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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going Postal

We have major post office issues here in NOLA. Major. Like, it would usually be faster to hand deliver all my mail by holding the envelope in my teeth as I crab-walked backwards to the destination.
Case in point #1: Our mailman comes at 6:30 pm, if at all. If we don't have outgoing mail (we usually don't), he skips our box until our mail piled up to the point of causing him discomfort, at which point he unceremoniously dumps it on our welcome mat. His late hours have caused all kinds of dark-night panic when I momentarily thought the clanging mailbox was someone breaking in.
Case in point #2: Once upon a time a certain engaged girl stood in line for FORTY MINUTES to purchase stamps for her invitations, only to be told at the counter that the post office was out of first class stamps. But she could buy a combination of four stamps, one of which had a picture of a bulldozer on it, that equaled first class postage. I am not naming the girl to protect her because she may have expressed her annoyance rather strongly.
The post office near my house is so bad that I have started going to great lengths to avoid it. After waiting over 30 minutes in line last time, I vowed not to return, and the next time I needed to mail a package I walked to the post office on nearby Loyola University's campus. Fail. They were randomly closed for "processing" (aka smoke break?). I tried again the next day, this time driving. Forget it. No parking for miles. Silly me, it was the first day of class - you know, when people still care about going to class. Today I decided to visit a post office out of the way from my house, but nearish to work. The line seemed short - 5 people - and I decided to wait.
First person in line: "Didn't you used to have glasses?" Postal worker: "Yes, but I got Lasik!" A long conversation was not finished by the time I left.
Second person in line: Presents a china merry-go-round with moving parts plopped in an open priority mail box. "You can tape this," she demands. The postal worker explains that the item will break if not wrapped in bubble wrap. The customer stands in line grilling the employee about how much the bubble wrap costs, can she get it for free, etc. She demands tape and commences to package her item at the counter.
Third person in line: Long conversation in broken English about a package from Romania. Postal worker glares and informs him that it was returned to customs on the 23rd because they had held it for over a week. "Told me month! Month!" the man insists. Upon conferring with a manual, the employee realizes she should indeed have held the package for a month, but she shrugs and pretends she can't understand the customer.
Second person in line again: "How much this wrap is? You can price it for me? You can give me a little piece?"
Fourth person in line: "I need to return this television. It's postage paid." Employee: "You have to tape the box up." Customer looks confused. "I ain't got no tape!" Employee: "Well, I can't mail it like this." "Well I can't buy no tape! It's postage paid! I'm not paying for tape!" Employee: "Look, there is no way I can send this. There's tape over there for sale."
Fifth person in line: "These idiots need to show up with some tape, what the hell!"
Fourth person in line again: "Let me have your tape." Employee: "I don't have any". "Yes you do!" cries the customer, pointing to merry-go-round lady, who is taping up a storm with postal tape. "Well, that's the only tape I've got," shrugs the employee, "And she's got it, so no, I don't have any tape."
Fifth person in line: "Gosh I waited in line for twenty minutes, all for these stupid problems! All I want to do is send this with delivery confirmation! I had to open the envelope back up once I sealed it. You got some tape?"

Yes, I did manage to finally mail my boxes. But I think from now on I'm going to have to add a "handling" surcharge to my Ebay auctions. I need some compensation for standing in that line!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Katrina Anniversary and Labor Day Plans!

This Sunday marked the 5-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. TO be quite honest, I didn't post anything because I didn't have anything monumental enough to say to fit the occasion. So I am leaving it at this - I sorrow for those who lost, I rejoice for those who returned, I give thanks for those who helped others. One of those helpers was Claiborne, a gentleman from Monroe, La, who selflessly offered to let my husband and his brother stay at his house - complete strangers - during evacuation. As I recall the stay was marked by a lot of beer and wine and Chris Rock routines (at some point Claiborne banned the news). Coincidentally, Claiborne was in town on business this weekend and we were able to meet him for a drink and reminisce over our experiences 5 years ago.
It turns out that the stars have aligned to allow me a 4-day weekend this Labor Day! I'm using my mini vacation to visit my sister, whom I haven't seen in over a year and a half. Hurray! My husband predicts that within half an hour he won't be able to tell our laughs apart (we tend to start sounding a lot alike when we're together). I'd like to put together a hostess gift for them - I was thinking a basket of food goodies. So far I have one thing...a jar of Nutella! What yummy little fancy food do you suggest I add?

The photo is me at our home - back then it was David's bachelor pad - in late September, 2005. It was the first day our zipcode opened. I was miserably hot and drenched with sweat but so happy to find our neighborhood relatively untouched!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Running weather! And a running review.

