Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Gage in Chicago

I like to do a lot of things alone. Go to the movies, go to museums, walk around cities, and work out just to name a few. There's something about having some quiet alone time around a ton of other people that I find to be really relaxing and rejuvinating. One thing I learned recently, though, is that I really hate to eat out alone. In an episode of Sex and the City, Samantha is stood up for a date, without any of her dining-alone armor (books, etc.). At the end of the episode Carrie takes herself out to lunch without any of this armor in an attempt to get over the fear of being single and alone. I think my recent lunch experiment was similar to this. Or maybe I just thought I'd be able to handle it considering I like to do other things alone so much. And then I failed miserably.

The restaurant was packed, I sat in a dark corner where I could see the whole restaurant, and just felt like everyone must be wondering where my lunch date was. At one point another middle aged woman walked in and was seated at a table 2 over from me by herself and for a moment I found some inspiration from her as she ordered a drink on her own. I thought to myself, "this is a woman I need to be more like." Then a friend joined her and our sister-hood of solitary diners ended. My solution? To get a really good imported beer and get drunk. So the dining experiment failed, and I have a pretty strong desire to never eat out on my own again (not sure if I'll follow this because I think this is something I should get over). But at least the food was good.

Speaking of food, the restaurant I went to was The Gage in Chicago. After walking around downtown for a couple of hours I was starving and the restaurant was perfectly placed on Michigan Avenue on the way to the Chicago Institute of Art. I arrived right at the start of the lunch rush so I was able to get a table no problem (although I still was told to wait for a different hostess to seat me). The menu itself has a lot of standard fare on it, burgers, salads, roasted chicken, etc. but with seasonings and sides that reflect the more sophisticated diner. One such example was what I ordered, the Gage Burger which was topped with Camembert cheese and onion marmalade. I'm a sucker for a burger with fancy cheese and any type of sweet onions. It was delicious and I think the waiter was surprised that little me could finish the whole thing plus all of my fries...did I say I was starving when I went in? And as I said earlier, I had one of the seasonal beers on tap, which was recommended to me by my waiter. I'm not a huge beer drinker, but I was in the mood for something to match my burger and it was great. I wish I had remembered to write it down for future reference as it's really rare that I find a beer that I don't get sick of half way through the pint. All in all it was a little pricy for lunch, but I figured 1. I'm on vacation! and 2. if I'm going to suffer through a meal by myself I should really like that meal. So I guess the discomfort was worth it then...although maybe next time I'll get dessert too.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dressing Recipe

Three times now this year I have made Trader Joe's Stuffing for a big holiday feast and each time it's gotten great reviews. Outside of the bird, stuffing is called dressing. Don't ask me why as this confuses the crap out of me. When I initially searched for stuffing recipes that didn't require being inside an animal "dressing" kept popping up and I kept thinking, "I do not want to make salad; what the hell Google?" But apparently that's what the South calls it, so that's what we're going to call it too.

Alrighty, now on to the recipe!

What you need:
- 4-5 strips of bacon cut into small pieces
- 2 sweet sausages (I usually go for Apple, Champagne, etc. ones) cut into small pieces
- 1 large apple peeled and diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4-5 crimini mushrooms diced
- 4 cups of Chicken Stock
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil

1. Melt the butter and cook the onion on medium heat. When the onion starts to become a little bit transparent add the bacon then sausage.
2. After 3-4 minutes add the mushrooms and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the apple.
3. When all the vegetables and meat are cooked all the way (don't worry about the apple), transfer to a BIG BIG bowl and add the contents of the stuffing box (seasoning + bread cubes). Then add chicken stock. Stir and put in a casserole dish.
4. Bake at 350 degrees until hot/brown on top (this depends on size of dish and the amount of stuff in your oven).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review: All Good Things

Lately I've been in the mood to watch a lot of fun movies (so after this great ready for lots of comedy reviews because I've done nothing but watch Netflix and On Demand for weeks). It's funny because depending on the phase I'm in you can look at my Netflix cue and watch out the list changes as you scroll down. I'll watch one movie, browse the site and then add 6 to my cue, and so on. Five movies in a row will be kid cartoons, then a bunch of documentaries about fashion and art, then several romantic comedies, then BBC dramas. You get the point. Before my comedy phase I went through a "serious" phase and watched a lot of darker films. One of which was All Good Things starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.

Set in New York, the story chronicles David (played by Gosling) through his relationship with his wife Kathryn (played by Dunst), career, and their eventual demise as mountain psychiatric symptoms cause him to have a breakdown which presumably leads to the murder of Kathryn. The story is based on a real life socialite, and I vaguely remembered the story when I originally watched the trailer on months ago. At the time, what drew me to the story was how happy the couple looked and how it was clear that David loved his wife yet he ended up doing something so horrible to her. That was very difficult to understand.

