Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New favorite thing: Odwalla Superfood

I'm not a juice person.

Truth be told, I'm not a fruit person. I was raised eating vegetables (though generally cooked, Southern style, within an inch of their lives), but not fruit, and I never acquired a taste for it. Any of it, really, with the exception of white nectarines, which I eat every year when they're in season until they make me sick.

So, when Skinny Spice offered me a glass of Odwalla's Superfood quite a while back when I was visiting her, it gave me pause. Not just because it was juice, but also because it was green. Really green. Like, the color of spinach. And Superfood was also super thick -- it sort of glopped out of the jug into our glasses.

I have to admit I agreed to drink it out of politeness, though she'd insisted it wouldn't taste "green" -- it was sweet and fruity. But she was right -- it was wonderful! Sweet and fruity, like she said, but not too much so. It didn't taste a bit like spinach -- or grass clippings or bong water or any of the other things it sure looked like.

Superfood, it turns out, is a blend of apple juice and purees of peach, strawberry and mango. Its color comes from 1,000 mg of spirulina per 8-ounce serving -- spirulina provides tons of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, iodine and beta carotene -- as well as wheat grass, barley grass and wheat sprouts. It's more filling than regular juice, probably because of the puree and greens, and doesn't give me the blood sugar crashes I get sometimes with regular juice.

That one glass with Skinny Spice was just the beginning. I now buy it by the jug myself every week at the supermarket. For a non-fruit person, it's not a bad substitute.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Moving house

So I was driving in to work today through downtown, minding my own business. There was a truck sort-of thing in front of me for a good part of the way, but I had the stereo on and was enjoying the beautiful sunshine streaming in the windows.

But when a light turned red, I got a moment to sit and take in my surroundings. And this was directly in front of me:


Well, good day, Sacramento. That would be a wee little barn-like object on a trailer truck. Wending its way through the heart of downtown. Swerving in the middle of intersections, in fact, so the top of its little peaked roof wouldn't hit the traffic lights dangling down from their wires.

What's it for? Where's it going? Is it a storage shed or a tiny barn or a teensy house or something else?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Womanizer,' improved

Here are the All-American Rejects covering Britney Spears' "Womanizer" from her recently released Circus, which all the cool kids are listening to these days.

I don't like her music generally, largely because her voice is so electronically altered and processed, so it's not like I'm a Britney aficionado or anything. But I've seen her video of "Womanizer" and heard it on the radio enough times to think the Rejects' version is a real improvement. And oddly catchy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hey, y'all -- it's a poll!

Like many resolutionists, for me the span between Christmas and New Year's Day is full of optimism and promise. Every year, I spend this week thinking through what positive changes I'd like to make in the coming year, for my health or sanctification or general well-being. I tend to fail pretty quickly and thoroughly once the new year is underway, but hope springs eternal.

Well, Gentle Reader(s), this year is no different. And while I have set a few goals already (and which I intend to keep to myself -- apparently I have a couple of boundaries left), I've decided to let one of my resolutions be decided by you, my reading "public"! (Or "person." Whatever!)

If you'll look in the right-hand column over yonder, I've set up a poll. There are two items to choose between -- for me to either blog every day or for me to take an online Spanish class through Livemocha. I don't have enough time to do both, sadly, particularly if I plan to actually accomplish whichever resolution gets chosen.

Vote early and vote often -- polls close at 11:59 PM on New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 26, 2008

More geekery: collegiate quidditch

How did I miss this? Apparently there's an intercollegiate quidditch league, with brooms and quaffles and everything.

Obviously, muggles can't fly on their broomsticks like players in Harry Potter's world, so instead they're required to hold a broomstick between their legs at all times. Snitches, instead of golf-ball-sized feathered things, are cardiovascularly-fit cross-country runners wearing all yellow who try to keep both teams' seekers from grabbing a black sock from the waistband of their pants.

So wonderfully geeky! And here for your viewing pleasure, from March, is Greg Gumbel providing the play-by-play of a quidditch match between Princeton (!) and Middlebury.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

-- Galatians 4:4-5

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A wookie cooks a holiday meal

Does anything say "Christmas" more than a wookie? I think not.

With an assist by the late Harvey Korman.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Someone's cold

I turned on the heat this morning, but someone is still cold.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A day on the couch

Recovering from one migraine and fighting off another. This is how the critters and I spent the day. Between naps.

Black blob = Boo. Ears poking up = Daisy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New favorite thing: Pantene shampoo and conditioner

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but it's true: I'm a product snob. Particularly when it comes to hair products. I generally believe hair stuff sold in salons is of higher quality and performs better. I'll go the drugstore route when it comes to hairspray (which I basically don't even need), maybe, but shampoo and conditioner? No way.

