Oink

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It’s like me. But in cookie form 😛

That homemade piggy cookie arrived for me courtesy of Jose, who received a baggie of them on one of his regular jaunts through the agency. You see the kind of food that accosts me at work every second? Imagine that times 10 million, and that’s what the approximately three men who work for my agency have to face every millisecond. My coworkers love to feed me, but they love to feed men even more.

As hard as it was to return from vacation last week, I have to admit that I found this sight incredibly comforting:

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The fruits of Belkis’ apple-picking adventure are still alive and well, thank heavens!

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And our food pantry never seems to run out of peanut butter, thank heavens times two!!

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And the conference room table keeps overflowing with deliciously useless junk:

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(banana moon pie, entenmann’s brownies and chocolate frosted donuts, blueberry almond cheesecake)

And the birthdays keep coming:

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(tres leches cake for Julia and Luis’ birthdays)

And the food demonstrations keep going:

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And Jose keeps hunting them down:

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(Jose with fish tacos!)

And then Rosalie changed my life with this:

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I thought it was just a regular roll, but no. It was an almojábana, apparently the pillowyest cheesiest bread EVER baked.

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I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed my life. Oink.

Do you have any recent life-changing oink moments?

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Falling for it

I made sure to arrange my trip so that it would leave me with a three-day weekend for recovery and re-adjustment, and I did not waste any time filling those final days of freedom with delicious food … and delicious company!

My friend Pamela was in town for the weekend, so she, Gina, and I met at Dizzy‘s on Friday morning for a rare weekday brunch. Pamela ordered the pistachio-encrusted French toast with caramelized bananas:

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I had about five bites while Pamela lectured Gina and me on reproductive rights.

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Ahhhh, that picture. Insane.

Gina ordered this omelet:

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I don’t remember what was in it, but it was tasty!

I wanted a big bowl of rainy day comfort and ordered the apple cinnamon oats. Big was an understatement. I would estimate at least two cups of oats right here:

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The oats held me over for the entire day and right through karate that night. They probably would have continued to hold me over until the next morning if Erik and I had not walked right into a beautiful vegetarian feast at our coworker Ray’s apartment after class:

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Ray and his wife Alicia had prepared dinner to fuel the five of us (Jose was also there!) through yet another endless night with the Yanks. All was going fine until Jose bumped into the table, spilling half of the tomato-basil-feta salad on the floor. We had a moment of silence for the loss …

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… and then carried on. Here’s my plate with homemade black bean burgers, pasta salad, salvaged tomato-basil-feta salad, and shredded cabbage and garbanzo salad:

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I was so relieved to be fed healthy food at someone else’s house … especially after the crazy food week I’d had with all of the wedding festivities.

Saturday morning involved a series of unfortunate events and subway mishaps that deposited me at the CSA too late to collect my veggies! I almost cried. I felt especially bummed because I was in charge of collecting for both Kate and me that weekend, and missing the pickup meant that she was out a week’s worth of veggies, too. I felt like a CSA sharing failure 😦

After feeling sorry for myself for a minute, though, I put my chin up and raced over to the farmers’ market at Grand Army Plaza for all sorts of late fall goodies. I texted Kate that I was on the produce case and then busied myself with collecting apples, green beans, purple kale, broccoli, fennel, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnips, kabocha, parsnips, and an apple cider donut:

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Did you catch that last part? AN APPLE CIDER DONUT:

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Mmmmmmmmmmm. Can I have another one right now, please? Yes, summer is definitely over now. Fall is here to stay.

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With the chilly week, I gladly returned to my oatmealy mornings of days past:

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Really, apple-cinnamon-cardamom-flax oats with peanut butter made the return to work SO much easier.

