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Friday, July 31, 2009

Foody Friday: Clever pasta

I often serve pasta as a side dish because my hubby requires regular starch feedings or he dies (or so he tells me). Yeah, I know, I just said yesterday that I eat a pretty healthy diet. Not always, I guess...but if it makes you feel any better I usually buy part whole wheat pasta and since I serve it as a side dish we don't eat huge platefuls (that should technically read "platesfull" but my computer is underlining it as a misspelling so I decided to just go with the flow. Must be Friday!). To make a quick side dish, I cook some pasta then stir some flavor in at the end. I put the lid on for a few minutes after wards to let it heat through and allow the flavors to blend.
Things to stir into your pasta (for 12-16 oz pasta):

Pink Pepperoni: Stir in one small can of tomato paste, then "rinse" the can with red wine and pour in. Add 1/3 cup pepperoni - buy it sliced, chop up, then mirowave for 2-3 minutes before adding to pasta.

Caper-lemon coated pasta: Butter, white pepper, capers with juice, 1/4 C lemon juice, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Fruit and nut: 1/3 C of chutney, 1/3 C raisins or currents, 1/2 C toasted walnuts, dash hot sauce or cayenne pepper. When I'm feeling exotic I substitute half the walnuts for banana chips.

Garlic and Parmesan: Butter, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/3 C coarsely chopped flat leave parsley, 1 tsp black pepper, sea salt, top with Parmesan cheese.

Black olive: 3 scallions, thinly sliced, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp oregano, olive oil, 1 tiny can chopped black olives (the chopped olives in these cans are basically minced but they sure pack a lot of olive into such a small can!)

Pesto: To make pesto not so unhealthy, I just stir in about 1/4 C of prepared pesto, then add some extra seasonings: basil and oregano, some chopped parsley, some garlic. A little pesto goes a long way!

Bacon: Leftover cooked bacon, crumbled; romano cheese, sliced scallions

Pimento-chickpea: A small jar of pimentos, about half a can of chickpeas (rinse well in hot water to remove all of that yucky canned-bean slime - plus it heats them up a little), 1/4 C pesto


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shaping back up: an update

A long while ago I mentioned that I had been packing on the pudge while studying for the NAPLEX, and that I planned to shape right back up once I passed my boards. The original plan was to cut out desserts except once a week, add ten miles per week to my runs, and strength train daily.
I sort of derailed on that plan for a few reasons:
1. I lost my job, which meant I was sitting at home staring at the refrigerator every day for several weeks.
2. I got sick twice, which prevented me from exercising as much as I'd planned on.
3. As soon as I started upping my miles my knees began to throw tantrums.

So the modification went like this: increase exercise while diversifying, continue daily strength training, eat a healthy diet (still limiting desserts and eating small portions of other unhealthy foods I can't resist).
By diversifying exercise I kept up my interest while changing the impact on my knees. On so-hot-you-could-die days I'd do the elliptical machine at the gym, or even the exercise bike if I had some scientific literature to catch up on. Other days I went roller skating in the park, rode my bike, or played football (I learned that my awesome childhood tackling skills are much diminished when the quarterback is a grown man instead of a 7 year old kid). When I did run, I burned more calories by alternating sprints and jogs for the last mile - the bursts of speed will consume oodles of energy.
If I exercised at the gym, I'd do strength training there. If not, I'd squeeze in some squats, sit-ups, crunches, and push ups before bed.
How did I do? Pretty good! It took me a few more weeks than I planned, but I'm all toned again. I mean as toned as I'm going to get. I don't look like a model or an athlete or anything, but my jeans fit!
You might get the picture that I don't really do that much to stay fit. That's true, really. Basically my one fitness rule is "never gain the first pound". I adopted a healthy lifestyle early and this way it is not difficult to maintain my weight: I only do what is needed to keep my weight stable, not lose weight. Even in the above scenario, I was not really overweight or out of shape - I just noticed I had replaced some areas of lean muscle with a layer of flab instead. Easy to fix by a few small changes. It's all pretty easy actually. Of course, I should be honest and say I don't have very high standards. I've been the same size and shape for like 13 years and since I don't plan on walking the runway anytime soon I'm pretty happy with it.

