FitBit Followup

I’m such a doofus.

If you’ve been with me a while, you know I like to add photos to my posts… usually snapshots I’ve taken myself.

Last time, I told you about wearing my FitBit around the grocery store, yet registering almost NO steps because my hand was on the cart handle nearly the whole time. But did I think to take a picture to go with the post? No, of course not.

No problem. The day before that post was to go live, I needed to make another grocery run. I’ll just take the picture when I get there and use that, ran my brilliant plan.

Except I was visiting the brand-new Kroger. Navigating the unfamiliar terrain was all I could manage. Never once thought of illustrating my post until after I got home. I had to settle for a FitBit screenshot.

Not only that, but I forgot about the FitBit Follies and again clutched the grocery cart the whole time, again registering only a few steps for that hour. Still no photo, and now two missed dots.

I’m losing ground.

Third time’s the charm, though. Yesterday, I needed just a few more grocery items….

Here at last is the missing illustration intended for the first post:

Stepped and scored… and caught on camera!

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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FitBit Follies

I’ve been using a FitBit for a few years now. It’s kind of fun to log my steps and try to hit the 10,000 mark every day.

My current FitBit is the kind you wear on your wrist. Not only does it keep track of your steps, but you can use it to make sure you’re up and walking around at least a few minutes each hour. This helps me because, as a writer, I often spend hours in my chair, drafting fiction and blog posts… or, you know, scrolling through Facebook.

Either way, if I haven’t logged at least 250 steps since the top of the hour, it will buzz me at ten minutes till, and remind me to get a move on. “10 minutes to get 73,” it will read, or perhaps “Just 102 to win the hour!” Once I’ve taken 250 steps, a dot for that hour will light up in the phone app.

So I strategize. For instance, if I’m ready to take my coffee cup downstairs but realize it’s 10:58, I’ll wait until 11:00 so I can get an early start on the next hour’s steps.

One day I walked into the grocery store about 1:00 and grabbed a cart. Roaming all over the store looking for stuff, I knew my 1:00 steps were a done deal.

At last, I got to the checkout and took my place in line.

My wrist buzzed. I looked at my FitBit in time to see the words, “10 minutes to get 240” scroll by.

What?? I’d been walking around for 45 solid minutes. How could I possibly have logged only ten steps? Then I noticed my hand, which I’d placed back on the handle of the shopping cart.

Light dawned. My feet had been taking steps, but my wrist (and thus, the FitBit), had been gliding along with the cart handle and not registering a thing.

Great. I hadn’t missed a dot all morning, and I wasn’t about to miss one now. Especially since I’d actually earned it.

So yeah, I marched in place while waiting, even though I felt like a doofus. Fortunately, I got checked out in time to head out of the store before 2:00. I took quick, mincing steps (like a runway model but without falling off platform shoes), vigorously swinging my right arm. I checked my app every few seconds, and enjoyed the thrill of victory when the dot lit up halfway to my parking space.

“Stepped and scored!” The FitBit congratulated me.

And now I make sure that when I’m walking, the FitBit is walking too.

Your turn: Does your fitness equipment ever hold out on you? I’m here to sympathize. Tell me your tale in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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Lone Wolf, by Jodi Picoult

Available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon


Cara, a 17-year-old girl, feels guilty about the awful car accident that injured her father, Luke, and herself. In this crisis, her estranged brother and her divorced-and-remarried mother come together with Cara and Luke–at least, they’re all in the same place. But her family is still divided, each harboring secrets and hidden wounds.

How can they hope to agree on their next step? The truth, they feel, would be too painful. But while the truth may hurt, it might be their only way forward.

Picoult tells each person’s story in his or her own point of view, with Cara’s eccentric father, Luke, as everyone’s central focus. As the web of intrigue grows, so does the cast of characters. Normally I’d get confused, but Picoult introduces each chapter with the character’s name and each speaks with a distinct voice. The novel is very different from anything I’ve read before, and I learned a lot. I found it an unexpectedly Great Weekend Read.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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Cross-Pollinated

Last summer I decided to plant some peppers. I use spicy, dark green spearhead-shaped poblanos a lot, so I got a poblano plant. The store also had a sweet red bell variety, and a pretty purple bell called “Pinot Noir.” Since the colorful bell peppers cost a fortune at the grocery, I bought a plant of each variety. Think of the savings!

Yes, I planted three different peppers in the same little herb garden.

I really should’ve known better, after the FrankenSquash episode a few years ago.

What happens is the same bees buzz around all three plants, tracking poblano pollen all over the red bell flowers, Pinot Noir pollen all over the poblanos, and so on. This is called “cross-pollination.”

Result?

Total pepper chaos.

We find different flavor fruits, hot and sweet, on each plant. In fact, all the peppers in this photo are growing on the same plant:

There’s only one way to know whether any one fruit is a sweet pepper or a hot one: You hafta cut off some of the individual pepper and taste it.

