and obliques will hate you the next day, which is what you want.

 

Crunches and punches!

Crunches and punches!

 

Crunches and punches on both sides

Crunches and punches on both sides

 

Don’t forget to keep your non-punching hand up!

 

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

 

Bonus exercise when you’re done with your abs: Plant your foot on the MMA dummy, forcefully kick it down, and immediately jump on it to get in some ground-and-pound!

(Kidding. Unless you have frustrations to work out. Then do it.)

(But make sure your hands are wrapped or you’re wearing MMA gloves. Or both.)

 

La Fin.

 

Body Combat Release 66 – Informal Review!

[This post is subtitled: “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”]

Today I’ve got a review of Les Mills’ latest Body Combat release (#66). I’ve actually done release 66 three times now, so this isn’t exactly a “First Impressions review,” but I did throw my first impressions down on paper after the first time… so it’s like a “first impressions” dragged through three classes, if that makes any sense.

Like last time, I used a voice recorder in class so I’d have an audio guide to remind me of what we did.

That being said, here’s my concise run-down of the new release (and my thoughts about it)!

*****

Les Mills Body Combat 66

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up (Justice Crew “Everybody” Jump Smokers Remix)

  • Standard high energy music for an upper-body warm-up.
  • Standard boxing combinations for an upper-body warm-up: hooks, jabs, crosses and uppercuts.
  • Shoots! Shoots always make for a nice segue into the lower-body warm-up.

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up (DJ Fresh & Jay Fay feat. MS Dynamite – and “Dibby Dibby Sound” (The Partysquad Remix)

  • Love this electro/house track for the lower-body warm-up.
  • A nod to capoeira! Awesome, as always.
  • Front lunges though. I fear for my very near future. (The warm-ups foreshadow the actual workout.)
  • Roundhouse kicks.

Track 2: Combat 1 (R3HAB & KSHMR – “Karate”)

  • Okay music. More electro/house.
  • Power upper-body combination work: punches and ascending elbows.
  • Power knees.
  • Kicks! (This track is, like, power everything.)
  • Single-leg triple roundhouse kicks at varying levels (good core work going on here with the balancing).

Track 3: Power Training 1 (David Guetta – “Titanium” ft. Sia)

  • Fast tempo electronica with high-pitched vox – not my favorite music track ever.
  • Upper-body combinations – jabs, uppercuts, etc. (Great shoulder work!)
  • Footwork – slips and weaves worked in with the striking.

Track 4: Combat 2 (David Guetta – “Hey Mama” ft Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack)

  • More electro/house; catchy song. I actually like this song a lot.
  • Grab our mats? That means push-ups….
  • Front lunges. (Oh hell – here they are.)
  • Lots of lunges!
  • Too many lunges.
  • Switch lunges. (At this point my quads are hating me.)
  • Kicks; kicks mixed into the lunges…??
  • (Holy crap these lunges)
  • Push-ups. (Yes! A break from lunges.)
  • MORE LUNGES. (*dies*)

Track 5: Power Training 2 (Chase & Status Ft Plan B – “Pieces” – Ram Records)

  • Drum & bass? Love the build-up and the lyrics.
  • Power upper-body/hook-uppercut-hook combination on speed.
  • Add footwork (scissors).
  • HIIT training – sprints! 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. 12 seconds 12 seconds. 15 seconds. 17 seconds!!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-beast-mode-300

 

Track 6: Combat 3 (McBusted – “Get Over It”)

  • First rock song in the release; fast-paced, electric guitar.
  • Back kick/front kick combo.
  • Adding a Jab-cross-hook combo.
  • Side shuffle to side kick/back fist combo. (I was kind of so-so about this track until now. Love back fists.)

Track 7: Muay Thai (Scotty – “The Black Pearl” (Rui Festival Edit)

  • Sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean on electro crack.
  • Muay Thai! (Always one of my favorite tracks.)
  • Elbows and knees. (Fantastic. I’m feeling it!)

Track 8: Power Training 3 (DOUGAL & GAMMER Ft. CAT KNIGHT – “Reach Out”)

  • This must be standard high-intensity cardio music, or else I’d remember it.
  • Punches as you’d expect in a final cardio track.
  • Body shots!
  • Because of the body shot combinations, this seems more like a Combat 1 or Power Training track. Pretty great for a final cardio track! I get to work harder than usual at the end.

Track 9: Conditioning (Iggy Azalea – “Bounce”)

  • Rap; the music is more energetic than usual for an ab track.
  • Spider crawl – shoulders and core on the floor.
  • Crunch sequences on our backs (abs)

Track 10: Cool-down (Imagine Dragons – “Bleeding Out”)

  • Imagine Dragons for the cool-down. Yes.
  • Stretching.

*****

In summary: This is one of the more athletic releases I’ve done. If I were to rate Release 66 on a PERSONAL scale of 1-10, I’d give it an 8, because…

–It challenges me to work on my balance.

–The mostly electronica/house music is stuff I wouldn’t mind listening to myself while training out in the garage.

–I like the changes in levels in this release.

–The HIIT sessions in the middle mix things up with an extra hit of badassery.

Great release overall!

Garage gym updates and Tae Kwan Do techniques!

Coming back around to the promised garage gym update! Since our initial setting-up in January last year, we’ve made a few additions to the garage to further its transition into a small but functional training space. We also cleared out the relics that came with the garage when we bought the house – old cans of paint and such.

Now we’ve got the basics: 63 square feet of mat flooring (we added a couple of rows of rubber tiles to enlarge the floor), a standing punching bag, an MMA dummy on the floor, a mirror (thanks to Craigslist), a few sets of dumbbells, and speakers (for blasting dub-step, rap, and metal during boxing and Muay Thai training, of course). It’s a great space for the two of us, but as many as four people could train in there at once. Maybe five. Maybe six, depending on what we do. It’s small, but it works.

The South Korean flag still hangs in the corner. When I go in to practice Tae Kwan Do, I’m entering a do-jang  (the Korean equivalent of the Japanese dojo). There’s no music during a Tae Kwan Do session. Because of the quiet and the concentration required, I find that it’s akin to a moving meditation practice. I feel at peace. Perhaps more than anything, the flag carries sentimental value, as my Tae Kwan Do master handed it down to me before he moved out of state years ago.

Another thing – unrelated, but useful – is that I upgraded my phone last week, so now I’m equipped with a camera that’s much better than my old one!

(I’ll be honest… I only upgraded my phone to get a new camera. I was content with the phone, itself, but I wanted to take better pictures, and I didn’t want to invest in an actual camera. I was eligible for a phone upgrade, anyway, so it worked out well.)

So, with this new phone camera, thinking of how I could show what the space can accommodate, I decided to record myself doing a Tae Kwan Do form (hyung in Korean; kata in Japanese – this is TKD, so it’s hyung). I recorded the video on Sunday afternoon and used “pause” and “the snippy tool” to get the slew of Tae Kwan Do technique selfies posted here.

But first, observe the quality difference between my old and new cameras!

Old camera (Samsung Galaxy S4):

 

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

 

New camera (Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge):

 

Walking up to start...

Walking up to start…

 

I clipped this shot out of the video, so I’m blurry in movement, but notice the colors! The lighting in the garage was exactly the same in both images, and as per usual, there were no digital shenanigans involved to alter the pics. I’m in love with this camera. The phone part is pretty great, too, and yes, I’m totally raving about a Korean phone in a post about Korean karate. Coincidence.

Without further rambling about cameras and phones, here are a few of the Tae Kwan Do blocks and attacks I clipped from the recorded video:

 

Horizontal front chest block

Horizontal front chest block

 

Double-fisted groin block

Double-fisted groin block

 

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

 

Back fist (prep)

Back fist (prep)

 

(My striking fist did originate from further inside, but it looks awkward at this second of transition… )

 

Jump attack (prep)

Jump attack (prep)

 

Jump attack

Jump attack

 

Block to sides

Block to sides

 

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

 

Finished.

Finished.

 

Note that my feet are slightly too far apart in that finish.  I saw ALL of my mistakes while watching the video and pausing on the techniques, which makes the recording a valuable practice I should continue. You may see more training pics here in the future.  Just a head’s-up.

 

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

 

Anyway, our garage gym figures beautifully into my New Year’s resolution to get stronger. We’re going to add three or four sets of dumbbells to our little collection, so we’ll be able to get in some effective full-body workouts. Gotta love Play It Again Sports! We’re also going to add what we need to keep the space tolerable during the hot months.

Because “resolution” without the “re” is SOLUTION.

Like many people, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been an on-and-off cynic most of my adult life. My birthday falls five days before New Year’s Day, though, so at some point, I finally thought, Why not turn my personal one-year-older goals into resolutions? Because what are birthdays if not opportunities for introspection and decision-making to move forward with new or refreshed goals, right? Or something like that (says my inner self-help guru to myself).

“Resolution” minus the “re” is “solution,” after all… and that stands out to me. I’m a fan of solutions.

As it turns out, I do well participating in the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. It’s glorified goal-setting that could be undertaken on any random day, sure, but January 1 is as good a day as any, fanfare or no. If we don’t have the motivation to commit to a goal on any other day of the year, at least there’s that day!

“Goals” is a popular word right now, but I want to talk plainly about how there’s a difference between wanting to achieve goals and needing to achieve them. Resolutions, in my opinion, are goals that we need to achieve; we make them in order to reignite the mechanisms we have for growth, self-improvement, joie de vivre… whatever it is that we’re lacking, in whatever way it needs to manifest. Ultimate goals are things like contentment and productivity. Contentment and productivity are good. People who are content and productive are good for society, good for us all.

You might receive advice that’s actually detracting, usually coming from the hearts of well-intentioned loved ones. There’s the old “…but you have to WANT to do it,” which I think is psychobabble for “You have to feel that doing xyz is going to result in personal gratification, or it’s not worth the effort.” I don’t believe this. Some of my greater achievements in life resulted from goals that I needed to pursue, but I absolutely didn’t want to pursue them.

Quitting smoking, for instance. I smoked between the ages of 15 and 23. I only smoked for eight years, but addiction is addiction no matter how long you’ve had it.

I absolutely did not WANT to quit smoking. I loved smoking. Whenever I’d think about quitting, all I WANTED my next cigarette. When I finally committed to breaking the habit, I still didn’t want to. I did it because I knew that I needed to.

Quitting was every bit as excruciating as I thought it would be.

I quit cold turkey, and I never smoked another cigarette. That was 24 years ago. (I think I was successful in part because I suffered through the process without the aid of chemical replacements. This was pre-nicotine patch. There was nicotine gum, but I wasn’t attracted to that strategy.) Suffering for that victory, that solution to the problem of my compromised health, made me value my success even more. If at any point in my smoking cessation journey someone uttered those condescending words in my general direction – “You just have to WANT to quit!” – I would have had to bite my tongue REALLY HARD. I know why I’m quitting. It’s a decision that I made. I don’t need you to tell me that if I just WANT to quit, I’ll effortlessly break my addiction overnight and ride off on a unicorn into a field of flowers and happy little bunnies.

Overcoming addiction of any kind is never easy, no matter if someone WANTS to do it or not.

But I digress. My point is, make a resolution, for the New Year or on any other day. Think of it as going after a solution. Focus on seizing something that will change your life for the better if you capture it. You’re not just making a change (passive connotation). You’re taking action (aggressive connotation). So be aggressive in tackling your resolution. Be a New Year’s resolution badass. Go for it.

Another thing people commonly say: “Do it for yourself. If you do it for someone else, you won’t succeed.” Again, I disagree. I mean, I don’t think this is always the case.

Last year, my main New Year’s resolution was to go cruelty-free… for Ronnie James, my feline fur-child. As Callaghan and I tried desperately to save his life, I told the Wrah-Wrah that I’d make every effort to avoid purchasing and using personal care products and cosmetics made by companies who engage in animal cruelty practices. (Granted, this wasn’t difficult, as I’d already been boycotting a couple of big-name brands for years to avoid contributing to their human rights violations. Boycotting companies that test on animals wasn’t a far stretch from that.)

I did it for Ronnie James. He died five months into the year, but I’m still doing it. For him. For all animals, but first and foremost for him. And doing it for him has kept me motivated to stick to my resolution more than I would were I just “doing it for myself.” In a strange sense I can’t really explain, the act of consciously and continuously striving to remove myself from the cycle of animal suffering at human hands keeps Ronnie James alive.

This strategy of goal-planning works for me, anyway. Everyone is different, but it might work for you, too. It would be worth trying! Dedicate your resolution to someone who deeply matters to you. Make them a promise you won’t want to break, and you might find that it’s easier to stick to your efforts.

This brings me to Resolutionary Road, 2016! I have more than one resolution. Here’s my list:

1). Get more sleep on a regular basis.

2). Improve my French (conversation).

3). Commit to strength-training.

Getting more sleep was my secondary resolution in 2015. Since I failed completely, it’s at the top of my 2016 list. I really, really need to get more sleep. Here, again, is the difference between wants and needs: I don’t WANT to get more sleep. I WANT the opposite… I want more hours in the day. I want to stay up until 3:00am, because for some reason, I’m often possessed by a rush of creative energy at around 11:00pm every night, and I’m afraid that if I don’t utilize it, I’ll squander it. But more sleep is an absolute necessity for my health, so this year, I’m going to try to shut everything down at 10:00pm so I can be in bed by 10:30pm. I get up at 5:30am on weekdays, so this would give me seven hours of sleep IF I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. (Which never happens. But nearly seven hours of sleep would be a great improvement over the four-five hours I typically get.)

I dedicate this resolution to Mom, who always worries that I don’t sleep enough. I don’t want her to worry about me for any reason, because worrying is detrimental to her health.

For my second resolution, improving my French conversation, I simply need to speak more French. I have a bad habit of answering Callaghan in English when he speaks to me in French. The divide between my comprehension level and speaking level is now so great that it’s ridiculous! I have no excuses. I just need to speak it more; that’s the only way I’m going to improve.

I dedicate this resolution to Callaghan, obviously!

As for strength-training, I need to make that a regular part of my workout routine. I’m not weak, but I would feel better in a stronger body. Doing pull-ups in my home office doorway every once in a while isn’t sufficient, and shadow-boxing with dumbbells isn’t cutting it, either. We have heavier dumbbells, so I need to start using them.

I dedicate this resolution to Ming, my best friend who died suddenly in 2003. Ming was one of my Tae Kwan Do instructors, and as friends, we developed a brother-sister bond that made him a member of my family. Ming was an extremely talented martial arts athlete, and his work ethic in the do-jang inspires me to this day. Improving my strength so I can be a better martial artist is my tribute to him.

 

Ming and me, 1996

Ming and me, 1996

 

Happy Resolutioning, if you do it!

Body Combat Release 65 – Informal Review!

The latest Les Mills Body Combat choreography launched at our gym on Saturday. (For those who don’t know, a Body Combat workout is a group fitness class consisting of an hour of cardio with choreographed martial/fighting arts moves done to high-octane music. We get a new choreography release every… six weeks, I think…?)

ETA: New releases happen every 12 weeks. Thank you, Izzy!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

So Les Mills released Body Combat #65, and I thought it would be fun to give it an informal review, because why not? I routinely blather about movies, T.V. series, food, cosmetics, pulp fiction, etc., so targeting Body Combat for my blathering seems like the next natural thing to do. I go to this class three times per week, after all. It’s kind of a big part of my life.

I went to class on Saturday with the idea that I might blog about the release, so I activated the voice recorder on my phone and left it on the floor, off to the side. I wanted to be prepared, and I knew there was no way I was going to remember everything we did after just one class if I didn’t document it somehow.

Enough of the pre-blather blather… without further ado, here’s what I thought of Body Combat #65!

(Disclaimer: These are my first impressions, and that includes the music. I may feel differently about all of it after a few more classes in this release.)

 

Les Mills Body Combat #65

Overall impression: Some unexpected combinations and variations in pacing necessitate attention to your mental game. The methodical, slower sequences feel awkward against the fast-paced, high-energy music, and at other times, when given the option to speed up without limitation, you’re again working with the timing. All of this incongruity heightens the challenges expected when learning a new release, and the choreography encourages precision in striking, for those concerned with their technique. This release features some advanced attacks (i.e. flying knee strikes and consecutive jump kicks), power moves (i.e. jump squats and explosive push-ups in the middle of the workout), and High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) (i.e. sprint options). The workout is plyometrics- and conditioning-intense.

After Saturday’s class, I went online and found the music track-list (which also gives me a guide for the workout tracks):

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LesMillsBCrelease65TrackList

 

Here are my “nutshell” first impressions of the actual tracks.

1a). Upper-body warm-up: (Decent song for an opener – “We Came to Bang”)

First impression: Kind of a mind-bender.

Warming up with your basic jabs, crosses, uppercuts and hooks

 

1b). Lower-body warm-up: (Also a pretty good song – “Levels”)

First impression: Robot-like moves? Different!

Throwing roundhouse kicks, side kicks, front kicks, and teeps (Muay Thai push kicks)

(Do my quads usually burn this much during the warm-up?)

 

2). Combat 1: (Decent music – “Ah Yeah So What”)

First impression: They should re-name this track “A million kicks.”

Combination of strikes and kicks, including consecutive jump kicks and lowered front kicks for a major quad burn

 

3). Power training 1: (DISLIKE the music – “Lifting Me Higher”)

First impression: They chose this song because it’s so terrible, we’re being forced to exercise our minds to overcome it.

Endless upper-body strikes; running (including high knees)

It’s only track three and I don’t think I can throw any more hooks…

 

4).Combat 2: (Good song – “Enemies”)

First impression: We need a mat for this? Push-ups, like in the last release!

Combination of kicks and knee strikes, then on the floor for push-ups (including explosive push-ups)

 

5). Power training 2: (Good song – “No Problem”)

First impression: Love this Drum & Bass track!

Running, striking combinations, more running, jump squats in ascending sets

Nooo don’t take away the pause in between jump squats! My legs are done. I’m out.

 

6). Combat 3: (Okay song, but not my favorite – “The Day is my Enemy”)

First impression: This is the capoeira track wanting to be capoeira, but not quite committing to it.

Typical combination of lunges and kicks; atypical pivoting, robot-like pseudo-capoeira move; knee strikes

 

7). Muay Thai: (Decent song – “Party Monster”)

First impression: Muay Thai!

Punching combinations, ascending and descending elbow strikes, knee strikes variations, 4 levels of running man

Flying knee strikes!

 

8). Power training 3: (DISLIKE the first of the two songs – “Heart Bleeds Re-Con & Demand”)

First impression:  They’re trying to kill me with this music. The music is the real test here.

Running, striking combinations, scissors, striking combinations, jacks, running, striking on crack

 

9). Conditioning: (Okay song – “Black and Blue”)

First impression: The kind of ab track that works your neck as well as your abs.

No push-ups, since we did them in track 4… a series of “C” crunches and modified bicycle crunches (“cross-crawls”)

 

10). Cool-down (Whatever. I’m done.)

 

 

In summary, I like release 65. We had another class last night, and after a few more, the parts that feel strange won’t feel strange anymore. That’s what new releases are for!

My College Survival Tips. (School is starting! Here’s how I got through when I was a student.)

Arizona State University, my alma mater and place of employment, starts its fall semester this Thursday. For me, being immersed in the university community, this is one of the most energizing times of year in The Land of AZ. The loudening crackle of the university gearing up for a new academic year echos around town like a catchy tune, everyone’s motivated as the heat starts to let up (or at the idea of the heat letting up), football season begins, Halloween approaches, and we look forward to the fall sunsets, which we know are going to be more glorious than usual.

 

And it begins!

And it begins!

 

School starting up always takes me back to when I was a college student. (Meaning, pursuing an undergraduate degree, for those unfamiliar with the American university system.) It was 20 years ago, but I remember with keen clarity some of the survival skills I’d developed. A lot has changed since then, but a lot has remained the same. In honor of this first week of Academic Year 2016, I thought I’d share some of my personal college survival skills.

Here’s how I survived when I was an undergraduate student at ASU:

1). .99 bean burritos “without cheese” from Taco Bell (no less than four packets of fire sauce) and Power Bars the rest of the day – stock up on Power Bars when they’re on sale. (Sidenote: Taco Bell’s bean burritos are now $1.29 on campus, and these days, I don’t eat Power Bars. Neither would I eat bean burritos from Taco Bell. But they saved me many a day when I was broke and late for my next class and needed to grab something cheap and fast.)

2). Work as a student worker on campus 20 hrs/week –

2a). Use workplace as a locker for storing stuff in between classes when off-shift.

2b). Study/prepare for classes during downtime while at work.

3). Emergency measure for Paper-Writing Procrastination (PWP, because I’m a vet and you leave the military with acronyms-as-language hardwired into your brain): Pull all-nighters in the Computing Commons on campus –

3a). Bring a light jacket or sweatshirt regardless of the time of year (or you’ll freeze in the A/C), your own water bottle, and Power Bars.

3b). Pick a work station and implement your strategy for camping out there all night. Strategy involves mostly just leaving all your stuff where it is to make it look like you merely ran to the restroom when in fact you went outside to eat your Power Bar and walk around to get the blood circulating in your legs.

3c). Finish and print the final draft of paper just in time to go to class and hand it in.

4). The “Study for an Exam” (aka “Cramming for a Test”) version of #3 is to do the exact same thing, except pull the all-nighter in the designated study section of the 24-hour IHOP that used to be across the street on 13th and Forest at the Twin Palms hotel (it’s now The Graduate Inn, and the IHOP, sadly, is gone). Venue-specific bonus: coffee all night!

5). Donate your plasma once a month or so for extra cash. The plasma-donating place on Broadway is still there. I don’t know if the phlebotomists who work there these days have vampire fangs attached to their canine teeth, though, or if that was just a thing of the 90’s.)

6). Get your teeth cleaned for super cheap by the students in the dental hygiene program at the local community college (in the 90’s, it was Phoenix College… not sure if any of the other schools in the Maricopa County Community College system have started offering dental hygiene curriculums.)

7). Wait until Friday to do happy hour with friends from work/class –

7a). Order one cheap beverage (I usually got iced tea) and shamelessly eat enough free happy hour food to constitute dinner. My favorite place for this was Macayo’s. I remember their mini-chimichangas and mini-flautas to be so deliciously satisfying! (Don’t know if they still are. Haven’t been to happy hour there in years, and I wouldn’t eat those things now, anyway.)

8). Get together with classmate who’s doing as well as you are after you’ve both finished your drafts of the next assigned paper; exchange papers, read, offer each other brutal but constructive criticism.

9). Caffeine. In my case, it was Diet Coke. I DO NOT recommend this. If I was an undergrad relying on caffeine today, I’d go for iced coffee or tea.

10). Join the Tae Kwan Do club on campus, which meets three times a week. (Used to, that is. It’s not there anymore. The Jui-Jitsu club is still there, though… it meets at the SRC three times a week, as well, I believe.) It’s free therapy, and it keeps you in shape.

On that note, you can consider yourself a seasoned Tempe-campus ASU student when you learn to recognize the juniors and seniors by how amazing their legs look after they’ve spent 2+ years running, power-walking, biking, roller-blading (which very few people do anymore) and/or skate-boarding around the country’s second- or third-largest campus to get to their classes on time.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-2015FallSemesterStartsASU-Devils

Body Combat was cancelled on Wednesday. Here’s what I learned.

My passion is martial arts and combat sports. It’s the only reason I go to the gym, as I found out on Wednesday after work when we got there and discovered that Body Combat had been cancelled (due to a misfortune that befell our instructor. Thank goodness she’s okay! That’s the only important thing, of course).

