Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas, Chickens!

You got Xanax!

What's that you say? You didn't ask Santa Claus for any tranquilizers? Oh, well, then those must be from mommy's list!

Yes, I went to the vet this week and purchased five tiny blue canine sedatives, on the VERY SLIGHT off-chance that we're asking too much of the little guy to sit quietly inside a small box for 10 consecutive hours.

Hoping the pills will fit inside the Mustang, along with two adults, the dog, the dog's house, the dog's staircase, the dog's bag, a pillow, two suitcases, a flat of waters, one backpack, one pillow, coats and blankets, a small fan, gifts for three families, one bag of beef jerky and a box of Red Vines.

And now Chickens, posing for you in his new holiday sweater with red scarf, would like to wish you a Merry Christmas. See you when we get back from our road trip!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whirlwind December

Boy, nothing like being linked to from a new blog (Hi, Gamy! Hi, Piccolo!) to light a fire under the ass. Especially since there's this gadget on her site that's equipped with a helpful public reminder of how lazy I have been about this. Yes, this post is being written solely so that gadget can suck it.

So it has been a pretty chaotic month. On Nov. 30, I peered ahead at the calendar and realized that due to various parties, programs, dinners, deadlines and shopping trips, there would be zero chance of squeezing in some exercise. And I can't very well head into Christmas break feeling like a fatass, not when I'm guaranteed to feel like one when it's over. So on Monday, Dec. 1, Sal and I began doing something crazy. Every weekday morning, we wake up at 5 a.m., and drive to the gym for a workout. Well, I get up at 5 a.m. to prepare breakfast and pour coffee, and only then will Sal get up, and I am perfectly OK with this because OMG, do you know Sal? If you do, then you know that getting out of bed in the middle of the night, in the pitch-black and freezing darkness, TO GO TO THE GYM, is nothing short of pure torture for him. Yesterday he came in from getting the newspaper, glared at me and said through gritted teeth "Did you know there are STARS AND A MOON OUT THERE?!"

Also this month, I ate grasshoppers. Grasshoppers! With little legs and little antennae, all piled up on each other in a little glass bowl. This was at a stylish new Oxacan restaurant in downtown San Jose called Mezcal, where the deep-fried bugs are served like pretzels. The owner was urging me proudly to try one, and even as I stared down at the little beasts, my heart began to beat faster and faster. I couldn't even fathom TOUCHING them, much less actually putting one in my mo- Oh god I can barely type that. OK, so first I had a beer, followed by a shot of Mezcal. Then I sat there at the bar and thought about a wonderful book I read this summer called "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper," a memoir about a woman named Fuchsia who traveled through China alone, talking her way into the kitchens of aristocrats and peasants alike to learn their recipes and culinary secrets. And every time I feel scared to eat something new, I think of Fuchsia and her wonderful food adventures, and I force myself to try just a little. Trying just a little is why I love sushi now, and red onions, and while grasshoppers won't be a snack I pack in my purse, the taste wasn't so bad. The hard part was actually putting my fingers on the bug, and raising it up to ... well, you know. And then I just closed my eyes and popped it in. Once it was in my mouth, it had the consistency of beef jerky. Sorta dry and fibrous. It tasted like salt and lime, and I chewed it up and swallowed it. Then I ate another, just to show who's boss.

We're getting ready to hit the road on Saturday, the big driving trip to New Mexico. Remember how awhile back I wrote about Chickens hating the car ride in his crate? Next we tried a booster seat, which worked better for about four minutes until I realized Chickens cannot lay down anywhere until he has spun around in a circle at least four times. Meaning the leash that tethered him to that seat would get all tangled up in his legs. BIG failure. So now we're back to the crate, which we have strapped securely into the seat with special belts. I plan to put his little bed inside, in the hope that he'll just curl up and go to sleep instead of barking and crying for 1,300 miles. EACH WAY.

