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Wonder Woman at Seattle Children’s Hospital

267A1983-EditAfter attending last years Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, for the first time in costume (as Wonder Woman), it occurred to me that I should reach out to Seattle Children’s Hospital and see if I could set up a time to visit.

It took several back and forth emails, but a date and time were set and my visit was scheduled. As the date grew closer, I became nervous. I had never done something like this before and I was a bit apprehensive about how the whole event would go. I had no idea what to expect. It didn’t help that my wing-man (my husband) was planning on being with me and had to bow out due to an unforeseen work thing. But I certainly could handle it. As long as I could “borrow” a female hospital staff member to help lace me into the corset-style back of the bodice, all would be well.

I received a PDF file as well as a lengthy email about the details surrounding my visit. Details included where to park, getting security clearance, everything I was bringing in had to be clean, no photographs of the children, they need to approach me, they can touch me but not vice versa, bring about 100 of whatever I’m bringing (WW stickers, my trading card, WW coloring sheet), keep everything positive, lots of smiles, be upbeat, etc.

Due to security reasons, I would be unable to arrive in costume. Which was both a blessing and a curse. Driving or even riding in a car in costume is not comfortable. However, “suiting up” takes some doing, as well as time and assistance, so it’s most convenient to get dressed in a comfortable and familiar environment (preferably with a full-length mirror). After emailing my contact that I’d need a female staff member for 5 minutes to lace me into the bodice, I was confident I could handle this journey solo.

Day Of
With my make-up and hair ready, sword & shield in the back seat, and multiple elements to the costume in a suitcase in my trunk, I headed out. The staff was so welcoming and kind. I was shown to the playroom and introduced to the two ladies that would be my handlers and escorting me around – Toni and Kathy. I was given a private office to change into. Toni helped lace me into the bodice, and she also put my sword in the scabbard on my back. I grabbed my shield and I was ready. In walked a little gal with her mother. Her eyes were big with amazement, but she was pretty shy. She was clearly interested and wanted to see what I was about. I knelt down on one knee and handed her a trading card and a WW sticker. This was Oma. A beautiful Hispanic girl with a bandaged up right arm. She didn’t say much but it warmed my heart when she leaned in close to me during our photo together (I was still on one knee). Toni would take a Polaroid photo of myself and the patient, then give it to the child or parent to keep. The only photos I could take (with my phone) were with staff, with their permission and an overturned ID badge.

IMG_8324 2The original plan was to stay in the playroom and let the kids come to me, but Kathy and Toni had other plans. Kathy grabbed my folder of goodies for the kids, Toni grabbed the camera and film packets, and we headed out. I said good-bye to Oma.

I learned that when most of the cool visitors come (Russel Wilson, Chris Evens, and such) they mainly see the cancer patients in the two cancer units (one for children and one for teens). Seattle Children’s Hospital is a huge facility with many different units, floors, and wards. Many patients don’t get to see any special visitors besides their parents, so Toni and Kathy decided today was their day!

Our routine would go like this: Kathy would walk ahead of Toni and I into the patient’s room and say, “I brought my best friend with me to work today and it’s Wonder Woman, would you like to see her?” All but once, the response was yes! Toni and I would quickly sanitize our hands (via wall mount) and walk into the room. Entering with a full smile, giving eye contact to the child, I’d begin to chat with them. Sometimes there would be a conversation, sometimes there was small talk and sometimes there was no verbal communication from the patient at all. I kept chatting anyway. I would comment on different things of theirs in the room, or what they were wearing, or pictures of theirs on the wall, etc. If I saw they were looking at a particular part of my costume, I’d chat about that. I’d talk about my shield, the sword on my back, my indestructible bracelets, or even the lasso of truth. Once they knew what the lasso did, I often got looks of astonishment. During my chatting, Kathy would hand me my trading card and a sticker for me to give the patient. I also gave them a WW coloring sheet and a small box of crayons (supplied by the hospital). We’d pose for a photo and often I’d sign it. Then just like that, our time would be up and I’d say good-bye. We’d walk out of the room and sanitize our hands again.

IMG_8317If we were walking in the hall and I was seen, we’d gauge the interest (usually excitement) and walk into the room and repeat the process all over again. I got pretty good at picking out things to chat with the kids about, as many were shy. One little fella, who had just had surgery the day before, didn’t say anything during my visit. I saw Spiderman on his fleece blanket, so I said I knew Spiderman. I said that he and I would often fight the baddies together and then go to Starbucks afterward. It didn’t matter that Spiderman is Marvel and WW is DC Comics. I said I quite enjoyed fighting crime with Spiderman cause he’s so cool, acrobatic and flies around with his webbing. Of course, I can fly too, but that’s why we make such a good team! I enjoyed improvising stories about WW’s adventures.