Nothing looks like the picture on its plant stake. It almost looks as if each plant, in an effort to fit in with the others, completely lost its identity.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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We Have Lost the Chihuahuas, by Paul Mathews

Now available for Kindle at
Amazon US and Amazon UK


Howie Pond is at it again… whether he likes it or not.

And he doesn’t.

Now that he’s been released from his temporary assignment as a secret agent, you’d think he could go back to his own work as presidential spokesperson. But no… the First Lady’s three chihuahuas have disappeared from her apartment. Try as he might to dodge, Howie gets sucked into helping his friend, the chief of police, track down the dognappers.

Meanwhile, Howie’s wife, Britt, has just been sworn in as a secret agent. Her first assignment? Find those chihuahuas, preferably before the police do, and grab all the glory.

Unlike the longsuffering Howie, Mathews obviously loves his work. His broad satire, goofy situations, and snarky obsession with food are balanced by well-drawn characters and genuine suspense.

All in all, I find this fourth book in the “We Have Lost” series to be a Great Weekend Read.

And I don’t even like chihuahuas.

Thanks for reading!
Jan

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My Grandparents Were Cooler Than I Am

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my mom’s parents.

Her mother, Sylvia, was a farmer’s daughter in a tiny Missouri town. Instead of merely cooking and helping her mother keep house, she went to work in one of the two local banks.

Her father, Verner, was from another tiny town several miles east. A banker by trade, he served in the US Army during WW1. He wasn’t cleared for combat duty, and ended up working in a military post office, which sounds kind of dull and rubber-stamp-ish. BUT, as my brother recently told me, his job was censoring letters from servicemen, to make sure they didn’t contain any classified information. Way cooler than stamping postmarks.

Just a few years ago, I also learned that he had been married before he met Sylvia. His first wife died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. After the war, Verner returned to Missouri and took a job in the same town where Sylvia lived… at the other bank.

One week Sylvia’s bank sent her over to the other bank–to fill in for someone, I suppose. That’s when she and Verner met, and they married not long after.

Verner went on to serve with distinction in the state banking system. They lived for several years in Jefferson City. He worked in a state building across from the Capitol.

While they were there, Sylvia also took a job. She served one or two years as payroll clerk for the Missouri House of Representatives. Her portrait is included in a composite of state officers, which hangs in the Capitol.

After Verner died, which was before I was born, Sylvia took a job with the phone company rather than just sit around. Then her mother’s health began to fail, and she went back to their tiny town to help her folks.

I can only imagine what it was like to go from big-city life with all the modern conveniences, to a house with no indoor plumbing in a town with only one little general store.

Verner and Sylvia lived through heartache, hardship, and good times, all with gumption and integrity. And here I sit in a high-tech world where I really have it pretty easy.

I wish I could go back and hear more of my grandparents’ stories. I think they’d inspire a lovely novel.

After all, my grandparents were way cooler than I am.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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Dances With Hazelnuts

Brent and I both love hazelnut butter, but there’s so much sugar in the commercial stuff! Then a friend gave me her recipe for a healthy version. I found a source for blanched hazelnuts, Brent ordered a killer blender, and I’ve been making my own nut butter ever since.
Here’s the blender, photographed beside the protein-shake one for scale. If the little one is a Bullet blender, the big one is the Howitzer of blenders.

The craving hit recently while I was out of hazelnuts. Undaunted, I brought a pound of in-the-shell nuts home from the grocery.

But in the back of my mind was the nagging realization that, for the first time, I’d have to blanch the nuts. I approached this task with the same confidence with which I might gut a fish.

Sheer terror.

Honestly, you can look up anything online, including how to blanch hazelnuts. I boiled the nut meats according to the directions. It took longer than I expected, but at last the papery skins slipped right off.

Should I be uneasy that the nuts looked bigger and puffier than the pre-blanched ones I’d bought before?

Next step, toast the skinned nuts in the oven. Since they had apparently retained a bit of water, I made sure they were fully toasted. Then, into the blender they went. Here they’re coarsely chopped, on their way to smooth, dippable greatness.

Once the nuts were pretty well pulverized, I added the other ingredients and blended some more, pushing the stiff goop back down into the blades every ten seconds or so. Usually this “stiff” phase lasts about two minutes.

Half an hour later, the consistency hadn’t changed a bit. If anything, the goop had grown stiffer. By now I could only blend for four seconds before the blades would lose all contact with the hazelnut goop.

I let the blender cool off for a while, and went at it again.

Still stiff, like mortar.

Maybe I had over-toasted the nuts. I added water.

An hour later, I gave up and scooped the resulting hazelnut product into a container to refrigerate, ready or not.

It looks like poop.

And this time, I can’t even blame the appliances.

One thing’s for sure: From now on, I’m only buying already-blanched hazelnuts.

After all, I’m not completely nuts.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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