the bitch is back

Thursday, January 30, 2014

After not drinking at all -- not even tasting and spitting -- since New Year's Eve, I caved.

Can you really blame me?

I went to Ella tonight for work to do a little networking with the sommelier there, and it's kind of difficult to encourage a restaurant to add more Washington wine to its wine list (currently, there are only four selections in a 21-page binder) if you're only drinking water. So naturally I had to order one of the four Washington wines, and it just so happened that the 2004 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was an option at the unbelievable price of $130. I know $130 for a bottle of wine sounds crazy for the vast majority of people, but normally this bottle -- a Wine Advocate favorite with 98 points -- is in the $250 range, and that's the off-premise price, not the restaurant price. Too good to pass up.

And of course, when the bottle arrived, I had to taste it, especially since the sommelier was totally intrigued by my choice (success!) and complimented me on the "good find" I picked from the list. And then of course, tasting led to sipping. And sipping led to one more glass and maybe even a glass after that, especially since there was steak tartare and beef tenderloin to pair with the wine.

Hence the premature end of Sober January.

Honestly, I'm surprised I made it this far. My job has made Sober January one hell of a challenge. It has been absolute torture to not just attend but host events where this is available ...

... and drink water while everyone else goes on and on about how much they love this wine. I actually started to develop a bad habit of hiding mid-event -- I literally went looking for the secret rooms and alcoves where I could be alone and observe people without feeling like I had to be drinking with them. 

Guess who the creeper on the second floor was?

I also found socializing a lot harder when I was the only person who wasn't drinking. I'd look around, listen to snippets of conversation and realize: Holy shit, I have zero in common with these people, and I kind of really don't want to be here at all.

Thankfully, I somehow always managed to find the triathlete at the party (like Kristin, whom I met here in Sacramento at the Wine Business Monthly Bottle Bash on Tuesday night), and then we talked about Ironman for a long-ass time. (Added bonus: Athletes -- triathletes, runners, anyone who trains for anything basically -- totally understand not drinking and aren't weird about it at all.)

The only Washington winery at Bottle Bash -- and it was awkward when they tried to pour me wine and I said no.

I also got really tired of people thinking I was pregnant. It got to the point where I stopped trying to explain Sober January and just went with: "Don't send gifts. Just send money."

But on the plus side: As a result of Sober January, I've saved a shit-ton of money (all of which I will likely now spend on triathlon stuff). And my training (other than my terrible running) has been nice and steady -- I feel more motivated and awake, and I've made huge strides in the pool. My overall health has improved (fewer late nights, better food choices, a happier belly). However, I didn't lose a bunch of weight -- maybe only 2 lbs. total -- but I think a lot of that is due to putting on more upper body muscle from swimming.

Anyway, the key moving forward (god, I hate that phrase "moving forward" because where else are you supposed to move?) will be balance -- I want to maintain all of the good things I've established over the past 30 days, but also still enjoy wine (and yes, the occasional crazy night out -- I will never grow up, I swear).

So bottoms up -- in moderation, of course.

in sactown

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This week, my travels have brought me to Sacramento for the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.

Confession: I don't associate Sacramento with wine, even though Unified is one of the biggest industry events of the year.

For me, Sacramento is synonymous with CIM. In other words: Extreme weather, hip pain, feelings of despair and the memory of being chilled to the bone and wandering deliriously post-race with no cell phone after my first marathon, looking for my family because my mom had my gear check bag with my warm clothes.

I ended up at this pizza joint, and I begged the guy behind the counter to let me borrow his phone so I could call someone to come get me.

So funny to stumble across it again. It still kind of makes me feel cold inside.

I wish I could say I've progressed leaps and bounds since that painful first CIM, but right now, my running is straight-up laughable. I tried doing an easy run with Derrick tonight, but I couldn't even run a mile without taking a walk break. I knew it was going to be rough to come back from this stress fracture, but I didn't realize just how slow the process was going to be.

But at least there is ramen. Sacramento never disappoints when it comes to bowls of goodness.

(Dear Shoki: I love you.)

a kick-ass roasted chicken

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Confession: Because I was vegetarian for a good portion of my life, I never really learned how to cook meat. (Slicing Spam and throwing it into a frying pan does not count.)

So when my co-worker Cayenne shared her roasted chicken recipe with me, I was intrigued. She made it sound so easy: Buy a chicken. Bathe it in butter. Stick it in the oven.

