Saturday, February 27, 2010

Old friend

One of the hard things about leaving Berkeley was leaving behind some of my favorite places at which to dine. Of course over these last few months I hadn't given it much thought. But I have this habit. During the workday, I chat with Fluffycat on Facebook. We share links to things we find interesting. Her links can run the gamut while mine are usually menus. A couple of weeks ago I sent her the link to the February menu for Gregoire and she decided that she simply had to have this month's bread pudding. Oh, and maybe an entree as well. So last night we headed to Gregoire -- in Oakland because it's closer to my home and a little bigger than the Berkeley location. And while the Oakland location is a short drive away, it's just not the same as being able to walk to the Berkeley location.

I had the braised and seared pork shoulder in bourbon and pear ...

while Fluffycat had the Ecuadorian shrimp with harissa sauce.

And naturally I had my usual potato puffs but Fluffycat decided that to try to the potato gratin with green garlic.

Then there was dessert. And they were out of the bread pudding. Oh the horror. And while Fluffycat was pleased with her other choice, I think there may need to be another trip to Gregoire so that Fluffycat can experience the bread pudding. It just won't be coffee flavored.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quick change artist

I am still doing well with the watching of calories -- too well actually. And so tonight I was inspired by two things. First there was my discussion with my friend, Sista Locks, last night. She pointed out that diet is an evil word; this is all about a change in lifestyle. And since this is something that needs to be sustainable, it means not denying one's self of certain foods. Secondly I chose today to leaf through the cooking magazines that had shown up over the last week. And then I plugged in the foods I planned to eat throughout the day along with the things that I would do to burn calories and found that my net calories were going to be somewhere around 800. Not really all that good. So I decided that I needed a treat -- Shrimp-Stuffed Peppers.

Now the peppers needed to be roasted and the recipe said to do so in a cast iron skillet. Ummm. Yeah. Don't own one of those. But I have my snazzy stove that I bought last year.



Who needs a cast iron skillet?

And yeah, the peppers were tasty. Except next time I think I'll use more cheese. Cheese is like bacon. It just makes a multitude of things better. But now I must go. because I'm still short on calories for today. What next?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


It's supposed to be a common surname. So much so that we have a phrase about it -- keeping with them. But this post is about a much more common name -- The Smiths.

Nowadays I listen to The Smiths in private. Music has always had a great deal of associations for me. It's what makes it easy for me to assign a specific song as a ringtone for a particular person. I hear a song and am instantly reminded of a specific person or place.

I fell in love with The Smiths the shortly after buying a copy of "Meat Is Murder" back in 1985. But it was a few years later in life that the band became permanently enmeshed in my emotional life.

By 1986 I was well on my way to showing folks what an emotional wreck I was. And The Smiths released their album "The Queen Is Dead."

In 1987 I started dating the guy my friends eventually called The Roach. He wormed his way into my heart when I was at my absolute lowest. He made a lot of promises and broke my heart. And then I took him back many months later just so that he could do it again. We repeated this whole process over a course of two years. I guess on his side I was his goddess with clay feet since he had observed me for many months before we even started dating and as a result he had this image in his mind as to who I was. I don't think that I ever lived up to this image.

But back to The Smiths. This guy was also the bassist with a popular party band around town. They did covers and one of the two songs he sang lead on was this one. And still to this day, I cannot hear this song without picturing him. So I usually don't listen to it.

Around this same time, I had this alleged friend with whom I would catch a ride between the Bay Area and San Diego. Our soundtrack for the drive would be The Communards and The Smiths. But this song just had so much meaning as you're cruising 5 with your "friend."

Oh, and the reason why she ended up not being a friend? The reason why I lost several female friends in college and grad school days -- they were using me for my social connections. As a result of those years, I have an easier time becoming friends with men that women. Well that and the lovely relationship I have with my mother. And girls are a rarity on my father's side of the family; they treat me as a hybrid of princess and tomboy. I'm much more guarded with women than I am with men. So if you're one of those women with whom I've dropped my guard, consider yourself lucky. Then again maybe it's part of an ugly cycle. I feel more comfortable hanging out with guys.

But at least I have one song that isn't about any of them. And this is the one I play most often.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I know what you're thinking. "She's gone off the deep end. What happened to the whole weight loss thing?"

Tonight's dinner was alfredo sauce (light) mixed with peas, asparagus, mushrooms, crab meat and topped with a little red jalapeno. Oh and the noodles are actually spaghetti squash. Never had it before but I thought I'd give it a try. Fools the eye but the taste is different. Not bad, just different.

