the original kStyle blog.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving and Beyond

I had a mostly unrefined Thanksgiving. I ate a bit of stuffing and a nibble of a gorgeous pumpkin cheesecake. (It looked as if made by a real, professional, bakery, but it was, in fact, made by my brother's gf's roommate, who was not even at our celebration.)

My spinach salad was a sleeper hit of the day. Grandma, accustomed to canned spinach if any, was shocked! shocked! that those tender little leaves were spinach. My brother was enamored by his first taste of goat cheese. My sister ate three bowls of the salad. It was weird, a salad being such a favorite on Thanksgiving.

Dancing at the TMI line, I will share that PMS week is an AWESOME time for Thanksgiving to land, if you're a "constantly hungry PMS"-type like me.


We stayed the night and returned home Friday evening. The cats have been like glue since. Some of you may remember my early tales of Luna Cat from this blog. She's Not Like Other Cats. Besides rolling in the litterbox for fun and eating canned beans and tomatoes, her oddities include that she's not noctural, prefering to curl up and sleep on our feet through the night; she's incredibly attached to her people; and she bumps into things in the dark. Her poor night vision and un-aloof adoration of me and G. have been especially evident over the long weekend. In the past, I learned that some of her unusual traits (needing to be at the very highest point of the room, playing fetch and inventing other games, that voice) seem to come from her Siamese mother. Today I idly looked up Siamese cats on Wikipedia, wondering if I'd recognize any other gifts from her mama. And here we are:

They also have a great need for human companionship. Often they bond strongly to a single person. These cats are typically active and playful, even as adults.[3][4]

The social orientation of Siamese cats may be related to their lessened ability to live independent of humans. Siamese coat colouration is appealing to humans, but is ineffective for camouflage purposes. They are less active at night than most cats, possibly because their blue eyes lack a tapetum lucidum, a structure which amplifies dim light in the eyes of other cats. Like blue-eyed white cats, they may also have reduced hearing ability. Therefore, being dependent on humans may have been a survival trait for ancestors of the Siamese. [4]

That's all I want to write for now. I think there was something else, but poof...

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Challenge, continued

(A review of the terms of The Challenge can be found here.)

I figured out how to make unrefined waffles and unrefined hot chocolate this weekend, which cheered me quite a bit after my no-good week. Today I made unrefined brownies. They are intense and molasses-y. Could only nibble my way through one, which really is a good thing.

Things I did not eat because of The Challenge this weekend included a giant, beautiful-looking slice of chocolate PB pie at a bookstore cafe; scones at a tea room; and cookies at intermission of the woodwind symphony concert.

Thanksgiving will be interesting. I've been strategizing. I can eat most things, but not my favorites: stuffing (sob) and pie. Nor can I have the broccoli casserole (what passes for a green vegetable at T-day with my family), because it's coated in a wonderful layer of breadcrumbs. And cranberry sauce is, alas, mostly refined sugar.

I'll be bringing a salad with goat cheese, an unrefined pumpkin pie (recipe courtesy of Deepak Chopra), and a cranberry fizzy drink sweetened with fruit juices. Hopefully these will carry me through. I can, of course, have the turkey, potatoes, gravy.

My Mom, I love her dearly, is not one for overarching menu planning. She plans to serve butternut squash soup, squash, and sweet potatoes. I presume the last two will both be mashed. This is why I chose to bring a salad. I was sorely tempted to suggest that she cut the sweet potatoes into cubes and roast them with some olive oil, sea salt, and herbs; but I didn't want to come across as obnoxious or ungrateful. Thanksgiving stresses the lady out a little; why make it worse? Just shush and bring a big spinach salad.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dear blog friends,

What advice would you share to the world? What accumulated wisdom would be your gift? Please share it in the comments and I'll share mine here.

I certainly haven't figured out most of life, but there are a few things I think I get right. Here they are, as my best tips on life I can give my friends. Yes, I'm getting sappy. I'm trying to cure some of my cynicism of late with a little sap.

  • Buy your spices from the Indian grocer. They are cheaper and such better quality.
  • Seek beauty, be it a concert, art, a book, flowers, nature, whatever is beautiful to you.
  • Preferably seek beauty with free passes from the library.
  • Keep a well-stocked birdfeeder. The birds enjoy it and you get to enjoy them.
  • A cat can be one of your best friends.
  • Keep your cat friend away from the birdfeeder.
  • Be sincere.
  • Real maple syrup only. Only!
  • As Thich Nhat Hanh says, go for refuge in the island of self.

Perfectionism and Morality

One of my colleagues seems to view human error as a moral failing. It makes her so angry.

I wonder if anyone has written about the conflation of perfectionism and morality in some people's minds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And then *sniffle* WAH!