I was scared at first. I had never roasted a whole chicken all by myself. (Yes, there was this chicken, but I mostly just plucked that one and didn't do the cooking.)

But I dove right in and followed everything Cayenne said. And through some kind of miracle, this happened:

And it was the perfect balance of crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

I've made this chicken twice now, and both times, it's been awesome. Here's how to do it:

Cayenne's Kick-Ass Roasted Chicken
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours

1 whole chicken (I buy mine already cleaned out -- no bag of innards)
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt or seasoned salt for rubbing (I like the Svaneti blend)
1-2 T melted butter (basically enough to cover the entire chicken)

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Put the chicken in a roasting dish. Stuff the cavity (seriously, that phrase never stops being funny) with the fresh rosemary. Rub the salt or seasoning blend all over the chicken, like you're helping it exfoliate. Then coat the whole bird with melted butter. Go big with this and paint it on like there's no tomorrow. (I'm a fan of using a basting brush.) You can never have too much butter.

Cook the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Lower the heat to 350 degrees, and then cook the chicken for another hour. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit for about five minutes before serving.

Note: The best part about this recipe is how it keeps on giving. Save the drippings (another reason all that butter is so awesome) for gravy later. Use the leftover meat for chicken salad and chicken fried rice. And don't throw the bones away! You can turn those into stock and then make even more fantastic things like gluten-free matzo ball soup:

And since you're now saving so much money by eating so many home-cooked meals, you can treat yourself to this:

Mama loves a new toy.

goals for gluttony

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's early in the training cycle. And while I'm doing more swimming than I've ever done in my life, my bike trainer sessions have been easy and my running just barely exists. (Fact: I am so out of running shape that my quads get sore from testing shoes on a treadmill with zero incline. Also, I have yet to run longer than a collective five minutes in a workout. But at least I can run. Recovery is slow, but I'm grateful for it.)

My appetite, however, seems to think I'm in the final countdown for an A-race. This morning, while watching me dump yogurt and granola into a bowl in the breakroom, my co-worker announced: "You eat more than I do, and I'm twice your size."

I'm also already passing out at embarrassingly early hours. Last night I fell asleep on Salad Bar's couch at about, oh, 6:30. And the only reason I woke up was because he said dinner was ready.

If this is me now, just imagine the monster I'll be in six months: Drooling, with really bad hair, wielding a sleeping bag, a fork and a Garmin.

Why is this portion so small?!

And on that note, may I present the Annual List of 10 Places at Which I'd Like to Stuff My Face (and then possibly find a corner to sleep in afterward). As those five of you who actually read this blog know, instead of New Year's resolutions, I prefer to set Goals for Gluttony. You can find my previous attempts at eating my way through the year here, hereherehere, here and here. (Holy crap, I've been a hedonistic asshole for awhile now, haven't I? Also: I'm old.)

As I was saying: The List.

The Book Bindery: I've wanted to go ever since I read this article. And then my chef-triathlete friend had dinner there last month and confirmed it's worthy of the acclaim. And he said they were nice people, too, which is always a plus.

La Carta de Oaxaca: Belle likes it, so I figure I should go or else her dog will punch me in the face again and maybe this time he'll punch harder and I really will get a black eye or my eyeball will just completely fall out and roll across the floor. (Also, I really miss Mexican food.)

Canon: The cocktails are supposed to be nothing short of perfect. And the spirits selection is supposed to be legendary. And Sober January will be over very, very soon. Mama is thirsty.

Finnriver Farm & Cidery: On our first date, Salad Bar took me out for cider (because he found out about my whole no-gluten thing), and this was when I was pretty new to dry ciders and still kind of thought "cider" meant sweet like Hornsby's (which I used to drink by the six-pack in college, no joke), so I told him he could pick a cider for me, and the first cider he picked was the Finnriver Black Currant. (He also pronounced the word "currant" in a funny way, which I thought was endearing.) And my life changed forever. And I've enjoyed many Finnriver ciders since (big fan of the Forest Ginger) and have had many nice times with Salad Bar. So I'd like to go to the place where the cider is actually made. And maybe hug the people there.

Mt. Townsend Creamery: And since the birthplace of the life-changing cider is so close to the birthplace of one of my favorite local cheeses, I propose a full day of pack-it-all-in gluttony.

