Category Archives: Food

insert obligatory new beginnings quote here

Happy 2018! Even though I didn’t take much time off work, I still managed to enjoy a really nice holiday season – highlights included a couple of days that L & I spent with my parents in the frozen northlands and my summer friend B being home for a whole week.

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frozen northlands

It was a nice mix of family time and grownup time. The three of us went to the Detroit Institute of Art and had filet mignon on New Year’s Eve together; separately, L & I did puzzles and spent days in jammies and B & I visited the Motown Museum & had a great lunch at Social Kitchen and Bar in Birmingham (the atmosphere was a little busy and hipster for me; but the food was great – highly recommend the egg sandwich and the Brussels sprouts). He and I also found time to visit our fave local, Lucy & the Wolf in Northville (everything is good here and the service is absolutely top notch), and I felt a little nostalgic for the summer nights that would find us there eating devilled eggs and then wandering down to the live music in the square.

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miss l showing off one of two puzzles we completed over the holiday – the other was a thomas kincaide little mermaid that my mom got her.

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motown! #detroithustlesharder

Now everything is encased in ice, as the first week of 2018 has followed in the footsteps of past years with a deep freeze. Even though my cats live indoors and never have to put their soft paws in a snowbank, they seem to be as annoyed and drained as us humans – Sarge has barely gotten out of his cat bed since New Year’s. Everyone at work looks glassy and zombie-like. We all have road salt on our shoes and pants and although I’ve managed to shower and put on clean clothes every day, that’s about all the extent of the energy I can muster for self-improvement.

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portraits of feline laziness

I did, however, get on the work treadmill today for my first run of 2018 and it felt great. I am recommitting to mileage this year and one of my goals is a half-marathon. I finally feel as though I’m fully healed from the stress fracture that’s plagued me for the past couple of years (!) and am slowly building my base again, even if it’s just on the treadmill right now.

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obligatory widget central workout room selfie – can we jam any more equipment in that space?…note my moon face and pooh tummy –> hence the weight watchers…

I had a spotty performance with Weight Watchers over the holiday. I had some really excellent days and then I had some days where I wanted B’s Elvis birthday cake and handfuls of salted mixed nuts and pizza and big goblets of wine. I didn’t lose any weight, but I didn’t gain any, either, and I feel like I’ve started January strongly.
I should also add that one of my other big 2018 resolutions is taking place right now. Last year, I read an article about “Dry January” (mostly a UK thing currently, I think; about 3 million people over there participate) and decided to do it. I felt so good after a month of no alcohol that I’ve decided to make this an annual tradition.

My side hustle starts up again on Monday and if all goes well, I’ll be certified by the end of February. Not much knitting to report except Kit’s Mitts (a Christmas gift for a bestie – technically not finished before Christmas but not my fault – Sarge has a habit of digging into my knitting bag after I’ve gone to bed and dragging my knitting projects around the house, winding the yarn around chairs and tables, then up the stairs, needles and all, and he unraveled them TWICE) which I didn’t even Ravel because I didn’t take a picture of them before they were bundled into an envelope and mailed. I have a little mini-sock on the needles as a test for some Christmas ornaments / gifts for next year and a pair of wool mittens. I have been wearing the wool mittens I knitted last year quite a bit and I even wore them to snowblow and I am thrilled to report that they are WARM!! So I’m making more for the mitten basket.

And that’s about the sum of my New Year update. Happy 2018 to all and sundry and stay warm out there.

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mishmash

I had a break in my classwork for a few days and it seemed so strange not to be sneaking textbooks to work and scheduling tests and essays…but I got used to it!! I spent the time finishing my Christmas shopping (thank God for Amazon Prime), and doing a bit of knitting, and some reading for fun.

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I finished these simple house slippers (Raveled here) – originally for me, but I made them a bit too small, so they ended up going to my daughter. She was happy with the gift (“elf slippers” she called them) but she probably won’t get much use out of them – her socks are one of the first things she sheds when she gets home and even in the dead of winter she runs around inside the house barefoot. I can’t imagine this as I’m always freezing.