Another tough day, the kind when you're going so fast fast fast that you are totally exhausted by 3 but must continue to push fast fast fast, and it's been over a week like this. Then, exhausted and tense and a trifle distracted, I rear-ended a Beamer in stop-and-go traffic on the way home. The driver was terribly nice and apologetic that he needed to ask for my info; it was a leased car, otherwise he would let the fender-bender go. Then a weirdly awkward but amiable moment when we realized neither of us has been in an accident before, so we didn't really know what to exchange or how to proceed. Eventually we sorted it out.

And then I got home all weepy because of a bad day + car accident, and I proceeded to mess up the falafel I was attempting to prepare for dinner, and then I stared in a catatonic state at the television for a while. Did you know there's a TV show where people compete to be the best mentalist, which is like a cross between a psychic and a stage magician?

...Learning this did not make me feel much better.

I sort of wish that the earth would just swallow me up. Or better yet, maybe my nice, soft blankets would swallow me while I have sweet dreams tonight, and I'd never have to return to the harsh and nasty world.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bad Cop Is Tired

I don't like being the heavy. I can do it if I have to, but it makes me tired. Shouldn't we all be able to talk things over gently and reach harmonious conclusions? We all work hard, we do. Even George the Salesman. Can't we just not do this?

A few weeks ago, I had to call up a freelancer, formerly our best freelancer of this sort, for the second time about the same project. It was still not right--materials arriving 3 weeks late with the art missing? really?--and I said, "Is this project being done in India?" And they said, "Yes." And I said, "I have no philosophical objections to work being done overseas. However, I have a serious practical objection when my project is screwed up." They brought the project to their US office. I also mentioned I may not work with them again. Ever.

Then there was my colleague who works remotely missing deadlines. I eventually had to tell his in-office supervisor. This was a really tough decision: on one hand, I had to do some serious CYA operations for my own safety and welfare. On the other, I know this remote employee does excellent work but is viewed with constant suspicion because he's not in the office. They are constantly threatening to terminate his contract because of office politics.

Then, if George the Salesman were not bad enough, his colleagues The Delivery Guys a. refused to help G. level the oven, b. did not have the delivery rebate form we were promised, and c. left the drawer of our old oven--which they were supposed to remove in entirety--on the front step. Yes! An oven drawer! On the front step! It's just fantastic! How is that even an option? I sent Lowe's (yes, Lowe's. Lowe's, don't shop there) an irate email. The central customer service has replied, but not the local branch, even though the HQ supposedly forwarded my complaint to the manager of the local store, promising me s/he would reply within 24 hours. So I must rain down more fire and brimstone upon Lowe's.

On top of that, the vet never phoned us with the results of the obscenely expensive blood work we had done for our sick cat. Thankfully she's now better, but for that price, you should send me the results on a freakin' engraved card. I called yesterday and they were closed for Veteran's Day. Today I was too busy to call.

And then, the freelance group that sent my project overseas and then brought it back--guess what? The project must be final Monday (they think Thursday, just to make sure I get it Monday) and today, I discovered a major error. MAJOR. ERROR. Oddly, it's a sort of error I had checked for, but either it was freshly introduced or somehow I missed it despite specifically checking for it. But it's a 101 kind of mistake, an assinine mistake that affects many other things in the project. I wish I could get into details, but I am skating on Blogging About The Workplace Ice. I had this Zen moment where I was just breathing IIIINNNN, breathing OOOOUUUTT as I called the Bad Freelancers (dialing felt slow-motion) and I said, calmly, "Is Kathy there?" (My contact.)

"She's not available Could I give you her voice mail?"

"Would you page her, please?"

"Actually, she had to run out this morning."

Crystalline calm: "Is there someone else I could speak to? There's something of an emergency with my project."

I was transferred to the department manager. I explained, "I'm specifically not panicking. I found a big error..."

Thankfully, they fixed it, and hopefully it's done now.

And then, the person who works remotely and sometimes misses deadlines emailed me to say that one of my best and most trusted freelancers missed some things so minor as to be insanely petty. So I asked this person: Are you a Virgo? And the answer was, Yes.

OH and P.S.: I forgot to tell y'all another whole thing with Other People's Deadline-Missing Screwing Up My Projects, but now I'm just plain tired.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Serious Time of Year

The roads are packed during commute time, even in the countryish towns west of the city. Everyone is here; no one is on vacation. Their kids are in the thick of the school year. We wait in long lines of steel behind yellow buses. The listings are sparse for the local arts calendars. Everyone is buckled down, pushing projects through before the holiday season. It's slightly determined, grim. No one has time for a shiatsu session or a concert. It's time for work.

Oddly, this gives me less to do on the weekends.

Monday, November 05, 2007

George the Sales Guy

We bought a new oven this weekend. Ours gradually wandered from 50 degrees off the requested temperature, to 75, to 100, to wandering all over the temperature map. Mice live in it. It looks like it may be the original model from when our condo was built in 1976. In a word, it's gross. In another: inefficient.