Once the movie started playing I started to realize that the story was not about a relationship gone wrong but one of the toll mental illness takes on a person. David watched his mother commit suicide and not only struggled with that trauma but also his own symptoms of rage, depression, and paranoia. His marriage was a bright spot on a privileged but troubled life. As the viewer watches David's descent into madness you are scared for his wife and generally think he's acting like a jerk, but as more bizarre behaviors crop up you start to realize there's more going on than two people growing apart. David's repeated bad behaviors are not excusable, but as a mental health professional I couldn't help but feel bad for the character as a lack of proper care and social support early on in his life led to such a horrible chain of events.

Gosling is amazing in this film. I know that years ago women fell in love with him as the 2000s version of Jack Dawson because of The Notebook (a movie that makes you cry regardless of whether or not you are in a relationship), but the last 3 years have really shown that Gosling truly is the new Jack Dawson. Just like Leonardo Dicaprio, he has done nothing but try to prove that he is a serious talent. And Dunst, after taking a lot of time off for bad behavior, is no slouch either. I wouldn't be surprised if after this and Melancholia if she has a career resurgence (or at least I hope so).

While I'm biased because the movie takes place in New York City and Westchester County, the scenery is captured gorgeously. The more movies I watch the more I realize that cinematography is very important to me and this film does a good job of showcasing some of the New York metro areas finest views. And it doesn't hurt that the set design and costumes are top notch for a film set in the 70s and 80s. Highly recommended all around.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's a love-hate relationship.

Don't get me wrong, I love the farm. Pets are the childless person's fur-babies; and I know many people here will agree with me that while pets do not truly replace the presence of a real baby in someone's life they come pretty damn close. My pets are such a huge highlight in my life. A living being who I can smother with love and cuddle with, get out all of my maternal instincts to take care of, and the best part is they all love me back. Last night I got home after being gone for 11 days and I was smothered with love back. Three animals following my every move; whining for more love when I was tired and just wanted to lie down. Lulu effectively tried to snuggle up my armpit, Charlie was never more than 2 inches from my feet, and Batman would have crawled inside the skin on my back if he could have. Yes, I am definitely loved.

But holy crap. Batman has either been really stressed out since I've been gone, upset that the litter box got dirty, or has a UTI-like problem because he has friggen peed on everything. Two cardboard boxes, on the carpet behind the TV stand, a paper bag, and my soccer bag (no words can describe the frustration and anger over this).

First thing this morning (after crashing for approximately 10 hours) I woke up and changed the litter box and cleaned up as much of his stank as possible. I need to go to the supermarket to buy some supplies for a remedy from this website:

Home Remedy for cat urine smell. This is a great recipe for removing cat urine odor from carpet. Start by blotting up as much of the urine as possible with old rags or paper towels. Next mix 3 parts water with one part vinegar and saturate the spot.Dry thoroughly using the same method mentioned above. Once dry, sprinkle the area with Baking Soda. Next mix ¾ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution with one tsp. dish detergent and sprinkle over the Baking Soda. Try this first on a small inconspicuous area of the carpet to make sure the hydrogen peroxide won't discolor your carpet. Next, use your fingers or an old brush to work the Baking Soda in. I've used an old hairbrush with little bits of plastic over the tips with good results. Allow this to dry and vacuum it up. If there's still a slight odor when done, lather, rinse and repeat.

Hopefully this will work. I hate the smell of cat pee almost as much as I hate people who choose not to clean up after their cats and let their whole house be overrun by the smell. My poor roommate has had to deal with this by herself this whole time and she's not even that big of a cat person. But I will get rid of this smell. I will not be that person who lives in filth.

Ugh, why do they have to be so cute? At least they're all getting along now...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sorry Chicago fans, New York Pizza is still the best.

I think it's no secret I am from New York. Born, raised, and proud to admit it to anyone, even those who don't ask. I will always tell you why the things about New York that people don't like are the best parts of my home state/city. And then I'll tell you why New York is better than anything else too. Sure I'm biased, but can you honestly tell me a place with consistently better bagels? Subway service? Readily available taxis? Late night diners? Or really anything that's open late? And of course, for fans of NY style pizza, our pizza is the best too.

I'm starting to really wonder about that myth that there is something in the water. When I went to college in upstate NY, a mere 4 hour drive from New York City, the pizza was terrible. Whether it was from a restaurant or the dining hall, it was not the same. People from downstate moved up there, so it's not like there couldn't be a single person who had worked in a pizzeria and didn't know the tricks. So I thought, ok, maybe there was something about dirty water that had some kind of magical power?

Now after moving to California and living out there for over a year I am once again extremely disappointed in the pizza selections. I have found a place that is tolerable (ironically enough called New York Pizza), but you have to get their whole wheat crust and it's still not the same. And I've found a place that serves great Italian pizza in SF, but this is not like home where whenever I want I have a ton of great places within a short drive. When I am the city I go to my favorite Rays on 11th St. and 6th ave. There's close to 50 "original" Ray's, and everyone has their favorite, so asking which is the best will yield you a different answer every time, but that's mine. When I was in Westchester my favorite was Irvington Pizzeria (which unfortunately has closed after decades of business). And when I'm at my parents, Posa Posa in Nanuet is my favorite.

