Monday, June 28, 2010

And Counting

It’s official. I am no longer 30. I am now knee deep into my thirties. Um… ankle… let’s say ankle deep.

Is it sad that I keep checking Facebook to judge whether or not an appropriate amount of friends/co-workers/former co-workers/acquaintances/friends-of-friends/total strangers have wished me a happy birthday on wall? Or is this just the reality we live in? You know, the reality where we can determine our worth by the number of connections we have on a social networking site.

No?

Anyway, yay for my birthday! I’m 31 today. I’ll be honest. I was feeling a little “ug” when I woke up today until I reminded myself that the odd years are usually good ones for me. I don’t know when or how I came up with this theory, but we’ll go with it.

10 Things I did when I was 30

1. I started my job at The University the day after I turned 30. So far, so good.

2. I married MM in Sawyer, Michigan on August 22, 2009. I loved my wedding! I mean, I love my husband.

3. I went to Mexico for the first time for our honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas.

4. I ran a half marathon and two 10 mile races.

5. I set a personal record in the Hot Chocolate 5K.

6. I took three classes toward a master’s degree that I may never finish.

7. I took part in wedding madness. In addition to my own wedding, both my sister and @ got engaged (not to each other); I went wedding dress shopping more times than I can count; bought two bridesmaid dresses; planned a bachelorette party for running buddy Meg and a bridal shower for my sister; did a reading at Meg’s wedding; and, most importantly, performed a choreographed routine to the Black Eyed Peas song Imma Be with Meg and another friend at Meg’s wedding reception. It was legend… wait for it… dary.

8. I wrote a book. Or at least, I wrote a first draft of something that I hope eventually becomes a book.

9. I rekindled my love of dance through Zumba classes, which I haven’t written about much yet, but trust me, I will.

10. I moved my blog to louwrites.com. Then I stopped blogging; then I started again. Now, after changing the design of this website yet again, I feel like I’m living in a little half-finished blog house, but it’s coming along.

10 Thing I plan to do while I’m 31

1. Edit that book. I’ll be participating in an eight-week workshop in the hopes that I’ll get that little middle grade novel I wrote about pre-teen party planners into decent shape. The fun starts tomorrow!

2. Buy house in the suburbs; renovate the house in the suburbs; move into the house in the suburbs. Of course, this is all dependent on me not allowing my fear of leaving the city to get in our way.

3. Get a dog. If we move to the suburbs, this is non-negotiable.

4. Get certified to teach Zumba. I’m signed up for the certification course next month (somehow I managed to sandwich this in between my sister’s bachelorette weekend and my sister’s wedding weekend). I’ll also be looking into getting my ACE general group certification as well, which most gyms require before they will allow you to instruct.

5. Run the Madison Half Marathon in August.

6. Go on vacation in Europe! MM and I bought our tickets about a week ago. His cousin is getting married in Romania this fall, and then we’re all (bride and groom included) going to spend a week in Barcelona.

7. Try Bikram yoga. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.

8. Get this website in better shape. Make it look like it’s really home, not just a temporary home.

9. Pay something off—maybe my car loan, maybe a school loan, but getting out of debt (even good debt) is always nice.

10. Continue participating in wedding madness, including, but not limited to, planning kickass bachelorette parties for my sister and @; writing and performing (performing?) a kickass speech for my sister’s wedding reception; being the best bridesmaid I can be; and dancing my ass off.

Looks like it’s going to be another busy year!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thighs are the New Breasts

Alternatively titled: Chicken Thighs 42 Different Ways (OK, maybe not 42)

I know. You are let down by the title of my post. You were hoping for boobs. Boobs! If that’s what you’re in the market for, you may as well move along. Nothing to see here except for chicken. Chicken!

Back in 2008, I read the book Skinny Bitch. Veganism was sweeping the nation (Was it?). So I decided to give it a shot. I had no good reason for doing this other than the desire to jump on the next big diet/eating craze bandwagon. Needless to say, despite the fact that I have never been much of a meat eater, the strict world of veganism didn’t stick. Shocking, I know.

