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Posts from the ‘health’ Category

lunchbox squash

At a recent dinner party, I watched as the hostess, my friend Kathryn, put the finishing touches on some halibut before sliding it into the oven. On the stovetop sat a cookie sheet with little orange half moons on them. “Roasted delicata squash. Try one,” she said, popping one into her mouth. “They taste like candy.”

I generally have a low regard for people who describe vegetables of any kind as tasting like candy. Vegetables never taste as good as candy. To think otherwise is to delude oneself. And we can really do harm when we say as much to a child, for whom candy sits at the very tippy top of the pyramid of childhood pleasures, teetering precariously atop the Nerf guns and cap-less Sharpie pens. I once told Finn that some roasted cauliflower tasted as good as candy, and that poor trusting little bastard put the piece in his mouth, apparently believing me. That incident set me back six months in his omnivore training.

But back to Kathryn. Having grown up on a farm, she knows her vegetables. And she wouldn’t lie to me. So I picked up a little half moon and chewed on it thoughtfully. Pretty f-ing delightful. The skin was chewy, but not bitter, and the inside part of the squash tasted like a buttered sweet potato. It tasted better than candy. Well, not Twix. But most candy.

No matter how tasty, you know I wouldn’t be writing about it if at least one of my kids hadn’t managed to choke it down. Finn, naturally, was not a fan. But Tate did more than choke it down. He ate every last piece that I packed into his lunchbox. The list of vegetables that (one of) my kids will eat just grew by 33%. And the squash could not be simpler to prepare.

A note about packing lunches. I hate packing lunches. What parent likes packing lunches? Tom would rather pull out his fingernails than pack a lunch. But sometimes out of sheer boredom I’ll put some effort into it, and it can pay off, at least for Tate, who seems more inclined to eat food when it is presented appealingly. He must take after my mom, who taught me early on that we “eat with our eyes, before we eat with our mouths.” But that’s Tate. If I packed the lunch above for Finn it would come back pristine and untouched, minus the orange and perhaps one cracker, which he would have nibbled at in desperation before realizing that it had sesame seeds on it.

For making Tate’s lunches, I like lunchbots containers because they are easy to open. I also like mini silicone muffin liners, for little portions of raisins, nuts, or hummus. You can prevent the items from spilling out by putting another silicone muffin liner upside down on top to cover. For Finn, whose lunch always starts with a thermos of warm brown rice, I could not live without this product. Please share your favorite lunchbox ideas, because we all need the help. I’ll post about other lunchbox discoveries, assuming I make any. Now, onto the recipe.

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KMW’s Roasted Delicata Squash

1 medium-sized delicata squash

Olive oil

1 T melted butter (for flavor, can be omitted)

Kosher salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Trim ends of squash, halve vertically, scoop seeds out, and cut horizontally into 1/3 inch thick slices. Leave skin on.

3. Toss squash in bowl with drizzle of olive oil (enough to lightly coat each piece) and melted butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Go easy with the salt as the squash shrinks as it roasts.

4. Roast in oven for 30-45 minutes, until browned at edges. Don’t pack them in too close to one another or they will steam instead of roast. If you like them crispier, bake them longer. If you like them softer, bake them less. Flip them once, or don’t.

5. Serve hot or at room temperature. Will keep in fridge for three days. You can double the recipe but you’ll need two pans–rotate halfway through cooking. I imagine these would be great as a grownup appetizer with a sprinkle of cayenne.

hurts so good

Nothing disappoints like a gentle massage. You know, the kind you get at a fancy spa, from a delicate woman who is way smaller than you. The kind that starts with a choice of scented oils and ends with you snoring and drooling on the massage table. Or the kind that ends with you snoring and then being woken up by the sound of your own fart.

You’d never sleep through my ideal massage. I like my massage therapists like I like my movie hunks: beefy. And that’s because my muscles—they be tight. I used to think the tightness meant the muscles were strong, until I realized it just means that they are completely f-ed up. A month ago Linds bought me a massage at the Allison, the kind of place that specializes in expensive, ineffective massages. My expectations were low. I expected to enjoy a snoozy hour on the massage table planning what I would order at dinner. But when my therapist came to retrieve me from the lounge, I perked right up.

I’d ordered a man, natch. Jason wasn’t tall, but he was built like a truck, with meaty arms. I deflated a bit when he ushered me into the massage room and offered me a choice of six fragrant oils, all of which smelled exactly the same. I picked lavender because I can’t pronounce bergamot and couldn’t remember the other choices after he said them. But then the massage started, and as soon as he dribbled warm oil on my back and jammed his hairy forearm into my muscles, I knew I was in good hands.