Despite what my aunt says about the pizza having "changed" over the years, to me it's still the perfect pizza. Crispy bread, perfectly pluffy crust, not too much sauce, just the right amount of cheese. Heaven. There's no other pizza like it, and it's enough to drive me crazy on those late nights when I'm studying for finals and all I can think about is crap food, but there's no good places to order from. When I am back in NY, as I am now, I definitely take advantage of that fact and go as often as possible. The waitstaff must think I'm nuts. I guess my appetite, despite all the fancy tea parties and recipes I make, is still that of a little kid's. And sometimes I just really need to eat a good pizza.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Holy crap it is December already! How did this year go by so fast? I feel as if I blinked and it went from August to December that quickly. What did I even do last month? I can't remember, it flew by too fast.

Although, you know what, if it's going to be any month of the year that sneaks up on me, let it be December. December is my happy month, my favorite month. I know most people usually pick the month of their birthday as their favorite (mine is in April by the way), but not me. December = Christmas, snow, presents, general happiness floating around the human population, cinnamon and evergreen tree smells, mittens, fresh baked cookies, family meals, movies you only watch once a year, and my personal favorite: people getting drunk on wine and giving big hugs telling you how much they love you.

You know how much I love Christmas? When everyone dressed up as something cool for Halloween, this is what I was:

Yeah, I can see the resemblance.

Bah-humbugs be damned, you will not ruin my month and the constant hypomanic state I am in because of it. At least wait until after Christmas to do that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Recipes: Spaghetti Squash & Butternut Squash

This year Thanksgiving is obviously a little bit different for me and what originally was going to be a pot luck dinner with my friends has turned into a small very chill night with just a few of my favorite people. In all honesty, I think I kind of forced Thanksgiving on them because I didn't want to be alone. But to make up for it I am cooking an amazing meal (everything but the bird which someone else is taking care of) as my way of saying thank you for putting up with me, not only today but over the last three months.

I have to say, in the past when I've gone through hardships I've generally opted to do things by myself and shy away from life then emerge out of my cocoon more or less looking like a deformed butterfly. This time around I said things would be different, but even if I hadn't made that decision I don't think my friends would have let me do things any other way. Right now, more than any other time in my life, I have the most amazing support system and some of the best friends ever. I don't know if I'll ever be able to show just how much gratitude I have for them; hopefully making huge meals like this for the rest of my life will be a good start.

My menu consists of:

- Caramelized onion and goat cheese quiche
- Dressing (that's stuffing just not in the bird)
- Green bean casserole
- Butternut squash
- Spaghetti squash
- Ice cream for dessert (I was vetoed on actually making any dessert)

I am a little bit disappointed that my famous smoked gouda mac and cheese which is my contribution to most holiday meals and pot lucks is not on there, but I'm making it tomorrow for another get together and I couldn't do it two days in a row. But all of my other favorites are there, including multiple kinds of squash. I love 99% of squashes out there. Chalk it up to my obsession with the fall, but it's hard for me to be disappointed with this vegetable.

Here's the two recipes I used for the squashes listed above.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries:

- 1 Butternut squash halved and de-seeded
- 1/2 cup (or more depending on the size of the squash) of Cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the squash directly on the oven's top rack with a cookie sheet on the bottom rack underneath (or if you're doing this at the same time as the other squash, put that baking dish underneath) to catch the juices that fall so that they don't burn and dirty your oven.
3. Cook until the squash is soft when pricked with a fork. Then let cool for 5-10 minutes.
4. When the squash is not hot anymore, peal the skin off (you should be able to do it with your hands, but you can also cut it with a knife or scoop the squash out with a big spoon).
5. Next cut the squash into chunks and place it in a small baking dish. Add the cranberries.

I've cooked this two different ways before so you have some choices with regards to the rest of the flavor:

Option 1:
1. Sprinkle in blue cheese and chopped walnuts. Stir to evenly distribute.
2. Add a drizzle of maple syrup on top then bake for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.

Option 2:
1. Add 1/4 tsp of clove, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon (all of these can be adjusted to your taste) and mix evenly.
2. Cut up 1/2 of a stick of butter and place all around the dish then bake for another 10 minutes until melted.

Spaghetti Squash:
(recipe adapted from this one by Emeril)

- One spaghetti squash
- water
- 1/2 stick of butter
- hazelnut oil (or olive oil)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of Adobo
- 1/2 tablespoon of Rosemary

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise and place, cut side down, in a baking dish. Add enough water to come 1/2-inch up the sides of the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.
3. Bake for 45 minutes, until the squash is easily pierced with a fork. Turn squash over and cover with foil again and continue to cook another 15 minutes, until the squash is very tender. Remove from the oven, uncover, and allow to cool slightly.
4. Add butter to pan and melt it on medium. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard. Using a fork, gently pull the strands of squash away from the peel and place the squash strands into the pan.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, rosemary, and Adobo. Saute the squash for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Serve while hot.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Blog Button!

Please update your buttons and spread this new one around.


Tea Time for Lulu

What Did I Wear Today?

Not gonna lie, Employee Appreciation week is a dangerous time to work at Anthropologie. An extra 40% off the entire store including sale? Again, simply dangerous.

