Tuesday, March 27, 2012

First Dishes

As Daniel put it on Facebook, "We have ignition!"

Our stove works! Hallelujah! The plumber came back early Saturday morning (6:30 AM) and finished hooking up the propane tanks. After letting the gas fill the pipeline over the morning, the burners lit around noon. On Sunday, I made roasted Brussels sprouts.

Bru-sselly Sproouuts...

Yesterday, since I was working from home, I started a pot of corned beef and cabbage around noon-time and let it go on low for 4 hours. I also made a platter of bacon in the oven, and boiled some eggs for my particular type of egg salad:

Mel's Egg Salad
- 3 eggs
- 3-4 large celery ribs
- 2 thick (1/4") slices onion
- 1 tbs capers
- pitted olives if you have them around (I didn't)
- yellow mustard
- smoked paprika
- yellow curry powder
- kosher salt
- black pepper

Hardboil the eggs. I like everything fully cooked, some may not. I dice the celery and onion into small dice (I would say maybe 1/8" to 1/4" cubed?).  Add capers, olives. I squeeze yellow mustard over the whole thing until it is sufficiently moistened for my taste. Add smoked paprika, curry powder, salt, and pepper to taste. I like a lot of smoked paprika.


Notice I don't use mayo.  I usually don't keep homemade mayo around, and I hate (HATE) storebought mayo. Bleh. So I usually do without. My friend Mark says this is NOT egg salad and is an abomination. Meh, I'm the one eating it, so neener-neener.  Oh yeah, sometimes I like different mustards - Dijon or the grainy brown one are good, too.  I adore sweet-hot mustards, but not here. And I am curious what that spicy Chinese horseradish mustard that you get with won-tons would taste like in here?


Today also marks, I think, the start of a Whole30 for me. After losing 15 lb, it is REALLY frustrating to gain 8 of them back. ARGH. It doesn't matter a whit that people say, "Oh you're not fat", because, honestly, the only opinion that matters is the one staring at you in the mirror.  I'm strong, I'm happy, but I hate (HAAAAATE) the feeling of my pants being tight, the 'backfat' under my bra line becoming more obvious, the gut. (HAAAAAAAAATE).

So far, here's what I've eaten today:

Breakfast: half of egg salad from above, hot tea, iced tea, water, supplements

Snack: pile of salami

Lunch: corned beef & cabbage,  cut carrot & celery sticks, one cucumber stick, iced tea, supplements

Projected snack: "Just a Handful" Trader Joe's pouch of cashews, more tea

Projected dinner:  sausage and leftover Brussels sprouts, fruit?

My homeopathist warned that since I wasn't processing carbohydrates, maybe I might have to cut out all fruit and even some vegetables to drop a few pounds. I'll try Whole30 first, but intermittent fasting isn't too bad either.... ugh.



We picked her up from LAX's cargo area on Christmas Eve... must have been 1996.  My sister, Rosanne, was dancing on a "Nutcracker" tour and we were going to pick her up at her hotel and bring her home for Christmas.

Pia was a little fluffball, maybe 2 lb in all. She got out of the little cat-crate, and promptly peed on the cement floor, much to the amusement of the worker.  She wasn't barking or anything.

We took her to Petco somewhere in LA to, I think, get some food and maybe a toy? She pooped on the floor there; at least the employees were gracious about it.

My mom had a canvas bag on her, so we put the as-unnamed-yet-Pia in the bag with her crate's blanket and brought her, contraband, into the hotel with us. Her head kept popping up and we kept pushing it down so as not to attract attention as we picked up Rosanne.

We rode home in my dad's Ford Explorer with Pia in the crate between Rosanne and me.

She looked like a Pomeranian. My mom chided my brother, Michael, who had bought her in Texas thinking she was a Border Terrier, that this wasn't a Terrier at all.  I think it was also to atone for his lack of coming home this particular Christmas.

She found her voice later, a tiny puppy yip that slowly got deeper and belied her 30 lb frame.


We named her Pia because, as Rosanne astutely noticed, she tended to pee a lot.  Plus, there were no scary "S" sounds which my mom had read bother dogs because they sound like a snake hissing.  And it was a name that you could yell and would carry with the long "eee-ahh" at the end of it.


My mom house-trained her, and trained her to sit, stay, down, fetch, and pick up the newspaper out front every day.  We trained her to heel.

She loved running and jumping incredibly high. We had a large backyard at the time, and if you threw something, she would leap after it. We taught her to play fetch, but it always involved two toys so she would drop the fetched one in order to go after the other.

"Fetch Frisbee!"
"Fetch Ball!"


