Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hola from Miami

I in Miami with Paul this week. He's attending a conference, and I'm crashing the hotel - kind of a mini vacation. I'm working online while he's away attending the conference sessions. The hotel is incredible. It's the Fairmont Turnberry Isle right on Aventura Boulevard. Certainly the nicest I’ve ever been in. The grounds are great. The room fantastic. It has this HUGE soaking tub, which is where I’ll be spending some time later (the bathroom is about as large as our bedroom). T

We walked to find the gym… I mean… the spa (it's actually the entire third floor of the spa). It’s a nice size place – the usual large assortment of treadmills and equipment. Each treadmill, Stairmaster, and elliptical machine has its own flat screen tv on it along with headphones. Then I went in to see the “locker room” and oh-my-god. It has beautiful hardwood lockers, big white fluffy bath robes and a completely stocked vanity complete with a table in the middle of the room with a bowl of iced cucumber soaked towels ready to hit your face. And all the bath accoutrements you could imagine. And a steam room! I love that! Makes going to work out worth it all! It’s pretty incredible. I took some pics when no one was around - I didn't want to get caught taking pics in the locker room, but you can get the idea. We’re probably gonna have to sacrifice the guest room when we remodel the bathroom at home. Guests will just have to sleep in the spa on the massage table. ;)

Went to South Beach yesterday evening. Doesn't feel like it's changed much since I was last there - probably 12-13 years ago. Ate at Jason’s Deli. Had a monster salad. So did Paul. Then we walked the length of Lincoln plaza. Saw lots of cool shops (didn’t buy anything). Lots of sights to see and people to watch. I could have spent the entire week just people watching. Did see one store – can’t remember the name, but had a lot of imported asian and Indian furniture. Saw a handmade wooden chair that was really cool. It was half price, but still $170 dollars. Lots of cool pottery too, but didn’t want to carry it around while shopping. Strangely, I left without buying anything.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Doc

Went to see a new dermatologist today. They were SO good. He checked me over, got the cold can did a few things, then commented on this wrinkle on my forehead and said, “you know if you want, a little botox would take care of that.” I think he misread the semi-shocked look on my face – he probably thought I was a little insulted. “Think about it and just let me know.” Actually I just fell in love a little bit.

Didn’t have it done, but I should have asked (I always thought it would be really $$). Besides, I’m pretty sure Aetna’s not paying for that. Maybe I can make it a mental health case… LOL!

He was so good that he was even able to remove two small skin tags on my EYE LID! Yes, he had to stick a needle in my eyelid, but he was just that good. I was so happy I nearly peed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I don't bake.

One of my favorite geeky quotes of all time comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In a sisterly moment between Buffy and our favorite foreign slayer , Kendra, Buffy leans in for a hug but is stopped by Kendra who says in a very Jamaican-ish accent, "I don't hug!" Only, my version is, "I don't bake!"

It's true. I don't bake. Well, it's not so much that I "don't" bake, it's that I can't bake well. My problem is that I learned to cook from my mother. She rarely used a recipe. She always improvised. So that's what I do. The catch is that on the stove, you can do that. The oven is not so forgiving. Cooking on the stove is more of an experiment. You add things as you go along, you taste to see where it is, the
n you add something else to take it a little further. Baking requires planning ahead. You have to have everything in the beginning. There's no sampling. No testing. It's a one shot deal. Sit back and hope it works.

In my efforts to eat a little healthier, I've been concentrating on more "whole foods." I don't mean the store - although I love that place. A friend recently referred to them as "Whole Paycheck" because that's what it costs to shop there. By whole foods, I mean more whole grains, less processed foods - that "closer to the earth" idea. So that's what I'm doing - to a point.

One of my big weaknesses has always been bread. And not the foamy white crap. I want a thick, hearty, wheaty, grainy, dense slice of goodness. Lisa and Troy turned us on to this sprouted grain bread they found at Costco, of all places. We LOVED it. But of course, the only Costco near us doesn't carry it. I bought a loaf of Ezekiel bread which is good, but go back to that whole paycheck issue. So in a moment of brilliance, I remembered that we have a bread maker that we haven't used in a long time, or much (other than the traditional hurricane loaf - shout out to my girl in the big O R).

So after looking at a few recipes, doing a little shopping, I get everything out and start building. 4 2/3 cup of whole weat flour. Okay. I imagine I can use 2 cups of whole wheat, 1 cup of rye flour, 1 cup of graham flour (what they hell IS "graham flour" anyway), maybe a half a cup of oats, and a third of a cup of flax seed. Okay - that takes care of the flour part. The rest is pretty simple. Salt, water, brown sugar and yeast. Before I can stop myself, I'm rumaging
through the cupboards looking for anything else I can throw in there. I come up with walnuts. That can't be bad. Okay - half a cup of crushed up walnuts. What else... I find another package of seeds. Pine nuts. What the hell. Toss 'em in. I still can't believe that the recipe doesn't call for egg or milk. Surely that was a misprint on the recipe book. I resist my urge and decide against it. I rummage a little longer looking for anything that sounds like something I'd like in bread, but I stop there. As I pass by the machine, watching the dough through the little window, it looks REALLY dry. I don't think it's supposed to do that. Then I realize I didn't compensate water for the added oats. So I added about another half a cup. But it was so dry it couldn't mix. I opened the door again and smashed it up by hand. The end result wasn't bad. It didn't rise well, but we had an 8 pound loaf of bread. It tasted good - but it wasn't pretty.

