There is a sim­ple rea­son for the fact that I’ve not been blog­ging as much lately. It’s because I have a new part-time job. It’s called “work­ing out.”

I am not kid­ding about it being a part-time job. I must show up or I don’t get the reward. It is hard work. And it takes a lot of my time and energy.

Some days I like my part-time job—like when I can do my car­dio sen­tence on the tread­mill next to some­one I know so we can chat or when some fel­low flirts with me just a lit­tle bit or I imag­ine that some fel­low is flirt­ing with me just a lit­tle bit.

Other days I pretty much hate it—like when I would rather be eat­ing a whole vat a mac­a­roni and cheese while read­ing a trashy novel.

When I do my exer­cise at the gym it first involves get­ting prop­erly dressed. Now, this may seem like a sim­ple propo­si­tion to most peo­ple. Just put on some sweat pants, a t-shirt and some sneaks, right?

Not me. I am NOT going out in a place where I am going to sweat AND look like a bag lady even before I get started. Besides, what if some­one wants to flirt with me?

But here’s the trick. I can’t look like I tried TOO hard. I appar­ently tried too hard one day and a young, grunge-inspired female instruc­tor at the gym com­mented: “Oh, don’t you look so nice with your lit­tle match­ing out­fit. You’re even wear­ing makeup!” (In case you missed it, she meant this in the b*^&%y way that genet­i­cally blessed 22-year-old women talk to 40-something-year-old women who they think should be home cro­chet­ing afghans.) I man­aged to smile sweetly and say “Thank you. It’s amaz­ing but some peo­ple will go in pub­lic wear­ing just about any­thing, won’t they?”

After get­ting dressed, there is the 20-minute drive to the gym fol­lowed by a five-minute warm-up. Two days a week I pay a nice fel­low named Greg to be mean to me. It’s the yup­pie ver­sion of S&M. He tells me to do things that hurt. I pay him. It takes an hour with the weights and other tor­ture devices. When Greg is fin­ished with me, I am sen­tenced to at least 30 min­utes on the tread­mill, bike or ellip­ti­cal trainer.

When I am not pay­ing Greg to be mean to me I must spend at least one day a week being mean to myself–preferably two days a week. On the non-torture days I sim­ply get off with 45 min­utes to an hour of car­dio work. And every day I must spend at least 20 min­utes stretch­ing. I can do that by myself, with­out S&M Greg’s supervision.

See what I mean about this being a part-time job?

What’s the rea­son for this new-found fit­ness zeal?” you ask.

No, it’s not a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion. It’s a “lifestyle change.” It’s all a part of my slow­ing down and tak­ing care of myself so that stress doesn’t put me into an early grave.

Step-Counter.jpg

I also wouldn’t mind drop­ping a few pounds to get back into my super­model wardrobe. After all, it is one of Robin’s Immutable Laws of Gar­den­ing that you can­not pos­si­bly lose weight by work­ing in the gar­den. But I’m not being too wacky about that. It’s fit­ness that counts, right? Not look­ing like a fab­u­lous super­model in designer clothes?

One of the lit­tle “lifestyle changes” that I’m find­ing amus­ing is my step counter. You can buy these babies for five bucks at K-Mart. They are FABULOUS. The basic model doesn’t count mileage, but only steps. Just clip it to the waist­band of your fash­ion­able work­out pants and off you go.

The idea is that you should aim for at least 10,000 steps a day, includ­ing a 30-minute walk. The rea­son for the offi­cial “walk” is that if you only do the 30-minute walk and basi­cally sit on your bot­tom the rest of the day, you’ll only rack up about 4,000 or even fewer steps. The idea is to incor­po­rate extra phys­i­cal activ­ity through­out your day.

The experts say activ­ity lev­els cor­re­spond with the fol­low­ing num­ber of steps per day:

–low activ­ity: <5,000 steps/day
–Low activ­ity: 5,000 to 7,500 steps/day
–Mild activ­ity: 7,500 to 10,000 steps/day
–Mod­er­ate activ­ity: 10,000 to 12,500 steps/day
–High activ­ity: >12,500 steps/day

    Greg (remem­ber S&M Greg?) says I should be aim­ing for at least 12,000 steps a day. (He would, wouldn’t he?)