There were other choices. Another group fitness class was scheduled to start within the hour, and another class after that… not to mention the tiny detail of the gym, itself, full of weights, weight machines and cardio equipment.

Callaghan works out with weights two or three times a week on the regular, so he was game to stay for some lifting. On the other hand, he had design work to do at home, so he was also fine with heading out to get an early start on that.

On my part, all I could think was, which combat sports gyms have sessions scheduled for now, and what are their walk-in rates?

Presented with the conundrum without warning, I was surprised to find that I had ZERO interest in doing anything at the actual gym, even though I’ve been going around saying I’d like to find time to lift weights. It’s not like I don’t enjoy lifting weights, either. I do… or, I did. In the past, I’d spent years dedicated to strength-training. But I’m not doing it now, and I couldn’t see how the benefit of doing it one, random time could outweigh the benefit of getting home to my furbabies, a bowl of popcorn mixed with salty pumpkin seeds, and the latest episode of The Whispers, as mediocre a series as we’re finding it to be.

I wasn’t keen on doing straight-up cardio, either. Without being committed to a regular-gym regimen, even the idea of spending 30 minutes or an hour on a piece of cardio equipment bored me. I knew I’d be bored, too, because that was the situation before we discovered Body Combat… I’d go to the gym with Callaghan and force myself to walk on the treadmill, my mind lagging miles behind and scattered in all directions like a fragmented weight tied to my legs with many lengths of rope.

What I’m getting at here is the crux of the issue: Goals, and, driving that, Passion. I used to be passionate about strength-training at the gym, and working out on cardio machines had been a part of that picture, so I enjoyed it. There was a time in my life that I lived for all of that.

Anything I do at home is ancillary to martial/fighting arts. Push-ups (which I did do when we got home on Wednesday night), pull-ups, stretch kicks, ab-work, shadow-boxing, bag-work, even working with the dumbbells that we have – in my mind, it’s all a part of the same thing, which is not weight-lifting, even if the dumbbell part technically is.

 

This pull-up bar in the door-frame of my home office is a great way to keep from getting bored while I'm walking down the hall, haha!

This pull-up bar in the door-frame of my home office is a great way to keep from getting bored while I’m walking down the hall, haha!

 

Having a goal is a driving force, and passion works as the fuel that gets you there. You could have passion without goals, and, I suppose, goals without passion, but more often than not, they go together.

For me, getting in shape again (after years of sitting on my butt) was a by-product of indulging my passion for martial arts and combat sports. My sense of purpose in Body Combat is about making sure my muscles remember everything, and maintaining the shape I’m in isn’t a vanity-driven objective… it’s a stay-in-fighting-condition one. Likewise, when I walk to work, my purpose is to get to my job, not to “work out,” even though that mile and a half brisk walk does constitute a workout.

It’s how you look at it. Fitness is a mental game.

What I realized on Wednesday night is that these days, I don’t go to the gym to “work out.” Maybe I will again in the future, but for now, I’m going for the joy of doing what I love. This is what I’d suggest to anyone wondering how to go from sedentary to active when the thought of working out leaves you cold: Find a physical activity you love, or at least enjoy. Bowling, dancing, hiking, tennis, swimming, whatever it may be… go for it, and suddenly, that is what you’re doing to be good to your body. Rather than “working out,” you’re engaging in something you love. Psych yourself out. Improved fitness levels will be the icing on the guilt-free cake.

Vehement boxing gloves – cruelty-free to animals, but not necessarily to your opponent!

As many of you know, I’ve been steadily working on switching over to cruelty-free cosmetics and other such products, as this was my primary New Year’s resolution for 2015. I also resumed my vegan eating habits back in April, which didn’t involve much of a change, as the only animal product I was consuming was a little dairy here and there. After three years, I’m finally back to my pre-France lifestyle, and I feel physically fantastic! Although I’m still floundering in the sleep department (a secondary-though-not-less-important New Year’s resolution was to “get more sleep” – still working on that one), I’m enjoying much more energy now.

After making the cruelty-free commitment with my personal care products and returning to 100% vegetarianism (aka dietary veganism), it made sense to extend the latter choice in the direction of classical veganism, beginning with examining the materials of the things I use and wear. I found that there were a few leather items left in my life at that point, the main one being out in the garage: my pair of boxing gloves. My boxing gloves were made of leather. I started researching to find an alternative. I only felt a little bit guilty springing for some new boxing gloves when a). I’m in financial recovery mode (from Ronnie James’ medical ordeal), and b). I had a beautiful, fairly new pair already (given to me for my birthday last December). But I’m passionate about animals, passionate about combat sports, passionate about my New Year’s resolution, and, before he died, I promised Ronnie James that I’d re-dedicate myself to our favorite cause.

Some of you might be thinking, But Kristi! Boxing gloves are made for hitting people. Why worry about hurting animals in the making of something intended to cause pain to others? I know it seems counter-intuitive. I know. But engaging in combat sports with adult human beings who know they’re going to get hit is not the same thing as taking something cruelly from non-consenting beings. I’m just going to leave my reasoning at that brief statement and get right to the point:

I stumbled upon Vehement, a company that makes boxing gloves, MMA gear and other combat sports equipment and apparel. This is all they do, and they do it very well… without harming animals, humans, or the environment.

 

"Sustainable." "Vegan." "Sweatshop free." What the label doesn't say, but could: "HARDCORE" and "KICK-ASS."

“Sustainable.” “Vegan.” “Sweatshop free.” What the label doesn’t say, but could: “HARDCORE” and “KICK-ASS.”

 

Vehement is a German company, but their international shipping rates are reasonable ($13.00 to the States), and the combat sports gear they make is extremely well-engineered and on point. When you go to their web site, you’ll find a statement that reads:

DESTROY YOUR ENEMIES, NOT YOUR PLANET.

Our hand sewn, sweatshop-free fight gear is made of 100% Battleskin™, an extremely advanced artificial leather: sustainable, durable and vegan. We won several awards for our innovative boxing gloves, MMA gloves and shin guards.

The Wolfheart X2 gloves that I purchased (I chose 12 oz) are a superb all-purpose pair of boxing gloves. Also, did I mention that this conscientious company’s logo is a beautiful wolf face? This is because Vehement shares their profits with the Wolf Conservation Center NY (WCC). That’s right… when you purchase gear from Vehement, you’re contributing to a great cause! From the Wolf Conservation Center NY site:

The WCC’s mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. The WCC accomplishes this mission through onsite and offsite education programs emphasizing wolf biology, the ecological benefits of wolves and other large predators, and the current status of wolf recovery in the United States.

 

Vehement Wolfheart X2 all-purpose boxing gloves (12 oz)

Vehement Wolfheart X2 all-purpose boxing gloves (12 oz)

 

I love the design and fit of Vehement's Wolfheart X2 boxing gloves.

I love the design and fit of Vehement’s Wolfheart X2 boxing gloves.

 

Vehement sells hand wraps, shin guards, MMA gloves and two types of boxing gloves, as well as clothing and water bottles. If you or someone you know is interested in combat sports gear, I highly recommend this company! Check them out, explore the goods and read their blog posts and announcements: http://vhmnt.com/

In case you’re short on time, I’m pasting in this description of the gloves that I got:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-VehementWebSiteText

 

I’m extremely happy with the fit, feel and performance of these vegan boxing gloves. I honestly can’t say enough about these gloves – they’re simply the best boxing gloves I’ve ever had (and I’ve owned pairs from both Title and Everlast). Two Battleskin-encased thumbs up!

[NOTE: This post is not sponsored by Vehement]

BodyCombatversary!

It’s the last weekend of March. You know what we did last year on the last weekend of March? We went to our first Body Combat class! This is momentous, guys. On March 29, 2014, I finally got off my ass and ended the longest period of inactivity in my adult life. Planners and agendas are useful like that… you can look back and note such things. I love celebrating -versaries of all kinds. There has to be one for everything! Happy BodyCombatversary to Callaghan and me!

The idea of getting established in a workout routine was hard, but it hurt my brain more than my out-of-shape muscles. I’d been sedentary for so long, and out of training for even longer. We’d actually signed up at our gym a few months earlier, but I hardly went because zero motivation. Callaghan had way more determination than I to get to the gym. When I did manage to drag myself there to half-heartedly walk on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes, all I felt was this weird mixture of boredom and accomplishment and more boredom. Like, YAY, I went to the gym, go me! OH NO… I just spent 20 minutes of my life on a piece of cardio equipment. I could have been doing laundry. The struggle was real, folks, as they say. It’s HARD to get back into habitual exercise once you’ve fallen out of it for any length of time!

Then I decided to check out the group fitness class offerings, and everything changed.

According to my 2014 agenda:

–Tuesday, March 18, 2014: I went to a Body Pump class, just to try it. I didn’t hate it, but I never went back. I think I’m too lazy to do Body Pump. The very idea of making numerous trips to the equipment corner and hauling things over to the floor and then having to quickly change the configuration of the weights in between sets and then hauling all the stuff back to the corner at the end makes me feel annoyed (and bored)! Conclusion: I’m not badass enough to do Body Pump.

(Side-note 1: You know who’s really badass? THE PEOPLE WHO DO BODY PUMP IMMEDIATELY AFTER BODY COMBAT. I marvel at all you guys who do the classes back-to-back! When I’m done with Combat, I’m done. I got nothing left.)

(Side-note 2: I really should start some kind of strength-training routine, though. Shadow-boxing with dumbbells in my garage for five minutes once a week ain’t cutting it.)

–Wednesday, March 26, 2014: I tried a boot camp class. It was super hard. I loved it. Conclusion: Yes!

–Saturday, March 29, 2014: I tried Body Combat. The word “combat” on the schedule caught my eye, and my interest perked up immediately. I hadn’t thrown a punch in almost seven years. Okay, I thought. Let’s try this! So I went, and that was it. I was hooked. Body Combat is simple: I go in and follow the instructor’s commands until we’re done, and that’s it. No fuss, no muss, no equipment! You’re in and out and home before you know it, dripping sweat and feeling accomplished.

Overall conclusion: I made a standing date with the gym for Monday evenings and Saturday mornings (Body Combat), and Wednesday evenings (Boot Camp).

There was no reluctance from that point on; I surprised myself with my 180 turn-around. I’d been against the idea of group fitness classes before I even saw the schedule, because even though I really wanted to work out, in my advanced state of workout apathy and gym-self-motivating-brain-cells-atrophy, the notion of committing myself to a workout “schedule” seemed about as appealing as escaping from jail by digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. Sunken deep in my routine of sitting on my ass, I was perversely comfortable in my little prison cell of inactivity.

Of course, doing Body Combat brought back the old obsession with actual training (the sweet science addiction never really goes away once it bites you), and this led to the equipment in our garage. We went out there to play a little late last night. Callaghan took pictures.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage... plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven't replaced my camera since my last one died.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage… plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven’t replaced my camera since my last one died.

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

Elbows on the ground

Elbows on the ground

 WaveMaster, bare fists

WaveMaster, bare fists

Now, we do three Body Combat classes per week and no Boot Camp, because the Wednesday night Boot Camp went away and was replaced by the third Body Combat.  I’m not complaining about the extra Body Combat, though I do miss the Boot Camp! In a perfect world, I’d be able to get away from work one morning a week just long enough to do Suzy’s Core, Cardio & More class (Wednesdays), or Geeny’s H.I.I.T. class (Thursdays). If I’m ever off work on either of those days, that’s where I go! Huge shout-out to those ladies, and to our phenomenal regular Combat instructors and friends Izzy, Rebecca and Amelia, and also to our sometimes-instructors Jessica and Diane!

That’s the best part… in the last year, I’ve gained much more than a higher level of fitness with increased energy, strength and balance. I’ve gained new friendships with other class participants and the instructors, themselves.  I’ve also gained something concrete to look forward to, three times a week (looking forward to stuff is so important if you have clinical depression, by the way). Each time we leave the gym, I can’t wait for the next time, and that is awesome.

