Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

No Vacation From Training

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Iron Girl is in 60 days. That means I have roughly 8 weeks of training left. So even though I’m on vacation, I’m still in training. When we booked the trip, I was excited about all the training I could so easily do here in the Outer Banks — running on the beach, open water swims in the sound, and biking with the ocean mist on my face.

Well, the bike rack I recently acquired didn’t quite make it onto the car, so I’ve got no bike here, which is a bummer because that’s the most difficult training for me to fit in logistically. I may have childcare at the gym for running on the treadmill and swimming in the pool, but I need a husband or babysitter at home to go on an actual bike ride. This week I’ll have tons of relatives who could have watched the kids while I rode, but now, I have no bike.

What I do have is the Nags Head YMCA. Tomorrow morning I plan to spin to finally get some bike training in. Yesterday Richard and I took turns running on the beach, a route we figured was about 3.6 miles. Not too shabby with a little calisthenics thrown in afterward.

Today I swam at the Y, and let me tell you, it was an effort to stay on task. My mind had definitely gone into vacation mode and wanted to take my body with it. Is it possible that the pool water here is any harder to pull through than the water in the pool at Big Vanilla? And the difference between 25 yards and 25 meters starts to add up after a while.

After I’d finished my warm up, a little girl who was about eight years old came into the pool with her dad. He was coaching her along, consulting an index card for her workout. I huffed and puffed my way through a 500, and was trying to figure out how many sprints I could force myself to do before moving on to an iced coffee.

“Mom said 20 minutes!” the girl shouted at her dad.

“Four fifty sprints,” he said ignoring her.



I caught the dad’s eye and smiled. “She sounds like me. I don’t want to do my sprints either.”

She was on vacation too, but she’ll be competing in a state swim meet at home in a few weeks. “You can’t just not train at all,” dad said.

She was in the pool for less than an hour, and probably didn’t miss much of whatever the rest of her family was doing, but I know she just didn’t want to be there.

I wanted to tell her that when she was older she’d be glad her dad made her get in that pool. When she was older, she’d be glad she got in that pool even though she didn’t feel like it. Just like me.


Greetings From the Outer Banks

In Family on June 23, 2008 at 4:54 pm

We’re in our rental cottage in Nags Head, NC for the week. We’ve been here about 24 hours, and already we’re a little stir-crazy as thundershowers are keeping us away from the water.

I’m also dumbfounded at how much stuff we’ve had go missing in the past week. Here’s the current list of items MIA:

-1 Madeleine swimsuit
-1 Madeleine rashguard
-1 Dax swimsuit
-2 pair D’s shoes
-1 pair my goggles (loaned to pesky children who lose stuff)
-1 pair M’s shorts

I’m confident that all of these items (save for one pair of D’s shoes) are somewhere in our possession. But where? I’ve searched in closets, bags, under beds, under sofas, dresser drawers, cars, and the lost and found at the gym. Nothin’. Nada. Well, actually, one of M’s swimsuits did turn up. But the other is still missing.

And as for the pair of D’s shoes? I think someone may have walked off with them from the beach today. Or else they are at the bottom of Currituck Sound.


Crawfish, crawfish, and pie #3

In Family, Food, In My Kitchen on June 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Richard and I have this ongoing argument over the amount of cayenne to use in boiled crawfish. He roots for the heat of the red pepper over the other ingredients of the spice bags that show up with the live crawdads. I argue that the heat shouldn’t drown out the flavors of mustard and dill seed and allspice berries. We generally let the final decision come down to the palates of our guests. For Saturday, we had no idea how much heat our guests could take, so we went conservative.

Then something happened that was a first. The crawfish was ready before any guests arrived, so they sat soaking up all kinds of deliciousness while everyone settled in. Then Richard poured them on the table, and hello, fire and spice! Everyone loved it though, and our happy eaters even dug into the super-spicy corn and the sweet garlic and onions. One guest mashed up the garlic with the potatoes. Well, duh… I’d never thought to do that before, and it was, of course, delicious.

Dessert was the lemon icebox pie Madeleine’ been wanting to make. Entry # 3 in the Summer of Pies.

