Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Gain Weight Without Trying

Recently, my medical insurance offered a discount on our medical costs for filling out a rather lengthy questionnaire about our health habits. Since I am pretty healthy, I didn't have a problem with the request. Plus, I would be saving $5.00 a paycheck for filing it out and an additional $5.00 a paycheck for being a nonsmoker. I thought it was a pretty good deal. Whenever I can save on medical costs, I'm game!

I began the questionnaire on Friday at work and after 30 minutes, I saved my work and figured I would come back on Monday and complete it.  On Monday, and another 30 minutes later, the health program questionnaire was completed.  It prompted me to click and submit my answers, noting that they were final and could not be changed. I clicked yes. I mean after all, it was just a bunch of easy to answer health related questions. I could have done it with my eyes closed!  What could go wrong? The screen was still as the results of the questionnaire were being computed and calculated into a tailor made health plan JUST FOR ME!

I waited patiently for my tailor made plan and eventually it loaded onto the screen.  It listed all of my results in a chart across the screen, but one stood out in particular.  My weight was in red stating I needed to take part immediately in a comprehensive weight loss program.  What? I didn't understand. I thought back to the questions and answered that I worked out 4-5 times a week. I knew I felt I needed to get into better shape and lose about 10 pounds but I didn't understand the urgency ... and then I saw it! I accidentally entered 468 pounds instead of 168 pounds!

I hit the back button on my computer furiously and it would let me go back and change it!  My tailor made health plan stated that I was at an extreme risk since I was 468 pounds and 5'9"!  It also stated not to worry about my excessive drinking (2-3 drinks 3 x/week), because focusing on my extreme weight was priority number one!  Links were popping up all over the place for therapists, weight programs, diet programs. ARGH!!!

Now I have begun to get emails suggesting more weight loss programs on top of emails from my sister that she is going to send me Richard Simmons's DVD Sweatin' to the Oldies! My friend Jennifer already has my next birthday gift picked out, the Farewell to Fat cookbook. 

Laugh it up people, because between this year and next years' time when I have to fill out the questionnaire again, I plan on having the most dramatic weight loss in the history of this friggin' tailor made plan! I am thinking ... gee I don't know ... maybe around a 300 pound weight loss! Knowing my luck, I will be flagged by my HMO for losing too much weight at once!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Sucked at High School Sports Except ...

This evening I was watching the football championship games with a good friend Lou and we were talking about the game and comparing the teams and players. My mind wandered back to high school playing flag football during gym class. I had caught the football from a long pass and scored my one and only touchdown in 6 years of high school. One of guys that bullied me for so many years said to me, "Nice catch Haynes." I grunted back trying to be cool. I think I sounded like a beagle. Granted it was only flag football but it meant something as I really sucked at sports. In fact, that entire first half of high school really sucked.  I was a classic nerd, geek, dork, book worm, what have you. Though as an adult, proud of it to this day. It toughened me up through years of abuse by the jocks. Ah yes ... another blog in the making. Another time though!

While in elementary school, I tried the little league baseball thing. I loved playing catch with my Dad and my brother, but my love of the game didn't translate well into any type of aptitude on the field. So that was dropped. I was good at games played with friends. Man Hunt or Capture the Flag. I was good at hiding and running. It allowed me an advantage over the years of high school bullydom that followed.

Come high school, I tried out and played soccer for one year. I sucked at that. I loved soccer, really I did, but I had the habit of kicking the ball way OVER the net. I also didn't know how to pass, I just kicked it as hard as I could as far as I could. I realized very quickly that I would never make varsity. After being honest with myself about my lack of talent, I realized that I just didn't want to play junior varsity games for the rest of high school. What was I good at?

Well ... as stated before, I could run. I could run fast and run for long distances. What could I do? With some prodding from high school friends Danny and Brett, and my brother Adam, I joined cross country in 10th grade ... and I never looked back! I found myself to be a good runner, but with training, running 13 miles a day preseason, I became a great runner. My brother Adam was a great runner too. Better than me.  We were led by an awesome runner by the name of Paul Greenhalgh. We were so good our team, the Gateway Gators, won our county championships several years in a row! Our coach, Joe Focarelli, was crusty, sometimes mean, but always supported us. His raspy voice screamed at you from the sidelines, "GO HAYNES!" and I ran faster.

I made so many good friends on that team:  Angela, Bill S., Tim, Bill W, Debbie M, Chrissy T., Mike S. - names come flooding back that mean so much. We used to have parties together on the weekends and hang out in the storage building with the spring track equipment. We called them Pit Parties. I think it had something to do with the high jump pits(mats) we would lounge on for hours. I had found my sport! I finally felt and was part of an incredible team.  And it didn't hurt that the school supported us so much when we won our "meets." As a plus, I actually started getting bullied less.

