Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Quiz

This wasn't my idea. Blame it on All & Sundry. Play along if you wish.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before? Added a room to my house. I didn't do the work, but the stress was all mine.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Yes, and yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Two of my WW friends became grandmothers for the first time. They are beating me in the Grandparent Race.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Sadly, yes.

5. What countries did you visit? Canada, for the final time without a passport.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? Confidence in my retirement accounts.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Election Day. Duh.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Showing up at work on a regular basis. You don't know how hard that is!

9. What was your biggest failure? We don't dwell on failures.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? No, but I gained ten pounds. That hurts!

11. What was the best thing you bought? The new room.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Hillary, as evidenced by her convention speech.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Giuliani, as evidenced by his convention speech.

14. Where did most of your money go? The new room.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The election.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008? I'm blanking on this one.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? same
b) thinner or fatter? fatter
c) richer or poorer? poorer (on paper)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Exercise.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Eating.

20. How did you spend Christmas? With family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008? No.

22. What was your favorite TV program? NFL Football.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No hating allowed.

24. What was the best book you read? I'll say Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? This would probably require that I listen to the radio, which I rarely do.

26. What did you want and get? The new room.

27. What did you want and not get? Sheep.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? This question assumes I watch movies in a timely manner. Looking through my Netflix history, I see I gave the following movies 5 stars: "Lars and the Real Girl" and "In the Valley of Elah".

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? We were on vacation at Giant City State Park when I turned 56. Not that it is any of your business.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Being able to retire.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Hand knits.

32. What kept you sane? Knitting and blogging and yoga.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I loved seeing photos of Hillary and Obama together and really wish they had found a way to be on the same ticket.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Global warming. My heart breaks for the polar bears.

35. Who did you miss? My mom.

36. Who was the best new person you met? I'm going to say my yoga instructors. Because of them, I am stronger and more flexible and healthier (even if I am fatter).

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. The stock market is a lie.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. Damn, another song question.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Overheard at Work

Three co-workers walking down the hall.

C1: How old are you?
C2: I'm 39.
C1: I'm 38.
C3: I'm 39. And a half.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wishes DO Come True

It's our turn for an ice storm. Work is not usually cancelled unless the city declares a weather emergency. The city did not do that today, but - miracle of miracles! - the office has no power. Theoretically, they could call any minute and say Back to work. But I'm not counting on it. Heh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What To-Do?

The other day I got a couple of miles from my house before I realized I had forgotten my glasses. I don't need them to drive, but I generally wear them all the time. How could I leave home without them? And what clued me in on their absence?

Today I forgot to wear a belt.

I used to have a small white board by the door that said, "Coffeemaker off - stove off - lights off. Vitamins, makeup, earrings." I should add to that "Belt? Glasses? Sweater? Teeth?" Yesterday I forgot to brush my teeth.

With my diminished short term memory, I've learned a few tricks. A sticky note in the car screams "Prednisone!" to remind me to stop at the vet for the dog's medication. "8:30 meeting" on the back of a used envelope next to the coffee maker gets me rushing in the morning. Before I exit the house, I make sure I am holding my keys in my hand, so leaving them by the recharging cell phone ensures I have both. But today I meant to recharge the phone in the car, and I forgot.

Enter the Moleskine notebook. I carry several of these in my purse, jotting down reminders and grocery lists and to-do items with abandon. List making has the additional bonus of giving me something to check off once the task is complete. Uncompleted tasks also nag, nag, nag.

Now, if I could only remember how to do my job.

I'm a software developer who has not developed any software in years. All that "code grinding" has been moved off-shore. Well, almost all of it. I am still responsible for an application that has not required any attention from me since we upgraded to XP. Therein lies the problem. The original development tool is not only defunct, it won't run under XP at all. The libraries we use from that development tool work just fine, but may not if we ever upgrade the operating system again. I procrastinated on rewriting the code because I kept expecting to be "made redundant" - i.e. job eliminated - but I haven't been, probably because I'm the "IT owner" of this application. I made the mistake of listing this task as a goal on my annual review for 2008, which means it should be done by now.

And it has been so long since I wrote any code that I don't remember how.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Home Alone

Wednesday night is date night. Last night was yoga night, and thanks to the snowfall, it took me almost an hour to travel ten miles. I would have turned around but the northbound traffic was worse than my southbound traffic, and 45 minutes of yoga was better than no yoga. By the time I left the studio, the traffic had magically disappeared, and I glided easily home.

Ordinarily, traffic heading downtown in the evening is light, and at first I could not figure out why so many people were going my way. Then it dawned on me that there weren't more cars on the road, they were just going so slowly that traffic slid to a halt. Bearing this in mind, this morning I sent my SO an email, warning him off trying to make his way north tonight. He pooh-poohed me, and when I left work shortly after four and the roads were clear, I felt a little silly. But guess what? Even though he left early, he ran into the same problem, compounded by xmas shoppers who stayed home last night and are planning to stay home tomorrow night when the ice storm is supposed to hit. He gave up and went home.

So I'm already in my jammies and terry cloth robe. When I thought we would be eating out, my taste buds were primed for Chinese. When I discovered we were not eating out, my focus switched to popcorn, the single person's hot meal. I cook mine on the stove, but for some reason did not check the gas flame under the pot. The oil went up in smoke, literally. I hope that pan is not ruined; it's soaking in vinegar right now.

(It's things like these that make me worry about getting old. At what point should I not be allowed to cook for myself? Better to call Meals on Wheels.)

Plan B (or C?) was bacon and egg and toast. The bacon was left over from Thanksgiving (two slices went into the butternut squash soup), so I cooked it extra crispy to ward off food poisoning. There was only one egg, so I splurged on two pieces of toast and, since I was feeling a little sorry for myself by then, cinnamon sugar on the toast. And apple juice.

Between the vinegar and the bacon, the smell of burnt corn oil has almost faded from the kitchen. I'm nearing the end of both I Was Told There'd Be Cake and Planetwalker. (When did I start reading more than one book at a time?) There are bills to be paid, pets to groom, litter boxes to clean. Why, we're just having a grand time tonight.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wind Advisory

I have family in New England, so when I read about the power outages Friday, I tried to call my dad. No answer. Not even the answering machine picked up. So I sent a text message to my brother. Hours later I find out that yes, neither of them have power, and a tree fell on my dad's new car.

I pictured my dad and stepmother huddling in their cold home, not even able to heat a cup of tea, not using their cell phone for fear of running down the battery, because that would be me. Saturday I tried their land line again, then gambled on the cell. Dad picked up on the second ring. They were at a Marriott near Boston, on their way out to do some xmas shopping, making lemonade out of lemons.

