Monthly Archives: December 2010

O-VER, RA-TED

Over the last decade, I kind of feel like I’ve been-there-done-that when it comes to New Year’s Eve.

Fancy club in L.A.  Fancy club in New York.  Slope-side bar in Whistler B.C.  I think I’ve celebrated New Years in every American time zone at this point.  Personal highlight?  Standing in an hour-long bathroom line and getting puked on by the girl behind me as the ball dropped.  Yeah…glad I’m too old for that scene now.

I’ve also spent New Year’s sitting at home with my cat.  A few years ago, I found myself stranded in my apartment with the hubs out of the country and a broken down car.  I walked a mile and a half in the snow to the nearest CVS and bought a bottle of Yellowtail, then ordered Pizza Hut.  And wiped my drunken tears on my pajama pants while watching the final two seasons of “The O.C. ” on DVD.  (Which brought more tears.  Damn you, Volcheck.)

The night is just so uber-hyped and so…overdoneExpensive.  Frankly, NYE is kind of a pain in the ass.

Which is why this year, I’m very happy to report that the hubs and I are taking a mini road trip up to D.C. to see some friends and hit a house party or two.  Exactly my speed, these days.  More social than sitting at home on the couch.  Not as crazy as dealing with bars/clubs.  Just right.

Whatever you’re doing tonight, have fun, be safe, and kiss someone at the stroke of midnight!  Even if it’s your cat.

Today’s EAT:  Fried chicken.  I made it.

And I’m going to have to make it again.  Fried chicken is one of the most inexpensive and abundant foods here in the South, but I’ve gotta say, making it right seems to be a bit of an art.  Tonight’s effort came out okay, but needs a tweak or two.

(Anyone have a good recipe? I based one this loosely on Ina Garten’s Oven Fried Chicken.  The crust was kinda bland.)

Today’s DRINK: I popped open a bottle that I’ve been eying giddily on the wine rack for the last couple of weeks – this Paul D Grunter Ventliner, a Christmas gift from my friend Allison, who also happens to be an awesome wine blogger.

This wine was really enjoyable!  It was a little different: the first sip immediately recalled a taste that was familiar and delicious, but it took me a minute to place it.  It was…a rich, nutty cheese.  With fruit. I was in heaven.  As I continued to sip, the wine mellowed out to a nice, crisp, apple/pear flavor.  Very enjoyable.

I don’t know much about Austrian wines, but this bottle makes me want to learn more!

Today’s RUN: Riddle me this.  If it snowed in Raleigh last weekend, but has been in the upper 30s or low 40s every day since, HOW IS THERE STILL SNOW AND ICE ON THE SIDEWALKS?  Don’t the laws of thermodynamics dictate that ice –> water when it’s above freezing?

Cue a pair of rather forgettable runs, picking over the icy slush: yesterday, 7 miles and this morning, 4.  Better than nothing!

Today’s QUESTION: What are your NYE plans?  Are you a go-big celebrator, or a stay-home-and-relaxer?

Next year’s lessons

A lot of people make resolutions for the new year.  Lofty goals, sweeping life changes; things that are intended to make them a better person and/or make the world a better place.

Me?  I’m not that ambitious.

Sure, I could drone on about chasing those pesky PRs, but I feel like I do plenty of whining about my running goals (and lack of achievement thereof) as it is.  Or I could officially resolve to drop those few pounds that have settled on my belly over the last couple of months, but that’s not very interesting to write about, and anyway, I’m hoping they’ll scram when I up my running mileage next month.

Instead, I’m going to post 11 things I’d like to learn to do next year.  They are small, meaningless lessons: none of them will make me a better person, or affect my path in life in any significant way.  And most of them are things that I probably should know how to do anyway.

So here’s to continuing education, and 11 things to learn to do in 2011:

1. Bake bread

So I’ve got beer bread down.  And now I’m ready for the next step: I’m excited to sink my fingers in to some yeasty kneading projects!  I’ve never been a huge baker, partially because I’m not a huge sweets person (too busy eating potato chips to develop a sweet tooth, I guess) but freshly baked bread is something I cannot resist.