Finally, some cool weather for my long run! Of course it fell on a step-back week, darn. Today I ran in 85 degrees, with a heat index of 90. Seriously. I don't think I've run when the heat index is below triple digits since May. It felt amazing! I was supposed to do 12 miles today; I ended up with 13.5 in a fast 1:48, an 8 minute pace on the nose.
This demonstrates what heat will do to you. I can run a 9:30 in the heat and be putting out more effort.
I wanted to go further, but I was getting hungry and thirsty. I didn't bring any fluids with me, relying on water fountains instead, and had 3 GU chomps; I think that despite the cool weather and overcast skies I was sweating enough to have perhaps needed some gatorade before I left. I decided to quit while I was ahead and get home before I got faint.
This run brings up an interesting question. Today I wore my lightweight New Balance which I have totally neglected because they are too narrow and not too padded. I have so much sweat in my Saucony's that I dreaded putting my feet into their dampness, so I went with the NB's. And I feel ok. There is very little cushioning, but I loved the lighter weight. They're a full 3 ounces lighter per shoe! Should I run the marathon in the New Balance (given that I have a few more successful trial runs)? Or stick with the Saucony's?
And now a review of...
Endomondo is basically a "Garmin" that you can download to your phone.Neat idea, right? Similar to Garmin, you can download your stats and the website has a workout community, etc. I loved the idea - Garmins are hundreds of dollars, but Endomondo membership is completely free. Unfortunately, I simply can't get the program to work. The biggest issue is that the satellite pick up is spotty. Check out this fantastic run of 833 miles completed in ten minutes. Yeah.
If I could find a satellite, I would have addressed the other issue: porting my phone. Not every phone works with an armband - in fact, there isn't one available for my Blackberry. But I heard that you can fit it into a particular generic armband and cut a little hole so you can access the control wheel! For my practice runs, I slipped the phone into a baggie and ran holding it. Obviously this was hard to do, especially while attempting to locate a satellite, but it also wasn't healthy for my phone. It steamed up inside the bag, even though is wasn't sealed, and my phone froze. I had to stop, remove my battery, and let it reboot.
I tried the program four times, with these results:
1. Found satellite after 9 minutes outside. Lost satellite within a minute; timer keeps ticking so your pace is totally off.
2. Never found satellite. Gave up and started running. Even at end of 5 miles still searching for satellite.
3. Found satellite in a few minutes, I started out with high hopes; realize halfway through that I'd lost the satellite again. Discovered that I'd run 833 miles when I got home.
4. Found satellite after over 25 minutes of waiting. Phone froze half a mile in. Gave up.
So...wish I could recommend Endomondo but I can't because of satellite issues. Too bad, it sounded like such a fantastic idea!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The brothers in question

I think you deserve to see the brothers after hearing all about their schooling, don't you?
Here are Johny and Joey. They think they are awesome. Random guy in the back is the infamous Bob.

Here's Abe... Jazz half marathon 2009. Not that you can see a darn thing...just imagine me with slightly shorter hair and bigger muscles.

Here's Nate at his graduation. As you can tell he got most of the Armenian genes.

And the semester begins....

This year I have three siblings in college, and they're gearing up for a long year. Let's review, movie style.
Johnny: ***
First we have Johnny, who is getting his doctor of divinity degree. Because his bachelors in Bible wasn't enough. Sorry. I don't mean to be sarcastic, but I have psychoanalyzed my older brother and decided that he is pursuing the "lifetime student" moniker because he doesn't want to fail. Johnny is brilliant and multi-talented, but I have no problem with him using those talents for the ministry. I DO worry that he's been a student for a million years and recently transferred schools, which means losing a semester of credits. Plus he and his wife left secure jobs in order to move. I'm under the impression that Johnny would just rather not be out in the real world...perhaps because there are few churches looking for a pastor who loves TV wrestling, Harleys, Latin, watercolors, body building, and Descartes.
Summary: High hopes for new school but may have been better off staying put, staying employed, and graduating sooner.

Nate landed a plum stipend at his university of choice, pursuing his masters, then doctorate, in something obscure (I know he studies Milton). He moved cross-country, leaving behind his position as a university stand-out, and his dear sister (aka babysitter). He taught his first class Monday, loves the area he moved to, and is excited to start his research project. And so far he's only had two emergencies to call me about and only locked himself out of the house once.
Summary: Sure to stand out in this environment as well as the undergrad scene, but might kill himself/others/go broke/etc accidentally.

I give Abe five stars because I already confessed he's kind of my favorite. But he's earned the stars with his combination of athletic and academic scholarships that pay for 80% of his school. He's taking on a lot this semester: track and cross country, 19 credit hours, a new job, writing for the school paper, lots of walking (no car), and a double major pre-law/pre-med. He gets bonus points for buying me a poster of Audrey Hepburn because he thinks I look like her. Aaw.
Summary: He's already the fastest on the cross country team, but meets with other schools could challenge; he's very bright and clever but I'm a tad worried he's biting off more than he can chew for his very first semester.


Joey's not in school but he should be. He didn't plan quite as well as the other siblings financially, and has been having to take semesters off to work. He's also been floundering a little as far as what he wants to do in life. But he seems to have picked up a pretty good plan, applying for the Merchant Marines.
Summary: He's got the grades and the athleticism; he just needs to commit himself mentally. I have high hopes.

So there you have it. My none-of-my-business, meddling, busy-body, over-protective view of the boys. You may consider this venting, because of course to their faces I am always supportive and everyone gets 5 stars (I don't really rate my siblings, either!).
If you're an older sibling (or older mentally, harhar), do you get pushy and protective? Do you still, um, boss around like I am sometimes guilty of? Is anyone else just starting out a semester and have a rating for their OWN school year?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Phrases that don't mean a THANG in New Orleans

Last call

I forgot to defrost the fish

Is it too early for a drink?

