How to Run with Your Dog (Safely & Efficiently)

From time to time, we house-sit for a wonderful family in a beautiful house in North Boulder up on the Foothills. We always enjoy this, and not because of the perfect peacetime in the mornings or the chickens that give us 7 fresh eggs every morning. No we truly enjoy this because we also get to dog-sit their amazing amazing dog! She is such a sweet heart, an excellent listener, and a great cuddler (most importantly, obviously). This also means that I get a running buddy! I haven’t had a dog for a few years since my Sassy passed in college, so it’s nice to have a companion like Piper (the dog’s name). However, there are a few important pointers for running with a dog, for your safety and theirs!

My old dog and her boyfriend

My old dog and her boyfriend

1. Keep a short leash. This is especially so if you are running on sidewalks with cars near by. Say you aren’t properly paying attention and your puppy decides to wander too close to the street and the lead is too long to reel back right away. Also, when you’re moving at a faster pace, it’s better to have him or her right by your side in case of other people or dogs too. Safety first! And it’s important to be considerate of others who may not be so dog-friendly.

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Dogs we used to walk in California

2. Let your dog stop once in a while. Yes you are on a run, even if you are a serious runner, but you are with your dog. First and foremost, they may have to go to the bathroom. Second of all, your dog may love running but they also love to smell and explore! If you feel your dog lagging, let up a little and let them smell the roses. If you’re doing hard training, then you shouldn’t be with your dog anyways! Let them enjoy it!

Chris & Piper

Chris & Piper

3. Go on nice terrain. I’m not saying don’t go trail running, totally go for that! But think twice about going somewhere with little rocks or sharp objects. Yes, you have awesome running shoes, but your dog doesn’t! They may have pads on their feet, but they’re soft and they can easily get cut. Go on terrain you can both enjoy: sidewalk, trails, grass, dirt!

4. Run without headphones. So I guess this is optional. You can run with headphones and run with your dog, but I feel it’s better to be present with your dog. That way you can listen to their breathing to see if they need a break, if they’re whining or growling, and also to pay better attention to their movements. When I run solo, I listen to an audiobook and it allows me to kind of get lost in it. However, if I’m lost in my book and not noticing that my dog is limping, that’s a recipe for trouble. This isn’t a necessary step, but I sure as heck suggest it!

Piper after a long run

Piper after a long run

5. Bring a bag! It kills me when I don’t see this. This should be standard for any walk or run no matter how short or where it is! Even if you’re hiking and they’re doing their business in “nature,” people still don’t want to step in it. Tuck a bag in your pocket if you’re wearing a jacket, or just tuck it into the top of your pants, or even in your sports bra if you’re a girl. Do the right thing and just bring it.

6. Provide water for a long run. Dogs use more energy than we do when they run because they are using four legs while we are using just two. I know you may not want to carry a water bottle, but you have a dog, and you have to think of the furry thing! Or, if you know there is a stream near where you’re running, stop long enough for your puppy to drink up. There are making these fold out water containers for hiking with dogs that are perfect for clipping on your belt or pants and then filling up with your water.

Chris with a dog we used to care for

Chris with a dog we used to care for

7. Talk to your dog. Yes, your dog is with you already, but sometimes they like to hear from you. Remember to tell them “good girl” or “good boy” to show your appreciation with them keeping up with you. And if they’re slowing a little, say “come on” or “you can do it!” Remember to provide your support and encouragement all the way through.

And those are just a few tips from me to you about caring for you and your dog’s safety . As family gathers round in time for Thanksgiving, I’m betting there’s a furry creature or two that would love a nice run or walk. Dogs are a part of the family and we need to do everything we can to keep them safe and keep them cared for. Use these tips to keep you and your dog hungry and fit!

BONUS KITTY PIC

Sajah learned how to read!

Sajah learned how to read!

