Saturday, January 30, 2010

When it snows it pours

Sorry, I'm so far behind! I still haven't written about my trip to Chicago but that's because I caught a bad cold about two minutes after my plane landed in Richmond. Now it's snowing all crazy and I'm on day three of being trapped in the house feeling like shit. AWESOME. I did use my sweet new KitchenAid mixer to make cookies, though I can't actually confirm their tastiness.

A big snowstorm here is usually cause for excitement but this is the second time we've had a big snow on a weekend. Stop it, weather. If you can't give me a legitimate day off work I don't need you. Man, I am not good at being sick. To amuse myself I've been Twittering with one of the local TV weather guys because this morning he said he'd tarped his car once he got to work and also suggested tarping your yard and maybe your dog too. (They are getting a little punchy over there.) Here's the exchange I had with him:

Amblus @AndrewFreiden Freiden, I've tarped all three cats per your advice. Now what? Starting to panic and cats are REAL MAD.

AndrewFreiden @Amblus Rule #1: don't tarp cats. Dogs are OK with it, though.

Amblus @AndrewFreiden You might have wanted to mention that. It's too late and tarp is shredded. I'm next. Very scared. Pls advise.

AndrewFreiden @Amblus abandon ship. You should now leave town.

Amblus @AndrewFreiden Have abandoned house & am currently hunkered under tarp in the back yard. Cats have slashed tires & phone lines. So scared.

Sorry, I'm such a nerd. But what else do I have to do? I can't go anywhere and I don't feel good enough to do much else. I will leave you with a couple of nice photos that Kenny took in our back yard:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bullet Points.

Yeah, I've been busy but lots has happened! I promise to be better about updating when I get back from my trip. Ah! Bullet:

  • I'm going to Chicago tomorrow to see friends and to eat some good food and generally not be at home and stuff. Whee! My coworkers keep giving me chemical hand warmers which is nice, but it's not actually that cold there right now. I'm not going to the antarctic, y'all.
  • My birthday was last Saturday and it was a lot of fun. My spinning instructor embarrassed me good (but played Bowie at my request), I had a fun lunch with my sister and nieces, and went out to dinner with Kenny, Kate and Justin. Dinner was a bit of a fiasco because who the hell decides to go to Edo's on a Saturday night after they've been closed for two weeks? Only me. It was a mob scene. That's a story in itself, so I'll save it.
  • I took my first TRX class on Tuesday and assumed, stupidly, that because I work out hard and lift heavy that it wouldn't be that hard. Hi, could you put my coat on for me? And buckle my seat belt? And maybe steer my car? My arms DON'T WORK. Damn hell. I can't wait to do it again once I'm able to move and stuff.

That's all! I'll be back Monday with tales to tell.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iron Chef Amblus

Cooking is something I enjoy and I like to think I'm pretty good at it but it's one of those things that can go either way and so fast. One second you're dreaming up titles for the Cooking Show Starring You and the next you're covered in coconut milk and weeping, while something quietly catches fire in the oven*. It's really all about, uh, timing.

Last weekend I was gifted with (Claudia, close your ears) some really glorious Benton's bacon. It's what bacon should be, for serious. It spawned a whole lot of cooking, including these biscuits and this kale and potato recipe. Delicious! I also, at the suggestion of a friend, tried this Brunswick Chicken recipe and it turned out so well I felt like a cooking genius. The next day I turned the leftovers into Brunswick stew (sans possum or squirrel, lets not go crazy, okay?) and it got even better. I was on a roll of cooking awesomeness.

Then, last night I tried another recommended recipe for Seared Tofu with Green Beans and Coconut Sauce. I really like tofu a lot, but I've never been able to cook it. I just can't make it turn out the way I want. I've frozen it, squeezed it, pressed it, yadda yadda yadda falling apart and soggy. Every. Single. Time. I gave up after finding a local brand of pre-baked and flavored tofu that was really good. Then it disappeared - I guess the company went out of business. Sadness! Back to square one.