White Christmas

Use your turn signal

We need some RAIN

Cross the median

It's too hot to boil food

I can't eat all that

Pedestrian crosswalk

There's nothing to eat

Static electricity

Coffee's too strong

Food's too hot

Food's too salty

Republican candidate


Late to [anything]

That's not on my diet

Hepatitis A

I can't dance

Never won a Super Bowl...WHO DAT!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Roid Rage

Yesterday at the pharm I was unpacking bottles of drugs from an order. The pharmacist is required to check-in all controlled substance orders for completeness (Half of what I do is put my name on thing and say they're correct). All the bottles were smeared with something slimy - I could not figure it out. I wiped them clean, guessing that a bottle of detergent or something had broken in another tote on the delivery truck. Then I got to the bottom of the tote and saw that an entire bottle of Androgel had broken and spilled in the tote. So I just handled and absorbed enough testosterone for a man for a month.
Face hair, here we come.

Appetizing image from

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Best twenty miler ever!

I'm relaxing after my weekly long run, my sweaty self plunked on a towel chomping toast. I can't believe I just finished twenty miles and I feel this good! I'm having my post-run "not about to barf" snack: whole wheat toast and club soda.
Have I discussed my adoration of club soda*? It is amazing after a run. I crave it while I'm running. The carbonation settles my stomach (for one thing, it neutralizes acid; for another, bubbles stimulate the gut to normal motility to head of cramps), and if you read the bottle most club soda contains potassium and sodium salts. Just what I need after a run! I often drink an entire liter post-run.
My run today was awesome for two reasons:
1. It was fast, 2:51:27. That is my fastest twenty-mile to date.
2. I felt amazing the whole time. I could have done another 6.2 no sweat!
The difference has to do a little with the course: I planned a course in areas I was familiar with, and it included four loops in Audubon park to make sure I was always near a water fountain. There was also way less traffic and stops on this route!
Another difference was the weather: not running in saturated shoes through ankle deep water and mud was so much nicer. And even though it hit the low-90's, I felt like the weather was ok this morning. My educated guess was humidity about 92% early on, then more like 85% later. Not bad at all!
The biggest difference, however, was fuel.
To avoid last week's hypoglycemic drama, I ate two pieces of toast with butter and honey late last night. Then I woke up early and had a cup of coffee and a tiny bowl of oatmeal with leftover cherry-brandy sauce from my book club (brandy at 6 am!). Then I brought with me my new favorite fuel mix: Frozen Vitamin Water Revive with potassium, half a GU from last week, and a small ziploc bag with a few tablespoons of cooked oatmeal! I heavily salted the oatmeal because the Vitamin Water has no sodium. Just lots of potassium.

During the run, I ate the half GU at 45 minutes in, then swallowed some oatmeal every half hour thereafter. I LOVED IT. The reason I brought the salty oatmeal was to make up for the lack of sodium in my beverage, and because I'm getting to the point where I can't stomach sweet stuff while running. It's ok with water, but when I'm drinking a sweet drink it completely grosses me out. The oatmeal was much easier to handle in both taste and effect on tummy, although I did get the sense it was swelling a little in my stomach as I drank! The only drawback is that it's hard to eat. You have to open up the baggie and squeeze some into your mouth, which is way harder than it is with a gel. In order to not make a mess I walked as I ate the oatmeal and washed it down. It gave me a running break and really didn't affect my time much - maybe added 30 seconds for each break. No biggie.

A photo of my heroes!
The only drawback to today's run was that I chose a cotton T-shirt. It was a sticky wet mess in minutes and stuck to my stomach the whole time. Oh,that and the guy who asked for directions right as I left the house, then stepped up close and murmured, "Thank you. You are kind and beautiful," to which I saucily replied, "Yeah, and you're drunk and creepy" before dashing off. Running shoes give me unwarranted bravery!
I guess it's time to go scrape the salt of my face in the shower. I really feel like if I sold the salt I produce running I'd cause the world salt market to plummet, thus leading to third world chaos.
So has anyone had those just wonderful runs that stand out in awesomeness? Do you still remember them, or has one or two rally crappy marathons totally sponged them from your consciousness? Care to share? :)
* Not to be confused with tonic water, which contains quinine and sugars. However, if you have leg cramps, may I recommend tonic water before bed? Diet tonic water if you're a diabetic? That was free from your friendly pharmacist.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cheap Date Wednesday: Hollygrove Market and Farm

I know, I know. Hollygrove is a rough neighborhood (and someone got shot there yesterday, blocks from my work. Gosh the crime in this place is out of control!). But there is a cute little market and farm there with a sort of CSA arrangement. I just found out about it, so this past Saturday the hubby and I put on Deva cloth and Birkenstocks and hopped into the Subaru to go support our local farms (we forgot the cloth grocery bags, though, so we officially suck at saving the earth).
You pay $25 for the weekly grocery bag, and get to select your own produce. My weekly haul included a watermelon, okra, clover sprouts, eggplant, cukes, peaches, shitake mushrooms (YUM), fresh herbs (YUM), mustard greens, peppers, and tomatoes.

