March 29, 2011

I Thought I Told You That This Should Stop

So have we all heard P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Puffy/Sean John/Sean Combs’ new(ish) song? I don’t even want to say “new” because this is Sacramento and I know we get music months after it is actually released, so how about we agree on calling it The One Currently Being Completely Overplayed? Also, sheesh -- why doesn’t he just do everyone a favor and pick a symbol he wants to represent him like Prince did, and then fade away into obscurity. Unless of course he wants to invite me to his Annual White Party so I can celeb-gawk -- then of course, I will RSVP in the affirmative to whatever name he pleases. I have nothing against that particular song, but I do find it weird that he is still giving shout outs to Biggie and saying “I thought I told you that we don’t stop.”  Mostly because according to my calculations that line has been used in just about every one of his songs since 1997. Why don't you try some new material, buddy?  Bust out some bible verses like you did for Danity Kane or something.  Look deep inside, there's gotta be something underneath all that Gucci.  

But then I got to thinking about other hip hop/pop songs, specifically the new (to me) J.Lo song that features Pit Bull (who I have a totally unexplainable crush on -- why? I HAVE NO IDEA) and he’s hollering “Mr. Worldwide” over and over just like he does in oh, every one of his other songs, and I’m like – WHAT’S THE DEAL with the rappers these days? (That was my best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation right there.)  Is this the cool thing to do now, have a catch phrase? And then I died because even though I said it in my head I was basically making a “Is this what the kids do these days…” type of statement and we all know that means I am one step away from yelling at someone to get off my lawn.

So speaking of random songs, Keri Hilson’s song Pretty Girl Rock  may have the dumbest first verses in all of hip hop. But don’t worry if you don’t hear it all the first time, she repeats herself. And then goes on to say she is "sweeter than a swisher,"  and I find this sort of shocking.  I mean, I get that it rhymes and that’s sort of the point, but really? A cigar, Keri? I mean, I get that “sweeter than Volcanic Nectar Blue Agave” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I have to think there is a better option out there for you than a 7-11 cigar, right?

Speaking of rap lyrics have you read Understand Rap.  Because it might be one of the most entertaining websites I’ve read since Stuff White People Like

So while I’m ranting about music and getting old, can we talk about Rihanna’s new song S&M? Please, have a listen if you haven’t already.  Catchy beat, Rihanna has a pretty good voice, what's the problem, right?  Can we talk specifically about the lyric “There’s sex in the air, I don’t care I like the smell of it.” Here, let me give you a second to wipe that vomit off of your keyboard, I don't mind. 


I realize Rihanna is having some sort of new found post-Chris Brown sexual renaissance, but seriously? I mean do you think her dad plays that song for his friends? Is this cd in her mom's car?  VOMIT.

Lastly, I think this is kind of a sad sentiment but I also think it needs to be said: Britney is getting old, you all. The video of her performance on the GMA’s  has been getting around  and there’s lots of talk about how slow she dances and how old and washed up she’s getting and man, I have to kind of agree. I can remember seeing her first TV performance on The Rosie O’Donnell Show (dude *flashback*) when she was all spunky and latex clad and everyone was like "Who's the new Pop Tart?" and now, I kind of feel like Gwyneth Paltrow is going to play her in a movie about her washed up career.  It’s just kind of a sad situation.

What say you, friends?  Am I getting old or is the state of music kind of sad these days?


March 28, 2011

Things To Do This Week -- in bullets!

What are you up to this week?  I'd like to accomplish the following in my spare time:

1.  Figure out what I'm doing with my life.
Oh this could be the longest bullet, but since I don't talk about My So-Called Professional Life here it will be real short.  Rest assured, the steps involved are taking up quite a bit of space on the To-Do List.

2.  Get my freaking garden in order 
120 square feet, people.  This is a lot of space to manage with novice gardening skills, you see and I'm beginning to get anxious.  I have like 50 plates spinning relating to this garden -- seeds, little plants, direct sow, herbs, summer vegetables, flowers?  HOLY MOSES.  And now I must also test the soil in my garden beds since according to Finny this will help me grow a bazillion produce items?  What am I even going to do with this alleged bazillion items?  Sigh.  I need a To-Do List for this item on my To-Do List.

3.  Harness my inner party planner. 
Garrett turns 30 in exactly 40 days, which consequently happens on a Saturday.  Obviously there will be festivities.  The problem is mostly that being the extrovert I am, I would like to throw the World's Biggest Shindig.  And as you know having friends over for dinner makes Garrett want to take a week off from life, so obviously he would like to have a low-key mellow evening with friends.  I know it is his birthday after all, but I have some hand-wringing around the idea of such a landmark birthday going by without proper celebration.  We must compromise at some point, and obviously I need to deal with invitations.  I anticipate the management of this project to be, um...challenging to say the least. 

