Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sesame Pancakes. Namaste.

Over the summer, I ended up working on campus one to two days out of each weekend, so I got in the habit of going to brunch at places around campus. Now that summer is over and my life has resumed more normal day to day operations, I found myself without brunch plans this weekend. It didn't matter yesterday, because I had a 5K, but today I woke up kind of hungry and mostly out of groceries. I thought about going out for brunch, but couldn't remember the name of the place I went to one time with my friends so that I could google their menu, and I didn't want to ask my friends because then they might think I wanted to go to brunch with them. I like my friends, but my plan for today is to see no one, if possible, since I have to go back to work tomorrow.

I was still hungry, though, and I need to go to the grocery store, so food options that will also fulfill a brunch craving were a little bit limited. I pondered this for a moment, and then thought, Hey, did you ever make those sesame pancakes that you bought the stuff for?

Back in July I read a pretty funny book called I'll Have What She's Having, which I laughed out loud repeatedly while reading. The author spends a week or so at a time trying out various celebrity diets, and she started with Gwyneth Paltrow's. Now, I can sum up the things I know about Gwyneth Paltrow in a pretty short list (pink Oscar gown when she won; got in a fight with Martha Stewart; consciously uncoupled from Chris Martin; broke up with Brad Pitt; practices some celebrity form of kabbalah; says "Namaste" a lot), but the author said that Gwyneth's sesame pancakes were delicious. When she reached the end of the diet, she still craved the sesame pancakes. I'm no stranger to celebrity recipes, so I was intrigued by these mysterious sesame pancakes. I wasn't intrigued enough to buy Gwyneth's cookbook, but some googling revealed that someone else had already posted Gwyneth's intellectual property online.

I helped steal a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow.

Sorry, Gwyneth.


The recipe seemed fairly simple, with the only thing I actually needed to go buy being rice milk. I have never purchased rice milk, and don't really know anything about it (they probably make it from rice?) or if they would have it at my regular grocery store, so I skipped the possibility of disappointment and headed straight to EarthFare, as that seems like the kind of place where vegan hippies who are nebulously spiritual like my impression of Gwyneth is would go to buy something like this.

Sorry for lumping Gwyneth in with you, hippies.


I bought the rice milk, but then August turned out to be the kind of month that August always turns out to be if you work in higher education, and I never got around to making the sesame pancakes.

Until today.

My adventure started by immediately deviating from the recipe. I have regular flour on hand, but I didn't have unbleached flour, and I didn't feel like buying it special just for this recipe. Sorry, Gwyneth. Namaste. I measured out my regular bleached flour:

Sesame pancakes (1)

and felt a little bad for not at least trying to stick to the recipe. I decided to try to get myself into a more Gwyneth mindset, and switched my Fitbit band to a red one, in honor of Gwyneth's red Kabbalah string bracelet, after which I immediately felt more centered and able to prepare Gwyneth's sesame pancakes.

reddish fitbit

I also tried saying "Namaste" a lot while I was working. Now I'm not sure I can stop.

I measured out the rice milk, which looked like white water:

Sesame pancakes (2)

Curious, I tried a little after I mixed up the batter. It doesn't taste like milk, but it doesn't taste terrible. It was kind of like sweetened water.

Anyway, I mixed up the flour, rice milk, sesame oil, and salt, and ended up with a pale, thin batter:

Sesame pancakes (3)

I bet Gwyneth's is browner. Because of the unbleached flour.

Shut up. Namaste.

Batter ready, I tried the first one, and discovered that turning the pancake was a bit of a struggle:

Sesame pancakes (4)

It seemed to be done, but it was a disappointing, torn lump of pasty dough:

Sesame pancakes (5)

Despite the fact that there are starving children in foreign lands, I threw it away without tasting it. Namaste.

The recipe said that the first one would be kind of a disaster pancake, so I tried again, but the second came out even worse. When I attempted to flip it, it curled in on itself into something I can only describe as the "pancake fetal position":

Sesame pancakes (6)

That one was also swiftly dispatched into the trash. Namaste.

I looked at the recipe again, and decided that maybe I was making them too thick. I halved the amount of batter that I was putting into the skillet at a time, and things seemed better:

Sesame pancakes (7)

Not perfect, but better. Could this be the bad first pancake that the recipe mentioned? I cast my eyes heavenward, murmured a quiet "Namaste", and tried again.

