Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stuff On MY Cats

Have you ever heard of the website Stuff On My Cat?

Stuff On My Cat - or SOMC, for those lame cat ladies like me who frequent the site but are too lazy to type the name - is a fairly awesome website of stuff on cats. The 'stuff' ranges from clothing to scrabble tiles to get the idea. (Sometimes it really is more like My Cat On Stuff, but hey, who's being picky?)

While perusing SOMC, I keep coming across pictures of cats wearing a yellow, green, and orange striped tie. Imagine my delight when my dear sister gave my cats this tie for Christmas. So...since apparently it takes months for pictures to show up on SOMC due to the high volume they receive (WHY WHY WHY do I never think to start these kind of stupidly succesful ventures?) I have decided to offer you guys a little treat.

This is literally Stuff On MY Cats:



And last but not least, Ralph:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'm all out of love, I'm so lost without you
I know you were right believing for so long...

Chris Chelios - my favorite hockey player - is known for running his mouth. A LOT. But when he's not giving lip to referees, the guy makes some good points about the team, the league, and hockey in general. Recently, he said this to radio station WDFN-AM (1130):

On Sergei Fedorov possibly being an asset to the team:

“You know what? Depending on the right price and what you give up, I’d think he’d be a bargain. You say that and last night I watched him score a beautiful goal. He’s got that rocket shot of his and he’s still got that skill, Sergei does. I don’t think the price would be a big ticket, and even if it wasn’t now at the deadline, he’s going to be a free agent next year. He’s definitely one guy you’ve got to consider. He’s a great skill player and with the way the game is now with the power play, he could really actually help and contribute.”

Cheli, I could not agree with you more. Unfortunately, Ken Holland did not seem to agree, telling Wojo on DWFN this on Tuesday:

On if he came close to a deal with secondary scoring, specifically with Sergei Fedorov:

"We had obviously a lot of talks about Sergei. We had 13, 14 people here, all our pro scouts and management and our coaching staff. We had mixed emotions on bringing Sergei back. I talked to Scott Howsen a number of times and in the end, we made a decision, we made a bit of a pitch, obviously nothing significant and he ended up going to Washington. We’re comfortable with it. Were we close to anything? I talked to a couple of teams on some things, got a little close in a couple areas but obviously not close enough to get a deal done."

On if past conflicts between Mike Babcock and Fedorov played into the decision to not bring him in:

"I get Mike’s opinion, but I had about a dozen opinions there. Ultimately, you know, the player that they got they really liked. They wanted to get a real good prospect. If you look at our team, coming out of the work stoppage, we were really suppose to go down. … We’re still building this thing, we’re still growing it. We don’t want to get rid of real top prospects. We did it last year with Sean Matthias. We don’t want to do it every year, so we traded some assets we were comfortable in trading and we’re still trying to build this program into being a playoff team each year."

I guess I don't really care so much about not getting Sergei back. But I think Kenny had a lot more say in not bringing him back than he is letting on.

Ken Holland used to be my management hero. This all changed with the CuJo situation (a series of events that still makes me so mad I can barely bear to blog about them). My issue here really isn't with Sergei - I just expected a more dramatic trade-deadline move in general.

Kenny and I have grown apart. Apparently we are not on the same page anymore.

(Oh yeah, I almost forgot: notice me NOT mentioning our last three losses. Nope. not a word.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Five a Day the Color Way

In an attempt to actually eat healthier, I have decided to eat the daily recommended serving of fruits and vegetables. I believe that the recommended amount is five a day. I started this experiment on Monday, so I am two days in.

Now, I would say for the past year or two I have probably eaten 1-2 servings on weekdays and maybe one on weekends if we happened to go out to dinner and I ordered a salad. Needless to say, there is room for improvement.

(I sort of figured that Clementine season - during which I eat six to eight Clementines a day - does not count because they are all the same thing. Also, they do not fill me up so I still eat all the garbage I would normally eat in addition to the six to eight Clementines.)

My menu for the past two days has consisted of one of each of the following items:
  • Banana
  • Tangerine
  • Cucumber (actually, only half a cucumber, sliced up)
  • Red or Green pepper
  • Apple

What I have found is that these foods actually do fill me up. In addition to this list, all I eat during the day is a can of tuna fish.

Dinner is a slightly different story, although I am trying to improve in that arena as well (there is a reason I am eating all my fruits and veggies during the day, and that is because I want to fully enjoy my dinner). The problem is I really like to cook, and I like to cook things that involve oil, cheese, wine, decadent sauces, get the idea. But I am no longer eating the leftovers for lunch. I figure that might have been what was killing me calorie-wise.

Unfortunately, my decision to up my fruit and veggie intake coincides with my decision to give up coffee for Lent, and after two weeks in I am still not adjusted to the lack of morning caffeine. The apple does not really provide the same satisfaction. It's not just the caffeine, either - I really like the taste of coffee...even crappy work coffee.

Also, I have not been so great about cutting out caloric beverages. Although I am not a big juice or soda drinker, I DO like wine...and beer...and gin. However, I am attempting to enjoy these things in smaller quantities (only two beers at trivia night instead of three and a half!).

This is all part of my grand scheme to get back in shape before I run the half marathon in Indianapolis on May 3rd...which reminds me, I did five miles on the treadmill yesterday! (I'm not going to lie, though - it was tough.)

