Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Marching Through Middlemarch

Since one of my resolutions is to read my own books before buying more, I've been eying my collection and sizing up what to read next. But there's a catch that's keeping me from actually opening up another cover, and it's a big one.

You see, on the heels of finishing Aimee Bender's 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake', which was, I have to say, satisfying but mildly disappointing, I was feeling optimistic about my ability to tackle any book, and I was feeling lofty in terms of literature. And so, I picked up.....'Middlemarch'.

Oi vey. Over a thousand pages. I've made it past the first hundred, and I am really enjoying it, truly. But my moments with George Eliot are mere minutes stolen before work, during a break on a particularly long shift, or taken when I can tear myself away from the computer screen and my many freelance obligations. I'm experiencing the courtship between Dorothea and Mr Casaubon almost in real time. Well, that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. Were I still in school, this book would probably have taken me two weeks. Two weeks of hard reading with some possible resentment, but still.

Speaking of, I'm going to have another glowing nostalgia moment. Reading this book makes me so appreciate taking 'The 18th-Century British Novel in Context'. Because it gave me, well, context. Eliot makes a lot of references in this thing, and I'm getting quite a few of them without flipping to the back for the footnotes (it's a cheap Bantam edition, so they aren't really worth it anyway). Also, it has resulted in something kind of strange: a favorite chapter. I don't think I've ever had one of those before, but number 15 is the one here. It started with the reference to Fielding and intro-ing the chapter as if it came straight from 'Tom Jones'. But my love was then solidified with the consideration of why we don't think of the romance of finding the career you love with the one you love (i.e. a person). It has the same ebb and flow, and can be just as, if not more, defining to your life and identity. That resonates with me to such an extent, nothing could possibly top chapter 15, I don't care what drama is to come.

And so, I stare at my not-yet-organized bookshelf and look longingly on the books which await me. And it really isn't fair to poor old George. She went to the trouble to write these thousand-plus pages, and by golly, I'm going to enjoy every one of them. If most of them happen to be read in the parking lot when I'm early for work, so be it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Click-click-bloody-click PANCAKES!

When it comes to food, I have definite phases. I find something I like, which has a manageable number of calories, and become enthralled. It becomes a staple on my menu for a few weeks, until I get a little burnt out and find something new to salivate over. It maintains a slot on my roster, but it's no longer craving #1.

Some examples of food phases: Diana's Banana Babies (frozen bananas dipped in chocolate - so good!), Lean Pockets (you can't get anything that cheesy and bready for under 300 calories by making it yourself), Tootsie Pops (how many licks does it take? I still don't know...), sushi (just in general, fueled by my time in Tokyo) get the idea. Lots of different kinds of food are discovered, coveted, and then stored away.

Right now, I'm in a serious pancake phase. From a boxed mix, if you only use one nutritional serving size (which is sadistically a third of the smallest serving the back of the box gives directions for), you can get a healthy dose of pancakes for 150-200 calories. That's either two smaller cakes or one more hefty cake.

From that simple principle, my mind has conjured millions of varieties. There's the traditional fried egg on top, using the pancake to sop up the yolky goodness. Maybe a side of turkey bacon to complete breakfast's lighter side. Leftovers one night gave me a flash of inspiration: salmon pancakes! Taking the leftover filet baked the night before, I flaked it into the batter, spread Laughing Cow on top. Also works with shredded smoked salmon and also topped with a fried egg for ultimate decadence.

Tonight, I have just enjoyed a sweeter concoction. Into the batter went a little chopped banana, then onto the pancake went a tablespoon of locally made Pecan Pumpkin Honey Butter, and slices of the rest of the banana. Scrumptious. I'm thinking that maybe swirling the nut butter into the batter itself might be tempting. Also, the mind reels at the concept of perhaps white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, or other delights being added in. Ahh, the mental sugar rush!

I'm also planning another savory pancake utilizing a previous phase that never really went out of fashion with my taste buds: buffalo chicken. I'm thinking shredded chicken in the batter, with buffalo sauce replacing the maple syrup. Too much? I don't care, I'm going for it!

Because it works in so many different ways, pancakes have enjoyed a stronghold on my palate for almost a month now. Not every night, of course, but it wouldn't be going too far to say multiple times a week. It's relatively quick and simple, and actually pretty fun to come up with, so I'm thinking it's chances of maintaining this kitchen celebrity are pretty high.

So yes, pancakes might as well be street for crack, because they are addictive.

(Just so everyone knows, that last line is a continuation of the 'Family Guy' reference in the title, not a comment on actual recreational drug usage.)

Friday, January 7, 2011


That was my reaction, plus an additional expletive, this morning when I stepped onto the scale. In a good way.

