Monday, May 25, 2015

Wedding Crap: Bouquet & Garter Tosses

(See introduction to this series here, and other posts in the series here.)

Disclaimers:

1. This is merely a hobby, so I'm not going to great lengths of research to find the most accurate information possible about the history of these traditions. I am trying to verify information to some degree to avoid continuing the spread of non-facts, but mostly this is a summary of the general consensus I've heard through out my life. Ultimately, I think how we treat these traditions has just as much to do with what we believe to be the origin of them, as the actual origin.

2. I am not trying to demean anyone who has chosen to partake in any of the traditions discussed. My goal is to spark discussion about what the history of these things mean to us today, how changing our language and treatment of traditions can affect our culture now, and, ideally, encourage anyone who wants to follow wedding traditions to do so as a conscious choice, not merely as a default that honors our patriarchal past.



What is the tradition? 

During the reception, the groom takes a garter off the bride's leg, has all the single men gather, and tosses it to them for one to catch. Similarly, the bride has all the single women father, and tosses her bouquet to them for one to catch. Superstition has it that the two catchees will be the next people to marry. In some cases, the man who caught the garter also proceeds to put the garter on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet.

What is the origin of the tradition?

Most likely based on some combination of community involvement in helping make sure the marriage was consummated, and that the bride was considered good luck, at some point it became common for guests to grab at the bride's clothing as the couple left the wedding. To appease them without losing her clothing, brides began throwing the bouquet or small articles - like a garter - to the guests instead. 

Why do people still follow it?

Fortunately, I think both tosses are starting to become less popular. The act of singling out the single guests is seen as less than respectful of your loved ones who came to celebrate with you, and the sexual removal of an undergarment from the bride in front of all her relatives has begun to be seen as the tacky event that it is. 

Ultimately, I think those who do participate are looking it at simply as good old fun. It can be readily boiled down to as essentially a party game, so what's the harm?

Why is that crap? 

Underneath that party game, though, both the underlying tradition (either treating the consummation of a marriage as a matter of public importance, or treating the bride as merely an object that can raided for good luck charms), and the actions who make your guests under go (pointing out marital status in a denigrating manner, acting in an overtly sexual manner with your spouse in front of your guests, or coercing two complete strangers into acting in an overtly sexual manner with each other in front your guests), contain an ickiness that can is not worth ignoring for the sake of fun. 

What am I doing with this tradition?

There was no garter or bouquet to toss, and we didn't have a dance floor or similar venue with which to host any sort of little games or activities anyway. If I had had a bouquet, I might have considered using one of the alternatives I've heard of, of ceremonially giving your bouquet to a special guest - perhaps a mother or grandmother, or the longest married couple in the room.

How did/will you handle this tradition?

I would love to have a lively debate and conversation in the comments! Please join in!

Dissenting opinions (from the post itself or other commenters) are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments that personally attack me or any other commenter.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

April PDX Restaurant: La Vida Veggie

La Vida Veggie is a cute little place in Beaverton (just south of Hwy 10, near the pool and high school), in a converted house. It's all at least vegetarian, and I think all items can be made vegan (it looks like cheese is actually the only non-vegan component, so they have regular and vegan options for that); plus some raw choices. It'd be a great place to take kids, with books and board games available to use. (We looked through a book there called "101 Places You Gotta See Before You're 12" that we're seriously considering buying to use as a checklist/scrapbook thing for our hypothetical kids.)

Website

Genre: Mexican-inspired, some raw

Price: Sides and smaller items $3.00 - $4.50, entrees and salads $7.50 - $9.50, juices and smoothies $5.00 - $8.50

Setting: Casual and homey, a little hippie

What we triedWe started with a pina colada smoothie for me, and a kombucha (on tap!) for Abe. I think I actually like the kombucha slightly better (and I don't definitely don't like all kombuchas), but they were both good.