Anyway, I've never been great at healthy eating, so this is a fairly new experience for me (FYI -I am not counting senior year of high school where I existed on green peppers and chicken sandwiches - on white bread with butter - as "eating healthy".) I'll let you know how it works out.

On other Progress Report news, my ugly yellow scarf is almost finished. The only reason that it is taking so long is because I have really lost interest in making scarves. But I promised myself I would finish it before I started a real project.

No Movie For Squeamish People

If you haven't seen No Country For Old Men yet, you really need to make it to a showing. Javier Bardem is my favorite movie murderer since Hannibal Lecter (the part in the sherrif's office when the deputy is on the phone and he's in the background wriggling out of his handcuffs? Very Lecter-esque.)

What was sort of funny about seeing No Country is that Noe and I went to a 2:10 matinee and the only other people in the theater were senior citizens...not the crowd you expect to see at a Coen brothers movie with gratuitous and well-publicized violence. And the people working in the movie theater were old, too. (What made the experience even more awesome is we went to an early dinner - at the Steak Loft, Noe's pick - after the movie and it was totally early-bird special.)

Anyway, I made a point to watch the Oscars that night mainly to see what No Country would win and was pleased to see it take not only Best Supporting Actor and Best Director but Best Picture as well. Javier, you made the movie for me. Joel and Ethan, I don't know how you mine such good material from small-town law enforcement (remember Fargo?) but please keep it up.

Now I just have to read the book...I know, you are supposed to read the book before you see the movie. Normally I abide by this rule. The thing that stopped me in this particular case was quotation marks, or lack thereof.

(Yes, I have a problem with unconventional punctuation. If we must be honest, this is the reason why I have never actually read Cold Mountain, either. But I also thought Cold Mountain sounded kind of lame, so I needed an excuse. I have no excuse now to skip No Country. I need to buck up and realize that I can indeed read dialogue without quotation marks.)

But I digress. I was going to briefly mention my thoughts on the rest of the Oscars:

1) I am not really sure how Tilda Swinton walked off with supporting actress. I have nothing against Tilda Swinton; in fact, I quite like her. But I didn't quite like Michael Clayton. I just don't think that she and Clooney had to act that much in this particular movie.

2) I might have to go see There Will Be Blood, not only because Daniel Day Lewis is a fantastic actor but because I just figured out that the creepy preacher kid in the preview is the colorblind brother from Little Miss Sunshine.

3) Go Marion Cottilard, go! La Vie En Rose was a bit too long and played too much with time elements...but Marion was fantastic. Phenomenal. She was Edith Piaf. I love you Cate Blanchett, but your Elizabeth sequel had nothing on Marion.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Heaven IS a place on earth...and that place is the Book Barn

Yesterday I was introduced to what is definitely the greatest place in Connecticut and more than likely in the running for greatest place on earth: The Book Barn.


The Book Barn is a phenomenal used book store located down the road from New London in Niantic. The word 'barn' in the store name is somewhat misleading because it implies that all the books are contained in a barn. This is not the case.

The Book Barn has so many used books for sale that they don't even fit in one barn (and that barn has three floors, mind you!) They spill into four seperate structures, two sort of stands on the main barn poperty, and a downtown location as well.

Before you get overwhelmed, realize that there is a method to the madness - certain selections are housed in certain building. For instance, the Downtown Book Barn (our first stop) houses cookbooks, mythology, and nautical history, among other things.

The DBB also houses the fattest cat I have ever seen in my life. Frank (or "Frank the Tank" as Kevin Doyle has dubbed him) appears to have been inflated like a balloon. He has tiny legs and a tiny head and a gigantic middle. I attempted to photograph Frank with my camera phone; however, Frank was not very inclined to be photographed (I was ending up with a lot of nostril shots). This is probably OK seeing as how I have no idea how to get camera phone photos OFF of the camera phone anyway.

In addition to Frank, the DBB had a two guinea pigs and a tank full of turtles.

After scanning the DBB for awhile, we piled back in Doyle's Impala to traverse to the main Book Barn. We immediately headed to the farthest building to browse the fiction selection.

And what a selection it was! I have been to smaller used book stores where the fiction section is mostly comprised of the mystery, harlequin romance, and western sections with a few Oprah's Book Club selections from recent years thrown in. Not the Book Barn - although all three aforementioned genres were healthily represented, there were rows and rows and stacks and stacks of actual literature. Almost any book could be found -or at least any author - from the classics to the currents.

(I also like to see which books people do not consider 'keepers' - you know, the ones that there are like, a whole shelf of copies of? At the Book Barn, it appeared that no one really felt compelled to hang onto She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb, but the real prize goes to The Red Badge of Courage - a shelf and a half!)

The only thing that I was specifically looking for that I did not find was a copy of No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy - not really a big surprise seeing as how the movie has probably awakened interest in the book (we are seeing the movie this afternoon, by the way - I'll let you know how it is!) And I forgot to look for Into the Wild but it would probably have been the same situation.

I did, however, add to my classics collection with some Fitgerald (This Side of Paradise) and Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) as well as some Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Love in the Time of Cholera).

After we finished in the fiction building we headed up to the main building. Along the way we passed a pen full of goats. And in the main building, there were at least four kitties roaming the premises or sleeping in corners. The Book Barn combines the best elements of a bookstore and petting zoo in to one experience. Also, the staff keeps a pot of coffee brewing and puts out plates of those little Hostess donuts and Cheez-Its for the guests to munch on.

