Spin doctor


I’m on my bike, pedaling like mad, leaning over the handlebars. The wind is blowing my hair, making it fall in my face. I repeatedly push it back, thinking I really don’t have time for this. I’m too busy working hard at keeping up with everyone else. The cyclists around me seem to be cruising along without much effort, making this ride look really easy. This is one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. Except, this time, I’m not on out on the road – I’m trying my first spin class.

Huffygirl, fit and ready to go!

I’ve actually attempted spin class before, many years ago, before I started biking.  At that time, I found out I was not fit enough to do an entire class, felt too uncomfortable on the bike saddle (seat), and couldn’t get the bike adjusted to fit me.  But since then, three things have happened: 1.) I’ve achieved enough cardiovascular fitness after four summers of biking, that an hour of spin class should be a cinch; 2.) my gym has gotten new spin bikes with better saddles and better adjustments; and 3) I have the right bike clothes and gear to make spin class easier that I lacked before – mainly cycling shorts and clip-in cycling shoes. Of course, it’s possible to spin in ordinary gym clothes and shoes, but much easier with. And, since I’m taking spin class to maintain my fitness until the next biking season, it makes sense to make spin as much like my usual biking as possible.

Cycling shorts and shoes? Check.

So, I’m giving it another go. Best husband helped me through the bike set-up. I’ve got my water bottle, bike shoes, heart rate monitor, so I should be good to go. This early morning class is a mix of serious cyclists, folks who just want to get their exercise over with before work, and some inbetweeners like me. I’m trying to go out hard and get a good work out, but not overdo it on my first class, but I’m having a hard time striking the balance. Instead of gears, spin bikes have a tension knob – left for looser, right for tighter. It’s hard to gauge how much tension to use for a good workout.  And I’m finding the movement and noise in the small room overwhelming. Everything is moving - wheels turning, fans blowing, people popping  up and down, cranks turning. I don’t know where to look and end up closing my eyes for a good part of the class. And the noise – fans blowing, riders chatting, music blaring. Give me a nice quiet ride outside anytime. But it’s cold outside, so for the next few months, I’ll have to make this class work, or end up riding my trainer in the basement again. Not much of a choice either way. I don’t want to look like a newbie or wuss, and I don’t want to give up and quit like last time, so I’ll have to figure out how to cope.

Did I make it through my first spin class? Find out later on “Spin Diary.”

© Huffygirl 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge: Flowers


The fuchsia is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. It was introduced to Ireland by travelers and has thrived there because of the temperate climate. I found these fuchsias growing in the wild near Bantry Bay, but saw them everywhere in Ireland. They grow either wild or cultivated, as bushes 4-5 feet tall. At home, I have trouble getting them to survive as an annual, and have for the most part, given up trying to grow them. Guess I’ll have to visit Ireland again if I want to see some really great fuchsias.

© Huffygirl 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge: Old-fashioned


Old-fashioned now, but not in 1965.

Are you old enough to remember the Polaroid Swinger? It was a big day for  my family when we got The Swinger. We’d been seeing the commercials for months with the catchy, kitschy jingle. Uncle Joe bought the camera for my family, I think. We weren’t the kind of people who would go out and buy something that frivolous ourselves, even if it was only “…nineteen dollars, and ninety-five…”

The Swinger was the first instant camera at the time that was affordable to the average person. For anyone who doesn’t know what an “instant” camera was, the film self-developed, so you could see your pictures in minutes. It was a big deal at the time, as back then, we had to hitch up our horse and buggy, take the film to the drug store, wait about a week, then pick up the pictures to see if they turned out. The quality of the instant pictures was spotty at times. Sure you could see everybody, but the color was often pale, and you had to coat the picture with a sealer which often left an uneven, messy-looking patina on the picture. In other words, the pictures never looked as good as they did on the commercial. The Swinger was marketed towards young people, with a commercial showing a young Ali McGraw having a great day at the beach with her friends. The camera came in a huge case which would have made Ali look less cool, had she been shown carrying it around. It included slots for all the accoutrements - the flash bulbs, sealer  and the film. It’s hard to picture any young person today who’d be willing to carry all that around, just to take a picture.

The Swinger handy carrying case (© Huffygirl 2011)

And just so you don’t feel left out, here’s the catchy jingle that I instantly remembered the minute I saw the old camera at my parent’s house:

“Meet the Swinger, Polaroid Swinger,

 Meet the Swinger, Polaroid Swinger.

It’s more than a camera, it’s almost alive, it’s only nineteen dollars, and ninety-five,

Swing it up it says ‘yes’, take the shot, count it down, zip it off.

Meet the Swinger, Polaroid Swinger…”

The camera that's "almost alive" (© Huffygirl)

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© Huffygirl 2011

Bee sting. Uh oh. ER.