4.  Get some pants
The scale, that little bitch, has not really been moving for me as much as I would like in the past 2 months.  The thing is -- NONE OF MY PANTS FIT ANYMORE.  In fact, the pair that I am wearing today could probably fit not only me, but also an elephant playing the banjo.  And that is just in the booty area.  It's the biggest mindf*ck, really.  I know I am working hard, my body composition is changing but that damn scale is being stubborn.  It's lame.  And probably a post in itself, but I'm not going to do that to you today because I have talking A LOT about fitness lately and that's probably sounding a bit like a broken record. 

So...yeah -- who wants to help?

March 22, 2011


Garrett has declared this Our Week of Rejuvenation.  (It just took me 3 tries to spell that correctly.)

I was sort of confused as to why we needed some rejuvenation (only 2 tries this time) but apparently it is partially related to the fact that in the last 2 weeks we have hosted two weeknight Dinner Parties.  And by the way, the use of Dinner Parties is incredibly hyperbolic in this instance, in my opinion, because it just means we had two couples over for dinner on two separate occasions.  This type of social interaction makes me very happy.  It makes Garrett happy too, as we love seeing our good friends, but it also gets filed under 'D' for Dinner Party in his mind and apparently exhausts him to the point of needing a Week of Rejuvenation also.  I think our oppositional introvert/extrovert tendencies are highlighted the most in these types of situations. 

The truth is I'm happy to oblige overall though because I have definitely been pushing myself lately and sometimes I don't even notice.  Two or Three days a week I am getting up at 4:30 in order to have time to sip some coffee and squeeze in a 3-ish mile run before I have to be at work at 7.  The other days I am "sleeping in" until 5:30 as I have changed my schedule at work so I am now working 9 9-hour days every two weeks and then scoring an additional week day off.  Then we are CrossFitting 3-4 nights per week, doing one long run on the weekend, and ohmygod we are also having dinner parties where I am planning and prepping the menus?  Maybe I do need a week just to relax.

Today is one of my Earned Days Off from work and I'm sitting here in my PJs drinking coffee after devouring last night's new episode of Bethenny Ever After.   In these moments, I could really get used to being a kept woman, although I would need to buy a fainting couch and a house-boy and some bon-bons immediately.  Who are we kidding though, while I'm blogging I'm also googling recipes for short ribs since I have 3 lbs that need to be used up pronto, because I am not comfortable when I am not multi-tasking so being a kept woman is probably not for me.  Also, I don't even really like bon-bons.  If you have any short ribs recipes you want to send my way, please do would ya?  We have subscribed to a monthly meat share for the past 4 months and I get short ribs pretty regularly so I'm all ears for new ways to prepare them.  I thinking on trying this recipe today.  

Obviously I am not the best at finding balance. It's a constant struggle for me, and it is not lost on me that I am a Libra and that this is such an astrological cliche.  But I have a lot of goals and things I want to accomplish and I am very good at pushing through discomfort.  I'm hoping this serves me well when I have a baby or something, otherwise what good is it, right? TELL ME THIS WILL HELP WHEN I HAVE A BABY. The truth is this also gets me in trouble sometimes so it is definitely something to keep in check.  I think Garrett's Week of Rejuvenation is a nice reminder.  He is definitely the yin to my yang, or yang to my yin -- I don't know.  He completes me, but with less squinty-eyed sappiness than Renee Zellwegger.  (Sidebar:  Can you imagine if Renee Zellwegger and Bradley Cooper had stayed together and had babies.  I think they each have The Most Annoying Faces in Hollywood, and I know that makes me a bad person, but oh my god, that kid would have come out looking like it had been hit in the face withe a bag of nickels.  The tragedy.  It is probably good for everyone that they have broken up.)  

Anyway, I had a long conversation with my mom yesterday about my current fitness routine as she loves to worry about whether I'm overdoing it. I think "Be Careful" is her second most favorite phrase to say (after "you are my most beautiful and favorite-est daughter" of course.)  I can see how from the outside it may seem like I am overdoing it, but the truth is, my goal is to get into tip-top baby making shape this year.   It is THE GOAL, actually.  And for me, success in that endeavor will be measured by whether I can lose this last 50-60 lbs.  And it ain't gonna happen sitting on the couch, youknowwhatimsayin'?  In hindsight maybe taking on a half-marathon at the same time was not the best idea since I have NO SKILLS as a runner (yet) but it seemed efficient at the time and now I'm committed and damnit if I am going to back out on a commitment -- I am quite a stubborn S.O.B. 

I reassured my mom that I'm not doing this look better naked (although hey, it's a nice side effect) or to fit into clothes better (I've always thought I put myself together nicely no matter what size I am) but I am doing it to prepare myself for the most exciting journey ahead.  And for that, I am okay with experiencing a little discomfort in the form of 4:30 am wake up calls and sore muscles pretty much 7 days per week.  But I am fully aware that this is probably not a long term lifestyle plan.  I mean, I think I will CrossFit forever because HOLY SMOKES -- THE KOOL-AID TASTES GREAT!  But maybe I won't try to Cross-Fit, lose 50lbs, train for a half-marathon, and learn a secondary sport all at the same time, you know?   Next time I'll know better.  Next time, you all. 