This pattern was quirky as it started flat but then finished in the round, and got stitched up the back. This seems to make the heel a little prone to slip down the back of the foot, at least on L’s pair. I think I’m going to try them again for myself so I can really get a feel for whether that’s a problem.

I’m doing a bit of Christmas knitting for a girlfriend, and am planning to cast on for a pair of socks soon. I really liked the Jaywalker pattern that I did an eon ago in Australia and still wear them quite a bit. And now that I know how to properly Kitchener stitch the toes, I don’t feel so inclined to search out a toe-up pattern.

As far as reading goes, I’m halfway through “The Bear and the Nightingale”, by Katherine Arden, which I didn’t expect to catch my interest as much as it has. It’s a medieval Russian fairytale and although the main character struck me as being a bit of a “plucky girl” stereotype (you know the kind – tomboyish, can’t be tamed, the despair of her family as they try to make her fit into the male-dominated world they live in) she’s also very likeable and endearing. This is the first book in what Arden is calling the “Winternight Trilogy” and the sequel is due in December.

I’m also plodding through “Wolf by Wolf” by Ryan Graudin. In reverse of “Bear”, I expected to love this one instantly and yet so far, it hasn’t caught my interest in much more than a dutiful manner. It’s an alternate historical fiction with the premise that the Axis powers won WWII, and used their experimentation on war prisoners to create people capable of shapeshifting, taking on the physical attributes of another human. There’s a brief interview with the author here. I love historical fiction and yet this one just isn’t doing it for me.

I listened to an audio book club review of “Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan and put it on my library hold list. I understand that she is quite a brilliant writer and that some of her prior works have been innovative. This one was described as less revolutionary and more like a “comfortable Thanksgiving dinner” of a historical novel which is definitely more my speed.

And to round off this mishmash of nonsense, if you’re looking for a good recipe for leftovers, try this. I was scrolling through Instagram on the day after Thanksgiving when a picture of this pot pie came up and both B & I thought it looked good for our leftover turkey. It really was! I’m a big fan of the pot pie genre and I’m an even bigger fan of being able to use leftovers in a tasty and appealing way. I liked it so much, in fact, that it went into my rotation this week at home (using leftover chicken).
Hope you are all enjoying your week as much as I am. xo

bonhomie

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A few more sleeps until Thanksgiving week, which should hopefully be less busy than the last few weeks have been. So what have I been up to? A lot of side hustle, honestly – who would have thought that an online certificate class could be so absorbing? I’ve been putting in a lot of hours with Statsky 8th edition and the Federal Civil Rules booklet. The upside to this is that it’s all very interesting and even the tests and homework are like little mind puzzles to break apart and peer into. So I don’t honestly mind the extra time even though it does mean less time for other things I enjoy, like knitting or reading for pleasure.

B & I spent a very rainy but lovely weekend in Chicago – it’s sort of a “meet in the middle” spot for us. I took the train so I would be able to study and finish my tests and homework for the week (and also avoid parking fees and Chicago traffic). We stayed in a haunted hotel (no sightings!), went to the art museum, ate some great meals, had drinks, and walked many miles.

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Next week I will be loading up my car with all manner of things and driving out to see him in Iowa City. Miss L will be with her dad and although I’ll miss her very much, I know she’ll have fun and I will, too. I’m taking B a little Christmas tree and packing a box of cooking supplies & provisions for Thanksgiving (he found the cutest little 9-lb turkey for us). He likes Iowa City a lot and I’m excited to see the campus and his neighborhood.

Before that, though, Miss L will be stepping out with her elementary school choir to warm up the crowds at the Fox Theater in Detroit this Sunday! Her choir will be singing Christmas tunes on the stairway of the Fox preceding a performance of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My grandmother, a singer and retired church choir leader herself, was tickled pink that L has joined the choir and sent her some spending money for a new dress & shoes. We are all excited to start the holiday season in such a festive way!

