Category Archives: Food

bonhomie

11.2017_leaves2.jpg

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.

11.2017_train 2

11.2017_train 1

11.2017_chicago

11.2017_art

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.

11.2017_potluck.jpg

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

11.2017_pie meme.jpg

Advertisements

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).
03.2017_looney

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.
03.2017_backyard

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
03.2017_elvis

dieting.

2016-09-12_160523671_0c0ef_ios

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

3.2016_grumpy selfie

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.

3.2016_udon

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.

3.2016_twins

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.)

01.2016_saturday

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.

01.2016_Freud

 

how to survive november in the northern hemisphere

With a fire, and bread dough rising.

11.2014 fire

I am practicing my fire-building skills, but I think I am going to need more wood for the winter. I also need to start thinking about a snow removal company. My badass homesteading skills do not extend to snowblowers.

It is sleeting outside, and there is another polar vortex (the first of the season! aww) bearing down on us early next week. I have chili in the crockpot. I should have been doing a Turkey Trot today but the time change, and the hours of darkness, have diminished my mojo. Today, all I want to do is hang out by the fire, make things, and watch the play of weather outside of the den windows.

I’m trying a simple five-ingredient French bread recipe, to cautiously dip my toe back into breadmaking. I love the idea of homemade bread but I’ve never been successful at it. I’ve tried a starter, but my sourdough is never sour. Finally I gave up, until I heard this on NPR a few weeks ago. I waitlisted the book at the library, but it fired up my desire to bake, so we’ll see how it goes.

Sarge is helping relax today. We wish you all a happy, relaxing Saturday to sharpen your saw, as they say at Miss L’s school. xo

11.2014 sarge

 

moments

10.2014 spot

1. Lunch with a Loved One. Miss L’s new school has been such a better fit for us and we couldn’t be happier with her teacher, her pre-care and after-care, and the overall environment. It’s a Leader in Me Lighthouse School that operates on the Covey principles, and the kids and staff take it seriously. (I overheard Miss L playing with her stuffed ponies recently, and she was rewarding one of them for ‘being a leader of himself’.) This week was Book Fair and Lunch with a Loved One, and Miss L got over her fear of mascot ‘Spot’.

10.2014 sarge in the sink

2. My last big presentation was Wednesday and the room was full of people. In a bit of a departure, I decided that I wasn’t going to rehearse or practice my already familiar slides. If my biggest flaw is nerves, I reasoned, I had to just say ‘I don’t give a fuck what any of these people think of me’ and stand up and do it. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone else, and it probably will never work again, but this time, it DID. I wasn’t nervous at all, no tremors in my voice, no quavers. I’m the first one to realize when I stink, but this time I was pleased with myself.

10.2014 eclipse

3.  GB & I were discussing the mechanics of safely watching the partial eclipse and he reminded me that there is a welder’s helmet in the garage. One of the benefits of having a house still full of my ex-husband’s stuff (I know, it’s weird, I think he’s working on it) is having access to items like that. I watched for a little while but ultimately realized how slowly the whole process went and even with the welder’s helmet it was still pretty painful to look at. Still, I do like the interaction that my ex-husband and I have at times. We laughed about the welder’s helmet and it’s nice to make each other laugh. Even though it didn’t work out between us, it reminds me of why we were friends in the first place, long before marriage and Miss L.

10.2014 monahans

4. I didn’t get to run much this week, and I feel a little anxious about that, but sometimes you have to choose companionship over fitness, so instead of using my free lunch hour on Friday to exercise, I went out to lunch. My running buddy M and our colleague MC Granola and I don’t eat out together very much, but we have a few Ann Arbor places that we love, and are very compatible in our food choices and conversation and music. We listen to the rap channel on satellite radio and hit Casey’s, or Chela’s, or, as on Friday, Monahan’s Seafood (see above – M graciously photographed me with the lobster). Monahan’s is a seafood counter in the Kerrytown market, there are daily specials or the standard salmon burgers or crispy fish sandwiches. Everything is fresh, beautiful, amazing, you order over the counter and there’s only limited seating, so we take our food out into the adjoining courtyard. On Friday the weather was mild and autumnal, almost chilly but not quite; the sparrows fluttered around us for crumbs and the gardens were turning orange and brown, fading hydrangeas and ivy on the mossy brick walls. The Kerrytown Chime sent clear round notes floating across the Historic District, and when we were done, we wandered over to Zingerman’s for coffee. We lingered on the corner then, talking idly with our coffees, and letting Ann Arbor bustle around us, bell notes and leaves falling around us in the mild breeze, unwilling to say goodbye; and then we drifted apart, calling goodbyes, the moment broken and dissipating, time always moving.