I love Chinese takeout. We don't have it very often, but the other night, due to an extreme lack of grocery in the Langenberg fridge, we called Red Hot and ordered up chicken with hot pepper sauce & peanuts, beef with broccoli, and fried pork dumplings. Red Hot rocks. The delivery arrived so quickly that I suspect they prepared it on the way over. The hot pepper chicken was deliciously spicy, and the broccoli was crispy, and overall, yum. Red Hot also sends along an orange to cut up for dessert, which is always a happy surprise to me when I unpack the goods.
My two favourite things about Chinese takeout, though, are the little boxes, and Fortune Cookies.
In Canada, Chinese takeout doesn't come in little boxes. It usually comes in those aluminum pie-plate-like containers with cardboard lids. And, you know, those containers do a perfectly fine job of holding a serving of chow mein or General Tso's Chicken. But the little boxes are just so cool, and seeing Jerry & George eating Chinese takeout out of them always caused me much envy. Not long after I moved to California, MFD (also Canadian) visited one weekend and we ate Chinese takeout out of the little boxes and were so totally excited about it that we actually took pictures. (Those little boxes are also perfect vessels for Christmas cookie distribution. For a couple of years I bought them from The Container Store at 69¢ a pop. Last year I realized that it would probably be much more cost-effective to purchase white ones from a Chinese restaurant, and sure enough, most are willing to part with them for 25¢ each - woo! More money for sprinkles!)
So, yeah, love the little boxes.
The other thing I love is the Fortune Cookie. I like the shape of Fortune Cookies. I like the taste of them (Red Hot's are chocolate-flavoured and yummy). And, I love the fortune. Fortunes are so fun. Yeah, adding "in bed" at the end is funny (and if you've never seen the movie Guinevere, it's worth watching just for the Fortune Cookie "in bed" line - hilare). I vaguely remember a superstition about eating the whole cookie before reading the fortune, but I don't know where that's from. I've heard that keeping a fortune in one's wallet is really common. I have two in mine right now. One I keep because it is totally hilarious: "Avoid compulsively making things worse." Good advice, eh? The other I have because it's totally true: "You are the master of every situation." Ha. And I'm going to keep the one I got the other night, because it makes me happy: "There will be someone sharing your warmth."
Thursday, November 30, 2006
I love Chinese takeout. We don't have it very often, but the other night, due to an extreme lack of grocery in the Langenberg fridge, we called Red Hot and ordered up chicken with hot pepper sauce & peanuts, beef with broccoli, and fried pork dumplings. Red Hot rocks. The delivery arrived so quickly that I suspect they prepared it on the way over. The hot pepper chicken was deliciously spicy, and the broccoli was crispy, and overall, yum. Red Hot also sends along an orange to cut up for dessert, which is always a happy surprise to me when I unpack the goods.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Remember the TV show Herman's Head? I only saw a couple of episodes, mostly because my brother *loved* it. Every time the main character (Herman) had to make an important decision, actors representing his emotions would weigh in.
That's how my head is working today. The internal dialogue is so present that it's like there are people standing around me giving me advice and ideas and telling me how I feel, and none of them can agree on any of it. Fuckers.
Take this morning:
Genius: We're awake, but we're not going to look at the clock because then we'll have a better chance at falling back asleep.
Wimp: Crap! We saw the clock. It's 6:30. Our alarm is going off in an hour. There's no way we can fall asleep before then!
Animal: Feh. We're just going to get up now.
Genius: Why don't we just reset the alarm clock to 8:30?
Wimp: We'll never get to work by 9:30! We have a meeting!
Angel: It's OK. We need to sleep. People at work will understand.
And so on like that, all day. I'm often aware of this dialogue, but when these guys are all bickery, decisions take a lot longer (and are ultimately a lot less certain). I'm going to put them to bed early tonight and maybe they'll be a little more agreeable tomorrow.
(Adventures in "baking" have been postponed until Thursday.)
Posted by Gillian at 12:03 AM
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Tomorrow's post is going to be very special for a number of reasons. For one, it involves the following ingredients:
1 (10 to 12-ounce) purchased angel food cake
1 container (16 ounce) vanilla frosting
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (21-ounce) container apple filling or topping
1 (1.7-ounce) package corn nuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup popped popcorn
(I'm still going to post tonight, making today an extra-special 2-post bonus day. Hopefully that makes up for spending the weekend in Colonial Times, before the internets were discovered.)
Posted by Gillian at 5:44 PM
This weekend, DLang planned a weekend getaway for us at a Connecticut B&B. Getting away from NYC for the weekend is more complicated than getting away from most places, because it involves renting a car. In Brooklyn, most car rental places are closed on Sunday, so the car-rental adventure includes finding parking on Sunday night when one returns.
Friday morning, still slightly hungover from turkey and pie, we walked down to Enterprise Rent-A-Car on 3rd Ave. in Brooklyn. We stopped for coffee and egg sandwiches and arrived around noon to pick up the car. After completing the paperwork, the (very pleasant) clerk told us, "We don't have any cars right now, so you'll get the first one that comes in. Is that OK?"
I'm pretty even-keel, and my default response in this kind of situation would be, "Sure!" and I'd smile and make DLang sit out on the curb with me playing rock-paper-scissors or something until the car arrived. On Friday, however, Gillian's Cranky Stars were aligned, and I replied, "No." The girl looked a little surprised, but I continued: "That could take several hours, right?"
"Oh no, it shouldn't take that long," she replied. Right. I asked her about our other options, and she told me we could have a pickup truck. My husband looked quite startled when I told her we'd take it. He started to make arguments about gas and parking, but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to wait around for a car to come in. She asked me if we'd prefer a small or large truck, and we unanimously answered, "Small."
This is Kevin, who had to drive us in his own car (to which he referred as "The Tank") to the Enterprise location in Bay Ridge to pick up our pickup. He is standing beside the small pickup truck! I wonder what the large one looked like.
