France and Engagement

Hello my followers!

Again, I have taken a long hiatus from blogging, but again, I have a good excuse! My boyfriend, now fiancee, and I took a long trip to France. For the first 7 days, we were on a river cruise up and down the Seine River, and for the last 4 days, we stayed in Paris to experience some culture on our own.

We saw one of Claude Monet’s homes and his famous Giverny gardens.


Day 2 was Rouen, France; the capital of Upper Normandy famous for its connection to Joan of Arc and her burning site.


It was a long trip to the American Normandy landing beaches, but it was worth it; a very moving experience.




The next day, we were still very, very jet-lagged and tired from our trek throughout Normandy. So instead of exploring Les Andelys, we observed the view from the hot tub.


Chateau Malmaisson, (where Josephine and Napoleon lived) was interesting, but paled in comparison to the Palace of Versailles.


After our amazing cruise, we stayed in Paris a few extra days in Port de Clichy. We walked to Sacre Couer the first day.


Our next day was spent in downtown Paris at the Arc de Triomphe, Musee d’Orsay, and Pont de Arts aka “locks of love” bridge where my boyfriend proposed!


And of course we had to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle.


So you see, I’ve been busy. Now I have a wedding to plan, but I should be able to keep up a little better with my blog!

Great new recipe – Ham and Potato Soup

This recipe is perfect for a rainy day. Central Pennsylvania has been very rainy  lately, so this soup was ideal. I know that summer is coming and this is more of a winter recipe, but it’s too delicious not to share. The main reason I decided to make this soup now was because of Easter leftover ham. My aunt asked who wanted the ham hock and the juices, and I said “ME!”

ham and potato soup

That picture definitely does not do the taste justice. But here we go.

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1-2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ham hock (optional, but really adds flavor)
  • 6 cups ham broth (juice from the pan. If not available, any stock will be fine)
  • 1 large russet potato
  • 1 can white beans (optional. Not paleo, but go very well with this soup)
  • 1 bunch baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 6 oz leftover cooked ham

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and garlic. After they sweat out a bit, add the almond flour. DO NOT salt this soup. The ham broth and the meat are already very salty, so taste before you salt. Add the bay leaves and sage. Stir until the flour has cooked some. Add the ham hock and meat. Combine and add ham broth. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Add the chopped potato and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Add beans if desired, spinach, and almond milk.


Can You Handle Uncomfortable?

Today, someone asked the CrossFit coach if they were getting many new people at CrossFit Acernus. He said that  they had been doing a lot of intro classes for people, but it’s hard to tell who will continue and who ditches after day 1.


If people never come back it’s hard to know why. I made a mental list of reasons that certain people may not like CrossFit while I was trying to do hollow rocks later in the WOD. To just hold that position is somewhat tortuous, and it’s easier if you block it out by thinking of other things.


Anyway, here are some reasons I think people try an intro class of CrossFit and choose not to continue.

1. CrossFit makes you uncomfortable. During the workout, even an intro class, you will be presented with things that you either cannot do, or can barely do. Also, things you’ve never tried, and things you haven’t done since you were young. It’s quite possible you will embarrass yourself in some way.

2. CrossFit makes you uncomfortable – LATER. After my first CrossFit workout, my abs hurt terribly for three days. I had to constantly roll over on my side in order to sit up. I weighed every decision on whether or not I would have to climb stairs. My body was so sore. I think there are two ways people will handle that excessive soreness.

            a. Like I did. I was excited. I thought “These workouts are going to kick my ass every single day. I’m going to be fit in no time.”

            b. The other possibility. “I don’t want to deal with this type of pain ever again. I’m going back to my safe hamster wheel.”

3. Admittedly, CrossFit is expensive. The pain, embarrassment, and money may be enough for people to not return to classes.

I suppose I get why some people don’t come back. It depends on your goals and your actual desire to get fit. What kind of fit do you want to be? All around, mobile, strong, quick, springy? Aesthetics only? Body building? Endurance?

CrossFit does not mess around. CrossFit begs you to make it a lifestyle. CrossFit begs you to push yourself. And once you get into it, you beg YOURSELF to get better. It becomes a mentality that other forms of fitness do not. It honestly feels like being part of an organized sports team. I try to understand the people who don’t have the competitive drives that I do. It would probably be more comfortable to workout alone, at home, with no one correcting me, no one pushing me, and no one making me do things that I don’t think I can. But I choose to make myself uncomfortable so that I can improve. CrossFit is the sport of improvement. If you can handle uncomfortable.

Moving to a New CrossFit Box

Since I recently defended my doctoral dissertation, I decided that my boyfriend had waited long enough and moved out of Pittsburgh to live with him. He has been attending a CrossFit box of his own, so I decided to join that one, CrossFit Acernus.  All CrossFit boxes are quite independent, so I was curious to try out a different style. There were major differences between the two.