Partly because I beat the tar out of my hair. Color. Bleach. Blow dryer. Flat iron. Daily washing because I live in fear that otherwise it'll look like Robert DeNiro's in Cape Fear. Given all the abuse, pricey products seem like a safe choice.

But then, I was watching TV the other day and Stacy London from What Not to Wear was on pitching Pantene shampoo and conditioner.

Now, I know celebrity spokesmodels don't generally actually use the products they endorse. But she has really great hair. Exceptional hair, truth be told. And I thought, well, if she's willing to stake her reputation (a reputation based on looking good) on a product line, maybe it's worth a look.

So, throwing caution to the wind, when I was at the grocery store earlier this week I picked up the most moisturizing-sounding Pantene products Safeway had for sale: Pro-V (whatever that means, something about vitamins, I think) Moisture Renewal. It was less than $10 for the shampoo and conditioner combined.

It was with no small amount of trepidation I tried them yesterday for the first time and -- I love this stuff. Seriously. It smells fine, a little goes a long way, and the combination of shampoo and conditioner leaves my poor color-treated, heat-tortured, battered hair smooth and shiny.

I'm stunned. And feel more than a little foolish that I've been spending all this money and ordering stuff online, even, when really decent products were apparently as close as my local grocery store. I can't vouch for any other Pantene products, but the Moisture Renewal stuff is really, really good. And I'll definitely be trying out other formulas and products in the Pantene line in the future.

Song of the day

I've listened to this song 20 times in the last couple of days -- Alexi Murdoch's "All My Days."

I'm also playing a lot of Damien Rice, so maybe I'm just fixated on Irish poet/bard types? Dunno.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Miracle

Cora had her baby. A little girl named Belinda Melina. She was 20 inches long and 7 pounds, 7 inches when she was born a week ago.


I met her tonight. She is just perfect. With so much hair! And the sweetest pointy little chin.

After an hour of holding her, I tore myself away. And it was nearly all I could do to hand her back to her mother (!). Who is doing wonderfully.

What a blessing, that Cora's delivery was easy, that Baby Belinda is healthy and beautiful, and that I get a front row seat to a miracle.

I still smell like her.

Burger Club takes on Lucca

In our burger-eating odyssey, the Burger Club largely alternates between fancy-pants places and divey ones. Last time the club got together for an official outing, the destination was Dad's over on Freeport Boulevard, and while I wasn't along for that trip, folks seemed to enjoy it. But having previously gone low end, Friday's destination was due to be more restaurant-y. Given that and some help from yelp.com, we settled on Lucca.

Lucca is at the corner of 16th and J and, according to its website, "offers a California ~ Mediterranean influenced menu with reasonably priced, recognizable menu choices, graciously served in a classy, comfortable setting." The only other time I've been there I could have sworn I had a pretty good, basic Italian meal, which is of course Mediterranean, but to me Mediterranean food is different from Italian food. Somehow. So I'm not sure if Mediterranean in Lucca's mind is generic for the area or if I'm confused or I had Italian food somewhere else.

Anyway. Beyond this, my clearest memory of my dinner at Lucca was of a painting of a giant blue duck. Or goose, because I wasn't clear on my ornithology until M told me I needed to look at its bill. And, based on its bill, the waterfowl in question was apparently a goose*. And it greeted us when we arrived.

Fridays at Lucca there's a sort of happy hour like special called "burgers and bottles" where all burgers are $7 and selected bottles of wine are $12. It was perfect for us. At that price wine is basically cheaper than soda, and $7 burgers at an actual restaurant are the quite the deal.

We all ordered burgers of various permutations, though I think most of us got cheeseburgers with bacon since the price was the same no matter the add-ons. The white cheddar used had some sort of proper name that I didn't bother to write down. There were three kinds of French fries available as a side (garlic, Spanish and again I've forgotten the third option, but no one picked it) (though M got onion rings) and everyone at the table but me split a bottle of the $12 wine.

The food was certainly attractive when it arrived. The French fries were in paper cones nestled in glasses, and everything smelled great. My appetite at least had been piqued by the fact that it took a fair while for the food to arrive and we'd walked a good way to get there:


M said the bun-to-burger ratio was fine, which was a good sign. The burgers were moist enough, but not terribly flavorful. But then D said his fries were "dusty," which I had to agree with. I ordered Spanish fries and I'd chalked the dryness up to all the paprika, but they really weren't great. G, who loves fries, ordered the garlic ones, shared them around the table, and still had half a serving left at the end of the meal.