So anyway, rejuvenating.  We are doing it.  I'm not super good at it, but for me that means this week I will:  sleep for at least 8-9 hours per night (hello EARLY bedtime), keep my CrossFit/Running schedule (sorry, not willing to deviate on that one), spend my evenings reading, writing, taking super hot bubble baths (recovering muscles, yowza!) and of course, spend quality time with Garrett doing things like watching Top Gear and Modern Family and even Dr. Phil because those are some of the only shows we can agree on.  (Dude, Dr. Phil is FUNNY!)  I have read some great books on the craft of writing this month and I've been feeling pretty inspired.  I'll tell you about them in my March Book Review, but for now, know that they've got my creative juices flowing.  And for me, when I indulge my creative side I feel the most rejuvenated.  

What do you do when you are looking for a little bit of rejuvenation?


March 19, 2011

It's A Happy Life But Someone Is Missing

I've been told I read a lot of depressing books, but it is mostly because I find many of them comforting in their ability to articulate loss.  Most recently I read Elizabeth McCracken's book about her experience grieving over her stillborn child.  She mentions that death doesn't just change your physical life, it changes the entire landscape of your life.  She acknowledges "that life goes on but that death goes on too.  A person who is dead is a long, long story."

This morning I went to the library and sat down to flip through some magazines.  I came across an article about Gwyneth Paltrow in In Style where she discusses her new cookbook (what doesn't that woman do?) full of family inspired recipes.  The interviewer asked her if this process made her miss her father and her reply struck a chord.  Obviously I'm paraphrasing but she said something about how the saddest part of losing someone is when the memories fade.  And how when she thinks about her dad now, she thinks about how he wouldn't know where to find her.  He doesn't know where she lives and has never met her husband or children.  The family home that they shared is gone and that she sometimes feels more worry than sorrow because he would probably feel lost.  

Right afterward I read a snippet in the new O Magazine about Meghan O'Rourke's newest book The Long Goodbye, a memoir about losing her mother.  She says, "After a loss you have to learn to believe the dead one is dead.  It doesn't come naturally."

Today is my dad's birthday.  He would have been 57 and even though he has been gone for 13 years I am still learning to believe that he is dead.  O'Rourke is right, it does not come naturally.  His loss is something I have to remind myself of daily, and inevitably I do.  It has absolutely changed the landscape of my life in every way.  Grieving is this never ending drive down a long and curvy highway.  You get further away from the point of origin, but you never really stop traveling.  And no matter where you end up, it is always measured in relation to where you started.  

The year following my father's death I spent a lot of time driving.  I was commuting to a town 30 miles south of where I lived for school, then back up to a town 20 miles north of where I lived for work.   I spent hours on various highways in my cute little pink Jetta that I had bought all by myself 2 years prior, crying all the way to school and work, only pulling it together at the last possible minute so as to be presentable to the public.  Each time I opened the car door to get back inside I was overwhelmed by the weight of the sadness that waited inside.  

McCracken says in her memoir that you can't out-travel sadness, "You will find it has smuggled itself along in your suitcase. It coats the camera lens, it flavors the local cuisine. In that different sunlight, it stands out, awkward, yours, honking in the brash vowels of your native tongue in otherwise quiet restaurants. You may even feel proud of its stubbornness as it follows you up the bell towers and monuments, as it pants in your ear while you take in the view. I travel not to get away from my troubles but to see how they look in front of famous buildings or on deserted beaches. I take them for walks. Sometimes I get them drunk. Back at home we generally understand each other better."

Shortly after my dad's funeral my mother's good friend Marilyn gave her some scalloped edged handkerchiefs, "For the land mines," she explained.  "You won't always see them coming, but at least you will be prepared."  The land mines are always there, no matter how much time has passed.  And when they hit, it's like a punch in the gut that makes you sob until you feel like you can't breathe.  This year, one of the biggest land mines that I've uncovered was right there in the the library reading about Gwyneth Fucking Paltrow.  My memories are fading.  They are all that is left, and even they are no guarantee.  It's not that I don't remember who my dad was, but the little details are getting fuzzy:  how he said my name, the way he smelled.  I think I can remember them, but I can never really be sure.  And the fact is, I will never be sure again.

Uncertainty is just another part of the landscape of this journey.  Another chapter in the long story of the dead. 

March 14, 2011

Running For Recovery

During my second running-heavy workout over at American River CrossFit I think I may have shook my head and mumbled something about these people trying to kill me under my breath. It was 4 or 5 rounds of lifting heavy things broken up with 800 meter (1/2 mile) runs in between, and it was a pretty accurate recipe for torture, I was sure. I was also sure I probably couldn’t do it because I was NOT a runner.

Somewhere amidst all of that negative self-talk I heard our coach Chad say “You don’t have to sprint the 800 meters, do it at any speed you like:  the run is for recovery.” And in that moment I was fairly certain he was one egg short of a dozen because -- honest to god -- who the hell RUNS FOR RECOVERY, BUDDY?!?!