Monteillet Fromagerie: And speaking of cheese, if you ever see Monteillet goat cheese anywhere, cram it into your mouth immediately. Because it is incredible. And I want to visit the creamery and stay in Kyle MacLachlan's "Twin Peaks"-themed Airstream. (Yes, this exists, and it's only $50 a night.)

Miyabi 45th: Soba paradise. My wheat-sensitive stomach will hate me, but I'll gamble.

The bar at Canlis: Since I can't afford actual Canlis, sitting at the bar is the next best thing. In fact, sitting at the bar may even be better than actual Canlis because the people-watching is supposed to be amazing. I'm told it's like being at the bottom of the stairs when the teenage girl sweeps down in her prom dress. The entertainment potential seems endless.

Ramen Man: The quest to eat as much ramen as possible continues.

Il Corvo: Again, if I'm going to eat wheat, I'm going to go for the best. And Il Corvo's pasta is supposed to be the best.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Because this city has been completely overtaken by this stuff all weekend ...

... I thought I'd play it safe and not get beat up and take my red-and-gold ass to Belle's house for civilized game-watching with healthy snacks.

(See? We can all be friends!)

And even though the Niners lost (and yes, I was the only Niners fan there), the game was good, and we all had fun watching it (especially the part where Goodwin tried to run the ball and it was amazing and lumbering and hilarious) and eating salad and drinking root beer. (I know, right? We were sober and we ate vegetables! Hardcore.)

And I thought: Wow, football can be nice and polite with no shit-talking, hooray!

And then the dog decided to try to bite me in the face, and now my right eyelid is slightly swollen and my eyeball kind of hurts and I hope I put the ice bag on in time to keep a black eye at bay.

So much for not getting beat up today.

Also: This is why I have cats.


Friday, January 17, 2014

It's not easy being a California girl in Hawkville, especially with the NFC Championship game coming up Sunday.

I got booed out of a meeting today. And my boss told everyone they had to yell "Go Seahawks!" every time they walked past my office. 

But by far the worst part: I had to write this press release, while sitting at my desk in my red and gold. And I had to list my name as the media contact, even though anyone who Googles me won't have a very difficult time finding my Seattle sports rants on Twitter. And let's not forget this photo exists:

If there was ever a day I felt like a PR flack, today was that day.

But the truth is the release was actually a lot of fun to write. I liked going back and forth with the governor's office to see if California accepted the bet. And I really don't want to have to send my Washington wine away.

In other words: I may be suffering confusion and inner turmoil of the sports variety.

Goddammit, Seattle. Even though I'll never be a Seahawks fan (or a Mariners fan, for that matter -- man, those folks have it rough), you've successfully swept me away in the sports nonsense.

And I will admit: It's pretty cool that the Space Needle is lit up in Seahawks green right now.

Although us Niners fans don't have to light up the Golden Gate Bridge with our colors. To quote a good friend and fellow fan: We're not fair weather folks -- that red is permanent.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

return to running

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Good news: Mari seems to be feeling better and is no longer trying to pee every five minutes. Also, I ran this morning for the first time in 13 weeks.

I've been walking without pain for at least a month now, and I got the OK from the doctor earlier this week to start running again. So I decided to test out the foot today with a few easy walk-run laps at the track. My plan:

800 walking warmup followed by dynamic stretching
4 x 400 running the straights, walking the curves
400 walking cool down

It went well -- no pain during the workout, and only slight soreness afterward. (But not in the same spot as the injury pain, so I think this might just be my foot getting used to moving again -- I've lost some mobility and flexibility, and my left leg is weaker than my right and slightly atrophied.) And it felt fantastic to be out there -- even though the wind was gusting and it started raining sideways toward the end. (Thanks a lot, Seattle.) I kind of had to reel myself in because I just wanted to keep running.

But the best part: Salad Bar went with me, and it was his very first "official" run ever (unless you count the origin of the Salad Bar nickname, but that was ages ago when he was a kid). He wants to make running a regular thing and eventually do a marathon, and since I'm back at the beginning, we figured we'd ease in together. So not only am I running again, but I get to introduce one of my favorite people to one of my favorite things ever. Serious joy.

Bonus points: The post-run breakfast.

I love me a big-ass hashbrown.

poor sad kitty

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A sentence I never in my life thought I would write: I am sitting here in my bathrobe, eating chocolate and waiting for my cat to pee on a bunch of lentils.

