Thursday, January 31, 2008

Go Maggie Go!

This is how you walk the dog when it's 10 below zero:

video

(and yes, she really likes it!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Welcome to My Life:

Whew!

I'm getting tired just thinking about it~

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wheeeeeeee!

Lots and lots of scthuff going on in the dreary days if January in these parts. I'm not certain if it's 'cause that's just the way life flows or 'cause I'm bored and trying to drum up some excitement after the holiday anesthesia has worn off.
Let's see if I can recount all the fabulous details with the glory it's due:
(should I go chronologically, or in a random fashion? hmmmm...)

It's dang cold in this house, and thus have taken to my bed with the heater cranked waaaaay up. With the new Wi Fi (installed, courtesy of yours truly-- mom and resident computer savant. I don't know what the hey I'm doing, but as long as I have instructions printed in my native language, I'm guarantee to bungle it up only 2-3 times before finally getting it to work. And my family worships me like the Techno Goddess I've instructed them to call me before I'll respond to their cries for assistance). I was just tempted to bring the laptop into the bathroom with me in celebration of my freedom to do just that, but figured there had to be some boundaries-- and that was it. For now.

On a side note, completely unrelated to my month: I have had recurring dreams for years about a certain individual and his family, a family I was very close to in my younger days. Last night, the dream was much like the others-- me looking for someone, spinning wheels trying to find them, make a connection. It's interesting how your dreams speak in allegories, telling you about something you've repressed for one reason or another, but I'm such a literal girl-- why can't my dreams just be about someone telling me something I need to know, like "hey! Your teenage boyfriend and his family were nice people and I bet your're wondering how they're doing" and skip all the drama of running around like a maniac in my head for 8 hours... I would really prefer a cool flying dream or riding on an elephant on a jungle safari-- something whimsical and light that leaves me refreshed in the morning instead of frazzled. I used to have dreams about chasing my ex husband around, too, tring to find him in the throes of creepy dreamland-- but the underlying theme wasn't so much about loss as it was that once I was able to catch him, I was going to beat his sorry ass to a bloody pulp. I must have resolved that existential angst, as I haven't dreamed about him in years.

Ok, major distractions averted:

I finally joined another gym after letting my membership at the Wellness Center lapse for 2 months. I signed my hubby and daughter up as well, but since they are lazy slugs and haven't gone yet I think I'll save myself $20 and take them off my membership. I also signed up for the unlimited tanning, but when you inadvertently stay in the bed for 15 minutes instead of 5 (it feels soooooo good to be warm!), and your nether parts are burnt and crispy, I haven't been able to make use of the limitless world of tanning. And my booty still hurts, boo.

I also picked up a couple interesting books from the library: Dr Laurie Steelsmith's "Natural Choices for Women's Health" and Peter D'Adamo's "The Genotype Diet". I really liked Dr Laurie's book and her suggestions for PMS, liver health, etc-- it's fascinating how she (Chinese medicine, really), can take one body system, such as those that regulate PMS, and tie it to a single organ such as the liver, kidneys, spleen, whatever. I know I've been drinking a wee bit too much and taking scads of Tylenol and the like, and if what Doc Laurie says is true, my liver is stressed (or, to be more specific, my liver chi is stagnant)-- causing problems with my cycle and other body systems.
Innnnteresting.... Dr D' Adamo says very much the same thing, but in diferent terms: based on my genetic makeup, I am an Explorer:

"This GenoType is named Explorer because of the unique and often unconventional ability of its members to search and discover who they are in the world. Explorers often enjoy greater longevity than the other GenoTypes. Many of the genes we typically find in Explorers, such as the Rh-negative blood type, are common in areas of the world where people seem to live forever — such as the Basque provinces of Spain, and the Caucasus Mountains of Asia. Explorers can benefit greatly from the GenoType Diet and should expect to lead long and healthy lives if they follow the recommendations in this program. However, Explorers are very often medical enigmas. They can be challenging to diagnose, since nothing apparent or obvious presents itself as a problem. Physically, they may appear to be in good health, but they will complain of a sudden loss of energy or a sudden inability to tolerate a certain food, supplement, or drug. Explorer women often suffer from chronic yeast infections or heavy periods. Blood tests often reveal anemia or other blood disorders. Explorers sometimes have problems with the liver or gallbladder. This can sometimes become manifest as intolerance to fats or sudden breakouts on the skin. Migraines are not uncommon in Explorers. Caffeine sensitivity is a hallmark of Explorers because they are almost always what geneticists call slow acetylators — a fancy way of saying that drugs spend a long time in their livers, going round and round, when they should just be processed and eliminated. Like a man who shakes his fist at the bicycle that just missed hitting him and totally ignores the bus heading his way, the liver of the Explorer often overreacts to small levels of toxins, to the point that it lets larger amounts of toxins pass by without doing anything about them. The unique metabolic profile of Explorers is manifested in very distinct physical characteristics. They are typically mesomorphs, possessing a low to medium body fat percentage, a high metabolism, and a large amount of muscle mass and muscle size. They can be rather large-boned, and the men tend to have asymmetrical, chiseled, craggy faces. Their trunk length is usually longer than their total leg length, and their upper legs are usually longer than their lower. Explorers tend toward asymmetry and often have different fingerprint patterns on their left and right index fingers, one often being the rather uncommon radial loop pattern. Another asymmetry often found in Explorers is that their finger lengths tend to be backward for their gender — men often having a longer index finger on one or both hands, and women have a shorter index finger on one or both hands. A lot of left-handers are Explorers, as are people with Rh-negative blood type, and although almost any ABO blood type can be an Explorer, "non-secretors" are more common. The Explorer's Immune System ProfileExplorers often have sluggish bone marrow function and struggle to keep up their white blood cell counts. This GenoType is prone to many types of anemia, such as those that result from inadequate levels of folic acid, B12, and iron, as well as those that result from bone marrow suppression or low levels of an enzyme called G6PD. G6PD is critical to the body because it enables the production of a critical antioxidant called glutathione. In addition to exerting powerful detoxification effects in the liver, glutathione protects red blood cells against damage caused by certain drugs and foods. Explorers often have trouble clearing foreign or man-made chemicals from their blood. This clearing process is called acetylation. Efficient acetylation helps drugs become more effective and detoxifies cancer-causing substances. Explorers have problems detoxifying drugs, carcinogens, and various artificial compounds that have been introduced into the environment, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and hydrocarbons. Because of these considerations, Explorers can be quite chemically sensitive, and they often react negatively to "typical doses" of drugs, antibiotics, and even vitamins and minerals. When using these medicines, they should always start with the lowest possible doses and gradually work their way up."

Anyhoo, long story short, I am going to start taking better care of my friend the Liver, and hope that it does the trick.

In homage to Dr Laurie and her recommendations, I also went and got my first acupuncture treatment yesterday. Being the cheap ass girlie that I am, instead of researching the best clinic in the area for my safety and well being, I threw caution to the wind and made an appointment with the student acupuncture clinic in Racine. Wheeeeeeeeee!
My student was older, very nervous, and had pupils that were so constricted that it creeped me out. What on earth could this woman be taking that would make her eyes look like that? And they were playing some sort of "tribute to the rock gods" music that was none too relaxing while they were poking me. Funny, tho-- she told me I needed to feel the needles go in, which was some sort of indication that my Chi was "moving" (wtf that is-- could they have explained it? they really couldn't), but I pretty much didn't feel *anything*. I think it freaked her out (even more than she already was, apparently), and she started putting the needles in deeper and wiggling a few of them around until I half heartedly told her I felt something, if only to make her feel better-- gar! The only ones I felt were the one in my left toe and the flab in my belly... maybe my Chi only needed to be "moved" there, who knows (as in, "I need to trust my GUT and HOOF it on out of there")? But really, I felt sorry for all these New Age people who were sooooo nervous and clueless, who seemed so anxious that they could barely answer the phones correctly (when I called all they said was an uncertain "hello?", and I wasn't sure if I dialed the wrong number...) No one knew if I had papers to fill out, if I had to sign something or another, how to take my blood pressure, or even my pulse--yet it was entertaining if not a little sad to see them sweating over every last detail (one gal said she was taking my "Chinese pulse", which she explained was supposedly like an EKG-- riiiiiiiiight.)
The best character of all tho was the office director, who seemed to be the only person devoid of any New Age hoop de do, who was trying in vain to get the students to exhibit some professionalism ("state who you are when you answer the phone", "explain what you're doing when you work with the clients"). I would have appreciated her more if she wasn't at the polar opposite end of the woo woo spectrum of not making eye contact, talking to me so fast and with her back to me that I had no clue what she was talking about, and just generally being brusque, but hey! It takes all kinds, and she was such a contrast to the students who I thought were going to break into chanting at any moment.
Really, with the strange crew working on me and the bad feeling I had about the whole experience it's a wonder I didn't just walk out of there and save myself $17 and 2.5 hours of my life, but I was just so curious and fascinated by the process that I stayed to see what odd thing would happen next. I *did* stare longingly at the shelves stocked to overflowing with pills and herbs, which I was told I wasn't ready for yet-- damn! Being a medical person and a compulsive one at that, I sure do loves me a handfull of pills to choke down at least 4 times a day, but I'm trying to work on that. I have an order out now that I'm tring to whittle down somehow to less than $89/month. I'm afraid now that I've stopped being a booze hound I'm becoming a pill popper, but really, it's a horse apiece. I'm sure I spent more than $80 on wine per month (ooh it sounds so dirty when you spell it out like that....), so now I'll spend it on supplements to fix my liver instead of trash it. I have no illusions about weight loss, but if it'll stop the PMS psychosis, I'll be a happy happy girlie.
So really, the gist of this whole month was to try and stop being such an evil beyotch 2 weeks out of the month (yes, it's THAT bad, and with 21 day cycles, it's 2x/month. Sucks to be me, sometimes...). Oh, and I got another Wii. If I had any idea just how hard those buggers were to get, I would have kept the one I got just before christmas. I guess if I had any backbone at all, I could have sold it at tidy profit and financed all the other gifts we ended up giving, but I had no clue about such things. I also didn't realize that the kids wanted one, so there you have it. I shopped around, and got another one a few days after I started looking-- 'cause I'm either the luckiest shopper around, or just really persistent, who knows. But now I am broker than broke, and need to get the lead out of my ass and start paying off the debt I've been accumulating in my winter doldrum shop a thons. Hopefully it'll be here by the end of the week (Sam's Club, with $10 shipping, not too bad...) and we can play in the newly CLEANED basment, a project I started on Sunday and choked my way through until Monday night. It was filthy and disgusting and I haven't been able to breathe out of my nose now for 3 days, but there's a HUGE space cleared out in the basement, the cobwebs are 95% gone, and we can all chill out and recreate and make a mess that no one has to see. Yay me!
Congrats if you've kept up with me thru all the updates... I love this time of year, it's almost a time of rebirth of creativity as we head towards spring and longer days. Now if only I could muster up the ambition to get out of this bed and figure out something else to do...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Boo.