At first, we fed her IAMS, then as our understanding of pet foods grew, my mom started to cook her dinners - chunks of meat with vegetables, rice or oatmeal.  Breakfasts were these even more natural dog food nuggets made of salmon or other foods. She loved the buttery biscuits from Church's Chicken.  She would eat broccoli, but the farting afterwards was a high price to pay for that.  We relaxed our standards on her begging later, but usually we'd let her lick plates clean if she wanted (and leave some nibbles on there for her).


My mom tried to teach her to swim in our large pool, but she was so skinny and muscled she couldn't float. We made her a pontoon out of foam pool noodles.  She hated it and would flounder about.


She had the footing of a mountain goat. Tiny paws but she could handle hills and rocky areas with ease.  Snow wasn't so easy for her.


As she grew, her tailed remained curled up, but it grew a luxuriant mane of blond hairs. She had upright ears, reddish soft long fur, and a black nose. Her eyes looked like she was wearing eyeliner; a Very Stylish Dog!


One of her habits was to incessantly lick you to show her love. Even after her breath got stinky, we let her continue.  One of her favorite spots to lick was the top of my dad's bald head. I don't know why. She had a special affection for him, too, and even when she was blind from cataracts and mostly deaf, she could sense him and her tail would go up and wag.


She would run with my dad and sister, really, anyone in the family going for a walk or run who invited her outside. Usually twice a day.


She always wanted to chase squirrels, but they got away every time.


From a standstill, she used to be able to jump from the floor beyond the foot of my parents' California King bed, to the head of the bed. No preparation, just pure muscle strength.


She didn't like you to pick her up; she would snarl and bark.  It usually wasn't a problem because she could jump wherever you needed her to go.


She liked to go outside in the late morning and lay in the "down" position (all legs tucked under her, head up) in the sunlight. She would do this in the hot summers, it didn't matter. She would stay outside about half an hour, then come in with warm fur, smelling of egg and 'outside'.


She hated thunderstorms. She would start vibrating and cowering, and those were the only times we allowed her on the couch (later it didn't matter).


She loved riding in the car. One time my mom made the mistake of taking her through an automated carwash, and she freaked out because of the noises and the brushes attacking the car.


She would 'visit' different beds through the night, jumping up and down at will. If you moved suddenly, she was off the bed, though.


I have many more happy memories of this wonderful, loving dog. She was with my mom constantly for 16+ years. 

This past Sunday, my mom got a sign that she was suffering. She'd had a cancer on her top jaw that had started as a bulge, thinking it was an infection, that pushed out a tooth.  It started moving forward.  The vet predicted a week or two from the initial finding. My mom and Pia held on for a few months beyond that. My mom started feeding her whatever she wanted, which of course is a big guessing game since she can't talk.  Salmon, tuna, liver, chicken, roast beef, it didn't matter. I joked I was going to have to bring some duck breast soon.  Evening walks turned shorter, but she still was eager to go outside. My mom started taking her in the car with her on errands again, since it wasn't too hot.

Her breathing was starting to sound like Darth Vader. Eating was difficult for her, though she obviously wanted food.  She was bleeding out of the cancer when it was disturbed. The homeopathist kept honing in on remedies, finally suggesting homeopathic arsenic to calm her down and make letting go easier.

Sunday, my parents took Pia on a nice walk by a bayou.  Her stomach wasn't growling, so my mom didn't push food in her mouth. My mom called the vet. He came to the house.  He missed with his first injection; my mom says Pia barked at him.  They were on the bed where she spent so much time snoozing.

My mom says she took a long time and pet Pia, ruffling her fur and putting her head on her.  Smelling her paws, which always smelled like freshly mown hay.  Her fur, which smelled clean.  These were things Pia never would have allowed.  She sang to her, comforting her as her heart and breathing stopped but her mind hadn't gone yet. She said she briefly considered shaving her, to keep more of the fur, but then thought it cruel to send her off naked.  She opened her chakras, making it easier for Pia's soul to slip out.

I happened to call just as the vet had left with her. My mom asked for her to be cremated; it seemed inhumane to allow her to rot somewhere, or worse, be reconstituted in some horrific animal-feed factory.


I can't believe she's gone. I loved her, do love her, will miss her and everything about her immensely. My mom says it feels like a part of her was amputated.  She says the house feels empty, huge, silent.  She doesn't know how to fill her time. The bedroom floor was cold after she removed the yoga mats that were in place to aid Pia's jumping on and off the bed. She said she is considering another shaman-related class to distract her. Everything is a distraction right now: TV, going out of the house. The worst part, she says, is returning home and Pia isn't there.

I can't get the picture out of Flickr, but you can see how beautiful she was. It was fitting that every animal communicator would tell my mom that she had told them she was cute or beautiful.


