Thursday, February 24, 2005

New things. Oof.

Yesterday I had my first real workout at my new gym, joined a good 16-voice choir, and applied for a job.

The gym: Cheap, but effective! My fitness assessment on Monday was a bit glum. Two scales at the gym made me out to be seven pounds heavier than our home one, so it's time for a new scale. My BMI - and I do believe my BMI because I'm fairly medium-boned and totally unmuscular - says I am just barely obese. But my fitness level is "good", according to the LCD display on their nifty, sensor-laden bikes, so there is nothing but my head to keep me from getting in shape.

On Tuesday I had a learning session with a personal trainer. She's clearly a superior being, despite her name being Sherri. At the least, Sherri is the sharpest tool in the box at this gym. You know those camp counsellors who are compact, effective, know their shit but are still fun? That's her. Yesterday I had my first real workout there, and today I feel great, despite being barely obese.

The choir: Rah! Yesterday I joined a 16-voice choir that specializes in 8-or-more-part sacred Renaissance music. And it's good! Lately I have felt an increasing need to use my full voice and sing in a choir with good pitch and that learns quickly. This choir is not perfect, but good enough for me, for now, and I am very pleased.

The job: I probably won't get it, and I don't know if I'd even want it, but it's a temporary part-time position at the city's main reference library. It pays almost twice as much per hour as my current job at the university, offers more hours, and would end around the time I'm hoping to be pregnant.

If only my current position paid more. I actually do like it, despite the poor break and meager pay. It's a good and peaceful environment, and my knowledge of music is of great use to me there. The people are great, when they're not enforcing my eensy break time while they're on the phone with friends for half-hour stretches. However, ten dollars an hour was enough for me ten years ago, but not now. My husband wishes to go to school next year, and it's to our mutual benefit that he does. Our income will be drastically reduced while he's at school, and we still have debt, are planning a family, and hope to buy a house in the next five years. Making more money is not so much an issue of pride as of necessity, so no stories from people my age who "lost their pride" and worked for pennies in their youth, please! I did that, too, and happily. That was years ago. [/defensive rant]. I have nothing to lose by exploring other opportunities, as my current job is mine as long as I wish to keep it.

So, that's all the excitement I can handle in a week. We now return to my regularly-scheduled doing of laundry.

Friday, February 18, 2005

In which I finally move.

I'm going to haul my flabby ass to a gym! Today! Not necessarily a great one, as I am broke. But the one nearest me is cheap, has all the equipment this novice needs (if not the super-deluxe machines of pricey clubs), and free classes and personal ass-kicking training. I enjoyed the tour I took the other day. And no, it's not Curves, which hours of research has revealed would put me in a sweaty feel-good circle with a dozen tubby grandmas who treat the gym as a social thing. There, I'd be working out on machines that you can only increase your workout on by doing more reps, not increasing resistance. Sounds hard on the elbows.

The alternative is the local rec centre, which is even cheaper and has a pool, but no personal assessment, and no asskickers personal trainers without further cost. They do offer babysitting, for when that time comes. Their basic monthly rate includes free aerobics classes, lane swimming, and weight room access. If I join both the gym and the rec centre, I'd be spending less monthly than at Curves.

To tell the truth, I'm not simply tired of being tired and flabby; I'm feeling feisty. My in-laws are lean, mean fitness machines. My mother-in-law is in better shape than I. She is very active and looks just fabulous. Same with my sister-in-law. I am the lone puffball, and sick of it. If it takes my competitive streak getting the better of me to make me move my ass, I'll take it.

The more I move my ass, the more I can explore cookbooks guiltlessly. My latest acquisition is Lovers Dining, an adorable little 1970 volume dedicated to creating succulent dishes for two. My aunt already has the book, and recommends the veal with lemon and brandy. The cover says so much:

Off to the gym I go. Soon. ::scans room for means of further procrastination::

Monday, February 14, 2005

excuses, excuses!

Ugh. Cinnamon hearts on an empty stomach do not a breakfast make. A scrambled egg with shiitake mushrooms, spinach and garlic sauteed in butter is a vast improvement. Oh, yes. Oh, Lord. Where have those mushrooms been all my life?

Dinner tonight is beef tenderloin. Not that we care much about this silly day, but Monday is my husband's Friday because of his schedule, so we like to be bad on Mondays. We're long overdue for a nice evening in because I've been out of town so much, and working evenings when I have been home. So, go us!

