Sunday, August 31, 2014

Doing Something That Scares Me (and Also Cooking, Because Hey – Gotta Eat)

The local adult ed. catalogs all came in the mail this week, tempting me with all the ways that I could improve myself with a small investment of time and money, two things I'm oozing with, ha. I'm intrigued to see that zumba with the Italian Spitfire is now a drop-in class, $10 per session, rather than committing to a three-month deal; I think this will work much better for me, given how often I've cut class in the last year.

My Monday teacher, Shy Jeny, is off to Nepal to care for her ailing mother, so yet another new teacher is taking over her class . . . and this gave me pause. Do I really want to keep doing zumba? High-impact does not seem to be good for me right now. My leg is much better (I was kneeling in the pool and Li'l Martini, whose name is now a misnomer, jumped on me, causing my poor arthritic knee to bend more than it really can and wrenching my muscles) though still not 100 percent. But I clearly need to do something. What should it be?

And the answer came to me in a vision:

Well, actually, it came to me on the page of the catalog, but you know what I mean.

Husband did Tai Chi a year or so ago and liked it a lot, though he found the Chinese male teacher impossible to understand. This class is being taught by "Judith," who sounds neither Chinese nor male, so I'm reasonably sure this is a different teacher (though no guarantees she'll be any easier to understand — and I am remarkably moronic, believe me). And the class is designed for the begin-iest of beginners, which is me.

And guess what? I've coaxed Husband into doing it with me!!!

I am nervous, because it will be totally different from anything I've ever done before (I've tried yoga twice and HATED IT), but I'm also proud of myself (and Husband!) for taking a risk and trying something new. Face those fears, girl! Don't back down!

The character Puddles in Ruth Doan MacDougall's excellent Snowy series suffers from arthritis, and she does Tai Chi; it's always been in the back of my mind as something to try. I am hopeful!

The dream
The likely reality. C'est la vie.

Switching subjects now, let me tell you about last night's awesome dinner. I wanted to make something easy after Chore Day, and I'm trying to cut down on the number of meals we eat out or carry in (for both weight loss and financial reasons). We had Chinese sausage in the freezer, and I'd bought the ingredients to recreate Costco's kale salad, which Martini and I fell in love with in California. I needed a third dish, and I decided to try to make "fried" rice in my rice cooker. I hunted down a bunch of online recipes, got the general idea, and then I went maverick and flew without a net! And the result was delicious! As was my kale salad!

To make the rice, I cut off about an eighth of an onion (for the salad dressing) then diced the rest and browned it lightly in a dab of olive oil. I then added a cup and a half of rice, a handful of frozen peas, and a dash of Paul Newman's Low-Fat Sesame Ginger salad dressing, and I let all that cook in a frying pan, under a lid, for a couple of minutes before pouring it all into the rice cooker. I threw in about a tablespoon of Penzey's minced garlic and rice-cookered the whole thing in beef broth. A few minutes before serving, I whisked an egg (tidily using the beef broth can), poured it over the top, and let it sit a minute to cook before stirring it into the rice mixture. The final touch was 2–3 tablespoons of soy sauce added at the very end.

My kids don't get excited about rice, per se, but everyone loved this!

To make the salad, I bought a bunch of stuff at Trader Joe's: kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, broccoli slaw, dried cranberries, and pepitas. I also threw in a little Spring Mix that Husband had bought. I cut up the kale and Spring Mix chiffonade-style, and made a few knife slashes across the slaw (Mom says she dislikes the long pieces because they're hard to eat), then threw everything into a bowl and tossed it. To make the dressing, I threw sugar, cider vinegar, dry mustard, olive oil, canola oil, fresh onion, and poppy seeds into the blender, and blended blended blended. (Next time I will use a food processor, because that onion never did pulverize completely. But it tasted fine.) Unlike other salads, this one should be dressed ahead of time, so the kale has some time to soften and wilt.

So so so good! A wonderful combo of flavors and textures. And look at all that roughage! Husband and Mom both detest Brussels sprouts, but they don't mind them shaved and raw in this salad. And the kids scarfed it down!

In my final news of the day, before returning my attention to HARVARD, my new client, here's what I just read and loved:

AWESOME books. Four stars! Two thumbs up from me!