Lastly, yesterday was the annual Widget Central potluck. I love this event…one of the engineers’ side hustles is as a wedding singer and he sets up his keyboard and croons live music for us.  The Engineering manager uses part of his budget to get two hams and a turkey (“it’s better to have more than not enough,” he shrugged yesterday) and we gorge on all manner of  delicacies, from rice balls brought by the Japanese associates to butter chicken and curries from the Indian engineers to seven-layer dip to homemade bread…the list goes on. I ran out of time this week and bought a pumpkin roll…I considered taking it out of the plastic box and wrapping it in plastic wrap and trying to pass it off as homemade but I didn’t even have a chance to do that. It was no matter. It was still a bountiful meal and the music was funny and touching and the room was full of bonhomie and, as always, reminded me of the common things that bring us all together.

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I’ll close with a gentle reminder about the proper way to approach your Thanksgiving dessert…xoxo.

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spring break part 1

It rained all week. On Thursday, I went through the drive-thru of one of my fave local coffee shops for a dozen donuts for a colleague’s birthday, and I watched the “regulars” through the rain-splattered glass and felt that it must be a nice way to start the morning. It’s one of those places where you walk out smelling of coffee and baking.  Alas, there was no time for me to linger, the rain-soggy box was thrown into the passenger seat and I was off, although I did extricate the blueberry cake donut at a stoplight as a consolation (blueberry cake donuts 4-ever).
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We have no spring trips planned. This coming week’s Spring Break for Miss L will be an exercise in “staycation”. She won’t be thrilled about this, but we’ve done fun vacations for the past few years (Chicago, Disney, and North Carolina beach trip) so it’s time for mama’s bank account to recover a bit.

Yesterday the sun came out long enough for me to start raking and begin some basic yard cleanup, but after filling five lawn and leaf bags I feel as though I am making the situation worse. There appears to be no grass whatsoever in my backyard.
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Note the clear and humiliating line of demarcation between my yard and the dentist’s. His is sod!!! It’s not fair.

Today I will spread some grass seed and attend to a couple of other tasks, including the somewhat nasty one of trying to figure out what to do about my infestation of horrible house sparrows in all my nesting boxes. I don’t want to stoop to killing them but I think I need to block the entrance holes with something.
It was a big week at Miss L’s elementary school, with Book Fair and conferences. Miss L had a great conference and one of the funnier moments was finding out from her third grade teacher that one of Miss L’s self-stated goals is “to get into a good college”. I think we actually LOL’ed at this.
I volunteered for two nights at the Book Fair and realized that I probably should have been a cashier in real life. It’s incredibly satisfying for me to have short, well-defined tasks with a beginning, middle, and end. Greet the customer. Scan the books. Take their money. Give them change. Hand them their books and receipt with a huge smile because that task is over, they will walk away, and everyone will be happy. I ended up working way past my shift end on both nights because they weren’t fully stocked with volunteers. The first night was fine, but the second night I was actually bleary-eyed by the time we started closing the registers and counting money. Still, I really love being at the school and I always wish I had more free time during the day to do more things there. However, Widget Central (and my mortgage, car payment, our health insurance, and bills) has me inexorably in a firm grasp.
Still, it’s now the weekend, with a couple of days off next week with Miss L, and I plan on baking, sleeping, and watching another 30 episodes of Forensic Files. I leave you with a screenshot of the My Favorite Murder podcast’s Instagram account, which after their recent live show in Portland managed to combine three highly topical themes – donuts, cats, and murder, with their personalized Elvis the Siamese donut (fellow listeners will recognize Elvis as the show’s mascot). I wish someone would make me an Emmett donut.
Happy Spring Break for those of you celebrating! xo
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dieting.

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lunchtime run + meditation time at the botanical gardens; treasure the weather while it lasts.