Skirt: Anthropologie
Shirt: Banana Republic
Shoes: Steve Madden
Necklace: Lia Sophia

Thursday, November 17, 2011

England how I miss thee

A lot of bloggers and other people I know are doing some educational traveling. Studying abroad or in some cases attending full graduate programs over seas. Reading about their adventures (and especially seeing the pictures they've posted) really makes me miss England. I spent a summer there during college and have visited two other times with family. Each time I have either visited or stayed with my Granny's cousins, William and Renee.

Amazing cooks and amazing people in general, the summer that I stayed with them they opened up their home and took me all over London and the country as if it were no problem. They made a different meal every night, took me to museums, old churches, and to visit other family and friends. They wanted to educate the little American girl who in their minds ate McDonald's every day, although luckily I wasn't going to vote to re-elect Bush (and they did ask me that on my first night there).

The back of their house. VERY British.

At times they drove me crazy; sometimes a young girl in London just wants to be a young girl in London. And there were days when I would skip class and just take the subway in to a random neighborhood and walk around seeing all the sights. William is also a debater and would strike up arguments over dinner, when I was tired, hungry, and missing my boyfriend at the time. But as a whole they were two of the most wonderful people I've had the pleasure to spend time with. And they were so in love. My parents are still together, but never in my life have I seen a couple more devoted to each other. A few years ago Renee passed away, and as much as I loved her, I felt so horrible for William. They very much had the stereotypical relationship of the doting yet stern motherly woman behind the eccentric goofy man. They were true soul mates and madly in love until the day she died. Not to mention the world lost a genuine and caring person.

If Renee was the heart of the house, William was the brains. He and I would go on day trips and he would tell me a hundred little facts about old buildings and parks we drove past. He is a walking encyclopedia of London, all things British, and anything created before 1900. He would have to read every little blurb provided at the museum. As you can see even trees were a curiosity to him. And he LOVED to talk to people. The last time I visited he struck up conversations with people of all ages, and lots of attractive women, just to interact with someone else (or in the case of women flirt just to be appreciative of their beauty). Sometimes he'd get this mischevious look on his face, turn to me with a smile and wink, and go off and do something silly. I couldn't help but think he reminded me of my Grandpa Pete (he passed away shortly after I got back from my summer abroad) who could not, not talk to people. I always thought his constant conversations must drive people nuts. "Who is this old man and why does he have to talk to me?" But seeing William do it made me smile to think that there were still friendly people out our world where most people would rather not make eye contact and are too busy with their own lives to bother with anyone else.

After reading my friend, Anne Marie's blog, about her host family in France I started to wonder if that's what all European men are like. Like they know this secret about life, and it's "who gives a shit?" They know nothing is worth being that bothered over and life is about being happy, not worrying over every little thing. I'd like to think in the last 5 years I've made it my life's mission to have this attitude more. So many things roll off my back now and when the time is right I get that devilish look in my eyes too. But I'm not there yet. Maybe that's what retirement is about?

Considering all that's been going on in my life right now I've been extremely stressed out and have my usual urge to run away from life for awhile. In high school and college I would often have these urges to run away to a place like the Outer Banks in North Carolina and find a small hotel that I could disappear to. I'd show up and say, "I'd like a room please," and be gone for a week. I wanted to be by myself to think and watch the ocean. A month ago I seriously considered going on a trip to a hostel in a state park for a weekend, but scheduling prevents me from doing that until January or so. If I had the money, I think I'd go to London and stay with William. I've got a little bit more freedom now, so who knows, maybe I'll be there sooner than I think.

I don't care if it's raining, I want to go back.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Big Changes

Obviously there are lots of big changes coming to the blog, including a new name. Finals are quickly approaching and I've got about a week and a half before I move so things will not be finalized until probably Thanksgivingish/December. Just wanted to keep you all in the loop!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Famous? Maybe a little...

Modcloth's latest wear our looks campaign is out. If you scroll through you might just find someone you recognize. Not the most flattering picture of my face, but considering how I normally look in the photos on this blog, it's a step (or three) up for sure!

Friday, September 30, 2011

What did I wear today - this is a remix!

Fall is a dangerous time for me. There are too many cute clothes and I get so excited about layering all fun colors and textures. Recently I did a little bit of damage of at Forever 21 and one of the items purchased included the skirt in this entry. I wore it one day a little bit more casual for work at Anthropologie and then went home and changed into a bit more of a dressed up look to work at the clinic. Here's how they turned out:

Shirt: H&M
Cardigan: Forever 21
Boots: Steve Madden
Necklace: Modcloth
Bracelet: Vintage, my moms

Shirt: Forever 21
Shoes: Steve Madden

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

10 things about me you'll love...or watch me write a blog like a 16 year old

Inspired by a college friend and fellow blogger I have some "interesting" facts about me to post. I should call this, the classic "look at me look at me" blog writer post. Haha.

