Monday, December 5, 2011

Back from South of the Border!

E & I got back on Tuesday from Mexico. The trip was great! Like any of our trips, it had its ups and downs, but it was great to explore another area. Having been to Mexico before, the trip didn't feel as foreign as going to Costa Rica or Panama. However, the Yucatan region is great (except for the water...why can Costa Rica and Panama have clean water but the Yucatan fails so miserably when there is WAY more tourism in that area? Apparently the hotel zone in Cancun is okay but we didn't venture there). What I liked best (and why I really recommend the area!) is that it has all the awesomeness of a beach vacation along with cenotes, underground sinkhold caves, along with Mayan ruins. We also had some great snorkeling, which you don't really get on the Pacific side.

A few highlights:
This hotel was amazing! I booked it last minute after our original reservation was cancelled because the hotel was subject to a land grab (shady titles are apparently the norm in the region). Miraculously, the BEST cabana was available, #1. It was the only one that had a full ocean view. We fell asleep to the sound of the waves every night underneath a mosquito net. It was wonderful! Electricity is also in short supply in the area (ours was solar-powered) so we only had power from 5pm-10pm. It was actually really cool to live that way! We would have a last swim right before the sun went down around 5, shower, then go get dinner. We would come back, look at the stars, then go to bed right around when the lights went out. Then at 6am or so, the light starts streaming in and you start to stir. Maybe by 7 you get out of bed, have a morning swim, relax, and then have the delicious, included breakfast at 8. I am NOT a morning person so it was really cool to see how naturally your body responds to the light and dark if you don't have electricity or TV to stimulate you after hours. We also stayed there during a new moon, so the stars were super bright. E brought out his Android and we used Google Sky to identify the constellations. It was magical. Nice, quiet beach.

We ended up changing our plans and coming back to the area for the last two nights. The water was exceptionally calm, eventually like glass. When we had been there before the waves were extremely strong, full of seaweed, and actually a bit intimidating. I went boogie boarding on this beach that was now wave-free! I liked being able to experience the different moods of the same ocean.

It ended up being really worth it to come back to the Cabanas (even though we didn't get as good of a cabin the second time) because sea turtles hatched! Even though it's past the season, the hotel manager had kept some nests in coolers waiting for them to hatch. Two nights in a row, we had people stand at the water with flashlights and released the turtles into the ocean. Feeling a little creature like that in my hands was so, so cool. I felt a little guilty because I have been so conditioned not to touch endangered species, etc., before realizing that in this case, I was the "handler," the person in charge of making sure the creature got into the ocean. Some of the turtles starting moving right away toward the ocean. Others were a little stunned and didn't move at all. I was really worried one of them was hurt but it turned out the little one just needed some time to adjust before he started swimming toward the water.

Back to the breakfast--I love fresh-squeezed orange juice, which was served every day at breakfast. All over Mexico, this is considered the norm, not a luxury. It is so delicious. It tastes clean, a little more watery, and it's so refreshing. OJ containers, in contrast, always have a slightly syrupy or more powerful flavor. Even fresh-squeezed in containers doesn't taste the same as Mexican OJ. Mmmm.

Ok, now more briefly:
My favorite Mayan ruin. More chill than Chichen Itza with some impressive, unrestored sights. We climbed a really high pyramid and biked to all the different sections of the ruins.

In the Si'an Kaan biopreserve, this hotel was in the middle of nowhere. We befriended one guy who had been there a few times before and this really great family, since we were taking all our meals together. And I learned how to play Cribbage! Also, this family was just SO lovely--three gorgeous blond kids, and we celebrated the Mom's 40th birthday. On our last day, the boy comes over to me and I see he's walking with a limp. I say, 'Hey, guy, did you step on something? You okay?' Then his Dad, who's nearby, says 'You want to tell her, or me?' And this boy tells me that he had a stroke when he was in his mommy's belly and it affects how he walk and his eye. I was stunned and had no idea what to say, only that I didn't want to say what I was thinking, which was that he was brave and he's been through a lot. I was worried that it would turn into some patronizing statement when I've never had to deal with anything like that. Instead, I think I said, 'Wow,' and I don't know what else, just processing. And I told his Dad and him I had no idea, that this was the first I noticed. 'He's come a long way,' the Dad said, and that made me feel like I had at least made some kind of appropriate response. Then later tells me the Dad has colon cancer--he had finished chemo and that was part of the reason the family was taking a three-week vacation. It was crazy to see this family, perfect from the outside, was going through so much. It really blew me away.

We also went inland to Merida for a couple nights. We stayed in a lovely hotel but weren't such a big fan of the hot, crowded, diesel-fumed environment of the city. E says "no more Central American cities." We left a day early for Playa del Carmen, which is an hour south of Cancun and supposedly more "European." It was very, very touristy. There is a huge main pedestrian strip with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops, a few avenues away from the beach. It felt like San Diego or something--not Mexcio. E took issue with everyone being all dressed up, in heels etc. He prefers a more chill environment. We checked out and headed down to Tulum instead the next day. On the plus side, we ate breakfast at this French place and probably had the best almond croissant and "manzana tarte" in all of Mexico. After so much Mexican food that was a nice respite.

