Thursday, December 30, 2010

A resolution recap

I've been riddled with guilt over my non-posting during the Christmas season, but let me just say: I've been working on something big over here at the house. Well, it's big for me. I will have photos and details in the next couple of weeks and can't wait to reveal it!

I'm planning on posting my annual Top 10 Best and Worst list tomorrow, so I thought today would be a good day to check back in on my resolutions.

I started the year with 42 resolutions. Mid-year, I checked in and eliminated six that I felt were unrealistic. In the spirit of being consistent, I will break down my resolutions the same way I did July 1. The remaining 36 resolutions fall into the following categories:

1) This resolutions gots to go. It is unrealistic.

2) This resolution is COMPLETE.

3) This resolution is in progress.

4) I, like, totally forgot about this resolution and/or ignored it and/or failed miserably at my attempt to achieve it.

Here's how they break down:

1) I've eliminated two additional resolutions because they are moot points/unnecessary. Won't bore you with the details.

2) I accomplished eleven resolutions! None of which were to lose weight! Among my proudest: Quitting my job. I also managed to start making dinner at home a majority of the time, which was on the list. Done and done!

3) Seven resolutions are in progress. One of them is the mystery I alluded to above.... Stay tuned!

4) I failed at sixteen resolutions, one of which was to lose weight, of course. One resolution was to get pregnant, but there's no accounting for stubborn ovaries, so I should hardly be penalized for that one.

I'll carry over most of the failed resolutions, and all of the "in progress" resolutions and add some new resolutions to the mix. I really feel it's important to get that sense at the beginning of the year that anything can happen, starting January 1. It's a new year, a new chance. Making resolutions says "I have hopes and goals and dreams." Failing at some of them doesn't make me a failure.

See you tomorrow for the Best & Worst!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eclipse

I always say there's nothing better for a crick in your neck than staring at the moon for an hour. It's one of my life mantras.

Anyway as everyone knows there was a full eclipse of the moon on the winter solstice, so my husband and I stood in the backyard for a bit and stared at the moon, and my husband messed with the ISO speeds and exposure settings on my camera until he got a few decent shots.

Enjoy!













Now here's where the camera batteries died and we had to use my point and shoot to finish it up. The quality of the photos ain't so hot, but you get the idea.






And here's when the clouds rolled in and we couldn't see anything any more so we went to bed. Presumably Satan emerged from the clouds and breathed hell fire on orphans around the world, but I haven't been keeping up with the news.

Toodles!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A durn crick

There is a durn crick in my durn neck.

I sneezed wrong about five minutes after I got out of bed. I was scooping coffee grounds into the machine, turned my head to sneeze and it was all over.

You know the moment you hurt yourself and you just think, Well, it's all over for the day, isn't it? There may be about four thousand things I wanted to do today, but my neck is going to be a bitch about the whole thing, so probably only about a thousand things will get done.

Anyhow.

Just so that you know, I turned on the little thingy-bopper on Blogger that lets you read my blog a lot easier on your mobile device (aka your iPhone. We all have iPhones now and Apple is going to take over the world and some day Steve Jobs will be president; let's just face the music). You can thank me later.

This neck thing is making me a little testy! Heh. I said testy. Get it? Testes? I come by my dirty sex humor honestly, believe me. You do not want to know the things my dad says at the dinner table during family gatherings.

Which reminds me, my friend swallowed her tongue ring on Saturday night, as eight of us were out to eat at a restaurant. Someone at the time said, You should blog about this! (I'd had a martini and two glasses of wine by then, so sorry to whomever suggested it) So here I am. My friend says she's unsure if she will replace the tongue ring or allow her tongue to go back to its natural, ring-less state. There was a lot of eye rolling and head nodding toward her husband, for his depraved love of her tongue ring. We blame him for the whole thing.

It just makes things easier. Blame your husband. Or your mother.

If it's not one thing, it's your mother. I like to say that to my mother and then laugh uproariously.

It's the little things.

All right, I need to go ice this crick. Til tomorrow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My current look

The only downside to my new bangs is that when I don't style my hair or put on makeup, I look like the albino from The Princess Bride.


Happy Friday! I hope the holidays aren't driving you too batty.... See you next week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Short Rib Ragu & Polenta

Vegetarians should turn away now. This ain't your Vegan De-lite.

This short rib recipe is from Martha and It. Is. The bomb.

I made it a couple months ago for the first time and it blew me away. I'm not a huge meat eater and can usually take it or leave it, but this dish is so savory and rich and delicious, I will probably be sneaking bites of it from the fridge all day. *sigh*

So! Allow me to explain what goes into this deliciousness.

