Doodad Kind of Town


Weekend Wrap-Up (a little late)
May 31, 2007, 1:02 am
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Memorial Day weekend turned out mostly lovely – sunny and gorgeous on Sunday and most of Monday after a decidedly dreary Saturday. I spent the weekend pursuing a nice balance of social and solitary pursuits.

No Memorial Day weekend is complete without a trip to the movies, although this year, the pickins’ were slim. As one of the two or three people on the planet who has never seen the first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, part 3 held no interest for me. Ditto for “Spiderman 3” and I’d already managed to see “Shrek the Third.” So, my friend Susan and I sought out a screening of “Waitress,” a sweet, slight little movie that owes a lot to “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and it’s subsequent TV series spinoff. You know the formula – there are three waitresses (one sassy, one shy/goofy and one plucky, downtrodden-but-never-quite-down-and-out heroine of the story). And they work with a cranky cook in a dumpy diner. Or in this case, a pie shop, which features daily pie creations made by the plucky heroine waitress. It was cute, and I like that movie celebrates the art of pie-making as creative, joyful – even redemptive. But after looking at one delectable pie after another for 90 or so minutes, I turned to Susan and said “I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a hankering for Baker’s Square!” (Note to far-flung friends – Baker’s Square is a chain diner that specializes in pie.) So off to Baker’s Square we went, and I treated myself to a generous slice of warm Triple Berry with a scoop of ice cream.

On Monday, I met friends in Long Grove Village for lunch and shopping. Now, Long Grove is an especially girl-friendly shopping hamlet, featuring all manner of litte frou-frou shops where you can buy any or all of the following: Scented candles. Scented soaps. Handcrafted jewelry. Fancy bottles from which to decant fancy olive oil. Colorful, oversized coffee mugs bearing slogans like “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Decaf.” Colorful refrigerator magnets bearing slogans like “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Shopping!” Little plastic packages of garlicky-herby powder you mix into sour cream for a dip to serve with crudites. Compact discs of Celtic Harp Music or Sounds of Nature. You get the picture.

There were a lot of wives dragging reluctant husbands around the shops on this holiday. But Long Grove doesn’t seem to be the draw that it was in the mid-90s. Back then (oh lord, am I already referring to 1995 as “Back then”? How damn old am I?), you’d be hard-pressed to find a parking place on a gorgeous weekend afternoon. Nowadays, the same parking lots have plenty of empty spaces.

I suppose the perfect culinary accompaniment to this little world of high-priced preciousness would be an English tea, complete with little cucumber sandwiches and tiny scones with jam. Fortunately, I was lunching with a more subversive crowd, which included one male friend, so we opted for the heartier fare at the Village Tavern. The perfect antidote to an overdose of girly gift shops is a big ole’ cheddar burger cooked medium rare and served with a side of huge, crispy onion rings!

Now you may be wondering, “But Pat, where is Jenny Craig in all this?” HA! She’s gone, baby, gone!!!! My inner diet rebel has prevailed. Somehow, I always knew I’d be a Jenny Craig dropout before long. I’m just not the kind of girl who lets herself be told exactly what to eat and when, or who can stay satisfied on tiny frozen dinners three times a day. (The desserts, I will still admit, were quite tasty.) So I quit! And not just so I can be a glutton forever, and eat till my jeans explode. I just want to stop dieting . As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been doing that for 33 years, and I’m exhausted. I just want to eat small portions of whatever I like and exercise a lot. And not think about it beyond that. Is that so wrong?



Memorial Day Musings
May 26, 2007, 6:37 pm
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Another dreary, cold Memorial Day weekend has arrived. In my memory, all Midwestern Memorial Days are like this – rainy, chilly.

When I was growing up in Indiana, this holiday was more commonly known as Decoration Day. We’d snip peony blooms from the bushes in our front yard, put them into water-filled, foil-covered tin cans, and take them to the local cemetery to ‘decorate’ the graves of deceased grandparents, great aunts and uncles. The local American legion would sell poppies – not the actual flowers, but little red tissue paper poppies on thin wire stems that could be looped around a rear view mirror or a button on your jacket for display. As I recall, the poppies were in honor of the poppies that grew in Flanders Field, the American military cemetery in Belgium, near the scene of the final battles of WWI. (A fact which I have confirmed on Wikipedia – from whence comes the photo below of artificial poppy wreaths at Flanders Field itself.)

So to my mind, Memorial Day has never been a particularly sexy holiday, never much associated with cookouts or water skiing or other warm-weather hi jinks. I always associate it with rain and gloom, and thoughts of departed ancestors. Therefore, I was not disappointed by a Saturday that arrived with rain and thunder. My bad weigh-in at Jenny Craig today (up 1.8 pounds – well, that’s what a rebellious, late-week Dorito binge will do for you. See previous post for details.) My plan was to take it easy today and catch up on my reading and On Demand movies. So far, I’ve read most of the June issue of Oprah’s magazine. And that’s about it.



Food is Not the Enemy – I AM!!!
May 25, 2007, 1:58 am
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“What are you rebelling against?”
“What have you got?”