We found a ton of stuff in the main building, mostly downstairs where the MASSIVE history collection is located. (Although there were no takers for any of the four copies of a promotional Pfizer book celebrating 25 years of R&D - or something to that effect - at the Groton site...go figure!)

Anyway, Amanda and I left with probably eight or nine books each and Doyle staggered to the cash register with about fifteen. In addition to the classics mentioned above, my purchases consisted of:
  • Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her by Melanie Rehak (hey, I used to love Nancy Drew)
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
  • Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman (this is from the history section - NOT the erotica section located under the staircase)
  • The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (I really loved Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, so I wanted to give him another try.)

And thus ended my first Book Barn experience. But trust me, there will be MANY more in the future!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It appears that the website has come to life...this happens to computers and robots sometimes

I am starting to think that Dwight Shrute (Rainn Wilson from The Office) is correct in his hatred of the internet. Both my MySpace and my Facebook account have been hacked recently, spamming my friends with notices about Mike who died and free ringtones.

Now, this spam was bad enough when I was on the receiving end of it - we all have been. But trust me, it's worse when it's coming from you.

I apologize to anyone who received a spam message from me. But...seriously, guys, you've seen these before. Please do NOT bombard me with "WTF?" and "What are you talking about?" messages. One, there is nothing I can do about it. Two, everyone knows I've never downloaded a ringtone in my life (I am possibly the only person in the modern world with the annoying Nokia ring) - WHY would I care about free ringtones? And three, if our mutual friend Mike died, do you really think I'd pick MYSPACE as the forum to tell you about it?

I understand these messages are annoying. I am annoyed when I receive them from other people. Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do but go through and delete the offending comment from everybody's wall one by one, and that got old after about fifteen people. And half of them had already seen it anyway.

I am sorry if this post sounds abrasive. This kind of stuff makes me want to take down my profiles on these sites. Yet I don't want to do that because (when I am not sending spam messages) I use these sites to post photos and keep in touch with my friends back in Michigan and other places. I would be really sorry to lose this fast and easy outlet.

But if this happens one more time, I probably will. I guess I better really push everyone to start reading my blog because it might the only internet presence I have left.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Film Festivus

So the New London Winter Film Festival has been going on all weekend, and so far we've made it to four out of seven films (I am hoping to make it to one more tomorrow). My thoughts on what we've seen (may contain spoilers):

Into the Wild: Excellent, but kind of a downer. I knew that Chris McCandless died but I guess I was under the impression that he did something stupidly dangerous (like that guy who got eaten by grizzly bears a few years ago), not that he was one step short of totally deranged from being hungry and alone and ate a poisonous plant that weakened him to the point he could no longer forage. And the moose scene - so sad (NOT even because he kills a moose, but because he is so upset that he wasted the moose). Fantastic acting - and props to the casting director (hey, anyone remember when Emile HIrsch and Jenna Malone acted together in The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys? No? I didn't think so.)

Juno: Already saw it and already loved it, but had to take Noe to experience the magic. My personal favorite characters are actually Juno's dad and stepmother, played to perfection by the excellent character actor JK Simmons (the obnoxious newspaper publisher from the Spiderman movies) and Alison Janney. And Paulie Bleeker played by anyone other than Michael Cera would have just been a nerd (as opposed to a completely appealing nerd).

Michael Clayton: I have taken a beating over the years for my Clooney love. Let me just state that I love the man and NOT necessarily all his movies (although cut him slack - he turned out way better than anyone thought he would when he left E.R. And even he admits he nearly killed the Batman franchise.)I have really enjoyed most of his recent films, particularly the ones he directs and plays supporting roles (hmmm....that could be rather telling). He's back in front of the camera in Michael Clayton and's just kind of boring. Nothing ever really happens. His car blows up. That's more or less it for action. I can't really figure out where the best actor nod is coming from. Clooney is by no means bad in this film, but I don't really think he is flexing his acting muscles too much.

Lars and the Real Girl: This may be my favorite of the whole bunch. I've been a Ryan Gosling fan since Murder By Numbers (fairly terrible Sandra Bullock movie, but Gosling's performance as a teenage killer is mind boggling) and also enjoyed him in (I can't believe I am going to admit this) The Notebook. He's not going to sweep any girls of his feet as Lars Lindstrom, but with his super-sweet '80's mustache and Mr. Rogers cardigans he might just make you cry. I left this movie believing that if I were a citizen of Bad Sweaterville, Minnesota (or whatever small northern midwestern town this was set in) that I would have gone along with the whole doll thing, too. Heck, she probably would have ended up as my knitting buddy.

One more thing: I would like to offer an apology to those seated near us at the Garde this evening for A) All the noise Punky and I made opening the Diet Cokes we snuck into the theater B) All the giggling as we poured airplane bottles of booze into the Diet Cokes and C) My phone ringing the annoying Nokia ring during a pivotal scene. See, I didn't think to turn my phone off (or select a normal ringtone) because no one ever calls me. Oh, and let us not forget D) The airplane-taking-off noise my phone makes when I turn it off. My most sincere apologies.

Afternoon Delight

Maybe I am just on a hot streak lately or maybe the apocalypse is on the horizon, but I had another good dining experience today. That makes two in a row!

Because I have neglected grocery shopping over the past week in favor of kickboxing and the Film Festival (more on that later tonight)I found myself in the precarious position of having to purchase a lunch this afternoon.

Lunch pickins downtown are pretty slim. New London's downtown is home to the world's most ghetto Subway, an Indian restaurant, a Thai/Japanese restaurant that has not come very highly reccomended (hence you haven't seen a blog about it yet), an organic cafe with "carrot toasties" (yeah, NO) and a coffee shop. And as much as I like the Atrium Cafe, I have eaten my weight in grilled cheese since coming to work downtown and needed to switch it up a bit.

My coworker Ryan (who uttered the famous New Year's Eve quote "You know what stereotype is totally true? That white people love cheese.") became aware of my dilema and invited me to join him at the South Side Bistro.

"Where?" I replied.

The South Side Bistro is sandwiched between some shops on Bank Street. It's small and narrow and a little cramped if there are people in there (although there is a great-looking deck on the back that I am looking forward to sitting on this summer). Ryan and I took a table in the back and were served the food we had called ahead to order.

I have never been big on the wrap craze, but whatever instict possesed me to order the Thai chicken wrap was a great one. The chicken had a great grill flavor and was cut into manageable-sized strips. The peanut sauce was tangy and delicious and (most importantly to me) the wrap was NOT drenched in sauce. It was not soggy. Nothing disgusts me more than a soggy sandwich. The wrap also included mixed greens and chopped cucumber - enough to round out the sandwich but not the amount of, say, a Taco Bell taco, which is roughly 75% iceberg lettuce. This was perhaps the most ideal porportion of meat/greens/sauce ever rolled in a flatbread.

Ryan let me have some of his roasted red pepper and gouda soup, and I immediately wished I'd ordered it, too. Roasted red pepper is one of my favorite flavors in the world, and the gouda complimented it's spiciness perfectly. Together, they formed a velvety, creamy consistency neither too thin or too thick.

Ryan's vegetable quiche certainly had plenty of veggies - mushrooms, red peppers, spinach, and onions, along with torn basil leaves. Mixed with the egg and cheese, it had been perfectly baked - solidly set but not at all dry - and proved a delicious option for herbivores (provided the herbivores have no problem with dairy, that is!)

Both entrees were accompanied by an unusual (and extremely tasty) pasta salad with dried cranderries and corn. I'd like to thank the maker of the salad for not drenching it in oil.

I had expected to end up at Subway and take a bread-and-lettuce sandwich with a few slivers of chicken back to my desk. This was a better alternative than I could have possibly imagined...although now that I know the South Side Bistro is there, it's going to be hard not to 'forget' my lunch more often!

Wings Snap Losing Streak

I will be posting a more lengthy blog later tonight, but I just had to spread the news that THE LOSING STREAK IS OVER. The Red Wings pulled out a 4-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche last night. Props to Ozzie for the shut-out and to Cheli (!), Fills, and Hank for the goals (Zetterberg scored twice). The downside is that Nick Lidstrom was injured, hopefully not too badly. We never like to have Nicky out of the line up for too long and we've been a little short on defensemen lately. However, I hope this decisive win means they will pick up some momentum and skate (ha ha) through the next few games.

More later!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Inne the Know

Well, it's been a bit of a busy weekend. Let's start with a progress report:

Miles run: 4 on Saturday, 0 on Sunday - my shins were killing me. I am DEFINTELY out of shape.

Scarf length knit: Only two rows. Haven't watched a lot of TV. I expect to get a foot or two done when I go downstairs to watch Dexter (on CBS! I have dying to watch this show but we never had Showtime). Once the scarf is done, I am biting the bullet and buying double-pointed needles. It's time to move on.

Problems encountered with hobbies today: None. Starting putting the yarn/needles/etc back in the tub and putting the lid on so Ralph can not eat any more works-in-progress.

Red Wings Report (new addition to the progress report): ANOTHER LOSS. I believe this is six in a row. I have scoured my brain and can say in good conscience that I do not think I personally have done anything to jinx the team. I checked with Kristen today and believe her to be in the clear as well. This leaves only one option: The Wings are playing BADLY. And why was Jimmy Howard not in goal against COLUMBUS? Why did we just throw him in against DALLAS? (Sorry about all the capitals but I feel strongly about my team.)

All right. On to the good stuff. As I said, it's been a busy weekend!

Noe and I kicked off the weekend with a Friday night dinner at the Daniel Packer Inne in Mystic. I've had a hard time with restaurants out here. I know I am a restaurant snob...but I really do try to be fair in my assesments. Yet 90% of the time I have ended up dissapointed, or if not dissapointed certainly not enthusiastic. This has been particularly true of the fine dining establishments.

I never really gave the Daniel Packer much consideration, mainly due to the fact that our realtor pointed it out as a "nice place" and I was - to put it diplomatically - less than fond of our realtor (that's another blog for another day). But when Chad Stoner raved about it over a few beers the night we happened to catch him in Groton, I figured it might be worth a try.

I have to say, I was impressed right out of the gate. The wine list was at least more interesting (if not terribly extensive) than other area restaurants we've tried, our server was polite, quick, and knowledgeable (trust me, good service has been a rarity around here) and...instead of just butter, our server brought out a whole head of roasted garlic with toasted baguette. (You've heard the phrase "You had me at hello?" Bringing me free roasted garlic with my bread is more or less my food equivalent.)