Today is a Monday, and as such I’ve jumped the typical hurdles -- the most notably suck-tastic was the sleepy pull of Daylight Savings when my alarm went off at 4:30am. But despite the temptation I fought the sandman, enjoyed a cup of coffee (what? I needed some heavy artillery for that fight), did a few chores around the house, and then put my running clothes on and headed into work early for another throwdown with the treadmill.

The treadmill is not my favorite way to run. In fact the hamster wheel style frustration of moving your body over and over and never getting anywhere can really be an additional mental struggle for me -- and frankly, I’m already busy enough in that department. When I hopped on this morning, I was, unsurprisingly -- Not Feeling It. I usually try to get into the music, tell myself stories, plan menus (Fat Kid, holla!), remember movie quotes – whatever I can do to get through, you know?

Today, I practically composed this blog post in my mind.

I thought a lot about how 7 months ago I never would have signed up to even run this half-marathon.  And in the middle of that I realized that this first mile was feeling awesome. Then I thought about all the excuses I used to make for why I hated running.  My former self would not even recognize this person who was booking-it by choice, without another person chasing them.  And in the middle of that, I realized that I hadn't even had that feeling of working at high intensity yet. So I turned up the pace up a notch and kept pushing. And because I was still cruising, I did it again. I kept pushing and pushing until it felt super tough, but even then I didn't want to quit, I just made a few adjustments and kept going.

And 3 miles later I wondered, why was I ever even worried about my own abilities?

I am dedicated.
I am strong.
I'm not a quitter.
I can achieve this goal if I try.
I can be a runner if I want to be.

And when I stepped off that treadmill and headed into the locker room endorphins firing, positivity brimming, and dripping with the intensity of someone who has been singularly focused for the past 40 minutes– well what do you know?

A part of me felt recovered. 


March 11, 2011

My Life is an Episode of Modern Family


Have I told you this story before?  I'm sure I have but I am too lazy to look in my archives.  I do this in real life too -- tell the same stories over and over again -- so listen this is just what it would be like in real life, ok?

Oh, before I tell you this story -- HAPPY FREAKING FRIDAY!  Man is it just me or has this week felt long?  Also contributing to my end of week super-sloth-ness, we hosted friends for dinner last night (hooray for mid-week dinner parties!) and while it was so much fun: we stayed up too late, I enjoyed one too many cocktails, and this morning my alarm sounded like a sledgehammer to the head.  Can you believe when I was going to bed last night I actually had the audacity to say "Hmm...should I set the alarm for 4:30 am so I can get a run in at the gym before work?" 


(Balance is not a concept I really understand, YET.) 

Anyway, so back to my story.  The one you have probably heard, yes.  You see Garrett and I do not fight very much.  Sure we disagree about things, but we're generally good at coming to a resolution without much fanfare which is why I don't have many raucous tales of mug shot worthy disputes on this blog and just like the cliche, we rarely go to bed angry.  I kind of like it this way, actually.  But about 6 months ago not only did I spent the entire evening pissed and sobbing at Garrett, but I also went to bed at like 8pm -- AND I WENT TO BED ANGRY -- alert the press!  At the time I think Garrett found it the most befuddling because he could not figure out what he did wrong. It was very much this exact scene  from Modern Family.  Frankly, we are Phil and Claire.   Well, actually Garrett is just Phil.  I mean the resemblance is just uncanny at times.

So, what made me so angry?  Let me tell you:  he took every single book off of all 3 of my beautiful (and quite obviously, in my opinion) ORGANIZED BY COLOR Billy bookcases in our guest bedroom.  And when I came home he nonchalantly said, "Oh, I decided to reorg the bookcases since there was no rhyme or reason to them."  Actually he didn't say 'reorg' because that would be lame, but the truth is, I didn't hear much of what he said after I walked into my the room that once housed my BEAUTIFULLY ORGANIZED BY COLOR books and saw them strewn about all over the floor.  Hours of work now just tossed about into piles (gasp!) organized by authors' names.

Something about this just made me so incredibly upset, but I think no one was more upset than Garrett, who just kept waiting for Ashton Kutcher to show up and tell him he was being Punk'd.  That never happened though, and I just went to bed crying.  My god, again, sometimes my melodrama seems so LAME the morning after.  Anyway, it has now become something we laugh at because, really?  How can you not.  But we have also established the importance of hereinafter all books being organized by color, so you know:  Duh! Winning! and all of that crap.

So!  All of this to say, Modern Family rules.  And this video kind of turns me on:

Happy Friday, Friends! 

March 09, 2011

These Are My Confessions

It's mid-week, I'm feeling a little feisty, so how about a round of some confessions.  I hope I have now gotten that terrible Usher song in your head.  You're welcome.  So I've got a few to get off my chest -- how about you tell me some of yours so I don't feel so bad?  It will be fun, I promise!

