Thursday, July 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Matt!

Guess whose birthday it is today?! 

He’s put up with a lot these past six years. Like when he taped the final World Cup game four years back and I told him the results because he wouldn’t rub my back (I’m a doll, aren’t I?). He left the apartment in a huff and I called him 30 minutes later. “Where are you?” I asked. “In the Wendy’s parking lot eating a Frosty,” he grumbled between slurps. It doesn’t get any cuter than that. In the subsequent years he’s also managed to expel my gas, pop my pimples, and give me my enema before surgery (aka the holy trinity of seduction). We’re like two disgusting old farts.

Happy birthday, Matt! May you always act like you’re 8 – even at age 28.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pasta with Pistou

A few (okay, fine, like two) times a week I go to the gym, and during those days I tell Matt to "Have some grub ready for me when I get home!". Sometimes I even say it nicer than that. I subscribe to every blessed cooking magazine under the sun and leave a torn page on the counter, beckoning for his culinary prowess. I can't even snicker at that statement, because he's getting really good at following instructions. Look what I came home to on Friday:

He even plated it and added the garnish! That boy is damn good.

He made Penne (we used bow-ties) with Zucchini Pistou. I know, it sounds sophisticated, right? According to Cooking Light - where I snatched this little ditty - pistou is to the French what pesto is to Italians. Works for me!

This dish was restaurant-worthy yummy. We loved it. It was chock full of basil and garlic (note: with four cloves you have to like garlic) and I adored the sauteed zucchini - it can't get more summery than that! Definitely going to add to my "company's coming" repertoire.

Penne with Zucchini Pistou

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices small zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion (about 1 large) (We used Vidalia and red.)
  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta (We used bow-tie pasta.)
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (We used half-and-half.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender and golden. Remove from pan; cool.
2. Place 1/4 cup cooked zucchini, basil, 1/4 cup cheese, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor; process until finely chopped. (Keep mixture in processor.)
3. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 10 minutes or until golden. Return remaining cooked zucchini to pan. Remove from heat.
4. Combine 6 quarts water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain in a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/3 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta to vegetables.
5. With processor on, add reserved liquid to basil mixture; process until smooth. Add basil mixture to pasta. Add cream, remaining salt, and pepper; stir. Top with remaining cheese.

Yep; we're definitely making this again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hamster Husband

I remember being curled up in bed, writhing in pain, making deals with God. (True, I’m not sure I believe in a higher power, but these were the pleas of the desperate.) I’d say things like, “God, Allah, Mother Earth, whoever may be listening, if you stop this pain you can take anything from me.” It escalated to me offering my dog Penny (sorry) and finally, in sheer desperation, Matt (uh, triple sorry). Now, I didn’t want the dog or Matt to, you know, perish, but maybe just move out or something. I really wasn’t thinking straight.

I’m thinking about this now because I love Matt dearly – I must have been pretty wacked out to sacrifice him to whatever God I summoned those painful nights (or perhaps he was annoying me with his throat signing, who can remember?!). But he shines even more brightly next to everything that just hasn’t gone right recently. He’s my rock. My best friend. And he lets me write embarrassing stuff about him on this blog, so he pretty much rocks my world.

So there I was, love struck with this beautiful nerd. (Have I mentioned I love nerds? They’re terrific, aren’t they?  Nerds of the engineering persuasion particularly make my heart pitter pat.) But unfortunately, I was brought back to reality earlier this month when I witnessed this:

OMG.  During a perfectly pleasant evening on the Jersey Shore, Matt got in this ball.  Like a drunk hamster on water.  I think it was for kids but when he saw he made the weight limit he was all in.  It really shouldn't have surprised me...

And then it only got worse...How can I SWOON at this?!  There is delightful nerdom, and then there's....there's......THIS.  No grown "man" (notice the quotation marks) should do this.

There were a group of women onlookers.  I was suspicious because they looked perfectly sane and attractive, so obviously one would think they would do what's 100% natural, here: make fun of him.  But I don't think they were.  They must have been restraining themselves.

