Of steppers and static bikes and chocolate cakes
It's official, I've become addicted to my stepper machine. I can remember the day I brought it hoe, nearly one year ago, while I was still away on my Summer vaycay and spotted it on sale for a really good price, while I was shopping for groceries. I had recently gotten rid of my static bike because it was broken beyond repair due to much use and abuse from a certain little man who enjoyed ever so much tearing things apart. I used to ride that bike every single day, while watching episodes of my favourite shows. When it went, I was a bit heartbroken, really, but it always annoyed the hell out of me that it occupied so much space in my living room and cramped my decor style so much.
After getting rid of it, I had thought of acquiring a stepper, as soon as I could afford one: I had tried one for a few minutes at Decathlon and gotten really impressed by how hard it pushed me and my legs into working, and how great it felt on someone who has long suffered from rheumatism like I have. Plus, it could be stowed under the couch or the daybed and it would not stick out like the proverbial sore thumb on my living room. I was thinking I might be able to afford one by the end of September , or October, but it was August when I spotted it for a really good price. And I mean a really good price, you know. So I went ahead and bought it. And once I got back home, and routine settled in, the stepper stayed towed under the daybed for longer and longer.
See, the thing was, this year was a really tough one, when it comes to adapting. My son entered first grade, changed schools and school hours, now he was no longer staying at school all day, now he was coming home to lunch which meant I had to adapt my own hours to this. Where I used to take a day off to go to Lisbon and just do some sightseeing, or windowshopping, going for long walks in Baixa and Avenida da Liberdade if the weather allowed it, now I no longer could affor to do it, because I had to be home for his lunch break, and then I had to be home to pick him up from school a few hours later. It was hard. Used as I was to this weekly "outing", not being able to do that really took a toll on me, it was like I was incarcerated, and I had to find ways to deal with it, with not being "free" to do with my day as I wanted to.
So what I did was busy myself. By writing. Setting goals on myself for my writing. For no reason whatsoever except to mitigate that sense that I wasn't free. I was, I was free to do as I wished, only to busy to have time to do it, to waste my day on strolls at the high street. I was writing! Just a lame excuse, really, but it did work in my head, and I spent this whole school year feeling like I was really a very busy bee, and accomplishing a lot of things - accomplished nothing, in truth! - and running from one chore to the next. I hardly found time to watch my favourite shows, really. I did some exercise, but just the least necessary to make me feel less guilty. Thrice a week, I picked up my dumbells and worked out my upper body, telling myself that my lower body was covered by those long multiple walks to and fro my son's new school.
So much time spent sitting down at this chair writing is bound to take its toll, nah? Yah. The stepper lay hidden from view, my favourite shows lay forgotten, I lived and breathed this blog and my novels. I even finished one and managed to come a long way on my third volume of my fantasy novel. I really did do a lot, but in the end, what for? Still, I felt good about myself, and writing - putting things into words, thoughts and ideas into the written form - does help exercise the mind. Do not forget that I spend most of my days in complete silence, all alone, and when I talk to someone, it's mostly children. So my brain does need some jogging, and writing is very good for it, or else I'll be reverting to childhood mentally pretty soon. But then one day my husband asked me if I had been using the stepper regularly. And I felt a pang of enormous guilt that I had not.
I took it out the next day and started doing a routine on using it. I'd alternate upper body workouts with my dumbells with lower body workouts with the stepper and use Fridays for house cleaning, which is a workout in itself, trust me. At first I couldn't do more than ten, fifteen minutes on the stepper without my legs giving in on me. They would start shaking and my mind would start reeling, so I knew I couldn't push myself further than that, in fear of collapsing and fainting - I have been known to faint whe straining myself through exercise. With time, and habit, I started building up stamina and went form ten to fifteen minutes, and to twenty, twenty five to half an hour at it. I can now use my stepper while watching an episode of say, Hannibal, or any other show, and I have been doing that everyday. I have become addicted to it. My rheumatism has thanked me for it, the flare ups haven't been half as bad!
Plus, it means I can afford to indulge in something like this once in a while! I do bake cakes quite regularly, as anyone who follows my instagram account (@kitchenwitchmiranda) knows, but they mostly get eaten by my husband and son. I might have a bite or two, but I'm a bread woman, through and through and would rather go for that than cake, really! Still, I do like to enjoy a piece once in a while, and chocolate cake with chocolate icing is like... well, chocolate understands and doesn't ask silly questions, ya know? Chocolate is king of the world, not Leo di Caprio. Chocolate is coming, not Winter. Chocolate cake MUST be eaten, once in a while, it is a civic duty, and I do my part.
This is a very simple recipe, trust me. You'll need:
- 150 gr unsalted butter or magarine
- 150 gr flour
- 100 gr sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon of good quality cocoa powder
Start by turning on your oven at 180º and lining a tin with melted butter and flour. Cream the sugar with the butter untill light coulored and fluffy. On another bowl, separte the egg whites from the yolks, and whisk the first ones into stiff peaks. Reserve. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together and add to the creamed sugar and butter, beating constantly, alternating with the egg yolks. Once the mixture has come together, gently fold in the egg whites, being careful to keep in as much air as you can. Pour into the the cake tin, and bake in the oven for aproximately 40º - keep an eye on it, like I always say, every oven is different, and the cooking times will always differ from one to the other. Once it's cooked through (do use a skewer to make sure.) let it cool off completely before you turn it out of the tin.
As for the icing, it is like te easiest thing ever. This one is chocolate and hazelnut, only because what I had lying around were a couple of tablets of hazelnut chocolate! So you'll need:
- about 200 gr of chocolate (a 150 gr tablet will also do)
- a knob of butter