And overall... well, there just wasn't a lot said. The wine (deemed "quaffable" by D) was much more a topic of conversation, which isn't a good sign when the point of getting together is to eat burgers. [As an aside, D was on quite the linguistic tear. He also used the word "fey" at one point, but I don't remember the context now. Here's the quotable D, hiding behind his napkin.]


I thought my burger was basically fine and gave it a B, but I tend to prefer low-end burgers to high-end ones, so I figured I just wasn't the best barometer. But apparently not, because as votes were cast at the meal's end, Lucca earned just a B- overall. Not stellar.

Which I guess since it's really a Mediterranean restaurant (whatever that means) shouldn't be surprising. But I don't think I'd walk all those blocks again for a bargain burger on a Friday afternoon.


* My post originally said this was a duck. Not because M doesn't know the difference but because I can't keep them straight even when I'm specifically told.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The art of meeting a man

I saw this helpful little video on a message board I lurk on and didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

How to snare a man, according to the 1980s and YouTube.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Song of the day

Remember this, y'all? When the Jacksons were cool and Michael was the cute one we all had crushes on, before the surgery and the weirdness? When MTV actually played videos?

Maybe it's just me.

I heard this song the other day and was transported to another time. I think it holds up pretty well -- "Blame It on the Boogie" by the Jackson 5.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's so cold I've resorted to drinking tea

This was today's high temperature, as recorded by my car's external thermometer. At 3:30 p.m. In early December. In Sacramento. In Northern California. Which is in California.

I realize the Yankees among you will not think this is a big deal. But then again, you're Yankees. After a lifetime split between Houston and California, leaving aside a lapse in Alaska, my blood has thinned. Or something.

I am a fool, as it turns out, and didn't think wearing socks was important this morning. Or gloves or a scarf. So despite layers and a decent coat, I've been cold all day.

Tonight I will finish this awful tea, have a fire and put the flannel sheets on the bed.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

In a fog


I love so many things about living in Northern California, but this time of year, it's the fog.


I wait all year for it to come -- the chilly, wispy weather that welcomes winter.


It ruins my hair. Driving becomes dangerous. Makes it feel about 10 degrees colder outside than it actually is.


But favorite buildings and landmarks come alive in a different way this time of year.


And nothing is better for building a fire, hunkering down with a woobie and reading a good book.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Song for a gloomy day

The weather was so gray today. Just enough humidity to mess with my hair but not enough to produce fog or rain. I have a lot on my mind, and I guess the weather matches.

This song kept running through my head. Seems perfect for the weather and my mood: Blind Melon's "Change." The video's a little strange; don't hold it against the song.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to read political news again...

Now that the presidency has been decided and the campaigning is (blessedly) over for a couple of years, you'd think there'd be less, shall we say, crazy out there political-news-wise.

But alas no, Gentle Reader(s). I was plowing through Google Reader this morning and came upon these two gems, both of which are just too good not to share.

From the "Please quit talking" category, The Hill yesterday reported that Joe Lieberman is "now praising Obama" in the wake of his national security team selections. This is, I am sure, completely unrelated to Lieberman having been allowed to keep his Homeland Security chairmanship at Obama's urging. From his Republican convention speech to this:
I applaud President-elect Obama for assembling a talented and bipartisan national security team. ... At a moment in history when our nation faces both great dangers and great opportunities in our foreign relations, the President-elect has begun to build an administration that can lead America forward on the world stage with purpose and principle.
And, from the "And all this time I thought Ron Paul was the craziest candidate for office" category, this guy wants to be appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat -- for two years, until Chelsea is old enough to run. His blog is not to be believed (and is a must-skim), and apparently he's spamming countless political writers and bloggers with his request to be a self-appointed Charlie McCarthy of sorts:
I surely cant make things any worse, now can i? and I DO WANT THAT OFFICE IN THE BASEMENT. THERES BENEFITS TO LIVING IN A BUNKER I THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES...
the US Constitution says a Senator must be 30 yrs old to run for Senate. sorry, chelsea- you miss this opportunity by 2 years. but wait-ALL IS NOT LOST! ...

watch me drink this kool-aid- my lips never move!
if i was a surrogate- served for 2 years, then promptly resignED to ms. clinton....meanwhile- follow her every order to the letter..Hillary too!
Um, OK.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In which I leave my dignity and a bunch of dead skin somewhere in Koreatown

A lot happened today. Eric, Michael and I had brunch at Jackson Hole, a great breakfast place. Then we headed to Union Square to walk through an open air holiday market. Michael left for work, so Eric and I did some shopping on Lower 5th. And we eventually had dinner at Nonna's, which featured an amazing Caesar salad with "croutons" made out of semi-molten cheese.