In the hallways, we’d pass administrative staff, clergy, nurses, doctors, catering staff, and cleaning staff. The response from everyone was so positive. A few staff wanted photos, which was so awesome! Mostly, the doctors were a little “too cool for school” but I caught them giving me the side-eye as we passed. One nurse showed me a WW pin on her ID badge as we were posing for a photo together. I told her she is a Wonder Woman!

We went from unit to unit, floor to floor. Toni had the great idea to enter the dialysis ward with the WW movie theme playing. I cued the music up on my phone and handed it to Toni. We got the ok from Kathy to enter the room, Toni pressed play and in I walked. Oh, you should have seen the look on their faces! Gal Gadot herself couldn’t have done it better. It was such a special moment to see the pure joy and excitement coming from the kids. One overjoyed little gal eagerly pulled out a small Wonder Woman figure to show me. A true fan. A fellow Amazon. This little warrior princess was amazing, they all were! Strong, fearless, and insanely brave. All the kids were just phenomenal and so inspiring to me.

IMG_8315We were making our rounds in the rehab unit and a little gal heard I was coming and darn near ran out of her room. She had blonde hair and a sparkly pink top on. I knelt down for a photo and it was clear she wanted to hug me. I looked to my handlers for the ok and they nodded. We hugged. Then mom wanted to get a photo of the hug so we needed to hug again. This time she didn’t let go. My heart just melted!

Two hours doesn’t seem like a long time, but after seeing over 40 children, I was both sad my time was ending and partly relieved because I was exhausted. We headed back to the playroom. I went back to the office to change back into a mortal. I seriously can’t tell you how tired I was. After getting back to our condo in downtown Seattle I had the good sense to spend 20 or so minutes in the hot tub. Later that evening, Michael and I went to one of our favorite restaurants (Palace Kitchen) for our very favorite burger and a much-deserved cocktail. I ate the whole burger, with lots of fries, and half a piece of White Chocolate Coconut cream pie – and after all that I was not stuffed, but simply satisfied and perfectly content. I was in bed by 8:30 pm.

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12 Labors Update

DSC_0810No, I haven’t forgotten about my 12 Labors! I started in August and will finish in March 2018, just before Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.

Refer to post Labor #1 Compassion and Understanding for all the details.  Quick recap: as part of my journey as Wonder Woman, I have assigned myself 12 Labors (as she did in the comics). To review, my 12 Labors are:

1 Compassion & Understanding
Makeup and personally deliver 5 Blessing Bags for the less fortunate.  COMPLETED

2 Practice, Discipline & Patience
Archery, on-going practice, once a week

3 Meditation
On-going, 15 minutes, twice a week

4 Forgiveness (Meditation)
On-going, in addition to Labor #3, guided Jake Kornfield meditation
A. ask for forgiveness B. forgive self C. forgive others

5 Breaking my armor
On-going, look strangers in the eye, smile, say hello, hold doors, open doors, sincerely give strangers complements.

6 Tolerance, Acceptance & Ego
This is a tough one to quantify. My goal is to be continuously mindful of my 12 Labors.
Remember to be kind, for everyone I meet is fighting a hard battle.
Try to see through others poor behavior and recognize it as their insecurities.
Not make things about me.
More acceptance and less judgment of others.
Live my truth.

7 Thou shalt not kill (especially spiders)
Just as superheroes don’t always see their enemy coming, this is an ongoing threat that will challenge me at random and unexpected times. I am afraid of spiders and dislike them very much!

8 Acceptance (as well as Endurance / Stamina)
Watch all seasons of Curb your Enthusiasm
While watching TV may not seem like much of a trial or labor, please understand, I cannot stand the character, Larry David! My goal is to work on accepting Larry David as he is.

9 Still under development

10 Cooking Skill Challenge
In the culinary world, soufflés are particularly challenging. I shall try and master one.

11 Diet
No carbs (bread, pasta, pastries, etc.) past breakfast every day for 1 month
Drink 64 oz. of water every day for 1 month

12 Physical Strength
Through my workouts (5 x a week) I will build up to:
5-minute plank: combining a center plank and one on each side
5-minute pool cardio challenge: working against a tether and w/pool weights
20 lbs. side laterals: a 20 lbs. dumbbell in each hand, 10 + reps.
Active caloric burn of 520 for 7 days in a row (300 + calories at the gym alone)

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I’m into my third month of seven. A few of the on-going Labors are working out differently than I had originally planned. For example, both Labors 3 & 4 (Meditation and Forgiveness), I am incorporating into my time at the gym. The gym I go to has a dark room (dim lighting) with cardio equipment and mats for stretching. With calming music playing on my iPod, I am able to meditate while walking on the treadmill or stretching on the mats. I call it a moving meditation. A common misconception about meditation is that one has to be still, laying or sitting down. This is not true (for everyone). How one defines meditation is largely personal and highly individualistic. I am able to achieve a calm yet focused state of mind, eyes closed (holding onto the treadmill bar), with peaceful breathing. I purposely choose a treadmill or spot on the mat away from others for this practice.

