Monday, February 26, 2007

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

A message for my sister Sarah: You know how I told you that I’d keep those late night doughnut runs a secret? Well, I lied, but only to benefit the masses. Sometimes one must be sacrificed for the benefit of all. I learned that on Buffy the Vampire Slayer… and in life.

You see Sar, you’re generally very healthy; you’re all about low-fat, low-carb, low-sugar, low-calorie. In fact, most the time, you eat nothing but kale and bark. But I know… I know about the doughnuts, late at night… oh the shame, pulling up to the drive through window at Krispy Kreme, you peering out from under the hood of your sweatshirt, “Gimme the donuts,” you growl at some skinny, pimple-faced boy who, under normal circumstances, would immediately fall in love with you. He scurries away, in fear, returning only when he has filled your order—six glazed, six jelly-filled.

Shame no more, lil sis. You can now hold your head high during those late-night doughnut binges because, according to MSNBC (props to Keni for finding this article), Krispy Kreme has launched the whole-wheat doughnut.

With only 180 calories, this caramel-flavored, whole-wheat doughnut is smothered in Krispy Kreme’s original glaze. Now, you can use the words “healthy” and “doughnut” together without it being an oxymoron. (Because if it says it's whole-wheat, it must be good for you, right?)

Dreams really do come true, Sarah. Dreams really do come true...

Celebrity Gossip: Bringing the Little People Together

In high school, I was smitten with Leonardo DiCaprio. You know how it is when you’re a teenager—I artfully arranged a collage of his face on my wall; I owned Romeo + Juliet and The Basketball Diaries; I watched reruns of the season Leo was on Growing Pains; I even convinced my group of friends that Leo and I would someday be together (turns out he’s more in to supermodels than Midwestern bloggers).

Eventually, my crush on Leo faded into the background of my consciousness. But last night at a friend’s Oscar party, I was questioned when I said, “I’d like to see Leo win the Oscar.” I had no better reason than, “because I was in love with him in high school.”

Truth is, I haven’t seen Blood Diamond. Or The Departed. Or any of the movies except Little Miss Sunshine (which, if you haven’t seen it, is amazing). Why? Because I am not a movie person (collective gasp!). Not only am I not a movie person in general, I tend to choose to watch movies based on the likelihood that they will not depress or disturb me. In my old age, I no longer cope well on-screen depictions of violence, rape, death, drug abuse, or serious mental health issues. Most critically acclaimed movies these days include at least one of the aforem. I prefer the predicable laughs and anxiety-free plots lines of “Frat Pack” movies.

Despite the fact I’m a not a movie person, I watched the entire nearly four-hour broadcast of the Oscars last night. I am, if you hadn’t noticed, a celebrity person. And, when anyone at the party asked a celebrity-related question, such as “Isn’t Leo single now?” I was the first to answer with, “No, he’s supposedly dating another model, Bar something... I don't know. Gisele is with Tom Brady, who knocked up his ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan. She’s three months pregnant.” While others had seen all of the nominated movies and knew the names of obscure actors and the details of their filmography, I knew who was supposedly dating whom, what the stars had worn on previous red carpets, and how much weight they had reportedly lost after their breakups.

Sometimes the depth of knowledge I retain about celebrities confuses and bewilders me. How did this happen? Sure, I keep E! News on in the background while I’m making dinner and I regularly read the celeb gossip-filled back page of the Red Eye, but it’s just one page! I rarely read the celebrity magazines (though I will pick them up at the gym if I’m going to ride the stationary bike) and I hardly ever check the celebrity blogs (something BIG has to be happening to for me to go there). Somehow though, celebrity culture has seeped into my brain and is taking up precious space that could be utilized for something far more important, I’m sure.

Is there any value in celebrity gossip? I can think of a few people who might argue that I am contributing to the downfall of our society, but I’m here to defend our celeb-crazed culture… sort of.

For better or worse, “real” news outlets—including all major network news programs (not just the Today Show and GMA), CNN, Fox News, the AP— now report on celebrity hookups, breakups, babies, and scandals—stories once primarily reserved for tabloids. We could easily debate whether or not it’s appropriate for these outlets to include Britney Spears’ latest antics and the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes among stories about soldiers in Iraq and the 2008 presidential race; we could speculate why they report on celebrities… is it for ratings or is it because reporters believe giving the people what we want? The fact remains that even if you shield yourself from every rag screaming headlines like, “Paris Exposed” and “Britney's Cry for Help,” and refuse to entertain the idea of watching Access Hollywood or E! News, you probably know that Britney shaved her head and went to rehab, and Angelina Jolie filed papers to adopt a Vietnamese child.