Sesame pancakes (8)

It looks like a pancake! Hallelujah! Namaste! In only a few more minutes, I had a stack of tiny, thin pancakes, and I promptly poured a healthy dollop of syrup over it.

The syrup pooled down the sides.

Sesame pancakes (9)

The sesame pancakes did not absorb any syrup. Even after sitting in that pool for a few minutes, the plate appeared unchanged. I was still hungry, though, and I'd already come this far, so I decided to try the sesame pancakes.

They are not delicious.

They were rubbery, and they tasted like glue with a hint of sesame oil, despite the presence of butter and syrup. The author of that book raved about how good they were, but I realized as I ate my fourth one that the author of that book had also been deprived of most kinds of food for over a week when she ate them. She'd probably have thought a saltine cracker was good at that point.

I ate enough of the sesame pancakes to not be hungry any more, and then threw the rest away.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

"It's just not very exciting."

An exciting (to me) thing happened today: The Pyrex Early American 404 mixing bowl that I purchased for myself on eBay arrived, and it is beautiful.

Early American 404

The 404 completes not only my stack of 400-series Early American mixing bowls:

Early American 400 series

but completes my entire Early American set. Except for the ultra-rare test pieces and non-typically colored pieces, which usually sell for a few hundred dollars each if they sell at all, I have all of Early American. I have the round mixing bowls (401-404), the handled mixing bowls (441-444), the divided dishes, the round casseroles, the oval casseroles, the refrigerator dish set... I have all of the Early American. This was my last piece of my favorite vintage Pyrex pattern.

I was so excited about this that I shared photos with many of my friends, almost all of whom reacted positively. One of them decided to hit me with a little bit of honesty, though:

Honesty: I know that you like this stuff but it's just not very exciting. It's a bowl. I like it when you cook stuff, but just looking at the bowl is kind of boring.


I mean, I guess you could have said, I'm happy that you're happy, but hey, you chose to go this way instead. That's fine. Maybe I could do something to make it more exciting. Maybe I could dress it up somehow, like they dress up lame prizes on "The Price is Right" by standing a model next to them.

Who would be an appropriate Pyrex model, though? Which of my many action figures would be most likely to get excited about fifty year old kitchenware?

Fun with Pyrex (3)

Aunt May. Of course.

Well, Aunt May, now that you're here, maybe could you sexy this up a little bit? Maybe drape yourself suggestively over the bowl or something?

Fun with Pyrex (6)

Wait, Aunt May. You're a comic book character. Maybe you could do that pose that ladies do on comic covers all the time where they uncomfortably twist their body to show their face and their butt in the same picture? Could you do that?

Fun with Pyrex (5)



This isn't exciting. It's actually kind of nightmare fuel, but maybe that's because forcing Aunt May to contort herself for the gratification of viewers is demeaning and inappropriate, like The Hawkeye Initiative says it is.

Or maybe the Hawkeye Initiative is actually saying that this would be better with Hawkeye:

Fun with Pyrex (1)

Look at that grin! He loves this.

Fun with Pyrex (4)

He wants you to love this, too.

Fun with Pyrex (2)

If this doesn't convince my friend to love Pyrex as much as I do, nothing will.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

11 Issues of GQ

Over the past two days, I've read 11 issues of GQ magazine:

11 issues of GQ

GQ isn't a magazine that I regularly read, but I have a subscription for it because they gave me one for free back in October, when I registered for the Race for the Cure. I'm not sure why registering got you a free magazine, but my assumption is that the magazine publisher somehow supports the charity, and the choices offered to me were "Woman's Day" or "GQ". I have nothing against "Woman's Day", despite not being a woman, but I grew up reading it (I don't know if my mom was a subscriber or just bought it at the grocery store) and already had a pretty good idea of what was in there. I hadn't read GQ before, though, and thought it might be something different and possibly fun.

I should have stuck with Woman's Day. At least then I would have recipes.

