December 31, 2007
December 30, 2007
As the year winds its way to a close, I’ve decided to reflect back on my 2-month long participation in the world o’ blogging and what I’ve learned thus far. So: not resolutions, exactly; just a recap. This will also likely be my final true post of the year (not counting the pre-dated, automated post that will appear tomorrow), since we are heading to my friend Gemini I’s cottage for New Year’s Eve and I have no idea what kind of Internet access (if any) they have there.
Like so many new bloggers, I’ve been chomped on by the blogging bug (try saying THAT quickly 5 times) and have been irrevocably drawn in to this quirky and captivating world. The month of December, posting daily to Holidailies, has been a real kick and an incredible learning experience as well, though, as someone who’s kept a paper diary virtually since I could write, I found the quotidian rhythm of regular posting to be both comforting and familiar. I doubt I’ll continue to write here every day in January, but know I will still post regularly.
I’ve definitely experienced a crash course in how the whole blogosphere operates, as well as the social conventions of the blogging community. At first, compulsively checking one’s statistics can feel validating, as the numbers go up and there appear strange links or pingbacks to one’s posts. I was initially thrilled to see those digits inch upward, only to discover upon checking the URLs that the phrases “chocolate tofu pudding” and “eating out of both sides of my mouth” were somehow both irresistible to porno sites (okay, if I stretch, I can understand the connection in the latter, but the former?? Vegan pudding orgies? what???).
Similarly, like most new bloggers, I was thrilled to receive my first bona fide comments which initiated some terrific dialogues with other bloggers. I loved discovering others with similar interests or senses of humor, and the many fabulous women I wish lived closer to where I am. (And there were the hard lessons about tacit rules and restrictions, too: early on, in my zeal to become “one” with the blogging world, I left a particularly effusive comment on the site of a blogger whose writing I admired. I returned a few days later to find that my comment had been deleted! The horror! I skulked away feeling like a cyber stalker, and haven’t been back since.)
Finally, I’ve been spending far too many hours–first thing upon waking, last thing before sleep ( “Come to bed, already!”, my HH whines, as The Girls snore at my feet), and any spare minutes in between–reading other people’s blogs, relishing the writing, gawking at the photos, giggling at the turns of phrase, energized by the originality and creativity that’s out there, again and again. You may not know what you’ll find when you embark on this journey, but once those doors swing open, boy, what a trip it is.
I’ve also discovered that, as in Hollywood, there exists a hierarchy among bloggers.
Of course, we are all familiar with the A-List–the Brad and Angelinas–of the blogging world (I’m focused on the food writers, but this applies to all types, I’d say). They are the superstars whose blogs we read like clockwork and whom we can only gape at from afar. With legions of fans who follow their blogs, these blogging glitterati attract hundreds, if not thousands, of hits a day. Their blogs all display professional-quality photos worthy of Martha Stewart Living, they regularly provide enough eloquent, evocative linguistic showpieces to stain anyone’s eyes green, they’ve probably secured a recent book deal (or just published a book), they very likely got married within the past twelve months, and they’re all friends with each other. I certainly don’t need to shine more spotlights in their direction, but let’s just say that with these folks, I could enjoy one fine cup of tea and gluten-free zucchini bread (possibly fat free) on a Wednesday before being smitten with oranges in Paris where I might nosh on
101 Dalmatians 101 bottles of beer 101 blog entries–oh, I can’t remember, 101 something or others.
And just like the A-list movie stars, these bloggers reside in a stratosphere so far above the rest of us that we can only admire them from a safe distance and stare, goggle-eyed, at their accomplishments, aspiring one day to maybe be just a teensy bit like them.
And the rest of us? Well, at first, I felt overwhelmed by the plethora of talent out there, and, as is my wont, my own comparative shortcomings. But then it hit me: why not be a soap star of the blogging world? In Hollywood, new actors will routinely opt for B-level (or C- or even D-level–viz, Kathy Griffin) jobs as a way to break into the business. Landing a gig on a soap opera is often the starting point, not the goal, for actors, as it’s considered a concession, a lower-level job, but a steady one, and one that pays the bills. Yet why shouldn’t they aspire to be a soap star as a goal in itself? To me, that would represent a stellar achievement.
