The procession of the cold

sick_petI’m not used to being sick because I rarely get sick (knock knock to you too, wooden surface). So when it happens, not only do I face the effects of being ill but also the shock of realization that I’m not well enough to carry on with my normal day-to-day destruction.

Upon arriving back into the good ‘ol USA from my work adventure in Israel, I figured that the trip itself, the jet lag, the hummus withdrawal, and the lack of steady rest on the flight were what tore me down upon landing. It wasn’t until I attempted a dance class on my first Saturday back that I knew something was amiss.

I just didn’t feel like dancing (gasp!).

I stuck it out, and by the end of class I felt slightly more energized, enough so to help a friend move apartments and get a bad haircut (at $18, I’m not complaining that much).

It was that evening, after my friend bribed me with drinks and a free dinner that the fatigue hit me like a bird in the path of a 747. I thought I would fall asleep in the restaurant booth face first into my chopped salad. Fortunately, no such event occurred; my friend had also brought along her boyfriend and they proceeded to violate all rules of PDA, keeping me just nauseous enough to stay awake and scold them for being inappropriately gropey and hormone-driven.

Turns out, the fatigue was just the beginning. The tickle in my throat started innocently enough towards the end of the dinner and up until bedtime. But before I knew it, I was up at each hour with what I was sure were my cat’s claws at my throat but what really turned out to be my compromised immune system fighting off the invasion of a cold.

The next morning, the throat still ached but I managed a run. Upon reentry into my apartment from my run, I was unable to move from the floor for about 30 minutes which made me realize that the act of physical fitness had been an error of judgement.

The throat burn left and the mucus congregated in my nose and reproduced until there were too many party-goers to all hang up there. Breathing became arduous which made sleeping a losing battle.

Despite the lack of Zzzz’s and the light-headedness, I woke up early, anticipating a routine of running, shower, breakfast, work, only to be defeated to pick up some laundry, not throw-up my coffee, and drag my feet to work.

For the first three hours of work, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I started writing down who would receive my prized possessions, like my Kate Spade purse and Anne of Green Gables book collection, and where my debt could be passed onto, when miraculously, despite the clogged breathing passages, I worked through it and made a fairly productive day of work. Not happily, but I did it.

The next morning, which brings us to today, I am breathing more normally, but now my chest is oppressed by a herd of majestic elephants. The coughing has begun. I hate when people cough and I hate it only a little less when I’m the one doing it.

Now it’s a waiting game of getting healthy with fluids, and drugs, and fruit, and even more whining. I’ve done my part spreading the bacteria through the office, to my friends, and to all my neighbours on the El Al flight from Tel Aviv (you all probably gave it to me first anyway). Now I sit back and see if I commenced an epidemic and if I will indeed recover from this cold in the summer when I so adeptly avoided one in the winter.

Eating Israel

As mentioned, I am currently hanging out in Israel. It’s a work trip so don’t think I’m just hanging out at the Dead Sea eating hummus and drinking Israeli beer.

When visiting any country there is an adjustment to local cuisine. Fortunately, food in Israel is quite tasty and diverse. Granted, bacon is not easily located, and cheeseburgers are almost nonexistent, and bacon cheeseburgers are about as common as unicorns. I don’t get this Kosher stuff, but I know that I’m eating it while I’m here.

Mmmmmmm....

Mmmmmmm….

The breakfast served at the hotel I am staying in is extensive with vegetables, hummus, pasta, quiches, cheese, fish, bread, salad, pancakes, eggs, pita, sweet things, etc. The only things missing seem to be pizza, ice cream, and sausage.

Because of the array to choose from its really easy to choose nutritious options such as the veggies and the fish. But then there is also this amazing danish things stuffed with cheese that is most certainly made with too much butter which is why it’s a must at every breakfast.

I’m not used to such a large breakfast and such rich food (my food is usually verging the poverty line) so it can take a toll and I get belly aches, which I’m already prone to, and a roller coaster of energy levels.