I write down everything I eat in a little Moleskine mini graph paper notebook. And the front sheet has my stats from whenever that volume was started. Today I started a new book, so I did the requisite weighing and tape measuring. Other than this, I haven't really been weighing myself or anything. I just do what I do, and notice how clothes fit. I didn't expect to see a number much lower than the last time, because you obviously lose less as you go. Also, I guess there is just a way you view yourself that you never expect to see change. And despite all the weight loss, I still had an image of myself as a number that was rounder. 150 seemed to make sense for some reason, and I was looking for a mid-140 to stare back at me.

So when the dial pointed to 135, it was a 'holy' reaction. I just confronted a number I had never associated with myself, and I wasn't prepared. It wasn't the difference of a few pounds, it was reaching this range that...I don't know how to describe it, it was just another milestone that reminded me the enormity of what I've done.

Another number: 6. I went to Kohl's last weekend and scoured the clearance racks for some jeans that weren't baggy (isn't it sad when you have to move on from a pair of jeans?) and ended up with a pair that were a size 6. But that's not just me, right? That's like a society thing that this number means something. It makes me feel like I've entered some other arena of clothing or something.

But anyway, I'm still reeling from my moment on the scale this morning. It's just as well that I didn't have to go into work!

No Dewey Decimals Here

There is a terrible truth which I have been avoiding for a few months now, but must be faced. Much as I would like to simply forget and hope for the solution to magically put itself into place, it will not be so. Here is the plain and awful fact: I have too many books.

No, that's a lie. You can never have too many books. There are even books you can never have too many copies off. Which means that actually, I don't have enough bookshelf. I have passed the point where squeezing and strategic arrangement will make them fit, and have at least one shelf's worth of books more than can currently be housed.

And so, I will have to find more room for my books, which more than likely means making room in my room for another shelf. And that is only the beginning of a very serious and personal process. Because anyone who collects books like Halloween candy (and enjoys a similar high from digesting their loot) and harbors that strange sense of organization that never seems to translate into actually keeping things clean but likes to arrange things just so...well, they are bound to have their own way of organizing things. And it's not by Dewey Decimals.

Unlike my CDs, which used to be organized alphabetically (before they were imported into iTunes and boxed up), and my DVDs, which are alphabetized after separating film from TV, my books are much more artistically arranged by subject and when I read them. There are several shelves of school reads which were memorable enough (but not too traumatic) to make a permanent place in my heart. A little further back in time are my collection of extra-curricular young adult books, like Sweet Valley or, on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, Cynthia Voigt. After that, it's mostly fiction versus non-fiction, worthwhile literature versus guilty pleasures. There are a lot of personal choices which have to be made. And aside from accurate placement, it also matters that sections form neat, full shelves rather than spilling onto half of another shelf. Anthony Trollope should not have to touch covers with 'Knocked Out by My Nunga Nungas'.

So there you are. An all-too-disturbing look into the quirks which make everyday activities serious endeavors. It is exhausting being me.

Monday, January 3, 2011


It's a new year, so now that we've all had our fill of soft and dreamy perfume ads, it's time to be inundated with commercials for gyms and weight loss plans. Side note: now that I have actually lost weight, I do take a little bit of pleasure in these ads. There's a radio one that asks, 'Are you 50 pounds or more overweight?' And 9 times out of 10, I'll mumble to myself in the car, 'Not anymore.'

But anyway, resolutions. Weird things. The stuff of fluffy filler articles (like the ones I've done for Examiner this week!), they seem to disappear after, maybe March. Maybe they fly north for the summer, I don't know. But what is a go-go talking point in January is rarely considered in July. Resolutions, like rules, seem made to be broken. Who really expects to fulfill their resolutions all 365 days of 2011? I don't. I guess I'm just making them in the hopes that I'll be able to keep a few at least some of the time, because it's better than not.

Some people go with one big resolution, but this year I'm compiling a list of smaller ones. Things like, 'Organizing my books on the bookshelf' and 'Knitting without Mom's help'. Things that aren't life-altering but are just good to try and accomplish. There is one, though, that I think qualifies as The Big One. The resolution that is tantamount to altering a core weakness of bad habit that you have cultivated and swear to address this year.

For me, my resolution is to put myself out there a little more. If you know me, you probably know that I'm the kind of person who enjoys ruts. Give me a schedule to follow for my entire life, and as long as it includes TV, I'll happily follow it. Unfortunately, that leads to me surviving more than living, especially socially. Living at home, it's far to easy to rely on my mother for company. Hey, she makes great company, but then, so would other people. And it's not natural that after the first flush of excitement, having plans to go somewhere can often leave me feeling afraid and wishing I could just stay on the couch and return to the comfort of that same TV.

So yeah. I'm not promising myself that I'm going to be a social butterfly that goes out for happy hour on her own and makes friends spontaneously without an ounce of self-consciousness. No, I'm not insane. I'm just talking about a concerted effort to silence the voice in my head that says, 'Just stay home,' and to consider doing little things to break up the monotony of work, write, sleep.