Dad the Writer 2

Father, husband, writer...
Father, husband, writer…

July 22, 2015

In continuing last week’s “Dad the Writer,” I need to point out that keeping mentally active is not the only thing needed in order to be an artist and a parent. Yes, you need to keep sharp, but your body can suffer if you neglect it.

While many of us would be happy living on a diet of tea or coffee and whatever we can throw in the microwave, very few of us have the Kryptonian physiology to not die after a few years of this. Luckily, my wife and I have some experience making do with small budgets and trying to eat healthy, so these habits very much informed our current situation.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I dropped the ball when it came to taking care of myself. After the baby was born, and even about a year before, I focused so much on work and taking care of my then-pregnant wife that I did gain weight and neglect my exercise. Now, with the Little One more or less in a stable schedule, my wife and I are getting back to a routine to better ourselves.

I’m by no means a nutritionist, but I have found a few things that work for me to eat healthier and not go on some fad diet, and I’m not a personal trainer, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it can work for you.


Writer by claire-eyhe on DeviantArt

Learn to Cook

Most of us are more than satisfied with just opening a bag and mixing in water or simply putting a plate into the microwave. That might do in a pinch, but I discovered many years ago, long before I’d even met my wife, that learning to cook means having control over what you consume. Diet sodas and even “healthy” meal options often pack in the sugar to mask the fact that they’re basically cardboard.

It takes a little time, but you can choose exactly what you put in your body, and cooking is a good way to de-stress or at least step away from work long enough to refresh your mind.

Our diet right now is almost vegetarian and focused on greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and other goodies. We add plenty of garlic, lentils, brown rice, and couscous into the mix and some turkey when we want meat. Once in a while, we’ll go for actual red meat, but this is a treat, both for nutrition’s sake and for health’s sake. Sodas and anything processed is also right out.

Alcohol? Well, in reality, we should cut that out to a drink a week, but a little bourbon once the Little One goes down once in a while is a good way to help the day just melt away. Suffice to say, though, that any sort of mixed drink goes right out the window due to the sugar.


Cooking by pianorei on DeviantArt

Works Out for the Meek

You want to know how I lost twenty pounds in a few weeks once? I walked. A lot. At least an hour a day, five days a week. Yes, I did also cut back on sugars and soda, but the main thing is to keep moving. That sounds easy enough when you’re taking care of a tiny human learning to walk, but you need to combine it with something else.

Given that time is more precious than gold right now, I had to find some way to keep in shape that didn’t eat up the clock. I’m not talking about getting on the cover of Men’s Fitness. I mean doing something to keep flexible and strong and even have some energy and keep my metabolism up. I chose to do tabata workouts because they’re easy, require no equipment (mostly), and they can be done in less than fifteen minutes.

The short version is that you pick a small number of exercises (jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc) and do them, one at a time for twenty seconds with a ten second break in between. You do as many reps as possible in those twenty seconds. After you do four exercises, you repeat the cycle once and then rest for thirty seconds or a minute before you start again. Doing two sets takes no more than ten minutes and kicks your butt if you’re not ready for it.


Yoga I by Studio4496 on DeviantArt

Sleep When You’re Dead

I used to joke that sleep was for the week. Well, I’m weak. And tired. And Mattie woke up at 3 AM today and figured it was time to play. A lot.

Sleep is SO important. I didn’t realize until becoming a father just how much I didn’t appreciate it. I’ve been tired before, either studying for tests or staying up grading tests. The difference, I finally realized, was that I could step away from my work. I could just tell myself to go take a nap and come back to it in a few hours.

You can’t do that with a baby.

This is where the focus from the last article comes in. Yes, do the work you need and push yourself to sit and actually write or create something in the precious few minutes you can spare, but if you need to rest and have the chance, TAKE IT. You don’t know when that opportunity will come again. And really sleep. Don’t just lay there.

Seriously. I need a week-long vacation after every tooth comes out.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more goodies and, in the meantime, enjoy this trailer for Clown, a movie that was surprisingly creepy, if not silly.

Cook… Like a Writer!

Behold! You've made apples.