Only problem is that I should have eaten the entire plate calorie-wise but got full about a third of the way through. Maybe in a bit I'll be able to get more down.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The keeper of secrets

The photos are of the appetizers as well as my main course ordered last night when I went out to dinner with my dad. Before I can discuss the food, I need to rewind some.

My father is an alcoholic. He stopped drinking when I was 18. Even though he went through rehab, he spent many years later as a "dry drunk." For those of you not familiar with the phrase, it means that while he stopped drinking, he continued his behavior. From the time that I was about 10 or so until I was 28 my relationship with my father was tenuous at best. The following ten years were fabulous; I had the dad I had always wanted, the dad that I remembered from when I was five. And then his siblings started to die as well as his wife and he eventually started drinking again. So in many ways my dad and I have returned to the relationship we had when I was 16 -- he writes a check and that is about all of our contact.

Yesterday I drove to Sacto to partake of the annual event that I have done since 1999 when I stopped working for my dad -- doing the books to make sure they are ready for the accountant for tax return preparation. After a few hours a took a break to go have a cigarette; my dad was already outside having a cigar at the time. After I lit up, he said that there was another reason why he had wanted me to come up for the weekend. And with those words, I knew what was coming next. My dad is getting married -- for the third time -- in October. My first reaction was to be happy for him. He doesn't do well on his own. Even though I had only met his fiance on two occasions -- one of which ended up with me not speaking to my mom for months -- I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

But when I was ready to get to work, there was a problem. My dad had been sitting at his desk and I in the chair across the desk. He eventually got up and excused himself so I could get to work. When I went behind his desk, thankfully I looked down -- and saw a noticeable wet spot on the seat. I blotted the spot with a nearby tissue and then held it up for a whiff and confirmed what I thought. (And some of y'all probably wonder why at times I carry so much baggage. On the outside it may seem like I have led a charmed life but really?) I switched out the chair and he asked me about it when he returned but I just gave him a look.

And I worked on trying to absorb the information about his impending marriage. And then I got to that check -- the one with her name on it. And then it all came back. I could have pulled the report to see about the activity for that "vendor" but I didn't. Because until last June the name meant nothing to me. But four, five years ago when I first saw it, I had no clue. They were supposed to be repayment for a loan but there was never a deposit that matched. One of the weird things in my family is that people think that they can expose me to random bits of information and that I will not be able to connect the dots. Hello. According to the tests I took in school, I have an IQ of 148. And I have social skills on top of that. Tonight I called my cousin who has always been an older sister to me. She told me that my father had been planning to divorce my stepmother for his current fiance but then my stepmother got sick. So yeah, my mother was right but we'll never tell her that.

So now you have the background. The food? Appetizers from the dinner that my dad had planned for the three of us. The third photo is my entree. I knew we were going out but until I heard about the engagement, I thought it would be just me and my dad.

We had time to kill before dinner. And this is when I went into my old role as the enabler. Before dinner, my dad and I killed a bottle of white wine at his house. And then I like a fool got in the car with him. On the way to the restaurant, the car drifted into the oncoming lane several times. This is why I stopped spending weekends with my dad when I was 12 or so. I got tired of worrying about whether I would live through the weekend.

So we got to the restaurant and he suggested to us -- me and his fiance -- that we order wine. Well, actually it seemed more like a conversation between that two of them. Thankfully the drive home was less eventful.

Today I had planned to hit the road home early. The drive home is about 95 miles. But once I was dressed, my dad informed me that we were going to breakfast. And so we went to her home. So that I could see her for the fourth time in my life. At the restaurant, they ordered Mimosas. I ordered coffee.

Here's the thing. I like the woman as a person. We could so be friends. She won't tell her age but I guess that she is about ten years older than I. But her age doesn't bother me so much. Her enabler/codependent behavior. I sat there today while she never questioned and in fact seemed to encourage my father's negative traits -- things that my stepmother and my mother never would have tolerated. And I thought to myself that I have to disconnect from this whole situation because in the end it will not be good. I have to save myself.

Then I tried calling the folks who I knew with whom I could be completely honest. Outside of here, those folks are few and far between. Part of the dysfunction is that you disavow the truth; I've always had a hard time with this part of the program. Yes, I can lie like a champ but at my core I believe in absolute honesty -- even if I need to be blunt. I knew that most family members would be ecstatic beyond belief. They would say that my concerns meant nothing. So first I called my estranged aunt by marriage. She told me that I need to talk to my dad. I said that I couldn't see how.

