Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Will Work for Food

About 7 years ago (Jesus! Time flies) I moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, an idyllic neighbourhood full of restaurants, shops, lesbians, toddlers and dogs, and home to the Park Slope Food Coop.

Back then I knew about the coop but mostly thought it was a bunch of communist nazi hippies who would shun people like me for eating carne asada burritos and the occasional Egg McMuffin, and engaging in such practices as underarm hair removal ("shaving"). Despite those preconceptions I was vaguely curious about joining, but the rules state that everyone in a household has to join, and the rest of my household was firmly opposed to committing to the required 2.75hrs of work every 4 weeks. So I dropped it.

On recently returning to the Slope in an apartment not 3 blocks away from the coop, and feeling quite affected by such tomes as The Omnivore's Dilemma, Plenty, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I raised the question of joining to the other half of my new household. He replied: "the co-op gives me the heebie-jeebies - they sound like crazy ideologues" and sent me an article as evidence. Still, he agreed to go to an orientation, and we both signed up that night. Our motives were a little different: He was swayed by the produce quality (excellent) and prices (everything at the coop is marked up exactly 21%, which makes most goods über-cheap in comparison to other local stores), and I was won over by the availability of locally-grown foods. We both signed up for shipping and receiving shifts, and I went home and calculated how much I'd save on cat food in a year ($42!).

This morning I worked my first shift. I barely slept last night because I was so anxious about it - I had dreams that my job was to crack open eggs to hatch chicks (?), and that Birkenstock-clad lesbians were hitting on me. Stereotype much? Anyway, I arrived just before 6 a.m., and my shift flew by. I stocked parsley, onions, potatoes, coconuts, apples, and more potatoes. I learned when to throw something in the soup kitchen bin (you wouldn't buy it but you'd eat it if you had it) and when to compost (you wouldn't eat it yourself). I learned to keep organic produce separate from conventionally grown varieties, and that everything needs to be rotated so the older stuff is on top (some of the potatoes at the bottom of the bin were very sprouty). Overall it was a pleasant, easy experience. Halfway into the shift, someone did a coffee run. There were several announcements inviting everyone to come look at the lilacs that had arrived for the coop's 35th birthday celebration this weekend (they really were beautiful). Everyone with whom I worked was friendly and helpful. Nobody suggested we join hands and sing Imagine, and the cashier didn't point me to the tofu when I paid for my (grass-fed, reasonably-priced*) ground beef at the end of my shift. In fact, the only advice I received was to keep my boxcutter closed when I wasn't using it, which seemed quite sensible.

OK, there was one debate about whether all people who do yoga like kombucha. They don't; I'm living proof.

*FreshDirect sells organic ground beef for $6.99/lb, antibiotic-free ground beef for $5.99/lb, and regular 85% lean ground round for $4.49/lb. The organic grass-fed 85% lean ground beef I bought at the coop was $4.92/lb, and it was delicious.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Originally uploaded by Kitty LaRoux.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Random Evening

When I left work this afternoon I had a pretty low-key evening planned: Recycling, laundry, water plants, pet Memphis. General domesticity.

Instead? I just spent an hour in the basement with my upstairs neighbours, taking a kick-boxing lesson with a private trainer who travels twice weekly from Long Island for training.

When I got home I called my neighbour, T, to belatedly thank her for feeding the beast while we were away on the weekend.

T: We're about to start a kick-boxing lesson. Come work out with us!
G: Oh, no, thanks, I worked out this morning.
T: So did I! Come on!
G: Oh, I... maybe I will sometime.
T: Come on!
[Note that T and her girlfriend were already warming up, and were dressed in sweats and tank tops that showed off their intimidatingly hot arms. I'm not exaggerating - these girls are TONED.]
G: Well, OK. I'll go change.
T: Really?
G: Yeah - are you sure it's OK?
T: Yeah, for sure! Hurry, we're starting at 8!

And so we spent an hour punching and kicking, with a set of abs thrown in for good measure.