On the way to Connecticut, we played a little game called Spot The Cell Phone Tower Disguised As A Tree:
We spent Saturday in the town of Putnum, Connecticut, and since it is known as the "Antique Capital of the Northeast", we looked at some antiques (like "scrapbook", I am opposed to the use of "antique" as a verb). We ate a very delicious lunch (mmm... crabcakes) at 85 Main, and drank fancy coffee-based beverages at a little cafe up the street. Before dinner, we hung out at the b&b and played a couple of games of Scrabble (1-1) and a couple of games of Chez Geek (thanks Merman!) which I think I mostly lost.
Hilariously, on Saturday night we ate dinner at a "Southwestern-influenced" restaurant -- hilarious because we were pretty much as Northeast as we could get.
Before we left town on Sunday, I stopped to photograph a truckful of decoy Canada geese. Awesome.
Our truck came in handy on the way home, when we stopped at Ikea in New Haven for some retail therapy (and Swedish meatballs). I really love furniture assembly and when we got home I put together our new bathroom cabinet then banished DLang so that I could organize everything, which surprisingly makes me really happy (surprising because I'm not very organized at all).
Tomorrow morning our weekend adventure will continue when we attempt to pick up our monster truck from the parking garage (an excellent call by my husband, and well worth the $30 it's costing us for the NIGHT, and yes, I know, in places like Madison it costs like 25¢ to park for a week, that is, if the attendant feels like charging you at all). Furniture assembly and organization will continue all week, so check back early and often for updates.
Posted by Gillian at 12:07 AM
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Happy Turkey Day, American friends!
Last year DLang and I celebrated U.S. Thanksgiving in Argentina. Our Thanksgiving meal consisted of a buffet lunch with fellow turistas in the Andes Mountains on our way back from visiting Puente del Inca.
This year, we spent the afternoon with friends in Brooklyn. There were about 15 adults and 2 babies representing at least 5 countries (including one guy from Kazahkstan, yes, really). JSol cooked up an amazing turkey and we had side dishes from my absolute favourite restaurant ever (including a freaking amazing winter squash soup). Have you ever noticed how Thanksgiving dinner has this remarkable expanding property, whereby it looks like a reasonable amount of food when it's on your plate but halfway through eating you're totally full?
My contribution to the meal was 3 pies: banana cream, pumpkin, and maple pecan (for the latter two I used recipes from The New Best Recipe, which I cannot recommend highly enough for good recipes for practically anything you can think of), accompanied by bourbon whipped cream. (I realized today that if there is a maple variation for a recipe, I will almost inevitably chose it, and I always have gallons of maple syrup around. DLang says it's genetic.) We also brought along some Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Squares that I made last weekend.
My future Thanksgiving food goals include deep-frying a turkey, the mere thought of which makes my mouth water (even right now when I am so full that I can't even button my jeans), and cooking a turducken (mostly because it's hilare, although I hear they're actually quite good).
As for giving thanks, well, I think gratitude deserves its own posting. Right now I'm thankful that it's a long weekend and that I can spend the evening in my jammies drinking tea.
Posted by Gillian at 10:54 PM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Aspiring to blog daily about something relatively interesting (or at least, something about which I have enough of an opinion to write a couple of paragraphs) has caused me to spend more time thinking about things that fit that category. This morning's thoughts led me ask myself, "What am I waiting for?"
I've envisioned some pretty great stuff for myself and my life. I have ideas about how I'd like my living space (clean, organized, a little cluttered, crafty, colourful, happy), my food (fresh, local, unprocessed, home-cooked), my body (healthy, toned, muscular, fit), my mind (clear, sharp, uncluttered), my friendships (caring, respectful), etc. Being really explicit about my goals has helped me to accomplish some of them (OK, some were gimmes, like running a marathon which I added after I was past the point of no return in training) and I think I can continue to add to and check off the list, thus creating the life I want to have and becoming the person I want to be.
Like many of my friends, I sometimes choose goals JUST because they're challenging, (see also: Marty McFly). When I graduated from high school, I could have studied either English (creative writing) or Math in University. I chose the latter, because I thought it would yield a more lucrative career (which I'm sure it did), and also because Math is more challenging, and fewer women go into that field of study, so BRING IT. Above: "His only major character flaw is his persistent desire to show others that he isn't a coward, which sometimes causes him to take unnecessary risks."
My recent epiphany about self really got me thinking about who I want to be. This morning it became apparent to me that there are certain parts of myself that I've been repressing somehow, and certain things that I haven't been doing because I'm afraid of being judged or of doing them wrong or of failing or because I'm waiting for Something To Happen.
I tend to feel a twinge of envy towards those people whose lives have been affected by some big challenge - you know, that Something Happened - because it gives them an obvious place in which to invest their passion. An abundance of choice can be daunting, and having infinite opportunities for passion-investment can be downright paralyzing!
On the other hand, though, it's kind of exciting: What if you could do anything and be anyone you wanted? And if that's the case, what you waiting for?
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
If The Universe used del.icio.us my tags might include: daughter, sister, wife, friend, catmom. (I guess it would depend on The Universe's tagging preferences - the tags could also be more specific, like DOSsister or DLangwife.) I might be able to browse The Universe's items and tags and look at all the items tagged "redhead" or "SirrahBFF," and I'd certainly have some expectation of what an item with any given tag would be like.
Lately I've had a lot of expectations of myself in different areas of my life. Obviously, we all do, and that's OK. What I realized, thanks in no small part to therapy (to which I should probably just devote one whole entry because being in therapy has been such an interesting experience), is that the real conundrum happens when I try to meet other peoples' expectations about who I should be.
To wit: Last week, I glumly told my therapist that I'm afraid I'm not going to be the person that other people want me to be, to which he enthusiastically replied, "That's great!" I laughed and asked him what he meant. He said, "Can you imagine the pressure of trying to be who someone else wants you to be?!"
Later in the same session, he asked, "What if you were afraid of not being the person that *you* want to be?"
