Update on Yeti!


Backyard Chickens Ricotta Cheese Egg shellsLook at sweet Yeti! Look at her feathers on her feet! She’s doing so well and laying daily and just melting our cold backyard chicken hearts. Our hearts were cold because Trixie and Cruella had decided that laying eggs was for other chickens and not for hens of the abbey.

But now that Yeti is here, something in their chicken brains has kicked in and Trixie is back to laying. I believe that thing is “oh crap, I better lay an egg, or I’m going to Pete’s farm.” Old Cruella hasn’t laid a single egg and she’s on probation. (Click on that link to Pete’s farm. It’s one in the NY Times endless series of articles that should be subtitled Isn’t Portland ZANY? And, yes, we have sent roosters to Pete’s farm. And we received Trixie from Pete’s farm too.)

To celebrate the egg laying and Yeti in general, I gave them some ricotta cheese with mashed up egg shells. Egg shells are very good for chickens, except you have to be careful. They can’t be recognizable as egg shells, or the chickens will start pecking at their own eggs after they lay them. So I mash them up into other things like yogurt or cheese.

See? Pampered chickens.

I haven’t wanted to think too much about the person who had left this chicken to fend for herself all alone locked in a coop. But! Fancyhats had called the realtor about her to see what the deal was. This man of mine is so very honest and right all the time. I was just focused on STEALING THE CHICKEN. The realtor called back three days later and when Fancyhats asked him who was taking care of the chicken, the realtor said, “Some neighbors or something.”

Some neighbors or something.

Prior to this call, I had a bit of guilt about taking someone’s chicken. Especially one as sweet as Yeti. But after the call, all I can do is shrug. Some neighbors or something.

Oh Yeti. I’ll give you all the ricotta cheese and crushed egg shells that you want you sweet thing.


I Found My Thing!

Yesterday I volunteered in A’s classroom. It was a lot of fun. We read a book about kangaroos. I asked where they lived and one little girl said Australia. She then went on to share that they talk funny in Australia, “but still use their English voices.” Indeed.

Volunteering time was right during old lady fitness class aka Body Sculpt. So instead of quietly rocking and staring at the white walls and waiting for summer to happen, I decided to attend a different class. A DIFFERENT CLASS! At a different gym no less! Keep in mind, before joining this current gym, I’d never actually had a gym membership, so all of this stuff remains a surprise for me.

Anyway, I decided to try spinning class. This is where you are in a group and working out on stationary bikes. To music. Honestly, this seemed excruciatingly boring to me, but many many people love it. So in the spirit of trying new things, I tried this new thing.

The very nice man who taught the class got my bike all set for me and assured me that for my first time I’d want to stay in the low gears and not really move above 10. The gears go up to 24. I nodded and thought, OH YEAH RIGHT DO YOU NOT READ MY BLOG? DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT I TAKE CLASSES WITH C?!?!? He knew neither of those things.

So we started the class, and I totally ignored his instruction to use lower gears and take it easy and for the first 15 minutes, I’m looking around like why are you all huffing and puffing? What’s the biggie? And then suddenly I realized I was absolutely sodden. Sweat had soaked my shirt and I’ve got the eye of the tiger in the mirror. I’m up, I’m down. I’m on trail rides with bumps. I’m climbing mountains. I’m watching my RPMs, looking at my Kcal.

The woman next to me has also hit her stride in class and instead of giving herself eye of tiger in the mirror, she’s making sex noises, complete with growls. GROWLS! I’ve mentioned that I’m not a vocal person while working out. That I’d rather give up exercising all together than Wooo-Hoooo in the middle of class. The most I do is clap once at the end.

Not so, this woman. Grrrrrrr. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Uh-uh-uh.

After one of her outbursts of pleasure and passion, even the instructor chuckled. I wanted to laugh too, but that would have required my not giving myself eye of the tiger. If I had broken tiger eye contact I would have simply fallen on the floor and died from a coronary.

Our last exercise was climbing yet another mountain to Proud Mary, the Ike and Tina version. We climbed during the slow part and then sprinted during the fast part. At the end I couldn’t slow my legs down but the woman next to me let out a “YES!” that pretty much summed up the way I felt too.

By the end my face was so red it was purple. My shirt was dripping sweat and I wasn’t at all convinced I’d be able to make it up the small incline from the gym to my car. I said thank you to the instructor and he said, “You’ve found your thing! This is the exercise for you! Keep doing what you’re doing!”

