Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Half and Half

I attempted the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday.
Technically I finished and I got the cool medal... but, I wouldn't go as far as saying I ran it.
I always have these delusions of grandeur in regards to races. I definitely did not train as much as I should have but I was like, "I'm just gonna push my body to the limit and run across the finish line crying followed by a huge dramatic collapse onto the ground as they ceremoniously put a medal around my neck."
Hmm, yeah, my body ran out of gas around mile 6 but I kept pushing for another mile and a half. And then I quit.
The night before I bought power bars and energy beans and shot blocks... and for some unknown reason I decide to only keep a packet of the jelly beans in my pocket. I ate those within the first 4 miles (they're really good) and so I was out of energy supplements for the race. I was so hungry and drained by mile 8 that I was seriously checking out the wrappers on the ground to see if anyone left some goo or cliff bars or anything behind. It was sad. I couldn't bring myself to pick them up though. Which was good. So I just dragged my feet for the remaining 5+ miles.
When I hit the last mile I was like, "Okay, I'm just gonna force my body to run..." and instantly my right calf seized up and started cramping. Awesome.
So, for the first race ever, I walked across the finish line. =(
I'm glad I finished though.

It's been maybe 2 months since I last went to Monday Night Knitting Group. 2 months!
I finally went on Monday and I was totally uninspired. For about 2 and a half hours I slowly browsed the yarn and patterns and figured I wanted to try to knit a tie but was too lazy to ball up the hank of yarn. So, I went home.
I tried to knit the tie last night and could not get past the first 8 rows. I kept messing up. I need to bring back that love and passion that I used to have.

Monday, September 7, 2009

You know, pumpkin flavored tears?

"Odd" Things I Cry For

I cry at the drop of a hat.
It wasn't always like this, I know I used to cry as a kid, but of course it would be for legit reasons. Like not getting a quarter for a gumball. Or because I was hungry and didn't want to eat green beans for dinner. That kind of stuff.
I think my 'other' crying started in college. It was probably a cumulation of spilled milk and Extreme Makeover Home Edition marathons. Yes, I cried over milk.
I cry a lot. I've noticed more tears flow for happy things rather than sad. Anything even remotely sentimental will have me bawling.
I've literally cried through an entire episode of Antiques Roadshow. It's that crazy.

Besides crazy I actually think it's hilarious. After a good cry session I'll start chuckling at my sappiness. ... and then I think about bi-polar-ness and hormones. Hmm.

My latest cry was at Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks.
Monday through Friday my regular breakfast consists of a Grande Soy (with Whip) Cinnamon Dolce Latte and an Oatmeal with Brown Sugar. I've become a regular at the Starbucks near my work and once they see me they get some Soy Milk ready to steam.
Last week the Pumpkin Spice Latte returned to the Starbucks menu and that morning the barista asks, "Are you having a Pumpkin Spice Latte today?"
I smiled and was about to say, "No, I'll just have the regular."
But she pointed to a tray of samples and said, "Try one!"
So, I did.
It's been cold in Chicago the past few weeks. Not cold-cold but noticeably chillier and we've had a super mild summer on top of that. Definitely a sign that Autumn is on it's way.
I love Autumn. Okay, honestly, I love every season. But, right now my biggest love is Autumn because it's next. I love the chill in the air and the colors and layering clothes. Something about it.

Well, this Pumpkin Spice Latte hit me hard with memories of Fall and I could feel the tears welling up. I tried hard not to blink because that would set the tears in motion. I choked out an, "I'll have this," spun around to pretend I was looking at merchandise but instead wiped away my tears and chanted, "stop crying! stop crying! stop crying!"
I realized I had to pay so turned around again and handed over my card. The cashier peered at me and asked if I was alright. I smiled and said, "Yes."
Stupid me decided to take another sip of my sample at that moment and was hit again by a wave of emotion. I choked and coughed. I tried to pass the new tears in my eyes as a result of my coughing. I attempted to casually walked over to the other end of the bar to pick up my drink. The barista handed it to me and noticed the tears. She asked, "Are you okay?"
"Oh yeah, I'm fine, just a little cough," I replied and then bolted out the door tears now streaming down my face, each drop a little bit of Autumn.

Pumpkin Spice Latte, you've got me feeling emotions. Deeper than I ever dreamed of.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Angels, Oreos, and Autumn

Signature Scent
I've been on a hunt for a "signature scent" for the past 4 years. I'd be able to wear my perfect cologne every day, it would be fine for morning or night, and just a whiff of it would make women and men fall madly in love with me. ... or maybe not.
In my signature scent fantasy I'd be so associated with the scent that whenever someone smells it anywhere else they'd think of me.
I remember when cK one first came out my cousin's entire family covered themselves in the stuff. I'm definitely not one of the people who find perfume/cologne overwhelming or annoying. When I walk by people I have a tendency to take a sharp inhale to grab some scent. Weird, I know.
I spent an entire weekend with them up in Wisconsin and until now I always associate the smell with them.
On a less positive side a friend of mine in college always smelled kinda mildew-y. He was actually very clean, it was his laundry that smelled. It was probably his washing machine at home. But, now whenever I smell something old/wet I think of him.

So, I want my signature scent. And after 4 years I still haven't found something perfectly suitable. I originally wanted something rare and hard to find and I immersed myself in Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.
Sadly, I found nothing that I loved (but plenty that I liked).
After trying a few more on-line perfumers I ended up switching to the department store colognes.
The most recent addition to my collection is A*Men.
Back in the day my mom had a good relationship with one of the women behind the perfume counter at Marshall Fields. For years my mom would stop in, experience the newest scents, chat a bit, and at the end Myrna (the perfume lady) would hook me and my brother up with a bag of men's cologne samples. It was a good deal and she was an awesome sales person.
The year Angel came out Myrna made a huge fuss about how it was so revolutionary. I smelled it and instantly thought chocolate and weird-ness and fell in lust.
Plus, it was a women's scent and being only 11 or 12 years old I had no money.
I didn't revisit the scent again until years later and by that time they already had A*Men.
And then, I never thought the scent would work with me.
During my switch into department store cologne I ran into a book at Barnes & Noble. Something something perfume something. It's a white book with a blue bottle of perfume on it. I know it's written by 2 people and they review hundreds of scents. I studied it carefully and created a list of fragrances that I would want to try.

Finally, last week, one of those little perfume boutiques was having a 20% off sale. I went in with my list (which I save on my phone so I technically have my list everywhere I go) and started my search. The place didn't have the largest selection but it was all laid out really nicely. I only found 3 on my list and after a quick sniff of each one I wasn't too impressed. And then I noticed a lone little box of A*Men and I snatchedi t up and went to the register.

I love how complex and interesting it is. It's so unique compared to all that "fresh" "blue" "sport" "water" stuff. I'm still not 100% sure if it suits me though.

I did the Chicago Super Sprint Tri on Saturday. The water was freeeeeeezing. Technically 64 or 66 degrees. But, it froze my kidneys.
My inhaling and exhaling came out, involuntarily, as moans throughout the whole swim. I thought I might be dying, despite the possibility of impending death I was actually really self conscious about the moaning. I was like, "I hope the people around me don't hear this." And after the swim it took me forever to recover. For the first 2/3rds of the bike I was breathing in these short gasps. And then during the first half of the run my calves were threatening to seize up and cramp. Each step a ball on the upper part of my calf would tighten up so I'd change my stride to relax the muscle. I jogged really awkwardly until my calves finally stopped threatening me at gunpoint. It was probably because I didn't eat any bananas or drink water that morning. Oops.
Overall I did pretty bad and it's kind of a sad way to end the season, but, I know what I need to do for next year. Hydrate, get my necessary vitamins and minerals (hello potassium!), and buy a wetsuit. ... and a road bike. ... and learn how to ride it... and learn how to run efficiently. ... and lose 20 lbs. Yay!

In other news...
The 103.5 morning show kept playing this Oreo commercial today. It made me crave them. Luckily, the vending machines at the office was stocked with a pack of 6! Yum.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 1

I keep starting blogs based on the phases I go through and once the phase dies away so does the blog.
Because my interests fluctuate so often I'm creating a blog for "all of the above." So, this will be my 7th attempt at a long-term web log. Welcome to Rare Orchid Brand.

I baked over the weekend. It's been a while. Maybe even like... 6 months.
A few weeks ago, Lora, my best female friend, and I planned a trip to The Peninsula downtown for afternoon tea in The Lobby. It was awesome.
For $36 you get a pretty large spread. Each person has their own pot of tea (I'd recommend their Lychee, it was a scented black tea) and an assortment of scones, sandwiches, and desserts.
There was an awesome quiche with micro basil... I finally lost my micro-herb virginity!
Also a dessert souffle, another first for me.

I was completely inspired to throw my own tea party. After searching and asking the Internet I found a few recipes to test. So, Saturday morning went out and bought groceries. I was gonna write down my list but used a cool app on my iPod Touch instead. It felt a lot easier and more organized. The app (forgot what it was called) organized my items by location so once I was in the dairy section I could see all the dairy-related items I would need which helped out with my aimless wandering and backtracking.
I get a little neurotic though when it comes to my iPod. I can only have it exist in two states, 100% on (not dimmed, or screen savered) or locked. When it's actually locked I become super hesitant to constantly unlock it which kinda defeats the purpose of having an 'easy to access' shopping list. As a result, I was walking around the store constantly rubbing my iPod to keep the screen on. But also being careful not to tap the screen, which could possibly mark one of my list items as 'carted'. Good, neurotic times.

I got home, left my groceries in the bags, went to check my e-mail and decided to take a 30 minute power nap. I woke up from the nap, convinced myself that it took me 15 minutes to fall asleep which meant I only had a 15 minute nap and then set my alarm again for another 30 and knocked out.
I wanted to bake while the sun was still out so I crawled out of bed, unpacked my groceries (didn't have to wait for the butter or puff pastry to hit room temp) and began my 5+ hour day of test baking.

These are the recipes I purchased ingredients for:

I started out with the Gougères. I'm not very cheese-savvy at all so I was looking forward to playing around with gruyere. It was yummy.
The recipe suggested making sure everything was set so that nothing was sitting around too long (mainly grating the cheese). I went mise en place all up in there--even measuring out the salt into its own little glass bowl. I found it a big waste of dishes. But at the same time it made me feel all cooking show-y.

Overall the recipe was super easy to follow and the cheese puffs came out perfectly and delicious. It was magic how they puffed up without any prompting from me.
I'd definitely make these again and experiment with different cheeses.

My next recipe attempt was the Proscuitto Dijon Gruyere Puffs.
This required puff pastry sheets and the action of rolling, both with a pin and with creating the basic shape.
I have marble counters but they're not sealed-sealed so when you run your hand along the surface you can feel tiny inconsistencies. I don't think I'm supposed to be rolling out dough on this surface so I pulled out my biggest chopping board which wasn't even big enough for the unrolled sheet of dough so I went with not rolling.
(Also, I don't have a rolling pin... but I have this mini fondant rolling stick... which proved to be useless).
I'm not dijon mustard savvy either. And the only time I consume mustard is on hot dogs and that's usually the neon yellow stuff. I ended up buying Emeril's Dijon Mustard. ...
Yeah. I was like, "I've heard of Grey Poupon... but I think I'll go with someone familiar... like Emeril. His mustard should be trustworthy."
Looking back I can't stop laughing at myself because I am not a fan of Emeril. I can't stand watching him. Especially hearing him. So, I don't know why I decided to trust in his Dijon mustard brand. I guess it's good enough, right?

The pastries assembled easily, were difficult to cut, and were very popular.

By this time I was pretty exhausted and my kitchen was a mess, but I plowed forward and attempted the Cantaloupe and Honeydew Cupcakes.
These were unbelievably time consuming. Lots of chopping (which isn't a skill I have), cooking, and assembling.
That batter was pretty simple though. Oil is a lot less work than butter.
I also made the filling too soon. I let it sit while I went out to dinner with some friends. When I returned it became all gelatinous and difficult to work with.

My friends enjoyed the cupcakes (as usual, I didn't try one, I'm off like that). The honeydew ones smelled like honeydew but didn't taste like it (I'll blame the melon I chose, it was not fully ripe). The cantaloupe were more flavorful. Both were super moist though which was appreciated by all.

After these cupcakes it was already 11:00pm so I quit my baking day. I'll probably attempt the peanut butter/chocolate/banana sometime during the week.
The crab stuff I'm not sure about. I figured I'd mix some crab meta with mayo and dill and spread it on bread... but, I'm really bad at guessing proportions and how things taste together. Maybe I'll try to find a recipe.

That's my baking day! And my first entry on Rare Orchid Brand.