Another highlight was renting a car! Though it ended up being quite expensive because of all the insurance add-ons (80% of our cost was insurance!), it helped free us from the crowds and made sure we were on no one's schedule but our own. We also went to smaller, more out-of-the-way spots. E was a great driver! I hate the rules now about not letting anyone else drive unless you pay extra--I only drove in the biopreserve, partly so I wouldn't get carsick because the roads are filled with potholes--like it's actually the worst road I've ever been on.

I caught a cold on my way back and missed work Wednesday and Friday--now I'm leaving two Fridays from now for Seattle! Turns out I miss my work Christmas party, but oh well. I have stuff scheduled right now for seven out of the ten worknights (screenings, plays, parties, etc) and probably will end up doing something else too--CRAZY!! The end of the year is coming too fast now!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Favorite Things of Fall

  • Weekend breakfasts on the balcony with a fleece on
  • Unpasteurized pineapple orange ginger juice
  • Bagels with lox
  • Getting rid of things! I have a Salvation Army pick-up appointment set for a couple weeks from now, and I can't wait to de-clutter
  • Cooking over the weekend! Yesterday we made yummy tacos for a couple friends who came over and a giant cheesecake (can't wait to try it!). Today I'm planning on making a butternut squash soup (with leftovers for work lunch) and cranberry nut bread with the first cranberries of the season
  • When a DJ keeps on playing song after amazing song. I went out spur of the moment last night (after the tacos) and ended up in this scene-y kind of bar that was playing amazing Top 40 mixes. We're talking about mixing Miley Cyus' "Party in the USA" with Biggie, so the song went back and forth between the two for a few minutes. The DJs were so cute and had this little dance they did to a Lady Gaga song. Haven't had that much fun going out in awhile
  • Having exciting things to look forward to! Including going to Chicago for my cousin's wedding, going to Vermont next weekend, and the Greenwich Village Halloween parade!
  • "Boardwalk Empire" and Ken Burns' "Prohibition" (starting tonight). I think I may need to shell out for one of those pre-made flapper costumes this year.
  • Going to see 9/11 memorial today with our state assemblyman.
  • Happy, lazy weekends
  • I asked for a raise at work, something I have been chickening out about doing for months
  • Fall weather that's still warm enough to let you walk home late at night in bar attire without freezing, and not having to carry a heavy winter coat in with you to the bar
  • Magazines! I am still having my love affair with "New Yorker," and was going through withdrawals when my magazine was four days late. Also "The Atlantic" and "Wired" are so smart and it's nice not to read everything online for once, especially because I don't like screens for any pre-bedtime reading. And again: so, so, so smart and interesting
  • Mindy Kaling: read this. I can't wait to read her memoir when it comes out!
  • My boyfriend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mountaineering Documentaries

Lately, I've been mentioning to people that I really like mountaineering documentaries. The response is usually a raised eyebrow and laughter. I guess it's a random thing to be enthused about. But it's true, I do. I love reading and watching anything about mountaineering.

I am an exceedingly cautious person. When I go on hikes, I'm always super slow because I have to make sure I have perfect footing before I proceed. I once cried while on top of one of those fake plastic rock climbing things--partly because I was so high up, partly because I couldn't make it to the top. I don't particularly care for heights. I do like scrambling around rocks and things, but again, caution rules the day.

Watching mountaineering documentaries fills me with adrenaline and awe. I totally understand their goal. Some people may think it's crazy to summit these peaks or try a crazier, never-done-before route, but I completely understand their motives. It feels like the most natural desire in the world. As George Mallory (who died on Everest in the 1920s, perhaps after climbing it, but no one knows for sure) said, in response to the question, "Why climb Everest?" "Because I can." We live in a world where every inch of the world has been explored, yet certain peaks and routes have only been conquered by a select few.

Climbing a mountain is about confronting death. When you're at extremely high altitudes, your body dies a little bit every single minute. Your brain does not receive enough oxygen. Your lungs can fill with fluid. You can die from cerebral edema. Your nose, fingers, and toes begin to freeze off. You're pushing your body into this zone where death is inevitable, yet some people escape unscathed. You're confronting your body's evolutionary limits. We're simply not designed to live that high up. On the same note, Nepalese sherpas do in fact have an adaptation that allows them to take in more oxygen at high altitudes, which is fairly new. That doesn't mean they don't die up there, but it's also a window into a place where genetics snap into focus. We are not all born the same. As people climb up Everest, they see dead bodies along the path. The conditions are so extreme, they simply can't be brought down and buried. Instead, they remain frozen mummies that will probably mystify those that find them millenia from now. Everything about life that is glorious and frightening and fragile and awe-inspiring exists when you are up on the mountain.

I wish I had that skill, that confidence. The lack of fear. But I don't. So I like to watch and read these stories and be in awe of these people's accomplishments.

