Inspired by this recipe and the leftovers from a roasted chicken, last Wednesday I made “jambalaya.” It seemed appropriate, though maybe it would have been more appropriate on Tuesday? I’m not a Lent/Mardi Gras expert, though.
Anyway, I put “jambalaya” in quotes since a large part of it was winged, I used none of the extra meats beyond that leftover chicken and some chicken (!) andouille (the only kind of andouille at the “Valencia Farmers Market”/bodega near my house—not a choice I was pleased with). But goodness if it wasn’t delicious… and really easy! I will definitely be turning to this fake jambalaya more in the future. It’s pretty much on par with fried rice as far as a good, easy way to use up stuff in the fridge. Turns out Cajun* seasoning can really take you a long way.
Easy “jambalaya” for two (with seconds/leftovers) (Inspired/based on Serious Eats’ Grilled Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, this is a “white” jambalaya—which sounds faked/quote-mark-worthy to me—because the meat is cooked separately from the rice. Fair enough. I’ll take it on a weeknight.)
~1/3 a leftover cooked chicken (both white and dark meat), torn up into bite-size chunks
1 andouille sausage, sliced into bite-size pieces
1/2 can of diced/chopped tomatoes (or equivalent fresh tomatoes)
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 leeks (if you have endless leeks from your CSA, like me) or 1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (~1 tbsp)
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 tsp Louisiana style hot sauce
1/2 cup white rice
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and black pepper
Place stockpot/large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering, then add onions, pepper and celery. Cook until veggies are softened (7-10 minutes). Then add the garlic, a couple tsp of salt, 1 tsp black pepper, the hot sauce, and Cajun seasoning. Cook for two minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat grains with oil/spice/veggie mixture. Then add the chicken stock, bay leaf and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until rice is fully cooked, 20-30 minutes. Add the chicken and sausage and cook for ~5 minutes until heated through. Serve with garlicky wilted greens (any kind will do).
*The recipe calls for Creole seasoning, but I have Cajun and that’s what I used. A quick Google search doesn’t clarify the difference, as it’s more focused on the difference between the two cuisines and not the spice blends you buy from the grocery aisle. :)
I’ve made this one a couple of times now: Heidi Swanson’s Farro & Herbs recipe. At my work, there is always at least one whole-grain salad at every cafe—bulgur, quinoa, farro, barley, spelt, blah blah blah. I love these damn salads, but have rarely tried to replicate them at home. This is at least in part because of the work involved—you have to cook the grains (not always the work of 15 minutes) AND sometimes cook the other stuff that goes in them. But this one is pretty easy, if you have the time to cook the farro itself. And you can play with it a bit to suit your taste. The only crucial piece of advice I have is that you really need time to cool the farro, too. I made this last weekend for my parents, and I was in a hurry, and the mozzarella melted a little bit due to the hot farro, which made it somewhat indistinguishable in texture from the creme fraiche and was just not as summery and pleasant.
Do use creme fraiche if you can find it (it was not available at my parents’ Vons. Surprise, I know). The sour cream/cream substitute recommended in the recipe was fine, but it doesn’t feel as classy or delicious.
Farro > barley.
Add tomatoes! I slice up cherry or grape tomatoes and throw them in. They add some nice fruity pop.
Arugula is also nice, for peppery-ness. Totally optional.
2 teaspoons freshly squeeze lemon juice (plus zest)
2 teaspoons good-quality white wine vinegar
2 bunches / 1 oz fresh chives, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
scant teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
more salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 oz mozzarella or bocconcini, cut or torn into chunks
1/2 pint (~20?) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Cook the farro: put the farro, salt and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for ~25 minutes, or until the grains are cooked through, but not mushy. (Or follow the packaged instructions. Also, I’ve never had extra liquid at the end of this process, but apparently you should reserve it and add to the cooked farro and creme fraiche to thin out the sauce if needed.) Let it cool (it can be warm, but you don’t want it steaming).
In another bowl, combine the cooked farro with the creme fraiche. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, and vinegar (and add the cooking liquid if you have it). Stir in the herbs and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste, and then finally add the mozzarella and halved cherry tomatoes.
OK, here is a recipe that is entirely thanks to the CSA. Anything I make with cabbage is; they have been giving us a cabbage a week, and that’s a lot of cabbage. You can only garnish so much posole, you know what I’m saying? So, then: slaws.
Peattie loves any kind of peanut-flavored thing (peanut noodles, panang curry, peanut sauce) so this was his request and the result of another Google search. It was good, but I thought it needed more spice. I added maybe 1/3 a jalapeno, diced, and when I make this again (which I will be), I’d add more.
1 bunch green onions, chopped (both white and green parts)
1 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup light oil, like canola
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (or more, to taste)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or more, to taste)
Shred the cabbage very finely, then toss with the peanuts in a large bowl. Add the scallions and cilantro and toss again, then season lightly with S&P. Whisk the dressing until emulsified, then taste and adjust to your own preferences of sweetness and saltiness. Toss with the cabbage. Eat with gusto.
