Monthly Archives: August 2010

Bladders and fitness and Tyra, oh my!

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You know it’s a slow work day when you start getting tired of trolling around the Internet.  I’m starting to feel like an agoraphobe – except I’m not holed up in a dark room with only my thoughts and my imaginary friends to keep me company.

If I really wanted to I could probably look around for something to do.  But then again, it’s a Sunday and I don’t get any days off until the end of September, so I think I’ll continue towards my goal of permanently gluing my ass to the seat.  I’m in such a lazy mood today that I’ve been wanting to go the bathroom for the last half hour and have yet to go…at this point my bladder is crying out for help.

*BREAK*

Update: Bladder at last relieved.

I keep thinking that when I get home today I’ll be good and I’ll start doing a little bit of exercising.  Maybe a few squats and push-ups.  A little bit of yoga, perhaps.  Or some ab work.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could just do something productive with my time?  I haven’t exercised in 6 months and I’m starting to feel like a melting ice-cream cone:

The current state of my thighs.

I need to get back into a program – work out those muscles.  Lift my ass up. Tighten up those bat wings.  Turn that keg into a six-pack.

Basically I need to turn into this:

Body courtesy of Jane Fonda.

A few years ago I would train with a former bodybuilder/current Oakland police officer.  His name was Joe and he was a hard-ass.  With Joe I reached many milestones.  Like completing a push-up.  I also completed a tricep-dip. And I was totally committed.

At the time I used to work in San Mateo and I would drive up to Pacifica after work, have Joe work me over (oh, doesn’t that sound naughty) for two hours and head up North through the Bay Bridge to go home to Oakland.  I would basically travel a 100+ mile circle every single day, including weekends.  Needless to say I only lasted a year with this schedule.

I did experience a couple of firsts with Joe.  Besides the push-up and the tricep-dip accomplishments, I found out what it feels like to pee on yourself because you’ve been holding it in while doing circuit training and now Joe has you doing non-stop jumping jacks and all that does is tease your bladder into relieving itself.  The sensation of warm piss running down your legs is unforgettable, to say the least.

I also experienced the trauma of bursting your eye veins because you have 200 lbs. of weight on your shoulders and you’re in a deep squat and now your job is to push those 200 lbs. back into a standing position.  And you have to push so hard to complete the squat that it literally makes the veins in your eye burst.  I looked like some sort of cyclopic vampire – one bright red eye wandering in the night.

Who needs to see a burst eye vein, anyway? This picture is so much more fun! It's TYRA!

So yeah, you could say I have a lot to aspire to as far as my fitness goes.

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California love.

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So last night I finally had the house to myself.  When you live with your mother those rare nights are like a little treasure; they’re like a stolen diamond, destined to stay in its hiding place save for those few times when you can take it out of its hiding place and spend all night admiring. And so that’s what I did.  I invited my sister and our friend Athanasia over for a girl’s night – a Californian girls’ night, to be more specific.

Athanasia, who a GA (Greek-American for those unaware) is from San Diego, California, goes by the name of – what else? – San Diego.  Aren’t we clever?  My sister, naturally, goes by the name of Oakland, and I guess I’m just too special to have a nickname like that.  Let me correct myself – I was given a nickname but can no longer remember it…. Anyways, you know the nickname situation is out of control when calling your friend by her nickname seems more natural than calling her by her actual name.

So we spent a nice evening in my yard talking in English – and what a beautiful feeling it is to let the English just roll off your tongue – truly it is.  We had homemade guacamole and tortilla chips and for the first time ever we attempted to make frozen margaritas with much success.  Basically we recreated an evening out at Chevy’s.  We instituted a two-drink minimum and it was delicious. And we supported my sister (who can’t drink due to pregnancy) by drinking her share of margaritas.

And of course to set the mood we played some music – Eminem’s new CD, “Recovery.”  Because you know that’s the top music choice for three white girls.  And a white girl singing hip-hop lyrics is probably not the best thing to experience.  Especially a white girl over 30.  And especially these lyrics:

“Can’t wait to get you in my Benz/ Take you for a spin/ What you mean we ain’t f**kin’/ you take me for a friend?”

Blame it on the alcohol.

For the love of food.

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“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”  – George Bernard Shaw

The Mediterranean diet gets a lot of props for its health benefits.  And it truly is a way of eating that we should all aspire to – lots of vegetables, plenty of olive oil, lots of fish.  There are lots of foods that I eat in Greece that are so much better than what it’s Californian versions – excellent feta cheese; delicious, homemade olive oil, seasonal produce that is at the peak of its flavor.

Last week my mother cut a cucumber for our lunch salad and the whole kitchen was suddenly filled with the cool aroma of cucumber. Who knew a cucumber could produce aroma?  But when it’s fresh and seasonal, that’s what happens.  Ever craved a tomato?  The tomatoes here in the summer are so red and juicy, I can’t even describe them.  You’re almost sad to see them disappear from the bowl.  And then you taste them and you know that it was meant to be.  That was the purpose of the tomato – to be enjoyed by you.  It fulfilled its destiny…

However, there are plenty of foods that I miss that are simply not available in Greece.  Often times I try to replicate them at home – a simple version of a quesadilla with Greek yogurt to replace sour cream. Or Thai peanut sauce mixed in with linguine pasta as some sort of bastardized version of something Thai.  I’m really even sure that dish even exists in Thai cuisine, but I love the peanut sauce and so I’d rather slather it over pasta than not have it at all.