I don’t know how to describe Jason’s massage style other than to say that he’d pick a muscle, and then jab at it with his fingers until something gave, and then the one muscle would relax and spread apart into two muscles, or three muscles. “Your muscles are all stuck together,” he said, right after he asked what I did for a living, in a tone of voice that suggested that he expected me to answer “manual laborer.” He moved onto my shoulder, where he pushed on something that made it feel like ice cold water was shooting through the veins in my arm. Sweet mother it felt good. After we were done, he gave it to me straight. “Your muscles are messed up. You need to go see the guy who taught me, in Portland.”

Which I did, this last Wednesday. Brandon Saggio, LMT. Call him immediately. His website scared me a little because he has long hair, but I’ve come to accept that long-haired men are as ubiquitous in the massage world as those trickling indoor water fountains that remind you of nothing so much as someone urinating. When I met Brandon in person, I was reassured. Brandon is a happy, calm soul who can do things to your muscles that you wouldn’t believe. At one point, he laid me face down and then pulled my arm backwards into a 90 degree angle from my body. I may have felt the tears well a bit. But I was distracted from the discomfort by the nagging sensation that I knew this move. I’d USED this move. When? YES. Two months ago, when I cut up a whole chicken. I had lifted the chicken wing just so, before whacking it clean off the body.

When Brandon was done with me, I hurried into my clothes, because I was late for a dinner with the girls. “Yoona, no alcohol! Your body is detoxing.” I frowned. “Well you can drink one glass of wine, but you need to drink a lot of water.” Ugh. What is with everyone’s obsession with water? But I did as I was told, because after only one visit, I had fallen under Brandon’s spell.

I’m eager to try Brandon’s moves at home on Tom. Tom generally cannot handle my advanced style of massage. He thinks he can handle it, but he can’t. Every few months he pulls a muscle while working the remote and asks for a massage. I flop him face down on our bed, sit on his back, and give him a treatment that I like to call “all thumbs.” It really gets all the pressure points. He says I don’t know where the pressure points are, because I didn’t go to massage school. Details! When I work out a particularly tough knot, I have to push his face into the duvet cover, because the screams can break my concentration. It all just seems really ungrateful, given that I’m really busy, and that the massage is free.

Anyway, borderline-painful massage. It’s the stuff.

mandsome

I have a huge crush on my husband. But I have a more complicated relationship with Tom’s desire to maintain himself. By maintenance, I’m talking about the gym, skin care products, clothes—all of it. I appreciate that he cares how he looks, but I get annoyed when his grooming starts interfering with my life.

The main way in which it interferes with my life is right before we go out to dinner or a social event. For some inexplicable reason, Tom always wants to be the last person to get out of the shower before we leave, and it will not stand. My hair and makeup, once set, begin an almost immediate process of deflating/disintegration, which means that it is imperative that I get out of the shower and blow-dried mere seconds before we step out of the house.

Why even bother to shower, dude? I’m just being real. With a hetero couple, no one is looking at what the man looks like when you go out with your friends. I mean, maybe they’re looking at the guy, but only if something is wrong. Like maybe the guy is wearing dad jeans or his cummerbund is on upside down. Or maybe there are two guys in the group wearing the exact same shirt, which has almost happened twice with Tom and our friend Erskine, and happened most recently to Tom and our friend Ryan (below). If something like that happens, you’re looking at the man. Otherwise, everyone’s looking at the women.

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That doesn’t mean the guy doesn’t have a role to play. When we go out, Tom’s role is to look neither good enough nor bad enough to distract from my own appearance. In that way, I think of me and Tom as a bouquet. I’m the flowers and he’s the cellophane wrapper.

And guys, let us have that, ok? Once you start jockeying for the second shower position, or interrupting your wife’s outfit selection process to ask which pocket square you should wear when she hasn’t even put on her underwear—that’s annoying. It’s almost…unmanly. I know I’m treading perilously close to being un-PC, but sometimes I just want my man to be manly. Because in life, I can do most of it myself. I can make money. I can take care of my kids. I can call someone to fix something when it breaks, just as well as Tom can. So: don’t steal my Garnier Surf Paste and tweezers and then take them on your business trip. C’mon, man. I gave birth to your kids. Have I not given enough?