For lunch I had the chipotle walnut chickpea burger, it was a little softer/crumblier than typical for veggie burgers, but good and I loved the (homemade?) bread it was served on. It appears everything is served with a salad, which had a nice light dressing.



Abe had the walnut meat tacos: I tried a bite and didn't completely love the sauce but the texture of the walnut filling was great - I don't think I've ever seen walnut-based meats before, but it definitely works and makes a lot of sense.



There were some desserts that looked really good though we didn't take the time to try them that day, we will definitely be back for them at some point! 

Overall impression: Awesome! It's near where we live, reasonably priced, and some really great options. 

Would I take my parents?*: Definitely! Even though it's all veg, it includes plenty of not-too-far-out-there options, and I think having the option for dairy cheese would help appeal to omnivores. They would definitely find it a darling place and like the books, games, and overall vibe.

*Scale: Heck no. No. Probably not. Maybe. Eh, yeah. Yes. Definitely. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Toastmasters Speech: Can't Buy Me Love

The next Toatmasters speech focuses on vocal variety. In addition to tone, pitch, variation, etc., I was trying to focus on not speaking too fast. Plus, instead of standing behind the podium, I set my notes on the table and stood beside it (the ideal would be standing in front of the table, but that makes it hard to occasionally reference notes, which I still need to do). I feel like I made a huge leap forward with the presentation of this speech last week. 

Title: Can't Buy Me Love

I hope you all had a happy mothers’ day last weekend! I’m not a mother yet, but I do have two girls that I consider my babies - our cats Imogene and Hera. I know it’s not the same, but it does involve the occasional middle of the night wake-up, feeding them mushed up food, and dealing with someone else’s feces, so there are definitely some similarities to the human variety.


I adopted Imogene in 2009; and Lincoln and I adopted Hera last fall - I think a one-to-one cat to human ratio is ideal - they each need to have a designated lap, and each lap needs a designated cat. They’ve both been wonderful companions and additions to our family, and so I am grateful to the shelters that allowed us to find them. 

If you’ve considered adding a furry friend to your family, I strongly encourage you to seek them at a shelter, rather than purchasing from a pet store or breeder. According to the Humane Society, 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized each year. With that many animals waiting for a home, there’s absolutely no need for anyone to profit from creating even more. Many animals raised for breeding are not kept in good conditions, but crammed into too small crates, becoming pregnant far too young and too often. A cat can become pregnant at as young as 4 months, and can have 5 pregnancies a year. That’s way too many kittens - for the mother and the world.

I found Imogene at the Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood, and we got Hera at the Oregon Humane Society in NE Portland. A bonus you get at any good shelter, is some degree of notes on what they had seen of each cat’s personality, and whether they would be well suited for a home with children and/or other pets, and have rooms to spend time with a cat before you adopt. You get to pick the best animal for your home, rather than merely a cute kitten. Granted, even shelter conditions, as good as they try to make them, are not exactly comforting to a cat, so both were definitely a bit shy and scared when we tried to introduce ourselves.

Once I got Imogene home, though, she was pretty content and immediately took it upon herself to explore her new surroundings. Estimated to be about 3 years old, she was still somewhat in the teenage phase, and quickly found a basket of toys I’d bought for her sitting on a book case. I had planned to name whatever cat I adopted “Agatha”, but the shelter had called her Imogene, and it just suited her classy, friendly but dignified, personality so well.

Hera was about one year old when we adopted her, and the information the shelter had indicated she had been a stray cat living outside. She had a little harder transition - the first 24 hours or so, she tried to cram herself into any available corner to hide, although if we held and cuddled her, she warmed up pretty quickly. We had discussed some “h” names - we have a household naming scheme we wanted to stick to - but landed on Hera, a powerful name for her to rely on for strength to overcome her fear. Though she’s still wary of strangers, she has proved herself to be incredibly NOT shy or timid overall, and is constantly meowing demands at us and chasing her older sister’s tail.

