Monthly Archives: January 2011

Feeding the beast

In spite of my vow to get my ishhhhh together in the kitchen this week, I never actually made it to the grocery store today.  Oops.

I did make it out for two runs and a pilates class.  Which was actually a lot of hours of exercising when you added it up, and it put me in a major hungry funk.  One twitter mention (twention?) of boxed mac and cheese (ahem) and I was a dead woman.

There’s just one problem with the Blue Box:

It takes me about four minutes to transport the entire box straight down my greedy little gullet.  And three more to already be hungry again.

So I carefully considered my options.

– I could add some sort of protein to the M&C.  But the only available options were frozen salmon (weird), beans (gross) or bacon (delicious but…kind of defeating the purpose here).

– I could be responsible, turn off my damn twitter, put the box back in the pantry and just eat the beans and the salmon on their own (which is sort of what I’d planned to do before).

– I could be semi-responsible and tempt myself and try to just have a little scoop of M&C alongside a more balanced assortment of items.

I am proud to say that I went the semi-responsible route and succeeded!  Greater than 50% of that mac and cheese is resting happily in a Tupperware container, awaiting future consumption.  A milestone for me, I think.

And it’s been over an hour and my tummy hasn’t growled yet.

Amazing.

I suppose there is a reason they’re called “empty calories,” eh?

Today’s EAT: M&C alongside a hunk of wild salmon and a big salad:

(Lately I’ve been putting red pepper flakes on just about everything, and they were awesome on this mac and cheese!)

(And also, yes, this wasn’t the true-blue box stuff.  I love that stuff.  Stupid Whole Foods doesn’t carry it.  Wow… that’s a #whitegirlproblem if I’ve ever heard one.)

Today’s DRINK: It’s Monday, so I should have some Pinot with dinner, right?

I often pass over Turning Leaf wines for more exotic selections, but this is actually really decent!  It’s bold for a Pinot, and more on the dry side rather than the juicy side.  I like!

Today’s RUN: Five easy ones outside at lunchtime and three slightly faster ones on the treadmill after pilates class.  New mileage-promoting tactic: I’m going to try to get more doubles in over the next few weeks.  Because sometimes it’s easier to face an 8 or 10 mile day in two little chunks instead of one bigger one.  And honestly I don’t think it’s really matters when they’re just easy base miles.

…right?  (Or wrong?)

Today’s QUESTION: Are you a mac and cheese fiend like me?  Homemade or boxed?

What I’ve been doing

O HAI.  Been a couple of days, huh?  Instead of blogging, tweeting, g-chatting, facebooking and general internetting, I’ve been:

Dancing.  And singing and shouting loudly.  And perspiring.

Last Thursday night, Sarah invited me to be her date for the GirlTalk show!  It was one of the sweatiest experiences of my life, but it was a blast.  Since we didn’t have a camera, I promised to make an mspainting of us enjoying the show:

Or maybe it looked more like this:

Hmm.  Maybe it’s a good thing there was no camera.  Anyway, it was a ridiculously fun night – and totally worth waking up on Friday morning with non-functioning vocal cords.  Thanks again, Sarah!

Running.  Probably not enough.  I ended the week with 27 miles.  Meh.  I need to get my ass in gear, running-wise.

Drinking.  Probably too much.  A good friend came to visit this weekend.  Shenanigans ensued.  It happens.

Wearing shorts and a t-shirt everywhere.   Because it was 70* AND SUNNY in Raleigh today!   OMG, SUMMERRRRR!

Feeling slightly guilty about my lack of blogging.  But not really.  Everyone needs a couple of days off from time to time.

Vowing to eat better and run harder this week.  Because seriously….last week was just kind of a mess.

And that’s about it.  Hope y’all had a great weekend!  I’m off to detox and catch up on the six billion unread items in my Google reader.

Coffee shop shenanigans

So I recently added a new item to my roster of random activities: studying for an exam of sorts next month.

In order to study, I had to buy a textbook.

