Saturday, February 8, 2014

What's in a name?

While you couldn't tell by looking at me, I love fashion.  Even though I usually look like I just got back from the beach or I'm thinking about going in a minute (even though right now I live 700 miles away from the closest beach).  Even though I have never worn an evening gown and don't plan on it.  Even though I have a wonky foot and most beautiful shoes are a thing of the past for me.

I read a lot of fashion blogs, and one I really like is Garance's.  (I don't read it in French, my French is limited to ordering a bottle of wine.)  Today she is talking about a beautiful girl with a beautiful name and it got me to thinking about names.  If a girl is named Langley Fox Hemingway is she destined to be beautiful?  Or do you think that is a name she made up?

If I had had a daughter, I always thought I'd name her Lark.  I thought it fit a girl who was light on her feet, delicate and liked poetry; she would always be looking at the sky and dreaming.  As she grew, it fit a woman who was light and cheery but could stand on her own two feet and take care of herself.

How I got my name is a favorite family story and I'm thankful to my mom for overruling my dad and saving me from a lifetime of rhyming name jokes.  I wonder if he had won and I had been named Nanette Babette (seriously), would I still be me, wearing flip flops and dressed for the beach no matter what the weather, always wanting to be outdoors digging in the dirt and growing things, firing up the barbeque even when it's raining or snowing and would I still be in my element wearing work boots and an orange vest yelling at concrete truck drivers on construction sites?

I wonder.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Biggest Loser lost me this time...

I've been a fan of the Biggest Loser since day one.  I started watching for the weight loss transformations, but like a lot of us, over the years, the personal stories of the contestants became the bigger draw for me.  Some seasons no one really resonates with me, and I skim through the shows to keep up.  This season, while for me, some of the contestants were really hard to like, there were some really compelling personal stories, and I was invested.

Now I know in real life, people don't lose 16 pounds in a week or 100+ pounds in four months, and I know we see what the producers want us to see, and it's ENTERTAINMENT.  Still, the message has always been positive - be healthy, be strong, be the best you possible.  It takes work, it takes commitment, it takes, for lack of a better word, understanding what makes you tick.

I like the trainers and truly think they are good people who mean only the best, but this is a job and they have an employer.  The Biggest Loser is a multi-faceted money making machine.

As with life in general, the show has produced successes that have endured, giant relapses, and the majority, people who just went back to their lives and disappeared.  We all know that it's very hard to maintain weight loss and that the majority of people who lose a large amount of weight gain some, if not all of it back over time.

I'm not walking in any of these people's shoes.

I'm throwing out all these disclaimers so I don't appear judgmental, but in fact, I have an opinion about how this season went, and how it ended up.

All three of the finalists had compelling personal stories.  My personal favorite was Bobby, and I was pulling for him to win, even though I knew David was almost impossible for him to beat.  David had a heartbreaking story, and not to take away from it, but we heard it so many times, and he was so stuck in it, that I felt very sorry for his current wife, who had to be a saint (or a masochist) to marry a man so mired in the memories of his deceased first wife.  I could identify with Rachel, since I've also had a few of my life goals and dreams sidelined because of a man.

Over the course of the season, Rachel blossomed and found herself again.  I could see her going the way of some of the women in earlier seasons, becoming a strong athlete and really finding her way.  In the triathlon episode, though, there was a scary change, when she won and said something to the effect of she kept telling herself she was running for her life, and I knew she had become obsessed with winning and proving a point.  At that point I was pretty sure she would make sure she showed everyone and win the show.

She sure did.

Nothing could have prepared me for the scary skinny woman who walked onto the stage and dissed the image of her old self.  Her arms and legs looked like toothpicks and she was unrecognizable.  The other contestants shined and sparkled in their dresses and her unfortunate dress choice only highlighted that she was emaciated.  The beautiful girl with the glossy hair that was so proud of herself in the makeover episode was completely gone.  I can only imagine what Bobby and David thought when they saw her, because they were robbed of their own moments of glory and accomplishment and of a fair chance at the win.  I CAN imagine what Jillian and Bob were thinking, because their expressions have been memorialized all over the internet.

She stumbled on her way up the stairs to the scale and she appeared to be so out of it that Allison Sweeney had to actually tip her off that she had won.  (I saw a picture of Rachel standing next to Allison this morning, and Allison, who is fit, toned and sleek like a seal looked positively chunky next to Rachel.)

There's a lot of talk about healthy BMI's on the internet this morning, but here's the deal:  the girl looked way too skinny by any rational, commonsense standard.  She looked frail, sickly and unhealthy.  She did what it took to prove her point and I hope she didn't do some real harm to herself in doing so.  She went too far and deprived herself of the accolades she was going for.  It will be interesting to see what damage control NBC does, and what changes are made in future seasons.

I applaud Bobby and David and wish their moment had been better.  I applaud all the contestants who worked so hard and improved their lives.  Way to to Tumi for winning the at home prize!  You all look great, healthy and happy.

Rachel, not so much.  I hope she will be ok.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Eat This!

I'm not a big football fan, but it IS Superbowl Sunday and it would be positively un-American to not participate in what is the second biggest eating holiday of the year after Thanksgiving!

I'm generally a from scratch girl, but living at 7,200 feet above sea level it's almost impossible to cook beans done without a pressure cooker and I'm not about to buy one, so I'm always on the lookout for good bean stuff.  I'm also a pretty good salsa maker, but this time of year the produce here is a little "meh".  I had a hankerin' for chips and dip and discovered a couple of really good things at Whole Foods.

I found this Better Bean Wholly Chipotle Bean Dip in the refrigerated section by the mochi and vegan meat.  It is WONDERFUL and is my new favorite thing!  It is chunky with whole red beans and is vegan and gluten free, all natural and non-GMO.  I'm not sure I can taste any lime but the chipotle is very prominent and tasty.  It was a little pricy for the size (I don't get my receipts at WF to be environmentally friendly so can't quote the price but around $4) but well worth it if you're not feeding a crowd.  I've already tried it in a quesadilla and on a hot dog, so it's not just a dip!  They also have a black bean variety.

This heirloom tomato salsa is awesome!  I know the price is steep, but by the time you bought the ingredients yourself you'd be into it for more than that so why not let WF do it for you?  I'm also going to go back for more of this - it's full of fresh summer tomato flavor and just spicy enough.  It's a very smooth salsa, not chunky and is really great on eggs.

I'm going to whip me up a batch of fresh guacamole (no substitute for this!) and set up my dipping trio alongside an ice cold Tecate with lime and watch me some Bruno Mars halftime show!  Enjoy your Superbowl Sunday!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Running Hurdles

I belong to a Facebook group that is for alumni of my high school.  As luck would have it, most of the people who post graduated about the time I did, and it can be pretty interesting.  This week, someone posted the yearbook photo of one of the girls PE teachers.  It instantly brought a flood of memories to me, none of them good (judging by the comments, it did that for a lot of people).  Decades later, I can still see her muscular calves flexing as she rocked back and forth on the curb at the entrance to the showers, making sure we didn't cheat.  I can still see her striding across the gym with her whistle in her mouth on a rainy day when we sat in a circle and prepared to play "giant ball of death".  (My first pair of really cute glasses was smashed within a week of getting them in a game of "giant ball of death".)  I was a good student and wanted to do what was expected of me, but I was scared of her, and I was unlucky enough to have her for PE several times.

One day she announced in the locker room that we were to get dressed and meet at the track.  My gut knotted.  You see, I was not a sleek gazelle by any means; I was more like one of those shaggy miniature donkeys - round, compact, with kind honest eyes and built low to the ground.  I hated running and was terrible at it.

When I arrived at the track it got worse, because I saw that the hurdles were set up at intervals.  I told myself they were just left from the boys, that they had nothing to do with us.  I was wrong.  We were instructed to run the track, alternating between crawling under, and jumping over, the hurdles.  My heart sank.  Running was bad enough, and I knew I could crawl under the hurdles (even though it was a little bit muddy that day), but there was no way I would be able to jump over them.

I had no choice but to do as instructed and deal with the results.  I crawled on my belly under the first hurdle, streaking my fresh gym suit with mud, and gamely got up and propelled myself toward the next one, which I missed jumping over by at least half (to this day, I have no idea if they were 3 inches or 3 feet tall), knocked it straight over and fell flat on my face on top of it.  The other girls raced past me while I sat it up, and made a momentous decision:  I limped around the rest of the track, ignoring the hurdles altogether, and arrived back to where she and everyone else stood waiting.  I was humiliated, and thankfully, she just shook her head and sent us off to the showers.

Life contains a series of hurdles.  Sometimes they come in quick succession, and sometimes we get a flat spot in between to give us a chance to catch our breath.  In real life, we often have to tackle multiple hurdles at a time.  Sometimes they are individual hurdles that we can rely on only ourselves for, where we can use our strengths and skills to succeed; sometimes they require collaboration with others, and sometimes they are completely out of our control.  There are some hurdles that are extremely satisfying to clear - pronouncing every single Samoan name correctly in a public presentation and gaining respect and a few friends.  Some are necessary - finally getting that aching wisdom tooth pulled out of your head.  Some are maybe not necessary - ignoring those actual hurdles and walking the track on my own terms.

The ones we have no control over are often the toughest.  This week, a giant hurdle in the sale of the house was successfully cleared...the buyers completed the home inspection, reviewed the report and signed off their acceptance, asking for no repairs to be done.  Now, I prepared myself for this by doing all I could to maintain the house to the best of my ability, but I knew there might be some things that were beyond my scope or budget that would give the buyers an opportunity to back out if that is what they wanted.  They didn't.  So now we go on to the next in the series of home selling hurdles, which are also out of my control but will happen in (relatively) quick succession since escrow is scheduled to close in 20 days.  20 days!  It's like seeing the first glorious colors of sunrise peek above the horizon after almost three years of continual dusk.

Selling the house is a huge hurdle, and will set me free from a situation where the entire infrastructure of my life was yanked away from me and in the aftermath, I had to focus on clearing every hurdle in front of me.  I did it - some cleanly, some like a bull in a china closet, and some on my belly.  I would have preferred to never have been put in this situation, but since I was, I dealt with it and while it wasn't without a great deal of pain and difficulty, I can look back and be proud of what I have accomplished.

The day escrow closes, I will sniff the air of a new life and leap forward like a metaphorical sleek gazelle, because I know that those next few hurdles are mine and mine alone, and relatively speaking, they will be a piece of cake.  I've got this.  I hope life gives me a little flat spot to catch my breath then, and time to take a few long mindless walks on that cool, firm stretch of sand right beyond where the waves reach.

After that, life, I'm ready.  Bring it on.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kobayashi Maru

It definitely presents a challenge when you check your horoscope and find these two words and that's it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why, YES I do have Marcona almonds...

I have discovered that selling a home is not for the faint of heart.  Clearly I had a unique experience when I sold my last home, which had been my first.  It happened so quickly and smoothly that I was barely inconvenienced and I even left a cheery letter on the kitchen counter for the new owners, telling them the varieties of the roses and their provenance and that I was sorry I hadn't had a chance to give the garage one last vacuuming, but the movers had taken the vacuum away.  I'm sure they got a good laugh at my sincerity before they tossed the letter and started digging the roses out.

The overall circumstances of my life after the purchase of the home I now own have been challenging to say the least.  When the home finally went on the market, I was relieved and expected a quick and satisfying sale, with several offers from lovely people who were more than happy to outbid each other in order to be the successful buyer.  After all, that's what happens on HGTV!  (But then I read this.)

It didn't happen that way.  It has taken months (thankfully not years) of keeping the house "showing" ready and enduring strangers in my space relatively unsupervised, worrying about the doors being kept closed so my cats don't escape, keeping my bathrooms looking serene and spa-like and not wanting to use the stove because I can't bear to scrub grease off of it one more time.

My beautiful hardwood floors took a beating.  In the summer lookers left dirt and dust, in the winter they left wet footprints and grit.  I came home to closets and cupboards ajar and clothing moved.  I was aghast when I came home one day after a showing and found a closet door open...the closet where I had my 2012 vision board hanging proudly on a hanger facing out.  Its most prominent feature was a good sized photo of George Clooney with "A new man!" written across it in sparkly marker.  Wah waaaah.

I had to take action.

I censored the contents of my pantry and refrigerator.  I decided quinoa, wheat germ and Marcona almonds from Whole Foods in the pantry would please the kind of buyer I thought would love the house, and I hid the boxes of Pasta Roni and bags of Halloween candy I had hoarded.  I reorganized my refrigerator and keep lovely bottles of flavored water and elegant cheeses front and center.  The messy leftovers are hidden below fresh heads of romaine and beautiful crisp spears of asparagus.  Don't even get me started on the bathroom...there is no evidence that my toilets are ever used, and certainly no one has ever shaved their legs in this place.

So after what seemed like an eternity, an offer was made and an agreement reached and I am now facing the dreaded HOME INSPECTION.  This will take place tomorrow.  For FOUR hours.  While I am confident all will be fine, I know from experience to be prepared that it might not.  The buyers will be here, again relatively unsupervised, to observe, while I'll be whiling away the time on the couch at my friends house, pulling out my eyebrows.

I'll be leaving out a plate of cheese and crackers for the buyers in case they get peckish while they're here.  The hibiscus water is chilled.  If they want some Marcona almonds, I'm pretty sure they know where to find them.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Home is Where the Heart Is, Even if it's on The 405...

The other day I came across a brilliant slideshow by Michael Peckerar  called Twenty Things Nobody Tells You About Moving Out Of Southern California.  I moved from Corona, California which is close to Michael's hometown of Claremont.  I nodded, smiled, laughed, and got misty as I read through these, and felt the camaraderie of the shared experience of growing up and living in Southern California.

I could identify with most of his points...yes, my first stop off the plane is In-N-Out.  I will never get used to living in a state that doesn't require you to always say your area code first, because there's only ONE (the same goes for freeways but it's the interstate and everyone seems to drive like they've never been on it before)  Why IS there no good Mexican food outside of California?    And it's 2014 and the world is our neighborhood...why is it not possible to get decent produce everywhere?  I used to take it for granted that I could get to no less than five Nordstrom stores within an hour of my house, find any ingredient for any recipe that I wanted to make almost instantly, and that I could get a killer fish taco or Sprinkles cupcake any time I felt like it.

As I mentioned before, it's looking good that I'll be heading home soon to stay, and I'll be proud to fly my "760" (or 858 or 619) flag because I disagree with Michael on this one, San Diego rocks!  I may miss New Mexico but it will always be close to my heart because, well, it's tattooed on my left arm.  But I'll be glad to be able to walk on the beach any time I please, remembering the time that as a little girl I stood on the beach with my Daddy holding my hand and hearing him say in a wondering voice "isn't the ocean intriguing?"  It sure is.  His ashes were scattered off Point Loma and I know he'd be proud of me for following my dreams to New Mexico, but I also know he'd be secretly pleased that I ended up finding my way home.

What things will always be a part of you, no matter how long you live away from "home"?