Thursday, February 20, 2014

The blahs

Maybe it's a reaction to having finally finished a major project, maybe it's the drippy grey weather, but whatever it is, I have a case of the blahs. 

Not the blues, because I'm not really sad, I just seem to have misplaced all my enthusiasm. 

I'm sure my joie de vivre will return in time, but for now, I'm just waiting for the cloud to lift. 

I think I'm going to listen to this for the next couple of days and report back on Monday.

Have a good weekend everyone. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Christmas Present

For Christmas this year I was given bath salts (Calgon, take me away!) a fake fur afghan (matches the cat) and the best present of all: lumber.

Nothing makes a girl’s heart beat faster than a load of pine boards.

I have always dreamed of having my own library; a place of comfort and quiet, with good light, really comfortable chairs, and a table to work at. So when I bought my house, the first thing I thought was that this room would make a great library. (Did I mention that I have a vivid imagination?)

So since Christmas, my parents and I have been working on creating the first, and most crucial, part of this vision: the bookshelves. The original idea was to buy bookshelves from IKEA and just paint and trim them, so they looked built in.  But apparently Dad wanted a challenge, so we have spent the last 2 months alternating between their house, my house and various hardware stores, trying to match paint, choose moldings, and buying/renting whatever tools we didn’t have.

It’s been a job. But finally, last weekend we reached the point of “close enough”. There are a few small, niggling little details, but they are the kind of things that no-one will notice (unless they are a professional) and to be completely truthful, we are so tired of this project that we no longer care.

Still, it looks good doesn't it? Now I need to find those comfy chairs.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day and other things

It's Valentine's Day, and I could be snarky, or bitter, or above it all, but honestly, I like the holiday. So I don't have a sweetheart, so what? That doesn't mean I live a life devoid of love.

I  think the problem is that people narrow the focus to romantic love, which is sad. Don't you love your parents, friends, kids, siblings and pets too? Be generous. Isn't that one of the best things about love? It's generosity? It's not like it's going to run out.

And if the commercialization turns you off, don't buy anything. Give the creativity muscles a workout and bake their favorite cookies, run their errands for them, rent a favorite movie and make popcorn for a cozy night in, or be really romantic and write, on paper, an honest-to-goodness love letter. Not a text, not a card, a love letter. It will last longer than the cookies and be treasured forever.

Or just take a moment to tell that person or persons that you care.  That's all Valentine's Day is about anyway.


In other news, did you see men's slope style skiing last night?  I thought the boarders were impressive, but the skiers go up the jumps backwards! Insane! am I right?

Maggie Voisin
In sadder news Evgeni Plushenko withdrew last night. I don't blame him, anyone with eyes could see the man was in pain. So in tribute to a great athlete, a video of what's not his best performance, but probably one of his most memorable. And it's a great Tom Jones song. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Year's Feast

Ingredients for New Year's Salad - daikon, carrot, dried persimmon, salt and lemon zest

In honor of the Lunar New Year, I decided to pull out the stops and go for multiple recipes.
  • New Year's Salad
    • Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • Flash seared steak with two sauces
    • Smokey Citrus Soy Sauce and Creamy Sesame Miso Sauce

It looks like a lot, but most of the work is creating the sauces. My only tip is to watch the sesame seeds closely when you toast them, they go up in a flash!

New Year's Salad - Kohaku Namasu
The salad is pretty, isn't it?  Even though I couldn't find Kyoto red carrots, which I'm sure would have been more colorful. I also don't have the skills to shred dried persimmon, so I just cut it up small. Anyone who can shred such a gooey ingredient has my full respect. Although it's called a salad, for a western audience, it's probably more appropriate to call it a pickle. I like it, it's nice and tart, but I like it better as a condiment.

Seared steak. According to the recipe, you should use Wagyu beef, which I’m sure is wonderful. But I have a mortgage, so I used USDA Prime instead.  And as you can see from the photo, I overcooked it a little.  Don’t get distracted when you cook – bad things happen.

Flash seared steak with two sauces - Gyu suteki, oroshi ponzu, goma miso soe
I’m sorry to say, I did not like this. I like steak and I like the sauces, but I don’t like them together.

Of the two sauces, I liked citrus soy (oroshi ponzu) best, especially once I put the grated daikon in it; salty, lemony, and peppery all at the same time. It was okay on the steak, but nothing special.

The creamy miso (goma miso soe), while lovely and nutty, was like putting peanut butter on a hamburger.

So I ditched the sauces and ate the steak with some leftover pesto. (I love garlic.)

But all was not lost, because I was able to use the Citrus Soy to make Chilled Udon Noodle Salad (Oroshi Kake Udon).  I ate it for lunch for the rest of the week.  It’s a pretty good thing to pack for lunch; it’s only mildy drippy, you don’t have to heat it, and the daikon adds a nice crunch.

6 recipes down and 126 to go!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Olympics have started!

I love the Olympics. I love the pageantry of the Opening Ceremonies, the lighting of the flame, the flags, the anthems, everything. Which is odd, since I am usually indifferent to sports. But the Olympics for some reason doesn't bore me like regular sports.

Maybe it's because it's mostly individual events. Or that it's (mainly) sports I never see, which gives it novelty value. I was never made to luge, ski, or speed skate when I was growing up. I was never herded into my high school auditorium and told to cheer for the curling team. I like that enjoying it is non-compulsory. (And if you think cheering for the football team is not compulsory, you didn't go to high school in Texas.)

I enjoyed watching the Dutch sweep speed skating this weekend, go orange! And Davis and White were just magical on the ice, weren't they?

And weren't the opening ceremonies fun?

A Russian Alice in Wonderland on Acid

So for the next two weeks, I'll be getting my bi-annual dose of sports. Then I'll be good until Rio.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The President's Challenge

With the Olympics coming up, I've been thinking about physical fitness, or more specifically, my lack of it.

Now, part of what turns me off about exercise is the whole competitive aspect. That everything has to be a contest. I have a friend who is constantly training for something. When you ask her how's her life going, it's all about her fitness schedule, and what her times are. She managed to find (and compete in) a triathalon on her honeymoon. She's hardcore. 

I admire her tenacity and her drive, but I don't want to be her. I want to find a way to be active, that does not mean living at the gym, or going on long distance sporting events, like century rides, or marathons.  I've done those, and I never want to do them again. 

So I turned to that guru of modern times, the internet, and found The President's Challenge, which I remember from school. Anyone can participate, and you don't have to join anything. You take the test (, to see where you are, and then they give you suggestions for improvement. It's all extremely low-key, and exactly what I want. 

I took the test and my scores were pitiful
Fitness ComponentTest EventYour ResultsYour Score
Aerobic Fitness*1-Mile Walk19:345%ile
Heart Rate156
VO2 Max17.5
Muscular StrengthHalf Sit-Ups3455%ile
Overall Score (based on percentile average)35%ile
So this is my first physical challenge for 2014 - to get my overall score up to the 75th percentile by the end of the year. So I'll be doing various things to get my heart rate up, but I'll be focusing on things that are fun.