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Other things that made the return to work easier …

Morning pow wows at the conference room table, complete with snacks and gossip:

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Group lunches containing everything from my massaged kale salad and roasted winter squash to Deborah’s octopus to tostadas from the Juice Bar to Belkis’ yuca and olives:

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Mmmmm pulpo:

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The best part of that lunch happened when Deborah reached across the table to grab one of these almonds from my napkin and wasted no time in expediting it to her mouth …

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… so fast that no one could tell her in time that they were not almonds but the pits of my olives!!!!!! Ohhhhhh Deborah. She redeemed herself with a giant bite of tostada and a Hershey’s bar.

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What is the last non-edible thing that you accidentally tried to eat?

Changing beds, changing seasons

After spending Tuesday night with my brother, many mugs of decaf Earl Grey with milk and honey, and a movie that put us both to sleep (again!), Wednesday morning arrived. Mark supplied me with a banana, and we were off to take the ferry into the city so he could go to work and I could visit my sister Emily for the very last leg of my trip. Emily picked me up at the ferry building and then drove me back to her apartment to feed me:

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While Em “worked from home,” I took her delicious rice-veggie-chicken-tomato creation to the couch …

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… and did homework blogged napped for two hours. It had been an exhausting series of days. I popped a Clementine …

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… and we took off for Emily’s local farmers’ market.

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The goal had been veggies, but all we found was fruit … and lots of it! Samples of pomegranate, persimmon, and apple:

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Samples of raspberries and strawberries:

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(Ohhhhh, to live in CA and have berries still be in season!)

And samples of Indian chutneys with flatbread and pure apple cider:

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To make up for the lack of veggies at the market, Em bought tons of fruit and goodies for each of us from the Esther’s German Bakery stall:

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Emily got salted pretzels for Murphy and herself. I scanned the goods, and my eyes alighted on something that resonated with the image I’d had burned into my brain ever since dinner at Olga‘s house: poppy seed bread!

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The man gave me a giant slab of the bread (more like cake, really), and I ate it ALL, except for the bite I shared with Emily.

We both worked some more … until I noticed that Em had left a family-sized football team-sized tub of peanut butter open on the counter. DANGER DANGER DANGER. I got right in there with one of the newly purchased farmers’ market apples:

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After some afternoon snacking and working, Em and I took off for a hilly, muddy, traily run through the Presidio and made it back home just in time for her 5pm phone meeting. When Murphy got home later, we set out for the hike (because you can’t walk around SF without it being a hike!) to Pot de Pho, a newish organic Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood:

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I approved of the ambience, from the decorative birdcages lining the walls …

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… to the wok-for-a-sink (!!!) in the bathroom:

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We started off with three appetizers to split for the table.

Bánh Khoai Môn Vìt which, if you’re not fluent in Vietnamese (like I am), refers to deep-fried taro dandelion with ground duck:

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The words “deep-fried” and “duck” usually do the opposite of making my mouth water, but this was actually delicious and ended up being my favorite of the three apps!

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Next was the Gi Cun (hoc Gi Cun Chay), or fresh roll with shrimp and pork:

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This one was tasty, too, and Emily’s favorite of the three:

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Our third appetizer was the Nem Nướng Cun Nha Trang, aka grilled meatball roll with green apple:

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That was delish, too … my second favorite 🙂

For dinner, Emily ordered chicken pho:

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Murphy ordered BBQ pork with rice noodles in a bento box:

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(Soooooooooo good!)

I ordered the vegan pho because I was in the market for vegetables! The soup came through with loads of them, including fancy and exciting mushroom varieties:

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My pho also came with thai basil, onions, and jalapeno on the side:

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I quickly mixed my extras into the bowl and went to town.

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I ate every bit of flavor out of this bowl until all that was left was a pile of plain vermicelli … which I convinced Emily to take home with her for a future kitchen project 😛

To cap our evening, we split two desserts between the three of us.

Fried baby banana with tapioca sauce:

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Yummmmm yum yum yum yum. I love hot bananas.

Dessert #2 was the chocolate lavender custard:

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This one was a multi-layered surprise!