Cinnamon Crunch Whole-Wheat Banana Bread

Well, the bananas went black again. And you know what that means…banana bread! But instead of doing my typical recipeI did something based off this recipe. I changed it up a bit, for example, no frosting. This recipe has plenty of fiber and not much sugar for a banana bread recipe. I was excited to use it and change it to fit my needs. So you can go ahead and feel guilt-free about eating this delicious banana bread. Let’s get to work!

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 45 minutes 
Slice of this bad boy

Slice of this bad boy

Ingredients (for the bread)

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (for the cinnamon crunch)

  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 heaping tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • First, of course, let’s pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Grease up the pan of yours, I did a bread pan, but you can also do a casserole dish
  • Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon (the dry stuff) in a small-ish bowl

photo 1 (12)

  • In a separate and larger bowl (this is where everything will end up), put in the sugar (1/2 cup) and butter (make sure it’s at room temperature or at least close) and then mix it up! I used a whisk and my power arms.
  • Then, add in the eggs

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  • Before this next step, you need to mash up your bananas to smithereens. Once you do that, go ahead and stir the bananas in along with the yogurt and vanilla extract. 
  • We’re getting there! Now slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet bowl
Batter = nom

Batter = nom

  • Hooray! That’s the batter. Now, spoon half the batter into your dish.
  • Next, you want to stir your sugar (1/4 cup) and cinnamon (1 tsp) together for your cinnamon crunch

photo 4 (10)

  • Now we want to put a good layer of this cinnamon crunch on the batter that is in the baking dish. And then layer some more batter on top.

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  • And then, we want to put another layer of the cinnamon crunch on! Then top it off with that last bit of batter you have. Then sprinkle the rest of your cinnamon crunch mixture on top. It’s layers of deliciousness

photo 2 (10)

  • Phew! That was a lot of hard work layering! Now put into the oven for 40-45 minutes. Stick in a long skinny thing like a tooth pick or skewer to test if it’s done.
Drooling...

Drooling…

It’ll have this nice crunchy layer on top with the usual delicious banana bread below and then some cinnamon swirls . Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before you tear into this! This is a great healthy alternative for dessert for Thanksgiving! Give it a try, it really is a easy, healthy, guilt-free recipe. Use this recipe to stay hungry and fit!

BONUS KITTY PIC

Sajah hoping I'd drop something

Sajah hoping I’d drop something

How Medical Technologies Are Helping Improve Lives

Life poses a number of medical challenges for us all. As we age, the potential for increasing health problems becomes greater, and the need for medical intervention more pressing, in order to make life more comfortable for those with various health difficulties. From the usual problems of old age through to more severe illnesses that can afflict us in our senior years, it is important to pay attention to the changes to our physical and mental health as we age. Increasingly, new technologies are making life more comfortable for those with a range of medical problems. As research and development in these technologies continues to make advances, people are finding it easier to live with their medical conditions.

Amputees are one set of patients who have benefited from advancements in technologies surrounding their treatment. Prosthetic limbs are now more advanced than ever before, allowing for a full range of movement and greater comfort for the wearer. It is now possible to hook up prosthetic arms to external software on a PC or smartphone, allowing for more sophisticated grip patterns and planes of movement. The technologies are so developed that it is now possible for patients to experience much more realistic control over their limbs. This has made simple everyday tasks a whole lot easier for those concerned.


Image source: http://www.study-zilla.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Medical-Technologies.jpg

For those with hearing difficulties, the developments in aural technologies have also been impressive. New hearing aids, like Miracle-Ear, are producing a clearer sound for those who have difficulties with their hearing. These devices sit discreetly in the ear and can compensate for growing degrees of hearing loss. For those who suffer from partial deafness, these technologies have proven to be a revelation, giving them back access to crucial senses for day-to-day life.

Improved clarity of audio makes it easier for those suffering from hearing loss to have conversations, or to consume media in a more traditional way. The increased comfort means it becomes practically more possible to wear these devices around the clock, ensuring that there is now no need to revert to a diminished state of hearing.