2. Drink Scotch

The hubs loves scotch.  I love the idea of scotch: something nuanced that you can sip in front of the fire while discussing malt and peat content and generally sounding like a badass.  However, it’s hard to sound like a badass when you’re making a puckery face and smacking your lips distastefully as long-dormant memories of shooting Wild Turkey in the bathroom of your dorm suddenly present themselves.

I’ve been told that I just don’t know how to drink scotch.  I believe this.  And I’m willing to learn.

3. Spell

I’m not a terrible speller.  In fact, I used to be a pretty good speller.  I even made it to State Spelling Bee in third grade, whereupon I was eliminated on the word “several,” for which I will never forget that second “e” again.

But spell check has made me lazy.  Admittedly, when I want to write a word that I’m not sure how to spell, I just make a rough guess, then right-click on the red-squiggled word and select the correct spelling.  Lazy.  Things hit rock bottom the other day when I was handwriting a note and couldn’t remember how to spell something dumb, something that I should know – and I actually went over to my computer and opened a blank Word window so I could take a red-squiggled guess and let the computer figure it out.  LAZY.

I need to re-learn spelling and stop letting spell check turn my brain to mush.

4. Fix a flat.

It is completely idiotic that I’ve owned this thing for almost five years and yet – if I got a flat while riding, I’d be completely screwed.  I need to learn basic bike maintenance like yesterday.

5. Jump turn

I guess this depends on whether I get out to the mountains this season.  It’s not looking good, unless I win the lottery.

But I’m gonna stick it in here anyway.  I love skiing and do alright on groomers, but put me on moguls and I’m an extra-hot mess.  Last year, I took a couple of lessons and it helped a little.  I have a long way to go, though.

6. Carve a bird

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I really have no idea how to carve a roasted chicken/turkey.  I usually end up picking it apart with my fingers.  Not the most efficient (or sanitary) way of doing things.  Time to fix that.

7. Taste wine

Of course,  I drink a ton of wine.  But I don’t actually know that much about it.  I’d love to educate my palate (good lord, that sounds pretentious) and be able to present the stuff I drink here with better details…not just like, “It was fruity and I liked it.”

8. And beer, too.

Actually, I am thinking that 2011 will be the Year of Beer for me.  Raleigh has a pretty awesome craft beer scene and I need to take better advantage of that.  And beer is more fun to play with than wine, anyway.

9. Apply mascara

I’m not a big makeup girl, but you know what?  It would be really nice to leave the house without black flecks all over my eyelids, on the occasions that I do decide to pretty it up.  But somehow, no matter how careful I am, I end up with mascara all over my face.  (Anyone have any tips on this?)

10. Poach an egg

You know those perfectly puffy, whipped-cream-looking poached eggs that are so prevalent while out for brunch?  I want to learn how to make those.

11. Do a headstand

Because this is, by far, the most humiliating part of yoga class.  How hard should be to vertically launch my rear and balance it in the air above my torso?  Why can everyone else do this but me?

Well, there they are.  If I can learn to do, like, six out of eleven, I think that 2011 will be a success.

So, yo: What’s one small and ultimately meaningless thing that you’d like to learn to do in 2011?

A simple plan

The welcoming committee brought it strong when I came in to my apartment today, after an early morning flight from Chicago to Raleigh.

It’s a good thing they’re so cute, as I spent the next three hours vacuuming up cat hair and kitty litter.  Apparently the two of them spent their Christmas vacation shedding exuberantly and tracking litter in to every nook and cranny of the apartment.

Dinner time rolled around and I was exhausted.  Facing an empty fridge, I headed to the local market to pick up something simple and delicious for dinner.

Of course, I ended up with these:

Four steps to the simplest fancy meal ever: (1) Purchase and cook decadent shellfish.  (2) Drench in melted butter.  (3) Consume with enthusiasm.  (4) Wipe the trail of butter off of your chin.

Lobster tails were on sale and I just couldn’t resist.  What’s one more indulgent meal, a post-vacation celebration?  Besides – the hubs and I never got to have a nice meal, just the two of us, in all of the holiday madness.  So tonight it was.

Today’s EAT:  Lobster, sourdough baguette, and salad for two.

(Not pictured: mini-candle-lit fondue bowl of melted butter which was refilled three times.)

My greasy chin and I are both very satisfied.

Today’s DRINK: The label of this Marlena Chardonnay looked suspiciously like the cover of a generic chick lit novel.