The market is just adorable. There are homemade breads, fresh cheeses, and produce; everyone is in a good mood; the employees are helpful and happy. The produce quality is excellent - I made an asian chop salad with shitake mushrooms, sprouts, cukes, scallions, and bok choy that was heavenly (lime and peanut dressing), and used fresh herbs on my pizza. I loved the fuzziness of the peaches, too - I find that peach fuzz is inversely proportional to pesticide use, haha.
If you live in New Orleans, make this your Saturday date, preceded by a late wake-up and a leisurely walk to the Maple Street Patisserie for croissants that will make you slap yo' mère.
If you don't live in NOLA I can't very well direct your weekend, but let's just say you're really missing out on the croissants and skitake mushrooms.
Do you have a CSA? Or have you tried one?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Late to work

Not me. Other pharmacist. Here's the deal: One of the other pharmacists is late every single day. She's usually 15 minutes late but recently it has stretched to 30 minutes. It's starting to be a problem because on days when we overlap I really need back-up by the time her shift rolls around. I mean, I've got shots to give, patients to counsel, drug-heads to turn away. I'm busy! It's also kind of unfair to the company. She gets paid for 40 hours of work, but she works 38.
I've been considering how to handle this and came up with a few approaches:
1. The tattle tale approach: I discuss this with her manager, and deal with her accusing eyes and barely contained anger for the eternity of our working relationship.
2. The passive-aggressive approach: Every time she's late I scatter my lunch crumbs across her keyboard, in proportion to her lateness. Once she hits the half hour mark I start leaving whole pepperonis and blobs of salad dressing.
3. The revenge approach: The later she comes in, the later I come in! As she responds, our shifts get shorter and shorter, until we only work for minutes a day, practically revolving around each other as we rush in and out of the door.
4. The self-incrimination approach: Every time she walks in the door ask her, "What time is it? My watch broke/phone is at home/cataracts are preventing me from reading the wall clock." Allow a pregnant pause to follow her admission of, "It's ten thirty."
5. The aggressive approach: Put my jerk hat on and bellow, "WHY ARE YOU LATE AGAIN?!"
6. The dishonest approach: Tell her even salaries employees must clock in now, and provide a special time clock that one of the genius brothers rigged up to *look* real. Hope it scares her.
7. The criminal approach: Hack the company paycheck site and dock her pay for time missed. Use cash to buy loads of frozen yogurt, just because it's fun.
8. The Pavlov's Dogs approach: Only wear deodorant on days she is on time.
9. The on-time-is-the-fun-time approach: Every time she shows up late be just licking donut crumbs of my fingers, then say, "Oh, the donut guy came by at ten. Sorry you missed him." (We don't actually have a local donut guy, but we do have a local pie man who brings his wares to local businesses. Isn't that cute? And fattening?)
10. The spineless approach: Do nothing, say nothing, and secretly feel affronted.
Hm, guess which one I'm choosing???

Monday, August 16, 2010

Moving Day

If you haven't already, you can read my 20 mile recap here at Higher Miles. And we eagerly await Abbi's 20 mile recap coming up soon!

Yesterday my little brother Abe moved in to his college dorm down the street. He's literally in walking distance and I'm excited to have him close by. I know I shouldn't play favorites, and I don't really, but Abe is one of my closer brothers. When we were younger and there were a million* little kiddies running around, each of the older kids had a younger sibling "assigned" as a permanent babysitting charge. We'd make sure they were fed, bathed, behaved. Abe was my charge, so we used to hang out a lot. It's funny how core personality traits simply don't change with time. Abe as a 19 year old still has the same mannerisms as Abe the 2 year old.
We welcomed him to New Orleans yesterday with a quick tour of the Uptown area, followed by a forced grocery trip. Abe is in the dorm early because he's on the cross country team, so the cafeterias aren't really open yet. I made him get some canned beans and tortillas to make my personal favorite college meal, bean burritos. Fast, easy, cheap, filling.
This morning I met Abe for a run in Audubon park in which he handed me my butt on a platter. His normal pace FOR LONG RUNS is 5 minutes. He was trying to stay at my pace, but it was too hard for him to hold back, and we ended up running 7 min miles for about 3.5 miles. The child never opened his lips. I mean, this did not elicit any heavy breathing whatsoever. I, meanwhile, was ready to keel over. Then when we were finished he said I could improve my speed if I did "one or two runs like that a day". Whatever, I can barely finish my speed work once a week. I guess that's why he's fast and I'm slow.
I realized I missed the boat in school by not being very athletic. Abe and I were talking and apparently the cross country team supplies their shoes. This is good for Abe because he runs over 100 miles a week and replaces his shoes every 5 weeks (That stat floored me and gave me nightmares about spending over $1000 a year on shoes). You know what being on the debate team got you? Nerd status, that's all. They didn't even supply us with legal pads.
So now a little discussion on homeschooling and athletics. All of us grubby kids were homeschooled, mostly because we moved a lot and changing schools all the time can't be fun. But my dad was concerned that we wouldn't have proper athletic opportunities. Abe is an example of why that would not be true; he's not only really fast and winning lots of local races, but he's on an athletic scholarship and will be running college track and cross country. However, I can certainly see my dad's point if one of us excelled at, say, basketball. You can show an athletic director race times, but it's pretty hard to get a recruiter to come watch a backyard pickup ball game.
What's your take? Can homeschoolers get equal athletic opportunities? Or should we just stick to what we do best, like spelling bees and math problems that involve symbols I've never seen before?
*Nine, actually.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I sure won't be dancing on Saturday night.