Cross country segued into winter track and then of course spring track. Each of us on the cross country team went out for the seasonal track teams. Friendships grew stronger and we all became close. Running just wasn't about running. It was about personal bests, about supporting and pushing each other through tough runs, and about the competition against other teams while on the course. Cheap shots happened. You may get tripped, you may get an elbow to the ribs. You just got up and kept running (and gave an elbow back to the guy if you could catch up to him!).

I sucked at high school sports except ... cross country and track. I was so happy to be apart of these teams. It taught me teamwork, endurance, loyalty, and friendship. What an incredible time in my life. So many good memories from my running years. But ... I will still always remember the one time I caught that football.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Holiday Fried Chicken Story

How does one begin their holiday season? Well, one may begin by shopping for gifts for that special someone. Another may begin by donating some time to charity.  And still another may begin by attending any one of a  myriad of holiday events and parties. My 2011 holiday season had a more embarrassing and I might add, quite disgusting, beginning.

It was the day of our holiday party at my job. I was feeling very festive and finally felt like my holiday season was beginning. Sure, we had the party in our break room. It was even OK that we had no alcohol. It was also fine that I didn't even get to sample the famed spiced apple cider made yearly by my supervisor. I was just happy to be beginning my holiday season after two prior stressful work weeks. The holiday party was alot of fun and the rest of the day went quickly.

With shopping bags in hand filled with gifts from coworkers, I strode out to my car with my friends. I think I even had a little bounce in my step. We were all talking about what we would be doing for Christmas Eve and Day, now only three days away.  You could just feel the candy cane excitement in the air!

We all parted ways at the stairs after I remembered I parked on the ramp and not the second level. Bidding everyone a good night, I made my way to my little old red Saturn three cars up on the ramp.  I made a left to go between the cars and before I knew it, I was sliding across something wet, crunchy, and greasy on the parking deck. Up went the bags in the air and down went my ass!  What IS that I slipped on? I exclaimed to myself.  Gifts were now all over the place out of bags, My briefcase had slid under someone's car. I swung myself upwards onto my feet by climbing up the side of the car next to me.

I looked down at the deck between the cars to spy a smashed greasy chicken breast on the ground, on my shoe, and on my pant leg. And then I smelled it. Hours old fried chicken. I braced myself between the two cars and projectile vomited from the rancid grease smell. There went 2 hours of holiday party eating! How I missed both cars and my bags I will never know. I chalk it up to years of training in projectile puking from my college fraternity parties.

After I composed myself and between dry heaves, I wiped the greasy chicken parts off of my shoe and pant leg. I drenched myself with Febreeze from in my car and started looking for the gifts and my briefcase strewn about. Questions ran through my mind. Who in their right mind would be walking through the parking deck openly eating a fried chicken breast in December!?  I could see a chicken wing or leg ... but a breast???  Secondly, if you were full and decided, "Hey I don't want anymore of this chicken breast," why didn't you just throw it out in the trash can 15 feet away by the stairs!?  ARGH!!!  And to make matters worse, my coworker ... I will call her Andrea, was another two cars up the ramp in her new pristine shiny car (yes I'm jealous) and just must have seen the entire incident! She didn't even ask me if I was OK and I know she knew I was there! She pulled her car out and gave me a little honk, a little wave, and a little smile as she passed. I gave her an incredulous look that said REALLY? She may get a case file upside the head next time she asks me a question.

I finally recovered all of my belongings, climbed into the car, and was on my way still reeking of fried chicken. With such an auspicious beginning, my holiday season could only go up. In retrospect, after that I truly had a wonderful two weeks and it was actually the best in a couple years. But let's just say I have sworn off fried chicken until next Christmas.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Epicurean Vacation: Part III

For the final post in my 3 part blog series on my trip to California in the June 2011, I want to tell you about a couple meals out that I had with the family.  Martha's son Scott, his wife Tina, and their children built a house named Ridgefield two lots down from Dad and Martha, right on the edge of the Arcata Community Forest.  Ridgefield is a beautiful modern style formal house which is available for parties and events. It sits back in a large field with the redwoods towering above it. A large patio/deck extends off the left side of the house.  It is beautiful and classic, and yet inside, modern and open.

Scott and Tina invited Dad, Martha, my sister Sheryl, and I over for an authentic vegan Indian meal. In attendance were their kids: youngest Serene Belle,  young gentleman Westleigh, sweetheart Emma, and the wonderful Elysia with her husband, Daryl. I am not experienced eating Indian or vegan cuisine so I looked at it as a great opportunity! We started off the Lost Coast Vineyards Voignier, Anchor Steam Porter (one of Scott's favorites), and Cragganmore Single Malt Scotch, one of MY favorites, which I hadn't had since my days back at the Ritz-Carlton Philly. 

The main dish for dinner that evening was an Indian Dal, or often spelled Dahl. This consisted of a thick tasty stew of lentils eaten over rice. I have included a great link on for more information on Dals. We topped the Dal with either a yogurt sauce with raisins and coconut or a spicy red sauce with tofu and cilantro.  On the side were pickled hot limes, Major Greys mango chutney, and poppadoms, a thin, crisp Indian cracker. The Dal was served with a red cabbage salad with red grapes, carrots, and a light vinaigrette. We also had a cucumber salad with a cilantro yogurt sauce. 

Tina topped herself with an incredible traditional English dessert hailing from her home country of Great Britain called an Eton Mess.  Dating back to the 19th century, Eaton Mess consists of strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar mixed with pieces of egg white meringues topped with freshly whipped cream. It was heavenly.  I thoroughly enjoyed the drink, meal, and company and look so forward to continuing my education of Indian foods!

During that week, Dad took Sheryl and I on a long drive north up the coast to see some ancient Redwoods, the mouth of the Klamath River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, and the majestic Roosevelt Elk.  We stopped at the local healthy/gourmet grocer, Wildberries Marketplace and picked up a bunch of different finger foods, appetizers, and munchies for lunch. I spied in the cooler a type of healthy tea, popular on the West Coast,  Kombucha organic sparkling fermented tea. I have read about it and have not found it back in my neck of the woods back East and have wanted to try it for ages. Let's just say I wasn't impressed. The fermented flavor was just not for me. The hippy Hollywood types that rave about it can keep it. I will stick with my Snapple.

Roosevelt Elk grazing just a few feet away!
We drove North on Rt 101, the Redwood Highway, and turned off left onto a well maintained macadamized road heading deep into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  Up and down forested hills we rode, around bends slowly, passing by forest giants towering hundreds of feet into the air. After several miles of going over this forested ridge, we came to a narrow stretch of land between the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean.  It was here we saw our herd of Roosevelt Elk. And I call them OUR herd, because they were our lunch guests for the afternoon!
Dad, Sheryl, and I stopped at a large camping area for lunch between the mountains and the beach. The Roosevelt Elk were everywhere lounging and munching on grass. About 100 feet from them, we had passed the bull with his stately rack of antlers, keeping watch on the perimeter of the herd. The elk were no farther than 15 feet from us. We dared not approach any closer as of course they are wild animals. But we think they knew we were there to have lunch and not to bother them.

Under the elks' watchful eyes, we dined on Martha's homemade hummus and pita, a Mediterranean Salad with tomatoes and goat cheese, grilled marinated artichoke hearts, stuffed grape leaves, organic flax seed tortilla chips by North Coast Co-op in Arcata, CA, and oranges and bananas. We topped the chips with my favorite salsa: Double Roasted Tomato salsa by famed "gourmet Mexican" chef Rick Bayless. It was an incredible lunch:  food, family, and the elk.

Later that week, Sheryl and I shopped and dined our way through Old Town Eureka. Our first nibble was sipping Dark Thunder French roast coffee and baklava at Bon Boniere ice cream parlor.  We then hit every boutique, art gallery, antique shop, and book store in a 4 block radius! Exhausted, we finished our shopping at Venlo Chocolates, right in the heart of Old Town. We bought lavender infused organic chocolates and chocolate banana slugs (not the real ones ... hello?). They also sell vegan chocolates too! Not to be outdone, we just HAD to taste their gourmet dark and milk chocolate squares.  After our long day, we waited for Dad and I to pick us up at the Waterfront Cafe and Oyster Bar, sipping Red Seal Ale, another excellent local beer by the North Coast Brewing Company.  The bar/restaurant had high soaring ceilings, a nice selection of beer, and a great view of the waterfront area. 

Dad and Martha at Hurricane Kate's

For our last evening in Eureka, California, the family dined at a great restaurant, Hurricane Kate's, known for it's world fusion cuisine and wood fired pizza. In attendance were:  Dad and Martha, Sheryl and I, Scott and Tina, Elysia, Emma, and Serena Belle.  We sipped unique specialty cocktails and ate small plates till we were stuffed. Among the highlights that we dined on were the following: a blue cheese and Asian pear salad; the Medi appetizer plate which consisted of  hummus with pine nuts, falafel, cucumbers, bell peppers, kalamata olives, spiced carrot salad, house made pita, harissa and tahini sauces; incredible wood fired pizzas; Baja shrimp tacos; the freshest oysters on the half shell, and spicy Thai chicken salad. It was a gastronomically wonderful ending to such a relaxing trip. Unfortunately, if you are ever out that way, Hurricane Kate's closed as of December 24, 2011. It's a shame, because the meal was such a highlight of the vacation.

This blog post concludes my culinary wanderings through northern California. I really enjoyed eating my way through some spectacularly fresh seafood and inventive cuisine. But besides all of that, it was just a truly great vacation seeing and catching up with my Dad, Martha, and extended family!