Friday, April 27, 2007

I could go on, and on, and on...

Food is the one thing that I can easily talk about for hours. I'm in love with the stuff. Really, any kind of cooking method, any kind of recipe, ingredient, flavoring or hardware -- I'll gab to the person closest and most interested. Which is why I was likely stunned this morning when I sat down next to what looked like a punky, disenfranchised gal. I chose her because I had inadvertently left my iPod at home (in my godforsaken gym bag!)and she appeared to be the least likely person to bother me on my downtown-bound train ride. I was wrong.

I quickly fell into the seat next to said punky girl, unzipped my case and unsheathed my dog-eared copy of Family Circle, which I subscribe to mostly for the recipes and home tips. As I was leafing to the back to scope out the recipes, Punky queried, "Do you cook?" Flabberghasted by the sound coming from Punky's direction, I slowly turned my face to hers and said "HUH?"

Yes, I love to cook, Punky. She then asked me a whole bunch of questions like, what do I like to cook most, am I married, does my husband appreciate my cooking (to which I registered a resounding "Of course!") and did I learn to cook from my mom (yes and no; I learned a few key things from mom, like how to follow the directions on the box and that to make fluffy scrambled eggs you add water, not milk, but I did not develop my passion for cooking until much later). It was a very pleasant conversation, and to think I would have completely missed it had I remembered my iPod, which is still lodged in my godforsaken gym bag!

We parted ways and she said that she appreciated the tips on flavoring rice and using a slow cooker, and that she was thinking about moving to Austin, mostly for the nicer political climate and environmentally savvy politics. Yeah, I'd move to Austin, too, Punky, but then I'd miss out on experiences like our little chat.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's a good thing when it's gone

So, I've lost another pound. I just might look decent in a bikini this vacation after all! The downside? I've become a food Nazi. I've been counting calories like Scrooge McDuck appraises his pool of cash. I've been limiting my intake to 1,200 to 1,500 calories daily, 500 to 800 below what is needed to maintain, and I've started running 2.5 miles daily with a healthy regimen of yoga and weights.

I'd almost given up on my goal, which I made in January. The scale was stuck at 150 lbs. and for three months there was seemingly nothing I could do to get it to budge! I was working with a personal trainer to get my cardio routine together and do exercises to tone the hail damaged areas of my mushy physique. All that was left was diet. I abhor dieting. I just love food, and depriving myself of food that I love seemed awful. I didn't think I was going to be able to do this.

But, I then became addicted to Hungry Girl, which is a great resource for fast, easy and healthy substitutions for the stuff that I love. And I really cannot say enough about how important getting enough fiber is to losing weight. You've gotta eat whole grains, raw veggies and suppliment when necessary with psyllium husk powder.

So, hopefully I'll have some brilliant photos when I come back from vacation! Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Weekend bliss, Vacation angst

A weekend among family is always welcome. They're so much fun to be around; my dad is a really unique individual. He loves his daughters, and he loves sharing his life with others. He could talk baseball with Dave, show off his new pistol grips, talk about his trips to the deer lease or go on and on about small block Chevys. And he cares about whatever you bring to the table. Morning debates around a high-fiber breakfast, fresh coffee and blue jays are the best.

It seems though, that I can never make enough time to visit. I'm always eager to get back "home" and reluctant to leave. We have dinner and conversation, watch baseball and hang out, and then all of the sudden they're waving good bye in the driveway as Dave almost backs into one of the nefarious trees that come out of nowhere (I've collided with my fair share of them). Before that, Jessica, Brent, Sara and Kara were drawing figures in the dingy accumulation on my car's hood, and Fitzgerald was relegated to the guest room upstairs because he just couldn't get along with a 100-lb. black lab, an overly playful Jack Russell terrier and Ginger (Zoe), the mutt with a heart of gold.

One thing that I noticed about my family is their love of food in large quantities. My mom opened a container of oatmeal raisin cookies on Sunday around lunch time; they were gone shortly thereafter. The cookies were 140 calories each! That's insane! With some of them eating two, I could see how throwing caution into the wind like they do could be consequential to their midsection. Although I didn't partake, I felt strangely guilty that I didn't grab the carton of cookies and slam dunk them into the waste bin! It's for their own good!!!

So, it's become obvious that although I've been working pretty darn hard to lose the weight before we vacation in Key West, I'm still about 8 to 10 lbs. short of my goal. That sucks, because I was looking forward to finally having pictures that I love to plaster all over our home. "This is a shot of me and Dave sunning on a lovely pier on the island. Don't I look fabulous?" Instead, it'll be more like, "Here's Dave and ... What is this? How did a manatee manage to get into ... Oh wait... That's me! This is where I was in my bikini and didn't lose all that fat I said I was going to... yeah, one too many trips to my parents' house!"

And to top it all off, I can't figure out what to do for Dave's birthday. It'll be while were at Key West. I wanted to plan a super-secret special day trip for him, but I can't figure anything out. There's no baseball in the area, he's already been to the island. All I can think of is hitting a nice restaurant for a romantic dinner and giving him a fabulous gift, which also still escapes me! And 35 is kind of a milestone, so I want to do something memorable (although, we will be on Key West, what's not memorable about that!?). Maybe I can have the kitchen at the Bed and Breakfast we're staying at make him a birthday cake that I can surprise him with on the morning of his birthday... And then have something crazy planned, like I dunno, horseback riding or something... GIMME SOME IDEAS, FOLKS!!!

Also, what do you get a guy that has everything baseball, that he'll absolutely flip for, and won't totally kill my budget!!! ARGH!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes...

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.
-Kurt Vonnegut

News has just reached my desk that the world's most revered Humanist, Kurt Vonnegut, has died. His fatalistic, morally quixotic and dubiously contrived works, including his most famous novel Slaughterhouse Five, earned him the fame that eluded him early in life.