Apparently, it’s a pretty special book.  I’m certain that there’s a high-tech cat alarm embedded the spine, designed to alert all felines in the vicinity of the fact that the book has been opened.

Maybe that is why the book was so damn expensive.

Frequently, I tire of fending them off and retreat to the coffee shop down the street to get through my daily study quota.

Now, I know that a lot of people love to work at coffee shops – or perhaps love the idea of working at coffee shops.  And as someone who has spent a lot of time toting her laptop around over the last couple of years, I’m here to tell you: it has its benefits and drawbacks.  While setting up shop at Starbucks is a nice change of pace, it presents its own set of challenges.  I won’t even attempt to address the study in human psychology that is Power Outlet Negotiation or Territorial Table Staking.  Instead, I’ll just focus on the lovely people that one encounters.

Because you do encounter them – over and over and over again.  I’m convinced that every Wi-Fi-equipped coffee shop in America contains as least one of the following at all times:

1) The Power Brokers


There always seems to be at least one guy who has taken it upon himself to transplant his entire office to the coffee shop.  He plugs in both his laptop and his Blackberry (jerk!) and proceeds to conduct Big Urgent Deals, usually on speakerphone.  He is oblivious to the fact that he is operating at twice the decibel level of everyone else in the room.  Eventually, he’ll shove everything back into his briefcase, sigh dramatically, polish off his latte and rush out the door – leaving his empty cup on the table, of course.  Big Urgent Meeting, no doubt.

2) The Freeloaders

I’ll admit, sometimes I’ll look at a fellow coffee-shop-camper and be like, did you actually buy anything or are you just sitting here? Not that it really affects me, I suppose, except that I don’t really enjoy smelling someone’s leftover tuna casserole that they brought in with them.  It appalls me that so many people seem to think this is acceptable.  Sure, there are comfy couches and everyone is slightly disheveled, but this is still a restaurant.  It’s not your living room.  Leave the Tupperware at home and buy a pastry if you’re hungry.

3) The Oversharers

Many coffee-shop patrons seem to think that because it’s such a casual and comfortable atmosphere, it’s okay to engage in highly intimate and/or embarrassing conversations.  They also seem to be unaware that the tiny rectangular table upon which they plant their soy macchiatos does not, in fact, create a magical soundproof bubble around them.  Psst: we can all hear you.

I will admit that sometimes I do actually enjoy the inappropriate gossipers and drama-mongers.  When I lived in New York, one of my favorite escapes was a particular Starbucks on Ninth Ave in Chelsea.  Oh man, those boys could bring the dramz!  It was pretty entertaining.

(And as a note: I actually did witness a version of the conversation illustrated.  The guy walked out crying.  It was unbelievably awkward.)

4) The Keepers of Unruly Spawn

I have no idea what it’s like to be the parent of a toddler.  For all I know, it’s hell on earth, and taking your hyperactive child to Starbucks and letting him unleash his obnoxiousness on everyone in the room is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, considering the circumstances.  Like I said, I have no idea.

But I do know that if your kid is about to break the springs of the sofa or is doing sprints around the table, perhaps you should have taken him to Gymboree rather than Coffee Bean.  And also, if he unplugs my power cord one more time, I’m going to feed him every sugar packet in the canister.  Then think of what you’ll have to deal with, Momma.

5) Hipsters

Effing hipsters.  Enough said.

It’s a tough call: the drudgery and distraction of home versus the endless parade of grating characters at the local cafe.  I always tell myself that getting out would be great, because then I could be around people.  But I always forget that those people are often obnoxious.

At the end of the afternoon today, I was more than happy to come home.

They may beat me with their tails, bat at my highlighter, scatter my pile of notes and generally prevent me from reading and/or retaining any information whatsoever, but at least they’re cute.

More bounce to the ounce?

My favorite search term today: “there’s poo on the trampoline.”

Good lord, that’s a serious situation.  Someone could get hurt.

You know you need to get a life when the highlight of your day is checking your search terms.  Or taking a field trip to the library.

