Wednesday, October 27, 2010

skinny days

This morning, I tried on three outfits before settling on one for the day.  And I'm not one to fuss that much unless I'm 1) going out dancing or 2) going on a date.  I didn't have anywhere special to go; I just wanted to look more put-together than my usual jeans and a t-shirt.  Sometimes, that's all it takes to make it a "skinny day."

Fast-forward a couple hours.

I'm walking to the drug store to pick up a few things, and while crossing the street, I hear a whistle.  The standard, very LOUD catcall whistle.  I smirk and keep walking.  Undeterred, the guy leans out his window and shouts, "you're BEAUTIFUL!"  Oh boy.

Then I'm at the drugstore checkout, and the cashier--a nice enough-looking guy--hits on me.  He mumbles a little, but it's something about my outfit, I think, and the fact that I dance to the music while shopping.  Well, it was "You & Me" by the Dave Matthews Band.  Who doesn't dance to that? :)  And I was happy about the Garnier Fructis sale.  I thank him, smile, take my receipt, and leave.

There's a little bounce in my step as I walk the four blocks to home.  Sure, I could roll my eyes at it all.  But for today, I'm okay with a little attention.

I guess today's a "skinny" day after all! :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

a return to the days of backyard shenanigans

I bet you can't remember the last time you played in the backyard all day.  Sure, the outdoorsy types go for hikes and picnics in the park.  But what about just killing time outside?  That's how I spent my Sunday in Sag Harbor with three rambunctious kids.  

It's like I'm seven years old again.  We throw the Frisbee for the dog, pick grass for no reason, drink juice boxes in the sunshine, improvise with rocks as sidewalk chalk, race to the hedge and back, and generally have ourselves a grand old time.  

I do the toss-and-bat combo for Leo with an over-sized plastic baseball bat because he loves to chase the ball down the yard.  When Zo decides to run for the same ball, Leo gets frustrated because he isn't as fast.  So with the next swing, I throw Zo off and give Leo the head start so he can "win" at chasing down my line drive. I'm always rooting for the underdog. :)

I braid flowers into JuJu's hair as we sit with Leo, waiting for the "ducks" to return.  They were quite the highlight yesterday, despite their almost-run-in with Zo's face.  JuJu corrects her brother, smartly: "They are not ducks, Leo.  They're swans."  He could care less.  A few hours later, the swans show up, and all Leo cares about is finding some bread scraps to feed the "ducks."  Good thing Dad made French toast this morning. :)

Throughout the morning, the four of us rotate through our collection of pint-sized sports equipment.  I teach JuJu how to dribble, and just passing the ball to a three-year-old reminds me of how much I miss playing soccer.  I'm surprised, actually, and I make a mental note to look up a rec league near home.

Today is a great day.  Good old-fashioned play, crisp air, and plenty of sunshine.  I couldn't be at church this morning, but this is about as close a second as I could ask for.  Just when I think I've already had a terrific day, God knocks one out of the park at the bottom of the ninth.  Well, whaddya know?  We win the game. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

buses, squash, & swans

What a whirlwind weekend this has been.  I took the bus out to Sag Harbor Thursday afternoon, then rode back into Manhattan Friday morning for my voice lesson.  I'm back in Sag Harbor for Saturday and Sunday and will head home Monday morning.  All totaled, I will have spent nine hours and twenty minutes on Hampton Jitney buses this weekend.  Good thing I'm not paying for transportation!

Because I had all day Friday to myself, I hit the kitchen (obviously!).  My latest adventure: orange vegetable pilau (pronounced pee-LOH).  

The recipe is from Easy Vegan: Simple Recipes for Healthy Eating, the book I decided on the night I (sort of) ran into James Franco at Barnes & Noble.

Orange Vegetable Pilau

2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 large red chile, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
7 oz (about 1 cup) pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into wedges
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into thick semi-circles
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
a handful of cilantro/fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Serves 4

Put the oil in a heavy-based saucepan set over high heat.  Ad the onion (I used a yellow onion), garlic, ginger, and chile (I used a green Anaheim chile) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the spices and almonds and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the spices become aromatic and look very dark in the pan.

Add the rice (I used jasmine, but basmati is best) and cook for 1 minute, stirring well to coat the rice in the spices.  Add the carrot, pumpkin (I used butternut squash), and sweet potato (I used a garnet yam) to the pan.  Pour in 2 1/2 cups water and stir well, lossening any grains of rice that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the rice is tender, take the pan off the heat and add the lime juice and coriander (I used cilantro).  Stir well to combine and serve hot.