Should I take pictures of my food? Should I absolutely avoid taking pictures of my food? I can’t decide; I’ve let laziness and accident dictate this decision.
Anyway, I’ve been cooking a lot more lately since we started getting a CSA box after Thanksgiving. So far, I’ve made no record of most of this cooking since it’s not so fancy (and there are no photos), but it occurs to me that if I ever want to make a recipe again, I can’t quite count on my Chrome history to find them again, as I have been (see: laziness and Chrome Sync). So I may start dumping them here. Maybe (see: laziness and past blog history).
That said, this particular recipe is not even remotely related to our CSA box, because it includes no vegetables and tons of butter. OK, not literally tons, but cups. Cups I tell you! (If you triple it.)
The motivation for this recipe actually begins at the Super Bowl two years ago, when my friend Elizabeth made hot wings. (It’s funny how the bad-for-you food you can buy at a Chili’s or a Domino’s or whatever sometimes seems like it must be “hard” to make; to be fair I suppose this food usually involves a deep fat fryer, and I don’t have one of those, but nevertheless…) I was totally blown away when E informed me that all you need to make buffalo wings is… hot sauce and butter.
So when it turned out the Niners were in the Super Bowl and therefore we were going to have a party, I obviously needed to make wings.
Since, again, I am lazy (or just a bad planner), a lot of the recipes I make are at least partially inspired by things I find on AllRecipes, About.com (what really is about.com, anyway? It seems like it should have been put away in an Internet closet years ago, and I can’t quite understand how it has not only survived but become something I end up landing on and using at least once a week), Epicurious or Simply Recipes. I won’t be crazy and call these recipes “platonic ideals” or anything but they do seem to be these extremely modifiable, basic recipes which you can do whatever you want with and they’ll still come out at the very least “not bad.” Also, the key to using random recipes you find on the Internet is most definitely the comments. The wings recipe has five stars but almost every review describes a modification; I’ve saved at least one coleslaw and one chutney from becoming a puckery mess by reading comments about how the recipe calls for twice the vinegar necessary.
In this case, all I did was listen to the wise people of the Internet and bake the wings pre-sauce, in only their flour coatings (after one hour of fridge time), for about 30 minutes and then dunk in sauce and bake again for 15.
The other lessons learned:
I should have done a slightly better job greasing the foil with spray—a couple wings baked themselves onto it because I’d just let the polka dots of spray stay where they lay instead of spreading it around with a paper towel or something.
Crystal hot sauce, while a New Orleans classic, may be too vinegar-based to work well as a wing sauce? It didn’t seem to stick too well to the wings post-dunk, though it had a nice, relatively subtle spice and…
I made extra sauce and spooned it on the finished wings before putting them out for people to eat. At the end, this meant there were semi-congealed ridges of spicy butter sauce on the platter, but I think it was worth that grossness. (Re my previous bullet point, I think the sauce solidified up a bit over time too, which I was happy about, even though it might not be technically awesome.)
20 chicken wings (per my calculations, this is about 3-3.5 lbs)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup hot pepper sauce
1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly grease with cooking spray. Mix together the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the wings and massage ‘em around for a while until they’re well coated with the flour mixture. Place the wings onto the prepared baking sheet, and place into the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. After the wings have dried out in the fridge, bake them for 30-35 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce: melt the butter, add the hot sauce, and whisk together.
4. Once the wings have baked for half an hour or so, dip the wings into the sauce using tongs, and place back on the baking sheet (flip them over so the other side can cook). Continue to bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and crispy on the outside, about 15 minutes more.
5. If you want extra sauce (this may depend on the kind of hot sauce you bought and how well it’s sticking to your wings), then make maybe 1/4 as much as you made before, and spoon over the finished wings. Don’t forget the blue cheese dressing and celery of course. Celery burns calories when you eat it, remember?
Last week I wanted to make roast root veggies, and I knew that I had turnips, sweet potatoes and carrots. So I googled “roast turnips sweet potatoes carrots” and clicked on the first link. Let me tell you, that was a solid (lazy) Google job. Easiest, best recipe ever. I threw in half an onion, some shallots, fennel and (this part I wouldn’t repeat) celery and the extra sweet roasted fennel and onions really made the recipe. Anyway, lesson learned, easy Internet recipes are not to be sneezed at.
I wish I had a picture to go with this, but as you know, nearly all pictures of food, especially those taken with one’s phone, are unappetizing. So I’ll just have to talk about it. Friday night we did a beer tasting dinner with some friends. Each couple contributed two dishes and two matched beers. It was quite the dinner - it took about six hours to get through all six courses, and it was delicious too. Here’s what our menu ended up being:
Chicken Liver Pate - with caramelized shallots, whole grain mustard, crostini and cornichons. Paired with Scaldis Noel, and also a semi-vertical tasting of Sierra Nevada Celebration (2004, 2006, 2012).
