Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Running Skirt Revolution?

Some of you have surely heard of this new craze in the fitness world by now: the running skirt.

If you believe this month's Runner's World , they are taking the world by storm, and are a must have for active fashionistas. I was surprised to see the large variety they had found to review, but most of them were pretty pricey at $40-$60. But the biggest proof that you will soon be seeing them in malls across America -- Target now carries not one, but a whole line of running skirts in their C9 line, and at $20, they are a bit more affordable.

The curious among us might be wondering how are these much touted (in the press, on blogs, by friends) garments different from our mother's skorts? For starters, the running skirts are not so much a hybrid, as an actual skirt that looks like a real skirt both going and coming, and most of them come with built-in shorts/ panties of some sort. Most of them are also made of stretchy, wicking hi-tec fabric, and do feel cooler than even my thinnest yoga pants (including those made of wicking fabrics). But their biggest attraction to most of us is that not only does the running skirt break the monotony of our exercise wear, but they also look cool and make us feel sassy!

A friend of mine swears by the SkirtsSport Outlet so as a slave to research (and yes, a sometime slave to fashion!) I ordered their "gymgirl" and "marathongirl" and even purchased a C9 version from Target. My verdict on all three: too damn short! If they are too short on my 5' frame, how must they be on normal sized women? Or perhaps I am too self-conscious? Now keep in mind, I am a prime candidate for starring on "What not to wear" since I often run errands before or after working out in my gym clothes! (perhaps reprehensible to some, but it does save me time and gas, and I am all about efficiency and multi-tasking!) Plus my gym happens to be located at my work, so it is a little uncomfortable to run into your VP in a 3 inch long skirt that barely covers them thighs, irrespective of how well sculptured said thighs might be!

As it turns out, Skirtsports does not do refunds on outlet items, so I decided to splurge on the uptown girl in exchange for the previous purchases, with the rationale that it could also do double duty as versatile vacation wear. I have to admit I like the Uptown Girl - it covers my thighs, and will come along on the next vacation. However, here is the catch: while it is great for running or hiking or the elliptical machine, it is useless on bikes, and even more useless for serious stretching or weight-training (leg-press, anyone?).

So, now I rock my running skirt only 2-3 times of a week instead of daily as I had hoped. And though it failed to revolutionize my life as claimed in many a fitness magazine and blog, it does add that little bit of pizzazz to my mood and a definite sass to my walk, and that is worth its weight in gold!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Walk and Talk at the Same Time?

Yes, that's what we do on the San Francisco City Walking Tours put on by City Guides. Well, the (volunteer) Guide does most of the talking, and we all do the walking as we learn choice morsels of San Francisco or California History.

Being that both Kevin and I are history/ architecture geeks and trivia junkies, it is pretty close to heaven for us. Throw in a meal before or after the tour in our favorite foodie town, and we are happy as clams. And since San Francisco is fairly hilly, the tours also double as mild to moderate exercise. We often bring visiting friends or relatives on these and sometimes even manage to drag local friends/ family and a dog or two, thereby satisfying my almost primal need to multi-task. What more could I possibly ask for?

Jokes aside, these tours are truly an amazing way to enjoy The City and learn more about its checkered past (and often more checkered present). They are offered year round, are free(though donations are suggested) and run by an entirely volunteer staff and guides. Check them out here. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Easy Spicy Shrimp and Easier Not-So-Spicy Green Beans

By popular request, here are some "India friendly" recipes. For anyone else, you will find AamChoor (Green Mango Powder) and Chaat Masala (a mix of certain Indian spices) at your friendly Neighborhood Indian Grocery Store or online. Email me if you can't find it, and I will try to get some to you by US Mail.

