Blerg.

Cross Country Skiing: Oddly Up and Down


Pretty tricky action shot, eh?

Pretty tricky action shot, eh?

Since it isn't Spring yet, (Punxsutawney Phil, I will cut your feet off!) and I can't seem to melt the snow by glaring at it, I decided to glide gracefully on top of it with two tongue depressors strapped to my feet. Les bourgeois call this "skiing," I am told, but I think of it as "stick-walking."

A couple weekends ago, Alice and Mark and their Pakistani pal Gibran and I rented some cross-country skis from the Rec Center, and headed up to a beautiful Metro Park. On the way, we discussed everyone's level of experience with snow sports. 

Me: Well, the last time I went skiing was the Christmas my parents split up, so I don't have great associations with it...

Gibran: You know, I was skiing once at a resort near my hometown in Karachi. We were going to go back the next year, but the Taliban burned it down. 

You win, Gibran. 

I find that my body works better when I fill it to the brim with warm fatty liquids. 

I find that my body works better when I fill it to the brim with warm fatty liquids. 

Despite having been away from the snow sticks for 20 years, I sort of got the hang of it. Left, Right, Left, Right.... Alice and Mark are quite good, but they are Canadian, so they have an unfair advantage. And for someone whose winter fun was literally ruined by terrorists, Gibran was doing a valiant job. 

Me: How you feelin, Gibran? 

Gibran: (face-down in a  pile of snowy brambles) Like I grew up in a desert. 

 

This was Saturday. (I'm actually pulled over here to make way for 3 other skiers who were lapping me: An overweight octogenarian and her six-year-old grand-nieces.) 

This was Saturday. (I'm actually pulled over here to make way for 3 other skiers who were lapping me: An overweight octogenarian and her six-year-old grand-nieces.) 

Poor guy can't glide along on tongue depressors with alacrity like I can, I thought. But the universe heard me, and I ate my words, and about 10 pounds of yellow snow the next day when Alice and I ventured out again.

This was Sunday.                                                                                                                          (Thank you,  OakleyOriginals )!

This was Sunday.                                                                                                                          (Thank you, OakleyOriginals)!

I'd like to blame the track, which I'm prone to think was packed down and slipperier. I'd like to blame the wood nymphs who pushed me over, even as I stood still in the parking lot talking to Alice. But I can't fairly blame anything other than my big mouth and lazy glutes for the embarrassment that was Sunday. 

At one point, I had tried so hard and for so long to get up off the ground that I gave up on verticality altogether and started to inch along on the snow like a frozen worm. 

Winter's a bear. No--winter's a prevaricating woodchuck from south Philly.

But as cold and sick and miserable as we get, remember: Don't judge a man until you bumble a mile on his skis.  

 

$700 Ticket to the Ice Capades!

Merry Christmas, chubby birdies!

Merry Christmas, chubby birdies!

 

Just this past weekend, my friend Ativan (tm) and I took a trip from Columbus to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia to... points north. 

I keep Ati between 45 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and she keeps me from losing my mind and clawing the tiny tin walls of small airplanes and ultimately being tased and kicked off and made to walk.

We were doing just great--reading magazines, staring into space, etc etc...until just before we were set to land in Bangor, and the pilot informed us that the airport was closed due to icy conditions, and we were going to have to land somewhere else because we didn't have enough fuel to keep circling over Augusta.

Aye- here's the culprit. 

Aye- here's the culprit. 

And for a moment I thought, Oh oh please Lord, won't someone just tase me? 

Don't worry. It's just water...

Don't worry. It's just water...

So we landed in Portland, where we got some gas, sat on the tarmac for a long time, and were then ushered OFF the plane and into Portland International Jetport, (also closed), where we all kicked and scratched our way toward the vending machine, hoping to get the last tube of Pringles.  I won. Kiss my chips, Amir. 

Nice try, solar panels. 

Nice try, solar panels. 

Then we got on a bus. 

How do ya like dem apples?

How do ya like dem apples?