It was a total "Aha!" moment, the kind that makes me keep going to therapy even though for the rest of the year it's costing me $125 per session OUT OF POCKET because my awesome health care plan is sure that any mental health problem I might have can be neatly resolved in 30 sessions per calendar year. Thanks Oxford, and whatever.
Anyway, thinking about self reminded me of 2 things. One is about my friend C, whose husband taught her the mantra, "I'm C, who the fuck are you?" It's a lot less Stuart Smalley when you put it that way.
The second thing is a Cary Tennis column I read earlier this year about self:
There are many ways to describe a self: As a set of memories, for instance. You are the storehouse of all that has occurred; you are the repository of and expert on all events occurring to you, a curator of memories, a collector.
Then there are your talents and abilities, the things you do with particular relish or style. Most interesting to me, though, is your collection of incidents of maximum impact, moments of insight, life-changing events: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, the thing that has made all the difference. Some of these things involve unknowing knowledge, unsayable understandings. Certain things work for us: certain painters, certain tunes. That we can know dependably what works for us is also a measure of self.
I've said this about a zillion times and it seems like right now I need to remind myself about it: Sometimes I look to other people for validation of myself. The interesting thing about that is, if someone looks to me to validate him- or herself, does that automatically give me credibility and/or validation? And if so, then why not just take that other person out of the loop altogether and believe in whatever I believe in?
In other words: I'm Gillian. Who the fuck are you?
Posted by Gillian at 11:43 PM
Monday, November 20, 2006
On Friday night DLang and I braved the opening-night crowds to see the newest James Bond flick, Casino Royale. (Obligatory tangent: When I lived in Ottawa and the extreme sub-zero winter temperatures necessitated hibernation for 1/4 of the year, I attempted to watch all of the James Bond movies chronologically. I think I only made it to You Only Live Twice before giving up, but then I married someone who has not only seen all the films, but he's also read all the books on which they were based.) James Bond is now played by Daniel Craig, and you know what they say about a man with two first names. Heh. Anyway, Daniel Craig is hot. As James Bond, he reminds me a bit of Jack Bauer in 24. He's a little edgier and less, well, charming about everything than his predecessor. Bond girl Eva Green (please click that link, SFW and I swear you will not regret it) was pretty good, all smoky-eyed and cleavage-y, but the plotline involving 007 getting googly-eyed over her added an unnecessary (and even boring) 20 minutes to an already-long film. (When I complained about the lengthy Venetian vacation, Bond-expert DLang informed me that in the books, Bond even quits the service at one point and *gets married* which makes me happy that screenwriters and directors have some liberties with the stories.) There are some awesomely over-the-top scenes, like the crane chase, which had me laughing aloud in delight at it's absurdity. Mads Mikkelsen is good and creepy, and Ivana Miličević's dress in the casino scene is mesmerizing.
I didn't love the Chris Cornell rendition of "You Know My Name" (which is too bad, because I LOVED Soundgarden and was really sad when they broke up) - it just didn't get me all quivering with anticipation like Madonna's "Die Another Day." And I'd be interested to hear what other women think about the torture scene. Without spoiling it for anyone, let's just say it was gender-specific and I'm not sure I fully appreciated the extent of the implied pain.
Overall I'd give it my stamp of approval. Get it? Stamp?
(Oh, and while I was researching the links for this review, I found this little gem: There was a short story in the "Octopussy and the Living Daylights" collection called "007 in New York" in which Bond "muses about New York City, and his favourite recipe for scrambled eggs, during a quick mission to the Big Apple to warn a female MI6 employee that her new boyfriend is a KGB agent." DLang, that is so going in your Christmas stocking this year. Also, wouldn't "Octopussy and the Living Daylights" be an awesome band name?)
I was planning to also review Transamerica, which we watched on Saturday night, but it took me way too long to write the Bond review so I'm signing out for tonight. Hasta la pasta, amigos.
Posted by Gillian at 11:34 PM
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Well, friends, 'tis the season and all that. The weather here in the NYC has been unseasonably warm, and yesterday while lunching in a Murry Hill diner, I found it a bit disconcerting to hear Christmas muzak. Thanksgiving (a.k.a. Turkey Day in the US of A - I almost died the first time I heard someone unironically wish someone else, "Happy Turkey Day!" because, hilarious) is on Thursday, and Christmas just a month after that and there's all kinds of consumerism to be had between now and then.
I've been diligently tagging gift ideas on the internets but so far the only thing I've purchased is DLang's Xmas non-surprise present (tickets to the Bills game, in Buffalo, on Christmas Eve, because I'm totally the best wife ever, right babe?). I'm hoping that once it snows I'll feel more spendy and maybe even get inspired to make something awesome for my friends. A couple of years ago I gave people homemade spice rubs, which were really fun and easy to make. The year I had knee surgery I knit a lot of scarves, and hand-made winter accessories are still an option, especially for the toddlers on my list (at least, the ones living in the North). My brother's ex-girlfriend has themes for her Christmas gifts - one year it was cuddling, and she gave us all blankets and hot chocolate, which I think is really awesome.
Anyway. In all this thinking about giving and generosity it occurred to me that all of us have gifts for people around us that don't cost us anything. This week, I'm going to challenge myself to give something every day in the form of a sincere compliment, preferably to a stranger.
Want to join me?
Posted by Gillian at 10:15 PM
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Today I took a class to learn to make pop-up greeting cards. On Thursday night I excitedly shopped for supplies (like the baking supply place, I really shouldn't be allowed to walk into a stationery store without adult supervision). $75 later, I was equipped with, among other things, a self-healing cutting mat, an X-Acto knife, and a bone folder. W00t!