Confession #1 -   We have a gorgeous shower in our master bathroom.  GORGEOUS.  It's one of my favorite parts of our house.  It's spacious and lovely and full of some of my favorite things And we haven't used it regularly in, oh almost 12 months.  I mean could you die?  Why on earth would you do that, Holly?  Well, mostly because we are lazy and because keeping that glass clean is a downright chore with all the squeege-ing and drying and treating with waterproof substances and stuff and it adds almost 10 minutes on to your shower in the morning.  When Garrett went back to working at Peet's and his wake-up call started coming between 4 and 5am, he started showering in the guest room to save time in the morning.  And then I got jealous and threw my shampoo in there.  And now? We just use the guest bathroom.  THE GUEST BATHROOM! 

Can you believe that?

God, that's embarrassing.  I'm hoping the act of telling you will force me to quit acting like a dummy.  A lazy dummy.   

Confession #2 -   You all, I am feeling super conflicted!  When I get married I am not sure I want to change my last name.  Now this is probably a post in itself, but the truth is as Garrett and I talk more about wedding planning and timing and babies, etc I get more panicky about the impending possibility of changing my last name.  I am the only Woodcock still standing of my close extended family and I am proud of that name.  Yes, it's kind of a tragic last name that I couldn't wait to get rid of when I was 12, but now that I am 32 I have had plenty of time to adjust.  And I do like it.  And I am attached to it.  And it does make me feel connected to my dad who is no longer around.  And all of those other feminist arguments that go along with keeping your last name.  (Why doesn't Garrett want to be a Woodcock?  Come on, it's a waaaaay better name for a boy, you know!)
But we talk about it often and Garrett REALLY wants me to change my last name -- and you all Garrett does not want for much.  He is the most supportive and loving partner (obvs, or I wouldn't even be considering marrying the guy) and he so rarely does anything besides go with the flow, and he has told me on a number of occasions that it is important to him that our children and our family share the same last name.  And his last name is not a bad name.  It's a lovely name actually (Franklin) would go just fine with my first name, and in theory I like the idea of the family we create together all having the same name, but WHY OH WHY does it mean I have to give up my name?  Sob.

Ay yay yay --  how did you make that decision? 

Confession # 3 - Just to lighten things up a bit -- I'm listening to Ke$ha on purpose you guys.  Who am I?

Confession # 4 - I miss the internet when people blogged because they liked to write.  Now it is all about niches and advertising and HOW CAN YOUR WEBSITE BE GROWING IF YOU ARE NOT GIVING YOUR READERS WHAT THEY WANT?  Well what about what I want?  I maintain this site.  I spend time here putting my proverbial pen to paper as an exercise for myself.  As a hobby.  As something I do for fun.  Why does that have to make me feel like a slacker?  Why do I have to categorize my interests into a niche?  Why do I have to be more one dimensional so that "my target audience can get what it needs"?  I feel irked by this.  I love stumbling upon a great personal blog where the author is a lovely writer and talks about LOTS of different things.  Those are my FAVORITE reads actually.  When did this become uncool?

So what do you want to confess?  You'll feel better, I swear.  I'm all ears...

March 08, 2011

February Books

So February?  Not the best month for books as far as I'm concerned.   I struggled through a couple, finally putting them down, and read some that were only ok.  In total, I started 6 books, but only completed 4.  If you're counting, we're up to 12 books for the year -- not too shabby considering my goal of reading 50 by the end of the year.  There was one gem, but it was a depressing topic, so all in all my feeling about my February reading:  Meh.  Let's hope for the best for March!  

(Here is a reminder on how I evaluate books.  Don't worry, it's not scientific, and doesn't even involve math!) 

Let's start with the books I didn't finish as a little caveat:

Room by Emma Donoghue
I know internet, you will have to fire me again this month for hating a book EVERYONE loved.  

Mostly the narrator didn't do it for me.  I'm what you would call a Vanilla Reader.  If the other is going to try something tricky or experimental or outside the box, I am always a bit skeptical.  I like my books in the Missionary Position or else I will start reading with my stink eye on.  Hey, at least I'll admit it.   So this book?  Begins kind of dark and twisted and weird, but IT'S NARRATED BY A 5 YEAR OLD.  For me, it got old fast.  Even though it was a storyline I wanted to know about, I couldn't get past the voice the story was being told in.  Thumbs down.  You may feel differently though.  I hope we can still be friends?
Ok Writing.  Somewhat Page Turning.  Very Engaging Premise.  

At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream by Wade Rouse
I picked up this book because of Jen Lancaster.  I blame her, of course.  Actually I could never be mad at Jen Lancaster because she writes some of my favorite humorous memoirs.  I want to be her when I grow up, if we are speaking honestly.  So she regularly posts seasonal book recommendations and on her winter list she recommended a book by Wade Rouse.  Of course it hadn't been released yet so I thought maybe I would check out one of his older books.   The premise is that Rouse, inspired by Thoreau's Walden, picks up his life with his partner and moves from The City to a farm in the middle of nowhere.  And if you didn't get that he is inspired by Walden, don't worry because he will beat you over the head with it for the entire first half of the book.  The quotes he discusses recalled the feeling of high school term paper where one must support their thesis.  This is not my favorite way to read a memoir.  It just felt a bit contrived to me and about halfway through it I just got that "Life is too short to read crappy books" stirring inside.  Although I put this book down I will probably give him one more try because he was very funny.  
Ok Writing.  Not a page turner at all.  Very Engaging Premise.  (See?  It was a pickle.)

An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination by Elizabeth McKracken 
Best book I read all month, hands down.  Too bad it is another memoir about dead babies.  The thing is, this memoir is smart and funny, which is not what you would expect in a book about losing a child in the 9th month of pregnancy.  Gah!  Just thinking about parts of this book are so painful -- I was absolutely emotionally wrapped up in every page.  But while it is sad, there is something so incredibly comforting about the way McKracken can put her pain into words without sounding at all trite or cliche.  As someone who has experienced a devastating loss, I loved how she described the pain of grief.  How it not only changes your heart, but it forever changes the landscape of your life.  You learn to live with it just as you would another person.  This book was amazing, sad, uplifting, and painful all at the same time.  But it quenched my emotional thirst, and for that I give it the highest recommendation.
Phenomenal Writing.  Shockingly Page Turning.  Emotional but Engaging Premise.

Bookmark Now:  Writing in Unreaderly Times Edited by Kevin Smokler
Published in 2004, this book of essays about how the internet is affecting the way people read and how publishing is changing right before our eyes obviously felt dated in parts.  But there was a charming time capsule type quality to it and the fact that it was essays strung together about reading and writing really made me quite happy.  It also made me a little nostalgic for the internet back when people had blogs because they liked to write, not because they had found a niche where they could profit.  I actually marinated quite a bit on this topic while reading this so it was great at sparking food for thought -- and I love books that do that!  Consequently it also rekindled my love for books of essays because they are bite sized pieces that you can consume at your leisure, without feeling the weight of narrative arc on your shoulders.  It led me to choose the next books of essays that I also really enjoyed.  Essay Love:  Rekindled.
Various Styles of Writing.  Not Terribly Page Turning (compared to a novel).  Super Engaging Premise.

Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby 
I love to read and write, so I think there is a rule out there that I must also love Nick Hornby since he is such a witty, British, writerly darling.  And mostly, I abide by that rule.  I found this book during a shopping trip to Half Priced Books where I actually looked at the shelves categorized as "Essays" on purpose.  (Thanks, Bookmark Now!)  When I read the premise, I knew I had to have it.  Billed as a "feverish survey of his swollen bookshelves" Hornby takes the reader, month by month, through the books he purchased as well as read.  Being that I often purchase way more books than I read in any given month, I found the premise amusingly relatable.  His reviews are funny, informative and seriously the guy can turn a sentence.  I followed Garrett around reading out loud in many parts and you know this one of my major signs of good writing.  An amusing, quick read.  
Incredible Writing.  Page Turning (due to structure of book and hilarity).  Engaging Premise to me (though you may disagree.)

The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen 
Where on earth did I hear of this book?  Crap, I can't remember.  It was billed as a wry narrative surrounding the life of a dying and bitter hermit.  Engaging premise?  I wasn't so sure.   But when I got into the meat of the story -- which by the way has no chapters, but is separated into "notebooks" as to give you the idea you are reading from the narrator's journal -- I was really quite intrigued.  The author is talented and the book was entertaining, and I found myself desiring a cigarette and some scotch with a giant steak on the side throughout most of the story.  I love when the mood of a book carries over into real life.  Parts of the book move slow, so I won't pretend it is the best book I've ever read, but I would definitely try this author again.  
Good Writing.  Mostly Page Turning.  Not a Super Engaging Premise (but worth it in the end.) 

What did you read this month?  I am feeling a bit uninspired thus far.  


March 07, 2011

Nutella Banana Bread

My friend Natalie (hi Natalie!) sent me this recipe a few weeks ago and I have mentioned it casually on Facebook or during random conversations only to met my by the same reaction every time:   

"I need this recipe, IMMEDIATELY!"

Something about Nutella seems to get everyone worked up into a lather, and I have to say, I finally understand.  Can you believe I had never tried Nutella until I made this for the first time?  My life is forever changed and I say that without even a hint of hyperbole.  The problem is I bought the two pack in Costco and now every time I pass the cupboard where it is stored I have to use absolutely every ounce of strength I have to not grab a spoon from the drawer below and dive in. 

I mostly look like this when I walk around the house now.  The situation is getting slightly out of hand. 

I've been avoiding sugar, flour and other refined grains since August of last year so this is definitely a treat for me, and hopefully now it can be a treat for you!

Gooey Nutella Banana Bread
My comments in italics below

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup skim milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 heaping cup Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray. (I used a 9x5). In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda & salt.

3. In a separate large bowl, beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, milk and vanilla. Beat until blended.

4. Add flour mixture, beat at low speed just until flour is incorporated (don’t over mix).

5. Spoon Nutella into a small dish and soften in the microwave for about 15 seconds. (Eat a spoonful out of the jar.) Add 1 cup of the banana bread batter to the Nutella and stir until blended well. Spoon Nutella batter alternately with plain banana bread batter into the prepared pan. Swirl batters together with a knife.