I remember during our trip to San Francisco, we made a few stops at City Lights Books, a Beat Generation mainstay with poetry and philosophy from every continent a large contingent on its shelves. Vonnegut was the only thing that quenched my literary appetite, and I left City Lights with a new copy of Slaugherhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions. If you haven't read these Vonnegut classics, you're missing out.

Vonnegut was a man that wrote in such a way that compelled you to at least try to understand ideas that would normally be repulsive. His style was dictated by his early years as a hard-news journalist, a reporter at a Chicago newspaper's city desk. That style made his novels easy to read, easy to follow and easily consumed by readers that may not be so adept with philosophy. He's told stories of near-death tea parties with modern icons and has attracted a diverse yet critical following with tales of planets far away and people near and dear.

Vonnegut died due to brain injuries from a fall several weeks ago.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Get green, make green

Sheryl Crow and Laurie David (wife of Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) just rode into the sunset in their biodiesel-powered tour bus to start the "Stop Global Warming College Tour." Kicking the tour off at Southern Methodist University, the soon-to-be-home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and think tank, i.e. they Anti-Kyoto Monument of Environmental Ennui, may have been a less-than-optimal choice for the sassy duo.

As Crow and David made the media rounds yesterday, people in my line of work started debating just what they could accomplish by handing out energy-efficient light bulbs, doing a slide show and singing a couple new-folk songs. The debate then evolved to a global scale: These two harbingers of the global climate change end-times are trying to motivate Americans to do something for our planet at the grassroots. What if America really started, as a means of necessity, to make our country more ecologically friendly? What if we started to take coal-burning power plants offline and constructed new and more environmentally feasible energy sources? What would that kind of large scale investment (investments with dubious or unknown rates of return are calculated as losses) do to our economy? What if China and India don't follow suit, and for every one coal-fired power plant that we take down, they construct two more?

I kind of stopped listening when somebody asked if we would be willing to bomb China to stop them from polluting. That's a new concept to me: hurting the world to save it? That's like a coyote chewing its arm off to escape a trap, right?

But then I began to think, why are such ecological improvements necessarily a loss? Why would new construction and taking down older polluting plants be economically harmful? Why must ecological improvement and economic growth be mutually exclusive? It seems a bit specious to me.

Look at San Francisco, Calif., or Seattle, Wash., or Portland, Ore., or Madison, Wisc., or even Austin! These cities are striving towards sustainability; abating environmental impact to the point which the environmental gains negate human impact. All of these cities are not only environmentally friendly, but are also economic powerhouses. The investment in their infrastructure to make the cities cleaner, safer and more ecologically integrated has made them attractive, boosting land values and making them sought-after locations for creative-types and progressive firms.

Dallas could do this, too. We could be come the next green-living outpost. Too bad we've got business leaders and council members that would cut their noses off to spite their faces. They'd rather have toll roads running through our greenspace and intruding upon what was supposed to be our own verson of Golden Gate Park... It's too bad that we won't have a dense urban core, afforable multi-family highrises or a downtown peppered with well-manicured parks and recreational facilities. It's too bad that companies come to Dallas looking for a steal, and then they really do, they steal from the communities' investment in infrastructure, developing reinvestment zones that take tax revenue from the city for new bells and whistles for their towers of babel.

What will get us there? What will make us as beautiful and preserved as San Francisco? As ecologically sound as Eugene, Ore. or Seattle? Progressive leadership -- a commodity that we sorely lack.

To make Dallas whole

I fell hard into my uncomfortable chair at work, the recoil of the hydraulic lift making my bean soup slosh gently. The warm bowl in my lap and my cool caesar salad on my desk, I thought about how I hadn't blogged in such a long while. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, mostly while baking bread and doing yoga at the gym. I've been wondering if I really had anything to say at all.

Sure I'd read something that would make my blood boil, but how on earth do you really speak out about anything if your job is the proverbial cat with your tongue? So, I've decided that I'll get back to the nitty gritty of Dallas, what's wrong, what's right and what we should do about our myriad problems.

If you're ever in Dallas and want to have a pleasant trip, do not talk about race, ever. That's like pulling a lion's tail, especially if you're white. It would make what Don Imus is coming back from look trivial. So, it's astonishing that in our Legislature, two lawmakers are asking that the state formally apologize for slavery. Note, they're not from Dallas, but Houston also has a history of racial tension.

So, it's really peculiar that so many racially charged issues are on the floor in the Texas House. On March 21, David Swinford effectively killed a bill from Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, that would disallow the removal of any memorial plaques or statues from state property without the approval of the Legislature, including several Confederate memorials at the University of Texas that have recently drawn fire.

Not that I agree with slaveholding, Southern, belly-up aristocracy, but history is history, even the ugly parts. Will an apology do any good at resolving centuries of ingrained racial dischord? Not really, but if it makes Texas and it's pussilanimous Legislature feel better, then sure, go ahead and apologize for slavery.

But instead of just an apology, a third-rate collection of words officially saying "Gee, we're real sorry about the whole indentured servitude thing, forgive?" How about we do something that will really change the tides of race relations and its associated poverty, something that will wash away the geographical dividing lines that still segregate. Why don't we do something meaningful instead of asking a bunch of completely oblivious white dudes to say "I'm sorry" for something their ancestors did?

With the money the Texas House has wasted debating an apology for slavery we could have gotten started with programs keeping black kids in school, providing their parents with opportunities to start over, to break the cycle of poverty, to end their relegation to Dallas' "Southern Sector" and to dissolve fifedoms of racial inequity through combined community investment.

Nah, that'd make way too much sense.