I’m lying on  gurney shivering under three blankets in the small but efficient Mayberry-like ER? How did normally healthy, robust Huffygirl wind up here? Well, fast-backward about 30 hours to the second day of my vacation. ______________________________________________

It’s a beautiful sunny, Sunday afternoon. I’m walking on the beach with best husband and without any warning or provocation, I get a bee sting on my little toe. I’m pretty sure I’m not allergic, so, no big deal. I soak my foot in the lake for a few minutes to take the edge off the pain and try to walk if off. My toe continued to ache the rest of the night and the next day, but hey, it’s a bee sting – it’s supposed to hurt, right? 

The next morning I got up early for a bike ride. but was feeling a little achy and stiff. Am I getting to old for this? I didn’t even think about the bee sting, which still aches. Best husband and I started out and got the hills over with in the first part of the ride. Finally with 10 flat miles in the home stretch I think  “This should be a cinch. ” But it wasn’t – it was feeling harder than it should for a flat ride. And I’m starting  to ache and ache and ache some more. “I really AM getting to old for this,” I rationalize as I finished the ride. By the time I get the bike gear put away and get into the shower, I’m shaking with chills, aching like the worst case of flu anyone could ever have, and just plain worn out. And it continued – all day. I knew what the problem was  but didn’t want to admit it. Despite the fact that my toe did not look too bad, I knew I was developing cellulitis, an infection of the skin and surrounding soft tissues, from bacteria introduced from the bee sting. The stinger acts just like a needle, bringing infection quickly into even a robust, healthy person like me. You might as well just inject yourself with a syringe-full of germs and save yourself the trouble of going through the sting.

But hey, I’m on vacation. Maybe it’s not cellulitis – maybe just a virus. So, I waited. I dragged myself through the day trying to do family vacation stuff. But I felt worse and worse. By the time we had an afternoon tea party with first granddaughter, I was too tired and aching to even crawl down onto the floor to join her. A long nap while swathed in blankets failed to revive me. Finally, by 9 PM I succumbed and went with best husband to the small town emergency room.

Despite the Mayberry-like atmosphere, the ER staff was professional and efficient. “Hmmm,” the ER doctor said, after greeting me with “How do you do?” a salutation I confess with which I’ve never been addressed by anyone, anywhere. “Fever and chills less than 24 hours after a bee sting? We’d better do…blood cultures!” This sounds serious. By now I’m wishing I hadn’t waited ALL DAY to get here, something that surely would have sparked a lecture from me to any of my own patients who had done such a foolish thing.

Meanwhile, three warm blankets and my husband’s sweatshirt (Michigan of course) are still not keeping away the chills. Best husband settled down with his book while I shivered and waited out the tests.

Well, I dodged the bullet and turned out pretty okay – a localized infection, but not body-wide. So I went off with antibiotics and the stern lecture to come back the INSTANT anything became worse.

Not too old for cycling after all! (© Huffygirl 2011)

Did I recover? Several days later I was completely back to normal and no longer questioning if I was getting to old for cycling. And of course I had a dramatic story with which to regale anyone who was willing to listen, about my vacation trip to ER in Mayberry. 

Remember that old insurance commercial where a disaster has occurred and the commentator says seriously “Don’t let this happen to you!” Well, don’t. If you get a bee sting, a scrape or cut and start to feel signs of infection like fever, chills, body aches, redness, swelling, take it seriously and get health care promptly. I don’t want to lose any of my readers to a bee sting.

© Huffygirl 2011

Too old to start the training, OR Mr. Toad’s wild ride


I wake up, wondering what day it is, what time it is, and why am I wrapped up in extra blankets while the fan is running full blast? My neck hurts, my knees hurt, my feet hurt, my quads hurt, my shoulders hurt  and I’m pretty sure my hair hurts. What happened? Well, fast-backward twelve hours earlier.

Twelve hours earlier

I’m on my bike, clutching the handlebars as tightly as I can. My hair that is not contained in my helmet is whipping across my face. I’m trying as hard as I can

The demon trainer (© Huffygirl 2011)

to keep up with the biker in front of me.  After all, only a short while earlier I had taunted this demon – “Go faster” I said – “I’m getting too close to you.” Jeez. What was I thinking? My right hand is numb, my left shoulder aching. Was that a pothole back there? I just missed it. I’m going so fast (well fast for me anyway) that I’m not taking in all of my surroundings. Where are we anyway? I’ve done this ride before, the landmarks should be  familiar, but I’ve really got all I can do to keep up with this speed demon, let alone watch the scenery.