There’s nothing like having a cat curl up on your lap on a cozy evening on the couch - except for two cats curled up on your lap - or watching the intentness with which they stare at something invisible on the ceiling. Having grown up with cats around the vast majority of my life, I’ve found them to be extremely intelligent, beautiful, and loyal creatures.

They may not be able to directly speak to us, but if you’ve had a cat or dog, I think you know what I mean when I talk about how their personality shines through, and how precious their love for you - their caretaker, their family - truly is. I’m grateful to the shelters who take them in when someone else couldn’t see that, and allowed us to find them. If everyone adopted a cat from a shelter, they could provide that much better care to the animals remaining who wait for their forever home, and would be able to stop needlessly ending lives of cats who just happen to be one too many for the space available. Trust me, the love you receive is well worth it!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Huber's: Portland's Oldest Restaurant

March's Portland bucket list activity was a visit to Huber's Cafe, the oldest restaurant in Portland. It has a pretty old-fashioned pub kind of feel, which reminds me of a fancy train station. The bartenders were also in old-timey outfits, adding to the vibe.

It's located on 3rd avenue in downtown, so easy to get to from the blue/red MAX line. They accept reservations - which we made, for dinner on a Sunday; I suspect it probably wasn't quite necessary for that time, but I'd guess a more peak weekend time it would be a good idea.

They're known in particular for Spanish coffee and turkey sandwiches; in the old days if you ordered a beer you got a free turkey sandwich. The menu isn't exactly veg-friendly, but I did manage to find something, and the drinks and desserts go quite a ways in making up for the lack of options in entrees.

We started off with a couple drinks - I don't like coffee, so I encouraged Lincoln to try the Spanish coffee. The making of this drink is a whole table-side show! The liquor is poured in with a flourish and spinning arms. 

The meal starts with a really awesome beer bread - it's kind of like cornbread in consistency and texture. Abe had one of the seafood dishes, while I had the one vegetarian dish, fettucine alfredo. I may not have had many options, but it was good! Rich, but not heavy as it can sometimes be, and came with garlic bread (I'm not going to say anything bad about such a carb-y meal!) We continued our decadence with dessert, a sorbet and the chocolate mousse. Delicious!

Though I don't know if I'd consider it an exceptional restaurant if it's didn't have the history and tourist appeal (especially with the lack of vegetarian options - I know I've complained about high-end restaurants beings surprisingly meat-heavy; for a more moderate level place like this I'd expect more variety), it's definitely not bad. I think my parents would enjoy the vibe and will probably bring them for lunch at some point. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Customized Corrective Swim Goggles

Of the many pieces of gear needed for triathlons, there's one that I tried to ignore for a while: prescription lenses. Sunglasses for the bike, but more importantly goggles for the swim. In a pool, my nearsightedness is only a minor nuisance to be not be able to read a clock; but for open water swimming I would be waaay more comfortable if I could clearly see my surroundings. 

I assumed that they would be hard to find, and super expensive. While in googling I have found some sources for truly prescription goggles, costing about the same as actual glasses. I also found ideas on pinterest to glue old glasses lenses onto goggles - presumably to save money, and perhaps needed as a cheaper option if you have a very extreme prescription (though it seems like it'd be super clunky and potentially unsafe, in my opinion), but not necessary, it turns out, for the average glasses wearer. In a forum discussion, someone mentioned prescription goggles on swimoutlet.com (I've also found them on Amazon). While not truly "prescription", these are generic corrective lenses, along the lines of generic reading glasses, and are in the same price range as regular goggles.

Awesome! However - what about the fact that each eye needs different correction, and generic goggles - like reading glasses - come with the same in both lenses? I suppose that's also where the homemade glasses lenses option might come in handy, but there's actually a really simple workaround.

I do want to acknowledge that I didn't come up with this idea, but found it in comments in product reviews of the goggles I was looking at. However, if you didn't know about this solution you might not get far enough along that path of looking to purchase to come across it, so I wanted to put it out there in another format, not just in product reviews. My eyes are close enough (-2.0 and -3.5) that I was planning to just get enough correction for my stronger eye, and it'd still be much better than nothing, but being able to get reasonably close on both sides was a great bonus.



