Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stamps ...

Hey, we have cool black and white stamps of men and women building things. We should build more things. Like roads and bridges.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Pear ...

... and the bowl have become friends. (I may have to do a pear series.)

Sometimes ...

... I buy produce simply because it is too beautiful to leave it at the store.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whole30 ...

I haven't had coffee in 30 days.

The day after St. Patrick's, my friends Amy and Alison and I embarked upon Whole30, the gist of which is "Stop eating crap," but more specifically, it requires the elimination of dairy and sugar (among other things) and so, given that I've never been enough of a grown-up to drink my coffee black, coffee ceased to be an option. Without my beloved hazelnut coffee goo or cream and sugar at the very least, I couldn't abide. I can drink espresso straight but not black coffee. I do not know why.

Whole30 teaches you about yourself. What I learned about myself and coffee is this: I do not have a bad caffeine habit. I was able to cut out coffee with just the slightest of withdrawal. I was a bit tired for a couple days. I had a slight headache. But I wasn't in the habit of drinking a lot of it. I'd make just more than enough to fill my favorite travel mug and that was it each morning, except Sundays, when I'd allow myself some extra if I wanted it. I rarely wanted it. Some days, I would drain my travel mug and be sad to find myself tilting my head as far back as possible to drink the last drop, but other days – many days – I would get a few sips in and think "I don't want this" and I'd pour most of it down the sink.

What I did miss about coffee was the ritual. There's something about waking up and padding into the kitchen and putting on coffee that just feels right. And, given that winter has been an egomaniacal bitch and has stuck around for six months, there were many mornings when the thought of the warmth and sweetness appealed.

But instead, I drank water. Not hot water. Cold water. And I turned up the heat.

Whole30, though, is a bit of a misnomer, as the point isn't to eat really well for 30 days only to arrive at Day 31 and binge on doughnuts and Doritos. It's really the first 30 days of a new lifelong way of eating, which looks silly as I write it, as "new" really means "the way I should have been eating all along."

Some people extend to a Whole45 or Whole60, but my mindset at the moment is of MostlyWhole[Infinity Symbol]. I'm relieved that I don't want to go nuts tomorrow just because it's "allowed." Because it's not allowed. By me. I won't allow it. I have abused my body for decades. And now that I'm in my 40s, I want to stop. I want to be healthy. Not fanatically so, but mindful. I like that when my body says, "Sugar, please," I say, "Here, have an apple," not "Here, have a bag of gummi bears." (Whole30 definitely taught me that I have more of an addiction to sugar than I realized, but I presume that's true for most people.)

I've known I needed to make this shift for, literally, years. But all of the information I've been gathering over these years have been like steps that have allowed me to arrive at and start walking on this new plane. These 30 days haven't been a "diet," they've been the jump start to a new way of eating for the rest of my life.

Which isn't to say I'll never have another bite of bread or another cookie, but I've abused this body for too long. It's time to start giving it what it needs. I plan to keep going – I'm in this for the long haul – but maybe life is 90/10. I don't want to obsess about food but I want to continue making good choices.

Yesterday, I went to the store – on Day 29, with the "end" in sight – and I bought broccoli crowns and an English cucumber and onions and garlic and a pork steak. Last night, I sat down to a braised pork steak with a side of beautifully caramelized onions and garlic. Bites of pork crowned with caramelized onions and garlic is a delicious, delicious thing. I have taken to making a "salad" of English cuke and broccoli florets dressed with a balsamic and Dijon and garlic vinaigrette, but I wasn't in the mood for it last night. That will be lunch today. I've developed a new-found appreciation for sweet potatoes (I've only ever liked them in French-fry form before) and I've rekindled my love affair with big-ass salads. They're seriously absurd in volume, but lettuce and greens are mostly water.