I enjoyed Water for Elephants, so I’m hoping this is similarly good.  I’ll find out soon enough, as I’ve only got rights to this puppy for a measly week.

Today’s EAT: Tonight’s dinner was a home run: exactly what I was craving after my workout and ready in 20 minutes.  Score one for a classic Caesar with salmon:

That gorgeous hunk of wild Coho was on sale for $10/lb (so my piece was under $4!) and the croutons were homemade in minutes from a mini-baguette.  The dressing was store-bought:

Caesar salad gets a bad rap because the dressing is so high in calories and fat.  I’ve found that the key is to buy a dressing that’s more oily than creamy: it coats the lettuce more evenly and you’ll need less than you would of the thicker stuff.  (This Smith + Wollensky dressing was 100 calories for 2 TBSP, which was just about right for my big salad.  Not bad at all!  And no weird ingredients – well, unless you consider anchovies weird.)

Today’s DRINK: I’d been excited about opening this bottle of Cloud Break Chard as it came highly recommended by the Total Wine guy that sold it to me:

So why not on a random Monday night, right?

It’s neither buttery nor oakey, neither sharp nor watery.  In fact, it’s just right.  There are hints of lemon and honey.  For $7, I’d definitely buy this again!

Today’s RUN: Easy four miles on the treadmill.  I just set it at 7.0 with 1% incline and did my best to zone out.  I certainly could have run outdoors, but I’m still getting a little throat scratchiness in the morning so I’m babying myself.  Wah, I know.

Since I was already at the gym, I popped in for a 45-minute Pilates class, too.

Today’s QUESTION: Whatcha readin’ right now?

CTRL+ALT+DELETE

Although I’m generally ambivalent about Mondays, it felt good to wake up this morning and start a new week, mileage-wise.

And also, grocery-wise.  I had pancakes for lunch today because we are that out of food.

A look back some weekend odds and ends…

Today’s EAT: On Friday night, we had some people over for pre-dinner drinks and in my post-flu laziness, I opted for a pre-fab assortment of appetizers.  Think carrot sticks and ranch dip.  Chips and salsa.  And some coconut shrimp from the freezer aisle.  It was a classy event.

For the rest of the weekend, I stewed over those stupid shrimp.  The box was like $8 and it was ten puny little prawns encrusted in a vaguely coconut-flavored batter.  What a rip off.  I can do better than that.

So Sunday night, I did:

So easy.  I grabbed those raw little suckers by the tail, dredged them in corn starch, then in whipped egg white, and finally in shredded coconut.  Sprinkled them with a bit of cayenne pepper and then fried them up.  Only marginally more difficult than opening a box!  (Unless you manage to get corn starch all over your pants, but that was no fault of the prawns.)

Vindication is delicious.  Especially when dipped in sweet chili sauce.

Today’s DRINK: I worked my way through a six-pack of Big Boss Helle’s Belle this weekend:

Good stuff for flu-recovering and football watching.

Today’s RUN: After three days off, I marched myself down to the treadmill yesterday afternoon and poked along for twenty minutes.  It felt fine but I was bored, so I switched over to the elliptical for another twenty.  Here’s how the week ended up:

M – 5 easy (41:00, 8:13 pace) + yoga
Tu – 6.9 easy w/pickups (55:20, 8:01 pace) + Pilates
W – 8 easy (1:11, 8:51 pace)
Th – OFF
F – OFF
Sa – OFF
Su – 2.3 easy (20:00, 8:40 pace) + 20 min elliptical

22.2 miles.  Ugh.  Stupid flu.  (Although Friday night’s libations may have had more to do with Saturday’s rest day than residual illness…but the flu seems like a convenient scapegoat so I’m going to just lump them all together.)

Like I said, I was happy to wake up this morning and reboot.  On to the next one.

Today’s QUESTION: What was the most exciting thing you did this weekend?

Sink vixen

I will be a good person.  I will be a good person.  I will be a good person.

I will not turn on the water.  I will not turn on the water.  I will not turn on the water.

Hope your Saturday night was free of temptation!

