Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Almost Done

It's almost 2010, or as lots of lazy people are saying, "twenty ten!" Is "two thousand ten" so hard? Wait, I need a minute. That tired me out a little. I do like Stephen Colbert's "oh ten!" so I maybe I'll go with that.

So it's almost O-Ten! Resolutions? Actually, this year I have a few. I had one last year but it seemed pretty redundant.

Last year I copied a friend's resolution to Say Yes To Adventure, but I'd already been doing that. It resulted in a fun new job I had no experience for and a move to Canada because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The rest of O-Nine was a constant Yes To Adventure - new restaurants, new foods, new routines, new activities, new sports, new road trips, new, new, new, new, new. That got old after a while. I don't think I need any help in saying Yes to New.

This year I'm getting back to basics while also trying a few New Things, all nutrition-related. First and foremost, for the month of January at least I will Say No To Sugar, Booze and Caffeine. I've never done this before, ever.

I've gone stone cold decaf twice before - some of the worst few days of my life until the withdrawals passed. But it was worth it - the sustained energy level throughout the day was a welcome change. I've been a caffeine junkie since I was a tweener, which is why I'm only 5'4". Kids, it's true - stay off the coffee until you're at least 18 years old.

The last time I went totally decaf I stayed "clean" for many years until a trip to Portugal. Oh dear god that coffee - that coffee is some of the best I've ever had. I opened a vein and let it jump right in and take me away to that blissful, chipper, caffeinated cloud far above the dull, sleepy sidewalks.

But now, so many years later, having been caffeinated for so long, my receptors are crusty & corroded. Just getting older is wreaking havoc with my energy levels, in that I almost never have as much as I'd like. Enter, the sugar problem...

Gotta Say No to Sugar. No more cookies, doughnuts, Peet's citrus bread & maple scones or coconut milk ice cream & chocolate sauce [sobbing]. Tastes so good, but hurts so bad. Stayed away from sugar for years, but got lazy and BLAM - sugar addict.

Finally, no booze... just for a month. Just for a thorough 30-day detox. Since we go out only one night a week, that's only four nights I'll cry quietly into a glass of water.

The only other New Thing I'm going to try in O-Ten is juicing. Been wanting to be a Juicer for a long time - non booze juicer - and I'm kind of excited to give it a try. Though it's going to be hard to not turn it into a coconut-tequila milkshake maker. We'll see how it goes.

I'll blog about my progress and I'll warn you now, it may be a rough few days at first, especially since in the past 24 hours I've consumed at least 10 very large cookies and there are a LOT more still sitting in my kitchen. If you're nearby, please come get them. Please.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thanks, Christmas!

It's been a lovely holiday - lots of time relaxing with the furry/feathered kids and enjoying being home again in Alameda.

We'd like to thank our sponsors - we couldn't have done it without you.
  • Super-Elastic™ Waistbands, Inc.
  • Sweatpants Unlimited
  • SexyFleece™ Bathrobes
    (The Original 'Blanket' With Sleeves AND Pockets!)
  • Tempur-Pedic® Mattresses
  • Ugg® Boots & Merrell® Slides
  • Castello de Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Tanqueray® Gin
  • Skyy® Vodka
  • Cinzano® Vermouth
  • Trader Joe's Spanish Olives
  • Don Julio® Blanco Tequila
  • La PiƱata 3 (Alameda)
  • Trader Joe's Brand Unbleached White Flour, Granulated Sugar and Chocolate Chips
  • Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss™ Ice Cream (Dark Chocolate, Mint Galactica and Cappuccino)
  • Hershey's® Miniatures
  • Volvo Cars of North America, LLC
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus
  • Band of Brothers Marathon on Spike
  • Diners Drive Ins & Dives, Holiday Editions
  • Mad Men Season 1, On Demand
  • Deadliest Catch Marathon
  • Steven Seagal: Lawman
  • Alameda Theatre
  • HDTV
  • Peet's Coffee
See you all next Christmas!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Guilt Cookies

This year, perhaps because I was so happy to be back home for Christmas, I decided I'd be a Santa's Elf and deliver sugary treats to our neighbors - chocolate chip cookies for the kids & biscotti for the grownups.