Mostly because I can't dance, I'm too old to dance, and all my friends are finally married off (no more sappy slow dance receptions).
But also because:
- I did 20 miles last night in the rain and my feet are all blisters and rubbed-raw spots
- I did cardio kickboxing today which was a double-whammy for the ol' quads
- I broke a glass and got a sliver in my left heel; I also managed to swipe a large shard over my right toe, slicing it open deeply. I bled everywhere. It looks like I butchered a pig in my kitchen.

I am a mess of bandages, gauze, ice packs, and shredded skin. I guess I can officially scratch "foot model" off my list of future careers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

20...ugh, gasp, gasp, miles.

I managed a twenty miler in the pouring rain, dehydrated, with low blood sugar, and major stomach cramps. Ugh. Sometimes you just have to run through it!
AND AFTER THAT WAS THE FREAKIN' SAINTS GAME, I am so glad football is back!!!! They lost, but it was close. And it's just pre-season. And Hartley can play basically any position that involve kicking a ball.
Why no long run recap? Especially when it involves paramedics, a salvaged water bottle, and another classic Grace get hopelessly lost move?
Well, because...I'm recapping it over at Abbi's totally cool blog Higher Miles. Abbi is running the Freedom's Run marathon this year, too, and we found each other blogcidentally. Since we're training for the same event, we'll be trading our fist twenty miler stories! Kind of a check up on training. Aren't we too cute?!
Of course I don't know when she's posting the recap because I actually haven't, you know, written it yet. I'm too busy eating everything in the house that is not actually integral to the structure of the building (David is keeping a safe distance from my voracious appetite).
But go ahead and check out her blog anyway, 'cause you'll like it, and then stop back by and read my very blistery run recap!
Back to my food. FYI there is caviar in my keyboard now. Don't ask.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cheap "Date" Wednesday: Book club and Dirty Linen

For those NOLA readers, don't forget that this weekend is Dirty Linen, the French Quarter version of White Linen. Participating art galleries place hampers of dirty laundry outside like OPEN signs. Read more here. That is the only time I'll ever link to, which is usually a pit of non-information.
Dirty Linen is, of course, free.

Tonight I'm heading over to Banquets and Books, my book club for people who are obsessed with food. I love that this group gathers people who are so in love with food that they read about it for fun. Growing up in a restricted-diet household (my parents were food fad people...we were alternately organic, vegan, macrobiotic, juicers, junk food eaters, gluten-free. Add to that my mom's inability to cook.) I used to read cookbooks just to stare at good food, and this club allows me to continue that as an adult.

Next week another group is meeting at the Columns to discuss Amanda Boyden's Babylon Rolling, a book that covers the peri-Katrina time on one particular street in New Orleans. This meeting is going to be fabulous because the author is joining us for a few drinks!
I actually haven't finished the book yet because I just got it in the mail. My library's copies were checked out, but I found it online - hardcover - for $3.99 including shipping (don't tell Ms. Boyden). I'm a major prude, so I don't love the amount of language and sex in the book. But certain passages resonate with me so much, especially the way newcomers to the city are confused with how things are done here.In the prologue, the author describes the choice to live in New Orleans beautifully:
"But, oh, the comeliness. We have fallen for snowy egrets and high ceilings as naturally as we would our own mothers on the days of our births. Weak-kneed, we lunge for oysters and must authors and mean tongued rappers with gold and diamond teeth worth more than our homes. We swoon for the glassy surface of our shallow lake, the one that appears in photos taken from the moon; traipse, loopy, behind brass bands on the street; slurp crawfish heads fr their yellow fat, our favorite. It is more than enough of, the flooding of, everything that we must have, even though not all of us know this. Out want wears out our sleeves...We love a place that cannot be saved by levees. We are brilliant losers. But, of course, those of us living Uptown on Orchid Street do not know this yet. Katrina is a year away."

I'm leaving the hubby home for both of these "dates" but that's the beauty of book club. You can go alone or with other(s) and have the same amount of fun. And usually there is yummy food (and wine). Do you book-club? Does your club have a theme? What are you reading?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm thankful...

That yesterday and today were inexplicably quiet at work, allowing me a few moments to catch my breath. I prayed for that one!

That it's a rest day. It's 98 outside and the poor hubby is slogging away in it, getting his four miles in. I'm so proud of him for getting his runs in every day!

For magenta nail polish, which is cleverly camouflaging my bruised toenail. You can't even tell!

That tomorrow is Banquets and Books, my food book club, for which I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, and for which I am making vanilla ice cream with flaming cherry brandy sauce. The sauce is made with fresh cherries, meaning I have really ugly purple nails right now.

For a hurricane-free season. August brings memories, nostalgia, and unrest; the air smells like Katrina; the silent, hot days are all too similar to the afternoons following the hurricane. I find I spend moments of August in reflection and sorrow. So many lost so much!

That my tech brought me an apple today. I forgot to bring a piece of fruit. She rocks.

For the reasonable doctor who allowed me to substitute a low-cost generic in the same class as a pricey name brand for one of my patients. Her copay went from $70.00 to $5.00 and she thinks I'm a magician.

For Abita's seasonal beer. I can't wait to try Satsuma this evening. Will it hold a candle to their amazing strawberry?

That my landlords are replacing our kitchen A/C. This has been the summer of dead kitchen appliances: I broke the food processor, microwave, stove, and A/C in short order! We were checking the serial number for the unit we currently have so the electrician could order a unit of the same size and learned that the unit we have was installed in 1981...before I was born!

