Of knowing Sean O’Malley

Photo from one of Sean's Cardio Coach Facebook pages. Taken when he hiked the Appalachian Trail.

Some eight years ago, I stumbled across an offer for a free Cardio Coach workout produced by Sean O’Malley. At the time, I was constantly looking for a way to improve my workouts. Well, that did it. Before I knew it, I owned all his workouts. (I remember doing a CC volume on the elliptical at the gym once, completely in a zone. It wasn’t until I moved to the cool down that I noticed I was being watched by people wondering what on Earth was motivating me). I continued to buy the workouts until an injury sidelined me in 2006 for longer than it should have.

A couple years ago, I started back up again and turned back to my old friend Sean. There were new workouts that I didn’t own and soon I purchased them all. Volumes 1-8 are now on my iPod, along with remakes of that original one I obtained free and a strength training workout. When I wasn’t working out, I always knew Coach Sean was sitting there in my iPod ready for me to come back and prepared to make me better.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Sean in person. But I knew him from a-far as a dedicated fitness professional. I became involved in discussion boards on his website. All this many years later, I reconnected with many of the folks from those boards on Facebook, including Sean, his sister Colleen and his brother-in-law Jeff. Wonderful people every single one of them — my Cardio Coach family.

It was a shock for me Sunday night to log into Facebook one last time before I went to bed and see a note from Colleen on his Facebook wall. She was announcing Sean’s death. It took my breath away and broke my heart. I woke up very early this morning very sick and I’m sure it wasn’t all grief (I had a busy and wonderful weekend) but off and on all day, I’ve cried for the loss to this world of this wonderful man.

I got to feeling better today and had planned to start a Couch-to-5K training program (with the hopes of signing up for a race by June). I decided there was going to be no better day than today to do it given news of the coach’s death. This one was dedicated to him (as will the rest in my 9-week training program). I took out Volume 5, the one where he asks you if you’re the lion or the gazelle, invoking images of the Serengeti. And, while I was walking for 90 seconds and running for 60 seconds and not following his audio-guided workout, he was always right there in my head when I felt like I just couldn’t run for that one minute (8 times). His words of encouragement meant so much, they pushed me and probably pushed me to go a little harder and faster than I’m prepared to go at this point. I managed to hold back my tears until my cool down, when I listened to the coach’s notes at the end of the workout. Then, I cried (as I have off and on all day).

I don’t know if Sean ever knew how much he touched people or how many people he truly touched. I hope he finds peace where he is now and that he now knows how much he meant to everyone who leaned on him to get through their workouts. He was truly one of a kind and it’s tragic to know he’s no longer with us to keep producing workouts and inspiring people to improve themselves.

One of his coach-isms was “It starts with the heart.” My heart’s in it this time Sean. (There is only do or do not, there is no try – Sean often said this, invoking Yoda. It’s a message he left me about three years ago when I said I was going to TRY to complete a 5K.)

I own a technical shirt with the above “Life according to Cardio Coach” heart on it. I will use it in my training and will wear it, or another CC shirt, for my first run. And I will always be grateful to have found Sean O’Malley and Cardio Coach.

RIP friend (4/12/71 to 3-25-2012).


Of holidays and traditions

Thanksgiving is nearly over for those of us in the Midwest. Meals have been consumed, good meals, and we’ll all be moving on to whatever tomorrow: Work, shopping, hosting families for Thanksgiving Redux.

I am very fortunate that, for this one-day holiday, I have somewhere to spend it. A place to pull up a chair and share good food and good times with truly good people. But, as I sat in my friend’s kitchen talking as she prepared a few dishes for today, I was reminded how much tradition is a part of these holidays.

As a 40-year-old orphan who is single, sometimes these sorts of holidays just don’t seem important. I could’ve done like another friend and kicked back with some Chinese food and it woulda just been a day off in the middle of the week. But, there are those pesky traditions. You are supposed to hang out at a house teeming with people and eat turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes. When you are doing that with someone else’s family, it is their traditions in which you partake.