I decided to give it a chance anyway.  And it was good…in a very fruit-forward way.  Not very complex; easy to decipher; and, yes, enjoyable, if rather one-dimensional.  Kind of like chick lit.

Today’s RUN: Rest day!  And not a day too soon, as my hammies are still grousing about Sunday’s very brief trip to the weight room.  Ugh.

Today’s QUESTION: Do you have a go-to simple-but-delicious dinner? Mine is definitely crustacean (shrimp, crab or lobster) dipped in clarified butter with a good crusty bread.  With salad or (in the summer) fruit salad on the side.  It feels so decadent – yet it requires, like, zero effort.  (And zero dishes too, if you use foil for cooking!)

Frosting neutrality

A couple of mornings ago, I had just come in from a cold run and was putting around my mother-in-law’s house, eating a big slice of carrot cake.  (Gotta refuel, right?)

The hubs approached and requested a bite.  I acquiesced, and raised the slice toward his mouth.  What happened next was nothing short of shocking.  He went in for his bite, and centered his jaw right over the mound of puffy white cream-cheese frosting.

I gasped in horror.  Is he really going to eat the frosted top right off of my cake?   Really?? “Hey!” I snapped.  “You can’t do that!  That’s not frosting neutral!”

But it was too late.  He took the money bite, right out of my sweaty, napkin-covered hand.

As angry as I was, left standing there with a naked piece of carrot cake, I was more disappointed.  That I am married to a person who would do such a thing.  And it got me thinking about all of my other food-related pet peeves, so many of which crop up during the holidays.

For example, the hubs is also a trail mix picker.

You know: the person who hovers over the bowl, looking to spot the M&M’s or chocolate chips or whatever little treat is mixed in there, then digs through with his greedy little fingers and plucks out all of the tasty bits, leaving everyone else with a pile of peanuts and dates.  Don’t be this person.  Just take a blind handful and move on.

Or what about the person who “accidentally” takes all of the toppings from your piece of pizza?

Get a knife and cut it if you’ve got magnetic mozzarella on your hands.  Because no one likes a sad slice of sauce-on-crust.

Or, my personal favorite, the cheese digger.

People.  We all know that wedge of Brie or Camembert has a rind – a nasty rind that no one really wants to eat.  That doesn’t give you license to burrow your cheese knife into the soft, creamy center and scrape out all of the good stuff.  Slice it on to your own plate and then pick it apart!

Whew.  It feels good to get that off my chest.  And yes, I realize that I sound rather nutty and OCD.  I’m okay with that.  Now if only I could get the hubs to understand the importance of frosting neutrality.  I fear it’s something we’ll never be able to agree on.  In the meantime, though, I’m keeping him away from my cupcakes.

Today’s EAT: Speaking of frosting….

Cute, right?  I popped at least three coconut jellybeans in my mouth for every one that went on the roof.  (And for the record: tiling a gingerbread roof with bisected jellybeans is an extremely arduous and time-consuming task.)

Today’s DRINK: Nothing but water and lots of hot tea up in here.  I’m excited to be reunited with my wine rack tomorrow, though!

Today’s RUN: A COLD five miler.  13 degrees and close to zero with the wind chills…brrrr.  It was hard to get out the door, but after about ten minutes I was toasty warm!  I wore: tights, a long-sleeve tech shirt, a short-sleeve tech shirt, a light jacket, and a fleece hat.  (No gloves.  I rarely wear gloves.  Even when it’s super cold, I end up getting annoyed with them and ditching them after a couple of miles.  I think I have extra-sweaty hands!)

Today’s QUESTION: How do you eat cake – frosting first, frosting last, or frosting neutral?  And what are your food pet peeves?

Holiday un-wrap-up

So um….hey.

[Insert long chronological description of family Christmas activities here, along with ten billion photos of wrapping paper and food spreads.]

[Or don’t, because no one wants to read that shit anyway.]

Yep, my Christmas was dandy.  I’m sure yours was too.  Let’s move on an talk about running, shall we?

I arrived in Illinois on Wednesday and, I won’t lie – lacing up the running shoes for that first run on Thursday morning was a bit of a challenge.  I’ve run through winters in Cleveland and Boston and New York; icy terrain and sub-freezing temps shouldn’t intimidate me.  But it’s funny how quickly you grow soft.  I’ve become a Southern girl.  “What, I have to wear a HAT and TIGHTS?  Ew.”

