Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why my Cat Hates Holidays...

Have I mentioned that I have the best cat ever? I realize that is like a parent saying that they have the cutest baby, but still. Look at that! She is the equivalent of the guy that is so secure in his masculinity he can dress impeccably, discuss feminist literature and then rush off to ballet rehearsal. She is such a sass bag but never feels the need to prove it.

We finally decided to get some pictures with the pets in their holiday get-ups. Really, what is more funny than animals in people clothes? Nothing.
Bennet was a little confused and annoyed by the Santa hat but that was only cause there was an elastic strap under his chin. Once it was on and settled he was fine with it. Lizzy, on the other hand, is always the tricky one. She struggled at first, but after the second attempt she realized that we weren't going to give up. You could see the wheels turning in her little cat brain.

It was like she said, "Fine, if this is going to happen here is how it's going to go down. Get this stupid thing on my head. Put me down where ever you want cause it is throwing off my equilibrium, and I will stand still for 5 seconds. No more, no less. Then I am
peacing out and we won't speak of this again. Understood?"

And that is exactly what she did. I swear that cat didn't move. It was almost unnatural. I am not sure she even took a breath for those 5 seconds. She just sat there looking as irked as a 13 year old forced into an ugly Christmas sweater. I got 3 or 4 shots off my camera, then she shook off the antlers and we didn't see her for 10 minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Post of Plugs

I have been in the kitchen a lot. There has been excessive amounts of cooking and baking in our place. For example I made from scratch chocolate chip cookies in record time Saturday evening. I went from pulling ingredients from the pantry to on the cooling rack in less than 20 minutes, total, bake time included. So between that and the new running habit Nick and I came to the realization that we should probably be paying a little more attention to what we eat.

This made me a little nervous. Total red flag. You see Nick is an avid Internet researcher AND a scientist at heart. So when some guy who claims to be a doctor provides theoretical data supporting his new book and this book outlines some unique concept that sounds like a could potentially be healthy, like, I dunno, the benefits of steamed cabbage or something silly, he eats it up. All buyer beware out the window h
e just sees an interesting experiment to be tested. Plus, so much of what you find are actual weight-loss diets. I am not obese, I do not have major health issues, I do not need some dramatic life change sort of thing. It would be like giving chemo to someone with a sunburn. I am pretty sure if I started putting dramatic restrictions on my diet it would do me more harm than good. Also, I can imagine nothing more annoying than counting carbs or calories or fat grams or whatever on everything I eat.

So Nick does his Internet research and I don't particularly encourage him. He finds some information on raw diets that he gets all excited about. He explains to me that when you cook vegetables all the nutrients get cooked out of them and there is a certain percentage of raw food some Dr. suggests you eat. I explain to him
that he makes a valid point and that I could have told you the same thing and I am not a Dr. so perhaps not that informative and not very well-rounded.

Then yesterday he is like, "Hey can we go to Barnes and Noble? There is a book I read about that I want to get. It was written by a Dr. and it is called
Eat Right for your Type" The word diet wasn't used and it sounded like "type" might refer to body type or lifestyle so I was intrigued. Once we got to the bookstore Nick explained that it actually referred to your blood type. He said the Dr. that wrote it had some interesting ideas on how your blood chemistry effects how your body processes food and exercise. He's all lit up with the idea of learning how to eat to benefit your body on the molecular level. I am just thinking this sounds like a kernel of truth wrapped in a bunch of crap, wrapped in hard binding and an embossed book jacket, then sold for $30. We find this book, which is hardbound by the way, and Nick asks what my blood type is and starts reading. He learns that, based on my blood type, instense exercise won't benefit me as much as yoga and meditation. I find that hard to believe but something I could jump on board with. Then Nick says that according to the book I should be a vegetarian. Now I am a Midwestern girl that refers to bacon as nature's candy and would probably slash some one's tires for a good steak. In fact, I don't even order steak unless it is at a reputable steakhouse to avoid the risk a being offended by a less than pee yourself good steak. So yeah, that book got the axe. We did however find two other books that I am super pumped about.

The first is Healthy Cooking for Two (Or Just You) by Frances Price, RD. Ms. Price is a dietitian who was also a food writer and restaurateur. So think well rounded meals that don't taste like cardboard and are complex - pg. 199 is Fettuccine with Lemon-Walnut Scallops & Asparagus. AND in portions that don't leave us with leftovers for the rest of the week. How delightful! I plan on trying it out this week.