Zero to sicksty

Wednesday night, I went to bed a perfectly healthy human being.  Thursday morning, a mutant zombie flu-monster woke up in my place.

Exhibit A?  The weird lump I discovered on the side of my neck.

Along with a nasty fever, I apparently had a random kidney bean embedded in my neck.  Or, a spider had laid eggs in there which were about to hatch any second.  Or, I had a really, really swollen lymph node.

Feeling totally sorry for myself, I dragged myself out of bed, wrapped up in a blanket, and stood, shivering, in the middle of the living room staring at the wall for about twenty minutes.

Sick.

Yuck.

It had been a long time since I’d been sick.  So long, in fact, that I’d started to get more than a little smug about it.  Like last weekend, when the hubs complained of a scratchy throat, and I cheerily plucked cans of chicken soup from the grocery shelf, congratulating myself on my robust good health and lack of need for such things.  Or last fall when everyone was talking about flu shots and I was all like: HA!  I don’t need a stinking flu shot.  I don’t get the flu.  I AM INVINCIBLE!


Karma’s a bitch, huh?

Eventually, I dragged my clammy ass in to the kitchen and tried to make some food.  Not that we had any cold medicine in the house, but if some were to magically appear, I wouldn’t want to take it on an empty stomach, right?

I managed to assemble my favorite sick-food: a grilled peanut-butter and jelly sandwich.  The key is lots of butter on the outside of the bread:

Butter does a sick body good!

I heated up one of those cans of soup that I bought, too.

Thoroughly spent from the effort, I retreated to the couch and did a fever two-step dance for the next twelve hours.  Step one: OMG I’M FREEZING! I NEED EVERY BLANKET IN THE HOUSE!

Step two: HOLY FARK IT’S A THOUSAND DEGREES IN HERE.

In spite of the constant blanket shuffle, I slept for twenty hours straight.  I seriously just shut down.

And this morning, I felt pretty darn swell.

Aside from some mild sniffles and that freaky lymph-lump in my neck, I do believe I’m back.  And just in time for the weekend.

Rotating blogroll: buy u a drank edition

Serious question: when did it stop being creepy to know people solely online?

I’m thinking sometime in the last five years, but who knows.  In any event, through the daily ritual of writing this blog, I’ve been virtually introduced to a metric shit-ton of cool people.  People for whom I would love to someday buy a beer.  (Or a drank of their choice.)

Here are just three, and they happen to all live on the Best Coast.  I mean…the West Coast.  Which will always truly be home to me.  Maybe that is why I enjoy living vicariously though:

  • Queer Vegan Runner.  Aside from the fact that her posts make me MISS LOS ANGELES (I never thought I’d say that!), I adore A.J.’s blog because she also loves beer, snark, food, felines and fun.  In spite of the fact that we have opposite preferences when it comes to hot dogs, I am sure we’d get along swimmingly over a pint.  Or four.
  • 110 Pounds and Counting.  Remember yesterday when I ragged on the word “inspirational?”  Well, I’m using it again  – and most genuinely.  As the title of her blog suggests, Lisa has undergone a serious lifestyle change in the last few years and really seems to have the whole “healthy moderation” thing down pat.  I am constantly envious of her outdoorsy Oregon adventures and brewpub visits.
  • Kendra Through the Looking Glass.  No topic is off limits on Kendra’s irreverent blog.  Another blogger who is truly deserving of the I-word (read her backstory!), I love that she tackles everything from gynecology to glamor in a funny and highly readable way.

I’m going to spare you a detailed recap of my various gastronomical and athletic endeavors today.  Let’s just say I ran a sluggish 8 miles while whining the whole time (to myself) about my sore abdominals (thanks, Pilates class!) and then threw a tantrum (again, for myself) about cooking dinner and retreated to the bar next door for a black bean burger and a pint of beer.  (Brooklyn Brewery Winter Warmer, in case you were wondering.  Dark brown and spicy and delicious.)

And in other random news, today is my dad’s birthday!  Happy birthday, dad!