Firstly, it's a slow-cooker dish. I associate slow cooker dishes with ease. As in, I expect to throw a lot of raw things into a pot and for it to come out delicious in about eight hours. And usually, it does.

This particular slow-cooker recipe calls for a lot of cooking prep, which is irritating, but I assure you is one hundred percent worth it.

First I chopped up a carrot and an onion. By the way, since I got a cold, I haven't been as affected by onions. Also, I have a new technique to delay exposure to onion fumes for as long as possible -- I prep each half for dicing, cut sides down, and then dice it up right quick while holding my head as far away as possible. 


This is about one and a half pounds of short ribs, browning in oil. The recipe calls for three pounds, so I did this in two batches. You can certainly do a half batch, as the whole recipe will serve six people. But we like leftovers round these parts.



I am so proud of my rosemary bushes. Do you grow rosemary? It's the heartiest damn plant that ever lived. I chopped off a big sprig to throw in the crock pot.



You have to sautee the onions and carrots in the meat juice/oil, then pour some tomato juice from your canned whole tomatoes in there. 



This is everything living together in one pot. You cook it on high for six hours. 



When the ragu was done, I made polenta, using another Martha recipe. It's ridiculously easy and fast and would make a great neutral side dish for any number of main courses. Below is frozen corn sauteed in butter with fresh thyme. I'm pouring on a mixture of half half-and-half and half 1% milk because the recipe calls for whole milk. It worked out just fine.


You add a little water and bring it to a boil, then throw in some cornmeal, whisk it around, and it starts to melt together. When it's done about six minutes later you throw in a handful of butter and parmesan.


Here's the dish when it's all said and done. When the meat is done cooking, you shred it, which is simple because it's extremely tender. It comes out tasting rich and wonderful, especially on a cold winter night. If you're not into polenta, Martha suggests serving this with wide noodles, like pappardelle, or on toasted crunchy bread, which sounds to die for.



For the recipe please visit this link.  For the polenta recipe please visit this link.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bullet points!

I'm a little all over the place today, so I'm reverting to an old favorite: Bullet points with sentences that may or may not have anything to do with one another. Toodles!

- I accidentally sent a package to my old office for probably the sixth time since I quit nine months ago, which means I need to put on makeup and go smile and say hello to get it, which annoys the shit out of me.

- Do I have a brain wasting disease or something? Precisely how many times do I need to make the same mistake before I learn not to do it again?

- Last night a wiry Italian man apologized to me for showing up at my house so drunk. I am officially the respectable lady that drunks apologize to.

- The drunk says he thinks two of the hottest celebrities ever are Meryl Streep and Tracy Ullman.

- I am becoming underwhelmed by The Biggest Loser. They treat their viewers like idiots.

- I made the bombest Indian stew last night. It really was the bomb.

- I am making short rib ragu tonight and it is also the bomb. I know this from experience.

- I can't breathe through my nose.

- The drunk says one time he was picked up after passing out drunk on the street somewhere in Italy. He awoke in the hospital two days later with a note on his chest stating he had been found deceased.

- It is cold in here.

- My parents bought a really huge TV and put it on top of their old entertainment center, and now it practically touches the ceiling. This makes me chuckle.

- The drunk says it really is time we start decorating our house. I'm a bit ashamed that someone so drunk even noticed.

- Am I lazy or what?

- I am reading The Imperfectionists and think I should like it more than I do because it's about journalists. But I don't.

- I am going to go eat lunch now.

- Goodbye.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My best books of the year

My custom as the years end is to start taking account of what was great and what sucked, and what I should do better next year.

And since I spend a lot of time reading books, I decided this year I am going to list the top nine books I think you should read. Nine, because there were nine really good ones. I read 31 books this year overall (on the Kindle. I know I read some actual books borrowed from people I worked with, but the only one of note that I can remember is Little Bee, which is stab-your-eyes-out heartbreaking, if you're into that kind of thing).

I would tell you which books you should NOT read, but I just don't have the heart to slander anyone who's even attempted to write a book, given my current situation.

So, in order from least awesome to the most awesomest ever, I give you .....


9. The Dead Zone by Stephen King. OK - disclaimer! I have a bit of a weakness for books with characters who can read minds. And also, this book was first published in 1980, so I'm about 31 years late in getting to this. But there's no denying that Stephen King is a craftsman who knows how to grab his readers early on. And this book is full of the awesome. It climaxes into a semi-unexpected, but very satisfying finish.


