Monday, February 1, 2016

Have yoga mat, will travel Pt. 1 - Rhinegeist & The Gruff

As my normal spectacularly awesome yoga instructor doesn't have class times that fit my current schedule, I've decided to try out a few new classes to see if I can find something new.

My criteria:

1. Convenient times - I work 9-5 M-F in Middletown and have standing obligations some nights, especially Wednesdays.  So other evenings or weekend mornings work best for me.
2. Not too "exercisey" - I got spoiled by having an extremely talented instructor who emphasized the spiritual and meditative aspects of the practice while still giving you a level of exercise you could be proud of.  I dislike yoga classes that are too focused on the planking and such (unless it's a more advanced, yang, or power yoga class) and have menagerie of injuries I need to modify certain postures to accommodate; so despite trying not to take my ego with me to class there is definitely a style of class with which I am comfortable and a degree to which I am not.
3. Location Location Location - I live in Middletown, The Boyfriend lives in Covington.  If I find something down in that area it might work out well for the both of us, and I might be able to convince him to join. Additionally, if it's a venue he feels comfortable going to he might actually be encouraged to come regularly.
4. Good Chi/Energy - I want to feel grounded and centered during my practice.  I don't want to feel like an outsider or feel uncomfortable with the instructor, other yoginis, or the venue itself.
5. Fun - I want to find a class I look forward to attending, rather than loathing it as an obligation.  Goal is to workout at the gym 2-3x weekly and attend yoga class 1-2x weekly.
6. Cost - although I've never found a drop in yoga class to cost more than about $15, some places require memberships and I'm already spending $20 per month on my Planet Fitness membership, and I figure I can budget about $150 per month ABSOLUTE TOPS for fitness and fitness related expenses (that number was based on my old gym of $35 per month with 3-4 personal training sessions at $40 per hour, so I'd love to keep that number significantly lower).

Notes - Although I've been practicing yoga nearly 10 years, due to injuries, schedules, and laziness I've never had a consistent practice.  I've also not done much outside of my normal all-levels Hatha yoga class, so I don't know what other types of classes are like.  My language, opinions, and skill levels are all very basic and I will make a ton of mistakes and possible misjudgments in my assessments. Please forgive me.

Rhinegeist - 

Rhinegeist offers a yoga class at 10am on Sunday mornings.  The class is led by Modo ( and asks a $5 donation for the OTR community foundation or something like that.  I did see a box of yoga mats by the door but they were snapped up pretty quickly so I highly recommend bringing your own.  They didn't use any other equipment but I always bring my blocks and strap with me for modifications.

I love the venue of Rhinegeist with the huge ceiling and gorgeous murals, but oddly enough the instructor chose the fermentors as her backdrop rather than the mural wall, which I found disappointing.  She was difficult to hear at times given the background noise of hoses and such.  The class itself was very large, although I was told that it's usually 2/3rds that size (new years' resolutioners).  I was the fattest person there and that always makes me uncomfortable, and it was my first yoga class in months so I was extremely out of practice.

The instructor called out poses and gave examples but not corrections, and although we did all of the movements of surya namaskar they were disarticulated and felt unnatural to me (I enjoy anticipating the next step and with my back and knees I have to really work at my vinyasa (chaturanga to down dog takes a few extra moments).  Additionally, the instruction was all given in English (less the Namaste at the end) and there was no shiv asana, which I always very much look forward to at the end.  Yeah, I'm lazy, but it's also a great way to seal in all that good prana and have a moment to meditate before the hecticness of packing up and going home.

The biggest issue I personally had though was the uneven, hard concrete floor.  My 3mm yoga mat didn't do much to support my 225lb frame and I had to use my sweater as cushioning, but still ended up with little bruises all over my knees and extremely sore wrists.  Additionally, I hadn't noticed the big crack running through the floor below my mat until I was trying a few balancing poses, so I'll have to look for more even flooring next time.

Bonus - free bagels and coffee from Bruegger's Bagels, plus the tap room opened up for anyone who wanted a beer.  About 1/3rd of the class stayed and everyone was quite friendly.  A couple of people stated that this was their favorite class and they genuinely enjoyed coming each week.  The class itself was mostly young adults (23-38 year oldish) but there was a bit of diversity.  Good guy/girl ratio.

1. 10am Sundays
2. More exercisey than I'd like
3. Rhinegeist - OTR, Cincinnati - parking sucks, bigass staircase, and hard floors with poor acoustics.  Great beer hall, not great for yoga.
4. I didn't feel any connection to the instructor or the class and spent the majority of the practice wishing it were over.
5. Meh.  I'd go again (with a buddy) but unless I really want a workout and have the energy to burn I didn't enjoy myself.
6. $5 + mat

The Gruff

The Gruff is a restaurant and tap room located in Covington, Kentucky right across the Roebling bridge, and is noted for its murals of the three billy goats gruff. The class is free and provided by The Yoga Bar ( which has locations in OTR and Newport.  There is also a small food market located in the restaurant as well.

The instructor for this class was named Jessica and I made sure to get there a bit early to find good parking.  Having a few extra minutes she and I were able to discuss my injuries and it felt very comfortable with her. The class was much closer to my expectations - a mixture of English and Sanscrit, poses with which I was familiar, traditional vinyasas, and I did learn some new ways of getting into certain poses and got to do some things with which I was less familiar.  I didn't see any extra mats so it'd be a good idea to byo.