So far, I have stayed true to Labor 7 and have successfully not killed any spiders. AND it’s spider season, so I’m quite pleased with this one!

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While on our trip to Prague and Budapest (August 2017) I continued the thread of Labor 1 (Compassion and Understanding) and gave spare coins to a few of the less fortunate. Even though there was a language barrier, I gave them eye contact, put my palms together in prayer and bowed my head to them.
A week ago, I stopped to help a woman who I passed on the street. She was having a hard time, so I offered my assistance and a few dollars. I found myself flooded with compassion, much like Wonder Woman does just before crossing No Man’s Land (in the movie). I need to walk the walk regardless if I have my costume on or not. It’s a mindset and a desire to do the right thing. Not just when you may get recognized for it.

Currently, I am falling short on Labor 2 (once a week archery practice) but I did pick up a bow at a local fair in Budapest and shot a few arrows with the help of the on-hand teaching assistant. The target was about two feet away and was really designed for children, even though they did have a recurve bow for adults (which is the one I used). So, I suppose that counts for something.

I have watched two episodes of the current season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Even though the intro theme music still makes me cringe, I am able to see Larry David for what he is . . . a nit-wit. I dislike many of the characters on the show, but there are some funny moments. The endless cussing gets a little old, for lack of creative dialogue and I don’t appreciate the misogynistic and sexist themes. So far, I’ve learned that this is not a show I would normally watch (which I kind of already knew). But I am starting to see the character of Larry David as a gross exaggeration, a cartoon, and circus-like. But because the show is set in present day, it’s disguised as plausible or realistic and it’s anything but. I am starting to see through the absurd ass hole facade and not invest myself in the show or its characters.

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I am working up to Labor 11 (see above). And I’m working hard toward Labor 12. I’m currently doing a 4-minute plank, 15 lbs. side laterals – consistently, and I’m already going past 5 minutes in my pool challenge.

Labors 5 & 6 are on-going. I ask for guidance and strive to be: A better person today than I was yesterday and a better person tomorrow than I am today.

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Enough!

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A few nights ago, I had a bit of a meltdown.  My husband Michael and I were watching an episode of the TV show Outlander (season 1) and the main female character, Claire was about to be raped FOR THE SECOND TIME in the SAME episode.  If you watch the show, rape is not an uncommon theme.

The night before that, Michael and I were watching another TV show, Good Behavior.  In this particular episode, the main female character Letty, was nearly raped.

Then there are shows like Game of Thrones, where rape and violence towards female characters is all too common.  Rape has also been used as a plot point on Downton Abby, Scandal, Law & Order SVU, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, The Sopranos, Veronica Mars, Mad Men, Inside Amy Schumer, Orange Is The New Black, Tyrant, Stalker, Shameless, The Americans, Top of the Lake among many other TV shows, movies, and books.

Back to the other night.  As the second assault was about to take place on TV, my already high boiling point (when I see such scenes) hit the roof.  I yelled, “Enough!”  I got up from my chair, abruptly displacing the sleeping cat on my lap and continued to yell at the top of my lungs.  As I marched out of the room, my husband called out to me, “Are you upset with me?  What can I do to help?”  As I stomped down the stairs, hitting my full freak-out stride, I screamed back, “I’m so sick of seeing this.  It’s NOT entertainment!”

Energy was coursing through me.  I was so angry.  I was flooded with adrenaline.  If anyone crossed me at that moment, they would have been left a bloody pulp.  It would have been a great time to take a kickboxing class.  I paced the kitchen, with my hands gripped together.  For a few minutes, the fight or flight sensation stayed with me.  Then I began to come down, off of a high almost.  My hands were achy from gripping them too tight.  I noticed my throat raw and sore from screaming.  After a few more minutes I was drained of most energy and at 8:30 pm, I decided it was probably best to just go to bed.

The following day, I felt tired and drained.  I felt defeated, small, and insignificant.  My body was sore from an hour of hard weight lifting the previous day.  But the sensation was adding to my overall feeling of weakness.  Usually, I’m fairly strong both mentally and physically.  But not that day.

I’m so tired of seeing violence towards women everywhere – TV, movies, the news, comics.  Hearing about it everywhere – Harvey Weinstein, John Besh (chef) and everyone who came before them (who we know about) and those we don’t know about.  Child brides, the sex slaves, the sex trade, prostitution, selling of humans and on and on and on.  It’s endless.

In India, female children are sold so their family can eat and rape is a common everyday occurrence.  In Asia, prostitution is a highly sought-after commodity.  In the Middle East, woman are oppressed, not considered equal and even their dress is decided so men will not be tempted.  In the US – where do I start?

 

How does this change?