When I called Dad, I was about to do a little xmas shopping of my own. Let me say up front that I hate to shop, I detest malls, I'm not that wild about xmas and conspicuous consumption, the amount of crap that appears this time of year never ceases to amaze me, why do Americans think they are entitled to an extreme xmas, etc. In short, I come very close to being Scrooge personified. But I was looking for some unusual stocking stuffers, so my SO and I visited some alternative shopping sites. Instead of stocking stuffers, I wound up buying stuff for myself.

I have been looking for my fetish for a while now, scrutinizing ravens and coyotes and buffalo, but none ever spoke to me. But then I saw this llama at Friends of the Third World.

Hand carved from combarbalite, a kind of soapstone that is mined only in Combarbala, Chile, and standing about six inches tall and weighing in at 350 grams (that's over 12 oz.), he's a little hefty to be a fetish. But I picked him up and could not put him down.

Recently I have also decided I need to accessorize, so have been in the market for unusual necklaces. I found this one at Ten Thousand Villages.

Made in Vietnam of what I think are silk-wrapped beads, the color demanded I take the necklace home. I love looking at it, but am not sure what I can wear it with. I suppose it would make more sense to buy something for a particular outfit, but I'm new at this business of personal adornment. Where's my personal shopper when I need her?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Must Be Getting Old

One word. Syriana. Has anybody else seen this movie? Can they explain it to me? I tried, I really, really tried to follow all the story lines, knowing that at the end, they would lead to a significant conclusion. But everything just did not add up for me.

At the beginning of the movie, there was some explanatory dialog. And there was something about oil companies and covert operations and selling missiles. And there was this lawyer and these sheiks and the CIA and the CLI and the radical Muslims. And too many middle aged white guys - they all look alike to me.

Some of the characters I could keep track of, but their backstories were lost on me. Who was the older guy living with the lawyer? Were the scenes of George Clooney and his son supposed to mean something? What was the point of the Matt Damon character?

Ordinarily, I like movies that make me think, but this one just made my head hurt.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I said "Pickle" but they heard "Kid's meal"

Sunday afternoon I realized there was something wrong when my teeth started to ache. By this morning, the germs had crept into my inner ears and were heading south to my lungs, so I decided to stay home.

Library books were due, though, so I did muster the energy to drive 0.3 miles to the local branch, picking up a few more items while I was there. Then a quick swing by BK for supper, where my order was only slightly botched.

I used to get livid if my drive-thru order was not impeccably correct, but now I figure they got some money, I got some food, everybody should be relatively happy. Happiness is relative, anyway.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Toni tagged me with the Six Things Meme. The problem is I have seen this meme on many other blogs, and I am afraid of embarrassing myself by tagging someone who has already posted this meme.

So I am going to break the chain and suggest another meme that I just made up. Play along and pass it along if you wish.

Using exactly six words, write the following:

Your memoir
Your epitaph

My memoir: It's a routine, not a rut!
My epitaph: I told you I was sick!

The idea for this meme came from Craig Wilson's column in USA Today, where he reviews Not Quite What I Was Planning.

Is this okay, Toni? Hope you play along!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Good news, bad news

The good news is I gained only two pounds over Thanksgiving weekend. The bad news is that is on top of the eight pounds I inexplicably gained this fall. Maybe my body is preparing for hibernation. If so, it is going to have to hibernate in a muumuu because my clothes are starting to cut off the circulation to my extremities.

I've often caught myself saying, "I'd do anything to lose weight!" Well, anything except eat less and exercise more.

Noelle mentioned this calorie counting website as a means for tracking food consumption. According to them, I should be consuming 1400 calories a day in order to lose a pound or two a week. Today I ate about 2000 calories. Hmmm.

That site also describes me as sedentary. I participate in a yoga class twice a week and feel much stronger and more flexible BUT. I also sit on my butt all day and then go home and sit on my butt some more.

This morning I decided to plan to do something about that, by printing out the Couch-to-5K Running Plan. They make it sound so easy, but I decided I should start with Week Zero - just walking.

So tonight, after driving home in my usual post-work stupor and reading the newspaper (more butt time) and taking the dog to the vet for her shots and deciding the weather was too inclement and eating supper (T-Day leftovers) and knitting a bit (on my butt) and reading a few blogs (on my butt), I got up off the couch and went for a brisk 30-minute walk around the neighborhood. In the snow. And the wind. And the dark.

We'll see how long that lasts.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last one

Words. I like words. I have my favorites, like sepia and abyss and serendipity. But really, I've never met a word I did not like.

Since I like words, I like to read and write and solve crossword puzzles, and I hate Sudoku. I would like to earn my living reading and writing and solving crossword puzzles, but it hasn't come to pass. Yet.

In a previous life, I spent a short time as a freelance writer. I wrote people pieces for a small town paper, which sometimes led to articles in national magazines like Soybean Digest. My specialty was organic gardening and farming, and the epitome of my career was an article I wrote for Rodale's Organic Gardening. My plan was to grow my writing career bit by bit while the kids were little, then expand it once they reached school age. Other forces intervened, though, and I fretted about earning enough to support myself. I bailed on the writing and became a software developer instead.

Blogging has been a lifeline of sorts, allowing me to get back into the habit of writing. I am still searching for my voice. Maybe someday I will find it and get back in the game. (How's that for mixing metaphors?)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We can do it!

Only two more days of NaBloPoMo left, thank god. Maybe they (whoever "they" are) should move it to a month without a holiday. And even though I have a theme (things I like), today I am drawing a blank. Not because I can't think of things I like, but because I can't think of anything intelligent to say about any of the things I like.

Nothing. I got nothing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I cooked and cooked then cooked some more

I like a challenge, but I almost overdid it with Thanksgiving dinner this year. When perusing magazines, do you ever see complete menus for holiday meals laid out in photographic splendor? The magazine was AARP (shut up) and the article was from a year ago, but I found the recipes online and decided, if I was going to cook, I was going to COOK. I tried to be organized about the whole endeavor, but there were still a few surprises along the way.

Surprise number 1 was how much money I spent at the grocery store on the ingredients for a dinner for eight. It could have been more, because usually I buy the organic, free range turkey. I was not organized enough for that this year, but I also did not buy the cheap bird, either. Then there were many ingredients I did not have on hand, like the fresh herbs, some of which at least came from my garden. And, in case things did not go well foodwise, I bought plenty of beer. Still, I could have taken everyone out to a very nice restaurant for that kind of money. And not had to clean the kitchen six times in the course of two days. (Surprise 1.5 was how difficult it was to find dried apples.)

Surprise number 2 was my ineptitude in the kitchen. I live alone and don't cook much anymore. Still, you'd think I would remember things like to put the lid on the blender before pressing the puree button. I don't think it was my fault when I did get the lid on, only to have it fly off when I tried the puree button again. Surprise number 2.5 was that the mess wasn't as bad as I expected.