How about you...what are your shape up tips? Which awesome tips can I add to my arsenal???

Cheap date Wednesday: White Linen Night!

Well, this is just for you New Orleanians, sorry - obviously my cheap date Wednesday post has to showcase White Linen Night, scheduled for this Saturday here in the Big Easy. If you're not from NOLA, White Linen Night is sort of New Orleans' "farewell to summer". It is a gigantic art opening, when all the downtown art galleries open with new exhibits. Huge crowds of people, all wearing white linen-ish outfits, converge on the streets to look at art, eat and drink, socialize, people watch, and listen to live music. Other than the concessions and the occasional private party, it's free.
The problem with white linen night is that it becomes a huge sweaty crowd really fast and in order to buy anything to eat or drink you must buy concession tickets first, which means you have to stand in line twice (the food is remarkably low priced however).
My tips for a better White Linen Night?
- Have cocktails at the house first: I suggest mint juleps.
- Pack a summery beer like a lime beer or Blue Moon and large plastic cups...hidden in the dorky back pack you are forcing your significant other to wear.
- Take the street car of course but plan on the ride taking a long time and being crowded.
- Arrive half an hour before scheduled start.
- Creep behind an SUV parked on a side street and pour cups of beer. You'll need it, it's hot out there.
- See your favorite galleries, then mingle on the street for a bit. When the crowd gets gross and sticky go stand in line for the street car. Pour the rest of the beer to drink while you're in line. People are very jovial at this point so the ride back should be fun.
- Take the streetcar all the way to the Riverbend, get out at the last St. Charles stop and head to Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for a smoked salmon pizza (To. Die. For.) - agree to meet friends here if you want; don't try to meet them downtown because you'll never find each other.

So there it is, my foolproof plan for a great White Linen Night. Don't forget to wear a smashing outfit that will get you noticed even though you're in the exact same color and fabric as everyone else. I'm re-wearing the dress I wore for my graduation party.

Next week I'll try to post some of my favorite art/artists from the night!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A reflection on my anniversary....

Today my husband and I have been married two years! Yeah, we're still kind of you shall soon find out for yourself as you continue reading this sappy little post (if you close your eyes during kissing scenes in the movies, navigate away from this page now!).

I remember on the day we were married we went to the beautiful Windsor Court hotel following our wedding. We had a morning wedding followed by a brunch reception, so when we reached our lovely suite it was still mid-afternoon. The sunlight streamed yellow through the floor-to-ceiling windows and I just remember thinking that my husband looked different to me. It was as if he had become more handsome to me once we were married! I distinctly remember that moment and this realization: that now that we were married David seemed more attractive to me. I can't really explain it but I think it's rather cute!

There I got my romantic drivel out and you can feel free to make fun of me :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Crazy Work Weekend

I spent the weekend industriously dispensing drugs and advice to the general populace. It must have been a full moon Saturday because boy did I get some WEIRD questions. Would you like a sample? I thought so! How about these?

1. Husband calls complaining that his wife's low-dose birth control is too expensive. She used to take regular-dose birth control but the high hormone content gave her mood swings. However, she still has a pack left. Can he just break those pills in half and give her half to save money? (I was like, um, if you want a baby!)

2. This was the day for people wanting to take half their pills. A LOL (little old lady) called to TELL me - not ask me, since she already did it! - that her doctor had her on an antibiotic twice a day but it upset her stomach. So she had just broken the pills in half and took halves instead of the whole thing. But now instead of ten days' worth she has 20 days' worth - should she take all twenty days or just ten? Oh and her infection doesn't feel a BIT better! I wonder why.

3. Mom picks up tylenol with codeine - for pain - for her ten year old son's ear infection. I clearly discuss the directions which state to give one or two tablets every 6 hours as needed for pain. We agree to start with one tablet and only givehim two if the pain is unbearable after 6 hours. Mom promptly goes home and, distraught by her son's moans of pain, gives him three tablets right off the bat, which is a big fat overdose for her son's weight. She then calls me to tell me her son is hallucinating and thinks he's a terrier.