Happy Friday, Everyone! =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – February Favorites

February – the month of Valentine’s, Callaghan’s birthday, new-to-me discoveries and other things I want to share with you!

Usually I start with entertainment, so let’s change it up and get right into it with food this time.

 

1). Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (cereal).

 

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds
(with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

 

Since the beginning of February, this cereal has been my go-to evening snack on the evenings I want one, and I always have it just the way you see it in the picture… a third of a cup (one serving) covered in fresh berries and moistened with almond milk. We just picked up another bag. I like it because it’s not too sweet – in fact, it’s just barely sweet – and it’s super crunchy. This is a favorite that’s going to be a favorite for a while, methinks.

 

2). Mediterranean chopped salad (with added tofu) at True Food Kitchen.

 

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.  I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.
I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

 

Here we have my official new salad obsession, guys, and I don’t use the word “obsession” lightly! This salad is a flavor stand-out as well as a nutritional powerhouse with its greens, cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, feta, sprouted almonds, and lemon oregano vinaigrette. (You can ask them to hold the feta if you’re going for a vegan option. For me, it’s a rare vegan exception.) I add tofu to boost the quinoa’s protein, and it’s out of this world. One of the principles of True Food Kitchen is to use what’s in season, so the last time we went (Sunday, when I took the picture) there were green beans in the salad, as well. IT IS SO GOOD. So, so, so good. I can’t even tell you. If you ever find yourselves in the vicinity of a True Food Kitchen, go there and try this salad. You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve raved about food, let’s move on to entertainment!

 

3). Better Call Saul (T. V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-bettercallsaul

 

AT LAST! The series Breaking Bad fans have been waiting for finally aired its premiere, but you don’t have to have watched Breaking Bad in order to get it. The story of Saul Goodman’s legal career and persona evolution tells itself with no reliance on the BB laurels. We’re enjoying it even more than we’d thought we would.

 

4). Kingsman: The Secret Service (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-kingsmanthesecretservice

 

As in January, we only went out to the movies once in February, and only because there was a particular movie whose impending release kept us on edge for ages, it seemed. We went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I’m thrilled to say that it handily exceeded our expectations, offering up a caper of magnificent exuberance and cloaked in strategically overwrought, finely-sharpened darkness featuring great characters played by a great cast. Kingsman was action-packed, absurd in the best of ways, hilarious and just all-around entertaining in exactly the fashion you want your comic book action flick to be. The writing was terrific; many of the lines of dialogue surprised us. I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, so you’ll have to go see it for yourselves, if you’re into that sort of thing!

This brings me to a random favorite of the month:

 

5). The 4th workout.

 

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it's finally found a wall on which to hang.

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it’s finally found a wall on which to hang.

 

Awesome “little thing” number five is the fourth workout I’ve incorporated into my weekly routine.

I’ve been enjoying the training area we carved out in our garage, and in February, I made sure to get in there at least once a week (I aspire to adding another day somehow, but this is a good start)! Being the creature of habit that I am, it quickly became a Sunday thing. If you’ll remember, it all sprung from the arrival of the WaveMaster heavy bag that Callaghan got me for Christmas. I think I started working out here toward the end of January, having been delayed due to illness, but it really took off as a regular thing in February.

Every week, I look forward to my training session in the garage as much as I look forward to our three Body Combat classes at the gym. Though I mix it up and never do the same workout twice, the main elements are always cardio, stretching, abs, shadow boxing, and bag-work. As for the particulars of what I do, I just go with whatever I feel like doing. I don’t go in at the same time every Sunday, and I don’t time my workouts… sometimes I do a short session (20-30 minutes), sometimes longer (up to an hour). I have goals for the year, though, one of which is to find someone who can hold pads to come over and train with me!

Moving on to another totally random favorite thing:

 

6). Overseas, online pharmacy: InHousePharmacy.vu

 

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

 

I may have mentioned this pharmacy before, in passing, but I want to provide details now because we’re so happy with the service we get from it!

When we started treating the Wrah-Wrah for his pulmonary health challenges, I researched pharmacy options and found 4CornersPharmacy.com, which recently became InHousePharmacy.vu. The “vu” domain stands for Vanuatu, the country from which the medications are shipped. Yes, we get Ronnie James’ Albuterol/Ventolin inhaler and his steroid inhalers from a tiny island in the South Pacific. Online pharmacies can be sketchy, so I first vetted it as thoroughly as I could online, then we asked our vet about it, and then we showed her the goods once our first order arrived. She approved.

InHousePharmacy.vu’s customer service is outstanding; they’re extremely efficient and professional, and they offer FREE SHIPPING to the United States (and maybe to other places… I don’t know). We’ve been using this pharmacy for about five months now, and we’re very satisfied with it, so I figured I ought to share!

On that note, I’ll finish this list with a few of the new cosmetic and skin-care products I’m loving that aren’t tested on animals, since transitioning to cruelty-free beauty products was the biggest of my New Year’s resolutions….

 

7). Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème).

 

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

 

I’ve never been a nude lip color person – I’ve always gravitated toward deeper red and berry shades, or darker neutrals – but on my quest to try all new things for the sake of the animals, I thought I’d venture out of my colorful comfort zone. Milani’s 26 (Nude Crème) is the lightest shade in their Color Statement line, and it’s the only nude lip color I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing. Callaghan was the first to give his approval (very important!), and then I got some compliments on it from friends at work, so I’m convinced! I love the lipstick’s formula, too. It feels nice, it wears well, and it also reapplies well, so it gets bonus points for that. I like it so much that I’ll probably pick up a few of my more typical colors at some point. I find Milani products at CVS.

 

8). Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero).

 

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

 

I can’t believe it took a New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free for me to find my Holy Grail lower-lash eyeliner. I’d been using one by Stila, which had been better than the Revlon one I’d used for years before that, and I just figured it wasn’t possible for eyeliners to wear really well under the eye for extended periods of time. Then I made this resolution and sprang for Urban Decay’s 24/7 eye pencil in the color “zero” (black), and wow! I’m so impressed. It’s creamy and easy to apply, and it literally wears the same ALL DAY. On the downside, it’s Urban Decay, so it’s pricey, and its creaminess means that you have to sharpen it often (it wears down quickly). I just repurchased it, even though I’m not done with the first one yet. It’s one of those things that’s worth the cost. I like an intense eye, anyway, so it’s worth it to me!

 

9). Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral).

 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral) (Black negligee from Victoria's Secret)

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral)
(Black negligee from Victoria’s Secret)

 

(I couldn’t resist using my black negligee as the stage for Urban Decay’s “naked” concealer. Just work with my sense of humor here.

Aaand yeah, while I was at the Urban Decay display, I picked up this (gulp) ridiculously expensive concealer. This whole high-end cosmetic stuff is atypical of me, by the way. I’m a drugstore makeup kind of person, but after successfully replacing 95% of my cosmetics with outstanding, inexpensive drugstore cruelty-free products – I think I might focus an entire future blog post on the glories of e.l.f. – I was once again just down to the eyeliner and the concealer. (Usually when I splurge on expensive stuff at Ulta, it’s for eyeliners and concealers.)

This concealer goes on as a silky liquid, but as soon as you pat it in, it somehow vanishes while covering what it needs to cover. It’s an invisible concealer that actually conceals, and the formula is simply magic. I can’t describe it. I’m not a beauty blogger. But I can tell you my opinion: this concealer is worth the expense.

(Yes, I know that Urban Decay’s parent company is L’Oreal, indisputably the worst offender in the cosmetics animal-testing industry, but Urban Decay products themselves are not tested on animals. Urban Decay makes the Leaping Bunny list of cruelty-free brands.)

And finally, we have a skin care product!

 

10). Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin).

 

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

 

I’m pretty much there with cosmetics, but I’m nowhere near the point of finding all the good, affordable cruelty-free skincare items I need to find. However, it’s only March. I’m taking my time. I have a year to fulfill my resolution (I still have to find cruelty-free hair products, too)! I did discover this moisturizer, though, and I really love it. It wears well under my sunscreen, and it has a fresh, natural citrus scent.

Some text on the packaging:

“gotu kola stem cell + 1% chlorella growth factor – firm, hydrate, restore – clinical collagen + hyaluronic support”

And the text on the box further informs that the moisturizer is organic, vegan, and free of silicone, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, gluten, petroleum and PEG. It’s cruelty-free, it won’t clog pores, and it’s 100% biodegradable.

I’m not going to question any of that. I’m just going to go with it. This moisturizer can be found at Target, so it’s affordable, and there are other products in the same line, so I predict (I hope!) you’ll find other Acure favorites here as the year goes on!

That’s it for February! Thank you for reading, as always!

I saw American Sniper. Here are my thoughts.

Somewhere around October-November, we found out about the upcoming film American Sniper. It was set to open on Christmas day. We were looking forward to it, and I liked the idea that two years in a row, the newly released movie we’d see on my December 27 birthday would feature Bradley Cooper.

As it turned out, the movie’s release date got pushed into January, so we didn’t get to see American Sniper on my birthday. Interestingly, though, the holiday movie we did go to see on December 27, Big Eyes, also featured an actor from last year’s birthday movie: Amy Adams! We saw American Hustle (Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper) on my birthday in 2013, and Big Eyes (Amy Adams) on my birthday in 2014.

I like Bradley Cooper. It’s not a crush. I’m not obsessed with him, and I don’t race to the theatre just because he’s in a movie, but I am a fan. I’ve never seen him flounder in a role, and I’ve never seen a film of his I didn’t enjoy or appreciate in some way. Bradley Cooper in a movie usually means that I’m going to like the movie, and this is also true about Amy Adams and a few other actors (Jake Gyllanhaal comes immediately to mind); Callaghan and I are almost always on the same page, which is good. It’s more fun spending money on movie tickets if we strongly suspect that we’ll really like the movie.

So we saw Big Eyes on my birthday, and we enjoyed it, and we continued to anticipate the release of American Sniper. When the day arrived, we went to the theatre with our favorite action-flick movie-watching partner-in-crime, Jason, and I didn’t know what I was walking into. Somehow, I had the idea that the film was about a veteran who was using his lethal military skills for some grand operation in the civilian sector. I didn’t know that I was walking into a war movie. Neither did I know that the story was based on an autobiography/events that happened in the life of a real person.

And I’m glad. I’m glad that I didn’t know it was a war movie, because I generally avoid war movies. Had I known, I would have dropped American Sniper off my to-watch list, and I would have missed out on an incredible movie.

Yes, I know. I’m a Buddhist and a mostly-vegan vegetarian and I’m all about peace and compassion, but I highly appreciated American Sniper. This might seem incongruous, but it’s really not. For one thing, just on the artistic level, I thought it was a brilliant, finely-wrought film. I thought Bradley Cooper gave a tremendous, nuanced performance. I thought Clint Eastwood’s handling of the project was masterful.

Where can I even begin to try to explain my appreciation beyond that?

I guess I should start with the disclaimer that I’m not motivated by politics when it comes to art. I’m a registered Independent, anyway… my political views do tend to lean in a certain direction (if you know me well, you know what direction that is), but there’s a reason why I won’t join a particular party. Also, I generally stay away from the subject of politics on social media sites. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t intend to talk politics here today or any day. I get that it’s hard to avoid politics where this film is concerned, but I’m going to try to avoid the damn politics.

Then I should point out that I’m a combat veteran. I spent six months in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait during Operations Desert Shield, Storm and Sabre, from the beginning of December 1990 to almost the end of May 1991. The ground war in January took all of two days, and the whole thing was rather anti-climactic after the airstrikes, but somehow I managed to get embroiled in the only real action American foot soldiers saw pushing through Iraq. I ran Commo (wire, radios) in a segment of a ground ambulance unit, and our convoy was comprised of mostly medics from my Garrison unit in Germany, along with some infantrymen, American National Guardsmen and women, and a few British soldiers. We were ambushed, and it was intense, and I brought that personal history with me going into the movie theatre to see American Sniper, not knowing, as I’d said, that it was going to be a war movie.