My recent watches (both on Netflix Instant):
Touching the Void: It shows up on "Best Documentaries of all Time" lists. It chronicles a disastrous attempt of a pair to survive after one man breaks his leg while descending. His tale of survival is so incredibly powerful. One thing that really struck me was that he would set tiny goals for himself, like "you have twenty minutes to get to that ridge." I don't think he could have survived without that.
The Wildest Dream: Not as good, but about another Everest attempt interwoven with the story of George Mallory.

Discovery channel's Everest series. I watched this years ago and was utterly riveted
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. This one sparked my interest. In fact, I want to read it again.

I'd love to write some kind of fictional short story about mountaineering, I love it so much, but they say write what you know and I definitely don't know anything more than a spectator about mountaineering!

Monday, June 20, 2011

CSA Update

For the second year, E & I are doing a CSA (community-supported agriculture). You pay $300 something upfront, and you get fresh fruit, organic vegetables, and cheese (extra) for twenty-something weeks. We were unhappy with how the first one was run, so we switched to the Grand St CSA. We were on the wait list for Grand St. last year, which so far has had more produce, and is closer and more convenient to our apartment. Not only do we have fruits this time, we also have CHEESE. Cheese! They also do one off things, too, so we recently came into a couple quarts of maple syrup that is seriously delicious.

This year we're actually getting vegetables every week (not every other week), which will help with the waste. E was on a business trip in Houston a couple weeks ago, leaving me to cook a head of swiss chard (I made stuffed shells) and eat more lettuce than I ever have in one week in my life--we got two heads of lettuce plus a bag of mixed greens. I hate most bottled salad dressings now that I've started making my own, so I've been making small batches of dressing (so easy, I swear). That way you can have a couple salads with one dressing then move one. I've made a couple viniagrettes, throwing in some fresh herbs, and I am a huge fan of my creamy greek dressing, which I will try to post here soon.

Other things we've done with our vegetables
1. Radishes "the French way, with butter and salt." Meh. I added a Ritz cracker to the mix, but I'm still not a huge radish person.
2. Radishes in fish tacos. Yum! The way radishes were meant to be: In small quantities
3. Swiss chard with caramelized onions in a calzone. So loved! We even figured out a way to cook the stems this time!
4. Salads with fruit, cheese, and nuts. These are the best.

5.Garlic Scape Dip. I actually kind of screwed up this recipe this time, after two times with great success last year. I used WAY more scapes than I should have (they were bigger than the ones from last year, and I just plain added more.) I'm going to buy some more white beans to try to save it from its aggressive garlickiness.
6. Rhubarb compote. We kind of roughly used this recipe, adding some frozen strawberries, mango nectar instead of orange juice, and just a tablespoon of sugar (we had less rhubarb). So yum.

E is flying to LA today for ANOTHER last-minute business trip. I like that he's all important at work and all, but I'm going to be so lonely!! And I'm going to have to eat all the vegetables!! My plan is for him to accrue enough frequent flyer miles to takes us somewhere awesome.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First it was 100 degrees, now it's 70 degrees

With the boyfriend out of town for a business trip and Phish, I had the apartment to myself for a week. Of course, he had to leave three hours after we returned home from a camping trip, so I had to unpack two coolers and cram this random food in our fridge, put away all the camping gear, stinky clothes, etc. I did all of this ASAP because I really like making the apartment super clean whenever he is gone. Then if there are dirty dishes in the sink I have no one to complain to but myself. I also like to bleach things into shiny whiteness. Yeah, that’s what I do when my boyfriend’s out of town. Clean & bleach!

I had a great weekend with lots of friend sightings. I feel like post-college, a lot of interacting is one-on-one meet ups for coffee, dinner, drinks, movies etc. Getting multiple people together for these activities is much more difficult, but ultimately more fun.

On Friday, one my friends hosted a wine & cheese tasting party. I brought 18-month-old beemster (try it! You’ll like it!) and 2-year-old cheddar. J and her boyfriend J made homemade mead and goat cheese, which was a lot of fun to try, especially with the cheese seasoned with herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, etc. As the night progressed, the wine somehow tasted better and better (imagine that). I liked that everyone contributed but it didn’t have a potluck feel to it, it was just everyone introducing something that they really liked and wanted to share. A great party idea! And I have some new wines to try.

Saturday night I went out with four friends, both close and acquaintances. We went to a comedy show for SketchFestNYC, which was terrible. But the show cost no more than a glass of nice wine, so whatever. We all had a sense of humor about the lack of humor. Before and after the show we had some great conversations. We ended up talking a lot about next life stages, like marriage, how would you balance work and having children, and how male anatomy is so weird. I didn't drink too much, but did notice I wasn't walking completely straight as I made my way home. And I discovered a new drink, the French Martini. It’s Chambord, pineapple juice, and vodka. Not too sweet and I like it way better than a cosmo, which I rarely order. I actually have some Chambord at home so I think now I will have to use it more.