Where do we start?

How are we listened to, heard, and taken seriously?

How is this issue not blown over and forgotten about?

How are excuses no longer accepted?

How is this behavior no longer part of a “good old boys club”?

How does the abuse, objectification, and sexualization of women no longer turn a profit, boost ratings, cause a social media stir, etc. and is no longer accepted as entertainment?

 

Anything less than wanting the answers to these questions and the willingness to help seek out those answers is – part of the problem.

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Labor #1 Compassion & Understanding

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Labor #1  Compassion & Understanding – Make up and personally deliver 5 Blessing Bags for the less fortunate.

Today I handed out the 5th Blessing Bag. I’m not necessarily approaching these Labors in order, it just happened that I got a jump on this one. I am actually working on several Labors at once, as several are ongoing. I started this Labor slightly ahead of my August 1 start date. Spending less than $180, I made up 5 bags for the less fortunate, each consisting of:

1L Smart Water
Tissues, Wipes, Lip Balm, Mints
EmergenC packet, Band-Aids, $20 Target card
Protein bar, peanut butter crackers, mini chocolate bar
2 bags were for women specifically w/feminine products
Hand written note: “You are in may thoughts and prayers.” -K
All in a reusable bag

I put the bags in the trunk of my car and when I’d see someone in need, I’d park my car to personally deliver the bag. Approaching with a smile, I’d ask if they’d like the bag containing a few supplies. Their eyes would light up and they would say yes. After handing them the bag, I’d ask their name, and extend my hand. “Nice to meet you ______, my name is K. I’ll pray for you.” Usually, I’d receive a Thank you, or a God Bless you and a smile.

th-1 copyA particular place where I delivered a few bags was near a grocery store. There is a small strip of median, popular for folks to stand. Approaching this location I had to weave around cars waiting for a traffic light. Once, after delivering a bag to a lady named Cheryl, I saw two local police SUV’s waiting in traffic for the light. Having just given her the bag, I knew they had seen me. As I walked back to my car, I looked at the drivers of the police vehicles, neither driver would look at me.

The experience of this Labor evoked a great deal of reflection. Things I take for granted. How thankful I am. How fortunate I am. Compassion for others. We are all human, very little separates us. Yet in our mind, a great deal separates us from what we don’t understand. We all deserve decency, kindness and respect.

Jim: Haggen, 7/24, vet in a wheelchair
Janet: Burger King in W. Olympia, 7/28
Chris: Haggen, 8/2
Cheryl: Haggen, 8/11
Jessy: Haggen 8/17

Five bags were the original Labor. I’d like to make another five bags, to be delivered in the Fall or Winter with season appropriate supplies. This time all five will go to women.

I am immensely thankful for the abundance, blessings, and freedoms in my life. I am thankful for my husband and his ability to provide our financial stability. I am thankful for my mental and physical health as well as strength. I am thankful for our lovely home, our sanctuary.
I am thankful for (a great many things):
*  Our beautiful fuzzy children (2 black rescue cats)
*  Friends and family
*  The freedom to pursue my passions & interests

It’s one thing to have good intensions toward others dissimilar or less fortunate than yourself. It’s something entirely different to make eye contact, exchange smiles, shake hands, introduce yourself and experience a genuine exchange. It’s something I won’t forget. It’s something that has touched me and will remain with me forever.

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12 Labors Part 1

Hercules-Bronze-Side_IMG_3621-e1281541279563It’s well known that Hercules had 12 Labors.

The twelve labors of Hercules are a series of episodes concerning a penance carried out by Heracles. Driven mad by Hera (queen of the gods), Hercules slew his son, daughter, and wife Megara. After recovering his sanity, Hercules deeply regretted his actions; he was purified by King Thespius, then traveled to Delphi to inquire how he could atone for his actions. Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, advised him to go to Tiryns and serve his cousin King Eurystheus for twelve years, performing whatever labors Eurystheus might set him; in return, he would be rewarded with immortality. Hercules despaired at this, loathing to serve a man whom he knew to be far inferior to himself, yet fearing to oppose his father Zeus. Eventually, he placed himself at Eurystheus’s disposal.

* Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labours_of_Hercules
The 9th labor was The Belt of Hippolyte.

For the ninth labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to bring him the belt of Hippolyte [Hip-POLLY-tee]. This was no ordinary belt and no ordinary warrior. Hippolyte was queen, of the Amazons, a tribe of women warriors that lived apart from men.

Queen Hippolyte had a special piece of armor. It was a leather belt that had been given to her by Ares, the war god because she was the best warrior of all the Amazons. She wore this belt across her chest and used it to carry her sword and spear. Eurystheus wanted Hippolyte’s belt as a present to give to his daughter, and he sent Hercules to bring it back.

After a long journey, Hercules and the Greeks reached the land of the Amazons and put in at the harbor. When they got off the boat, Hippolyte came down to visit them.

