I once told Adam that I was considering seeing a movie by myself while he was out of town and he was horrified. He actually felt guilty for leaving, as though seeing a movie alone was the lowest of the low points in life. I explained to him that I didn’t see attending things solo as any kind of social death because my favorite person to hang out with in the whole world was myself. I like to do all the same things as me! Seeing a movie alone is great because you agree on what movie to see (BALLET DOCUMENTARY), what you thought about it (BANGIN’), and where you should eat after (CHIPS + MARTINI ON COUCH AT HOME).
So after his reaction I made it my mission to see a movie alone and added it to the life list. Except this is usually what happened:
- Decide I’m going to see movie. Select movie, theater and showing and tell people that I’m busy because I’m seeing a movie.
- 30 minutes before I have to leave I remember that I can watch movies at home for free, plus I can wear pajamas. Don’t move for 10 hours.
Recently I couldn’t find anyone to see this documentary with me so I said fuck it, we’ll do it live! And I went and it was super anti-climactic, especially since I was able to buy a beer at the snack stand and we all know beer is the perfect theater companion. The worst part about the whole ordeal was this old woman who offered loud commentary through entire movie. It reminded me why I don’t like going to the theater in the first place. And then I was doubly annoyed to discover that the movie had been made available on my cable’s “same day as theaters” on-demand movie section so I could’ve been watching it IN MY PAJAMAS.
Anywho, life list and all that. I’ve since added two more items to the list: have a nice meal by myself, a la Maggie Mason, as well as take a vacation alone because I think both sound amazing.
I haven’t neglected the life list! Everything is on-going, ya know, full steam ahead and all that. It’s just that…much of this list is so expense-heavy that most of my time is spent saving the money to do these things, or planning them, or daydreaming about them. Thank god I’m still making those bloody pizzas.
Thanks to The Great Brain Fart of 2012, I managed to inadvertently check off one item on the list: Get a new camera (specifically the d7000). Wahoo! Success by accident is the best kind of success.
Having a fancy camera hasn’t improved my crap photos one bit but it has inspired me to try harder. In the meantime you should follow me on instagram @arleneivana. Are you aware of any way to link directly to my instagram profile in order to make it easier for my devoted masses to follow me there? Because instagram sure hasn’t made it easy to figure out. You may just have to type out my username in the search box, and you’ve already lost me because so.much.work.
I probably shouldn’t share this but Adam had a lot of anxiety about scuba. I didn’t really think much about it before we left for our trip – I spent the three weeks beforehand wrapping up things at my lovely job so that I could start a new job when we got back – and coupled with doing online scuba courses at night I didn’t have time to become concerned. Plus we’d done it before and it was a ton of fun and I honestly I don’t remember much of it. There were fish! And water and stuff. I could breathe underwater. Technical looking doodad stuff. That was scuba.
It wasn’t until I woke up gasping at 1am the morning we were to go out for our first oceans dives that I became really honest with myself about how terrified I was. Down below sixty feet of water with a tank of air strapped to my back? Was I insane? What did I get us into? So since this whole ordeal was pretty much my fault, I spent that morning quietly stoic while Adam repeatedly expressed concerns about this new hobby’s effect on our life span.
As a gut reaction, I can’t recommend scuba to anyone. It takes a certain kind of insanity to think there’s something fun about going down 100ft of open water. If you think taking off your mask at the bottom of the ocean while breathing air that never ever feels like you’re getting a full breath and sharks are swimming circles around you and your instructor sounds a little stressful (and, oh, by-the-by, if you do freak out you can’t just shoot up to the surface thanks to the effects of breathing compressed air can have on your body), then scuba is not for you.
Some tasks require you to take your breathing regulator out of your mouth and when you do there’s always the big deep breath you take beforehand, followed by the slow release of air to prevent lung over-expansion. This slow deliberate exhaling reminds me of yoga’s discipline of the mind and body. That is what scuba taught me: panic control. Learning to ignore that little voice in my head that is telling you to freak out. Stop, breathe, think about the steps you need to take to get through this tiny little ordeal, and then do them very thoughtfully and deliberately.
So yeah now I know how to set up scuba gear and prepare my body for the pressure of 60ft of water and even some science-y ocean-related stuff. But learning to control knee-jerk hysteria is a technique I will use forever; it certainly came in handy a couple times the first few days at my new job this week.
It can be easy to assume that a person can be more obsessed with the check mark on their life list than the experience of getting it accomplished. And while scuba is really – truly, I’m not playing – a lot of fun, I got so much more out of it than just being able to say I swam with sharks (MOTHER EFFIN SHARKS DUDE!). The life list is about life lessons! Learning, doing new things, expanding the mind, Oprah stuff, etc.