The second is a book by Dr. Gillian McKeith called
You Are What You Eat. Dr. McKeith is a holistic nutritionist who has a TV show by the same name as her book in Europe. From what I can tell it sounds like What Not to Wear only she invades your fridge and not your closet. I started reading it today and, I will admit, it is a bit much. Since she is holistic there is a sort of food as medicine paradigm, which I can accept, but my first thought was "Holy Smokes, as much as I would love to learn to cook with algae, I cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods this much." But it has some really great and really thorough information in it. What I really like about this book is that it appears to be very well-rounded, she explains how it is healthy to eat complex carbohydrates, and proteins, and fatty acids. I am totally OK with anyone that says nuts and avocados are good choices. Also, she encourages you and gives you guidance on getting to know your body and hence learning what nutrients your are lacking and what you should be eating. There are like 3 pages of poop analysis, I crap you not. Pun intended.

Finally, while on this series of shameless product plugs I have one more to make. Several people have asked how the whole running thing was working out for me. While it has become a little harder to be as committed due to the holiday and all the rain that has past through the Charleston area recently I am still running. However, I am sure I would have lost interest by now if it weren't for the GPS watch Nick and I purchased back in June when I actually started running a little. For as much as I criticized Nick earlier in this post, I have a similar hang-up. As incompetent as I am in the arena of all things mathematic, I am a total sucker for statistics and analysis. I came fairly close to
failing honors algebra 2 in high school cause no one could explain to me a practical application for the quadratic equation so I became confused and bored, but I totally aced my physics class a year later cause I could analyze the equations as they happened. So when my friend Stephanie told me about the Garmin Forerunner (I have model 405CX) I had to look into it. This thing has a heart rate monitor, stop watch, calorie counter, pacesetter, and GPS which means the watch also tells me how far I have been running. Then I can come home wirelessly transfer all that information to my computer and see my run plotted on a map, graph my heart rate and speed and then archive all the info so I can track my progress. It was expensive, like buying a Garmin and a watch at the same time, but totally worth every penny.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Annoyances of Being a Nomad

Generally I consider myself as a "glass half-full" sort of person. Someone who really is willing to put up with a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of crap. Did I mention that my husband lost his debit card by leaving it in an ATM machine AGAIN last week? So yeah. I am patient. And if anyone asks about my little stint as the wife of a naval officer I generally respond with an impassioned speech about how awesome it is. The pay is good. I get to travel. They move all my stuff for me. If Nick leaves I get to have time to myself, act independently, do whatever I want. So it's like a the Hannah Montana version of single vs. married. But in all seriousness, there are some major annoyances. This is one.

Two years ago we bought our car shortly before Christmas, so now we have moved to Charleston and we get our invoice from the state of Washington for the renewal of our tags. Here is where things get confusing. You might want to get a sheet of paper to start a flow chart. Nick, being a member of the military gets to choose his state of residency AND his license doesn't expire. So he can legally drive around with his Washington license as long as he likes. BUT since somehow his paperwork got lost or was never filed, for tax purposes he is still listed as a resident of Kansas. Now, rumor has it that we can keep our car registered in Washington based on Nick's status. But I am not sure how one goes about doing that when we no longer have a Washington address. Also, since I cannot legally keep my Washington driver's license and since we have both our names on the title they ask for both our license numbers and I feel a little weird and confused about listing my new South Carolina license number on the tag renewal for Washington. So I am all like let's just get South Carolina tags cause, I don't know, that just seems like the right thing to do. We live here now, no jerk cop is going to pick on us for having out of state plates, AND since our mail had to be forwarded from Washington, to California, to South Carolina we didn't get this invoice until like two weeks before the tags expired so time was of the essence.

So I start the process of getting this all taken care of. I go online and find a form that exempts Nick from property tax. Super. Then Nick comes home all jazzed about this new act Obama just passed, which to the best of my understanding states, if Nick is a "resident" of Washington then I can be too cause, hypothetically I am only moving around to be with him. Get it? Ok. It's a federal act, so basically a general law that states are left to enact however they see fit. So I go online and find an information letter from the Dept of Revenue of South Carolina that states as a part of this act South Carolina says that any property owned by spouse or jointly owned with service member will be given the same treatment as if owned by the service member. So that says to me I should be exempt from property tax as well. Cool. Then I note the a caption at the bottom of the image of the document stating that South Carolina hasn't posted this on their official website yet. Awesome, just awesome. AND the document image is good enough for me to clearly read it on the screen but not good enough to print out. So now I have to go down to the treasurer's office with no documentation. (And, by the way, this is like day two of this whole ordeal cause I went to the DMV only to be told that I had to pay property taxes at the treasurer's office which is all the way across downtown.)