Anaheim chile, garlic, onion, and ginger

combined in skillet with olive oil, almonds, and spices

butternut squash, garnet yam, and carrot

combine, add water, and bring to boil

simmer for 25 minutes, mix with lime juice, and garnish with cliantro 
(I forgot this part!)

delicious with a slice of pumpkin tea bread from Whole Foods

This recipe obviously yields a pretty hefty batch of goodness, so find someone to share it with, or be prepared to eat leftovers several meals in a row.  It's actually one of those great dishes that almost tastes better on the second day.  Don't forget the lime and cilantro, like I did for my first serving.  The citrus tang combines beautifully with the earthy sweetness of the squash and yam.  And cilantro just makes everything better. :)

This afternoon, I spent quite a bit of time playing with the kids in the backyard.  We played fetch with the dog, caught a grasshopper (Leo called him Hopper, from A Bug's Life), and were surprised by a family of swans!

Be forewarned: they're beautiful but temperamental.  And very territorial.  Don't get too close.  One of them almost bit Zo.  No joke.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegan Cookbooks and James Franco

Tonight, I walk to the Tribeca Barnes & Nobel.  I am a woman on a mission to find the ultimate vegan cookbook.  Upon entering, I notice a voice being projected throughout the entire store.  Then I see a few plasma screens back at the music and movies area.  Someone is giving a reading.  But I can only see the top of his head.  I listen a little more closely, and then it hits me.  Oh my gosh.  That's James Franco's voice.  That's James Franco!  He's in the building.  No freaking way.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  After all, just in the last month or so, I've passed Alan Cumming walking down the street in a kilt, and I've watched Naomi Watts pick up her little girl from Montessori across the street.  Of course James Franco is giving a reading in my neighborhood Barnes & Nobel.  Of course.

And of course my guts swirl in a minor case of star-struck giddiness.  But thankfully, it doesn't last long, and my ego isn't damaged too badly.  I calmly saunter over to the back of the bookstore where masses of young women--and a few regular, middle-aged folks--have flocked to hear their beloved actor/artist/writer extraordinaire.  He really is beautiful to listen to.  I had no idea until today that he'd published a book, and I find myself quite enraptured in his prose.  Great storytelling.  But I guess you'd expect as much from an actor like James Franco.  I can't see him behind the crowd, so I just lean back against a bookshelf and listen, eyes closed.  For a minute, I think about buying his book--and joining the throng of adoring fans--so I can wait in line for him to scribble his illegible name across the cover of my freshly-bought copy.  

But I came here to buy a vegan cookbook.  James Franco is just a happy coincidence.

Smirking a bit at the scene Mr. Franco has created, I retreat to the cookbook section and settle down for some serious vegan cookbook browsing.  I drop my purse and sweater, and situate myself cross-legged in front of the shelves marked VEGETARIAN and VEGAN

I chuckle to myself as I imagine James walking around the corner, annoyed by the hordes of facebook profile pic-snapping college girls, only to find me intently searching for the perfect culinary guide.  Maybe he'd think me a little mysterious.  I'd imagine a guy like him might stop to wonder why I'm not falling all over him.  Perhaps he'd pause for a minute, offer a suggestion on his favorite title, and smile that squinty-eyed, dimpled grin of his.  I could go for that. 

But James doesn't come to the cookbook section.  I sit at my station, drooling over recipes for singaras with fresh mango salsa and spiced eggplant couscous while groups of drooling, giggling girls pass by on their way out, signed books in hand.  

They squawk and whine, "Oh my gosh!  I must have sounded so stupid.  Did I sound stupid?  Oh geez.  My camera's crap.  Did you get any good photos?  I can't believe I only had my camera phone!  He's so cute!  And he's so nice, too!  Oh my gosh.  James Franco.  Oh my gosh."

After carefully perusing half a dozen photo-saturated cookbooks, I pick my favorite.  I pick my way back through the thinning crowd toward his book-signing table.  I see him, and he's just as good-looking in real life as he is in the movies.  He's got a nice smile.  And he doesn't seem too fake.  That's nice.  I whip out my phone and snap a few photos for posterity's sake, then call Ben to brag.  He's jealous, of course.  

I just chuckle and buy my cookbook.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wait, what? VEGAN?

Well, mostly.  

Since reading Skinny Bitch, picking a few brains, and consulting the near-expert advice of my aunt (an RN and vegetarian of almost forty years), I've come to the conclusion that I at least want to give this a fair shot.  So I'm not eating beef, chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, or any other meats.  I'll eat fish from time to time which, given my income, is pretty rarely anyway.  I'm avoiding eggs, cheese, and butter and substituting milk and yogurt with their alternatives.  Soy seems pretty good so far.  