Somewhere along the line—after Skinny Bitch, before right now—I sort of swore off these diet books that tell me to give up meat/dairy/carbs/sugar/fat/fill-in-the-blank. Too many rules, man.

The truth is that I finally realized that I didn’t need any more voices telling me the “right” way to eat. I had to have faith in balance, variety, eating lots of fruits and veggies, and keeping the junk food to a minimum. In other words, I had to have faith in common sense and stop filling my head with confusing information based on pseudo-science.

Word.

As part of this age of reason, I decided to get away from eating pasta every night for dinner and begin adding meat back into the dinner rotation. That’s when I made a discovery that has changed everything I believed about me and how I feel about meat: the chicken thigh.

Now, conventional “dieting” wisdom tells us that the lean, low-fat chicken breast is the only part of the bird we should bother with. And, a lot of people have “problems” with dark meat. I’m not sure what those “problems” are, but I’m pretty sure I claimed to have them.

Well, no more of that nonsense. I’m here today to say, “I was wrong chicken thigh. You are far superior to the breast.” Before, I ate whole wheat pasta for dinner constantly. Now, we have chicken thighs sometimes three times a week, which probably means that MM is getting sick of them, but I’m not. And I’m the one cooking. So that’s his problem. And yes, chicken thighs are a little fattier than chicken breasts, but that is why they are so good. Fat is your friend (not your best friend otherwise I’d be eating a pint of ice cream for dinner every night, but a good friend, someone you know is going to be there for you on a regular basis the way a good friend should be, in small doses and whatnot).

Here are a few recipes I have come to love. Trust me, if I’m cooking these, they are highly rated (by the internet community), healthy, and (most importantly) easy.

Spicy Honey-brushed Chicken Thighs
Pollo Fajitas
Chipotle Chicken and Rice (I do the rice separate in this recipe and just mix it all together at the end)
Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
Oven Fried Chicken
Orange-Balsamic Glazed Chicken

You’re welcome.

P.S. If you have a good chicken recipe you’d like to share, please send it my way.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stuff I Shouldn’t Care About: Sex and the City 2

Well, I’m fashionably late to this party, yes? I saw the movie a full 10 days ago. I planned on writing something, but forgot, which probably says a lot about how much of an impression the movie left on me. But, I still want to say something damn it because I am woman, hear me roar. Or something.

Here’s the thing about Sex and the City 2. It’s bad. You’ve probably heard this a dozen and a half times from every movie critic, blogger, and media commentator out there. But, they aren’t just saying it’s bad. They’re saying it’s horrifying; it’s offensive; it’s an abomination; etc.

When promos for the movie first began airing, I was excited. I knew it wasn’t going to be a great work of cinematic art. But great works of cinematic arts aren’t really my thing. But then the reviews started rolling in. At first they were tentatively negative, then downright bad, then excruciatingly ugly. The fear that I would walk out of the theatre feeling distraught at the offensiveness of the movie, ashamed that I’m an American or something made me think twice about going to see it.

But I went anyway.

Expecting to be stomach-turning disgusted at the behavior of four middle-aged American women in the Middle East was probably the best way to see the movie because I walked away thinking, “That wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said it would be.” Now don’t get me wrong. The movie is not good. But the real crime of the movie is not Samantha screaming at a crowd of men in Abu Dhabi about sex and condoms; it’s what the writers have done to these characters. This is common though: A series becomes popular primarily because of the quirky yet lovable and relatable characters. But as the series drags on, the writers choose to magnify the quirky traits, which cause the characters to lose what makes them relatable (coughTheOfficecough). All that’s left are caricatures.

That’s my number one issue here. Carrie, who was always aired on the side of self-absorbed with a serious case of “the grass is always greener” syndrome, is only that and lacks any redeeming qualities (Remember when we all thought we all thought we were “a Carrie?”). Charlotte maintains a state of denial. Her main concern in life is losing her nanny who doesn’t wear a bra (I mean, seriously SATC 2, no woman with breasts that large would jump around braless. It’s painful). The writers seem to have no idea what they to do with Miranda, so they make her the “funny gal,” who inserts one liners into the conversations taking place around her. And finally, Samantha is over-sexed. There’s really not much more of to the story than that. They take these four women and plunk them down in the desert to be self-absorbed, clueless, obnoxious, over-sexed, and sarcastic somewhere other than New York.

