Thursday, August 30, 2007

When "extra value" is not value enough...

I have a new speciality: I can create delicious mini-meals for almost no money without having to buy in bulk, cook in the heat, or adjust my lifestyle much. Manly men that need to eat super huge amounts will not be satisfied, but for those that like to graze on yummy food...

Here are some of my favorites:

- Bagels are for breakfast. But what's a girl to do when a $7 lox extravaganza is not an option? $1.25 for The Black Onion Bagel and cream cheese at LeBus on 18th.

- When I'm dreaming about the lavish Indian buffet at my friends wedding and I can't even afford the $10 all-you-can-eat buffet, what do I do?
Aloo Samosa, $1.95 (for 2) at Cafe Spice, 2nd Floor Liberty Place Food Court

- When I desperately want a gourmet pizza, but the $20 is just not to be had.
Tomato Foccaccia, $2.49 at DiBruno Brothers, 18th and Chestnut
And if I don't even have two bucks, the pretzel roll is huge and filling for 99 cents or the Olive Roll is only 79 cents. Add a scoop of Gigante Beans for $2.00 and you have a filling vegetarian meal.

- What about when I don't just want one little thing, but I want to feel like I've had a special treat (like on laundry day).
A slice of pizza $2.00 at 15th and Spruce, followed by a kid's cone of custard at Rita's for $2.47, including sprinkles.

-What about when I can't stomach another peanut butter sandwich for lunch?
$2.00 veggie pattie from Mama's Vegetarian, and all the pickled, kosher veggies you can eat for free! (And if you have extra money, the $1.50 french fries are to die for.)

-Dinner for under $3.00? Try No. 1 Chinese place on 7th and South. Order the Vegetable Fried rice! Doctor it up at home if you have stuff to make it more interesting.

- Speaking of Chinese... Try Chinatown. 50 cent buns, Sweets for under $1... the budget lore of that neighborhood is legendary.

- And don't forget Reading Terminal Market. Skip the expensive Amish stands and hit the little guys. Cheap cookies, fresh fruit, free samples. Much beauty for not much money.

Someday I'll convince my equally poor friends to go on my food scavenger hunt with me. We each take a couple dollars and we go out hunting for bargains. We bring back our booty and everyone shares!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Give me your tomatoes.

It's that time of year again, when people far and wide lament having too much produce from their gardens. They make tomato sauce, tomato relish, tomato salads. They give basil away by the truckload, bound with string with small cards attached detailing their favorite pesto recipe. It's a phenomenon.

But not in my life.

Why don't I have gardener friends? Are you all too busy? Where are my tomatoes? Where is my basil? I'm ready, hungry for a fresh salad!

Instead I spent $2.25 yesterday for a single tomato.

Clearly it was a mistake, the cashier must have rung me up for the super-amazing-hot-house-organic-makes-the-salad-for-you tomato, when really it was a slightly bruised but rather delicious little guy. I didn't go back to the market to correct the error, I simply chopped that precious fruit up and threw it in my stir fry.

But I can't afford to be spending such large amounts on such tiny accoutrement - so please, donate your unwanted fruits, vegetables, and herbs to me. I will use them with relish.

hee...hee... with relish.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Movie Review: No End in Sight.

Every couple of months I play a game. My game is going to the movie theatre and choosing the next movie that's starting, regardless of whether or not I know anything about it.

So Saturday, I played the game. And I saw No End in Sight.

The movie is written, produced and directed by Charles Ferguson. The film is his first, but his background is in political science, he's a PH.D and has been a senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. I'm surprised that this is his first film, since it's so well done, very clean and as "easy to watch" as such a devastating subject matter could be.

That being said, it is not, under any circumstances, easy to watch.

The film begins shortly before September 11, 2001, and follows chronologically the path that the U.S. takes first in Afghanistan, but quickly into Iraq.

What makes this movie great, are the open and honest interviews. There is one great sequence where a well-known official is interviewed question by question in contrast with his predecessor, painting an alarmingly accurate picture of both sides.