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Also delicious, though the lavender could have been more pronounced.

After the feast, we made our way back through the city to Emily’s apartment …

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… for bedtime because I had to be up for my flight (tear) the next morning.

While Em went to her crack-of-dawn spinning class, I made myself a pot of Hawaiian coconut macadamia tea:

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And putzed around the kitchen to prepare some goods for the road (sky?).

Breakfast was a toasted and buttered multi-grain English muffin with market strawberries to share:

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Midmorning at the ‘port, I ordered a nonfat sugar-free mocha (hellooooooo chemicals) from Peet’s and used it for dunking the honey graham Zbar Emily had donated:

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Lunch came out between SF and Chicago: another toasted English muffin, this time with peanut butter and market apple, alongside a packet of “Celebremos Tu Herencia: Southwest Airlines Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month” honey roasted peanuts (and my book club book!):

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There were Rockies:

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And my airline-provided snack wanted to pose with them:

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The lighting would not work, so the animals retired to the tray table with some tea:

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(If I recall correctly, there was a chocolate chip Zbar somewhere in this food sequence as well …)

In Chicago, I found Greece:

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I had been craving a Greek salad, and my significantly delayed flight (2.5 hours, grrrrrrr) provided me with sufficient time for patrolling the Midway food court until I found exactly what I needed at Pegasus:

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I get SO excited about giant piles of greens topped with feta.

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I was even able to order some authentic Greek water:

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With that, I boarded my flight to LaGuardia, landed just before midnight, and walked outside to total winter … which did not suit my flip-flopped coatless self one bit. What happened while I was gone???

I arrived back at my apartment at 1:15 am and promptly fell into bed … the seventh bed I had inhabited in the space of one week. What’s your beds per week record?

Little chefs

Monday afternoon, I arrived at my sister-in-law’s house for the pièce de résistance: my nieces!

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I hadn’t seen these little bundles of perfection since January 2008 when I was last in San Fran:

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Twenty-one months make a huge difference in the lives of toddlers! In my professional opinion, however, the months have been kind to Ella (now four years and three months) and Dixon (now two years and seven months):

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In my completely unbiased opinion, I would say the girls are actually well ahead of schedule 😀

While Ella, Dixie, and their friend Abby worked their party-planning magic in the outdoor playhouse, Camela (my sister-in-law) whipped up a gorgeous snack spread with carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, tortilla chips, salsa, and homemade guacamole:

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We nibbled and gossiped about — you guessed it — boys! (Note: We did not gossip about men. We do not know any.)

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As din-din time for the girls approached, Cam pulled out all the necessary supplies for the girls to make their own organic, cornmeal crust pizzas.

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I approved wholeheartedly of this move, as I have written many a paper in my line of study on the importance of cooking with toddlers 😛

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Cam and I also knew that we’d be “taste-testing” the girls’ creations for QA purposes, so we made a point of ensuring adequate sauce distribution:

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The works of art, pre-bake:

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And post-bake:

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Dixie gave the final approval to remove the pies from the oven when she noticed the cheese bubbling during her oven-window vigil. Cam and I had a few slices each with the girls …

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… and then swiftly bathed them and let them jump on my bed and read to them and tucked them in so we could return downstairs for our own party!

Camela handed me a strong and delicious cocktail composed of a mysterious Swiss liquor and cran-blueberry juice:

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I sipped my beverage while she heated up the Chinese feast we’d been planning for months:

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I don’t even know what was in there, but it was GOOD. I haven’t had Chinese food in ages! We curled up on the couch to watch our OnDemand movie selection — Duplicity — and proceeded to not be able to keep our eyes open past 9:00. Cam retrieved some homemade chocolate chip cookies and butterscotch cookies from the kitchen along with ice-cold milk in the hopes that the sugar would perk us up.

