One Month At A Time

Celtic movies: #1 “Braveheart”

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Over the next couple of weeks, while I’m trying to immerse myself in all things Celtic (mostly Scottish), I’ll be watching whatever Scottish-related films I can get my hands on.

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You may take our lives, but you will never figure out how to do our accents!

The first was a re-watching of “Braveheart,” the 1995 film that kind of made Mel Gibson more than your basic action star. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won five, including best picture and best director.

Based very loosely on the legend of Scottish bada$$ William Wallace, who raised an army and fought the English, the film was wildly controversial in Scotland for it’s mendacious mangling of history for the sake of cinema.

Also, nobody liked Mel’s accent, which does tend to slip in and out, but in all fairness, he’s an American from Australia trying to sound like a Scotsman. He was doomed from the start.

Still, horrible abuse of Scottish history or not, Scottish tourism embraced the film with both arms for a while, offered tours and there was even a statue erected somewhere that looked a lot like Mel Gibson.

The locals hated it, but people kept spending money.

In looking at the film all over, I was reminded that Mel Gibson has a tendency toward gore that almost turns comic. Fights in the film often go well over the top with a variety of impalings, limbs being lopped off and gallons of blood flowing in every direction.

Even with some betrayals on the side of the Scottish cause, the film scans as very black and white. The English are universally horrible. The Scottish commoners are all noble and earnest, even if their leaders are kind of slimy opportunists.

I’m not fond of the characterization of King Edward’s son, who is clearly portrayed as effeminate, craven and gay for the sake of contrasting him with his severe, alpha male father and giving the audience another reason to dislike him –but blockbuster films of the time, of which this one was, tended to paint in broad, dumb strokes.

Also, it’s not a true to the man. According to history, the guy with the boyfriend who gets tossed out a window (SPOILER) had five kids by two women, which doesn’t absolutely say he wasn’t gay, but might be evidence that he didn’t loathe the company of women.

Still, overall, “Braveheart” is a good action epic that has held up fairly well over the last 20 years, even if Gibson’s career hasn’t. It’s more fun than pretty much everything Michael Bay ever released, even if the film isn’t as accurate as an episode of “Drunk History.”

“Braveheart” looks great, has all the excitement of a big, popcorn-munching film and has some heart.

I liked it.

February: Secret Stuff

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When I started the second season of “One Month at a Time” I felt like I needed an a new theme (that’s the whole fighting thing, which isn’t just fighting with your fists) and I wanted to do a couple of things that might actually take longer than a month.

The idea for my first planned big challenge/adventure sort of showed up while I was looking at stuff related to my February project (for those of you who haven’t guessed, I’m studying up on all things Celtic) I found the Celtic Calling’s Kilt Run. I thought, “Well, that sounds like a bad idea and not something I want to do. I should totally do that.”

This is how my process works more times than not.

Yes, this is a little self-destructive.

Anyway, while considering how best to proceed with a 5K race (I don’t really run), I got my first big project –and it’s going to be a lot to learn about. Hoo-boy and I have a long way to go.

I could be all coy and try to tease this, but jeez… nobody is really reading this blog anyway. So, it’s like a confessional thing.

In August, I will be participating in the Spartan Run at Summit Bechtel Reserve.

spartan

The plan is for me to run the Super Beast race, which is described as 12 to 14 miles and involves a bunch of obstacles.

This may end badly.
I don’t really jump. This may end badly.

I’m registered, insured and committed to doing this.

What I am not is ready to compete. I’m in no kind of physical shape to do this race. After my mini-triathlon training in July, I slacked off the running, swimming and biking. My season was done, but in order to do this I’ve got to get into crazy shape.

So, this is my big project for the next six months.

barbed-wire
I have never considered crawling through barbed wire as recreational.

One of my big projects, anyway.

Back in the saddle

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It’s been a while since I posted anything on the blog. There are a million reasons why I stopped, but the biggest reason was that I just needed a break.

“One Month at a Time” has been an amazing experience. Even when I haven’t enjoyed a particular thing I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed being a part of it, but it’s a lot.