But out I went, and it was a pretty stellar run, bobbing along the shoulder of a country highway surrounded by snow-covered cornfields.

And I’m officially going to start covering up my Garmin every time I run, even in the summer.  I did peek under my jacket a couple of times to make sure I was on track, mileage-wise, but the little progression at the end was entirely unplanned.  And felt great.  I really do run stronger when I let my mind wander instead of staring at my wrist.  Hm.

I’ve actually had quite a few great workouts while I’ve been out here and have had no problem motivating myself to get out for a run every single day.  Running = sanity.

One more day in the Chicago ‘burbs, and then we are headed back to Raleigh, which apparently has quite the blanket of snow itself right now!

And while I’m not going to do a regular E-D-R thing, how about a quick holiday running recap?  I promise, no awkward family photos or long-winded descriptions of Christmas loot!

M: 5 miles (treadmill, 1% incline, 39:40, 7:56 pace)
Tu: 7 miles (59:16, 8:27 pace)
W: OFF
Th: 10 miles (1:24:59, 8:29 pace)
F: 4 miles (treadmill, 1% incline, 30:44, 7:45 pace)
Sa: 7 miles (merry christmas! 1:03:32, 9:04 pace)
Su: 5 miles (treadmill, 1% incline, 4 miles tempo-ish 30:40, 7:40 pace + 1 mile cooldown at 9:00 pace) + lower body weights (UGH)

38 miles.  Getting there!

Today’s QUESTION: Are you running/working out over the holidays or taking a break?  How’d you do last week?

Alot of coffee

Heh.

Props to my brother-in-law and his use of Zazzle for this year’s most creative gift.  I like it alot.

(If you have no idea why this is hilarious, go here.)

Hope everyone had an excellent weekend!  I’ve enjoyed my holiday vacation – and my vacation from my laptop as well.  Posting on the regular to resume tonight!

Deforestation poetry

From me to you, a heartwarming Christmas classic.  About, um….aphids.

Twas the week before Christmas and in one corner of the house,
small creatures were stirring –  as small as a louse.

Their eggsacs were hung on the branches with care,
while the mister and missus remained blissfully unaware.

The larvae, they hatched!  And quickly they fled.
But soon met a glass window, and shortly were dead.

Then early one morning there arose a great clatter
as the humans finally noticed the bug corpses all a-scatter.

Off to Home Depot they flew like a flash.
And returned with a pesticide – and a swatter to smash.

“Now die! Begone! We are a-fixin’
to eradicate you!” This they cried, while a-twitchin.

But the bugs, they were tough, and went about their way,
while the humans decried their ineffective bug spray.

Finally one day, they grew weary of the war.
So they tossed that poor pine tree right out the front door.

But they had to admit, the bugs fought a good fight.
So Merry Christmas, little aphids, and to all a good night!

Ugh.  I felt awful pitching my pretty little tree into the dumpster, but I just could.not.deal with bugs and bug bodies all over my living room, no matter how harmless they are.

Am I on Team Fake now?  Right now I’m all “HELL YES” but I’m also really bad about learning lessons.  There’s a decent chance that on December 1, 2011 I’ll be shouting “OMG WE HAVE TO GET A REAL TREE!  THEY SMELL SO GOOD!  WHAT ARE APHIDS?”

Time will tell, I suppose.

Today’s EAT: I finally tried parsnip fries.  Whee!

Verdict?  Texture = excellent.  These are heartier than potatoes and crisped up beautifully.  Flavor = a little weird.  Sweet and spicy, not in a bad way, but rather unexpected.  I just did them with olive oil and salt so I guess I might need to experiment more with complimentary seasonings.  But overall I was very pleased.

Chicken was just pan-seared, then baked (with the fries), then covered in a little reduced apple cider vinegar.  Super simple!

Today’s DRINK: Go Toros!

I will admit that I actually had to google this bottle, because I wasn’t entirely positive about what exactly the “Toro” referred to.  As it turns out, it’s wine from a small region in Spain (very similar to Tempranillo) and not a reference to Bring it On.  Oh well – I’m raising my Spirit Stick to this wine anyway!  For $7, it’s very pleasant, full-bodied but not too dry, with a nice peppery flavor.