4. I recommend pseudoephedrine for a patient's nasal congestion. I tell her she has to present her driver's license to purchase it. She doesn't have her DL with her but tells me her passport is in her car. So you drove here without a license? Not smart.

5. A woman visiting her parents asks her pediatrician from home to call in an antibiotic for her son. There's a bit of a hold up filling it since the doctor forgot to call in the drug strength on the answering machine. She arrives to pick it up while I'm still on hold with her doctor. This infuriates her and she begins shouting that we are incredibly incompetent and no WONDER she moved away from Louisiana to West Virginia. Ok, no offense, but I used to live in WV and I hardly think of it as a state of model efficiency and work ethic.

So that was my weekend. I guess this is what I have to look forward to for 40 more years! Ha!
So how about yours? What happened fun or interesting this weekend?

Friday, July 24, 2009

What are you reading these days?

I am rarely without a good book, or at least a book if my judgment was not so great on my last library trip. Right now my book shelf contains:

1. Twighlight, just to see what all the hoopla is about (plus my sister in law forced me to, basically at gunpoint).
2. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. I sort of never completed high school, so I missed out on standard highschool classics. I'm trying to catch up on those now.
3. By the Lake by John McGahern. I haven't started this yet and honestly I just liked the cover. It's about rural Ireland, which is a scene much overused in the literary world, but I'll give it a shot.
4. A new translation of the Medea by Euripides, just for fun.

So what are you reading these days?
And do you check books out of the library, or buy them new? And if so, what's your favorite bookstore? If you shop at Barnes and Nobles, here's a 20% off coupon that expires July 28th, so hurry!
What about recommendations: my sister is a librarian and occasionally recommends books. Do you have a trusted source, do you glance at Oprah's book club (barf! dumb!), or do you just browse?
Any books you'd recommend?

Ok I'm done asking questions, have a great weekend!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The creative ways I exercise

Today I jogged to the library to return my books. I was killing two birds with one stone because I needed my daily jog, and my books were due today and my car is in the shop. So I simply jogged over and dropped my books in the slot (it isn't far). I stuck to back roads to keep people from wondering why a girl was running down the street with two novels tucked under her arm, but that didn't prevent a scooter-riding gent from commenting, "That's what I call BOOKING IT!" as I passed. Haha, great pun.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Foody Friday: Another salad, and the COOLinary menu

Clementine and goat cheese salad

One of my favorites...sorry the picture is so bad, I was halfway done eating it! I have no self-control!


Butter lettuce
Small clementines or satsumas in sections
Chopped Italian parsley
sliced scallions
walnut pieces
goat cheese, crumbled
To taste:
black pepper
kosher salt
lemon juice
olive oil (optional)

SO you get the picture, put it together and make a fabulous salad. I don't use the olive oil and just add a touch of lemon juice because the clementines sort of make a dressing as you eat it.

Now for my local readers, I want to make sure you are all aware of the COOLinary menu specials here in NOLA for the summer. Since business drops so much in the summer, several restaurants offer amazing deals during the hottest months. Usually it is something like an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $28 or $30, and you you usually have 1-3 options to choose from. It's a great way to try some of the pricier restaurants and my hubby and I totally indulge all summer! Check out the participating restaurants here; some restaurants will list the COOLinary menu on their website whereas others keep it sort of hush-hush and you have to specifically ask your server about it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More office attire: What if I don't want to tuck my shirt in?

Quick style tip I thought of while typing the last post:
Generally speaking office attire requires your button down blouse be tucked in. This poses a problem for me as I am both tall AND long-waisted. My shirts simply don't stay tucked in, and I can look disproportionate (especially if the slacks are sort of low-rise like the Express Editor style, one of my favorites).
My solutions? I wear my button-downs untucked, but I do one of the following three things to dress that look up:
1. My favorite technique is to throw a skinny belt on at my true waist. The belt has to be clean, crisp, and neat - leather or patent - for this to work. The model above, from Frankie B., is wearing her top with jeans, but you get the idea. This works well to dress the top up and creates a flattering waistline.
2. Add a vest. You can usually get away with a tailored, neat button down untucked with a menswear vest. If your top is too loose or is not fitted this can look messy and hipster and your boss will think you biked over from the vegan coffee bar.
3. Add a cropped jacket or cardigan with one button done. A short-length layer works a lot like the vest. Fasten one button (a cropped blazer will probably only have one button) or alternatively layer a skinny belt over the cardigan to combine looks #1 and #3.