I've come to realize that the only genuine, namable ambition my husband has is to have the home loan paid off.
This disappoints me greatly.
I can't disagree that his goal is noble and prudent, to say the least... but none too exciting, as I sit here watching my youth slip thru my fingers.
I'd really like to travel; to England, to Ireland, to France.... but it seems so unlikely right now. I don't earn enough money, I don't have anyone to go with me, to be strong and excited when I get nervous and want to back out.
Sadly, two cheap, unadventurous people don't take exotic trips together.
A movie just started that I remember seeing when I was travelling thru the country, living in my VW van. Seeing a movie at that time was such a novelty, allowing yourself to be pulled back into the world of normalcy for a couple hours, if only you had the cash to participate. I think we were staying in Arkansas at the time, mining crystals or some such thing... I vaguely remember scraping together enough cash to pay for a campground shower at the end of the day and then counting spare change to sit in the real world for a couple hours. Odd... to have so little yet still have the ability to feel for a a bief while like a member of the middle class.
Anyhoo: watching this movie makes me yearn to travel to the south, not only because I'm ready to jump out of my skin with cabin fever (which really hasn't been that bad, truth be told. It's actually been gorgeous and not too cold. 55 degrees today, felt like spring), but I *really* miss the pace of southern life.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Blue:

I'm feeling a little bit blue, as I find myself at an impasse, a rare place I've been before:
I have nothing to do, nothing I want to do, nothing I even want to peruse, read, or anywhere I want to go... there's not even a single thing in the entire world I want to buy! Sigh!
To be young, and yet so old-- where's the fun?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Yawn!

There just aren't enough hours in the day... I always start each day at an absolute zombie like crawl, and then speed up frenetically as the day progresses if my caffeine doses kick in as planned... and here I find myself at 10:26 pm involved in 6 projects with no end in sight.
Yawn!
I ended up having the entire week off, but somehow didn't manage to get a whole lot done until this afternoon, when I tried to squeeze in every last opportunity to get the weekday stuff done. Yet in spite of all the millions of things I really hoped to accomplish and the inevitable lethargy, I think I've done fairly well:
I got my laptop back last night after a crazy trip to Waukesha, and after giving up in a drunken fiasco finally managed to get it hooked up this morning to the the wireless network I set up a few weeks ago (I forgot to push the "wireless" button last night, and thus couldn't figure out why it wasn't connecting to the system. Der!)
Words cannot express how fantastically cool it is to have my laptop on the counter where I can look up recipes, etc, while I'm cooking.
Tonight, I found out at the last minute that I had to prepare a dish for a brunch tomorrow am, so I frantically started perusing the recipe sites. I located a really decadent looking bread pudding (my favorite!) and started pulling ingredients out, whipping it together while using the laptop as a reference... fabulous! And can I mention for a moment that I loooooove how my kitchen is so well stocked these days that I can look up almost ANY recipe and have each and every ingredient (even if you have to use really good hot dog buns for your bread pudding--oops!), from the coconut milk I used in my curried butternut squash to the 6 cups of heavy cream and 2 cups of pecans for my bread pudding (and almost a dozen eggs-- thanks girls!).
It's been an adventuresome week for cooking, in my week of idle unemployment. We made a pilgrimage to the Whole Paycheck on New Year's Eve, where I bought $250 of "almost nothing to show for it". At the spur of the moment I pulled together an impromptu menu of things I've wanted to make for a long time, staggering their presentation throughout the evening:

I started with pan seared garlic infused scallops, followed by curried butternut squash soup (please o please do NOT use more than 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes), and then ended the night's meal with a *perfect* medium rare rib roast, potatoes topped with mushrooms sauteed with a sherry reduction, and seasoned brussels sprouts. After we shot off some fireworks at midnight, I served up Ghiardelli fudge brownies with vanilla bean ice cream, and then waddled off to bed, fat and happy.
Since becoming a new subscriber to Cooks Illustrated, I have really become even more intrigued with the science of cooking and have been waiting to try out a few of their recipes.
To get started with the recipes I chose, I needed to pick up an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven (a la Le Creuset, a $250 pot I've fantasized about but never knew could be found SO MUCH cheaper). Since I was a little slow on the uptake, almost every dutch oven in 50 miles was already sold out, and after about a half dozen phone calls, daily visits to the Wal Mart website, and a pilgrimage to a store far, far away (thank you, Garmin! you make scary adventures for a wimpy girl like me possible...) I finally got my hands on the 6.5 qt Tramontina Dutch Oven they recommended. Whew!
I then eagerly whipped up their "Best French Onion Soup" and served it with the Swiss gruyere they recommended....

But... nobody liked the soup, and we had a ton left over:-(

Even though the soup wasn't a winner, Jacob and I were still able to marvel at the process of reduction, the development of the "fond", and how deglazing built up the body of the soup. I think Jacob was a little sad that our first genuine attempt at "French" cooking wasn't so tasty, but I'm pretty sure he's still holding fast to the notion that French food somehow is his favorite (and why? was it the Alton Brown Coq au Vin episode?).

Since the prep was a wee bit of a pain in the arse, and the ingredients somewhat costly, I strained out the mass of pulpy onions this morning, fed them to the worms, and froze the broth for future use as soup base.... maybe it'll enjoy a second life as a tasty beef barley soup.

I made their "French Chicken in a Pot" tonight, with (separately, in the 3.5 qt dutch oven I got) oven roasted new potatoes, carrots, sweet potato, and onions, roasted with the strained and de-fatted jus from the chicken. The chicken was *beyond fabulous*-- tender, juicy, and flavorful, and well worth the scary Wal Mart trip.
Many of the recipes in this month's issue seem to be pretty time intensive, so I resolved to get a jump on tomorrow's dinner of roast beef and no knead bread this afternoon so it would be all ready to go when I got home from my party. Oh! If I could always be this organized... makes staying home to be the family domestician seem somewhat less mind numbingly dull when my meals have an 18 to 24 hour prep time.
To be honest, I know that I'm just trying to keep myself entertained during these (hellish) cold months. Being off work doesn't help in these 8 degree days either, even tho it really *was* nice to get a break after the chaos of the holidays, surgery, camp, and root canals (and then another flippin holiday!-- couldn't they space these out a bit and give a girl a break?)...

On a completely unrelated note:
I had a job interview yesterday, which I'm sure may come as a shock to some of my readers (please don't get mired in the heavy sarcasm).
In painful retrospect, which keeps playing over and over again in my head since it ended, it seems soooooooo odd to me that a 10 year, decorated veteran of serial interviewing would commit such a slew of interview faux pas....
Tell me honestly:
Is it really so bad to tell a prospective employer that you take criticism well because you make so many mistakes at your current job?
Really? You think that's bad?

I've gotten sooo many jobs lately without interviewing, maybe I'm getting a little rusty...

I think the flubs happened because, in spite of the later shift hours and low pay (and farther location), I *reallyreally* want this job and thus had to jinx myself, adding more angst to an already angst riddled experience. I have job interview #2 next week for a job I completely *don't* want. I'm guessing it'll go off brilliantly, without a single foible or stupid slip o the tongue, making me look like the perfect candidate for the wrong job. Shit.
Completely irrational, I know. But if you're expecting anything in my life to make sense, you really haven't been paying attention.

An oldie but a goodie. And me in a nutshell (no pun intended...)