Circa 1990.  You’d have vaguely surly look on your face, too, if you were rocking permed bangs.  And were swaddled in a cat beach towel.  Over your hypercolor tee shirt.

Happy Wednesday, kids!

And: if you are so inclined, give a yell in the comments about a blog you’re loving right now. You guys always have excellent recommendations!

Organization inspiration

Inspirational.

Strong candidate for the most over-used word in Blogworld, if you ask me.

It gets tossed around so much that its meaning has been diluted.  I tend to avoid it unless I am being snarky.  (Like….well, here.)

But sometimes, it’s the only term that genuinely applies.  Like when you come across someone who consistently does something ten times better than anyone you’ve ever met, and who shares it in a helpful, encouraging and totally non-boasty way.

When I found Sarah’s blog a few months ago, I was initially a bit tongue-tied about how to describe her gorgeous to-do lists, her pretty paper planners, her unreal ability to multitask and prioritize and get more done in a single day than I do in a month.

As I continued to get to know her (online, and also in person, as she’s down the road in Durham!) I eventually conceded and attributed that maligned I-word.  Inspirational.

But I meant in the most literal – and therefore most meaningful – way.  Here is someone who is really good at something and I can learn from her.  She is a doctor and has a massive amount of information and action to synthesize in to a daily plan.  She rocks it.  Meanwhile, me?  I am a somewhat lazy freelancer and halfhearted job-seeker who could really be doing so much more with my life if I put a shred of effort in to actually organizing my time.

So I watched.  And attempted to learn.  And then I bought a planner.

(A beautiful $28 planner with luscious thick paper and a pretty textured teal cover.  Because, as with any new activity, overspending on equipment = motivation!  Right?)

I’ve tried things like Google Calendar and Outlook in the past – they’ve never really worked for me.  I think I need the tactile sensation of writing something down and then crossing it off when it’s completed.  And Sarah’s blog has reinforced the appeal of this idea.

As a pretty laid-back person who tends to fly by the seat of her (wrinkled and cat-hair-covered yoga) pants, committing to this level of scheduling is a pretty big deal for me.  Over the last year, as I’ve been working odd jobs and attempting to make it outside the corporate world, of course I’ve become accustomed to writing lists and notes for myself.  But to have it all in one place – and have a single place to sketch out each day’s framework – is definitely new to me.

I’ll let ya know how it works out!

Until then, I’ll be – let me consult my schedule – oh yes, 10 PM is wine and blogging time. With a side of Twitter and a heaping dose of Unproductive Facebook Stalking.

Check that one off the list!

Today’s EAT: This muffin pan in my drawer.  I have owned it for almost four years and I think I’ve made cupcakes…twice?  And muffins…never?

However, I’m always recruiting it as a vessel for strange savory concoctions that turn out to be pretty consistently delicious.

Tonight, I was working with a small hunk of leftover steak the the hubs brought back for me in a doggy bag from a Fancy Business Dinner.

Add: a quarter of an onion (sliced and caramelized), an egg (beaten with a bit of milk) and a handful of grated Manchego cheese (that needed to be used up anyway).  I just sliced the steak in to thin, bite-sized strips and then divided the steak and onion pieces between two muffin-pan cups.  Poured the egg over, topped with cheese, baked for 15 minutes at 375* and had an instant fancy meal!

Okay, so maybe steak and eggs isn’t fancy, but it’s better than cold leftover steak.  And I’m always amazed my muffin pan’s ability to turn random ingredients in to cute little dinner packages.

(And if you’re not a steak eater, I could also see a dish like this being excellent with earthy mushrooms!)

Today’s DRINK: The folks who work at my local Total Wine & More are ridiculously friendly and helpful people.  I always make a point to swing by and pick up a bottle or two when I’m in the area, and I usually just let them tell me what to purchase, lest I be overwhelmed by the extensive selection (and thus spend all afternoon in there – no room for that on the daily schedule!)