And after only a few hours, we rolled into Bangor Airport at 12:30 am. And Uncle Geoff, God bless him, was there to greet me, and shuttle us safely back to their warm house. Where Aunt Lucy had apparently gotten a jump on some filing that needed to be done. At 1:15 in the morning. She's unstoppable. 

So then I ate a traditional bowl of welcome oatmeal, and started to chat, but Pierre tugged on my arm and told me he had a better idea. 

Shove over, Pierre!

Shove over, Pierre!

Hello, World!

Fair Is Good! (Part 1)

Last weekend was the 985th annual(?) Ohio State Fair, sponsored by Bisquik and diabetes. Pierre and I were curious to see what would make it into the deep fat fryer, so we piled into Jill's car and made our way to the fairgrounds, where we were greeted upon entry by a 15-foot cardinal and a wide array of even wider people.  

 

I don't think Ohio's state cardinal has a name, so I'm gonna call him Bucky. Bucky Bird. 

I don't think Ohio's state cardinal has a name, so I'm gonna call him Bucky. Bucky Bird. 

Naturally, our first stop was the pig races, which were hosted by two beoveralled former I-bankers who introduced us to their flock-- gaggle? school? of wee piggies. I bet two dollars on Hamlet, and Pierre rooted for Notorious P.I.G. 

As you can see, Kevin Bacon is in the lead here. He went on to win the Golden Slop Bucket award.  

As you can see, Kevin Bacon is in the lead here. He went on to win the Golden Slop Bucket award.  

Things slowed down a little during the potbelly division.  

Pork and Mindy get sabotaged by a mid-course feed bowl.  China Doll took the gold with a gun time of 15 minutes. 

Pork and Mindy get sabotaged by a mid-course feed bowl.  China Doll took the gold with a gun time of 15 minutes. 

After the races, Jill inexplicably suggested we locate a purveyor of greasy delights, and nobody argued. But what to fry....what to try....?

Gisella says, "In Italy, where I am from, we have an expression for this: "acquistare adesso e paghi" or "buy now, pay later."

Gisella says, "In Italy, where I am from, we have an expression for this: "acquistare adesso e paghi" or "buy now, pay later."

Gisella opted for the jambe de dinde, or "leg of stegosaurus," which, despite its obvious violations of the tenets of portion control, was by far the healthiest choice made by the group.  

To wit:  

Gail's corn dog looks good enough to hang on a clothesline as a festive ornament!

Gail's corn dog looks good enough to hang on a clothesline as a festive ornament!

Gail ordered a corn dog, which is classic, and probably as safe a choice as any. Gail, by the way, went to grad school at UVA (or "U.Va.," as the style manual requires), so we are sisters in C-ville.   

This is just a preview of the debauchery to come...

This is just a preview of the debauchery to come...

Now I might take some flack for saying so, but I swear I could feel Paula Deen's buttery, slightly racist spirit as we waited for our mouths to open and our arteries to close. 

And while the rest of us were squinting up at the signage muttering things like, "fried spray cheese? Is that even legal?" and "doesn't the Fluffernutter catch on fire?" Jill knew exactly what she wanted: Six Oreos, un-boxed, battered and deep fried golden brown. Because there's no sense steaming those puppies.

Viewers of this photo will be forced to make kind of a Sophie's Choice. Which to ogle first: fried cookies or Gail's breast?  Just pick one, people. 

Viewers of this photo will be forced to make kind of a Sophie's Choice. Which to ogle first: fried cookies or Gail's breast?  Just pick one, people. 

We dainty ladies pretended not to want to eat all of Jill's Oreos, but Matt held up his side of the gender norm bargain. Lest we think he wasn't gender-normal. 

Matt doesn't quite know what to do with himself now that pure evil's touched his lips.  I am referring, of course, to the fried Twinkie. 

Matt doesn't quite know what to do with himself now that pure evil's touched his lips.  I am referring, of course, to the fried Twinkie. 

And Pierre's eyes bugged out of his head when he saw what I ordered for us to share. 