Lentil soup with knockwurst and fennel. Paired with La Rulles La Grande 10.
Brussels sprouts salad - with dates, pomegranate seeds, feta, arugula and aged balsamic vinaigrette. Paired with Auburn Alehouse’s ZZ Hop.
Roast pork tenderloin - with pine nut spaetzle and a blackberry reduction. Paired with four different beers: Aventinus, Optimator, another bock of some kind and a fourth I can’t remember (not for the reasons you think!)
Interlude - another semi-vertical tasting, this time of Anchor’s Our Special Ale (2001, 2005, 2007, 2009).
Rice pudding. Paired with a New Glarus Wisconsin Cherry and a kriek of some kind.
Like, whoa, right? Who are these people?
I was super proud of how our dishes - the salad and the halibut - and their matched beers turned out, since we took a total shot in the dark across the board. The fish dish was super spicy (I would de-spice it a little next time) and went really well with the sweet holiday beer, and the fruitiness of the IPA was a nice compliment to the spicy/bitter/sweet salad stuff. I had sort of developed a fixation on cooking with persimmon, and I wasn’t sure if it would go well with the other ingredients, but it was really yummy (FYI I cut the vinegar from the recipe, above, in half). It would be really good with pork, or on a sandwich. I was also pleasantly surprised by the dirty rice. I hadn’t made it before, and I was slightly intimidated by the fact that it called for chicken livers. (Chicken livers, btw, are SO CHEAP. $2.30 for .77 lbs. The only problem is I only used about 1/3 of them, so now I need to buy more and replicate the chicken liver pate from this same dinner.) But the rice was so easy to make, so flavorful, and so good leftover with fried egg on top…
As for the title of this post? I’m just hoping this is the first edition of many…
This was funny. Major spoilers for those of you who have not seen the final movie. Also, I was impressed that these dudes a) perceived so many details of the “mythology” (including that it was “haphazard and a bit half-assed”) from just one movie and b) were so open to seeing the movie and actually kind of enjoyed it.
Second, “When the Nerds Go Marching in." This is one of those articles that I read and think, this is a sign that things are seriously changing in the world. Just the differences from 2008 to 2012 are so great… imagine what technology in campaigns will look like in 2020, or even in 2016. (I think this is similar to my feelings about how we access video content, specifically TV shows, today versus even just two years ago.)
Miranda July’s ideal bookshelf (top) and Judd Apatow’s ideal bookshelf (below).
A wonderful new book called My Ideal Bookshelf debuts November 13th. Writer and Paris Review editor Thessaly LaForce and artist Jane Mount interviewed their favourite creators about what few books would be…
Things I make more than once: warm quinoa/spinach/shiitake salad
There are really only two cookbooks I consistently refer to: How to Cook Everything and Great Food Fast, the first of the cookbooks from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine/show/empire. The former is a reference for when I kind of already know what I want to make but need to know proportions (e.g., how much egg/milk should I use in quiche? what’s a good recipe for buttermilk pancakes?). The latter is when I want to make something but I don’t know what yet.
(Let’s set aside the fact that I have about 15 other cookbooks and literally hundreds of clipped/emailed/pinned recipes that I rarely look at.)
I’ve made some “bad” recipes from the Martha book, but they are few and far between, especially when you consider how many recipes from it I’ve actually made. And the truest testament to its quality is the fact that I’ve made some of its recipes multiple times, to the point where they’ve actually entered my repertoire and I can pretty much improvise them anytime (not to mention wing the shopping list at the store). This is one of those recipes. It’s so, so easy and it includes stuff I already have at home or buy all the time: feta cheese, spinach (standard salad ingredients in our house), quinoa, shiitakes, oil, vinegar, salt. See? SO EASY. I don’t adapt it at all, it’s that easy, though the last time I made it I just drizzled the mushrooms with oil and vinegar instead of making a dressing, since when I make the dressing in bulk I feel like it uses up a ton of oil and vinegar and I am also usually not making the full recipe anyway so there’s leftovers. And I also squeezed some lemon juice onto it last time to give it a little more acid.
So without further ado, a link to the recipe! (Like I said, I don’t adapt this at all, so I’m not going to piss off Martha by reprinting it for no reason.)
I have served this with grilled steak, and with salmon. If you want bonus points, you could make salmon with lemon relish, another of my faves from the same cookbook.
“One solution would be to accept the productivity increases, shorten the workweek and share the available work. Such proposals — familiar since the 1930s — are now enjoying something of a revival in the face of continuing recession. The New Economics Foundation, a British think tank, proposes a 21-hour workweek.”—
Things I make more than once: magic spicy peanut sauce edition
Sorry loyal readers (or reader, I’m not sure at this point). I’ve been pretty pathetic about keeping this blog up, surprise surprise. Not to put it lightly, but to make a long story short, shit happens. Here I am again.