Celebrity news has become common ground for the general public, shared knowledge that we can use to relate to one another without the polarizing effects politics, war, and social issues have on conversations. In a weird way, celebrity gossip brings us together. It might tear apart certain starlets who can’t get their lives under control, but it gives the rest of us something to talk about with strangers, acquaintances, business associates, hairdressers, personal trainers, the occasional shopkeeper. So… in terms of the Universe, karma, etc., I’d say we’re about even.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Food Immersion

I’m immersing myself in food right now. Giada is on Food Network informing me that her friends are going to love her balsamic chicken drumettes. My new Cooking Light magazine is open to an article called Superfast Supers. And, my Web browser is displaying the recipe section of the Weight Watchers Web site. The only thing I’m not actually doing is eating—I am, in fact, trying to write a grocery list.

Grocery shopping these days can be a challenge—I mentioned this in a recent post. Not only is it difficult to do a cost-benefit analysis of healthy eating, it’s also difficult to plan to eat in general... hence the immersion in food.

I’m focusing on dropping a few pounds, and slowly, but surely the numbers are heading south. But when I stumble, I generally stumble because I either lack a plan for dinner or I disregard my plan for dinner. Breakfast is a snap (Go Lean bar on the go); Lunch is a breeze (lately I make a batch of chicken salad for the week, pair it with a whole wheat pita—little protein, little fiber—slice up strawberries, and finish it off with low fat string cheese). I’ve even learned to navigate the trapping of working in an office with people who like to bring and share treats, and I’m rarely swayed off track by temptation between the hours of 9am and 5pm.

Then dinner. I usually get home after 7pm, depending on my after-work activities. By the time I walk into my apartment, I haven’t eaten in about four or five hours, and I’ve probably been at the gym. Bottom line... I am famished. I am ready and willing to eat the first thing that I can stuff in my mouth. Screw cooking. Throw some Amy’s Pizza Snacks in the microwave, and give me some crackers, some pita and hummus, a low-fat fudge pop, and we’ll call it a meal.

See where I get into trouble? This food free-for-all makes for perfect overeating conditions. What’s a girl to do?

The answer seems so obvious—suck it up and make dinner stupid—but this, like most things, is easier said than done. Preparing dinner for one person poses its own set of challenges. And while there have been times in my life when I’ve really enjoyed cooking, now is not one of those times. Lately, I do best with recipes that utilize canned and frozen foods… as little preparation as possible… just throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and heat it through.

Then, as you probably know, most recipes are not for one person—or two people. Which means leftovers, leftovers, leftovers. I usually have three to five servings of a meal to wrap up and store in the fridge. So, if I’m not going to waste food, I have to eat this meal three to five more times within about three to five days. Even if I like something, that’s a lot of the same meal over and over and over again. And if I didn’t like it so much the first time, forget about eating it again. In the trash it goes. I might as well just dig a hole outside, throw some money in it, and light it on fire. Best case scenerio for leftovers, it's something that I like enough to eat again, and something light and portable that could double as a lunch option.

So this week, I’m planning ahead, keeping my current challenges in mind, and making some meals that will store well, maybe even freeze, and travel well. Keni sent me this recipe and I’m going to give it a try:

Taco Soup
1 pound ground turkey
1 lg chopped onion
2 cans chili beans
1 can corn (drained)
1 can chili style diced tomatoes or Rotel Chili Fixin tomatoes
16 oz canned tomato sauce
1.5 cups water
taco seasoning packet
ranch dressing seasoning packet
1 can green chilies

Brown meat and onion in a skillet. Bring tomatoes, water, and tomato sauce to a boil in a large pot. When meat is done, add it to the pot as well as other ingredients. Heat until hot all the way through.

I think I’m going to substitute the water for chicken stock for a little more flavor (but not a lot of calories).

I also found this recipe in Cooking Light’s Superfast Suppers article: Sausage and Spinach Soup. Chances are I’ll substitute the fresh herbs for dry herbs.

