Monday, April 26, 2010

The Virgin eats her weight in cheese

#39 Never Have I Ever: Been to the Grilled Cheese Invitational

I don't know how someone discovered cheese (I assume someone saw the floaty bits in sour milk and thought to themselves, "Hey, that would be pretty tasty on a cracker!") but it is delicious on basically everything. Baked potatoes, tortilla chips, spinach omelet, Mexican rice... man, I can go on listing off the awesomeness of cheese-based foods a la Bubba from Forrest Gump all day long.

But you know what's weird? It wasn't until college that I tasted a grilled cheese sandwich.

I'll let you digest that for a second.

I grew up super sheltered from food and have spent most of my adult life making up for it. It was a spiritual experience the first time I ate macaroni and cheese at Warped Tour when I was 16 (oh god, I can feel the acne and teenage angst resurfacing as I type this). I've never had fondue, cranberry sauce, or casserole. I still don't know what the hell stuffing is nevertheless eaten it.

But man do I love me a simple grilled cheese and tomato sandwich browned to perfection with a side of warm tomato basil soup. Goddamn...

The Down and Dirty: Daywalker, Gemini, and I lined up 30 minutes early for the 1st 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational in downtown Los Angeles. Hundreds of people were already waiting on this absolutely perfect sunny Californian day itching to get their hands greasy and stomachs happy. I donned my obnoxiously bright yellow skinny jeans for the occasion but I later learned that I was not the most ridiculously dressed attendee there (who knew that costume contests were not only applicable but practically required at cheese-themed events?).

Although we didn't get a chance to register as judges for the amateur grilled cheese competition, there was plenty of processed curd to go around for a price. Tons of vendors were selling their own cheesy concoctions including the Grilled Cheese Truck where I snagged a melt-in-your-mouth Southern Mac N Cheese Sammich. Daywalker and Gemini snagged a "Band Camp" sandwich from "5 times fucking grill cheese champions" Hot Knives. Made with aged cheddar and apple butter, it was an interesting twist to apple pie.

After a while the crowds got too intense in the vendor area so we swiped a cup or six of free tomato soup and all the free grilled cheese sandwiches we could carry (sharp cheddar and sourdough, mmm) courtesy of Tillamook, the cheese sponsor of the event, and sat ourselves in the lovely grassy shade.

We finally left after a couple hours when we discovered that yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We lethargically waddled out of there, hearts pumping laboriously and stomachs calorically content.

The Afterglow: Bread, butter, cheese, victory! -- no substitutions for victory.

We ate our $10 ticket's cost in free samples so I'd say it was worth it. I wish we could've judged the competition -- or at least been spectators. But there were a lot of entertainment otherwise like the cheese-based poetry competition. Or a musical performance by Mike O'Connell.

As we were waddling out of the venue, I suddenly heard a madman sing the following and just knew I couldn't go just yet:

[fast forward to 2:55 to see/hear what the hell I'm talking about]

And with his last strangled, high-pitched scream, we made our exit. It was the perfect cheesy ending to our happily bloated adventure.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Virgin pumps it up

#38 Never Have I Ever: Consistently gone to the gym

Foreplay: As you know from my last post, I'm seriously trying to get back in shape. Mostly because:
  • Running up a few flights of stairs leaves me panting like a fat puppy
  • I'm tired of the not-so-subtle jabs by my tactless family; "Oh, look at your cheeks, haha! Have you gained weight? Better put down that margarita, haha!" [Note: Don't ever tell me what to do with my booze. I will tell you when I've had enough.]
  • For the first time in my life, I couldn't fit into something in my wardrobe -- not because I had outgrown it, but because there was simply too much junk in the trunk
I need to come to terms with the fact that my metabolism isn't what it used to be (and the most exercise I get during the weekday is frantic speed walking from the parking lot to my office when I'm late). After years of chowing down with the nutritional recklessness of a teenage boy, my body is finally rebelling.

Body: Of course you realize that this means war.

The Down and Dirty: During the last couple weeks I've:
  1. Joined a gym for the first time in my life
  2. Used a personal trainer for the first time ever (and got my fat ass thoroughly handed to me)
  3. Gone to the gym at least 5 times a week
  4. Spent over an hour during each visit working on cardio and weight training
I am so serious about getting back in shape. Although I've been at a consistent weight for the last few months, it's been uh... redistributed to less desirable areas.