I arrived at the class bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to cut-and-paste my way to awe-inspiring greeting cards. The first thing the teacher did was show us how to use a roller rubber stamp. Yes. A rubber stamp. Now, here's where I'm going to sound like a big snob and probably offend someone you know (but bear with me, OK? Because I swear I'll redeem myself). I'm, well, not crazy about stamping. It's one of those things that I look at when I'm at Michael's and think, "Hm, those are cute," and then go look at supplies for whatever legitimate craft I'm shopping for.
Anyway, the instructor presented us with the rubber stamp and told us how to roll it on the first piece of cardstock as the first step in making a simple "step" pop-up card. Cutting, folding, colouring-in, and pasting ensued, and within half an hour, voilà! One pop-up greeting card, replete with hand-coloured farm animals.
Despite the first card's creation requiring liberal use of rubber stamps, I assumed that, you know, not *all* of the rest of the cards would employ stamps. I was wrong. Each and every card not only employed rubber stampage, many required the use of several stamps in a set. These stamping sets are sold in catalogues, and if one is so inclined, one can host a "stamping party" (à la Tupperware party) with kickbacks (free stamp sets!) for the hostess, etc.
I haven't redeemded myself yet, have I?
OK, Internet, I admit it, I really enjoyed the class. The pop-up techniques are smart and easy and yield really cool results (you'll see!). I'm still not going to run out and buy a bunch of rubber stamps (although I admit that I've had my eye on a few at Paper-Source, like this one and this one, in case you're Christmas shopping). I definitely underestimated the popularity of stamping as a hobby, and the skill of the people who are really good at it!
After the class, I left L a message to tell her what I'd been up to, including a warning that she better not tell anyone because it's totally not cool. She called me back and crazily coincidentally, she'd been out buying stamps for her Christmas cards! (I don't think hers are quite as, um, cute as the ones we used today.) I then stopped by DLang's office to show him and Dr. Funstuff the fruits of my labours. They were surprisingly impressed, and DLang even seemed OK with the knowledge that his wife is now 32 going on 50.
P.S. I didn't just realize that I'm not cool. I've known it for a while.
P.P.S. I still don't think "scrapbook" should be used as a verb.
Posted by Gillian at 9:30 PM
Thursday, November 16, 2006
After a 4 year hiatus, I returned to California this year. Twice. The first time was for a short visit in the Spring. I played in the Pacific Ocean (literally - on that visit, I surfed for the first time). I marveled over the green, which is indescribably different from the green anywhere else I've been. I talked tech with my friends and laughed at all their geeky jokes (especially the ones involving regular expressions). I inhaled fresh eucalyptus and jasmine and swooned over citrus trees (which are magical to me).I even brought back a suitcase full of Meyer Lemons, which are yellower and juicier and sweeter than regular lemons, and made marmalade from them when I got home.
The second visit was this Fall for the marathon, and that trip included stops at the Santa Cruz Monarch Butterfly Preserve and the Monterey Aquarium, and the most amazing walks on the beach I've ever experienced.
And now I'm back in New York, and after all that romanticizing about the West Coast, I've decided to remind myself why I fell in love with this city in the first place.
I love the New York City subway system, aka the MTA. I love that you can go anywhere in the whole city (and all the boroughs!) for only $2, and not only do you not need a car because the subway is so awesome, it would really be a pain in the ass to have one.
I love Time Out NY. The Get Naked 2006 Sex Poll results published in this week's issue had me laughing out loud. And I wasn't just laughing because Jamie Bufalino is hilarious, but because NY is full of freaks, and I love them, too. (In finding those links I just discovered that TONY has a blog! Sage, meet TONY blog. TONY blog, meet Sage.)
I love New York Cake Supplies. It costs me $60 just to walk into this place. I used to work only 4 blocks away, which was much more dangerous. Rest assured, I'll be making a special pre-Christmas-cookie-baking trip.
Want to take a class? On anything AT ALL? NY has one. This Saturday, I'm attending a class about how to make pop-up greeting cards. (Yes, that does mean I'm upping the ante for your next birthday card.)
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation - I'm there. (A few years ago DLang and I went to the parade itself, and it must have been the coldest Thanksgiving Day Parade EVER, and he is a really good sport.)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Sing-Along - I'm extra there.
New York City is the culmination of your wildest fantasies: available 24/7; wearing whatever you want, whenever you want; willing to keep you up all night for whatever amount you can afford to spend. It will feed you any type of cuisine at any time, day or night. It will show you energy beyond what you thought possible from a city.
And, it will inspire you.
Posted by Gillian at 1:41 AM
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
After half a dozen attempts to write an entry about inspiration, I'm going to just admit to feeling uninspired and instead write a P.S. to the other entries I've written so far this month. Inpsiration will be here any day now! Check back early and often.
P.S. Brianna is my sister-wife.
P.S. You're all invited.
P.S. Despite the block, I managed to eke out three full paragraphs!
P.S. Folding all that butter into the dough was really, really fun.
P.S. I froze a few croissants and they're even awesome reheated.
P.S. My Christmas shopping is going to be way more fun this year, too.
P.S. The next Yoga Journal article I received was about Personal Dharma, and, Hi Yoga Journal! I know you can see me right now!
P.S. I also failed to post on November 8, which means I failed the challenge (but I'm still going to update daily for as long as I can, even if it's with filler (like this entry)).
P.S. The Nike and Dove "real women" ads are awesome.
P.S. Pretty good list, eh?
P.S. Feelings are irrational, too.
Posted by Gillian at 12:38 AM
Monday, November 13, 2006
A few weeks ago, I broke a mirror. I was getting out of the shower, and I knocked the hand mirror in the bathroom off of its little hook. Smash.
I was a little bummed. I'm not terribly superstitious, and will deliberately walk under a ladder now and then to tempt fate a little, but the mirror thing doesn't happen very often. That was on a Thursday. The following week, I was a disaster.