That’s a lot of soup, but it’s still pretty chilly outside, soups tend to keep pretty well, both of these sound hearty, and while some preparation is involved, both look like pretty quick and easy recipes. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Sometimes I think "diet" has become a four-letter word. "It's a lifestyle change," the experts say, not a diet--this is for life. Well... I can try to fool myself, but as long as I'm trying to lose weight, it's really a diet. Once I've lost it and am maintaining, that's the lifestyle change. I think I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that no matter how many diet books and magazines I read, one thing remains constant... all the tips and tricks of the trade will not change the fact that to loss weight you have to have some willpower. Willpower to get yourself to the gym, to sidestep cookies at the office, to make a healthy dinner, to not pick up the phone and call for Chinese takeout (I should really take House of Wah Sun out of my contacts in my cell). No amount of make-ahead meals, diet foods, support systems, or trendy aerobics classes are going to change the fact that if I can't control my eating, I am not going to reach my goal.

Damn you reality! (You can't see me, but I'm shaking my fist defiantly in the air at reality.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Rehab is So Last Week

Britney and me: two peas in an alcohol-soaked pod. Vodka... yum.

If you haven’t heard, Britney entered a rehab facility last week and then left 24 hours later... only to enter another rehab facility this week and leave again. Yesterday, she went back to rehab again (if you’re counting, this is number three) and according to the celebrity blogs that I swear I only read as research for this post, she hasn’t left... yet.

As for me, it’s been 13 days since I threw myself into a self-imposed rehabilitation program for one month. But, I—like Britney pre-the latest rehab stint—have decided detox isn’t my style. Let’s see how Brit and I measure up in other areas:

Careers:
Brit: Once the biggest music star in the world, positioned to overthrow Madonna as the reigning Queen of Pop. Now... well, let’s just put it this way: please bow your heads in a moment of silence for Britney’s career. May it rest in peace.
Lou: PR Maven. Marketing Prodigy. Writer Extraordinaire.

Friends:
Brit: More like frienemies.
Lou: Hilarious, intelligent, and attractive. Have you read the comments on my blog?

The Men in Our Lives:
Brit: Justin Timberlake, K-Fed, and some guy that looked a whole lot like K-Fed. Hmm
Lou: Countless exes. More than I care to remember. Far more than I care to list.

On Being Single:
Brit: Single and fabulous?
Lou: Single and fabulous!

Personal Demons:
Brit: Cigarettes, back up dancers, unprotected sex.
Lou: Crab rangoon, Ben & Jerry's, hummus and pita bread.

Personal Mantra:
Brit: You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the girl.
Lou: I must, I must, I must increase my bust.

Hitting Rock Bottom:
Brit: Pick your poison: marrying K-Fed; sharing “Chaotic” with the world; having K-Fed’s baby; walking into a public restroom barefoot; driving with that kid on her lap; the horrifying interview with Matt Lauer; having another K-Fed baby; partying panty-less with Paris Hilton; shaving her head; checking into and out of rehab; checking into and out of rehab again. I’m going to go with marrying K-Fed, since that seems to be what started it all.
Lou: Probably two weeks ago, when after an undetermined amount of red wine, I told some strange, drunk man in a bar, “Seriously, I will fight you” because he wouldn’t leave my friend and me alone. I’m not proud of what I said, and I would never have actually fought him, but I realized, once sober, the potentially dangerous situation I could have created. I mean, what if he actually wanted to fight me? I don’t know how to fight.

Of course, in reality, I don’t have as much ‘splaining to do since I (a) don’t have children and therefore, no one needs to ask where they are while I’m out falling off of bar stools and trash talking; (b) consistently wear underwear; (c) did not break up with Justin Timberlake, only to marry K-Fed (to be fair, many of us did not expect Justin’s post-boy band rise to god-like status as a solo artist); (d) didn’t shave my head—yet anyway; and finally, (e) all of the above.

The point is, 30 days is way too long to give up drinking if you haven’t had a run in with the law or actually woken up on a plane with a hole in your cheek. Instead, taking a cue from two friends/blog commenters, I am self-imposing a new rule: the three drink maximum. Three drinks when I’m out… no more. I trust that I have the willpower to not binge drink. Even if Britney is there, I don’t want to go back to rehab… actually, especially if Britney is there.

OK. Let’s Get This Over With.