For all that, Tom’s still a ways off from caring too much. When he needs a haircut, he goes to Rudy’s, a local barbershop, and sits down in whichever chair is open. I have a few tenets I live by, and one of those tenets is Thou Shalt Honor Thy Hair. I can’t even fathom something as insane as letting a stranger cut your hair—it’s Russian roulette, where the bullet is a terrible haircut. And sure enough, every third visit, Tom comes home looking like one of those sheep that are shorn too close and are showing the tender pink skin beneath. When he gets a good haircut, I beg him to write down the name of the stylist, and to request that person in future. He always shrugs me off. Here’s the thing. I can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

When it gets right down to it, I guess I prefer that Tom care too much, rather than too little. Because it’s when a man stops caring that things get scary. Tom falls into these funks from time to time, but they only last a couple weeks at most, during which time you can usually find him lying on his back in front of the TV under a blanket of funsize Milky Way wrappers, with a 2-liter of Diet Coke within arm’s reach. I’ll take the dude with the Biore strip on his face over THAT guy, any day of the week.

yoonanimous goes bike shopping

I still think bike commuters can be obnoxious. But I admit that I have long coveted a bike. It’s just worked out that every time I want to buy a bike, I don’t have the money, because I need it for other trifles, like heat, and water.

I started getting serious about a bike after spending $120 on a shitty rental over vacation. Buying a bike made a lot of sense. In Portland, the bike lanes are wider than the car lanes. Finn rides like a fiend, and is always asking why his parents walk so slow. I shop for groceries European style, which just means that I can’t predict what I want to eat in advance, and end up going to the store daily–a trip that would be more fun on a bike. But the last straw was when my genteel cousin Emily and her boyfriend Kevin bought a tandem. They have been riding jauntily around town toting baguettes and having impromptu picnics. I mean, I can barely picture Em OUTDOORS. That settled it. I was getting a damn bike.

Having made the decision, I perked up, as I always do, at the thought of buying something. But it’s been a slog. I’m usually an efficient shopper. I don’t equivocate, and I don’t waffle. But with bikes, I was like a retiree with all the time in the world—puttering around the shop, kicking tires, accidentally knocking bikes over, and asking annoying questions like “Can I put a bell on this? and “Why is this here bike so big?” I wish I had better questions, but I had no idea what to ask. When friends would ask “what type of bike” I wanted, I got tetchy. What the hell did they MEAN what kind of bike? The kind with two tires, a seat, and some handlebars. Duh. But I had to answer, and unfortunately, all my answers sounded really dumb. “I want a bike that won’t make my crotch sore.” “I want a bike that comes with the cool orange bags that hang on the back.” “I want a bike with medium fat tires.”

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an early contender: the globe daily 2

Anyway, the technical stuff was besides the point. I wanted the bike for my kids and groceries, but my priority was to avoid buying an uncool bike. I’m no Jay-Z, but I like to think I at least know what’s not cool. With bikes, I had no idea how relatively cool or uncool my options were. But make no mistake, you can’t go into a bike shop in Portland and ask for a “cool” bike. I know this because I did just that at River City Bikes and the salesperson visibly cringed, which looked painful with the eyebrow rings. My general impression of bike shop employees, btw, is that they exist to make you feel lame and under-pierced.

I couldn’t even rely on brand names, because I have no idea what brand names are cool in the bike world. Don’t give me any of that BS about brand names not being important. Brand names are important. To argue otherwise is to mess with the penultimate value system in my life, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t go there. I didn’t like the sound of some brands: “Giant,” “Surly,” “Globe,” “Cannondale.” Finn has a Trek and that sounded ok, but who wants to ride the same bike as their kid? It would be like buying a car made by Tonka, or Stride Rite pumps. I liked the sound of other brands: “Linus,” “Jamis.” I thought the brand “Specialized” sounded pretty special until a friend implied that Specialized is the Gap of the bike world. The Gap!! I didn’t want the Gap. I wanted A.P.C.

tate, my biking style icon

I knew a couple other things. I knew I didn’t want a girl bike—which, I was surprised to learn at Clever Cycles, is not the technical term for such a bike, which is instead known as a “step-through.” I wanted the crotch bar. Gotta have the crotch bar. To me the crotch bar is the difference between having curly streamers coming out of your handlebars, and not. Speaking of handlebars, I also knew that I didn’t want those tall, curvy handles that you see in old French movies.

But I was weak. Presented with curvy-handled, step-through options, I was tempted. A beautiful Linus Mixte 3-speed came in a color called “Rosewood,” a deep burgundy that called to the very core of my being. The salesperson assured me I could ride in a skirt. I nodded in appreciation, forgetting that the last time I wore a skirt in my downtime was…never. I wanted to buy that Linus, bad. And yet, something felt wrong on my test ride. I felt too upright, like a bear on a tricycle. Worse, I couldn’t shake the annoying feeling that I should be wearing mime makeup and handing flowers to passerby. It was cute, but I didn’t want cute. I wanted utilitarian. Functional. Something I couldn’t easily fall off of. A Linus might be in my future, but first, I needed to find out if I could really ride a bike.