1. Pick a model of generic prescription lenses, making sure it's of a type that the nosebridge can be fully removed. (So you can remove and replace the lense.) (Swim Outlet, Amazon.) I went with a TYR one, just because that's the brand I've been using for my regular goggles, and they've been working.

2. Determine the diopter strength you need. This page has a good explanation of how this is determined.

3. If, based on #2, you need a different diopter for each eye, order a pair of goggles in each diopter.

4. Remove a lense from each pair and swap. (Although the diopter is impressed on the side of each lense to confirm any time, take care that the brand on the nosebridge is right side up when the lenses are on the correct sides, to make it easy to put on the right way with a mere glance.) Ta da! You have a usable pair + a backup pair of lenses with custom correction for both eyes.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

FT Flat Half Training Week 1 & NROLFW Phase 2 Week 2

Workouts

Monday pm: NROLFW HIIT/speedwork run 2.25 miles (12:06 avg pace)

Goal: Warm-up 0.5, 4 x 90 sec @<8:30 with 2:00 recoveries, cool-down 0.5
Actual
Warm-up 0.5: 13:19
4 x 90 sec intervals: 8:16, 8:34, 8:41, 8:27
4 x 2 min recovery: 12:54, 15:35, 14:56, 14:51
Cool-down 0.5: 13:03

Not quite all on target, and overall feels a little worse than last week's paces, but not terrible, especially considering it was raining.

Tuesday am: NROLFW phase 2 workout A - Hey, I actually got up in time to do this before work! Go me!
Tuesday pm: Swim 1,300 yards + easy run 2.2 miles (13:05)

Wednesday: Rest day

Thursday pm: Tempo run 5.1 miles (12:00 avg pace, 11:34 tempo pace) - Definitely tougher than I'd like that pace to feel, but it is only the beginning of the training cycle.

Goal: Warm-up 0.5, 4 @ <11:35, cool-down 0.5
Actual
Warm-up 0.5: 12:57
4 tempo: 11:29, 11:37, 11:37, 11:31
Cool-down 0.6: 14:13

Friday: Bike trainer 4.5 miles (13.8 mph) + NROLFW phase 2 workout B

Goal: Maintain 90 rpm, going up a gear every 1.5 miles
Actual
1.5: 12.3 mph, 86 rpm
3.0: 14.0 mph, 86 rpm
4.5: 15.6 mph, 83 rpm

Saturday: Run 4.0 miles (13:12 pace) - This was supposed to be my long run, and I could just not get in a groove, and totally gave up. Combo of bad decisions (strength training the day before) and bad timing (PMSing, plus a rainy day compared to Sunday's nice weather) just made it not work.

Sunday: Long run 10.05 mile (13:18) - Due to a busy schedule of attending Abe's musical performances, I didn't get to start this until 6 pm, but it was lovely weather. Definitely not easy (what happened to all my 12:4x long runs last cycle?!), but at least I got in the miles and some more Gilmore Guys podcasts.

Total swimming: 1,300 yards
Total biking: 4.5 miles
Total running: 23.6 miles

Friday, May 15, 2015

Toastmasters Speech: Strong is the New Healthy

The fifth speech in the first Toastmasters manual is called "your body speaks", used to focus on body movements, gestures, eye contact, and such. I was afraid the topic I chose might be taking that "you body" concept a bit too literally, but it's what I was able to come up with on short notice right after tax season for my scheduled date! I don't think I did a great job with the actual body movement focus, but liked where my topic ended up and how I presented in other aspects.