This morning I'm making my second attempt. I've almost left the recipe alone. I've used the same flour concoction, and added a little more water, some blueberries that were almost done, and some cinnamon. It appears to be rising. So far so good.

Well, I think it came out pretty well! It rose a little better, so it's not quite as heavy. Still not pretty, but it's tastey! I'm happy with it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I know this won't be popular...

We all know that sometimes driving can be dangerous. We all try our best to be careful and “watch out for the other guy,” as my dad always says. And we have to. We’ve all seen people doing strange or just stupid things while driving. I’ve seen people reading newspapers or books, putting on make-up, shaving, brushing their teeth, talking on the phone or texting (that last one really pisses me off). So sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes it’s because of stupid behavior, and sometimes it’s just dumb luck accidents resulting in fender-benders, injuries or in the worst cases, someone looses a life. No, this isn’t another rant about unsafe drivers or assholes on the road.

A few years ago there was a tragic accident in St. Pete. A small child (3 or 4 I think) wandered out of the home, down the road and into a busy street. The child was hit by a car and sadly killed. As you can imagine, this was sensational news, and we were all horrified at the loss – especially since all the news channels insisted on interviewing the grief-stricken mother. They were after ratings, but it was truly heart wrenching. You couldn’t help feeling this woman’s pain. Not long afterwards, there was a small roadside memorial for the child – a simple white cross with a teddy bear. Eventually, the family moved away. I don’t know why – I imagine that seeing the place where she lost a child everyday was too much to bear. And here’s where it went wrong. The crucified teddy bear was left on the roadside for about a year. It was weathered, dirty and falling apart when someone finally took it away.

A few weeks ago, another roadside memorial appeared on the Bayway. A white cross made of PVC (presumably so that it will last forever), and a wreath of silk flowers. I understand that people need to grieve. I get that. But WHY is it that they feel they have the right to foist their grief onto the general public? I really don’t need to see it. Yes, it’s sad. I’m sorry for your loss. But I don’t need a reminder of it every morning on my way to work. And on my way home from work every day, as I begin to unwind and enjoy the scenic view of the water and trees, I get to be reminded that something bad happened here. This is the only road off the island, so avoiding it isn’t an option. I really hate that. That is why we have memorial services. That is why we have cemeteries. And chances are really good that the family and friends who endured this loss do not even live around here. The locals here do not spend their time at the roadside beach. So who the hell is this for?! I’m really tempted to pull over one of these days and pull it all up and dispose of it myself. If not, that PVC and plastic flower crap will be there for years. We do NOT need to litter our roads with your grief.

I can’t believe I’m the only one who feels this way. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

"Diet is DIE with a T" - garfield the cat

Well, it's been two weeks since my doctor gave me the big speech. I've had to make some drastic changes - going to the gym, regular exercise and the biggest one, changing my diet. I still refuse to "go on a diet." That just doesn't work, and it sounds like failure just by the nature of it. So, in altering my diet, I decided to just concentrate more on the foods that I like that are healthy - deemphasizing those that are not so good. I like most fruits and vegetables, and "grainy" foods anyway. I'm trying to cut out processed sugars and concentrate on more whole foods. Grocery shopping sure has changed. I read labels a lot more. And I can't do the "big grocery shop" like I used to because fresh fruits & vegetables don't have the shelf life I'm used to with other things.

It hasn't been too bad so far. The only thing that has been really hard has been chips. I could live on chips and salsa.
Chips and sour cream. Chips and butter. Just kidding. No chips and butter. But, I have been trying some alternatives - like different whole grain or baked chips. Some are good, some are bad. It cracks me up to read all the different suggestions from some of the magazines and sites that say things like, instead of Doritos, substitute apple slices with peanut butter. Are they for real? Have they never had Doritos? While I'm sure I would LOVE apple slices with peanut butter, it's not a substitute for the ol' nacho cheesey crunchy goodness. It's also been a little more expensive. I can't believe that it costs almost $5 for a loaf of good sprouted grain bread (and that's only gonna get worse - but that's another topic for another time). I bought a bunch of grains and whole flours and I'm breaking out the old bread maker for some experimentation. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Bill and I have had the argument about the cost of food. I say it's cheaper to be fat. He doesn't really believe it so much. Well, I think he's beginning to. Fresh and healthy stuff is just more expensive. I say, it's cheaper to feed a family of four for 20 bucks at McD's or Taco Hell than buying something healthy. "They can make a big salad for 20 bucks." But they're not buying salads at McDonald's. Besides, if healthy food was cheaper, then most poor (American) people wouldn't be fat. No judgment, just fact. His point is that it's cheaper in the long run because you don't have as many medical expenses. But I think most people are just too short sighted to think that far ahead when making everyday decisions.

Speaking of American diets, I had a conversation with my friend Patricia about that recently. She was talking about how in Europe, they don't pasteurize their milks and cheeses, and it doesn't seem to be a problem. Here, we load EVERYTHING with chemicals. Since I'm reading more labels, I notice that a lot more. I haven't figured out the balance, but I think if the ingredient list is too long, it's a bad sign. So, stick to the short and sweet. Well, not so much the sweet anymore. ;)