Thursday, August 6, 2009

Put the Screwdriver in the Coconut...

I thought this challenge, posed by Christie, would be easy as pie. And, with all of the recent LSAT studying/ back to school/ why-is-the-work-never-over stress, I could use a little quality time with a hammer. So as I was in BiLo early Sunday morning in a desperate and groggy search for coffee, I picked up a coconut.

This was not my first coconut rodeo. Freshman year of college I lived across from a slightly sketchy, but highly ethnic supermarket, and in addition to having things like lengua (read: tongue) in the meat department, they also had a wide and fresh selection of coconuts. For anyone interested, first you puncture the little holes in the top of the coconut and drain the water. Then a good solid crack to the middle, like the above, should do it. However, if you do not live near a place coconuts logically come from, you may end up with a situation like this:

Wary as I now was of the freshness of coconuts in the south, I went to my local Whole Foods. The three brown coconuts they had there had blemishes, cracks, and I didn't hear the coconut water sloshing around when I shook them. These are all not good signs.

And then I saw them: a cluster of young coconuts sitting over by the guacamole! I snagged one and brought it home, where both the Second Lieutenant and my mother promptly asked me what the hell it was. Sometimes I forget that not everyone has seen a young coconut.

I was first introduced to young coconut meat by my roommate, Nicole. She would eat the gelatinous meat for dessert. When she later came out to visit me in California, we went to an excellent raw food place in Santa Monica called Euphoria Loves Rawvelution, where they serve young cocnuts exactly like I'm about to show you. (The Young Coconut, scored and sitting next to the best rice in the world.)

If you look closely in the above picture, you will see a pentagonal scoring in the top of the coconut. At Rawvelution, they take a cleaver and chop said pattern. Then they use the blade to pry the top open, and voila!

Think like this, but... slower. I like my fingers.

I have accomplished the same thing with the base of the blade of my cheap WalMart knives in California, but for some reason (saftey, I expect), my Dad's "good" knives would not replicate this feat.

So, the trusty screwdriver and hammer made a reappearance. Stress release galore:

And Yay! Mission accomplished. I got to drink coconut water while I studied, and then I took all the meat out and froze it for my breakfast-protein smoothie the next day.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Um. So yeah.

I thought I would knock out Lauren's theoretically-worst challenge: to give up all of my "liquid indulgences" for a week.
I have a feeling she posed this for the following reasons.
-When I gave up drinking diet soda, I started chugging coffee
-When I stopped drinking coffee, I started drinking tea a lot
-Then my 21st birthday hit, and I drank a glass of wine/other alcohol with dinner
-Then in an effort to maintain a non-Jabba-the-Hutt waistline, I started to drink a lot of sparkling water. See, it's like soda, but without the aspartame! And I would drink that generally instead of wine at night. During this time period, the tea lattes also made a comeback.

So... I have a beverage problem. I like to ALWAYS have a beverage around me, but especially while studying or writing. I know some people would say I have caffeine issues, but I've gotten so used to giving that up cold turkey that I don't think that's the problem anymore. I think it's essentially just the habit of drinking (again, especially while studying/reading/writing).

So, as per Lauren's challenge, I tried to give all of the above named beverages for a week, and make due with only water and the smoothie-with-powder I choke down in the morning to ensure I get enough protein. I made it through Wednesday and Thursday just fine. Then yesterday I found myself drinking straight from the 2 liter bottle of cream soda that has been sitting on the counter all summer before I even knew what I was doing. It kind of reminded me of a story my grandmother tells about the time she fell asleep smoking and lit the couch on fire. As my grandfather put the couch out she was crying hysterically, panicking, and swearing she would never smoke again... as she lit another cigarette.

This will be attempted again. Maybe after a better battle-plan is formulated.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Challenge...4? The Mortal Instruments

I've been spending the last week working everyday at the restaurant and most of the rest of my time reading for my internship. But fear not Challenge followers! I have also been working on what I have dubbed the "long term" Challenges: namely the running challenge, the hundred push ups, and the writing everyday.

All that being said, I made time to finish the Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare. It's that good. So good that after a long night of running food out to tables, when I come home dead exhausted, it calls to me, and I find myself propping up these behemoth sized books instead of vegging out in front of re-runs of The Closer.

I know what you're thinking. Behemoth sized? Doesn't that mean expensive? Yes and no. For you see, I have also been working on the "free things to do" challenge in the process of all of this. I have learned how to exploit the public library system so fantastically that even I, an avid reader, have only had to buy one book all summer. But that's for later.