    Actu­ally, I find that on a day when I don’t do any exer­cise but do some chores around the house and per­haps a cou­ple of errands, I already get about 7,500 steps. When I add in a 30-minute walk I can eas­ily get 10,000 steps. But 12,000 does take more effort for me. Some of the ways I try to get extra steps:

    –Park­ing waaaaayyy on the far side of the park­ing lot;
    –Car­ry­ing things upstairs and down­stairs as I think about it rather than putting a lit­tle pile on the bot­tom step to take up at one time;
    –Walk­ing out­side with the lit­tle dogs dur­ing potty time rather than just stand­ing there;
    –Stand­ing and walk­ing around while I talk on the phone;
    –And, my favorite, drink­ing a great deal of green tea so I have to walk back and forth to the bath­room quite a lot.

      So there you have it. If I haven’t vis­ited you lately, it’s because of this new part-time job. S&M Greg says my energy level will start to improve soon so that I’ll be able to leap tall build­ings in a sin­gle bound, yadda yadda. Per­haps I’ll also have the energy to catch up with my blog reading.

      Robin
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      Call me silly or naive, but I feel hon­ored when a spe­cial bird vis­its my bird feed­ing sta­tion. This fab­u­lously beau­ti­ful and inter­est­ing bird is the Evening Grosbeak.

      The flock is, indeed, a gross of grosbeaks–I didn’t just invent that.

      Evening-Grosbeak-2.jpg

      Until today I had only seen a sin­gle Evening Gros­beak. That was about a year ago and I wasn’t able to snap a photo before it flit­ted away.

      Today, I was play­ing hooky from work and catch­ing up on my iron­ing while gaz­ing out the back win­dows. (Do I know how to have a good time on a Fri­day or what?) From where I iron in the kitchen, I can see the bird feed­ing sta­tions, which con­sist of two free-standing poles–one with sev­eral small feed­ers, includ­ing a nyger feeder for the Goldfinches, a larger hop­per feeder with a plat­form under­neath to catch stray seed and a sin­gle two-tiered feeder hang­ing in a tree.

      I imme­di­ately noticed a flash of white on the wings of a bird fly­ing to the hop­per feeder. Since our usual bird buf­fet guests are Tufted Tit­mouses, Chick­adees, Nuthatches and Goldfinches–none of which have this dis­tinc­tive white shoul­der patch–I was imme­di­ately cap­ti­vated. I snagged my binoc­u­lars and confirmed–EUREKA! EVENING GROSBEAKS! And not one! A gross of grosbeaks!

      Of course, I was torn between watch­ing before they flew away and run­ning for my cam­era. You can tell that I took the gam­ble and scram­bled for the cam­era with the long lens. Then I had to scram­ble for the tri­pod because the long lens is, well, long. It is quite heavy and needs the tri­pod for sta­bi­liza­tion. I crossed my fin­gers and tippy toed just out­side the back door and banged off a few shots.

      Evening-Grosbeak-3.jpg

      Just then, the work­men who were to install a new front door sys­tem arrived. Why is it that these guys never arrive on time unless you’re tak­ing pho­tos of Evening Gros­beaks or have just stepped out of the shower?

      Well, of course, they all flew away. There was no hope of their return­ing with all the com­mo­tion of door removal and instal­la­tion. Still, I feel hon­ored that they vis­ited and will be look­ing out­side hope­fully for days to come.

      Here in Mary­land the Evening Gros­beak is only a win­ter vis­i­tor. Although a type of finch, the Evening Gros­beak is more along the size of a Robin. The males have a bril­liant yel­low color, even in win­ter, while the females are more drab. The wings have back tips and a white band that is very notice­able when they are mov­ing about.

      An Evening Gros­beak has a dis­tinc­tive and facile method of eat­ing sun­flower seeds, dex­ter­ously manip­u­lat­ing it with his cone-shaped bill. They are prodi­gious eaters and can wipe out a feeder given the oppor­tu­nity. They also are known for eat­ing large quan­ti­ties of salt and fine salty gravel from roadways.

      I’ll be peer­ing out the win­dows again tomor­row. There is an ice storm headed our way, but I am pre­pared. I stocked up at K-Mart yes­ter­day on flash­light bat­ter­ies, can­dles, camp stove fuel and even a cof­fee per­co­la­tor. (Gotta have that java!) Since we lose water as well as power when the elec­tric­ity goes out, I’ll be fill­ing our bath­tubs with water once the storm moves in. I’ll also be up early tomor­row morn­ing to bake bread, a cake and make soup that can be eas­ily heated on a camp stove.

      My hus­band and son find my storm prepa­ra­tions amus­ing. The peo­ple at K-Mart looked at me yes­ter­day like I was some sort of sur­vival­ist out for my annual sur­vival gear shop­ping spree.

      Oh well. I am naive about birds and amus­ing about my storm prepa­ra­tions. At least I’m not totally dull.

      Robin
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      Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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