Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Since our return from the cruise I have been desperate to keep my tan.  I am moisturising like crazy.  I alternate between thick shea nut butter, Bio Oil, and gradual self tanning lotion.  I have also resisted shaving my legs. 
I finally caved the other day.  When you kick your husband away for scratching your legs with his raggety toenails and then you realize it’s your own leg stubble, it’s time.
And with that, I introduce my new subject tag; Topography.  Devoted to the description of my surface.
Nothing dirty, just good, clean grooming and clothing habits.  I’m not a style-maven by any stretch of the imagination, but I try (and usually fail), so why not write about it?

Speaking of shaving, here are my tips for smooth legs without waxing.  (Which you haven’t asked for and which any woman over 13 has probably gotten to grips with, but is something it has taken me awhile to get right, or at least right in my estimation).  Waxing routinely leaves me with ingrown hairs and strips of missed hair (apparently the hair on my calves grows in a spiral pattern and has bested every waxing technician I have met).  Not really worth the pain and sticky aftermath, in my opinion.  First, I exfoliate.  I occasionally use a store bought scrub, but I have found coffee grounds to work better.  I’m serious.  The coffee grounds you throw away everyday can be used as an awesome exfoliator.  I keep them in a Tupperware-type container in the shower and continually top it up.  Apparently, the caffeine also tightens the skin and reduces the appearance of cellulite.  I have not noticed these effects.  Does anyone?  (note: it can be a bit messy in the shower and might make hair clogs worse. Sacrifices.)
I then proceed with the shaving. Lots of lather and a nearly-new razor (because my razors seem to go dull as soon as they leave the packaging).  At the end of the shower, I pat dry and then moisturize with Bio Oil.  I discovered the benefits of Bio Oil while I was on the circus.  If you have the patience, it really does make a difference in uneven skin tone and reducing scars.  It works best when the skin is still moist.  However, it can take awhile to soak in so you might have to wander around in the buff for awhile (an added bonus?).
With that, go forth and show off those lovely pins.   

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fitness Goal

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  A weekly meditation on fitness goals, successes and failures.  Thinking about it once a week is a step toward making it a part of everyday.

I realize that I have become lazy with the blog as of late.  Only writing on Tuesday and Friday.  It’s just that I don’t feel I have much to write about.  Which isn’t true, really.  I just went on a cruise, I am racking up the writing deadlines (although none of them are paying anything), and just got a two-week job editing a colleague’s book. 
In terms of fitness, I have also been slacking.  I am back to my pre-cruise weight.  It was actually pretty painless to get back.  Only took two weeks.  I have been doing my two runs a week, but not as regularly as I did before.  I have done my Monday run on Tuesday two weeks running (HA!) although this week it might happen on Wednesday.  I have managed the Friday run, every Friday.  I have not managed to get back to 4K.  The first 3K after the cruise I puked.  I know.  How hardcore is that? (Not at all, but it sounds hardcore.) I expect I shall get back to it within a week or two. 
I have also become lax in going to my Weight Watchers meetings.  They aren’t actually inspiring at all.  I show up to weigh-in and leave.  This week I weighed myself at home.  Next week I probably will as well.  These past two weeks I haven’t been very good about actually tracking my food intake, but I am still on track.  I believe (hopefully not jinxing anything here) that I have trained myself to eat and exercise sensibly.  How else did I manage to only put on three pounds while enjoying three-course meals, desserts, and cocktails for two weeks?  I’m still following the Weight Watchers plan, I still have yet to easily identify my jean size and find a pair that fits my thighs, butt, waist and leg length simultaneously. 
However, I do believe that fitness and health has become a part of my everyday.  I am not constantly thinking about it, but it does shape my decisions about eating and exercising without causing me grief or guilt.  I am mindful and still enjoying my decadent desserts and nights out with friends. 
So with that, I retire Tuesday Fit-Day  from every week.  It will still make an appearance when I have need to discuss my fitness goals and failings, but I want to free up some space to think and write about other obsessions.  Like TV, new haircuts, new recipes, new writing projects. 