On to the review: I had picked these books up before Lili suggested this challenge. I sat down in B&N and read a chapter or two of the first book, City of Bones. I wasn't terribly impressed. Less impressed, even, when I saw the display that compared the series to another recent supernatural love story. Initially, I found Clary, the heroine, to be a little thick, the explanations tedious, and I really just wanted to slap the hero, Jace. I found their romantic chemistry to be kind of sneaky, but much more believable than other stories I've read recently.

But oh, the action. Though it took me a book or two to get immersed in Clare's world, I think she writes action sequences beautifully. She writes action scenes like I imagine Joss Wheadon thinks out scenes: simple, but intense choreography, straightforward description, focus on the internal and external while fighting... ah yes. As I learn how to write action sequences, I have a feeling the final fight in City of Glass between Jace and his surprise nemesis will go on my to-be-studied shelf right next to the escape from Privet Drive in Deathly Hallows.

It took me until the second book, City of Ashes, to get really into the series, mostly because I was mad at how the first book ended. But when I finished the third book (City of Glass) yesterday, I found myself wanting back in. I re-read a few chapters just to be in that fantasy world again, which is (in my mind) the mark of a good fantasy novel. On top of that, the characters are pretty well-developed and layered. Even Jace kind of grew on me by the end, mostly because his reveled dimensionality may explain why I didn't like him initially. I may have to go back and look at that.

I eagerly await the release of Clare's next series, which will combine her world from The Mortal Instruments with steampunk and the Victorian era, due out in Fall 2010.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Scarlet Pimpernel Review

You remember those old Kix cereal commercials? The kids were convinced they were eating candy, and they laughed at their mother's healthy food kick? The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy is a lot like that. It has the prestige and pedigree of a great literary classic, but it also has the suspense of a mental-candy read.
Yes, sometimes the book's heroine, Marguerite, goes on for pages about her shame and her undying love for her husband in a way that would make Faulkner roll his eyes. But it also has enough action and suspense to keep me momentarily distracted from my other current reading.

So go ahead. Read it. Balance the adult and the juvenile. I, however, have to go read law stuff now, so in order to balance that (and because I have typed Pumpernickel instead of Pimpernel twice now), I leave you with this:

Oh, and the plot of this short is actually nothing like the book, so I didn't spoil anything for you. In fact, it's actully a lot more like if you took Errol Flynn's Robin Hood and Gene Kelley's The Three Musketeers and put them in a blender with Daffy Duck. Enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Push Ups Begin!

This long-term challenge brought to us by Christie!

Christie challenged me to tackle the challenge. I looked at the website. "Bah!" I scoffed. "I can do 2 push ups, then 3 push ups and then two more sets of two! This will be cake!"

Now it had been a while since I had received formal push-up training, and the site's instructions of proper form left me with questions. So I consulted my brother, Second Lieutenant McArmy. I figure he qualifies as an expert since part of his job description includes yelling at ROTC boys until they do these things correctly, and since he informs me he can do 78 push-ups in 2 minutes.

He said how wide or narrow my arms were doesn't matter, and I rejoiced, since a wider grip means more shoulder-chest focus (which I have) and less tricep work (my triceps are kinda puny).

Then came the trick.

I have been informed that for a push up to count, I have to "break the plane". For those of you not in the Army, this means I must lower myself until my elbows go past my shoulder blades. Since watching me do this would be laughable at this point, the Second Lieutenant agreed to pose:

Breaking the plane:

Not breaking the plane:

This makes things a lot more difficult. I can currently do about two "plane breaking" push ups, and then I go back to my elbows only getting to about 60-90 degrees. Baby steps.

Challenge 2: Vegan Egg Salad

Today's challenge was posed by Nell!

I was actually a little scared of this challenge at first. Currently I'm trying to primarily eat a vegan diet about 5 days a week (so, whenever I'm at home), but when I took a week to see exactly how many calories, fat, carbs, fiber and protein I was eating I realized that I was only getting about half of the amount of protein I should! Oops.

So how much protein do I need? First you need to find your lean body mass. I happen to have a scale that tells me my percent body fat, so I am able to do this. Take your weight (for math's sake we'll say 100 lbs.) and multiply it by your percent body fat (we'll say 10%). This would mean that Hypothetical Math Girl has 10 pounds of body fat and a lean body mass of 90lbs. From what I've read, you need somewhere between .7 and 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean body mass. I personally am aiming low for right now with 70-75 grams of protein a day. Before, I was averaging about 30. This is a vegan no-no.