Image source: http://images.sciencedaily.com/2009/06/090616080133-large.jpg

The developments in the field of medical technology are not simply related to medical aids and devices. There are also new machines being made available to hospitals and medical practitioners worldwide, offering more effective diagnosis and treatment across a range of conditions. Cancer scanners, for example, have undergone significant transformations in the last fifteen years, providing safer, more comfortable and more accurate diagnosis for patients of the condition.

Various technologies have been developed to help with medical applications. From treatment to simply making the lives of patients more comfortable, these advancements look set to continue as new equipment is made available for clinical use. Research and development spending is showing no sign of holding up. As governments worldwide continue to support medical innovation and research through their tax systems and through public funding, the future for advances in patient comfort and treatment looks especially bright. Use that technology to stay hungry and fit

My Future Plans (Being Organized, Be Ambitious)

This might not be so inspiring for some people. This definitely won’t be so interesting for most. However, I want you to NOT take this as me talking about myself. I hope that readers get something more out of this post. It will be a quick one that lacks depth and details (about me) so don’t worry about it being painful to read. What I am trying to do is motivate others to keep going, keep pushing and continue to grow. No one is perfect and no one can be perfect. However, there is always an opportunity to increase your abilities and learn more. I could say I am the best swim teacher in the world. I can say that my body is an ancient Grecian sculpture. But that isn’t true and the most important thing (what a great word, right?) is that I know that. ME!

Rawr from H&F

Rawr from H&F

Once upon a time in the great land of fire, Uchiha Itachi told Yakushi Kabuto that “those who can’t acknowledge their real selves are bound to fail.” (My translation. And, yes, I am quoting the manga, Naruto. Uchiha Itachi is my hero! All rights to Kishimoto.) It is important that we know who we are, what we are capable of and that of which we are incapable. Once we can honestly assess this, it is our responsibility to decide whether we want to improve, regress or maintain ourselves. I personally have an obsession with continuing education. I am not a perfectionist, it is too lofty to be called ambitious, I believe. Nevertheless, I strive to improve. For example, I do not “do CrossFit” nor do I have much interest in doing CrossFit. However, as a professional and passionate member of the “fitness community” I want to become a Level 1 CrossFit Coach so I can give a better recommendation, or lack there of, of the program. That’s just an example.

Alana as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider for Halloween...always trying to improve for strength and agility!

Alana as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider for Halloween…always trying to improve for strength and agility!

With that being said, I am going to do myself a favor and outline my future plans. I will be focusing on remainder of 2013 and 2014, without releasing any confidential information. (There may be a lot of… secrets.) I hope that this will urge to do the same. Evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Highlight your strengths and weaknesses, then use those to make plans for yourself! This is an awesome way of staying honest, organized and motivated. So here we go… try to do something like this!

I want to focus on two areas… physical goals and educational goals. I have my college degree and plenty of certifications but I want to be capable of doing more and helping more people. I have a body that I am content with in many ways but I get bored if I don’t push myself. Those are my two categories and I will break those down. (I am very happy with my “family” and I have no desire to change it aside from the addition of another four-legged friend a few months into 2014.)

But ummm look how cute I am

But ummm look how cute I am

Physically, I want to push my body despite a significant labral tear in my left shoulder. I want to actually try counting macronutrients and prepping meals, even if it is only for a few weeks or months. I want to increase strength in my legs and back. I want to hold my human flags for longer and perform muscle ups without using any momentum. I want to exercise my core more and start to improve my cardiovascular system by swimming and biking more. I want to return to the rock gym and really improve my grip strength and relative strength. I also want to increase the size of my upper and lower arms, and my chest. Last but not least, I want to maintain stability and prevent injuries (further injuries) in my shoulders. I’ll experiment with different exercise splits and regiments to achieve these goals. I want to also become a more active ISAFIT coach for iSatori and help Hungry & Fit grow so that it reaches more people.