Quinoa with Mint and a Smoked Paprika Dressing

I’m a smoked paprika fan. Okay, fine, I didn’t use it until this past week but I’m in love. I even ponied up the $6 to buy the damn spice, so I better have liked it.

As you may know, I’m terribly keen for quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Always be sure to rinse your quinoa a few times to remove any bitterness. Rinsing this tiny grain is an exercise in patience and deftness (neither of which I possess) so I usually make Matt do this. I call him Matty the Sous Chef. (He doesn’t like this.) And sometimes I pretend we have a cooking show and talk aloud, and have Penny as our taste-tester and I urge him to play along as I critique his chopping skills. (This is when he leaves the kitchen to play a video game.)

This quinoa salad, served cold, is pure summertime refreshment. The mint adds a little somethin’ somethin’ and it’s a nice departure from my usual quinoa creations. Enjoy with grilled fish or a burger as an accompaniment, or as a main dish like we did.

Quinoa with Chickpeas, Spinach, Mint, and Smoked Paprika Dressing
Recipe by the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa (9 to 10 ounces), rinsed, drained
  • 4 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves  
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
  • 1 3/4 cups 1/3-inch cubes unpeeled English hothouse cucumber
  • 1 1-pint container multicolored baby heirloom tomatoes, halved (2 1/2 cups)   (We simply used grape tomatoes but I just saw these lovely darlings at Trader Joe's today.)
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled feta cheese (about 7 ounces), divided (We used much less to cut calories.  And, uh, because I forgot it at the market.)
  • 1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar (I used a combo of white wine vinegar and sherry cooking wine.)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


Place quinoa in large saucepan; add enough salted water to cover quinoa by 1 inch. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until quinoa is tender, 15 to 16 minutes. Drain. Chill until cool.

Meanwhile, combine spinach leaves, garbanzos, cubed cucumber, halved tomatoes, mint leaves, and half of feta cheese in extra-large bowl. Add cooled quinoa and toss gently to blend.

Whisk vinegar and smoked paprika in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle remaining feta over.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Morning Drives

Having a child is not something I ever thought I'd do automatically, and I clearly remember in college spouting how much I "hated" (oh yes, hated) kids. Friends said I'd change my mind, and I said with piss and vinegar, "Watch me!"

So how did I end up with my legs spread in a doctor's office for the fourth time this week?

I've never been a baby person. Women in my office squeal and fuss when a baby makes an appearance. I generally hide at my desk until it's not socially acceptable and then I acknowledge the baby with an awkward, and very adult, "hello". (It's so forced I might as well offer a Victorian, "And I bid you a good day, Sir," after fluffing their peach-fuzz hair and returning to my desk.) But something shifted in the last five years. Although nonchalant (and still teetering on awkwardness) on the outside when I cross paths with a baby or small child, internally I'm flush with longing.

It's funny how things like this creep up on you.

Matt is wonderful with kids and always wanted them. I've been a slower adopter. Early in our relationship when he asked what my intentions were, and I nodded and said, "Well, sure, sometime in our mid-thirties or something." A year or two later that number changed to thirty (arbitrary but at the time it was a far-off date, with time only slowly ticking toward real adulthood). Somewhere between now and then, and between getting sick, we thought we might as well grab the bull by the horns, and have a go at it (interestingly enough, I was the one who pushed for the earlier date). That was over a year and a half ago; so much for grabbing the bull by the horns.

I've never been someone who said "things happen for a reason". That's a bunch of phooey nonsense and insulting when you think about all the pain in the world. But it's impossible not to think that, well, maybe I shouldn't be reproducing. Let's just say this: no one is going to be buyin' my eggs anytime soon. Those things are train wrecks laced with problematic genes. The only thing I can perhaps offer is a proclivity to sarcasm and a vocabulary that could guarantee a decent SAT score. Hell, that's even questionable.