Spicy Oven Baked Shrimp
Aam choor (can substitute with lemon or lime juice to taste)
Chaat Masala (can substitute with cumin powder + coriander powder +ginger powder+garam masala)
Red Onion (or yellow,white, green if your heart desires)
Lots of Garlic or to taste
Olive oil or any mild vegetable oil (or even mustard oil if you so dare!)
Green (serrano) chillis
cilantro (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees if cooking shrimp or 475 degrees if making fish
Mix all the above ingredients together in the food processor to make a wet rub. It should be of spreadable consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. If necessary add a smidgeon of sugar or splenda to balance the taste. The rub should be fairly strong tasting.

Mix the wet rub with tail-on raw shrimp or apply the rub liberally to both sides of any firm fleshed fish filet (salmon, halibut, sea bass and bake in the oven. Spread the shrimp or fish or lightly oiled cookie sheets, taking care not to crowd them. Bake in the oven until almost done as it will continue to cook even after it comes out of the oven. A couple of pounds of shrimp will cook in as little as 4-5 minutes, and a lb of salmon in about 8 minutes (4 minutes per side). Serve warm, accompanied by a white or sparkling wine with some residual sugar for maximum impact. This would likely also work pretty well with most light beers, or any fruity cocktails.

Easy Peasy Roasted Green Beans
Green Beans -- about a lb
Olive oil
salt, preferably coarsely ground or non-iodized sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground
Lots of peeled garlic cloves, at least 6-8 large ones

Toss all the ingredients, and roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes. Take out of the oven, retoss the green beans, for another 12-15 minutes until cooked through, and parts are lightly browned/golden. Serve warm or cold as a side dish or a cocktail snack. Goes well with many lighter red wines, and almost all white/sparkling wines that have some acidity.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

wines, wonks, and weddings

How do wine wonks celebrate their wedding anniversaries? In the wonkiest possible way...

First there was the long deliberations about where to go... the criteria were hardly modest: it had to have a good wine list, it has to have good food to match the wine, it has to be a good value, and be Caltrain-able. The first 2 are not that hard to do in the San Francisco Bay area, but the third condition combined with the 4th was a toughie. After extensive research, I narrowed down my list to: Bar Tartine, Bar Crudo, CAV, South Food and Wine Bar, and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. CAV was doing a tasting of older Rieslings, so that finally won out.

But then my lovely husband of 2 years came home after work, and remarked how beautiful it was in the backyard. And it was pretty warm to boot! So, out the window went all the research, and CAV was shelved for another day. Besides, we had gotten married in our backyard 2 years to the day, our dogs had been part of wedding party, and we still had the wedding music play list on semi-frequent rotation on our ipod. What a sweet little opportunity to recreate the magic -- how could we let it go?

We rooted through our fridge and cellar for something worthy of our anniversary celebrations. We found some spicy roasted shrimp and some sweet roasted peppers (recipes coming soon) that went nicely with a 2006 Toulouse Riesling (rich & balanced, slightly oily on the palate, off dry -- nice!!) and a couple of chunks of petit basque and aged manchego and some lightly salted cashews to match a 1999 Allegrini Amarone. The Riesling was lovely (Toulouse is fast becoming one of our favorite wineries) but the Amarone just blew us both away. It was a classic Amarone - a dry wine with a raisiny nose reminiscent of a tawny port, it was smooth and unctuous with nary a tannin in sight, and IMHO at its peak drinking age. It was everything I had expected it to be, and a little bit more! When I have such high expectations from something, it often fails to live up to it, but the Allegrini Amarone was a happy exception to the rule!

But the geekiest and best part was.....ta reading aloud articles about Amarone and Riesling from Hedonist in the Cellar as we sat sipping our wines.

It was a magical night -- the moon was just barely visible among the clouds, the jasmine & honeysuckle smelled heavenly, our 3 dogs were relaxing around us (technically, Masala was sitting on my lap, Junnu was playing soccer with Kevin, and Sammie was scrounging for scraps :)), and our wedding music was playing softly in the background. In my mind, it was the perfect way to celebrate the now, while looking back on the wedding and other sweet memories of the past, and looking forward to the not-too-distant future and our trip to Veneto to see the making of Amarone in person. I could not have asked for a better or sweeter celebration!