Today’s RUN: Does anyone else deal with the thing where an excess of rest days makes it reallllly hard to lace up your shoes again?

I didn’t run Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  It wasn’t entirely planned, but it was a nice break, and I’m totally okay with it, but I definitely had to D-R-A-G my butt out the door tonight.  And even then, I didn’t get very far: just to the treadmill downstairs, where I knocked out five mediocre miles.

Goal for the week: 30-35.  Should be interesting with all of the Christmas travel going on, but hey – needing to get out for a run is a good excuse to escape the holiday madness for an hour, right?

Today’s QUESTION: REAL or FAKE, with respect to: (a) Trees/plants; (b) Sugar/sweetener; (c) Tans; (d) Boobs.  And, go!

My answers?  (a) Real, but I’m rethinking it in the wake of Aphidgate; (b) Real, except in Diet Coke; (c) Fake, although I do rock an awesome (unintentional) running-sock tan in the summer; (d) Real, but I don’t at all judge people who go fake unless it looks ridiculous.

Big questions

I got tagged this weekend.  By none other than AR.   I hope it was as good for her as it was for me!

But really, these questions are perfect for a Sunday night because my brain isn’t working right now and I haven’t turned on my oven or laced up my running shoes since Thursday.  (OY.)

So.  Here we go!

1. Name one movie you’d never watch again even if someone paid you.

The Matrix.  Oh wait, that’s three movies.  (The Matrices?)  I must have forgotten, because they all run together in a never-ending blur of wooden acting and stupid sunglasses.

Actually, it’s mostly Keanu Reeves that I simply cannot stand.  I really wouldn’t watch Speed again if you paid me, either.

2. Name 5 fictional characters you want to have dinner with. And TELL ME WHY.

Oh good lord.  This is like one of those trick interview questions in which you must prove that you are sufficiently intelligent and well-read, while maintaining levity and a sense of humor. Thanks, AR.  Thanks.

Okay then.

Fox Mulder.  Because I still feel I am owed an explanation for the fustercluck that was the final season of The X Files.

Owen Meany.  Because I’d like to know if his voice really sounds like I heard it in my head through that entire novel.

Mr. Big.  Because although I was never a huge SATC fan, I feel like I would get a really expensive dinner at a fancy New York restaurant out of the deal.

Smurfette.  Because I know I’m not the only one who is dying to know how that whole situation worked.

Romeo.  Because then I could tell that dumbass to just wait one hot second before pulling out his dagger because she’s not really dead and he falls for it every time gaaaaaaah.

3. Give me a race on your “must do” list.

Athens Marathon.  Although the plan is to check one that off in 2011.  Zing!

4. Any races you’ve done that you will never ever do again? Why?

Default answer to this would have been Las Vegas Marathon.  Because back in the day when I ran it, the course was horrible.  They basically drove you 25 miles out into the desert and dropped you off.  And then you ran back in, on an old road parallel to the 15 freeway, with distant traffic and the ever-present Sin City mirage as your only company.  It sucked.

Now the course is much better, so I hear.  Smart move on their part.

5. Cake vs. Pie: Your pick?

Cake.  I really don’t get excited about pie.

6. Last meal – what would it be? AND YOU ARE ON DEATH ROW SO MAKE IT CREATIVE.

My plate would look like this:

The best meal is living to eat another day, yo.

7. Favorite book to movie adaptation ever? Least favorite?

So this is probably cliche, but I’m gonna go with the LOTR movies as my favorite.  Very enjoyable books.  Very enjoyable movies. I’m not a Tolkein nerd so I can’t speak to the intricacies of Elvish or whatever and the myriad ways in which the film version probably did it injustice.    But I enjoyed both the books and the movies equally and that rarely happens, so I’m giving them the win.

Least favorite?  In recent memory, Where the Wild Things Are.  I was so excited for this movie, and then it was just…meh.

Now, according to official meme rules, I get to make up seven questions and tag seven people.  We’re going coke-or-pepsi style this time, but feel free to elaborate!  Play on, playas.

