Monday, January 31, 2011

Something Unexpected

You think you know someone inside and out, are pretty sure there are no new secrets to emerge, and poof: in the space of five minutes your preconceptions are dashed against the wall. There is a piece of devoted partner's childhood lore that he and a certain snarky Portuguese kid used to play a weekend sport together in their youth. Once a suitable amount of time has passed after the boys stopped playing the sport, snarky Portuguese senior recalled the hours he and devoted partner's father spent watching the boys and pronounced (sadly, accents don't come across in print), "you two were shitty!"

So imagine my surprise when we stepped out onto the ice at the Dorothy Hamill skating rink and devoted partner could, well, skate. Mind you, I'm not talking camelspins and triple lutzes, but damned if he didn't push off and confidently skate around that rink. Even backwards. Someone else, I'll give you one guess, began the afternoon clutching the side of the rink before muscle memory kicked in - and by muscle memory, I mean remembering how she can really only push off with her left foot. Clutching devoted partner's hand, I made it around the rink a couple of times before he claimed I was simply using him for momentum and left me to my own wobbly devices.

Now the thing it's important to understand about me and winter sports is that a) I'm not a fan of the cold; b) balance is not one of my more pronounce skills; and c) I have a massive fear of running over children. The several times in my life I have gone skiing, I maintain that the majority of falls taken were falls taken in the pursuit of not hitting a five year old who was confidently whooshing back and forth in front of me. Similarly, on the confined space of the ice rink, where many small ones are either learning or showing off, my lack of ability means I am forever petrified of running one over and severing his digits with my skate blade. Since I neither know how to stop short, nor really how to slow down, you can imagine the consequences.

But our afternoon of skating was actually lots of fun. True, I ruined it somewhat by attempting to talk about honeymoon ideas, but I didn't fall. And devoted partner impressed the poo out of me by his skating prowess - where prowess means he skated a hell of a lot better than I did.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Originally uploaded by reallyct
Trying not to go on and on about the weather this winter is an onerous task; after all, it does seem to be begging for attention. And today is no different. Except that today is different.

We were heartened this morning when we woke up to see that our driveway had been plowed - life would be normal. Until we realized that due to all the accumulation thus far, Devoted Partner's side of the garage was, well, blockaded by snow. True, our trusty snow removal man will be by later this morning to fix that problem, but in the meantime, offices needed to be reached. My car was used. And now I have no car. And not really a way to get the other car out of the garage (forgetting, for a moment, that the other car is a monster truck that I would be hard pressed to feel comfortable driving). But it seems that doesn't matter because Devoted Partner called from the office to tell me I didn't want to be out on the roads in any event.

And that's ok too, because I can't get into Manhattan anyway - the trains are down.

This is something I only thought about in the abstract: weather related imprisonment. It's just not a condition of the urban experience. Not really. I remember blizzards where streets were closed and subways were suspended, but some enterprising store owner still made it to his place of business which meant I could walk to his place of business and transact. Now I'm starting to realize that my snowboots are a) not 100% waterproof and b) not nearly tall enough to compensate for the snow drifts that are everywhere. So even if I wanted to walk the half mile or so for an emergency Snicker's bar or similar at the gas station, it would be an unpleasant walk - the kind of walk not even nougat can save.

I do not wish to jinx myself, but the saving grace of this winter's storms has been the resilient nature of the local power company. Whether through luck or extensive tree branch pruning, we have managed to keep power throughout all of the storms - which means that imprisonment in my home means eating of pantry staples and watching West Wing, not huddling freezing in the corner by the light of candles. However, I would like to lay some responsibility elsewhere, specifically on the gorp-y shoulders of LL Bean:

You people have been out of long underwear since November. You're LL Bean - long underwear is your bread and butter. What gives? I might, theoretically, enjoy kitting myself out for snow activities, but I'm not going to be able to because some of the basic prerequisites for such tomfoolery have been out of stock since before first snowfall. This may eclipse my frustration at the Gap for ever being out of stock on jeans. Get it together, LL Bean, it looks to be a very long winter.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Ooooh, I've been waiting to do this post for a while. Say what you will about statistics and their motivations, today I'm on the side of arbitrary, unmitigated figures.

I'm normal.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking and, frankly, that's uncharitable of you. But for the first time in my life since attaining adolescence I have a BMI (body mass index) that falls within the range of normal weights.