Here’s a recipe that’s been proven, and boyfriend/fiance-approved. Peattie is a huge fan of peanut sauce, so with that in mind, I first made this a year or so ago. I was rewarded with… well, a recipe that needed a lot of tweaking. Because the original recipe is MINDBLOWINGLY SPICY. I am not a spice wimp and seriously, it’s crazy. So I have since adapted it down to something that is suitable for regular palates. You should adapt it too. It is highly adaptable, and one of those recipes you can and should tinker with until it tastes right to you.
Typically, I toss this with udon/soba/whatever noodles (spaghetti is totally fine in a pinch), chill it, and add in some sliced cucumbers and scallions. Last week, I did that and served with a side of pan-fried tofu and a spinach and feta salad with dressing based on this (yes, I googled “asian dressing” - so sue me. No one said I was good at authenticity or anything).
Note: this recipe is too good not to at least double, so I’m not sure why I’m posting what is a “single” recipe. One single recipe is good for 2 of those little rolled-up packets of soba noodles (usually they come 3 in a pack).
4 T chunky natural peanut butter 1/2 to 1 T sriracha (to taste) juice of 1/2 lime 1 T chili garlic sauce 2 T honey 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 T fresh ginger, minced 1 T soy sauce
1/4 cup water + more
In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients over medium (note: I generally keep it low, actually, as my electric stove heats stuff up way too fast), adding extra water by the tablespoon when or if it gets too thick. Voila.
Toward the end of last week I saw a Facebook post from my Whole Foods, saying they’d have ramps for a limited time. I am a sucker for seasonal stuff that is highly scarce (slash trendy), so obviously I had my eye out for the ramps when I went shopping yesterday. they were a whopping $19.99 a pound, but I figured why the hell not try them once. Luckily for me, the woman at the checkout country thought they were spring onions or spring garlic or something, and charged me $3.99/lb for them. It was the Sunday rush and she was not in the mood to check prices on anything—the guy ahead of me hadn’t known what kind of granola he’d bagged, so she just picked one, and I got fresh garbanzo beans for $3.99/lb as well; I’m pretty sure they were supposed to be a dollar more than that. Score.
At any rate, I’m now really glad I only paid $4 for my ramps, because they were sorta underwhelming (hence half the title of this post). I hadn’t had a recipe in mind until I was on the way to the store, and my quick Google search turned up only a few suggestions (at least in the top few results)—ramps with spaghetti, simple sauteed ramps, pickled ramps, maybe a couple other similar things. I ended up just sauteeing them, with butter and salt and pepper, and while they were good they were not $19.99 good. Maybe I’m just not a good enough taster to appreciate their delicacy, or maybe the random stirfry that was my main meal made it hard to appreciate something more subtle. Next time, I’ll try the pasta (and maybe try to buy them at a farmer’s market or something since I’m sure I won’t get that deal again).
In “overpromising” news, I’ve gone and signed up for the SF Half Marathon, which is at the end of July. (Alice and Toby are running it this year too.) Long-term readers of this blog will remember that I signed up for it two years ago too, but didn’t run it due to 1) my knees hating me for running five days a week in a fit of overzealous “training” which I was doing to compensate for being unprepared in all other ways and 2) once my knees recovered, pure laziness. I did run a half in Feb 2011, by which I mean I ran the first seven miles and then ran/walked the last six because the worst sinus infection of my life had ruined the last month of my whopping three months of training so I was still not prepared. I’m hoping that this time around I’ll get myself together a little better, though I can’t say it’s happened yet. I feel OK about it though—the SF half is harder than the Kaiser half which I did before, but at least I have the reassurance that I’ve done it once and it wasn’t so bad. And I’d really like to get back into more frequent running, too.
Possibly one of my favorite things about the Hunger Games is that no matter how much I nerd out about it, there are always people who are going to do so more than me. A lot more, in this case. I couldn’t event follow this past the 4th point…
I’ve been stewing around trying to decide if I wanted to bring back this blog for a while now, so a lot of the recipes that were fresh in my mind when I started creating drafts are from St. Patrick’s Day. This may have something to do with the fact that if anything had the word “Irish” in it around that time I clipped it and made it. If I was this committed to cooking all the time I’d be broke and overfed. On St. Paddy’s Day I made cookies, this cheesy dip thing, corned beef and cabbage, soda bread… and also for good measure some refrigerator pickles, which were unrelated except that I picked up the cucumbers while I was buying out the rest of the produce section for the other food.
You know those moments when you’ve seen a recipe that sounds amazing, but then you start to read it more closely and something is a red flag? This first recipe for Guinness chocolate chip cookies was one of those. It called for “2 cans (12 oz.)” of Guinness, when no can of any beer is likely to be 6 oz., and a can of Guinness is 14 oz. How do you do that math?