The recipes had been touted as being healthier than the normal Thanksgiving day fare. By that, I guess AARP means no pie. Surprise number 3 was the amount of butter and oil used throughout the recipes. But I think holidays are exempt from the low-fat rule.

Surprise number 4 were all the little details in the recipes: cooking the turkey broth until it was reduced by three-quarters, adding egg yolks one at a time, beating this, then folding in that, fresh herbs here, dried ones there, etc. There are probably logical reasons for all these instructions, but I sometimes think chefs make recipes difficult to execute just because they can.

Surprise number 5 was the amount of stuffing that the authors think can go into a 12-pound turkey. There was easily twice as much, so I threw the extra into a pan and baked it while we ate. Can anyone say "leftovers"?

Surprise number 6 were absences from the table: my son came down with the flu and could not muster the energy to drive seven hours just to watch us eat while he sipped Sprite and nibbled on Saltines. I wish he could have been there, but I'm glad he chose to keep his germs to himself. Because of a scheduling lapse, dinner was late, and my son-in-law was expected at a family poker game. At least he got to sample the soup before he left, and I sent plenty of leftovers home with my daughter.

But the best surprise of all was how delicious everything tasted, especially the Roasted Butternut Squash with Honey-Pecan Butter and the Dried Apples and Corn Bread Stuffing.

Despite all the work, I enjoyed the cooking. It made me wish for a bigger kitchen, with a bigger oven and more counter space and more cupboards for used-once-a-year kitchen appliances. Maybe I should have remodeled the kitchen instead of adding on the new room. Maybe next year. *sigh*

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Like Thanksgiving

Just a quick note to wish you all a feastful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Not a Rut, It's a Routine

I am a creature of habit. When it comes to everyday things, I favor sticking with a routine because it helps me get out the door in a reasonably timely manner. One downside, however, is when the routine becomes so automatic that I can't remember if I did something. Did I feed the cat? Is the garage door closed? If I really doubt myself and I haven't gotten too far from the house yet, I have been known to circle back to check. But not compulsively. Really.

When the kids were little, routine kept me sane. When I went back to work, routine kept us in groceries and clean underwear. I could be too inflexible at times, which may explain my lack of spontaneity, but I'm still sane. Really.

Lately, my routines have been in a bit of a jumble, and I blame DST. At night, my body says it is time for bed, but the clock says no, so I stay up too late. My body gets its revenge in the morning when it wakes up before the alarm. Then, with extra time on my hands, do I shower first or laze about with my coffee? Maybe knit a bit or read the paper? Then suddenly, it's rush, rush, rush.

Did I close the garage door?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Games People Play

I like card games more than board games, but I am usually willing to play either, up to a point. The kids and I used to play gin rummy, but once they got good enough to beat me regularly, I lost interest. How mature is that?

At WW we used to play Trivial Pursuit but it seemed to generate some sore feelings about who was on the "smart team" and who was not. We played Therapy once - more bad feelings. Honesty is not always the best policy. Last time we did not play any double deck Euchre, opting for solving NY Times crossword puzzles as a group instead. Next time we are going to try to combine the two. Yeah, wild times.

You Are Chess

You are brilliant and shrewd. You can often predict what people will do in the future.

You thrive in complex situations. You deal with contradictions well.

You can have many streams of thought going on at your mind at once. You keep track of things well.

You are very patient. You have lots of endurance, even when your energy dwindles

Monday, November 24, 2008


There are a few things I like about growing older. The disappearance of menses is a real plus, although the journey to its end is not without its detours and trip wires. Also, I find myself less and less concerned with what people might think. Even forgetfulness can be a plus: others don't take offense when you can't remember names, faces, birthdays because they just assume you are growing senile.

I find myself drawn to reading memoirs, some of which provide vivid detail of the author's childhood. For a while, I wondered how they could recall so much, but now I know. While my short term memory is becoming a sieve, my distant past is marching to the forefront of my consciousness.

The recent election raised two such memories. The first occurred the summer between high school and college. The fellow I was dating aspired to become the first Jewish President of the United States. (He abandoned that plan about a year later.) We used to joke about how I would be the First Lady and give tours of the White House in blue jeans. This was back when only dirty hippies wore blue jeans. I was no dirty hippie; I was just so ahead of my time.

The other memory involved a fellow college student. I was in G's dorm room. G had a framed picture of Jesus on the wall above his bed (G was destined to become a minister) and a framed photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. (G was - and still is, to my knowledge - black). There was also an empty frame. I asked him about it, and G said it was for the one who was to come next, implying that he might be that person. Now I am wondering if he has filled that frame with Obama.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

But It's Tradition!

I like to try new things, but I'm a little nervous about my plans to tweak tradition this Thanksgiving. Yes, there will be turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberries, but not in their usual form. Instead, I am recreating the menu from last year's AARP Magazine "Luscious" Thanksgiving article. If you hear an ear splitting whine emanating from the Midwest, you will know someone is protesting the lack of sweet and sour green beans and crescent rolls. And no pie! To sooth the savage breast, I will be providing plenty of beer.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cleanliness Is Whatever

I don't like housework, but I like anything that truly makes cleaning easier. Enter my Animal Dyson.

Before vacuuming...

... and after.

Presumably, most of that stuff is pet hair and dirt, not my carpet. I'm happy to be done with bags, though.

I also like my electric broom.

I never liked sweeping with a regular broom, because I felt I was just pushing the dirt around and I could never get it all swept into the dust pan. I guess I'd rather suck than sweep.

Any recommendations for dusting?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Isn't It Ironic?

Once upon a time, one of my co-workers served a stint working for D. D is not a bad person, but he is a horrible manager. The idea of positive feedback never occurs to him because in his eyes, no one is as competent as he is, which apparently is the gold standard.

The year that my co-worker was under D's command, he scheduled her time 200%, assigned her tasks for which she was not trained, and generally made her working life hell. Needless to say, that year she did not get a favorable review from D. She has refused to work for him since.

Unofficially, I was given the opportunity to work for D. After my co-worker's experience, I said I would be glad to work on D's projects, but I did not want to report to him. Apparently, those two things were mutually exclusive, which was fine with me.

Eventually, two others were assigned to D's team. These two people appeared to get along with D, and seemed busy and productive. Therefore, it was somewhat of a shock when they were recently "job eliminated". It was a surprise even to D. Now no one reports to him.

I was puzzling over this state of affairs the other day when it occurred to me that maybe D repeatedly gave them unfavorable annual reviews.

I like irony.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What To Do, What To Do

I like lists. Even better, I like checking items off my lists. I like checking items off my lists so much that sometimes that is all the motivation I need to tackle an onerous task.

Samples of my lists:
    Things to do
  • laundry
  • vacuum
  • pay bills
  • watch movie (sadly, I have to remind myself to do this)
  • scoop litter box
  • pick up dog poop
  • clean rabbit cage (do we detect a theme here?)