My other beef with the characters in this movie is what the writers choose to do with Aiden. Why did ruin Aiden? Why would they make the show’s perennial good guy into a creepy married dude who shamelessly hits on his ex-(also married) girlfriend? That’s not who Aiden is. He’s not that guy. But, assuming there will not be a SATC 3, that’s what we’re left with: Aiden, 3,000 miles away from his wife and three kids, trying to get it on with his ex-girlfriend who treated him like crap. Come on!

Sure there are parts of the movie that are kind of offensive, but there is context when you are watching the film. A good explanation as to how these parts of the movie have been blown out of portion can be read here. And all the criticism about the amount of consumerism is fair… I guess… but what are we supposed to expect? These women are all rich New Yorkers. They were rich New Yorkers when the series ended. And they were rich New Yorkers in the first movie. I know that the times, they have ‘a changed, but what did we think was going to happen? Suddenly Carrie would be shopping at Payless for her shoes?

My point here is that seeing this movie will not induce vomiting unlike what most of the reviews have told you. It’s bad, but there’s entertaining parts (unintentionally hilarious parts like when they have Samantha dressed up like she belongs on the front of a sarcophagus) and it’s like, whatever. If you want to see it, see it with only a small amount of shame.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Road Ahead


I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Lou, why am I staring at a picture of an ugly-ass house?” Well, I’ll tell you. That ugly-ass house will (fingers crossed, knock on wood, etc.) eventually be owned and occupied by myself and MM.

MM and I admitted to ourselves a long time ago that buying a house and leaving the city (read: moving to the suburbs) was eventually going to happen. Based on our circumstances—the need for MM to be closer to his job in the suburbs, the desire to buy a single-family home rather than a condo, and the reality of home prices in the city versus out of the city—this was inevitable… eventually. Eventually just always happens a little bit sooner than you are expecting it to.

In February, for some reason, MM decided it was time to start looking. I didn’t necessarily disagree, but I also didn’t think that I would walk into the first house suggested to us and say, “This is it,” without a doubt in my mind—especially considering that the house we walked into was the one pictured above.

And that’s not even the half of it. The house was listed as a short sale, and it’s clear that the owners left in the hurry. Their young daughter’s clothing and toys were left behind as well as bills, paperwork, important documents, etc. There’s even a wedding dress in the basement. But there the refrigerator is gone, along with the dishwasher and the washer and dryer.

I have to assume that abandoning a house and leaving behind a good portion of your belongings is a situation fraught with sadness and drama. I have no idea what caused them to leave or what factors led to them being forced out. I don’t know where they went. And all of that is weird and sad, and I hope whatever the situation was, it’s been resolved and they are in a better place now.

Stranger still is that I’m a person who believes in random quack shit like energy. One would think that leaving your home in the middle of the night (O.K., I don’t know that they left under the cover of darkness, but that’s how I imagine these things might happen), would cause bad energy and contribute to potential buyers feeling uncomfortable in a house filled with someone else’s belongings that have clearly been left behind.

But that’s just me. I should be uncomfortable in this house, but from the moment MM and I walked in the front door, all I could see was our home. That’s weird, right?

We made an offer on the house at the end of February. Then we waited. And we kept waiting. Several months passed, and finally on June 2, we accepted the bank’s counteroffer and now we’re moving forward. We hope to be closing next month.

This is going to be a really interesting/complicated process. Buying a short sale is a bitch, and we’ve chosen an FHA loan that will allow us to include the cost of the renovation (and there will be a lot of renovation) in the loan. Of course, choosing a loan product that is insured by the government requires a shit-ton more paperwork than a normal loan, so I’m hoping I can write a little bit about that process as we go through it. Maybe it will be helpful!? Maybe not. And of course, as we move forward with the renovation, I will keep you updated. And, the next time I go back to the house I plan to do a video tour, which I’d like to post here. So, if you care about these kinds of things, there’s a lot to look forward to!