Friday, 25 March 2011

At Home Adventures

Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

My domestic adventures this week included:
Attempting to pop corn in the microwave.  Not microwave popcorn, but corn kernels. 
                I followed the directions on the bag.  ‘Pour kernels into microwaveable container and cover.’   What they failed to mention, probably because everyone should know, is that in choosing your microwaveable container remember that kernels will expand to at least three times their size.  Also, by cover they mean lightly place a lid over the container, not snap it shut.  Again, they assume the reader will think.  So instead of getting a nicely expanding mountain of popcorn, I got a heart attack and jumped three feet when the container exploded because I snapped the lid.  Corn kernels everywhere!  The microwave will smell like popcorn for another few weeks.
Ironing Pete’s shirts with dying iron.
                Our iron is about five years old, give or take a few months.  Over the last few months I have developed a very specialized method of ironing.  First, you have to fill it with water from the Brita.  Otherwise you get black flecks of lime scale all over your clothes.  Next, you have to work fast.  The steam seals are starting to go.  By the time you get to the fourth shirt, your hand is in danger of receiving a burn from the steam.  Don’t ask me to explain how that happens.  I just know that the last shirt is usually done with a dishtowel wrapped around my hand.  Third, you have to stand it upright or it will drip water all over the floor.  This week, I got to the second shirt and the iron started peeing all over the board and shirt.  This isn’t unusual.  I just keep ironing and it usually dries itself.  This time it didn’t .  This time, the release of fluids was a mark of death.  Excellent. 
Discussing household small appliances at dinner with friends. 
                Irons and Dyson vacuums to be exact.  If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know that I have been lusting after a Dyson since they came out.  When I lived in Kentucky, I used to vacuum daily.  Partly because of cat hair and partly for stress relief.  The sight of a freshly vacuumed floor or carpet is very satisfying.  It doesn’t seem reasonable to shell out the cash for a Dyson at the moment , but if we had registered, a Dyson would have been the first thing on the list (and my mom would be enjoying it in her home as we speak).  Our friends recently picked out and installed new carpet in their house.  They were torn between two.  One had to be vacuumed everyday and couldn’t stand up to the power of a Dyson.  They went with the other one.  I countered with my ironing story.  Gifted conversationalists, I know.
Reclaiming my washing line from the spiders.
                The first thing I thought about when I saw the sun peaking out of the clouds was my washing line.  This is the real sign of spring for me; being able to hang the laundry outside.  It makes such a huge difference in my laundry schedule (I can wash and dry a load in one day instead of two) and apartment clutter (clothes draped over heating registers and racks just looks messy).  I grabbed a dust rag and headed outside to clear the line of dirt and some impressive spiderwebs.  Is there anything better than laundry that smells of the sun?
Improvising the baguette and gruyere portion of French Onion Soup
Basically I made open-faced grilled cheese with reduced fat cheddar.  Not really the same thing, but let’s face it, all you really want is the gooey melted cheese.  Done. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wife Fit

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  A weekly meditation on fitness goals, successes and failures.  Thinking about it once a week is a step toward making it a part of everyday.