For the last several years, I’ve been trying to establish my own traditions. The direct end result has been me bouncing back and forth like a pinball between my family in Ohio and my family of friends in Indiana. So, as I reflected with my friend today and Wednesday about traditions, I realized: I can’t remember what our Thanksgiving traditions were. Christmas I remember like you can’t believe. But Thanksgiving is lost on me. Did we eat at home? Did we go to my mother’s sister’s home? Heck, I can remember our Easter traditions better.

The one thing I do know is that, as the better cook in the family, it was my mom who always cooked and I was always right there at her side as she did. I remember her stuffing (yep, we stuffed it in the bird) recipe off the top of the my head. I remember each pie she made (and there were several). And, it has been more than 15 years since I had a holiday the way my mom would’ve done it.

All that rambling to say this: Hold on to those traditions you cherish now, remember them. If you must, take photos and notes and scrapbook them. Then, maybe, you won’t find yourself in the same position as me, wondering what Thanksgiving was like for you 20 years earlier.

What are some of your favorite traditions?

This life I chose really chose me

I’ve been reflecting on this an awful lot lately…trying to figure out how to explain the unexplainable to people who just don’t get it, don’t understand why I don’t look for other work when I complain about work.

I’m a journalist. I’ve endured abusive editors (in the past), had my life threatened (more than once) and live paycheck to paycheck (barely).

And, when I talk about work at times, there’s anger bubbling under the surface, threatening to erupt quite often and mostly presenting itself as tears of frustration. And the single most common reaction I get to it is “So, find another job” or “Well, sounds like it’s time to start looking.”

Here’s the thing: It’s not as easy as all that. I do not make widgets. I cannot go from making widgets for brand x to making them for brand y.

I am in a career that doesn’t pay well and often leaves me feeling used and disrespected. But I didn’t choose it. It chose me.

We journalists (the good ones at least) are a passionate sort. We.Love.What.We.Do. We feel passionately about what we do. We truly believe in what we do.

In many, many ways it’s like that lover who leaves you blissful and spent in the moment but in the long run leaves you miserable and hating yourself for what you did.

I have the fortune (or misfortune, depending upon your perspective) of having discovered this is my passion at a young age. A promise to my mother on her death bed found me working public/community relations for a hospital. It was a far worse relationship because it left me unfulfilled in a different way. I simply cannot do it.

Like many of my co-workers, it’s not fear that I don’t have any other skill sets with which to seek other employment (I do), it’s that there isn’t any other way I’d rather apply my skills. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.

So, the next time you hear a journalist bitching about their day, don’t suggest they find a new job. Acknowledge their frustration and extend your understanding. Or, shut the hell up and just listen like you mean it. And buy ’em a drink.

Of breakfast food and dog treats

As fall has settled in, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and not just for myself, but for the dogs too (ok, not a lot for the dogs, but some).

In the last week I hit upon two huge hits, one for myself for breakfast and one for the dogs for treats.

First, my breakfast. I do not like breakfast. I find it difficult to be motivated to cook for breakfast every morning but the one breakfast food I’ve always wished I enjoyed was oatmeal. I don’t, however. But, I have some barley I bought at a local Amish market and I know barley is a healthful food and I knew it could be turned into a breakfast cereal. So, I Googled it and gave it a try. I made two different kinds recently, an apple-cranberry barley and a banana-peanut butter barley. And, I love it. Here’s what I did.

4 cups of liquid (I used two cups of water and two cups of unsweetened almond milk)
1/2 c. barley
An apple or two
1/4 c. dried cranberries
raw sugar

I put the liquid on to boil and once it did, added the barley, cinnamon, honey (about 2 Tbsp), raw sugar (1/8 of a cup, which was too much) and a teaspoon of vanilla. Let that cook on low, covered, for 45 minutes. Add the apples and cook another 30 minutes, then add the cranberries and let it cook another 15 to 20 minutes. Once it’s done and it cools it thickens. I ate it cold with vanilla Greek yogurt.