She asked Hercules why he had come, and when he told her, she promised to give him the belt. But the goddess Hera knew that the arrival of Hercules meant nothing but trouble for the Amazons. Disguised as an Amazon warrior, Hera went up and down the army saying to each woman that the strangers who had arrived were going to carry off the queen. So the Amazons put on their armor. The women warriors charged on horseback down to the ship. But when Hercules saw that they were wearing their armor and were carrying their weapons, he knew that he was under attack. Thinking fast, he drew his sword and killed Hippolyte.

Then he undid her belt and took it. Hercules and the Greeks fought the rest of the Amazons in a great battle.

Hercules then sailed away. He returned to Mycenae, and he gave the belt to Eurystheus.

* Source: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/amazon.html

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The Amazons tell the story a different way . . .

Hippolyte and the Amazons once resided in “Amazonia” in the days of ancient Greece, until they were beguiled and bested by the demi-god Hercules, who had been inspired by the God of War Ares, to go after her. She was able to beat him thanks to the magic girdle, but he seduced her and tricked her into removing the girdle, allowing him to steal it. This caused the Amazons to lose their super strength and the favor of their patron goddess, Aphrodite. Eventually, she and the other Amazons were forgiven but had to wear bracelets to remind them of the folly of submitting to men. To regain their status, the Amazons were decreed to leave the mortal world and relocate to Paradise Island (Themyscira). There they established their own society, free from the evils of man’s world. So long as they remained there and Hippolyte retained possession of her magic girdle, the Amazons would be immortal. Much of this history was adapted, varied, and expanded upon in the modern version of the Wonder Woman comics.

For the most part, Hippolyte remained on Paradise Island during the Golden Age era, rarely interacting with the modern world to which her daughter had journeyed. Her role was that of the Amazon Queen and mentor to Wonder Woman. She was devoted to the Olympian goddesses, particularly the Amazons’ patron Aphrodite, and was adamant that man never be allowed to set foot on Paradise Island. Although she remained mainly on the island, in one story from Sensation Comics #26 (reprinted in Wonder Woman: The Complete History), Hippolyte travels to Man’s World and briefly assumes the role of Wonder Woman. In the first appearance of Villany inc she is kidnapped to lure Wonder Woman into a trap.

* Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippolyta_(DC_Comics)

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Little do people know that Amazonian Princess Wonder Woman assigned herself 12 Labors.

Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors is a series of Wonder Woman stories directly after her powerless days with I Ching during the Bronze Age. After becoming aware that her mother has removed her unpleasant memories of Steve Trevor’s death and her loss of powers, Wonder Woman is insecure as to whether she should rejoin the Justice League of America. She calls for them to monitor her next missions, to see if her memory loss had any effect on her ability to fight crime. On each mission, she is closely watched by another member of the League, who do not interfere. The labors are successful, and in the end, she is unanimously allowed to rejoin the League.

Source: http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Wonder_Woman:_The_Twelve_Labors

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In the spirit of Wonder Woman, my inner Superhero, and self-growth, I have assigned myself 12 Labors. Starting August 1st, 2017, my goal is to have them all completed before suiting up as Wonder Woman for Emerald City Comicon March 1, 2018. I personalized each labor to challenge myself and be personal growth inducing. Feats that will be physically, spiritually, mentally challenging as well as tasks that will purposefully take me out of my comfort zone.

Some challenges will be multifaceted, meaning they’ll have more than one component. Some will be ongoing and some will be goal & results orientated. Some trials will be hard to quantify, so I guess we’ll just be on the honor system.

These aren’t universal challenges that most people would find hard, they are tasks designed to challenge me personally. For example, you may be a runner, and so a suitable challenge for you may be to run a marathon. I am not a runner. I’ve got 20 + years of ballet mileage on my knees and hips. So while drinking 64 oz. of water every day may not be a challenge for you, it is for me! I welcome you to join me and develop your own 12 Labors and channel your own Superhero or Badass.

My 12 Labors

1 Compassion & Understanding
Make up and personally deliver 5 Blessing Bags for the less fortunate.

2 Practice, Discipline & Patience
Archery, on going practice, once a week

3 Meditation
On going, 15 minutes, twice a week

4 Forgiveness (Meditation)
On going, in addition to Labor #3, specific guided Jake Kornfield meditation
A. ask for forgiveness  B. forgive self  C. forgive others

5 Breaking my armor
On going, look strangers in the eye, smile, say hello, hold doors, open doors, sincerely give strangers complements.

6 Tolerance, Acceptance & Ego
This is a tough one to quantify. My goal is to be continuously mindful of my 12 Labors.
*  Remember to be kind, for everyone I meet is fighting a hard battle.
*  Try to see through others poor behavior and recognize it as their insecurities.
*  Not make things about me.
*  More acceptance and less judgement of others.
*  Live my truth.