But the idea of Guinness syrup was still enough for me so I went about it the day before St. Paddy’s. Naturally, the most appealing part of the recipe was also the most aggravating. It takes a good 45 minutes to reduce the beer + sugar down to a syrup, and of course I burned it right when it was almost done and had to start over. The second time it turned out though it was still super thick and tricky to work with especially after it had cooled; it tasted like toasty molasses.
In addition to using a single full 14-oz can of Guinness draught for the syrup, I made a couple other adjustments. First, I swapped applesauce for the shortening, not out of concern for fat but because I hate buying shortening when I rarely use it—I always end up throwing it out after the expiration date has passed. When I was reading around for good substitutes for shortening, the main suggestions were butter (which apparently makes “flatter” cookies), margarine (talk about something else I don’t buy/use) and applesauce, which seemed like a worthy experiment (also remember that bit about how I had been eating applesauce for a week in February? I had some left). Second, I left out espresso powder for similar reasons. And finally I declined to use three different types of chocolate chips because I’m not insane and there was already cocoa in the cookie itself.
In the end, I wish I’d made one other change and left out the cocoa entirely. After all that time spent on the Guinness syrup, the finished product had no trace of that toasty flavor and just tasted like chocolate. Really, it tasted of chocolate until you got to the chips, and then it tasted a lot like chocolate, which reminded me how good semisweet chips are. I’ve been using dark chocolate chips in my regular (non-seasonal, shall we say) chocolate chip cookies, and the slightly more bitter flavor sometimes just doesn’t do the cookie trick. Also, the cookies also ended up more cake-y than I expected—maybe because of the applesauce?
Verdict: Would I make it again? Maybe once, to see if leaving out the cocoa preserves the Guinness flavor. I might also try subbing in more butter (though there’s already a lot!) instead of the applesauce, to see if I like the final texture more. If not, this one’s done.
Guinness Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from here (sent my way by Peattie via one of his coworkers)
for the syrup:
1 14 oz can of Guinness Draught
1/2 cup brown sugar
for the cookies:
2 3/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa (see above)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup applesauce (or shortening, or butter)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup or so semisweet chocolate chips
Add beer and brown sugar to a medium sauce pan and reduce over medium-high heat until it thickens to a syrup and measures approximately 1/3 cup, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter, shortening and sugars until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs, syrup and vanilla and beat to combine. Then add the flour mixture and combine. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop dough onto baking sheets (the original recipes calls for a Silpat or parchment paper but I just used my air-insulated sheets). Bake 12-14 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
The main reason I am trying to resurrect resurrecting this blog is because I have been cooking more and I don’t have any place to keep a record of what’s worked and what hasn’t. Not that I necessarily need to keep a record anywhere, but I’ve realized that my packrat tendencies not only extend to data/virtual stuff, but that they thrive there. I really, really like having records of things.
I really, really like cooking, too, even though it doesn’t come that naturally to me. I don’t actually think it comes naturally to anyone—you really do have to do it a lot before it does. But for me, what this means is that I have certain fallbacks when I cook. For example, I nearly always “fall back” to a meal that contains a starch/carb, a protein/meat and a vegetable. (I think this is my Midwestern ancestry.) Obviously there is nothing wrong with that but it can be limiting. I also “fall back” to Western European/American foods; even if making a curry or something might be just as easy to do, it’s out of my comfort zone so I rarely do it (though I clip/save recipes like mad). I also still get really anxious when I cook, although, for example, I’ve been more relaxed lately about timing everything precisely, while at the same time I’ve gotten better about timing things.
In other words, and this is sort of my disclaimer for whenever I post about food here, I don’t consider myself an expert by any means so the stuff I post might seem amateur or silly to you. That’s OK, since as you can tell from my first paragraph I’m mainly doing this for me. (And thus the culture of navel-gazing on the Internet is perpetuated!)
Anyway, but I’ve been cooking more lately, which is cool in the way that I can actually tell that I’m getting better at it. It’s rare as an adult to have that sensation of incremental improvement. That’s the other reason why I feel compelled to track all this somehow—because maybe whatever improvements I make will somehow become manifest.
I’m thinking about coming back to my blog. Mainly because I keep cooking things and wanting to document them somehow, and this seems as good a place as any. Yes, there’s our other blog but I feel like I shouldn’t subject that to this stuff, somehow. Thoughts??
I am in a battle of wills with Sephora’s customer service department. Last week I placed an order online with a 15% discount coupon. The website immediately rejected my order saying “Authorization unsuccessful.” (There was of course no information about why.) I called them on Monday to ask why this happened, and they said they needed to do some more research and would call me back the next day. So they called me back the next day telling me that it was merely rejected because there were “so many orders going from Sephora being mailed to that shipping address” in a certain time period, so I should just go back online and order it again and it would work. Right. But I want my 15% off, and the code has expired since last week, so I called them back today to place the order that way. They were like, sure, let’s put this order through. That did not work. So we tried another credit card. No go. So then we tried another SHIPPING address. Also no go. Online shopping fail. They put me on hold for a while and then came back to tell me that they needed to call me back the next day AGAIN at which point they will theoretically put my order through, IF they figure out a way to do it. Note that at this point it has literally been a week since I placed the original order, and it’s not entirely because I kept waiting to call them back by a day or so. I could have this crap in my hands by now.