I feel pretty righteous.


Last night about an hour into my gentle slumber I was awakened by a vigorous kerfuffle under, and beside, the bed. Usually during the witching hour Memphis is sleeping soundly, so I knew something was up. I popped out of bed to see what all the fuss was about, and just as I did she raced out of the bedroom and into the office and disappeared into the very tiny space under my very tiny desk. I pulled the chair out so I could watch the hunt (I'd already gathered she was chasing *something* and I hoped it was mammalian - I'd WAY rather be faced with a rodent than a roach). She was wedged under my desk, twitching, and finally emerged victoriously with the ass (and tail) of a mouse sticking out of her mouth.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a plan for mouse disposal. I thought about grabbing its tail and tossing it into the backyard, but I was suddenly squeamish. I tried to open the back door to, I don't know, chase it out there? "Mouse! Run! Be free!" -- yeah, not so much. I didn't even know at that point if it was still alive or if it had died of fright (or predation). I startled Memphis enough that she dropped it (uh, good move) and I think it ran behind the bookshelf in the hallway. Then I went back to bed to lie awake wondering if when I found the mouse again it would be alive or dead, and evaluating which would be preferable (I think dead, but only if it's in one piece).

Memphis stayed up to stare at the bookshelf.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hit the Ground Walking

This morning, for the third Wednesday in a row, I got up at the crack of dawn -- and not just because a small furry creature was poking me in the butt. I've started training again, this year for the Berlin Marathon at the end of September. And let me tell you something: It is much, much easier to get out of shape than to get back into shape.

I don't like running in the winter. Used to be I didn't like running at all, so I consider this an improvement. In the winter, I like sleeping and eating cheese. These activities, it turns out, do not preclude going for a tempo run as soon as the temperature is above 40°F/10°C at 7 a.m.

So, I'm easing back into it. Two of the past three weeks I've run with my friend Jim, who has been entirely supportive of my emergence from hibernation. He has yet to mock me for my untoned (read: flabby) thighs and shortness of breath after only 2 miles at an easy (read: slow) pace. He's very kind, but he's also a coach, and I still have flashbacks to last summer when he stood at the top of the hill in Prospect Park yelling, "Is that as fast as you can go?!" as I ran toward him.

While I'm enjoying the Special Olympics treatment FOR NOW, I'm also really looking forward to running longer, faster, and stronger as the season progresses -- not to mention getting my hotlegs back!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Originally uploaded by Kitty LaRoux.

Charlie, the star of many an entry here at UFF, turns one today. We celebrated in Waterloo on the weekend with the birthday boy's friends and family. Somehow we even managed to squeeze in an episode of 90210, which was extra-enjoyable in our collective post-party stupor.

Friday, April 18, 2008


This afternoon on reddit I noticed a link to a game called Bloxorz, described by someone as "The best puzzle game I've played in ages."

So when I came home tonight and was looking for something to do to avoid packing (I'm going to Canada this weekend to celebrate a certain someone's first birthday), guess what I remembered?

That was over an hour ago. I just finished level 15 and I already know what I'm going to be dreaming about tonight. It doesn't have the same cool ambient music as Chain Factor (my most recent intarweb game addiction), but it does have satisfying clicky sounds. And I actually feel freaked out a little when my block goes over the edge.

In fact, I got so caught up in Bloxorz that I forgot to see if the latest episode of ANTM is up on YouTube! I'm going to have to blog about some of my more intellectual pastimes soon, just to counter the superficiality of that last sentence.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Mom: Your cousin Noelle had her baby yesterday.

Oh, cool, boy or girl?

Girl - her name's Ainsley Amelia.

That's pretty! How's everyone doing?

I don't know, I haven't talked to them - I just saw it on Facebook.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bread Alone

Back in December I often joked that I had a tapeworm (named Tapey) whose diet was bread and cheese. So every time I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich or picked up a slice for dinner, it was all in the name of being a good host. Then came HBJ and Tapey fell on hard times.