— from “The Wild One”

I’m tired of dieting. I’ve been doing it off and on since I was fourteen -for the record, that’s 33 years of sporadic weight loss attempts. I’m on Week Four of Jenny Craig, down a little over 7 pounds, and frankly, I feel rebellious tonight.

When I left work I was HUNGRY!!!! And no little Cashew Chicken entree and serving of vegetables was going to satisfy. I called a girlfriend, and we met at a new Italian joint in my neighborhood for dinner. And yeah, they HAD a salad with grilled chicken breast and lowfat dressing on the menu. But, please. Who wants to eat THAT everytime they go out? I was feeling feisty, so I ordered up the Italian beef sandwich with fries. Just wasn’t in the mood for pasta or pizza. I could have done worse. Oh, and I forgot to mention – I picked up a bag of Doritos on the way home from work, and ate a few handfuls of those, too, before I even got to dinner. Maybe more than a few.

Remember that old Marlon Brando movie, “The Wild One”? Today, I feel like the Wild Dieter. I imagine myself wearing a black leather jacket with chains, riding a big Harley right into the Jenny Craig center where I defiantly eat an entire bag of Krispy Kreme donuts in front of my cowering “Jenny” consultant. I imagine my gang of fellow diet rebels following me right in on their own bikes and terrorizing the staff by breaking into the room where the Jenny food is stored and replacing the low-fat dressings and frozen entrees with cans of Crisco and generous tubs of Hagen Daz.

And frankly, any one who tries to placate me with a Jenny Double Chocolate Cake and some fat-free whipped topping is gonna get her ass kicked. I may be a glutton, but I DID go to Killer Pilates class this week!



Wednesday Wanderlust
May 17, 2007, 12:24 am
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At 6.5 weeks single, I’m still dealing with the aftermath of my breakup. One day I’m fine, the next day I’m overwhelmed by waves of grief and melancholy. Today is a waves-of-grief-and melancholy kind of day. Everything in my path is reminding me of my ex. Even a quick, mindless channel surf tonight turned up: “The Producers” on HBO (we used to quote lines from it all the time – Ulla’s “Okie-slash-dokie” line was a standard catchphrase for us); Sarah Michelle Gellar (his top celebrity crush – he’s a big “Buffy” fan); and reruns of “Project Runway” (which I used to watch and discuss near-obsessively with his daughter).

Normally I’d cope with all this by going face first into an extra large bag of Doritos and eating my way to the bottom. But now I have that damned Jenny Craig woman in my life, and a midweek Dorito binge will lead to sad news at my Saturday morning weigh-in, no matter how many Killer Pilates classes I squeeze in in the meantime. (Bad enough I gained back .2 pounds last week – even as my personal weight loss hero, Valerie Bertinelli, is crowing on her blog about her 18.2 pound loss!!! I fully intended to accompany this part of the post with a photo of Ms. Bertinelli in her appropriately titled 1984 TV movie, “Shattered Vows” – but there were no such photos to be found anywhere on the net).

At times like these, I need a little escape – and if escape isn’t to be found in junk food, the next best thing is travel. My next planned getaway is to Vegas, but lately I’ve been escaping into memories of memorable vacations past. Here are some of my favorite spots:
This photo is from the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. It’s not actually one of my vacation photos (it’s from Wikipedia.com), but it is frighteningly similar to a picture I did take while visiting Slea Head. The west coast of Ireland has some of the most ruggedly beautiful scenery I’ve seen anywhere. No picture does it full justice. And the people are friendly and warm. My favorite story from the Dingle: we were there on the May bank holiday, which is a 3-day holiday weekend. On Sunday night around 7, we went into a pub to get some dinner and were told “Oh I’m sorry. We had a bit of a busy day, and we ran out of food.” Needless, to say they were nowhere near the end of their Guinness supply!Aah, Santorini!!! Someday, I want to return to Greece and explore other islands, but I have great memories of this one. I actually rode a donkey up the cliff to reach this village, Oia, where we watched the sunset. (photo from weddingsantorini.com) Is it scary to ride a donkey up a steep cliff like this? Well, yes – but since I was riding just behind a screaming Italian woman and just ahead of a screaming Englishwoman, I made the concious decision to be the calm, rational American in the middle. And really, the view was great. (And so was the white wine, a local quaff called moschofilero – somewhat like a pinot grigio, and it goes down like water!)