Why not take a childhood classic and deep fry it, just to throw off those new declining youth obesity stats from the CDC?

Why not take a childhood classic and deep fry it, just to throw off those new declining youth obesity stats from the CDC?

That there is fried peanut butter and jelly. (But please note the use of whole wheat bread). And did it appeal to Pierre's Franco-Prussian culinary sensibilities?  

Yes. 

Yes. 

And what goes best with a pb & j?  

Old Bessie here just about had it by the time I got to her.  She felt like she needed to be reconstituted. Maybe in a milk bath? Is that kosher? 

Old Bessie here just about had it by the time I got to her.  She felt like she needed to be reconstituted. Maybe in a milk bath? Is that kosher? 

A glass of milk. Fresh squeezed!

Hello, World!

Rachel, Run

This is me rushing toward Marathon with important news for the emperor... 

This is me rushing toward Marathon with important news for the emperor... 

When people ask me if I'm a good runner, I say yes. I say yes because I assess all attributes on the "diner comment card" scale: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent. I am medium at running. Moyen. Meh. My strengths as a runner lie somewhere between John Goodman and Oscar Pistorius (though I'm afraid my strengths as a murderer rank only fair at best).  I make up for in persistence what I lack in raw talent, and what I lack in persistence I make up for in peanut M&Ms. Who's with me? 

One thing I have little interest in is entering races. I am paid (almost nothing) by the hour, and I see no sense in forking over mad money to do something I'm going to do anyway, only paying to do it, and much, much earlier in the morning. 

One thing I do have interest in, however, is a bargain. And that's how I found myself, some time last week, credit card in one hand, $10 off coupon in the other, signing up for the Columbus 10K.  The race was $25, and 10 bucks more if you wanted the t-shirt. In a moment of idle chitter-chatter, I asked a representative from the running store sponsoring the race if one, hypothetically, could use the coupon to get a free t-shirt. The question sparked a talmudic debate among the staff, who agreed after twenty minutes that yes, in order to save one's own life, one could, hypothetically, eat pork. And yes, I could get a "free" t-shirt. 

"Well, let me get my sign-up sheet here, and will you be paying with cash or credit?" asked the assistant rabbi.  

They had me. I didn't want to seem like a lazy jackass by saying, "Oh...neat! Gosh, you all sure did answer that question, you did! Ta ta!" So I paid to do something I would anyway, except much, much earlier in the morning. 

Having run only one other race in my life-- the Charlottesville 10-Miler-- I was psyching myself up for all the cheering and fanfare and donut holes and water stations and music I have come to expect when I wake up early to go for a run I have paid for.  

And the Columbus 10K was pleasant enough. Nice route through downtown. Nice cops stopping traffic so we could scuttle through intersections, but the race was furiously, deathly quiet. The streets were not brimming with onlookers, and the ones who were there, just sat and stared. No music. No donut holes. Not so much as a "whoooo!" or a "work it, girl!"

This sweaty elf could not have been more excited to be finished running the Charlottesville 10-miler. 

This sweaty elf could not have been more excited to be finished running the Charlottesville 10-miler. 

Did they think I was doing it for my health?  I knew I couldn't start singing, because that's unconscionably obnoxious. So I started cheering for the bystanders. To one group of people sitting on coolers, watching from the sidelines, I yelled, "LET'S MAKE SOME NOISE!!!" and clapped like a gym teacher. It felt good to let off steam. To another, I hollered, "YYEAAHH SPEC-TAY-TORS!!" Middle aged women got a hearty "YOU CAN DO IT, LADIES!" And the funny thing is, it worked. Cheering for the lazy dingbats actually sped me up in the second half, so I finished with what the pros call a "negative split." 

By the time I neared the finish line ("ALMOST THERE-- WE CAN DO IT," I screamed at a silent group of children), I was all pumped up and ready to do it over. Tomorrow. And later in the day. And for free. 

 

 

 

Hello, World!