And while my intention is first and foremost about getting healthy, not simply losing weight, the fact that I can now wear jeans I haven't worn in five years is a lovely thing. My "goal" jeans have become simply my jeans and I have a new goal pair hanging on my closet door. When I hold up the smallest size I want to fit into, they look almost impossibly small, but then I remind myself that our natural disposition is to be lean. If we're eating the right foods and moving around and getting good sleep, our natural state is rather lithe. Most of us have just been doing everything wrong for a really long time.

One of my brothers was here this weekend, working on an electrical problem* for me, and I probably ran up and down my stairs 20 times, flipping breakers on and off, and I barely felt the effort. I've gotten back into the habit of walking and it's nice to log two miles or more without even blinking.

My sleep has improved greatly. I fall asleep easily and wake up when I wake up. I can read a book without falling asleep. On Saturday, I read a book cover to cover in five hours. In the past, I would have dozed off about 15 minutes in.

At the store yesterday, my one "treat" was a fresh bottle of goo, not the kind I've bought before but a new brand that a friend told me about that is, indeed, just milk and cream and sugar and flavoring (though I'm not sure what "flavoring" entails). I'm looking forward to the option of coffee in the morning, but first, I'll ask myself if I really want it. And then I'll see how I fare with reintroducing some dairy. I may not be long for coffee in the end.

Perhaps I'll learn to like tea.

* My "electrical problem" turned out to be a tripped circuit breaker that I hadn't noticed because it was on the other side of the panel from those labeled "family room." Whoops. But he discovered some wiring that didn't meet his standards, so he remedied those issues for me, bless his kind and helpful heart. And I learned to check every breaker should an issue arise again. Also, the formerly unlabeled breaker now has an identity. All's well that ends well.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Spring Ahead, Indeed ...

It all started with a cobweb. I blame the sun.

I was walking through my living room and spied a cobweb between a lampshade and the wall. I hadn't noticed it before – not that I walk around hunting for cobwebs – but the sun was streaming through the window in my front door at just the right angle to illuminate it, so I backtracked, grabbed the vacuum, and sucked that sucker up.

That was about five hours ago.

I've been at it ever since.

Not just vacuuming, mind you. Oh no. This fit of housekeeping included the use of a measuring tape to see if one of my desks would fit into my walk-in closet off my office. (Yup.) And my filing cabinet got tucked in there, too. And now, the chair that's been sitting in my living room in a somewhat awkward spot since December (oh, the "perils" of knowing a generous furniture designer who's quick to gift me with things I admire, so I've stopped admiring things) is now tucked into a corner of my office with a view of my wall of quotes, a cozy little spot for me to plop down and read through manuscript pages, say. My super-uber-ergonomic mesh and metal office chair is spiffy but it is not cozy. Now I have options.

And I also really, really, really need to have a garage sale. Spring is arriving just in time.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Occupational Hazard ...

I've never been a voracious consumer of fiction. I've always been more of a non-fiction kind of gal.

Some novels have thrilled me – my two all-time favorites are The Power of One and Animal Dreams and I inhaled the Harry Potter series once I bought the first installment to see what all the fuss was about and I love Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Tiny One by Eliza Minot and Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller pisses me off it's so good and John Green's The Fault In Our Stars should forever stay a novel and not become a film, ditto Lauren Graham's "Someday Someday Maybe," though maybe that's destined for television, I can't remember – but anyway, as I was saying non-fiction is more my speed.

Which I reaffirmed today when I sat down to read a friend's novel, which he sent to me in exchange for a review.

I am so proud of people who publish. It is a feat unlike any other. A lot of people talk about publishing but most of them never do. So anyone who has the stick-to-it-tiveness to finish a manuscript and usher it into the world earns a lot of respect from me.

But the editor in me can't turn off that part of my brain. I want to, I really do. But I can't seem to not notice errors in punctuation or odd word choices or inconsistencies in tone.

Words are like notes. I hear they way they relate to each other. Passages are like melodies. And when I read a "wrong" word in a paragraph, it's as though I've heard a note that doesn't relate to the others in a song. It takes me out of the moment.

