January 2009


Today was my day to bring in breakfast for our office.  We trade off Fridays, and it’s a good system- every Friday I get free breakfast in exchange for bringing it in every 12 weeks or so.

There is a DEFINITE hierarchy of breakfast-bringers in our office.  It’s a startlingly regular topic of conversation.  There is one woman who is notorious for bringing whatever random half-eaten foods she has around the house. (1/3 of a wedge of brie anyone?  perhaps a moldy strawberry?)  Our most senior resident just brings in a dozen dunkin donuts.  (People groan, but he can get away with it because he is, and I’m not exaggerating, 82 years old.)

Early on in my tenure here, I established myself as a real contender for the title of “favorite breakfast bringer.”  I love to bake, and breakfast for the office is a perfect time to test muffins, scones, quick breads, etc.

Today was no exception.  I wanted to try something new and fabulous.  For Christmas, I got this cookbook:

Now, people all over the blogosphere LOVE this cookbook, and it is beautifully designed and all of the recipes look positively drool-worthy…But.  I have tried five recipes out of there now, and three of them have outright not worked properly, one was only meh, and only one was truly delicious.

Undeterred, I decided to try their recipe for lemon loaf, which calls for a truly alarming quantity of butter, plus sour cream, plus EIGHT eggs.  And the expensive, lovely Meyer lemons I just found at TJs.  I tried not to think about its calorie content as I whirred the ingredients together in the food processor as instructed, poured it into pans, popped it in the oven and an hour later….

Gross, greasy, fallen cakes.  Like a brick.  No crumb at all- just mushy grainy greasiness.

If there is anything more culinarily frustrating then trying an awesome-looking recipe that ends with pulling cakes out of the oven at 10 pm and discovering that they are too terrible to bring to work the next morning, I haven’t found it.

Worst of all, because I have a reputation to maintain around here, I felt like I couldn’t just show up empty handed.  So I had to start over.

I knew I couldn’t use the same recipe- I’m not a total idiot- so I turned to one of my go-to cooking sources: Smitten Kitchen.  She recommended Ina Garten’s lemon loaf cake, and when I looked at the recipe it seemed a lot more logical (cream the butter instead of melt it; use buttermilk instead of sour cream; a little more flour, a little more lemon).  So I tried it.  The cake crowned nicely, and looked good enough to bring into the office.

Lemon Loaf

We just cut into it and it is AWESOME.  My reputation remains intact.  My coworkers will not stage a mutiny.  Best of all, I get to eat tasty lemon cake all morning.

I really want to give Baked another chance, but this may have been the last straw.  The only other possibility I can think of is that my oven temperature has gone wonky, so I’ll be heading out to buy an oven thermomteter this weekend.  If there’s no temperature problem, I think it’s curtains for Baked.  Sorry, pretty cookbook!

You can see part 1, in which I demonstrate my awesome knowledge of physiology, here.

A friend and I semi-regularly attend a very early morning class at our gym called Muscle Max.

Muscle Max typically consists of approximately one million lunges and squats in rapid succession in crazy combinations, set to loud music.  The idea is that the complex series of moves plus the loud music plus the quick pace will distract you from the fact that you’re doing something hard and potentially dull, and will get your heart rate up so that by the end you feel both sore and sweaty.

Yesterday morning, our regular Muscle Max teacher was not there.  Now, regular teacher is not without her quirks — when she’s counting off the reps, she often slips into this high breathy voice that makes it sound like the very act of counting down from eight is enough to take her to her very happy place, if you know what I mean — but she’s our regular teacher, and it’s a good class, so we’re used to it.

Remember how when you were a kid and you walked into school to find you had a substitute it was a great moment?  It meant that you were going to get to goof around all day, probably watch a movie, not be held to account for really getting anything done?  Yeah, when it comes to classes at the gym, you can take that logic and shove it.

Substitute Muscle Maxer walks in and immediately instructs us to march in place.  We look ridiculous, but we obey.  Then she has us, and I quote, “flap your arms like a bird really fast while you toe touch side to side.”  I wish more than anything on earth that I could find a video that would demonstrate this maneuver to you, because while it did very little to warm up my muscles, it was VERY effective at making me look like an idiot.

She then proceeded to turn on her music.  Blaring out of the speakers comes a fun reggaeton beat, kind of a nice departure from the usual Madonna/MIA/Katy Perry stuff we usually get.

But then the next same came on and it was a very similar reggaeton song.  And then the next.  And the next.  And for a FULL HOUR, we listened to reggaeton.  (Except for one oddly-placed Los Lonely Boys song in the middle of the hour. I have no explanation. Perhaps her playlist is entitled “anything vaguely latin?”) Now, don’t get me wrong.  I actually kind of LIKE reggaeton.  But you know what it’s particularly good for?  DANCING.  (In 2006.)  You know what it is not good for?  Doing the world’s most mind-numbing series of endless reps of boring exercises, especially when the instructor counting them off is making no effort to do so in time to the music.