8. Dead Man's Walk by Larry McMurtry. This is the first book in the Lonesome Dove series and Oh Lordy, it's going to be 2011 before I get to the second book because McMurtry's writing is so stark and the suspense is intense. It's a Western novel written on the side of the cowboys, and let me tell you the first chapter is legendary. If you read the first chapter and are not completely screwed into reading the whole book, you are a stronger person than I am. The book first came out in 1986, and McMurtry went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for the third book in the series - Lonesome Dove. I truly love that title.

7. Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by Frank Bruni. I counted, and this year I read something like four books related to dieting. At this point, I feel that I know why I am pudgy. The problem would be getting off my butt and getting rid of the pudge. And not eating food that I love. I dearly love food. I love cooking it, staring at it, smelling it, and mostly, eating it. I've always thought it would be awesome but also devastating to be a food critic, which is what drew me to this book by New York Times food critic Frank Bruni. He is very relatable and interesting -- not to mention it's nice to read a book about weight issues that's written by a man, for a change.

6. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Holy crapola. Simply a devastatingly awesome novel. It's so splendidly written, and so unique as it's written from the point of view of a little girl. It goes places you don't wanna go, but you can't not go there. Another disclaimer, actually: I also have a weakness for ghosts as characters, so take that into consideration. I loved Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger for that same reason, aside from the fact that it was truly bizarre. And the ghost thing also kind of/sort of relates to my #1 pick.


5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Great title and fascinatingly true story of the African American woman whose cancer cells were taken from her in the 1950s and used without her or her family's knowledge. Her cells were used to cure polio and advance medicine in a whole host of other ways that will astound you. Her family has never seen a single dime as a result of all this. You get to meet Lacks' relatives and learn about how she grew up. It's a heartbreaking but fascinating story.

4. Born to Run by Christopher Mcdougall. How did a nonfiction book about running make it onto my reading list? Well. Firstly, yet another disclaimer: I fancy myself a runner. No, I do not actually run. But I think I could if I really tried. But the real reason I read this book is because it's actually a captivating story about a race of people who live in BF Mexico and run ultra marathons as part of their lifestyle. Mcdougall explores the question of why these people run, what makes them so good at it, what they eat, what kind of shoes they wear. My explanation doesn't do the book justice. Suffice to say that if you read the book, you're going to want to run, and you're going to want to do it barefoot.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Don't read any spoilers about this book. Don't watch the movie. Don't even read the jacket cover. Just read it. The book is about a group of kids growing up together in a special home in the UK. They're different from other people, and they have a different purpose for being. The book lets you take a glimpse into the minds of people who know their purpose and feel no need to escape it. It's a bit of a love story but written in a detached way that leaves you feeling sad and cold. Ishiguro also wrote The Remains of the Day, which is obviously well-known. I haven't read it but added it to my "to read" list when I finished Never Let Me Go.

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This novel is full of such richly developed characters, you can see them. Their personalities are so distinct and well thought out, you can't help but love a handful of them, and truly hate a few more of them. The book is about African American maids in the early '60s in Mississippi, right about when all that crazy civil rights crap was going down. It's the tale of the maids speaking out in their own way. It's written from the point of view of three characters -- one is a white, female, recent college graduate who's searching for the maid who raised her. One is a maid whose son was killed and she's just trying to get through each day, raising white people's kids. And one is a sassy maid who does a "Terrible Awful" thing that will have you rolling on the floor. Overall the book is very moving and satisfying.

1. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Written from the point of view of a sixth-grader in the late '70s, this book is a mystery that is spine-tingling, heartbreaking, and wonderful. Here's the kicker: It's written for kids, ages 9-12. Oopsie daisies! But that's what happened with the Harry Potter series, right? All the adults started reading them, too? I honestly didn't know this was a children's book, which is part of the magic of Kindle. You really can't judge a book by its cover, because you can't really see its cover. I think When You Reach Me is a lovely book to read if you're of the generation that read A Wrinkle in Time in grade school. I clearly recall reading it in my own sixth grade class, and loving every moment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Barftastic

Somehow, despite the fact that I live like a hermit, I have managed to contract the Cold from Hell. Usually I can at least eat through a cold, but this one has put the smack down on my appetite.

In better news, I've lost five pounds! Who can say THAT in December?

Anyway, that is really all for today. I am going to go lie down with a hot washcloth on my face and I'll see you tomorrow, kay? Buh-bye then.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A different season

With Christmas two weeks away, today I want to say that I am so grateful that I do not have to spend this holiday season dealing with the complete retardation that was my former job.