I find myself wanting to read with a red pen in my hand. Which is why I stopped reading a particular newspaper. Oy vey, the thing was loaded with errors. I presume it still is. I interviewed with a couple of folks there once. They really should have hired me.

I consume a lot of news online. A lot of news. Some might say too much. But I suspect that that's why I can ingest so much non-fiction, even if it's not the newsy kind. My brain is more forgiving of non-fiction works. I don't question the plausibility of things rooted in fact. I'm not going to question someone's autobiography. If that's what they say happened, that's good enough for me. Ditto memoirs. I'm especially interested in memoirs since writing about myself is what I know best. Which sounds egotistical, but hey, I've written a blog for nine years.

Though, given that this is the first post since February 27th, my blogging days appear to be on the wane.

Which is fine. Nothing lasts forever. Not even books. Though it's nice to have them around while they're here. Even if not all of them are my speed.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Donna Day ...

Have you met Donna?


This is Donna. And today is Donna Day.

Today, on blogs and on Facebook and on Twitter — #donnaday — and who knows where else on the Internet, we are sharing Donna's story and Donna's sweet, sweet face and doing our small parts to help Donna's Good Things raise money for St. Baldrick's.

Here's a statistic that should shock you:

"All types of childhood cancers combined receive only 4% of U.S. federal funding for cancer research."

Four percent.

FOUR.

Donna was four when she died.

But in those four years, even though she lived with cancer for more than half of her life, "Donna danced on the stage of the Auditorium Theater, consumed a mountain of macaroni and cheese, worried the winter trees were lonely and cold without their leaves and finally enjoyed the big girl swing all by herself. Donna was singular."

Donna was singular indeed.

But she was not alone.

"Worldwide, a child is diagnosed every 3 minutes."

Today, Donna's parents parent her through they good they do in her memory, through Donna's Good Things and, each year, in concert with St. Baldrick's.

To date, Donna's Good Things has raised nearly $200,000 for St. Baldrick's and its ongoing efforts to not only find cures for childhood cancers but also to prevent lifelong damage that results from the cancer treatments that children undergo.

If you've not yet read Donna's Cancer Story, I invite you to read about Donna's life through the exquisite words of Donna's Mama.

And I ask you to contribute what you can to Donna's Good Things for St. Baldrick's.

Or become a shavee, too!

I am profoundly honored to be a part of Donna Day. And you can be a part of Donna Day, too. Share this post, share the St. Baldrick's link, learn more about childhood cancer, use #donnaday, and pledge to do more.

Let's watch more children grow up and lead amazing lives.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Life Lesson No. ... Hell, I've Lost Count, Not That I Was Ever Counting In The First Place ...

Oh, ego, must you be so egotistical?

Last night, I discovered something that was a bit of a slap in the face. It wasn't the first such instance.

But it was the last.

This morning, I started a blog post but none of the starts made sense. So I scrapped the thing and did dishes.

I like doing dishes. It's good therapy. Takes me out of my head for the most part as I transform the pile of dirty dishes into an array of clean dishes, resting on the kitchen towel, drying, waiting to be put away.

But while I was doing the dishes, I asked myself, "How do I want to respond to this?" (I'm pretty sure that was your voice, Michele Woodward.)

My bruised ego wanted to be bitchy and petulant.

But my logical self, my – dare I say "grown-up" – self didn't want to feel that way, didn't want to leave that impression on the moment, because I knew I'd regret it later.

So, by the time I was rinsing the suds out of the sink, I'd arrived at a good place. I'd owned my role in the situation. I shouldn't have let it go on for so long. I should have stood up for myself sooner and either gotten what I needed or cut ties.

Women tend to make a lot of excuses and exceptions. We tend to cut a lot of slack. Some of us cut too much. Some of us take longer to learn certain lessons.

But learn we do. Eventually. I do, anyway. I have.

And so, here I am, on the other side of a life lesson, one I feel like I should have learned before, but maybe I'm more of an optimist than I realize. Or maybe I'm more of an ostrich.