Translation: the government thinks I'm no longer fat. In fact, it thinks I'm no longer even overweight. I'd like to think that, overnight, this has eliminated all my chances of ever getting heart disease, but I'm no dummy, just a little high on the euphoria of it all.

All the months of privation, of chickenchickenchicken, of sweaty dreams of onion bagels seem to have done the trick. Oh, believe you me, there's more success to be had (when you've been doing this as long as I have, the idea of stopping before the end is anathema), but the successes from this point on will be in the normal range (and that's a 40 pound range, though let's not even joke about the absurdity of my hitting anywhere near the bottom of that range). Normal. Normal normal normal. Gee, I like the sound of that, and you have to believe that comes as a surprise to me, who has often prided herself on abnormality.

This trip has been the closest I think I'll get to traveling back in time. Every pound lost takes me back to the point when last I weighed what I weigh now. Want to know what year we're currently in? 1991. That's right, we're wearing flannel shirts chez moi and I think we also have a perm (sorry, Jamie). We're not even in high school. 2 more pounds and we're in 1990, and after that it's the great unknown (for the math geeks out there, the reason I wasn't "normal" then is that I was a little shorter). In 2 more pounds we're at a place never before, a weight that seems ridiculous to make past comparisons with because I was a child.

I know this is all far less interesting to you than it is to me, but thank you for letting me brag a little. It's actually less bragging and more shock. For while there's still tummy that needs toning and a waist that needs whittling, the strange person in the mirror doesn't look out of control. She doesn't look like someone who thinks a loaf of bread is a meal (though, god help me, I could mow a loaf of bread like nobody's business right now). This is unfamiliar territory and the view ain't half bad.

F U brisket cheese fries!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Fish Resolution

One of the dirty little secrets of my upbringing is that from birth to the time I moved out, we never ate fish for dinner. Not one time. The only fish that was ever in the house was gefilte for passover and lox on special occasions like my mother's birthday party. There was no tuna, no flounder, no bass, no halibut, nothing. Dinner was never ever ever a piece of fish. The reason, insane though it may sound, was simple: my dad didn't like fish. So we children grew up never eating it.

So I reached maturity without a taste for fish. In fact, given the two fish products ever in the house, I only understood fish as something deeply smelly and not really fit for ingestion. And, sadly, I still have significant lingering fish issues.

Issue #1: Fish is not meat. No matter how it's dressed up, no matter if it's a tuna steak, no matter, no matter, fish is not as substantial a protein as meat or poultry. My favorite way to eat fish? As a prelude to the meat course.

Issue #2: Eating fish in a restaurant is a far different proposition from eating fish at home. I estimate that for every pound of fish cooked in a restaurant a pound of butter is used. This masks the objective blandness that is fish. Fat makes everything taste good. At home, where I control what goes into the pot, pounds of butter are reserved for baking, pats of butter for cooking. I simply cannot, in good conscience, throw a stick or two of butter in a pan to cook a single fillet. As a result, my fish tastes like vaguely proteinaceous matter, while restaurant fish tastes like a butter delivery system.

Issue #3: Not so hot on salmon. Salmon is, for me, the fishiest of the fish. I can eat sardines and anchovies and mackerel, but salmon just makes me blanch. This complicates the cooking of fish as salmon is universally available where as, for example, monkfish is not. Smoked salmon? I won't even touch it. When we have it at parties I force devoted partner or my mother to be in charge of touching it.

But I know that fish is good for me, not fattening, and an important part of my cancer avoidance regimen. So on the list of slightly silly new year's resolutions was the resolution to eat fish a minimum of one time per week. After all it will break up the chicken monotony. Week 1 I cheated. I mean, I didn't really cheat, we ate a sea creature, but it was a scallop. I should mention that I 100% consider scallops to be food. I love scallops and I have some kind of minor superpower that enables me to perfectly cook them every single time. Of the under the sea creatures we eat, scallops easily make up 50-75%. My problem is that I honestly believe most fish doesn't taste like anything. Scallops taste like something.

So yesterday we had a cod fillet for dinner. Simply cooked in a pan with a pat of butter, a sprinkling of panko, thyme, salt and pepper. It tasted like, um, warm vaguely protein stuff with salt and pepper. And I am a confident enough cook that I know this is just what fish tastes like. I've had some better luck with mackerel, which is a stronger tasting fish, and if I was willing to salt my cod and add it to mashed potatoes with heavy cream, I know it would be quite tasty, but it would defeat the healthy motivation behind eating fish in the first place.