When my first issue of GQ arrived, I opened it with curiosity. I only subscribe to two magazines, Smithsonian and Food Network Magazine, and buy all my other trashy magazines at the store. If, occasionally, I want to look at a magazine filled with attractive men I usually buy Men's Health, where they often have their shirts off, so I wasn't sure what GQ had to offer me. The answer turned out to be, "Nothing of interest", and I put the first issue aside. As issues continued to arrive I stacked them on a kitchen counter, unopened, one after the other until yesterday afternoon when I thought, "Maybe I misjudged the whole magazine based on one issue. I should give it another try."

It's possible that I'm just not their target consumer, but it's also possible that this magazine is actually garbage. Here's what I learned over the course of 11 issues:

1) Men wear shirts, and women wear bikinis. Go look at the picture above again. There are eight men on nine covers (Chris Pratt appears on two different issues) and two women. The men are all wearing shirts and, with the exception of Chris Hemsworth, aren't just wearing a shirt but are instead all in layers of clothing. There are ties, jackets, and vests, while the women are both one much smaller layer from being naked.

2) This is a magazine for people who buy things. Based on the number of cologne samples in each issue (possibly why the magazine ships in a plastic bag), one of those things is gallons of cologne, but beyond that this magazine is generally more advertisements than it is articles. In the first issue, I started turning past the ads, and didn't reach any content until page 49. That was the table of contents, and in several issues the table of contents is broken up into two separate pages with a page of advertisements between them. In trying to read these, there were several times when I had to double check to try to figure out if I was reading an article or an advertisement, because so much of the content is fashion pictorials, style guides, and suggestions on how to get "the look" from the pictorials that it blends right in to the ads for the top 5 ways to wear the men's summer looks from J. Crew. In the first issue, the first article on something that wasn't a product I could buy was on page 128.

3) I have no idea how long a quarter is. This magazine doesn't come out quarterly, despite being named "Gentleman's Quarterly".

4) Most gentlemen are apparently actors. Our covers feature six actors (seven if you count Amy Schumer), a musician, a professional athlete, and whatever Kendall Jenner's job is. I'm not 100% sure, but appearing in swimsuits on the cover of men's magazines just after turning 18 might actually be her job. Either way, the examples of gentlemen highlighted on the cover of GQ are, for the most part, actors, so I guess that's a gentlemanly job.

5) The magazine is not entirely terrible. The November 2014 issue had a really good, entertaining section on horror movies that I enjoyed reading.

The rest of this is pretty vapid and empty. I guess I'm just confused because I can't figure out who the market for this is. Pretty guys who don't want to think too much? This is like a dumbed-down issue of Cosmopolitan, and that magazine isn't known for being an intellectual juggernaut. It at least has the Agony Column, though. This? A whole lot of nothing.

I will not be renewing my subscription when the free year expires.

Monday, August 3, 2015

13 Months

It has now been 13 months since I started trying to be less obese.

I'm still obese.

I was discussing this with a friend yesterday, and her response was, "Seriously? I thought you'd be done by now."

I'm not sure why it's such a surprise that I'm not done. I started out at 295 pounds, and I got to that weight over the course of years. The idea that I would get down from that weight in less than a year is not unreasonable, but I'm not just trying to lose weight. I'm trying to do it at a healthy pace, trying not to be hungry all the time, and trying to make a permanent lifestyle change. If I wanted to lose it as quickly as possible, I would have just gotten the surgery when my doctor suggested it. And yes, I could be losing it a little faster than I have been, because I have once again spent another month off the diet program. It hasn't quite been as bad a month as April was, but the month of July has not been a roaring success, either.

I'm back up to 228 pounds.

I'm not happy about it, but I knew I was making bad choices when I made them all month long, and I knew this would be the result. July is over, so I will now refocus again and move on.

July also marks the end of my parking experiment. When I started this last summer, I was parking fairly close to my office in the lot out back, on top of the parking garage. I moved from a space as close to the door as possible to one as far from the door as possible while still being in the lot:

Parking maps (1)

In that photo, one yellow dot is my office, and the other yellow dot is my parking space. In this photo, I would be parked right next to the white sign that's a little right of center, way out there away from the building:

Out back (1)

This worked really well for a while, but then two things happened. First, other people started parking out there, too, and sometimes they took the furthest away space, which I began to think of as my space. They even mentioned it: "You're just so inspirational that we thought we'd all start parking out there, too!" I guess that's a good thing, but it was also a frustrating thing. I'm glad that other people are making positive changes in their life, but taking all of the good spaces was having a negative impact on my life and on my mood. That's when the second thing happened: One day I was seething internally about someone taking my space, and I looked to my right.