Now, about that Buddhist thing, since I know that it’s confusing to many people. I’ve been Buddhist all of my life, and I’ve been a martial/fighting artist for more than half of my life, and no, contrary to the popular opinion of our times, this does not create a contradiction. Buddhism and the fighting arts are not mutually exclusive. If you can understand this, then my admiration of American Sniper shouldn’t seem contradictory, either.

Rather than going into a tedious academic tangent on the principles of eastern philosophy, including the meaning of the yin-yang symbol, I’m asking that you hang with me for a minute here!

Buddhist monks in the Shaolin temple of ancient China were resourceful and inventive. They developed seitan, a popular protein-rich meat substitute made of wheat gluten, so they could avoid eating animals. They also developed Shaolin Kung Fu, a martial art that enabled them to kill with their bare hands and laid the groundwork for basically all eastern martial arts thereafter. What’s more, the full spectrum of the Shaolin martial arts system includes fighting with weapons. The “Buddhist warrior” is actually a thing, and it always has been. I’m not saying that ALL Buddhists are warriors. I’m just saying that warriors in the ranks of Buddhists have existed for ages, at least as long as there have been temples to protect. Long before Bruce Lee, there were the Shaolin Buddhist soldier monks.

Hard to believe that there’s a history of martial arts bad-assery in Buddhism, right?

Enough about me and my background. Returning to American Sniper, I want to talk about the “problem” of the veracity of (every detail of) Chris Kyle’s story. He apparently made some claims in his book that aren’t true. In my opinion, just from my perspective as a literature major, this is normal. Biography/autobiography/memoir/creative non-fiction and, loosely, historical fiction all rely on facts and factual events for the backbone of the stories within, but there’s usually good reason and/or artistic justification for alteration or invention in some places, and authors take this kind of creative liberty all the time.

Take, for example, a staple of children’s literature well-known and loved by most Americans. The Nellie Olson character in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series of books didn’t actually exist… she was an amalgamation of two real-life figures from her childhood. Because Laura Ingalls Wilder also altered the chronology of her family’s travels (reportedly for the sake of simplicity), she took two classmates from two of her schools in two different geographical locations and blended them together to create the one insufferable character we know as “Nellie Olson.” (The real Nellie Olson was one of the two classmates Laura Ingalls Wilder used to create the fictitious one.)

This is a well-documented fact, and yet I’ve never heard anyone say that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories are meaningless because she “made up” the character or “lied” about the trajectory of her family’s pioneering path, nor have I heard of anyone calling her out on any of the other half-truths, embellishments or omissions that resulted for artistic purposes. I never heard anyone say that because of all this, Laura Ingalls Wilder is not to be trusted or believed, and that the attention paid to her stories is undeserved. I never heard anyone say that the worth of other art based on the books she co-wrote about her life – namely, the world-famous Little House on the Prairie television series – was invalidated by her “lies.” I never heard anyone complain that the T.V. show was “mendacious” because Laura Ingalls Wilder changed some things, omitted things, and flat-out made other stuff up.

We know that she did these things, but we still accept her work as autobiographical. That which wasn’t real didn’t cancel out all that was real. Her story is still her story, and Chris Kyle’s story is still Chris Kyle’s story, and just because Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tone was demure and so many people dig stories about pioneer life more than they dig stories about soldiering life doesn’t mean that by majority opinion, we can have a double standard. If we’re going to call Chris Kyle a liar, then we’re going to have to call Laura Ingalls Wilder a liar for the exact same reasons, and we don’t want to do that, now, do we?

And while we’re on the subject, let’s think for a moment of how Laura Ingalls Wilder “glorified” and “romanticized” how her Pa decided to drag the family into Indian Territory and knowingly illegally squat on the Native Americans’ land, and how Laura Ingalls Wilder plainly recounted her parents’ racist attitudes and sentiments regarding the “savages” (sound familiar?) – have you ever heard anyone lambasting her for this dubious aspect of their “courageous” pioneer life? Neither have I. Needless to say, the storylines in the television series’ episodes conveniently omit any mention or reference to this part of the Ingalls’ “adventures.” Most everyone still loves the show.

But people are sure enjoying harping on Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper for “glorifying” and “romanticizing” the darker sides of Chris Kyle and his story.

Finally, I want to say that it’s interesting how the people shouting the loudest about how Chris Kyle was a lying psychopath (and no hero at all) are the ones who never spent a day in his or any other soldier’s boots. Now, I didn’t know Chris Kyle. I didn’t know him before, during or after his service, nor am I a psychiatrist. For all I know, he could have been a psychopath or a sociopath or whatever other -path you want to call him… but I don’t care. I don’t care if Chris Kyle was the kind of guy who’d help an old lady cross the street, or the kind of guy who’d push an old lady off a cliff. Because what I do know is that combat military training and circumstances change you in ways that civilians can’t even begin to fathom. What you were before is rendered nearly irrelevant. Even emerging from regular old Army basic training (Chris Kyle underwent Navy S.E.A.L. training, which is much more intense), you’re different than you were before you went in.

In basic training, you’re broken down from the inside out, with the whole point being to re-build you into something you probably weren’t before you went in: a killing machine that can be set into action when the circumstances call for it. The mental and physical conditioning you undergo in order to serve in combat is complete. I’m talking about the average person here. Now imagine that instead of being an average person, you were already an expert shot accustomed to taking lives (as a hunter)… and imagine, too, that your military occupational specialty is killing.

Someone’s got to do it, guys. The military is an establishment in which there’s a need for many roles, just like in civilian society, and while all soldiers are required to be conditioned in the basics, everyone has to choose an occupational specialty. Some soldiers are cooks. Others are band musicians. Others work in supply. There are the tankers, the ammo soldiers, the administration office-working soldiers, the morgue soldiers and the medics and the mechanics and the military cops and the JAG (legal) corps and the signal corps, the soldiers responsible for ensuring communications in the field (what I did – my 31K occupational title was “Combat Signaler.”) And so on, and so forth… and then you have the soldiers whose specialty is killing. These are the infantry, the “grunts.”

Regardless of your occupational specialty, though, all soldiers function the same way in combat zones, and again, to reiterate, this is what basic training is for. When thrown into a combat situation, the conditioning deep inside you surfaces, enabling you to automatically act according to the situation, and I’m sorry, but combat situations don’t usually involve making butter, choosing fabric for dresses, or embroidering. Pa Ingalls is not going to bust out his fiddle at the end of the day and make everyone laugh merrily as they sing along to his folksy songs.

When I was 18, I went to basic training and came out different than I was before, because that is what basic training is designed to do. Not only are you different, but you’re also no longer your own person. You become government property, calibrated to respond and operate on a situational basis. The minute you raise your hand and take that oath, the Constitution you’re charged to protect no longer even applies to you. You opt out of those rights in order to protect them. It’s the Unified Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for you!

A day or two before Christmas 1990, we were out there in the vast, cold and empty Saudi Arabian desert when we were told that Sadam Hussein had threatened an attack as a “Christmas present” for the Americans lying in wait, meaning, us. We went into high alert for an indefinite period of time. I remember my 22nd birthday very well. I spent the entire day in a foxhole in the biting cold, suited up in MOPP 4 (head to toe chemical protection gear) with a full bandolier of ammo strapped around my chest and my M-16 at the ready, and again, I came out different than I was before, because that’s what happens when you spend hours on end with every cell and nerve of your being waiting to either kill or get killed. Just being in that situation day after day changes you. Even if “nothing happens,” you can’t ever be the same again.

A few weeks later, the ground war started, and we switched gear from alert to action. We convoyed out of Saudi Arabia to follow the front line through Iraq, destination Kuwait. We were a ground ambulance convoy in our Cut-V’s and Hum-V’s, and we saw and dealt with everything you’d expect to encounter on a battlefield. Then we were ambushed. There were Iraqi snipers. There were detonating landmines. There were casualties. Afterward, there were smoke grenades and medevac helicopters. I’m not going to go into the details of what I did and saw, but you can bet that again, I was a different person by the end of it.

Now, take my modest little combat experience and quadruple it and give it another hefty boost for increased severity. Chris Kyle couldn’t possibly have ended up being the same person he’d been before any of his four tours of combat duty, whatever that may have been. He killed people, as we were all prepared to do, as Navy S.E.A.L.S. were expected to do, and I would venture to guess that he saved many more people than he killed. Whether I “agreed” with the Iraq War or not, I’m grateful to Chris Kyle for his service, and for the service of all men and women in uniform in all the branches of the Armed Forces, regardless of the conflict or the reason for it or behind it, or the duration or severity of it, or the number of times they deployed, or my opinion of it or your opinion of it or anyone’s opinion of it, or anything else.

I’d like to think that if I never lived the experience of being broken down and built back up to human war-machine specs, if I never set foot in a combat zone, if I never mentally prepared to suffer and die under chemical attack or by gunfire or other ordnance, if I never swallowed 12 mysterious pills a day “in case of chemical attack”… if I never lived a day of my life serving my country… I would recognize that I’m not in a position to judge Chris Kyle.

Like him or not, Chris Kyle was a hero. As far as I’m concerned, everyone who voluntarily raises their hand and swears away their own constitutional rights in order to protect yours is a hero, whatever else they may be, and whether they go to war or not. To try to posthumously shame Chris Kyle for being the lying asshole he maybe was is to miss the point of American Sniper. Deriding Eastwood and Cooper for taking part in “glorifying” anything is also an exercise in missing the point.

Aside from all of this, what’s really important here, of course, is that we found American Sniper to be a great piece of cinematic art in and of itself. Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper did a damn fine job, along with everyone else who put their energies into the making of the film. I’m saying this, and I don’t even like war movies!

So, American Sniper? We recommend it. It’s not easy to watch, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it “enjoyable,” but it’s an amazing film.

On that (hopefully cheerier) note, Happy Friday, All!

(Here are some photos I took in the war):

 

The first Hum-V ambulances....

The first Hum-V ambulances….

 

Random tank in Iraq

Random tank in Iraq

 

After the ambush, we continued on without stopping to sleep. This is what Kuwait looked like as we approached it.

After the ambush, we continued on without stopping to sleep. This is what Kuwait looked like as we approached it.

 

As we moved through Kuwait, children came running out from nowhere to greet us, happy and excited

As we moved through Kuwait, children came running out from nowhere to greet us, happy and excited

 

After the ground war in January 1991, this was mostly my view until we left in May.

After the ground war in January 1991, this was mostly my view until we left in May.

 

Thanks for scanning them, Callaghan!

Gym Rats: There’s a new poster child for calves-training in town.

It’s surprising how a simple virus can change your body in just a few days.

When I concern myself with my weight at all, I look at it through the lens of the combat sports weight class system. I just prefer to view my body as a tool, as in, what can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body? From this perspective, I dropped from the Jr. Bantam class to Jr. Flyweight within a week, just from being sick. What’s more, I’ve been eating normally for five days now, and I’m still in Jr. Fly. Is this just my new weight class? Should I start re-imagining my fantasy opponents?

But returning to the questions What can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body?  I’ve got my goals set for 2015: I want to make my body stronger, and I want it to be better-versed on the ground. I’ll try to find a place in my schedule for some kind of strength-training, as well as for some basic submission training and practice. I feel like I need to work on the basics. Also, getting stronger will get me my lost poundage back, I’m sure.

Callaghan’s been mapping out his training goals for 2015, too. I’d known that he was borderline obsessed with the whole process, but I didn’t realize to what extent until we were at the movie theatre a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was on my birthday. We were standing in the lobby when I noticed that he was distracted as I was talking to him.

“Sorry,” he said when he noticed me noticing. “I was mesmerized.” Naturally, I turned to look at the object of his attention. The only thing I saw was this promotional display:

 

thatasianlookingchick-spongebobmovie

 

It took a few seconds.

“SpongeBob?”

“His physique,” Callaghan explained.

