Friday, April 7, 2017

Thirsty and Childish

April is National Poetry Month, so what better time than now to post a poem?

I'm currently reading Donna Tartt's The Secret History, and am about 1/3 of the way through it. In the passage I read this morning, one of the characters made reference to his shabby, self-given haircut being "very thistly and childish, a la Arthur Rimbaud." I'd not heard of him, so I had to look him up:

I see where Tartt was coming from.

Rimbaud had a rather short and tumultuous life, writing most of his poetry between the ages of 15 and 19, and described his poetic philosophy this way, in a letter to his mentor, when he was 16:

"I'm now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I'm working at turning myself into a seer. You won't understand any of this, and I'm almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It's really not my fault."
His style was a blend of classical and surreal, with seemingly-approachable poems often twisting in strange and unexpected ways. What follows are two of Rimbaud's poems - ones I find especially enjoyable.


Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned
with small flowers and berries, your eyes, precious
spheres, are moving. Spotted with brownish wine lees,
your cheeks grow hollow. Your fangs are gleaming. Your
chest is like a lyre, jingling sounds circulate between your
blond arms. Your heart beats in that belly where the double
sex sleeps. Walk at night, gently moving that thigh,
that second thigh and that left leg.

A Sleeper in the Valley

A green hole where a river sings;
Silver tatters tangling in the grass;
Sun shining down from a proud mountain:
A little valley bubbling with light.

A young soldier sleeps, lips apart, head bare,
Neck bathing in cool blue watercress,
Reclined in the grass beneath the clouds,
Pale in his green bed showered with light.

He sleeps with his feet in the gladiolas.
Smiling like a sick child, he naps:
Nature, cradle him in warmth: he's cold.

Sweet scents don't tickle his nose;
He sleeps in the sun, a hand on his motionless chest,
Two red holes on his right side.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Whole30 and Wholly Satisfied

At the end of January, Mr. Awesome and I decided that we needed to do something drastic to help our health and well-being. We were eating poorly (going out a couple of times a week, eating more processed foods and lots of sugar), had gained weight, and were generally feeling pretty blah. We were both feeling sort of sick, and tired, and something had to change.

So, after researching various eating styles and plans, we decided that, in order to really get the garbage out of our systems, we wanted to do a Whole30.

What is a Whole30, you ask?

For 30 days, you cut out all the processed garbage and potentially inflammatory foods that exist in our diets, and eat only real food - unprocessed meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and coconut. There are a lot of don'ts on the Whole30:

  • No sugar at all, except that which comes from whole fruits - no honey, maple syrup, agave
  • No grains of any kind, including whole grains, quinoa, rice, oats, etc.
  • No dairy, except clarified butter (ghee)
  • No legumes, like beans or peanuts, and no soy products
  • No harmful oils - no canola oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, etc.
  • No alcohol
Pretty extreme, right? Well, not really. I mean, yes - for someone who ate spaghetti and cereal and lattes and frozen meals and yogurt almost every day (like me), and someone who has a cocktail or a beer every evening (like me), this is extreme. But you know what? If I can't stop doing something for 30 days out of my life, in order to see some positive changes in my overall health and well-being, then I have a problem.

So on February 2nd, 2017, Mr. Awesome and I started our Whole30. And it's been incredible.

Day 30 was Saturday, March 4th. The overall experience for both of us has been nothing short of amazing.

We cooked every meal except one at home. The one we didn't cook - last Thursday - was at Texas Roadhouse and we had a very compliant steak, sweet potato with no topping, and steamed veggies. The rolls didn't even tempt us!

There's a great deal of talk about non-scale victories (NSV) with the Whole30 plan, because this isn't a weight loss plan, but rather a way to assess where you are with food, and what may or may not wreak havoc on your system.

For me, the NSVs have been many, most importantly to me right now is that my clothes are fitting WAY better. Yesterday, I wore a pair of jeans that had been relegated to the "not right now" shelf for 2 years. Last week, I wore a pair of corduroys that I hadn't wore in so long, there was a lunch receipt from May 2015 in the pocket. My stomach is flatter, my thighs are slimmer, my face is slimmer. I like this direction.

From just about the first day, I've had more energy and a clearer head. I describe it like having that "after-exercise" clear head all the time, instead of just after exercise. I don't have stomach aches or bloating at all, and I feel like my asthma is better. I'm generally happier, and haven't had a random mood swing (except this week when I got my period and my dog died - more on that later).

My cravings for sugar are pretty much nil. And this is HUGE. I love sugar, and all things made from sugar, but I am totally satisfied by some berries, or the occasional Larabar, or even some almonds. I haven't counted a calorie in 30 days, and have really good strategies for dealing with cravings when they happen.

I feel more fit and energetic, and want to exercise more. I am actually considering taking CrossFit classes.