Through October, it always felt like I was running somewhere or trying to cram one more thing into my day. It didn’t really slow down through the holidays either -and it felt good to just stop for a minute, slack off a little bit.

I might have come back sooner, but I forgot the password for this thing and finally had to ask somebody what it was.

Aa couple of months seems like a long enough time to take a break. I’m already back to work with “One Month at a Time.” January finished up Sunday. I completed my month of self-defense classes with maybe a broader understanding of what it means to choose to learn something like that.

I may write a little more about that on the blog since I’m currently still taking classes at Butch Hiles Brazillian Jujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts.

I’m also about five days into my next topic. More about that this weekend. I also have the following month locked down and a thumbnail sketch of things I might take on over the remainder of the year.

Basically, emails have been sent and I’m waiting to see if anybody bites –but it’s not all settled.

My wish list of stuff to do is long, but I’m always glad to hear a better idea. If you have an idea that sounds workable, let me know.

I will consider just about anything.

As far as updates –am I still a vegan?

Sort of. The working term I use is “veganish,” which I totally stole from the cover of a cookbook.

In the month since I finished up my year with being a vegan, I’ve had a few things outside of a vegan diet, but a lot less than I would have imagined a year ago.

I had some chocolate, which contains dairy. I’ve eaten two chocolate chip cookies and five pancakes, which were awesome.

I didn’t worry about the tablespoon of cheese on a mound of refried beans at a Mexican restaurant and had the vegetarian option at Bluegrass Kitchen, which wasn’t vegan.

There are probably a couple of other instances, but I don’t buy meat or meat products to take home.

I’m perfectly fine.

With other projects -I’m still reading about self-sufficiency and planning a big garden in the spring. It seems like a good time to do that.

I also got an Eton American Red Cross weather radio –found it on clearance for 9 bucks. It goes with the rest of my “prepper-lite” gear, along with the camp stove and a solar lantern.

I’m hoping to get into a half-triathlon in 2017, which means some training.

I’m also planning on returning to the Charleston Ballet next fall to be part of their production of “The Nutcracker” again. I didn’t even delete the video of the dance steps from my phone.

So, here we go again. More blogging. It’s good to be back.

Throw Back Thursday: Dispatches from the dark

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After a long break, we’re back in the blogging business.

Here are a couple of “official” blog posts I did while I was unplugged in June.

Thanks again to Sullivan’s Records and Bluegrass Kitchen for putting up with my nonsense (though not a lot. I only wrote four posts by hand)

It seemed like I should have shared this earlier, but meh… triathlon training is hard.

To put it in perspective, I started blogging late. Mostly, because in the beginning, I wasn’t sleeping particularly well.

 

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Here’s another:

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Going Vegan: Vegan Cheese!

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Over and over I’ve heard from people about going vegan, “I would, but I could never give up cheese.”

I completely understand. One of my favorite things when I was out shopping was to hit the cheese aisle at Celebrity Kroger’s or look through the cold case at the Wine and Cheese shop at the Capitol Market. There were always a dozen tasty (if pricey) options, and more often than not, I walked away with $15 worth of creamy Latverian goat cheese –or about a quarter pound.

It was good stuff. I remember cheese, even if I don’t particularly crave it these days.

Still, I miss having the occasional grilled cheese sandwich, and would like to have a pizza sometime that isn’t just carpeted by mushrooms, peppers, and olive.

That seems a lot more possible than I would have expected.

ChaoCheeseLG
Honestly, it’s amazing.

Eric Eyre brought me a package of this stuff and told me to give it a try. It was hands down awesome, tasted pretty much like the stuff made with milk –and it melted. So, this weekend, I made a portabello mushroom burger (yes, those are edible) with lettuce, peppers, veganese (yes, it’s a thing), and a slice of CHAO cheese.

I nearly wept. It was that good.

Looking around, CHAO is available at Healthy Life Market for about five bucks a package (I think), but you can probably find it anyplace that sells a lot of vegan/vegatarian food items (Pretty much a couple of Kroger stores and Walmart).

I’m going to be buying more of this.

Let There Be Yoga! Brother, can you spare a mat.

