NYC restaurant plug

Went to Kefi last night before seeing South Pacific at Lincoln Center. This just might be one of my top ten restaurants in all of NYC. I've been to Michael Psilakis's other restaurants, Anthos and Mia Dona (and Onera, when it was still around), and those are great -- wonderful inventive cooking in a way that feels very special. The great thing about Kefi, though, is that the food is just as delicious, but the price is totally accessible -- entrees $10 to $16. It's more of a homey atmosphere than the trendy feel of Anthos and the in-between feel of Mia Dona, so if you want romantic ambience, it's not the best place to go -- but if you just want to eat some really damn good Greek food and not pay too much money for it, I suggest you make a reservation now.

What we had:

Grilled octopus with bean salad appetizer -- outstanding. The char on the octopus was perfect and the beans were sweet and nicely textured. The salad also had some really tasty bits of oven-dried tomato.

Grilled branzino with vegetables -- very tasty, but I only had a bite of it so I can't say too much more.

Pasta with braised rabbit and (forgive me for forgetting the name of it) cheese -- this had about 15 more ingredients in it than the menu suggested. Not a bad thing at all -- every bite was a little bit different from the others, and all were delicious.

Chocolate sesame cake with sesame ice cream -- I was skeptical of this at first, but the sesame ice cream won me over. Better eaten together than separately (that is, mix the cake and the ice cream together on your spoon, don't alternate bites of one or the other), as the chocolate flavor complements the sesame's aftertaste well.

Brags 'n' goals, 2008 edition

2008 accomplishments I am proud of:
  1. Finishing Philadelphia Marathon, without walking this time!
  2. Doing all the work to get guaranteed entry to 2009 NYC Marathon (ran 9 races and volunteered in another).
  3. Writing an article that appeared in The Objective Standard.
  4. Learning to tango.
  5. Getting into the Oratorio Society and singing Handel's Messiah in Carnegie Hall.
  6. Sinking my hooks permanently into testitest. :)

Stuff I want to accomplish in 2009:
  1. Get hitched!
  2. Run NYC Marathon, preferably setting a PR while doing so.
  3. Get weight down to 145 lbs by May. No, this is NOT primarily to look better in my wedding dress (although that will be a nice bonus); it's to feel better running my next marathon. Since trying to lose weight while training for the marathon doesn't work so well for me, I'm going to lose the weight before the heavy training starts.
  4. Sub-goal of #3: Quit my Coke habit. (Too many calories.) Seltzer with lime, here I come.
  5. Get promoted. I'm pretty sure it will happen in the spring; I've earned it.

Another mini update

Work: The agency I was working at before, created a spinoff agency to handle certain accounts without conflict of interest. The powers that be decided to send my account to the new agency. So now I work in Tribeca. There are things to like and dislike about it; the part I find most annoying is having to get across town for my commute, which means taking the bus and then taking the subway. (In the warmer months, I may take the subway and then walk about 3/4 of a mile.) The part I find best is being in incredibly close proximity to Mooncake Foods, one of my favorite restaurants for its excellent food at dirt-cheap prices. Anyway, I'm reserving judgment at the moment. We'll see how it goes. Thank goodness I'm no longer busting my ass 60 hours a week like I was in September and October. I could not have kept that pace up for much longer.

Singing: The Oratorio Society performed Bernstein's Kaddish Symphony last month with the Juilliard Orchestra, under the baton of Alan Gilbert, music director-elect for the NY Philharmonic. Outstanding! I wouldn't say that Kaddish is my favorite choral work ever, but it was intellectually quite challenging to learn, and Alan Gilbert is God. One of the best experiences I've ever had with a conductor. (The other was back in high school, when I made the PA state orchestra and Kirk Muspratt, then of the Pittsburgh Symphony, conducted us.) I would have begged here in LJ for people to buy tickets, except the concert was sold out -- we singers got two tickets each, and had to use one for ourselves to see the second half of the show (the orchestra doing Beethoven's Eroica).

I will, however, beg for attendees for our next concert, Handel's Messiah, which is next Monday night, 12/15, at 8 PM in Carnegie Hall. It's going to be awesome, and you should come!

Running: So I've already described what it was like to run Philadelphia. But have I ever mentioned that running has made me into a complete sap? Meaning that all kinds of references to the marathon, particularly the NYC marathon, make me cry. I just finished Liz Robbins's book A Race Like No Other, and I swear just READING about "New York, New York" playing as you run across the Verrazano bridge made me cry. It just makes me think about how much I'm going to enjoy those moments when I run New York next year.