I’ve made carrot cake, cheesecake, teriyaki pork, bruschetta, pesto, savory pop tarts, chicken Caesar salad, chocolate chip cookies, vegetable lasagna.  At one point I even contemplated making my own ricotta cheese.  You just don’t find these foods in Greece.  And I love them.  At times I feel like I’m missing good friends – how sad is that?  That’s definitely the fat kid in me talking.  Sometimes all I want to do is sit in front of a table with all the foods that I miss and just eat and eat and eat — gluttony at the max.

What else do I miss?

Thick-cut, smoky bacon.  Emphasis on the thick-cut.  The type of bacon that crumbles in your mouth in one hearty bit.  The only bacon they have here is some lackluster, thinly cut sliced bacon that literally disappears when you cook it.  Remember “Where’s the beef?”  Well, in this case it’s “Where’s the bacon?”  I haven’t had a good BLT in two years.

A good old-fashioned bagel with cream cheese.  I don’t care what flavor it is, I just want to eat one, whether it’s toasted or not, whether it’s plain cream cheese or jalapeno salsa, I just want one!

Thick, crumbly, stinky goat cheese.  I could eat this all day.  Hell, I’d even marry goat cheese if I could.  It makes everything tastes better.  The stinkier, the better!

Come to momma!

Tuna tartare.  I cannot really explain in words how much I crave this.  I think about it at least once a day.  Zesty, refreshing, tender –  just lovely.

One day we'll be together again.

Cilantro!  I love it and unfortunately it is available here for only about one month in the spring. I wish I had access to it all year round.  After all, you can’t make good guacamole without cilantro in it.

Can someone ship some to me?

A big, juicy, stuff-your-mouth burger that I don’t have to spend 2 hours preparing to make.  I just want to walk into a burger joint (Val’s in Hayward for all my California peeps) and order one and stuff myself with it.  With a side of onion rings.  Oh, sweet little onion rings.  You taste so good with charbroiled beef…

As big as your head and that's how I like 'em.

The Laurel to the burger's Hardy.

RIB-EYE STEAK.  Let me educate those of you who don’t know: Greeks are not huge red-meat eaters.  Their beef is tough and stringy.  They don’t age it.  I don’t know what they feed it but it definitely doesn’t melt in your mouth.  And they cook it well done.  Really well done.  If I ask for it rare it will come to me medium well.  That’s just how they roll here.  Last year we resorted to bringing frozen rib-eye steaks with us in my mother’s suitcases.  Thank God for Costco and their family packs.  I tell ya, it was the best beef I had in Greece.

Where is the beef, indeed...

Chicken Tikka Masala – Ethnic food is sorely lacking here.  In Athens you may be able to find a couple of restaurants, but trust me, they are not performing to the level and taste of their US counterparts.  When I used to work in San Francisco, my coworkers and I had a standing lunch date (maybe once a week or once every 10 days).  We’d mosey on over across the street for Indian food.  We always got the same thing – samosas (extra brown sauce, please!), chicken tikka masala, extra naan.  I miss the meal and the extreme food coma that inevitably hit you after an hour.

Induces the best nap in the world

Eggs Benedict – for those who live close by know this:  Katy’s corner in San Ramon makes the best ones I’ve had and you get three eggs instead of two.  What more could you want?  Beautifully poached eggs, crispy english muffin, salty Canadian bacon, creamy and lemony hollandaise sauce.  It’s the perfect brunch.  Throw in some home fries and a latte and call it a day!

Perfection on a plate.

I’m so so so hungry all of a sudden.

What are friends for?

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“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival.”  – C. S. Lewis

I don’t make friends very easily. It’s not a recent development; I’ve just always been like that.  Even as a young child in elementary school I recall being the “outsider”.  Hanging out with the girls in my class during breaks I would lay low and just listen.  Always the observer, rarely the participant.  It makes it hard to create enduring friendships.  I guess I’ve always appreciated having a few good friends that I know well rather than a big group of friends that I don’t know much about.  Often times I get bored with people’s bullshit. I’d rather entertain myself than listen to their crap. Maybe there’s an anti-social gene in me, who knows…Then again if those people were actual friends then I wouldn’t get bored of them, would I?

Here in Greece I’ve found it really hard to make good friends. Outside of Athens people tend to get too involved in your business, gossip about you, bring out jealousies and envy and generally act like passive-aggressive biotches.  It’s that small town mentality.  The city, as ugly and hectic as it is, offers a layer of protection from the ugly side of the “acquaintance” – everybody is too busy and stressed to deal with inconsequential things.  And I say acquaintances and not friendships because if it is a friendship then the jealousy, the gossip et al. shouldn’t even surface.  Perhaps frenemies is the word I’m looking for.  Yes – all I see here are frenemies, not friends.  I haven’t met anyone save for a handful of people that are worth pursuing friendships with.  We just don’t click. There’s no chemistry.