If we go back to the drawing board, our bodies weren't originally created to consume such massive amounts of meat and animal products, if any.  We're herbivores without claws or massive jaws full of sharp teeth.  We weren't created to take down a cow--or an elk or deer, for that matter.  And cow's milk was meant for calves equipped with four stomachs, not our simple bodies.  Cow's milk is far to rich and complex for our bodies to handle.  It's total over-kill.

I've never been an animal rights freak.  And I'm still not one.  But the conditions these animals endure to feed us are horrific to put it mildly.  And the slaughterhouses sound like absolute hell on earth.  Considering my body isn't equipped to process what they have to offer, I don't see the point in putting any more animals through the torture.

If that's not convincing enough, look at the health comparisons of vegans and vegetarians versus those who regularly consume meat and animal products.  The catastrophic rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and a slough of other maladies is exponentially lower among vegans and vegetarians.  On average, they live six to ten years longer than meat-eaters. Think about it.  In ten years, your kid could get married and have a few kids.  What if you're not around to see those ten years of their lives?

This is not to be taken as self-righteous in any way.  It's just the choice I'm making right now. What you choose to do is absolutely fine.  It's your body, your food, your life.  Frankly, I'm just excited to see all the good things that should come of this! :)

I'm centering my diet on tons of whole grains, beans and legumes, vegetables, and fruit.  With a multivitamin, vitamin-D and calcium-fortified orange juice, and a calcium citrate supplement, I should get more than enough of what I need.  And don't worry about the protein.  The soy, beans, nuts, and Naked protein juice smoothies take care of that.

Tonight, dinner is a masterpiece of a salad.  Here it is, all from Trader Joe's:

  • 2 broccoli florets
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/4 orange bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups sorrento mix of baby arugula, baby spinach, and baby lettuces
  • 5 sugar snap peas
  • 2 baby carrots
  • 1/8 cup edamame (soybeans)
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
  • a handful of pea sprouts 
  • fat-free balsamic vinaigrette 

And let me tell you, it's delicious. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Father's Day

One of the biggest perks of living in Manhattan is the garbage.  Seriously.  People throw away some of the most valuable things.  

A few weeks ago, the couple I work for passed a bookcase on the sidewalk while leaving for their dinner date.  At the restaurant, they both mentioned how I'd probably like it.  So they called our doorman and had the poor guy drag the rain-soaked bookcase in off the street and into our lobby.  It was dirty and water-stained, but I knew it had potential.  

I bought a block of sandpaper on Friday morning and got to work that night on making the thing sparkle.  It's now almost as good as new.  I just need to find books and picture frames and knick-knacks to fill it.

Another freebie came from a friend of Gary's.  They rent out an apartment in SoHo, and a now-former tenant left a perfectly good toaster oven, plus a few other items.  So Gary took them off the guys hands, knowing I could probably use one.

It was grimy and needed some serious scrubbing with goo-be-gone and stainless steel cleaner.  And inside were the most random items: a vacuum hose attachment, a purple no. 2 pencil, and a Father's Day card.  Huh.  So I read it.

On the front cover are two cartoon dogs, a puppy and his dad.  The dog, red paper heart in mouth, exclaims "I Love You, Daddy." 

And here's the inside:
Hugs and kisses 
from me to you
Happy Father's Day

All in all, a pretty average card.  Nothing special.  

But the hand-written message struck me, quite unexpectedly.

Thanks FoR Letting me grow. im gonna make you reAlly proud of me someday.  Mommy can Be a real pain in the "you know what" But SHE's A big reAson Im gonna grow up sweeT, kinD gentle And smaRT so tAke good carRe of heR FoR me, OKy? looKing FORWAD to meeting you soon
love, ME

Who is this kid, and what is her story?  I was completely dumbfounded.  If the she really meant "looking forward to meeting you" and not just "looking forward to seeing you," I'm at a total loss.  I've never heard of a kid sending her forever-absent father a card on a holiday which, for all intents and purposes, should mean nothing to a fatherless child.

The penmanship isn't fantastic, and the letters are all mixed up between upper- and lower-case, but this kid has to be at least ten or twelve.  I wonder how many cards she's sent to her dad, hoping to finally meet him.  I wonder if he ever writes her back.

And what about the mom?  It sounds like she is already out of the girl's life--or headed that direction.  Is this another snapshot from a foster child's life?  I've seen too many already, and most of them aren't happy stories.

I don't know why I care so much about this kid.  But I do.  So much.

If it's safe and good and right, I hope she meets her dad.  And I hope he loves her as much as she deserves.