I also tried to work out a decent amount this weekend. I had a personal training appointment (included as part of a gym deal) and I asked her to measure my body fat with the caliper test at the end. The results were depressing. I still don’t know if I believe they’re true. Don’t they need to be adjusted for my height/frame etc? I’m in denial! It’s frustrating because I am active, but the trainer made references about “getting back into shape” etc. She could have said that just because I had recently joined the gym, but I felt that also reflected her judgment of my performance. In truth, I COULD do everything she asked me too (minus collapsing after holding plank), so I shouldn’t beat myself up too much. I can definitely run more to get that intense cardio, and I also think I will be hitting free weights more frequently, and working towards holding a plank for a minute to protect my back. But I feel kind of fatalistic. I do weigh myself pretty regularly and track it in Google Calendar. I’ve done that since 2006, and my weight has remained remarkably stable. That includes times I sat on my ass all the time and other times that I was really working on staying active and watching what I ate. Of course, the scale can't distinguish between fat and muscle, and there have been times my body was more tight than others, but it still pretty much weighed the same. I find it hard to believe that I could lose 20 pounds (still a normal weight for my height), or even be able to maintain a 10 pound loss. I certainly never have been able to even get to that point before.

What I am proud of is that I bike/walk to work, which makes me automatically more active than a lot of people. Any exercise on top of that just makes me feel that much better. I’m also proud that I can eat whatever I want without guilt-tripping myself. That used to be a big thing. I don’t binge eat anymore. Once I got to three or four cookies, it used to just be a shame spiral, and I would go crazy, but sweets just don’t have that effect on my anymore. I wonder about that sometimes. Do sweets just not taste that good anymore? I think they don’t provide as much emotional satisfaction as they used to. I don’t feel like I have more self-control, I just feel that sweets don’t taste overwhelmingly good anymore. There are certain things that I still have trouble controlling my intake of, mainly homemade cookies, but even then I don’t overindulge to an insane amount. That makes me really happy. So why haven’t the numbers on the scale gone down?

Sunday I played tennis with one of Eric’s friends that I play with regularly. We’re a good match. He’s just slightly better than me. For tennis, you want to be with someone who hits just a little bit harder than you, so you can slam it right back at them. I was sore from the day before, but my forehand was kicking butt. I think the arm weights helped with that, another reason for me to lift more regularly. Maybe I’ll buy some free weights for home. I’m annoyed because New York City parks DOUBLED the price to play tennis this year. It used to be $7 per person for one hour of tennis. Now it’s $15—so $30 for two people to play for an hour. Really? I try to think to myself, that’s just the price of a yoga class, and it’s good for you, but it still makes me grumpy. I mean, this is the city parks. Aren’t they supposed to be super affordable for regular folk?

This weekend I’m looking forward to hanging out in the city with my boyfriend and making pancakes. Yeah! I’m also planning on working on writing short fiction, and even submitting it to be published. I’ve been inspired by a friend and I think it’s time I dip my toe into some unfamiliar waters.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An inspiring story

I'm very struck by this New York Magazine article about a "a young doctor, not even prominent at his own hospital, who by his own admission knew next to nothing about AIDS, doing something never done before." He cured AIDS in one of his patients who had lukemia by giving him a bone marrow transplant. The donor had a genetic mutation that was passed on to the man, making him resistant to AIDS. He was turned down from conferences and rejected from the leading medical journals. He was so outside of the AIDS research group nobody listened to what he had to say. People who lived and breathed AIDS research also just didn't think a "cure" was plausible. They had been so trained by their failures they didn't go down certain lines of inquiry anymore.

Being part of the in-group means learning all the things you can't do. Outsiders don't have to think outside the box. They haven't been taught to see the box.

In both of my jobs, I've experienced something like this. A lot of the processes or tasks seem superfluous, unnecessary, redundant, time-consuming, wasteful. You have to be patient, because sometimes the logic for these tasks is hidden. But once you do them for awhile, you begin to ossify. We really need this database! You have to organize the document like that! In my advertising job, especially, doing things differently got me into nothing but trouble. And when you do things your way, you have to take 100% responsibility for any failure, and must defend yourself against suspicion and skepticism all the time.

History is littered with the tales of thinkers whose inventions, theories, and discoveries were ignored in their time. Thirty or a hundred years later, someone else discovers the same thing, but this time the world takes notice.

It's not enough to just have a great idea. You have to be in a position of power. You have to have influence. Maybe people will pay attention eventually, in the case of this doctor. But maybe they won't.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Basking like a lizard in 87+ degree weather

Over Memorial Day weekend, Eric left for Bethel for three nights of Phish concerts. I'm a little resentful that Phish insists on all these concerts over three-day weekends. Eric is definitely going to one over Fourth of July, and may go to one that requires a plane ticket over Labor Day.

However, I've kept myself occupied and actually looked forward to some "me" time. I made a whole list of things to do and, um, I haven't checked a ton off my list, but that's fine, because it means I've been busy. I also didn't watch TV, just two movies (kind of my job?), so I'm proud of myself for that. Watching crap TV while alone is depressing.