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the rosewood linus mixte 3

In the end, I bought the cheapest option–the first bike I tried, a Globe Work I, in plain black. Globe is owned by Specialized, but I prefer to think of the Globe as my Piperlime bike, not my Old Navy bike. The bike felt good, and solid, like I could run over it with my car—just saying—and it might still be ok. I jazzed it up with a seat for Tate, in chartreuse. With the child seat, basket, and bike lock, the whole thing weighs approximately 120 pounds, but it’s ok. I don’t plan to go up any hills.

If the biking thing sticks, I’m getting this dream helmet next. My boss Keith, a cyclist, helpfully suggested it because he knows that my primary anxiety about riding a bike is helmet hair. A helmet that’s really a scarf! Brilliant. Now I just need to save the $700.

Anyway, if you see Tate and me on the road, give a honk! Just don’t make any sudden movements, because we are newbies. So maybe a light, non-threatening beep. Or maybe just flash your lights. Or maybe, just wave. Or maybe, just ignore us.

Wish us luck.

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i guess finn needed to pee

pesto for all

I feel like my kids are turning a corner with food, as my friends promised me they would. Finn ate the celery or carrots in his lunchbox, five days in a row. At dinner on Tuesday he only dry-heaved twice while eating a green bean. On Thursday, Tate ate two fistfuls of broccoli when I looked past my fear of celebrity chefs to try Jessica Seinfeld’s admittedly delicious recipe for Beef with Broccoli.

I can hardly breathe for the excitement. But I’ve gotten excited at my kids’ minor dietary improvements in the past, scared them by going overboard (see, spinach-garbonzo bean fritters), and ended up worse off than before. This time, I’m pacing myself.

So, pesto. My friends Patrick and Mollyanne brought some pesto for the kids when we went on vacation. Patrick is a chef, so I’m constantly watching his kids eat stuff that makes me want to flip a table over, in rage and jealousy. But Tate, who I suspect would be an adventurous eater if he didn’t see his big brother reject foods on a daily basis, ate up Mollyanne’s pesto, quick as a wink. Finn, that wretch, refused to try it. But Finn’s recent forays into new foods had me hopeful. So yesterday, I made my own batch of spinach-basil pesto, heavy on the spinach.

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Look at the color!! A bright and sexy jade green. Almost unidentifiable as a food object, in the best possible way.

Unfortunately, Finn’s not impressed with the color green, especially as it relates to food. When I brought the pasta to the table, he actually cried. I’m accustomed to it now, but still, there’s no crappier feeling than cooking something that reduces someone to tears.  I made a five-pound turkey meatloaf once that had Tom crying for a week.  I know it’s not right, but when it happens, my first impulse is to dump the food on the head of the person who is crying, or to smash their face into their plate.

In any event, this isn’t my first ride on the merry-go-round. At this point, the crying has to be pretty intense to faze me–like, there have to be hiccups.  I ignored Finn’s tears and put three pieces of green pasta on his plate, and told him he was to try it. After his second bite, his grimace relaxed into a confused expression. And then, the clouds parted. “I like pesto, Mama.” He ate two bowls for dinner, and a cucumber from the salad (dry heave: 1). All told, he probably had a single serving of vegetables. But still, better than nothing.

That’s not even the clincher. When I tucked him into bed later that night, Finn requested pesto in his lunchbox the next day.

I may have cried a bit myself when he said that. Tears of motherlovin’ joy.

No Tears Spinach-Basil Pesto

1 cup packed spinach leaves (more or less won’t hurt)

1 cup packed basil leaves (ditto)

2 T pine nuts

1-2 cloves garlic

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1. Combine ingredients in a food processor. Whir until blended into a rough paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately or refrigerate with plastic wrap touching the top of the pesto, to retain the color. Store up to three days.

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skin deep

We all have someone in our lives who exists solely to make us feel like we know nothing. For me, this person is my cousin Lisa (heretofore referred to as “Cuz”), a native New Yorker who I love like a little sister. She moved in with us last week to establish residency for grad school, and I’m excited, partly because I know she will provide lots of material for this blog in the coming months.

The first thing to know about Cuz is that she has made skincare her life’s work. She is obsessed. When she first met Tate, he was a 9-month old baby and completely non-verbal. Instead of cooing over him like a normal person, Lisa repeatedly stroked his cheek and asked him, with a straight face, what he did to keep his skin so soft.

When we first see each other after a long time apart, she will always make a comment about my skin. She caught me this time at the end of a week-long trip to Central Oregon, from which I returned with skin so dry and bumpy that if my forehead said “Wilson” on it, you would think my head was a leather basketball. I knew the situation was serious, but she really drove it home for me when she said this: “You know, Clarisonic was invented for the exact skin problem you have. You should try it.” SKIN PROBLEM. I felt like she’d just diagnosed me with leprosy.