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The Elk Community and Education Center is a re-purposed elementary school, nestled away from the main road, and hidden back behind a bank and a Dairy Queen. It acts as the local senior activity center. They serve breakfast, offer a few classes, and a group of old men meet most days to shoot pool, which is probably as good a thing for them to do, and cheaper than sucking down bitter, lukewarm coffee at a burger joint.

Tuesday nights, they have a yoga class. Some nights, the class is oversaw, unofficially, by a man named Bruce, who isn’t licensed to teach yoga, but has practiced it for years.

Terry, who helps run the center, explained, “He’s been everywhere. He’s been to the ashrams in India. He knows his stuff.”

Bruce was in California this week, however.

So, what we had was a television, a VCR, and an old beginners yoga tape that looked like it came from the waning days of the Clinton administration.

Terry apologized for the low-tech, low-rent situation. They would love to have an actual instructor.

“But there’s no money.”

We did the best we could with what we had. A half dozen of us practiced poses while standing on mats and bathroom towels, but without the benefit of props like straps, blocks, or bolsters.

I had a little bit of an advantage. While I haven’t learned enough to be useful to anybody else, I did know how to adjust into most of the poses, and felt fairly confident I was getting them right. I understood what the television guru was talking about when he started explaining about the breath and controlling it.

I don’t know about anybody else.

What was a little heartbreaking was the people who came out were earnest. It was a humble community program in a center that caters to older people, the kind of people who might really benefit from the stretches, the strength training, and even the mental exercises that yoga offers.

There’s just no money to hire someone to teach, and not much of an incentive to get someone to take the center on. Building a class of even low or non-paying students wouldn’t be instant. It would take time and a lot of patience.

To me, it seems like their problems with their community center and yoga seem like a metaphor for the entire state of West Virginia. There’s some decent space to work with, some people interested in doing some kind of work, but little means to attract the investment or energy to try to make it work.

I’d love to help them. I’m not sure how.

Maybe I’ll have some ideas after next month.

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I’m working on some meaningful things to write about yoga. The trick with this is that there are few pictures. I keep bringing a camera, but it’s hard to take photos when you’re doing downward facing dog. Basically, you’re not shooting anything anyone wants to see in a family friendly newspaper. I could let the instructor shoot photos, but imagine that might interfere with teaching the class.

Also, I’m pretty sure the paper wouldn’t pay them for the pictures.

In any case, what I can talk about is where we are with classes. At this point, at The Folded Leaf, I’ve taken Basic Hatha, Yin, Gentle Yoga, Basic Vinyasa, Saturday Early Bird and the potluck community yoga class, which varies according to the instructor I think, but is probably generally sort of gentle.

The goal is by the end of this month to give hot Vinyasa and Hot yoga a shot, but I’ve also got to fit in some classes at the YMCA and at the Elkview Community Center –that’s my neighborhood yoga.

I actually meant to go to Elkview Community Center last week, which, according to the web, is about six minutes from my house.

It’s also conveniently located near a Dairy Queen, which would have mattered a lot more a few months ago, but I didn’t know this when I went out looking for the community center last Tuesday. Nope, I just glanced at the screen on my laptop, grabbed my purple mat, and dragged my 10 year-old to try some local yoga.

If things went well, we could stop and get the boy a cone. I might try one of the Orange Julius things. I’ve read some of them are vegan, which is probably mostly wishful thinking. The only place less vegan sounding than a Dairy Queen is a Lonestar Steakhouse.

Luckily, things went very badly.

Ten minutes into the drive, I started swearing and openly wondering where I’d missed my turn.

The kid, meanwhile, stared out the window at the passing landscape wistfully while I ranted about the $#@%* internet and then Elkview.

This is not the first time I’ve gotten turned around while looking for something in the vicinity of Elkview. For me, the place is like the Bermuda Triangle. I’ve lived near Elkview for years, but have no idea where anything is. At Christmas, we missed making cards with the Cub Scouts because I drove us around for half an hour before finally giving up and going home. Holiday team and craft building exercises would be damned, I said.