And here's what I'm reading (and loving so far) now, both of which kept me in the bathtub longer than I meant to be last night:

On today's docket: work, walk, supervise Li'l Martini's summer reading homework, which he needs to finish today, and take Mimosa practice-driving. And dream up a dinner. Man, the every-nightness of this dinner thing — it really gets to a girl.


— Lady C

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Back from Vacay, No Thinner — What's That All About?

Hee! Travel is broadening indeed, despite aqua aerobics (Mom's sport o' choice) and near-daily cut-throat pool volleyball tournaments. But there were also poolside margaritas and homemade guacamole and tacos from the taco truck and Big Chico Burgers and buttermilk doughnuts and God knows how many bottles, bottles, bottles of Mr. Kendall Jackson Chardonnay . . .

Good times!

This was originally scheduled as a Li'l Martini-and-Grandpa bonding event (in my mind, anyway), but of course that is no longer possible. But he is now super-glue-bonded to Grammy; she let him drive her vintage 1970 VW bus, and he is (1) one happy camper and (2) completely obsessed with driving.

On the home front, Daddy faithfully took Mimosa out several times to practice her own driving; sooner than I can imagine, I'll have two additional chauffeurs in the family, and when that happens? I am never getting out of my chair. Happy days will be here again!

Mom is doing well. Her friends have really stepped up, and she had many calls and visits and invitations while we were there. But she's getting physically weaker, despite all the aqua, so I got very stern with her and talked about weight lifting. She belongs to a health club, for heaven's sake! I said that I will be so mad if she's no longer able to live on her own because of something preventable. (She is always welcome to come live with me — in fact, we would adore it — but you should see the grimace she makes when I mention this.) She has agreed to start going on Thursday mornings to lift weights with our dear friend Tia Gabi, who has a heart of gold but a soul of flakiness, so we shall see.

I came home to some bummer news: I did not get the job I wanted (which, I will now tell you, was to be the part-time Assistant Director of Religious Education at the Concord UU church, almost directly across the street from Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women). They have been kinder than kind, bending over backward to assure me that they love me, they really love me, but, as I feared, there was an internal candidate whose qualifications almost exactly matched mine, with the added bonus of knowing all the players involved, so of course they went with her and I don't blame them at all. It's probably a blessing, since I would have had to stop attending my church if I took this job, and that would probably have been a bigger deal than I was admitting to myself, but still.

I really wanted it!

But I have four editing jobs this week for four completely different clients, including our little community college that you might have heard of, i.e., HARVARD UNIVERSITY, and everyone else can suck it.

I am not bitter, stop it.

So I will continue on my merry freelance path, editing when I can (I can do as much of the dense, impenetrable science editing as I want, and that is something — at $5 per page, you can see how quickly I'll get rich), and substitute teaching when I want to, and I will keep Brunie's awesome words to me as my mantra:
Don't worry, little worker, something great is coming. I know that you like the churchy stuff, but I feel like you are meant for greater things. Not that the church isn't great, but it is small and I think it would be confining after awhile. I see you on a broader canvas, or doing something thinkier... Or at Starbucks. Or hooking. Just spitballing here...

OK, it may not be the St. Crispin's Day speech, but I find it very inspiring.

And another friend has also given me words that I'm finding very inspiring. My Sleepy Dear Friend Susan (so named for her habit of cat-napping adorably during theatrical performances or when I'm transporting her to and from Betsy-Tacy events) (and for her dearness, of course) wrote:
I think the important thing to do is what you're doing — getting strong and fit and staying as beautiful as you already are.
Her words "getting strong" have resonated powerfully for me. I've focused on "thinner," "lighter," and "healthier" without much traction, but "getting strong," for whatever reason, is doing it. Since I've been back from Chico, I've eaten much smaller meals and have included exercise (small exercise, I've hurt my leg again, alas) every day. And as always my weight shot up while I was away, but it's coming back down nicely, and I'm adopting my old trick of going to bed slightly hungry, which is a pleasantly familiar sensation. Could it be that at long last I'm getting back on track? Only time will tell, but I definitely feel a renewed strength of purpose, I'll tell you that.

