Archive for April, 2008

Crab cakes with Tangerine-Pecan salad

Since I like to cook, it surprises some that I don’t blog about food.

I made these crab cakes recently, and the presentation was pretty enough to take a picture of.  The recipe I used wasn’t my usual one – which I prefer but is seriously high in calories.  This one had some spices in it (Chesapeake Bay seasoning) that tasted a little off to me, but the recipe itself was lower-calorie.  I’m thinking of combining the best parts from both recipes to see if I can come up with a low-cal, good tasting version of crab cakes.

Salads are pretty easy to make interesting – I add:

Some sort of green. Buy “real” lettuce instead of lettuce in the bag – it’s crisper and it lasts longer. Green-leaf, red-leaf, butter lettuce as well as mesclun and spinach greens are some of my favorites.

Some sort of fruit. Oranges, apples, strawberries or raspberries are my standbys.

Some sort of nut. A small bit of walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds gives a salad a satisfying crunch.

Some sort of cheese. There is a low-cal or fat-free feta that is really tasty, or try goat cheese (yum).  Too much and your salad gets really high-cal (and expensive) – luckily a little adds a lot of flavor.  If you prefer more traditional cheeses, blue cheese gives the same sort of effect.

Some sort of meat (optional, if you are making your salad into a meal). A little chicken, pork or turkey on top or maybe a slice of crumbled turkey bacon (or real bacon) can make your side salad into a meal.  Use just a bit or else you are just using your lettuce as an excuse to pile on as many calories as you can, which sort of defeats the purpose.  Don’t use lunchmeat – meat leftovers will greatly improve the flavor.

A tablespoon or so of quick homemade dressing. A little balsamic and olive oil mixed with dried herbs (try oregano or thyme) and salt and pepper is my standby, but there are many possibilities.  Personally I prefer the taste of homemade dressing greatly over the globby, paste-like grocer varieties.  Also I can control the amount of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup that goes into them.


Proof that I really am the OCD gardener

This excel spreadsheet has 106 rows. And I actually use it every week.

Pulp Fiction meets Shakespeare

Below is but a taste of the new Pulp Shakespeare wiki, where you, young bard, can take a gander at translating (and reading) scenes from one of my favorite films, Pulp Fiction – into old English, a la Shakespeare.

Thanks, Ceruleanst.  Old William would be proud, methinks.


ACT I SCENE 2. A road, morning. Enter a carriage, with JULES and VINCENT, murderers.

J: And know’st thou what the French name cottage pie?
V: Say they not cottage pie, in their own tongue?
J: But nay, their tongues, for speech and taste alike
Are strange to ours, with their own history:
Gaul knoweth not a cottage from a house.
V: What say they then, pray?
J: Hachis Parmentier.
V: Hachis Parmentier! What name they cream?
J: Cream is but cream, only they say le crème.
V: What do they name black pudding?
J: I know not;
I visited no inn it could be bought.

J: My pardon; did I break thy concentration?
Continue! Ah, but now thy tongue is still.
Allow me then to offer a response.
Describe Marsellus Wallace to me, pray.
B: What?
J: What country dost thou hail from?
B: What?
J: How passing strange, for I have traveled far,
And never have I heard tell of this What.
What language speak they in the land of What?
B: What?
J: The Queen’s own English, base knave, dost thou speak it?
B: Aye!
J: Then hearken to my words and answer them!
Describe to me Marsellus Wallace!
B: What?
JULES presses his knife to BRETT’s throat
J: Speak ‘What’ again! Thou cur, cry ‘What’ again!
I dare thee utter ‘What’ again but once!
I dare thee twice and spit upon thy name!
Now, paint for me a portraiture in words,
If thou hast any in thy head but ‘What’,
Of Marsellus Wallace!
B: He is dark.
J: Aye, and what more?
B: His head is shaven bald.
J: Has he the semblance of a harlot?
B: What?
JULES strikes and BRETT cries out
J: Has he the semblance of a harlot?
B: Nay!
J: Then why didst thou attempt to bed him thus?
B: I did not!
J: Aye, thou didst! O, aye, thou didst!
Thou hoped to rape him like a chattel whore,
And sooth, Lord Wallace is displeased to bed
With anyone but she to whom he wed.