For FOOTBALL SEASON! I believe that February through August is at least a year...or it feels like it when there's no football on. At least this year the winter Olympics cushioned the blow; I almost expire when there's nothing to watch but baseball.

For the post office on Loyola's campus. Finally, finally, finally, a PO with no line! At our local post office the wait is often over half an hour. Lately I've been going to the student post office and it's so much more convenient.

For Pine-sol. It takes the stinky out of technical T's and ipod straps after an overnight soak.

That Audubon park is so close to us. I literally spend hours a week there. What a fabulous and beautiful resource for runners and walkers!

Doesn't my mood sound improved from yesterday? It's like I popped a fistful o' Xanax! But all I really did was do a fun "alpine run" program on the treadmill and felt a billion times better.
What are you thankful for today?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Burn out!

This was my weekend:
1. Friday night: Stay up too late watching Mystery Science Theater.
2. Saturday morning: Up at crack of dawn for 6 miler. Worst run in months: too tired, too hot and humid. I felt awful and slow the whole time.
3. Saturday: Quick shower, head to work for a 9 hour day. Remember, no lunch breaks and stand up the whole time.
4. Work day: Listen to a few dozen people tell you lies to your face. Pretend you believe that they really did get in a car accident in which their Vicodin was crushed by the steering wheel. But their blood pressure meds were not. Tell at least 100 more people that their controlled substance refill is too early. Be cursed at. Highlight: A customer brings in a loaf of homemade bread that he sells at the farmer's market; says he's bringing the farmers market to me since I can't make it to the farmer's market.
5. Saturday night: Get off at six, race home, change into something cute and white, head out the door for White Linen Night, an event which started at six pm. Take the most packed streetcar ever downtown: standing room only, super hot, starting to regret shoe choice. Shuffle through packed streets full of other hot and sweaty white-clad people; attempt to look at art in the galleries; the only galleries with A/C on are packed; near heat exhaustion. Just as we wiggle through the crowds to the car, see the owners of a neighborhood bar. Be stricken with guilt for not ever getting a drink at said bar, when friends own the place. Make half-hearted promises to come grab a drink later. Drive home. Peel painful shoes off and examine new blisters. Drag bleary-eyed self down the street for promised drink. Fall asleep in martini.
7. Sunday morning: refuse to get out of bed. Give hubby detailed explanation as to why sleeping in is mandatory and marathon training is canceled, all while sound asleep. Be persuaded out of bed by hot coffee at the bedside (thanks, hubs). Wake up all the way and realize that your house looks like a bomb went off. Start frantic cleaning spree (cut short by work). Head to work.
8. Work day: Give first flu shot of the season. Field another 50 fabricated stories in an attempt to get early refills. Look around and realize that of the 30 people milling around the pharmacy, 29 have drugs-glazed eyes and the one who doesn't is your technician. Start fixing the rx robot and realize that it has been messing up because an employee had pushed all the wrong settings for no apparent reason. Attempt to eat chicken wings at work. Fail.
9. Sunday night: Rush home! Frantically change into workout clothes, wondering why sleeping in sounded like a good idea this morning. Speedwork in 97 degrees (at 6 pm) is misery. Return pouring sweat. Attempt cold shower. Water will not run cold; even the cold faucet is hot. Change into cute dress. Sweat in cute dress. Stick hair in fugly ponytail and join hubby for brother's farewell dinner (he's moving for graduate school). Get half-way to restaurant; turn around and go home to get forgotten coupon. Make it to restaurant and are seated in the veranda area, which is closed in with plastic much like a greenhouse. Commence more sweating. Nearly faint at the suggestion of French onion soup; order salad instead. Ready to go home. Charming waiter is telling us about his trip to Argentina. The story takes half an hour. Have to finish house-cleaning spree before bed. Toss and turn all night in the relentless heat.
10. Monday morning: Refuse to get out of bed. Hold still-asleep argument with hubby about when to go running. Pull sticky sheets over head. Finally wake up and discover that it is raining. Drink coffee and blog instead of running.
And to work!
Happy Monday kids :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foody Friday: Ridiculously Healthy Muffins

A little bit about my meals at work: I don't get them. No lunch break, no coffee break, no dinner break. Honestly I'd be hard pressed for a minute to grab a bag of peanut butter cups off the shelf to stuff into my mouth between phone calls. My work is INSANELY busy but I need to find a way to eat during the day!
One solution, besides pre-cut fruit and veggies (easy to eat between, you know, phone calls) is nutrient-packed muffins. They are the perfect work food because:
1. They freeze beautifully and defrost wonderfully.
2. They're portable.
3. They can contain complex carbs, protein, fat, and fiber to keep you full (maybe even trick your tummy into thinking you got lunch).
4. They happen to be yummy.
I like to make a big batch of muffins and freeze all but a few of them. I bring one to work straight out of the freezer; usually it is defrosted and perfect by the time I want to eat it (if it is still kind of chilly I microwave it for 5-10 seconds).
My recipe? Well, it constantly evolves. I'm going to ask you to be brave here. I'm asking you to make muffins without a recipe. It's not hard, because I do it all the time.* Here is my back-bone "recipe":