Speaking of running New York, I went to check the NY Road Runners volunteer website to remember whether I was volunteering on Saturday or Sunday of this weekend (this year, NYRR added a one-race volunteer requirement to the nine races required to secure guaranteed entry to the following year's NYC Marathon), and the site said I wasn't listed to volunteer at all! I looked to see races with open volunteer opportunities, and the only one that was left was the New Year's Eve 5K. Not really how I had imagined spending my New Year's Eve, but I worked so hard running those nine races in the spring and summer, I was going to have to do it. Fortunately the computer glitch doesn't appear to have been permanent, and I am in fact listed for volunteering this Sunday. PHEW.

Puzzles: Believe it or not, I've only solved, like, one a day since last year's ACPT. My speed doesn't seem to have suffered, although I'm probably going to have to bump up the solving soon in preparation for 2009. I guess I'm still burned out from trying so hard for 2007 and having an epic fail.

Wedding: Accomplished quite a lot over the holiday weekend, including getting testitest a suit to wear and finding out his ring size. Basically, getting his ring is the last major purchase we need to make (besides paying balances on vendors who only have deposits at this point, that is), so I'm kind of just sitting tight for a while.

The phases of marathoning

You know how grief is supposed to have four (five?) phases? The marathon felt like that.

Phase 1: Numbness. This is what happens when you are running a race in 26-degree weather. It didn't help that I was in the last of 3 wave starts, so I had an extra 20+ minutes to cool my heels (literally). I couldn't feel my feet for the first three miles! Very worrisome at the time -- I was afraid it would last and I wouldn't be able to finish the race.

Phase 2: Acceptance. Miles 5 through 12 were really quite nice. Settled into a rhythm and figured I'd be able to keep it up.

Phase 3: Bargaining. Miles 12 and 13, internal dialogue. "Self, if you can just wait until the halfway mark before you MUST use the port-a-john, you won't have to wait in line and lose all kinds of time!"

Phase 4: Denial. Miles 16 through 19, desperately wanted to quit. I passed the medical tent around mile 17 and was THISCLOSE to just walking over to it and dropping out. But I made myself keep running. Keep RUNNING, not walking, unlike last year.

Phase 5: Hope. The Philadelphia course doubles back on itself in the second half of the race. You're running away from the finish line from miles 13 through 20, and then at mile 20 you turn around and you're finally running TOWARD the finish. Usually people talk about hitting the wall at mile 20, but I hit mine at mile 16 -- and mile 20 was a huge boost. Knowing that I was finally running home, plus a cheesy but very real energy boost from hearing House of Pain's "Jump Around" blasting from somebody's speakers, made me realize that I was really going to finish, and I was going to be fine.

The highlight of the race was hearing my name 200 yards from the finish line. I turned my head, saw Dave, and found it in me to pull out a little dash to the end. If it hadn't been for him, I would have gone over the minute mark; as it was, I finished in 4:45:58, eight minutes faster than last year, and accomplishing my goal of not having walked. I'm no speed demon, but I'm happy with that.

Amazingly, I am not hurting that badly. Stiff, yes, a little sore, yes, but doing a lot better than I expected for having finished a marathon a little more than 48 hours ago. (This does not mean that I'm happy to be at work today. Far from it. GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!)

Ask Dr. LJ: Help with wedding hair

Okay, I realize I'm not getting hitched for another 7 months. But I'm all of a sudden thinking about hairstyles, because I went to get my hair cut this weekend and asked my stylist in passing whether the salon does wedding hair. She said yes, all the stylists there do, and started to play with my hair to give me some ideas for what to do with mine. Her favorite idea involved teasing my hair at the crown so it poufs up a bit, leaving my bangs to fall forward and the rest of my hair down. I recoiled in horror at this idea, because it made me look EXACTLY like the governor of a certain northern state. I've already gotten Sarah Palin a few times -- I suppose it makes sense, my face shape is similar to hers, so I chose a haircut and glasses a lot like hers, well before McCain had to go and make that haircut and those glasses famous by picking her as his running mate. I do not want to get Sarah Palin on my wedding day!