I was so ambitious about exercising that on the first day of my brand spankin' new gym membership I spent a good 2 hours on the treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike while blazing through my borrowed copy of Water for Elephants. It was awesome -- I was burning hundreds of calories, getting some long overdue pleasure reading done, finally feeling physically and mentally productive... when I pulled a muscle. Badly.

I limped and squeaked in pathetic pain the whole walk home. I couldn't lift my left leg more than 3 inches off the ground. Putting pants on has never been so painful. Erm. Yeah.

I still forged ahead on the fitness front but abandoned the treadmill in favor of the less impacting elliptical. Everyday I dragged my body to the gym after a long day at work and put it through the wringer for at least an hour. I huffed and puffed until I felt the slow drip of sweat making its winding course down my shirt. Sexy, I know.

But what do you know! I started feeling more energized, more upbeat -- I felt better. I sleep better at night and put more effort into getting dressed in the morning. I don't mind going to the gym. In fact, I look forward to the coke-rush of endorphins now. I anticipate the first break of sweat and push myself towards that moment. And um... TMI WARNING but putting my pants on is difficult in a whole different sense now. Um. Yeah. Ahem...

The Afterglow: I'd say this is a resounding success. I don't know if I can actually keep this up though; 2 hours at the gym each day is a lot of time to dedicate. Work is piling on (10+ hour days aren't so bad, right? ...Right?) and I find myself finally sitting down to dinner at 10:30pm, in bed by 1:00am, and then repeating it all after 6 hours of sleep. And I don't even drink coffee.

On top of it all, my injury was two weeks ago and my leg still hurts. I know I should stop putting stress on it, but I can't help it. I'm stubborn and impatient and I want to be healthier NOW! Plus, I'm sure this is another tactic my body is using to prevent me from being active and in shape. Stupid body. I'd kick myself if my leg didn't already hurt so much.

Alright, Body, in the wise words of Homer Simpson: You don't like me and I don't like you, but let's do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Virgin feasts like a super model

#37 Never Have I Ever: Counted calories

Foreplay: Without getting too deep into my history with body image, self-esteem, and general mindfuck with food, I would say that for the first time in years I'm struggling with my body and weight.

Now that I'm out of school -- away from a large variety of relatively healthy meals, free access to a gym, and long walks back to and from my dorm room -- I've gained a noticeable amount of weight. Even though I eat relatively healthy, a sloth and I shamefully have more in common than I'd like to admit.

During the last month, I've joined a gym and made an effort towards portion control but everything came to a head when I calculated my resting metabolic rate and discovered I was consuming an extra 500 CALORIES A DAY! Dude. That's a hell of a lot of calories! No wonder I'm no longer a secret fatty but a reluctantly honest porker.

The Down and Dirty: I downloaded a calorie counting application on my Android to help me keep track of everything cause lord knows me + math = adlkfdslhgybrnqrbre4.

I programmed my RMI -- age, weight, height, activity level (...sedentary), and goal (lost 1 lb/week). It gave me a 1500 calorie limit per day. Ok. I can deal with that.

With this new calorie counting shenanigan, I was also implementing a new habit of eating small meals every 2-3 hours to keep up my metabolism and curb snacking. I went into work the next day and had a small breakfast of butter & jam on toast with a cup of English breakfast tea. 200 calories. Not bad, not bad.

30 minutes later someone brought in a schmorgesborg of bagels that shot my morning blood sugar to hell. Half a sesame seed bagel with whipped cream cheese couldn't hurt, right? Another 200 calories. Holy crap, it's not even 11am and I've almost fulfilled 1/3 of my daily caloric intake.

I held off on eating anything else for the next 3 hours. I was practically sweating bullets the entire time. I am a hardcore snacker. I'm a sucker to my tastebuds and give into their every whim. Walking back to my room with a couple gummy worms, a banana, and a handful of potato chips isn't weird at all. I was chugging water like no other to convince myself that I wasn't hungry. And it worked!