Although I always feel like I'm going to die about 10 minutes into practice, once I powered through that I actually had a pretty good time.  The floor there is painted & polished concrete so I had the same mat issue as before, but I've ordered a knee pad (and have it on good authority that The Boyfriend ordered a thicker one for me after hearing my complaints) so I'm hoping that resolves the issue.  The floor is smooth & attractive with no cracks or noticeable dips or humps.  

There was a bit of kitchen noise and the music they put on afterwards was standard restaurant music, but it was worth it to watch the sun rise over the Roebling.  Note - the sun was already up but behind the building.  You could watch the Licking - Riverside residents out for their morning jogs and it made for a very pleasant practice.  If they offered an actual sunrise yoga class here that would be fantastic.

The class itself was about 20 people so they had to move some additional tables out of the way to make room, so getting here early to get a good spot was definitely worthwhile.  Also a good number of men in attendance.

Best part - about 2/3rds of the way through class the instructor came around and rubbed some Aura Cacia 'Tranquility' oil into everyone's necks.  She did state first that she would be coming around and if you didn't care to be touched to just indicate it to her.  I thought it was lovely.  And we had shiv asana!  I thanked the instructor afterwards for the class and she gave me a free pass to the Yoga Bar, which I would like to check out.

Bonus - receive 10% off if you stay for brunch.  Their brunch menu is pretty carb heavy, and no one in the class stayed so I just got a coffee to go and went back.  I would certainly consider staying as I know they have good food there.

1. 9am Saturdays (except holidays)
2. Enough to feel the heat but not enough to wear you out.  I thought it was perfect.
3. The Gruff, Covington, KY - Kind of small and hard floors, plus unrelaxing noises but nothing too bad.  Worth it for the view though and the teal floors are a nice touch.
4. I felt connected to the instructor and got good vibes from the class.
5. I had a great time and would invite anyone to join me.
6. Free but byo mat

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge Day 3 - A Day Without Kale

So, today is going much better.  I actually had a chance to get caught up on the kitchen last night (phew) and today is a kale-free day (huzzah!). 

With the exception of the basil and cabbage, this is a fruit salad
 Dinner last night were napa cabbage wraps with chicken/mango filling.  Surprisingly I didn't hate the mango in this, although I did cut down on the mango load by a bit.  I also diced up the mango and chicken and let it chill in a bag with some of the dressing for a bit, so I think that helped.  I used half an avocado because I had half of one chilling in the fridge from a few days ago I needed to use up.  I also had a Healthy Choice Greek frozen yogurt cup instead of my 2 clementines.  Like I said, I'm doing this for fun, and I usually want something sweet in the evening.  It's only 100 calories and since there's already a ton of greek yogurt in the diet I figured it wasn't too far off course, even if it wasn't "clean eating".

Food Stylist Note -it looked way more appetizing before the flaxseed
 I decided to stick with the recipe and didn't dick with the yogurt this morning.  I kinda wish I had though,
unlfavored fat-free greek yogurt is just a bit too dry and cheesy for my preference in the morning.  Pair that with almonds and flaxseed and the whole dish was rather dry.  I ended up mixing it all up rather than leaving it layered but the blackberries ended up being the only thing 'moistening' the dish.  I feel like it could have used some honey or jam or something to liven it up a bit.

That 9 cup bowl makes another appearance. 

The Asian chicken salad was supposed to use half the remaining head of cabbage.  Pictured here is approx. 35% of the remainder and it was already full to the brim.  Flavor is okay but the dressing to cabbage ratio is such that I'm eating most of it dry, which I'm noticing seems to be a recurring theme in this diet.

I skipped the avocado and had the carrots & hummus I skipped on Day 1 as my afternoon snack.  Since they both contained healthy fats & similar calories I considered it an equivalent exchange.  Some avocado would have been nice on the salad though.

Now with less kitten!
Fridge, end of day 2 - Things are finally starting to fit in the fridge again.  I have a lot of partial containers (leftovers of this & that) and had to chuck some of my pre-existing produce due to spoilage (looks like I need celery and I'm beginning to question if the collard greens will hold up) but now that the kale & fennel have been broken down (I went ahead and cored/hulled/de-fronded the rest of the fennel) things seem to be fitting nicely.  I'm having people over tomorrow night so I'm hoping to chuck some of the leftovers at them (from pre-eating plan).  I'm going out of town in about 10 days and don't think my strawberries or watermelon will last two weeks.

Tonight may be a challenge.  It's my monthly homebrewer's club meeting, which involves a beer tasting and usually some kind of snacky foods being passed about.  I have the willpower to forgo the food, but I really, genuinely do enjoy tasting others homebrews.  I could skip, but one of the things I hate is choosing a diet over a good time.  I have personal training today after work but before the meeting, so if I do indulge at least I'll have gotten in some good exercise beforehand.

Drizella put herself in kitten jail and couldn't get out.