But I read the recipe and even though it's a little fussy with the cooking and removing, cooking and removing, I thought it sounded simple enough. I got started with the tofu (pressed, cubed, marinated) and everything was going great until I tried to flip it. Uh, tofu? Ain't meat. If you aren't using a non-stick pan those little cubes are going to stick and break and fall apart and you will realize this when you're in the middle of decanting the coconut milk which has separated with a thick layer of solid crap on top and WHEEEE a spray of liquidy goodness underneath that you will accidentally hit too hard with your spatula and it will go EVERYWHERE. Meanwhile your tofu is not searing so much as committing suicide.

You yank out a nonstick pan and transfer the tofu and use the other pan for the rest and watch in horror as your ginger sticks fast and your garlic starts to burn before it even hits the surface. Glob in the coconut milk solids and whatever is left from the liquid and stirstirstir while coconut milk runs down your face, mingling with your tears.

At this point your husband wanders into the kitchen, takes one look and crab-scrambles right back out before he gets sucked into the vortex of Dinner Preparation Panic.

Take a breath. Take a gulp of wine. Wipe the coconut milk off your feet. Go back in.

Green beans, red bell pepper, other shit, stir stir stir, remove. Boil. Throw stuff back in, oh crap what the hell is that? Whatever its fine. Rice, plates, beer, dinner. *sob*

What? No sweat. It was pretty tasty, though next time I'm just going to sear up the tofu in a separate (NONSTICK) pan while I make the sauce and cook the veggies in the other one. I'm not sure why I didn't do that to begin with, but that's why cooking is so fucking fun. IT'S FUN.

* a few weeks ago I apparently dropped a pot holder in the oven and didn't notice. When I opened the oven again I saw it just as it burst into flames. I calmly closed the oven while I found some baking soda to throw on it. I did not panic! Nothing to see here. Please move along.

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Friday! Stuff! I! Love!

Mr. Bento lunchbox I got one of these for Christmas and it's been a lot of fun, if a little fussy. I think it'll work better in the summer when I eat things that don't have to be heated up. It's supposed to keep food hot or cold but I don't usually heat my leftovers up in the morning prior to packing. Still, I love the stacking containers and the built-in portion control. I've been using it all week with good results. Plus, it looks really cool and comes with it's own spork!

Sweet Potato Lentil Kale soup. This soup is a godsend. It's what I make after the holidays when I feel all gross from the sugar and butter I've consumed with both hands. It's painfully healthy but seriously delicious and very nice served with grilled cheese sandwiches made with good crusty bread. I've added organic chicken sausage to it but it's just as good without. If you're not a kale fan, spinach would probably work, though Swiss chard or collards would hold up better.

(I got no picture. You'll have to check the link or use your imagination)

Farmer Boy. I was a huge fan of the Little House books when I was a kid and I've read them all many times but the one I always come back to is Farmer Boy. Something about the food descriptions, the animals, the upstate New York farm life appeals to me more than the prairie every did. It really holds up and I enjoy reading it now just as much as I did when I was little. Almanzo's my boy.

Shu Uemura Skin Purifier. I am a sucker for beauty products but most of my skincare stuff runs along the lines of Neutrogena, Cetaphyl and Mario Badescu. However! I splurged on a small bottle of this Shu Uemura cleansing oil because my skin had started to do that winter dry/patchy/blotchy thing which is just awesome. The Cetaphyl wasn't cutting it anymore, let's be honest. I've been using the cleansing oil every evening (I don't wash my face in the morning, just rinse) and my skin looks a lot better. Plus, I don't have that dried-mask feeling right after I wash my face. It's expensive, but you only need a few drops, so it lasts forever. Whee!

Man, what a weird assortment of stuff I picked today. Whatever, have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why the gym sucks right now.

A few days ago a friend of mine (who's a workout fiend like me) posted on F@cebook about how she hates this time of year at her gym because the resolutionists are gumming up the works. She got some pretty stern replies back, which is understandable.