Richard requested etoufée For his Father’s Day dinner, and as I pulled out my mom’s recipe, I realized I hadn’t made it in over a year. Such a shame.


Mama’s Crawfish Etoufée (with edits from Bridget)
2 T butter
1 T canola or vegetable oil
1/4 c flour
1 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped bell pepper
1 lb crawfish tails
2 T fresh chopped parsley
1/2 c fresh chopped green onions
Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
1-1 1/2 c chicken broth
Brown butter, oil, and flour into a golden brown roux.*
Add onions and peppers, sauté until onions are clear.
Add crawfish tails, lower fire, and simmer 10-15 minutes.
Add parsley, green onions, seasoning, and about 1/2 c of broth. Simmer 5 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 c broth, simmer again.
Serve with steamed white rice.

 * Paul Prudhomme writes a thourough introduction to roux in his Louisiana Kitchen. If you’ve never made a roux, fear not. It takes more patience than skill. Caution is warranted as roux has earned its nickname as “Cajun napalm”. Prudhomme generally recommends darker roux for lighter meats and seafood, but I prefer a medium to light roux for crawfish and shrimp. I also prefer butter as the main fat in this dish versus lard or pork fat.


Lemon Icebox Pie (adapted from a recipe in June 2008 Bon Appetit)
1 store-bought graham cracker crust
1 14-ounce can plus 2/3 c sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 c sugar, divided
2 T cornstarch
2/3 c water
Preheat oven to 325° F. Whisk condensed milk, lemon juice, and yolks in medium bowl to blend. Let stand until thickened, about 15 minutes. Pour filling over crust. Bake pie 30 minutes.
While pie bakes, prepare meringue topping. Whisk 2/3 c sugar and cornstarch in heavy small saucepan. Gradually whisk in 2/3 c water. Brig to boil over mediu-high heat, whisking frequently (mixture will thicken). Cool 10 minutes.
Using heavy-duty mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until foamy. Gradually add 1/3 c sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Beat in warm thick cornstarch mixture 1 T at a time. Beat until meringue forms glossy peaks.*
Spoon meringue over hot filling; spread all the way to the edges to cover filling completely.
Increase oven temperature to 350° F. Bake pie until meringue is golden brown in spots, about 18 minutes. Cool completely, then cover with cake dome and refrigerate over night.
Cut pie into wedges. Serves 8-12.

*If, like me, you let just the teeniest bit of yolk get into your egg whites, you will never reach this point. When I came to understand this, I pitched the meringue and opted for fresh whipped cream instead. I did let the pie bake another 10 minutes. It was well set but still had a beautiful silky texture. Next time I’ll save “contaminated” egg whites for an omelet.


Happy Anniversary!

In In Other Words, Writing on June 13, 2008 at 9:27 am

To recognize the one-month anniversary of writeonthebay, I present Five Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

1. The blogosphere is ridiculously insular.

This was one of my initial concerns about blogging. I remember reading an article (probably in the Atlantic) about a party the author attended where most of the attendees were bloggers, all talking about blogs and eventually leaving the party prematurely to go home and blog about it. Ick. What about real interaction, people? I appreciate blogrolls that send me to cool places, but virtual society just ain’t no substitute for a phone call or plain old together time. To me, a good blog will appeal to any readers, not just those who Twitter one another all the live long day.

2. There’s a lot of damn good writing out there.

It is simultaneously satisfying and intimidating to read the work of strong writers who can take the minutiae of their personal lives and craft them into insightful and universal posts. I hold up finslippy, breedemandweep, and flotsam as shining beacons in the murky waters of the blogosphere.

3. There’s a lot of crappy writing out there.

You know who you are. Or maybe you don’t, and that’s the problem. You are all over my tag surfer. And mostly, you tell me why you haven’t been writing. Quit your whining. We’re all busy.

4. The stats page has an unhealthy hold on my psyche.

My real world friends are not bloggers. So besides a couple of busy days when I first told my peeps that I started a blog, I’ve had only a handful of hits per day, if that many. With every new day and every new post, I think, how could I get more hits? Write about the latest celebrity tragedy? Be shamelessly controversial? Use the word “blog” in the tag list? There are good reasons for me to be concerned with these questions, like the fact that my freelance work may soon include blogging on particular subjects. But the visceral need to check my hits several times a day? That’s just the part of me that needs the validation of others…”You’re fascinating…a brilliant writer! When can we expect the next precious missive?” Dare to dream of multiple comments on every post!