1. Vacation: beach or mountains?

2. Luggage: check it or carry it on?

3. Bed: make it or leave it a rumpled comfy mess?

4. Races: smaller or bigger?

5. Toilet paper roll: over or under?

6. Pancakes: thick and fluffy or thin and crepe-like?

7. Alarm: get up or hit snooze?

And I am tagging….

Brie, Lisa, Lisa, Megan, Kelly, Kelly and Karyn

…and/or anyone else who wants to play!   So go!

I spent my weekend in the lovely state of Virginia catching up with some girlfriends.  And now I’m off to catch up on some sleep…and, starting tomorrow, catch up on some serious running mileage, because last week was unbelievably pathetic in that department.

Hope everyone had an excellent weekend!

Dear Feline,

Merry bloody Christmas.

I am glad you like it.  Now, can we please discuss the terms of our truce?

I respectfully request that you immediately cease your relentless assault on me.  From the moment I entered this apartment, I have been under siege.  Your appetite for working your needle-like claws in and out of my plushy flesh is apparently insatiable.  Even after you’ve been startled away with loud noises or jets of water, you come back for more.  And frankly, it’s begun to affect my appearance.  My arms have so many holes that I’m starting to look like a heroin addict.

You are slowly destroying me, Feline.  And it hurts.

But now you have your very own piece of upholstery to scratch on, shed fur on, poke holes in, and whatever else it is that you do.  Destroy it if it pleases you.  Just keep your talons away from me.

Get it?  Got it?

Good.

Yours in peace,

The Couch

 

Easy as pudding – but uglier

The hubs and I have developed a Saturday habit of brunching at a local Asian-fusion joint that does a fun dim-sum thing on the weekends.  Now, I love small-plate-style dining for many reasons, but this place in particular has a knack for serving carts full of creative nibbles that get me thinking about my own kitchen:

Shrimp and coconut cupcakes?  Calamari pancake?  Korean short-rib sliders? Yes, yes, bring it on!  I want to taste and analyze and recreate.  (The crispy pork belly that leaves me melted in a puddle of pleasure on the floor?  Well, that one I will leave to the professionals.)

A couple of weeks ago, the dessert cart rolled by and I caught wind of something strange and wonderful: Black-Eyed-Pea Pudding.   With fresh berry and mango on top.  Of course, I snagged it.  And of course, as I savored each rich, sweet, coconut-filled bite, I thought to myself: I could make this.

And you know what?  I can make it.  The flavors are bold, but simple.  An easy and fun thing to replicate.

There’s just one problem: it looks like a pile of steaming barf.

Well.  I can see why the restaurant topped it with pretty chunks of fruit.  Because although this is insanely delicious, no one would pick it off the dessert cart.  Poor little pea pudding.

I encourage you to give it a shot anyway – especially if you have leftover rice to use up, or a can of coconut milk in your cupboard collecting dust.   And although black-eyed peas lend an earthy, Southern touch to the dish, you could really substitute any legume.  A flavorful, rich and high-fiber dessert or side dish – if you can forgive its appearance.  Which you definitely should.

Recipe: Black Eyed Pea Coconut Rice Pudding (original recipe; inspired by An)

Today’s EAT:  I paired my homely pudding with some sea scallops from the freezer, salted and seared:

Major props to those scallops, from a Trader Joe’s purchase over two months ago, for holding up in the freezer.  They were actually pretty good.  I had to wring the heck out of them with a paper towel to get rid of the moisture that had accumulated, but other than that?  Good as new.

Today’s DRINK:  Oh, store-branded, private label wine.  You’re such a gamble.

I’ve had plenty of respectable private-label bottles – namely, on separate occasions, from TJs and Costco – so I thought I’d take a chance on this $9 offering from Fresh Market.  FM is generally a pretty classy place, so I didn’t think it could be too bad.  Alas…I was wrong.  Borderline undrinkable.

Oh well.  Win some, lose some.

Today’s RUN: Four grudging miles on the treadmill, wrapping up in just under 31:00.   I could not wait to get offa that thing.  I followed it up with 20 minutes of upper body weights and some core stuff.  A decent enough workout, considering that the sidewalks were a slushy, icy mess.

Today’s QUESTION: Have you ever cooked something that was horrendously ugly but delicious?  Did you try to mask its heinousness in any way? I will admit that I can be a bit of a visual snob when it comes to food – unless I’m the one making it.