Anyway I got an awesome beach vacation out of it. And this cool (“cool”) card.
Also MOTHER EFFIN SHARKS DUDE!
(Oh, Adam is fine and totally on board now too. Wreck diving here we come!)
I wrote a titillating post about the magic of the fabric used in exercise clothing, Gu, the mythical Runner’s high and all the reasons I have no plans to ever run a marathon but instead I’m just going to post this photo. I ran a half marathon. Yay. Here I am looking way too happy for someone who just ran 7 miles (and up the Connecticut Ave hill, no less).
Now I’m going to use the rest of this post to gush about my boyfriend even though I’m very anti-gush because he woke up crazy early to drive me to the start, drove back to take this photo and grab my discarded stuff at the halfway point, then drove back to pick me up from the race. It’s not a contest and I’m sure your mate does nice stuff too but the gods have basically said mine is the best. Sorry! Good luck with all that. Adam rules.
Also checking this off my life list was nice. Scratch that. SUPER FUCKING AWESOME. Man. Feels good.
I like to think I have a healthy confidence in the kitchen. I can cook a steak medium rare without a thermometer, salt like a fiend and regularly riff on a dish without music sheets.
Charcutepalooza is destroying me.
If you’re not familiar with the Charcutepalooza (it’s been getting some decent press in the food world these days) it’s a year-long project to cook from Michael Ruhlman’s masterpiece, Charcuterie. There are twelve challenges, one challenge a month, and some pretty sweet prizes.
I would just like to state for the record that I signed up to do this before any of those big things happened, before I even owned the book Charcuterie, and before the sensible voice in my head (it’s admittedly a very soft voice and one that never seems to be around when I decide that I’m going to buy a new set of cookware, or take up mixology, or sign up for a course on pig-to-tail cooking) could talk me out of what a TERRIBLE IDEA THIS IS YOU DOLT.
We got some leeway on the first challenge and when they announced the February challenge – pancetta (or any salt-cured meat) – I began to realize that hey, THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA YOU DOLT. I live in a one bedroom apartment and don’t have access to a cool, moist place to hang sausages, or a smoker to smoke meats, or a grinder to process said meats into tube form. And then of course seconds later Voice of Reason was tackled by SPONTANEITY YAY Voice with “Look! There’s a really nice wine fridge on Craigslist for cheap! All your dreams can come true! You’ll be a culinary god!” And that’s how bad ideas happen.
And so here we are and I’m about to kill us with (likely bacteria-ridden) pancetta that I attempted to cure and dry myself. Oh lord. Did I really just say that aloud?
Did I mention what a terrible idea this was?
Anyway let’s get started.
Pancetta! [Jazz Hands!!!]
I have to say, for all the nail-biting and shots of rye I’ve done over this, pancetta is technically easy. There are two key steps necessary to prevent death by bacteria; everything else is just precision designed to make the task neater, cleaner and easier for you (easier by working harder? Eh whatever).
Step The One: Assemble a variety of ingredients in a bowl. The only thing you absolutely need is pink curing salt, easily purchased on the internet for scraps, which is what kills the bacteria on the outside of the meat. Everything else is flavor (which is admittedly very important). What we have here is the pink salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Combine ingredients and rub over a slab of pork belly. It helps to square off the pork belly ahead of time because you’re going to be rolling it up like a yoga mat and having uneven ends means having ugly product WHICH IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. (I think there’s a technical reason for doing this too but the book is all the way over there —->)
Stick the belly in your fridge and give it a nice massage every other day.
After a week it should be firm in the middle which means you can then take it out, roll it up and then stick it somewhere cool and humid, wait two weeks and you have pancetta!
OR you could do what I did which is take it out at day five, feel like it’s really firm, panic about wrapping it up with string, panic about whether taking it out early makes a difference even though it’s very obviously firm and hey, your slab of pork belly is a solid 2lbs lighter than the one used in the original recipe, then futz about with the string and make the saddest webbing around pancetta in the history of preserved meats and then panic because you absolutely cannot leave any bubbles in the rolled pancetta and how would you even know if there were bubbles! it’s just going to be a bacteria farm in there! and fuss even longer about how to hang it in your wine fridge, so long in fact that your pancetta is now much warmer than it was after taking it out of the fridge and now it doesn’t feel so reliably firm anymore and oh you failed to chill your wine fridge ahead of time so you panic about that and stick a bunch of pre-chilled wine bottles in there so that it’s at least somewhat cool in it.
Anyway here is how it looks now. I started late after the hemming and hawing over the wine fridge so it needs another week. I guess that looks like pancetta, I don’t know. Are there death bubbles in there? Probably. This is not good for my nerves. Will I even taste it? Hmm. Let me think on that for a bit.
