Tuesday, March 29, 2011

University of Houston Basketball: Longing for the Days of Phi Slama Jama

Any time my alma mater, the University of Houston, actually gets some press outside the Houston area, I'm interested.  With this weekend's Final Four being held in the Bayou City's Reliant Stadium and with U of H hosting the festivities, it brings back memories of Phi Slama Jama.

The New York Times asks what the heck has happened to the once storied basketball program.  Quality players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Michael Young avoid U of H like the plague.  Partly because the school abandoned recruiting Houston area athletes.

Author Brett McMurphy notes that "some of the city’s top players who went elsewhere included T. J. Ford and Daniel Gibson (to Texas) and Emeka Okafor and Hasheem Thabeet (to Connecticut)."  He goes on to note that "although Hakeem Olajuwon, of Nigeria, was a key part of Houston’s Final Four runs, 14 of the 25 players from those three seasons were from Houston high schools, including Drexler, Michael Young and Larry Micheaux."

It's been slim pickings for the basketball program since the great Guy V. Lewis strolled the Hofheinz Pavillion rotunda.  "In the 25 seasons since Lewis, the Cougars have had six coaches and no N.C.A.A. tournament victories. Pat Foster reached three N.C.A.A. tournaments before resigning in 1993. Next, Alvin Brooks, Drexler and Ray McCallum combined for nine losing seasons in 11 years."

I can personally attest that U of H isn't attractive to top young recruits, at least when I was there.  It is primarily a commuter school.  As a true freshman, I was in the minority.  I remember reading a statistic that only 22% of students at the school were "traditional students".  Most students, quite frankly, were going back to school for a second time, had flunked out of their previous university or had some life situation that affected them and then required them to postpone a secondary education.

U of H is in Houston's ghetto Third Ward.  It's hard for the school to compete with schools in phenomenal college towns like Austin, Knoxville, even College Station.  There's no "college atmosphere" on campus.  In turn, the alumni community and that sense of giving back that many strong alumni associations have is absent.  I haven't met one U of H alum who has the passion of Texas Ex, A&M graduate or Tennessee Rocky Top freak.

Who knows if this will ever change.  Unfortunately for those few Cougar High alums who would love to see as much, I think they and the athletic department are the only ones who really care.

*Side note: Guy V. Lewis' wife had a tradition of giving Hakeem Olajuwon peppermint candies after games.  Any time they would visit Rockets games, she would gingerly stroll over and hand Olajuwon a piece of candy.  He would graciously accept with a smile on his face that seemed as if he was receiving a valuable gemstone.  It was a rare, sweet moment that few people saw.
Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Reebok RunTones Review

The market for "toning shoes" is as hot as black asphalt in the Texas summer heat.  On a recent trip to Designer Shoe Warehouse, I found an entire half-aisle devoted to all types of toners: Skechers, Reebok, New Balance, etc.

Toning shoes at DSW
Do these shoes really do that much?  I blogged about my first experience with Reebok EasyTones last March.  In short, I like them but I don't think they're going to give you that hot, Kim Kardsashian or Cameron Diaz booty overnight.  I don't believe you'll get cut calves and quads simply by wearing them.

Reebok RunTone
I'm on my second pair of Reebok "toning" shoes, this time the RunTone vs the EasyTone.  I love them but not for the reasons you might think.

Plainly put, I like the cushion that the balance ball pods provide.  I use these shoes for running errands, cardio on machines, lifting weights and taking classes at the gym. The balance pods just feel good on my feet and for the average daily workout I do, they are my new favorite shoe.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Want to Take Weight Off & Keep it Off? Start Logging.

You know you should do it but, let's be honest, it's a little tedious and sometimes time-consuming.  IT is logging your daily food intake.  Study after study shows that individuals who log their daily caloric intake are more successful at losing weight and subsequently maintaining it.  A study by the National Weight Control Registry indicated that people who are successful at keeping weight off for an extended period of time, an average of 66 pounds for five years, monitored their weight and food intake by keeping track of it.

I can personally attest to its effectiveness.  After a tour of small-market tv duty in Guam, followed by working ridiculous hours in Knoxville, I added more than 50 pounds to my once-slender frame.  Logging my daily caloric intake helped me drop 55 pounds in the late 90's and early Naughties and I've kept it off ever since.  (Any of you remember some of my early Cowboys TV days?)