So, I'm looking for hairstyle ideas that fit the following criteria, in order of importance:
  1. Do NOT get me mistaken for a moose-hunting hockey mom Jesus freak failed vice-presidential candidate
  2. Look good with my face shape
  3. Are appropriate for my medium-length, almost-straight, fairly thick hair
  4. Leave my neck exposed (this was testitest's only request)
  5. Do not remind me of my senior prom (ie, no piled-on-top-of-the-head updos)

Marathon madness

So, yesterday I ran my second 20-miler of the season. Last year I only did one. I was totally dreading doing it -- with my work schedule as crazy as it's been lately, I feel like all I've been doing is working and running, and as a result I've been totally unenthusiastic about running. I've logged in all the miles anyway, but it hasn't been as much fun as last year.

That is, it wasn't until yesterday. I wouldn't call running 20 miles *easy*, but yesterday was about as easy as it could have felt for me. The weather was perfect, I never felt more than a normal level of fatigue, and I finished strong. I'm SO glad I did it. It makes me feel so much more confident that this year's marathon will go better than last year's.

According to my training program, I should have run the 20-miler today instead of yesterday. But only an idiot would try to run 20 miles on the day of the NYC Marathon -- you can't run in Central Park, obviously, but I also couldn't have run on the West Side Highway (at least, not without extreme pains in the ass in getting across town, since the race course blocks off much of 5th Avenue) or on the East Side Promenade (same problem with crossing 1st Avenue). I usually cheer for runners along the course, but this year I decided to volunteer. I got assigned to the post-finish-line area, which was a little disappointing -- didn't actually get to see anyone running, just plodding in their Mylar blankets after getting out of the baggage claim area. Some of the runners thanked us for volunteering; others ignored the "Congratulations!" we shouted (completely understandable; I know I couldn't recognize my own name for several minutes after finishing Philadelphia last year, let alone a stranger shouting congrats). One runner made me laugh, though -- I bought a soft pretzel from one of the street corner vendors and was eating it when a hungry runner gave me a look that said "I know what I'm doing is obnoxious, but I'm too hungry to care," plucked a big piece off my pretzel, and walked off! He's lucky I've run a marathon, so I sympathized (and had a good laugh about it with my fellow volunteers) instead of cursing his obnoxiousness. Too bad he didn't just ask me where I got it, though -- he could have had a whole pretzel from the trucks 20 feet behind me! I might have bought him the pretzel myself out of sympathy :)
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    amused amused

Joe Blanton is my hero!

OMG, how much do I love that man? "Sure, whatever, I gave up two solo shots...BUT I HIT ONE MYSELF!" Not that there weren't a lot of other guys producing last night (maybe Ryan Howard decided he couldn't let the PITCHER have as many HRs as he had in one night?), but how awesome is that?

Last night I was screaming with elation at the television. It started when they had Harry Kalas announce the starting lineup -- I listened to him call Phillies games while I was growing up, I don't get to hear him in NYC, and I MISS that voice. Too bad he couldn't call the whole game -- he's most famous for his "IT'S OUTTA HERE!" and he would have gotten to say that four times last night. I was also loud when Ryan Howard hit his first bomb, but I bet they heard me in Tampa Bay when Joe Blanton did it. And then Werth and Howard #2 were just gravy.

Here's hoping they can turn it on again tonight. It would be SO AWESOME if they brought it home in Philadelphia! (And I am SO JEALOUS of my friend who has tickets to the game.)
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    happy gleeful

Scream of joy; scream of frustration

Scream of joy: WOOHOO! In the duel of the pitchers, Cole Hamels wins! He and Brad Lidge just about gave me a heart attack doing it, but Game 1 belongs to the Phillies! WHEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Elation was short-lived because the ceiling in my bathroom started leaking yesterday morning. The plumber didn't show up yesterday (awesome!) so this morning the leak was worse -- and it spread over to the door frame, so the door was raining dirty water just as I got into the shower. (Fortunately, that part of the leak let up by the time I was done with the shower.) It's getting fixed now, but it definitely made for a lot of swearing on my part this morning.

This is my life. And it's BORING.

I feel like my life has been reduced to three things:
  • Working.
  • Running.
  • A smattering of watching playoff baseball.
Oh well, at least that last is exciting. But I seriously don't know what I'm going to do with myself once Thanksgiving rolls around -- the marathon is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and that's about when this @#*&! campaign launch from work that's been eating my life should be over as well. What? Free time? I'm going to HAVE some? Whatever will I do?!
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    frustrated frazzled