7 Thou shalt not kill (especially spiders)
Just as superheroes don’t always see their enemy coming, this is an ongoing threat that will challenge me at random and unexpected times. I am afraid of spiders and dislike them very much!

8 Acceptance (as well as Endurance / Stamina)
Watch all seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm
While watching TV may not seem like much of a trial or labor, please understand, I cannot stand the character, Larry David! My goal is to work on accepting Larry David as he is.

9 Still under development

10 Cooking Skill Challenge
In the culinary world, soufflés are particularly challenging. I shall try and master one.

11 Diet
*  No carbs (bread, pasta, pastries, etc.) past breakfast every day for 1 month
*  Drink 64 oz. of water every day for 1 month

12 Physical Strength
Through my workouts (5 x a week) I will build up to:
*  5 minute plank: combining a center plank and one on each side
*  5 minute pool cardio challenge: working against a tether and w/pool weights
*  20 lbs. side laterals: a 20 lbs. dumbbell in each hand, 10 + reps.
*  Active caloric burn of 520 for 7 days in a row (300 + calories at the gym alone)

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Cooking Sous Vide, A How To Guide

IMG_6215Sous-vide (soo-vide)
(French for “under vacuum”) is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch then placed in a temperature-controlled water bath (an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking). The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.

For years the technique of sous vide was only available to the professional kitchens of restaurants because the cost of an immersion circulator (the tool for cooking sous vide) was enormously expensive and some still are. Smaller and less expensive versions were made for the home chef.

My model is by Sansaire
Available at: Sansaire Store, Amazon, Willimas-Sonoma, Food 52, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond
Ranging in price from $150 Amazon – $200
Go to sansaire.com for additional product and cooking information.

Bare basics needed to cook sous vide include:
–  Immersion circulator
–  Freezer Zip-lock bag
–  Large stock pot
–  Item to be sous vide

Extra Sous Vide Equipment (beginners don’t really need these) all available from Amazon
–  Large clear plastic food grade tub or container instead of stock pot (cool for seeing through)
–  Vacuum sealer
–  Sous Vide Water Balls for helping to retain the water heat, best used for long sous vide cooking
–  Sous Vide Rack for keeping multiple items in place in the water

The number of things that can be cooked sous vide is endless. Several entertaining articles have been written about just that. Do an internet search for what can be cooked sous vide to find out. The most typical things cooked sous vide are: meat, fish, and eggs.

The idea behind sous vide is to gently cook the item at the precise temperature the item will be eaten. Beef is one of the best examples.

When proteins are removed from the water bath and from the plastic bag, they do not have that classic sear or crust on the outside.

The crust imparts some flavor but is largely a visual and textural component. This is remedied by putting the dried off item in a dry but very hot cast iron skillet or a use culinary blow torch (of which Sansaire also sells) for a quick sear.

The Sansaire website has guideline cooking temperatures and times for beef, fish and eggs. It all depends on how “done” you want the item you are cooking. While ballpark cooking times are given, one of the best things about cooking sous vide, is if you take a nap and you miss the timer going off – don’t worry! The item will never over-cook because the water bath is always kept at a constant precise temperature. The only worry is the water level going down too far from evaporation.

Most immersion circulators have settings for both Celsius and Fahrenheit.

A few options on timing for putting the item to be cooked into the water:
Once the water has reached the proper temp. put the item in.
Put the item in the water and tack on 10-15 extra minutes to allow the water to get to temp.
Start off by adding hot tap water, to cut down on the time it takes to heat the water.

I made a short video on cooking sous vide that you can watch on my website
http://www.labuznik.net

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Beef

1
Set-up Your Sansaire
Pick a container that will be large enough to fit your food, with extra room left over for water to circulate. A large soup or stock pot is a great choice. Place your Sansaire inside the pot with the Sansaire’s clip on the outside to hold it steady. Add the water between minimum and maximum fill lines on the Sansaire, and plug in the power cord. Turn it on.

2
How Would You Like Your Steak?
Take your time… this could be the most important decision you’ll make today. Pick the doneness that’s most appealing to you. Go to Sansaire.com for a temperature to doneness guide. The FDA would like to remind you that consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

Cooking Time: One Hour + depending on the cut of meat
I cook beef between 133 – 135 F usually 135 F and get perfectly medium every time.
* The guideline cooking temps. below are from the Sansaire website, but through trial and error you will find your perfect temperature.

Rare – A lot Pink – 50°C OR 122°F
You’re in touch with your inner caveman. Red and juicy.

Medium Rare – Slightly less Pink – 54°C OR 129.2°F
An elegant choice. Cooked just enough to give the steak a gentle firmness, this is the doneness of choice for many meat eaters.