    Places to go
  • Target
  • Goodwill (things I buy at Target frequently eventually end up here)
  • ATM
  • local yarn store (ATM first, then LYS - this is very important)
  • yoga
  • grocery (because I am really hungry after yoga)

    People to see
  • financial planner
  • vet
  • insurance agent
  • vet
  • hair dresser
  • vet (hmmm, another theme)

What's on your list?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Is Hard

Unfortunately for me, the Blogger blocker at work was not lifted for the month of November like it was last year, so I come home after a day on the computer to get on the computer to blog. Sometimes I email myself a possible blog post from work, but these are usually pretty lame (see yesterday's post) and feel stale when I reread them in the evening. But NaBloPoMo is more than half over. I can do this. Next year, however, maybe I will write a novel instead. At this point, it sounds easier.

My theme this month has been things I like, so I will pick an easy topic today and say this: I like my kids.

Yeah, you are thinking, what a no brainer. But really, while most parents love their kids, some of them don't like their kids all that well, especially when the kids are teens.

I am the first to admit the teen years were rough. There were a few painful moments when I regretted having children at all. But once those years were past, things got better. And better. And better. Not just because the kids grew up, but because I learned to relax a little and let go of my expectations of how I thought they should be and be living their lives.

One thing that helped me get through the teen years was to remind myself (over and over and over again) that this was their story, not mine; my job was to serve in a supporting role. I wish I had figured this out earlier, but I must have been a good enough parent because they are both doing fine, in their own ways, on their own schedule, by their own terms.

Losing my mother when I was 20 greatly influenced me, and it became important to me that my kids be independent. I still worry about them, but less so because they are capable of functioning without me. What is great about this is I can stop being a parent and just be Mom.

My daughter did not intend to wind up back here after college. While I would have supported her no matter where she wanted to live, I am glad she is close by. My son has made noises about moving back to the area, too, once he is done with school. I want him to do what is best for him, but I will not squawk if he too is near at hand.

My parenting work is done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Am I What I Eat?

This is going to be a lame post about foods I like.

    Favorite food:
  • Popcorn, preferably with Parmesan cheese and lots of salt, but not butter
  • Rhubarb pie (or if I'm sharing with tart wimps, rhubarb strawberry pie), crust by Pillsbury
  • Vegetarian sushi (includes wasabi, pickled ginger, and a little tamari)
  • Corn on the cob (swimming in real butter and salt)
  • Maple syrup (out of a tree, not a corn field)
  • Potato chips (reduced fat but NOT baked)
  • Dill pickles and dill pickle relish
  • Cafeteria chili with crushed Nacho Doritos (without the latter, the former is inedible)

    When I eat in "slow food" restaurants, I usually order something different each time; not so with fast food:
  • Penn Station: grilled artichoke with mushrooms
  • BK: cheeseburger, fries, Diet Coke off the "value menu"
  • McDonalds: Big Mac
  • Taco Bell: taco salad (it's the bowl)

  • If I'm in the mood for ribs, we go to O'Charley's.
  • For steak, it's Applebee's (good for the price)
  • The best local Mexican is Cebolla's.
  • The best Italian is Biaggi's but the local Casa's is closer and cheaper
  • Chinese from the local Mandarin but if P.F. Chang's comes to town, they will be better but also more expensive

    When it comes to alcohol, I try to stay in context:
  • Dos Equis with Mexican
  • Tsing Tao with Chinese
  • Peroni with Italian
  • Martinis at Club Soda

    Favorite easy things to cook:
  • Chili
  • Spaghetti (I never eat spaghetti in restaurants because I like my sauce much better)
  • Pot roast
  • Meatloaf
  • Soups

    Favorite not-so-easy things to cook:
  • Bread
  • Winter squash (cutting into and/or peeling the damn things is what's difficult)

An aside: I just realized I did not get enough zucchini this summer. I usually grow my own and am sick of it by August, but due to the room addition, I did not have much of a garden this year. Store bought zucchini is not the same. Note to self: Must plant zucchini next year. And tomatoes. And green beans. Successively.

Are there any foods I do not like? I've never developed a taste for organ meats, don't care for coconut meat but I like the milk, can't eat shellfish, not too fond of fish in general but I'll eat it on occasion.

What might I refuse to eat based solely on the taste? I can't think of anything offhand. What about you?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mini Movie Reviews

I like my friends, but we have divergent tastes in movies. I like the quirky and/or foreign and/or oddball films; most of my friends favor lightweight movies, particularly romantic comedies.

At WW, we usually watch several movies. This past weekend was no exception. I brought "27 Dresses" because I thought it would go over relatively well, unlike "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Station Agent". Here are some mini reviews:

"Broken English" - reminded me of "Pieces of April" - painful to watch but a sweet ending. Directed by Zoe Cassavetes - the camera style reflects her dad's influence and of course her mom is in the movie as well.

"No Reservations" - somebody please explain to me why Hollywood takes an award-winning movie ("Mostly Martha") and remakes it into garbage. Skip this one and watch the original instead.

"27 Dresses" - if you like formulaic romantic comedies that are mindless but still kind of fun to watch, this is the movie for you. Reminds me of "In Her Shoes." Warning: the Elton John song "Benny and the Jets" will get stuck in your head.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New York, New York

I like visiting NYC. I think I would even like to live there for a while, except I can't afford it.

The people in NYC have a reputation for being rude and unfriendly, but I have never experienced that. In fact, my SO and I, while standing on NY street with map in hand and confused expression on face, have been spontaneously helped by strangers. Subway workers have exuberantly explained the intricacies of the turnstiles to us. Even more amazing, locals have asked us for help.

NYC also has a reputation for being unsafe. We see our share of crazies and we avoid the sketchy parts of town, but I never feel unsafe. Not in Little Italy or Chinatown or Central Park or the subways or Greenwich Village or Union Square. But then, I can be oblivious.

On our last visit, I stuffed my pockets with $1 bills and handed them out to beggars. One cadaverous fellow who lay crumpled on the sidewalk, propped up by a wall, apparently near death but for the few coins in his Styrofoam cup, was later spotted up and about and hale and hearty. When my SO pointed him out to me, I said I was paying for the performance, like one would throw money into a street musician's instrument case.

Warning: controversial statement coming up. Our visits to NYC have occurred post 9/11. A little part of my brain wonders if that tragic event has not inadvertently produced a kinder, gentler NYC.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

But I Can Explain!

I like memes, which I pronounce ME-ME because they are all about ME!

I found this on Knitty Otter's blog.


You can answer only yes or no. You are not allowed to explain anything unless someone comments and asks (and even then I might not!)

Over 18? Yes
Danced in front of your mirror naked? No
Ever told a lie? Yes
Been arrested? No
Kissed a picture? Yes
Fallen asleep at work/school? Yes
Held an actual snake? Yes
Ever run a red light? Yes
Ever drink and drive? Yes
Been suspended from school? No
Ever been fired from a job? Yes
Totaled a car/motorbike in an accident? No
Sang karaoke? No
Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t? Yes
Laughed until something you were drinking came out your nose? Yes
Ever laughed until you wet yourself? Yes
Caught a snowflake on your tongue? Yes
Kissed in the rain? Yes
Sang in the shower? Yes
Sat on a rooftop? Yes
Thought about your past with regret? Yes
Been pushed in the pool with your clothes on? No
Shaved your head? No
Blacked out from drinking? No
Had a gym membership? Yes
Been in a band? Yes
Shot a gun? No
Liked someone with nobody else knowing about it? Yes
Played strip poker? No
Been to a strip joint? No
Donated Blood? Yes
Liked someone you shouldn’t? Yes
Have a tattoo? No
Have or had any piercings besides ears? No
Made out with a complete stranger? Yes
Caught someone cheating on you? No
Skinny dipped? No
Regret any of your ex’s? No
Been to a rodeo? Yes
Been to a NASCAR race? No
Been in Love? Yes

There. That wasn't so bad.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Like WW

About thirty-plus years ago, when my friends and I were married and starting families, our husbands started an annual tradition: the Memorial Day Weekend canoe trip. The first trip was a simple overnight excursion down a local river, but it did not take long for the trips to get longer, the rivers wilder, and the weekends expanded.

It also did not take long for the wives to demand something equitable. Since many of us had nursing babies, our options were somewhat limited, but we started with what could be called Women's Afternoon Off. Eventually, we added an overnight (nursing babies were allowed, but no other children), and finally we settled into a semi-annual Friday-night-to-Sunday-afternoon arrangement that included staying at a cabin where there was no telephone (this was pre-cell phone days).

The membership of this group has fluctuated a bit over the years, and not everyone can make it everytime, but we have stuck with it, even when the price paid by absenting ourselves from our families sometimes was not balanced by the rewards.

Although the men believe otherwise, we rarely discuss them. Most conversation revolves around our children (and now grandchildren and aging parents). We used to drink a lot (wine and coffee) smoke a lot (cigarettes!) and eat a lot and chocolate a lot and watch R-rated movies and play cards and Trivial Pursuit. Now we eat less, drink less, smoke less (some of us have quit). We still play cards, but less ferociously, still watch movies, but fewer each time. Last spring we spent an inordinate amount of time solving New York Times crossword puzzles as a group. I know - sounds like a wild time!

I thought it would be easier to schedule our getaways once the kids were grown, but now we have to work around graduations, weddings, births of grandchildren, volunteer commitments, surgery, and even a kidney donation. So far, with only one exception I can think of, we have pulled it off, twice a year, for thirty (30!) years.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mr. Right

I like my SO. Not only is he good looking and well read and articulate (and he likes me!), he occasionally offers me an insight into my own life.

Recent pet problems have led me to declare repeatedly that Betsy is my last dog, that I want to live dog-free, that any time I am tempted to get another pet he is to whisper "ACL" in my ear. But the other day I found myself trolling pet adoption sites.

"What is wrong with me?!?" I wailed to SO that night.

"You just want a grandchild," he answered.

And you know what? He's right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cooking with Gas

In spite of all the family meals I prepared and served over the years, I like to cook. In spite of the four-loaves-of-bread-a-week batch I baked when I was a full-time mom, I like to bake. And yet, finding the time to do either has become more difficult. I am so tired of restaurant food that I'm willing to try to fix at least one major meal a week, for my SO and me.

The weekend before last, it was ham loaf. At the meat market (I knew they would have ground ham), I could not remember if I needed 1.5 or 2 pounds of ham, so I bought the larger amount. Not only did I have leftover ham loaf, I had ham salad as well, which is really good on Triscuits. But man, too much salt for one week.

Last weekend it was beef stew, my own sorta made-up recipe (based on Betty Crocker's):

Dredge 1.5 pounds of stew beef in flour, then brown it in oil in a Dutch oven.

Add 1 c. water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours.

Add two pounds of Russian banana potatoes (scrubbed and unpeeled), a couple of carrots (peeled and sliced), coarsely chopped peppers (green, yellow, red, orange), coarsely chopped onion, coarsely chopped celery (with leaves), a bay leaf, and one can of condensed tomato soup. (Other vegetables may be added, at your discretion. Mushrooms, garlic, peas, or green beans come to mind.) Cover and cook for another hour.

Adjust seasoning and serve with toast or biscuits to mop up the soup.

Needless to say, this meal was a success.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Can't Keep Up!

Is anyone else having a hard time sticking with NaBloPoMo? It seems like everyone, even those who are not officially participating, is posting more often. So it's not just the posting, but the reading that is eating up my days and nights.

Is it cheating to write a handful of posts, then either schedule them for the future or just hold onto them for those days when posting live feels impossible? Is anyone else cheating?

I like blogging, both writing and reading, but I either have to become a faster writer/reader or else find another diversion. Like housework. (HA!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bad Human! Bad, Bad, Bad!

I like animals, especially my animals. Even though I frequently declare that I am moving toward a petfree existence (usually after scooping dog poop, cleaning out the litter box, and picking up rabbit doodoos from the carpet before they become doggy treats), I know in my heart of hearts that my house would not be a home without at least one critter to pretend she cares about me for myself and not because I have opposable thumbs that can open pet food containers.

But I often feel like a less than stellar pet owner. I don't groom them as often as I should (much to Fern's disgust - she is the only one who actually likes to be brushed), I never clean their teeth (that's what vets and anesthesia are for), and they rarely get the exercise they need.

The Indiana House Rabbit Society says house rabbits should get 30-40 hours of cagefree time a week. I don't think I am home 40 hours a week (not counting sleep time). We have Bunny Hour almost every night, though, hence the doodoo duty mentioned above.

The cat is fat. No two ways about it. When Fern first joined our household, she was a bag of bones because she had an upper respiratory infection and nothing smelled like food to her. Once we cleared up the infection, though, she started eating and never stopped. Until recently. I had moved the "cat condo" (an old Sauder computer hutch) out to the new room but had not pushed it all the way up to the wall. Fern accidentally pushed her food dish off one too many times and now will not eat out there. I tried to outwait her - HA! - but broke down and started feeding her out of the dog's dish. During the waiting period, however, Fern actually lost a few pounds. I can tell because she can clean her own butt now. And she plays with her toys more; I found Fishy in my knitting bag one day, the victim of Toss and Pounce, or at least, Toss.