My favorite part is the claim that so many packages are being shipped from Sephora to GOOGLE HEADQUARTERS that they have flagged that address and can’t ship it.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.”—
I can’t remember if Ira said this in the City Arts & Lecture I went to of his, or if Arielle just told me he said it, but I still find it quite true. It’s certainly why I haven’t written any fiction since my first and only creative writing class — in 2004, I think?
Tonight Peattie is at the A’s/Giants game, and I skipped Burn and stayed home and bought plane tickets to Wisconsin for August (2011 seems to be another year in which all my vacations will be within the continental U.S.; I’m actually excited about the trips but it does make me feel guilty or envious or something when friends are going to interesting places like Colombia and Turkey and Namibia). I made one of my go-to dinners, which is sausage (easy to buy at bodegas) with some veggies (mushrooms and peppers), sauteed spinach with cherry tomatoes (love the burst) and polenta. I have yet to crack the secret of making polenta that doesn’t turn out dry and crumbly. I follow Mark Bittman’s instructions, but every time it’s perfect for about three minutes and then it’s a letdown by the time I finish eating it. Mysteries of supposedly simple cooking.
Last night we flew back from Boston, which was a great trip except too short, and made shorter by the fact that jetlag made it virtually impossible to get up before 11am Eastern, which shortened the days a bit as you can imagine. The flight home felt like the longest cross-country flight in a while; it felt like I was flying back from Europe. When we finally got off the plane my wrists hurt, like I’d slept and pushed them against something. They still hurt, which is kind of freaking me out, like I have RSI or something that’s been activated by the crappy way I slept on the plane. I assume/hope they feel better tomorrow, but who knows. This was my semi-excuse for skipping Burn. Also, I’m exhausted. I had a few days of horrible sleep due to, of all things, wacky allergy attacks in the middle of the night, and it’s set me back.
I’m trying to catch up on Friday Night Lights. I never watched season four and then we got it on DVD and Peattie watched all of it sometime when I was busy, and now season five has finally started on regular TV again and of course I have to catch up. I spent tonight watching the two episodes I already watched when we first got the DVDs but forgot, and finally got to the third one. This feels somewhat like a metaphor for my life at the moment: a giant game of catch-up.
I’ve decided I’m going to try to post things here, just randomly, just so I have some fraction of a written record of my adult life that’s not in my email. I have the problem with this blog that people have with phone calls to friends that they don’t talk to much… you put off calling them because you feel like you have to set aside a whole hour to call someone because you will have so much to cover, but really you would probably be better off calling or texting someone like a half sentence once a week or something just when you had the time, because then it’s more efficient AND you actually do it. Anyway, blogging is a lot like that. I said in January when this silly year started that I was going to do a better job keeping in touch with people and with blogging and so far have performed pretty dismally in both categories, but it is sunny outside today after a week of gross rain and so I’m going to be positive about all of this.
…because if you don’t write it down somewhere, you get to back out of it. Nevermind that it’s already January 5. These are, naturally, in addition to those things that are always under-the-surface resolutions, like “lose 10 pounds” and “run half marathon” (which I just realized is in a month and a day, yikes!).
Take more vacation. Actually take it (no work email). And more travel. Get out of the country at least once; either revisit (a new country in) Europe or hit up Asia or South America for the first time.
Take more pictures. Maybe suck it up and buy one of those fancy digital SLRs all my friends have.
Hike more, camp more, bike more. Perhaps these don’t all belong together, but they are all sort of semi-ambitious weekend activities. Unless I manage to bike to work some day, which would be awesome but which I am reluctant to commit to.
Stay in better touch. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve felt bad about not calling or texting or emailing in the last year, for whatever reason. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive. Just not nonexistent.
I’m trying to cut myself off here, because I feel like I always come up with massive lists of goals I’ll never have time to achieve. But I also have a kind of “household” resolutions/to-do list with Peattie, which include things both semi-ambitious and small. So I’m cheating a little. But whatever.
Oh. And—surprise!—I’d like to write/blog more. Whatever form it takes.
Those of you who have been reading my blog know that this whole half-marathon thing is really a bee in my bonnet. I think I first started talking about doing this about two years ago, or maybe a bit earlier — I think the first half-marathon I seriously considered was in November 2008. And no one can forget the saga that was pseudo-training for the SF half this year. I bored you to death about it, I think. Well, here we go again.