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For educational goals, I want to continue my education in scuba diving, swim instruction, and personal training. I hope to become a Level II ASCA Coach. I aim to become a Swim Schools International Teacher Trainer as soon as possible. I want to start diving more and eventually, maybe even in 2014, become a Scuba Schools International Dive Instructor. (I need more specialties and to… dive MORE!) I also am interested in becoming a CPR/First Aid/AED instructor! I love teaching. I know they say those who cannot do, teach. I disagree. And that’s the end of that. Those who can do and want others to do well also… teach. Finally I want to expand on my personal training skills and become a USA Weightlifting Coach, at the very least. I know it is a lot on my plate for 2013/2014 but if I focus and allocate my time and money properly, it is possible. I also want to get my motorcycle license; my permit is covered in dust. That might happen as early as next month.

Learning from a master triathlete swimmer!

Learning from a master triathlete swimmer!

In terms of work, I want to make the Swim School of Boulder the cornerstone of the greatest aquatic training center ever! I also want to help the Longmont YMCA grow into an even more necessary part of the community. Obviously, Hungry & Fit is a given. I want to create a Hungry & Fit team that can spread amazing knowledge and motivation to EVERYONE.

Like I said earlier, I will avoid major details and will not even think twice about what I forgot. I could just be content with what I do, but that’s not like me. Life is relatively short and everyone has their own path they want to follow but mine involves learning and spreading that knowledge… always. I will keep you updated on my goals and how I am doing in achieving them but I hope you do too! List some of your goals in the comment section. Let us know areas that you are good at but still want to improve. I respect that. No egos around here. Much love and stay hungry and fit!

Supplements/protein for us to get ready for beast mode

Supplements/protein for us to get ready for beast mode

Packing on the weight

Packing on the weight

Using Olympians as motivation for my own swimming

Using Olympians as motivation for my own swimming

BONUS KITTY PIC

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Total Body Resistance Band Exercises

There are tons of ways to workout your muscles…cable machines, using your own body weight, dumbbells, and so forth. And they’re all great–it’s important to switch it up! However, today I want to approach the technique of resistance bands. I use resistance bands every day with clients. And I use them with all levels, from a near-eighties woman to a tough and strong girl in her 20s. There are so many ways to use resistance bands to your benefit. And they come in different levels! Usually the easiest are yellow, then green, to red, then blue, and finally black. Typically. Some do vary, though. There are so many ways to use them for all muscle groups. I’m gonna show you a few ways you can use that band at home, today! And I obviously couldn’t keep a straight face in the pictures…sigh.

1. Curls. Stand on your band, roughly shoulders-width apart. Grab the two handles, make sure the resistance is enough. Now pull the handles up in a curl movement, just as if you were doing it with dumbbells. This exercise is extraordinarily effective for working the biceps. You will be surprised! It’s important not to spring back to starting position after you finish the concentric (curling upwards) motion of the rep. Have control the whole way through.

Curl up!

Curl up!

2. Side step. This is one to focus on the hips. Step on the band, just like before, but this time start with your feet together. Now step to the side, as big of a step as you can. You will feel it in the outside of your hips. Your leg is going to want to snap back, but don’t let it! Slowly let it come back to the other leg. Now, step the other way, again taking a big step and really challenging your legs.

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3. Rotator cuff strengthener. Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common you will find in all people. It’s so easy to injure because it’s overused, and typically weak. Very easy to tear. SO how do we strengthen it?! It’s easy. Tie one side of your resistance band around a pole, a chair leg, something that will stick. Now grab the other handle and step far enough away to give yourself proper resistance. Now, keep your arm close to your body and turn it like a door hinge towards your chest. Slowly go to and fro, feeling it in your shoulder. Switch sides.

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4. Rear delt flyes. Here’s another one for the shoulders, but this time for the rear delts. Grab a band, the actual band, and not the handles. Hold your arms straight out. The farther you put your hands on the band, the easier, and the closer you put your hands together, the harder the resistance becomes. Holding the band, you want to pull it so that your arms end up completely away from the starting point. Then slowly let your hands come back together. You really want to squeeze the shoulder blades together. Repeat.