Is it an understatement to say the finale of the three-episode Grey’s Anatomy “event” fell short of expectations? Umm… after the hour-long show crawled on for what felt like half my life, I sat on my couch dumbfounded, certain that I had just been hit in the head with a baseball bat. It was, in fact, the same bat that I wanted to use to destroy my television after 45 minutes of watching the doctors not give up on Meredith.

Just call time of death and let’s move on. For the love of....

Here’s my problem, with this episode and the show in general. Meredith’s character does not resonate with most females… most females that I know anyway. I suppose it’s difficult for a television show to pull off the neurotic female character that is charmingly eccentric, tortured to a believable degree, and yet relatable (characters such as Carrie Bradshaw, Buffy Summers, and Ally McBeal come to mind). Meredith is neurotic. Meredith is tortured. Meredith is not relatable. I don’t identify with Meredith. If you do, you might want talk to someone 'cause she is one profoundly sad, messed up chick (I say this with love, readers). In fact, in a non-scientific poll of people I’ve talked to about Grey’s, she’s most often the least favorite character.

However… a conundrum. The show itself does an incredible job of portraying raw human emotion—pain, sadness, loss—with juicy storylines and sexual tension you can cut with a butter knife and melt in your mouth (ummm... tasty). So like many other dedicated fans, I put up with the title character and attach myself and my emotions to the other interns, to Addison, Callie, the Chief, McDreamy, Dr. Burke, and Miranda, their trials and tribulations, and the memorable patients they treat. And I cry... nearly every episode is a release, a guilty pleasure of emotional outpouring both undeserved and completely unnecessary. And that is why I love the show.

Meredith drowning? Meredith laying on the operating table, the doctors trying desperately to bring her back from what was apparently some kind of purgatory where she could decide for herself whether she would live or die? Really didn’t evoke all that much feeling. In fact, like I said before…

Just call time of death and let’s move on.

At the end of the day, we all knew Meredith would make it. Sure, we speculated… but if it had come down to putting money on the table, all bets would have been on her pulling through. The show must go on, right? Dragging out the entire episode to try to convince us otherwise merely did the opposite. We’re not stupid. We saw it coming, but we were willing to play along with it for a little while… not for three-quarters of the show while Meredith figured out why she gave up on life with her new bffs from beyond. No one cares about Meredith giving up! We all gave up on Meredith’s sad little girl story long ago. And sure, maybe the whole mother-daughter post-mortem moment provided a mild plot twist and much needed closure to the episode, but someone should have told Meredith to get over her mommy issues a long time ago (umm… Christina, this one’s on you).

At this point, I am reassessing my commitment to the show. I may have to stop watching. OK… I’m not going to stop watching… yet. But, Grey’s, you’re on probation.

Grey’s Anatomy: Oh No They Didn't

Seriously, I don’t want to talk about it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Grey’s Anatomy: Did They Just…?

I don’t want to talk about it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Saga Continues...

I'll be the first to admit that the last two episodes of Grey's Anatomy went a little overboard in the name of the almighty sweeps week (blame advertising). This week, the three-week long saga finally comes to its, as the promos portend, "devastating conclusion." I think I heard that. Maybe I made it up. Whatever.

So, if you missed out on the last few weeks of Grey’s, let me bring you up to speed. The exclamation marks are used to convey the level of excitement, suspense, fear, and shock the episodes were desperately aiming for…

Major catastrophe involving a ferryboat! Countless causalities and injuries! Interns sent into the field! Crazy little girl follows Meredith around (man, she drove me nuts)! Izzie drills holes into some guy’s head and saves him! Large man accidentally knocks Meredith into the water and doesn’t notice! The only person who does notice is the strange little girl who won’t speak, so she just walks away (which lead to my calling her a "dumbass")! Strange little girl finally leads McDreamy to the water! He saves Meredith or at least, he tries! Meredith is rushed to the hospital where the doctors try to save her! Izzie makes a speech to the other interns that Meredith will survive and George made a huge mistake marrying Callie (which lead to my calling her a "bitch")! Tears all around! Meredith suddenly wakes up in a room with Denny Duckette and the hot guy who died in the bomb episode! This leaves us with one burning question: Is Meredith really dead?!?!?!?!?!

Immediately followed by a second burning question: If she is dead, what happens to the show?