Living in Greece has made me appreciate my friends back in the States.  I miss my friends that I’ve known since high school, people that know you so well they can finish your sentences (Hi Noms and Lou Lou!); and I miss the friends that I made through work, lovely people that are joyous and happy and are just nice, and you can have a normal conversation with them about Grey’s Anatomy or food or the movies and you don’t resort to shit talking (Hi TT gang!). It took a while to reconnect with them, I must admit. I moved and kind of disappeared for about a year.  I got caught up in my new surroundings, the new people – it was not the most honorable behavior on my part, I must admit.  Looking back now I really truly hate that I was incognito for so long.  But my friends took me back with so much joy (as much as they could muster?) and really, I appreciate it more than anything.

 

 

So here are some pictures of some of my friends! (I hope said friends don’t mind!)  It’s not all of them, because unfortunately a lot of my pics with them are currently living in my PC back in California.  DRAT!

What I do know is that the friendships and connections that I have really do mean a lot to me. I may disappear into my own little shell at times, but at the end of the day, without those connections there really is not much to life, is there?

My little Lou-lou, aka Kate the Great

You can really only do this shit with friends - otherwise people think you're a weirdo.

Famous Raymond at his best - at a bar with a drink in his hand.

DB Sweeney and JL never looked so good...

Friends don't let friends party alone on the party bus. Manolicious and Byrony to the rescue!

Friends also are there to help you get through the stress of family weddings! Kate, Naomi and Noni out to keep us sane...

Sorry Yols, I love this picture of you too much not to post it!

Age appropriate.

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Hi there, 50-something lady on vacation in Nafplio!  I hope you’re having a lovely time in our town, but really, you should put more thought into your outfit.

This isn’t the Power Exchange and you are past the point of no return when you wear a leather bustier, a pleather mini skirt that is threatening to expose your crotch, blue eyeshadow and pink lipstick.

I only wish I had the camera with me so I could do to my friends what you did to me — burn my retinas.   But I take comfort in the thought that all of Nafplio suffered that night…

Chatty Kathys all around…

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What is it about certain days?  Does the universe conspire to make some of your days more difficult?  Could it be karma? Could it be that I attract lunacy around me?

What I was hoping for yesterday was a relaxing day.  What I got was a day filled with all the chatty Kathys of the world.  I only have a limited amount of patience for people who like to talk without taking a single breath between their thoughts – yesterday I was looking in my reserve tanks to find any remaining inkling of patience to help me avoid screaming on the top of my lungs in frustration.

Chatty Kathy #1 is a four-year-old girl who is staying at the hotel with her parents.  Although she is absolutely precious and adorable – she really is – this girl can put Joan Rivers down in a question contest.  I recently read a piece of trivia stating that the average four-year-old asks approximately 400 questions per day.  This girl has asked me 400 questions every single morning for the last eight mornings. Where are you going? Why are you doing it?  Where are you going?  But why? Where?  Why? Where? Why? WHEEERRREEE???  WHHHYYYYY???  It’s never-ending.  God bless her, but I feel like I’ve been through an interrogation every time I venture out to say good morning to her parents.  She’s like a pint-sized Jack Bauer:

WHEREEE???? WHYYYYY????

Chatty Kathy #2 incidentally goes by the name of Katerina, which could be roughly translated to Kathy in English. She’s a customer at my sister’s clothing shop where she ran into me yesterday afternoon while I was working at the shop.  We get to talking about, what else?  The current economic climate in Greece, which, granted, has been on everyone’s minds this year.  But we’ve had this conversation before.  Several times.  Verbatim.

Cue Katerina’s entry.  Pop conversation tape in brain.  Press Play.  Drive Voula crazy.  This conversation includes her business practices at her sweets shop. What kind of cream she uses in her pastries.  How many days she can sell them fresh.  Why she throws them out after the third day.  How she’s tried pastries at other shops and what quality they were in.  This went on for 45 minutes.  She’s standing the whole time.  You ever have those conversations with people that generate this nervous feeling deep inside?  That’s what it was like – I felt this nervous, anxious vibration in my chest.  All I wanted to do was stand up and scream at the top of my lungs:

LEAVE PLEASE!!!!

It’s a miracle I contained myself.

Chatty Cathy #3 found me in the evening when I was out at a café enjoying the last full moon of the summer with my mom, sister and a friend.  This woman has chatty running through her veins, as her sister is my neighbor and I have been the victim of her chattiness many a times.  Lady, let me tell you something: I really have no interest to hear all the details about your shopping trip, for a kitchen rug no less, nor do I want to hear about it for half an hour.  Take a breath, please.  And mom, really, you don’t have to encourage her – I beg of you.

The object of her affection.

Thank the Lord above my sister came with her own car and after an hour she gets up to leave.  Success!  I made a clean break and I hightailed it out of there.  For all the pain and suffering that I went through I rewarded myself with a joint and a couple of back-to-back episodes of The Office.  A little Dwight Schrute makes you forget your trouble, that’s for sure.

Fact:  Chatty Kathys will drive you insane.