The candor of the interviews is startling. One feels as if there is serious remorse in some and none in others. Me, the uber-pacifist, left feeling as if I live in a country that has sanctioned a genocide. I've had my Schindler's list moment: I marched, I protested, I wrote, I called, I gave up my car, but I could have done more.

I feel like we'll never be able to come back from this. How could we?

I also feel like this film will be viewed by countless students, or should be, in the coming years, to educate, to spark discussion, and to perhaps shake people out of the apathy that allows these kinds of people to be elected, leading to such catastrophic results.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Losing Faith.

I hesitate to write this post. I seriously hesitate to write this post, but here it goes.

I'm losing faith.

For those of you that don't know, I grew up in an extremely religious family: both my parents are Episcopal priests. I was keenly aware of the human side of religion from a very young age, simply because I think it is impossible to see your religious leader as infallible if that person is your parent.

But now, things are really different.

I've always been highly superstitious, very careful, very interested in other religions, and other ways to engage on a spiritual level. I've tried to explain to people why and how this works, but the best that I've ever come up with is "I believe in everything because I have faith in nothing."

Even saying that phrase over and over again has not prepared me for the point I've reached in my life. I got a message from a friend yesterday that said, in response to my offer of help, "Prayer would help." And my immediate reaction, in my head, was "Really? C'mon, what will prayer do for you?" I'm a bit shocked and appalled that my thinking has evolved to that point, but it's true. What I wanted him to say was "Uh, actually, could you pick up my dry-cleaning?" Or maybe "Thanks, I could really use a friendly ear tonight to work through some things."

I know alot of research has been done on the power of positive thinking, and how prayer activities can actually better your health and your ability to be effective, I just don't have those experiences.

I blame the church, and my parent's involvement in the church, for a variety of 'ills' that have come our way, and frankly, it's affected my willingness to believe. But I feel guilty. I feel as if I'm not giving "faith" and "prayer" a chance to show me it's not just for self-interested, exclusionists.

So then, how do I have faith? Or does one just have it naturally? I don't know the answer. I'll be trying to pray for my friend, because I know that's what he wants, but I'd rather pick up his dry-cleaning.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Workout Move...

I didn't feel the effects of my new workout move until after I got to work today. Yesterday I saw this article on called "Love your Legs." So I clicked on it.

Later, at the gym I did two sets. Here's the move:
Main Move: Cardio Curtsy

Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointing out. Hold chair with left hand (like a dancer at a barre), right arm at side. Cross right leg behind you, bending both knees (as if you were curtsying). At the same time, sweep right arm up and over, bending gently toward left (A).

Straighten legs and lift right knee to side, bending torso to bring right elbow toward right knee (B). Without pausing, repeat 25 times as quickly as you can while maintaining good form. Switch sides.

To Make it easier

Don't lift knee toward elbow. Instead, keep right toes on floor as you slide foot out to right and bring right elbow to side.

To Make it harder

As you lift knee toward elbow, rise up onto ball of left foot

Now, I'm feeling my quads in a very good way! Way to go MSN... I love that!

Although I don't think I was quite as upbeat as the woman in the picture while doing the moves.

More Lessons from a Rainy Morning.

Another strange walk to work this morning. This is what I learned:

Lesson 1: Cars don't care.
I was splashed numerous times at crowded crosswalks. I saw the cars coming, once I even made eye contact with the driver, but I was splashed anyway.

Lesson 2: People with big umbrellas are dangerous.
I was umbrella-bumped many times, but the funniest part was when a co-worker I was walking with was completely clotheslined by a low-hanging branch. And right after she was bragging about how big her umbrella is and how dry she stays.

Lesson 3: Rain is bad for homeless people.
The saddest thing about my walk to work was seeing the effect the rain had on some of my local homeless people. One man was so upset he was pantomiming indignation at the sky in dramatic fashion. I felt so bad.