So off we traipsed to Big Box Home Stuff Store, like good aspiring middle-class Americans, and examined the ovens. We selected a model we liked. It was hard to get the sales guy's notice. Eventually he--George--graced us with his attention. My hubby enquired as to whether there were other models with similar features we should consider. George replied by--not kidding--turning to me and asking, "Hon, do you cook a lot?" My usual bubbly nature fizzed right out; clearly, "polite but cool" was called for here. Nonetheless unprepared for such a terrific throwback of a question, I stammered, "I bake...some." Dear Husband tried to draw George off me. George would not have it. He pointed out to me that the heating element was ideal for "keeping gravy warm". I have never in my life prepared gravy. I'm not boasting about this; it's merely a fact.

George appeared to me to be living in some possibly alcoholic time warp. He had the stubbly face, weirdly pliable facial features, and quick defensiveness I saw in many a homeless alcoholic/lost soul in my Santa Fe days.

When we scheduled delivery, George creepily-amiably said he hoped I'd have some brownies ready for them! Oh dear me! When we were at last freed from his grip, he "helped" a couple looking at washing machines by cutting off the husband to ask the pretty blond wife how many loads of the kids' laundry she does a week.

Weekend Review of The Challenge

Some things I ate despite The Challenge: 2 croutons, 1 onion ring, oyster crackers in my clam chowder. (I think it's important to note these and be honest, and do better next time.)

Some things I did not eat because of The Challenge: warm bread before dinner, pumpkin cheesecake, mozzarella sticks, many more onion rings, sugar in my tea.

Some things I ate because of The Challenge: dates, whole grain bread, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, homemade unrefined chocolate chip cookies, almonds, a wonderful salad instead of a sandwich, more apples than usual.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I hate to curse it, but I'm too excited

I have a prospect for a new job that may replace the publishing gig. I don't want to curse it, so I won't say anything further at this time. But it seems like a job custom-made for me pretty much fell into my meditating lap.


I can say no more.


This morning, as I delighted in the bustling activity at our bird feeder while toasting my homemade (whole grain) bread, I reflected that I really have the hobbies and interests of a much older, possibly retired, woman. G. said, "At least you have a blog."

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Challenge

The email reached me on October 16. "A Holiday Challenge" said the subject line. One of my favorite people, the woman who runs the yoga studio where I practice shiatsu (who also happens to be an amazing astrologer/dancer/honey producer) was challenging me--and what, a hundred other people?--"to avoid eating refined sugar and flour for this holiday season."

I closed the email.

I opened it again. I read the compelling reasons for doing this. I reviewed the terms of the Challenge: no refined sugar or flour from the day before Halloween until the day after Easter. I closed the email.

I opened the email the next day. I thought about the amount of smack (that is, white sugar) I consume. I thought about the amount of white flour I consume: pasta, baguettes...I closed the email.

I thought about my winter mood swings and wondered if they could be related to sugar highs and lows. I contemplated that I cannot eat just one holiday cookie--it's a dozen or nothing. (In one sitting.) I pondered the steady march of 5 pounds a year onto my waist and hips since beginning work at a department inundated with holiday treats from vendors. It's been 6 years since. We can all do the math.

I opened the email. I read the line: "If it [the Challenge] does not work for you, you can enjoy next year's season knee deep in refined treats." I thought that was a good point. I closed the email.

I argued with myself about my love of baking bread. Whole grain bread? Too...too much chewing. I thought about opportunities for learning to make whole-grain treats with unrefined sugars, like raw honey, molasses, and Succanat. I talked with people about the Challenge. It was universally deemed insane.

Then that stupid, pesky (snotty, know-it-all) voice in the back of my head started saying, You know this is what you've needed to do for years. You know it. You've finally been called on it. Do it now, as an experiment. Do it when you have a support network doing it with you. If it doesn't work for you, eat crap next year. People have done much bigger things than this: marathons, walking on the moon, immigrating to foreign places with nothing but fifty cents and a trunkful of hope, quitting real addictions. You can freakin' give up sugar for a few months.

I took a deep breath, and on October 20 I wrote back: "OK, I'll do it--BUT I reserve the right to bake bread with a little refined flour alongside the whole grain flour. It makes the texture much better."

My friend replied, "Okay, we'll put a little star on your forehead so we all know."

Now I'm on Day 4 of the Challenge. Some early observations:

1. Regular, refined cookies taste like sweet clouds and I could eat 4-6 at a time. Whole-grain cookies sweetened with honey or Succanat taste like actual food and are very filling.

2. Same goes for the fruit-puree-sweetened malted milk balls I found today: filling.

3. Sugar withdrawal can create a mild but persistent afternoon headache.

4. Holy crap, my "sweet" tastebuds must be shot through. I made some honey-sweetened apple cookies and they were not sweet-tasting at all.

5. Quinoa is really, really good. I always forget this until I am reminded by eating it again. Dinner suggestion: shrimp flambe over quinoa. Breakfast suggestion: poached eggs over quinoa with tahini sauce. (Christened "Hippie Eggs Benedict" by my husband.)

About 60 people are doing the challenge. I wonder how it's treating them.