If not, tonight is hot chocolate night, as well as the roasted cauliflower with lentils recipe I'm excited to try.  And the foster kittens have a vet visit tomorrow and if they pass they will be put up for adoption, so I could use some extra kitten cuddle time tonight.  Nimbus the Stormbringer is a beautiful, playful boy and Drizella the Sea-Witch is a total snugglecat, so they shouldn't have any trouble getting snapped up quickly.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge - Day 2 - The Kale Conundrum

So I survived Day 1, despite a couple of hurdles, the most notable of which was chewing my way through like 2 pounds of kale.  My jaw hurts.  For reals.

I forgot to take pictures last night, so here's your obligatory kitten shot.

Anyway, I was having a panic attack yesterday evening so I opted to sub some light ice cream for my carrots & hummus.  Calorically they balanced pretty well, even though I know it wasn't "clean eating".  I'm not doing this to detox, I'm doing it for fun.  Don't judge me.

I then realized I had an hour till I had to leave for yoga, and I kinda wanted to go see my boyfriend afterwards.  This would involve me having to pack and prep all my meals from scratch as well as changing clothes.  So I furiously prepped my dinner, late night snack, and breakfast for Day 2. My chicken was still frozen so it ended up a bit tougher than I'd like (I had to cook it at a higher temp than I wanted), my quinoa and kale both ended up a bit more raw than I'd have preferred (I was in a rush) and I misread the dosage on the almond butter that I was supposed to drizzle on my pear as tablespoons instead of teaspons, which despite the caloric impact made for a happy accident, because even Bosc pears still taste like old lady smell.

Not as attractive as the mason jar overnight oatmeal I've seen on Pinterest.
 The Overnight Oatmeal didn't have the flavor or texture I had imagined.  The greek yogurt gave it a lot of tang and an uncomfortably gooey, cheesy texture.  Maybe sub in some silken tofu next time?  Some cinnamon would have been helpful too, as this mostly tasted like mushy yogurt with the occasional blueberry of salvation.

Today's lunch = More Kale!!! (yaaay)
 Fennel tends to be one of those veggies that I buy with the best of intentions, then leave in the fridge until it rots.  I haven't cooked it for quite some time, so I really should have given myself a refresher course on fennel prep.  But I was in a rush and thought I knew what I was doing. 

I didn't have the time to get out the slicing blade on my food processor or dig out my mandolin, so I just hacked off the fronds and sliced it up.  Yep, core and all the husky outer stalks too.  The strong, licorice like spice from the fennel paired with the rather overpowering mint from my garden kinda made me feel like I was eating soap.  Paired with the grit from the kale, I probably could make soap out of this and make a fortune.  It's good as an aromatic, good as an exfoliant, but wasn't particularly appetizing.  I still had parmesan sitting in my cheese grater in the fridge so I didn't bother shaving the parm. The orange vinaigrette is getting good and garlicky after sitting overnight.

Snack time - with basil from the garden
 Snack time tonight is basically a modified caprese salad using feta instead of mozzarella. I added salt and pepper to give the tomatoes some kick.  No complaints about this one.

So, I still have half a bundle of kale to chew through at some point this week.  There's mango on the menu tonight (oh, joy).  Hopefully I'll be able to shake the jaw pain/headache tonight and have a fresh start for tomorrow. Tomorrow has raw almonds on the menu twice, so I need my jaw for crunching things. 

I am actually excited for some of the stuff on the menu tomorrow, although I think I might have to flavor up the yogurt a bit in the AM.  I'm all about sour, cheesy things like sour beers and moldy cheeses, but if it's not in a savory dish it can be a bit too much.  True story - my favorite sour beer is Beatification ( ).  I found this out when at a friend's tasting party - he asked me what I'd like to try and I said I wanted a tongue-puckering sour, something with a flavor profile that fell somewhere between really bad feet and really good cheese.  I was not disappointed.

I love lentils and have been wanting to try my hand at cauliflower "steaks" for some time now, so this, like the overnight oatmeal, are recipes I finally have a good excuse to attempt.  Is it sad that I'm super pumped for hot chocolate tomorrow night?  Like, OH FINALLY, A REAL DESSERT!  But I do have a beer bottle share tomorrow, so I might skip out on that in lieu of beer calories.

I need to get better about lunch and snack prep the night before.  My kitchen looks like it was hit by a tornado right now and I'm super OCD about keeping the kitchen clean, so knowing that I'm going home to a dirty kitchen is totally uncool.  I want to be able to leave everything sparkling the night before. 

And I need to remember to dig out my mandolin, because I completely forgot I had one before writing this post. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I'm attempting the Buzzfeed Food Clean Eating Challenge - Day 1

While I was perusing my Pinterest Healthy Recipes board looking for inspiration for some diet friendly recipes I came across the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge that I'd pinned a while back.  I'd looked at it a couple of times before but discouraged myself from giving it a go.  "I have too many groceries I'd waste", "I have dinner plans this weekend", "I don't have time for this", and so forth.  Well, despite the fact that I'd be jumping in mid-week, and that I'd have to cut it short for an upcoming out of state conference, I decided to go for it.

So, I downloaded and printed all the PDFs and put them in a binder (a throwback to college, but sometimes I prefer printed text, especially in the kitchen).  I took a quick inventory and was off to Kroger with my grocery list. 
The Kittens were helping.