For the banana-peanut butter barley I used 3 c. liquid, 1/4 c. barley, 4 bananas that I had in the freezer and a 1/2 c. peanut butter. I cooked it in much the same way, waiting until the last five minutes to add the peanut butter. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Now, for the dog treats. I had a beef roast I had made and didn’t want to throw out when I was done with it, so I sliced it into 1/16 inch slices, placed those on a cookie sheet and baked them at 300 until they were, well, dried out, flipping them once. The dogs love ’em enough that I’m contemplating doing it again, and maybe with chicken.

Yarny giveaway

Yarn hanging up at Simply Socks Yarn Company in Fort Wayne. My work crafting cohort Lara Neel took this

Hey yarn lovers, Noble Knits, a shop in Pennsylvania is having an online giveaway over on their blog.

Go check it out and enter if you’re interested. There are six different ways to enter.

Fall is, most definitely, here

I woke up Thursday morning and my apartment was 54-degrees. EEK, it was cold! I’ve been wearing sweatshirts and my SmartWool socks hoping to keep from having the heat on.

It’s been cold, cloudy, gloomy…fall!

The mums I bought on my September vacation have all but run their course. They were gorgeous and when they are definitely done, I’m going to follow my great neighbor’s instructions, cut them back and let them hibernate, hoping to preserve them for next fall. When it’s time for fall decorations to come down, I’ll take the gourds and set them aside, hoping they dry out to hollow decorations.

And, I am hunkering down working on knitterly and crocheted goodness. Soon, I will have four (Yes, FOUR) sweaters on needles. I have three crocheted afghans going. Oodles of projects I want to start and complete. Plenty of fiber to snuggle up with in the cold days. Sometimes, it’s all I can do to do anything but knit or crochet. I have no desire to bead, or scrapbook, or do anything else (except cook).

And, the cooking. I’m in love with chili right now. Can’t get enough of it. I brought some home from my sister’s last month and promptly turned around and made my own, with shredded pork instead of beef. And, I have a chili cookoff in my near-future. And soup, oh soup. Today, after lunch with a work-related source, and running errands (including a new meat market) I came home and made soup (chicken pot pie tortellini soup)!

Last week, I roasted a chicken (and it rocked, if I do say so myself). Because I didn’t make a gravy, I had the stock that came out of that as a quick base for this week’s soup. I skimmed off all the fat, which had hardened in the fridge, and dumped it in a pot with water and some chicken base. Then, I added the frozen stew veggies I bought today. After the liquid came to a boil, I added the pasta and the meat (which was already cooked) and let that cook for a bit. Finally, the frozen peas. That simmered a little bit before I added a can of fat-free evaporated milk. Within an hour, I had soup. So grateful to have had most of the ingredients for soup prepared. It made me enough soup to get through next week, plus some to freeze. And boy have I been into freezing lately. My freezer is packed with corn (that I bought on the cob, blanched and cut off the cob); tomatoes that I bought and cooked down; cabbage rolls I didn’t eat when I made them; and beef vegetable soup I made a few weeks back.

It’s time to hunker down. Get cozy and look toward the long winter ahead AND Christmas (that’s why so many sweaters).

How are you celebrating the changed season?

It’s the little things

I had a productive and busy day today. I got up at 7:30 to take the dogs out and decided to stay up so I could turn my slow-roasted pork into chili.

Then, I set out to tackle the bushel and a quarter of tomatoes I picked up on Friday. I ran for six hours on Friday going to various farm stands, butchers and the grocery store and got nothing done on Friday. I had quite the list to tackle today.

First, the chili. I shredded the pork, syphoned off the extra liquid in my crock pot, then returned the pork to the crock along with chili beans and cranked up the heat.