Don't worry. This isn't a new recipe or some kind of bizarre fetish. It's how you take a cat urine sample.

(You use beans instead of litter because they won't absorb the pee, and then you suck the pee up with a syringe. See? This blog is educational!)

Last night I came home from Minneapolis to find Mari making trip after trip to the litterbox, but nothing was coming out. The attempts to pee continued all night and this morning, so we went to the vet.

Which she totally hated, of course.

Though it's not conclusive until a pee sample can be tested, it's highly likely Mari has a urinary tract infection. (And if they're anything like human UTIs, man, I feel so bad for her.)

The vet gave her fluids and two kinds of meds to help with the pain and bladder irritation, but my poor little cat is still hurting.

Tonight she wouldn't come out of the litterbox.

This is breaking my heart.

hello from the polar vortex

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I'm in Minneapolis for work right now.

Some random thoughts on this travel experience:

It's really dumb to go to Minnesota in January, especially during a historic cold spell.

Wearing two pairs of pants at the same time is very uncomfortable. Wearing two shirts, a fleece, a puffy vest and a down jacket at the same time is very uncomfortable. Running through the airport while wearing all of the above is just terrible.

However, running through the airport and then finding a restaurant that serves Spam for breakfast is the Best Thing Ever.

(Dear Seattle Spam freaks: Go to Waji's in Terminal C. You're welcome.)

It is frightening when the flight attendant warns you to "bundle up" before you get off the plane because the cold will "take your breath away."

It is even more frightening when a man who is completely barefoot comes out of the airplane bathroom. And then you go in and the floor is all wet and the toilet isn't flushed.

It's awkward when you check in at the hotel with two co-workers, and the front desk assumes you will all be sharing a room with one king bed.

The Skyway is pretty cool, although it takes twice as long to get anywhere so you might as well just man up, go outside and put those multiple pairs of pants to use.

When you go to work dinners and you aren't drinking, people will congratulate you on your pregnancy and then tell you everything you didn't want to know about their kids.

Hunting camo is a perfectly acceptable fashion choice. Bonus points if you can outfit your entire family -- baby included! -- in matching print.

There is something called "Sex World," and it looks like it has multiple floors.

bike love

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Since it was sunny today -- and you never, ever want to let daylight go to waste here in Seattle -- Muppet and I ventured outside for a mellow 50-minute ride. I was originally supposed to do 50 minutes on the trainer, but the Burke-Gilman trail is so much more interesting than staring at a Netflix marathon on my iPad while my cats mock me with their eyes. And did I mention sun? Holy crap, sun!

Temperatures were in the 30s, there was frost on the ground and I didn't want end up with a sad phone call asking Uber to send a car with a stretcher and a bike rack, so Muppet and I took it easy. I only rode a little more than 10 miles -- slow and steady. But it was still ridiculously fun. I don't know what it is about cycling, but joy. So much joy.

After the ride, I went to the triathlon store and ordered Muppet her very first pair of aero bars. Once they come in, we'll be doing another bike fit so her geometry will be more TT vs. road. My plan is to get used to the aero position on the trainer now, so once the weather warms up and I start doing long rides outdoors, I won't be as freaked out. (Yes, I'm still terrified of crashing. Clumsiest cyclist ever.)

So yeah: Basically, Muppet and I are taking it to the next level.

(I'm totally normal, by the way. Not the least bit crazy at all.)

the wagon

I'm telling everyone because the more people I tell, the more real it is: Folks, I'm doing Sober January.

Dialing it back was necessary. The holidays were pretty much non-stop gluttony and hedonism (with some trainer sessions and a good swim workout or two thrown in to counter the guilt). A chef friend (who did the infamous Ironman Lake Tahoe as his first 140.6) was in town, so of course we shut down the bar talking triathlon and pastries on Christmas Eve. And then the next day, Alberto Salad Bar and I flew to California (don't even ask me how I was functioning on this flight -- I'm surprised Salad Bar didn't throw me out the emergency exit because I was so grouchy), where he was introduced to all of my fantastic, wonderful, equally hedonistic friends over bottles and bottles of wine and whiskey. And then we had marathon meals at Commonwealth, State Bird and Coi. And also ate at La Mar, the Alembic and the Ferry Building. And then came home to Seattle and went straight into New Year's Eve debauchery.

So basically, I'm fat and dehydrated with a crazy-high tolerance right now. Not a good feeling.