So we get our exemption form all signed and head to the treasurer's office, who tells us we actually need to go to the auditor's office down the hall and THEN come back. So we head there. We confuse the girl behind the desk with this mystical form with a notary style stamp on it from the legal office on base and then I mention this new act. And I don't sound like an idiot. I mention that I found a recent document, from their department, it wasn't posted to a website, part a new federal act, mentioned the act by name, yada yada and these office trolls look at me as if I have just told them that I can talk to fish and I have decided to start worshipping kitchen appliances as gods. The gal helping us just explains she doesn't know anything about it but she will call her supervisor only in time for her cubicle neighbor to speak up and tell her to get off the phone and assure me that I am wrong. She thinks there is an act that protects me from property tax when he is deployed. That must be what I am thinking of. I assure her that this was a very new act passed within the past month. She, again, snidely assures me that I am wrong. At this point I am fuming. I had wanted to bring some paperwork with me but I wasn't aware that it was totally my job to inform them on what was new at the state department of revenue. I can tell we are getting no where so we paid our $90 dollars and then go all the way back to the DMV to pay another $40 to get our plates. The DMV? Shockingly friendly and efficient. The tax offices? Can totally eat it. And I mean it. Makes me really motivated to figure out this whole new act and move my "residency" back to Washington so I can remain a "non-resident" here. Seriously couldn't give a rat's ass about my $90, I just hate being treated like an idiot riding on the coat tails of my husband.

The real fun of all this is I have yet to find some major concrete source of information on all of this. I am certain it is written down in some policy book somewhere. But I don't know where that is AND I am positive it is written in some crazy legal jargon that I could only manage to choke down with a bottle of tequila but then I wouldn't remember any of it so what good would that do? Thankfully, I have a wonderful lawyer friend who has helped me through some of more confusing points. (I love you, Stephanie, please be patient with me.) As well as a veritable barrage of really awesome and equally snarky wives who have had to deal with even more crap by virtue of being around longer.

So in case you are keeping score at home. Nick pays taxes to Kansas, has a Washington license, physically lives with me in South Carolina where I am a resident and have a driver's license. We have one car plated in South Carolina, one plated in Washington, insurance for South Carolina and somehow still receive a friggin' tax booklet from Connecticut every year. Freaks us out every time. We haven't lived there for like 3 years! We don't owe them any money. Why do we still get booklets! Damnit! Obnoxious, right?

Now hopefully I haven't accidentally admitted to some tax fraud or other infraction I was totally unaware of on the Internet. If I don't post next week, just assume that I have and that I am imprisoned somewhere.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Calorie Overload Euphoria

When we started looking for places to live in Charleston we had given up the ghost on finding a location like the one we had in Seattle. And we haven't. However, with every week that passes I feel a little more at home and a little more convinced that we made the right choice in where to live. Tonight was one of those evenings.

As it is Monday Nick and I met our friends Mike and Amy for Monday wine and fondue at the little shop in Avondale. We are regulars there now. That really is the great thing about that neighborhood. There are neighborhood regulars. People that show up for the wine tastings, I am just as likely to run into at the coffee shop and so on. One of the ladies we run into every Monday brought in pumpkin bread today for no reason. There was wine and free melted cheese in a pot. Really, how can you ever go wrong with dipping bread in melted cheese? That's right, you can't. Then we overheard that the girl who works with the shop owner every Monday (her name is Nikki) also works at the
Glass Onion, which is this little local restaurant about 4 city blocks down the road. We had already planned on getting dinner there so we asked what we should order. And does Nikki tell us about signature dishes. No. Cause they don't have any. Cause their menu changes daily. Instead she tells us about the dishes for that day, which meats were the best and the freshest etc.

Naturally, when we arrived we could do nothing but order everything she suggested: Grass-fed beef fillet with green beans and mashed potatoes, spinach salad with fried oysters, scallops with fennel gravy served over grits, and a bottle of Tempranillo. Let's just say, at this juncture in my life there are few times where I feel compelled to eat to the point of pain. Tonight I got home and sat, almost moaning, on the couch for about 2 hours. Worth. Every. Second. Let's start with the grass fed beef. I have never particularly bought into the whole organic movement. Sure, it is a nice thought and all, I understand the health arguments and the economic arguments, but in terms of taste, unless it is a tomato you just plucked from your garden, there isn't much of a difference. Grass-fed beef is a whole different ball game. Maybe it is just the grass or maybe you are tasting the happiness and freedom the cow gets from grazing. Either way grass fed beef is like the quarterback to the standard beef's towel manager. The salad included spinach that was hearty and fresh as well as oysters, that were fried, you just can't go wrong with that. Finally, the scallops were nothing but three tender medallions of sweetness that almost cured every hang up I had in life. They sat upon a bed of gravy and the creamiest grits I have had. Really, the texture could have been confused for mashed potatoes. It was like eating a cloud. We finished with a chocolate pecan torte that was prepared that morning by our wine shop girl. Something really nice about knowing who made your food, right?