Pia, I hope Amam and Dan came and got you on the other side; I hope you remember them.  Let them pet you.  Catch some squirrels.  Lay in the sun. Play nice with Joanie, Blackberry, all of Amam's dogs that went before you, and especially Tacket - he just got there a couple of days before you. Don't be afraid, and know Mom made that decision to ease your suffering; I hope you weren't in pain very long. We will always wonder how much longer you could have stayed with us if you hadn't gotten that cancer.  You must have heard Mom say that you were never a burden on her, even when she was spending her whole days concentrating on you.  The animal communicators got it across that you were fiercely devoted to Mom.  We Love You.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Playing Dress-Up

Nothing to make one feel like a complete fat-ass than trying to find a formal dress.

In the years since I've known Daniel, I've gotten to go to more fancy dress events than the rest of my life put together. And, yes, despite my normal REI-supplemented fashion sense (which I am working on), I do like to clean up and get pretty every once in a while.

My first stop is usually Nordstrom's.  They have a bajillion dresses there, for all sorts of events, and I can usually find something that doesn't make me look like an idiot. I used to try the independent clothing stores in Seattle, but Daniel hates it when I wear deconstructed attire, so to Nordstrom's I go.

This year, I bought a dress for the Navy ball in April. It's knee-length, Barbie-pink, and gathered towards the waist so it hides my gut. It is an asymmetrical one-shoulder strap.  Here's a link to it.

So I got hoisted and zipped into it by the nice lady at Nordy's, and they took a long look at my Smartwool socks and suggested, "Maybe you should look at it with a pair of heels on...to get the full effect..." Point taken. I slipped into a drag-queen sized pair of heels covered in iridescent rhinestones, and damn if my legs didn't look amazing.  Heels, I hate you but you do make me look good.

So, off I happily went with that dress, and headed straight for the MAC counter, wherein they set me up with a new makeup look. You may think I eschew makeup, but I actually do love applying it and experimenting with it... I just work in a place that's so lackadaisical about dress standards that it makes it hard to care about looking good when people around you can't seem to brush their hair or put on non-elastic waist pants.

After that, I stopped off at the shoe area.  I saw a similar pair of rhinestone-encrusted heels. They were gorgeous. They were also Gucci, and priced in at almost eight months' worth of car payments. Too bad you can't just move decimal points over at will, eh.

Maybe I've been reading too much Tom and Lorenzo, but I still need a fabulous clutch, some heels, and hair to go with this. This may be the last time for a while that I get to doll myself up (save for the GE Christmas parties at work) and I'm getting excited...

Pictures soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We Need Propane and Propane Accessories

We now have propane and propane accessories. 

Cinderblocks: the Classiest of propane tank stands.

This past Saturday, we had a great plumber come out and hook up our propane tanks in preparation for (gasp) being able to use some kind of STOVE in my kitchen. He got everything ready, helped Daniel haul the stove upstairs, and then stopped. The regulator Daniel had picked up at the marine supply store wasn't what he needed. So he'll be back next week.

Jenn-Air downdraft gas stove. Brought to us by Craigslist and, interestingly, made by Maytag.
We also have another snafu. I, being me, didn't read the instructions that came with the stove. I assumed that the downdraft part of the stove meant that it could recirculate the exhaust, much like some microwaves that sometimes are installed over stoves.  Hmmmmph. Nope. Needs to be exhausted to the outdoors.

Our options are: 1) Disregard the downdraft feature of the stove and replace the current overhead flush exhaust fan with a hood.  2) Cut out a hole in the floor and route the correct exhaust piping to the side of the house; we think at this far back in the house we are free of the masonry facade and can easily drill through the wooden siding. Plus we have the ceilings open in the basement, so routing shouldn't be too hard. 3) Sigh heavily.

I am thinking Option 3, followed by Option 2. Option 1 could occur if we can't pull off Option 2.


And Now For Something Gone Right.  Sunday, we put in most of the baseboards in the living room.  They're painted MDF, and in general, look pretty dark good.  Now I need to finish them off by knocking the finishing nails in, filling their holes, and touching up the paint. Then we can put Daniel's favorite area rug back and the coffee table can stop scratching the floor (despite it's copious felt pads on it's feet).

Giiirl, look at that. All brown 'n shizzle.

I love our tomato "Moroccan Red" wall.

Bye-Bye Crossfit Birdie!

I quit Crossfit 6 weeks ago.

Yep. I did it.

Why the hell did you DO that?

A combination of reasons led me to this.

First, I was stuck. I've basically been at a plateau at Crossfit for the last three years. My max lifts never got better, WOD times were always similar.

