Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Bento Lunch

Hello all, and welcome to another edition of "What's Michelle Eating for Lunch Tomorrow"
We just finished a fairly easy, yet tasty looking lunch and I thought, "Hey, this looks like a good one for all of my fans! Observe:

Alright, now the usual rundown! On the left is the main compartment, which contains four pieces of Cream Cheese Roll from Kroger's. Imitation crab, cream cheese and avocado wrapped in rice and seaweed. Also with the cream cheese roll is a small bottle of soy sauce and a little pickled ginger. Above it is Balsamic Sesame Chicken. Chicken breast, marinated in Balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, rolled in sesame seeds and fried with cooking spray to brown the seeds. The chicken is garnished with a small sprig of mint.

On the top right, is another three bean salad like the last one we made, except it contains white kidney, dark kidney, and black beans. Again, with a fat free Italian dressing, and also garnished with mint.

Under that is Michelle's favorite yogurt, inspired by Gina's yummy yogurt recipe on It's plain yogurt with honey. We ran out of the usual cranberries, so they aren't in there. There's a swizzle of honey on top, and again with the mint! Gee whiz! Actually, I might explain that the mint has been in the fridge for a couple of weeks and if we don't use it, it's going to be all wilty and brown, so, I'm using all I can.

The bottom right is the small lid space, which normally would hold some mixed nuts or something, but this time, we picked up some mixed rice crackers from Kroger and used them instead. A pleasant and colorful snack. Except the seaweed ones. They're just a little strange. :)

There you go! Another interesting and tasty looking lunch from Michelle's Bento Box. Fortunately, this time, there is chicken and bean salad left over, so I may get to have some!

Till next time! Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pottery 101 - Night 5

Well, a good night yet again. Still no glazing. No bisque firing as of tonight, so nothing was ready to glaze. I was in a good position though, to crank out some pieces. I did 4 tonight. I just tried to keep my head down and practice throwing. I managed a one piece goblet, a skinny little bud vase, some kind of tallish, muggy, vasey thing, and another kind of tallish....muggy....vasey thing. I think it went well. I'm gaining a little more control over the clay because I'm trying to make myself not quite so afraid of it. In order to do that you have to set out to make a goblet stem and end up with a napkin ring once or twice. :) That's pretty much all I did, which was my goal anyway, in the event that there was no glazing to do. Michelle trimmed a piece, or maybe two. I can't remember. But she also threw a couple of nice mug forms as well. I'd say we're both improving each week. There's going to be a kiln opening at the next First Friday, and I think Michelle and I are going to go over, despite the fact that we have nothing in the kiln to actually see. I think it'll be a fun night anyway. There will be pictures. I promise. It's just a matter of time. -J

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vacation in The Smoky Mountains