By the time I am ready to go I will have adjusted to the newer diet, found an equilibrium between healthy portions/options and satisfaction, and feel raring to go. Then it’s back the US of A and Hot Pockets and peanut butter sandwiches and a week of readjustment.

In the interim, I get to indulge in great stuff, like fantastic restaurants on the beach, Kosher McDonald’s (don’t judge me that I really enjoyed my McChicken sandwich…) and so much falafel it’s rather uncanny!

Good thing there is a great boardwalk to run on…

Scaling it

The word “scale” means oh-so-many things and can be used in oh-so-many ways. A person can scale a mountain, a fish’s skin is made up of scales, there is a scalene triangle (but I was awful at geometry, so I don’t recall what that is), there is a grading scale, and then in the really south of the USA there is a wacky way of saying you are super good at something, “I’m so scaled.”

Of course, there is also the infamous bathroom scale. This type of scale, which measures weight of the heffalumps that is us people, does not need to be in the bathroom, it just tends to be where it is kept and, thus, attributes its namesake. Technically, it could be a “living room scale” or a “drawing room scale.” I call my scale the “keep-under-the-bed-gathering-dust scale.”

I typically don’t like to be overly serious or girly on this blog, which is kinda a lie I just now wrote, but today I will likely stray towards that direction, while trying to maintain the effervescent tone we all know and love (right? right??!!).

I’m a lady, and because I’m a lady I think about things like fashion, ballet, handsome men (such as my boyfriend, little shout out there, Turbz), painted toe nails, cute kittens, and hating on my body. It’s a little shocking how much the latter takes up a girl’s life, not just mine, but all the ladies.

This has been going on for ages with me (see Being Girl post). However, recently, I noticed my clothes were a little tight and my waist seemed not as narrow… Cue the dramatic music: dun dun duuuuuuuuunnnnnn!

Look, I know I’m not “fat” but no matter how slim or how non-slim someone is, going above a certain threshold of weight you normally feel comfortable with manages to affect you in a way that is illogical.

In general, I make it a point to avoid scales (the weighing kind not the fishing kind, although I don’t typically deal with that kind either). Scales make me crazy and obsessive, all for a 3-digit number. This 3-digit number reflects my gravitational pull to earth and not necessarily my appearance or the quality of person that I am.

I am a very active girl, running most mornings and dancing in the evenings 2 to 3 times a week. I have always been like this, super active and super hyperactive. I have a higher body composition of muscle, but not to be mistaken with “macho body builder” muscle (I don’t lift weights because they are too heavy), but more than most girls which also means I always weigh more than I look and I weigh more than my friends who are the same clothing size as me.

Rather than force myself to succumb to a weekly weigh-in, if I feel inclined to monitor my body or feel that I’m slipping up a size, I use measurements to assess my body. This can get equally obsessing, so fortunately, I have a cat who finds the  measuring tape to be a great toy and snatches it from me whenever I attempt a waist measurement.

For the most part, I know how I look at various weights and can see this with mostly an uninhibited, critical eye. I know if I step on a scale and I’m such and such, that I’m looking a bit too thin. If my number is up around around such and such, I know I’m above my comfort level and have more cushion for sitting. If I’m anywhere between a certain 5-pound bench mark, I’m pretty comfortable and can enjoy my grub and keep at my exercise regime.

Lately, I noticed my clothes getting tighter, and me knowing my body, I knew I wasn’t in my comfort weight. Sure enough, I went against my normal mentality and braved the scale last Friday. I had gained between 8 and 10 pounds since the last time I had weighed myself at the end of 2012. Look, I can blame the trip to Ireland, I can blame me cutting back on some distance running, I can blame the fact that I eat too much (but I’m always so hungry), and I can even blame an “aging” metabolism, which is kind of a non-issue if someone is active. Really, I did let something slip and I just have to figure it out and work on it. I don’t diet because that would be miserable and I hate being miserable. But I do try to make little achievable changes. So instead of 3 ice cream sandwiches, I have 2. Or no alcohol during the week and less snacking on my beloved Sun Chips.