I think she was misunderstood though, because her rant really wasn't about newbies, it was about folks who already belong to the gym and never go, only to show up all repentant on January 1st and proceed to make everything harder just by being in the way. That sounds bitchy but I know most of them will disappear by the end of February. The whole thing is just so frustrating.

And look, I know we all have to start somewhere, by why does it have to be all at the same time? I came up with an analogy that I hope will better illustrate my point:

Say you have a favorite local coffee shop that you go to every single day. You get a parking space easily and get your usual coffee and muffin after standing in a very short, quick line. You sit at your usual table, which everyone knows is "your" table. It's comfortable, it's your everyday routine.

Now, lets say on January 1st you show up and the parking lot is full. And the street parking is full. You have to park two blocks away. The line for coffee is out the door and after waiting 30 minutes you're told they're out of muffins. You settle for something else and when you go to your table, people you've never seen before are sitting there and have spilled coffee all over it. You try another table but they're all full and nobody is moving. You go home and vow to try again the next day. Unfortunately the entire month of January is like that. And maybe February too.

So, really, it has nothing to do with new exercisers, it has to do with annoyance at the whole THING. Having a place you love and are comfortable with being swamped for an entire month or two. Every year I hope that some of them do stick it out and make it a routine so they don't have to become part of the problem next year.

PS. If your resolution this year was to hit the gym more often, STICK WITH IT. Don't make me write in my blog about you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hot enough for you?

I hesitated to post my last entry but I got a few nice comments and messages that definitely made me feel better, so thanks, you guys. Suffering of any kind is a hard thing for me to wrap my head around, I guess.

So it's Tuesday and I'm a day back into my real life. My time off was awesome - just days and days with no plans, every introvert's dream. I think the hardest part of my morning now is pushing the cat off my lap so I can get dressed and made up and packed and coat on and leave the warm house for the cold nasty world outside. I think I'd be a total hermit if I didn't love shopping so much.

January for me is the month that makes me realize that it really is winter and it's going to be FOREVER before summer comes back. For. Fucking. Ever. I think my favorite time of year is right in the middle of July when everything is so ridiculously green and over-ripe that you think it might all explode. I love walking out of an air conditioned building into the crazy hard sun and just basking in the warm. Really, I think I just love being warm. I will never complain that it's too hot. However, I need January to remind me of how awesome summer is so I don't take it for granted.

January's one redeeming feature is that it's my birthday month. Just when the luster of the holidays is wearing off, YAY it's MY BIRTHDAY. To celebrate I'm traveling to the coldest place I know - Chicago. (I know, right now you're all, "uh, bitch? Did you not just say you love to be warm?") But I have friends there who I'm dying to see and it's somewhere else! Different than here! Colder! But different!

I need to make some friends who live in the Bahamas.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sometimes it's a hard world for small things.

Today has been a rough day and it started with an incident that probably wouldn't even have phased (fazed?) some people. Sure, maybe it's a testament to how sheltered I am, but fuck it. It sucked.

I was on my way to the gym, exiting the highway and in the middle of the exit ramp was the small flailing body of a recently run-over squirrel. Still alive, but probably (hopefully) not for long. I was stricken, but what the hell could I do? You can't stop on an exit and even if I could...then what? Some people would've tried to run over it for good, but I am not built that way.

I went to the gym and had a shitty workout. I felt sick and distraught and a little stupid for letting the suffering of that tiny critter affect me so strongly. But how could I not? How is a squirrel's suffering any more or less important? How do you quantify suffering?

I made it back out to my car an hour later and started crying. And crying. And crying. Crying for the tiny, flailing suffering thing. Crying for my uselessness. Crying for the unfairness and cruelty of it all. Crying because I'm sure other people drove right past and didn't give it a though. Crying because there was nothing I could do.

I'm lucky in that I have a lovely husband who understood my distress and took it seriously. But yeah, not the best day I've ever had.