I looked at the display again. Then I started laughing. Then I started taking pictures. Because Callaghan was too “mesmerized” by SpongeBob SquarePants to pay attention to what I’d been saying, and come on, how many people can say that about their partners? My husband wasn’t listening to me because he was mesmerized by SpongeBob’s physique.

Later, downloading the pics onto my laptop, something caught my eye as I flipped through them. I looked closer, and suddenly, it all make sense! There it was in all its glory… Callaghan’s biggest gym pet peeve:

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

 

Callaghan must have been looking at the proportion of SpongeBob’s legs – especially his calves – to the rest of his body!

I was gleeful with my discovery. I went back to him with the pics.

“Were you mesmerized by SpongeBob’s non-existent calves?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Or were you just mesmerized by his ripped upper body?”

“I was mesmerized by his non-existent calves. Actually, no, I was mesmerized by his ripped upper body. I didn’t even see his calves!”

Okay, well. Whatever. All I have to say is, once again, my partner is weirder than yours.

And SpongeBob SquarePants is now the official poster child for not skipping leg day… especially calves!

You want to know what mesmerized me over the holidays? Iggy Azalea performing “Fancy” with Charli XCX on New Year’s Eve:

 

 

How’s that for random?

New Year’s Resolutions and 2014 Favorites!

Just over a week into 2015, I’m finally posting my “2014 Favorites” list with the little things I enjoyed the most, reached for the most, or just generally all-around dug the most last year.

Some things that landed on my Monthly Favorites lists in 2014 turned out to be notable UNfavorites, such as the Revlon ColorStay Moisture Stain lip color, which started out feeling great, but ultimately caused my lips to flake off, and the T.V. series Stalker, which started out fun, but ended up proving to be a big disappointment.

Before we get too far into the New Year, I also wanted to share my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions with you, especially since one of them ties in nicely with these “Favorites” posts. I have two resolutions this year:

1). Get more sleep!! (7-8 hours/night)

2). Switch to cruelty-free skincare products, cosmetics, hair products and other personal care items as much as possible.

I plan to make every effort on that second one, but I’m looking sideways at my beloved Korean Epielle facial sheet masks and the Jergens Natural Glow gradual self-tanning lotion that keeps my legs from blinding my Body Combat class with their natural snowy whiteness.

I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but I’ve been too intimidated by the challenge, and too reluctant to spend money on expensive products. Things are different now, though, and I’m not anticipating any difficulties in finding great, budget-friendly, cruelty-free products. The time is right! Throughout the year, I’ll refer to this list on mybeautybunny.com, as it’s meticulously updated. For instance, if a brand starts to sell in China, a country that requires animal testing on products, a warning will pop up on the list.

As for that first resolution about sleep, I’ve already got a good start on that one, thanks to the stomach flu. I actually blame sleep deprivation for coming down with that bug in the first place. Callaghan gets more sleep than I do by several hours per night, and he did not get sick. Silver lining to the stomach flu: I have a fail-proof incentive to make sure I get enough sleep on a regular basis! Adequate sleep keeps the bad things away.

So, as I was starting to say before I veered off into resolutions, of all the things I’ve listed over the months of 2014, some stood out more than others. There were T.V. series and movies that left us speechless, foods I couldn’t get enough of, and products that were game-changers. Some of the things on this list didn’t even appear in the Monthly Favorites lists, so they’re appearing here for the first time.

That being said, onward with this sampling of some of my favorite little things from 2014. I’ll start with products, since they follow my cruelty-free resolution (see… I got a head start)!

 

1). Face: Alba Botanica Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

 

The facial cleansing wipes that changed my life: Alba Botanica's Hawaiian 3-in-1 clean towelettes.

The facial cleansing wipes that changed my life: Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian 3-in-1 clean towelettes.

 

This is advertised as a makeup remover-cleanser-toner product, but the refreshing, invigorating wipes quickly became my go-to facial cleansing product in harried times, and I’ve been re-purchasing them continuously. I don’t use them for removing makeup… I use them in lieu of actual cleansing on days (or nights) I don’t have time for the whole soap-and-water thing. Without fail, I use them on Saturday mornings before putting on sunscreen and heading to the gym. I jump in the shower as soon as I get home, and I don’t see the point in washing my face “for real” twice in a morning (I do put sunscreen on twice, though).

 

2). Cosmetic: Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Original.

 

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My favorite eyeshadow primer by Urban Decay.

 

Urban Decay is one of the high-end cruelty-free brands. I don’t mind splurging on their eyeshadow primer potion, because each tube lasts forever, apparently, and it works so well. I’ve been using my current tube for almost a year; I finally picked up another one just because I figured it’s got to end any day now, and yet that was almost two months ago, and it hasn’t. It’s magic!

 

3). Fast food: Chipotle’s sofritas (tofu).

 

My go-to fast food nosh: Chipotle burrito bowl with Sofritas

My go-to fast food nosh: Chipotle burrito bowl with Sofritas

 

Chipotle’s black beans and brown rice were always a good enough reason for me to enjoy going there, but now they’ve completely won me over with the brilliant creation of their vegan sofritas dish. It’s basically a hearty, spicy, perfectly seasoned tofu chili. The omnivorous Callaghan loves it, too, because its texture is pretty much the same as ground beef. An omnivore would never take a bite of this and say, “I’m eating tofu.”

My standard Chipotle order is a burrito bowl with sofritas, brown rice, black beans, grilled onions and peppers, pico de gallo, hot sauce, lettuce and guacamole. I don’t mind paying extra for the guac. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, and I value the addition of the healthy fats!

 

4). Beverage: Sumatra ground coffee from Starbucks.

 

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

 

“Beverage.” I just love that word. Careful, man, there’s a beverage here! I’m just so pleased that we stumbled upon some really good coffee on the humble shelves of Target, I can’t even tell you. I don’t drink a lot of coffee every day, but I like the coffee I do drink to be solidly satisfying. Starbucks’ ground Sumatra kills it.

 

5). Protein bar: Clif (snack size) Builder’s bars.

 

Clif Builder's Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

Clif Builder’s Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

 

Clif Bar makes my favorite everyday treat. As far as protein bars go, the snack size bars aren’t terribly high in protein (10 grams – it’s a small bar), but they’re higher in protein than your average candy bar, certainly higher in protein than most treats with only 140 calories, they’re nutrient-dense, there’s nothing bad in them, and they are, for the most part, vegan. The peanut butter ones are my standard 10:00-10:30am snack at work. If I have one after dinner instead, I go for the chocolate mint.

 

6). Activity: Body Combat.

 

untitled

 

An hour of someone guiding me through a kick-ass cardio workout in which I can practice almost every martial art I’ve ever studied? Yes, please! This is like cardio shadow-boxing at someone’s command (mostly bad music notwithstanding). All I have to do is show up. It’s fun, it’s an awesome workout, the instructors are fantastic, we’ve met some wonderful people there… it’s a no-brainer!

 

7). Big Thing: XXL WaveMaster heavy bag.

 

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

 

Practicing my form in Body Combat is one thing, but cardio shadow-boxing only whets the appetite for the next level. I did a drop-in kick-boxing class at a place with bags one day last year, and the surge of excitement as I made actual contact and worked with a partner had my head swimming with twinkly visions of heavy bags, target mitts and medicine balls ever since. Then Christmas rolled around and Callaghan’s gift arrived. Awesome!!

 

8). Small Thing: Travel cup from Starbucks.

 

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

 

Not one, but two Starbucks products on this list! What is happening?! I remember being tempted to travel back through the dusty spring desert to Blythe, California early in 2014 to get this travel cup where I first spotted it, but then hitting numerous Starbucks stores around the Valley, instead, until I found it here. I’m so glad I did. I’ve become kind of embarrassingly attached to it. I carry it with me practically everywhere at work, and it starts a lot of conversations with various aspects of its design. I love it just because it’s awesome, though.

 

9). T.V.: The Killing, Homeland and The Good Wife

 

thatasianlookingchick.cm-the-killing-season-4-poster

 

HOMELAND (Season 4)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-thegoodwife

 

Here we have a murder mystery/crime drama, a spy drama, and a legal drama. All of our cliffhanger needs were met in 2014. Figuratively speaking, our nails were bitten to the quick during these shows (especially during Homeland last fall, holy smokes)!!

Honestly, we saw so much good T.V. in 2014, I had a hard time narrowing it down. We loved House of Cards, The Following, True Detective, Hannibal and Mad Men. For comedies, we love Modern Family and Bob’s Burgers. Our token fluff comedy is Hart of Dixie. Gotta have the fluff!

 

10). Film: Edge of Tomorrow, Nightcrawler and The Babadook

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-EdgeofTomorrow

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-nightcrawlermovie

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-thebabadook

 

I love action, intrigue and terror, and between these three movies, 2014 delivered big time with this excellent trio of releases. That reminds me – American Sniper was released yesterday!!

That about wraps up this list – I’m looking forward to the fantabulous little things of 2015; in the coming year, expect to find mentions of books, articles and music (along with lots of cruelty-free products)!

Happy Friday, All. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – December Favorites

December is over! 2014 is over! Today, I’m going to rave about stuff (aka little things) that made the magical 12th month of the year even more magical, and next week, I’m going to rave again about the little things from 2014 that topped them all for a “best of” list for the whole year.

For December, I’m starting with entertainment, because as we all know, that’s one of my favorite types of things… and a great month for that it was, indeed. Three movies knocked us out with their awesomeness in December. Let’s get right to it.

1). The Babadook (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-thebabadook

So we were scrolling through our favorite movie-watching site one night and decided to take a chance on yet another horror flick. Good call! The Babadook was intense and intensely gratifying. It more than made up for all the horror flicks that left us feeling wistful for well-crafted terror, because The Babadook is the very definition of well-crafted terror. It scared the hell out of me. It was completely enthralling.

2). Big Eyes (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-bigeyes

My birthday was two days after Christmas. We went to the movies that afternoon, because my idea of a good birthday includes a movie date. This year, we went to see Tim Burton’s Big Eyes. We’re ardent Tim Burton, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz fans, and I love movies based on true events, and I love art, and I loved that for the second year in a row, my birthday movie featured Adams and her stunning talent. Last year’s American Hustle was excellent… and Big Eyes followed suit, to the surprise of neither of us.

First of all, I was fascinated by the story, itself. Since I’d always known the painter of those pictures to be Margaret Keane, it was interesting to learn the history behind the phenomenon and take in a few details about the art world that I hadn’t known before, as well. I’m surprised that no one made a movie about this story before, but I’m happy that they waited until now, because now we have Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. I’m eagerly waiting to see how many Oscar nominations this film rakes in, like American Hustle.

3). The Interview (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-theinterview

Think or say what you want about the hype surrounding this movie or the movie, itself; we thought it was freaking hilarious. It had us rolling from that ridonkulously absurd opening scene with Eminem, and the ridonkulous absurdity continued… the actors never dropped the pace of their comedic timing. We saw The Interview on Christmas day, at home, computer hooked up to our T.V., voilà! Our first ever new-movie home viewing experience! The novelty and hilarity of it made for an extra enjoyable Christmas. I hope no one dies because of it, though.

4). Bikram yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

I’m so grateful to say that there was something fabulous every day of the short holiday break, and on the 26th, the fabulous little thing was my first Bikram yoga class in about 10 years. It felt marvelous, and I was reminded of why I’d enjoyed yoga so much in the first place. Graciously invited by a friend who practices the art at the newer Bikram establishment, I walked in without an idea of how my body would behave or react throughout the series of poses. As it turned out, my muscles still knew what to do, though at the surface level, I couldn’t remember how the mechanics of some of the poses worked… it was a strange juxtaposition.

Aftereffects? Physically, I never reached the depth of the pain I was sure I’d experience in the following days. The day after, I felt it in my lower body, mostly in my hamstrings and hip flexors… but it wasn’t that bad. I went beast mode in Body Combat class as usual without the help of Advil (I’d been prepared to gulp the Advil in order to do Combat, but it wasn’t necessary). The following day, I felt the soreness in my upper body, mostly in my triceps, lats and along my spine… and again, it wasn’t at all as severe as what I’d thought it’d be.