2 eggs, beaten (or egg substitute - soy flour plus water or flax etc)
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (or more - many home bakers do not add enough salt and the finished product is yucky)

- Some fruit or veg component, 2-3 cups: grated carrots or zucchini, applesauce, pineapple, mashed banana, chopped apple, whatever you have on hand. This adds moisture.
- Sweetener: I use honey, molasses, sometimes maple syrup. If the batter looks too moist, I may use brown sugar to prevent thin batter. I add to taste (yeah, I taste my batter - I use soy flour instead of egg so this is safe).
- Nuts
- Dried fruit: It tastes best if briefly soaked in a little hot water before adding.
- Spices

- Fats. If you added any kind of mashed or pureed fruit, you don't need any fats. But suppose all you added was grated carrots - then you'll need some sort of fat to hold the batter together. I use sour cream - about 1/4 cup. If you don't do dairy you can use oil.
- Oats. I generally add oats to the batter last so I can see how wet my batter is. You do not want this to be a very wet batter: moist and lumpy is what you're going for. After adding the oats, let the batter sit for at least 5 minutes. This allows the oats to soften and the leavening process initializes. Since muffins don't take long to cook, they don't have a lot of time to rise. These muffins are so heavy they need a little extra help!

Once your batter is ready, spoon it into greased muffin tins (don't stir it down). I usually get 15 muffins from this "recipe". Bake at 350 until done (check at 10 minutes but may take longer).
When the muffins are done, allow to cool for a minute or two while you lay out squares of plastic wrap. Put warm muffins on the wrap and wrap up. The plastic seals because of the heat and keeps the moisture in. Let cool to room temp, then freeze.

Some recent combinations I've made:
- Apples, carrots, raisins, walnuts, applesauce, cinnamon, nutmeg
- Bananas, pineapple, dried coconut, dried mango (no oats)
- Carrots, molasses, candied ginger, sultanas, pecans, ginger, cloves, cinnamon

Try some and see if you don't love it...then share your recipes with me :)

*Actually I sold muffins at a health food store when I was a teenager; this is when I developed my backbone recipe and my muffin-wrapping technique!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Longish run and why I love Google Maps

What the heck, two posts today. I'm off work :)
Today was a step-back week in marathon training, and boy was I glad to just do ten miles. For some reason my quads have been KILLING me lately, and I rarely get sore muscles. I was also pleased to have a shorter run because I didn't get out of bed. It is SO HARD to roll out of bed at the crack of dawn knowing that it's a day off! So I didn't. I slept in. Then it looked stormy out, so I postponed my run. I made muffins while I waited for the rain to start. That way, I'd be out of the house running while the deathly hot kitchen cooled down (my kitchen A/C is out, remember?). Cle-vah!
Well, I finally got all my gear together at about 10:45 am. I planned to do this route:

only it would be over ten including the run to and from my house. Never fear, Google Maps to the rescue! I always use Google Maps to calculate my actual distance because I don't have a Garmin or other fun toys. This route is amazing because it covers a gigantic section of the city. There are a few problems, though. It goes through high traffic areas with hot cars, construction, and lots of stops for one. That bites. It also has a few blocks of slightly shady areas...crime shady, I mean. Not tree shady. This is a really sunny route. My last problem was water. There are no public fountains along the way. I fixed this by carrying a bottle and sneaking my sweaty self into a Walgreens and a Rite Aid on the route. Tip for other NOLA runners: Rite Aid on St Charles and Louisiana has a cold water cooler by the pharmacy!
I was enjoying my run until I hit the tourist-y section of Canal Street. The weather was surprisingly cool and breezy - not sure the temp, but definitely under 90 (at mid-day!). The sun- and people - came out on Canal, and then, um, I got lost. Somehow I missed St. Charles! I ended up running all the way to the river, then doubling back in confusion, then making some big loop... and finally finding St Charles. Then I promptly ran the opposite way on St Charles until I realized my error. After I hit St Charles I felt like I was almost home (although the stop at Rite Aid was most welcome. My water was all hot by then).
After the run I used trusty ol' Google Maps AGAIN to find out how far I actually went. I really ran 12.2. So much for a ten miler.
Since it's summer, talk to me about your water stops. How often? Do you carry a bottle? Are you insane, like one of my friends, who never drinks on the run (even ten miles)?

Cooking in cast iron

This morning a 25% coupon showed up in my mail box for...
Lodge Logic cast iron skillets from World Market! (As a World Market Explorer member I receive emailed offers; you can sign up here. I do it for the occasional wine discount.)
I would love to run out and buy a skillet, but I really need* a whole set of cast iron. My only cast iron pot is an enormous dutch oven. In a perfect world I would also have a smaller dutch oven, three high-sided skillets in various sizes (WITH LIDS), and a saucepan.
I have not made these purchases because cast iron is hard to find and expensive, and it's not a need right now. We have a set of pots and pans which has the unique ability to burn everything placed inside, yet takes an hour to boil water thanks to crappy heat dispersion, all while super-heating the handle to the detriment of the chef. Once these pans bite the dust (one handle is partially detached; another pan has developed an odd dark silver crust that scares me), I will start buying cast iron. It's my cookware of choice, and here is why:
- It retains and conducts heat so well that you can use less energy (I turn my stove off a few minutes before food is cooked).
- It cooks evenly and browns perfectly
- It is naturally non-stick
- You shouldn't put it in the dishwasher, but stuck food slides easily off a well-seasoned surface.
- If you end up eating a little pan (we all do at some point), you just got your daily dose of iron - not your daily dose of toxic copper or Teflon.
- It is safe for stove, oven, and fire (and honestly you CAN put it in the dishwasher if you have to).
- It is low-maintenance. Despite complex info on "curing" or "seasoning" your cast iron, most pots will regularly cure themselves, simply from normal use (but do cure a new pan at least once and never cure with oil, always solid fat).
- It looks hard-core and awesome as a serving dish.
- It's resilient and tough. My parents bought cast iron when they got married and I learned to cook with it. It's still in use at their house over 30 years and nine kids after it was purchased!
Are you a cast-iron fan? What are you cooking in these days? And don't say microwaveable tupperware or I'll openly mock you! (J/K)
*strongly desire. And I may have sent a link for some nice pans to the hubby. My birthday is coming up!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cheap date Wednesday: Shakespeare