All attempts at hotbody were put on hold yesterday when I woke up before the crack of dawn to catch a train to Poughkeepsie, NY, then a short taxi ride to Hyde Park, home of the Culinary Institute of America. I've read numerous books about the CIA and going there has been my life backup plan for about 10 years. I will happily go $20,000 in debt to spend two years living on the campus and waking up at 5 a.m. to slave away in a kitchen (maybe I should have been born a century ago so that I could have lived as a prairie housewife!). The CIA offers a number of Saturday classes for "Enthusiasts," a category I fall into, well, enthusiastically. I've been drooling over the Artisan Bread class since I first noticed it about a year ago. Yesterday I took the class, which meant six hours baking as many different types of bread in a professional kitchen with Chef Jürgen Temme, who has been doing this "forever."

We baked sourdough, lean dough, ciabatta, focaccia, whole wheat and multi-grain loaves. I learned what a pre-ferment is, and how to make a biga and a poolish. I learned how to properly knead bread to develop the glutens, and also that if you've accurately measured your ingredients, you don't need extra flour when working with the dough. (Had Chef Temme not said this, my instinct would have incorrectly been to add more flour when I kneaded my dough.) When the chef escorted the class to lunch and said he'd stay back to bake off our loaves, I stayed behind to help him score the tops of the loaves (which, among other things, strengthens the crust's structure) and remove baked bread from the many ovens we were using. I'll be back to the CIA for a meal at some point, but who knows when I'll have an extra 45 minutes to apprentice with a professional bread baker?

Lunch, then, was my focaccia - fresh from the oven, still hot and loosely wrapped in foil for transportation back to Brooklyn, eaten in the sunshine while waiting outside the CIA for my taxi back to the train station. Dinner last night was a lean sourdough loaf with goat cheese from the farmer's market, and good red wine.

Both my belly and our freezer have been full of bread since I got home, and I'm already looking forward to replenishing both supplies. Tapey is happy, too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Online Shopping

G: shiz, those are awesome AND cheap!

Dog: man, good sale

G: I like the sneakers in brown
with orange laces :)

G: it's hard to buy jeans online

that i've bought them before!
and i'm wearing them right now!


Dog: all those blazers are cheap as hell

G: when's the last time you wore a blazer?

Dog: never
maybe in my last life

G: Right.
so put that $25 towards a nice gift for me.

G: hm
those could end up looking orthopedic

Dog: good answer!
they're horrible
it was a test.

G: you're a freak!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Tupperware and Antiques

On realizing that my trusty Tupperware cannister set had been lost in the shuffle of the past year, I decided that instead of ordering the set, I'd host an old-fashioned Tupperware party.

It turns out not everyone is familiar with this half-century old ritual. When I asked the boyf if he minded if I had a Tupperware party, he replied, "I don't know what that means, but sure." I think he looked it up because later that evening he looked at me as though I'd grown an extra head and asked, "So... this doesn't mean you're going to have someone come over to sell Tupperware, right?" Wikipedia defines this format as a party plan: "a method of marketing products by hosting a social event, using the event to display and demonstrate the product or products to those gathered, and then to take orders for the products before the gathering ends." My mom hosted regular Tupperware parties, at which her white-haired Tupperware lady, Vera, would hock her (Tupper)wares and my mom would receive an extra pitcher or set of bowls in return for hosting.

And so, yesterday six of my closest friends showed up bearing deviled eggs and ambrosia and a burning desire to buy food storage items that come with a lifetime guarantee. I now have a awesome Tupperware lady (Peggy) and a set of cannisters that's even better than my old ones on the way. I also have leftover SPAM & macaroni salad and an unopened box of delicious, delicious Mallomars, not to mention new insight into my mom's love of Tupperware (the four words I said most yesterday while leafing through the catalog: "My mom has that.").

