Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weeks One and Two

I have just learned—and this piece of knowledge could prove to be crucial to the success of my Vegetarian Year—that my beloved Kirkland Sweet Mesquite Seasoning which is also known as G-d’s gift to chicken,  is also mighty fine on potatoes.  To the uninformed, this may not seem to be a big deal. In fact, when I was debating whether or not to take on this challenge, one of the very first things that crossed my mind (and I am being completely serious here) was “hey, you have a practically full container of Mesquite Seasoning that Kayla brought you from her last pilgrimage to Costco.  If you go veggie now, by the time the year is up it will have hardened into a giant orange lump and you will miss out on eating it! Horrors! ” Somehow, I managed to convince myself that  a year of good, wholesome, vegetable and whole-grain-rich food was worth the sacrifice.  However, in a stroke of inspiration, I just dumped a bunch on some potatoes and now that I have tasted the results I see that this sacrifice is not required after all. So it shall be a year of good, wholesome, vegetable and whole-grain-rich food with the occasional dose of spice-and-chemical-enhanced potatoes. 

It’s all good.

Anyway, between Rosh Hashana (three days of big meals) and my stash of leftover lasagna, I did not do too much cooking this week.  My vegetarian culinary adventures this week were limited to (1) making a salad with quinoa in it and (2) getting myself invited to a vegetarian Shabbat dinner and then stealing their leftovers to eat next week. And the potatoes. Cannot forget the potatoes. 

Aforementioned vegetarian Shabbat hosts (who are fine cooks and were really good sports about the leftovers) were curious as to the ideological reasons behind the Vegetarian Year.  They seemed to be a bit shocked that I  really  and truly have none, unless one considers “it sounds like it might be fun” or “periodic life crisis” to be in some way ideological.

As far as field trips are concerned, thanks to the holidays and the associated days off, I have actually racked up six in my first two weeks:  one movie (The Magic of Belle Isle) and five off-road bike rides.  The latter included one ride with a friend who is blessed with a sense of direction, two rides in which I actually succeeded in reading a map well enough to make it to my intended destination with various periods of being lost, and two rides in which I rode around at random for a while, with no idea where the hell I was on the map, until I found myself spit out on a road that appeared in the Google Maps app on my iphone, thereby allowing me to follow the little blue dot to freedom.  

Today I was out for over four hours--about 3.5 of that off-road.  This sounds impressive, no?  It impressed the hell out of me...until I sat down with my new navigation program  and mapped the off-road route and discovered that I had covered all of 22 kilometers in that time.  I am a turtle on wheels.  This does not bode well for my expected performance in the Wheels of Love Ride.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vegetarian Year, if not a Healthy One

To inaugurate my Vegetarian Adventure, and celebrate my birthday, I am hosting a vegetarian meal.  The menu:

  • Carrot  cake made with white sugar and white flour and simply massive quantities of cream cheese frosting, made with butter and full-fat cream cheese.
  • Lasagne with of cheese. LOTS of cheese.  Also full fat.  With a few veggies tossed in for charm.
The carrot cake is listed before the lasagne because the carrot cake, or to be precise, the cream cheese frosting on the carrot cake, is the reason I am doing a dairy meal. In fact I believe it is fair to say that it is the reason I am doing a meal at all.  I wanted carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for my birthday. The most practical way to get it is to have a meal and have it for dessert. I suppose I could just have just baked the cake and eaten it all by myself, or even just made a bowl of frosting and eaten that, but I believe that this would be a bit too much of a good thing.

I haven't received my copy yet--though Amazon assures me it is en route--but somehow, I doubt that either of the two aforementioned dishes are going to appear in  American Wholefoods Cuisine. I could be wrong, of course. But given that the book is described as "spreading the gospel of meatless living and whole grains" and as featuring "high-fiber, low-fat, low-sugar, and low-salt vegetarian recipes" I  kind of doubt it.  Which means I had better enjoy this meal because sooner or later my Vegetarian Adventure Bible shall arrive and I will officially Know Better.

As for tonight, blissful ignorance. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fifty Two Brought to you by the Number Three

This post is brought to you by the number three.

In December 2009, I got an email from a friend of mine informing me that our mutual friend, A., had passed away suddenly.  A. and I graduated from the same high school. While we were very close for some time, by the time I got this email, we had been out of touch for some years. Still, it was shocking and very sad.  Since I figured others would want to know, I posted a notice on our high school class page on Facebook.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  Another high school classmate (who I do not remember in  the slightest) commented on my post. 

Classmate Wow I just read this. I know it's three years later but what happened

Gila Weiss He had a massive heart attack. Wow-cannot believe it has been three years.

A week or so later, another friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook page.  She had become a Zumba instructor and a local publication had written about her.  When I wrote to congratulate her we had the following exchange:

Gila Weissposted to Friend
You are a Zumba instructor now? How cool!

Friend Gilale - how are you ?? :) can you believe that Daughter #1 is starting her senior year and Daughter #2 has just started collage... :) ??

The last time I had seen this friend and her daughters Daughter #1 was just about to start her freshman year.  Three years ago.

Three years.  Three long years, full of potential, opportunity and plans to exploit the potential and opportunity.  Three years which were instead spent mostly working.  My days were regularly peppered with assurances to myself.  “Once you finish this project, once the deal closes, once the bookkeeper starts, once thisthatortheother happens--work will get easier and you will have time for a life”.  It never happened. Things always took longer than expected and if they did not (or even if they did) there was always another project. The last year has been particularly vicious—nights and weekends spent glued to my computer, my vacation postponed twice and finally converted into a working vacation, plan after plan cancelled and my friends neglected.  I bought a new dining room table last December thinking that this would be perfect for entertaining. To date, three of my friends have seen it and only one has eaten at it.  