Either one. They both begin with Os.

As does this:

Onward.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snow-Inspired Haiku ...

Stabby, stabby, stab
Stabby, stabby, stabby, stab
Fuck you, wintertime

Monday, February 10, 2014

Remembering ...

It appeared in my Facebook feed last night, an image of my friend Jeff's home office.

Seeing it again made me smile. And then well up.

I have fond memories of that office. When I used to visit Jeff and his family in suburban Detroit, Jeff would always be up early. And I would be up early, too, partly because I never sleep well when I'm away from home and partly because I slept on the main floor of the house and once Jeff was in the kitchen putting on coffee, no matter how quiet he tried to be, there was zero chance that I wasn't going to hear.

So I'd get up, too, and the coffee would finish brewing, and Jeff and I would decamp to his office to sip and chat in the early-morning darkness until his wife and daughters crawled out of bed and the house fully came to life.

He would sit at his desk and I would perch behind him, and that's what I was remembering when I saw the picture in my feed. Though as I stared at it, I wondered how the hell I ever found a place to sit. Perhaps the space had gotten even more cluttered since the last time I'd visited, though I'm not sure how that could be possible.

And I wanted to share the photo on Facebook, but it didn't feel like it was mine to share.

This morning, though, I saw it again, the first image in a lovely post by his daughter Alex, "The Extraordinary And Everlasting Love Between One Super Dad And His Daughter." She wrote it to commemorate today, the second anniversary of his death.

Now I feel as though it's OK to share it, now that it's been published for all the world to see:


It's amazing, isn't it?

His office at the Chicago Sun-Times, back in the day, wasn't much neater.

But the spaces suited him, not for their messiness but for their busyness. Jeff, as Alex writes in the piece, was almost always doing several things at once.

And now I'm laughing, remembering one morning when I was there and he offered to make breakfast. He started pulling ingredients out of the fridge, ingredients that really had no business going together, but he had decided to make scrambled eggs. Doctored scrambled eggs.

I am really not a fan of eggs and so I declined when he offered to make some for me. But he was insistent. As my host – and a Jewish one at that – he wanted to ensure that I was fed.

I repeated my dislike of eggs. He wanted to know what I ate for breakfast, prepared, I suppose, to cook that for me instead.

"Honestly?" I said. "I usually have chicken."

At the time, that was true. I've never felt beholden to breakfast foods anyway, but at the time, I was eating a lot of chicken.

He and his wife, Sherry, started riffing on chicken-based breakfast cereals.

"Cluckers!" was Jeff's opening salvo, if memory serves.

"Wing-Os!" Sherry chirped.

Jeff continued with his eggs.

I may not be remembering everything that he put into them that morning, but I distinctly remember celery.

And stuffed olives.

As I was saying, ingredients that have no business in scrambled eggs.

The thing was, he prepared a lot, convinced that I'd have some despite my protestations.

I held firm.

He looked at the pan, dismayed at the amount he'd prepared. "Well, this is just terrible," he said.

He scooped some out of the pan and sat at the table with a plateful of his concoction.

"Sherry," he said, "have some."

She peered at his plate.

"I am not eating that," she said, as he dug in.

She eventually relented and ate some. To be polite, I expect. Sherry is a lovely woman, very mindful of others' feelings.

Later, I retrieved a protein bar out of the car.

Later still, Jeff and I went to his office at the Wall Street Journal for a while.

After, we stopped at a Thai joint for lunch.

I ordered something made with chicken.

And on the way back to their house, he put on a Springsteen track he presumed I hadn't heard before.

He was right.

It was Bruce's arrangement of "Blinded by the Light" from the "Live in Dublin" set.

We drove along, song blaring, basking in Bruce.

It is one of my favorite memories of him. Of us.

My love to his other friends and his family and all who miss him every day.

It's still hard to believe he's gone.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

[ Sung To "The Way We Were" ] Blurry, Out-Of-Focus Memories ...