I don’t really want to talk about fitness today.  Let’s just say that getting back into the routine after the cruise is slow-going and leave it at that. 
I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration lately and the lack thereof.  When I’m away from my house-bound life I feel more free to be inspired and make inspiring plans.  Then I come home and go right back into the uninspiring routine I was trying to escape.  I realized today that I have a reoccurring two-year itch.  I can only ever stay somewhere for two years before I am desperate for a change.  And rearranging the furniture isn’t enough.  I’m desperately searching for inspiration.  For something that will change my outlook and kick me in the butt.  I’m not talking about forever here, but at least for a significant amount of time.  Africa did this.  The circus did this.  For awhile Weight Watchers did this, in its own small way.  I am floating and living vicariously through others’ adventures and narratives. (Yesterday I ran down my laptop’s battery reading back posts on a blog that I am currently stalking.  I want to be this girl.  Or at least her friend.)
I really wanted marriage to do this.  I really wanted the team of Pete and I to inspire me to make the most out of this extraordinary life we are living together.  And our life is extraordinary.  I know I complain, but I am aware that our life is the envy of others.  We live in London, we travel regularly and our story resembles something out of a romantic comedy.  Given that, I didn’t think our “…and they lived happily ever after” would involve a business suit in the City and an apron at home.  I thought we were bound for more exciting and inspiring things.  But being ‘adults’ has hampered the exciting and inspiring.  Pete is all about setting the groundwork for a family home and security and possibly early retirement.  As I have said, he is the practical one in this team.  And thank God for that because I have never been practical.  I don’t see the big picture.  I’m looking for our next adventure.  I’m planning for us to join the Peace Corps for retirement.  I’m wondering how old kids need to be to take them on a safari to Africa.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have our own house somewhere.  I’m the first to take pictures of other people’s houses for inspiration, but I’m worried I will get restless and changing décor won’t be enough. 
Before we got married I didn’t really think about what it would mean to be a wife.  I figured it would be the same as being a girlfriend and fiancée since we had been living together and combining resources and making decisions together for four years by the time we got married.  (cue all my married readers chuckling to themselves and sighing, “Aw, bless.”)  And for the first few months it did feel the same.  But in the first few months of our marriage I was very unhappy.  Suddenly becoming a housewife was a small part of that.  Before June 25 I was a student studying at home and taking care of the house because I was the one at home and because Pete was *temporarily* supporting us both as I finished.  Being a student gives the illusion of productivity, of someday finishing and joining the workforce.  Then suddenly I was no longer a student.  I was an unemployed wife with an advanced degree paid for by the UK government.  That doesn’t fit on the customs form.  I seriously think part of the reason I haven’t travelled much since the wedding is because I don’t know what to put in that blank on the customs form.  It sounds ridiculous, but if you have ever been grilled by British Custom agents as they flip through your visa and try to determine if you are entering illegally (which you did once) you would understand.  They aren’t big on unemployed visa holders.
I digress.
Let’s just say that I wasn’t thrilled to be a housewife and was feeling pretty low and useless in general.  And so a blog was born.  A lot of this is documented in past posts and I won’t rehash it here.  But I will say that I have started thinking about what it means to be a wife in our current situation. 
The more I think about it, the more I am sure that we are the perfect couple.  I know, everyone thinks they are perfect, but hear me out.  Pete has got our practical side covered.  I think he enjoys that role.  Although he hates putting on that suit every day, (and would much rather make a living running people out on a sailboat to swim with turtles) I think he takes pride in the fact that he can take care of his little budding family.  My job is to ensure that we have fun and magic and silliness in our lives.  Because let’s be honest, that’s what I do best.  Luckily, Pete loves me enough to go along with the silliness once in awhile.  But that still leaves Pete exhausted at the end of the day and me babbling about whatever Grand Plan I have come up with today (and trust me, it changes almost daily). 
So what’s the point?  Where am I going with this post?  To be honest, I’m not sure.  But I have lately been thinking my job is more about inspiration than laundry.  Bringing the best of ourselves out so that we won’t feel like we always have to wear the suit/apron.  So that we can envision taking a leap and going on another adventure (with proper planning and return plan in place, of course.  That’s how adults leap, right?)  This is easily done when on holiday in the sun, not so easy when going through a mundane routine in crap London weather. 
Spring has sprung at last, as it always does.  Light and life is returning.  It can be inspiring if I let it. 
With that, I’m off for a run.  See it is about fitness after all.  Wife fit.  But not in a ‘Real/Desperate Housewives’ sort of way.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Burgers of the World (Unite!)

Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

I know it is an easy out to keep posting recipes and that it paints the stereotypical picture of a housewife but what can I say?  I was working on a deeper meditation on the role of spouses to inspire, but I’m not feeling very inspired, so another recipe it is. 

Burgers used to be fairly heavy in our dinner rotation.  Now that I am on Weight Watchers, burgers are reserved for when we are out and about.  A little treat. 
We discovered this version last summer.  It was part of a series of ‘World Burgers’ (hence the country specific name) in my beginner-foodie magazine.  How could we not partake?  We tried The Spanish, The Italian, The Mexican and The Moroccan, skipped The Indian.  