On Monday morning, I was carrying my yoga bag, a coffee, my backpack, and the newspaper when I stepped on the subway. When the train started, I dropped and grabbed for everything in the most comical way possible. The newspaper (tucked under my arm) slipped, so I reached for it with my coffee-hand, in the process dropping my coffee (which miraculously didn't spill!). I reached for the coffee with the arm holding my yoga bag, which I then also dropped. I burst out laughing, and honestly I'm not sure how my fellow F-trainers kept a straight face, because I felt like a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Tuesday, I went to the deli next door to purvey supplies for Waffle Wednesday (a monthly tradition wherein we eat waffles for breakfast at work - I highly recommend it). As I crouched down to stash the maple syrup in a low cupboard in the kitchen, the seat of my brand new pants tore neatly - about 4", right along the seam. I managed to make it back to my desk undetected and wrap a sweater around my waist until I could slip into the ladies' room to change into my running clothes (luckily, it was a training night).
Wednesday I attended a job fair in my hometown. After the event ended, my co-worker and I were happily driving along when a police officer appeared in front of the car, waving a radar gun. That's right, I got a speeding ticket. The officer said, "Unfortunately for you, we're in the middle of an anti-speeding campaign." Right. The ticket cost more than my return flight from NY to Toronto. I'm not even exaggerating.
The next morning, exactly one week after a little piece of shattered glass cost me $243, a pair of pants, and my dignity, I found a four-leaf clover on the way to work, and my luck has been on an upswing ever since.
Wikipedia defines superstition as "the irrational belief that future events are influenced by specific behaviors, without having a causal relationship." Irrational? Maybe. Also irrational, but worth considering: If we believe we're lucky, might that make it true?
Posted by Gillian at 8:20 PM
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Brianna's recent post about Local Language reminded me of a few Canadianisms worth noting:
Point Form Use: "Instead of writing in paragraphs, just do the outline in point form." Point form is kind of like a bulleted list, although I remember having been taught that it definitely used complete sentences (just not necessarily paragraphs). Surprisingly, Wikipedia doesn't have an entry for point form, but a Google search yielded one decent example of point form in action.
Soaker Use: "When I stepped off the curb into that puddle, I got a real soaker!" Synonym: a wet foot.
Double-double Use: "Large coffee, double-double please." Meaning: double-cream, double-sugar. Most commonly heard at Tim Horton's.
Hard Done By Use: "I know, the girl at Tim Horton's forgot to put sugar in your coffee even though you ordered double-double, then you stepped in the puddle and got a soaker. You're so hard done by." The intarweb found an accurate definition of this one: "If you feel hard done-by, you feel you have been treated unfairly." Also a really great Tragically Hip song from their 1995 album "Day for Night."
Also worth noting are these Canadian-American translations:
Physiotherapy (Can.) == Physical Therapy (U.S.)
Tensor Bandage (Can.) == Ace Bandage (U.S.)
Kraft Dinner (Can.) == Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (U.S.)
Polysporin (Can.) == Neosporin (U.S.)
Neo Citran (Can.) == TheraFlu (U.S.)
Two-four (Can.) == Case of beer (24 bottles) (U.S.)
Mickey (Can.) == Fifth (of alcohol) (U.S.)
University (Can.) == College (U.S.)
Timbits (Can.) == No equivalent. Sorry.*
*Pronounced "soary," and used liberally.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
The other night I tried on a pair of Gap jeans that I bought 2 years ago. I remember buying these particular jeans just before going to Wisconsin for my godson's welcoming ceremony. When I tried them on recently, I found that they fit about as well as they did when I bought them. Makes sense: At that point, I'd just finished the triathlon and I weighed about what I do now.
There is one major difference to these jeans now versus when I bought them in 2004. Back then, I thought they kind of made me look - sing it with me, girls! - fat. Now, I think they look awesome. Obviously, my ass is the same size as it was 2 years ago. I was in pretty good shape then, as I am now. So what gives?
I have a whole bunch of theories and speculation about this, and most of it is better said by someone like Naomi Wolf than by me - plus, there are about a whole bunch of really good blogs that you could read on the topics of body image and weight loss and exercise. The one thing that I keep coming back to for myself is this:
I ran a marathon.
I had absolutely no idea how empowering it would feel to have run a marathon. (I know that if my friend A reads this, he'll laugh his head off and will call me to tell me how ridiculous I sound, and mock the whole idea of grrl power, but, dude, call me after YOU run a marathon and then we'll compare notes, OK?) I felt like this a little bit after the triathlon, but definitely not to the same degree. I'm sure the difference in scope of the two events themselves was a contributing factor - Nike puts on a pretty good show! - but it was more than that. The training was more difficult, and often lonelier. I had to dig deeper and look for inspiration more often, both during training and during the race itself. A few minutes after I crossed the finish line, I started crying, because I felt overwhelmed by the achievement - and then I looked around and saw the 15,000 other runners who'd just accomplished the same thing, and my heart swelled and my pride expanded to include all of us. We rock.
The marathon was 3 weeks ago. Since then I've run only once, in a 5 mile race. I've bought a new pair of jeans that I thought looked pretty good, but that I might return, since I've rediscovered this pair from the Gap. I've eaten too much Hallowe'en candy and slept 'til noon and basically committed all of the 7 deadly sins that I could remember. And since the marathon, when I pass a plate glass window and my eyes immediately go to my thighs and I think, ugh, I quickly remember that I ran like a girl for 26.2 miles BECAUSE of those thighs, and I quietly thank my body and instead look up to see if I'm having a bad hair day.
Posted by Gillian at 7:37 PM
Friday, November 10, 2006
A few of my favourite things:
- Memphis. She's big, orange, amazingly soft, loves people, plays with ribbons, and purrs almost constantly. The only exception to her perfectness is her habit of waking us up at 6:30am to be fed, which DLang usually handles (thanks babe!) so I can't even complain too much about that.
- The United States Postal Service. I *heart* USPS. From self-adhesive postage stamps to Saturday mail to online label printing, items related to the USPS dominated my USA-list when I was deciding whether to move to the States. Sorry Canada Post. USPS #1!