5. My camera stinks.

I love, love, love fine food photography. Smittenkitchen does a lovely job with well composed (and focused! why won’t my #$%^&ing camera just focus for pete’s sake!?). Try as I might, I can’t get my point and shoot digitial to focus on anything remotely closeup. This is probably just as well though, as the closeups I’d like to take are of food, and I am horrible at presentation and plating.

I suppose all this might sound like I’m complaining, but I have faith that this little blog of mine has more to teach me. So for now I’ll stay tuned.



Pie Number 2: S’more Pie

In Family, Food, In My Kitchen on June 8, 2008 at 10:03 pm

First let me say that I hereby give up on food photography until I get a camera that can handle closeups. But to get an idea of what the second entry in the summer of pies looked like, check out Smitten Kitchen’s write up and beautiful photography.

It was a totally delicious, grown up version of s’mores…in a pie. But I think I’d prefer this recipe in the fall. I served it alongside a sheet cake decorated with a soccer field today at our end-of-season celebration, and I think it was just too damn hot to seem appealing.

Next up, something more seasonal. Maybe the lemon icebox pie that Madeleine’s been bugging me to make, especially since I told her what an “ice box” was.

I Heart Sandra Tsing Loh

In In Other Words, Writing on June 6, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Every time our Atlantic Monthly arrives in the mail, the first thing I do is search the table of contents for Sandra Tsing Loh, contributing editor and book reviewer of all things feminist (or that pretend to be).

In the July/August issue that arrived yesterday (not online yet or I’d link it), she revisits the brouhaha stirred up on the blogosphere and other media outlets in reaction to Lisa Belkin’s New York Times Magazine piece on “opting out”.

I love Loh’s writing because she is damn smart and damn funny, but more importantly, she smacks down on the silliness that can come out of academia and other members of the “thinktankerati”. On a personal level, I identify with her position as a mom and freelance writer trying to make it all work in a way that makes sense.

She’s got a book coming out in August, Mother on Fire. Now I know what I’ll be selecting for my book club in September.


In Family, In Other Words, Writing on June 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm

I’ve been feeling stretched too thin lately, and the fact that I just remembered half an hour ago that I had a meeting that started an hour before that just validated that concern.

Somehow I’ve never quite learned that just because I’m interested in a zillion things doesn’t mean I have the time to devote to them. Let’s take today as an example.

5:40am Richard leaves for the gym and in the process wakes up Dax, who settled for about 20 minutes of snuggling before demanding his breakfast. I had hoped for using time before the kids were up to work on a an overdue article. No dice.

8:30am We’re all fed and dressed and out the door to the gym where I had my second-to-last masters swimming workout (our coach has other obligations over the summer). After swimming a mile or so (couldn’t have said that a year ago!), I got the kids out of childcare so they could swim too.

Noon Back at home for a quick picnic lunch before heading off to the farm for our weekly visit.

2:00pm Arrive at the farm with Madeleine’s school friend, EM. The girls and I harvest lavendar while Dax looks for worms.

4:00pm Leave the farm. Oops…meant to leave at 3. Drive to Chick-fil-a for ice cream snack, playground and meeting up with EM’s mom.

5:00pm Leave Chick-fil-a, now in danger of being late for Madeleine’s last soccer game of the season — which Richard was coaching.

5:30pm Arrive just in time for the game. Yay! The under-six Tigers go undefeated! And Madeleine has never scored a goal! One day, it will happen. Really.

6:45pm Back home, get dinner together, read email, get kids cleaned up and in bed.

8:30pm Remember the meeting I had that started at 7:30pm

9:00pm Start blog entry instead of reading book for book club meeting on Friday. Now currently on page 99 of 250 pages. Not much hope of finishing in time. Throw cat off the computer.

9:30pm Give up on working on overdue article today. It will still be late tomorrow. And Thursday. Post to blog, read, go to bed.

Sheesh. One of these days I’m going to fold the laundry. Really.