Medium – Just the right amount of Pink – 56°C OR 132.8°F
A superb decision that brings out the best in many steaks, medium steaks have the faintest traces of pinkness remaining.

Well Done – NO Pink – 60°C OR 140°F
Your wish is our command. No judgment… really.

3
Seal Your Steak
Place each steak in a plastic bag or vacuum seal. Zip-lock bags, particularly those labeled as “freezer” bags, are a great choice. You can put more than one steak in each bag – just make sure they don’t overlap each other. Now it’s time to remove the air so your steaks don’t float. Hold the top of the bag open and lower the bottom into to the water bath. The pressure of the water against the bag will force most of the air out. Keep lowering until just the top of the bag is above the water, then zip the top closed and drop it into the water.
4
Cook for 1 Hour. Take a Break.
Your steak will be ready for the next step in an hour. So, this time is all yours. How about a nap? Want to take the dog for a stroll? Maybe catch up on that show you love? Don’t feel guilty for indulging. If anyone asks, you’re making dinner. Oh… and if that hour of indulgent time turns into two or three or four hours, no worries. Your steak will still be just as perfectly cooked when you return to it.

5
Remove and Sear
Using tongs, remove your bags of steak from the bath. Take out the steaks and pat them dry –  we’re about to sear them, and wet things don’t like to brown. You can sear with the Sansaire Searing Kit.  Light your torch and hold it 3-5” inches from your food, moving in slow passes over the surface until a deep, golden crust develops. Fatty areas may flare up, which adds to the drama (and flavor) of the incredible sear you’re creating.

OR

Dry your steak off top and bottom. Put it in a dry super hot cast iron skillet. Let it sear for 30 sec. to 1 minute and check it. Flip or keep it – depending on your preference. Once on the second side you can get fancy (or not) by adding some aromatics like Thyme and Shallot as well as butter. A Steakhouse trick is to baste the steak once on the second side in butter.

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Eggs

Cooking eggs sous vide is a rite of passage. Whereas perfectly poaching an egg is a difficult and noteworthy achievement in traditional cooking, you can perfectly poach a dozen eggs sous vide with your eyes closed. By allowing the eggs to cook slowly over 45 minutes, their texture will become fudgy and silken. You’re about to upgrade your brunch game.

1
Set up your Sansaire – Same as above

2
Pick your perfect Egg
Runny 62°C OR 143.6°F
Just Set 65.5°C OR 149.9°F
Medium Poached 68°C OR 154.4°F
Soft Boiled 73°C OR 163.4°F

3
Add Eggs to the Water Bath
Nature was kind enough to seal eggs inside their own sous vide packaging (the shell!) so it’s not necessary to use bags when cooking whole eggs. Because the water will be hot, and because we don’t want the eggs to crack, lower them gently into the water bath using a spoon.

4
Cook for 45 Minutes
Your eggs will be ready in 45 minutes, so you’ve got some time to kill.

5
Remove, Rinse, & Serve
Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the bath. Run the shells under cold water for a few seconds until they’re cool enough to handle. Crack the shells gently and decant perfectly cooked sous vide eggs onto the dish of your choice.

 

Fish

1
Set Up your Sansaire – Same as above

2
Pick the Doneness You Prefer
That’s right, you get to choose how you want your fish cooked. Pick the doneness that’s most appealing to you. Go to Sansaire.com for a temperature to doneness guide.

Very Lightly Cooked – 45°C OR 113°F
Not quite raw, but pretty close. This barely cooked texture is more tender and delicate than sashimi. Not advised for those who can’t eat raw seafood, or for the squeamish.

Lightly Cooked – 50°C OR 122°F
Our favorite for salmon and other fatty fish. Still translucent, briny, and immaculately tender, we think it is perfection.

Medium – 55°C OR 131°F
Firmer and with more body than lower temperatures. A great choice for fish tacos, or if you prefer a more traditional texture.

3
Seal Your Fish – Same as above

4
Cook for 25-30 Minutes

5
Remove & Sear
Using tongs, remove your bags of fish from the bath. Handle them gently, as they’re pretty delicate. If you enjoy a sear on the skin or flesh of your fish the follow the searing directions above. I’ve found it’s not necessary for most fish, but that’s me.

Cooking Sous Vide couldn’t be easier and with foolproof results every time, you may never cook a steak (or animal proteins) the same way again!

Bon Appétit

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Gut Microbiome

Microbes

Keeping the microbes in your tummy happy is very, very important. They impact our overall health, weight, mood, allergies, and illness. Gut microbes can also have influences on metabolism and mental health. As the Gut Microbiome is a relatively new focus of study, science is learning just how much of our health is linked to the microscopic bacteria in our gut.