A few weeks ago hubby and I decided last minute to attend a play at Tulane University. Each year the college hosts a Shakespeare festival; part of it is a two-week summer camp for teens that culminates in a performance of a Shakespeare play. Bad idea, right? A bunch of summer campers with braces attempting soliloquy? Cringe-worthy Old English?
Not at all! We were presently surprised with our cheap date, and here's why:
1. It's really cheap: $13 a ticket is close to movie prices these days and at least $10 less than the other festival performances.
2. THESE KIDS WERE AMAZING. I'm serious. This was one of the better versions of The Tempest that I've seen. Every single actor knocked it out of the park! I was very impressed that they got this together in just two weeks, but I was more intrigued by the obvious talent on that stage. Wow!
3. Charmingly laid back, yet professional. Not stuffy (I wore a sundress; the stage had basically one set), but this wasn't a community theater-type event with mostly family in the audience.
Best of all, the play was actually free for us: as we walked to the theater, someone behind us called to us and asked if we were going to the play. We said yes, and he handed us two tickets. "Merry Christmas, I had a last minute change of plans," he said. Awesome! Oddly, this is the second time someone has given us tickets for an event at Tulane; I decided that we must look very young and poor!
What cheap dates/events/fun things have you been up to?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

College Majors

This month little brother Abe is starting school near me. He postponed college for a year or two while saving cash for tuition (all of us kids have done this and therefore started college late) and deciding on a major. What to major in is quite the question: Abe loves art, drama, music, and languages, but he also excels in the sciences. He considered artistic versus scientific (knowing Abe, he made a pros and cons list), and this Spring he was leaning towards a PA (physician's assistant) degree. I was hesitant to give approval to this choice - I think there is value to a PA degree, but it's a limited field. However, Abe changed his mind and is going whole hog medical school. At least, so he says for now.
I was kind of in Abe's situation when I started college back in 2001*. I went to school on an art scholarship, and eight years later I was a pharmacist! We both are mostly right brain in interests and abilities, but can do left brain tasks as well. I started out in art, but quickly realized that I could do well enough in more scientific areas to pursue any number of careers. I changed my major from studio art to biology after two years, and went on to pharmacy school. Abe's major is biology for now, but I'm wondering if he'll change his mind once he starts classes.
From an unofficial poll, I gather that a lot of students change majors during college. Did you? Was it a drastic change? Did you lose credit hours? After two years of art classes my only pre-pharmacy requirement that I had met was freshman English!
* But not really. Abe is all brilliant and stuff and taught himself Mandarin. And he runs a 4:19 mile. So I don't really hold a candle to Abe. Ah, little brothers! First they get all tall and bigger than you, then they whoop your academic record!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bay St Louis Weekend

Hubby and I spent a much-needed weekend at Bay St Louis. We:
- Biked at the beach

- Swam in the oil-free bay (a stingray swam over my foot!)
- Ate crab legs
- Watched Top Gear (we don't have cable so we tape it at the in-laws and watch it when we have a chance to be in Bay St Louis). Do you watch this show? It is hysterical and fascinating, even if you aren't half-boy like me.
- Ran over the tall Bay Bridge, which gave us some hills training! The bridge is 2.1 miles, so we ran out and back. As we neared the end we passed a runner going the opposite direction. As we made the turn, I challenged hubby to catch and beat the runner on the way back. At this point I abandoned hubby because for some reason running at his slower pace hurts my knees. I waited at the end of the bridge for him to finish and he DID catch up to the other runner, just beating her at the end! This is a big deal for hubby, who is the least competitive person alive.
- Got bizarre tan lines. My thighs were already sharply brown and white thanks to my running shorts tan line; I added a pink stripe of sunburn during our bike ride. Now I have Neopolitan legs!
It's obvious why we ended up a little burned this weekend: the sun was unrelenting. The past few days have been extremely hot, temps over 100 and heat index around 115. However, I think we've gotten off pretty easy this year - even though our kitchen A/C is broken (boo). Last year the heat was much more brutal, and this year it seems that other areas of the country have had more heat waves than we have. We've been doing our steady high 90's thing for a month now, but at least that's normal temps!
How have you been dealing with the heat? Are you in a heat-wave area?
PS - I shamelessly photoshopped my hubby's sweat stain off his T-shirt. I was tempted to skim a couple inches off my thighs, too, but I decided that was cheating.