Things got a little rocky after that.

A stuffed portabello mushroom appetizer proved to have too much cheese - there was no other substance to add texture and the meaty flavor of the 'shroom itself was completely overpowered. A mixed green salad with a champagne-strawberry viniagrette (from the nightly specials menu) was DRENCHED in dressing. There was a pool of it in the bottom of the bowl. The candied walnuts the menu promised were not whole nuts but appeared to have been ground in a nut grinder and there was barely a sprinkling.(To be fair, the clam chowder that Noe had for this course was delicious, if not dynamic.)

Needless to say, my hope started to deflate a little. Was I going to have another subpar dining experience? Then the entrees arrived.

Upon my first cursory glance at the menu, I was immediately drawn to a filet with two sauces, one being a roquefort sauce. Delicious, I thought. Like my favorite dish at the Earle.

Warning bells went off in my brain. I ate that filet with roquefort all four years I worked at the Earle and was never dissapointed. I ordered it when I went there with Noe's group for holiday parties. I didn't love any entree in Ann Arbor the way I loved that filet.

Why then, would I even consider ordering a steak with roquefort sauce anywhere else? Was I trying to sabotage my dining experience? I knew it wasn't going to be the same, and I could only be dissapointed. Common sense won out and I ordered Scallops Nantucket, made with local Stonington sea scallops.

This proved to be an excellent choice. The scallops were plump and juicy and not at all overcooked, baked in a casserole dish with herbed butter, bread crumbs, and topped with cheddar cheese. Unlike the portobello appetizer, the cheese on this dish was complementary rather than overpowering. I can say with complete honesty that I have never tasted a better scallop dish than this one.

Noe went with a meat option - a sirloin that started in a saute pan and finished on a grill. The grill flavor was amazing and partnered well with the sauteed wild mushrooms and Jack Daniels demi-glace. Both entrees were served with whipped potatoes and presented beautifully.

Dessert - we had to try it - was tiramisu, something I also hold to an Earle standard (shout out here to Richard Brandon, who made the best tiramisu I have ever personally tasted and have tried to replicate ever since). This tiramisu was more dense than other varities I've tried, and instead of being dusted with cocoa was topped with a semi-hard chocolate coating...but it still had amazing chocolatey-espresso flavor and layers of deliciously sweetened mascarpone cheese. (MUCH better than Olio's version, which is more like flan.)

All in all, I had a very good experience at the Daniel Packer. I'm going to chalk the drenched salad up to the fact that it was a special and try something from the regular menu next time. I have no issues at all with the entrees or the service - this may be the best waitress we've had in Connecticut.

Wow. When I get going on food I really go on and on, don't I? This is a long blog. I guess I'll save my blog about the New London Winter Film Festival - which the rest of our weekend centered around - for tomorrow!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Progress Report

Miles run today: 1.5 (hey it was at lunch - it's sort of a miracle I did any at all)

Scarf length knit: None yet. This gets done while I watch TV.

Problems encountered with hobbies today: 1 - see photograph. Ralph managed to chew all the way through the piece of yarn connecting the scarf and the ball. Not overly traumatic, but forces me to have to integrate new yarn sooner than planned.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Let's Give 'Em Something to Blog About

I had to give up a lot of things when I came to Connecticut - indoor soccer team, my best friend, Sidetrack burgers, and Bell's Oberon all come to mind.

I also had to give up my tennis lessons. In Ypsilanti, I was extremely spoiled in the sense that the township had hired Ryan Rooney and Gary DeGuzman to teach the six week tennis courses, and they subsequently decided to independently host pay-as-you-go, $15-per-session Tuesday night and Saturday morning clinics all summer.

Here in Connecticut, I guess the only people who actually need tennis lessons are middle-aged housewives, because the clubs only teach them on WEEKDAY MORNINGS. And they definitely do NOT cost fifteen bucks.

I complain all the time that I have nothing to do here (meaning Connnecticut). While this is somewhat true, it's not entirely true. I recently realized that I have inexplicably given up hobbies that I could very easily be doing here - even more easily since I have no friends now.

Take running, for example. Yeah, I never LIKED it, but I DID it. I ran three half-marathons between October 2006 and June 2007 (Detroit, Nashville, Indianapolis). Why am I not going out for a run every night? It's not like I have a soccer game or tennis lesson to go to.

Or knitting. I had my movers move an entire Rubbermaid storage tub of yarn and knitting needles from Michigan to Connecticut, and what have I completed since we've gotten here? Nothing. Not even a scarf. Not even a potholder. So much for this being the winter I learned to knit socks.

See the writing blog below. I should have written a freakin' novel by now. I have no excuse not to bang out a few pages every night - it's not like I'm going out. At the very least, I should be a prolific blogger.

Pretty much the only hobby I have kept up with since I have moved is wine tasting, and I am pretty sure that when you are doing that by yourself in your own home a bottle at a time that they just call it "drinking too much."

(I don't actually drink a bottle of wine a night, just for the record.)