5. Bake 50 to 60 minutes (I did about 65 minutes) it will seem a tiny bit undercooked but that’s what makes it good. Cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

*Then, experience true bliss for the first time.


March 06, 2011

Sunday Splendor

This morning I grabbed a stack of my books on writing and took a long hot bath.  

It was like stewing up an inspiration soup.

Guess what's for lunch?

March 05, 2011

Notes From A Novice Runner - This Post Brought to You by You Tube

A couple months ago, after a few successes at CrossFit and a few somewhat heavy pours of Pinot Noir, I got the balls to sign up for the Seattle Rock n Roll Half Marathon.  At the time I was mostly concerned about the physical endurance aspect of the event -- could I physically prepare myself to run 13.1 miles IN A ROW, AT THE SAME TIME?  All these runner types insist on this "in a row" business when they coordinate their races, which um-- hello? if I run 100 miles over the course of my lifetime you better believe I'm gonna call myself an Ultra Marathoner in my mind because I'm delusional like that.  Ok not really, but the point is that the physical endurance was at the forefront of my mind.  But a few months into preparing myself for this endeavor (and yes, I realize most people need weeks to prepare for a half marathon but I need months) I've had a few other realizations.

The first realization that I had when I started spending afternoons on a treadmill in the dungeon like gym at my office was that Holy Moses! Bo and Hope are still on Days of Our Lives.  I mean seriously?  You would have thought Stefano had killed them off by now, right?  That guy really knows how to drag things out. Also, I realized that I have no idea how to use the remote in this gym.  You would think it is a remote control and how complicated can it really be, AND YET.  The last time I was regularly watching Days of Our Lives was circa 1993, so to call this discovery shocking is an understatement.   

Realization number 2?  Music is not a 'nice to have' it is a 'need to have' along with a headband for my very cute but very UN-functional-when-running bangs.   Could I have picked a worse haircut for athletic endeavors?  No, no I could not have.  Anyway, we were talking music, not hair.  Sorry about that.  So yes, I NEED music when running, especially on the treadmill.  And oh my god, why did I never realize that the treadmill is actually a thing of torture all those years when I was feeling jealous of people running along next to me at 24 Hour Fitness?  Running outside is so much easier because there are like, landmarks that you pass.  And the scenery changes.  And ohmygod looking at Bo and Hope for an hour is quite difficult to do actually.  What is easier on the treadmill though is controlling my pace.  Treadmills have a good grip on Ron Popeil's Set It And Forget It!  mentality, and I have a harder time doing that when I run outside.  Total sidebar here:  We just got a hand me down rotisserie (Don't worry, from my aunt, not just some random person.  How gross would that be?  A secondhand meat juice maker.  HORK!)  and the thought of being able to rotisserie my own meat brings me so much joy!  And yes, I realize right in this moment that you probably think I have a small and sad life, there's no need to point it out.

Anyway, music!  Music!  Get back to music.  So, Eminem.  He is my running messiah, really.  What?  A drug addled rapper isn't who you would choose?  That's weird.   Well, frankly Eminem is really one of the only artists who can penetrate The Tunnel of Pain.   And while we are discussing The Tunnel of Pain, let me tell you I could have written that essay.  I NEVER hear the music at CrossFit and Garrett always hears it.  Neither of us can get over the fact that the other one experiences it differently.  CrossFit has made me realize that we all go to different places while being tortured.  I go to The Tunnel of Pain.  And unfortunately I do not pass go OR collect $200 beforehand.  

So yeah, when I'm in The Tunnel, not much gets through but I can tell you this song does. 

Best running song ever.  

And if I was in middle school and You Tube was my binder I would circle this video with pink puffy hearts.  And if I was Mark Wahlberg I would tattoo "Eminem 4 Eva" into my chest with a Bic Pen because I'm that hardcore dedicated. (Sidebar Numero Dos:  Someone on the Twitter the other day mentioned "Fear" being one of those movies that they can't NOT watch if it is on TV.  I wholeheartedly concur!  That is one of the best most ridiculous movies you will ever watch, and if you haven't seen it please do yourself a favor and Netflix it immediately.)  

So again, back to Eminem.  This post needs some Ritalin.

Something about 5 minutes of Military Cadence in the background makes me grab myself by the bootstraps when I'm about to crap out and say "Quit being a wimp and press on!"  Oh, and then there's the Nate Dogg factor.  Nate Dogg always makes a song better.  It's just science, don't argue with science.  What ever happened to him, by the way?  I actively miss him.  All this Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber bologna makes me long for 90s Rappers like a Victorian woman longs for her fainting couch.  And seriously when I hear songs like this new Matthew Morrison song (the nail in Glee's coffin) or Kim Kardashians new single  it makes me want to take a bath in NWA and then douse myself with some 2 Pac.  I may just put 3 hours of Eminem on repeat for The Big Day (interspersed with some  Regulators, of course).  Oh yeah, and you read that right, I said 3 hours.  Because my goal time is right around there.  And yes, I'm fully aware that many people run FULL marathons in that amount of time and all I can say about that is those people are not me.  