So I’m back counting calories and steps with my trusty My Fitness Pal. I launched quite a diet & exercise offensive earlier this summer, in order to be able to wear a bikini on our vacation in North Carolina, but with several weeks of tracking, I really only lost about 3 lbs. I was relieved to give it up after vacation and go back to eating and drinking whatever I damn well felt like. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the 3 lbs coming back on, as well as a little extra.

I’ve always had a good metabolism and weight was never much of a worry for me until about the last year and a half. When I started running a lot in 2010, my body changed, became much leaner. Then, after several years, everything evened out  my body got used to all of that running and exercising, and adjusted accordingly. I’ve gone from, at my lowest, most unhealthy point, about 20 lbs under my ideal weight to about 10 lbs over that ideal weight since I turned 40.

Well, I thought to myself, training for my half ought to help this situation. Turns out it hasn’t.

Portion control, meal preparation and planning, and careful assessment of my nutritional mix plus daily exercise – that’s what works for me. I use Map My Run and My Fitness Pal to track my calories and plan my meals. I like seeing my daily food diary laid out so I can ensure that I am getting what I need – protein, whole grains, fruits & veggies, and enough water. Map My Run syncs with My Fitness Pal so when I log workouts, I see the calories come off my day, and I can make adjustments.

The problem with all of this is that food equals happiness and comfort and satisfaction for me. I don’t eat a lot of junk food. I don’t eat fast food more than once every couple of months, I don’t drink soda, I don’t eat bags of potato chips or cookies. But I do love cheese, and if I want to smash up an avocado and eat it on toast or with crackers, or mixed in pasta with red pepper flakes and pesto and olive oil, I want to be able to do that. I love red wine and pizza and bread, and after I run at lunchtime, I like wandering down to the cafeteria and having the chef whip me up a veggie and cheese quesadilla with a big handful of thick kettle chips. I like ice cream and pie a couple times a week. I feel like my mental issue is that I’m not a terrible eater – by and large I like healthy things, but I like them ALL THE TIME. In order to succeed in losing weight, I have to change my mindset from seeing food as self-love to seeing it as fuel, which is extremely dissatisfying.
But things must be done and so for the foreseeable future I will be packing lunch for myself (I don’t love processed food, but a Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine at lunch helps keep me on track – typically I only choose the vegetarian options, and actually a couple of them – these and these – are pretty good) and planning my meals on my little phone apps and trying to move more and drink more water and not turn into a shrieking harpy because I can’t have my Dove chocolate or large pour of cab sav.

date night

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On Thursday, it took me almost two hours to get to work, due to Very Bad Drivers on the road. I took this selfie immediately after the man driving the gold minivan behind me honked because I’d let two car lengths grow between myself and the car in front of me. He had a Canadian license plate. Normally I am quite admiring of Canadians so this guy must have been an anomaly. I couldn’t quite believe that anyone would honk over something so trivial, especially considering the 2-3 mile backup ahead of us. Trust me, those two car lengths were not going to get him anywhere any faster.

Today was better. I had a couple of routine doctor appointments this morning so I rolled out of bed past my usual bedtime and had coffee and a nice chat with my gyno whilst I was in the stirrups (TMI, I know) and then took a couple of conference calls before seeing my GP. It was a bright clear day and there were cardinals in the trees. I noticed a sushi restaurant next door to my GP and stopped off for a bowl of warming udon and green tea. The restaurant slowly filled up, mostly with Japanese, which is a pretty good sign in a sushi restaurant. The udon smelled like dishwater but tasted fine and I felt happy. I really enjoy eating by myself. A book, some food, I am golden.