Friend and fellow Grey’s fan, gkl, sent me this interesting news item that could possibly point to some answers:

ABC to pilot "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off: WSJ

My thoughts on killing the title character, canceling Grey's, and pursing a spinoff?

Never going to happen. Guess we'll find out on Thursday.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What You Get for the Money

Grocery shopping these days is hard. Balancing healthy choices versus cost is hard. Balancing four plastic bags on two fingers while you attempt to open the gate to your apartment’s courtyard... even harder. But this isn’t about me... wait a minute, who am I kidding? Of course it’s about me. It’s always about me.

I like to think that I make a conscious effort to convince myself that I’m eating the "right" foods. This is done by filling my refrigerator with healthy fare from the grocery store, then ordering Chinese takeout, stuffing my face with crab rangoon and chicken chow fun, and immediately disposing of the evidence (if no one saw me, it didn’t really happen).

But back to the grocery store... I chose my job based on its proximity to Whole Foods (not really). I lucked out when Trader Joe’s decided to open up a location nearby as well. So today on my lunch break, I ventured out to do a little shopping.

Now, granted, I’ve already been shopping twice since Saturday, once at the Jewel, a grocery chain in Illinios, and once at the Trader Joe’s in my neighborhood for a few frozen dinner options. But today, I decided that I needed salad and snacks from Trader Joes and whole-wheat pasta and tea from Whole Foods. This is how I operate people; I grocery shop about six times a week. It's an illness. Here’s what I bought:

At Whole Foods:
  • Bionaturae Pasta, spaghetti and penne (best whole wheat pasta on the market and the lowest in calories and fat!)
  • Yogi Tea (I just really like that the tea bags have little messages written on them, like “Old age needs wisdom and grace” and “Socialize with compassion, kindness, and grace.” I pretend that I’m in Tibet, drinking tea with the Dali Lama)
Total: $9.46

At Trader Joe’s
  • Multigrain Savory Thins (yummy crackers that are low fat/low calorie and 17 per serving!)
  • Salsa
  • Whole Wheat pita bread
  • Bagged salad blend
  • Bagged baby spinach (I fear not spinach!)
Total: $9.44

Coming up with your blog for the day: priceless.

Couldn’t resist.

I realized as I was checking out that I spent almost exactly the same amount of money at TJ’s and Whole Foods, but got almost twice as much food at TJ’s. I thought about it… Trader Joe’s sells tea… and whole-wheat pasta. Why not buy those items there? Or better yet why not buy the generic brands at Jewel and save loads of cash?

Why? Because I’m a brand whore. I love Trader Joe’s and I love their brand, but I’ve sampled a dozen (estimation) kinds of whole-wheat pasta and Bionaturae is the brand I like (and highly recommend). Generic brand? Can you even get generic brand whole-wheat pasta? It’s worth the extra trip to Whole Foods and the extra cash to get what I want.

So, I pay the money and get the brands that I like, then I look at my bank account, add up the money I've spent on groceries in the last four days ($80.84) and I wonder what the hell my problem is.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lovely Lady, Slender Lady


I love finding crazy store fronts in Chicago that you can pretty much assume have been around since the 70s. When I look at this photo of Slender Lady Weight Loss and Fitness Center, I can't help but picture a smoke-filled lounge with a Frank Sinatra impersonator crooning in the corner and a 70-year-old bartender growling, "Whaddaya have?" I'd be referred to as, "Doll face."

Of course, a martini, cigarette, and bowl of peanuts isn't exactly the picture of health. They might want to consider re-branding...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Well-laid Plans

Last night, I bought Reduced Fat Parmesan Style Grated Topping (photo credit: Kraft Foods). And I had a plan:

Step 1: Let my trainer kick my ass for an hour after work.
Step 2: Run to the grocery store and buy Reduced Fat Parmesan Style Grated Topping and Muir Glen Tomato and Basil pasta sauce.
Step 3: Go home.
Step 4: Make spaghetti.
Step 5: Top spaghetti with pasta sauce and Reduced Fat Parmesan Style Grated Topping.
Step 6: Enjoy spaghetti topped with pasta sauce and Reduced Fat Parmesan Style Grated Topping while watching the latest Tivo-ed episode of Ugly Betty.