The thought of doing anything for 3 hours still makes me shake my head.

Which brings me to the main realization that I have had:  Running is like 30% Physical and 70% Mental, which does not bode well for the fact that my focus thus far has been mostly on the Physical.  Why has no one thought to tell me this?  No matter how rested, stretched, headbanded, and shiny I feel when I start a run, I spend the first mile bitching in my head solely because I have been taken out of my comfortable state of stasis and my poor little brain doesn't know what to make of it.  It happens Every. Single. Time.  Usually when I get to the second mile and the running becomes the stasis I'm a little bit better, but OOF -- that first mile is always rough.  

So all of this is to say that lately my life looks like various arrangements of the following: Eat, Work, Run, CrossFit, Cook, Thank Garrett for Cleaning, Google Ron Popeil videos, Try to Enjoy Some Alone Time, Catch Some Bad Television and Sleeeeeeeeep, Glorious Sleep.  

It's a small life.  But it's a good life.  


March 02, 2011

You Would Think It's The Lunatic Fringe...

Here's a nice video from Robb Wolf and Art De Vany's appearance on Nightline last night that will function as a 5 minute answer to all those questions I keep getting about what my weight loss secret has been. 

It is also the cliffs notes answer to the question of "What have you and Garrett been up to lately?"  

Well, this is it. 

All in all, pretty nice coverage, I thought. 

I haven't forgot about my forthcoming post on transitioning to a Paleo kitchen.  It's coming soon!

March 01, 2011

ABCs of Me

A. Age: 32.  Holy smokes, is that right?  OY!

B. Bed size: Queen. Our bedroom won't fit a bigger bed but I wouldn't want one anyway.  King sized beds always make me feel like I'm sleeping on the other side of the room from Garrett.  Obviously I feel this way because we have no kids, I reserve the right to change my mind.

C. Chore you dislike: I don't like many chores, but I am lucky in that Garrett does most of the household management. I REALLY hate dishes, but since Garrett does just about everything else I will at least do those.  Well, I wash -- I make him dry.  :)

D. Dogs: We don't have one but definitely want one.  We've already agreed on a name:  Lyndon "Bones" Jizzle. 

E. Essential start to your day: Coffee + a HOT ASS shower.  I do not do anything luke warm.  Even if I can feel my skin drying out the entire time, the shower must be hotter than hot.  It's why I buy lotion, yo.

F. Favorite color: Acid Green. 

G. Gold or silver: Silver, mostly.  But I can rock a little gold every once in a while.

H. Height: 5'10 in flats.  This is why I don't really wear heels much anymore. 

I. Instruments you play(ed): I have no musical skills whatsoever.  I "played" the violin for months without ever knowing how to read music in Elementary School.  I was a total rock start, I assure you. 

J. Job title: Senior Commercial Underwriter.  It sounds a lot more exciting that it probably is in real life.

K. Kids: Yes please.  Sooner, rather than later.  Not that we'll be getting knocked up tomorrow or anything, but you know -- if it happens....

L. Live: Sacramento, CA for now.

M. Mom’s name: Sharon

N. Nicknames: My last name is Woodcock.  I've had A LOT of nicknames. 

O. Overnight hospital stays: None that I can remember.

P. Pet peeves: People who try and make themselves sound more interesting or erudite by listing things they hate. 

Q. Quote from a movie: "Melrose Place was a really good show."

R. Righty or lefty: Righty!

S. Siblings: None.  I'm a lonely only.  Except I'm not lonely!  Remember all those cousins I have who are my age?  It's like the best of both worlds.

T. Time you wake up: 5 am on weekdays, 7 ish on weekends.  But I go to bed suuuuper early.  Like Nursing Home early.  I love my sleep!

U. Underwear: Yes, I wear them.  And I'm not the type of person who is interested in talking about my underwear with the internet thankyouverymuch.  Oh wait, would you look at that, I guess I am. Huh. 

V. Vegetables you don't like: mushrooms.  Just not really a fan.

W. What makes you run late: The fact that I get up early.  I know, you think I'm nuts but it's true.  I used to have to be at work at 8 but would get up at 5, remember?  That's a lot of time to get sidetracked watching Real Housewives or making chili or whatever.  I just lose track of time and start projects that take longer than I anticipate.

X. X-rays you’ve had: Many X-rays of my chest and sinus cavity to discover what the hell was causing my persistent cough and severe allergies.  Turns out switching to a Paleo diet made all my symptoms go away.  Sweet!

Y. Yummy food you make: I make some sweet ass Artichoke Parmesan Dip.  Remind me to give you the recipe sometime. 

Z. Zoo animal favorites: Zoos are depressing, just like circuses.  UGH! 

*Idea unoriginally and shamelessly stolen from Ashley at NeverHomeMaker


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