On Friday afternoon (we got out a bit early) I tried this awesome burrito place called Downtown Bakery. It was 3pm and I hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I ate the whole thing, which of course made me stomach rebel about 45 minutes later. I went for a run in the evening, and was proud because my maximum pulse rate was about 160. It was 240 when I first went for a run 5 weeks ago. However, my runner's high was not as intense. I love me a good runner's high. If they could bottle some of my runner's highs I'm pretty sure they would be a class I controlled substance. It's this very relaxing, mellowing (yet also invigorating) whole body high. It can make me feel a little giddy afterwards and share-y. I want to shout from the rooftops how good I feel. No one else mentions this, so I'll go out and say it. It feels different than an orgasm--maybe not as intense--but it lasts and lasts and lasts. So that's what I have to say about runner's highs. Apparently, the Internet says I am not alone.

Saturday was my busy day
10:30 wake up
12-1:30 yoga. holy cow this class kicked my ass. That part specifically was quite sore the next day.
2:30 laser hair removal consultation. If you have pale skin and dark hair, you should do it! Unfortunately, I'm not the best candidate (and can't do my bikini area) because my hair is too light. I'm in between doing my underarms and this random patch of hair that grows on my left hip. It actually hurt A LOT when they did the test patch on my underarm, so I think the pain might be a factor.
3 Met Anna and went to Epistrophy, this cute French cafe, and shared dishes with plenty of cheese and tomato sauce (baked eggs and an eggplant thing) and a carafe of red wine. It was a nice afternoon, and the place was so disorganized we had to ask for our check like three times. But that's fine, because we spent over two hours there
8:30pm Rooftop Films! I'm doing a piece on them for work. The screening was at the top floor of a school--one of the ones with a rooftop basketball court that's caged in. It was a great place to see a movie.
11pm Afterparty at Fontana's. The producer of the film graduated a year behind me so it was fun to hear her adventures as a filmmaker.

Sunday I was inexplicably exhausted and groggy all day. I finally rallied around 6pm, when I sat and read in the East River Park, which was cool and gorgeous. I finished the Hunger Games trilogy, though the third book was not my favorite. Too much to wrap together. It also had that Harry Potter syndrome where they end up in the hospital after EVERY battle/altercation. Way too much to draw together in one book.

Today, I went to another yoga class (ok, when am I going to start seeing results? No inches lost, no weight loss. maybe a tiny bit more toned-looking?). I made this awesome healthy banana bread recipe for breakfasts and snacks this week, and now I'm drinking kombucha and writing this.

Next weekend--Mountain Jam!
Today I did another yoga class (ok, when am I going to startseeing ru

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Weekend in New Hampshire

Eric always complains that I don’t like hiking. Actually, I just don’t like boring hiking. I like scenery. I like vistas. I like crossing small streams and figuring out my footing over rocks. I like waterfalls. New Hampshire, thankfully, has all that.

On Friday, we left work a bit early and I took the PATH train to New Jersey to pick up our rental car, a minivan (more on that later). The trip was over six hours, including an hour break for thai food. We passed right by the exit to Wesleyan, so I gave my standard alumni shout-out.

I have to say, I love traveling with smartphones. The thai place we found, which was pretty good and so quiet and peaceful, was over two miles away from the highway. We would have been eating at Denny’s if we hadn’t had Yelp and Google Maps. The hotel the first night, a Red Roof Inn, was not my favorite. A lot of the places were sold out for some reason, and at this point it was 11:30pm. I pouted and couldn’t sleep because of those thin comforters they have in cheap hotels. It was also just a little bit cheaper than the much nicer place we had reservations for Saturday and Sunday night. Eric refused to eat the free continental breakfast in the morning.

However, that turned out to be a good thing because we found this awesome pancake place further North on our route. Pretty much everything in this small skiing town was shut down, except for this restaurant, which was packed. It had a cute little train going around that captivated all the little kids in the restaurant, one of those things that makes me almost excited to have children, until I see the little rascal clinging to his mother and running around the restaurant like a wee madman.

The weather was about as nice as it was going to get, so we went up to Mt Washington. It’s the tallest mountain on the East Coast, the site of the highest wind speed ever recorded, and the first “attraction” on the east coast. You have to pay $30 something for the toll road up to the top, which comes with a cheesy yet wonderful audio CD to play in your car. We stopped and walked around at various points. It was really cool to enter the alpine zone. The trees get smaller and smaller until there are flattened, twisted conifer vines, basically. Up top was totally covered in fog. I brought my ski jacket, gloves, and a hat, which I put on at the top. It’s that cold. On the way down we hiked off the road and perched on a rock for awhile that was basically on a cliff. We tried to take pictures but they just couldn’t capture the depth and scale of what we were experiencing.

We stayed at the Bretton Arms Inn, which is on the ground and part of the Mount Washington Resort. The Victorian-era hotel is a vestige of the days when people would spend their whole summers at one hotel. Fifty trains arrived a day. It was a huge hotspot. A lot of these places have gone away, mainly due to the arrival of plane travel. Fun fact!