True, fans adore the Brad and Angelinas, both because of their unsurpassed beauty and their well-honed talent. The same goes for those A-list bloggers.
But it’s the soap stars who act “in the trenches,” so to speak, the ones we can actually relate to as real human beings, because we recognize so much of ourselves in what they project. Like the worker bees, they are the ones who actually show up every day, deliver their lines on a regular basis, and all without the attendant fanfare that naturally trails the big names.
Without benefit of lengthy rehearsal time, without the bevy of makeup people or assistants or handlers, these soap opera actors are often given only a single take in which to get it right, whether or not they’ve had time to polish their delivery; one camera shot–no multiple angles with best lighting, no retouching or editing, no fourteen hours of prep to film only one scene–and they do so good-naturedly, day in and day out. Five days a week. Fifty two weeks a year (okay, well, I think they get Christmas off).
It’s these soap stars I love the most. Awestruck fans may worship George Clooney and Nicole Kidman on the screen, but it’s the soap actors who draw enormous crowds–in person–to shopping malls in all kinds of weather, who elicit feelings of protectiveness and empathy, who feel like kin because they’ve been coming in to our homes every day for the past 35 years, and we’ve been following their storylines religiously.
And are the soap stars any less talented than the Julia Robertses of the world? (Well, okay, bad choice, of course they’re more talented than Julia Roberts; who isn’t?). No, the soap actors are every bit as talented, as creative, as worthy, as those others; it’s just that they might not have the same resources (agents, studio funding, exposure, etc.) backing them. And just so you know, many actors who began as soap stars did later scale that top tier and eventually garner the same fame and adulation as other A-listers: Michelle Pfeiffer, Anne Heche, Morgan Freeman, Julianne Moore, Meg Ryan, Laurence Fishburn, Ryan Phillipe, Robin Wright-Penn (love her!), and even The Venerable Mr. Pitt himself–among many, many others–all got their start in soaps.
So, as 2007 prepares to bid us adieu and we look toward the new year, I will, of course, continue to read those blogs at the apex of their genre because they are beautiful, they provide an example of what can be achieved, and it’s a joy being exposed to masterfully crafted prose and aesthetically perfect pictures. But I will equally eagerly pursue all the other blogs I’ve come to love even if they haven’t been awarded those same kudos just yet, because of their own unique talents, their heart and their wit and their personality–plus some mighty cool photos to boot.
This New Year’s Eve, I think we should all raise a glass to the bloggers out there who diligently slog away at it every day, and continue to do so, even without the public recognition or accolades. They write to express their creativity, their quirky humor, or simply because they love doing it; because they have something of import to say, because blogging fulfills a deep and irrepressible need to share parts of their inner selves, or because of all the myriad other reasons why people choose to create something and release it to the intangible masses of readers and widgets and RSS feeds and screen shots and tags and comments and online events and amazing, anonymous, uniquely expressive bloggers who take the time to share in this strange and most magical of habits.
Have a great 2008, everyone. It’s been wonderful getting to know you all, and I can’t wait to see what next year brings!
December 29, 2007
I’ve never been much interested in team sports (but even if I were, being perennially chosen as the “anchor” in tug of war, being last–always–to be picked for any team in grade school, and having to wear those navy blue bloomers in gym class, beat every last trace of desire out of me). Instead, when it comes to exercise, I tend to prefer solitary pursuits, both cerebral and physical.
So when I decided to try to get back in shape, I knew that the best possible piece of exercise equipment I could buy would be a treadmill. Years ago, I joined a workout club in order to lift weights whenever I can (Hey there, Elderly Gentleman Who Always Wears Black Knee Socks! How ya doin’, Septuagenarian Couple With the Matching T-Shirts! Nice to see you, Teenaged Girl with Spiky Blue Hair!), but really, for me, “exercise” means walking. And in winter months, when I can’t be taking my Girls for any serious length of time outdoors, it means walking on a treadmill.