Four Eyes Are Better Than Two

You know those greeting cards with the animals that have normal bodies and enormous cartoon eyes? Well, it's a little known fact that American Greetingz contacted me several years ago because they know I am a veritable font of inspiration. As luck would have it, I had just been to a Christmas party, where my friend Gillion had very generously lent us her handsome plastic-rimmed specs. Weren't we surprised! 

Don't laugh. I own the rights to the idea of comically large eyeballs.  

Jan brings his Viennese good looks to any trendy eyewear. 

Jan brings his Viennese good looks to any trendy eyewear. 

Can Gillion believe her eyes? Can any of us, really? 

Can Gillion believe her eyes? Can any of us, really? 

C'mere a little closer so Auntie Fern can see how big you are now!  

C'mere a little closer so Auntie Fern can see how big you are now!  

Hello, World!

Gluten Free's the Way to Sew!

As most of you probably know, I've cast a pretty wide activity net trying to snag some kindred spirits here in Columbus, Ohio. I've scheduled myself like a suburban middle-schooler, driving from church to temple to the zoo, to ukulele lessons. And in the spirit of sink or swim, I decided to pop in on Wild Goose's Stitch n' Bitch session last Tuesday. 

The problem is, I can really only contribute to half of that equation, and it's not the "Stitch." Since I'm not a knitter, I decided to make a sort of "diversion project" that I could fumble away with while other people chatted and purled their way to new sweaters and afghans. And because I've loved fake food ever since Trinity United Methodist Daycare got that plastic shopping cart/produce basket set in 1988, I thought I'd stitch myself a felt donut. I owe it all to the wonderful craft site Skip to My Lou, whose recipe for chocolate frosted probably lowered my blood pressure for the first time in the history of confections. 

What a great group of stitchers at Wild Goose! Kudos to their 6 creative minds and 60 nimble fingers. Toward the middle of my project, one of my compatriots stopped knitting her cousin's wedding dress and looked down at my lap. "Oh my God," she said, "tell me that's a donut."  

Mo' donuts, mo' craftz.

Mo' donuts, mo' craftz.

That's a donut, bitch.

Hello, World!

PoppityPopPOP!

Over Christmas, my dad gave me some popcorn. Not the kind that comes in the big metal container with the dividers separating "cheddar n' cinnamon" from "caramel nacho;" not the kernel kind that comes in a jar (or in that metal pie plate thing that always catches fire), but the kind that comes on the cob, which his neighbor grew and dried like a veritable homesteader.  Dad said, "All ya do--and you gotta believe me-- is put the cob in a paper bag, roll the top of the bag down, and pop it in the microwave." 

Eight short weeks later, as I was ransacking John's cabinets looking for a frickin' snack-- why is there only dusty cans of coconut milk and vitamins??  I stumbled across the cobs. I was almost delirious with joy, but because I am a loyal companion, I decided to wait until John got home to try this snacktivity. [*Term refers to any eating event involving more than the traditional "vittles-in-pie-hole."]

I sat on the table by the door like a forlorn Irish setter for the rest of the afternoon until I heard the car pull up. When John entered, having been beaten up very slowly at Tai Chi, I announced that I had a fantastic post-karate popcorn project waiting in the kitchen. He was too blissed-out to object, so we put a cob in a paper bag, rolled the top down, put it in the microwave and set it to cook on HIGH for two minutes. 

Then we waited.  

When 40 seconds passed without so much as a kapoof, I furrowed my brow. When a minute went by with no kerflooey, I narrowed my gaze. At 1 minute, John walked over to the microwave with his index finger pointed at the DOOR OPEN button and...POP! poppityPopPOP POP!!!!  Like five hundred starting guns in my ears, heat + carbs = terrifying magic. 

When the noise was over, we inched out from under the counter. I made him open the microwave door and take out the bag. It was hot as Hades, and would have steamed his nose off if he hadn't dropped it so adeptly. But the house smelled like popcorn. And inside the bag were fat, puffy white kernels of popcorn, most of which had shot off the cob, and some that had not. And the only way to get them off that cob was...

Not Photoshopped. For better or worse. 

Not Photoshopped. For better or worse.