Anyway, I was already feeling stressed about my skin when I walked into her room and saw this.

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I mean, my God. She’s 26. For comparison, here’s what my 35-year old skincare regimen looks like.

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Seeing the evidence of her superior commitment to her skin was bad enough, but then she started talking and it got so much worse. I asked her about her CeraVe night lotion because the drugstore brand stood out from the $2000 worth of high-end skin care products surrounding it. “Oh,” Cuz said, “That’s the only thing that fills in my lines. Like these lines right here (casually touching a finger to my laugh lines as I froze in horror)—CeraVe will fill that in right away.” It was such brilliant timing, because I’d recently noticed that those lines—two hostile parentheses hugging my mouth—were getting more noticeable.

And Cuz was just getting started. When I asked her why she had so many serums, she said, “My morning serum has to have antioxidants. My night serum is more for intense moisturization.”  Having personally discovered serum only a few years ago, the concept of having more than one serum in one’s skincare arsenal was still blowing my mind when she asked me what I used for moisturizer. “A daytime FLUID?!? Fluids are for people with oily skin. You don’t have oily skin.” And then, toners: “I don’t use American toners. They all have alcohol and they strip the skin. That’s why I like Korean essences, they soak into the skin and really prep it for the stuff that follows.” As she talked, I saw the dozens of bottles of American toners from my past flash before my eyes.

By the end of it, I just felt sorry for myself.  What had I been doing with my time?  I felt my upper lip bead with sweat as I began to question everything I was doing and had done to my skin. Expecting sympathy, I told her how stressed I was. Instead of coddling me, she broke it down, cold. “You SHOULD be stressed. You have good skin and you’re not taking care of it.” Hearing that, and looking at her perfectly unlined and dewy face, made me die a little inside.

My friend Pat is a skincare guru who, despite being twice my age, has skin of such surpassing loveliness that you suspect she made a pact with the devil to get it. Her face manages to stay perfectly intact during a vigorous hour of Zumba, while my face melts and slides all over the place like a gruyere sandwich. Between Pat and Cuz, I’m motivated to kick this skincare thing into high gear.

I’ll report back any findings.

how to win a buffet

I love buffets. L-O-V-E them. I remember growing up in Beaverton and going to the breakfast buffet with my family at the Pepperwood Inn off of I-217. I remember mountains of chilled shrimp, in the shell. I remember raw oysters. I remember crab cakes. That buffet was my training ground.

Now that I’m 35 and actually have to pay for the buffet, I only eat at them when I’m on vacation. In San Diego last month we got a breakfast package at the Park Hyatt and got to partake of their buffet every morning for FREE. It was a beaut. A smoked salmon bar, homemade yogurt and granola parfaits in miniature glass milk bottles, plump little applewood chicken sausages, the works. Unfortunately it was such a dignified buffet, and I was so preoccupied trying to keep my kids from knocking over the fresh-squeezed juices on display, that I felt weird trying to take photos with my phone for this post.

But now I’m at a regular Hyatt in Maui, and it’s not the kind of place where anyone at the buffet is going to notice if you are taking photos, or indeed, even tripping and falling into the food. So I got my pics. But I didn’t eat at the buffet, because I knew in about two seconds that this buffet is not worth the $25.95 price tag. Plus they had birds flying through the restaurant (more on that in my next post). Anyway, here are some tips on how to win a buffet.

1. Seafood at a buffet is your friend

The thing about a buffet is that there’s a vast array of food, and only a finite amount of space in your stomach in which to hold it. What this means is that if the buffet has a seafood component and you eat seafood, you will be starting here. Because seafood is expensive. Seafood is also a pain to cook at home. When I see a display of smoked salmon laid out at a buffet, I feel a sense of satisfaction and imminent victory, because I know that I am going to own that buffet. Ignore the twinge of embarrassment that you may be taking too much salmon or smoked trout. Ignore the servers who may be looking at you askance. They are trained to make you feel bad about taking the seafood. There’s a famous seafood buffet in Portland at a place called Salty’s. It’s a great buffet, but I hate it because they have a person stationed behind the crab legs and raw oysters who doles out your serving. I always come to play and even I feel sheepish asking a real live person for my fourth helping of crab legs. What a freaking buzzkill.

Anyway, rest assured that if the buffet couldn’t handle the financial hit from your seafood consumption, they wouldn’t be offering the fish. Don’t forget to take a gander at all those darling little accompaniments when loading up on your omega-3s. Capers? Chopped egg? Creme fraiche? Yes please. Leave the bagel out of it, because that’s filler, and you don’t need me to tell you not to carb-load at a buffet.