There are a hundred ways to log your food intake.  I've done it off and on for years.  During my size 2 college years, I would write down my food and corresponding calorie intake in my DayRunner.   Currently, I log my daily workouts on my laptop and log my caloric intake online or via an app on my Ipad.

The Wall Street Journal tackles the monotonous task of doing just that and examines four calorie counting websites, 3 paid, 1 free.  It does a good job of looking into the variables of portion sizes and the thoroughness of each site's database.

My Fit Foods Atlantic Salmon: 430 cals
I haven't used any of the sites they recommend but I do have a personal favorite.  I use TheDailyPlate.com, which has been swallowed up by the Livestrong.com network.  I prefer the Daily Plate because it has an excellent database of foods, ranging from prepared food and fast foods to simple, homemade recipes.  I eat a lot of meals from My Fit Foods and it has a ton of those meals in there.  The cool thing is that if a recipe is not in its database, you can add it by building the ingredients list.

The Daily Plate also offers values for individual food products from apples and kale to Clif Bars and smoothies.  It has a "frequently used" meal function that allows you to add meals or foods that you eat a lot without searching for them.  Sometimes you simply have to estimate what you're eating, say the spice cake a colleague brings to work, but there are generally equivalents of anything you might eat.
Monday, March 14, 2011

My New Fave Breakfast Drink....And It's Not Green Juice!

Those of you (and there were many) who cringed at my green juice drinking self will love this purple recipe  It's the best smoothie I've made.  EVER.  And, candidly, I like to think of myself as a smoothie connoisseur.

It's a berry banana smoothie with a twist and the key to its fabulocity is something that Stars center Brad Richards turned me onto drinking:  almond milk.  He told me about almond milk while we were shooting a story on his near-perfect nutrition habits.  I had always seen it in the aisle, as I had been a soy milk girl for a while.  I picked up a carton of it and have been hooked ever since.

I have always made smoothies using orange juice as my liquid base, enjoying the citrus flavor and bit of bite it provides.  The vanilla flavored almond milk by Almond Breeze that I use adds a wonderful, light creaminess and vanilla-y flavor without being too milky or shake-like, something I personally don't enjoy.

Ingredients for my latest smoothie obsession
This smoothie is also the easiest thing in the world to make.  Simply pour eight ounces of Almond Breeze (the brand I personally use) vanilla into a blender.  Add a big handful of frozen mixed berries (I buy a big ole bag from Costco) and 1 medium banana chopped up.  You can frozen bananas or fresh berries, it really doesn't matter.  I typically use a mix of frozen and fresh because I like the consistency of the smoothie when it's frozen.  Some mornings, I get frisky and add chia seeds or some whey protein.
Costco berries
This smoothie has a huge nutritional bang for the buck with all the wonderful antioxidants from the berries and potassium from the banana.  The almost cooler thing is that it doesn't have a ton of calories while being wonderfully satiating.  The almond milk has only 40 calories (w/ no sugar!), the berries contains 70 calories per cup and a medium banana about 100-120.  That's between 210-230 calories!  The chia seeds add 70, the whey protein about 110.  Still a bargain!
Almond Breeze nutrition info
Thursday, March 10, 2011

NFL Player? Don't Buy Bling For Your Ho's, Bro's or the Wife Right Now

This is one of the most amusing stories I've seen in a long time.  While it certainly falls under the "prudent" category, it's just plain funny that the NFL Players Association has to tell its players to "leave the club with your wallet and budget intact."

Here's the skinny:

The story came out a few days ago, but it's worth repeating.  USA Today profiles how the NFLPA has given players a 64-page lockout handbook providing them players with suggestions on how to handle their finances in the event of a lockout.  Many of the tips are ones that some of us recession-affected plebians have already adopted.
  • Cook instead of eat out
  • Save 25% of your annual pay
  • Turn down the heat in your house
Easy stuff.  Simple, common sense advice that all of us can practice.

Then there's the "these guys seriously need to be told to do this?????" tips:
  • Hold off on buying motorized toys and jewelry
  • Reduce the size of your entourage (I once knew a non-NFL player who had a guy named Peanut who was his errand boy but his primary job was to turn on his car, adjust the vehicle to the appropriate temperature and get ho's for hm at the clubs)
  • Say "no" or "not now" to money requests from friends and family
I'm sorry, this is all just makes me giggle.  You have to ask if Dez Bryant will be hosting many more $55,000 dinners during the potential lockout?