Then, I set out to deal with the tomatoes. I started by putting the firmest of the tomatoes on cookie sheets, sprinkled them with extra virgin olive oil and salt and set them in the oven for a slow roast. Then, I tackled the rest of the tomatoes. I blanched them, peeled them and put them in stock pots to cook down.

Once the tomatoes were all chopped up and in pots, I made the meat for cabbage rolls and then set out to make them. I got the rolls made and in the roaster, covered them with cabbage and tomatoes and stuck them in the oven (after taking out the oven-roasted tomatoes). I put the tomatoes in a bowl and stuck them in the fridge to bring them to a temp I could work with. Meanwhile I did a ton of dishes that I needed to dirty all over again and I par cooked and cut down two dozen ears of corn to freeze.

So, it was a Godsend when my guy texted and offered to take me to one of the new Japanese steakhouses for dinner. See, after spending seven-ish hours with food, the last thing I wanted to deal with was feeding myself. We had a fabulous dinner, visited Harbor Freight & Tools and came back to my place. I was so grateful to not have to worry about feeding myself. Sometimes, it really is the small things.

Oh, and the dogs? Well just look how all my hard work tuckered them out.

Scoop curled up in the sun

Cody prefers to sleep on the couch

Speaking of that Japanese steakhouse: It’s owned by the same people who own my favorite local sushi place, Sakura. If you haven’t heard me talk of it, this is my favorite roll there, the Spice Girl

Yep, those are Pringles (TM)

I’ve always been a Mac

Steve Jobs death struck me as a bit of a shock, even though I knew he was sick. So, I take the time to reflect on how much a part of my life his Apple products have been.

I write this not to debate the merits of Mac vs. PC. I like so many others have my feelings on the matter.

I have had a Mac on my desk at home from the time I was in high school.

When I learned computer programming (just basic, mind) it was on a Mac. When my brother opened a graphic design business, it was with Macs. I inherited his computers when he upgraded.

When I worked at the Cleveland State Cauldron student newspaper, it was on Macs.

When I became a self-sufficient adult, I bought Macs. Yes, they are pricey, but by this time I was working in the world of PCs and knew what I wanted at home.

I am, most definitely, a Mac. Have I been frustrated? Yes, at times. But I have always been able to resolve my problems with my home computer with little effort.

My friend Dan Stockman posted these bullet points Wednesday night on Facebook:

“Consider, for a moment, the impact that Apple under Steve Jobs has had on our society:
– Just 10 years ago, the iPod was introduced. Now, 300 million iPods later, CDs are almost obsolete.

– iTunes – a virtual store that does not exist in the real world – is
the No. 1 music store on the planet. It has 20 million songs for sale
and has downloaded 16 billion (yes) songs since it opened.
– Macs – the
cute, expensive toys that would never really compete against PCs, not
really – are now 23 percent of the market, and growing. That’s one out
of every four computers.
– The iPad, the tablet that no one would
need, that was too expensive, that was nothing but a big iPhone without
the phone, that has a dump name, has sold about 30 million units. 30
million. Three out of every four tablets sold – a category Apple created
– is an iPad.
– Apple has sold more than 200 million iPhones.

about this: With the iPhone, the iPad, the Internet and wireless
service, you now have the ability to find almost any piece of
information humans have ever recorded, and have access to it almost
anywhere on the planet. That is truly revolutionary and will change our
history forever.

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011.”

R.I.P. Steve Jobs. You have changed the face of technology, whether through your products or how your competitors answered your ideas.

Could I be…NESTING?

“nesting [ˈnɛstɪŋ] n
(Psychology) the tendency to arrange one’s immediate surroundings, such as a work station, to create a place where one feels secure, comfortable, or in control”

For lunch today I went to the local Vietnamese restaurant with my partner in crafting Lara. We got to talking about food, specifically cooking Fall’s bounty. She’s been making pies out of anything fall squash related. I have turned to favorites from my childhood.