DON'T SMILE

DON’T SMILE

5. Squat press. Make sure you have a fresh band for this one with no holes. Bad things happen when resistance bands snap (as Chris can attest to), so ensure yours has no tears. Now place your feet on the band, shoulder-width apart. Grab the handles. Perform a squat (properly) and as you are coming up from a squat push your hands upwards for a shoulder press. This is a total body workout. Repeat. This squat can also be combined with the curl as seen above.

and press!

and press!

6. Chest press. Loop the band around a pole or some sturdy object. Grab both handles and face away from the pole. You want to really get far enough away so that the resistance is tight. Press forward so that you’re working your chest. Slowly come back. Repeat.

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7. Hamstring stretch. Had to throw this one in for last. So many people disregard the importance of stretching and quickly skip it (myself included, sometimes). However, it is vital to keep your body flexible and loose! For this one, you want to lay on your back, hook the band around your foot and use the handles to pull your foot upwards towards the sky and to your body for a deep hamstring stretch. Once that feels stretched, move to the other side.

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Now that’s only seven of the many exercises you can do with the wonderful resistance bands. Try these out and get creative–you can make up your own. Use resistance bands to stay hungry and fit!

BONUS KITTY PIC

merp

merp

Easy Dessert: Pear Tart with Crumble Atop

What do you do with pears that are getting soft? Bake them! At least that was my excuse for my next baking adventure: a pear tart…crumble…thing. It was a tart/pie in the way of having a crust and baking the fruit, but I also prepared a crumble for on top. It made to be a delectable combination and I will continue to use it in the future. The recipe is based on this, but I altered a good number of things.

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  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Baking Time: 45 minutes 

Ingredients

  •  1 pie crust (homemade or store-bought, whatever you’d like)
  • 3-4 pears
  • 2/3 cup turbinado sugar (used in separate times)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 tspb lemon juice

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Peel your pears and slice them up
Chop, chop!

Chop, chop!

  • Mix the sliced pears with 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl
  • Put the sliced pears with sugars into your pie crust
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and the rest of the sugar together. Then chop up your butter and “cut it” into the flour. You can use a pastry blender, but if you don’t have one like me, then you can just use a fork. You want to press the butter into the flour and sugar until it has a breadcrumb-like consistency
  • Pile it on top of the tart and put it in the oven for 45 minutes!
Putting in da oven

Putting in da oven

I was a little nervous about mixing a tart recipe and a crumble, but it actually turned out really well! And luckily, I didn’t have to use too much sugar. The pears give enough sweetness that you don’t need to dump cups and cups of sugar onto it. Try this recipe out, you won’t regret it! It’s pretty darn easy. And as always…stay hungry and fit!

Voila

Voila

Nomnomnom

Nomnomnom

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BONUS KITTY PIC 

Little baby

Little baby

The Misty Strongheart Scholarship Fund

Misty passed away nearly one year ago. She clearly means a lot to us as is demonstrated by the fact that I have her on my heart, always. We wanted to do something in her memory (aside from personal efforts) that would help others. After thinking about what made Misty unique, we came across the idea of doing a scholarship fund.

Old picture just after tattoo

Old picture just after tattoo

Misty was a lonely girl. When we walked into the Humane Society’s kitten room, there were easily eight kittens under four months old. While Nymeria was running around on the floor with the group, Misty was sitting on a tunnel at the top of the room. She was a good eight feet off the ground… far, far away from everyone else.

While deciding which two kittens we wanted to bring home, it became clear that Misty was a feral cat that was born in the wild. She lived there for about three months before she was brought in and almost immediately adopted by us. She was in the Humane Society for not much longer than a week before we got her. Her beautiful eyes and coat lured me in and I could not help but want to help her feel loved.

Scared little girl hiding under our dishwasher

Scared little girl hiding under our dishwasher

For about three months, Misty had a special place in our home and our hearts. I spent hours and hours every day trying to make her feel more loved and more a part of the family. No matter how many times she bit, hissed, scratched, and hid we tried harder and harder. Then one day we did not have to try anymore. I will forever regret that I could not save her or make sure that she passed away while feeling like our little girl, not a feral cat.

