Two Fit Chicks head back to the studio

… where studio equals Shauna in her bedroom in Scotland yapping down the phone to Carla in her Texan abode who is simultaneously fixing a snack for her Toddler.

We're recording on Thursday and will have an new episode for you on Monday 7 June. Hurrah!

Have a lovely weekend and thanks always for your support and endless patience!

Beatles

How to grow your own sprouts

Sprouts I've had some emails asking how I went about growing mung bean sprouts. Sprouts have to be the easiest way to get some homegrown greenery in your life so I thought I'd share what I've learned so far.

What is sprouting?
Sprouting is the fine art of soaking, draining and rinsing seeds and beans until they germinate, or sprout.

The most common kind you see supermarkets are alfalfa and mung beans but there's gazillions of sproutables, such as adzuki beans, broccoli seeds, chickpeas/garbanzos, hemp seeds, lentils, quinoa seeds and sunflower seeds.

Why should I grow spouts?

  • They're dead tasty – they're magic on sandwiches (my favourite chicken, alfalfa and avocado) and have a magic way of pulling a salad together. Try the Leon superfood salad if you need convincing!
  • They're cheap – a little bag of alfalfa costs £1 in my local supermarket and I get a maximum 3 salads out of it. 100g of alfalfa seed is £2.70 and you can grow piles more.
  • They're good for you – see below.
  • They're easy greens –You don't need a garden. You don't need dirt. You can grow them any time of year. They hate direct sunlight so they're perfect if you live in the dreary north.

What you do need is…

  • Water – as they need to be rinsed twice a day. So if you live in Australia or lived there for a long time you'll have to deal with great stabs of guilt every time you rinse.
  • A decent memory – it's so easy to forget to bathe the little fellas!

Why are they so good for you?
I don't know. I just like how they taste! Allow me to cut and paste some information from the internet.

Sprouts are highly nutritious because "they contain all elements a plant needs for life and growth." This is from World's Healthiest Foods:

“In the life of a plant, sprouting is a moment of great vitality and energy. The seed, after having remained quiet for an often long period of time, becomes more and more active and begins its journey up through the topsoil and into the open air. When it sprouts, a healthy seed activates many different metabolic systems. It converts some of its sugar content into vitamin C, to act as an antioxidant in the new open air environment. It also begins to synthesize a variety of new enzymes… On a gram for gram basis, sprouts are richer in vitamin C than the older, more mature plants they eventually become, because this moment in their lifecyle calls for a high level of vitality. For you to get the benefit of healthy sprouts, the sprouts need to be very fresh, and carefully refrigerated and handled.”

Now I shall quoth lazily from Wikipedia:

“Sprouts are rich in digestible energy, bio available vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, beneficial enzymes and phytochemicals, as these are necessary for a germinating plant to grow.”

What do you grow them in?
You can be as cheap or as fancy pants as you like. Sprouts will grow in a simple glass jar or in a made-for-purpose sprouting vessel, like a tiered plastic one.

Where do I get the seeds and beans from?
I got my first packet of radish seeds from B&Q, a popular hardware shoppe here in merry old Britain. I later Googled "sprouting seeds" and ordered more from Living Food, a Cornwall company. The seeds are organic which is great because according to Wikipedia, "with all seeds, care should be taken that they are intended for sprouting or human consumption rather than sowing. Seeds intended for sowing may be treated with chemical dressings."

Now how does one sprout?

  1. Soak your seeds in a little dish for time period that is correct for your chosen sprout type – it will usually say so on the packet. I just soak mine overnight whatever the type.
  2. Drain the seeds into mesh sieve, rinse and drain again.
  3. Transfer to your clean jar or sprouting container. Spread them out evenly.
  4. Cover the container (with muslin or cling film or a lid) to prevent the sprouts from drying out. (Note: Most instructions I've read have this step but my three-tier sprouter doesn't have a cover. The top layer of sprouts seem to be working okay without being covered)
  5. For the specified number of days, rinse and drain the sprouts every morning and evening to prevent mould forming. I do this by emptying the contents into a fine mesh sieve, rinsing, draining then shaking thoroughly then putting back into the jar/sprouter.
  6. After the specified number of days your sprouts are ready for ‘harvesting’. Rinse the sprouts with fresh water and transfer to a bowl.
  7. Eat immediately for maximum nutrition or store in the fridge for up to a few days.