The thought of Chickenbone being so anxious and miserable that long breaks my heart, so I am really, really, REALLY hoping that it will somehow click in his little pea brain that there's nothing to be afraid of in the car. That the vibration under his feet won't kill him, and that mom and dad are right there in the front seat having a jolly time, so maybe ol' Chickens can just settle down and enjoy the ride. And I have promised him that if he can do this, when we finally get to Clovis, he can eat my mom's cat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The 10-dollar bill diet

I'm pleased to report that last week I hosted my first Thanksgiving Day dinner, and boy, did I hit it out of the park. And by that, I mean I didn't screw up ANYTHING. Here was our menu:

Salt-roasted turkey
From L.A. Times (so, so, so much easier than brine; tasty and moist, too)

Thanksgiving potatoes
From Skillet Chronicles (I'll never peel and chop potatoes again)

Foolproof gravy
From the Mercury News (contains white wine, mmm)

Cornbread sausage stuffing
From I don't know where, since this was made by Sal (who tossed in a handful of diced apple)

Baby salad greens with sweet-potato croutons
From N.Y. Times (easy and completely gorgeous)

Herbed dinner rolls
From Sunset Magazine (involved kneading and rising and everything!)

Cranberry sauce
From a can (since I do not care for cranberries, I didn't try too hard on this one, though next year I'm making a recipe my aunt swears by: mix a bag of fresh cranberries with one cup each of sugar and orange juice; bake for an hour at 350; stir in a few spoonfuls of Grand Mariner or other brandy before serving)

Green bean casserole
From my head, and some cans (made this with fresh beans a few years ago - it did not go well)

Apple pie
Another Sal dish (we also had pumpkin pie, brought by my mother-in-law)

I was most impressed by the salad, the apple pie and the rolls. And by the fact that everything finished cooking at the same time. And by the fact that I finally made a gravy that didn't suck. (Last Christmas I sprinkled a bunch of salt into the drippings before tasting, forgetting how I brined the bird for three days. Oopsie. Oh, and two Thanksgivings ago, I made golden-brown dinner rolls that were magazine-cover beautiful, so it was a real surprise how they'd break your teeth off.)

Also, Sal and I ran the Turkey Trot in downtown San Jose on Thanksgiving morning, and he beat me. Did you hear that? HE BEAT ME. For the first time ever. He also won his age category in the CEO/Celebrity Challenge. Even though I have run like a billion races (and never won anything) and he has done four. No, I'm proud of him, though. Especially since one year ago last week, we walked into our first Weight Watchers meeting together, determined to stop getting fatter all the time. And now he's 35 pounds lighter, so I'm guessing that helped him out. That, and maybe one of us stopped to help an old man who fell down on the race course. I demand my medal for winning the category of WHO IS A BETTER PERSON.

But it's ironic that we hit a weight-loss milestone this weekend, seeing as how I pretty much hogged out for four straight days. It was one of those stretches where you look up from your third slice of pie (in one morning) and try to remember the last time you felt actual hunger. The day before yesterday? Tuesday? You should have seen this leftovers sandwich I made, cracking open one of those herbed rolls and layering on turkey, potatoes and gravy, adding a sprinkle of cheddar before chowing down. I DARE you to ask if I was hungry when I built that bad boy.

Here's the scary part: In three weeks, we are heading to New Mexico, which is pretty much going to be a total eat-a-thon. For 1,266 miles and 10 days, we'll be living on fast food and New Mexican food, and diet sabotage is pretty unavoidable. So, to carve out a little bit of room to play, for the next three weeks I am putting myself on super-severe restrictions. I will only eat when I'm hungry, I will mostly eat decent things, and I will work out regularly. NO. BULLSHIT.

To get off to the right start, today I awoke at the terrifying hour of 5 a.m. and went to spin class. Then I vowed to my girlfriend that this month I will eat NOTHING from the table in the faculty break room. Not one cupcake, not one cookie, not a single crumb. I begged her to think of an unbearable consequence if I break my vow, and we cooked up a plan: If either of us sneaks any bites out of our break rooms, we have to mail the other person $10. Like, that very same day. This is the greatest idea ever. Wait, maybe you should get in on this, too. Like, if I know it's going to cost me $50, maybe I will not mindlessly stuff a piece of crappy old holiday fudge into my mouth. Who's in?

P.S. You can totally mail me $10 if you have a weak moment. I will use it to buy carrot sticks!