Betsy Beagle had ACL surgery about six weeks ago, so for a while I had an excuse for not exercising her. But she has lost a lot of muscle in her hindquarters, so now I try to get her up and about a couple of times a day. If the weather is crappy, I lure her into walking around the house by leaving a trail of kibble or Cheerios; ten laps around the fireplace takes ten minutes. Since the surgery, her life has gone to shit - just ask her and she will tell you all about it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Coffee and Cigarettes

I wish I could live on coffee and cigarettes. And dirty martinis. All that's left is coffee. I like mine strong flavored.

My favorite coffees come from a certain local roaster who shall remain nameless because some of their baristas are incredibly snotty. They have good decaf, though, so I stopped by there yesterday. The snarky barista did not wait on me, but she still gave me one of those infuriating smirks, a la GW. Grrr!

Anyway, the coffee I bought there was so aromatic that, when I got home, I had to put it in the refrigerator because the fumes were giving me a headache. Now, THAT'S coffee!

Reading Movies

I like foreign films. Sometimes I suspect that they are not as good as they seem - maybe the translations make the dialog sound smarter or the locales feel more exotic or the fresh faces are just, well, refreshing - or maybe the crummy foreign films are not released in the US. Anyway, not too often do I find one I don't like.

Last night I watched "Babette's Feast" which is based on a novel by Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen). The only name I recognized from the cast was Bibi Andersson as I have seen her in Bergman films, although Babbette (Stephane Audran) looked familiar. Twenty years old, the film felt older, like a Bergman film although it was directed by Gabriel Axel, who also wrote the screenplay.

Briefly, the movie is about two elderly sisters who have carried on their father's work, ministering to the needy and maintaining the church he founded. In their youth, each sister has a brush with romance but the suitors are turned away. Later, one ex-suitor sends the sisters Babette, a refugee from the French Revolution. She willingly serves the sisters in their desolate outpost on the sea in Jutland. Many years later, Babette wins the lottery. The sisters expect they will lose Babette. Babette offers to prepare a feast to celebrate what would have been the sisters' father's 100th birthday. The remaining church members are invited, a surprise visitor arrives, and the feast transforms them all.

This is a quiet film, with religious overtones and no big climax, but the themes are large. It doesn't follow any formula, but the ending is very satisfying.

A Little More to the Left

I bet you thought this post was going to be about the election. HA! No, it's about deep tissue massage.

After singing the praises of yoga, I have to admit that initially it did not do much for my shoulders. Neither did physical therapy. My range of motion was astonishingly poor, which not only impacted my yoga practice but also my ability to scratch my back without one of those $1 back scratchers from the old Pier 1 (to be differentiated from the current Pier 1 which has become incredibly expensive).

Enter deep tissue massage. Ooh, yeah, I like! After one treatment, my shoulders loosened up. But for a couple of weeks, they also felt like they were on fire. My theory is the massage relaxed all those little bundles of muscles and tendons around the rotator cuff, which then were stretched and worked by yoga (damn that downward dog!) Eventually, everything settled down and my shoulders continue to be much improved.

At my last appointment, I asked the therapist to work on my hands. Between the computer mouse/keyboard and my knitting and that downward dog thing, my hands and wrists needed some treatment. If I were a massage therapist, I would offer hand massages at local yarn stores - 5 minutes for $5. Oooh! Aaah!

Deep tissue massage has been particularly beneficial for my daughter and her scoliosis, offering her some painfree moments for the first time in years. She goes more regularly than I do; maybe my New Year's Resolution should include more massage?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Yoga Yogi

I have scoliosis and weak sacroiliac joints. (That's where the pelvic girdle and the spine come together, more or less). I also have a sedentary job and hobbies. Several years ago, my back got so bad that standing in front of the stove long enough to scramble an egg had become excruciating. I was on the verge of giving my my house and yard to move into a condo. But first, I talked my doctor into sending me to physical therapy. PT saved my lifestyle, if not my life.

But PT wasn't much help when it came to yard work. Following the mower around the lawn had become exhausting. Then my daughter picked me for her power walking partner and that area of my life improved as well.

Then the weather turned crappy. Daughter and I joined a yoga studio as a replacement to walking. That was the best thing I ever did for myself (and her! She has scoliosis, too, only worse.) It is a year later and we both still go, still enjoy, still like yoga.

It helps that most of the yoga classes at this studio are drop-in. With our membership, we can go to all the classes we want, and not just yoga. I have been to the Yoga Basics, Core Yoga, and Restorative Yoga classes. Last year I started out going two or three times a week, slacked off to once a week during the summer, and now am building back up to two or three.

Yoga has improved my overall strength and flexibility without (much) soreness; the deep breathing prevents the build up of lactic acid in the muscles. It's never boring or repetitious. And since it requires a certain amount of concentration, for that one hour, the rest of the world disappears from my consciousness.

I haven't lost any weight doing yoga (because of that eating thing), but I definitely feel better. Gardening and housework are easier (not that I do much of the latter) and I have more stamina.

There are forms of yoga that are aerobic, but I haven't tried them for fear of collapsing in a sobbing heap halfway through the class, so I still need to do something to tax my heart and respiratory system. I toy with this idea, but I'm not much of a runner.

Others have noticed my improved posture and energy and vibe. I even inspired a couple of my friends to take up yoga themselves. I hope their experience duplicates mine. I can't imagine not doing it. (Famous last words!)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Black Wednesday

I like the company I work for. They are very generous with salaries, benefits, and bonuses. They also see the big picture and work to reduce their carbon footprint and promote climate control. My own job is a big snore, but I really can't complain (although I do).

Recently IT has been suffering through a long reorganization, starting from the top. It's a big company, so we peons had not been impacted by the decisions made thus far. That is, until today, when three co-workers in our office were ushered out the door, part of the 100+ being severed worldwide.

I think my job is safe, for now. My name is attached to several IT applications, plus my team is somewhat protected by a non-IT person of repute. But you just never know.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote Early and Vote Often

I started an entry for this blog earlier today, about how I like voting. I was fresh from the polls and a little cranked up. I'm not nationalistic, but exercising my right to vote gets me all tingly. Adding to my giddiness was the fact that, for once, I was not in-and-out in 5 minutes. I had to wait in line about 20 minutes because there were a lot of other people exercising their right to vote as well.

Later today, while running my dog from vet to vet, I drove past other polling places. The parking lots were overflowing! On my way home, I had to squeeze down a two-lane road where parked cars were barely off the pavement, almost double parked, so their drivers and passengers could vote. It was amazing! If only we could always be so excited about an election.

Indiana has voted for a Republican president for the past 40 years. This year it is a toss-up AND we are a swing state. More amazement!

The woman who cuts my hair has never voted. I think she is intimidated by the whole process. To her and those like her, I say, Man up! Her husband is not voting this year, presumably because he does not want to vote for a black or a woman. Well, welcome to the new millennium, buddy! It is not a white male world out there.