So what do all three of these solutions have in common? Basically they are just adding shape to your outfit. The problem with untucked shirts is that they can look messy, ill-fitting, and lazy; these solutions remedy that.

Train luck and other ramblings

I have the worst train luck. I always catch the train...especially when I'm late. Last night I caught the train while I was running. And I caught it twice, on the way there and back! Poor pitiful me.

Now for a quick opinion poll. My first few days of work will involve CD-ROM based training, so rather than standing at a pharmacy counter I will be sitting at a desk. This means I could get away with clothes I couldn't wear to stand up all day in - for example, a nice skirt and high heels (When I'm on my feet for 8-10 hours I'll be in slacks and comfy shoes). My question is - should I take this opportunity to wear the nicer outfits, hoping to impress with a neat and professional appearance, or will I just come across as impractical and vain?
My current point of view is start out with a very practical slacks/shoes combo, see how everyone else is dressed, then maybe branch out. What do you think?
What I'm wearing today: Dark gray slacks with slight check, am orange-red button down cinched at the waist with a narrow gray crocodile belt, and loafers with low heels. Just small diamond studs for jewelry.
Sound ok? The orange is not too bright and it's sort of this year's color; it adds a bit of "pop" to an otherwise all-gray ensemble. If you think I should change try to catch me in the next hour! Haha!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If this ain't the swine flu is sure FEELS like dying!

I'm sick, darn it. I hate getting sick. I don't like to take medication, so I just wander around in a phlegmy haze feeling kind of drunk and very achy. I'm so aggravated that I'm sick at this particular moment because I start my new job tomorrow! And here's the worst part: during my interview my manager mentioned sick days and couldn't recall some particular detail about the policy. "Oh don't worry," I assured him cockily. "I never get sick." Uh-huh. Except for day #1 on the job. Way to look reliable!
Why oh why did I open my big mouth? I might as well have just hollered, "Oh H1N1 virus! Please come lodge in my respiratory tract! It's nice and cozy in here...and easy easy entry, since my ginormous mouth is always open!"

Questions to ponder on this Tuesday:
- How to feel a tad more awake and alive when you have the flu or a bad cold
- Covering your mouth: is it REALLY sanitary to cough into your hand, which will then touch all kinds of surfaces around you? How about the medically-approved "shoulder cough"?
- Is hand sanitizer just as good as hand washing?

And other germy topics as you see fit!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ahhh, family visits! What are weekends for?

My family is a little strange. You may have gathered that from reading the odd snippet about them here and there. Growing up we alternated religions and diets (we were vegetarian for a while, macrobiotic juicers for a stint, junk food eaters currently), we were rather haphazardly homeschooled, and of course...there are eleven of us. Once in a while I drag my patient husband over to hang with my seven brothers (the seven brothers thing totally intimidated him while we were dating). Luckily, my hubby speaks my brothers' language, i.e. football, so they all get along.
Yesterday we came for an unannounced visit since we were in the area. Here's what went down:
1. Matthew showed me the new porch extension the boys and Dad built from scratch, and the new table bird feeder.
2. Izzy pointed out two tit-mouses (tit-mice?) eating from the feeder...scaring them away with his super-deep man voice (when did they all grow up?!)
3. Mom pulled out a snack of bagels with peanut butter..from the freezer. Now really, who freezes bagels with peanut butter? I'm so confused. We couldn't even microwave them because my mom thinks microwaves will kill you so they don't own one.
4. Izzy and the hubby discussed fantasy football teams. Usually Izzy picks Hubby's team because Izzy is kind of our resident expert.
5. Abe came home from the gym and told me his latest running times - he now holds the state record for the 4-mile in his age group!
6. Dad never showed up. Where was he? Joey was at work so we didn't get to hash the atheist thing out.
7. I decided to stir the pot by telling the world that Abe was a cuter baby than Sam was. Not sure why I thought that would be a good idea; I think I was trying to get Sam to talk. He's like Silent Cal.
8. Sam said nothing because Sam never talks, he just smirks and winks. Sam is brilliant but he only speaks when absolutely necessary.