I was stunned. No one has ever complimented a single athletic thing I’ve ever done. I said thank you again and waddled back to the locker room. I know he meant it because there were other new people in the class and all he said to them was, “You looked good today.” No exclamation points at all.

So, spinning class is my thing. The spinning class instructor told me so. Unfortunately, my heart says body sculpt is my thing. I love those weights and I feel so strong after. Spinning class was really fun and I know I got a good workout, and the instructor complimented me. But my heart belongs to C.

Chicken Liberation Army

Belgian Bearded d'UccleYesterday on a walk, Fancyhats and I spied a chicken in a coop in the yard of an empty house for sale. On closer inspection, this poor bird had no water or food and was navigating her way around about 20 dirty eggs. Chickens are social animals and will die of loneliness without other birds around. Not to mention dying of thirst or hunger. So we liberated her and brought her to the abbey.

After cross referencing our chicken library, we’ve come to the conclusion that she’s a Bantam Belgian Bearded d’Uccle. She’s such a sweet little hen and after a few nips on her head from our old hen Trixie, she’s settled into life in the abbey with no problems.

I think it helps that she was starving when she got here and couldn’t be bothered to interact with the other hens. She just wanted to eat whatever she could find. We gave her scratch grain and dried meal worms and she was cooing and singing. This morning, Fancyhats found the three hens all perched on the bar in their coop.

Belgian Bearded d'UccleShe has feathers on her feet and Fancyhats wanted to name her Snowshoe.

I love my husband and he’s very good at so many things, but naming animals is not one of them. He named one of our first chicks after his grandmother. We got this chicken when it was a baby and it turned out to be a rooster. After that, I took over naming duty.

I am excellent at naming animals. It’s my super power. But after I heard Snowshoe, my naming synapses went a little berserk and I threw out Yeti. It riffs on Snowshoe, and has a bit of irony because she’s a bantam and will always be a miniature chicken.

But as I was about to fall asleep last night, I realized her real name was Mouse. I tried to take back Yeti, but it stuck. So Yeti/Mouse, welcome to the abbey. Keep laying those eggs. Show those other two lazy hens what’s what.

Oh Hilary Mantel.

Have you heard about this Hilary Mantel business? The thing where, apparently, she said some disparaging remarks about Kate Middleton and then the media picked up on it and ran with it?

Hilary Mantel is a terrific writer. She’s won the Booker prize twice. Once for Wolf Hall, which is so good. Really, really, live between the pages good. And one for Bring up the Bodies, which sits on my nightstand unread because I don’t want to live in a world where her Cromwell is dead. This is an excellent profile on Mantel.

She gave a speech a few weeks back called “Royal Bodies.” I encourage you to read the speech. It’s just as careful and well written as Wolf Hall. In it she’s saying that it’s our interest in the Royals that turns the women into nothing more than bodies. She writes about Diana and Anne Boylen and the current princess. At the end, she is tender and kind toward Kate Middleton.

History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes. Get your pink frilly frocks out, zhuzh up your platinum locks. We are all Barbara Cartland now. The pen is in our hands. A happy ending is ours to write. — Hilary Mantel, from “Royal Bodies”

And yet, this wonderful speech has been hacked up by the media and the controversy is all about portraying Hilary Mantel as a cruel, ugly, fat lunatic, and Kate Middleton as an angelic, beautiful, tenderhearted innocent.

Why can’t this incredibly smart woman comment on the way royal women are portrayed without it being covered in the media like a cat fight? I know this is a stupid question. We’re in the world of the 24-hour news cycle. We need information all the time. This seems as good a story as any other. But the whole thing is sad to me. I respect Hilary Mantel very much. I don’t have an opinion on Kate Middleton. I’m glad I found the original text of the speech because after reading a few of the news stories, I was thinking, Oh Hilary Mantel. I really hope this stuff is wrong.

The original text is worth reading whether or not you care about Hilary Mantel, or the Royal family. It’s worth reading because it reminds us that we’re all complicit in viewing women as nothing more than bodies. It starts with ourselves. We view ourselves as nothing more than bodies all the time. If we don’t stop that, we’ll never stop viewing others the same way.

Goodbye C, We Hardly Knew You


Today was our last day with C as our substitue. I am sad, Internet. Last week, Michelle left this comment about C on Life in the Abbey:

I love this lady. I was told she is a former professional woman boxer. Unfortunately she is mainly only a substitute (she used to teach more classes regularly but they were taken away from her). I’m pretty sure it is because people whined and complained about her being “too hard”. More than one lady walked out when she subbed in the bodysculpt class I go to. Kudos to your perseverance! And challenging yourself!