2. Now is not the time for sausage

I like sausage and bacon. I like them a lot. But here’s the thing about sausage and bacon–you can get both at IHOP. A buffet is your time to try new things, to branch out, to sample the things you never get to eat.

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The other thing about sausage and bacon is that they are very brown. My mom taught me that you eat first with your eyes, then with your mouth. So when I eat at a buffet, I am mindful of color and composition. I will throw guacamole on my pancakes just to have something green on the plate, and like to put my bright berries in a little mound in the middle of the plate, for visual appeal. Anyway, about the meats–nothing is as unappetizing as a plate full of brown sausage, brown bacon, and brown oatmeal. I know that, because that’s what Tom eats at buffets. Tom has latent Midwestern tastes which come to the fore in such situations. Oatmeal! Besides being really cheap and readily available at home, oatmeal requires a bowl, which takes up so much plate space. Ugh! Tom says he needs the extra fiber on vacation. Whatever. I usually throw a berry or two on his plateful of brown when we get back to the table, just so I—I mean he—has something pretty to look at.

3. For the love of God don’t go for the eggs

I have no idea how you cook scrambled eggs in bulk. Maybe there is a special trough pan for that. I do know this: when you cook eggs in bulk, they aren’t being cracked from pristine eggshells. They are coming out of a large milk carton, or worse, a vat. I also know that when you cook eggs in such vast quantities and then keep them over a sterno can for an hour, what you get is something that is not fit for human consumption. But I always notice that everyone takes a scoop of the eggs! It’s like we are programmed to expect eggs at breakfast, and having been offered them, we are powerless to resist, no matter how rubbery or tasteless. You don’t need eggs. Unless they are part of an omelette bar, or the huevos in huevos rancheros. Which leads to my last two points.

4. Waffle bar, omelette bar, crepe bar: you had me at bar

I find it really annoying when a non-buffet restaurant charges for omelette fillings by the ingredient. Like, you can have an omelette with 3 of the listed choices, but the fourth is an extra $3.00. Everyone knows that all good omelette combos have at least four ingredients. Take your classic Denver, for example. You’ve got the peppers, you’ve got the ham, you’ve got the onion. So you’re good! WRONG. You forgot the cheddar cheese. Don’t try arguing that cheese is not technically a filling if it’s melted on top of the omelette. I may know someone who has argued that, and been rudely shot down. Or I may not.

The three ingredient thing is particularly annoying because it’s not like you are getting more food with that fourth ingredient. A three-egg omelette can only hold so much filling. So if you order a fourth ingredient, the cook is going to have to reduce the volume of each of your first three ingredients. It’s a net gain of zero food for you, and no loss for the restaurant. Man, now I’m getting all upset. In fact, now that I’m writing this I feel like it could be a legal violation to charge extra for a fourth omelette ingredient. Potentially an unlawful trade practices claim there. I have to remember to ask my coworker Josh—a consumer law expert and a fellow fan of buffets—to look into that.

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Anyway, that’s why I love omelette stations at buffets. You can have five ingredients if you want! Six, even!! Who’s going to gainsay you? Certainly not the guy in the chef’s hat who drew the short straw in the kitchen and is now grudgingly making your omelette creation in the cutest little fry pan you’ve ever seen. You can even have TWO omelettes! God I love this country.

5. Partake of the regional offerings

As the child of a German teacher, Tom traveled to Germany a lot as a kid. When he waxes poetic about Germany, it’s usually about one of two things: the Riemenschneider altarpieces, or brochen. Tom talks about brochen as if they are the most magically delicious bread product ever known to man, and the dude knows his bread products. Over time I have built them up in my imagination to the point that my mouth starts to water when I hear the word, and I’ve never even seen one.

Well, I looked up “brochen” recently, and it turns out that “brochen,” in German, means “roll.” But I get it. Because everything tastes better when it’s foreign. Which is why you should have the huevos rancheros at a buffet in Southern California, or the ha gow at the buffet in Vancouver, B.C., even though shrimp dumplings can be a bit heavy at 9:00 AM. The regional thing explains why I ate nasi goreng for five straight days at a buffet in Bali, even though nasi goreng is basically fried rice, and I avoid fried rice like the plague at Chinese buffets back home.

Here in Maui, they have the regional papaya on prominent display. Also this, which confuses me:

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It appears to be a collection of regional pickles, plus tofu, and nori. I’ve seen a lot of buffets in my time but haven’t run into this kind of buffet station before. I was trying to figure out if this was part of the omelette bar but by that time I’d been taking pics in the buffet for five minutes and a couple of the buffet employees were talking to each other in Hawaiian while pointing in my general direction. So I had to leave. But now it’s killing me. I may have to send Tom in for some reconnaissance.