- Geeks. Geek stuff. I still haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm definitely happiest when I'm around people who make jokes using regular expressions. W00t! (Last summer I spent a lot of time hanging out with chefs, and I might be equally enamoured with people who make jokes about truffles.)
- Awesome stationery. Yesterday I saw these Christmas cards in a store window, and even though I have about 16 boxes of holiday cards at home that I bought on sale last year, these are the absolute most perfect Christmas cards I've ever seen and I'm totally buying them, and now that you've seen them, too, your little fingers will be aquiver with excitement when you receive your card from me this year.
- Photoshop. Just look what this amazing piece of software can do.
- Web 2.0.
- Cookies. All things cookies, really: Baking them, eating them, looking at them, reading about them.
- Scrabble. Also: Winning at Scrabble.
- Things that are orange.
- Cheering. I'm pretty sure that if we as a population cheered for each other more, we'd all be a lot happier. I would also like to see the use of theme songs at work. My idea is, you'd select a theme song, and when you arrive to work in the morning, your Bluetooth-enabled device would cue-up an MP3 player. When you get off the elevator at your floor, your song is playing either until you login to your computer, or until the next person arrives - whichever happens first.
- Laughing out loud. Reference: This Onion article.
- Glue sticks.
- Answering the phone. Really. I love that it's a surprise. For this very reason, I won't get Caller ID. Call me!
Posted by Gillian at 3:40 PM
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Last night I went out for a drink with my friend L. In addition to being a brilliant and successful businesswoman, L is also very competitive. We were talking about failure, and she told me about an experience she had in college doing a ropes course. She and her partner were doing really well, and were one of the few teams to make it to the most challenging high course. As is her nature, L was determined that they would make it across. They were almost at the end when they slipped and fell, and were caught in their safety harnesses. Her reaction to the failure surprised her. "It was great!" she said. "It was actually really fun. I couldn't believe that *that* was what I'd been afraid of!"
Another friend speculates that we procrastinate to avoid failure. She writes, "the reason most procrastinators procrastinate is that, oddly, they're perfectionists -- they want whatever they do to come out perfectly, so they put off starting, because if they don't start, they can't mess up or do a less-than-flawless job" -- in other words, they can't fail.
s/they/we/ -- I'm a pretty good procrastinator myself, and as much as I hate to admit it, at least some of my procrastination stems from fear of failure.
The problem with not starting equalling not having to worry about failure is that not starting also means not having a shot at success. Admittedly, I try a lot of stuff, but lately I tend to choose the stuff at which I have a pretty good shot at success. I've been thinking lately that I'd like to get better at, or at least more accepting of, failing. (I mentioned this idea to a friend who asked, "If you try to fail on purpose, and fail, aren't you succeeding?" Heh, good point.)
In thinking about this topic, I realized that I've had a few failures that really deserve to be celebrated. In the interest of baring my soul to the intarweb (and also in an effort to complete this entry before midnight), here goes nothing.
1. I was fired. I worked for a hobby/craft store (that Google can't locate, so it must not exist anymore) in Conestoga Mall. The whole boyfriend thing was new, and I talked to him on the phone a lot, and, you know, the model airplane boxes weren't all lined up at the end of my shift - definitely deserved. I don't know if my mom even knows about that one. (Hi, Mom!)
2. I was fired. No, that isn't a typo. The second time was from Kinko's, for making fake ID. I've only recently started telling people about this one, because, well, it's embarassing to be fired from a company that practically prides itself on poor customer service, and also because my Photoshop skills were seriously lacking at the time and the ID was ghetto.
3. I was kicked out of school. Oh my God, I can't believe I'm going to publish this information. I know at least 2 and maybe 3 people from work read this blog, and I'm hoping that my reputation of awesomeness is strong enough to survive this confession, so here goes. I'd had a rather difficult term at school (OK, a rather difficult 4 years) and I was working for the summer at Corel when I received a call from the registrar's office. The woman told me, without much preamble, that I'd failed 2 courses in the semester I'd just completed, which put me over the Math faculty's sucking threshold of only allowing 4 failures. She said the faculty had asked that I "not return" in the Fall. I was mortified. (The good news was that I had earned enough credits to get a degree anyway, just not an honours degree and I didn't quite finish my minor.)
It's liberating and even a little bit fun to recount these tales -- is that all I was afraid of? We all fail in big ways and small ways, and a lot of life is about shots on goal and taking chances and making spaghetti -- throw it against the wall to see if it sticks. And it helps to be proud of the failures along with the successes: Your failure might be the permission someone needs to try something at which he or she will be a roaring success.
Posted by Gillian at 9:10 PM
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
agency. plural agencies /-siz/I recently took an online personality test and was particularly interested in one of the results: Agency. At first I didn't even know what "agency" meant. The site describes it as "How much you believe you determine your own outcomes. High means you believe that you have control over your life. Low means you believe that other factors--such as chance, fate, and powerful others--influence your life." I am not fatalistic. I have always believed that I have control over the choices I make, and that these choices determine my outcomes. Until recently, I've been very sure of these beliefs.
1. The faculty of acting or of exerting power; the state of being in action; action; instrumentality.
In June of this year I completed a 9-month yoga teacher training. A big part of yoga is acceptance: Acceptance of the body, mind, and spirit in the present moment. One of my teachers stated it best when she told us that "yoga is non-judgmental self-awareness." Increasing my awareness (and acceptance) has made me start to realize that choice isn't always part of the equation. For example, in my yoga practice, one day I might be able to go into the full expression of trikonasana, while the next, I might only be able to bring my supporting hand down to my shin or even my thigh. In that moment, I can't make a choice that will change the outcome. In practicing yoga I am asked to let go of my desire to control my body in the posture. I am asked to accept the posture as my body is capable, in this moment. Here's where it gets tricky: The idea isn't really to try to accept, because trying implies effort. Instead, I allow myself to surrender to the moment.
It's easier said than done.