It was a well-laid plan, derailed only by my overwhelming hunger. By the time I got home from the grocery store, it was almost 9pm and I was starving. I ate whatever was readily available, which was, unfortunately, Amy's Pizza Snacks and hummus and pita bread. Nice combo!

So tonight, after I get home from the gym, I'm going to try to repeat the plan steps 3-6. Well, except that I'll be watching The Secret DVD instead.

I know what you're thinking, "Lou... what's the deal with the Reduced Fat Parmesan Style Grated Topping?"

Well, spaghetti with sauce and the little flakes of Kraft Parmesan Cheese from a plastic container really takes me back. It's comfort food... something my mom used to make for dinner (and she didn't make much -- sorry mom, but we both know I've already written and entire 10-page essay about how you didn't cook). I buy the Reduced Fat version because, in my opinion, it tastes pretty much the same. Might as well save the calories. And the name of the product makes me laugh... Parmesan Style Grated Topping... not Grated Parmesan Cheese... because who knows what they put in there to get rid of some calories and fat.

I know what you're thinking, "Lou... you're one crazy chick who was obviously short on blog topics today!"

True that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Future [Rich Ex-] Husband

I still love the Today Show. I don’t care if it fills three hours with PR fluff passed off as news. I don’t need to know that the world is ending when I’ve only been awake for 15 minutes. I prefer to let The Daily Show surprise me with real news right before I go to bed... so I can dream about it.

The Today Show’s news (fluff) stories never fail to provide me with endless opportunities to get on my electronic soapbox (my blog) and preach to the masses (the four of you). There’s nothing I love more than the sound of my own voice on paper.

Today, the gods of morning television smiled down on me and, in honor of Valentine’s Day, bestowed us with this little gem of a news item: Does beauty plus money equal love?

I’m pretty sure we all know the answer to that rhetorical question.

So here’s the story: a New York City Web site called Pocket Change capitalizes on a cliché... rich men want beautiful woman, and... how very convenient... beautiful woman want rich men.

I’ve heard the stories about young women in Chicago who spend their hard-earned cash (or their not-so-hard-earned credit) on designer clothing and accessories, memberships to the "right" athletic clubs, dinners and drinks at swanky restaurants and bars, and apartments in wealthy neighborhoods, all in an effort to find rich husbands. It sounds like an exhausting lifestyle. In return, rich (usually older) men frequent the same establishments, in their expensive duds, all in an effort to sleep with, date, or marry (perhaps some combination of the three?) a hot, younger woman. I don’t know how successful this mating ritual is; I don’t go to these places and I don’t know these people. Pure hearsay friends. Pure hearsay.

Pocket Change came up with the brilliant idea of removing the guesswork from this process and bringing these two groups together in one room without the distraction of OK-looking woman or merely mildly successful men (the hangers on). They called it (drum roll please), Natural Selection Speed Dating. And may I just say, bravo on the title.

Additional commentary on this new dating concept really isn’t necessary. We all know that self-selecting for a dating event which only allows rich men and beautiful woman to attend suggests a little something about a person’s integrity, values, and priorities. No need to expound on that one. These people seek to find each other anyway. If they are willing to raise their hand and say loud and proud, "Sign me up" then so be it.

I’m just a little bummed I didn’t come up with the concept... (rich husband my ass hello financial freedom!) However, @, frequent View from the Park commenter and beloved co-worker, suggested that she should plan a speed dating event that paired intelligent guys with women who wear glasses. I can’t seem to think of anything cleverer than that, so I’ll just say this: Happy Valentine's Day! I love you all... mostly because you read my blog.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cold Turkey (or Rehab is the New Black)

I woke up this morning on plane with my eyes swollen shut and a gaping hole in my cheek. Four teeth missing. Clothes covered in vomit. I had no recollection of the last two weeks.

Wait a second… that wasn’t me. That was James Frey. Well, maybe. It might not have happened like that.

I woke up this morning after five hours of sleep with one thought: I have to stop drinking… but, for real this time.

Then a moment of clarity. What if I did stop drinking? Not forever. Maybe for… let’s see, what’s a nice round, sober number?

30 days. Starting now.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Big “V”

No, not that V!

The “V” I’m referring to is, of course, Valentine... as in, will you be mine? Because I don’t have one, and apparently, that is the single saddest thing that can happen to a woman in February.