Happy buffet-ing, y’all.

olympic me

I LOVE the Olympics.  Full stop.

Well, not full stop.  One of my lasting regrets about my youth is that my parents failed to harness my athletic abilities and orient me towards Olympic glory.  Every time I mention this regret to Tom, he asks—in a tone of voice that I find to be unnecessarily aggrieved and put-upon—which sport I believe I could have won.

Which sport couldn’t  I have medaled in, is a better question.  There are really so many I could have excelled at.  Fencing, for starters.  I have strong thighs and a deep appreciation for white clothing.  Also, I imagine I would look really good whipping off my face mask at the end of a point and shaking out my sweaty tresses.  Or rowing.  Certainly no one in my immediate family could fail to imagine me as a coxswain, yelling out bossy commands from a seated position.  I do that everyday, from my couch.  Table tennis: natch.  I have very quick reflexes, and I’m also very Asian.

Every time I think of myself playing these sports and collecting my medal, it makes me appreciate the efforts of these Olympians all the more.  Because it clearly takes a little more than parental direction to get you on that podium.  And there are such hurdles along the way.  Fencing seemed so glamorous until I found out fencers have one thigh that is much larger than the other—how would I fit into my skinny jeans?  And I already have tailbone issues that would likely be exacerbated by sitting in a wooden rowboat for hours on end.  As for table tennis, I started playing the regular kind of tennis recently and have discovered that I have low to non-existent depth perception, which means that when I go to hit the ball, I am consistently surprised to find it dropping roughly six feet in front of my racket.  Lack of depth perception seems like a severe handicap for a sport that requires you to hit balls that are flying at your face while lunging towards a table with very sharp corners.  Then again, table tennis players wear polo shirts, and I look like a man in polo shirts.  Not looking like a man is small consolation for an Olympic medal, but it’s something.

My friend Maria actually went to the Olympics for diving, and since I found that out, I have been sizing her up from afar.  Because she has the stuff.  You can tell.  The mental toughness, the determination.  And I like to think that I have it too, but I know I don’t.  If I get too hot in yoga, I’m apt to bust out corpse pose 20 minutes early and call it a day.  When running, I go only until my watch says that exactly 30:00 minutes have passed, at which point I come to an abrupt stop, even if my legs are mid-stride.  At work, I take the elevator to the 4th floor.  From the 5th floor.

So maybe my parents didn’t get in the way of inevitable Olympic glory after all.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t keep reminding Tom every four years that he could have been married to one of the all-time greats.

sleeping with the enemy

I enjoy being home without Tom, for short periods of time.  I have behavior that I save for Tom’s trips, like the cleaning out of my food cupboards (by mouth), and the voracious reading of the romance novels that Tom loves to ruin when he’s here, by snatching them from my hands and reading aloud the choicest bits in a pirate voice.  It really interferes with the fantasy when he does that.

The thing I enjoy most about Tom’s absences is that I don’t have to share our bed with him.  I read an article long ago about how sleeping in separate beds can improve a marriage, because most people experience more restful sleep when sleeping alone.  I remember reading the article and feeling a frisson of recognition and the thrill of possibility, but I tamped it down because the idea seemed unworkable—mostly because I couldn’t afford two beds at the time.  Aside from the practical aspects, the idea of getting married only to sleep apart seemed absurd.  In some sense, I got married in order to obtain the comfort that comes only when you’ve locked down a warm slab of human who is obligated to sleep next to you.

My issues with sleeping with Tom are myriad. For starters, Tom seemingly lacks the bodily mechanism that regulates your body temperature during sleep.  Which is to say that immediately upon falling asleep, Tom turns into a wood-burning pizza oven.  If only he produced wood-fired pizza to go along with all that heat.  I imagine some of the heat is a result of the fact that he insists on wearing tube socks to bed, no matter how warm the night, or how little other clothing he might be wearing.  By the way, nothing says romance like tube socks.

If I’m not sweltering in his man heat, I’m freezing, due to the TJ Frankfurter.  This isn’t that kind of blog post, and “TJ Frankfurter” is not a euphemism.  Instead, it’s Tom’s signature move, where he tucks one edge of the duvet under him and then progressively rolls the duvet towards his side of the bed until he is rolled inside the entire down comforter like a wiener dog.  His head sticks out one end and his tube socks stick out the other.  I am left to fend for myself with whatever part of the flat sheet hasn’t gotten sucked into the TJ Frankfurter, and a spleen full of bitterness and resentment.