June 8, 2011

Cooking is an art. It’s like writing in many ways. You can add a dozen spices and spend hours working on something like Indian food, a dish that has more plants in it than a greenhouse, and get something that mixes flavors in unique ways to create new sensations. On the other hand, you could use five or six ingredients and make pico de gallo, slow-roast some pork, and you have dinner. Likewise, writing can involve in-depth research and Alan Moore-like layers of meaning and reference, or writing can involve a simple poem on a greeting card that will nevertheless move a person to tears.

Everyone should know how to cook, and you don’t have to make anything fancy. In fact, some of the best meals are the ones made from scratch with only a few ingredients, and if you’re on a tight budget (what artist isn’t?) allow me to share a few of my favorite recipes and some tips for artists who wish to stretch that food dollar.

Keep in mind that I’m assuming you know how to boil water, cut vegetables, and otherwise not murder yourself with a fork.


Mini Cooking Table by ~vesssper on deviantART

Buy in Bulk

If you have a Sam’s Club or something similar nearby, get membership and go shopping. Trust me. The bill may seem huge, but remember that you’re buying olive oil, spices, and canned goods to last at least several months. Don’t buy fresh fruits and veggies here, though, since you’ll likely not go through them before they expire. Instead, stock up on the following:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Minced garlic
  • Carlo Rossi wine, either burgundy or chardonnay
  • Assorted spices

It really depends on what kind of cooking you want to do, but I find that almost everything I make ends up using sweet leaf basil, cumin, dill weed, crushed red peppers, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. If you prefer, you can also get Lawry’s Salt since it’s already a combo of several spices.

I also highly recommend stainless steel pots and pans. Stuff with Teflon tends to chip and wear away if you use it a lot.


Food by ~yimin94 on deviantART

Think Like a Camper

While it might be tempting to just buy instant meals since they’re so darn quick, think about all the sodium and other crap you’re going to be putting into your system. While we may have been brought up with the image of mom slaving away over a hot stove for hours to make a great home-cooked meal, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of preparation for quick dishes, and even things that take hours usually just require you check in on them every once in a while. Also, do the math on how much it costs to make your food from scratch versus buying ready-made meals.

It’s a HUGE difference.

For a budget, chicken and fish are king. Think fresh veggies or, if you know you won’t use them for a while, canned. In general, avoid things with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

You’ll even find that eating healthy isn’t some yuppie dream. It’s affordable and preferable.


HEALTHY-FOOD2 by ~JackBeretta on deviantART

The Three Basic Food Groups

My dad and I both cook using the dump method. You take the meat, you put it in a pan, and dump a bunch of spices, veggies, whatever.

Done. You made dinner.

Let’s be more specific.

Get a batch of fish fillets. Tilapia works just fine, although Mary and I have also used catfish. I’ll use lime juice, dill weed, minced garlic, and a touch of butter for fish, and then fry them in olive oil. You could also poach them in the pan with a bit of white wine on low heat, reduce the wine and fish oil, and you end up with a thick sauce for your freshly cooked fish.

Chicken? That’s easy. Mix a cup of white wine and two cups of orange juice, then add a dash of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and a little rosemary. Let the whole thing simmer on low heat for two to three hours. All you have to do is stir it to make sure it doesn’t stick, and when the whole thing is reduced to about a cup or less, you end up with an amazing orange glaze you can use on chicken. Now cook the chicken and add the glaze before it’s cooked all the way.

Beef usually calls for a marinade of beer (cheap 40’s will do), sea salt, pepper, marjoram, lime juice, cumin, and a bay leaf. Let it marinade for an hour or so, or overnight if you can, then cook the meat on its own, reduce the mixture the meat was soaking in, and you’ve just made beer gravy.


Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner by ~gracefuliamnot on deviantART

One Recipe To Rule Them All

You may notice a pattern here. Pretty much everything involves liquid, preferably booze, being simmered down into a thicker sauce for the meat itself. The process is slow, but worth it. It does take between two to three hours depending on how much liquid you have (sometimes minutes for really small amounts like with the beef), but the end result is the same. It’s quick to put together and requires little preparation beyond just getting to know the ingredients and knowing what goes good with what.

You can even make your own tomato sauce by mashing a handful of tomatoes, some wine, and adding basil, oregano, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Add some water, let the whole thing boil until it’s reduced to a thick paste, and you’ve got the best pasta sauce you’ve ever tried.