Then I called my cousin; she has always been my older sister. She confirmed my suspicions. She also told me that her mother had indeed had a chat with my dad about his drinking before she died last April. My cousin asked me if I had ever watched the show "Intervention." She said that I was the only person to whom my dad will listen. And talking to her, it came to me. I just have to tell him the truth. Continue down this path and you can no longer be a part of my life. I've done this before but it wasn't about his sobriety. My stance there has always been that he needs to make the decision on his own; just like no one could keep me alive except for me back when I was suicidal, no one else can make him stop drinking. But I want him to understand why I am walking away just like this time if I have to walk away from my mom, I will explain it to her. This will be something new. I have spent years walking away without explaining. I just never thought the explanation was necessary. I thought that if you were in the same moment with me that you would understand.

And so now I sit here with the realization that I am about to lose both of my parents. I will lose my mother to her obsession with my father's life and my unwillingness to become a part of the dynamic at this point in my life. And I will lose my father to his addiction once more. And knowing this, I am trying my best to hold it all together. But don't worry about me. I have loads of experience at being the adult and holding it all together. I mean I've been doing it since I was ten years old. I'm a seasoned pro at this shit.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Back to basics

I am steadily trying to push through to continue with the weight loss thing. After the holiday season, I dropped my net calories severely -- slightly over 1,000 per day. This worked at first but then stopped. I realized that my body probably thought it was starving -- something that I have been trying to avoid since day one. So now I have increased my daily net calories to 1,200 to 1,300. Now with my added physical activity -- thank you Wii -- that means that I need to eat significantly more than I had been. The first day was a struggle but then slowly it came to me.

Duh. I need to start eating breakfast. And as it turns out, my favorite things to eat first thing in the morning -- fruits and oatmeal -- are decent fiber sources. So now I'm trying to commit myself to really eating three meals a day. And I have nuts and baby carrots for snacks.

One question has come up in my mind though. What happens when I reach my goal? The recommendation is around 2,000 net calories per day. Now that just seems like way too much food. I mean I can imagine consuming that occasionally but on a daily basis? Frightening.

Friday, February 19, 2010


That's what food has become for me as of late -- boring. And that's why I haven't really been doing many posts. I eat out of necessity. I find that when I do that, the food is usually not very interesting.

Earlier this week I roasted a Cornish hen. I don't know about y'all but for me one hen equals four meals. The first day was some of the hen with some steamed asparagus. Like I said -- boring. But last week, I got a Wii along with Wii Fit Plus so that I could start getting some regular exercise. The problem is that now that I'm about halfway to my goal weight, I have hit a wall thus the exercise. Now I face a new problem. I have dropped my net calories pretty low over the last month or so. And adding exercise? Well, that means that my net calories had veered into the region of unhealthy habits. I needed more calories. Thing is that I had cut starchy stuff out of my diet almost completely. Then while reading through articles about carbs online on Wednesday, I remembered what Zombie Mom mentioned last week. Yams could be my friend. So I added a baked yam to the mix and was able to meet my net calories.

Another thing I have been avoiding besides bread is pasta. So when I went shopping for the yams, I also picked up some whole grain pasta. (In the photo is a mixture of steamed broccoli, leftover Cornish hen breast and whole grain penne with a light alfredo sauce.) I must admit that I have become a fanatic about monitoring fiber content of food these days. Ideally I want 20-25 grams of the stuff in my daily diet. At the same time I have been monitoring my sugar intake which is why I also said goodbye this week to my beloved fruit juice. Oh and wine as well. Because that's how determined I am to lose this last bit of weight.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The important stuff

Now I know that most of you started coming around here for the food. And there just hasn't been much food here lately. So I decided to put together the food highlights of my trip this past weekend into one post. I'll just warn you. You might only want to proceed if your belly is full.

By the time I finished checking out the butterflies on Friday morning, it was lunch time. So I headed on over to a place that Fluffycat had recommended to me -- Cracked Crab. Things were looking good when the really nice server brought out my condiment selection and tools.

I went with their specialty -- The Bucket. Potatoes, corn and Cajun sausage steamed up with my selections of Dungeness crab and mussels. And then all dumped out onto the butcher paper on the table. I ate it all. Except for the potatoes. Loved this place so much that I wanted to eat all my meals there.