Therefore no alcohol this month. And I'm also limiting my restaurant meals and cooking more at home. And starting up the green smoothie habit again. And trying to get to bed earlier (which obviously is a total fail right now, but whatever).

So far, things are going pretty well. I did have a happy hour meeting for work this past week during which I only drank green tea while everyone else had wine, but it wasn't a big deal. I find that once you explain Sober January to people, they're supportive. (Although I have a feeling that people are going to start thinking I'm pregnant. Gah.)

What's interesting, though, is realizing how "let's get a drink" has become my fallback mode of meeting up with friends. This weekend I've had to come up with alternate activities, which has been entertaining. A few ideas that were discussed: Gym date, yoga, bowling, wandering around random neighborhoods to see what Christmas lights are still up (really, this was a thing), miniature golf, ski lessons (again, maybe I am losing my mind). 

What won out: Today Heather and I met for juice when ordinarily, brunch and mimosas would've been the way to go.

Beets, carrots, lemon and ginger? So much better than a Bloody Mary. (Although I could change my mind on that if the Bloody Mary is one of those crazy ones garnished with an actual slider. Dear juicebox: Can you stick a big fat burger on the glass? It's healthy if it's veggie and gluten-free, right? You can thank me for the idea later. I'll accept free juice for life.)

And then tonight Melissa and I went to see the weirdest movie ever, which we discussed at great length over tea afterward. I kind of felt like we were in high school, hanging out at the coffeehouse. But with more confidence and less angst, of course. 

the great swimsuit debate

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Because I am a very serious triathlete, I have been known to argue with Coach Mark about -- wait for it -- fashion.

Specifically, the two-piece vs. one-piece swimsuit. A recent e-mail exchange:

Me: Will you be making a two-piece version of the team's workout suit? If so, I'd like to order it.

Coach Mark: No. It creates drag.

Me: I grew up in Southern California. I hate one-pieces.

Coach Mark: They are faster.

Me: Then wouldn't that mean the two-piece would make me a stronger swimmer because I'd have to work harder than the one-piece people and then when race day comes and I'm in a wetsuit, I'll have an advantage because I've done more?

Coach Mark: OK. Sure.

I wanted this to be a win. But unfortunately, the two-piece team suits still do not exist. Maybe I'll just buy some puffy paint and a stencil and make my own. Because that would look really slick and badass, and I'm sure my teammates would all be envious.

Anyway, tonight I finally broke down and wore the only one-piece suit I own to the pool, largely because I wanted to test Coach Mark's theory. (I honestly cannot remember the last time I wore a one-piece suit. I think maybe it was elementary school.) Also, this suit has desserts and doughnuts all over it, which is pretty much the only reason I bought it. Because what is more exciting than being covered in food?!

(Like I said, folks, I'm a very serious triathlete. Side note: Look, I have upper body muscles now!)

My workout (and keep in mind that this pool is 20 yards instead of the usual 25, which is why the numbers are weird):

200 warmup
12 x 20 with 15 second rest between sets
10 x 40 with 15 second rest between sets
6 x 100 with 15 second rest between sets
200 cool down
Target completion time: 50 minutes / 1,640 yards

I finished in 43 minutes. 

Goddammit. Stupid one-piece.

Also, I really want doughnuts now.

who woulda thunk

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

We have this dumb joke that we do when we've had a little too much to drink. It involves writing Facebook posts to our future selves, resulting in something like this:

Dear Future Michaela: 
Present Michaela

Thankfully, I didn't quite go there last night. Yes, I drank 04 Dom PĂ©rignon straight out of the bottle on a street somewhere while hipsters in a nearby apartment building launched fireworks off of their balcony. (Confession: I was kind of terrified I would be That Person who succumbed to a death-by-hipster-fireworks-accident.)

And yes, I did drop my phone and suddenly it decided to take photos only in black and white.

But there was no need to apologize to my future self. (When you eat enough pre-party enchiladas and make sure you drink water, you're pretty much good to go.) Instead, I started thinking about Past Michaela, and how that girl from five years ago had no clue what she was getting herself into. (Dear Past Michaela: Bet you never thought you'd be allergic to bread, divorced, living in the Land of Hipster Lumberjacks and training for a full Ironman! Haha! Surprise!)

So on this first day of 2014, I'm saying cheers to the unknown.

Dear Future Michaela: Roll with it, girl.
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