Saturday, January 22, 2005

Dinner Club: A Route to Social Calendar Freshness

Just like everyone else, I like to have fun. However, I'm not what I would consider a "social butterfly." I actually like quiet nights at home with my TV and a glass of wine or a beer and my dog snoozing warmly by the couch. When I do go out now, it feels like a treat. An indulgence. A guilty pleasure. I think I enjoy my occasional social forays more than I would if I were regularly going out three or four nights a week.

My friends and I have discussed this very topic: how did we ever survive college? I can't possibly imagine how I kept up the schedule I did when I was at MSU. I remember I'd go out on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights until bartime, then stumble, bleary-eyed and often half-drunk, to my 8:00 classes the next day. Somehow I functioned. SOMEHOW, and I'm still not sure how, I graduated with honors. Perhaps my growing infrequency of social outings is the pendulum swinging the other way. Delusional excess leading to a compensatory paucity.

Anyway, last February, I started a Dinner Club as a way to keep my social calendar fresh. It was actually Yosh's suggestion, as he is part of one in Milwaukee that has a large number of attendees. It sounded fun, and there are several friends that I don't get together with often enough. Over the past couple of years, when we would get together, every four or five months of so, we'd say, "You know, why don't we get together more often?" Thus, the Dinner Club was born.

The rules are simple. Once a month, we pick a restaurant in Madison to try. I send out an Evite with the details on the place, the menu, any reviews it's gotten, etc. I give my Dinner Club members two dates to vote on, and whatever date wins is the one we go with. Usually, we have a turnout of between 6-10 people. I think our largest Dinner Club was 14, at Eldorado Grill (oh ye place of voluminous subtotal and scarcity of cash). The smallest was probably four people. All of them have been fun. Since we started this thing, we've gone to the following fine Madison establishments:

  • Frida: Yummy Mexican food, with a decor full of Frida Kahlo knockoffs.
  • Tuscany Mediterranean Grill: Way overrated. Horrid ambience. Won't ever go again.
  • Fitch's Chophouse: Good food. Because I know Drew, we got a free round of drinks after dinner. I tried the 12-year Laphroaig. Soooooo good!
  • Lulu's Deli and Restaurant: Can't go wrong with Lulu's. I mean, they scent their water with orange blossoms! Come on! That's PIMP!
  • Brocach Irish Pub: A very fun Irish pub with absolutely delicious Bangers and Mash. One of the co-owners is the previous Quality Manager for Guinness in the Midwest, so you know the black nectar was top-notch.
  • Claddagh Irish Pub: A chain Irish pub. Pretty good, but Brocach was better.
  • Capital Brewery: Not a restaurant, but we brought munchies and ate them in the Bier Garten while listening to music and drinking lots of good Capital beer.
  • Saigon Noodle: A Vietnamese noodle house. Good food, and AWESOME spring rolls!
  • Eldorado Grill: Good food, but pricey and we had a bad experience with the check.
  • Yirgalem: Our most recent outing. A fantastic Ethiopian place that you'd miss if you didn't know it was there. The food was incredible, the ambiance completely perfect, and the Tusker Lager was so refreshing.

So, we have a good time. It really is fun to organize this -- not a lot of work, and I end up seeing people I normally wouldn't see. Other than the occasional challenge with reconciling the check, we have a great time. And my social calendar stays so fresh, so clean.

What I'm cooking...

Well, it's game day and my beloved Spartans are playing Minnesota, so of course I'm cooking NACHOES! Even though Yosh and I just had them last weekend, I'm in the mood again. Mix that with the six-pack of Capital Brewery Winter Skal I have in the fridge, and I'm set for the afternoon. Nowhere to go, noplace to be...just a winter's afternoon beer buzz and basketball. Now THAT's livin'.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Dr.SuperLove! Calling!! Drinking!! 300 ml.

This is the funniest site you've never heard of. Only review it if you're in a place you can safely guffaw and snort, because this site will make you almost lose your lunch, it's so funny. You MUST explore the areas on the left-hand navigation bar for full effect.

Feeling thankful for...

  • Realizing at around 3:00 p.m. the afternoon OF the game, that there's a Spartan game on tonight for me to watch! And it's televised! God bless you, ESPN!
  • Eating slices of hard salami right out of the deli bag, and intentionally making really obnoxious yummy noises while the dog sits in front of me, salivating, all eyebrows and ears and ineffectual cuteness.
  • The total absurdity of the E! show, "Love is in the Heir." Sometimes it's fun to watch a train wreck in progress.
  • Dry roasted peanuts. Eaten one at a time. The orphaned halves first, and then the whole ones. That's about as anal-retentive as I get, people.
  • Sheet-washing day. There's something about climbing into a bed with freshly washed sheets on it. Even better if they're still a little warm.
  • Slowly but surely being able to talk about things like "DMZ" and "content replication" and "Active Directory Groups" and have the slightest idea what I'm talking about. I may never turn into a geek, but I'm on my way to being a bonafied IS person. It's kind of scary.
  • Old Prince songs. Even the ones I don't really care for, I love to hear that man flood my car with his musical genius.

On a Wing and a prayer (as in, "Please God, make it stop!")