In other respects, I felt great. The meditative 90-minute practice brought back everything I loved about Bikram yoga. It was energizing, centering, grounding, and I was very glad that I went.

5). XXL WaveMaster heavy bag.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

For Christmas, Callaghan offered me what he knew I’d been wanting for a long time: a heavy bag! Body Combat class has been (and continues to be) awesome, but I’ve really been missing making actual contact with my strikes; I love it, and I’m badly in need of target practice. It’s been too long. I went online and identified the bag I wanted. It’s the extra-large WaveMaster, and it’s since taken up residence in our garage.  More on this later… it deserves a post of its own! Suffice it to say for now that I’m completely stoked and can’t wait to start training here at home to supplement my group fitness workouts.

6). HeartFire Botanicals Chocolate Orange sugar scrub.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

This scrub is the creation of a good friend who recently started making and selling her own healing personal care products, and my dry winter lips love it as an evening exfoliating treatment! My lips have been so soft since I started using it. She gave it to me for Christmas, and I already swear by it. Her site is here… check it out! (I added the link to her shop in the sidebar here, too.)

7). Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Dry shampoos and I got off on the wrong foot. The one I tried last year? Turned my hair gray. I mean, it sprayed on white, and the discoloration was ridiculously difficult to correct. I couldn’t massage it out. I couldn’t brush it out. It was such an annoying experience that I returned it and assumed that dry shampoo was just something I’d do without… until I ventured to try again with this Got2B product. I’ve been enjoying the Got2B Guardian Angel heat-protectant spray so much that when I found this dry shampoo next to it in the drugstore, I sprang for it. It turns out that this brand of dry shampoo is magic in a can! It also sprays on whitish – I guess they all do…? – but my hair easily returns to its color after working in the product and brushing it out. I put it through the ultimate test and used it the day after a Body Combat class after which I did not wash my hair (I come home from Combat with my hair soaked in sweat, so this was gross). The next day, the Got2B Rockin’ It dry shampoo make my hair look and feel like I’d actually washed it. Amazing. Sold. Will re-purchase!

8). Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution Relax & Relief with Eucalyptus and Spearmint.

Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

I took a hot bath the evening I went to Bikram yoga, and it was this concoction of Dr. Teal’s that went into it. I actually wanted plain Epsom salts so I could treat the water with some essential oils I already had, but I ended up going for this one with Eucalyptus and Spearmint. It provided a thoroughly relaxing experience, and as mentioned above, the post-yoga soreness I’d experienced in the following days was minimal and short-lived. I’m not sure how much of that I can attribute to these bath salts, but at the very least, I can say that they made for a wonderfully relaxing bath!

9). Birthday flowers.

Flowers for my birthday!

Flowers for my birthday!

Poor Callaghan. My birthday is on December 27, so he has to think of double gifts for me during the holidays! When he asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I thought of the expensive heavy bag he’d gotten me for Christmas and just said, “Flowers from Trader Joe’s!” Because there was really nothing else I wanted. Callaghan’s artistic talent extends to flower arranging, and I love the quality and selection of cut flowers at Trader Joe’s, so we went there on my birthday and came home with the enormous selection of blooms he’d chosen. Later, he presented me with three gorgeous arrangements (only two are shown in the picture because the third one fell casualty to Ronnie James). I am lucky.

10). Sumatra coffee from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Okay, so I grudgingly admit that our new favorite coffee happens to be a product of Starbucks.

When I was in college, I worked briefly as a barista at a small independent espresso shop that specialized in roasting beans to sell to customers as well as to distribute to other coffee shops. I worked there just long enough – almost a year, I think? – to develop a familiarity with a dozen or so Arabica coffee beans from around the world. Of the blends and straights our Master Roaster (who was from Italy) produced daily, the straight Sumatra quickly became my favorite.

That was back in 1994. I blame my snotty attitude toward Starbucks on my experience working with the Master Roaster, but really, I never preferred the taste of Starbucks coffee. Thus, it was a total surprise when Callaghan found a bag of ground Sumatra one day in December and my Sumatra love was promptly rekindled by its excellence… and the name on the bag was Starbucks! Guess where he found it? At Target. Of course.

That wraps it up for December… Happy New Year, everyone, and happy Friday! =)

Sometimes, when one door closes, another one opens – with a hard right hand.

Body Combat class was cancelled at the gym last Saturday because of the holiday. Reluctant to miss a workout, I thought, what better time to find a heavy-bag somewhere? It had been so long!

I jumped online and honed in on a Saturday cardio kickboxing class at a boxing gym near our apartment. Going as a walk-in, I could avoid missing a workout and get in a heavy-bag bonus while I was at it. Their web site said to bring your own hand-wraps, so I knew I’d be punching something.

The rental fee for an hour with the heavy-bag walk-in cost for the class was only ten bucks. I was excited. It’d been about six years since I’d touched a heavy-bag, and just as long since I’d taken part in any kind of martial/fighting arts training (Capoeira and Kali were the last. Boxing, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do and T’ai Chi – many people don’t realize it, but T’ai Chi is actually a deadly form of martial arts – seemed ages ago). The last time I’d climbed into the ring to spar was maybe 2008. My six years away from combat sports felt more like six cat years… that would be 40 human years, which is about how long it felt!

The class was fun, and I did get to work the heavy-bag. I had my old hand-wraps that I’d dug out of storage the previous week, and I borrowed some gloves from the gym. During the hour-long workout, we did cardio kickboxing drills (including punching with weights, which I’d never done before, so that was interesting, and throwing kicks), push-ups, bag-work, partner-work and abs.  It felt great. I felt great.

Until two days later, when I found myself gobbling four extra-strength Advil as we ran out the door to Monday evening Body Combat. Everything hurt. The boxing gym workout had settled into my muscles, and I literally felt it from my neck down. Trapezius muscles? RIGHT, those exist! And to quote Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “Oh. Johnny Anterior Delts, I apologize; I forgot you were there.” Pecs. LATS! Triceps. Abs. QUADS… I felt the intense soreness in my upper legs just walking.

It didn’t help that I’d forgotten to eat something beforehand, either. In addition to the post-workout soreness, my energy stores felt depleted in class that night. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love feeling that kind of pain again, and I still had a great workout!

When we started Body Combat on Saturday, March 29, Callaghan was looking for general fitness benefits, and I was looking to re-gain my skills and get back into shape after being ridiculously sedentary for over three years (NEVER AGAIN). Three and a half months later, I’m feeling immensely better, but I still have a long way to go. There’s the two Body Combat classes and a boot camp class each week, and sometimes I go an extra day to walk on the treadmill. I feel like I should be doing more.

On Wednesday, it happened again… we had tickets to see Def Leppard and Kiss, which meant ditching boot camp class. We made it up last night by doing a Body Attack class at a different gym location. I’d never heard of Body Attack (like Body Combat, it’s a Les Mills International class). It was a pretty good workout!

Here’s a picture of Callaghan and me at the concert on Wednesday night:

 

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here's this, for what it's worth...

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here’s this, for what it’s worth…

 

Happy Friday, All!

What I’m Digging Right Now – March Favorites

It’s the first day of April! It’s time to show you some of the things I loved last month. There was an abundance of “little things” treasures in March, but I chose nine for this list.

Without further ado:

(ahem)

1). A new phone, which means a new camera… and it’s an Android, which means Instagram. Yes! I’d thought I’d forever avoid Instagram, but I actually really dig it now that I have it. I haven’t been that active on it yet, but I will be.

 

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan's portrait of my parents, and it's my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it's 82 degrees outside.

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan’s portrait of my parents, and it’s my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it’s 82 degrees outside.

 

The reason for the new phone was the fact that my camera died at the end of February. I needed a camera, and Callaghan and I both needed phones, and Verizon was offering a Buy One Get One Free deal on Samsung Galaxy S4s, and I had additional perks due to my “loyalty status” from my former years with Verizon… so it just made sense. Now I have a camera. It’s good enough for what I like to do with a camera, which is point and click.

 

2). Flowering cactuses!

 

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

 

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

 

IT HAS BEGUN. Between now and mid-June, the desert flora will display its myriad of flowers – the different species bloom at different times. Many pictures will be taken. How I’ve missed spring here! Our two visitors from France (one is coming in April, the other in May) are in for a treat.

 

3). New glasses.

 

New glasses. Not BCGs.

New glasses. Not BCGs.

 

These are not the ones I got from the V.A. in Austin. Those turned out to be a disaster in every way, starting with an inaccurate prescription and ending with that wrong prescription being put in the wrong frames that didn’t fit. Long story short, I couldn’t wear them. This is why mall optometrists exist. I walked in, made my appointment for the next day, went back for the appointment, and walked out with this new pair of glasses that seem to be perfect. Instant gratification glasses! I mostly just wear them for driving and watching T.V. and movies.

 

4). Body Combat class at the gym.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

Over the last few months, I’ve had to face the fact that I’m just not as self-motivated at the gym as I used to be. Add to this the fact that when I join a group training situation that carries even the slightest semblance to martial/fighting arts, I feel as at-home as a bat in a cave… my so-called muscle memory knows what to do, and how to do it… and voilà! Body Combat is an ideal group fitness class for me. The instructor’s mission in life for that hour is to kick our butts. I don’t have to do anything but show up and follow along.

The Body Combat classes incorporate techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, capoeria, karate and MMA, all of which my muscles know and enjoy, even though they haven’t trained in years. The fast-paced classes focus on cardio rather than on form, but I’m loathe to execute the moves sloppily, so I end up getting a fantastic workout as I concentrate on form while trying to keep up (to the extent that my out-of-shape self can safely do. I’m careful to not exceed my limitations). We leave the class completely elated, worn out and drenched in sweat. I love it so much I can’t even tell you.

 

5). True Detective, season one (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-TrueDetective

 

Simply stated, this new series right here rather blew our minds. That is all.

 

6). Hannibal, season two (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-HannibalS2

 

As The Following continues to hold our eager attention, we’ve added Hannibal to our current series line-up, as the second season began on the last day of February – meaning, we picked it up at the beginning of March. It’s just as darkly sick and warped and luscious and richly textured as season one. What is this fascination with serial killers? Hannibal is so beautifully done. It’s mesmerizing.

 

7). Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner in Stingray.

 

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

 

Finally, I’ve found a retractable black eyeliner pencil capable of drawing a line that stays where you put it! I’d thought I’d also be able to appreciate it for its status as a cruelty-free product, but when I got home and got online, I found that Stila Cosmetics has been struck from the list of cruelty-free cosmetic companies. The reason? “3rd party animal testing.” *sighs*

 

8). Tourni, our new sunflower.

 

Here's Tourni! It's hard to see him in this picture. He's the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

Here’s Tourni! It’s hard to see him in this picture. He’s the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

 

I met a new friend for lunch one day in March, and she surprised me with a thin, pale greenish-yellow stalk from her garden. Loosely wrapped, it appeared to be quite frail. She told me that it was a sunflower. Un Tournesol, I thought immediately. His name is Tourni! “Tournesol” is French for sunflower.

I left the restaurant with little Tourni hanging limply over the side of a plastic water cup, his vestige of a root-ball submerged in two or three inches of water. I pondered what to do with him. He looked so fragile. Our balcony is completely shaded; we have no real direct sunlight in which to grow a sunflower.

By the end of the day, Tourni was looking pretty lifeless and pathetic. Unsure of what to do, I left him in the drink holder in our truck for the night while I figured it out.

At the end of the next day, we went to retrieve Tourni from the truck, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The scant amount of dirt in the cup had absorbed all of the water, and there was little Tourni, upright, happy and spry! He looked like a completely different plant.

 

Alive and proud! I should have taken a "before" picture!

Alive and proud! I should have taken a “before” picture!