Later that night, Daywalker asked for my accompaniment to see the L.A Philharmonic at St. Thomas the Apostle. I debated it since I worked a 10 hour day and it would throw off my eating schedule. Fuck it. I've let food take over my life before and I wasn't going to let it happen again.

But you know what can boss me around? Dino's. That dilapidated chicken shack that serves the tastiest garlicky, citrus chicken and fries that $6 can buy. It's crack chicken. No lie. It was practically mandatory that we stop in for a quick bite when we realized Dino's was only a few blocks away from St. Thomas. It took a lot to stop stuffing my face when I was no longer hungry. And if you've ever had Dino's then that, my friends, is called will power.

The Afterglow: Being accountable for everything I ate helped me make healthier eating choices and deter my rapid snacking habit. Did I really want to scarf down that stale sugar cookie? Or did I want to wait 30 minutes to enjoy my chicken and broccoli pasta?

I think this is something I'm going to stick with for a while. Although I don't condone avid calorie counting, it reminds me to stay in a healthy ballpark. I still enjoy "bad" foods, but now I ask myself if it's worth it. Usually, it helps. Usually...

It wasn't until later that night that I broke. 11:00pm and I was in pajamas. I knew I would be asleep within an hour but fuck it -- I wanted some crack chicken. I allotted myself a very small plate of chicken, fries, and rice -- practically guilt free! But when I entered it into my phone I was over by 200 calories for the day.

So after some uh... thought and consideration (read: convincing myself that I cannot live on 1500 alone as I licked my fingers clean of the secret crack sauce) I decided to change my application "goal" to "lose 0.5 lb/week". 1700 calories.

My will is weak.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Virgin goes eye to eye with Bill Nye the Science Guy

I'm back! Because of bad decisions, long work hours, and what can only be crappy karma, I was hit with a combination of allergies, a cold, and losing my voice -- the latter through smoke inhalation nonetheless. Needless to say, I did nothing but drink tea and sleep last week. But I'm back with a vengeance with my most memorable DV task so far!

#36 Never Have I Ever: Met Bill Nye the Science Guy

There is no doubt that I am ruled by the right side of my brain. Mathematics and science simply elude me although I admittedly make no attempt to gather them.

However, there's no need for any of that mumbo-jumbo anymore since I learned everything I ever needed to know about science from one my few childhood idols.

Honestly, my list of childhood idols is quite short:
  • Conan O'Brien
  • Adam Corolla
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy
Now, does it makes sense to you why I am the way I am?

The Down and Dirty: A glorious email from my alma mater invited me to come hear Bill Nye the Science Guy speak. There was no question in my mind that I was going to be there bright and early that morning.

Daywalker and her sister saved me a seat in the surprisingly small lecture hall when I arrived 30 minutes before the talk. Although the space wasn't completely full yet, there was no way it was going to be able to house everyone who wanted to see Bill Nye. And I was right. People were sitting in the aisles, crowding around the back, and -- no joke -- climbing over the back hall ledge to peek over the seats. There must have been at least 250 people in there.

The whole room was buzzing in anticipation. I could practically feel the child-like excitement vibrating from every twenty-something year old who had grown up watching the science show.

Finally, Bill Nye ran through the crowded aisles in his pressed suit and bow tie. The dude does not age! It's like he was cryogenically frozen next to Walt Disney, only thawed out to give hilariously enthused speeches in front of starry-eyed students.

Bill Nye's talk, titled " Our Planet Isn't What It Used to Be, So Let's Change the World!", was -- to put it simply -- absofuckinglutely astounding. He was charming, brilliant, and hilarious all the while focusing on astronomy, global warming, and power consumption. There was never a dull moment during his 2-hour presentation and it made my heart sing to see that Bill Nye still possessed the ability to present the most convoluted information in a fun and coherent way. Most of all, he made us feel like kids again -- blindly optimistic that we could actually make a difference.

The Afterglow: After the talk and subsequent Q&A session, a large crowd gathered around the man himself to shake his hands and snap a picture. I was obviously no different.

Daywalker grimaced at the mass of people but I was determined to fight my way up there to get a photo and tell Bill Nye that although he wants us to change the world, he has already done it himself. After staggering around for 10 minutes, I used my newfound assertiveness to force Daywalker and her sister up for a picture before stepping up to the stage myself.