I was pretty well stocked before, so I decided to stick with the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I had in the freezer and figured plums could substitute for clementines as a snack and so on.  I had most of the dairy, beans, grains, oils/spices/whatnot, and about a third of the produce.  I still ended up spending about $150 at Kroger, but many of these items I'll have leftovers for at the end of the challenge, as well as some of them working in week 2 as well.

Needless to say, I had to remove the beer to the basement beer fridge and things still felt crammed in the upstairs refrigerator.

I still forgot the dates.

The pantry fared much better.

One big hurdle was the fact that this eating plan was designed around the 9-5, M-F schedule.  This works perfectly for me except for the fact that I am starting the diet on a Tuesday, which is day 3 of the eating plan.  I can't just jump in on day 3 because so many of the meals require leftovers from previous days, so I have to start on day 1.  Since that day's lunch required cooking (like, not prep ahead cooking) I swapped it for the day 7 lunch.  It wasn't till after prepping I realized this meant 3 kale-based meals in one day.  I have a feeling I'll poop well tomorrow.

Smoothie packs = remember to slice the bananas before freezing

I am not fond of mango.  Especially now that I've I've had to slice one. But I'm willing to be adventurous.


Finally got to use produce from my own garden (that wasn't basil)

Post-Krogering.  The beer has been moved.  There is a kitten in my kale.
It still felt a bit... gritty.
 So I woke up this morning and had my ambient ingredients at the ready and my smoothie pack in the freezer for my breakfast day 1 kale and banana smoothie.  I don't have one of those fancy super blenders so this took a substantial amount of work to get blended and still had a bit more of the kale texture than I'd prefer.

 The salad tastes great, but I don't know if my kale bundles were super sized or what but this is a 9 cup container stuffed to the gills. I think my jaw hurts from chewing too much.  I used roma tomatoes as I'm not terrifically fond of tomato and they seem to be more 'mato less mooshy tomato innards.

My snack of carrot sticks and hummus (they are pretty generous on the dosage for the hummus - 4 tablespoons instead of the standard 2) packed in my thermal bento container I got for winning a Curves Christmas challenge a few years ago. 

I meant to get my chicken out of the freezer this morning to thaw, I'll have to be creative with that later.  Tonight I make a big batch of chicken, quinoa, kale (cooked this time), and some homemade orange vinaigrette.  

I get a pear with almond butter for dessert.  Also not a favorite of mine.  I got a Bosc instead of the usual so maybe I'll fare better with this.

I also need to prep my overnight oats, kale (kale again, yaaay)/chickpea/fennel salad, and sliced tomato/feta/balsamic snack for tomorrow.

After this I should be done with kale for the week.  A friend of mine asked me if kale was high in fiber or something.  I described kale as such:

"Kale is like lettuces' beefy older cousin that smokes cigarettes and once got caught shoplifting at the Speedway station.  It's still tender on the inside but needs some tough love to break it down first."

Speaking of which, I've been working my way through this salad for like half an hour now.  It's tasty but I'm so done with raw kale at the moment I'm considering just picking out the feta.

I also accidentally splurge earlier and had a Dum Dum Pop at the doctor's office.  And I'm having a coffee, because, you know, this isn't Russia. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Reason 812 Why cooking is extremely theraputic for me but also might be making me crazy.

As outdoor drinking season is in full swing I've found my calendar filling up quickly.  It seems like every weekend is chock full of events, most of them fairly casual, outdoor affairs, promising good beer and better company, and requesting a dish to share. 

Being a single woman with no children nor roommates, I love to cook but rarely go to the effort for a dinner for 1.  So, I use entertaining as my venue for getting my cook on.  I used to be able to bring simple dishes and use mostly prepared items and feel good about it.  But not anymore.

My father unknowingly told me this story not knowing it was false, but in my research I found the history of cake mix itself to be quite fascinating:

I learned to appreciate from scratch cooking while I was dating a farm boy.  They didn't live in the middle of nowhere, but just far enough away that most of his mother's cooking started with a jar of flour and a recipe known by heart.  During that time I started to stock my home pantry with staple goods and learned a few recipes I knew I could always pull off with ingredients on hand at a moment's notice.  This lasted until I went on a Jenny Craig diet and spent about a year and a half eating freezer meals or going out.  Being that far out of my element, cooking a full meal involved an in depth trip to the grocery store and frequently resulted in something being on fire.

Somewhere between my trying to embrace a somewhat homesteading/self sufficient lifestyle and a Russian themed party I threw almost a year and a half ago, I started cooking from scratch again.  Like, herbs and veg from my garden if possible, no mixes, no heat & serve, no canned or frozen goods (except for veg or basic ingredients - i.e., I'm not going to make an entire pot of cream of mushroom soup from scratch just because I need a cup for a recipe.  I'm willing to cut corners there).  And I loved it.  But again, it started with special events - themed parties and birthday dinners - where I'd take the extra pains to cook everything from scratch, which included rolling my own pasta. 

What I didn't anticipate was that this newfound joy in being able to present a dish made from the most basic ingredients was the guilt that I would be subject to every time I did cut a corner.  Little things like buying pre-shredded cheese rather than shredding my own started to creep up on me.  Then things like using jarred sauces instead of making my own.  Like it made me feel like less of a woman to rely on shortcuts and prepared foods.  Like, I can do better than this, I can do IT ALL. 