1. I have boxes of old letters and notes from just about all of my best friends and family members. I recently read somewhere (like Postsecret or something) that someone else saves them in case someone becomes famous, but I don't really think if any of us become famous people will care about the letters we used to send when we were 12. I think I'm just sentimental.
2. I look several years younger than I am (I am currently 26) and I have been using this to my advantage for years. That includes being mistaken for a high schooler twice to trick-or-treat during college and my first round of graduate school and getting my brother and I into under 16 only kid arcades.
3. When I'm really stressed out usually no one can tell because I hide it really well. Until my face completely breaks out like said 16 year old. I never had problems with acne in high school, so times like those drive me that much more crazy.
4. When I was 19 or 20 my ex-boyfriend told me one of the things he loved about me was that I was innocently optimistic despite being outwardly cynical. I always wanted everything to be perfect and everyone to be happy. That is still true, and it's one of the reasons that Nick loves me. I always dreamed of a life where cats and dogs got along in my house in perfect harmony. Almost there.
5. On the soccer field, when I see older women playing soccer sometimes I get frustrated because they are slow or not as skilled as some of the rest of us. But secretly I hope my knees last long enough that I can continue to play until that age.
6. It's really hard for me to be embarrassed about things that I like. I will readily admit in loving the Spice Girls, being a West Side Story addict (good musicals are awesome), the fact that I read daily recaps for General Hospital, or go weak at the knees for anything from the UK just because it's from there. I'm just a quirky silly person and I own it. Why should I be ashamed of something that makes me who I am?
7. My friend and I once played a game of 5 things about you that you'd say to a guy to make them intrigued in you. I think I came up with 5 interesting things (although I also have high self esteem and think most things including dumb ones about me are interesting). But why the hell does it matter? Shouldn't you just want to get to know me because I'm pretty friggen awesome? That being said, what you see is what you get with me. I live with my emotions and heart on my sleeve and refuse to be anything I'm not. Don't like it? Too bad. I've come too far to be anything besides me for my past life I used to make bold statements like that in hopes it was true, but now I know it actually is. I guess that's one of the good things about being a grown up!
8. Things I am addicted to: anything from the 60s, shoes, cheese and bread for lunch, tea time, snuggly pets, the season of Fall, scarves and mittens, hugs, the perfect pillow, the internet, singing really loudly in my car regardless of who is in there with me, pumpkin flavored anything, music, my favorite foods of the moment, being barefoot outside, my cell phone, playing soccer, Christmastime, and water.
9. I hate to say this, but looking good really is it's own reward. Nothing ruins my day like a bad hair day, but when I make a cute outfit and feel like I actually achieved the look I was going for I feel like an Amazon woman capable of anything. I think I subscribe to the feminist view that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards, in heels. So accomplishing my goals and looking good wearing heels while doing it is important, especially should you run into someone from your past and want to make sure you're better off than them. (Superficial I know, but at least I'm honest!)
10. I talk a lot in person. I also obviously write a lot and when I write emails they're usually pages and pages. I think people think I love attention and the sound of my own voice. But I hate talking on the phone or talking to people online in a chat screen unless it's someone I haven't talked to in ages and have a lot to catch up on. I also crave comfortable silence in my relationships with people. If I can be silent during a car ride, walk outside, or in general communicate with you with just a look, I consider you a soul mate. By those standards, I think I can count those on one hand.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall Fashion Inspiration from Chictopia

How great is it that there are places these days that you can go to to find street fashion? I hate being in the suburbs for a lot of reasons, but a big one is the lack of unique fashion and people watching. I just watched a really good documentary, Bill Cunningham New York, about the NY Times photographer who pioneered street fashion photography, and it's amazing to see how far things have come since the age of the internet.

After looking for some awesome Fall photos to inspire us yesterday I decided I needed to do a companion entry all about Fall street fashion from Chictopia. Unfortunately for me, this past week it's been in the 80s and 90s as the Bay Area is getting its Indian summer, so looking through these pictures and seeing fall leaves, loads of tights, scarves, and everything else I love about the Fall was torture. I am never more homesick than from the months of September through December. fall down, 3 or 4 more to go.

Here's 10 of my favorites outfits:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall Color Palate

Just in case you are looking for some inspiration for your next shopping trip or home make-over, here's a few pictures from all over the internet of this season's colors to inspire you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 18 Check-In

Now that I've been doing the 30 Day Shred DVD for about 3 weeks I wanted to check in with everyone and let you know how it was going. And holy shit it is going. The first few days I felt really sore. Granted for the 2 weeks before starting it I was almost completely sedentary, but I play soccer and go running on a regular basis so I thought I was in better shape than I was. The DVD kicked my ass, big time. So many muscles hurt that first week, although mainly ones in my upper body. I will be the first person to admit that my upper body is extremely lacking in strength, so clearly this workout has been targeting an area that doesn't get a lot of attention from me (because really, in soccer do you need your arms?). I've talked to a few other people since then about doing the DVD and everyone agrees that you will be sore, everywhere. But I like to think of it like the SNL skit. "Clinique calls that burning, but we say that means it's working."