The hotel was absolutely gorgeous. We ate the first night in the formal dining room. Neither of us had realized the environment was so formal. I brought a new dress that I had been dying to wear, but Eric was in his cargos. I didn’t want to eat at the other restaurants so I made him borrow a suit jacket so he could eat in the formal area. Dinner was wonderful. We sat right by the window, had that exceptional service that makes you pull out all the manners you learned from your mother, and I now have a new favorite dish: osso bucco. After dinner, Eric treated me to one dance on the dance floor. We danced alone in front of the three-piece band. Just a little two-step. He turned bright red and it was so cute. He’s actually expressed interest in dancing lessons, so I need to take advantage of that. I’m not a great dancer myself, but I’ve learned that confidence goes a long way, and I really enjoy dancing with someone that loves me. No sweaty palms!

Sunday it rained all day, as forecast, so we treated ourselves to a hotel day. We had brunch buffet in the formal dining room again, it was one of those crazy Mother’s Day-level brunches. We ate a lot of lox. Then we checked out the spa, since we had made appointments for a couples’ massage later that day. I’ve only been to a true spa once, and didn’t really get the full experience. The male and female concierges each gave us separate tours, and we met briefly in the couples lounge. I went back out after changing, and Eric was nowhere to be found. I went back and used the steam room for a minutes, then checked. No Eric. Did more steam room. No Eric. Finally, I go out and see him. He had shaved and showered, commenting that there’s not usually all that stuff for him to use. After going to a formal tea in the afternoon (so stuffed by that point after breakfast and tea!), we came back for our massage. It was incredible. I definitely want to get more massages. My mom had a bunch of them covered by insurance after she got a concussion in a fender-bender (ok, not a good reason to get free massages), but I hear Washington is a massage-positive state. I would love to get medical massages for my back problems. I asked for a deep tissue massage, which left me a bit sore the next day, but I think it worked out some of my perma-kinks.

On Monday it finally stopped raining and we went on a couple of hikes in the White Mountain National Forest before we headed back to NYC. The first one was advertised as “Twenty Minutes to the Waterfall,” and it took a bit longer, but it was beautiful. We could see the trail markings on the other side of the waterfall, but there was no way you could get across at this time of the year, with all the spring snow melting. Then we headed down to the river, where we saw people canoeing and rafting down the river in wetsuits. They do this every May. Eric and I decided we will go rafting together—he’s done it before but I haven’t.

At this point Eric thought I wanted to head back to the car and go home, but no I didn’t! I turned onto a trail and started hiking. It turned out to run uphill along a stream/waterfall. We had the best time hiking up there, which led us to believe that there are only good trails in New Hampshire. There were lots of rocksteps and tree roots, and different types of waterfalls. We finally ended up turning back at a break in the trail.

Then, we got around to the whole purpose of the trip, and why we rented a minivan. The boxes. About a decade ago, Eric left ten boxes of stuff at his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house before he moved to Portland, Oregon. Seriously. The parents were really nice, and I didn’t feel that awkward, thankfully, even though I was wondering if they were judging me against her. We started to go through them and there’s lots of duplicate kitchen stuff, for example. This morning Eric spotted a trio of microwave cookbooks. Yeah, there’s some great stuff in those boxes.

It was so nice to take a three-day weekend, and now that I have more vacation time this is something we’ll plan to do a couple more times this summer. Relaxed and refreshed! Also, we always tend to get closer during a trip together, but I think now I really understand what old married couples mean when they go away for a weekend to reconnect. The weekend was all about spending time with each other away from our usual distractions, and I felt so much more in sync with my partner by the end. Going to New Hampshire made me realize there are many, many more destinations to explore on the East Coast.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ping Pong and Green Smoothies

This week went by pretty quickly, and with my boyfriend already tuckered out in bed, I thought I'd share.

While biking home, I see people playing ping pong through the chain link fence in a pretty neglected park by our apartment. I realize that Eric has a couple of ping pong paddles lying around.

I go on Amazon and purchase some ping pong balls (they sell a lot of 300-packs for beer pong...). Tonight, after dinner we decide to move around a bit and play some pong. It was fabulous. We were out there for about forty minutes. We realized that was the longest either of us had been outside that day. It's kind of pathetic, especially because I consider myself to be a lot more outdoorsy since I bike to and from work (15 min each way) and generally try to leave the office to walk around or run an errand at lunchtime. It felt old-fashioned, like when I was a kid and would race to go outside and play after dinner, especially during warm summer nights.

I beat Eric two games to one. I'm pretty competitive, but I had an advantage since I play tennis (I think anyway). I like that we're not too unevenly matched. Success! Hopefully I can rope some other friends into playing or turn it into a drinking game sometime.