Also, my knees hurt. Between the box jumps I couldn't do because the impact from landing hurt my knees to the running I wouldn't do because it makes my knees hurt, to warm-ups and WOD movements that moved too quickly to allow me to get to a deep squat.  Jumping rope hurt my knees, so I would jump as low as possible to the ground while getting the rope under me.  Double-unders were a pipe dream ("Just jump higher!"). I couldn't hold a plank the way the trainers wanted me to (with arms fully extended so my hands are on the floor like the upright position of a pushup) - because - guess what - it hurt my knees.  Some trainers who weren't as familiar with me and my idiosyncracies gave me a hard time, or asked repeatedly why I was rowing instead of running if there wasn't anything visibly wrong with me.

At home, whenever Daniel would accidentally bump my knee, I would howl in pain and retreat.

The orthopedic surgeon I went to in order to get some answers about my knees told me, "Keep lifting weights. Don't do stupid shit [like running and jumping]".

More reasons? My homeopathist did a hair analysis, and his interpretation showed that my adrenal glands were fatigued, among other things (like various heavy metal accumulations in my body). His words I paraphrase as, "You need to change something. You need to work out less."

Beyond this, I present anecdotal family evidence. My sister - gorgeous, former Olympic-level gymnast and professional ballet dancer, now cardiac anesthesiologist sister - wrenched her shoulder at her Crossfit gym doing either a pullup or a muscle-up about 6 weeks ago, if not earlier, and has been afraid to inflame it further since then, so she's been back to running with the dog.  My dad chugged along at Crossfit for a couple of years himself, but his scoliosis proved painful enough that he stopped going and reverted back to a gym with machines, and LO his back feels immensely better now that he's not box-jumping / jumping rope / impacting his body. 

So, the words of my homeopathist were ringing in my ears. WORK OUT LESS. That doesn't sound very reassuring, especially for someone who doesn't want to be fat. His interpretation also showed that I don't process carbohydrates, which he thinks is a root cause for why it is so hard for me to lose weight, yet I am a champ at gaining weight as soon as I stop the intense activity.

The light at the end of the tunnel has, so far, presented itself in my Rolfer. I've been seeing him for over a year, getting body work primarily to address my knock-knees. He kept urging me, as the months went on, to consider stopping Crossfit and coming to his gym.  That I would get stronger without 'doing stupid shit'.

The Rolfer's gym is next to his home in Seattle. It is one part shanty, one part garage. It has a propane heat lamp for helping to mitigate the numbing feel of icy barbells. Whiteboards line one wall, with workouts listed on them.  He focuses on powerlifting and kettlebells, with the workouts having a side benefit of working to leave you breathless. No time limits ("The goal is to survive!"). A poster hangs on one wall, emphasizing the Ten Most Important Things in his gym. Below it's header, it lists the numbers 1-10 and "TECHNIQUE" written in ten different fonts, with "Get the picture?" below that.

A typical warmup starts with some sort of farmer's walk (holding kettlebells while you walk) down to the corner and back, which is slightly downhill as you head out and the uphill return is more challenging.

Workouts take longer - typically 90 minutes. My squats are deeper than ever and only getting better. My weights are down while I start back at Ground Zero relearning everything. Kettlebell swings are better now that I am not using my arms to hoist the bell. I can actually do a legitimate Turkish get-up with a kettlebell, instead of a modified squat-thing.  The other night, I was doing pullups and he asked me to have a hollow body position.  I huffed indignantly and told him that's what I had done originally until the CF coaches had asked for a neutral spine position. Turns out my gymnastics coach from when I was younger was right!!

As far as my body, I have to admit that my knees feel so much better than before. They are still sore and occasionally tight, but I don't get up from a table after not being able to move my legs for an hour and reassess my ability to stand without help like an arthritic senior citizen.


Note: I am not vilifying Crossfit. I think, for a lot of people, they are a great solution and can provide a great fitness level. I love the community the gym I attended has built up, and I miss seeing my friends there and commiserating over workouts at 6 AM. However, I believe that in the end, they did not work FOR ME.

I also believe that the training certs for coaches do not seem to be protracted enough to include a lot of physiology, anatomy, and being aware of technique. I mean, they can't. They are in expansion mode and gyms want the cache of being part of the Crossfit umbrella of affiliates. The coaches at my dad's gym were particularly bad at correcting poor technique.  And a lot of people can get away with poor technique. They are young and strong enough to overcome poor technique, and when they injure themselves, they heal quickly. But what about people who want to remain fit but aren't going to 'walk it off'?  The coaches at the gym I attended were fairly cognizant of different clients' needs, but the classes were too big to really get individual attention and troubleshoot problems early on instead of letting them progress into bad lifts and, hey, plateaued individuals.