Misty being cute

One year later, I realize that there are many people who come from hard times and tough places. They don’t have a support system from a young age and struggle to find aid. They cry out for help, never receive it, give up asking and eventually try to do everything by themselves. No one can. Everyone needs some help. It could be one person or one thing, but it is someone or something.

In honor of Misty, Hungry & Fit is starting The Misty Strongheart Scholarship Fund. It is not your typical scholarship for students that graduated high school and are trying to find funding for their college degree. Not everyone has the means to make it to and through high school. The world is large and educational systems differ but it is consistently becoming more possible to reach across continents and oceans.

Misty attempting an escape

Using the internet or more traditional means, Hungry & Fit is inviting individuals that need support to reach their goals to apply for The Misty Strongheart Scholarship Fund. Persons interested can provide videos, songs, essays and more to relay their desire. They can use the post, email, YouTube and other outlets to do so. As long as you meet the requirements involved, you can apply.

I would like to state that a new page will be appearing on the website shortly. It should take one to two weeks. The page will include the official requirements for application. It will include the application process and details including deadlines. Therefore, I apologize for the lack of details in this post.

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Here is a basic outline of the requirements. You must be able to provide your story. What made it so difficult to follow your dreams? Was it someone in particular? Was it your culture’s norms? You must also be able to tell us how you will write the rest of your story. Do you need money for a flight to another country to start a new career? Do you need funding to attend a school for a degree or for a trade? How will you use your higher level of training or education to reach your goal? And how will you help others along the way and when you reach the end of your road?

We want to hear about dreams. We want to hear about struggles and how a little seed, coming from darkness, can find its way to the light and shine that light onto itself and others. We want you to succeed when you thought it would never be possible. We want to take someone’s hand, even though you never thought that someone would reach out for yours.

misty pretty

There will be means and measures to make sure the funding is used properly. We will see to that. Typical American scholarships are awarded in the Spring before students prepare to start college. Ours will be rewarded to the individual or individuals that we feel deserve it most at the end of the next year. The Winter holiday season holds a special place in my heart.

This is starting as a modest fund that will hopefully grow significantly one day. In the last week of December of 2014 Hungry & Fit will award at least a modest $500.00 USD to the recipient of The Misty Strongheart Scholarship Fund. (We will arrange currency exchanges for international recipients.)

We hope those individuals know that there are people who support them, love them and want them to know that there is always someone there for you… no matter how humble your beginnings are. We are excited to make this announcement and are looking forward to a year filled with amazing stories and applications. In Misty’s memory.

Restaurant Review: Sushi Hana (Longmont, CO)

Being fanatics of Japanese food, Chris and I are always looking for new and yummy places. We have high standards for fish, we both come from coastal cities, so don’t blame us! One day at work, my boss took me out to Sushi Hana in Longmont (where I work…about 15 miles from Boulder) for a lunch meeting to get some work done. It’s this little place that would be extremely easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. Luckily, I wasn’t driving.

We get seated immediately, after all we were there just around 11am–an early lunch. We get a hot pot of green tea to share which was perfect for a sunless, cold day. After much mulling over the lunch menu, I decide for a “sushi box” which is basically a bento box, but with sushi instead of tempura or a teriyaki dish. Overall, the fish was good (I got tuna) and the meal as a whole was very enjoyable. I got a lot of food for just $11. There was a maki roll on top of that, pork dumplings (didn’t eat), big thing of delicious rice, salad, soup, and an orange. Like I’m saying, ridiculous amount of food. The atmosphere is delightful: quiet, cultural, and peaceful. We stayed there for a while after we finished our food, and the polite, friendly server continued to fill our green tea cups. I left very full.