Okay, it's almost 9:30 on Saturday morning, and you know what that means at Chez Chardonnay, right?


The house hasn't been vacuumed in two weeks, and the cats' claws are approaching Howard Hughes length. Time to get at it.

With strength.

— Lady C

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Writing a Weight-Loss Blog While Not Losing Weight

Seriously — I haven't lost any discernible weight for two years now, and in fact, thanks to Tam (my visiting foreign exchange student! whose ways are so inscrutable and mysterious!) and perhaps my own aging metabolism (fifty-whoo!), I've gained back at least 10 of my hard-lost pounds, if not more, and the whole enterprise feels ridiculous and somewhat lacking in a point.

I cut out something from a magazine article about a woman who lost more than 100 pounds, and taped it to my computer:
" . . . 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 64 ounces of water, and . . . at least 22 grams of fiber every day, plus staying within a daily 1,000–1,400 calorie range."
Whenever I'm next able to gird my loins and muster my wits and gather my rosebuds and whatever my whatevers, that will be my next Boot Camp week framework.

But that week is not this week. I've been crazy-busy with editing work, transporting Mimosa to and from driving school, getting Li'l Martini up and moving before noon (he is such a teenager! But he has 35 pages of summer reading to read each day, plus a glockenspiel to practice; he needs to get moving, says Drill Sergeant Mommy), and otherwise keeping the family going sans Daddy this week is taking every bit of energy I can muster.

And as I may have mentioned, I am moving at half speed these days. I am in a perpetual fog; my limbs are heavy; fatigue and fuzziness are my daily companions. It's like living inside an aspic.

It's a shame, too, because it's truly been the loveliest summer — warm mellow days, cool breezes, green lawns, fragrant gardens, chirping birds, a buzzing insect kingdom, and laughing, babbling toddlers. Life goes on, in all its verdant glory, and this too shall pass.

I have been logging my food this week, just to get a sense of what I'm eating, and I'm more or less within the calorie limits Fat Secret has given me — and yet, and yet. My grief has made me extra-absorbent,  I fear.

Someday, someday, I will have weight-loss news again.

Just not today.

Off to eat garlicky pasta and Trader Joe's Party Meatballs and veggie-loaded green salad and watch Gravity Falls with my kids.

Yawn, yawn.

— Lady C

p.s. My besty Lady Darcy says she loves it when I share what books I'm reading, and I am nothing if not a dutiful BF. I just read:

 . . . and enjoyed them both. I'm now reading:

And I just picked up three library books that I am totally excited about, though I may save them for next week's trip to California. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Birthday Without My Dad

Yesterday I turned 52 — or "fifty-wooo!" as one of my former friends would say. And yes, for moments here and there I was fifty-blue, missing my dad and feeling sad, but mostly it was a lovely chill day, just what I wanted.

Husband got up early to get me fresh doughnuts from Ohlin's Bakery, yummiest doughnuts in creation, and I had hot coffee and sweet fat Italian sausages (said Mimosa: "I love a sweet fat Italian") and crisp bacon and fresh raspberries and piles of presents. Throughout the day I read books and drank cold Chardonnay and sat on my patio and had a long phone call with Mom; for dinner, Husband and I had a private date and went to our local Thai place at the bottom of the hill, where I ran into one of the Sleek Suburban Moms, which was fun, and I ate Thai rolls and crab rangoon and drank more wine and enjoyed my sweet funny man.

A lovely day!

Here are some newsy tidbits:
  • The daughter of the other Sleek Suburban Mom writes a blog about writing, and she asked me to guest-post. Read my ramblings about my writing process here.
  • Li'l Martini performed in Assassins this weekend and did a great job. The whole show was FANTASTIC — I was wildly impressed by the quality of these teen actors! Here's Martini (on the right) portraying David Herold, one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators (that's John Wilkes Booth on the left):

  • I got nice feedback from my new science-editing client, so I'll be doing more of that, and tomorrow is my interview for the job I really want. Fingers crossed!
  • Mimosa is in driving school this week, and Husband is away presenting at a conference in New Hampshire, so Mommy is single-parenting. All will be well. I have projects planned for every day, plus some fun things to do with the kids (bowling! a frozen yogurt taste-off! making homemade pizza! fun fun fun).
Off to download my next science article — hopefully this one will go faster and I can make some reasonable dough.