I make fruit smoothies semi-regularly with my immersion blender. I have it down to a science
1) frozen fruit from whole foods
2) frozen bananas--I slice up all extra, overripe bananas and put them in the freezer for this use
3) yogurt
4) milk or fruit juice to thin

However, I feel like they're not as filling as, say, having some yogurt and berries and actually chewing everything. They can also be pretty sweet. I've been seeing a lot of green juices around lately, usually priced at some insane level like $7 or $9.50, so I thought I'd try to make my own at home. Tonight I made a kale smoothie as follows
1) As many leaves of kale (de-stemmed) as I could fit into my pyrex measuring cup
2)frozen banana + frozen strawberry

It was surprisingly good, just a little bit of vegetal bitterness. As Eric said, after trying it reluctantly, "It could hold a lot more kale."

Our CSA starts up in three weeks (yay!) so I think green smoothies will be a good way for us to quickly go through perishable vegetables. Last year we got into kale chips to go through all the kale, but this year I'm hoping we can add smoothies to our "easy ways to eat kale" repertoire. A sidenote: I'm all about fiber, but I suspect the kale is behind some major intestinal rumblings this evening. Ironically, when I googled this I came across a website recommending you make raw vegetables more "digestible" was to make a green smoothie. Yeah, right...

Anyway, the real way to make an awesome smoothie is to have a high-end vitamix or whatever but I told Eric to check out craigslist and I think we're going to get a $200 for $50. Nice!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Oh man..

After reading this article on Gawker, I scrolled over to McNaughton's website, where I found a number of offensive pictures.

Like the one of Obama stepping on the constitution.

And Via Dolorosa (above), in which a modern American businessman stands front and center next to Jesus. F*** Mother Teresa, Jefferson, etc. They're in the background. I imagine this would be the perfect picture to hang in a douche-y businessman's office.

This one is (above) more complicated (um, and even BYU finds it offensive and is taking it down?). He has a female businesswoman on the left "the good side," but a Mr. Hollywood and liberal reporter on the right (all figures that could represent me). It's very Fox News-y, gives me my standard liberal gag reflex, but the viewpoints he expresses reveal some common ground between liberals and conservatives. Although, now that I think about it--why is it the female businesswoman's responsibility to "preserve conservative values?" Because she is the one that is deviating from the traditional to work out of home?

It's weird to see a modern painter using the highly symbolic style popular hundreds of years ago, where every person actually represented something. He's not really that good of a painter, but apparently these things sell like crazy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lazy Weekend

Last weekend I went camping for a night in New Jersey in 40ish degree weather with a deflated air mattress. Although it was nice to see trees and birds, I was glad to have a more relaxing weekend.

Friday night E & I met up after work at Ten Bells, a place I've been wanting to try for their "oyster happy hour," where the oysters are only $1. The oysters on the half shell were actually quite good, but they did have some grit in them and were too salty. E wanted to leave ASAP. So we did. I've heard so many raves about this place, but it really is overpriced...$1 oysters are nice but when the cheapest glass of wine is $9...I mean come on, it doesn't really even itself out.

We ended up going just next door to Barrio Chino, a fantastic Mexican restaurant I had my 24th birthday party at with several friends. Except for 8+ people, they don't take reservations, so it's usually tough to eat at, since there are maybe 30 time E and I put our name down and they called when we were paying the bill at the restaurant we ended up going to. So, anyway, we were able to sit right down since it was so 6:15-6:30 on Friday. They have amazing cocktails, so I made E get a jalapeno grapefruit margarita. I wanted him to have the jabanero one but the waitress said that would be mean! I tried an elderflower lime one, which was nice, and later we had a strawberry vanilla one, which would have been better before the meal. Great enchiladas verde and I had some kind of stuffed chile with this awesome ground meat that had, apparently, pears and dried fruit in it, though I couldn't see it. Oh, and we had shrimp tostadas as an appetizer. I'm kind of meh on shrimp, mainly because you always seem to get these flaccid, flavorless things. Small yet firm and full of flavor, these shrimp were the shrimp I wish I could eat more regularly.

Saturday, we tried to make a dutch baby, a kind of puffy pancake, but it was a bit of a fail. The edges were nice and puffy but the middle was just thick and yucky.

I decided to go on a run for the first time in months. It was a huge success! I was able to run at a slow pace comfortably for about 10-12 minutes (I had only planned on going on a 20-minute run total to warm myself up). I then did some interval/sprint training. I did a couple walk/sprints, then a walk/build, then wound down with some slow run/walk intervals. I read a year ago that it's actually better to WALK for part of your run if you pair it up with sprints and builds, and I think it makes sense. After all, we used to do that in swimming all the time. It also makes the run more interesting, and I got my heart rate up really high (um, over 200? I think that means I still need to get in better shape, apparently the "target" is 165 for a 26-year-old). Plus, I ran for 32 minutes, 10 minutes more than I wanted to ease myself into. Today, my inner thighs are way sore but I feel more refreshed and energized.

That afternoon we did our Whole Foods trip in the rain on our bikes, leading me to release a primal scream on the way back when there was so much rain blowing in my face and some of these crazy 30mph winds that seem to be the norm for NYC (and are much worse when you're biking into them..walking the wind is slightly more tolerable). We filled up our growler, and I'm enjoying the beer from it right now.