This morning began like all other mornings. I left my house and walked to the bus stop where I picked up the Red Eye, a free edition of the Trib that caters to “young, urban professionals who are short on time and long on disposable income” (straight from their Web site people). The Red Eye provides me with the perfect balance of minimal real news and maximum celebrity gossip and pop culture fluff.

Paging through the Red Eye as I rode the bus downtown, I came across the Gina Spot column: Don't let overhyped V-Day seduce you.

Did I miss something? Because I didn’t realize Valentine’s Day was being “hyped.” Unless you count all the articles in the Red Eye about the holiday, I really haven’t heard or thought much about it.

That’s probably because I’m not in a relationship (how sad I cannot participate in the couple-only festivities).

But wait! There’s more. According to the column, I don’t have to spend V-Day in my favorite pair of over-sized, stinky sweat pants (an old boyfriend’s… how sad), rent a romantic comedy, and weep quietly into pint of Ben and Jerry’s. (I can do that any day!). On Valentine’s Day, I must--for the sake of single women everywhere--celebrate singlehood and stand up for girl power (you can't see me, but I am shaking my fist in the air as a gesture of defiance right now)! Rather than “mope and wallow,” Gina sugests I throw a “Love Yourself Party,” “schedule an evening massage,” or just get out to the bars with some single gal pals for a night on the town.

But, Valentine’s Day is on a Wednesday. Can’t I just do what I do every Wednesday night—go to the gym, ride the train home, make myself dinner, watch TV, read a little, and go to bed... alone (how sad)?

What bothers me most about the “hype” (and it's not just Gina's column, there are countless "news stories" out there intended to help me--the single woman---avoid severe depression on the big day) is that I don’t remember Valentine’s Day ever being that big of a deal to me--relationship or no relationship. Is it really that important? Do women really expect flowers, chocolate, candles and romance if they are attached, and, if unattached, are we required to either feel like losers or take some kind of action that preferably involves binge drinking to prove that it’s OK to be single on Valentine’s? (But, I can binge drink because I've got something to prove any day.)

Notice also that news outlets don’t talk much about men needing to stand up (pound on their chests) and proclaim “I am single man; hear me roar” on Valentine’s Day. But, maybe it’s just me...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My Latest Obsession

On Tuesday, my co-worker and I decided that the crappy weather was a good enough reason to share a cab to our neighborhood. During the cab ride I told her a story:

Me: Do you want to hear a story?
Her: [Side glances]
Me: [Can hardly contain my excitement] It’s about a Go Lean bar.
Her: You tend to become very fixated on things.

Let’s stop here.

She’s right. I do have a tendency to become fixated. Right now, I’m, let’s say "kind of," obsessed with Go Lean bars, which I suppose is, again "kind of," strange.

Why Go Lean bars? Is because the cold has forced me to take shelter in my one-bedroom apartment causing me to neglect any semblance of a social life I once had only leaving to replenish supplies crucial to my survival in sub-zero temperatures... supplies, like say... Go Lean bars? Or is it because I don’t have a current love interest, much less a crush or a recent hook up to take up the precious, but so little, space my brain has to devote to drama? And so, I think about how much I love Go Lean bars instead? Your theories are compelling...

Honestly, I don’t know what got me so hooked on these scrumptious little bars of peanut and chocolate heaven that I am reduced to blogging about them. But, if you have not tried these, let me tell you why you simply must:

  1. They are awesome.
  2. They have about the same amount of calories and fat as a granola bar, but are so much more satisfying (and bigger).
  3. They have chocolate… and it’s not waxy, nasty chocolate like other high-protein, high-fiber energy bars.
  4. They satisfy the need for salty and sweet and can take the place of that pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
  5. They are a great mid-day pick-me-up or pre-workout snack.
  6. They are awesome.
I’m not generally one to give up blog space for a testimonial about a product, but these are good. And no one is paying me to say these things... though if someone wants to, I’m open to discussion about compensation. Of course, that would compromise the journalistic integrity of my blog.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Things that I Kept

In high school, I kept every single shred of paper that came my way. Old reports, tests, notes from friends, movie and concert ticket stubs, pictures, athletic programs, and copies of the school newspaper all found their way into a box and were saved.