Here I sit in the Smoky Mountains. Michelle and I took a long weekend to come down here and do a hike, and a few other things. I just thought I'd post about our day and weekend in general so far. We had a really great time! Brace yourself, this is a long one. :) This morning we got up early and started out between 9:30 and 10:00. This was my first time trying out a complete hiking "getup". I was wearing my clearance polyester shirt and clearance Field & Stream shorts. The only cotton I had on today was my bandana, which I might add, served me very well. My clothes were super light, and later in the day when I'd normally be completely soggy, heavy and miserable on the trail, I was light and very minimally damp. The dri-weave fabrics and such are definitely the way to go. In the spring on the AT, the only cotton I plan on carrying are my two bandanas. Michelle, by the way, donned her polys today as well. All Dick's and Gander Mountain clearance. If you are planning a big hike, clearance clothing is the way to go. We have nearly outfitted ourselves with a full trail wardrobe for fully half what we intended to spend on that part of our gear.
Also, I was in a pair of my old New Balance running shoes, which if you can believe it, were fantastic on the trail. I've tried all kinds of shoes on hikes, and by far, these humble $40 NB Runners have been the real champs! I've been researching shoes online and I've come across a few brands that I think would be good, and yesterday we were fitted at the happy hiker in Gatlinburg, and I tried a pair of Montrail hikers that I really like. By the way, my foot is a little odd. I have the length of a size 8.5, but the ball of my foot hits where a 9 should. I think that means my toes are too short. Anyway, I'm a size 9 overall. Just thought you should know. Anyway the point is, I may well end up in a mundane pair of New Balance trail runners. In the ones I have, I can feel the path enough to react, the gravel and roots don't batter my feet, and the toe box is flexible and forgiving so my toes are not completely destroyed in descents. No one wants to lose toenails.
So, on to the actual hike. We went to Ramsay Cascades. This is a 4 mile in and out style hike, usually categorized as moderate in nature. That is an incorrect categorization! This hike is brutal! I keep using that word to describe it today. It's the only one I can think of. It's pretty short really. An ascent of 2000 feet over 4 miles (Fairly steep and constant). The trail starts wide and graveled, but soon narrows and becomes almost entirely roots and stones. After that the slope increases and the stones become boulders. The last three tenths of a mile, as I saw it described in a trail review, is nothing less than hand over hand boulder climbing! Now, don't get me wrong, it was a blast, but this one will kill you if you aren't ready. :) It's as hard going back down because you have to climb down over these tough sections of trail. No open trotting until you reach the bottom third or so. If you think I'm exaggerating, have a look at part of the trail...
I took this picture standing on the trail. If you look up the right side of the photo, you'll see the continuation up through that hole in the trees. On the top half of the hike, this terrain is the rule, and not the exception! :) Challenging and rather crazy, but in a word, awesome!

So, now that I've impressed upon you the seriousness of this trail, (Except for the part where there's a sign that warns you that bears are active in the area, and the fact that you are indeed stepping over numerous piles of bear scat to remind you and praying that you don't see a class ring or something in one of them) Let me mention a couple of really neat things about it. First, the trail to Ramsay Cascades winds through some old growth forest. Some truly enormous trees. Now, they aren't the redwoods, but they are the biggest trees I've ever seen. Michelle and I took a quick break at this one...

This angle actually makes it appear a little smaller than it is, but you get the idea. Very big trees. And as tall as you'd imagine a trunk of this size to be.

Then there's Ramsay Cascades itself. The tallest falls in the Smoky Mountains at around 100 feet. Check it out:

It was quite a sight. Michelle and I both took our shoes off and waded at the foot of the falls a little bit. The water was ICE cold. No joke, it made my feet hurt it was so cold. I don't know how there wasn't ice somewhere. Anyway, we spent a little time at the Cascades, had something to eat and relaxed then started the trek back down. A tough hike all in all, but very rewarding, and an excellent test of both our mettle, and our equipment. :)

So, what would you do if you had just hiked the roughest 8 miles of your life, and were now sitting at the family vacation home in the Smokies, looking at and realizing that you now have more than 3000 calories to consume? That's right. You plan dinner!

Michelle and I went down to Maryville and tried a little place that Dad and Donita have been watching from afar and wondering about. It's called the Lemongrass. It's a Thai menu, and there's a sushi bar. So, in the interest of informing Dad and Donita, and the rest of my vast readership, here's how it went:

The restaurant is smallish, but in a cozy way. Well lit and comfortable. There were quite a few people there, but we didn't feel crowded out or anything. The service was excellent. It's the kind of place where they place your napkin in your lap for you and all that jazz, and the staff was very attentive and interactive. Our waiter was quite smooth and did a great job. (He kept the meal moving, but you didn't feel like he was standing there waiting to take your plates from you.) :)

So, we tried it all. We ordered some sushi. A shrimp tempura roll which was absolutely awesome, and a salmon roll. It too was very good. The nori (dried seaweed used to roll everything up) was very mild, which is usually my trouble with sushi. The seaweed overpowers the fish and other things. The flavors were all present and nothing overpowered.