This morning I wandered over to Fort Greene to check out Brooklyn Flea. I'd expected it to be prohibitively overpriced but most things were priced within reason, and I came away with a few small purchases. While the weather was ridiculously cold (after yesterday's glorious Springness), the overcast skies made the lighting perfect for taking pictures. Amy has some gorgeous photos up, and mine are here:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Memphis: The Sequel

In case you missed it in the comments yesterday:

via Dawn via Jim

The punk woke me up again this morning, and my new plan is to clean up our office this weekend and start stashing her in there at night. Which of course I'll feel guilty about, but at least my sleep will be in consecutive hours.

Memphis: City, Cat, Alarm Clock

Beloved Memphis, the pretty orange cat whom you've all come to know and love, is a royal pain in the ass daily, at some unpredictable time that's predictably between 4 and 7 a.m. I think the catalyst for her waking up is one of us stirring in our sleep - I become slightly conscious of her leaning on my leg but needing to move it, and as soon as there's a hint of daylight those movements seem to indicate to her that it's time to get up! And get fed! So she starts walking across the bed. That doesn't seem like a huge deal, right? Consider: At bedtime, when she's settling in, she might walk across the bed a couple of times without touching either of the humans lying in it. She'll step over legs, arms, torsos until she finds a good spot. In the morning? I swear to God every single paw touches every single human body part with each crossing. It. Is. Fucking. Annoying. If one of us then moves in her direction she takes off, only to return a few minutes later and do the same thing.

Her other M.O. is to poke one of us with her paw - in the butt, in the back, shoulder, whatever she can find. It isn't a gentle poke, either - it's as hard as a person would poke. And it. Is. Fucking. Annoying.

Sometimes I don't think she's the brightest cat, but she definitely learns. I've started locking her in the bathroom when she wakes me up at ungodly hours (anytime before 7 a.m.), but she's onto that, so the moment I sit up she hides under the bed. For a couple of days going out to the kitchen and standing beside her food bowl was enough to get her to show herself, but two days ago I actually had to OPEN the can, and yesterday I had to set her (empty) bowl on the floor before she'd even tentatively peer around the corner.

OK, so we play this little game and finally she comes out from wherever she's hiding and I put her in the bathroom. I'd like to report that at this point I go back to bed and sleep peacefully until my alarm goes off, at which point I wake up well-rested. Sadly, that isn't the case. Instead, I go back to bed and am faced with one or more of the following scenarios.

1. I accidentally haven't pulled the bathroom door shut well enough, and so with enough pawing, the door eventually unlatches and it's wake-the-people o'clock again.

2. Memphis meows (the most pathetic mewling you can imagine) and paws at the door. Which thumps. While I can sleep through the mewling and thumping, I have trouble falling asleep to it. So I lie there, listening to the mewling/thumping, considering how many ways there really are to skin a cat.

3. She is quiet in the bathroom, and I'm convinced she's dead.

4. I worry about her comfort. I've read that cats don't do things out of spite but if the bathmat is on the floor when I put Memphis in the bathroom, there will inevitably be a turd in the middle of it, less than a foot away from her clean litter box. So, I put the mat over the side of the tub, then lie awake, worrying about Her Preciousness having to lie on the floor.

I don't know how I've lived with this for 11 (no, that's not a typo, ELEVEN) years, but here we are. I've scoured the internets for any tips on how to deal with this problem, and the most common advice is to ignore the pestering, but they don't offer any information on how to deal with the resulting sleep deprivation. The vet has recommended spraying her with water or compressed air. I've tried the water and the result was me lying half-awake loosely holding a spray bottle and waving it at Memphis every time she comes back to bug me, which is every 3 minutes, or every time her tiny brain forgets that there was some reason she wasn't in there continuously pestering me.

I'm certainly not the only cat owner with this problem, nor am I the only cat owner to lie awake at 4:30 a.m. considering the benefits of goldfish as pets. I can only hope that future generations' feline companions evolve into their domesticity and ease up on those nocturnal hunting instincts a little.