Note: Let me know if any of the above makes no sense or seems grossly inaccurate, as I woke up at 4am today for no good reason and my brain is mush!

Now here's some photographical evidence.

Soaking
This was my first ever batch of radish seeds, in for the soak

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After a couple of days they were coming along nicely…

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… until disaster struck. Mould!
Okay it was an entirely preventable disaster. I kept forgetting to rinse them.

Despite this setback I'd seen it was possible for those little puppies to grow even during the miserable armpit that was February 2010.

Keen to try other varieties, I took the plunge and spent £20 on a three-tier sprouter.

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Radish, mung beans and snow peas all soaked and ready to go

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Snow peas after about five days

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A mix of mung beans and snow pea sprouts, ready for scoffing

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Alfalfa on a salad. Sure it looks kinda hairy but it tastes great!

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This is a resident Eating Disorder Pigeon, flopped on the needs-a-mow grass having just munched all the Brussels Sprout seedlings in the veggie patch. Moral to the story: Stick to indoor seed sprouting and you'll never know such heartbreak!
 

Friday Link Feast #7

Martini What's that you say? It's Monday? True. But don't you wish it was Friday? Let's pretend… how about I shift this backlog of links and you tell me what you're going to do on your imaginary weekend. I will be sipping martinis in the backyard and reading trashy magazines.

Review: Zumba Fitness DVD

My latest fitness love affair is Zumba, the hip-wriggling Latin-inspired dance class that seems to be sweeping the world with a swiftness that swine flu would envy.

Alas with my kickboxing schedule I can only make one Zumba class per week, so I'd been stalking these Zumba DVDs for months. I decided not to buy them as my workout DVD collection is out of control… but then I got an email out of the blue from the Zumba PR person asking if I wanted to try them. Maybe they had hidden cameras in my room and caught my longing gaze?

I spent the next SEVEN WEEKS trying to decide whether or not to sell out*. Gareth cackled at the gradual crumbling of my lofty ideals. Finally I caved and said, "DUDE. Surely after 9.5 years of blogging I can get a little something?".

Yes folks, turns out I can be bought for the low price of £39.98 plus postage and packaging – a.k.a. the Zumba Fitness® DVD Kit. It contained:

  • Zumba Fitness® Basics
  • Zumba Fitness® Cardio Party
  • Zumba Fitness® 20-Minute Express
  • Zumba Fitness® Sculpt & Tone
  • Zumba Fitness® Total Body Transformation Guide
  • Two Zumba Fitness® Toning Sticks
  • Zumba Fitness® LIVE! Workout

Zumba Fitness Basic DVD Kit
At first I thought Zumba was a poor man's BodyJam class, but it has grown on me. Most of all because it is very inclusive. There is a genuine feel of "anybody can join this party". In my Saturday class everyone laughs and grins the whole way through. There are people of all shapes and sizes and ages. There is no posing. There is no demand for perfection. In fact there's not even much in the way of instruction – you just kinda bumble along and find your own style and let the music move you.

There is, however, a nerdy part of me that wants to do things correctly. How exactly am I meant to shake my hips? Where are my feet supposed to be? WTF Salsa?

The Zumba Fitness® Basics DVD has quenched that thirst for knowledge. It's an hour long and goes through all the basic Zumba moves, breaking each one down into three stages. You start out basically moving your feet to get the rhythm then they add on the trickier bits. LOVE.

Then you move on to the Zumba Fitness® Cardio Party, an hour long session. If you go to classes you'll recognise all the tunes. The best thing about this DVD is that if you forget how to do a move, there's an option to pause the workout and pop up a little reminder sequence from the Basics DVD. Very handy.

Zumba Fitness® 20-Minute Express is a good cardio workout if you're pressed for time. Zumba Fitness® Sculpt & Tone is great fun – a simple total body strength workout with serious rhythm. I felt like a twit using the Toning Sticks – they're bright green and you shake them like maracas! I just could not get coordinated… doing a bicep curl and shaking my hips at the same time!? But after a few attempts I got the hang of it and now like to shake my butt like I'm in a trashy music video. I can feel my muscles getting a workout when I concentrate and really put my all into it, but I think I could upgrade to some dumbbells in place of the Toning Sticks to get a more intense workout. Then again dumbbells don't make maraca noises!

I didn't really look at the Zumba Fitness® Total Body Transformation Guide beyond a quick flick – it's basically a booklet with a workout plan to help you incorporate all the DVDs. There's a total beginners plan and a more advanced one. There's meal plans and some recipes and has a generally upbeat and not bossy diety tone.

My favourite DVD is probably the Zumba Fitness® LIVE! Workout because it's a live class. The crowd has svelte ladies in little outfits, old ladies, little kid and a few token blokes who seem to be going the wrong way – it captures the all-inclusive, hyper party, bordering on cult-like atmosphere of a real Zumba class. It has the best energy of all the DVDs so I seem to get the most intense workout out of this one.

Requirements: A good pair of trainers. A fluid pair of hips. And not a huge amount of space – you mostly travel side to side movement rather than forward/back so I'm doing it in a patch of living room about three metres wide (let me measure and get back to you!). 

Woman Criticisms:

  • I can see me geting a little bored with the music as it's the same tunes from the class and some of the DVDs have the same tunes as each other. But will live with that for the novelty of being able to do Zumba in my own home.
  • The female instructors are lovely and their instructions are pretty clear. However I cannot stop looking at their abs. Honestly, there is one woman with this gorgeous curly hair and the most amazing stomach and I spend half the workout shouting at the telly "How can you exist? How do you DO that with your hips?". I should hate her but I just want to audition to be her adoring and slightly pathetic sidekick. She's very distracting.

Recommended for:

  • beginners looking for FUN cardio – but you need to be patient while you learn the steps. You have to let go of perfection and just enjoy the music!
  • Zumba veterans – if you want a backup for when you can't get to class and/or you want an encyclopedic knowledge of the steps.
  • anyone who likes to shake their booty!

Overall verdict: A great set of DVDs that I will be using for years to come.

Zumba Fitness® DVDs are available from ZumbaFitness.co.uk. I received a Zumba Fitness® DVD Kit and was under no obligation to review but decided to do so of my own free will. I received no other compensation. Blah blah blah legal schmegal. This is why I don't sell out too often 🙂

* N.B. This is just my own view – I'm not against giveaways and bloggers getting free stuff! I just personally find the whole process really uncomfortable!

ETA: Here's a USA link for the Zumba DVDs.

Half deer

Bambi "You've got lovely long eyelashes," I said to Dr G last night, in an attempt at being nice instead of our usual juvenile banter.

"That's because I'm half-deer," he replied.

Last Saturday we went for a walk up East Lomond. It's only half an hour to the top so there was no need for me to whinge! We flopped on the grass and listened to the skylarks chatter and the tourists huff and puff. The hill has a great view of Falkland, one of my favourite Fife villages. The only thing I like about hills, aside from eating sandwiches at the top of them, is how they make you feel like an insignificant speck of dust. Instant perspective!

Two years ago we stashed some boxes in our friend's loft as we were fixing up our flat to sell. We finally picked them up on Sunday then I spent all arvo unpacking boxes and rediscovering old books and notepads and my boarding pass collection that I thought was lost forever. It made me remember for the 757th time lately that I'm passionate about a lot of different things. For a very long time, I've been so lost in writing about the size of my arse and desperately pimping a book about the size of my arse and answering questions about the size of my arse and other people's arses that I'd almost convinced myself I didn't know anything else. Or wanted to do anything else.

Those boarding passes made me remember that wild hunger for adventure that got me on the plane from Australia. The urgent craving for new experiences. That glow in my stomach I felt when I first tottered along Edinburgh's cobbled streets. For all sorts of reasons I'd let my hunger grow dull. I'd stopped thinking about why I came here and what I wanted and got bogged down with what I thought was right and/or would make others happy.

You know how some people stick a photo on the fridge of when they were skinny and aspire to that? Instead of a previous body I'm going after an old feeling. I know a time when I felt like my whole body was quietly buzzing with joy just to be alive and I am working to get back there. Heal the mind and the arse will follow!

What else has been happening? I've been destroying my fingernails in the garden, watching the resident Eating Disorder Pigeons with Dr G, sprouting mung beans and snow peas in a groovy sprouter thingy, reading like a mofo, writing on paper, seeking professional help and stuffing the diary with as many fun things as possible for the summer to come. I also bought a tacky lounge chair for the garden so you can bet it will now pish down with rain for the next twenty weekends 🙂