1. CrossFit Pittsburgh is an old school box. It’s dirty, and old, and the roof leaks, and there’s rust, etc. Probably because it’s one of the first 50 CrossFit boxes in the US. CrossFit Acernus is much newer and cleaner. I found that strange at first. I appreciated the dirty goodness that was CrossFit Pittsburgh. But believe me, I’m getting used to the new equipment and not going home covered in filth.

2. CrossFit Pittsburgh was MUCH bigger. Not in space, but in the class sizes and the amount of members. Makes sense since Pittsburgh is a much bigger place than Lebanon, PA. Yesterday, for the first time, I was the only member in a class. It was awkward since the coach only watched me, and no one was around to keep me motivated. I never had a class smaller than 10 in Pittsburgh. However, I like the class sizes at Acernus most of the time. The class size is usually around 6. This size is nice because it almost forces people to get to know each other.

3. CrossFit Acernus has cardio classes. I LOVE THEM. They are usually 1 hour long, and contain no lifting. It’s just straight sweat and heavy breathing for 60 minutes. They offer cardio classes once per weekday. They are more for people who don’t want to bulk at all, just lose weight. Don’t get me wrong – I love to lift. But I want to maintain my weight, as well. I want to have somewhat of a feminine figure. So I go to cardio class 3x per week, and regular CrossFit classes 2-3x per week. CrossFit Pittsburgh didn’t have a cardio class per se, but Saturdays there were similar to an Acernus cardio class.

Those are the major differences. One very nice thing is that both boxes have great, knowledgeable, and friendly coaches.  Also, people who CrossFit are consistently friendly people. I’ve never met anyone at either box that I didn’t like.

Something very intriguing about CrossFit that I have noticed is I can’t tell how old people are. There is a couple who attend CrossFit Acernus cardio classes who I thought were in their late thirties, early forties. They are 55! 55! I can’t believe when these people friend me on facebook. I think they are younger than me, and they turn out to be almost 40! I guess that goes to show that exercise leads to slower aging. I hope it works that well for me.

My apologies!

I haven’t posted since Thanksgiving! It’s been a while. I do have a fantastic excuse though! I received my doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh! I successfully defended my dissertation on April 8, and I am now Dr. Zacherl!



My presentation went very well, but the committee questioning was rough! I guess grilling the grad student is sort of a hazing to allow new people to become colleagues. I’m glad they sent my family and friends out of the room for that.


They worked me over so badly that all I ate was (paleo) cookie for the rest of the day! And a few celebratory beers! Anyway, I’m back to blogging! Thanks for waiting up!

Did Paleolithic Cavemen Die at a Young Age?

This is one of the arguments against eating a paleo-style diet. “Cavemen died very young, so why should I try to eat like them?” I don’t know, and I’m too busy sharpening my spear and gathering roots to think about it. I think this argument is silly, obviously, but I still thought I would explore it to see what the real life expectancy of people living in the paleolithic era was. According to this article (1), the life expectancy then was 33 years old at birth. So this included babies and children. If the person made it to age 15, the life expectancy increased to 54 years. This article is peer reviewed I believe, but it is still more anthropology and is considered “soft science.” Now some would say that babies and children should be included in the measurement, but think about this. Babies then were not born in sterile hospitals, there was no medical care, and starving was common. Infectious diseases are now well-controlled in developed countries, and so are wild animals that could eat you. It seems that agriculture was not the miracle we all thought it was. It makes sense to be able to conveniently produce more food, but not if that food is unhealthy. The following article is not peer reviewed, it’s merely an opinion of a researcher, but he makes some good points. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. One interesting point that is made is that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle means fewer people living in one place. They also moved around more to follow food. This spreading out kept diseases from killing huge amounts of people. A disease may be airborne, but it’s not going to travel 20 miles without a body. Agriculture allowed people to gather in larger groups and not move often. There was no tuberculosis and no diarrheal disease before the beginning of farming, and measles and bubonic plague were not around until cities began to develop. Yes, the crowding caused this, not necessarily the agriculture, but one encourages the other.


I am not the only blogger interested in this. Check out this post by Turning the Tide. There is no good way to conduct any hard science in this area as the subjects of interest are long dead. I encourage all readers to consider the information presented and make a logical decision on what they think happened, but don’t just assume that agriculture is the best thing ever. Do some research, and consider what the effects of agriculture have been on our society. I’ve posted a few more articles in the sources that are considered reliable. There are also plenty of articles out there that tell a different story. This has been debated for a long time, mostly because no one can really prove anything. I encourage you to read both sides and make a logical decision.



2. Tellier, Luc-Normand (2009). Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective. PUQ. p. 26.

3. Jared Diamond (2012). The World Until Yesterday. Viking. p. 353.