A few blocks later I saw another man asking for spare change. The a--hole he asked was saying "Spare change? I don't even know what that means." Just taunting him. Just being mean.

It would be nice if I could open a little coffee shop that served the street community. A warm place to dry out and enjoy a warm beverage.

Lesson 4: The only way to enjoy the rain is from inside.
My office is warmer today. The little birds are playing near my window. The park is quiet and green. I could go fetch a cup of tea at any moment. My life is good. Now, how can I make it so for everyone else?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Head in the Clouds. *Edit*

It was a dark and stormy... morning.

I had a hard time waking up and a hard time motivating to leave the house. Even on my walk to work I was distracted... and oddly obsessed with my skirt fluttering in the wind.

It's chilly around the college today and chilly in my office. I've got a cup of tea, but it's not warming me at all. I'd like a warm blanket, a soft sofa, and a nice friend. Even if the friend were really a book.

I guess instead I'll just try to remain relaxed and try to stay warm and dry. ... And try to get my work done.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Best celebrity run-in story I've ever heard...

A woman I work with told me this story about her friend...

Her friend was visiting a town where Paul Newman is known to have a vacation house. One off-season, weekday afternoon the woman decided to stop for an ice cream cone.

Out of the corner of her eye she sees an older man and thinks "Naw, it can't be him." Upon further glances, she sees it IS Paul Newman and is completely star struck.

She decides against saying anything to him and hurries out of the shop. She realizes her change is in her hand but that she's forgotten her ice cream cone.

She goes back into the shop and her ice cream is not on the cone-holder. The clerk has gone into the back and she's looking around for her cone when she hears Paul Newman's voice say:

"It's in your purse."

Thinking about a breakup? Here's my advice:

I know so many people that are unhappy in their relationships or have recently broken up. After talking to so many people, here is my advice:

1) If you are thinking about breaking things off from a long-term relationship, what are your fantasies about how things will be different? What are the things you will do with your new free time? Who are the people you want to reconnect with?

Now, is there any part of that you can begin BEFORE a breakup? Would having more autonomy help give some clarity to the issues?

2) Do you have a plan? Where will you live? Do you have enough money/savings to make the transition? Who can you ask for help?

Keep in mind, after my last big breakup I did not have a plan. I did not follow my own advice and it was very messy... and took almost 3 years and alot of help for me to recover financially. Learn from my mistakes!

3) Consider outside help.

I think alot of people are willing to consider couples counseling, but less are willing to consider personal counseling. Remember that the issues you have in your relationships are usually linked to your parent/child relationship in many ways. Working through those aspects of your emotional development is YOUR job, not the job of your spouse/partner.

Okay. Enough from me. I'm not qualified to give this advice and you're getting it for free. As my very, super-really, intelligent mother says "You know the problem about free advice, right... you get what you pay for!"

Good luck to all of you that are in a moment of transition. Be patient, be calm. If you can learn from the relationship and the break-up process, you'll be a better person on the other side.

Oh, and since we're on the topic. I've always said that there are 4 things that if I had them, I would never need another partner... they are:
1) A wonderful best friend (for the blow-by-blow, everyday unwinding stuff)
2) A dog (for the I'm so happy you're home part)
3) A vibrator
4) A good massage therapist (because there's nothing like human contact)

Unfortunately, I only have one out of four.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Documentary Review: Rosita

Last night, I went to the International House on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania to watch a film. I even missed my African Dance class to attend. I expect this post to anger some people.

The documentary is called Rosita and it's the true story of an eight year old girl who was raped and became pregnant. Stop reading here if you are an extreme pro-life proponent.

The problem: She lives in Costa Rica and is of Nicaraguan parents.

Maybe I'm wrong, but even extreme pro-life people in the US usually would concede that in the case of an eight-year old girl, abortion should be an option. (Note: I took the clause "who was raped" out of the above sentence, because really... what 8 year old that becomes pregnant is not a victim of rape? I remember being 8 very clearly, sex was not on my mind)

Not in Costa Rica, and only for "therapeutic" abortions in Nicaragua. Therapeutic abortions are granted only in cases where the mother's health is seriously in jeopardy.

The film centered on the battle between the Catholic Church, who offered to adopt the unborn child, and the girl's parents. The parents, partially acting on the indications of their daughter, decided to go through with the pursuing the abortion. The Minister of the Family and the Minister of Health both vehemently opposed the abortion and tried to remove the child from the family. The media attention was extreme.

In the end, after many examinations, one grueling hearing with the accused rapist, and 4 months of fighting, Rosita was granted the abortion.

The accused rapist was never brought to trial.

The update from the filmmaker last night was, unfortunately, not that surprising. Rosita, now 13, has a 19-month old child. Speculation is that the father of the Rosita's child is her stepfather.

Why does it seem that victims of unspeakable crimes in our society continue to be victimized. Rosita was raped at 8, used as a media tool by both sides of a polarizing issue for months, and then raped again.

Perhaps it was because she was marked by the modern scarlet letter "A."

The film is available for purchase through Bullfrog Films.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Oh, one other!

Okay, so you probably figured out that while I liked the Kite Runner, I found it a bit simplistic and predictable. Not the situation in Afghanistan mind you, but the style and plot.

But, I didn't want to neglect to mention the other book I read that I LOVED! It's called the Piano Tuner. It's about a... well... piano tuner that gets sent to Burma by the British Army. It's wonderful, part Heart of Darkness, part travel journal. I really enjoyed it.

So two thumbs up for the Piano Tuner and History of Love.

Maybe one thumb up for the Kite Runner and The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller.

Wait, that's kind of awful... how can you give someone only one thumb for the story of their life, especially someone that triumphed over so many disabilities? But in my defense, she wrote the book at 22. And frankly, it reads a bit like my summer vacation joke-of-a-post. Very simplistic and overly enthusiastic.

Now I'm bookless. Suggestions? Help me. Help me, please.

What I did on my summer vacation.

By Kathryn Evans

This year, on my summer vacation, I did alot of things. Some of the things I did included: reading, flying, carrying stuff, talking, and breathing. The thing I liked the best was reading.

One book I read was "The Kite Runner" by a famous author. It was very scary. I read it in one day. I read alot of books in one day, but not scary ones. I didn't sleep well after I read it. Like when I eat too much pizza, and wish I hadn't eaten so much pizza.

The book was about boys and I'm a girl. I didn't understand the boys all the time, but I don't understand boys most of the time, so I guess that makes sense. But sometimes I didn't understand why the boys were doing or not doing what they were doing.

Also on my summer vacation I visited my parents. They are very nice. They gave me presents, but not because they had to like on my birthday, because they wanted to. It was very nice. They have made alot of changes to their house and it is very pretty.

Also on my summer vacation I talked to people. I like talking to people because they are nice. The only time I don't like talking to people is when they stink. Sometimes they stink because they need a bath and sometimes they stink because they are just mean.

I had a very nice time and I would like to go on vacation again very soon. School starts very soon, so I do not think I can go, but I would like to.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back to the grind tomorrow.

It hasn't been exactly a relaxing break, but hopefully I'll make up for it today. What I have planned for the day: pool, reading, tv watching, and eating.

I may decide not to answer the phone. I may decide not to talk to my fellow sun-bathers. I may very well decide not to do anything even remotely nice. Instead, perhaps I'll stay nicely remote. Or perhaps I'll just spend the day with my nice remote (control that is). Whatever feels most relaxing.

I have one more day to wash away the last month of stress.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Combo Book Review/Movie Review

Book Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Leave it to the friend that, arguably, knows me the best to give me this book to read. I asked her to describe it in three words. She struggled and used many more than 3... now I see why.

Gentle, staggering, sweet, sad, confused and tragic. Those are the words I would use. Although when I texted her last night, I used the word stunning. Truly stunning.