It has made all the difference. I feel like I am enjoying Christmas for the first time in years.

Every day that I am following my dream instead of slaving away in that cubicle hell-hole, I thank my lucky stars for this opportunity. I don't know how I got this lucky. Sometimes I feel guilty because of it.

For a glimpse into my normal state of mind during the Christmas season, visit this link. Warning: the post is peppered with the F-word.

Things that are different this year, compared to last year: We got our tree last weekend. My adorable husband hung lights outside, for the first time. It's so beautiful. I've been listening to Frank Sinatra sing Christmas songs. I sent our Christmas cards out. I'm almost done with Christmas shopping, except for a couple of holdouts who haven't told me what they want *COUGH* SUSAN & CODY *COUGH*. And, I'm about to get all Betty Crocker up in this bitch with some cookies.

It's all because I quit my job. I still spend at least eight hours a day sitting at a computer, but I find that when I don't have to do something I detest, I retain the energy that would normally get sucked away by corporate vampires.

It's fantastic. I hope you don't hate me for it.


 I sort of love our tree this year. Although I hate our tree topper so I cropped most of it out. There are three cans of SSSCAT pointed at the tree to make sure the cats don't destroy it. :-)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bangs

I have this forehead. This Ellen Page forehead. It's a lot of forehead. I mean, people aren't saying, Wow, didja see that forehead? But I see it.

Oh, I see it.

And I've had this hairstyle for about 14 years. It's the style I adopted soon after I started college in 1996 and realized my poofy bangs had been out of style for at least seven years.

Here's how I been lookin' since then.



The color has varied from blonde to black but I think I've settled on dark brown, which is my natural color. I think.

Problem was that vast forehead was staring me in the face every day. I longed to cover it up, so I did.




I was trying to make the same face, for comparison's sake. Feel free to give your honest opinion. I'm on the fence. For one thing, my forehead is warmer, and I don't have to stare at that vast white expanse, or deal with that terrible side part, which for some reason seemed mannish to me.

Also, never you mind what's going on in the background. I know it looks like we're filming "Hoarders" over here, but that's just our latest eBay sell-pile. *groan*

An anecdote: I came home with this hairstyle last week and my husband says, "You have bangs." I say yes. He asks "Are those new?" I tell him if he isn't sure, then he's been playing too much World of Warcraft. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Roasted vegetable soup

The idea behind this soup was that it would be a low calorie, hot meal I could turn to when I'm being inundated from all sides by images of delicious Christmas cookies, filled with butter and my mortal enemy/best friend -- carbohydrates.

So I turned to PW, subtracted the pasta (CARBS!) from her Roasted Vegetable Minestrone soup, and made it, simply, Roasted Vegetable soup. It is delicious. A 10 on the Lakshmi meter.

So first, I chopped up some zucchini, summer squash and mushrooms and drizzled them with olive oil and salt.


Then I roasted 'em. Here's how they look after a stint in the oven.

 

By the way, would anyone like to clean my oven? It is in a bad, bad way.

Next, I chopped up carrots, celery & onions and sauteed in olive oil.


 I rinsed some cannellini beans.


I chopped some green beans. Make yours smaller, more bite-sized, if you know what's good for you.


Then I threw it all together in a big pot with some chicken stock, boiled and simmered, dished it up, slapped a few slices of parmesan on the top ...


And I've been eating it for lunch ever since. It makes a lot of soup, which is exactly what I wanted/needed. It is my savior in times of outrageous carbohydrate cravings.

Please visit this link to PW's recipe. The only differences between her recipe and mine are that I didn't use pasta, and I used 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric instead of a quarter. It was worth it.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Water

I'm not sure I've ever told the story of my high school swim class here, but I think of it often, so I'm going to tell it.

In high school, we had this PE teacher. Let's call her Ms. Little. She was young and tan and wore short shorts and had long, shiny brown hair. The male students liked her quite a bit, and she focused her positive attention on them, especially the athletes.

So in high school, they make you take a number of unsavory physical education classes, the most detestable being swim class. I could swim, but that didn't mean I didn't still have a healthy fear of drowning. Ms. Little taught us a number of life-saving maneuvers that required the saver-of-lives to dive deep into the pool to simulate pulling a drowning victim from below. I suffered through it.

Until the day we padded out in our swimsuits and Ms. Little pointed to the high dive and announced that we would each be diving off of it that day. I've mentioned my healthy fear of drowning? I also had, and still have, a healthy fear of heights. I told Ms. Little about this, and she said to suck it up and jump off the high dive.