The things kids say: version something-or-other

Connor was in school, and Siena and I were just walking out of the grocery store. As we were walking out, a man was walking in. He had long, sandy blonde hair that was done up in a ponytail, sectioned off by several ponytail holders that went down the length of it vertically. Over the top of his head was a bandana. He had on holey jeans and a tight torn t-shirt and was making his way to the cigarrette counter.

I felt a tug on my arm and realized Siena had stopped walking to stare at this gentleman. Afraid of what she might say out loud (she’s just turned three) I gently coaxed her out of the store.

When we were outside, Siena looked up at me with a solemn expression. “Mommy.” she said gravely. “I saw a pirate.”

Revisiting: Breast Intentions

My own life hasn’t been incredibly interesting lately – a little laundry here, a little errands there.  So while I try and make myself more interesting for your sake, I’m going to put up an old post from my now-defunct old blog.  This was written a couple of years ago and while I *SO* no longer relate to what I wrote here, I still enjoyed the trip down memory lane.  Insecurities exposed and all, I’m still pretty proud of this post.  A few words here and there changed for context.


The 4th of July marked two weeks away from a very important date for me. On July 18th, I will be undergoing a hysterectomy. I’d mused about it earlier…in rereading it I remember how I felt somewhat unsure for so long about doing the surgery, and this post was my way of explaining why I had decided to finally do what I am now about to do. Today, though, I am 100% sure about my decision. However, I didn’t expect to have some additional feelings about losing the central core of my being as a woman and how that would affect me.

The surrogacy thing (I seem to have an unnatural urge to offer to have a baby for anyone I know dealing with fertility issues) is definitely a symptom of my about to lose my ability to have children. A woman recently surprised me. Through a girlfriend, she let me know that if I were still interested, she would actually like to have me be her surrogate. As much as I love the idea of helping someone in such a wonderfully giving way, I’ve decided that my reasons for doing so are probably not the right ones. The reality of such an undertaking is much more complicated than it is on paper. And my husband doesn’t think it is a great idea – I think he worries that I would become too emotionally involved in the little child growing inside me that would never be my own. He knows me well – I worry about that too.

Another symptom I seem to be having is my perceived loss of womanhood with the upcoming loss of my uterus. Of course this is ridiculous. I know that although I will no longer have a womb, I am a woman, and always will be. My emotions are not dealing with this on a conscious level – rather they are revealing themselves in ways I never imagined. Like my recent trip to the plastic surgeon.

I’ve carried and breastfed two children, and with that came the inevitable ups and downs in cup sizes in my breasts. I went from a C pre-pregnancy to a DD+ while breastfeeding. Now I am a small C, but the skin that developed to hold my huge knockers while I was pregnant is still all there. The result? Sagging and wrinkling – they call it atrophy in the business – that leaves me feeling less of a woman when standing in front of a mirror.

When I was preparing for post-op (picking out what movies to watch, what books to read, and how else to pamper myself while I pretty much lie around for 5 days without kids while I recover) I had an epiphany: what if I did something just for myself? I could add a little something to my breasts to fill them back up again – perhaps to a large C or possibly even a D – leaving me with firmer and perkier breasts similar to what I had before I had kids.

So, without really putting much thought into it, a girlfriend of mine (who had implants in already) and I went up to spend the day in the “big city” several hours from home to visit a well-respected doctor there. I checked out his website. The results looked impressive. I did a little research. It would be a pretty intensive procedure, and would require me to have childcare for my kids for a couple of weeks. As with any surgery there were risks and possible side effects. I felt unsure, but thought it would be interesting to get a professional opinion.

The office looked like any other doctor’s office. Older people, younger people, and families waited for their turn with the surgeon. I wondered what these people were going to have done, or what they had already had done. Do 80 year-olds really have body image issues? Perhaps she was there for breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. What about the dowdy woman with the three teenage boys tagging with her, complete with mullets? Wouldn’t a simple makeover suit her better than surgery might?

And why am I here in the first place? I thought. What would people assume about me?