But that's just not reasonable for me.  I work full time, I have numerous hobbies, a healthy social life, plus gym, family, and household chores and obligations.  When I'm planning out my 5th consecutive weekend that involves at least half of my Saturday being spent in just food prep for a single dish or two, I start to question my need to do EVERYTHING completely from scratch.  This week I'm making a mustard sauce using prepared mustards sauteed together with beer and spices.  There's another version of the recipe that involves grinding my own mustard seed and making the mustard itself from scratch too.  After careful contemplation I realized that this was for a weeknight affair and between time limitations and the likelihood of recipe failure, I should choose the simpler sauce option.  And I feel guilty for it.  So, I've decided to delve into my psyche and explore the multiple facets of this need for perfection.

1. Pro - I used to be a fat chick. 

Like, not morbidly obese, but I was obese.  I'm still overweight now, but no where near where I used to be.  A lot of that weight came from the fact that high calorie foods are easily available, both as fast food, freezer food, and simple meals.  The more fat, salt, and sugar I eat; the more fat, salt, and sugar I crave.  When I cook I'm in the driver's seat - I can adjust the flavors so the actual FLAVOR of the food shines through, and relearn how to taste food instead of just tasting salt and sweet. 

This also cuts the desire to bounce from one type of junk food to another - if I have a fast food burger & fries or a pizza, I get so overwhelmed I usually want something extremely sweet to follow, like a milkshake or cookies.  When I'm having quinoa with veggies, I'm usually happy to follow up with a piece of fruit.  By breaking the need to go out to get food I also reduce my exposure to advertising and unintentional eating - ordering things I hadn't originally factored into my diet or being influenced to higher calorie options. 

I try to keep my fridge and pantry well stocked with healthy options.  I don't keep cookies on hand (I'm a damn cookiemonster) and if I do keep ice cream it's small amounts of something not too terrible on the calories.  If it is something fully indulgent I try to keep it in a super small quantity.  I only keep tortilla chips and pretzels on hand, and usually avoid those unless I'm entertaining.  Candy has to be individually wrapped (not just bagged) and stashed somewhere out of sight/out of mind. 

It's also good exercise.  With ingredient acquisition, setup, cooking, presentation, and cleanup; I'm on my feet for a while.  I like the idea that I'm burning off part of my meal before I even consume it. 

2. Pro - The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and other girlfriendy things. 

A couple of years ago my friends and I started to turn the threshold where we no longer lived with our parents, we had enough money to go out to eat regularly, and did.  So, a good, home cooked meal became something to be sought after and appreciated, rather than being a typical week night.  So I started cooking for my guy friends for their birthdays - it was a nice alternative to going out to dinner and usually involved leftovers.  But chicken and rice didn't cut it - I'd want to cook their favorite recipe, and I'd want to do it really, really well.  It shows the love.

This turned into a great "getting to know you" date.  Like, after we've had a couple of dates, I'd like to cook for a guy.   Shows off my culinary prowess.  Cook him something spectacular and he'll not find you easily replaceable.  There's also a level of comfort and security in having a partner that can cook.

The best is when you cook a meal together - it can help to create bonding if you two work well together in the kitchen, and can highlight issues that may need to be addressed later if you don't.  Kinda like ballroom dancing. 

3. Pro - It's culture, it's art, it's a hobby.  And it's dying.

As expressed in the Snopes article, as women became better educated and began spending more time on hobbies, jobs, and activities outside the home, they were spending less time in the kitchen.  Many family recipes were forgotten and the days of spending hours slaving away over a hot stove were replaced with one dish meals and heat & eat foods.  Much of this I do totally understand and can fully appreciate - especially with the modern household having a myriad of activities per child and often both parents working, it's a miracle if a family can even sit down to a meal together.  Macaroni & cheese is great and nothing to be scoffed at.  But there were many times growing up that I recall the the disappointment I'd feel sitting down to tuna noodle casserole again. I understand that it was a quick meal made with shelf-stable ingredients, and even Nigella Lawson (my chef-crush) points out that her children eat pasta & pesto for dinner far more often than she'd like to admit. So, quick, simple prep meals definitely have their place, but there's something in the anticipation and excitement that grows from smelling something simmering away that just can't be beat.

I wish I had Papa's potato pancake recipe.  And Grandma's Hungarian Goulash & Chop Suey recipes.  I learned to cook amazing scrambled eggs by being Papa's "counter sitter" - he'd sit me up on the counter every Saturday morning and I'd help him prepare breakfast.  Those were some of my favorite memories and they taught me skills I've used ever since.

4. Mixed - The Hunt

Finding the right recipe is as exhilarating as it is infuriating.  You can read ingredients and instructions, you can look at photos, but sometimes it can still be hard to imagine the final product.  Simply trying to decide on what to cook can end up being a rather frustrating affair.  But sometimes it can be extremely gratifying - spending hours pouring through cookbooks or perusing pinterest in order to find the perfect recipe. 

Then comes ingredient acquisition - this part I don't much care for.  It can get expensive and frustrating, especially when you're counting on the store to carry something and it isn't there.  I still have some hangups about ordering ingredients through the internet, like they won't be as fresh as things I procure locally.  Or the cut of meat I'm looking for isn't available.  We have a pretty good local grocery selection with amazing grocery stores only a half an hour or so away, but fitting in a trip to the store seems to be a major issue for me. 