So I was thinking about this - all of this - the other morning. Why are we doing all of this? On Monday at 6:30 pm it began raining hard. Big, fat drops that didn't stop until late the next morning as I drove 1.5 hours to the doctors and 1.5 hours to work. Many roads were flooded and closed, but I was determined to get to the doctor. It's quietly become the most important thing in my life. And lying naked from the waist down has become the position most synonymous with this longing.

Before and after ovulation I'm monitored almost daily. How is my follicle (egg) growing? What are my LH, FSH, Estradiol and Progesterone levels? Everyday I submit to these blood tests and every afternoon I receive a call with the results from a new nurse (there must be two dozen of them in the practice).

"You sure are a sluggish one," the latest nurse offered as I still didn't ovulate by Day 20. I'm still grappling with these terms, these numbers, and have been too tired to do the research. My numbers are too low, my FSH isn't surging, and I'm taking supplemental progesterone. But a very quick primer (all per Wikipedia):

LH (Luteinizing Hormone): A hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland. In females, an acute rise of LH called the LH surge triggers ovulation [2] and development of the corpus luteum.

FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone): FSH regulates the development, growth, pubertal maturation, and reproductive processes of the body. FSH and Luteinizing hormone (LH) act synergistically in reproduction.

Estradiol: A sex hormone. Estradiol is the predominant sex hormone present in females. It is also present in males, and at a higher level because it is being constantly produced. In females it is only produced 3 out of 30 days of the cycle. It represents the major estrogen in humans. Estradiol has not only a critical impact on reproductive and sexual functioning, but also affects other organs including the bones.

Progesterone: A C-21 steroid hormone involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy (supports gestation) and embryogenesis of humans and other species. Progesterone belongs to a class of hormones called progestogens, and is the major naturally occurring human progestogen.

My foray into fertility has more shots and ultrasounds (In only two months! A mere fertility novice...) than I can write in this post: don't worry, it's more to gross you out with later. (Especially with an account of the post-coital test. Now that's when things start getting saucy!)

But through all the headache, heartache, the long drives to an affordable doctor, and impediment to work this is what we want - so very much. And that I can't explain or rationalize. It's a biological impulse that's taken me by surprise. A longing to love and nurture that I wasn't expecting. All from a girl who no more than 10 years ago hated children.

I have to chuckle: how's that for life taking you by surprise?

Friday, July 9, 2010


Somehow I got on the mailing list for REI. I’m not sure how someone who can’t sleep without a noise machine and who shrieks when her husband ups the thermostat to a balmy 78 degrees would enjoy actually roughing it. But I’m positively captivated by the catalog. It’s colorful and glossy and I want to own each and every camping stove and chair (there are two-footed chairs, chairs that act as loveseats, and chairs with supercharged color names like “electric blue” – how can I resist?). I gaze admirably at the taunt models sporting Patagonia tees and shorts and trick myself into thinking I could be them if I would only order that fleece, and oh, maybe the Teva sandals. (Forget the working out part.)

It’s perplexing to think that people actually enjoy camping. It’s like saying I enjoy getting 28 mosquito bites and sleeping on the rocky ground in dewy tents. I don’t like any of those things. I like crisp hotel sheets and miniature shampoo bottles. I like hot water and well, not having to purify my water.

My fertility office calls sex “relations”. I am aghast at this – why do they need to create a euphemism for something so integral to their practice? (And their and our very existence!) When they say, “You should have relations with your partner on Friday night,” I want to say, “Do you mean hot, dirty sex with my hairy man?!?!” (Note: Trying to create a baby is neither very hot nor dirty. It’s perfunctory. But the hairy man part is true.)

My company had a hiring explosion and now there are many more women sitting on my floor: good for business but bad for the bathroom. Now I have to teach a whole new crop of women the art of the poop-off. And now a whole new crop of women will realize I’m “the girl whose always in the bathroom”. At least I’m not solely “the tall girl” anymore.