Sara sent me this link. I think I may listen to it when I'm not feeling so good about myself. Or when I need a laugh. Or when I just want to hear someone with SO MUCH self-esteem that they can put a voice like this on not one, not two, but multiple records.

Listen at your own risk. And don't be surprised if the dog looks pained and leaves the room.

Monday, January 17, 2005

What I'm drinking...

The second (large) glass out of a bottle of 2003 McManis Syrah. The 2003 vintage was released in August, 2004, and I bought three bottles back in December when I went to Milwaukee to watch the Stanford/MSU basketball game with Yosh.

No matter how many bottles of this lovely little syrah I ever drink, I will always be reminded of the weekend in March, 2004, that Mom, my Aunt Ruth, Yosh and I spent at Yosh's humble flat in Milwaukee's Third Ward, watching basketball, drinking wine, noshing on spicy Italian pepperoni, cheese and Soup Brothers bread.

It's about goddamn time, you cocksuckers.

Sorry for the crude language, but it's actually quite appropriate. You see, Ian McShane just won the Golden Globe award last night for best Dramatic Actor in a television series for his portrayal of everyone's favorite goddamn-can-of-peaches cocksucker, Al Swearengen, on one of my absolute favorite shows, Deadwood.

When this show came on, everyone went on and on about the vile language. Sure, it's rough, but Deadwood in the 1800s was no cupcake of a place. Besides, there truly is something cathartic about saying the word "cocksucker" and "motherfucker" with abandon.

Al Swearengen. Now THERE's a character. There's no close-up picture of the real Al in existence so, thankfully, my mind gets Ian McShane's portrayal as the gleefully vile serpent that winds its way through my head. There's something about a great villain that's truly enjoyable...from a safe distance.

As Ian McShane himself said last night: "God bless Al, I love him. He's the best gig I've ever had."

Tight muscles and...plugged ears?

Here's a physiological oddity that has me thoroughly curious, even though, had I thought about it for longer than a minute or two myself, I might've figured this out on my own.

Wait, wait. Let me back up. There's some backstory here...

I have noticed, over the past few months, that my ears are regularly kind of "plugged." Not to the point of causing earaches or other discomfort, but I do sometimes feel like I've got a bunch of wax in my ear, and that my hearing is kind of diminished from time to time. Not problematic, per se, but quite annoying. I have noticed it most frequently while I am exercising, and I get to the point where I can hear my own breathing inside my head. Sort of like I'm placing a crank call to myself, except I can't hang up.

Often times, the workouts in which my ears get plugged up are also the ones that are followed by one of my lovely exertion/tension headaches. If you haven't previously been acquainted with an exertion headache, you're not missing anything. They hurt. My head throbs, I feel like I'm about to have an aneurysm and I feel like splitting my own head open to relieve the pressure. Thankfully, they do go away within 2-4 hours, but I'm pretty miserable until then.

Anyway, one of the things that happens to your body when you get an exertional headache is that the blood vessels in your head, face and neck constrict, which is what in part causes your headache. What I found out today, that was so interesting, is that tension in your neck and shoulders can cause your ears to plug up! Voila! A possible connection!

So, my solution? Well, it's sort of a multi-pronged approach:
  1. Do longer workouts, at slightly less intensity.
  2. Take an aspirin prior to my workouts.
  3. Ensure that I've had at least 32 oz. of water in the hour prior to my workout.
  4. Quit falling asleep on the couch watching TV at night, with my head propped awkwardly up on those throw pillows.
  5. Do more self-massage on my neck during the day.

As a nationally certified massage therapist, you would think I would've had this epiphany a while back, but I guess sometimes even a "professional" needs some help jumping on the clue train.

What I'm cooking...

Tandoori-style baked chicken breasts, using some of the Neera's Tandoori Indian Grilling Paste I got from Zingerman's over New Year's. Surprisingly, the Zingerman's website doesn't have any information on this paste, but Amazon does. Go figure.

To go along with my chicken, I'm making a batch of quinoa, cooked in water that's been fortified with a few tablespoons of white miso paste. I have no idea how it'll taste. It's an experiment! Before it's done cooking, I'll probably mix in some frozen mixed vegetables, just for some additional color and nutrition (not that the quinoa's not nutritious enough!). I continue to be enchanted with this superfood. Is there nothing quinoa cannot do? Perhaps we should invent a new superhero: "Quinoa Man." I would imagine he goes around fortifying people with all nine essential amino acids and telling stories of the ancient Aztecs. Sort of a superhero you might find at the Co-Op or something...a hippie-hero.

To round out my meal, I also have some broccoli languishing in my fridge that I should really steam. Probably won't do anything fancy with that...maybe just a little bit of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray for some of that "like buttah" flavor. What better way to start the workweek than with a cruciferous powerhouse like broccoli?

OH, and of course for dessert, I am thinking of stirring a little bit of that Apricot with Lavender Leaf conserve into some vanilla yogurt. I pulled the jar of those conserves out of the cupboard, and they immediately began singing to me their sweet, heavy song of herbal-fruit yumminess. How have I lasted this long without opening that jar?

A rather diverse menu, to be sure, but hey, a girl may as well eat well! Bon appetit!