One of the hardest things to deal with has been what to do on weekends. Our go-to weekend activity has been going out to dinner. But when that's not a good option, we have had to find other ways to fill our weekend time. We went to a movie for the first time in months, and went to a Kansas City Jazz Orchestra performance last Friday night for the first time ever. Instead of planning activities around food, we plan activities around activities.

We planned and cooked every meal, and nearly everything we cooked was really, really delicious. Finding suitable - nay, better - alternatives to our favorite foods like spaghetti, and making homemade ketchup that's leaps and bounds better than anything sold in a store, has been revolutionary.

As for the scale victory - I've lost 14 lbs in the last 30 days and I have seriously never felt better.

Back to my dog... Finnie died last Thursday, very suddenly. She got sick from something she ate, and we had to make a tough decision and it sucks. Even through that, we stayed compliant. We didn't want to stay home that evening, so that's when we went to Texas Roadhouse, and even then we brought our own ghee and ketchup in little containers.

This past weekend was really hard - we miss having Finnie in the house and in our lives. Our house and hearts feel empty, and it's a struggle to make them feel filled. Late Saturday night, I thought I'd celebrate my Whole30 success with a beer. I took one sip and it was awful - way too sweet and not at all enjoyable. So I put a wine stopper in it and put it back in the fridge. Maybe I'll try a different beer another time, but I prefer a kombucha for the time being.

What's next? We have both decided that this is a good way for us to eat, and we're going to stick with it, skewing more Paleo. I don't know what we will add in or when, but it will be carefully considered when we do. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

For Grizz. May we meet again where the sun warms the ends of long days.

Enough by Robin Chapman

There is always enough.
       My old cat of long years, who
              stayed all the months of his dying,
though, made sick by food,
       he refused to eat, till, long-stroked,
              he turned again to accept
another piece of dry catfood
       or spoonful of meat, a little water,
              another day through which
he purred, small engine
       losing heat—I made him nests
              of pillow and blanket, a curve of body
where he curled against my legs,
       and when the time came, he slipped out
              a loose door into the cold world
whose abundance included
              the death of his choosing.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Her Long Illness by Donald Hall

This is a poem that speaks of pain, and loss, and patience, and frustration. But most of all it speaks of love.

Her Long Illness by Donald Hall

Daybreak until nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped
through the catheter into her heart.
He drank coffee and read
the Globe. He paced; he worked
on poems; he rubbed her back
and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
they wept and affirmed
their love for each other, witlessly,
over and over again.
When it snowed one morning Jane gazed
at the darkness blurred
with flakes. They pushed the IV pump
which she called Igor
slowly past the nurses' pods, as far
as the outside door
so that she could smell the snowy air.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Travel by Edna St. Vincent Millay

For my mom.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Time flies and all that jazz.

Time for one of those fun roundups I do every once in a while, because I haven't been all that great about posting. Strap on your booties, kiddies - here we go!

Back towards the end of January, we participated in our second Groundhog Run 5K. Neither of us set personal records, but we both finished with better times this year than we did last year. So hurray, us!

After the race, we went to the Kauffman Center and watched the musical Chicago. I loved it. Mr. Awesome didn't get violently ill, so I'll say he liked it all right.

February found us at the annual Anderson Superbowl party. Some snow prevented a bigger turnout, but hey - more food for us! Later in the month I dragged Mr. Awesome to yet another musical. This time, it was The Book of Mormon and boy, is that a filthy, hilarious, truly excellent piece of musical theater.

In March, Mr. Awesome ran in the Great Plains 10K and finished with a personal best time. March also found us outside a lot more, since Daylight Saving Time kicked in again. After work running - YAY!

And now, April, with all things baseball. After the spectacular post-season run by the Royals, we caught the baseball bug big time. This year, we bought a half-season ticket plan and are getting one-off tickets here and there for other games as we want to go. So far this month, we've been to four games. So much fun.

In and among all of this we did lots of running and walking and eating and laughing et cetera et cetera.

Bring on summer!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Adventures in Restaurant Week and other happenings.

Kansas City Restaurant Week (RW) started last Friday and runs through this Sunday.  This is an event where restaurants all over the city offer special discounted menus and donate a portion of those meals to various local charities. It's a great time to check out new places and visit old favorites. This past weekend we made an event out of it and hit up four local establishments.

For lunch on Friday, we went to Grand Street Cafe near the Plaza. It's been a favorite of ours for a long time, turning out consistently good food with the added bonuses of pleasant atmosphere, good location, and easy parking. Unlike most other restaurants that offer multiple RW options for each course, lunch here was a set menu with no options. When we arrived I was reminded once again how much I like the place. The decor reminds me of being on vacation, with the high ceilings, wicker accents, upholstered walls, and perfectly comfortable temperature. We ordered a couple of limeades (no booze - we're working) and the RW menu.