Unfortunately, there was no time to pour my 8-year-old heart out to the man who made me build a make-shift seismograph out of bottle caps and kill a handful of my mother's white roses by tie-dying them. Instead, I gave him a half hug for my picture which he returned and offered a general thank you. I practically skipped out of the lecture hall.

It was an amazing experience to finally meet a figure that so strongly shaped your education and outlook on life. And not just you but probably 1/3 of your peers, too. Although I didn't pursue science in the long run, I still have a love for discovery and global impact.

I think that's why Bill Nye the Science Guy is so beloved by those who grew up watching the kooky bow-tied scientist and his antics: he made us enthusiastic that we could make a difference and change the world. He made me feel like a kid again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Virgin goes looking for trouble

#35 Never Have I Ever: Hunted for Easter eggs

Foreplay: I am neither of the following: religious, overly competitive, under the age of 10. So there would really be no reason for me to celebrate Easter.

To be honest, I hate competing. I'm either belligerently cutthroat or apathetically uncombative, neither of which has ever helped me win anything athletic. Basically, I shouldn't participate in a competition that involves anything physical cause it can get ugly.

The Down and Dirty: Hermosa invited me to an Easter egg hunt on Sunday -- "Survivor style," he added.

In the Survivor style hunt, a few less number of eggs than hunters are hidden. Those who don't find one are out. The losers, bitter and vindictive now, then hide a lesser number of eggs in the next round for the survivors. This continues until there is only one winner.

We gathered at a nearby park and 14 of us lined up, taking our marks. The hiders stashed away 12 eggs and at the shout of "Go!" we were all sprinting up the hill in a desperate search. I'm sure it was a sight to see: over a dozen people -- who are clearly adults -- making a mad dash to find Easter eggs.

In the first round, I can't say I was very motivated. I mean, I looked for eggs but I wasn't hunting them. But alas, just as I resigned myself to being out, I stumbled across one. Huzzah!

The sheer glee of not losing completely took over. And this is what I mean when I say I shouldn't compete. Because, dude, it was on now.

During the next few rounds, I was described by Hermosa as being one of the first sprinters out of the group -- this is while wearing my highly inappropriate pointy-toed kitten heels. I hurdled over a couple dogs; I threw myself into arachnid-adorned bushes; at one point I raced with another girl to clamber up a chain-linked fence to grab the last egg teetering at the top.

It was finally down to 7 of us in search of 4 eggs. Suddenly, there was only one egg left out there. I had been burying myself in a mysteriously sticky (ew) bush for 10 minutes, positive that the egg was in there somewhere when another player on the other side of the foliage screamed in victory -- blast! And so ended my mid-game winning streak.

However, the fun was just beginning -- I started hiding the eggs back at the house. A normal person would hide it somewhere like a bush or in the tomato planters. But when you get 3 vindictive girls together who just lost the last round to 4 guys, we get a little creative... like, oh say... in the gated gutter 2 feet below the ground or in a large bag of oysters and ice.

The Afterglow: I think I had more fun hiding the eggs and watching people scrambling to find them like crack-addicted dogs sniffing out their next fix than being a druggie dog myself.

I guess I can compete without throwing elbows or rolling my eyes. But hey, when it involves zombie Jesus eggs, it comes down to the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Virgin pinches a pretty penny

#34 Never Have I Ever: Haggled (in North America)

Foreplay: I'm horribly shy when talking to strangers, and even worse when I'm demanding something from them.

However, last year I spent 18 days in China where I skipped around the entire country, never staying in one city for more than 3 days. It was an amazing adventure where I ate tons of food (and will never want hot & sour sauce ever again), learned a few key phrases in Mandarin (bu, bu shi wo nanpengyou, shi wo gege = no, he is not my boyfriend, he is my older brother), and haggled for the first time in my life.

Since I was almost positive that Barnes & Noble wouldn't appreciate my mad bargaining skills, they dropped by the wayside.

The Down and Dirty: The sales team asked that I research and book a limo for their trip to the MI6 Awards in San Francisco 2 days from then. The west coast rep, although a fabulous man with a snotty but cute Schnauzer, is very neurotic and particular with his specific requests. I had to do a fair amount of Yelping and calling around for oh about 4 hours before I managed to find one company who fit the requirements: a white Lincoln stretch limo that can seat 12 and was available in 2 days.