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It’s easy to get bitter and resentful in your sleep when you have no blankets AND no pillows on which to rest your head.  Our bed starts out with four pillows: two on his side, and two on mine.  Each night, Tom wages some epic battle in his sleep where he is the hero, I am the enemy, and our pillows are the booty that must be wrested from my evil grasp.  Apparently I am much weaker in sleep than when awake, because I lose the battle every single time.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I woke up and Tom was luxuriating on all four pillows, but the worst part is that after stealing my pillows, he throws them on the floor on his side of the bed.  I give and give, and for what?

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If Tom could ring in, which he can’t, because this is my blog, I’m sure he’d say I’m no peach to sleep with either.  My extremities get notoriously cold and the most gratifying part of my day is the high-pitched screeching that ensues when I stick my ice-cold feet on Tom as I climb into bed.  He also thinks the soles of my feet are scratchy, but frankly, I think he’s overplaying his hand when he complains that my heels feel like daggers.  The coarsest of sandpapers, perhaps.  But daggers?  Come on.

Anyway, it’s nice when he’s away.  Right until I wake up, and reach for that hot bundle of TJ Frankfurter, and find cool blankets instead.  Then I miss Tom, and wish he was home.

*Thanks to Finn for filling in for Tom in these photos while Dad’s away.

the Zumba post

Since I started this blog, I’ve written about most of the stuff that’s important to me. But some things are so important that it is difficult to write about them. And that’s why it’s taken me all this time to write about Zumba.

Zumba is an aerobic workout that has been cursed with the stupidest name in fitness since the Abdomenizer. It is really hard for me to talk about Zumba with a civilian because as soon as I say the word “Zumba” the other person will dissolve in a really annoying fit of the giggles. This happens once a week with my best friend, who has taken to Zumba-bashing with a passion she usually reserves only for episodes of The Sing-Off. I’d just like to say that it seems highly unfair that someone who is obsessed with a show hosted by Nick Lachey should be able to mock anything, including Zumba.

So what is Zumba? It’s a craze that is sweeping the nation. You may recall Billy Blanks, and the phenomenon known as Tae Bo. Zumba fever is like that, without the bike shorts. Zumba is essentially a dance-based workout that incorporates Latin and hip hop moves, and I believe it is billed as the craziest party you could hope to have in an exercise studio. Here’s a good conversation starter for your next cocktail party: which came first, Zumba or Pitbull? Put it out there, sit back, and watch the sparks fly. That’s right. Pitbull, currently infecting a radio near you, is essentially Zumba’s house band. You’re smelling what I’m cooking, right? You’re getting a whiff of Zumba.

me, in the throes of what tom refers to as “zumb-ecstasy.” photo by julie grandfield

If you’ve tried Zumba and you find it lame, I would suspect that you either 1) haven’t done it for long enough, or 2) have the wrong instructor. It took me two months to learn the moves enough to do them effectively, and about twice that long to get over caring that I looked totally ridiculous. It seems to be a Zumba truth that the less you care how you look in Zumba, the more you will embody the spirit of Zumba. My friend Teal, who took the pic at top, has not an inhibited bone in her body, and I’d basically pay to watch her do Zumba. Besides, there are always one or two guys in the class who look like they’re there because they lost bets to their wives—I’m never going to look less coordinated than them, and that helps. But make no mistake—Zumba is an effective workout. If you gyrate your hips for an hour, you will tighten your core and probably lose some weight. And once Zumba gets its hooks into you, that hour doesn’t feel like an hour. It feels like 17 minutes. When’s the last time you went on an hour-long run that felt like it was 17 minutes? Never, you say? Me neither.

You can lose weight doing a lot of things, including impaling yourself on a bike seat in a spinning class. Not to digress, but the one time I took a spinning class, it felt like I had entered a wrinkle in the space-time continuum where all the clocks had stopped and there was nothing to do but ponder how it could be possible to be bored while feeling that much pain in my crotch. Anyway, you can get fit doing something else, but here’s what I’ve never been able to get from a workout until Zumba: an ass. I’m not saying it’s a great ass, or even a good one, but it’s an ass. After 35 years of having the classic Asian pancake butt, it’s nice to look back there and see something vaguely three-dimensional for a change.

As for the instructor, there is no doubt that my Zumba instructor could melt your instructor’s face off in a dance contest. Not that Zumba would ever be a contest, because, as I said, it’s a party. Andrea dances and choreographs like a FIEND, and has a shock of curly hair that looks totally cool when she dances and gets progressively cooler the sweatier she gets. How does she do that? When I get sweaty the only thing that happens is that the people around me start moving away. Andrea can also do Zumba while wearing a hat. In my mind, that means she’s ascended to the highest plane of Zumba-dom.

So try it. You might like it. And if you don’t, you’ll have a legitimate reason to make fun of it. You can’t lose.