But it still counts! I did it! I am a culinary god! Or at least a culinary high priest.
See you next month when I make corned beef (or, in my typical delusional way, I’m thinking pastrami? Ha!HAHAHAHAHAAHA OMG I’M GOING INSANE).
I’m going to be on Prozac by December. Make that June.
The Day Zero Project website is STILL DOWN. But the guy offered to send us our list if we e-mailed him and I did and lo.
- See the Northern Lights
- Run a half marathon
- Make pasta from scratch
- Eat through Italy (after Burlusconi is out. Preferably dead.)
- Complete the 30 Day Shred
- Learn to drive stick shift
- Organize my jewelry
- Attend a bikram yoga class
- Delete my MySpace account
- Get all my original artwork framed
- Make meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas
- Read twelve fiction, twelve nonfiction, twelve plays, and twelve short story collections in one year
- Eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant
- Make my bed every day. EVERY DAY.
- Develop an information program at work or through my external organizations.
- Get my SCUBA certification
- Live a car-free life.
- Take and develop the black and white rolls of film I have lying around with my Pentax Honeywell
- Get throw covers for those two pillows. You know which ones I’m talking about.
- Go to the opera with Marc
- Beat a video game
- Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant
- Learn to make lumpia, pancit, and adobo the way my mom makes it.
- Bake an elaborate multi-layer frosted birthday cake
- Visit five places in the U.S. I’ve never been before.
- La Jolla, CA
- Chicago, IL
- Sit by a campfire.
- Put a cherry blossom in my hair in April
- A month of adventure travel in Patagonia
- Try skiing for the first time
- Make everything in the Momofuku Cookbook
- Make homemade fried chicken
- Do real Omakase at a sushi counter served by the chef
- Hold a koala like a baby
- Attend a Lady Gaga concert
- Find and learn to perfect my favorite cocktail
- Learn more about wines – Keep a log of wines I drink
- Get rid of 100 things
- Attend the Newport Rhode Island Chowder Festival
- Attend the New Orleans Jazz Festival
- “Put up” tomatoes for a season
- Laser hair removal!
- Wear something sequined
- Start a vintage brooch collection
- Have a crab feast by the water
- Go skeet shooting
- Ride my bike to work
- Eat a banh mi sandwich in a market in Vietnam
- Start a food co-op
- Take a tour of the White House
- Do a pintxos/tapas tour in Spain
- Enter a photography contest
- Snag reservations at and eat at Momofuku Ko
- Live in another country for at least a year
- Make everything bagels from scratch. Good ones.
- Blog every day for a month (NaPloBoMo)
- Attend the Repeal Day Ball in DC
- Learn to shuck an oyster
- Get a new camera (d7000!)
- Lie on the beach in Croatia
- Complete the Charcutepalooza
- Find my cause
- Make 100 different kinds of pizza
- Scuba at a shipwreck
- Get a dog
- Teach my parents about the internet/technology. (i.e. Make sure my parents
aren’t left behind)
- Check off the final continent: Antarctica
- Go to the movies alone
- Make my bedroom a sanctuary
- Update my blog theme
- Participate in a traditional tea ceremony in Japan
- Scuba at the jellyfish lake in Palau
It goes without saying that the life list is a living document and it will go through lots of changes/additions/subtractions in its…life (stop the Pulitzer search folks!). I’m going to put it in the sidebar (if I ever figure that out) and will update it there as it goes through its various permutations.
[Right now] I’m pretty happy with this list; the only thing I’m a little bad about is taking Maggie Mason’s advice not to worry about the mechanics of things that seem impossible. I know we’re supposed to dream big but I have to admit: I left out “Own a reserve with a million animals that follow me around Ace Ventura-style.”
I fully intend to keep this blog alive. No more months or week of total silence. But I’m also at a stand-off with both the Day Zero webpage, which is still holding my life list hostage, and my bank account. When my computer died two months ago with it died my (admittedly not-quite-legally-obtained) copies of Lightroom and Photoshop. And I have lots of photos and stories and recipes to share that involve many photos, but I refuse to bittorrent them because I’m either an adult who takes care of her shit like an adult, or I’m a sucker. Either way I’m not really prepared to buy them when there are so many other things to be had, like platform sandals! And Kindle books. So until either of those situations are resolved, I have nothing to talk about. Except running. And if my friend’s quotation in the title is any indication, most of you really don’t want to hear about it.
(I switched from one of those around-the-waist water bottle belts to one that you hold in your hand. It’s definitely far superior).
((I also joined a gym for six weeks because this weather blows. What are some good shows I can watch on the treadmill?))