A month or so ago, I bit the bullet and signed up for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. I thought everyone knew what TNT was but turns out they don’t, especially if they don’t work at Google or live in SF, and sometimes even then. So for those of you who don’t already know, it’s a non-profit group that trains people for endurance events (marathons, century rides, triathlons, etc.) while raising money to fight against blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
I’ve known tons of friends who have done events with TNT, and they all tell me that it’s an awesome way to get started with your first endurance event. So despite a few reservations, I signed up. Next February 6, Super Bowl Sunday 2011, I’ll run the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. At least, in theory — but we must be upbeat, right?
Now comes the fundraising part. My personal fundraising commitment, which I need to raise by Jan 20, is $1,800. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has invested more than $600 million in blood cancer research since 1949. Every four minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and every 10 minutes someone dies of one. Every donation made to Team in Training helps accelerate finding a cure for these cancers. Plus, advances in treatment of blood cancer can help in other cancer research as well.
So… I hope you will consider helping me reach my fundraising goal and my goal of running this damn race. It’s hard for me to ask for this type of thing, but I’ll really appreciate anything you can do. You can do it in a couple of ways:
If you want to double your donation, you can donate directly to me (everyone reading this has my email, anyway — you can paypal me, or give me a check or cash next time you see me, or if you don’t have my email somehow you can post a comment and we’ll get in touch) and I can donate in my name, and then I get matching gift from the Googs. This is totally kosher, turns out.
Or you can donate at my personal fundraising page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/sfhalf11/ewoodz
I’ll probably share some observations here about the training, as I did before, but I’ll try to limit the navel-gazing. In other news, when did it become December?
Let’s go over this again, shall we? In the past few weeks I have:
left work early on multiple occasions to go home and watch baseball games
listened to baseball on the radio, voluntarily
bought the MLB At Bat app on my phone so I could keep score of a baseball game during a work retreat
skipped meals because I was so focused on baseball games
eaten zero home-cooked meals because who has time to cook when there’s baseball to watch (this is only true through yesterday at 8pm when I finally mustered the energy and time to boil pasta)
complained that I did not have any gear to show support for a certain baseball team
dug into the recesses of my closet/drawers to find the proper color clothing to wear to show support in lieu of gear
done a Google search for “brian wilson postgame interview nlcs”
skipped work for 6 hours on a Wednesday in order to go to a parade celebrating said baseball team
recognized at least 2/3 of the players in said parade by their faces alone
overheard men, who own team gear and seem generally knowledgeable about baseball, say things that made me roll my eyes because they were wrong (this is not to say i would consider myself an expert)
explained Brian Wilson and the Machine to a generally knowledgeable dude friend (ahem, justin) who really should have known the whole story already
expended 90% of my text messages with my dad on talking exclusively about events that happened during playoff baseball games
and let’s not forget — clapped at something that happened in a baseball game… while alone in my house watching baseball
Remind me when I became a Giants fan? I mean, okay, like 95% of this city just became a Giants fan in the last few weeks so I’m no exception. In my case the playoffs were just the straw that broke the camel’s back, after a full year of furtive rooting for the team of my adopted city (and obsessed boyfriend) while trying to maintain a front of Dodger fandom (there, I admit it*) or at the very least neutrality.
Now I’m stuck with just a lot of football (ugh) and a lot of time to reconcile the whole Giants thing with the whole Lakers thing (how it is that LA basketball succeeds at holding my interest where LA baseball fails?). I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to miss baseball season.
Turns out I am a horrible blogger! I knew it had been a while, but it’s apparently been literally two full months and then some since I last posted here. Shameful.
Coincidentally, the last time I posted was just two days after the half-marathon that wasn’t. You know, the one I stopped blogging about training for back in MAY. Obviously the steep drop-off in posts was connected to the steep drop-off in training. And obviously I did not run the darn thing. I am famous for my stick-to-it-iveness, did you know that?
Anyway, so what have I been up to the last two months, while not running a half marathon? I have been running some other things. After I fell off the training wagon, I stopped running almost entirely until after the half-marathon date had passed, so I could start over with a clean slate (the exercise version of those people who eat ice cream for lunch and then figure, screw it, and eat like crap the rest of the day too). But then I very quickly got back on the wagon and it’s been good. I actually ran a 5K in August, and today I ran a 7K. Baby steps. In general, my plan these days is to try to become one of those people who exercises for fun. So far, it is kind of working thanks in part to having bought a bike. Turns out biking is really fun. And not that scary. My first ride after buying it was to Ocean Beach with Ace and Alice, and that was actually somewhat scary/frustrating at times because first, my tire was already flat (notice how I said it was my first ride after buying it) and second, I apparently could not figure out how to shift gears so at some point I shifted wrong and the chain fell off. Had I been alone, I would have panicked and walked home. (Actually, later on that day it did happen when I was alone, but I was luckily only a few blocks from home.) But yesterday I went on the same ride with Alice, and it was much less stressful. I think this is partly because just a few blocks from my house, I totally crashed after riding into a Muni train track (the bane of all SF bikers; also, something I know to avoid, but found impossible to avoid in the moment). I emerged with bruises on one leg and a gross scrape on the other, but I also felt a lot better about biking somehow, like, I’d gotten one of the scary things over with already and survived. Even biking back on the wiggle, that one steep block on Page, which has historically been utterly terrifying, was actually a little fun. So that is good.