Okay, now we’re going up a hill. I gear down, but that’s not enough to keep up with this demon, so soon I’m standing on the pedals, cranking away. I did it! But at the top, he’s off again. Finally, we’re at the flat part of the ride. “This should be a cinch” I think, “I’ll show him I know how to keep up.” But it seems that we’re going into the wind. I struggle to keep up on what is usually the easiest part of the ride, watching my average speed drop and drop and drop, farther from my goal. We stop for water at the corner before the turn.  “Well that was hard going into the wind, but we’re turning now so it should be better,” I say. But the demon trainer points out “Nah, that was just a crosswind, when we turn we’ll be going even MORE into the wind.” I don’t see how we could possibly be going MORE into the wind and scoff at this, until I notice the flag on the corner, spread out wildly, flapping away from the direction we are turning.

And so we continue: flats, uphills, downhills for 25 miles. I’m watching  the pedal rotations of this demon man (and his impressive calf muscles) and notice that most of the time I’m pedaling twice as fast as he is, just to barely keep up. And he’s not riding at his full potential – after all he’s taking it easy on my first training ride. 

By the time we get home, I’m feeling accomplished, but aching. I didn’t ride pretty, but I did it. My bike computer tells me I did this ride exactly six minutes faster than the last time when I was just phoning it in. All this and only six minutes? Still, for me, whose only boast is  being the slowest biker on the road, this is progress. Next time it might be seven minutes, and then eight and then…oh heck, I’m freezing and aching and need a shower.

By the time I’m done showering I’m chilled to the bone, from all that cold wind rushing quickly past me no doubt, and despite the summer heat, wrap up in extra blankets and a heating pad to crawl into bed.

So now flash forward twelve hours again. I untangle myself from the extra blankets and get up to turn off the fan. It turns out I can still walk after all, and isn’t this why Tylenol was invented anyway?  So, will I let my husband be my trainer again? Absolutely!

The Huffys, on an easier ride (© Huffygirl 2011)

© Huffygirl 2011

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New category: InFAUXmercial


Meals in seconds with this! (Image courtesy of Google)

It’s Sunday morning, you can’t sleep. You get up early and turn on the TV, hoping for some intelligent programming  to get your mind off your insomnia. Well, you might as well forget about the intelligent  part, because: a) that rarely exists these days, even in prime time, and b) it’s Sunday morning -  the day for infomercials. Yes, the infomercial – a TV show using a fake talk-show format to sell a product that most people could get along without. We’ve all seen it at some time or another, so I’m sure you know the drill. There’s the chatty host, usually sort of a Ryan Seacrest look alike. Chatty host sits at a desk and talks it up with eye candy - a young, attractive woman who acts as the “guest.” They discuss the product ad nauseam, demonstrate the product together, and often bring in an eclectic mix of “experts” or users to give testimonials. One of my favorites is “The Magic Bullet.” It’s a simple little blender-type gadget that is purported to be able to produce an entire gourmet meal “in seconds.” It might be seconds  if you had about thirty of these things like the people in the infomercial do, so you wouldn’t have to take it apart and wash the blades in between making cheese quesidallas, frozen daiquiris, Alfredo sauce, and fruit smoothie desserts. In reality, the Magic Bullet is an ordinary blender blade with a screw-on container. But the infomercial folks in true infomercial style, turn it into a kitchen messiah, by convincing the viewer that it’s fun, easy and will make people like you, because you make amazing meals for them “in seconds.” Never mind that each blended food delight is only enough for one or two people – with a miracle gadget like this, just use the “multiplication of the loaves” feature and you’ll  have enough for a party. Really, I don’t know why you haven’t run to your phone to buy one right now, just from reading this resounding  endorsement.

No infomercial would be complete without the pricing and ordering information, shouted at the end by THE MAN WITH THE ANNOUNCER-TYPE VOICE. Invariably the price for this amazing gadget ends with 99; if you wait, there will always be “more”; and if you order now (after all, operators ARE standing by) you can get two of these amazing gadgets (why would anyone want two?) for the price of one.

Spoofing the infomercial is so much fun that I think it’s finally time to have a category for it – I’m calling it  InFAUXmercial. You can see my previous infomercial spoofs here, and look for future fun posts in the InFAUXmercial category.

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© Huffygirl 2011

It’s time to legislate against stupidity: no more texting while walking


Texting from the top

Texting while walking: the new stupid (Image by zenturia via Flickr)

Sigh. Really. I just heard the latest in the demise of intelligent thought and reasonable behavior among the American people. And no, I’m not talking about Congressman Anthony Weiner. This stupidity is related to the addiction known as texting. It turns out that many people stupidly text while walking. Although anyone with the common sense of a caterpillar ought to know that it’s dangerous to walk along without watching where you’re going, apparently many do not, or are so engaged in this stupid behavior that common sense is pushed aside. Because, OMG, what could possibly be more important than texting? 