Now that I've passed through workout level one into level two I can definitely see a huge difference in my body, endurance, and strength. Whenever I lose weight I'm always amazed at how much by body changes. I exercise to try to be healthy. Being in shape for soccer is important for me, and so is keeping my cholesterol low and having a healthy heart. On my dad's side of the family people also tend to be obese and both of my grandmothers have type 2 diabetes. Considering my intense love of food I'd like to prevent that all from happening. So to me, having a good diet and exercise plan is about a healthy lifestyle, not being waif-like. But then I work out and fat disappears and I always think, "wow, I had fat that I needed to get rid of?" Considering I had already lost some weight last year due to a major shift in Nick and my's diet, I think it is a huge testament to this DVD that it still burned off what was left. My arm flab is about half of what it was, my legs are thinner, my butt is smaller, and my tummy pudge (you know that little bit that every woman has and HATES) is almost completely gone. That being said, I'm not sure if I've actually lost weight because I have not weighed myself and I know I am stronger (I can lift things more easily, my knees don't feel as strained with I am kneeling, and there's more oomf when I do things in soccer), so I may have gained some muscle weight. But the bottom line is I'm trimming down.

I'd like to also point out that Nick and I have been eating healthier as well. What's the point of doing a DVD to lose weight if you're not going to really try to lose weight? For me, this just means don't buy junkfood. No extra trips to The Counter and stay away from chocolate, cheese puffs, and cupcakes. I cheat every once in awhile, because I'm a human being, and I really do love food, but we've started buying more fruit and trail mix as snacks in addition to nut bread instead of potato bread.

And this DVD isn't just for women! Nick has been attempting to do the DVD as well and in the 10 days he's done it, he's seen results too (even I noticed them which NEVER happens because sometimes I am pretty oblivious). The first week we did it together every day (since then Nick has visited 5 different cities for work all over the country in the last 10 business days). Our schedules have been pretty opposite these days and we've barely had any time to spend together besides catching up on various Netflix things, so I know I really appreciated having some time with just the two of us. Granted we are sweating our assess off and grunting doing something a lot less pleasurable than that other thing couples like that involves sweating and grunting, but we do manage to have fun doing this too. If anything, we're united in our extreme hatred for Jillian telling us how tough the DVD is, how we should keep going, and how we're going to be better for it. Yes Jillian, we get it. We want to die and yet you are perky and happy pointing at us and laughing. Damn you.

At this point I'm on day 18 (in truth I should be further along, but I have cheated and skipped days. I do play 1 1/2 hours of soccer 2-3 times a week, and sometimes I am too sore game day or the day after to have another intense workout on my leg muscles. But I have done the DVD the morning of a game because I feel guilty about skipping and once that initial soreness from the first week wore off it hasn't affected my ability to play). Considering I just wanted to fit into my jeans again (which probably meant losing 2-3 pounds) and my whole body has slimmed down, I'm pretty happy with the results and kind of want to stop. I'm also super ADD and doing something for 30 days straight is extremely boring for me. Sometimes I day dream about what outfit I should wear, the things I need to get done, or how I'd much rather be outside running with Charlie to increase my endurance on the soccer field. Without Nick to do this DVD with, I'm losing my motivation pretty quickly. If I wasn't so obsessed with how strong I am getting, I think I might stop the DVD. But being strong is kind of a novelty for me so I've kept going.

While I may not be strong enough to carry a TV or move our coffee table for the carpet cleaners by myself, little things like lifting Charlie or a dining room chair is no longer hugely taxing. And like I said, that's a big deal for me. At one point in one of the workouts Jillian says something like, "when your body is stronger you notice that it translates to the rest of your life as well." As a student psychologist that always makes me stop and think about whether or not that's actually true...Maybe I am a little bit more confident in myself because I can lift a bowling ball more easily and my ankles don't give out as much as they used to when I run. So maybe I amend what I said earlier about Jillian. Jillian, I do still kind of want to smack that perky smile off your face, but thank you for making me stronger.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sakoon Restaurant

I am not an Indian food fan. I'm not even a spicy food fan. Ask anyone and they'll tell you I am the biggest wuss when it comes to anything spicy. I don't even like to add ground pepper to my food because that is too much. So when it comes to certain ethnic foods I tend to stay away from them or order whatever is the blandest, sweetest, or savoriest thing on the menu and keep my fingers crossed that I can tolerate it. Unfortunately, though, every guy I have EVER been with loves spicy food. I wonder, is that a guy thing, or am I just attracted to guys who have opposite food tastes as me?

Poor Nick, he's stuck with me for the rest of his life. He loves Mexican, Indian, and anything with a kick. For years I told him I would go to an Indian restaurant in London with him, because it was my favorite of all time (they have a really good curry that I can order super mild) and we didn't make it there due to lack of time. Hopes and dreams were crushed (that was the closest we ever got to even looking at an Indian restaurant let alone eating at one). Then last weekend we went to our town's art and wine festival. On our way to the main street we made a quick detour through the farmer's market. There was a new vendor that makes Indian sauces I wanted to show Nick (again, things were rather mild so I was excited on his behalf that we might find something we both liked). I don't know if Hell froze over or pigs were flying, but trying all the different sauces really got me in the mood for some Indian food. So on a whim after we walked around the fair a bit we tried out a restaurant, Sakoon, and now I am hooked.