I've been thinking about space. Specifically, how much we need. Or, more specifically, how much we don't.

I stop on my fair share of house-search programs and I remain forever baffled by people who want great amounts of space. Recently, I heard one woman lament that a master bedroom wasn't very grand. It was a new-construction home, so she expected a large master.

"Why?" I asked my TV. People spend most of their time in their bedrooms in their beds. Does anyone really hang out elsewhere in their bedroom? If I were the type to read a print newspaper anymore and I was inclined to read it in my bedroom, I'd read it in my bed. I wouldn't get out of bed to sit in a chair to read it instead.

And then there was the guy who specifically stated that he wanted a home with a grand entrance because he wanted people to be impressed when they came to his house.

Oy.

Anyway, beyond the house-search shows — Aside to HGTV: There are too damn many of them. Enough already. — I've been thinking about how much space my living space takes up in the world and while I appreciate the compactness of those cute little homes literally built on trailers – mind you, I am not referring to trailer homes – that's maybe a bit too little space for me. I don't relish the thought of a home that could be blown over in a respectable wind.

But I have been thinking about my first apartment, a studio. And my second apartment, a one-bedroom. The one-bedroom apartment had a dining room that was too big to be practical but I liked having a separate bedroom with enough room for a queen-size bed. I could have fit a king in there, come to think of it, positioned on the longest wall. Hmm. I should have thought of that then. I love king-size beds. But I digress.

In terms of square footage, my one bedroom apartment was a bit larger than I really needed. On the other hand, my studio was just slightly smaller than I wanted. It would have been perfect if it could have accommodated an adult-size bed instead of the twin I had tucked behind my love seat.

So I guess I think that my ideal amount of space would fall somewhere in between my studio and my one-bedroom. Which is why a whole house feels too big for me, as much as I love this home.

All this thinking about my studio sent me rummaging through my bins of photos to find the envelope containing the shots of my studio from when I first moved in. (The pictures of pictures are taken from an angle so as to eliminate the glare as much as possible.)

I rented the place not for its location – which was awesome, right down the street from Wrigley Field – nor for its price – which was affordable-ish, given my pathetically low first full-time salary at the Tribune – but for the kitchen. When I started looking for an apartment, I would have been perfectly happy to rent a kitchen large enough to accommodate a bed.

The kitchen in my renovated studio was beautiful to me then. Now, I smile at the cheap materials. But I had a dishwasher, dammit!

My kitchen was the first room that I spent any time on when I moved in, as I had been hoarding kitchenware for a couple of years leading up to moving into my first place, so while I had almost no furniture or art or anything else, I was rather prepared on the kitchen front.


The KitchenAid was my housewarming gift from my mom and dad. And The Pillsbury Doughboy, Mr. Potato Head, and Big Boy were my kitchen muses.


The opposite end of my kitchen had a small area for a small table, which clearly, I had yet to buy. But I loved the panel moulding. My apartment had nice touches, one of the benefits of living in a restored vintage building. The woodwork was stunning. It almost looks painted here, but it's stained and polyed. And the floors had been refinished.


The windows sported the requisite white plastic mini blinds. Good God, those things got filthy and were damn near impossible to clean. But they looked nice when I first moved in. I had almost no furniture, as I mentioned, but dammit, I had a stereo and TV. And a lot of CDs.


And it wouldn't have been a first apartment without the requisite futon. I didn't have that when I moved in. I bought it the second day I lived there. Which means that I spent the first night in my first apartment on the floor. The hard, wood floor. For anyone about to move into their first place, I don't recommend it. As you embark on a life on your own, nothing will make you question what the hell you're doing more than spend the night in your first place on a hard floor. At least, that was my experience.