I have decided that it is time to change some of these things. Yet instead of checking things off one thing at a time like a normal person, I signed up for a half-marathon, knit three feet of a scarf, and blogged two rather lengthy entries all in one evening...and drank half a bottle of Australian Chardonnay (NO, it was not Yellow Tail, and YES, I have an excuse - it's Valentine's Day).

At least this should give me something to blog about, right? (Y'all better read it!)

Selling Out?

Something happened today that hasn't happened to me in over a year and a half - I did not read one single online news publication while at work. I did not even scan the New York Times headlines while at work, because I did not check my personal email at work.

That's right - I was busy. All day. What a change of pace from the last 18 months!

To be fair, when I was an in-house pharmaceutical journalist (you know which company) I scanned the headlines every day as part of my job - I was looking for stories relevant to the company or the pharmaceutical industry that I might be able to use in my own line of work, which was writing and editing an internal company newsletter. I have no excuse for every other job since then except for the fact that I have not been busy - or happy - in any other job.

At least I have busy covered now. However, I still feel like I am moving farther and farther from my skill set and what I intended to do.

For instance, I haven't written a feature story since I left pharma. I wrote some lame press releases in my nonprofit life, but let's face it - my psychotic boss wasn't letting me do a lot of work, and after awhile I lost the will to try.

Now I'm not writing at all. I'm kind of sad about this. I really enjoy researching,writing, and editing a piece. I get immense satisfaction in seeing something through from start to finish. I know I said I never wanted to be a reporter, but to not be writing at all just seems a little odd. A bit disheartning. It kind of makes me wonder why I did all those unpaid internships and wrote for our crappy student newspaper. Why I worked my ass off for eight bucks an hour in Advancement Communications at EMU (OK, THAT I actually did because I loved it. I did not love making eight bucks an hour when freelancers got paid $0.50 - $1.00 per word, but I loved the work itself).

Can I really not find another writing gig or am I not looking hard enough? I suppose I could find freelance work, but I feel like I'd have to start at the beginning again - unpaid assignments for little-read publications. Do I want to spend my nights drafting promotional copy for tourist rags? Provided they even want my copy, that is.

Maybe I do. Maybe I don't. I haven't decided yet. But until I do, I guess blogging can fill the void.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Uno! (Not the card game)

I know dog shows aren't really the hip and trendy thing to watch, but I want to give some love to Uno the Beagle who managed to win Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. No Beagle has ever won Best in Show, and in fact, don't even win the hound group that often. Snoopy would be proud.

You can read more about Uno's win in the New York Times article "Beagle, a Breed Long Unsung, Wins Best in Show".

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Richard Zednik

WOW. Did anyone else see the Richard Zednik throat cut? (Well, it's all over YouTube, so some of you must have seen it.)

I don't even know what to say. Freak accident. And as bad as I feel for Zednik, I feel worse for the guy whose skate it was. Total accident - but how do you not feel awful?

This does not show graphic imagery of the actual cut, but rather some news coverage and reactions. Those who want to see the cut can find it - I found it easily enough.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

That's My Girl

I'll admit, I first bought Amy Winehouse's album because her name sounded like mine. I read about it in some magazine or online publication - it was before it had been released in the United States. And I bought it as an import - and probably paid way too much for it - without ever hearing anything on it. Like I said, her name sounded eerily like mine and the review said she had a sixties-thing going on with her sound. Everyone knows I love motown and girl groups, so I figured why not?

I buy maybe one CD a year (seriously, I never buy music and half the time still don't even remember to download it) and this was the one I picked last year. And I was NOT dissapointed. I loved that CD from the first minute I played it. It was the only CD in my car stereo for about five months, no exaggeration. I spent a lot of time trying to convince friends to give Amy a listen, but most of them declined (in their defense, it's probably because I do normally have horrible and/or outdated taste in music).

Because I bought my CD as an import, the cover doesn't look like the one released in the United States. Amy hadn't yet adopted the beehive and she either doesn't have as many tatoos or they are not all visible. I don't think she has the cat-eye eyeliner going on yet, either.
I have nothing against her beehive and tatoos - I kind of like the beehive, to be completely honest. But I was slightly disturbed after reading the Rolling Stone article that appeared about her last June (Amy Winehouse On Fighting Her Inner Demons and the Just-Married Life) that chronicled what was at the time suspected drug use and a struggling marriage.

Of course, she proceeded to publicly fall apart after that. However, I hoped that people would continue to appreciate her music and not just her tabloid value. And it appears they did - she was nominated for six grammy awards.

I was glad to see her appear somewhat healthy and happy on the show. I thought she sounded good (although I prefer the slower, torchy arangement of "You Kow I'm No Good" on Back to Black better than the speeded-up television performance) and I thought she looked good, too (although the beehive has to be a wig; not that long ago she had short bleached hair). I kind of enjoyed her shout-outs to Blake incarcerated as well.

That's pretty much it - I don't usually watch the music awards shows unless Bruce Springsteen is going to be involved and I tuned in solely out of fear that Amy was going to bomb her performance Britney-style. But she didn't. I hope this is an indication that she is getting better and will produce many more records in the future.

And for those of you who, like me, can't get enough Amy - download or buy her first album, Frank. It's different than Back to Black (jazzier) but it showcases her voice really well.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Facing the Truth...