Last night I discussed the choice vs. chance conundrum with my therapist. "What I don't understand," I asked him, "is how much of life is choice, and how much is chance?"
"Well," he said. "What if it's 60-40?"
I laughed. What difference does it make?
Last week, a Yoga Journal article about change serendipitously appeared in my inbox. (As an aside, sometimes these articles are so scarily applicable to whatever is going on in my life that I'm sure the editors are spying on me.) The article talks about "accepting [one's] utter lack of control," and as I read that, and learn more about Buddhism, I struggle with the concept of "utter lack of control." The article continues: "If you stop grasping for control of the uncontrollable, you can learn to breathe through it all." But what's uncontrollable? Where do my choices come into play?
I suddenly realize that I've been confusing choice with control. Choices are important. Even more important is recognizing what choices to make, and when to make them. Again, this is easier said than done, and I come back to that non-judgmental self-awareness as a means to identify and act on the right choices. Meditation can lead to acceptance and surrender, and in turn to clarity in making choices. It's not about passivity or inaction, but about recognizing that sometimes (often!) our plans, choices, and actions aren't going to yield exactly the results we'd envisioned, and rolling with it anyway. (That same wonderful yoga teacher also told us that, "planning is priceless; plans are useless.") As I write this entry, I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,As for the personality test, I scored 50/100 for Agency, which, at this point in my life, seems about right.
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Posted by Gillian at 11:42 PM
A geek-friend of mine forwarded me this email that he'd sent to some other friends on a recent Saturday night while exploring del.icio.us for the first time:
oh my godI know exactly how he feels, and I haven't even smoked anything.
tag clouds are so cool when you start playing with friends. j, v, your tag clouds require, like, a lot of scrolling, dudes. this is so neat. j, you gonna lay some midi beats on us, or what?
dude, i'm like surf'n tag clouds on a saturday night. this ain't your parents world no more
d, can I call you v - that's got flooow... sorry, i'm a dork...
i've invited a few more friends to come play...
I've heard about Web 2.0 for a while now, but I didn't get it. I guessed (partially correctly) that it was the regrowth of the technology market after the bubble burst in the early 00's. I thought maybe it was about a set of new and hot programming languages about which I didn't concern myself too much since I'm now in management and have gotten soft about these things (but that's another post).
I was partially right, but mostly wrong.
It's only in the last one or two months that I've skimmed the surface of Web 2.0. I have had a Flickr account since May, and set up my 43 Things page in August. I started using del.icio.us about a month ago, and I'm still getting used to it. I feel like a late adopter, and partly (and probably unfairly) I blame NY, because when I lived in California I was so immersed in All Things Geek that I'm sure that if I still lived there, I'd have been a much earlier adopter of these tools.
But here I am, and these tools are probably better-honed than they were two years ago, and I feel incredibly fortunate to know about them now.
The idea of community is very appealing to me. One of the things I find difficult about living in NY is that, because I (and I think many of my fellow New Yorkers) are physically so close to other people all the time, I tend to retreat whenever I have the chance. The constant physical proximity usually doesn't result in a personal connection, and the tendency to look for personal space can result in missed opportunities to connect with people on a deeper level. This phenomenon is hard to describe accurately, because for the most part I'm pretty social. To put it another way: Because personal space is hard to come by, I tend to choose it over a social activity whenever I can. My experience of living in the suburbs was kind of the opposite: Because I spent so much time alone (in my car, for example), I took more advantage of social events.
Enter Web 2.0. Enter folksonomies and tag clouds and The Long Tail.
I'm infatuated with these ideas. I'm infatuated with the idea that, with the right infrastructure, millions of people can contribute to each other's individual and collective experiences. When I set up my 43 Things page, the first goal I wrote was make croissants from scratch. To my surprise, only one other person had listed that as a goal. On a whim, I sent her email commenting about our shared goal, and found out that she's my age and lives in Australia, and that we have a bunch of other things in common as well. (We've corresponded briefly by email; I plan to send her a link to the croissant-making recap.) I've been inspired by other people's goals on the site and added them as my own. Since setting up my page, I've completed two of my goals, written about other things that I've done, and been just a little more conscious of how I spend my free time.
Is all of this attributable to Web 2.0? Maybe, maybe not. But my use of these collaborative sites has certainly increased the amount that I share and connect with other people.
As for The Long Tail, the gist of it is that most of the content (movies, music, books, etc.) that's been available in the past was the so-called blockbuster hits, but with the proliferation of the ability to create content cheaply, to review and recommend content, and to make the content available, we can now find content that is more suited to our tastes. And we can find that content more quickly. If nothing else, reading The Long Tail made me aware that my web-surfing of late is more focused and productive; that is, the sites and articles I find are more relevant to my specific interests than what I found a few years ago.
And so the community grows, one goal, photo, place, tag, person at a time. As my friend says, this ain't your parents' world no more.
Posted by Gillian at 12:11 AM
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Last night before bed I reviewed the instructions for Part 2 of Gillian's Adventures in Croissant-Making. I wanted to make sure that waking up at 5:30am would give me sufficient time for the rolling, cutting, shaping, rising, baking, and eating I'd need to do before going to watch the marathon. I confirmed that it would. I also confirmed that I am too immature to bake croissants, as the following instructions made me snicker: "Holding short side (side opposite tip) of 1 triangle in one hand, stretch dough, tugging and sliding with other hand toward tip to elongate by about 50 percent." Heh. (I read it to DLang who naturally thought I was trying to seduce him.) (Hi Mom. Sorry.)
I hauled myself out of bed at 5:50 to begin the festivities. First, I cut the dough in half and put half back in the fridge to make the princess ring. Next, I rolled the dough into a 12"x16" rectangle, and cut that in half. I cut each half into thirds, and then cut the thirds diagonally to make triangles.
After elongating (hee hee) the triangles, I rolled them up just like Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (and hoped fervently that they'd taste better than their tubed cousins). After tucking the baking sheets into a couple of garbage bags to allow the croissants to rise, I tucked myself back into bed for a couple more hours of sleep.