Hey, does my writing look older?

Lady C

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Happy Happy, Sad Sad

August is Big Birthday Month at Chez Davis-Kay, a glorious 31-day fiesta of celebrating one another with fizzy lifting drinks and scrumptious victuals and presents galore . . . but the idea of a big festive gala on my first birthday without my dad feels all kinds of wrong to me, so I'm planning to lie low and celebrate quietly this year.

Though we did just usher Princess Mimosa into her 17th year, which was lots of fun. Last year she had a progressive party, enjoying each meal with one special girlfriend, but this year her friends are all away and she wanted to do something different — and Party Planner Mommy had an inspired idea: She and I would binge-watch season 2 of Orphan Black, our new favey show, and for dinner she could indulge in her most favorite food, which is BREAD. We got focaccia from Macaroni Grill and Not Your Average Joe's, the two best breads I know, plus NYAJ's yummy Parmesan-garlic-olive oil bread dip, and she had a Bread Orgy.

But my mom called to sing Happy Birthday to her, solo, something she and Dad have done together for 17 years, and I completely lost it. (My angel girl is so good; she held my hand and let me cry and didn't seem at all bothered that I was raining on her birthday parade.)

My darling friend Mrs. Fog Dog put it perfectly:
I am sad you are reeling in grief. But really, what can be done? Nothing. Your tears are a liquid form of love.
Last weekend we deep-cleaned our basement, as I mentioned, and unearthed all sorts of childhood treasures. Mimosa declared that on the day before her birthday, she wanted to me to read aloud all her favorite children's books, so that is what we did. Of course, some of her favorite children's books were also my books from childhood, and a particular title, Never Tease a Weasel, was especially loved by my dad. Mimosa said, "Will you be able to read this?" "Maybe," I said, turning to page 1 (You can knit a kitten mittens / And perhaps that cat would purr. / You could fit a fox with socks / That exactly matched his fur) and promptly choking up.

My sweet daughter took the book from my hands and said, "I'll read it to you." And she did.

I feel like I'm living my life out of focus; I'm off track and can't seem to get anything done. Every week I go to zumba, lament how out of shape I am, vow to walk, lift weights, and generally exercise more between classes . . . and then it's Wednesday night again, and I've done nothing. Where did an entire week go?!

I set an August goal of writing a page a day on my novel, and I wrote one page on August 1 . . . and haven't touched it since.

I've been editing a lot, though I've only had small jobs and my paychecks have been very small — but it seems like work fills so many hours. How can that be?

I also have a new job as a part-time science editor; I'm not editing the content, thank God, just applying their style rules. The writing is very science-y:
We fabricate and experimentally demonstrate a hybrid structured Fabry–Perot interferometer (FPI) embedded in the middle of a fiber line for simultaneous measurement of axial strain and temperature. The FPI is composed of a silica-cavity cascaded to a spheroidal air-cavity, both of which are formed in a hollow annular core fiber (HACF). 
(Don'tcha wish your job was hot like mine?)

This job pays by the page rather than the hour: $5 per published page. Today I did my first job for them (the witty ditty quoted above), and it took me all morning — all morning to earn twenty bucks. I'm sure that once I've assimilated the style guide into my brain it will go much faster and I can do a four-page article in just an hour or two — but that day is not today.

I did hear from the people holding the job I really want; they said they'll be in touch with me soon to discuss the next step, which sounds promising. I think I'm an excellent fit for it; however, if they have an internal candidate and are just going through the motions, I'm sunk. Que sera sera.

Time for a post-zumba bath; the Italian Spitfire had us work out with shake weights tonight, and it's astonishing how heavy a 1.5-pound weight can feel after six or seven vigorous zumba routines. I am a limp sweaty noodle.

But I have three new library books to choose among for my tub reading, which is exciting:

Maybe I'll get back on track tomorrow. Maybe I'll start my day with a walk, water all my outdoor plants (the days have been warm, they're looking droopy, but I forget them the minute I come inside), write a few pages of fiction, eat a veg-heavy salad for lunch, cook a big healthy dinner for my family.


Maybe I will.

— Lady C, model of determination . . . or not