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We downed the cookies and milk in moments and then fell right back asleep, of course. But it was a satisfying sleep 😀

We were all up bright and early the next morning to get the girls off to their respective schools. We snacked on the leftover breakfast toasts that Ella and Dixie could not finish and then went for brunch at Comforts:

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I love the restaurant meal-sharing theme I’ve had going on lately. Cam and I ordered two meals to split. First up was this black bean chili with grilled polenta and plain yogurt:

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Our other dish was the fresh artichoke crowns topped with herbed cream cheese, roasted heirloom tomatoes, and two poached eggs drizzled with pesto:

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Yeah, no kidding. It was amazing! Why have I never thought to put poached eggs on top of artichokes before?? Genius.

Everything came with a side salad that we shared as well:

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It was already time to collect the girls when we finished brunch, so we headed straight back to their schools to scoop them up and whisk them off to 3D Toy Story for their first movie theater experience EVER … and lots of popcorn. Ella and Dixie were both hesitant at first, but we all made it through. After the movie, my brother came over for his Tuesday night dinner and bedtime routine with the girls, and Cam prepared yet another feast (child-friendly this time) for all of us: poached haddock with mashed potatoes and cauliflower-broccoli-zucchini puree.

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Note: Cam explained that, had it not been torrentially raining outside, she would have topped the mash with fresh garden chives for a more elegant look. I assured her that the dish was plenty elegant as it was.

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While I went back for seconds and thirds, the girls diligently worked through their firsts:

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After dinner, it was time for more bathing, stories, and tucking … and then Mark and I were off for the next leg of my continued West Coast bed-hopping adventure.

Who are the youngest members of your family? What is their food preparation experience?

The whirlwind continues

Allie and I passed through Carmel again to tie up loose ends before continuing back up to the Bay Area. In a little Carmel gift shop, some items spoke to me quite loudly:

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Finally around 3:00, we set sail (in Allie’s Subaru) for points farther north. Allie revealed a serious collection of goodies, so we had snack time in the car:

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I ate a plum (or two) and many slices of delicious Boars Head Swiss:

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Along with some of this Sobe life water:

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What I really wanted was real water, but that seemed to be in short supply throughout the entire trip!

We arrived in Allie’s little town of Benicia around 5:30, and she drove me around her neighborhood for a tour. Who knew California had so many quaint towns full of charming cottages?! I’ve visited tons of times before, but I really think this trip took the cake (hahhhhaaa) in terms of cottage quantity/quality. Allie’s abode definitely fit right into this charming category, and I immediately set myself up with some honeyed and milked yerba mate atop a vintage Quaker oats trivet and an equally vintage side table of sorts.

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After a brief excursion out to Chris’s house for a visit, we headed back to Allie’s for a big-sister-prepared feast. Allie broke out a bottle of Tuscan herb olive oil and 20-year-aged balsamic vinegar from a recent Napa trip:

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The precious goods made excellent dipping for toasty cheesy bread.

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We followed our gourmet appetizer with this spaghetti and shrimp marinara:

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Allie expertly dusted my bowl with red pepper flakes and parm:

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For dessert, we split another treat from her Napa trip:

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Dark chocolate-covered marzipan:

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Cue collective YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Allie and I passed out by 10 and stayed out all the way until 9 the next morning! I had some nieces to visit next on my agenda, so I scrambled out of bed, threw my clothes on, and ferreted out half a grapefruit while Allie primped.

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For our real breakfast, Allie pulled together one of the best meals of the entire trip!

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She made a breakfast burrito consisting of eggs, gorgonzola, parmesan, tomatoes, fresh basil, onions, and peppers atop a whole wheat tortilla:

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It was delicious and way hit the spot …

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… especially alongside a baby juice shot of Odwalla B-Monster and more tea.

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We were out the door by 11:10 and on our way to Fairfax for a visit with my nieces, my sister-in-law, and my fourth bed of the trip.

Do your vacations tend to morph into whirlwinds of activity, or do you limit them to relaxation time?