I was one of those kids who believed all the stuff they taught us, about equality and democracy and the Constitution. As an adult, I have frequently been disappointed when we don't live up to our ideals, either individually or as a country. But today I can be innocent again, at least for a little while, because I saw so many people voting.

(For an historical look at voting in America, read this from the New Yorker.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around

I tried to find out who said "I don't know much about football, but I know a tight end when I see one." I think I read it in a "Sylvia" comic strip. I Googled the quote and "Sylvia" and ended up at a post on one of my own blogs.

And I don't really know a lot about football, but I do enjoy watching the NFL. Looking back, I remember attending games in high school, less so in college (my college's football team sucked), and then what? I think my son got me hooked. And football provided us at least one safe topic of conversation while navigating those perilous teen years. (His, not mine.)

What is it about football that draws me? Well, those hunky guys are not too hard to look at. Tennis players have great thighs, basketball players cut shoulders, baseball players ropey forearms. But the overall, top to bottom, best physiques belong to football players. At least the ones not suffering from Dunlap Disease (der bellies dun-lap over der belts).

And then there is the sheer athleticism. The players jump high, run fast, execute impossible moves. Just don't watch certain quarterbacks when they try to run. Our own Peyton Manning is one of them. It looks like his brain is so far from his feet the signal to move is delayed. Oh, but that arm!

Add in the testosterone-driven drama. The game faces. The friends. The feuds. The raw emotion. Sometimes big boys do cry.

Plus the poetry of some of the names. Houshmandzadeh. Plaxico Burress. Kiwanuka. Keiaho. Umenyiora. The law firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Nearly spoiling all this are some of the announcers and their wacky statistics. John Madden is football, though. I saw him once, fresh off his bus (he's afraid to fly), plodding through the lobby of a downtown Indianapolis hotel, generating a storm of awed whispers. It's John Madden!

I follow the Colts because I live in Indiana. I'm interested in da Bears because I grew up near Chicago. I keep an eye on the Giants and Peyton's baby brother. A co-worker is a Bengals fan, so I give him a hard time. I'm curious to see how Green Bay does sans Favre, and how the Jets do avec Favre. Most of my immediate family lives in New England and supports the Patriots WHO LOST TO THE COLTS JUST YESTERDAY.

Being reasonably conversant in football also helped me when I worked in nearly all male environments, allowing me to be just one of the guys. I even won a football pool once.

(The only reason I keep going on and on about football is I can't figure out how to end this piece! This is what I get for trying to work on this at work. It's all disjointed. And I'm tired. So I'm just going to stop. Now.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

If I Could Turn Back Time

Curmudgeon that I am, I find it easier to think of things I do not like than things I like. One thing I totally abhor is Daylight Savings Time, so today I am happy, as we are back to "real" time.

For decades, Indiana was one of the few states that did not participate in DST, and I liked that. I liked being different and I liked not being inconvenienced. I did not realize how much my body liked not having to adjust.

I grew up in states that practiced DST and don't recall having any difficulty with it. Now it is a problem. My older brother, who likes DST because in the summer it stays light until 10PM, giving him more sailing time, says I am unevolved. My SO says I'm a highly sensitive person (in a good way). I try to tell myself to just get over it.

One of my co-workers lived in California for 13 months a while back. He remained on Indiana time the entire time he was there, which he thought was great. He had plenty of time to do things in the morning before work, like exercise. He is not a fan of DST, either.

The big question I have is, If DST is so great, why don't we stay on it year round?

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Last year when I participated in NaBloPoMo (on my other blog), I had a theme to help carry me through the entire month. This year's theme (on this blog) is going to be Things I Like.

Today's Thing I Like (adore, really) is Vlasic Dill Relish. If you are a serious dill pickle fan, you have got to try this. It's like Pizza King's ground pepperoni - more surface area means more flavor. It's incredible.

(How's that for a lame start?)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Randomness

What do you think about trick-or-treaters with cleavage? Too old to trick-or-treat? At least for candy? In their favor, they wore real costumes.

I don't know many of the neighborhood kids, but I recognized the Dachshund dressed up like a hot dog.

Why is everyone saying "Happy Halloween" instead of "Trick or treat"?

"I like your hair," I told one sevenish-year-old girl, referring to her waist-length pink tresses.

"Thanks," she responded matter-of-factly. "It's a wig."

What Your Halloween Habits Say About You

You're a friendly person, but not the life of the party. You like making someone else's day - and you'll dress up if you think of a really fun costume.

Sneaky and devious, people should really watch out for you. You are usually underestimated and forgotten.

Your inner child is full of wonder and very sweet.

You truly fear the dark side of humanity. You are a true misanthrope.

You're logical, rational, and not easily effected. Not a lot scares you... especially when it comes to the paranormal.

You are a traditionalist with most aspects of your life. You like your Halloween costume to be basic, well made, and conventional enough to wear another year.

Just for the record, I am not sneaky or devious, I don't have an inner child, and I'm not so much traditional as lazy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vacation Randomness

My son and I used to watch "Hoosier Millionaire" just to see how close the host came to insulting the contestants. One contestant stood out, a woman who had moved from West Virginia to Terre Haute. When asked how she liked Terre Haute, she replied, "Shore. Is. Fast. Paced."

Last Monday we passed through Terre Haute on our way to Giant City State Park in southern Illinois. It is bigger than I expected. There was an electronic sign near the road construction in Terre Haute. All I caught of the message was "CHOOSE ANOTHER ROUTE". Were they talking about the traffic jam we hit outside Mt. Vernon?

My SO's hobby is photography, something you cannot tell from the following picture of my son and me that he took with my point-and-shoot camera. (Please ignore my codpiece.)

Can you see the family resemblance?

Since we were so close to the Mississippi River, we spent an hour or so trying to find it. We knew we were close but could not find a way to access it until we got to Grand Tower. The Mississippi is pretty unspectacular at this point, sort of like Tower Rock.

While driving around looking for the Mississippi, we passed through many towns where I am guessing the local population bitterly clings to their religion and guns. Or maybe not so bitterly.

"Hooked on quack." "If it flies, it dies." "Duck Busters."

Giant City includes a stable and offers trail rides. I briefly flirted with the idea of spending an hour in the saddle, but decided these aging hips were not up to it.

Every - and I mean every - time we walked into the dining room, Ernest fooled me.

As you can see, I can't operate my camera any better than my SO can.

Mindless Eating

Last week my SO and I spent five days at Giant City State Park. This vacation was designated as a do-nothing vacation. We hiked a little and ate a little and napped a little and ate a little and read a little and ate a little. Did I mention the eating? The park has a restaurant in the lodge, with average food. What it lacked in quality it made up for in quantity, though. In other words, I gained a few pounds.

Unlike a co-worker, who has been losing weight lately. His inspiration has come from Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. Not one to argue with success, I checked the book out of the library.