 

We brought him in and put him in a pot with some potting soil, both of which we happened to have on hand. He loves the close heat of the truck, so we set him in there during the day. At night, we bring him up to sit on our balcony with the other plants in our growing (ha!) collection.

 

9). Oil-pulling

 

Unrefined, organic coconut oil - the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

Unrefined, organic coconut oil – the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

 

At some point over the winter, an enormous can of unrefined, organic coconut oil appeared in Mom and Dad’s kitchen in California. Dad stirs a teaspoon of it into his coffee every morning. I noticed it when we were there at the beginning of March, and I was intrigued… I’d been reading about the Ayurvedic practice of oil-pulling, and contemplating starting it.

The morning we left, Mom and Dad generously tucked three jars of the oil into our luggage. Dad started oil-pulling that morning, Callaghan started that night after we got back to Arizona, and I started the following morning.

It’s now been three weeks, and so far, I’ve noticed the following two effects: 1). I haven’t had a problem with insomnia since, and 2). my teeth, while never horribly discolored, are indeed much whiter now; many people who do this practice report whiter teeth as a result.

The whiter teeth thing is great, but the sleeping thing? Incredible!

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but what an odd coincidence it is. From Day One of swishing coconut oil around in my mouth for twenty minutes as a part of my morning routine, I’ve been able to drop off to sleep effortlessly. This is unheard of, and it’s been consistent. The only thing I’ve been doing differently is the oil-pulling, so I’m thinking there’s a reasonable chance that there’s a connection.

Whatever the case, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s relaxing, and the whiter teeth are definitely a bonus!

On Callaghan’s part, he says that the quality of his sleep has improved greatly, and his teeth are definitely whiter now.

Okay… that’s it for March favorites! Here’s to spring. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – January Favorites

Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Hey Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Horse, and we’re off to a galloping start.

It’s also the last day of January, and I’m wrapping it up with a list of things that brightened my world during the month. Anytime is a good time to celebrate “the little things,” though, I figure.

So let’s start with food, because I stumbled on a great light late-afternoon nosh this month, and I’m eager to share it.

1). A cup of Trader Joe’s Pomegranate White Tea with a LÄRABAR über Roasted Nut Roll (sweet and salty fruit & nut bar).

 

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

 

This antioxidant and protein-packed duo bridges the afternoon to the evening really well with just enough caffeine to get you through, but not enough to interfere with your sleep later… and it’s tasty, healthy and substantial. You get a little bit of tart, sweet and salty all at once. Liveliness all around!

2). Learning to drive a manual transmission – Tara’s corvette!

 

I never would have thought you'd find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

I never would have thought you’d find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

 

I’m 45 now – I’m entitled to that long-awaited mid-life crisis, and we all know that where there’s a mid-life crisis, there’s got to be a Corvette. (Hey, I know my stereotypes.) My friend Tara indulged me one night a few weeks ago with her car and her patience, and it was exciting! Thanks again, Tara!

3). Returning to the gym.

I didn’t take a picture of our new gym, so here’s a logo from the web, instead:

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsJAN2014-24hourfitnessWe knew when we landed back in AZ that we’d join a gym and start working out. After some lengthy research and consideration, we finally decided everything and made it happen.

Our new memberships came with a complimentary session with a personal trainer. I met with mine the first Friday morning after we signed up. My trainer was nice, although there was some kind of disconnect between us.

“So what are we doing this morning?” He got right into it.

“I’m horribly out of shape,” I told him. “I haven’t worked out regularly in like three years.”

“What do you mean you’re ‘out of shape’?”

“Well, after three years of mostly just sitting around, I’ve become one of those “skinny-fat” people, you know?” I explained. “I’m not overweight, but I’m out of shape, and my body fat composition is probably a mess.”

We’d joined a gym in France, but we went all of like three times, so it didn’t count. I’ve literally been 95% sedentary for three years.

Fitness and martial arts training used to be a serious business with me, as those of you who used to read my LiveJournal may remember. I’d been a dedicated gym rat and student of various martial arts, I went to yoga regularly, and at one point I’d studied to get my personal trainer certification. I never followed through on that, but I read the whole darn book in preparation for it. I also studied nutrition, and I continue to keep up with the ongoing scientific research in the areas of fitness, nutrition and health.

I would have thought that my trainer would measure my body-fat percentage to get an assessment, but he did not. Instead, he decided to kick my ass as if I was in better-than-average shape.

Consequently, the next day, I could hardly walk.

“What part of ‘I haven’t worked out in three years’ was unclear?” I complained to Callaghan later. But still, it was fun. And the gym is super nice. I especially love doing laps in the pool, stretching in the sauna afterward, and then sitting in the Jacuzzi.

4). Starbucks travel drink container

 

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

 

This was one of those frivolous impulse purchases, but it was a delayed reaction impulse, which sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. I saw a bucket of these cups glinting in the sun at the Starbucks that day we broke down on our way to Palm Springs. It ended up being one of those situations where something catches your eye, you note to yourself that it’s interesting, and you ignore it and move along… then, later, when you’re sitting at home 159 miles away, it pops back into your head with the realization that you would really love to have it, and you kick yourself for not having gotten it. You can’t stop thinking about it. You’re mesmerized by the memory of its lid’s shiny coppery facets. It’s sitting in a bucket in Blythe, California, 2.5 hours away, and you’re not going to drive 2.5 hours just to go get it. Thus, your quest begins… every time you pass a Starbucks, you ask your husband to please wait just a second so I can run in to see if that one carries those cups! until finally one of them has them… at which point you discover that it’s stupidly expensive, but by then it’s become The Holy Grail, so you HAVE to get it.

Now I feel slightly guilty about it, but a). the guilt is not as bad as the mournful feeling I had when I thought I’d missed my chance to get it (first world problem alert!), and b). not really, because I’ve been drinking water non-stop since I got it, I love it so much! And that’s a good, healthy thing. No buyer’s remorse here. Nope. None.

Plus, I discovered that it’s sweat-proof, which is a great feature. I keep it filled with ice, and the surface of my desk stays dry. WIN.

5). Townes Van Zandt and the documentary about him, Be Here To Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt

 

One of the best music documentaries I've ever seen. I recommend it.

One of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. I recommend it.

 

In my November favorites post, I talked about my passion for Steve Earle, my favorite country music artist. Townes is Steve Earle’s collection of Townes Van Zandt covers, and it’s a favorite CD of mine because I’m a huge Townes Van Zandt fan. He’s regarded as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” covered by many other musicians, and I find the story of his life to be as fascinating as the brilliant and haunting lyrics he wrote. I mean, as a poet, songs like “Rake” and “Marie” simply floor me.

I love Steve Earle’s Townes Van Zandt covers more than anyone else’s. Here’s his version of “Marie”:

 

 

If there was ever to be an anthem for the homeless, that song would be it.

6). The requisite beauty product item on this list has to be the Simple Sensitive Skin Experts foaming facial cleanser.

 

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

 

My Mom loves this cleanser. She gave me a bottle of it when I visited them in December, and it’s grown on me since then, as I’ve used it routinely. It’s almost-but-not-quite overkill for my skin (I have normal skin, and foaming cleansers are usually best for oily skin), but I’m used to it now, and it’s true that my face feels especially clean after I wash with it. I use it at night after I remove my makeup.

7). The girl who hula-hoops on the grass across from our place.

 

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin'!

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin’!

 

I’ve mentioned her before. She continues appearing on the lawn to practice her hooping, so finally I had to take a picture; I feel like it’s a terribly stalker-ish thing to do, but I made sure to avoid getting her face so as to respect her privacy. I wish that her inspirational energy could come through to you in the picture, though. She’s diligent, and she’s a delight to watch.

8). French blue and white toile plate – Luneville “The Cottage”

 

Blue and white toile  Luneville "The Cottage" plate from Callaghan's family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

Blue and white toile Luneville “The Cottage” plate from Callaghan’s family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

 

What is it with me and small collectable plates these days? It’s a new thing. Also in my November favorites post, I’d talked about the handmade Greek one (Bonis Ceramics) I’d found in the corner of a used bookstore, and since then Callaghan discovered this plate, a family piece from France, in one of his many boxes. Somehow, it immediately found its way to the corner of my desk, where it’s resided ever since. All month long, the sight of it has made me smile.

9). My boys. Ronnie James and Nounours have taken to cuddling so close, they almost look like conjoined twins.

 

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

 

Joined at the hip, those two!

10). Finally, venturing into Callaghan’s office/studio more and more gives me a gateway to the realm of the strange and unexpected as he’s started creating more, and you know me. I love it. Yesterday, I caught this in my peripheral vision as I left the room:

 

Is that a...?

Is that a…?

 

…so I stepped back to take a closer look.

 

...why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

…why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

 

Now let’s see what February brings!

Inspired by Ronnie James

We often call him “Wrah-Wrah” or “The Wrah-Wrah” because that’s his favorite word. “Wrah-wrah-wrah-wrah-wrah,” he mutters as he walks around. He uses different pitches, tones and intonations to modify its meaning. It works as a shortened version of his name, too… Ronnie James – Wrah-Wrah.

Sometimes, it’s his fierce ki-ya, his warrior call. “Wrah-WRAH!”

Which makes me itch to get back into martial arts again, soon, because it’s been too long. Ronnie James goes around dragging his toy weapon, and my kali sticks are locked up in storage in France. I hope to return to some kind of training soon.

 

Ronnie James with his weapon on the left. Warrior with his weapon on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Ronnie James with his weapon on the left. Warrior with his weapon on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

 

On that note, I’m off to get ready… we have a full weekend planned, starting with hanging out with a visiting friend this afternoon. We’re meeting for lunch and then going to the Museum of the Weird. WRAH!

Giant Box of Kitty Litter – 1; Kristi – 0

A few days ago, I had my ass handed to me by a giant box of kitty litter, and since then, it’s been all about pain management up in here.

 

It destroys more than just ammonia if you hold it carelessly with one hand and bend over and extend yourself at a weird angle while trying to fit it into a specific spot in the back of the closet.

It destroys more than just ammonia odors if you hold it carelessly with one hand and bend over and extend yourself at a weird angle while trying to fit it into a specific spot in the back of the closet.

 

Here are the results of experiments I’ve conducted with the various pharmaceuticals lying around the house:

–Extra-Strength Advil, my preferred over-the-counter pain medication: I took four at a time and experienced no relief. When I checked the expiration date, I found that it was expired. Trash! It was almost empty, anyway, so not much went to waste.

–Extra-Strength Tylenol: I took two at a time and didn’t get any relief from it, either, which isn’t surprising considering that my brain doesn’t get the memos sent by many types of pain-killers. There’s a rumor that natural red-heads tend to be difficult to anesthetize. My biological father has flaming red hair; my natural hair color is reddish (it’s actually really red in the front, where my bangs are). When I woke up from my major abdominal surgery a few years ago (my biological mother had ovarian cancer, so I had a recommended prophylactic bilateral salpingo oophorectomy with hysterectomy, aka the “Everything Out!” women’s surgical special), we discovered that I “don’t have the receptors for morphine,” in the words of one of the nurses. Yep, I woke up feeling everything. My brain does respond to Demerol, though. Lock it up! (No, on second thought, don’t lock it up. Find it. Bring it. Thanks.)

–Aspirin: I tried taking two aspirin yesterday morning, and it also failed to have an effect. So I spent most of the afternoon sleeping.

I see no reason to visit the doctor for this, because I know from vast experience over the course of years that prescription pain-killers like Vicodin, Percoset and several others have very little if any effect on me. They usually do nothing.

The true moral of this story is that I need to get back into working out, so I can keep my lower back strengthened and protected against these kinds of ridiculous mishaps. An MRI from a few years ago revealed a ruptured disc – S1, I think – so I know that I have a weakness in that area already. My favorite way to work out is to train in some kind of martial arts dojo, so I’m going to start researching options around here.

This post was brought to you by Ronnie James and Nounours, who really do appreciate their clean litter every day:

 

Kitties at the window

 

Happy Hump Day, Everyone!