Also, sometimes by the time I get back from the store and get all my groceries put away I'm too tired and hungry to cook.  And that suuucks. 

5. Con - The Perfection

As aforementioned I am a perfectionist.  But I'm not a chef.  I don't cook every day.  My knife skills are learned from The Food Network.  Sometimes I misunderstand a recipe or technique, or despite my best efforts I screw something up, like mixing in the whites instead of the yolks, or forgetting an ingredient altogether.  As most of the dishes I currently make need to travel, finer points of flavor and texture can be lost in transit.  I usually end up apologizing for why my cooking isn't better, even if I know it's just fine as it is.  Or even if I know it could possibly be better.

A few days ago I started looking for recipes for lobster bisque, as that's one of my boyfriend's favorite foods.  When reading a clone recipe for a NYC hotel lobster bisque that was proclaimed to be amazing, I found that the recipe it was meant to emulate had a stock that took 7 days to prepare through careful seasoning and reduction.  7 days.  Seriously.  I then found myself thinking "wow, if I want this to be REALLY good, that's what I need to do."  I seriously considered spending 7 days making my house smell like a dock just in order to serve one bowl of soup to my boyfriend.  That's when I realized my OCD was getting a bit out of hand.  I also realized this when he declared the salty and vaguely lobster flavored pink goop served by Joe's Crab Shack to be superior to the bisque served by Mitchell's Fish Market, which was infused with wine, had visible lobster, and I thought was rather lovely. 

Moral of the story - most people aren't chefs.  I shouldn't feel threatened by that.  But yet, somehow, I do. And I will go to great lengths to prove to everyone that I can create a perfect dish. 

6. Con - My sense of self worth.

Tied into #5, is my fear of judgement.  Again with the feeling like less of a woman for bringing in a less than perfect dish.  Or from cutting a corner.  Or because people on pinterest seem like they're perpetually cranking out hand decorated hordes of delightful foodstuffs, expertly styled, and greedily gobbled up by their guests.  I feel like I need to compete on that level, like it's something that will score me invitations to additional events or make me friends.

There's also an element of a need to be different.  Not just because I can safely assume that someone else will be bringing buffalo chicken dip so I'd like for there to be a non-dip option, or something with a very different flavor or texture profile to bring variety, but because I want to be the person that has the dish that everybody wants to try.  Like, going home with no leftovers because it was all scooped up success.  I don't want to be cheese-based dip #3 person.  I don't want to be the person that shows up with something they clearly purchased on the way there.  I want to be the Martha Freaking Stewart of the party.  I don't often feel that my company is enough, so I like to supplement that.  That need is currently manifesting through food.

7. Pro - Self Sufficiency

I kinda like the idea of making things from scratch.  I like the idea that I'm not 100% dependent on the local grocery should something happen.  I grow some things myself, but I like the idea that I can put together meals without a recipe or without some brand name box.  Flour, salt, sugar, pepper, eggs, water, milk, and oil; some kind of protein, and some kind of veg and I can create something magnificent. 

You'll see desire to avoid going to the store as a common item on this list, but if I can make something at home rather than going out to purchase it, that'll win me over 90% of the time.  Like, oh, sriracha is being taken off the market?  That's fine I'll just make my own.

8.  Pro - I live in a foodie black hole.

My hometown is pretty much down to just a handful of non-chain restaurants, and they almost all serve typical American fare.  If I want anything ethnic I either have to drive a minimum of half an hour or make it myself.  So if I want to try something different, I usually have to make it myself.

I threw a Russian themed party once that required trips to 3 different stores, weeks of menu planning, filleting & pickling my own herring, and two days of cooking to create a myriad of traditional Russian fare.  Both my Russian and American guests alike loved it and the sense of accomplishment I gained from that experience were fantastic (not just the food, but the party as a while was a wild success).  I live for those moments. 

Reason 812 - It's how I show my love.

As we've established, I put a lot of who I am into what I make.  So I want it to be perfect.  I want everybody to love it because I want everyone to love me.  I feel victorious when I perfectly bake and frost two completely different cakes from scratch and load them into their special carriers and imagine their unveiling later.  I feel appreciated when my dishes get a crowd around them and people begin asking me for my recipe. 

I'm not always good at telling people that I care about them and want them to be happy.  I think actions speak louder than words.  I show my love through gifts, time spent together, and acts of service.  Cooking encompasses all three.  So it's gotten out of hand to the point where I feel if whatever I present isn't overly ornate and time consuming I'm selling everyone short.  And it's making me snobbish too.  Like, 'oh, you made cinnamon rolls too?  I made cinnamon rolls.  Yes, I hand ground my own cinnamon with bark I imported directly from Vietnam so the oils would be fresh.  Yes, fie on you and your plebeian cinnamon.' I feel like I'm not too far from becoming "that chick" if I'm not already. 