When I called him with this news, the rep enthusiastically said great! -- and can I talk the price down?

Um. What? I spent 4 hours with the phone glued to my ear, calling half of San Francisco, and you want me to ask the dude to knock a few dollars off the only vehicle in the Bay Area that fits your requests? Yes. Yes, he did.

And so back on the phone I went with the limo guy.

Daily Virgin: Hi, I just called about the stretch limo. What did you say the price was again? (because playing dumb totally works?)
Limo Guy: It's $110 each hour. Tax and tip are not included. (he had actually knocked down the price from $135 without my having to ask earlier)
Daily Virgin: OK. Well, see... my company is looking to contract a limo service in San Francisco in the upcoming months since we are starting to get clients there. Is there any discount?
Limo Guy: -silence for a few moments- I can give it to you for $110 out the door.
Daily Virgin: (because I am dumb, not playing anymore) Out the door?
Limo Guy: Yes, $110 tax and tip included in that price.

After further conversation, I was somehow able to talk him into giving me a discount on a 16-seater party bus for $135/hour. And then got a 18-seater party bus for that price as well.

When I called the rep back with the news, there was stunned silence on the other line and then, "Wow. You are amazing." I heard him murmur to his assistant, "Can we get her to come up here and work with us?"

High fiiiiive!

The Afterglow: Apparently after my haggling session, there's now some talk about moving me into the marketing department. I was already going to change positions due to my promotion, but I'm not really sure where I am ending up now.

Maybe I do have a way with words that can do more than criticize bad-dressers and tell inappropriate jokes. Woot!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Virgin doesn't need doctors

#33 Never Have I Ever: Mixed alcohol and drugs... on purpose

So you may have noticed the lack of updates recently. That is because I've been battling it out with either a wimpy to moderate cold or a horrible attack of allergies from Hell. I've been a rapidly sneezing, teary-eyed, congested mess of a semi-adult this week.

However, I often don't medicate my problems (unless by "medicate" you mean "drink until everything is really freakin' funny and I forget"). I'd rather let my body do its thang and take care of whatever pesky infection or non life-threatening bacteria has managed to permeate my very, very weak walls.

The Down and Dirty: After having worked an 11 hour day at the office, I was efficiently snotting up a storm while grocery shopping when I received a call from Daywalker. Through her hysterics and tears, I managed to gather that she had just broken up with her boyfriend of 5 years and was begging to come over.

I eyed the $5 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in my hands and immediately deposited in my shopping cart. I told her to come straight away. I threw in another bottle for good measure. And then circled back for a package of cookie dough.

It was 9pm by the time Daywalker arrived and I had just finished making my first ever fancy meal of Hamburger Helper (4 cheese lasagna for you curious folks). I then busted open my $5 wine and popped in a dozen ready-bake squares of Snickerdoodle dough into the oven. Nothing but class.

3 glasses and 4 cookies into break up damage control, Daywalker had stopped sobbing but I was still sniffling like a cokehead. I've had a long day, I thought, I could use a few good hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep. And so I chased a Benedryl with my fourth glass of wine.

After ogling the 3/4 empty bottle and convincing myself that I could totally polish it off, I poured a fifth glass and cut myself off. After all, I am a responsible adult.

I finally bid Daywalker adieu and like the responsible adult I am, I went to go wash the dishes. While loopy as all hell. I mean, one moment I'm calmly hugging Daywalker goodbye at my door, the next I'm doubled over the sink, covered up to my elbow in lukewarm suds trying to find that damn spatula. This wasn't even being drunk -- trust me, I am very familiar with being drunk. I felt like I was living in an anti-gravity bounce-house, clumsily sailing from one foot to the other.

At that point, it was best that I put myself to bed before I did any more damage to myself or my glassware.

The Afterglow: That was pretty fun until I was left to my own devices. By midnight I was tucked into bed, all warm and loopy, snuggling with my pillow and serenely mumbling nonsense. I woke up the next day at 11:30am. Oops.

Hey, at least I could breathe out of one nostril now. This whole self-medicating your problems thing is really entertaining if it wasn't so depressing.