When we went there was only buffet. I don't know if that's a normal Sunday at lunch thing or if it was because of the festival in town, but I was able to try a lot of different stuff. Little potato puffs, fried cauliflower, two different kinds of curry (including the one that I like!), tandoori chicken, two salads, and a dessert...obviously I was hungry. While some of the things were definitely too spicy for me, everything was still good. The one thing I was disappointed in was the mango lassi. It was so thick and yogurty (yeah, I made that up), that I felt like I was drinking mango yogurt. I couldn't finish it as it was a meal in itself.

This past weekend Nick and I went back and had dinner. He had the lamb gosht which he devoured and I had another coconut curry. Mine was actually spicier than his was, which was a little disappointing. But I will try all of them until I find one I like...or maybe next time just as for it mild? Sakoon also has a wide array of fancy naans and stuffed breads, so while I have now tried the plain and the rosemary pesto and enjoyed them both greatly, I will be making my way through the list and trying all of them including the Kashmiri Naan which is stuffed with nuts, coconut, and rose. I plan to go back today with my student buddy at school, so maybe I'll order than then? And maybe then I'll also finally get to try the triple chocolate creme brule (according to Nick that's too weird of a dessert to order at an Indian restaurant. I say who cares. It sounds too good not to try).

Now here's some pictures of the yummies from their website:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Movie Review: Glorious 39

I'm sorry for my prolonged absence. It's been a little overwhelming on my end. School started up again, playing 2-3 games of soccer, working more days than I'd like to, among other things have left me pretty exhausted and in a huge funk. To make matters worse Charlie got fleas last night for the second time. Giving him a bath and holding him down while Nick picked the suckers off with a pair of tweezers was not what I wanted to be doing at 10:30 on a Saturday night. A vacation from life is in order right about now. During the last week of my summer vacation I did a little bit of escaping from life, not that I needed it at the time. I think I watched at least 12 movies, half of the entire series of Mad Men up to this point, and many Arrested Development Episodes, among other things. One of the movies I watched was Glorious 39, a movie set in pre-WWII England about a young woman who discovers a conspiracy her family may or may not be part of.

I love a good period thriller and anything set or made in England generally gets enough bonus points that it will automatically get at least 3 stars on the Netflix rating system from me. This movie did not disappoint on any level. Beautifully shot and expertly acted, although with an all star cast how could it not be (Romola Garai plays the main character with Bill Nighy, Eddie Redmayne, Christopher Lee, Julie Christie, Hugh Bonneville, and David Tennant playing some of her friends and family), the film brings together many different elements to capture the dreary yet frantic feel of life before the war broke out. While I was born over 45 years later, I imagine it to be a time between a dream and reality, where you were trying desperately to cling to some kind of illusion of safety and happiness while the awful truth that you were trying to avoid of Hitler and the Nazi regime lurked around the corner.

Garai plays Anne, who her brother calls Glorious, a bit part actress in London. The adopted oldest child of a member of Parliament, she does not have to work but she likes the drama and fun of it. Her silly blissfully ignorant life turns serious after a friend goes off an a political rant at her father's birthday and turns up dead. This is the first in a long line of events that leads to Anne questioning what the government is doing to people who want to go to war and if her family has any part in it. I won't go into too much detail about the story though because I don't want to give away all the clues.

Part of the reason I think this movie rated so highly for me is because it's not just about the mystery. At the beginning of the movie Anne lives in a fantasy world free of drama or the harsh realities of life. She works because she wants to, not because she has to. She throws fancy parties, plays with her adult siblings in country side ruins, and still adheres to rules given to them as children. But she was adopted into this life, and while she never outright says she wonders where she came from, you get the feeling that as the movie progresses deep down she knows she doesn't belong with her family. The story is about her growing up, finding out who she is, and what her place in the world might be.

And of course the excellent costumes don't hurt either. Definitely a must for any Anglophile or anyone into anything from the pre-war/WWII era.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where were you?

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of one of the worst days in the history of America. A moment that became our generations, "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" Thousands of lives lost, families ripped apart, and a rare moment in time when our country was universally united over something.

I remember 10 years ago I was sitting in my 11th grade math class when the phone rang. A student was pulled aside into the hallway and I heard faintly, "something happened...but she's ok..." and I immediately thought, "oh my God, something has happened at the World Trade Towers. I wonder if my mom is ok." My mother didn't work in the towers, but commuted on the path train from Hoboken which stops underneath the buildings. Chalking it up to my overactive imagination the period ended. Funny though, because when it comes to my mom and danger, I tend to have a sixth sense about things. I knew when she had skin cancer and I knew twice when she had been in a car accident.

The next period was my study hall so I went to the nurse with my friend Katrina to drop off my emergency contacts list. I was about to leave the room when I realized the nurse and two other students were crowded around a small radio listening intently. I listened too, heard the news, and immediately said, "I need to call my mom. Right now. She works a few blocks away." The nurse was of course sympathetic and handed the phone over. I looked over the contacts sheet thinking it was ironic that I was calling her because she was having an emergency, not me.