Ever since we moved to this new house last month, the treadmill has been stationed in the TV room. Yes, this does make for a somewhat “eclectic” set of furniture (because the room is relatively small, all we can fit in it is the TV, 2 chairs, and the treadmill), but I love it nonetheless. We’re not the kind of people who watch TV when friends are over, and, in fact, I watch very little TV at all. With one glaring exception: my soap opera.
I am addicted to watching my soap opera every weekday. Yes, I know, a soap opera. Now, this fact would have been a carefully concealed, disgraceful little secret back in my days as a PhD student when all my academic cohorts held forth in the T.A. lounge and our classrooms, eagerly discussing Foucault, Bloom or Barthes, or the esoteric implications of various (the)rapist(s) with great bombast and flourish. It took me a long time to realize that, fundamentally, they were pretty much full of crap, and even though they tossed around a lot of big words, they didn’t actually understand any more about those theories than I did. (On a completely unrelated tangent, that reminds me of a list of self-referential grammar and language rules that circulated while I was a teaching assistant, especially this one: “Never use a big word when a diminutive one will do”).
After surviving the trauma of being an underconfident PhD student, I am now unabashedly declaring my affection–nay, my complete adoration and undying fidelity to–soaps. Well, actually, just one soap: As The World Turns.
Shortly after we moved in here, I realized that I’d been avoiding my treadmill for months, despite rather enjoying the meditative whirring of the belt as it rolled beneath my feet, my mind barely awake and flitting aimlessy from fuzzy topic to fuzzy topic as I tried to gain focus for the day.
In the previous house, the treadmill was in the (unfinished) basement, so it meant trekking downstairs and walking by myself within the dismal grey concrete surroundings. I found I couldn’t muster up the energy to do it most mornings. Then, my brilliant idea: why not place the machine in the TV room, and watch my soap while I walked? After all, I watch my soap every day, anyway; why not combine it with something good for my health? In fact, it’s turned out to be quite the incentive for me.
Often, I won’t have time to watch in the evening (what with posting to Holidailies and everything), so I’ll save the tape (not technically a tape any more, as my HH keeps reminding me) for the following morning, and walk as I catch up with Lily, Holden, Carly, Jack, et al. There, at 6:30 AM as the gears spin and my feet flit over the woven belt, I fix my eyes to the screen and tread, tread, tread. Before I know it, the 44 minutes are up (perfect interval, I think, for a morning walk) and I’ve burned about 200 calories. Brilliant!
In fact, I’m going to propose this as my next healthy-lifestyle strategy: combine exercise with something else you enjoy.
I guess that for many of us, that combination would naturally entail walking our dogs. (“Very punny, Mum. We are naturally entailed, too, and we love to wag them when we go for a walk!”) For me, dog-walking hasn’t worked as an extra boost of exercise, mostly because I’ve been doing it regularly for so many years now so that my body has acclimatized and it doesn’t seem to make a difference, either to my weight or my general shape.
Are there any hobbies out there that require lifting heavy objects? (Sumo wrestling for fun and profit, anyone?). If so, I’d love to know. I’m sure many other weight-conscious blogs have covered this one, and will have suggestions. For me, it’s a fairly narrow range of choices: treadmill, or weight lifting (which I bizarrely happen to enjoy just on its own), or dancing to Motown or disco tunes (music of my adolescence) in my living room.
What do you all do?
(“Squirrels, Mum. Chasing squirrels is always a good one.”)
December 27, 2007
DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved!
If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site. Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!
As always, thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!
“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]
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Well, I’m behind schedule, as usual, and I’m hosting a pot luck dinner tonight to which the guests will be arriving soon. Of course, neither sleet nor snow nor tardiness nor potlucks will keep me from posting to Holidailies, so this will be a short post.
All the recent talk of veggies got me thinking about our veggie dishes at our Christmas dinner, and the amazing brussels sprouts that were beloved by all. Now, I know that brussels sprouts, unlike something like, say, potatoes or corn, are not considered the A-list of veggie celebrities. Nevertheless, these really were delicious–mostly, I’m told, because the essential “brussels-sproutness” was more or less masked by the glaze in which they’re baked.