So, I think that's a pretty well rounded look at why I love and sometimes hate cooking.  I make it way too hard on myself but I love the fact that I do hold myself to high standards. I know people will still like me if I'm not a super chef, but I feel like it definitely makes me more likeable.  It helps me curb my desire to binge eat by still spending time obsessing over food, but more with the art of it all than the consumption.  I get carried away with it.  It's a hobby, but not one that ends up taking up space in the closet.  I don't know and I've probably rambled on too much at this point. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

812 Reasons this is the most chauvanistic OKCupid profile I've ever read.

Here is his summary, with my mental responses in italics.

My self-summary
1. MUST be loyal Of course

2. MUST be honest Yep, with you so far

3. Must NOT cuss(my mouth is filthy enough for two people) What a hypocrite. 

4. Must NOT smoke. Reasonable

5, Must drink beer or wine on (on the weekend or on occasion) Does that mean I'm not 'allowed' hard liquor?  What if I don't want to drink at all?  Or what if I like to have a cocktail after work every day?  Who are you to dictate what and when I can drink?

6. Must NOT do drugs(if smoked pot in the past..ehh, I can let that slide, who hasn't..but Cocaine..nah! I'll pass) Very reasonable

7. Must be willing to smoke a cigar(WITH me..don't worry, I don't smoke cheap Dutch Masters or Swisher Sweets...only the good stuff!) At least he qualified it with 'willing'.

8. No talking to guys(if I'm not enough man for wasn't meant to be...good luck)...NO GUY FRIENDS...they are thinking what I'm thinking.  What an insecure dickhole.  Who cares, as long as I'm honest and loyal and my guy friends are respectful it shouldn't matter. 

9. If wanting to go "out", must want to do it TOGETHER.  What if I want to go out with my other friends, or am I not allowed friends?

10. Must like to Okay

11. Must like to snuggle-snuggle...SERIOUS! I get it

12. Fighting and arguing happen between people in a relationship...when this happens, MUST be willing to STAY and talk and work things out! Must NOT say "I'm leaving to cool down" or "I'm going to 'think' things over"..that is B/S! You have already lost me at this point...your best bet, if you love ME, is to stay..  Sometimes you need cool-down time away from one another.  I had an ex that insisted on staying up to fight all the time - even going as far as showing up at my doorstep and not leaving.  I'd eventually concede because I'd be freaking exhausted. 

13. Must not be married...UNLESS you are going through or are serious about getting a divorce! Must NOT let that man dictate what we do on OUR time me he is NOT who you want and that I AM who you'd want the same thing and I would give you that respect.  You clearly have insecurity issues.

14. Must NOT be shady w/your cell phone...if it rings, answer FRONT of me. If you need to go to the bathroom to talk or are going to the bathroom and I feel it is shady, go ahead and call a cab OR the man you are talking to on the other line and arrange to be picked up...I'll already be on my way home... If you can't CALL me then text me, that's fine. If you can't talk to me face to face, THEN call get the point? NOTE : if I send you a question in a text, and the answer if "ok", don't text "k". Are you seriously THAT lazy? That is only 2nd to being annoying as rule 22 (see below : if rules 14 - 21 don't drive you away first) Clearly you have trust issues and you need to work that out on your own.  Forcing a woman to submit to your scrutiny and inspection is not going to assuage your insecurities.  It's just going to make her feel like a caged animal.

15. Must like to go to concerts (TOGETHER) So what if you don't want to go? 

16. Must like to go to Reds/Bengals games AND drink beer(see rule 5) So you're just flat out calling them rules now?  At least you're honest.

17. Must like to do shots..I like Wild Turkey, but I will drink what you drink if you are willing to do a shot with me. I'm flexible(can't you tell so Not funny.

18. Must like to fish..I don't care if you bait your hook or not. Just be with me & have fun...rule 5 helps...but not required...unless we are camping and neither one of us have to drive home...then please do rule 5 in excess, we will be preforming rule 11 then rule 10 by the end of the night!

19. Must be ladylike..but not high maintenance. You are a girl for a reason and I am a guy for a reason...If I wanted someone that acted like me, I'd be gay...and I am far from it! Just play your part and I'll play mine. Sound good? Good.

20. I'm not looking for a loud, violent and/or obnoxious drinking type to be with..

21. If you even slightly think a guys is "good looking", I don't want to know about it(keep it to yourself). .it will eventually end what "we" have. And if you are the kind of girl that "idolizes" male sports figures, rock stars, etc.and don't feel you can breath w/o them...or feel your life will not be complete until you meet them in person...I apologize that you wasted your time reading the first 20 rules...again, good luck on your quest. *I don't date girls that are "hung up" on wrestlers, nascar drivers, male country/rock stars because it's something that should have stopped by the time you graduated high school ..if this is the case, please delete me...or I'll get around to deleting you later.  I can understand the annoyance of having a partner hung up on a celebrity, but still, this alpha male thing is really getting old.

22. Please don't yawn and talk at the same one, then the other. To me, this is worse that scratching nail across a chalkboard...

23. In a 24hr day, make more than 20mins to talk to me on the some point, why don't we just SEE each other? If you have lame excuses as to why you CAN'T make this happen, it's probably time for me to move on...  I'm surprised you don't have a talk/check in schedule pre-determined.  I imagine there's also a time limit for responding to text messages.

24. On days not working, we MUST spend time together. Sundays are great for hanging out and watching movies, is too short to not spend it w/the person you love. Right? Make it happen! Must NOT conflict w/rule 13!!!! This is OUR time!  No, it's my time and your time.  I might need my time for chores, errands, or my family.  I'd want to spend time with my man because I CHOOSE to, not because I HAVE to.