After suffering two bouts of food-borne illness (from restaurant food) only 18 days apart, I was inspired to learn more about the impact of gut health. I found an on-line class focusing on just that. See link below. After my adventures in what was likely Norovirus, I started taking probiotics to help bring balance back to my ravaged tummy.

https://www.coursera.org/learn/microbiome

We have multiple microbiome sites on our bodies, each with its own unique bacterial inhabitants. Skin, nose, mouth, vaginal, and gut – to name a few. For example, how you are born can affect your health as an infant and child. Studies have shown children of vaginal births tend to have fewer allergies, asthma and illnesses than children born from a C-section. Why? Because when traveling through the birth canal, the baby is exposed to the mother’s vaginal microbes VS with a C-section, the baby is exposed to the mother’s skin microbes. It appears the vaginal microbes are better at helping the baby develop it’s own microbiome sites as the child ages, as well as assist in the set up the immunity of the child. Studies are already underway to test this further by wiping a newborn (delivered via C-section) with swab taken from the mother’s vagina – to expose the infant to the vaginal microbes when normally the infant would only be exposed to the skin microbes. Through advanced testing, results are showing the child’s different microbiome sites developing normally and the child to have fewer health issues in early life.

 

The primary factors that affect the health of one’s gut microbiome are:

Age
Antibiotic Use
Diet
Genetics
Physiology

All the different microbes serve a purpose and are critical to our health. Keeping them balanced is the trick. For the most part, they regulate themselves with little help from us. But there are things that can tip the scales and cause damage, such as ingesting harmful bacteria as when you experience food poisoning. Once in your gut, the bad bacteria multiply at a very quick rate. When there are too many, your body launches an attack and the only way to get the bad guys out of your system is by force. As anyone who has suffered a food-borne illness can tell you, it’s the worst 8 or so hours of your life. You are crippled by increasing stomach pain, incapable of doing anything but lie on the bathroom floor in misery and ride out the waves of violent vomiting and diarrhea. After such an attack, your gut microbiome is completely ravaged and needs to rebuild. But safely! Probiotics help to remake what was damaged.

Antibiotics also cause harm. An antibiotics job is to destroy certain types of bacteria. There are wide range antibiotics (ones that target a wide range of bacteria) and narrow range antibiotics. Unfortunately, neither can differentiate between the good type of bacteria and the bad, so it all has to go. That’s why it’s really not a good idea to needlessly take antibiotics at the drop of a hat and for every little thing. Science is actually finding out that antibiotics can do more harm than good. The worst part is they can do irreversible damage. Meaning, after enough antibiotic use, one’s gut will never be the same (and not for the better). Antibiotic use also explains why some women get yeast infections. Because the delicate balance of the vaginal bacteria is affected by the antibiotics. As a side note, taking probiotics while also on antibiotics can help (to a degree) combat the problem. Also, taking probiotics or consuming naturally probiotic foods from time to time can also help keep your gut bacteria healthy.

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However, many bacteria are actually good for us! Some germs and bacteria help our immune system to do its job and actually grow stronger. Our bodies are constantly learning, changing and adapting to our environment, diet, activities and such. To an extent, by limiting our exposure to germs and bacteria, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Without the exposure to germs, how does our body know to defend itself or launch an attack when threatened? It doesn’t. Maybe think twice the next time you habitually reach for the Purell. It also goes without saying that you probably shouldn’t lick the hand weights at the gym. Or put your fingers in your mouth after handling raw chicken.

Finally, diet is critical. The typical American diet (IE heavy on the sugar, sodium and carbohydrates (with limited fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber) is BAD! Let me say it again – the typical American diet is BAD for us. Our gut microbes thrive on a diverse diet of primarily plant-based foods. Eat the rainbow (not Skittles) is the idea. Author and Food Educator Michael Pollan has suggested several themes to eat by:

“If it’s a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.”
“Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk.”
“It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.”

If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it. For example, you know what a banana is. An ingredient list is not needed – it’s a banana. You know what a kale is. Tomato, apple, carrot, pear, strawberry, etc. You know what real (refrigeration required) cheese is. You know what olive oil is. You know what quality bakery bread is (not Wonder). You know what almonds are (not coated with toffee). You know what garbanzo beans are. You know what fish is. You know what beef, pork and chicken are – with these, it’s best to also know if they come from a humane farmer, if antibiotics were used, etc. – but you get my point.

What is Cheese Wiz? What is Cool Whip? What is Kraft (green cylindrical canister, NO refrigeration required) Parmesan Cheese? What are artificial sweeteners?  Are they more chemicals than recognizable food? If the ingredient list includes items you don’t know, then you don’t know what you are eating! The food manufacturers would like to keep it that way, so we continue to blindly buy their products.

I could go on this tirade for some time, but my point is – Eat Real Food. Wholesome, in season, from a garden or farm, NOT from a box or package.

So often (and surprisingly we don’t realize it or don’t want to hear it) it all comes down to our diet IE what we put into our bodies. I’ve been saying this quote by Hippocrates for quite some time –

“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

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