I’m not the kind of person who really gives much thought to what I eat. I’ve always been so active and just insanely hyperactive that I burned a lot of what I ingested. I mimic more of my dad’s metabolism than my mom’s side of the family so I’ve been lucky to get away with a few things, for example, eating 4 pints of Ben and Jerry’s in one day. But that doesn’t give me a free-pass and I have to take care of myself like everybody does and develop good habits, like not eating 4 pints of Ben and Jerry’s in one day.

Even if it isn’t the challenge of buttoning my favorite pair of jeans, it’s important to take stock of my daily habits and tune into its needs, watch the input every now and then, and adjust as necessary. The body size and the weight are factors that help us all keep that in check, so it isn’t always so superficial.

Anyways, it’s been a week since my weigh-in, and I couldn’t say for sure if any of the tiny changes I made have done anything (they sure have been tiny changes). I haven’t stepped on the scale again since, no sense in freaking out every day and, unfortunately, my figure won’t change on demand, even if it is only a slight change I aim for. If I feel inclined to measure the circumference of my bicep, I quickly start teasing my cat with the measuring tape and she takes over from there, making it easy to resist the temptation to monitor each millimeter of progress or steps back. After all, I have sanity to maintain, and I would prefer an arbitrary number not to dictate my craziness level and let the real issues in life handle that task.

Taco night

I am making a valiant attempt at saving money. This task is proving difficult as most things cost money and most fun things cost lots of money (oh reader, get your sick mind out of the gutter…).

I discovered that the quickest way to purge my wallet/bank account is noshing out at a restaurant and/or a night full of bar hopping.

Look, I enjoy eating delicious, decadent food, as oppose to my typical dinner of hot pockets, and, like any 20-something girl running from responsibility, I do love a night on the town. But on an evening out, I can drop anywhere from $40 to $100 in a sitting. Whether it’s the appetizer, entrée, dessert, or a gaggle of drinks, I lose sight of cost as I partake in my bacchanalian activities. When presented with the bill, the only thing more difficult than digesting the price is calculating the tip. The more I drink, the worse I get at math (which is already pretty bad in sober moments) and I tend to error on the side of generosity so as not to appear like a cheap asshole (which only makes me a poor martyr).

For one night of fun, I’m left with triple the calories, triple the credit card statement, and triple the loss of functionality for the next day. A plan of action was necessary.

First, a severe reduction in nights out. Currently, I spend approximately two nights a month at a bar or restaurant, and if my sugar daddy boyfriend is present, he pays half, if not all. His salary is more than double mine. Plus he thinks I’m cute, so he doesn’t mind so much (got him tricked, don’t I?).

Second, pay ONLY in cash. My boyfriend recommended this idea and I couldn’t believe it, but it works. To keep both drinking and monetary exchanges under control, I go out with a set amount of cash. When the money goes away, so do I. I see, tangibly, my money leaving my hand for an overpriced beer and I realize where that money could have gone, like to a 12-pack of beer at the grocery store instead.

Third, cook at home. I know I mentioned that I excel at microwaving a hot pocket and, at 5 for $10, how can one go wrong? But in all seriousness, cooking can be fun and it’s even more fun when you cook for someone else, allowing the microwave a few evenings of deserved rest a week.

When my boyfriend and I first started dating, he was soooo nervous around me and I was still in my crazy, indulgent phase. The result was that we invested a lot of cash into alcohol, grub, and Advil. A few post-date hungover workdays later, we decided to stop this pattern. I believe that’s really when we began to like each other. Awwwww…

Date nights metamorphosized into cooking nights. With this switch, I discovered I really enjoyed cooking, and although I’m not the best cook, I had fun giving it the old college try. Lord knows I didn’t cook in college. (Yeah, hot pockets!)