And then there were the large double doors that took up a good amount of wall space in my rather wee studio. I suspect that back in the day, they closed on a closet that housed a Murphy bed, which would have been awesome, had it remained. Alas, by the time I moved in, it was just a closet. Though a nice-sized closet for a studio, considering I also had a front-"hall" closet just inside the front door. As well as a door that also led into the big closet, so that folks could, as my neighbor did, put furniture in front of the big double doors yet also access the closet.


And having access to the closet from the single door or the double doors was important, because through the closet lay the bathroom.


And what's the bit of color you're seeing reflected in my medicine chest (also an original detail)? Why, it's my Elvis shower curtain, which seemed like a terribly good idea at the time. And yes, those are fuzzy dice hanging on the towel rack at the head of the tub.


I never did take pictures of the other elevations of the living space. I'm not sure why, other than I didn't feel the need to capture my desk and nothing else. I eventually bought a fold-out love seat and later the twin-size bed. And I got a rug, if that painful jute bastard warranted being called a rug. And other things.

It was a cozy place. And, best of all, it was just a short walk down Waveland and across Halsted to the video store – VHS, eh? – and, to this day, the best Chinese-food joint I've ever had the good fortune to frequent. Oh, how I miss that place. And just beyond New Life (which came to be known as Mama's, because every time I'd pop in, the cute Chinese lady who ran the place would ask, "How's your mama?") was a 7-Eleven, so on Friday nights, I would hop off the bus on the inner Drive and walk west, stopping in Mama's to order my usual, the heading to the video store to pick up a couple of movies, then crossing back to 7-Eleven to pick up something to drink, then popping back into Mama's, at which point my order would be ready.

And then I'd head across the street to my building and up to my apartment (Note to those about to rent in an older building for the first time: Rent on the top floor.) and settle in for the night, if not the weekend.

Maybe I'll downsize again one of these days. Although not there, s the building may or may not have gone condo and as much as I loved the space, it ain't worth $460,000. Nor $1,400 for rent.

But then, I'll still want room for a grown-up bed, anyway.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cookies Past ...

It is cold and windy today. And I am thinking about cookies. And the thoughts of cookies make me feel slightly less shivery on this blustery day. So I decided to compile all of my Angelo cookie posts into one mega post and revisit them like others might flip through a photo album of a favorite trip.

Come to think of it, some palm trees and some sand would not be a bad idea right now ... .


2011

January


Shortbread Ottomans


February


Componentized Chocolate Chips


March


Liz Lemon Cookies


April


Walnut Cheese Cookies


May




Dark Chocolate Espresso Biscotti and Sablés


June


Sesame Cookies with Roditis Cream Cheese Dip


July


Parmesan Toffee Cookies


August


Drumstick Cookies


September


Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies


October


Pecan Crispies with Pumpkin Bourbon Cream Cheese Dip


November


Bittersweet Baci


December

Almond Spice Drops


2012

January


Coconut Chocolate Almond Biscotti


February


Browned-Butter Scotch-Glazed Madeleines


March


Red-Wine Zabaglione with Crumbled Shortbread


April


Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons with Cheesecake Fondue


May


Portlandia Cookies


June


Don Draper Cookies


July


Caramel-Filled Pecorino-Romano Pecan Sandies


August


Almond Graham Biscotti with Hot Fudge and Marshmallow Fluff


September


Blackberry Madeleines


October


Pumpkin Cookies with Sweet Cheese and Pecans


November


Cookie-size Cherry Crostatas


December


Bite-Size Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Sablé Sandwiches


2013

January


Goat Cheese Cheesecake Cookies


February


Tuscan Cookies


March


Curious George-Inspired Big Cakey Cookies with Soft Chocolate Frosting


April


Wee Biscuits with Honey Glaze


May


Cream Cheese Cookies with Lemon Curd


June


Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark Toffee Squares


July


Saganaki Sablés


August


Small Espresso Sablés with Whipped Cream and Limoncello


September


Big Flourless Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies


October


Double Pumpkin Alfajores


November


Vanilla Squares with Dark Chocolate and Scotch Ganache


December


Wee Walnut Shortbread Squirrels