Out Back (2)

"Look at all those extra spaces in the student lot. I could park so much further away if those weren't student spots. Then the light bulb over my head went on. "They're not student spots downstairs in the garage."

And so I moved to a space in the parking garage, marked here by a red dot:

Parking maps (2)

Look how far that is! That's almost twice as far as the spot on top of the garage. Unfortunately, it was the darkest corner of the parking garage:

in the garage (2)

far, far from the door:

in the garage (1)

where the light has been burned out for over six months despite being reported:

in the garage (3)

For a while, this worked really well. Parking there, and walking up six flights of stairs and four hallways plus the distance walking through the garage itself was giving me a solid half mile of steps one way and a solid half mile the other way. I was getting a free mile, just walking to and from the car, and that seemed fantastic at first, but then it started to cause trouble with my friends who wanted to go off campus for lunch. Some days they didn't have cars, so if I had to drive everyone had to walk as far as possible to get to my space. I got over that quickly, but the comments continued, and one day my friend Meghan said, "I can't believe the ridiculous distance you insist on parking. You might as well just park on the Ag Campus."

The lightbulb over my head (but not the one over my car) went on again.

"What if I did park in some other parking lot, even further away?"

I convinced myself that parking on the Ag Campus was just crazy, because it was insanely far away, but I did eventually decide to start trying the lot by the rec center.

Parking maps (3)

For about a week I parked there at the green dot, but then they put up this sign:

Rec Center parking

and I felt guilty. While I technically did have the permit required to park there, what if I was taking a space that one of my friends who worked there needed, and they were being forced to park further away against their will? I felt like I should move, but I was really enjoying the extra walking. I was running into students that I don't see otherwise fairly regularly, I was enjoying some decompression and fresh air on the way to and from the car, and it was only about fifteen minutes of walking time. I didn't want to stop parking somewhere else, but I felt like I did need to stop parking by the rec center, and one day when I was walking to my car I thought, "Wait, isn't there another staff lot down the street, there?"

toward the last parking space

"Maybe just past that fence?"

There was, so I began parking in the westernmost staff spot on the main campus:

the far west spot

Parking maps (4)

That blue dot was as far away as I could get, and for a while I was happy, but then I upped my daily step goal on my Fitbit, and realized that I wasn't parking far enough.

"Now where can I go?"

I looked around, but I was at the edge of campus.

the bridge (1)

The only thing I could do was cross the bridge:

the bridge (2)

and park on the Ag Campus.

So I did.

Parking maps (5)

For almost three weeks I parked on the Ag Campus every day, unless I was running late. It was like parking in a whole other world. The Ag Campus is full of little benches, and quiet spots. There are all these little plaques everywhere that tell you what the trees and flowers are:

Plant sign

Parking on the Ag Campus was educational. They even have prehistoric burial mound, right there by my car!

prehistoric mound

Best of all, the parking space on the Ag Campus was over a mile from my car, one way. It was almost a mile and a half. It was golden, and I was only parking at the front of the lot, closest to the street. I could be even further away if I wanted to!


I want to, but I can't.

I thought long and hard about this over the weekend, and had to admit to myself that parking at the Ag Campus every day has not been a good thing for two main reasons.

First, it takes a half hour to walk there. That means I'm spending an hour every day just walking to and from my car, and I'm doing it in full work dress while carrying my work bag and sometimes in shoes that are not good for walking a mile at a time. Because of that, and because of the number of crosswalks I have to wait at, it takes me the same amount of time that I could cover two miles in on the greenway or even on the treadmill.

Second, it's July in Tennessee. Maybe you haven't visited, but it's very hot and very humid. By the time I reach the office, even walking slowly, I am a sweaty mess. I've sweated through my shirt back and spent the entire walk blotting my forehead with a handkerchief. My undershirt smells like sweat all day long, even after it dries, and the whole situation is just not good.

As such, my parking experiment is over, and I'm moving back to the space in the garage.

But I'm bringing my bag of walking clothes, so that I can change before leaving and walk the greenway on my way home.