This is our favourite. 

After The All-American, of course.  Nothing beats the original. 
Pete would probably argue for the ‘Kiwi Burger’ with its beet and fried egg. 

No words.

With that, I give you the….

The Vietnamese Burger

For the pattie:
500g turkey mince (extra lean if you can get it)
Some breadcrumbs
An egg, slightly beaten
Lime zest
1tsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp shredded coriander leaves (or 1 tsp powdered)

Crème fraiche
Sweet chilli sauce
Cucumber slices
Carrot ribbons

Make your four patties (go on and get your hands in there and mix it up) and let them chill a bit before you cook them.  Split your rolls or buns and put them in the oven on a low heat (I’m assuming you are doing this indoors.  If not line them up on the grill away from the heat). 

Slap those burgers on the grill!  Or in the frying pan.  Cook for about 6 minutes on each side. 

When ready, spread a little crème fraiche and sweet chilli on the bun.  Add the pattie and veggies. 

We like to serve these with slightly steamed sugar snap peas.  They are kind of a replacement for fries.  I can’t believe I just wrote that.  I can’t believe I am that person!!!   So it goes.
I love me some fries, but this meal calls for non-deep-fries (oops!) fried vegetables. 


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Salad with a side of Fries

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  A weekly meditation on fitness goals, successes and failures.  Thinking about it once a week is a step toward making it a part of everyday.

The first Fit-Day back and I was at a loss as to what to write about.  So I went for a short run.  I didn’t get it in yesterday due to post-vaca chores.  But back into it today.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  I did the short run.  The first K and a half was painful.  A few months ago I would have stopped and walked, it was that painful.  But I knew I could keep going because I have done it before.  It’s like in the third Harry Potter, when he produces the patronus to ward off the Dementors because he had already done it, without the time travel element (apologies to readers that don’t know Harry Potter references, I feel a little sorry for you).   So I was feeling horrible, but I kept going, kept trying to find my pace again.  By the time the turn-off for the longer run came up I was feeling that I could probably do it, but I knew I needed to pace myself.  Nothing like going whole hog and then feeling like crap and not going back out there.  So the short run for this week.
I came back from holiday only three pounds heavier.  Not bad.  We did two workouts on the boat, both in the first week.  Both times we used the on-board gym.  It can be a bit tricky running on a treadmill that is also rocking with the boat.  It took us about a week and a half to figure out that you could run around the boat on the promenade deck.  By the time we had figured that out we were more interested in finding the next island bar and local brew. 
But I don’t think it was the workouts that limited the weight gain (especially since we were drinking way more than we normally do).  It was our months of being aware of what we eat.  We didn’t partake in the bread offering at dinner.  We had fruit every morning (although I also had two croissants with butter as well.  Butter and butter.  YUM!).  Most days we had a big salad for lunch (with a side of fries and dessert.  We were on holiday after all.)  In the second week, we had a personal pizza for lunch more often than a salad, followed by a double scoop of honey & ginger ice cream.  We may have found the three pounds. 
So overall, I think the holiday can be counted as a success in more ways than one.  I mean I haven’t had a tan this great since I was a kid and spent all summer outside.  Everyone knows a tan alone takes off five pounds.  So if we factor that in…..I actually lost two pounds!  Woo Hoo!!!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Presto Pesto Pasta

Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

Pesto Pasta
This is actually Pete’s recipe.  It’s one of our favourites.  It was created in one of those moments when you take stock of the contents of the fridge and just go for it.  It is one of our comfort meals.  It has many variations and no real measurements. 
In the spirit of its creation, you’ll just have to wing it.

What you will need:
Your favourite short pasta (by this I mean, bowties, spirals, penne)
Your favourite pesto
Your favourite cream cheese
Toasted pinenuts
Mushrooms, sliced
Crispy bacon (however you get it there.  We cut up rashers and bake them.  Fry some streaky bacon and cut it up, or just use ‘baco-bits.’  Although the real thing is best.)
Chicken breast, cut into chunks and browned or strips and grilled
Parmesan (or if you’re my Mom, Romano)

What you will do:

Decide what you want this time through.  We don’t always use mushrooms.  Last time we didn’t use chicken.  We always have bacon.  It’s bacon! 

Get your pasta water going.  If you’re using the chicken, either throw it in the frying pan with some oil to brown, or sear it on a grill and then bake for a about 15 minutes in the oven.  Once the chicken is almost ready, throw the pasta in the water.  Most takes between 7-11 minutes to cook depending on type and preference.  If you’re using the mushrooms throw them in the frying pan (with the chicken if using) and get them cooking.  It would be great to have nice brown, yet firm, slices, but this takes patience and space (“remember, don’t crowd the mushrooms or they won’t brown”) and we usually just end up with blackened curled pieces.  It’s all about preference and patience. 
Basically it’s all about the sauce.  At this point, the pasta should almost be ready.  Move the contents of the frying pan to the edges to create a space in the centre, turn down the heat.  Grab the cream cheese.  If you’re using Philly, you’ll probably need about half of a thin tub.  Plop it into the centre, add a little water and start to ‘stir.’  It will slowly start to melt into a cream sauce.  Now add the pesto.  We use about half a small jar.  Both these ingredients are to your discretion.  Pete likes it more cheesy, I like it more pesto-y.  Start to stir both the sauces together and with the contents of the pan.  Pasta should be done.  Drain it and throw it in the pan.  Toss the pasta, sauce and contents together.  If you need more sauce, clear the centre and add a little more.  If you are baking the chicken, add it now.  Add the bacon.  Toss again.  Turn off the heat. 
Serve in bowl topped with pinenuts and parmesan shavings. 

Feel free to lick the remaining sauce from the pan and serving spoon.  This is my Dad’s favourite part. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Heathrow Injection

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  A weekly meditation on fitness goals, successes and failures.  Thinking about it once a week is a step toward making it a part of everyday.

“Do you return from holiday fitter or fatter?”
This is a line from a travel agency commercial.  I have to ask? Does anyone come a back fitter? 
In the last year, I have to admit that I have packed ‘workout’ clothes for our holidays.  And actually used them!!  But I have never come back from holiday fitter, regardless of an occasional workout.  In fact, in most cases I come back with a visibly bigger belly.  This wasn’t always the case, however.  When I returned from five weeks in Africa I was a size smaller.  It’s amazing what four weeks of intense life experience can do for the figure. (Although, we all know it can go the other way as well.)
It started when I returned from visiting Pete in Croatia over Christmas 2005.  I don’t know if you have experienced eating on a Croatian farm (I’m sure there are equivalents around southern Europe), but basically, you eat until you are full.  I don’t mean lean-back-a-little-uncomfortable-but-content filled, like Thanksgiving.  I mean so full that food is actually backed up in your oesophagus waiting for its turn at the stomach digestive juices and you can’t actually take a full breath.  This is the point at which you have to submit to another helping or risk causing offense.  At this point, if you’re strategic (after a few days practice), you can take a breath while the food is heaped on and spend the rest of the meal slowly moving the food around the plate while no one is looking so it looks like you have eaten enough.  This doesn’t always work and you might still have to choke down some more forkfuls.  These are the days your body becomes involuntary bulimic.  This level of intake is normal and necessary for the labourers around the table, but not so much for the visiting foreign city slickers.  On my return to the US, my stomach was so distended, my mom called me a ‘butterball.’ 
The second time I gained significant inches on holiday was our first honeymoon in Fiji.  (We’re currently on what we are calling our ‘real’ honeymoon.)  We were staying at the Viwa Resort on Viwa island.  In an attempt to make things as easy as possible, we prepaid for our meals when we booked the room.  This meant two courses each at lunch and dinner on top of the included breakfast.  This sounded doable as the portions at previous resorts we had stayed at with preset menus were really small.  Not the case on Viwa.  The portions and courses were huge!!!  The food was incredible!!!  Plus, it was hot.  Who eats two courses at lunch when it’s that hot?  This meant that I was pretty much having dessert twice a day.  Sometimes I just had a starter (cassava chips) and dessert.  (Hello starch and sugar, haven’t seen you in awhile, why don’t you set up camp on my ass?)  We didn’t want to waste the money, so instead we stuffed ourselves.  Near the end of the week our clothes were getting a bit tight so we said ‘screw it’ to the money.  We had another reception in a few days and it was a real possibility that we may not fit into the clothes from a week ago.  On our arrival to New Zealand I planned to eat like a bird for the next four days.  But it was the middle of winter and there wasn’t a green vegetable fruit to be seen.  I was not a happy camper.  Luckily I still had the Spanx I wore for the wedding.  I doubled up.  I got into the dress, but sitting was precarious. 
So what will it be this time?  Fitter or Fatter?  I’m guessing Fatter, but maybe not to ‘butterball’ extremes.  After all, I have that glass stone to remind and motivate. 