Ha, ha! This, of course, is New York – and a normal person would have posted an iconic shot of say, Times Square or the Statue of Liberty. I’ve seen both, and they’re nice – but since I started my escape talk with junk food, I thought it appropriate to end there. The Magnolia is the home of legendary cupcakes, and rightly so. These little babies ($1.50 each when I was last there, in September) have a dense, not-too-sweet cake base topped generously with the sweetest and creamiest frosting you’ll ever experience this side of paradise. I hear that cupcake-cravers line up all the way down the block for admittance to this tiny, bustling bakery. But on both my trips there, I’ve arrived around 10 or so on Saturday morning and walked right in. I love this Bleecker Street neighborhood, too – lots of great bookstores and designer shops. Supposedly great celebrity-spotting area, too – although I’ve yet to spot a star in the vicinity. (photo from newyork.citysearch.com)



Ob La Di, Ob La Da…
May 9, 2007, 11:22 pm
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Life goes on…. Rah!
La, la, how the life goes on!
(or words to that effect)
— Paul McCartney

So life is going on, and I’m getting a little stronger and a little happier each day. Unlike Molly of this little Beatles ditty, however, I’m not happily coupled with a Desmond, But that’s Ok. One step at a time. Or One DAY at a time, as my new personal weight-loss idol, Valerie Bertinelli, might say. More on that in the next paragraph.

I’m getting back into old routines and starting some new ones. Monday nights are “Killer Pilates” at the park district. (OK, the park district brochure did not specifically identify this Pilates class as being of the “Killer” variety – but my abs know better.) Saturday mornings are now “weigh in at Jenny Craig” time. I lost 4.7 pounds my first week! (Out of respect for the precision of Jenny’s digital scale, I will not round it up to 5 pounds.) So, only 16.8 pounds left to lose. I want to match the progress of my new personal idol, Valerie Bertinelli, and lose 10 pounds in the first three weeks. So the Killer Pilates classes will keep going – along with lots of walking and daily, tasty Jenny snacks. I love the desserts – the double chocolate cake, the lemon cake, the chocolate walnut brownie. I like to tart them up with a little fat-free whipped topping and some berries on the side (I save a fruit serving to do this.) Add a hot mug of decaf Javanilla coffee, and you’ve got a major dessert experience.

And I tend to enjoy my dessert in front of the tube. I’m down to just a few favorite shows now. My goal for summer is to keep the TV turned off from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with the exception of news and rainy-day DVDs. But I’m enjoying the last season of “The Sopranos,” and and – like all dedicated “Sopranos” junkies – trying to figure out how it will all end. Will Cristafuh kill Paulie? Will he turn state’s witness and rat out the family? Will Paulie kill Cristafuh? And what about AJ? Yikes!!! I feel very good about myself when I compare my recent post-breakup behavior to his. I pray and I journal and I exercise – AJ wallows in suicidal misery for weeks, then recovers his zest for life by getting drunk and torturing Rutgers frat boys. I predict some dark destiny for AJ before the series winds up.

At a friend’s recommendation, I read “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It should become a breakup classic, required reading for the recently broken hearted (men as well as women.) Gillbert writes about the year she spent travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia after a divorce followed by a tempestous relationship that also ended badly. (Question: why is it that, after messy breakups, writers immediately pack their bags and soothe their souls by going to exotic places? Whereas, Average Janes like me just go to Stein Mart and Baskin Robbins?) In Italy, Ms. Gilbert learns to speak Italian and to appreciate pizza and pasta at a whole new level. (So far, so good. I can relate to the idea of excessive carbohydrate consumption as a response to lost love.) In India, she chants and meditates at an ashram, and has out-of-body experiences in which she becomes one with God and all of mankind. (Whereas when I experience a comparable level of divine ecstasy, it’s usually in Nordstrom’s shoe department.) Finally, she goes to Bali to study with a revered medicine man, and ultimately find true love and mind-blowing sex with an older Brazilian man. (Hmmm. She’s ahead of me there….) Gilbert is everything I like in a writer: funny, frank and self-deprecating, even when discussing her ashram experiences. I liked her, and I loved the book. And I’m feeling a bit of wanderlust as a result….

(Photos: Book cover from elizabethgilbert.com, “Sopranos” shot from hbo.com, Valerie Bertinelli pic from jennycraig.com)


30 Day Check-In
May 1, 2007, 11:10 pm
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It was one month ago today that my boyfriend and I parted ways. I told myself then I would take one month to really wallow in my emotions, then I would gradually start doing things to move on.

So far, I am right on schedule.

Last night, over margaritas with friends, I ragged and moaned and bitched about all the things that didn’t work in my now-defunct relationship – and by the end of the evening, I was really sick of the sound of my own voice. After 30 days of updating my various friends on the details of my heartache, I was ready to talk about something else. Not that my broken heart is completely healed, you understand. There are still some tearful moments in the wee small hours of the morning, which, as Frank Sinatra once sang, is the time you really miss him. There are likely more late-night crying jags to come, possibly even some weeping in broad daylight. But the worst of my pain is over.

What “moving on” actually consists of, I’ve yet to fully discover. One new thing I did this week was to sign up at Jenny Craig. Hey, if Kirstie Alley can lose 75, and the chubby-cheeked cutie from “One Day at a Time” can shed 30, surely I can get rid of the 20 extra pounds I’ve been carting around. Two of my friends have been on Jenny Craig lately – one has lost 23 pounds, the other 18. I’ve been happy to find that the food is tasty and fairly filling. Tonight’s snack is Cookies and Cream Cheesecake!!! Yum! Of course, it is a fairly slender slice, but I plan to savor every bite. I’ve never met a carbohydrate I didn’t love!