...that it must have been a slow news day for the New York Times to devote an entire article to the phenomenon of "face washing", a move familar to many hockey spectators. (click here to read A Sweaty Hand in the Face: On the Ice, It’s Perfectly Fair ).
Not that I'm complaining. There seems to be a severe lack of hockey and hockey coverage out here. I'll take what I can get. Perhaps I was spoiled by the Detroit Free Press and their near-worship of the Red Wings over the past 11 or 12 years, but still - I'm hurtin' right now.

Cheli, Ozzie, Drapes, Maltz - the boys are all there playing their season without me. Giving up Wings games at Joe Louis Arena was perhaps the hardest thing to give up (besides Becky) when I left Michigan. I can hardly ever manage to catch the game son TV, and it's just not the same anyway.

Having Shanny two hours away at Madison Square Garden is hardly a worthy substitute, mainly because A) Madison Square Garden is two hours away in the middle of New York City - NOT the most accessible venue, particularly on a weeknight and B) Rangers tickets get ridiculously expensive and hard to get.

As for making the Bruins my substitute team...well...yeah, that is just not going to happen. Although I give style props to the kid I saw at the game wearing the foam bear head (his face was in the jaws - it was pretty impressive).

I was lucky enough to see the Wings in Boston last weekend, and while it was fun, it lacked the spirit of a Wings-Blackhawks game in Chicago...or a Wings-Anyone game at home. I never thought I'd yearn for those 18 games against Columbus, but I'd take them right now.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

California "Rock"-ed their vote...and I'm not talking about the Primary

Apparently some crazy hippies in San Francisco want to turn the island that currently houses Alcatraz into a "global peace center" (read more in the New York Times blurb "California Voters Reject Proposal for Peace on the Rock").
Personally, I think this is crazy. I've been to Alcatraz and I find it fascinating. Yes, it is an old prison sitting on one of the most beautiful spots in the world - which is precisley what made it such a punishment. It housed some of the most notorious criminals in U.S. history (Hello, Al Capone!) and has spawned countless books and movies of both the fact and fictional varieties.

The suggested structure kind of reminds me of Epcot Center:

I checked out this group's website out of curiosity. It's pretty new-age hippie: "By Converting Alcatraz Island, a place of pain and suffering,Into a "JEWEL OF LIGHT". We will activate Powerful Forces for Cooperation, Reconciliation & Healing."

Yeah, right. Tearing down a piece of history isn't going to lay the foundation of peace, or bring tourism dollars to San Francisco. Leave Alcatraz alone. Save the Rock!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Current Events

Some interesting tidbits from various internet news sources:

1) The New York Times - Symptoms: Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda
All the fitness magazines and diet gurus preach that soda is bad. But diet soda has no calories, so it can't be THAT bad, right? Think again. Deep down I knew that calories or no, there really couldn't be any way that aspertaine and caramel coloring were good for me, but never would I have guessed that Diet Coke had more of an impact on my cardiovascular health than, say, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yet that's what studies seem to be showing.

Now I am by no means a big soda drinker, but when I start to crash and burn around 2:00 p.m. I go for the occassional DC...however, this may be the motivation I need to give it up for good (or at least go back to my 'only in restaurants' rule that I abided by for twenty-odd years).

To read this article, click the headline or paste this link into your browser:

2) Portfolio.Com - Lilly's $1 Billion E-Mailstrom
Having worked in the pharmaceutical industry and receiving the occassional email never meant for my eyes, I cringed when I read about Eli Lilly's retained lawyer attempting to email another company-retained lawyer some extremely classified information - and accidentally emailing it to a New York Times reporter (although while cringing for the lawyer, how cool would it have been to have THAT scoop land in your inbox unexpectedly?!) Although Lilly is retaining the law firm that employs the lawyer, I can't imagine that she won't face the music.

To read this article, click the headline or paste this link into your browser:

3) The New York Times - Bordeaux's a Bargain, and Here's Why
Okay, this doesn't have a lot of news value, but I enjoyed it because my local wine store newsletter last week sang the praise of the $10 - $15 Bordeaux and nothing this article picked was less than$38. (Oh wait, I was mistaken - the very last wine on the list is $19. Still more than $10-$15.)

Here is my local wine store - Thames River Wine and Spirits - offering their take on the '05 Bordeaux selection:
"Okay, the '05 Bordeaux are creeping in the door, and I am proud to announce: We've got SIX, count them, SIX '05 BORDEAUX under $15!!! The Gravat is one of my personal favorites, and it's only ten bucks. Lovely, earthy, unmistakably French, from a small artisinal domaine. This is not a collector wine, it is French table wine made for French people. Don't let the low price scare you: Chateau Gravat is a small winemaker in Medoc which belongs to a collective of small houses (whose wine we also have), represented by an exporter in Blanquefort who bottles and directly exports it. No advertising, low production costs, so the winemakers tend to their vines and and their cellars, while the exporter worries about how to get it to nuts like us in the U.S. who want the real deal! "

I may be buying, tasting, and of course blogging about some Bordeaux this week.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Miss Becky

10) She laughs at every single thing I say even when it is not remotely funny, and sometimes she even tells me "That was SO funny!"

9) We should be stripping wall paper and scraping paint together...we were completely robbed of the joy in becoming home owners at the same time.

8) I have no one to go to Starbucks with (this might be an opportune time to point out that there really aren't a lot of Starbucks around here, either).

7) Becky is a terrible emailer and I am a horrible phone-caller. This doesn't bode well for a long-distance best friendship.

