Friday, August 20, 2010


Morning sweet and cool
Luna cat sounds like a cow
Why is she so loud?

Sharp knife and hard roll
Rushing to make a sandwich
Wastes much time, bleeding.

Humpty Dumpty fell
But didn't see a chiro
Maybe would have helped.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In which kStyle notes that marscapone cheese is really, really good

So. I gave it up again. The smack. The white stuff. The pale fairy.

White sugar.

It was pretty obvious what I needed to do post-holiday-cookies. During the days before and after Christmas, I was surfing sugar highs and lows. I had stopped attending Weight Warblers* meetings around November, and, sometime in December, I'd ditched tracking what I ate. I found I was frustrated with suggestions that low-calorie "foods" like sugar-free vanilla pudding mix prepared with nonfat yogurt were a good idea. Or that they were even FOOD. I was super-tired of eating only high-fiber bread. Bread with extra fiber? Tastes like it's been injected with extra fiber. Most of all, the system was not really working for me anymore. It was too rigid and too riddled with the mythology that egg whites cooked in the microwave/cottage cheese/skim milk are not utterly appalling even to contemplate. I stopped losing weight because the plan became unsustainable for me. (Also...personally, I don't respond well to an outside-in solution. WW is all about imposing a structured system on one's eating. I do better with an inside-out solution, and I'm finding this book incredibly useful as a result.)

But I digress.

It was actually The Husband's idea for me to ditch the refined sugar. He was direct: "2009 is shot. But starting January 1, I think you should give up sugar again."

So I did. Coincidentally, a friend who also struggles with sweet teeth gave up sugar at the same time. We formed an instant, two-person support group. We place money in a jar for each day without sugar, she saving for a massage and I for Wii Sports Resort. We remove a little money every day we slip. We allow eating sugar for one day each week.

Three weeks in, I feel wonderful. More energy! More joie de vivre! I also find that I can react very, very poorly to my one sugar day. Last Saturday, I made the most of my free day by consuming a liberal volume of hot cocoa. The next day, I experienced what can only be described as a sugar hangover. I was hungover. I had not drunk any alcohol. It was miserable.

But then--miracle of miracles--a friend who trained at CIA (cooking, not spying) and supports local, healthful, sustainable food, educated me about agave nectar, a natural, low-glycemic index sweetener. Agave tastes great in cocoa and does not give me a hangover.

The strangest part is that refined sugar now tastes way too sweet to me. Yesterday I made the rookie error of grocery shopping hungry, which led to accepting sugary food samples. They were painfully sweet.

On the flip side, while The Husband and I prepared dinner this evening, I bit into a chickpea and declared my surprise at how sweet it was! Were chickpeas this sweet? It was so sweet! Delightfully so! I'm not sure that Husband tasted this incredible chickpea sweetness, which makes me believe it's another palate change courtesy of eschewing my personal smack.

And marscapone cheese! Oh dear, it is sweet and creamy and wonderful! Does everyone know about this?

*Fictitious name, because one cannot be too careful.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Proper Tools Make a Difference

Now that the husband has finished his PhD, we have more steady income to kick around. What have we been buying? Electronics? Fabulous vacations? Villas in the Alps?

No, no,

We've been replacing various worn-out necessities. First came the new vacuum, a few days after I realized that our old vacuum (purchased in '96 for $60) was spewing dust and pet dander into the air, like a small Mount Vesuvius. It was not trapping a single particle. After a bit of research, we settled on an upright vacuum with a HEPA filter. We did not go to the super-expensive models, but stayed on the end of economy and quality. We placed our order online and waited.

One day I came home from work to find a tall, vacuum-sized package leaning against our unit's door. It was like Christmas in October. What a difference the new vacuum makes. Once we uncovered the carpet from mounds of fur and dust, we rediscovered that it is not, in fact, a dull, grayed brown, but rather a pleasant, light beige. Our carpet feels springy and soft under our feet. The condo smells better.

Next, it was time to replace my poor, ancient car, the Super Tomato. She was a red '96 Geo Prizm. I purchased her in 2001, when I began needing a car to commute. She was a salvage--a reconstruction from a big accident--and she had 67,000 miles. When I retired the Super Tomato in October, she had a grand total of 155,300 miles. Her paint was unevenly faded. Her tires had long lost their hubcaps. She required frequent brake and alignment work and more new tires than a car should; as her damaged frame aged, it began to tilt and sag, no longer keeping its reconstructed shape. "Metal fatigue," my mom called it. Letting go was hard, though, as we'd spend a good 88,300 miles together. If we averaged 50 miles/hour, that's 1,766 hours, or solid 73.58 days.

The new car is a 2008 Kia Spectra. This car had been repossessed from the previous owner with a mere 800 miles on it. What with These Economic Times, and what with Kia's reputation not catching up to its improved quality, I got a good deal. The new car has an iPod jack, a remote starter, hubcaps, and a uniform, deep red coat of paint. She likes to drive over 50 mph, a speed which made the Super Tomato shudder and protest. I arrive at places faster than I should, because 80 mph feels in this car like what 40 mph felt like in the old car.

Finally, to the kitchen. After some reading about GERMS and HYGIENE, I replaced the sponges with dish cloths (which my husband declines to use, but whatever). Then, frustrated with my inability to find replacement sponges for our ancient mop, I bought a new mop. Bringing the old mop to the garbage, I discovered that the metal sheet between the sponge and the handle was completely filled with rust. I mopped with our handy-dandy new mop, and found that the kitchen floor is not, in fact, a dull, grayed brown, but rather off-white with subtle faux marbling.

What is the takeaway message? I suppose that the proper tools make a huge difference. And what of the people who can never afford to replace that mop, car, or vacuum? Maybe their lives are just a little more frustrating. No amount of effort can compensate for a vacuum that just doesn't work or a mop filled with rust.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oh hello

How are all y'all? I don't work at a computer anymore. There are no little breaks to jot a few sentences for the blog. Now I must take breaks the old-fashioned way, gazing out the window in a little world of my imagining.

Changing my career has created small, unforeseen changes such as this one, little ripples of different patterns in my days. There is no vending machine to contend with at work anymore, but now lurks the temptation of government-subsidized cookies in the cafeteria. My workdays are shorter, but without a moment of downtime or solitude. I have already caught--and survived--a terrible sinus infection and an even worse stomach bug. I find myself explaining things that seem obvious to my short charges whose forebrains are not fully developed: Why it's a bad idea to throw sharp pencils down a stairwell, why the teachers get to aggravated when you never bring your bilingual dictionary to class and constantly ask them to explain unfamiliar words.

The scenery of my week is completely different, as I commute to a town 31 miles away down a fast highway. It's a pretty little suburb, a newer town imitating the quaint, New England look of the authentic older towns. My boss is irritating in a whole new way I have not experienced before, despite the varied idiosyncracies and evils of past supervisors. It's amazing how many ways exist to mismanage. But it's okay, I don't see her often, only at the meetings she reschedules on a whim, never sticking to the planned biweekly schedule.

I should drive 25 miles the other direction to class now. The driving is wearying, but at least I have a new car in which to do it. I feel safer, and I get places faster.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My English, Eh, She Is Getting Worse

A surprise of working with ESL students all day is that, as their English improves, mine seems to worsen. Perhaps it's because I simplify my own speech for comprehensibility, or because I hear so much not-quite-correct English all day. Maybe it's the distraction of my brain echoing everything I say back to me in Portu-Spanglish. Por exemplo, when I say, "Me, too," I literally hear, "Yo, tambien" in the back of my head. When I ask, "What else?" I hear, "Que mais?" in Portuguese, and then correct it to "Que mas?" for the Spanish-speakers, and, finally, realize that I am at home where the only languages are English and Cat; no Portuguese, no Spanish. My students are not here needing translation. The cats communicate well enough through body language and insistent meows.

Today, after I said something with a very strange turn-of-phrase during our lunch break, I asked the experienced ESL teacher, "Does teaching ESL make your English worse?" She replied, "Yes."

Perhaps I should go read some beautifully constructed prose in English, or watch a well-written Hollywood film, or view a BBC production. This development is somewhat alarming.

For now, my good friends, I hope you to have weekend great and very much fun. Si?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Namaskar Again

I stopped going to yoga about two years ago. I had practiced hatha yoga off and on since about 1996, and I was just tired of it. The classes were not giving me that blissy, open feeling anymore. Instead of emerging refreshed and renewed from shavasana, I was spacey and sleepy, mind still running. I thought that maybe I had changed and yoga wasn't relevant to my current life.

I've been working mornings these past few weeks, including one day each weekend. This schedule prevented me from getting to Nia classes. The commute to the tutoring gig were making my neck and lower back--really, my whole spine--stiff and sore. I decided to drop in on an afternoon yoga class.

Ninety minutes later, I emerged into the summer sunlight refreshed and renewed. I felt like both body and mind had gotten a luxurious massage. It was as if the great big sky inside me had opened up again.

Maybe it was a fluke, but I decided to return to the same class the next week...and the next. For three weeks now I've been delving back into yogic practice, even pushing aside the coffee table to practice asana in my little living room.

I've realized that yoga was never the problem. The problem was the particular yoga class I had been attending two years ago--and its teacher. Because I liked the teacher personally, I did not make the connection that her teaching style was not a match for me.

I'd felt cluttered and crowded in her studio, which was her former dining room. I felt crowded by all the bodies and personalities crammed in that space. I felt crowded by the sort of celebrity status this teacher had among her loyal follower-students, and by her overwhelming presence in her studio-cum-home. I felt irritated by the inconvenience of parking in the teacher's driveway, where I was always blocked in after class by the students who had arrived to class 10 minutes late and would leave 10 minutes late.

There were other inconveniences. There was no drop-in option; one must commit to eight weeks of class at a particular day and time. Miss a class? The teacher would email to ask if all is well and offer a make-up session. It was too much. There was no physical or mental space.

But all of this crowding is mere inconvenience. The real problem was the cluttered nature of the yogic practice there. This teacher is rather a New Ager. She loved reciting affirmations at us as we relaxed into the postures. We visualized clouds of light. She talked about mystical things, like how advanced yogis can make themselves invisible. I just wanted to look into my mind. I didn't want any New Age fanfare.

There was a certain clutter, or disorder, in the way she structured the physical practice, as well. We did wildly different things from one week to the next. She would throw Kundalini practices into class--and, although I tried to be open-minded, I hated them. They made me feel hot and dizzy.

After about a year and a half with this teacher, I could tell that I was not growing; that, in fact, the practice was somehow eroding my energy. I didn't yet know why, although I could list the inconveniences surrounding parking and overly-chatty classmates.

It's my new yoga class that has helped me see the difference. Rather than pouring frothy affirmations into our minds, the teacher asks us to watch our minds, clear them out, find relaxed resolve. Although the room is full, physically crowded, it does not feel at all crowded. This teacher allows us the physical and mental space to expand, to ground and to open. It is an excellent yoga class and I am grateful to have found it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Brief List of Things to which Russians Are Apparently Allergic

  • Air conditioning
  • Iced drinks
  • Sandwiches
  • August weather in New England
  • Admitting they don't understand something