I told her, it seems weird, I feel like I’m nesting. I’m familiar with the term as it relates to a pregnant woman getting ready to bring a new life into this world. That’s definitely not why I’m nesting. Nevertheless, I think I am nesting. Turns out, I love fall. Never really realized it before, but this time of year invigorates me. It’s a time for heartier food, the food of my childhood, the food of love.

Last weekend, I spent time making Chicken Paprikas, potato pancakes, apple pie.

This weekend's Chicken Paprikas batch

Last weekend's sad looking apple pie (my first try with homemade crust)

This coming weekend, I plan to buy tons of canning tomatoes, cook them down and freeze them AND make cabbage rolls, maybe some pork chili. It’s silly really. All summer I looked forward to getting on the Harley with my guy and riding and now, I’m more than happy to pass on seeing him if it means I get to spend time in my kitchen.

One of last year's stockpots of stewed tomatoes

And, when I’m done in the kitchen, there’s plenty of knit and crochet work to be done.

Yep, I’m nesting. But not the way a soon-to-be momma nests. I’m ready to hunker down and this is probably my mind’s way of prepping me for what is to come.

And, this month is the anniversary of my mother’s 1995 death. Maybe that’s what it is, who knows. All I know is I feel ridiculously giddy to see this week end so I can spend the weekend in my kitchen.

Oh, if only I’d paid better attention

I’m obsessed, completely, totally and utterly obsessed. The center of that obsession right now is Mom’s recipes. I.Do.Not.Know.Why. I have plenty of them. My sister has what I don’t but there is ONE food I’ve not been able to replicate in these 16 years since she died. It has frustrated me so much that I gave up. Haven’t even thought of it until recently.

Maybe I can thank my recent interview with celebrity Chef Michael Symon, who has a similar Eastern European background to mine (albeit with Greek and Sicilian mixed in). My mom was Polish, at least mostly (maybe some German mixed in). We grew up in a Polish Catholic Parish. On Fridays, there was NO meat in our diet (my friend Rebecca can give you a far better reason than “that’s the way we always did it” than I can). What that meant was a lot of the old ways my mom learned from my grandmother (her mother).

So, we had fish (typically Lake Erie perch at the local fraternal club) or some starch with a vegetable (cabbage and noodles) or something else that I haven’t touched since becoming my own cook. One of those things was Polish potato pancakes (placki kartoflane, or placki ziemniaczane). I LOVED them and I spent PLENTY of time in the kitchen with my mother helping with making them.

As an adult, I have my mom’s stuff (the bowl she made the pancake batter in and the spoon she used to mix it up) but I have not been able to make them the way she did. There’s no recipe that I can find (other than one in a book entitled “Treasured Polish Recipes” that MIGHT be the same thing). This weekend I intend to give it another go, to try and make those delectable, 3- to 4-inch disks of crispy goodness. In preparation, I’ve been doing Internet searches and I’ve become frustrated. I canNOT find recipes that recommend serving them the way we had them. See, once you make the batter (made of grated, raw potatoes, flour, egg and salt) and fry it, you can, apparently serve it.Just.About.Any.Damn.Way.You.Want. The way I WANT is the way we had them. We would fight for that first cake off the griddle and sprinkle it with salt. But when we sat down to eat, we’d get three on a plate and pour pancake syrup over them. Mmmmm, Mmmm, Mmmmm. Once they’d cooled a bit, before the plate they were on got wrapped in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator, we would grab them and slather grape jelly on them. YUM. It wasn’t a typical savory dinner. We didn’t eat them with meat, sour cream, smoked salmon. They were like little desserts THAT WE COULD CALL DINNER. I remember them so well. And I haven’t been able to replicate them in 16 years.

Well, this weekend, I try. Fingers crossed because I’m really craving those bad boys right now! And, I keep hoping to find someone, anyone, who ate them the way we did!