The plot is varied and complex. The language is thoughtful, but not ostentatious. The characters are developed: flawed, caring, and trying the best they can. Truly it is how I think of love: flawed, caring, and trying the best you can.

I know this is a spare review, but I don't want to say too much. I have many favorite moments, but really I'm just thankful to have spent 8 hours of my life with this book. Started on the plane ride back from vacation and finished, after many pauses to keep from crying hysterically in airports, at 12:30 last night. It is similar to the book I want to write with my mother, but lighter.

Now the movie review... can't get much more different: Rush Hour 3
What can I say... it's nearly identical to the others. If you saw them and loved them, then you'll love this one. If you were like I was and missed the second because you'd had enough from the first.. then why a third? Maybe you haven't had enough bikini girls and bathroom jokes in your life? Maybe you long for more ethnic misunderstandings and fight scenes? Maybe you have a crush on Jackie Chan? Wait to the very end... then watch the outtakes... the best moment is seeing Jackie Chan's sweet daughter in one rehearsal scene... such cuteness. Better yet, wait and download it from Netflix... then just watch the outtakes. You won't be missing much.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My New Talent

Apparently, I have a talent of which I was completely unaware: Translating English to English.

Anyone that has friends or family that are still navigating themselves towards fluency with the English language probably has this talent themselves. In my afternoons with Roula, my dear friend's cousin, I did ALOT of this translation.

However, I must try to transcribe a conversation we had.

Roula: I have a new dog.
Me: Oh, wonderful!
Roula: His name is Beubes.
Me: Boobies?
Roula: Yes, Beubes!
Me: Oh, that's great.

Later in the evening, my friend drove me into the city.
Me: Did you hear the name of Roula's new dog?
Friend: Yes! Do you think she knows the English word it sounds like?
Roula: What?
Friend: Your dog's name, it sounds like the slang word for breasts... Boobies.
Roula: Yes, but my beubes is spelled B..E..U..B..E..S.. and your boobies are spelled B..U..B..
Friend: No, my boobies are not spelled that way.
Roula: How are your boobies spelled?
Friend: My boobies are B..O..O..B..I..E..S, except I don't have much.

It was very funny!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Tourist by proxy

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you all. Believe me, I've missed you all!

After several days of strep throat, I've spent the beginning of my vacation with a couple out of town guests.

The first, my friend-of-friend, Nicole from Germany has actually been in town for 12 days. It's quite amazing how much someone becomes part of your daily routine over the course of 12 days. She leaves this evening and I will miss her.

Yesterday we went to New York, my first official vacation activity. We had a lovely Sunday afternoon Dim Sum in Chinatown and then I wandered about with my sweetest friend and got my nails done. Very relaxing.

Today, it's off to the mall to do a bit of shopping with Roula, my cousin-of-friend, and I'm very excited. She is an extraordinarily gregarious, beautiful Greek woman. While we were in Greece, her name became an adjective... "Those shoes are so Roula!"

So here I go, for another round of tourism and consumerism, before I head down to Georgia to see my parents. While I was really hoping for an exotic locale for my break, I'll instead be spending my break with several exotic people in familiar places.

With so many recent disappointments and stresses, perhaps I'll meet some new exotic people too. I'm keeping my options open... and will be taking notes on how to be more fantastic from Miss Roula this afternoon!

Friday, August 3, 2007

And the worst blogger award goes to...

After I made you all vote for me on that interview site, then I go and disappear.

Sorry, sick.

Doctor says I have strep throat. Hopefully next week while vacationing I'll be able to regale you all with funny stories, book reviews and the like.

This week all I would have written would have been something like this:

"Still cranky. Throat still hurts. Life still sucks"

This is probably making you feel fairly fortunate that I've been away - not typing.

And maybe, if you're good and loyal readers... I'll upload some pictures! Shocking, I know.

Thanks for your patience. Love to you all until next week.