So I've been adding vegan rice protein powder to my morning smoothie and trying to cook more tofu. It's hard, but mostly just because I love pasta way more than tofu, which I'm still learning how to cook. Fortunately, this recipe was almost entirely tofu. So on to the recipe!

I was wary of uncooked firm tofu, but my favorite vegan cookbook, Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson has never let me down before. And I am kind of in love with veganaise. So I gave it a shot.

No-Egg Salad

16 oz. package of firm tofu
1 celery rib, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 tbspn. Dijon mustard
1 dill pickle, minced
pinch of turmeric
6 tbspn. soy mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

The actual instructions are longer, but pretty much put all ingredients (except the toast) in a bowl. Mix well. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Serve on toast (or eat plain, on a sandwich, whatever. I like toast.).

My final verdict? It actually tastes pretty good. I can't tell the difference between it and normal egg salad, but then again I've only had real egg-salad once or twice. Oh Vegan Planet, you never steer me wrong. And in case you were wondering after that protein lecture, this recipe says it serves 4, with 10 grams of protein each serving depending on the type of tofu you use. And Veganaise, though it tastes fantastic, adds a pretty significant amount of of fat. But sometimes that's ok (particularly in my world, as it looks like I'll be having grilled eggplant for dinner tonight).

In other challenge news: a harmonica has been purchased, I finished City of Bones and have moved on to City of Ashes, and Scarlet Pimpernel is really really almost done. Push ups for today completed, and after I consult Second Lieutenant McArmy I'll do a post on that.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I Love You 25 Ways

The First Completed Challenge! Yay!

This challenge was first posed by Chris Schulz, with further modifications by Ivy Stiles.

The Challenge: -Learn to say "I love you" in 25 previously unknown languages (5 European languages, 8 Asian, 7 African, and 5 native/aboriginal languages from NA/SA/Oceania?)

Now, I know Spanish and a smattering of a few other languages, so those were all out. I thought this was going to be really hard, but it was actually pretty fun. A Google search led me to this website: , but I couldn't just accept that based on blind faith in the internet. The rest of the morning was spent trying to verify certain translations, trying to figure out how to pronounce Welsh (which, as I once heard in a joke "has yet to discover vowels") and looking up all these obscure African languages. If you're curious, these are my notes:

5 European
Gaelic: Tá grá agam ort (literally: Is love at-me on-you / meaning: I love you) Pronounced: taa graw aggam orret
Catalan: t'estimo
Greek: Σ' αγαπώ (s'agapo)
Occitan (spoken in Southern France, Monaco) : t'aimi
Welsh: rydw i'n dy garu di (Rah-doo een duh gar-oo dee) (took an hour or more of google searching to find a video that verified the pronunciation of "Rydw i'n")

8 Asian
Madarin Chinese: wo ai ni (almost sounds like whiney)
Vietnamese: em yêu anh (woman to man) (sounds like em-yeee-ooo-an)
Urdu: main tumse mohabbat karti hoon (woman to man)
Farsi: dooset daram
Punjabi: mein tenu pyar kardi han (female speaker)
Azeri (Azerbaijan and Northwest Iran) :men seni sevirem (s dental like scythe, n dental)
Thai: ฉันรักคุณ (chan rak khun) - woman speaking
Malay: aku cinta padamu (ah-koo cheen-ta pah-dah-moo)

7 African
Swahili: nakupenda
Afrikaans: ek het jou lief
Eastern Arabic: Ana bahebbak (to a man)
Susu (Guinea, West Africa): ira fan ma
Afar (spoken in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti) ko kisinio (in IPA)
Ewe (Ghana, Togo, and Benin): me lonwo (lucked out, wiki says it has sounds for allophones)
Gbaya (contains several dialects, spoken in Central African Rep., Cameroon, Dem. Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo): mi ko me

5 Native/ Aboriginal
Cherokee: nayeli
Maori: kei te aroha au i a koe
Quechwa de Cuzco: munakuyki
Navajo: Ayor anosh'ni
Hawaiian: aloha wau iā ‘oe

Really the only thing that saved me was wikipedia and my extensive familiarity with IPA (the international phonetic alphabet, which is required of us in several classes at USC's School of Theatre) I welcome correction, and I'm aware that my accent slowly merges into the same accent I use for my Spanish. Oh, and in case any of you are sticklers for the rules: yes, I knew what the Greek looked like, but I didn't know how to pronounce it. I also knew that agapo was one of the three Greek concepts of love (why am I surrounded by all you Classics nerds? :P ) But I had never put the two concepts together. It was an "aha" moment for me.