25. You will be a priority in my life..I, in return ,will be one in yours! It will be in the top 3! If I slip out of your top 3 priorities, then you've wasted my time...shame on you. Children will be above me, that is to be expected...but children, no matter how many, are grouped as 1 priority level.  How can I be top priority if your kids are top priority?  Will I have to raise them too? Do you have an additional set of rules for how I'm expected to behave with your kids?

26. This sounds silly, but I assure you, I'm serious. MUST be willing to scratch my back from time to time...I love that! In return, I will give you a two-handed massage and will not complain while doing it. Because if we've come to the point that both my hands are on you, I'm doing it because a.) it makes you feel good and b.) maybe it'll turn you on...well, I'm just being honest. Nothing you say or do will ever turn me on.  I'm not attracted to jackass.

27. If you say "I will call you at whatever time", then call at THAT time, not later, before is ok, That applies to a meeting time as well. Patience is something I wasn't given a lot of apparently... It's not patience, it's possessiveness. Just call a spade a spade.

28. Well, there are some things that pertain to like love making and bedroom talk, this is no place to go into details..but I just didn't want to leave that out...nothing bad, Just like being able to look into each others eyes and say "I love you" while... TMI

29. If you are a bartender, quit your job...I could use your skills at home, but that isn't what a lifestyle I want to be "married" to. Even girls that work at restaurants, tend to work w/people that want to go out every night and spend their tip money at a bar. Come home to me and WE'LL go out or be with them....don't bother coming home in that case.  So you're going to support me, your kids, and yourself? Are you also going to dress me? 

30. If you've ever been with or would consider being with a black guy, mexican or other, then no! Oh, and you're racist.  Classy.  
What I’m doing with my life
Watching my children grow like weeds before my eyes :-(
Yeah, better you than me.  I want no part of that. And no part of whatever personality disorder drama you clearly bring to the table.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

812 Things I'm Looking for in a Relationship

I just found this old post that I had stashed in my drafts folder.  I think I had just started a relationship at the time and was afraid posting it would piss of my boyfriend at the time.  In retrospect, had I stuck to these criteria, I could have saved myself a lot of grief.


I've been dating now for 8 months.  Prior to that I had years of relationships.  I used to chameleon myself into whatever the person I was dating at the time wanted.  Lately I've been coming into my own and beginning to define what I want in a partner.  This is not a definitive list, and I doubt there is a chance in hell a guy like this actually exists.  But, this is just a list of things I've found are important to me and I'm hoping to find.

1.  Singing:  They appreciate my singing and want to attend my performances.  I am classically trained and do a lot of solo work, as well as performing with my baroque ensemble.  If I was dating a musician I would want to come to their gigs, I would hope they would want to come to mine.  If you want to go to karaoke with me that's a double win.

2. Manners:  I come from a somewhat strict family and was raised to have good manners.  I expect the same from anyone I date. This also means being sociable at family or social functions.  You don't have to be the life of the party, but don't hide in the corner with your phone all night.  Act interested in group conversation, even if you have nothing to add.  I will do the same with your friends.  Bonus points for gentlemanly behaviors - doors, chairs, giving me your arm; I adore being treated like a lady and it will definitely garner respect from my family and peers.

3.  Must love Cats:  I have a cat.  We're a package deal.  I also foster kittens.  Cats are a big part of my life and you're going to get sucked into that, might as well get on board for the ride.

4.  Dancing:  I love ballroom dance.  It's sensual and romantic and exciting and fantastic exercise.  I want to share that with you.  I'll even pay for the lessons.

5.  Romance:  I'm a little old fashioned.  I buy my boyfriends little gifts, plan surprises for them, cook them their favorite meals, and always strive to make them feel wanted and pampered.  Likewise, I appreciate flowers, gifts, surprises - little things that show they're paying attention or want to make me feel special.  It's not about spending money or being materialistic, it's about showing one another that you're appreciated and that they were thinking about you and wanted to do something to make you feel good.

6.  Dressing Well:  Different outfits were meant for different occasions. If you only have one style and it's casual we might run into issues.  I am active in my church. I am very active in the business world.  I like to go to nice plays & dinners.  We may get invited to a nice function.  Furthermore, I find well dressed men extremely attractive - there's something about a suit and tie that is just a major turn on for me.  Doesn't mean every date is a black tie affair, but looking nice for a date is a sign of respect and admiration to the person you are dating.  Save the pjs and bed head for snuggling on the couch, when we're going out I want to show you off and I want you to be proud to show me off as well.

7. Respect:  At the end of the day, I will respect you and I expect you to respect me in return.  I can't foster a relationship without it.  I need someone to admire, someone that can teach me things and that is interested in learning new skills together.  Respect is a two way street, it has to be mutual. 

8.  Snuggling:  Physical contact is important.  Enough said.

9.  Communication:  If you're unhappy I want to know it, and I want to be able to bring my problems to you.  If I have good news I want to share it with you first.  I want us to talk about our futures, values, and goals.  I don't want to harbor resentments or ill will.  That destroys relationships.


That was as far as I had gotten.  Hope it was a good read.