For Saturday's hike I had to park near the San Luis Pier. It's a working pier.

Complete with pelicans waiting for a morsel.

At the end of the pier sits Olde Port Inn. I figured that any restaurant in this close of proximity of fresh seafood had to be mighty good. And I love a place that lists dessert first on the menu -- "It's never too soon to plan for dessert."

On my server's recommendations, I ordered one of their specials for the day, crab cakes. Her selling point was that they never use bread/filler in their crab cakes. Just pure crabmeat.

And of course I had to try the above which is probably all kinds of artery clogging but so good. Shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese, lightly breaded, wrapped in bacon and then fried up. Served with cocktail sauce. I will have to attempt these at home because I don't think that I can wait until my next trip down that way to have them again.

Before hitting the road home on Sunday, I drive another hour south to the town of Solvang. If I am on 101 and have traveled as far south as Pismo, then a trip to Solvang is always a must. So what if it's only about an hour north of Santa Barbara and I had to drive home from there?

My main reason to go to Solvang these days is to stop at Mortensen's Danish Bakery. Pictured are the cookies I brought into the office after my return. They were quickly consumed. And one person asked if I had more stashed at home. Because yes, they are that good. I mean I did go two hours out of my way just for the cookies. That should tell you something. And look? Now they have shipping.

Finally, no California road trip is complete without a stop at In-N-Out, in my opinion. In an effort to be "good," I got the cheeseburger instead of my usual double double. But I always have to have it animal style.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Completed set

When I first mentioned prisons and power to Fluffycat on Friday, she said that I needed to find another P to make it complete. Then on Saturday after my hike, it all came together.

After lunch, I headed over to Tolosa Winery. I really wanted to check out a winery that is certified sustainable. They apparently use a lot of solar power and water reclamation.

Oh, and that other P. I chose to do their Pinot Noir tasting flight. Because yes, they produce six different pinots. Think Sideways. And two of them I liked enough to purchase -- along with their no oak Chardonnay that I had with my lunch on Friday. They packaged them up in the tote pictured and told me that as part of their efforts to be sustainable that I bring the tote back on future visits -- for which I'll receive a discount on my wine.

In the meantime, I will be receiving shipments from them sinceI joined their wine club as well. And I do not need an intervention, Maddie. Of course, if they had told me that I would receive a 35% discount for my purchase because I joined the club, I may have selected more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Road music

The key for lone road trips is having the right supply of tunes on hand -- as well as a cellphone. Actually I suspect that part of the reason why I'm such a phone person is my love of the lone road trip. Enough hours on the road and you start wishing to hear a voice other than your own. Going to Marina in October wasn't that bad as it was only about two hours on the road. After two hours though I start jonesing for the sound of someone else's voice. My aunts were the ones who used to keep me company on the road. My dad's older sister, who passed away last April, could stay on the phone with me for at least an hour. And so the trip this weekend was hard but I survived it.

Enough of that sad crap though. In between the phone calls, music is key for getting through a solitary drive. I don't know about you but I need a strong rhythm. But not too much because next thing you know, you're cruising at 95 mph and worrying about the CHP pulling you over. So I leave you with some of my favorite songs for the road.

There is usually a lot of rock in the mix.

But I also love my R&B/rap. Especially this song that I consider to be the partygirl theme song. Actually this one is more a life theme. Applies to everything in life. Who the hell cares what other people say as long as you are not harming anyone else? It's your life. Live it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The second P

As the daughter of a guy who has spent all his post college years working for utility companies, it's only natural that I remember places for things power-related. And what do you know? In my research prior to my trip I found out about the Pecho Coast trail. Most of this trail crosses land owned by PG&E and the trail starts at the gate to Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. One of the first things that one passes on the trail are radiation detectors. The trip is 7.5 miles round trip and includes a 440 foot change in elevation. It's not necessarily for the feint of heart.

There was lots of native foliage to be seen along the way.

And fantastic views of San Luis Bay.

The trail ended at this lighthouse that is being restored to what it was in 1890.

And then it was back to the trail. And I totally kept up. In fact at times the pace could have been faster for me. Not sure if I'll do this hike again in the future. Perhaps I'll give the Point Buchon trail a try next time -- especially since you can actually see the plant from this one.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My landmarks

After communing with the butterflies, I hit the road north to San Simeon to tour Hearst Castle. So now I can cross another place off my list.