My delicious lunch

My delicious lunch

Usually when we do reviews, it’s of places Chris and I have both gone to. So what did that mean? After work, one Friday, I take him to Sushi Hana. This is a good sign–means I like the place enough to go back! Similar to the last experience, we were seated right away. I took the initiative to get us some green tea. This time, I ordered the salmon teriyaki box and Chris ordered the una-don (eel over rice). The salmon was cooked very well, and again, I couldn’t finish all my food (good thing I had Hungry with me). I also got the tuna-avocado maki roll which was really delicious and I preferred it without the soy sauce, another good sign. Chris said the una-don was good, but a little small. Good thing he had to finish mine!

Aaand the salmon teriyaki

Aaand the salmon teriyaki

Overall, Sushi Hana is a good spot, at least for lunch. It isn’t our favorite (see Kho’s or Korea House), but is definitely on our good list. If you’re in Longmont, hit up this spot for a great lunch special! Eat Japanese food to stay hungry and fit!

BONUS KITTY PIC

What I wish my every day was

What I wish my every day was

Movie Monday: Thor II: The Dark World

This weekend we saw the long-awaited Thor: The Dark World. Movies have been “meh” for us since the summer, offering not much more than Ender’s Game. So we were excited to see Thor…a favorite character, great actors, and a fun story. I think I liked it a little more than Chris did…only because I’ve never really read comic books (sigh, I wish I did), and he’s not seeing how Marvel is tying it all together. So let’s begin.

The movie begins by explaining the history of Thor’s grandfather and his dealings with the Dark Elves (yes, Elder Scrolls-lovers, I thought of that too). The Dark Elves used to rule the universe, but were no longer in the position of power. They were fighting the Asgardians to reclaim it, to use the “aether” that would put the universe into darkness once more. Dun, dun, dunnnn. Buuut they get basically wiped out in the battle, except for the Dark Elf leader and some friends who go into space hibernation for a while.

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Come to present day and find yourselves in the middle of an easy battle for Thor and his friends. It shows what Loki’s mess in the Avengers movie had done to the universe. So after much battle (around 2 years), Thor and company finally make each planet and universe right, giving balance. Yay, woohoo, celebration in Asgard (where Thor and the other Asgardians live), but big ol’ pretty boy Thor can’t commit himself to the celebration. This is because of dear Padme Amida–I mean Thor’s love interest in the previous movie, Jane Foster. After two years, he is still caught up with the mortal. So he decides to go to the Guardian (who guards the gate in and out of Asgard) and check on her. This when everything picks up and the conflict begins. I don’t like going too heavily into plot details in review, but she encounters this “aether” as the universes are converging which wakes up the big bad Dark Elves. Which thus brings a lot of trouble to Thor and his friends, so he ends up taking Jane to Asgard and so unfolds the plot, to destroy the Dark Elves and aether.

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Sorry, that might’ve been a bit confusing but that’s the basic plot. Jane Foster has the aether within her and the Dark Elves can sense it. This gives a way for the Dark Elves to wreak some havoc on Asgard. Speaking of Asgard, we got to see a lot of it in this movie compared to the last. And I am very happy they chose to do that, because it was beautifully-constructed, just as a city of gods should be. So enough with the plot, I detest giving true spoilers, so don’t look for that here.

The character development and interactions within this movie were great. Our beloved Thor does wonderfully and it’s hard to hate Loki, even if he did almost destroy New York. Loki gets lots of screen time in this film as Thor needs his help with a quest. At first Loki is simply imprisoned, but that certainly changes as events unfold. I said to Chris, even if some don’t like this movie, they’ll get plenty of other viewers: the weird, “nerdy” girls who have a thing for Loki and then the normal ones for Thor. I had no idea, but there is a huge, HUGE following/obsession over Loki. Huge. And I can see reason in that…he is a wonderful “villain” who is a little too complex to label “evil” and thus he becomes loved by fans.