The recipe is also ridiculously easy–I didn’t even measure anything–and foolproof.
So, for those of us already enamored of the little globular greens, and for the rest of you who really should give this a try, here’s the recipe.
Tomorrow, I’ll post the menu/recipes of the potluck–tempeh stew is simmering as I write!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Balsamic Glaze
TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.
December 26, 2007
There’s nothing better than celebrating a special holiday with balance. A bounty of food and alcohol may abound, but the best approach is to simply eat well, eat with a level head, and enjoy the abundance without going overboard. Wake up the next day feeling great, ready to take on the day as if the previous night’s festivities never happened. Hmmm. . . too bad I wasn’t able to accomplish that this year.
I’m guessing it will likely take a few days before my body feels like itself again. Despite the best of intentions, I must have taken the wrong cue from The Girls, eating as if I might never again have the opportunity to fill up on any of this stuff (and really, some of it wasn’t even worth having again! “Dump Cake“?? Whatever possessed me to acquiesce to my HH’s wishes for that thing? And then–eating two portions of it? Even if I did buy organic cake mix in a meager attempt to convert it to something a smidgen more salubrious. . . Gak.)
(“But Mum! Everything was wonderful–we just loved Christmas! And what’s wrong with eating something special once in a while? Or on every occasion you can get it? Turkey, Mum–Turkey. We. want. turkey.”)
The ideal experience at a holiday feast, for me, would be to enjoy a moderate portion of everything, including dessert, and possess the innate ability to simply stop when I’d had enough. (Forgot to use the small plate/two item trick at my own holiday dinner–did that have something to do with it?). Instead, yesterday, I found myself drawn to the least healthy elements of the meal–repeatedly. Today, I don’t feel so hot.
Perhaps that’s a good thing, though. For “normal” eaters, the “STOP EATING” switch goes off much faster than it does for those of us with a propensity to overindulge. But I can honestly say that, finally, my own switch has tripped, and I am craving–seriously, craving–vegetables. It may have taken me a lot longer than it took my honey, but I got there. In the old days, I might have gone on a binge for days, finishing up the dessert leftovers in one afternoon. Today, I’m at the point where all I’d like to do with that Dump Cake is dump it in the garbage can.
One of the principles that keeps coming to mind is Newton’s Law, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Since the law applies to everything governed by the laws of physics, it would, of course, also include the way we eat and how our bodies react to the way we eat. In other words, overdo it one way, and your body will subtly suggest that you underdo it the next. This is a principle that my friend Karen, in her book Secrets of Skinny Chicks, documented well. As her subjects told her, when slim women pig out at a special occasion, they always compensate the following day, either by eating less or exercising more. I suppose this is a variation of the approach I adopted when I skipped dinner after overdoing the Halloween chocolates. And today? Treadmill, here I come. (Oh, and my Holidailies entry, of course).
Another facet of this principle is one perfectly summed up by Sally in her great blog, Aprovechar. In her post, Sally compared the patterns of eating/overeating to the financial principle of opportunity cost. In other words, every opportunity brings with it a certain cost, and if you assess the cost beforehand, it can help you decide whether or not to take the opportunity. I knew that last night’s dinner would cost me today (perhaps not quite as much as it seems to be doing, what with the backflips in my stomach, but still), and I made a conscious choice to eat anyway. For me, true progress will be achieved once I learn to make a better choice, with a lesser cost.
Still, today’s craving for veggies is progress of a sort. And while it may be difficult to find something positive in overeating, I am determined to let my body learn what it can and cannot comfortably do when it comes to food. The initial mistake was allowing the unhealthy food into the house in the first place, but the ultimate goal remains the same: being able to enjoy a variety of foods (including dessert) at a multi-course meal, and naturally stopping when comfortably full. That kind of action will signal a huge milestone in the way I approach food.
In the meantime, I’m off to raid the fridge for some broccoli and carrots. And I’ll just glance away as my HH polishes off that Dump Cake. (“Did you say carrots, Mum? Because we love those. Especially with turkey.”)