I don’t own or use many spices because they are expensive and I don’t know how to cook with them appropriately. If I had a spice rack I would use it as a cooking status symbol so when friends came over they would be like, “you cook?” and I would be like, “doesn’t everybody?”

I also don’t follow recipes because I feel creatively stifled but more because I can’t be bothered to follow directions. It ends up being a lot of trial and error and eating things that taste un-good.

Still, I’ve managed some awesome Gingermermaid-exclusive recipes that require zero measuring and a lot of tossing what contents are in my fridge and cupboards into a pot. This has resulted in what my boyfriend and I have dubbed the “pasta stuff.”

Pasta Stuff

  • Whole grain noodles (because they are the healthiest and we like the curly ones because they are fun to eat and play with)
  • Canned tuna or chicken (I’m scared of chicken not in a can, and I don’t want to talk about it)
  • Sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil
  • Sometimes lime juice because it sizzles and I like the sound
  • Brocolli, asparagus, or spinach (if any available in the kitchen at time of preparation)
  • Parmesan cheese (not real because I’m on a budget)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • More olive oil

Basically, we stir it all up and don’t measure anything. It tastes lovely every time.

Together, my boy and I have come up with some pretty interesting, and tasty, concoctions, as well as a slew of duds. But my favorite dinner exposition so far has been a traditional take on the classic: taco night.

I remember taco night as a kid in my house. It was my sister’s favorite meal and, at the time, she was a vegetarian (silly girl) and she always had her pan of fake meat while the rest of us had the real stuff (moo). My parents laid out this nice buffet-style spread of toppings, including soft shell and hard shells, spicy and non-spicy salsa, sour cream (when requested by the youngest daughter), shredded cheese, various vegetables, and refried beans. Taco night wasn’t just taco night, it was also “eat an uncanny amount of tacos” night. I liked tacos enough, but for me, it never a requested favorite. However, I was an avid participant in “eat an uncanny amount of tacos” when it was presented.

In the past 28 years, I had never prepared tacos. It’s a big to-do. But this past weekend, the little wanna-be chef with a sense of nostalgia peeked through and I exclaimed to my cat, “taco night!” And it was so.

The boyfriend and I had to make a special excursion to the store to gather all proper “nom noms” for the evening, and the excitement was swirling inside of me, which could actually have been hunger.

Tacos, as far as home cooking is concerned, are a pricier stay-in dinner. There are the toppings, the meat, the extras, and it all adds up. Plus, if this was going to be carried out in the traditional “uncanny amount of taco consumption” way of life I grew up with, supplies were needed.

I made the guac from scratch, because it tastes better with a dash of blood, sweat, and tears mashed in with the avocados, and the rest was simple: I chopped some onions and tomatoes, mixed in some seasoning with the meat, and created a fixing table with shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, tabasco sauce, warm tortilla shells, sun chips, black beans, the homemade gauc, and spinach.

It. Was. Awesome.

My shortfall in this undertaking wasn’t the cooking, it was the eating. I can’t properly fill a taco to save my life. I get too excited and overburden the tortilla with all too much of each fixing so that it is an impossible feat to fold and eat. Thank goodness my boyfriend is blinded by love, because me and that taco had a delicious time, but it wasn’t pretty.

taconightThe total cost of taco night was approximately $34 for all supplies. I still have extra items leftover, like onions, garlic, salsa, sour cream, etc, that can be used in other recipes I will manifest, and we did have leftovers for lunch the next day. That was a total of four meals, two for me and two for the boyfriend, which costs roughly $8.50 each. The rest of the extras will be incorporated here and there, like in an omlette or something, and not wasted—I’m on a budget, after all.

Amidst my thriftiness I’ve made a discovery of my culinary “talents” and there are many new recipes awaiting the carelessness of my cooking methods. Groceries still get expensive, but it’s fun and still cheaper than going out, my boyfriend makes an excellent sous chef and guinea pig, and I don’t have to figure out a tip.