Best part? The restaurant is run like a cafe. Totally low key. No fancy menus or plates or waiters. No lighting that is too dim to read the menu. No expectations to keep your voice down when you are all but screaming about how good your dinner was and no judgments when you gorge yourself to the point that you are leaning back in your chair moaning like a victim of a stabbing. There were even crayons to color the butcher paper on the table. Score.

These are the things I was worried I wouldn't be able to find again. Between the tourist infested downtown with all the boutiques I can barely afford to step into, much less buy from; or the restaurants downtown, which I love but can be crawling with moms from, like Missouri, with their embroidered sweatshirts, grumpy kids, and husbands wearing trucker caps (and not in the ironic sense) who just want to go eat where Rachel Ray ate; and the strip malls in the suburbs that have the grocery store, target and that one random Chinese restaurant that may be good but you are a little scared to try; it is very easy to loose sight of what a little urban space can feel like. It is the businesses that are doing what they do out of a vocation and doing it well enough to be successful in a place not buzzing with accidental business. It is the people that you run into frequently enough to rate a smile of recognition, or know what their usual coffee order is. It is the feeling of actually being a useful cog in the motions of economy instead of mere drop of gas in the tank. I feel like we have found our secret Charleston and I couldn't be happier about it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Accidental Acquaintance

I met and chatted with one of our neighbors the other day. I had just come back from a run and was taking Bennet out really quick before taking a shower when our neighbor, Jeannie, noticed Bennet and had to come say "hi."

Now I have always had a somewhat, um, modern approach to having neighbors, with a few exceptions. That approach is basically this. I will give you a courtesy wave in passing, make small talk with you if we are caught together in an elevator, learn your name when the time and place requires it, and if it appears someone is breaking in I will call the cops. It wasn't always this way. These behaviors, like so many of my behaviors, have progressively gotten more introverted and anti-social while I was working retail. Few things will make a general disliking of the human race the rule, rather than the exception, faster than watching a mom ignore her kids running laps around the store because she is too busy on her bluetooth (I realize the irony in being to busy with the little device that leaves your hands free to...I don't your kids) or helping another mom find a runway look for her teen daughter who is clearly tanning herself to death with mom's encouragement. Now that I am no longer in that environment I am trying to turn over a new leaf.

I only talked to Jeannie for a few minutes but I am already intrigued and, in a way, humbled by her. Even though she is the proverbial older lady that just wants to talk. I am, seriously like catnip to that genre of older folk. I don't know what it is about me but if I go to church and there is an old lady there that wants to mumble incoherently about nothing of consequence they will just gravitate towards me. And I will smile and politely nod and even enjoy the conversation until I have smiled and nodded to one too many statements that I didn't understand even after saying "Pardon?" two or three times. Then I get nervous, like there is going to be a comprehension test later or something, and I start looking for a way out. Jeannie is not like that.

She caught me while she was outside paying the guy that comes by every week to wash her 1998 black Cadillac. How perfect. And she is in this zip front nightgown with sea creatures printed on it and a terry cloth turban style wrap on her head. Then she started to speak and, my gosh, this woman sounds like she just walked out of the
"Garden of Good and Evil." I could listen to her speak all day. To get the full effect of this dialogue you really need to read this out loud and when you do really open your throat and speak from your throat and not your nose.

Jeannie asks me, "Is that a cohrgi. Why my fihrst huusband and ah had a cohrgi yeahrs ago when we live in England. Ah cahn still hearah the lahdies now with theirah british accents saying, 'oh thoose are the dogs the queen has.'"

I felt like a mint julep should have just magically appeared in my one hand and a paper fan in the other. We continued chatting for a few moments. For me it was small talk, for her it was a very TV digest version of what must have been a very eventful and, in seemingly many cases, tragic life. For example, there was a husband who was killed in a POW camp after like, I think she said 7 years, longer than McCain at any rate. Amazing. What is even the appropriate response to hearing a story like that? What she must have gone through! And that was just her first husband. My mind just reels at the idea of where she has been and what she has seen. Cause someone who was married to an Air Force pilot and lives in England doesn't just settle down into everyday housewifery, right?

But, I guess, that is the thing with people. The really interesting ones, the ones that can really teach you a lesson are not in a secret location. They are hiding in plain sight, you just have to be willing to listen.