I’ve been thinking about this all week: former female boxer, now teaching people who pay lip service to wanting to be in shape but can’t stand the heat of her particular kitchen. Here is a woman with a story. I filled in the blanks: her frustrations, her passions. Did I mention she has a southern accent? Needless to say, I was excited for today. I was pumped, as it were.

Plus I just read this essay by Sandra Tsing Loh called “The Bitch is Back.” It’s a wonderful, funny, tough as nails essay on menopause. I loved every single moment of it. And it made me think about all of the 50-60 year old women in this class who look good. They look very good. Muscle definition, gorgeous skin, bright eyes. I want to look like them now, not to mention later.

I was ready for class today. I was ready to give it my all and to have some fun. It seemed like C was ready to have some fun too. I think she was ready to enjoy this class of goofballs (I’m looking at you Mr 12.)

We marched. We squatted. During our bicep work, C came around the class, “ARE YOU TIGHT? ARE YOU TIGHT? I’M GONNA CHECK! THIS IS THE BEST PART OF MY JOB! CHECKING OUT YOUR GLUTES!”

I tightened my glutes, abs, grimaced for extra points, though the bicep work is my easiest exercise. As Fancyhats says, I’m putting on muscle like a Ukrainian peasant. In other words, I have guns. He asks me to flex at least once a day. Ukrainian peasant isn’t really the look I’m going for, but I can’t deny my genetics: Ukrainian peasants holla!

My breakthrough moment came at about the midway point. We’d just done 80 repetitions of the exercise where you stand upright, squat down and place your weights on the floor, stand up, squat down again and pick them up, stand up, squat down and place them on the floor again. We did 80 of these alternating them with arm work. By this point, I inhaled through my nose and sucked in at least a teaspoon of sweat that had dripped down from my forehead.

Class: “OOOOOOOOOOOOO.” But we all squatted down. Never mind the fact there was no chair behind us. Never mind that the classroom is all glassed in and all of our spandex-clad asses were sticking out at an angle that would make a gynecologist blush for the whole weight room to see.


At this point, my toes were numb and all I could do as my thighs were parallel to the floor was to stare at the wood grain (that one is wavy like the ocean, that one is straight like an arrow!) and at some point over the course of my thighs burning like the fire of 1,000 suns, I started laughing. I couldn’t stop. I laughed and laughed and the woman next to me started laughing too. We both squatted there and laughed.

We extended our arms with our weights in our hands so we looked like a T for another 60 seconds.


We did lunges, 60 push ups, endless crunches. By the end I was equally exhausted and ebullient. My entire shirt was soaked through. I said thank you to C for the class. I told her it was great. I left and felt sad that there would be no more C for a while. She teaches elsewhere in town. I know she teaches a kickboxing class at my gym in the evenings, but it’s right at dinner time. Dinner time is the most important time in our house, so I won’t be going to that class. But I’m not ready to give C up just yet. I need to figure out how to get more C in my life. I love the challenge, the soreness and I’m not ready to give up that feeling of letting everything else go and just laughing.

The Return of C

I take the body sculpt class on Monday and Wednesday mornings and there are two different teachers. Nora, who on Monday played Dolly Parton songs in class, and Yvette who plays a lot of techno-fied Adele. C substituted for Nora last week. Well, this week Yvette was out and today C, once again was at the front of the class.

Before class started, everyone was whispering. Those who hadn’t been in her class before had heard the rumors and those of us who had survived it were simply sharing our experiences. (Me to another regular: “It was just as bad as you think it’s going to be. Awful. This will be an awful hour.” Regular: “I’m scared.” Me: “I am too.” C: “WHAT IS THIS, SOCIAL HOUR?! YOU’RE MARCHING.”)

I decided that I’d pace myself this time. That I wouldn’t do everything C did at exactly the same pace because that seemed like a good way to pass out in class. Something I’m terrified I’ll do but when I do become dizzy, my inner C says, “OUTLIVE IT!” So far this has worked and I’ve not passed out. Yay me!

But class started and the masochist in me thought, it’s on C. IT IS ON C. As soon as she asked what number we were on, I used my normal speaking voice and said the number. But that wasn’t loud enough so again we started back at 20, despite Mr. 12, again shouting 12. We’d counted from from 20 to 7. And we had to start back. Screw you Mr. 12.

When she asked if we were hurting, I said Yes, slightly louder than before because, if I’m being honest, C’s general disappointment in everyone (“ARE YOU TIGHT? YOU’RE NOT TIGHT!”) brings out the A student in me. “Yes,” I said, my arms about to drop off my body after 40 shoulder presses and another 20 to go. “Yes.” But no matter. C barely looked in my direction. “MIND OVER MATTER,” C shouted.

I did all the squats. I did every single one of the squats where we had to drop the weights at the bottom, stand up, then squat down and pick them back up and stand again. I did all the push ups, chest flies, reverse chest flies, squatting chest flies. I did every single stupid exercise.

I’ve been having pretty severe and regular headaches lately. About three times a week, in the evenings, it’s all I can do to get dinner on the table and go through the night’s activities. I had the remains of last night’s headache still with me this morning, but after I put my mind over matter and tightened up my glutes and abs and pecs and biceps and whatever other muscles we’re supposed to tighten and sweated like a stuck pig for an hour, I felt better. My headache had pushed back and I felt okay. I had more energy and felt more positive and my headache was almost totally gone.

At the end of class, I marched up to C and said thank you. She barely glanced at me, said, “you’re welcome” and walked out of class. She was on to her next class of punishing perfect strangers to make them feel better.

I salute you C! I mean, I would salute you, if I could raise my arms.

In Love with This Weekend

This weekend was a pure pleasure. Nothing felt rushed, but I was busy all the same. I highly recommend several of the things I did this weekend. Here are my recommendations for some fun Portland and non-Portland things to do:

Friday night

Most Friday nights we have movie night. We eat dinner and listen to music and then we settle in for a movie in the living room. The dudes make popcorn and we usually watch movies from our childhood — Goonies, Gremlins, ET, etc — but this movie night, A wanted to watch Hotel Transylvania. I was hesitant. I think kids’ movies these days are too trendy and the jokes will seem irrelevant in five years. But Hotel Transylvania was a pleasure. Funny, smart and very satisfying. I also recommend Despicable Me and Finding Nemo if you want good nowadays kids’ movies.

Saturday AM

A bashed his forehead on the coffee table. I don’t recommend this activity for anyone,  but it was almost a relief. All kids bash their faces on the coffee table and then they never do it again. We got off easy on this one, but he does have this very interesting bruise in the shape of a line down the middle of his face. We call it his Harry Potter scar.

After the face bashing, A and I went on a bike ride. A: “This is so relaxing. I feel so grateful that it’s not raining.” Agreed.

Saturday PM

Date night with Fancyhats. We saw I Love to Eat at PCS. This too was a pleasure. It’s a one-man show about James Beard, who grew up here in Portland. I loved learning more about his life and hearing stories about Portland. I also loved the moment when he made mayonnaise on stage. It was a perfect moment: one part magic trick, one part demonstration of the elegance and ease of cooking.

Dinner at BIWA after. We tried to get into Le Pigeon. I’ve never been there and I’ve decided it’s not my destiny to eat there. I’m okay with this. It will just live in my head as the most perfect meal ever. We love BIWA all the same. Small plates recommendations: beef tartare and hanger steak.

Sunday AM

Knitting with friends at Twisted. I’ve been going to Twisted since it opened and it is the only place I buy yarn. Period. Great selection, best staff around. Clean, friendly, kind.

Sunday PM

Lunch with KL Martini. The restaurant we went to was meh, but the company was excellent.

VShIIVkcWAMaking homemade Oreos. More on that on the Five Plates blog.

Dinner with A alone. Fancyhats went to a Superbowl party and A and I stayed home for a dinner of O’s: nachos, tacos and burritos (and Oreos). And then reading more Harry Potter. We’re almost finished with the first book! I can’t believe it.

Downton Abbey and knitting. Um. Yes.

Friends in High Places

Besides having a lower body fat percentage than Gillian Michaels*, my friend Crissy is a fancy marketing lady. She interviewed me about marketing for Five Plates. So go and read about marketing and Five Plates now!!

*Crissy has a lot of nice things including her husband Ken, pictured below. If that picture doesn’t make you love this man immediately, then you don’t know what’s good for you. He also owns a shirt that says I HEART HOT MOMS.


I heart Crissy and Ken.