Title: Strong is the New Healthy

We're finally on the other of tax season; a lot of things get put on hold for those few months each year. It’s only temporary, and it’s a lot of work and stress, but one nice thing is that it’s sort of a natural break to make a fresh start, to evaluate goals, and modify my routines to meet those goals. I met up with my mom last weekend for a girls weekend to celebrate the end of tax season, and in our talks, realized we have a goal in common, right now, that I’m trying to not just incorporate more regularly into my life, but nag her into incorporating in her: weightlifting.

I’ve talked about my running and triathlon before - I participate in and train for races because I really do enjoy it, especially the running. Though it started as more of a means to an end, just a way to do cardio exercise in a planned way, but I’ve grown to truly enjoy it, the act itself and the feeling of accomplishment in meeting goals. It’s takes up a huge amount of my time, but it’s not just exercise, it’s a hobby, my biggest hobby. Now, enjoying something like running, as I said, gets in my cardio exercise, and it doesn’t feel like “exercise”.

My mom, also, does tons of walking and aerobic dance videos, and things like that for aerobic cardio fitness. But neither of us do much strength training. I think there are a lot of obstacles to weight training, especially for women. It’s not really encouraged in the same way other sports are, especially in terms of being shown as accessible.

Not that running wasn’t kind of scary when it was unknown, but it’s a pretty visible activity, in general. Not so much weight lifting. There’s power lifting, something like that is in the olympics. In PE in high school, there was some time spent in the weight room, but it was all about maxing out on squats and bench presses, and you needed a spotter, and maybe even a weight belt. Not really something that makes it sound like I can just pick it up in my basement a few times a week. It’s also boring.

Getting past the “maxing out” and such that I don’t pay any attention do, when I have tried some programs, and it’s so slow moving - literally and figuratively. You do a set, and then you wait, for a minute, before moving on to another set. If I run for 30 minutes, I’m moving, enjoying, feeling alive for the whole 30 minutes. Even if you’re doing intervals, faster intervals with recovery in between, you’re still jogging, or at least walking on the in between.

In weight lifting, you spend half of the “workout” just sitting and waiting! But, it’s something I need to do, for a variety of reasons. It will help my running. I’ve only been doing it sporadically over the past few months, but I also set a half marathon PR by over a minute per mile, and I think that’s a big part of it.

 Even without running - for example, for my mom - it’s part of being healthy. Cardio mainly works one muscle - your heart. Which is important, sure. And it works other muscles - running does build up your legs. But whole body strength training is important for life. I may only be 30, but I already feel aches and pains and twinges from getting old. I don’t want my body to start getting weaker as I get older. My mom can’t even lift her suitcase for a 3 day trip. I don’t want to be in that position in another 30 years. I don’t want her to be in that position right now, either. I’ve used the lure of future grandchildren as motivation - she wants to be able to easily lift and carry a baby, right? 

 Both my mom and I are trying to lose weight, too - and though cardio burns more calories while you’re doing it, strength training builds muscle, which means you burn more calories all the time. It’s an investment that can really pay off, even if it’s harder to see in the moment. 

So if we know we should do it, what’s the best way? I actually listened to a Freakonomics podcast recently on a run, about what’s the best type of exercise in general, and the answer applies to the best kind of strength training, too: the best method is the one that you’ll stick with. 

For me, that means a program that progresses and makes it easy to set and reach goals. I’m currently using the “new rules of lifting for women” book, which has 7 phases, just two workouts within each phase that you repeat for a number of weeks, so you get to know the workouts, feel competent at them, and have a clear basis for comparison to show improvement. For my mom, what’s most important is having clear guidance and making it more fun - so videos are her thing. A DVD with a peppy host giving instructions and fun music in the background is what she knows will keep her going. 

Whatever method it takes, I know this is a really important aspect of being healthy to fit into our lives. As much as they talk nowadays about just fitting in “activity” into our daily lives, much of that activity is easier if we’re stronger, and that’s what will keep us in able to continue being active, in whatever other ways we enjoy. It’s not just, as they say, that “strong is the new skinny” - strong is the new healthy, and something I think everyone should consider making a priority.
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