Most diet books are boring treatises of rah-rah prose disguising guaranteed failure. Any diet that is too complicated or that leaves one feeling deprived and/or bored is doomed. But Mindless Eating is less about what to eat and all about why we eat (besides hunger).

And it is entertaining. Wansink is a food psychologist who thinks up the craziest experiments in order to decipher why we overeat. My personal favorite is the bottomless soup bowl.

The book is also enlightening, as I saw myself in several chapters. "Mindless Eating Scripts" illuminated my own eating scripts, the prime one being my membership in the Clean Plate Club. "Surveying the Tablescape" helped me see that I should use smaller glasses, spoons, and plates at mealtime. "The Forgotten Food" suggests I stop eating when I am no longer hungry, not when I feel full.

I read most of the book before going on vacation, and while I gained weight, it could have been much worse. I did not clean my plate at each and every meal. During the family-style all-you-can-eat chicken dinner, I concentrated on the vegetables and salad. We ate only two meals a day, snacking in between. And I waited until my son joined us before ordering the beer batter onion rings (which were really, really good).

In the final chapter, Wansink challenges the reader to design his/her own "Mindful Eating Plan". For myself, I choose these three changes:

1. Only eat when I eat - no reading, television viewing, surfing the Net, etc. while eating.
2. Wear tight jeans at night instead of sweats or jammies.
3. Eat breakfast at home and carry my lunch, to avoid the cafeteria and vending machines at work.

I'll report on my results at a later date. Meanwhile, I recommend this book to dieters and non-dieters alike, because it's a fun read.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In the Valley of Elah

What a heart breaking movie! On the surface, this movie is about a father, a former Army man, looking for his Army son who disappeared shortly after returning from Iraq. His remains indicate he was stabbed, dismembered, and burned, which lead us through a laundry list of possible scenarios and perpetrators. But the movie is also about the trauma of war on "warriors" and their survivors.

While the plotline is compelling, what really sucked me in was the character development and the relationships between the characters. There is Hank Deerfield (played by Tommy Lee Jones), a distrustful veteran who starts the movie proud of his country and proud of his sons. There is his wife Joan; Susan Sarandon has about a dozen lines in this movie but they are all perfectly rendered and bursting with backstory. And there is Det. Emily Sanders, a single mother who knows how to play with the big boys even though they don't want her to play.

The Valley of Elah is where David met and slew Goliath. It is also where we face our fears and learn to accept the truth, about our loved ones and ourselves, even when that truth is hard to bear.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

Found this meme here. Sounded like fun. You play by bolding the foods you have tried and crossing out the ones you will try if and when hell freezes over.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (what's wrong with vodka?)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (but not together)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (does rabbit count?)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Hmmm. I don't even know what a lot of these are. The likelihood of my eating horse is remote, as is my consumption of shellfish since I am allergic, but I won't say never. There are many foods I thought I would never like and now are my favorites. I just hope horse is never one of them.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Four for Friday - the Home Edition

Q1. Paint: Did you paint the walls in your home or were they painted to your liking before you moved in?

The house was a celebration to that cutesy country style that was popular once upon a time, with lots of wallpaper and borders. I liked it initially, but it wore out its welcome really fast.

The first rooms to be redone were the kids rooms, since my kids had outgrown the alphabet-and-nursery-rhyme stage. My daughter opted for peach carpeting - not watermelon, not mango, not lemon, but peach. Finding matching curtains and bedspread was next to impossible. And the only type of carpet available was on the expensive side. She swore she would be careful, but now the carpet sports stains from a variety of sources, from makeup to poster paint. My son opted for neutral shades, but we did add an Indiana University border, so I spray painted the shelving red. too. The wallpaper in these two rooms came off relatively easily, as did the wallpaper in the main bath, which became a minty green.

Years passed. During this time, I purchased from Coldwater Creek a bedspread and matching curtains, to try to motivate myself to tackle my bedroom, which had wallpaper wainscoting topped with a border, the two in contrasting pink prints, with pink walls above. And pink curtains. And a dingy shag carpet. The master bath was more of the same. When I could stand it no longer, I got to work. Apparently, the walls in the master bedroom and bath had not been sized prior to the wallpaper being hung, so removing it involved much labor and cursing and rental of scary tools. I prevailed, though, and covered every available vertical surface with lavender paint. And hung the curtains. Which did not match the paint. And did not match each other. Then I laid what I thought was a gray carpet, but it sucked the blue out of the lavender. The room wasn't quite hideous, but it definitely was not pleasant, either. Meanwhile, I had replaced the flooring in the kitchen and lucked out - it looked great! Feeling overly confident, I replaced the flooring in the main bath as well - UGH!

My daughter came to my rescue and in rapid succession we repainted the main bath a lovely pinky-beige, my bedroom a pale blue, the master bath an icy blue. I donated the curtains and bedspread to Goodwill and purchased some navy curtains (to block the evening sun, now that we are on DST) and a navy comforter. Much better! Then we continued through the livingroom (two shades of coffee), diningroom (a shade too pink - someday we will try again), and the kitchen (another shade of pinky-beige). I crapped out then, with the laundry room the only unfinished area (the family room has paneling).

So. What was the question? One reason I picked my house is I didn't have to do any redecorating when I moved in, but eventually everything changed. Sort of like life.

Q2. Room: What is your favorite room in your house and why?

My new fantasy room, hopefully. I am having the Florida room removed because 1) it blocks the light from entering the family room, and 2) it is in need of major upkeep, and 3) with its particle board walls and ceiling, it is hopelessly ugly. The new room will be a real room, with lots of windows looking out onto my backyard habitat and bird feeding station. There will be a viewing area, shelves for my knitting books and yarns, enough room for meditation and yoga. Ommmmm.

Q3. Work: If your employer offered you the opportunity to work from home, would you take it?

YES, YES, YES!!! Once upon a time, I was self-employed and worked out of my home and I loved it.

Q4. Houseguests: When was the last time you hosted overnight visitors in your home, and how long did they stay? Optional follow-up question: Do you enjoy hosting/entertaining overnight visitors?

We won't count my SO. He stays over about once a week, although this summer we are on an alternative schedule of Sunday afternoons. And I shouldn't count my son, although when the son is here, sometimes a friend of his may show up at the breakfast table, which is fine because we don't want anyone drinking and driving. This also motivated me to dedicate one of the spare bedrooms as a guest room.

Otherwise, the last time I had real overnight guests was a Women's Weekend that somehow wound up at my house. One of the guests paid me the best compliment ever: She felt very comfortable here. Since then, the house has been redecorated and I have new furniture (mission style) and soon I should have a new room. Maybe we should have WW here again.

But, in general, I don't have people over much because then I would feel like I had to clean. I may be worth it, but they are not.