The Longest Hour of My Life

This morning I experienced the longest hour of my life. Remember my old lady work out class that was wiping me out? Well, I’ve been attending twice a week and have managed to not die and perhaps get better and stronger so that by the end of class I’m able to walk out the door and contemplate doing something other than lying in the backseat of my car in the fetal position while trying to make my fingers strong enough to dial Fancyhats and ask him to drive me home and put me to bed for the next two weeks because dear lord I will never move again.

I might have gotten a little cocky thanks to this improvement. I might have started using the 7.5 lb weights instead of the 5 lb weights. I haven’t been sore in weeks. I was feeling confident and good and not like my arms would fall off at any moment.

Until today when Nora, our kind 50 year old teacher who plays The Temptations in class, was not teaching and a person named C was teaching instead. C walked in a few minutes late and stripped off her sweatshirt to reveal biceps larger than my husband’s. She had tattoos of dolphins leaping across them. Unlike Nora who greets everyone and tells us right from the beginning how glad she is that we’re there and this is the best thing we could be doing for ourselves on a Monday morning, C barked, “YOU’RE MARCHING.” And so we did.

We used just one set of weights and the foundation of the hour was squats. With weights. I think I did 150 squats. With an additional 90 lunges.

Where Nora will tell us that we’re looking good and that low weight repetitions will lead to slender, long muscles and let’s make the room bounce, everyone!, C simply repeated these phrases: “RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.” “GOOD TIMES.” “I CAN’T HEAR YOOOOOOOOOOU!” And, awfully, “WHAT NUMBER ARE WE ON?!???” This last one was a killer because this is Portland and we are a passive people. Everyone was silent when she’d ask this because it’s the teacher’s job to tell us, not our job — we’re just here to get the slender muscles we want and to do the best thing we can do for ourselves on a Monday morning.

About 15 minutes into the class someone realized that we should respond to the number question because if we didn’t, C would just start us back at 20, even if we had done 18 fly lunges. By the time we all realized what we should be doing, none of us had any breath left, so some joker said 12 every single time. If I could have lifted my arm and run quickly, I would have clocked him with my 5lb dumbbell.

I am not a vocal person when working out. Mainly because grunting in public is just something I am not going to do. EVER. But I found myself grunting and whimpering along with everyone else.

At one point C said, “ARE YOU HURTING?”

And I said, “Yes” very firmly in my regular speaking voice. No one heard me because at a certain point in this class our senses stopped working just to preserve our sanity.

By the time the floor workout happened, I was numb all over. I probably could have done 100 more squats just because I’d lost control of any sort of feeling of right and wrong. We started with diamond pushups (C: “DIAMOND PUSHUPS. THAT’S RIGHT. I SAID IT. RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.”) and I had to watch her to understand that I was to put my fingers together to form a diamond. We did 40 of them. I did all 40. And I was groaning by the end. I did plank for a minute, and side plank with a weight in my hand. I did that V thing from pilates and we tossed a weight from hand to hand while in this position (C: “PUMP YOUR ARMS. PUMP YOUR ARMS.”)

At the end, I thanked C for the class and she said, “Did you like it?” I said, “No.” She laughed as only a woman who is 5’2″ with biceps larger than my waist can laugh and then she punched me in the shoulder.

I’m back home now and already missing C. I think I’d like to take another class with her, but maybe one that’s just 30 minutes instead of the full hour.

Some Thoughts on Falling


Last night on my run, I tripped and fell. I am not a graceful person and I seem to fall more often than I’d like to admit. But falling is still such an odd thing. It’s so startling and jarring.

I was running in 35 degrees, in the dark and just about to step into the street and off the sidewalk, which was totally uneven from all of the big, old trees. I had one more step to go and that last one was where I ate it. I scraped my palms, my side and my elbow. Walking home I decided that running in the winter in Portland is so damn stupid.

I’m just grateful that I was at the end of my run and not at the middle. It was likely because I was at the end and my legs were tired, specifically my left leg which I broke years ago. I can tell that years of favoring my right leg are taking their toll. I have a slight limp when I’m tired and in exercise class, there’s a considerable difference in my abilities on my left and right sides. Physical therapy, here I come!

After my fall, my joints ached. My palms still smart. I dislike falling. But I’m going to try to embrace it. In fact, when I was falling last night, I had two very clear thoughts: make sure your don’t bang your face and bring your arms in so you don’t break a bone. I did both of things. Next time I’m going to add: Relax, you’ll be fine.