Then we left and had Thai food because the frozen bagels didn't fill us up much.
Now for a confession. I only visit my family like 4 times a year and they only live an hour away! I'm so busy all the time, and they never come visit me, so it's hard on me to make that trip too often. But hubby thinks I need to visit more. How often is "just right" for family visits? Do your families live close or far away, and how often do you visit?
And most importantly, do you freeze your bagels and PB?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Foody Friday: My weird yet delicious watermelon salad

Here it is the recipe that made me famous!
Actually I debated revealing the original recipe and couldn't make myself do it - it's one of my secret recipes - so here is a very refreshing variation. The ingredient list looks strange but the salad is excellent!

Sweet and Spicy Watermelon salad

3-4 cups watermelon is small chunks, try to avoid getting too much juice in as the salad will make plenty of juice on its own
1 small tomato or plum tomato, chopped
1/4 of an onion, sliced into thing rings
1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup very small cubes of pepper jack cheese
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbs good quality red wine vinegar

Toss all together in a large bowl with a lid. Allow to marinate and chill for at least an hour, occasionally turning the bowl to allow flavors to combine.
It's the best thing you ever tasted. It looks very pretty is you use red onions and yellow tomato to add some color.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The wife's response and my take on it

In case nobody noticed, filial cheating is rampant among politicians, especially recently. The latest example is South Carolina's governor Sanford, who had arguably the stupidest affair of all time. Really, man, did you think you could pull of an affair with an Argentinian?! And the sudden vanishing act...not very subtle. You might as well published a memo that suspicious travel activity indicative of a lurid affair was about to commence. But what makes this affair really stand out is the victim: in this case Jenny Sanford. She's a little different. I'm so sick and tired of seeing the forgiving, stand-by-your-man approach from these political wives. Remember Hillary Clinton? Regardless of her future political designs, I would have respected her so much more if she had shown a little backbone! Then there's Louisiana's own David Vitter, the congressman who hired a prostitute - yet his wife stand stoically and painfully by his side during his speech. I would have at least have been making bunny-ears behind his head...or devil horns. I liked Jenny Sanford's response a little better. When her husband confessed his affair to her privately (well...after she found him out!), she forgave him, but refused to allow him the visits to Argentina he begged for. "It's one thing to forgive adultery," she is quoted as saying, "It's another to condone it." At another time she told reporters that her husbands career was not a concern of hers, citing her children's needs instead. Thanks, Jenny, breath of fresh air! I personally doubt I would have the fortitude to forgive in the first place, but her common sense response makes me respect her. Stick to your guns, Jenny, if I were you I'd drop that loser and go get tested for STDs, but at least remember that, politics or not, your husband is a cheater and gets no special treatment!

Let's see how the skirt came out...

Here it is, spiffy little business skirt made by moi. Totally worth the hard work.

In case you can't see the details, the front of the skirt has a sort of built in vest that buttons. This allowed me to use my brand-new sewing machine's "auto button hole" function which takes all the sorrow and tears out of button holes. It's much neater but sort of takes the pathos out of sewing clothes.

The back has a neat little vent and zipper, which I managed to not mangle.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sew complicated...

Sewing used to be a money-saver. The Laura Ingles Wilders among us would grab some spare calico and needle and whip up a frumpy housedress for a fraction of the cost of Kmart. Things have changed, though. I sew just because I like clothes and generally tweak a pattern or design my own. Back when Walmart carried $1/yard fabric I saved money, too. But yesterday I decided to make a skirt (a high-waisted black linen number) and to my horror my total after buying a pattern, fabric, and a zipper - I already had thread - was over $30! I could buy a skirt at the Goodwill for a tenth of the cost!
The only good part is that the pattern is reusable. In fact yesterday I made the black linen skirt that works as a career skirt without being too hot (no need to line the fabric, linen is thick and the black is pretty opaque) and today I'm starting one in a pale gray and straw weave. Adorable.