As for entrees, Michelle had a Red Curry Chicken, and I had Cashew Chicken. I got to sample Michelle's which was very tasty, and mine too was excellent. I ate the whole thing and it wasn't a small plate. :) Again, the flavors were complex, all present, and very well blended. I sound like one of those judges on Iron Chef. Allez! Cuisine!

One of the best surprises about the place was the dessert menu. The desserts are actually unique! I was expecting, "Ok, cheesecake, some pie, vanilla ice cream, oooh...look at this Triple Chocolate Thunder Blunder Mega Bang Death Mountain!!"

Michelle had a slice of fresh mango with rice pudding, which I sampled, and which was pleasant and light. I had banana pieces, wrapped in rice paper and deep fried, drizzled in honey and sesame seeds, with a scoop of the ubiquitous vanilla ice cream. A really great, and unusual dessert experience.

The whole trip to Lemongrass was well worth it. It's priced pretty comfortably. Two people can eat there for somewhere between 30-50 dollars depending on what you order and whether you do the whole thing or just have entrees. A 4 star experience to be sure!

Alright, I'll wind it down now. I'd say if you've read this far you deserve to be finished! Thanks for reading, and I'll talk to you next time!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pottery 101 - Night 4

We're at the halfway mark of our 8 week class. I think tonight, Michelle and I both did very well and had our own respective breakthroughs. I figured out how to make a pot with a bottom that isn't proportionally way too heavy, and Michelle had a fantastic night with trimming her already thrown pottery. We were even told that we didn't have to worry about our mid-term grade and that we pass. :) The bad news is that we didn't glaze anything tonight. The good news is that I think I have a time table for when we get to finally see some finished work. Assuming our pieces are bisque fired this week, (bisque firing is the first of two firings, and is done to prepare the piece for glazing and the second firing) then we'll be able to glaze next week. If that happens, then I anticipate we'll see something finished in early September. *fingers crossed* I can't speak for Michelle, but I for one would like to take another round of this class to solidify the things I've learned, and have the opportunity to make a few more things, with perhaps a bit more freedom. So far, I'm having a good time with it. I mentioned last week that I'd like to focus on throwing taller cylinders, and so the piece I threw tonight was just that. I tried for another tall, straight cylinder. It would have been my tallest yet, but I ended up pulling the wall too thin and lost about 2 inches of height as a result. No harm done though, because it still made a decently sized piece. I'm doing better gauging the width of my walls at the base of the piece, but I still have to take considerable time to make sure I don't make a mistake and mess up what I'm working on. Bill (our instructor) will walk past and hold a finger above the piece after a glance at the walls. This finger indicates how tall the piece WOULD be if I were getting the excess width out of the base. As I said though, tonight I think I sort of got it. It should come a little easier next time. Anyway, more to come next week! -J