So much like a previous year's resolution of doing something every day for the entire year (if you know what it was, so much the better, but I'm not repeating it here), this is going to be one I just get through and hope that, as I explore additional fish and additional recipes, fish becomes something I enjoy and not something I take like vitamins.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


So this was a good gift. My colornook is pretty much everything I could have hoped for. It enables my lazy by allowing me to surf the internet from the couch. It stores pdfs. I hear someday soon it might play video once the flash thing is sorted out. But the unexpected, though not to anyone else who bought it, bonus is that you can read books on it.

In my mind I am still the 16-year-old with dreams of high-minded academia; the girl who, frankly, didn't take nearly enough pictures of Kenya so that she'd still have enough for Italy not realizing that she'd probably get back to Italy far sooner than she'd get back to Kenya; the girl who thought she'd write on an old typewriter and one day make the move from paper to vellum. Which doesn't jibe at all with the reality of someone who has been on the forward side of computing pretty much from day 1.

Still there was that lingering prejudice that books must be paper; the reader must be tangibly invested in their smell; real reading is an experience that cannot be captured by the impersonal screen. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah.

Lies. All of it. Lies.

It's not like I haven't done the bulk of my non-book reading on the computer for some time now. I cannot remember the last time I bought a copy of The New York Times. Reading on a screen is the norm for everything but books. Which, as you know, take up a disruptive amount of space at our house.

But the prejudice persisted. I bought my first e-book because it was a book I knew I wasn't going to need to own in the flesh, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. And then proceeded to read it in about a day and a half. Ooh how much fun is it to flick your finger and turn the page. While I was reading, I bought the old standby, a book I own in several different materials and languages, the always-present and frequently-read Foucault's Pendulum. But even then I could say I bought it because I already had the real version.

And then I needed a new book. I went to my reading list, selected an available title, downloaded, and read. Then I picked a book Devoted Partner wanted to read. And now I see the genius.

A lot of the books I read aren't keepers. I have a very long reading list and a lot of what I read disappoints me. And then I have the book. Lying around. Waiting to be donated, recycled, given away, etc. Yes, everyone who is about to pipe in with the novel idea of the library, I understand how one works and that I could borrow the book in question, but I don't know until I've read it whether or not I'll want to own it forever and borrowing it, reading it, liking it, buying it, seems rather a lot of coming and going - not to mention the library fees that will pile up during my indecision/laziness.

With color nook I get my instant gratification and, since there's internet on the thing as well, if I read a book I simply must fondle, I can immediately purchase it.

So now I'm changing my tune: bring on the chip in my skull, I'm ready.

Monday, January 3, 2011


As much as I like to feel immune from group-thought, I will admit that the new year inspires change in me. Some of the change is illogical - I know that no matter how many times the New Balance butt slimming sneakers are advertised on TV they won't actually slim my butt - and other is entered into in the spirit of renewal that a new year brings. 2011 will, of necessity, be momentous, and I have a lot of anxiety, both personal and logistical about that.

I think, though, that the idea of new year's resolutions is more about the thought process than the doing. I can certainly buy an elliptical machine and vow to use it daily, but the thoughts behind that possibility are more valuable. Identifying that exercise, though abhorrent to me, is something I should be doing, and identifying the reasons for the should is important.

Then there are the intangibles. Looking at who I am as a person and thinking about what changes will benefit me intellectually and emotionally. This is more challenging because the purchase of an elliptical can't get at the heart of these changes. Thinking about what makes me happy, what will make me happy, and what can make me happy, are thoughts that are often sabotaged by fear which in turn breeds inaction. Using the new year to jumpstart these thoughts is useful even if their fruit bears down the road.

I will do my best not to use this platform to babble too incoherently about wedding planning and weight loss, though both of those things will use some mental space this year, but I ask for some leeway when the musings hit me. For all the truth there is in how our lives have been married-like for some time, there is also truth in how actually marrying brings changes and challenges that we have, until now, been able to put aside. The less fleeting these thoughts are, the better I will be able to address them, and the less likely I will be to ignore them.

In the meantime, happy new year to you all.