After the class, one of the other girls came up to me to chat about her frustration at missing our regular teacher.  I wholeheartedly agreed, and then she said “okay, I’ll see you – maybe at spinning tomorrow, you usually come to the Thursday class, right?” and I said “yeah, I do, I’ll see you tomorrow” and I realized- it appears that I’ve become one of those people who is a “regular” at my gym.  Odd.

I guess this is progress. But if I start mixing protein shakes/grunting on the treadmill/tanning, someone’s going to have to stage an intervention.

It was an errand-filled weekend here at Casa de Pseudostoops, capped by a riveting Sunday afternoon spent spackling.

Yes, you heard correctly: we spackled.

It’s a great word, isn’t it? I kind of love saying it: “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, I spackled.”

Relatedly, a public service announcement: If you buy this chair:

and place it less than one foot from a wall:

and allow your full size adult friends to sit on it, thus engaging its pleasant, gentle rocking function:

The end result will be: you will need to spackle.

Finally, and also relatedly: has anyone had any luck with those paint matching services that places like Home Depot advertise?  We don’t have the original paint for our living room (it was this color when we moved in) but we would like to make the spackled patches a little less, um, glaringly white and obvious.  What would be the best way for me to try to get new paint that matches the current paint?  (I’d rather not hack a piece of it off the wall to bring in, though I suppose if I could if I must, as I’ve become something of an expert in paint repair via spackle.)

Watching Rachel Maddow last night (it should come as no surprise that I find her delightful) she talked, of course, about today’s inauguration.

She said that this inauguration could end up being one of those “where were you when…” kind of moments.  I think she’s right.  I know many people who have traveled (on foot, by car, by train, and in the case of my friends Bird and Bama, by many cancelled plane flights) to stand on the Mall today, to just be there to witness this moment of history.

Most people I know, though, aren’t in Washington.  They’re making sneaky plans for long lunches, calling for reservations at Chili’s to ensure they can get a table where they can see the tv.  They’re taking sick days with their roommates and holing up in the house to watch together.  Heck, some people are even buying tickets to watch it at outdoor stadiums 3000 miles from Washington.

Me?  I’ll be crowded around the one tiny tv in our office, rigged with rabbit ears (thank goodness we’re still pre- digital transition!) watching with my coworkers and eating potluck brunch.

I don’t have anything inspirational to add to the huge volume of commentary out there already.  But I think Rachel Maddow is right.  This feels like a historical moment, one I’m going to look back on in 10, 20, 30 years.  This year has been full of moments I’ll tell my kids about someday: where I was when our country elected, and then inaugurated, its first black president, a man who I not only voted for, but to whose campaign I donated money and time.

I’m looking forward to a time when our kids are surprised at the idea that it once seemed unlikely, if not impossible, that we’d elect a black man to this office.

I’m in sort of a dark place here, team- things are not going Entirely Well, and it’s FREEZING in Chicago, and also I’m hungry.

But I thought it might bolster my mood a little to tell you a story about boogers. Say what you will about me being 12 years old, I have already cried twice today, and if telling a story about boogers will make me feel better SO BE IT.

I live only a few blocks from the gym, so I get to walk there instead of drive. This is generally great, as it means I don’t have to wrangle with parking, and also there are no excuses for me not to go. After spinning today (yes, I made myself go after skipping yesterday), I was walking home when very suddenly, there was a strange sensation in my nose. It was the sensation of having a GIANT booger, right at the nose opening. Seriously, it felt huge, and oddly…solid.

Of course, this happened just as I was walking past another person, and I ducked my head so he would be spared the sight of the huge nose booger of doom. I kept walking, not wanting to take of my glove to root around in my pocket for my emergency tissue (it’s negative three degrees out. You don’t take off your gloves unless you absolutely have to.)

Nose booger sensation continued. This might be the biggest booger ever.  I have no idea how this happened.

Finally, I could stand it no more. Booger wins. I took off my glove, found emergency tissue, wiped nose, and…. Ice crystals. Not booger, ICE. Apparently, my post-workout runny nose had FROZEN SOLID TO MY NOSE. Nose is FROZEN. Have developed NOSE ICICLE. (Nosesicle?) Invisible, thankfully, but definitely frozen. What a way to start the day!

So we can now add “nosesicles” to the official list of Things That Suck About This Weather.

Also, spinning instructor played this song this morning and now it’s in my head.