I weigh what I should according to those awful doctor’s charts. I eat well and exercise often (when I am on an exercise kick that is). I feel pretty comfortable with my general appearance – I’m certainly not the most attractive thing out there, but I’m comfortable with who I am. I have a pretty crooked nose that I’m not terribly fond of, and I’ve got some love handles and a poochy stomach that hang over tight-fitting pants sometimes – but I think I’m friendly enough that when I meet someone my personality makes up for it. And if it doesn’t? I’m probably not talking to someone with whom I want for a friend, anyway.

We were called into a room where we watched a video about breast augmentation. The woman actor on the video was complaining about her breasts after pregnancy and childbirth – my same complaint – and was referring to her small children at home. She was at least 50 years old and looked a bit like Elizabeth Taylor a few years ago. The doctor was a young man who listened coolly and professionally to her issues and offered cookie cutter advice. “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV,” I whispered over to my friend, and we got the giggles. However I must admit that the video, as cheesy and unbelievable as it was, did open up a few questions for me, and my friend handed me a piece of paper and a pen so I could jot them down.

It was our turn into the exam room. I was asked to strip down to my panties and put on a robe. My friend pretended to read a magazine in the corner although in my head I was sure she was checking out my figure. Almost immediately after I donned the robe, the surgeon came in. He was not what I expected – probably well into his 70s and bald – and had a very nice calm demeanor. “Well, show me what you got,” he said in his soft southern drawl. I dropped my robe. It had only been on for 5 seconds while he was in the room. Why did they bother with it in the first place?

After discussing that I was more interested in getting rid of sagging and wrinkling than going up in size, the doctor examined my breasts. He asked me to stand in several positions: with my hands above my head, leaning forward (NOT the most flattering position), and arms out. “Your right breast is bigger than your left,” he informed me as he measured me with calipers. I had never noticed. While he was studying me, I was busy looking at him. His bald head was almost devoid of wrinkles, in sharp contrast to his age. Botox? Probably so. He didn’t seem the type, but I supposed that when you had easy access to these sorts of things it is easier to take advantage of them.

After the exam I put on the robe again and we sat down for a little chat. He told me that a breast augmentation, where implants are placed in, would be much less scarring than a breast lift, and possibly could fill me back up without having to have the heavy scarring of the lift. Then I got a chance to ask my questions. How long would I need child care? About 3 weeks – picking them up would jeopardize the healing process and make a noticeable difference in the outcome. What are the chances of some of the risks? Higher than I expected. What size would I be afterwards? That is really impossible to determine until you go bra shopping after surgery, but we could fake the effect right here in the office.

The nurse handed me a surgical unibra, the same flimsy cotton garment that I would have to wear day in and day out for about a month while I recovered. They handed me a couple of implants – one bigger and one smaller, of course, because of my lopsided figure. “Slip these into the bra then put your shirt back on. It won’t be perfect, but it will give you a general idea.”

I did as I was told, then stood in front of the mirror. A very well endowed woman stared back at me. Would I look like THAT? I looked more like a porn star than my regular self. “What about something smaller?” I asked.

“We can put you in a size smaller, but it may not take care of all the sagging and wrinkling. Then we might need to go back later to do a lift.” We tried them anyway. It was closer to the effect I was going for.

Since the appointment, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching. I’m not normally a person who would have breast implants or any kind of surgery solely for cosmetic purposes, for that matter. What makes me want to do it now? Is it because of the hysterectomy? Am I afraid of losing my womanhood? I am still not sure.

I also don’t know if I will have the surgery. I flip-flop a couple of times a day.

On one hand, there are no promises that the surgery will fix my sagging. And it is up in the air how big I would actually get. I’m not really a flashy person in real life – I wouldn’t want to be obvious to friends and family that I had any work done. I just wouldn’t mind looking better naked. My ego is also getting in the way. I take great pride in the fact – rightly or wrongly – that everything about me is real. This is my real hair color, real eye color, and real fingernails. I am who I am. I love being able to claim that, and if I got implants in, there would be no going back from that.

Bigger than that, though, I feel a social responsibility not to do the surgery. Why is it that when men get crows feet and graying hair it is sexy, but when women show signs of aging it lessens their desirability? I’ve always said that I would age gracefully and be proud of it. I love an older woman with long, flowing gray hair. Her wrinkles in her face shows the years of smiles and battles that she has fought and that is womanhood at its finest to me. Why should I join the ranks of the pressures that make woman feel the need to look like society’s version of perfection?