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Anyhow, acting didn’t disappoint in this movie, at all. I was kept involved and entertained by the story and how it moved, and there were quite a few times where things happened that surprised me, simply didn’t see it coming. I like that about movies, especially fantasy action movies that can sometimes be fairly predictable. The writing also impressed me, especially all the witty lines by Loki. Though this movie has some heavy serious tones, there’s always the laugh around the corner from our beloved heroes/antiheroes. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie, especially if you like any of the Marvel movies. Not necessarily in 3D, but go see it. It’s fun, it’s moving, it’s captivating. And it also motivates you to want to become a superhero which inspires you to be…hungry and fit!

BONUS KITTY PIC

MEOW

MEOW

No-Shave November: The Unofficial History

This may be entirely true or entirely false but take from it what you will. This is what the month of November means to me. (Besides all the awesomeness of a seasonal Autumn, Thanksgiving, and being the month before the best Holiday season.) In recent years you may have heard of “No Shave November” or “Movember.” This is my take on the two; you, of course, can take what you want from my take!

Probably about six years ago, I heard about an event that was taking place at the University of Maryland and some other large schools. It was a fundraising effort throughout the month of November to raise awareness. As nearly everyone knows October is national breast cancer awareness month, but there is no designated month for male cancers even though it takes the lives of many a men every year. In order to make November the unofficial men’s cancer awareness month, all men were asked to grow all of their hair throughout the month: on their head, on their face, etc.

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Beard as of today…Nymeria is beating me by a lot

Throughout the month, the sudden growth of facial hair on people who typically would not grow it (like myself) drew much attention and allowed those participating to explain the cause. Thus, the awareness for men’s cancers and prevention grew. Knowledge is important and if people are not aware of problems then there is a very small chance anything will ever be changed or improved. The other important part of the month comes December 1st.

On the first of December, all the men that have been growing their hair need to get a shave and a cut and a wax, if necessary. Participating barbers and hair dressers in certain locations agreed to work with a cancer-curing related charity. They would give free shaves and haircuts all day at no cost to their business. All of the men who were serviced by them would pay the same amount they would normally be charged, and perhaps a little extra donation, and that money would go directly to the charity. Let’s say a barber took 3 guys an hour for 8 hours. That would be 24 cuts and shaves. That might normally cost about 25 dollars a person, which would then turn into a $600 or more donation.

Before we got there

A while ago, but some scruff!

 

If you think about how many men and barbers could participate in this, then you could really start to earn a lot of money. And this is something that could be done outside of the United States. It could make millions for cancer research, etc. Obviously not everyone knows about it and a lot of those who do know about it do not participate for various reasons. Here is a briefer explanation of Movember and how it has affected this event.

After a few years, as everything does with men who want to act cool and tough, guys decided to start turning this into a contest. They wanted to increase their ego and feel like the bigger man, so groups of friends and coworkers would say “let’s see who can grow the fullest and biggest beard in a month.” For some time, this was a great way to get more people to participate but eventually, it turned into just a contest. A lot of these groups of guys never knew why no shave November started. They were participating in the contest but not donating or raising money for the charities. What could have been a blessing for the event turned into a curse.

y so sirius

y so sirius

Out of this spirit of competition more recently came Movember.  Disclaimer: I do not like or dislike “hipsters.” It is not a style of life that I would ever support and I find it extremely shallow but if people’s goal is to be hip, then let them be hip… as long as they don’t bother me. So why did I say all that about hipsters? Well, it was the hipsters who took no shave November, knowingly or ignorantly, and turned it into a greater contest. They decided to see who could grow the coolest and most outlandish mustache in one month. This continued to take away from the true meaning of the original effort. It grew in popularity, but not in a good way. Movember has spread to be more popular than no-shave November but a positive force was generated from this birth.

Now, men who are participating in Movember (which I never will) have people sponsor their mustaches and they gain donations throughout the month. I can’t say these donations are going to the right place, but if they do then that is a good cause and there has been some restoration to the true goal. So for anyone who is doing or has done Movember or No Shave November because it is the cool thing to do and you want to be hip and trendy, do it for the right reason and gain some money for cancer research or don’t do it at all. And there you have it, the unofficial history of No Shave November.

BONUS KITTY PIC

But ummm look how cute I am

But ummm look how cute I am