I won’t deny that this hording came from a place of pure sentiment, but as I’ve gotten older the desire to hold on to every trinket has passed. Of course I keep pictures (though many of those are digital now) and I like to display my race paraphernalia via the refrigerator, but keeping every scrap of evidence that I existed seems unnecessary now. This may be partly because I can no longer stash boxes at my mom’s place 300 miles away and space is at a premium in a one-bedroom apartment, particularly storage space.

But, I do still keep one kind of random, perhaps pointless, pieces of papers... fortunes from fortune cookies, but only if they are incredibly profound, witty, or just plain good (i.e. A check you will soon receive—Yoda wrote my fortune cookie). My favorite is tacked to the bulletin board in my kitchen:

“You were right the first time.”

Crap. I knew it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

It's What's for Dinner

A co-worker shared this recipe with me and I thought I would pass it along to my readers as I know many of you are often searching for good, healthy, quick and easy recipes. I found that this one, with a little bit of modification, fits the bill. Also, for those of us who are single, the leftovers are a good lunch option if you're a "brown bagger" (it's really more like a "plastic grocery bagger") like me.

Southwest Fettuccine Bowl

Here are my modifications:
  • Swap the fettuccine for whole wheat pasta. I used spaghetti. (I subsequently renamed the recipe "Southwest Pasta Bowl" in my head.)
  • I used 2 tsp olive oil instead of cooking spray (never hurts to get a little “good” fat)
  • I considered adding spinach, but didn’t. I think that might be good though; maybe I’ll do that next time.
Enjoy!

Your Weather is So Cold...

On Saturday, after standing outside at the bus stop on route to my gym, I decided once I returned home that I wasn’t leaving my apartment again until spring or at least until the temperature reached double digits sans a minus sign. It’s been that insanely cold in Chicago for as long as I can remember... of course, I can only remember the last four days. I believe the cold has robbed me of my memory.

I cannot stress how cold it is here. Weather.com provided me accurate temperature updates when I refused to walk outside and find out for myself on Saturday evening. I probably would have guessed it was –106. It actually was 0 degrees, but according to Weather.com it “felt like” –16.

It’s the kind of cold where if you breathe without stuffing your face into your scarf first, your nose hairs freeze. It’s that cold.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Dude

One quarters

Three Ball

Ain't no free game

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Can a Flat Iron Change Your Life?

I’ve never been one to strike up a relationship with my hair stylist. In fact, for the past three years, I’ve gone from stylist to stylist, salon to salon, searching for someone who wasn’t insanely overpriced (huge problem, particularly in the city; my sister in Hoboken once paid more than $300 for a cut and color; my goal is to be around $150 before tip) and who would actually highlight my hair the correct color of blonde.

After turning to the Internet for some much needed advice, I found a highly rated and semi-reasonably priced salon less than two blocks away from my place of business. I figured it was worth a shot, so I booked an appointment with one of their junior stylists (always the way to go, junior stylists are cheaper and the good salons only hire the best new talent).

Lee and I clicked immediately. Even though I came armed with a magazine to prevent awkward conversation, I didn’t need it. We talked celebrities; we talked personal trainers; we talked boyfriends and ex-boyfriends; we talked hair. And when I said, “I want my hair blonde, really blonde, not this weird dishwater-y color everyone else makes it, but I don’t want it yellow either,” she understood. “You want blonde; I’ll make it blonde,” she said and she delivered. Maybe because she’s a blonde, we had a blonde sisterhood of hair thing going on.

That was in November. I went back last week to see her again for highlights and a cut last week. Lacking any ideas of my own and inexplicably feeling as though I could trust her judgment (granted I rarely get emotional about my hair… it’s straight and fine and it’s pretty hard to totally screw it up), I told her to cut my hair however she wanted.

She chose to do a “modern bob.” It’s totally cute and I love it, but when she styled she asked if I ever flat ironed my hair. Why on earth would I flat iron my hair? It’s straight. I figured it was one beauty tool I did not need.

I was wrong. She flat-ironed my hair and, in a brief, yet profound moment of clarity, I realized that all of those girls, the ones with the perfectly shiny, frizz-free, straight hair, were not necessarily born blessed… they owned flat irons.

Yesterday, I went out and bought my very own Jilbere flat iron at Sally Beauty Supply (I was told specifically not to go to CVS and buy a Conair flat iron). I used it for the first this morning and am very happy with the results. It’s as if my hair’s true potential has finally been revealed to me. It’s amazing.