After all, I played contemporary music all for three days last week. Contemporary music for accordion and orchestra. Wait - make that three accordions and orchestra. In Windsor.

In light of the accordions and the location, I did not fast on Ash Wednesday. Instead, I had a big, garlicky shawarma sandwich before rehearsal and copious amounts of bad local wine afterwards. Je ne regrette rien.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Saint Groundhog

One of the many things I appreciate about Candlemas (or Saint Groundhog, as I say to those family members who don't get why I go to church today) is that it is a fixed date, and one can expect the timidly growing winter light to be the same every year. We used to get a pretty big crowd for the service, but no more, despite the pot luck dinner afterwards. It's the last thing we celebrate that's rooted to the Nativity, and I can't believe that it's just a week until Lent. Half the houses in our neighbourhood still have Christmas wreaths on their door.

Anyway, it's such a beautiful service. I love all that candlelight, and the music. We do a Lumen ad revelationem by a brilliant local composer who was interim choir director the year before I joined, and who also composed a motet for our wedding. It begins with a hush that is entirely the opposite of the triumphant Byrd version we did for years. Byrd makes me happier than most things most days, but this new motet is just magical in its simplicity. We still do Byrd's Senex puerum portabat - way too fast this year, and the amazing tension between moving intervals was lost, glossed over. But hey, pot luck! Give me my Godmother's wild rice and mushroom salad, and I'll sing Byrd naked from a trapeze.

Crikey. Band Camp loometh. Sigh. Must make reeds for unknown students.

The Girl can't Cook, and She could Use a Better Editor.

Let me first sing the praises of local libraries and remind myself why they're there; to keep me from acquiring more stuff. So when I spotted The Girl can't Cook by Cinda Chavich, a Canadian food journalist, at the newly-renovated local, I jumped. I'd been eyeballing it at Chapters for months, and now I could give it a thorough testing before it occupied an inch and a half of permanent shelf space in my wee apartment.

The premise is not new: "You want to cook, but you don't know where to begin. Guess what: it's easy!" Here, Cinda either one-ups or one-downs Rachael, depending on your perspective, by going back to basics and telling the Girl what her pantry needs (College Cookbook, anyone?), then springing beyond the 30-minute bell to show her what a classy gourmet broad she can be. It's a delightful read, one I wish had come out a year or two sooner, as its usefulness might have curbed some of my free spending on cookbooks. Yet the author is damn lucky I read past the first page of the preface:

"It's time to come clean. The first cookbook I ever owned was called the I Hate to Cook Cookbook, a skinny little paperback I bought in a small-town drugstore when I moved out to the middle of nowhere with a guy one summer way back when.

Both were a mistake - although the book, with it's [sic] silly anecdotes and 1001 ways to use mushroom soup (also a small-town staple), probably saved me from alternately starving and going insane out there on the bald open prairie."

How can she diss the magnum opus of the great Peg Bracken, which, incidentally, is called simply The I Hate to Cook Book, without Chavich's added redundancy? Indeed, Ms. Bracken made liberal use of canned soups, alas, but Cinda owes her bigtime, as she basically pioneered the idea, 45 years ago, that women could cook something quickly and then return to their real, possibly even fabulous, lives. And the inappropriate "it's" in Chavich's preface reminds us that a good editor is gold. There are a few too many lazily punctuated sentences in her book, i.e., "Real cheese is never processed, it is a natural product." Augh! Furthermore, Peg Bracken's books are much wittier than a collection of mere "silly anecdotes". No other, er, food writer but Bracken could implore us to "light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink" or suggest we might rather "fold our big dishwater hands around a dry martini instead of a wet flounder." And let's not forget that Cinda Chavich assumes we like the idea of cooking and wish to cook well, whereas Peg Bracken assumed we hated it altogether. Now, hand me that can of soup.

But wait! I said the book was delightful, and it is. The rest of the book is actually much more readable than the thrown-together preface would suggest. It's actually thoughtfully written, cheerfully laid out, interspersed with very good tips, and each recipe has a happy little introduction. Cinda also redeems herself pretty quickly by extoling the virtues of local produce very passionately. Sing it, prairie girl! I just know that when this baby goes back to the library, it will be replaced with a purchased copy, and The Girl, the "Prosciutto and Melon Thing" (p. 211) and I will become very good friends.

If The Girl leaves Peg alone, that is.