But, really, all that wonderful, fun stuff paled in comparison to the night Eric and I had in Koreatown.

To preface, I bought a couple of tour books before this trip which have led us on quite the series of misadventures. This is how we learned of the dark spot on the ceiling in Grand Central, the Campbell Apartment, the shops we visited in SoHo and the Chinese restaurant where we ate last night. In reading through and deciding what I wanted to do this trip, I became fascinated by the idea of visiting one of the spas the book discussed. There was a whole list, but one was open 24 hours a day. How perfect, I thought, for the city that never sleeps.

Eric, however, was much more sanguine. He reminded me of the deviants that would likely frequent such an establishment, wondered how clean and/or disease free it might be, and generally (rightly) thought a non-24-hour place was probably the better way to go.

We were both a little leery by the time we got over there. We'd decided to try a classic Korean spa treatment -- a vigorous body scrub followed by a massage. Neither of us had ever been to a Korean spa, though, and what we'd heard of it basically made it out to be something straight out of Silkwood, as Eric said: vigorous whole-body scrubbing that threatened our virtues.

I don't know that I have adequate words to describe this experience. You lie on a table and are approached by an all-business Korean lady wearing a swimsuit (the reason why becomes apparent later). She begins to rub your body very vigorously with these two exfoliating mitts. This was not entirely pleasant, especially at first, but oddly satisfying. The Korean ladies worked us over, methodically scrubbing away at every part of our bodies, stopping only long enough to toss buckets (literally) of really warm water onto us as a rinse. This cycle repeated itself until our fronts, backs and sides were completely rubbed pink. At one point in the process, I looked over and there was a six-inch-long gray ribbon of dead skin that the woman had scrubbed off my arm. It was repulsive to see -- but satisfying, too. I can only imagine what all come off the rest of me.

And while we're talking about the rest of me -- yikes. That disposable bathing suit? No match for these ladies. My, um, virtue was fully on display as she lifted the top of the bathing suit and rearranged the bottom to gain access to whatever she felt like. Let's just say there's no dead skin anywhere on my body. Anywhere. None. Thinking of places dead skin could be? I don't have any there.

More than two hours after we arrived, Eric and I stumbled out onto 32nd Street and hailed a cab for home. We were both gobsmacked by the experience, which was overstimulating to say the least, and left with skin softer than babies'. In many ways, cleaner that we've ever felt -- and yet dirtier, somehow. I fully recommend the Korean spa experience to anyone prepared to let their dignity take a break for a few hours, but it's not for the faint of heart or those attached to their boundaries.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Today

  • Breakfast with Shu! and Eric at Sarabeth's
  • The (fabulous) shoe sale at Bergdorf's, which I could not resist, and Louis Vuitton
  • More shopping in SoHo and NoHo, including the Camper shoe store (another case of not being able to resist) and Mayle (which didn't have a single garment in a size larger than a 4), and walking through the Bowery
  • Tried to go to the Tenement Museum but by the time we got there, all the day's tours were sold out, so bought postcards instead and wandered the neighborhood
  • The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station (found the "secret" Art Deco elevators) (which must not be so secret because we rode up in it with others). We learned that Anneliese had been attacked by an iguana at work and wound up with a tetanus shot and prescription for antibiotics when all was said and done
  • Dinner in Chinatown with Shu!, Eric and Michael (we went to a restaurant that Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton both apparently enjoy)
  • Watched The Happening on On Demand and ate ice cream
  • To bed

Mobile blogging in the Bowery

Am using Shu!'s iPhone to tap this out. We're in a Starbucks in the Bowery, having tramped through SoHo en route to the tenement museum.

I hope to post for real tonight.

Yesterday, diary of a mad blogger

Breakfast at Nonna's. There were tater tots!


Then a trip to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. One of many so-called unfinished cathedrals.





This statue outside was particularly creepy.


We went there because I wanted to see a triptych done by the late Keith Haring. After flirting a little with a construction foreman and following him through the areas of the cathedral that were still under construction, I was able to get a glimpse. It's behind an iron grate, so I had to stick my camera through and hope for a decent picture from quite a distance.


Then we went and saw the film "Milk" in Chelsea. Sean Penn was amazing in it.

En route to the subway, we saw the "Seinfeld" diner.


We went to Grand Central.