On the drive back to the hotel, it crossed my mind that my landmarks when driving start with the letter P. This thought crossed my mind when I passed a place called the California Men's Colony. Such a sweet sounding name for a place that looks a lot like a prison. Today on my trip back home, I'll be passing through Atascadero and Soledad -- two other places with prisons. If I'm not mistaken Atascadero is the place where they send the sex offenders.

Completely unrelated -- I also passed through a place called Harmony. It has a population of 18. I think that if I were to start a commune, Harmony would be the perfect place for it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I have been fascinated by Monarch butterflies since I was a kid. I tried for many years to convince my mom that we needed to plant a bunch of milkweed in the yard to attract them.

The Monarchs are like me; we both don't like cold weather. So when things start getting a little chilly in Canada, the Monarchs head for California. And there is a grove in Pismo Beach to which they return annually. I'm talking thousands of butterflies.

Unfortunately for me it was in the mid-60s yesterday. (I know. Really rough.) That meant that the butterflies were constantly in flight for the most part. There were the occasional pairs in the middle of mating which is done on the ground. That would be what I captured in the photo.

Since I wasn't able to get tons of butterfly photos, I'll leave you with some photos of the scenery at Pismo State Beach -- which is where the grove is located.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A good start

As I warned you earlier in the week, I have hit the road once more. This time I'm in Pismo Beach. I had originally planned on staying in nearby Avila Beach but by the time I got around to making reservations, everything there was pretty much booked up. I know. Who would expect that to happen on a holiday weekend? I could have had a oceanfront room for last night but then I would have had to move to another room. Just didn't seem worth it. Perhaps next time. I was able to get this view from my balcony this morning though. Yes, there is a balcony -- with a private hot tub.

But this was the real selling point for me as many of the hotels in this area are on/near the beach. I often skip the "free" breakfast at hotels because they require you to exit your room to claim this meal. These folks instead leave a card so that you can order the previous night and deliver in the time window that you have designated. I know at least one person who would love this.

I can hardly wait to start the rest of my day as I have a few adventures planned.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Open road

My mom had a tradition when I was growing up that I could pick one thing that I really wanted when she received her income tax return. The idea is that one's tax return should not be a part of one's regular budget. Therefore, some of the money is stashed away into savings while the rest is spent on something that you really want but just could not bring yourself to buy at any other time.

For years I have been wanting a bag from Timbuk2. This year seemed like the right time to take the plunge. I am hoping to do some traveling throughout this year -- and I'd like to be able to take my laptop with me. I needed a bag that would accommodate the laptop and other stuff. The coolest thing is that Timbuk2 also lets you custom design a bag, and of course I went with my usual pink.

Fortunately I will be hitting the road later this week and will be able to give the bag a test then. And that other photo? The packaging in which the bag arrived -- a waterproof map of San Francisco.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kid in a candy store

I realized last weekend that part of the reason why it has taken me so long to take a cooking class at Piedmont adult is that many of the classes require you to bring your own knife. And my knives? Craptastic. The tamales class didn't require one to bring anything. And I had a lot of fun there. I decided that I no longer wanted to be limited in the classes I could take.

That's why this morning I headed over to East Bay Restaurant Supply. So many shiny pretty things there. But today was only about knives. And I think they're so pretty but I'm afraid to use them. After years of using that dull crap will I accidentally slice myself? Because I am the one who as a kid managed to grate her fingertips on the box grater. I just had to grate that last little nub of cheese.

Oh, and don't worry. I'll be returning to the store. Probably around the end of March. Because the salesperson said that they'll be having a sale then with tons of vendor demonstrations. Hmmm. Might even be worth taking a day off from work.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On track

I am not a big sandwich person. About the only exceptions to this are Reubens, Carolina bbq pork and burgers. With the weight loss thing, I haven't had any really. Because bread is evil. No, it is. Really.

But today the stars aligned and declared that I absolutely had to have a burger. So I headed on over the fairly newish Boulevard Burger on MacArthur. Because look. They have sweet potato fries too. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. They have now replaced Rocky's as my favorite burger joint in San Leandro.

Oh yeah. Totally forgot to mention that this was kind of a celebration. My current weight? Haven't seen this number in at least a year. I still have more weight that I'd like to lose. But today I treated myself to a burger (There will be salad for dinner.) as a reminder that it's OK to eat like this every now and again. Just not every day.