Around 8:45, I woke up again to bake the croissants. The recipe called for them to bake at 400°F for 10 minutes, then at 375°F for another 10 minutes. They looked pretty done after the first 10 minutes, so I cut the second baking time short by about 5 minutes.
I am honestly amazed at the results. They turned out perfectly! They are buttery and flakey and delicious, and DLang and I both ate 2 right out of the oven. (I had another one this afternoon, following DLang's reasoning that since it was the first time I made croissants and it worked, I could eat as many as I wanted.)
Every time I attempt something like this and it works, I'm just a little bit surprised, even though I've done things like successfully bake a wedding cake for 200 people.
A brief photo history of Gillian's Adventures in Croissants can be found on Flickr.
Note: Since I'm definitely a baker in one of my alternate lives, this weekend's entries are in keeping with the month's theme!
Posted by Gillian at 10:50 PM
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Recently, I decided it is one of my goals to make croissants from scratch. A few months ago I found a recipe, which calls for another recipe - both of which looked to be long and tedious and require a not-insignificant time commitment.
Training for the marathon precluded any such commitments, so I postponed the endeavour - until now.
Earlier this week, I stocked up on the ingredients, including a pound of European butter.
This afternoon before I started, I geeked out and created a spreadsheet that shows each step in making the dough and its duration, so that I'd be able to very efficiently calculate when the dough would be finished. The dough needs to rest for at least 8 but no more than 18 hours before baking, which would be a manageable window if I didn't have plans to cheer myself hoarse at the marathon for most of tomorrow morning.
I started with warm milk and brown sugar in the bowl of my stand mixer (which, to this day, best $250 I've spent in the kitchen!). I mixed in the yeast and 5 minutes later, voilà, it was foamy. (Seriously, no matter how many times I bake with yeast, the foaminess/rising properties never cease to amaze me.)
Hooray! Next step: Adding the flour and salt. Then the dough hook made dough. (The mixer kind of amazes me, too - like with buttercream, the mixer just magically makes everything look exactly how the recipe has described. Usually, anyway.)
Next, I kneaded the dough for a couple of minutes. (Aside: I *love* kneading dough.) After the all-too-short dough-kneading, I shaped the dough into a rectangle, wrapped it in Saran wrap, and put it in the fridge.
Next: "Pound butter with a rolling pin." Awesome. DLang was napping on the couch, so I leaned over gently and said, "Oh, hey. The next part is going to be a little noisy. Sorry about that." Heh.
The flattened butter went in the fridge for some chillin' and the dough came out for some rollin'. I was quite delighted to see that it had risen slightly (science schmience, rising dough is definitely magic). Rolling croissant dough is more fun than for other things because it involves rolling to a very specific size (16"x10"). I then laid the rectangular butter in the center of the rectangular dough and folded each end of dough over. (The instructions in the recipe for this part are very good, so I won't rewrite them here.) I didn't take any pictures at this point because yellow on beige doesn't photograph very well.
At 7pm I finished the last of 4 folds for the dough. Elapsed time: 5 hours.
The dough is now refrigerating until tomorrow morning, when I'll get up at some ungodly hour to roll and cut the dough, which then has to rise for another 2 hours before the croissants can be baked. Since the recipe makes 24 croissants and can't be halved, I'm going to make a dozen croissants and a princess ring (mostly because it's called a "princess ring" and that just seems too precious not to make).
Posted by Gillian at 11:09 PM
Friday, November 03, 2006
My high school writing teacher, Mr. Tell, was the perfect writing teacher. He was distinguished in every possible way. He had grey hair, and a well-manicured beard. He wore tweed! He probably smoked a pipe. In his class, I wrote the one short story that I'm really proud of (and for which I even won an award later in University).
And, Mr. Tell used to tell us, "Write what you know."
Smart man, that Mr. Tell. I sat down tonight to write about another alternate reality, and not knowing anywhere near as much about that life as I do about all the wonderfulness that is California, I suffered from total and complete writer's block. I guess that's the allure of science fiction - you can totally shoot from the hip and there's nothing against which to measure the accuracy, because you're writing about something that doesn't exist.
All that said, I'm going to give a little more thought to the topic I had in mind, but this might be my only entry for today. I'm going to dig up a creative writing workshoppy book to see if I can't unblock a little, because I really enjoyed writing yesterday's entry.
Posted by Gillian at 9:40 PM
In one of my lives, I live in a commune in Santa Cruz (or Monterey or San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara) with the most amazing people in my life, and the most amazing people in their lives. We're not hippies, exactly - I mean, some of us are vegetarian, and some of us eat hamburgers and watch Monday Night Football, and some of us play - and create! - video games and love our iPods. Some of us are writing the Great American Novel, and some of us are making croissants from scratch. We play on the beach. We surf. We drink coffee and good red wine and have a henhouse so that we can have fresh fresh eggs and giggle at the chickens. We have dogs and cats and babies and maybe even a chinchilla or a Guinea Pig named Crystal. We create: Software, paintings, words, buildings, stories, cupcakes, ideas, Haiku. We Photoshop. We laugh. We cry. We eat ice cream and play guitar and sing. We love each other for our strengths and vulnerabilities and we ebb and flow together and crash gloriously against the rocks like the waves: forceful and calm, dangerous and comforting. We run marathons and do martial arts and practice yoga and experiment with buttercream, and every single day we fall in love with the world just a little bit more.
Posted by Gillian at 12:36 AM
Lately I've been thinking a lot about what I want, and thought that perhaps that would be a good topic to explore in 30 days of writing. My idea was that for each day this month, I'll write about a life I might want if I had 30 different lives to live. Then on the way home tonight, I was reading a book about Buddhism that talks a lot about not wanting stuff. Meh, I'm going with the topic anyway, because I think it could be interesting. I'll let my readership of 3 decide.
Posted by Gillian at 12:22 AM