Once you’re comfortable with a few dishes, start adding things like pasta and mess with different techniques like baking, frying, poaching, etc.

Being an artist means sacrifice. Unfortunately, part of that sacrifice translates as a tight budget. I’ve found, time and time again, that just following a few simple rules and taking the time to learn how to cook is one of the best things anyone can do to not only

Plus, the girls dig it when you can whip up beef burgundy with a side of garlic-vinegar French fries.


One Great Dinner by ~BuddhaRocks on deviantART

Let’s get to some links to get you ready for the end of the week.

  • My old professor, Tom Chiarella, wrote this wonderful article on how to be a good boss. It’s so, so true.
  • If you’re going to throw a party and you want to advertise on Facebook, please make sure you set the settings to “private.” Otherwise, you might end up with 1500 guests.
  • And finally, if you need more proof that it doesn’t take much to make wonderful art, check out this video. One woman. One looper. One voice. That’s it. See you Friday! Also, let me know if you try anything on this article.
  • The internet is now classified as a human right. Can I stop paying now?

 

Beauty and the “Common” Woman

Let's hear it for soul-crushing standards!

April 6, 2011

Is Victoria’s Secret finally setting some realistic standards?

Well, yes and no.

Model Candice Swanepoel (I am so glad I can just write this and not have to pronounce it) has gotten some flak from the press and the modeling industry because she’s getting too thin. Let that sink in for a moment. A model is TOO THIN for the modeling industry.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Alessandra Ambrosio was criticized last year for also being too thin, and in general, I get the feeling that the public is starting to really wise up about the whole “I need to be thin to be beautiful” mentality.


Plus-size model by ~Allexxandhry on deviantART

On the other hand, I really can’t see a difference between Candice and the other models Victoria’s Secret hires. The company says that the models need to be thin but muscular and they’ve taken some damage for moving away from curvier models.

Why not just say “healthy” instead of curvy? I guess they’re implying “bottylicious” is not healthy.

Anyway, it’s really confusing when you consider that that some women really do get this thin on their own. They don’t starve themselves or anything. They just have a really strong metabolism. That’s fine. Some women have to work harder at it. That’s also fine. And you know what?

I think Candice looks like Jack Skellington.


Dying to be Thin by ~anorexic-butterfly55 on deviantART

I’m sorry, but she does. Most of these models do. It’s one thing to be thin. Thin does not mean “anorexic.” You can be thin and healthy, but half these models look like they’d faint if they tried to climb a flight of stairs.

You can, however, be well-proportioned and slim. It’s doable. Jessica Biel is the best example I can think of right now. At least for the third Blade movie (oh dear gods, I can still remember it), she put on muscle and was fit.

Even if you’re not superheroine-shaped, a woman’s beauty isn’t about how she looks (as cliché as that sounds). Women just need confidence. How do does she feel about herself and ow does she handle herself? That’s the best way to gauge a woman’s sexiness. Even then, looking like you’re not a P90X participant is not the deal breaker. Looks are not the only deciding factor. I’ve been around women who conformed to “normal” standards of beauty and yet were ugly right to the bone. Confident, yes, but conceited, self-centered, and otherwise emotionally reprehensible.

Beauty is about YOU. If anyone ever tells you or makes you feel otherwise, kick him in the nads. And if it’s a girl, punch her in the ovaries. Hard.

And no, I’m not being a hypocrite by calling Candice too thin and saying beauty is on the inside. Girl looks like a dead body on CSI. She looks like her shadow weighs more. Even if she was Mother Theresa, I’d beg her to eat a cheeseburger for her own benefit.


Beauty by ~TroyBlue on deviantART

Let’s get some links up in this.

  • Ah-nold is done with politics, but he’s going back to entertainment in a new endeavor called “The Governator.” He stars as a politician who saves the world as a nigh-invincible superhero. Sound like a fantasy? The first trailer looks like, well… what Ah-nold thinks he looks like in an action role.
  • And finally, although I’m very hesitant of anything involving Ryan Reynolds, I’m very curious to see Green Lantern. The new footage recently released shows us a little more of the Green Lantern universe and, just maybe, as far of a shot as it sounds, Reynolds might pull it off if he can get past the Sandler-esque comedy he usually does. See you Friday!