I've never done this before. Most of our neighbors "keep to themselves," as I might tell a reporter one day after someone down the street tries to take out the whole block with a truck full of fertilizer. For the most part, we're a well-mannered quiet street of Wavers.

With full plates & bags of freshly-baked cookies I skipped across the street to where Crazy Bob used to live to deliver the goods to a quiet young couple with two kids. They moved in just as we were moving out and even after we moved back, we've never exchanged a single word. I'm starting to think we scare people.

The wife/mom answered the door and looked perplexed, wondering who the weirdo was handing out cookies dressed in warm ups, a flour-dusted t-shirt and Santa hat. I told her I was her across-the-street neighbor and she look chagrined. She thanked me profusely and I felt smug as I cheerfully said "Merry Christmas!" and skipped off to my next stop.

I went next door to the Curmudgeon's house and knocked on their door. They've lived there forever and knew my Nana before she moved on to a sweet condo in the sky. His wife answered wearing an awesome Christmas sweater and she looked shocked to see me. I handed her a gift bag of biscotti and chirped "Merry Christmas!" and she fumbled out an awkward "thank you." I skipped along to the next house.

Really, I was happy to spread some Christmas cheer. They're not bad neighbors, just a little aloof and/or sometimes kinda rude. We have other neighbors we talk to fairly often & it was great to see them & get caught up. It was a lovely part of my Christmas Eve.

As I was making breakfast the next morning, the doorbell rang, which was odd - I'm pretty sure our house is on a Run For Your Life list used by solicitors, Jehoshaphat's Witnesses & Mormons. David answered the door to see Curmudgeon's wife holding a plate of cookies. He said she couldn't get off the porch fast enough & back across the street.

David brought the cookies into the kitchen and while it was a really nice gesture, it looked like they'd been plucked out of the trash & hastily assembled on a festive plate. Even the plastic wrap was crumpled and resting on top of the cookies, no cling left in it to stick around the plate.

If they weren't Bin Cookies, they were very likely Regift Cookies, but they were definitely Guilt Cookies. I'll eat just about any cookie on the planet, but these were awful. They weren't just stale, the flavor made my mouth cry. We tried to find one that was edible but no luck. They're Bin Cookies now, but it was a sweet thought.

Next year I'm going to bring her a nice big bowl of soup & see what comes back.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmastime Again

Favorite Christmastime quote, said by a little kid at Rockefeller Center while being interviewed by Mary Gross on Saturday Night Live sometime in the mid-80s: "You know who I hate? Perry Como."

No one else saw that sketch which makes it all the more special - the memory is mine and mine alone.

This is always a weird time of year. I want to love it, but mostly I'm just overwhelmed and it's upon us and over in a flash. Every year I do less and less, which I really enjoy, but there's a lazy aspect to it I don't like.

I totally forgot about cards this year. Forgot them on purpose last year, 'cause we were in Canadia and it just seemed stupid to spend a dollar a stamp for Christmas cards that end up in the recycling bin. OK, actually, it just seemed like too much work. The lack of sunlight made lots of things feel like too much work. Blame Canada. I do.

But this year I actually forgot until a friend mentioned sending out cards. Cards? Like poker cards? Oh, wait, carrrrds. Right. Not gonna happen.

Last year we didn't even decorate until a few days before Christmas. It was just the two of us, far away from all our friends & family. Why bother? I hadn't even packed our Christmas stuff in the move. David asked if we could festive up the place, so I found a nice fake tree at Canadian Tire, some cheap plastic ornaments and threw it all together - BLAM - it's Christmas.

Sure didn't feel like it though. It was a weird time. Nice to be together, away from the rest of the world after all the time apart in '07 (when he was working in the UK - I hadn't kicked him out or anything), but it was lonely.

On Christmas Day, bored after so many days cooped up in the house, we went to see Gran Torino. Great holiday movie if you like tense, depressing stories. Drove home quietly in the snow and the dark. Heavy.