Speaking of saving money on clothes, my latest thrift store splurge was a $15 shopping spree that netted three brand new Ann Taylor button-down blouses, a DKNY button-down, and a charming bright green trench coat (marked down to $5!).

It's also Cheap Date Wednesday today but my mind is sort of chime in if you have any ideas for this weekend!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I'm back!

Well sorry for the big break there. I bet you thought I stopped to take a breath. Ha, no! (In case you're wondering, I breathe through my nose so that I don't need to stop talking for even a second.)
I was actually doing two awesome things:
1. Becoming a godparent to my adorable little Mattie (see picture of me at scenic camp, site of the Baptism, above)
2. Getting a job! I'm back to being one of the 91%: the employed in this country. Now this here is an interesting story, and it involves some shameless bragging so please just read really fast through that part or leave snide comments intended to deflate the ol' head a little (it's ok, I could probably use a deflating).
See, my big drawback has been my resume in this job hunt. Honestly, it's too good. This sounds crazy but it's true. Interviewers always caution me that they think I'll get bored at this job, or tell me that I'm overqualified. Really it hasn't hurt the job offers - I still got several - but it sure hurts the feelings! I felt so demoralized after basically being told ten times that all my hard work was for nothing. Employers even assume I have some big dark secret: for example, one employer asked me, only half-joking, "Did you kill a baby?" because she simply couldn't believe I was unemployed. Others think I have bigger goals and am using them as a stepping stone. Nope, none of the above! I just want a job! Well, finally on Friday I got a call for an interview that seemed pretty ho-hum. I already had two job offers, and I was trying to pick which one was less horrible. I went to the interview expecting very little. Much to my surprise the offer was for a brand new position that required all of the skills demonstrated by my resume. For once, this employer appreciated my assets and immediately recognized I'd be good for this new job! And the new position is perfect for me: close to the house, requires communication and people skills, lots of responsibility, creativity encouraged. Am I thrilled? Totally!!! The new position isn't open until November, but I was signed on anyway to keep me with the company until then. How amazing is that?
Having got that relief out of the way...anyone out there searching for a job or recently landed one? What's your story?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Despite constant pressure to be thin...Americans are obese!

I am posting a bit of a controversial musing here. In the news today, reports indicate that obesity rates in America are still on the rise, with only one state still under 20% obesity, and no states decreasing rates from last year. Our obesity as a nation is astounding. Many states boast a full 25% of residents classified as obese. In Louisiana, one out of three adults is obese. And let's not get confused here: these numbers are about obesity, that is, severely overweight*. When we look at people who are simply overweight, that's two-thirds of the population. That's right, two-thirds of Americans are overweight.
But for some reason all I hear about is that women are under constant pressure to be thin, and how terrible that is, and how we need to accept all body types. But do we? Should we accept obesity as the norm? It appears we already have, despite stick-thin models and tiny celebrities whose skin and bones we see every day. I believe we are missing the point here. We basically have an argument and a counter-argument that don't match. Science and medicine say, "We're overweight as a nation, we need to trim down because our medical, fuel, and food costs are skyrocketing" and women of the nation reply, "Stop demanding we be skinny! I'm hot with all my curves!" The response doesn't even make sense. Let's all get on the same page here! The response I'm looking for is, "Ok, you're right, I will adjust my diet and start an exercise program so I can be more healthy and drastically reduce my chances of death from cardiovascular disease".
We need to focus as a nation on a HEALTHY weight, not a FASHIONABLE weight. Being your healthy weight brings huge health benefits, decreasing cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis. And honestly it looks good too, because everyone's healthy weight looks perfect on them because they're healthy! I'm not saying you need to be skinny or that everyone should be a size 4. I'm just saying that I think we do need to pressure the population to be thinner, it's just that we need to make sure we are addressing a health concern, not a concern with appearance.
And on that note I'm going for a run because now I've given myself a massive guilt trip!
Discuss! Discuss!
* Obesity and overweight are defined by body mass index, or BMI, and yes, there is disagreement about how accurate the BMI is since it doesn't take into account health risks like fat distribution (fat waist = unhealthy) and can't tell if your weight is fat or muscle. So percentages could conceivably be lower than stated.