One of my tour books said there was a spot on the ceiling in the main concourse where, during a recent renovation, the restorers decided to not to clean, to show everyone how dirty the ceiling had been before. We found it -- near the crab, if you're ever there and care to look. It was too dark inside to photograph well.

Then we dashed over to Pier 81 for our dinner cruise! Anneliese and Shu met us there. The ship took us all around the harbor, lights from New York and New Jersey glinting prettily at us from the shore. We ate a wonderful dinner on board as we slowly made our way out to the Statue of Liberty and back.






After dinner (and drinks) some folks started to dance. In the beginning, everyone was civilized enough. Then this lady took to the floor, and the tide turned.


It's hard to see, but she's wearing a backless leopard-print dress with a little leopard-print hat perched on top of her updo.

Once the music shifted from jazz standards to clubbier music, a group of about 15 single women who were visiting the US from Ireland took to the dancefloor. Wow. These ladies were something. Singing along to Abba and the Village People, doing that "lasso" dance move with one arm circling over their heads, they howled and wriggled and shook their considerable booties.


They were like the Ghosts of Thanksgiving Future -- single women, no families or husbands of their own to spend the holiday with, who get together and dance and party. It was terrifying. Eric was quick to tell me I'd always be with them at the table and not with other ladies on the dance floor, which was reassuring.

Anneliese and Michael got their grooves on as well during this little period. Michael to Tina Turner...


... and Anneliese to YMCA.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In which I am too stupid to understand Checkov

Today was my first wake-up in New York! It's still so exciting just to be here, in a place where Eric is and it's wintry and bustle-y and alive.

Eric's neighborhood is super cute and very different from his previous area of Hell's Kitchen/Times Square. Here's a picture of his building:


A building across the street. Such pretty details:


And even in winter in New York City, a flower box blooms:



We had a leisurely day at the apartment, whose climax was the dramatic delivery of a new sleeper couch (it's a five-floor walk-up!). Here's Eric tearing apart the living room to make space for the new arrival:


And here, for those of you who haven't seen one before, is a radiator. Heat (via steam?) comes up pipes throughout the building and radiates out of this gizmo to heat the room it's in. There's all sorts of hissing and other noises involved when it comes on:


As soon as the delivery men left, Eric and I scooted out for the evening's festivities: dinner at the Russian Tea Room followed by an 8:00 curtain for Checkov's The Seagull, featuring Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard.

The Russian Tea Room is a New York institution. Opened in 1927 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, the Tea Room features authentic Russian food in an opulent setting, served by attentive, precise staff. I'd never been before, so this was a real treat.


The food was exotic and tasty. Eric got Chicken Kiev while I had a shrimp risotto that was unlike any I'd ever had before (I avoided several of the choices I probably would have ordinarily picked because they included foie gras among their ingredients. I'm officially a Californian.).

Here are our main courses:


After dinner, there was a special treat in store: we asked the hostess if we could see The Bear. The Bear is a 16-foot-tall, hollow sculpture commissioned by the Tea Room's former owner, who previously also owned Tavern on the Green. The Bear is on the second floor, so we were led up some winding stairs, the hostess (literally) flipped on a spot light, and this is what we saw:


We both gasped. I don't know what I was expecting, but yikes. And yes, those are fishes swimming around in its belly.

After dinner, we headed over to Broadway, to the Walter Kerr Theater, for the night's show, stopping long enough in Times Square for a quick picture:


The Walter Kerr is just a beautiful place to see a show, having been restored several times to its former theatrical glory. Here's a shot of the theater's ceiling as an example:


I need to fully disclose at this point that while I like lots of kinds of art and personal expression, and certainly have always thought of myself as especially liking plays, I'm not really a a terribly arty person. Museums tend to bore me ("Where's the gift shop?"), and lots of so-called classic films leave me cold as well. But when I came to visit several years ago, Eric and I saw Proof at the same theater, and it was wonderful.

Well.

I'd never seen any Checkov before, but had always heard wonderful things. About how smart and deep and insightful it all is. I don't know about all that, but after two acts' worth of The Seagull, I basically wanted to kill myself. So much interminable, self-involved dialogue among aristocratic, artistic Russian characters about the nature of real theater and inspiration and true expression. Bah. At intermission I told Eric that I hated it, basically wasn't smart enough to even understand what was happening* and that if we didn't go back in, I would be perfectly happy.

Here's a picture of the stage before the performance began to give you a sense of the happiness and joy that accompany this little production:


Eric was lovely about it, despite how much the tickets were and the reviews the play's received. We left, had a late (second) dessert, and returned to the apartment.


* Eric says I am smart enough to understand it and wanted me to include such as a disclaimer.