This year I did manage to decorate - put up TWO fake trees, fully decorated, and even found more stuff at Target. It looks a little like Christmas. Barely. I need to hire Jeff & Randy.

(a few shots of their incredible displays)

As we have in years past, we'll continue our No Stuff Christmas - no shopping for gifts of any kind - none, zip, zero. No more stuff. Food is OK (except fruitcake - that's not food) as are joke gifts that can be useful, such as ExLax, Rolaids, Correctol or Gas-X.

David started the gastrointestinal-themed gift pack a few years ago and it's a valuable tradition. When something goes wrong in that department and you can't run to the drugstore? No problem! My "Get Right Pack" saves the day!

A few weeks ago I tweeted that we should have the entire month of December off to enjoy the season and I mean it. There isn't enough time to prepare or visit with friends & family. The whole month should be full of festive parties, outings, drinks, cookies, pies and twinkly lights.

Sadly, I have to get back to work now. Merry Festivus.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

CVS is S-A-D

While we were on the lam in Canada last year CVS/pharmacy bought Long's Drug's. It was sad news because I and many of my friends loved Long's.

By the way, what's with the slash? Is it a Consumer Value Store Pharmacy, or just a pharmacy, or just a store? Why not CVS Pharmacy? Or are they planning a whole collection of chains, like maybe CVS/oil changers, CVS/smoothie hut, CVS/guns & ammo? The slash is stupid, much like their stores.

Long's was my all-time favorite place to shop, and I hate shopping, but I loved cruising their aisles full of stuff. Where else can you pick up mascara, Kodak Tri-X Pan 400 black & white film, a Faucet Queen thingie for the kitchen sink, Dinty Moore beef stew, a $60 Bart ticket, moist butt wipes AND a nice bottle of wine for dinner all in one place?

Every Long's felt like a quaint, local drug store, regardless of which one you went to. Its many aisles were narrow and jam-packed with all sorts of goodies. All the usual drug store stuff, but also tons of food, snacks, candy, gifts, makeup, greeting cards, jewelry, clothes, housewares, plants, flowers, garden stuff, cameras, film, hardware, ice cream, wine and BOOZE!

When David's parents visited us years ago we stopped at a Long's to grab a few things for the road. In moments, David's mom's arms were FULL of stuff. She found me in another aisle and with big, wide eyes she said, "This store is AMAZING!"

It really was. There was something about it. Every store felt familiar but each had its own funky vibe - you never knew what you might find. A true shopping adventure.

When I heard they'd sold out, I was bummed. Another local business swallowed up by a crappy competitor. (Long's first store was on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.)

The other day I had to find those stupid little batteries for the cat's laser toy. I saw a former Long's/CVS nearby, so I gave it a try. It was every bit as disappointing as I'd expected and more.

Gone were the numerous aisles of good stuff, replaced by a handful of aisles set so wide apart you could cruise them in a forklift. Gone was the classic, bulletproof linoleum, replaced by a sad, depressing dark grey carpet. Carpet? In a drug store? You can't splatter a jar of pickles on that. The stains look great though. Stupid.

I walked around the whole store and mourned. It looked to have a tenth of what Long's used to carry and none of it looked any good. The displays are sad, the merchandising is sad - the whole place is just sad.

Even worse was the staff. I think they grow them in a facility somewhere in Winnipeg. I waited forever behind a woman trying to use a coupon and the cashier couldn't do the math. She had to call a manager, the manager wandered up to check the price of the item - I don't even know what happened after that - I blacked out. When I came to the sun was in a different place in the sky and I wanted to take a long hot shower and curl up in bed.

I was never a huge fan of Walgreen's but I'm going to go out of my way to find a Walgreen's rather than ever step foot inside a CVS/shithole ever again. Long's, it was a bitch move to sell out. You let us down. When I'm old and even crankier, I don't know where I'm going to buy my gallons of Carlo Rossi and tins of Danish butter cookies.