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fitness Update

I haven't done a fitness update in awhile, so I thought I'd let you all know how I was doing in case you're curious, and hopefully to inspire those of you who may have fitness goals of your own! Let's begin shall we? My current and lowest weight in my bid for fitness to date is 189.6 pounds. That brings me to a grand total of about 38 pounds lost. My original goal is 50 pounds total, and that one is clearly in sight. 12 pounds to go and I'm there. Around 177.5 pounds. However, as I am not certain if I've mentioned before, my secondary, and in fact final weight goal is 165. I want to stay somewhere between 160 and 170. That is the weight that will put me solidly inside my healthy BMI range. If I manage to do this, I'll weigh less than I did in high school, and I'll also weigh less than I did when I lost my accumulated college weight. Most people know that I lost 76 pounds late in college with the Subway diet and walking. That took me from a max weight of 253 down to 177. Before beginning this last attempt I had put weight on back up to 227.5. So, with a 12 pound sub goal, and a total remaining goal of approximately 24.5 pounds, I feel primed to go, prepared to go the distance and positive that I will make this happen. On a related note, I bought some new shirts today! I was really excited because new clothes are a great way to enjoy weight loss and to motivate you to keep going. Also if you throw away your old ones, you have nothing to grow back into, so backsliding = buying more clothes that you won't enjoy. Jon's Fitness Law #1 : No one ever got in shape by buying bigger pants. So anyway, not only did I get four shirts and a tie, all of which I really like, but I got them on clearance. Yes. The shirts and tie that would have cost me $56 total at full price, cost me about $30! That's nearly a 50% discount. Dave Ramsey would be proud. :) Ok, so things are also ramping up for the Labor Day 5k in Ceredo-Kenova. Michelle and I have been training pretty hard and I think we can come close to a 30 minute time. One of my goals on 43 things, as I think I have mentioned, is a sub-30 minute 5k. I think it's possible, but I can't say for sure if I'll pull it off this Labor Day. Could happen if I have a really good day. In case I didn't post my Memorial day 5k time, it was 37:15. Michelle and I finished within a second of each other. This time, we will definitely see a decrease in the time. How much depends on how we are feeling when the race happens. Rest assured that the time and a report will be posted here the very day that the race is run. Related to running, Jen P. told me that her doctor once told her that for each pound of weight you shed, you are actually taking four pounds of pressure off of your knees. That would explain why running has become a less painful affair for me. 38 x 4 = 150 pounds of pressure! My knees are definitely behaving better since last fall when I injured the left one in a glorious stage dive. The right one, which has bothered me since high school marching band, is doing pretty well also. It aches, but it works. So lastly, let me give you a couple of really useful websites. One, which I picked up from Eric, is a pedometer hack for Google Maps. Located here. It comes in handy when you run or walk somewhere, and then have to wonder how far you ran. I recommend using the hybrid map/satellite setting. Secondly, I stumbled across this handy site while looking for an easier way to convert MPH to and from various other measurements. The Arkansas Runner Calculators Page located here. I hope you've enjoyed my little update. I'll keep you posted on all the exciting new developments leading up to the big mountain trek in the spring! :) -J

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pottery 101 - Night 3

Well, tonight was a pretty successful night for me. I managed this time to make a cylinder that was the tallest I'd thrown so far. Last time I mentioned pinching it in half, and this time I managed not to. I have a good, solid stein sized cylinder. Tonight I got to do a little of everything. I trimmed up something I had done last time, I threw my stein, and I put a pretty nice handle on the pot I trimmed. I was even able to help with mixing some glazes, which was interesting. I was mixing glaze and so forth, and didn't really get a good idea of what Michelle got to do tonight, but I know she threw a decent mug type object herself. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I really want to concentrate on throwing taller cylinders for a couple of weeks, because I think that'll be the key to doing bigger things. It makes me nervous trying to pull the clay upward to make it taller though. I'm always afraid it's going to flop right over. Anyway, that's about it for now. Still nothing glazed and fired, but I believe we'll get to glaze next week so we're getting close to some pictures! Hang in there constant reader!! -J

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My First Bento

Ok folks! It is finally time! Michelle and I made bento lunches tonight. I have made my first one and I have a picture and a description for you! Here's the lunch:

So, you might be wondering with intense curiosity, just exactly what we have here. The top tier is a three bean salad, made from black, kidney and great northern beans, and a fat free Italian dressing, garnished with fresh mint. To the right are a couple of lemonhead candies. Actually, a lemonhead and a cherryhead.

The bottom tier contains chicken nuggets that Michelle found a recipe for on These nuggets are seasoned with salt and pepper, rolled in corn starch and fried in olive oil cooking spray. Then, we dashed them with a little soy sauce and some lemon juice. They're paired with fresh sliced cherry tomatoes and mint leaves.

Next to that is 1/4 cup of mixed nuts.