So I refused. This is one of the first times I can recall telling someone in authority "No." I was raised to obey and respect teachers implicitly, but even I could see that not only did jumping off the high dive hold no educational purpose, but there was a good chance I would vomit before, during, or after doing so.

Ms. Little was very unhappy with me. She said some unkind words about me not being brave, and embarrassed me in front of the class. I always hated her for it.

Fast forward about 10 years. I am living in Sonora, reporting for the local newspaper. I am hanging out with some reporter friends at one of the only bars in town. I am poor -- I'm wearing a $7 shirt that I had to sew a seam together on in mismatched thread that evening before heading out -- but I feel good, and I look good.

The local high school played football against an out-of-town team that night, and the out-of-town team's coaches were at the bar, celebrating their victory. One of my nosy reporter friends was chatting them up and then realized the coaches were from my home town, so he pulled me over to meet them, and suddenly I was standing face to face with Ms. Little.

I recognized her instantly, although her face was lined and her long hair had gray in it and her slender hips had widened. With two vodka drinks in my belly, I was feeling generous of spirit and greeted her cheerfully, telling her I was a former student of hers. She was drunk and told me she'd married the coach of the football team and had some kids and named one of them after one of the football players from my high school who went on to play for the Jaguars, the Browns, and the Steelers. He's retired now, at age 33, probably counting his stacks of money.

She said she was embarrassed that she'd gained weight and I lied and told her she looked the same; that she looked great. She smiled. She said she remembered me.

Did I ever make you jump off the high dive? she asked, suddenly.

I laughed.

You tried. I wouldn't do it.

I'm sorry, she said.

And instead of a bad memory, the story of Ms. Little and the high dive became one of humor and kindness. It was so lovely of her to apologize for what she'd obviously realized had been a mistake for some time. It was so lovely of fate to allow that meeting.

I wish for other meetings, with people I'd like to apologize to, or from whom I'd like an apology. I practice for these meetings, just in case.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Of pudge and realizations

Sometimes I think to myself, Self? Wouldn't it be better to not blog about cellulite and chin fat? 

Because cellulite and chin fat are embarrassing. In real life, and also when you write about them.

I am not the kind of fat person whose face does not gain weight when her butt does. My body is an equal-opportunity employer of fat cells. You may live in the cheeks, whether they be ass or face. You may live in the neck or the arm flaps or the ankles or the thighs, although we are running out of room in the thighs. Prime real estate, that is.

The good news about 2010 is that I have not gained weight. The bad news is I have not lost weight. It's a weird year. I maintained. We are rolling into 2011 at the same size we were when we rolled into 2010, pun fully intended.

You know how sometimes you'll be sitting around staring off into space and wondering to yourself, Self? Why is losing weight so hard?

Maybe you don't wonder that, but I wonder that a lot. I think frequently and fondly of a time when I lost weight and I build a chart in my mind, trying to compare myself now to myself then and figure out what is different about me now that makes losing weight more challenging.

And ya'll? I figured it out yesterday. It's going to sound dumb when I say it, but I never claimed to be smart.

See, the difference is that when I embarked on a lifestyle change that resulted in me losing about 40 pounds of El Flabbo, I was in my 20s, and I had never embarked on such a well-planned diet and exercise program before in my life.

Now that I'm in my 30s, I've embarked on several well-planned diet and exercise programs and failed at all of them. Dozens of them. I set a precedent of failure and am somehow surprised when I continue to fail.

I am too big. I'm a dark shadow reflected in a window. I can't pull my elbows and shoulders in enough, make myself small enough when I want to be smaller. On a plane or in a crowded car. There is too much padding on my hip bones and my ribs.

I am tall and thick. Sturdy and heavy and immovable. Slow and creaking. Muddy and apologetic. Overly kind to strangers because that's what overweight women have to be. I wrap myself in long, draping, dark fabrics and go where I need to go quietly, quickly and politely.

That sounds dramatic. It's not as bad as all that. Only when I'm really down about it.

So I had my realization about the precedent of failure, which is something I've half-realized probably 30 times before yesterday, but completely understand only now. I drew up a new plan, new goals, new baby steps. There are a certain number of months filled with weeks during which I will or should be doing certain things to accomplish certain goals, and when I put it down on paper, it's not bad, really. Not that many months or that many pounds.

Although I do fully understand December is not an optimal month to start a diet, nor is a Thursday, nor is wintertime. It goes against my diet code. Which hasn't been working so well for me.

I hope to move slowly and make wise decisions.