To make matters worse, I have developed wretched habits in the form of a near-addiction to the internet.  When I am not actually working I am obsessively surfing the net. Because, hey, I am going to work 14 hours anyway—don’t I deserve a few minutes to unwind with Yahoo? Checking out Facebook? Reading Wickipedia entries? Looking up whatever stupid question pops into my head?  Now I KNOW that this is a terrible and unhealthy habit, in particular given how many hours I work. Here as well, I have the best of intentions.  I am going to cut back because look at how much time I am wasting!  Why, with that 30 minutes I spent dithering on Facebook over my breakfast I could have gotten a quick morning workout!  With that 60 minutes I spent last night aimlessly reading up on actors I have never heard of and movies I have no interest in, I could have let myself relax with a few rows of knitting before I went to bed AND gone to bed on time. Really, if I didn’t surf at all I would be so much more efficient.  But…I just want to take a quick look. Really, five minutes.   Which stretches into ten or twenty.

In short, a shocking, not to mention very unhealthy, portion of my life is spent in front of a computer. And when I’m not actually spending my life working or surfing the net, I’m agonizing obsessively about the fact that I am spending my life working or surfing the net. 

Such obsession can reach a fever pitch under the right circumstances. Say, for instance that:
  • Rosh Hashana is right around the corner
  • My birthday is right around the corner
  • I just updated my annual plan and realized I accomplished very little that I set out to do the previous year
  • I have been assaulted by various instances of the number three.
In such an instance as described above, I am liable to find myself grappling with a Crisis of Epic Proportions.   “Three years have gone by”, I declare to myself, “THREE WHOLE YEARS in which I have done NOTHING but work.  I are going to keel over and die from a heart attack, and all anyone will be able to say about me is that I worked a lot. Gila, you have thrown those three years into the garbage!  And then you waste the little free time you have on drivel!  You could be writing a novel—slowly but surely, a page a day. You could be volunteering! You could be fundraising for Alyn Hospital Wheels of Love Ride-it’s right around the corner! You could be spending time with friends.  And instead, what do you do? You spend your precious free time reading up on Honey Boo Boo! For fuck’s sake woman, you don’t watch reality TV!  You don’t even have cable!  The last time you turned on your TV at all was five months ago!  Why do you care about Honey Boo Boo?  You are wasting your life! “

Overstated?  Well, yes.  But completely ridiculous? No. There is a healthy chunk of truth to my histrionics. My life is out of balance.  My habits are crap.  And life is short and sometimes shorter than we think.  So, yes, something needs to be done.  But what?

And this, Friends, is why G-d invented Facebook.  

Call out to my friends! Your suggestions are needed.

So here is the deal. I have been feeling rather stuck—I keep on stumbling upon cases where I am reminded of something that happened 3-4 years ago and thinking “wow-I’ve done nothing in the last 3-4 years! Aside from work!” And I’m freaking out.

So, my birthday is coming up and I will be 42 (auspicious, no?) and I thought, why not give myself an interesting present—one ‘health’ commitment for my new year. Health here is defined broadly—it can be physical, mental, spiritual, etc. The one major condition is that it should force me to do/learn/try something new, continuously, over the course of the year. So “actually go to the dentist instead of just making appointments and breaking them”, while recommended, does not qualify. “Be a vegetarian for a year”, while liable to kill me, would qualify as my vegetarian repertoire would have to expand beyond Pakistani dahl, pasta and 5% white cheeses.

My friends came through.  Suggestions were as follows:
  • Study—look for a secular yeshiva, adult education, study Italian, lectures.
  • Do a vegetarian Julie and Julia, based on the American Wholefoods Cuisine cookbook
  • Study Meditation or Yoga
  • Take cooking courses.
  • Hike the Israel Trail
  • Live in another country for a year
  • Write a book in a year,
  • Start a new venture. 
  • Learn Krav Maga (Israeli self-defense)
  • Take up a fitness challenge
  • Try something like 52 weeks, 52 walks.  Every week, do a walk somewhere else. Maybe different places in Jerusalem, along the beach in Tel Aviv, somewhere interesting in Haifa.
  • Buy a newspaper every week, see what is going on and pick something to do.  Go to classes, visit the museum, do on walking tours, go to the movies. Just get out there.
  • “It sounds cheesy, but whatever your version of Eat Pray Love it, go do that. “
  • “Skip the first two sections of Eat Pray Love, go to the END and find yourself a Man. Forget food, religion, education, get laid my friend…a lot…by someone who knows what he is doing”.  (This contribution is courtesy of Ellie, who also pointed out that this would dovetail nicely with the vegetarian option, as sperm has lots of protein.  That’s Ellie for you. So practical.).
 In the end, I decided on the following:
  1. Fifty two Field Trips in Fifty Two Weeks. A field trip can be a bike ride somewhere more exotic than up to Yad Kennedy. It can be a lecture.  It can be a cooking class.  It can be a krav mega with Kayla. It can be a bike ride or a hike along a section of the Israel Trail. It can be the zoo with one of my mommy friends and her kids.  In short, it can be damn near anything that 1) gets me out of the house 2) is something I do not normally do and 3) is not work related.  And 4) while I can research it before and (if I get to it) write it up after, it cannot involve my computer.
  2.  Be vegetarian for the year, though I can have one meat meal for every Shabbat and Hag. I’ve already ordered the cookbook and have a date with a friend to start picking recipes for experimentation.
So let's assume I stick to this.  Worst case scenario—at the end of next year, I have a list of 52 things I can point at and say “I did this” and I have learned how to subsist on nuts, grains and berries.
Best case scenario—who knows?  And that’s the best part.