Friday, 4 March 2011

Newsletter Update

Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

Ohio Wesleyan University, Geography and Geology Department:
“It’s that time of year again to drop us a few lines about yourselves for the Newsletter.”

Ariel Terranova-Webb,  Class of 2001 
(Dr. Ariel Terranova-Webb;  Mrs. Erceg;  Dr. Boojie)

Last year I wrote to you about my impending Doctoral thesis defence and international wedding.  Today I write to you about the aftermath.  I am currently a professional free-lance geographer.  Professional in the sense that I hold the highest possible degree in my field and view the world as a Geographer, always interested in how we engage with the world around us, not in the sense that I am paid to do so.  Increasingly, it is looking less and less likely that I will be paid to do so while we stay in London.  I am also a reluctant (less so these days) housewife in a small flat where time begins.  I spend my days writing and home-making in the shadow of the Royal Observatory, the home of Greenwich Mean Time.  (Although, if the current government has its way, we will never be on Greenwich Mean Time again.)  Sometimes it is geographic writing, more often it is not.  Soon it will be more often.  I am working on a book proposal to turn my doctoral field work with Kelly Miller Circus into a book that will appeal to academics and fans alike. 
Under Fusch’s advice, I still use my profession as an excuse to travel frequently.  Currently I am in the Caribbean.  Later in the year we hope to cross off the European cities on our travel list.  Perhaps a quick trip to Morocco, or a longer one to Thailand.  The year is long, the world is wide.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Option Two

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  A weekly meditation on fitness goals, successes and failures.  Thinking about it once a week is a step toward making it a part of everyday.

The weigh-in before the cruise:  Success.  Three pounds down and a stone lighter overall!!
I guess the week before was a fluke.  Who knows.  I ate less points and exercised more than the weeks before and gained ½ a pound.  The next week, I wasn’t really paying attention, was eating a lot of left-over brownies and only exercised my usual three times and lost three pounds.  Whatever.  I guess it comes down to the quality you eat, not necessarily the quantity.  OK, that might be a stretch, but I ate a lot more vegetables and fruit with those brownies.  *Guilt*
The stone (14 pounds) lighter is a pretty big deal.  Weight Watchers likes to reward you for your success.  It’s like training a dog.  Do good, get a treat.  Although here it isn’t food, but stickers and, in this case, a little glass stone.  (Get it? Lose a stone, get a stone.) The woman who weighed me in must have sensed my bewilderment in the hesitation I had at accepting the stone. I just stared at it in my hand.  “It’s to remind you of your progress and success.” (They seriously talk like this.)  Again, I stared.  “Put it in your purse so you always see it and keep motivated.” 
“Great!” and I put it in my pocket.  To be honest, another piece of shrapnel rattling around at the bottom of my purse is not going to motivate me.  Being able to shop without hating myself motivates me.  Wearing slinky dresses motivates me.  Oh yeah, and being healthier motivates me. 
I had to tell them I am going on holiday, so that the dramatic weight gain on my return doesn’t seem like I fell off the wagon.  But let’s be realistic, I’m about to fall off the wagon and I can’t wait.  My leader told me to bring the stone (as a reminder) and to run around the deck a few times. 
That’s one option.  I’m going with option number two: Enjoy two weeks with my husband complete with five star food and cocktails, wander around Caribbean ports, lay in the sun, and *whatever*. 

I think they are equally effective strategies.