When I stopped by a couple of days ago and expressed a desire for a $10-or-under red, the salesguy pointed me to this Gumdale Shiraz:

Total Wine buys much of their stock stuff direct from wineries, and that is how they tend to describe their wares.

When he said that this Shiraz was from “the same people who make Yellowtail,” I was ready to storm out the door in an insulted huff.

But I am glad he convinced me to give it a chance in spite of its seemingly dubious origins.  Like the Yellowcrap, it’s an extremely mild-mannered and drinkable wine.  But the Gumdale definitely swaps the fake-sweet taste of that other stuff for a fairly interesting sip: in this Shiraz, you’ll get a little dried cherry, a little nutmeg, and a fairly strong licorice flavor (but in a good way).  For a $7 bottle, I’m pretty impressed.  It’s complex enough to serve to people who like wine and mellow enough to please those who really don’t.  Nice work, Yellowtail people.

Today’s RUN:  Tuesday is speed day, but today wasn’t particularly speedy.  I set out to do 800 repeats, only to find the track closed.  I attempted to improvise with six 3-4 minute pickups.  Overall I managed seven miles, and although I got some turnover going during the pickups, it didn’t really wear me out like a track workout would have.  Meh.

(I also went to Pilates class this morning.  Look at me and my core work go! Soon enough I’ll be able to sit up unassisted at my desk while plugging away at the multitude of items on my daily agenda!)

Today’s QUESTIONHow do you organize your life – on paper, electronically, in your head, not at all? And also: has another blogger ever inspired you – truly inspired you – to change something meaningful about your life? Shout out here!

Ode to palm oil

I love Target.  I love the big clunky red carts.  I love the Dollar Spot aisle that beckons me every time even though I rarely partake of its (varied, and often bizarre) wares.  I love the $6 “boyfriend tees” that have slowly become my daily uniform.  I love the wine cubes.  I love every soap, spray and potion that Method has ever made.

But most of all, I love that I can get a bunch of normal (and normal-sized) grocery crap that I can’t get at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and Costco.   (And I can stock up on said provisions while also filling my cart with boyfriend tees and gift wrap and shower curtain rings and sunglasses.  Yay, Target.)

For example, today I hastily snatched this from the shelf:

It said “natural” on the front, so I assumed it was like the natural peanut butter I usually get at those other stores.  You know, where you slop a bunch of oil over the side the every time you stir it and end up with a perpetually greasy jar.  Because that’s healthy and that’s what I’m supposed to buy.

But this?  Oh no.  This is like a creamy peanut spread from heaven and it is delicious.  It’s like the stuff you had as a kid.  So I looked at the ingredients: ADDED SUGAR and PALM OIL.

OH NOES!

Oh yes.

Sometimes the less-healthy version is just plain better.

Today’s EAT: I patched together a semi-homemade Hawaiian pizza. On a Boboli crust that was also full of palm oil and lots of tasty mono-diglycerides. That had been sitting on a Target shelf for a while, probably. Mmmm.

It was grand.

Today’s DRINK: So I’m a little bit of a cheater.  Remember when I said I’d limit myself to one beer a night in an attempt to (somewhat) stem the tide of empty liquid calories flowing down my gullet (and on to my ass)?

I buy the big bottles. Then it’s still one beer!  Yes, it is! Gotta be smarter than the system.

Truly, though, I’m glad I had a pint-plus of this Smuttynose Maibock to enjoy.  Delicious flavors of orange and honey in this one, with a lovely bitter finish.  The 8.7% is barely noticeable in the mug, which means that I’m about to be knackered in  3…2…1….

Today’s RUN: Easy five miles this morning and an hour of yoga this evening.  Both were lovely.  I thoroughly enjoyed having a low-intensity day…I’m gunning for a 50-mile week and have a couple of tough workouts to get through before my rest day on Friday!

Today’s QUESTION: Of what foods do you buy the “unhealthy” version? I’m thinking I might be a convert to sugary peanut butter…I only eat it a couple of times a week, may as well enjoy it, right?  I also firmly believe that there is no substitute for a classic yellow bag of Lay’s Potato Chips!