Afterwards, there was quite a bit of grumbling then, along with eventual apologies for once again screwing up Scout night.

The kid just sighed and said, “It’s OK.”

So, we drove around until, fed up, I plugged in the GPS and the preceded to guesstimate the address.

That went not-so-well, too, and took me halfway to Clendenin until I drove back toward Elkview and looked the address up on my phone. From there, it only took a minute to find the place, but we were half an hour late.

So, no local yoga. We went home, where I sulked while he watched cartoons.

But tonight, I’m going. I got my directions. I know how to get there. I’m bringing the kid. There may be a frozen treat afterwards, if not for me, then for him.

I can do this.

Vegan: Day One

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My first vegan meal was nothing special. It was Kroger brand oatmeal prepared with a little peanut butter and some sugar.

This was sort of an unremarkable beginning to being a vegan. I’d considered starting off with something more exotic, something that loudly declared, “I am a Vegan,” but it was 9 o’clock in the morning, New Year’s Day. Loud noises were to be avoided at all costs.

I had some other elaborate vegan/health-conscious sounding food in the house. While visiting my sister in Tennessee, she’d gifted me with all kinds of stuff from her kitchen, including “Super Oats Chia nuts and seeds” hot cereal blend and two bags of Simply Balanced Rainbow quinoa.

The quinoa vexed me a little. I wasn’t entirely sure on the pronunciation, and I’d had a bad experience with it.

A couple of years ago, after the weird grain became a super food darling, I bought some and tried to prepare it. The package I bought indicated you were supposed to wash the quinoa before you cooked it. So, I rinsed it off and strained it through the only thing I had –a plastic colander, like the kind you’d use to drain spaghetti.

Most of the tiny, atom-like grains poured right through the colander with the water and went right down the drain.
My sister laughed, and then gifted me with a small sieve.

Oats and other things.
Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy

I wasn’t quite ready to try it out, so, I stuck to the oatmeal.

It was filling and not all that different than what I typically have –boring, but oats are good for you.

Lunch was just some fruit. I really wasn’t that hungry, but dinner, I thought, needed to be something special.

The day before I’d settled up my 40 cent fine with Kanawha County Public Library and gone on a binge in the cookbook section of the downtown branch.

They had a really decent selection of vegan cookbooks. I checked out “Hearty Vegan Meals For Monster Appetites,” “The Joy of Vegan Baking,” and “Vegan with a Vengeance” because the cook on the cover looked a little punk rock and cool, like a roller derby girl –and I wanted to be cool, too.

I also picked up “Vegan on the Cheap,” because I am who I am, which is often underfunded.

Honestly, despite the pretty pictures, many of the recipes were kind of daunting, used ingredients I wasn’t really familiar with or wanted to dive into right off. I’m all for an adventure, but somehow marinating tofu for a stir fry seemed a little depressing.

But I took my time and found something in the “Vegan on the Cheap book” called Peanutty Pumpkin Stew. It had a bunch of ingredients, but none of them were particularly exotic –unless parsley comes across as exotic. Nothing came from the specialty section of the grocery store and none of it cost very much –a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of light kidney beans, a can of pumpkin.

I might have spent four bucks on the ingredients.

The book said it could be eaten by itself or served over rice. Making rice seemed like a pretty good backup plan. I could always heat up some frozen broccoli and drench the stuff in soy sauce or something if I failed, but the stew seemed like a pretty good bet.

And it was easy. Outside of chopping up one onion, one potato and one carrot and mincing one clove of garlic, it was mostly just empty a can of this or a can of that into the soup pot and remember to stir.

Other than having to go back to the grocery store to buy a can of pumpkin (I thought I had one left from Thanksgiving), the recipe went off without a hitch, and was awesome.

Regretfully, the photogs for the Charleston Daily-Mail do not live in my house. The picture would like nicer if any of them did.

The stew was a really interesting mix of textures and flavors which included peanut, curry, chili peppers and peas.
According to the notes, the recipe made four to six servings, but with the rice, I got quite a bit more; and ate it for lunch and dinner the following day.

I’ll try to get permission to post the recipe.