That's my lunch! Small, simple and healthy. By appearances it'll be very satisfying. Finally I get to eat something rather than watch Michelle carry things off and wish I could have it. I might comment this post after I taste everything and let you know how it was. I hope you're all enjoying reading about my lunch. :) Talk to you soon!


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pottery 101 - Night 2

Quick update on our pottery class. Tonight Michelle and I both felt a little more comfortable with working on the wheel. We were introduced to the techniques involved in trimming an unfired pot, to get it ready for glaze and firing. We each trimmed a couple of the pots we did last week and I put a handle on one of mine to make a decent, if somewhat heavy, mug. Also, I was working on a new pot tonight, trying to make one above the aforementioned 7 or 8 inches, but I ended up pinching too hard and taking off the upper two thirds of the thing in one fell swoop. So, I did what anyone in my position might do with a basketful of lemons. I made lemonade. My super tall pot became a really nice little teabowl. Still no pictures, but I'm thinking that as soon as we can get a batch fired, we'll have a couple to show. Of course, there will be works on display at the next First Friday in Ashland. First Friday happens as you might've guessed, on the first friday of the month, where the galleries in Ashland stay open late and so forth. If the things we're working on make it through the process of glazing and firing, we'll maybe have a little something to show there. More to come next week! -Jon

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bento Update

Well, Michelle and I received our new Bento boxes from Japan this Saturday. I came home from praise band rehearsal to find Michelle standing in the living room, excitedly holding forth a yellow package containing our Japanese swag! Also included was my first pack of Black Black chewing gum. Let me start with that.

I was intrigued by the gum because it had an odd name. Not to say that most snacks and gum don't have odd names to us in Japan, but this one just caught my eye. Here's a picture:

The gum itself, as you might have guessed, is black as well as the wrapper. Anyway, it's a really strong "Altoid-like" flavor, and quite refreshing. It also makes an excellent cat repellent. Merlin hates mint, and this makes him run like there's no tomorrow. I'd love to know what the Kanji on the wrapper says. Also, here's a youtube link to a commercial for the gum in Japan:

Black Black Chewing Gum

I guess the gum is considered masculine, as well as capable of waking you up...kind of like...a girl dressed in silver, shooting you with a huge ray gun or something. Ah, Japanese TV. :)

So anyway, that's the gum. Moving on to what you really came here for, the new Bentos. First, I'll show you mine, mainly because there's less to say and because I can't get a really good picture of it. I'll try again, but for the moment, it's just not working. Maybe I'll try a lighter background. A couple of pictures:

So, as you can see, my box is black and grey and though I don't have a size comparison for you, it's a little larger in capacity than either of Michelle's. I haven't gotten to use it yet, but we're planning on a picnic at Central Park or something sometime soon. The box says "Liberty" on the lids, which is the particular model name.

And now, Michelle's more interesting box. More interesting because I have better pictures, and an actual lunch that she's taking to work tomorrow. Pics:

Here we are. I like this box a lot because it's a little more squared than her other one, and that presents some new options for packing. I also like the triangular Onigiri (remember that means rice balls) box. It's designed to hold two convenience store onigiri. They're available in Japan like burritos and nachos here. We're going to have to make our own for it, but the box is cool. I like the color as well.

As for the lunch we kind of tossed together tonight...

Obviously a banana. The top tier is a turkey and tomato sandwich on whole grain bread, wrapped in cellophane and decorated with dragonfly and flower stickers. In the bottom is yogurt, honey and dried cranberries. That's a little recipe we picked up from Gina's daily plate diary. Very tasty. I think it's listed as yummy yogurt on the diary. So, credit to Gina for the idea. It's decorated by a swirl of honey and a dusting of red sugar. The silicone souffle cup has a 1/4 cup of mixed nuts. Again, I'd love to have this tomorrow, but It's probably a clif bar for me. :)

So there you go! A Bento update as promised! I'll try to get a better picture of mine as well as the first lunch I pack in it. Comments and Questions are of course welcome! Thanks a lot for reading and see you again soon!