This is somewhat of a brain dump because I’m not in the habit of writing here anymore and I have nothing particular to say. I’m just sitting on the couch nursing the aforementioned scrape on one knee and finishing the beer I got out of the fridge in the 8th inning of today’s Giants Padres game, which is probably the most nervous I’ve been watching a sports game (reason why could be a long story but is also an obvious one). I had this epiphany that this is why sports and beer go together, because the beer helps calm you down…
People I rarely see who are friends but not regular/close/around-all-the-time friends always complain when we try to meet up because my schedule is always so jammed and I never know why. It’s true that my Google Calendar is a frightening thing, and it always seems to become that without my realizing and before I can control it. I have this sense, though, that fall will bring with it some more sanity. Does that normally happen? Am I deluding myself? (Quick look at Calendar.) I might be. But it seems like fall allows for a few more moments like this one — sitting around in PJs in the twilight catching your breath. And seeing movies, and maybe roasting a chicken. The summer in SF was truly awful this year, and so I don’t really welcome cold weather out of principle, but I have always been a lover of autumn so I can’t really help myself. There are some upsides. Perhaps the fall will mean it will be less than two months before I next post here… let’s cross our fingers.
I’ve sort of fallen off the blogging game, which is fitting as I have also (sort of) fallen off the training game. By which I mean, I did not do my long run this weekend, did not run today, and may not run tomorrow. Which is not to say I’m not thinking about running or wanting to run or whatever. It’s just that running right now would be (I think) a bad idea, and I think I need to recover from what I suspect is a real, genuine injury. My left leg (from hip to knee) is just kind of messed up, is the point, and I think I need to give it a break. But, for posterity’s sake, a summary of the last few days…
Last Wednesday I did a lovely cross-training. We moved office buildings recently and it’s great because my new building has a lot of amenities, namely a little tiny gym on the first floor. It’s got maybe five treadmills and three ellipticals, including one of those crazy Precor ones that Dad really likes at his gym in Whittier. So I did that for 25 sweaty, low-impact minutes. It felt really good to go kind of easy on myself and yet still get cardio done (basically, for the past month I’ve either been running, doing straight up weight lifting with personal training, or doing light cardio/pilates at Burn. Because of all the running, personal training, which used to be a major source of pain every week, feels like a break… and Burn feels somewhere in the middle. But I also think that it might be because of Burn that my left leg is hurting… the part of my leg that is injured is also the part that, over the past month or two, actually “burned” the most during class.)
Thursday, after two days of no running post day of pain, I decided I was ready to try running again. I gave myself a break by running on the treadmill, since it’s lower impact. And it was okay. It was hard to finish. I think I ran the first two miles at around 5.7mph, and then I paused it for a few seconds to drink some water and rest my legs, and then when I picked up the speed again I couldn’t really go back up to that and finished around 5.5mph. I also find that when I start running it always really hurts, and I limp a bit before my leg starts to expect the impact again and then I can kind of make it work. But it’s not pleasant, and I did finish the 3.5 miles somewhat against my better judgment. (Summary: 38:21 minutes, 3.51 miles, 5.5mph average.) I still can’t tell where on the line I fall, in terms of “push yourself because you need to to get better sometime, and it’s not always going to feel easy, in fact it almost never will” versus “you are going to injure yourself and make it worse in the long run.” Because afterward, I found myself limping around again, and having a hard time going up and down stairs, and totally disinclined to do anything Thursday night so instead I caught up on Google Reader and watched “Definitely, Maybe” and reruns of the Office and ate cheese and crackers. Adulthood, people. It’s stimulating.
On Friday, I had canceled personal training in order to “run six miles,” but after the debacle that was Thursday I nixed that idea and did the elliptical again. (Even the elliptical sometimes feels a little iffy on that left leg, but it’s not actually painful at all.) And then I went to the Boonville beer festival, which was the opposite of exercise for everything except your liver, so that was a “rest” for two days, and today I am still limping a teeny bit (actually worse than I was over the weekend, attributable either to sleeping on the ground for two nights or some kind of psychosomatic association with work stress or many other reasons I can imagine that are probably false), so I did the elliptical again today. My concession to more aggressive training was to do the elliptical for a “distance” of four miles, which was what I was supposed to run today.
So there you have it. I’ve mixed up my training schedule this week in other ways, too — I moved Burn to Wednesday because “Mean Mommy” is teaching, and I am a glutton for punishment, plus I have this theory that her uber-athleticism (in a coach-y kind of way) will give her insight into my bum leg. And so tomorrow I guess I’ll do cross-training again, and maybe just hold off on running at all until this weekend. We’ll see.