While I was doing my run, Eric went to Marlow & Daughters, a butcher shop across the Williamsburg Bridge. He got a whole chicken, some lamb for Sunday, house-cured bacon, and some sausages they gave him to try. I love local butchers! Though I was trying to start a health kick (the run and all), he insisted on fried chicken (another America's Test Kitchen recipe), and it was fantastic. Damn, I never knew I liked fried chicken til I met this man! Earlier in the week, pre-health kick (and reading this stupid (as in probably right) Magazine article, "Is Sugar Toxic?"), I had expressed interest in making blueperry pie, so we did that. The crust had two sticks of butter (for top and bottom crust), but actually I added only 2 tsp of sugar to the crust and 1/2 cup to the blueberry filling, so it was naturally sweet, at least. I was so full of chicken, but I made room for pie, with some of my favorite vanilla gelato to make it a la mode. Seriously, is my whole life preparing for meals and eating? I blame my boyfriend.

We watched Vicky Cristina Barcleona, which I had been meaning to see forever. It was nice, light, and a little sexy. Go Woody Allen.

Today we traipsed over the Williamsburg Bridge on bike, checked out Marlow & Daughters, and biked though W-Burg. The hood has changed so much in a few years, and not for the better. The main drag, Bedford Ave., was totally overcrowded with people. The side streets are still more deserted, a mix of broken down abandoned warehouses and spanking new condos (some of which are unfinished thanks to the housing crash). The best places are kind of on the edges and away from the main drags, but that makes them a little harder to discover. There's an uptick in the amount of baby carriages, and the neighborhood isn't quite as uniformly hipster anymore, but it's just so darn young. It's like a college/grad school campus. It lacks diversity when it comes to age. Also, when I come to W-Burg I expect to pay a little less for dinner/drinks. A lot of places make good on that, but there are some places that charge Manhatten prices..that SHOULDN'T. E says I think about money too much. But what can I say, it's who I am!

Tonight I made a healthy-ish banana bread from a Moosewood cookbook, and we're having lamb and fingerling potatoes. I think it will be a good night.

Oh, and last night I finished Three Cups of Tea, which is about an ex-mountain climbing guy building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Today, I find out "60 Minutes" is doing an expose on him, saying he's a liar. Just in time, right?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Sometimes I want to have babies so I can experiment on them.

From Slate:
"Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School
New research shows why teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire."

For the record, I went to a Montessori preschool and have fond but vague memories of it. There were different "stations" and areas where you could explore different things on your own schedule. For example, you could pull out a tray and practice pouring purple-dyed water from a pitcher into a glass and back, and a sponge to clean up any messes you made. I remember doing that one a lot--for some reason it entertained me. As an adult, I appreciate the fact that it taught hand-eye coordination, a basic skill that could be used at home (pouring milk), and that it taught independence. You could do it "all by myself," which also meant you were responsible for cleaning up your messes.

There were also letter tracing things. And we would have circle time to sing and do things together, like sing "Farmer in the Dell." But what I remember most is all those trays with different activities contained within. One last thing: We all put on our coats by ourselves using this foolproof preschooler method. The coat would be placed upside down on the floor. We would put each arm in our coat and then flip it over our heads, thus avoiding that "I can't find the spot for my other arm" problem that little kiddies have.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two-year anniversary!

On Sunday, E & I celebrated two years together. Leading up to the anniversary, I felt more anxious than usual about our relationship--pretty much how I felt last year, though I think I handled it better. Last year, I was so anxious to get that "one year" mark under my belt. I wanted the intensity of my feelings to be matched by a history together that was more quantifiable, so passing the one year mark meant a lot to me. "We've been together for a year" means something to people.

The whole weekend was relaxed and we spend all of it together, with the exception of a "Chocolate & Spice" party we went to on Saturday night. Sunday we had brunch at Yuca Bar, where I had some awesome eggs benedict on arepas with cilantro hollandaise. Eric & I rarely (i.e. never) do brunch together, so this was a nice change of pace. We're not so into brunch because of 1) lines 2) waiting/still takes awhile to get breakfast 3) food's just like what you get at home, but thankfully this place didn't have any of those problems. But really--When I order pancakes now, I know they won't be as good (or to my liking) as the ones we make. That's what I like about eating at home--doing it just the way you like.

Sunday, as you may remember, was the Super Bowl, so I felt incredibly lucky that my boyfriend is not a sports fan at all. One out of seven years together dealing with the Super Bowl isn't all that bad, but thank god I don't have to deal with him vegging out in front of the game every weekend (though now that I think of that, replace game with recorded concerts...). We dined at Gentleman Farmer, which was absolutely lovely. My favorite was the lobster appetizer. It had this solid beurre blanc sauce that was fantastic. They also had no corkage fee because it was Sunday, so we stopped at got a decent bottle of wine ($16). Eric's not a big wine connosieur so I just wanted to get something that would be delicious for both of us. I'd like to be able to drink that nice of wine more often--something quaffable. There really is a huge difference between $5 and $15. Curses!

Monday, January 17, 2011