 Turns out research done by Ohio State University has shown that 1,000 people suffered injuries from texting while walking. In 2008, one teen textwalker was hit by a car and died. So, because of this stupidity, some states are feeling compelled to make laws against stupidity, by making it illegal to text and walk. A clear case of how our wise state governing bodies feel compelled to intervene to protect us from…ourselves. One might postulate that anyone stupid enough to text while walking, may in fact also be too clueless to realize there is a law against it, or to realize that they should obey said law. Never mind. We’ll just enact another law, maybe one making it illegal to ignore laws that were enacted for our own good.

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/05/24/texting-while-walking

Definition of stupidity: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stupid

Yummy bran muffins


Yummy bran muffins

I bet you never thought yummy and bran belong in the same sentence. What   makes the difference in these muffins is the yummy secret ingredients that  offset the blandness of the bran. Before you go down the Metamucil pathway to get your fiber, try these muffins. Bran can be a pretty potent fiber, so start out by limiting yourself to one a day.

The original recipe came from the side of the Kellogg’s Bran Buds Cereal box, many, many years ago. I’ve made a few changes and have switched to using All-Bran Cereal, because Bran Buds is either no longer made, or not available in my area.

Yummy Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups Kellogg’s All Bran Cereal

1 1/4 cups skim milk, soy milk or rice milk (I used rice milk)

1 egg

1/3 cup olive oil or canola oil

Not quite yummy-looking yet!

Pour bran cereal into a medium mixing bowl. Add egg, milk and oil, stir. Allow to sit for 2-5 minutes, until bran cereal is softened and mushy-looking. (It looks bad at this point, but it will get better.)

Stir in 1/2 cup white sugar, and

1/2 to 1 cup of  yummy secret ingredients:  chocolate chips, chopped dried cherries or apricots, chopped nuts, raisins, currents, sunflower seeds, blueberries, diced apples or bananas, or any  combination of above.

Add:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix ingredients until all are moistened. Dough will be quite thick.

Line a regular-size muffin pan with muffin papers, and fill muffin cups 3/4 to 7/8 full. Bake 400 degrees Fahrenheit, about 22 minutes. Cool on baking rack. Makes 12 regular size muffins.

Yummy bran muffins ready to eat

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© Huffygirl

Sad to say, the high point of my week is The Middle


A day in the life of "The Middle" (Photo courtesy of ABC.com)

Yes, I admit it. The high point of my week is watching the Wednesday night ABC family comedy, The Middle. Every Wednesday, after we come home from the proverbial hard day at work, my family and I flop down on the couch and chortle hysterically for an unabashed 22 minutes as we watch this hilarious romp about a semi-functional family set in middle America.

In case you have not seen it, The Middle is a comedy about a harried middle-class mom trying to keep things together for her family of three crazy kids and sports-minded husband, set in an ordinary Indiana town in middle-America, hence, The Middle. The characters  have all the usual things come up that most parents go through with child-rearing, except these parents are so over-stretched and disorganized, that even the simplest things become a project. 

Part of  what appeals to me about the show is that I can identify with every character. Growing up I was just a little bit like Brick, the nerdy, socially awkward  bookworm kid. When I see Sue, the painfully clumsy teen, I wonder how the writers of The Middle were able to watch me growing up without my knowing it. And Axl, the underachiever teen boy was on every single group project I ever did in school.  

Of course, as a mom, I’m nothing like Frankie, who lets her kids walk all over her, disciplines inconsistently, and serves her family fast food from paper bags night after night. Yet, I can identify because she’s the mom who finds out she’s supposed to bring 2-dozen cupcakes to school as her kids are walking out the door. Her teenage son doesn’t want to be seen with her in public. Her daughter Sue is always getting herself into embarrassing social situations from which Frankie tries vainly to protect her. Her near-Asperger’s son Brick is such a social misfit that she stalks kids at the playground, trying to find him a friend. What mom has not been in shoes like these at some point in her mom career? And Frankie’s motto – “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest kid,” pretty much says it all.

They can't even manage to find enough chairs - Brick has to sit in a lawn chair (Photo courtesy of ABC.com)

I’m not a big TV fan in general, and found this show by accident last season on a night where I was too tired to do anything but flip channels. This is a skill I learned from my teenage sons, by the way. It never occurred to me to watch snippets of 20 shows at once until I saw them do it, as of course I did not have a remote, or more than two channels, when I was their age. Anyway, one minute I was in post-work  catatonia, and the next minute laughing so uproariously that my family came in from other parts of the house  to find out what was going on. Needless to say, we’ve all been Middle fans ever since, even watching the reruns and laughing heartily at a show we’ve already seen.

What qualities in a TV show warm you heart and make you identify with the characters? For me, it’s the loyal, unfailing love the parents have for their kids on the crazy show, The Middle.

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.