Please help me out by suggesting something else I might listen to so I’m not hearing a baritone mumble mmmmmmmmmmmm in my head all day.

Do you ever look back on some small, seemingly insignificant, choice that you made and think: “man, if I’d chosen differently, things would have worked out MUCH better”?

I had a LOT of those thoughts last night.

After work, I stopped quickly at home, changed out of my snow boots and into some more stylish thin leather boots, took my heavy book out of my purse, and headed out to meet an old friend for a drink.

We had a drink, then met up with her sister and had dinner. After dinner, her sister dropped me back off at my car, I made a funny joke about how I’d never be able to get out of my parking place in all that snow, and she drove away.

You think you know where this is going, right? Well, you’re almost right. I got into my car, started it, and eased gently forward until the wheels started to spin. Then I eased gently backwards until the wheels started to spin. I was actually making progress to get out of the spot, and had almost crested the (huge! And frozen solid!) snowbank in front of my car when suddenly, the car freaked out, all the indicator lights came on at once, and then…nothing. I tried restarting, but all I got was the telltale “click click click” of a dead battery.

So I took out my phone, only to discover a “battery low” warning. Regretting my laziness at not charging my phone last night, I used the last of my battery to call AAA, (the second time I’ve had to call them for a dead battery in THREE DAYS, I might add,) and the cheerful AAA lady said “great, someone will be there anytime between now [9:17] and 11:17 p.m.”

This was the weather last night in Chicago:

Mostly Cloudy 2°F Feels like: -9°F

So! As my feet slowly turned to icicles in my non-warm boots, I sat, shivering, with nothing to read, waiting for two hours for a jump. I was left alone with my thoughts, and my thoughts were pretty much a constant rotation of the following:

(1) “feet COLD. Why am I such an idiot? Why did I not wear my warm boots?”

(2) “dude, I’m bored. This would suck a lot less if I hadn’t taken my book out of my bag,” and

(3) “if I hadn’t been too lazy to charge my phone last night, I could be texting/calling people/passing the time by playing reMovem right now.”

The AAA guy finally arrived and successfully jumped the car.  Then, I had to drive around aimlessly for 25 minutes to make sure the charge would hold overnight so I could get the car to the shop this morning.  

I am not ashamed to say that I spent part of that 25 minutes in a McDonald’s drive through. By that point, I had definitely shivered off enough calories to justify those fries.

It being Monday, I could update you on my weekend, which featured:

  • a Friday night happy hour that somehow extended itself to 1am;
  • a great play at the Steppenwolf, where I spilled a glass of wine on myself at intermission and then promptly ran into my boss as I pawed at my chestal region trying to mop it up;
  • and a lazy Sunday made even lazier when I went out to the car to run errands and discovered the battery had died, so instead of going on errands I sat in my jammies in our apartment waiting for AAA to arrive.

But the weekend ended on a truly high note with the return of the Golden Globes. I have no shame. I love awards shows. I don’t love the SPEECHES, per se, but I love the fashions and the ridiculous red carpet specials and the delicious, ever-present possibility that someone famous will do something tremendously stupid/clumsy/awkward/totally inappropriate.

I also truly adore Go Fug Yourself, and was delighted to learn that the Fug girls would be liveblogging the Globes red carpet. So even though I had to do some work last night, it was made so much better by the fact that I could put the tv on in the background, crack a beer, and enjoyed comedy gold such as this, from the Fug girls talking about Kate Winslet and Leonardo DeCaprio’s interview with Ryan Seacrest:

It’s a big ol’ lovefest here. He adores her, she cherishes him, they both value working together, etc. Thank God they’re not actually dating, because what the hell could you call them? Kato? Lete? No. Doesn’t work.

And this gem:

It’s the Disney-friendly segment of the show: Ryan talks to the Jonas Brothers, and then gets the entire Cyrus family. Miley looks very cute and much more age-appropriate than she did at the Oscars, but then complains that she only got a HAND-ME-DOWN Porsche for her sixteenth birthday and we lose all feelings of goodwill for her. Stop complaining, you spoiled brat. Some people only get hand-me-down floor mats. America’s collective broke asses aren’t going to have much sympathy for your struggles with your mildly used luxury sports car.

In lieu of a clever transition, I’m going to completely jump topics now.    As you may have heard, today is Delurking Day!

delurking2009-copy

Complete with vaguely creepy flasher-man logo! So hey, if you’re out there and reading and perhaps have not said hello before, do so today!

Maybe you could tell me your favorite Golden Globes outfit trainwreck (my nominee: a tie between Renee Zellweger’s mountain of crazy:

and Drew Barrymore’s insane hairdo):

Or tell me why I’m a big loser for watching the Golden Globes at all. Or just, you know, say hi.

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