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Yesterday, after Horrible Commute, I got to swapping stories about dating with “CPA”, one of my single female colleagues. She’s never been married so her roster of horrifying dating stories is longer and more hilarious than mine.  My male colleague, “Q”, much younger than me and also single, whom I definitely think should be writing a blog about the Detroit restaurant and night life scene, or at the very least getting some actual work done between shopping for beautiful dress shirts online all day, and who has longer eyelashes than I do, told me that I really need to get back on Match. Or, he said after a pondering moment, go hang out at happy hour at a certain exclusive Birmingham hotel’s cocktail bar. He said, “Tons of rich old guys. And the women are just bad plastic surgery NIGHTMARES. Reeking of desperation. You’d be the A-team!” I didn’t really know what this meant but I then had to confess that the last time I had a date lined up, I called to cancel on the basis that I had norovirus.

Of course it was a stunning lie – someone had suspected norovirus from the Widget Central workout room and it was the first thing that sprang into my head.

CPA and Q thought this was one of the funniest things they’d ever heard. At some point, the two of them are going to insist that I socialize with them. I’m not good in situations like that and they both drive identical low-slung BMW’s that I struggle to get into and out of and all in all, I’m just a suburban homesteading mom with a used but paid for Camry who likes birds and cats and her kid, and otherwise is super comfortable being alone. I do go out sometimes and I’ve dated since my divorce, and have really liked one or two of them. I continue to see one friend, “Jax”, off and on, but nothing has entirely worked out with that “click” that you feel when it’s right.

I still feel a little bad about the norovirus thing. I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings – I just really wanted to go home and get into pajamas and spend time with my two favorite boys.

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After I shut down my work computer and had a quick conference at the school with GB and Miss L’s teacher (this is another story entirely and one that likely won’t be told on the blog, as I do try to protect her right to confidentiality and privacy – I will say that while I thought it might involve the inappropriate use of the word “asshole”, it didn’t and that is totally okay with me – even though there ARE kind of a lot of assholes in Miss L’s second grade class, so who can blame her, really) I noticed that I was really hungry and dressed with a modicum of polish.  So I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant nearby and had an enormous plate of hummus, tabbouli, falafel, grape leaves, spinach pie, and a bright salad that quivered with a mouth-puckering acidic dressing. I came home to a bath and a glass of wine, and Marion Cotillard in “Macbeth” and as I sit here in my pajamas, I am thinking that this is the absolute best date that I’ve been on in a really long time. And it didn’t involve low-slung sports cars or bars or anything other than doing things that I really like including reading a JK Rowling / Robert Galbraith book while shoveling pita bread into my gob. I love date night.

 

 

the challenge.

One of my favorite blogs (Foxs Lane) has blogged every day for the past two Januaries running. This isn’t uncommon; there is actually some sort of organized blog event that goes by a completely obnoxious acronym (NaBlahBloMeh or some such thing) challenging bloggers to post every day. But Foxs Lane is different. Her reasons for doing so are compelling and her blog is really utterly beautiful and it’s made me think, could I write every day for a month?

The answer is of course I can. My content might be sparse and I might not be full of lush photographs or lyrical philosophical insights, but of course I can commit to set down some words every day for a month. And so I shall. I considered this challenge last night as I was driving home from a lovely dinner party in my old hometown. There was wine and cheesecake and Cards Against Humanity and laughing til our faces hurt and this amazing salad that was so fresh and wonderful that I actually dreamed about it last night. (I dreamed about it in a good wholesome way, not in a Cards Against Humanity way, because damn, that game can make anything feel creepy.)

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Whenever I go back to that town, I have an almost visceral, skin-crawling reaction to being in a place where I spent my formative years. Every house is familiar, every street. It’s almost mythic. The atmosphere is charged with memory and importance and I am always conflicted when I cross the boundary and set off home along black highways between desolate cornfields.

Anyway, last night I was driving home, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on the World Book Club and I looked at the clock on my dashboard and calculated that there was no way I could make it home in time to post yesterday. I guess that’s when I realized that I was committed to this challenge.

I’ll see you all tomorrow and in the meantime, here is a picture of my friend’s ridiculously handsome dog. He helped me eat some of my ham but I did NOT share the salad.

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