6) Nobody mistakes me and my friends out here for lesbians.

5) Ross Huetteman runs a close second to Dave Peruski in the "My Favorite Dads That Are Not My Dad" contest.

4) Becky just started drinking beer again right before I moved. That's a lot of unconsumed beer at Sticks just going to waste.

3) It's not as fun to make fun of Steve behind his back if Becky isn't there...of course, Steve isn't here either so I guess I am not doing much of that anyway.

2) Because when you love somebody (till the end of time), when you love somebody (always on my mind), no one needs you more than I need...oh, sorry, did I just slip into Chicago's You're the Inspiration for a minute?

1) Because she is my best friend. Duh.

I Love My Kitties

Just had to share this photo of my kitties when they were babies. This is when they first came to the Ann Arbor Cat Clinic as part of this whole litter. Miraculously someone managed to take a photo of all five kittens looking at the camera (anyone who has taken a picture of a cat knows the overwhelming probability of ending up with a butt shot).

Our kitties are Sunny, the orange and white girl laying on top of everyone, and Ralph, the skinny-looking tan one with the huge ears in the front of the basket.

Aren't they the sweetest???

Monday, February 4, 2008

Rice Spice Awesome

All right. Rice Spice Noodles was delicious.

First of all, it's tiny - and the tables are very close together. This might be a detractor on a Friday or Saturday night, but on a slow Monday wasn't a problem.

The walls are painted a deep red which could have seemed stifling if not offset by an entire wall of windows on one side. Brown butcher paper table covers, pink and white tulips and lime green napkins also brightened up the room. The tables and chair reminded me of an ice cream parlor (hey Ypsilantians, remember Miller's in Depot Town? Like that).

But let's get down to the really important stuff: the food.

Oh, and the drinks. FYI - Rice Spice recently obtained a liquor license and now has a beer and wine list. You do still have the option of BYOB, but the $3 corking fee mentioned in the NYT review has gone up to about $20.

For such a small place, I was surprised to find a decent and varied wine selection. Rice Spice probably offers about 20-25 bottles and I'd say that about 10 of those are available by the glass (this will require a visit back to actually count the wines on the wine list). Another pleasant surprise was the selections offered: heavy on the French and no Kendall Jackson chardonnay in sight. Martha (my partner in dining crime) and I chose the Joseph Drouhin Pinot Noir (available for $7/glass). This pinot was light-bodied and smooth, though the flavor was mild almost to the point of being underwhelming. Still, if you don't like the "big" reds or really peppery pinots, you may enjoy this offering.

We ordered a spring roll appetizer (none too creative, are we?) They were small but nicely crispy, although perhaps a little too heavy on the fried wrapper and a little too light on the vegetable filling. The sweet chili dipping sauce that accompanied them was a perfect balance of sugar and spice.

The show-stopper of the evening was on the way, however: The Wonton Pad Thai, a resplendent (I know, the word 'resplendent' is a little over the top) combination of shrimp, fried tofu, fried wontons, egg, crushed peanuts, and sprouts all dressed in peanut sauce.

Shrimp Pad Thai is my regular order on the rare occasions I go out for Thai food, and I couldn't resist the idea of all that fried deliciousness added to it. And this dish does not disappoint. Although the majority of the bowl occupants are fried, the dish is not greasy, nor is it too heavy or too light on the sauce. The sprouts provided the perfect crunch. I could have done with a couple more shrimp, but that's not really a complaint - I always think I could do with a couple more shrimp.

The portions are decent-sized but not huge. They are also reasonably priced. My Wonton Pad Thai cost $12. I didn't have any leftovers, but I was full after eating it.

Most of the desserts on the menu have an Asian-Fusion feel - green tea ice cream, mango sorbet, you get the idea - but Martha and I tried a distinctly non-Thai offering: the Chocolate Lava Cake. The round of cake is about the size of one of those little strawberry shortcake shells. It's more dense than regular devil's food cake but less dense than a brownie. Served warm with a pool of warm chocolate sauce in the center and a dusting of powdered sugar, this semi-sweet cake was a delectable and rather decadent ending to our meal.

The long and short of it: I definitely would recommend Rice Spice Noodles based on this first visit and look forward to returning and sampling more of their menu.

Rice Spice Noodles Restaurant; 4 Roosevelt Avenue, Mystic, CT 06355; 860-572-8488

Rice Spice Skeptic

Tonight I will be trying Rice Spice Noodles in Mystic for the first time. Rice Spice is a Thai restaurant with an emphasis on the contemporary. In addition to traditional Thai they offer several Western-influenced and fusion dishes.

Rice Spice Noodles was reviewd by the New York Times (!) shortly after it opened in 2005. You can read this review here.

I am hoping since it is now 2008 and Rice Spice is still in business that this is an indication that the restaurant has worked through the service problems and inconsitencies mentioned in the NYT review. And I am somewhat excited about the prospect of choosing a wine beforehand and taking it to the restaurant with me, seeing as how I've been less than impressed with wine lists in general around here - although being slightly on the broke side this week, my selection will probably be along the lines of Yellow Tail (I probably shouldn't joke about that - I've seen Yellow Tail on some wine lists out here and they are not restaurants where I would have expected it.)

Anyway, I am off to dinner. I'll post an update later tonight.