The first course was a beet and greens salad with a goat cheese and fig truffle. This course was a bit of a disappointment in its banality. It was too large, too overdressed, the truffle was too dry, like it had been made the night before and stored uncovered in the refrigerator. However, the flavors of beet and greens and vinaigrette are classic and we both ate most of it. Now we get to a couple of dining pet peeves of mine, especially when it comes to establishments that consider themselves on the higher end of things. The server removed Mr. Awesome's salad while I was still eating mine. This one is little, but still annoying to me. But this one I really hate: our entrees were brought out while I was still eating my salad. We had our salads for about 8 minutes, tops. Our table was too small for the big plates, so I asked them to remove the salad. That irks me like nobody's business. Don't fire the entrees until several minutes after the first courses have been delivered. How hard is this?

The second course was a steelhead trout with artichokes, potatoes, tomatoes and capers with a creamy mustard sauce. It was delicious. About this time, Mr. Awesome notices we don't have bread, but other tables do. We assume it's because we ordered the RW menu, until I see another server bring bread to a newly-seated table that had not ordered anything yet. We then chalk it up to a bumbling server.

Dessert was a smaller version of Grand Street's signature phyllo-wrapped brownie. This is another thing that sometimes bugs me about RW: when restaurants deliver smaller versions of their menu items when ordered as part of the RW menu. It's misleading to me, in a way. Again, it's probably just me, but it still irks. The brownie, though smaller, was flaky, gooey, and intensely chocolaty. In other words, it was amazing.

The short version here is the RW experience at Grand Street Cafe was a little less great than a normal visit. But the presented menu was a good representation of the types of food they offer.

For dinner, we checked out the RW experience at Swagat, an Indian restaurant in KC North at Zona Rosa. We've liked Swagat for as long as they've been open, but don't go often because, to paraphrase Cookie Monster (or Hootsie, if you want to get picky on me), Indian is a sometimes-food. The RW offering from Swagat was really appealing: the Swagat Dinner for Two, normally priced at $45, for $33:

Vegetable Soup, Vegetable Samosas, Chicken Tandoori, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Rogan Josh, Rice, Nan & Kheer or Gulab Jamun

That, my friends, is a LOT of food, for a little money. We arrived around 6:30 and had no problem getting a table. Unlike at Grand Street, we had to ask our Swagat server for the RW menu. He was a little confused, but then said he started working there yesterday and would go ask someone else about it. A short time later, he came back and gave us the option, which we promptly ordered, along with some Chai tea and raita (cucumber yogurt sauce to cool off the mouth when things get spicy). Feeling adventurous, we ordered our meal Medium instead of Mild.

So much food! And so spicy! Oh man, it was like a workout, it was so spicy. No more Medium at Swagat for us. But the raita helped and everything tasted so good, we ate through the pain. In the end, we had enough leftovers for another feast for two. Seriously, even at the regular price, this is a bargain. But for RW, this is a steal. I can't recommend this place, and the dinner for two, enough.

Stuffed full of Indian, we walked at the gym, then headed home to watch a movie. Someone at work recommended the Ethan Hawke film Predestination. I really enjoyed it, but Mr. Awesome was playing iPad golf or something and didn't pay close enough attention to get much out of it. It's sci-fi, but different and the performance by the lead actress (Sarah Snook) was very good.

On Saturday, we ate dinner at Zocalo Mexican restaurant. This was a new place for us, although we chose it because we'd had a terrific jalepeno cocktail from their stand last year at the Plaza Art Fair. With memories of warmer, longer days in our heads, we headed to the restaurant to drink some Jalepeno Coolers and eat whatever they had to offer for RW. Despite a reservation, we were seated at a tiny high-topped bar table. The restaurant was very busy, but it was still a little disappointing. It could have been worse - a group of four next to us were at the same sized tiny table.

There were several options for each course (four courses, pick any three, with an option to get all four for $5 more - so that's what we did), so we each picked something different (except for the second course). For our first course, we ordered a scallop ceviche and a mushroom queso dip. The ceviche was good, but not great. It could have used more salt and acid, and maybe some more heat. The dip, however, was fantastic.

We made them leave the huge plate holding the dip on the table while we ate our second courses - spinach and cranberry salads. These were huge salads, with lots of blue cheese and dried cranberries. They were okay - what is it with this salad? It's like the Meghan Trainor of salads - freaking everywhere and annoying as hell, but you still put up with it because there's a reason this formula works. I digress. While we were eating our huge salads on our tiny table that was made tinier because of the huge dip platter, our server kindly asked if we wanted to move to a booth that had just opened up. We jumped at that chance and ordered two more Jalepeno Coolers.