Then there are the times I stand naked in front of a mirror and think, “Holy s—, Kristina, get over yourself. If you don’t like something about your body, why don’t you just change it already?”

Will I do the surgery at this time? No. But must admit I’m not taking it off the table completely. I’ll keep the paperwork in a file. Maybe someday I’ll get it out to use it. Maybe I’ll find it one day while cleaning out my files and have a good laugh, my long gray hair bouncing and wrinkles showing with my smile.

I hope for the latter.

Riding that endorphin high

I attended my first homebirth in the wee hours of the morning a night ago – mom stoically sat in the birth pool, the only sign that she was working hard was light tapping of fingers and the occasionally quiet moan.  As soon as that birth wrapped up – about 6am – I get a phone call from my actual client.  “I think I’m in labor”.  Wee ha!  I go home, catch three hours of sleep, shower, then quickly shuttle kids off to grandma.  As kids are pulling out of the driveway, I get another call.  “My water just broke – we’re headed to the hospital.”  She was a trooper –  always had planned on an epidural but it didn’t take well and there were a couple of hours of really rough labor.  I got to earn my money, which always feels good.  Baby born right before midnight.  Both beautiful births – and I needed it.

Today is my little girl’s birthday – and driving home after a couple of births was the perfect way to kickstart it.  Now I’ve got to clean furiously for a birthday party this afternoon that I haven’t had the chance to plan.  Funny thing is I’m not even tired.  Ahhh…birth hormones (yep, the doula gets them too).  Don’t you love ’em?

Book Club: introduction

Hi.  My name is Kristina.  This is my friend Jen, and this is my other friend Jen.

I love saying that.

Anyway, the three of us BFFs started a very exclusive book club.  Whether it’s very exclusive because nobody else wants to join it is beside the point.  We get to read stuff and have someone to talk about it.  And as in our usual fashion, there will surely be wine.  And possibly food.  (I’m on a healthy cooking kick at the moment.)

It all started when I was raving about this really cool book my dad got for Christmas from his sister.  The book listed out all the best books of several genres.  Children’s lit, classic lit, modern, etc.  It’s been a while since I’ve read much fiction, particularly classic literature, and there were many books from many genres that when I saw I would shout “oh!  I’ve always wanted to read that” and there were other books I’d never heard of but sounded awfully intriguing.  I found myself flipping through the pages, remembering fondly books I’d “had to read” in high school and college, and some I’d hated (but probably deserved a fairer shake).  I think it’s well established that I like lists and order so this book spoke to me.  I’m already working my way through all the Oscar Best Picture winning movies and the IMDB top 100 and had always coveted a list of books that I could similarly work through.  One of the Jens mentioned that it would be fun to do it together in the form of a book club.  The only problem?  Confining us to a list like that just seemed too – well – confining.  So I set the “rules” on how to pick the books.

1.  We’d each take turns.  Everything worth knowing we learned we learned in Kindergarten, after all.

2.  There is no limit to the type of book we can pick.  It can be classic lit, nonfiction, reference, IKEA assembly instructions, whatever.  It can be 100 pages or 1000 pages long.

3.  Whatever one picks, we have to read.  No complaining.  There is something to be learned from any book.

So, Jen was nominated the first to pick a book.  She’d never read Jane Austen but had recently seen the movie “The Jane Austen Book Club” and was intrigued.  But some of us had read Ms. Austen’s major works – or at least seen the recent movies – so she thought it might be fun to pick a lesser-known, and shorter, book.  Jen works for a major online retailer based in Seattle and one day the complete works of Jane Austen showed up on my doorstep.  I called her up.  Which book?  She chose by where her bookmark ribbon was placed.  Mansfield Park it is.

I finally cracked the book open and started reading in earnest yesterday.  It can be challenging to follow, with all the social mores and language of old England (care to help us out Mr. Hughes?).  But characters are rich and the story is interesting.  And there’s ripe opportunity for discussion and movie watching.

And wine.  Of course.

Hello, you!

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