I got right through and I could hear immediately that she was frantic and terrified. She had just talked to my aunt and was about to leave. I'll never forget the mixture of relief that she was ok but worry that grew as she told me that she just missing being in the building and after someone rushed into the office saying that a plane had just flown into the world trade center. She went outside to look. By then the second plane had hit and she stood there watching the buildings burned, horrified about what had happened and hysterical. She came back inside to feel what felt like an earthquake as the towers collapsed one after another, fearing that something had happened to her building as well. Despite building security staff telling the employees to stay inside she was leaving as soon as we got off the phone. She told me she loved me, asked me to call my dad and my grandma to tell them that she was ok and then she got off the phone.

I think I was in shock because I still didn't understand the gravity of what had happened. I called my family members then went to the library, looked online at the news to see what was happening with some friends and proceed to flip out as I read articles, listened to online news broadcasts, and started to see pictures of what downtown looked like. Rumors circulated and friends started to be concerned about loved ones. I wondered if I knew anyone involved and I realized that just because my mom wasn't in one of the buildings didn't mean she was safe. I called friends I knew who were in the city to check up on them. And I tried to call my brother to reassure him that she was ok and the teachers at the middle school wouldn't call him out of gym to let him talk to me. Really? I thought. On a day like today you won't let me tell my brother our mother isn't dead? After a brief rant I hung up and went about the rest of my day hoping everything would work out ok. Hoping people were ok. I still didn't realize how many people had just died.

When I got home I tried to go about my normal routine which included listening to the voicemails on the house phone. There were 16. Family and friends from all over the country had called to see if my mom was ok. And there were three from her as she wandered around the streets aimlessly trying to see in the pitch black smoke and find her way to the ferry to get home. She was wondering where we were, why the school hadn't let us out early. My mother is the kind of person who shows her emotions rarely. But you could plainly hear that she was terrified.

By the time my dad had gotten home my aunt had dropped off flowers and wine with a note saying that despite everything she loved my mom (their relationship was strained at the time) and I had called back the family members to say she was ok. The last message she left was that she had managed to find her way to South Street Seaport and was getting transportation home. Now we just waited. Around 6:15 (the normal time of my mom's arrival) she walked in the door, dirty and tired. We crowded around her as we all enveloped her in a family hug and everyone cried. Just like the US would come together, we rallied around her. A rare chance for us to act like a real family. No fighting. Just support.

She told us about her day. How it took 8 hours to get home. The people she saw walking around dazed and dirty. The paper that was floating in the air like snow. The sounds. The smells. "It was like something out of a war movie. Except I was there, covered in soot with random people as we tried to make our way home." She told me about how someone she still doesn't know the name of gave her his cell phone to call us. And how when she finally emerged from the smoke there were shop and restaurant owners standing in the streets with hoses cleaning them off like cattle and offering up bottled water. It made me happy to think that there were good people out there after hearing about the greedy people who were also driving up gas prices in our area to unlawful prices.

There were other instances of humanity throughout the day like where she found strength in a most unlikely place. But the bottom line was that my mother really didn't know if she would make it home for several hours. The fear of near death, a death that people we knew had met with, stayed with her for several weeks as she suffered through Acute Stress Disorder (think PTSD, but shorter in duration) until she was allowed to go back to work and walked through the streets lined with the National Guard and machine guns. She wouldn't watch the news and at one point broke down saying, "They celebrated in the streets when they heard about this. How could they do that? Why would anyone rejoice over the death of so many people?" It was the most vulnerable I'd ever seen my mother. She was like a child asking me, her own child, about something I still don't have an answer to.

When she finally went back to work, she looked at the empty seats on the train, looking for familiar faces and recognizing that some were missing. Despite this, we were lucky. Very few people we knew died that day. No one in New York was untouched, but we were still far enough removed that we considered ourselves lucky. We had no one we needed to search for amongst the lists of the missing posted online. No pictures to post all over downtown. We didn't have to attend memorial services. We had no empty seats at the dinner table. The biggest change in our lives wasn't even one we could claim as a family. Because from that day on my mom always had sneakers in her office. She just wanted to be prepared in case she had miles to run before she got home.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Did I wear today? - Fashion Magazine Inspired

I am an avid reader of Harper's Bazaar and have been for the past five or six years. Each month when I get my new copy I carve out some time to sit on the couch and flip through the glossy pages to take in every detail. Fashion is an art form and I love looking at the advertisements and editorials to see the crazy and interesting things people do. But I love to see the street wear and fashion suggestions to see what's in style right now just as much.

So a couple of weeks ago I got the September Issue in the mail (which was HUGE as always) and flipped through some of it one morning before heading off to the clinic. Then of course I looked down at my outfit and said, "god this is horrible. I need to change" and came up with this one based on some of their suggestions for Fall trends. I even did my makeup! Although you can't really tell. All it needed was something bright red like a skinny belt and it'd be perfect.

Shirt: Banana Republic circa 2009
Skirt: BCBG
Shoes: Michael by Michael Khors circa 2009
Ring: Forever 21
Dog being annoying and not moving: Charlie

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