For entrees, I ordered a the Mexico City Sampler ("chicken enchilada, pork and egg enchilada, mole chorizo & short rib enchilada, elote") and Mr. Awesome ordered Red-Chile Prawns ("spaghetti squash, zucchini, jalepeno, brown butter, toasted almond citrus sauce"). These were both kind of disappointing. Mine was too much of the same heavy, smokey flavor, with everything running together and indistinguishable from any of its parts. The chorizo mole enchilada was too rich and fatty to enjoy, and the other offerings had no distinguishable flavors other than smokey and heat. Mr. Awesome's prawns were three dreadfully overcooked shrimp on a bed of oily spaghetti squash. The flavors here were better, but it was too greasy and the shrimp were sad.

Desserts were a much better experience. We ordered the Tres Leches Cake and the Chocolate Torte, and both were excellent. The tres leches cake was moist and creamy without being too cloying, and the chocolate torte was warm and melty, and the vanilla ice cream served with it was a perfect compliment.

We decided that, if we go back to Zocalo, it will be for drinks and dessert. Those they do very well.

After dinner we went home and watched the movie Birdman. I missed Michael Keaton in movies. I hope this is his resurgence, because he is so good. The movie was entertaining and different, in a good way. I can't say it was one of the best movies I've seen, and it didn't stick with me the way, say, Whiplash has, but it's good to see a film that is unconventional and original, but still approachable.

On Sunday headed to the gym to lift weights, The we went to Happy Rock Park, where we ran outside for the first time in over a month. The weather was perfect - up near 60 degrees, no wind, lots of sunshine. In under an hour, Mr. Awesome ran 6 miles and I ran just over 4. We celebrated our healthy behaviors by treating ourselves to yet another RW dinner - this time at our new favorite restaurant, Le Fou Frog.

We ate at Le Fou Frog for the first time about a month ago, and instantly fell in love with the intimate space, warm and inviting. We fell in love with the decor, and the charming Frenchness of it. We loved the servers, the boisterous kitchen, the proximity to our house (less than 15 minutes) and most of all, we fell in love with the food. When I saw they were participating in RW, it was a no-brainier and I made a reservation.

We were seated in a cozy corner booth near the kitchen. The place was full, as usual, but even full and crowded, it still feels intimate. We started our meal with cocktails - the French 75, a martini made with vodka, lemon, simple syrup and champagne. Since we were hungry, we started our meals with soup, a course not on the RW menu. I had some of the best french onion soup I've ever eaten - savory, a little sweet, mmm. Mr. Awesome had an excellent lobster bisque that was briny and rich.

For our first RW course, I had the Goat Cheese with Root Vegetable salad. It was a perfect size (not too big, not too small) and perfectly dressed. The seasoning was spot-on and the vegetables were crisp-tender. Mr. Awesome ordered the Vol au Vent of Escargot and Crayfish. It was a mixture of the proteins, garlic, parsley, and oil over a puff pastry. Drool. I am a sucker for escargot cooked this way, but it also usually makes my skin smell like garlic for a week.

Our entree courses were equally as perfect. Mine was a Quail Stuffed with Brioche and Foie Gras Sauce Perigoudine. The quail was tender and moist, the stuffing was earthy and satisfying. Mr. Awesome had the Shoulder Tender Filet au Poivre. It was cooked perfectly and he practically inhaled it.

Desserts were a Chausson aux Pommes et Poire (pear and apple tart) and a Mousse au Chocolat, which we split. Again, perfection, as was the coffee I had with dessert. As we were eating our desserts, one of the servers entertained the room with her rendition of the song Gimme Gimme from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (here's a video of then-Broadway-newcomer Sutton Foster performing it on the Rosie O'Donnell show in 2002. My god, that last note, amiright?). That's one of the most wonderful things about this restaurant, and it happened the last time we ate (with another server's rendition of "When You're Good To Mama" from Chicago). So Parisian. I could die at the table after finishing a meal at Le Fou Frog and have lived a good, good life).

We then went home and watched the movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey. It's about an Indian chef in France, and I thought it was delightful. A nice, beautiful, heartfelt film.

On Monday we had the day off thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so we went for a long walk at the park, then cooked some Pho Ga at home, then went for another walk before coming home and watching some Parks and Rec and Top Chef.

Oh - and I finished The Goldfinch - loved it. LOVED IT.

Then I started and finished The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. I liked it, but I'm still processing it so I can't say for certain if it will stick with me.

Today I started The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I've read a couple of his books in the past and they didn't disappoint, so I've got high hopes for this one.

Man, this was a really long post with no pictures. Sorry 'bout that. Here's an otter because otters are adorable:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="324"] See? Adorable.[/caption]

And here's a video of one of my favorite Tony Awards performances - Kristen Chenowith as Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown singing "My Philosophy" at the 1999 show: