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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obligatory Resolutions Post

I'm feeling the pressure. I get it - new year, new start, time to make some big life changes (translation: the gym and running track will be super crowded for a few weeks until everyone falls off the wagon around the last week of January. Here in New Orleans we have Carnival season, a debauchery of food, drink, and shiny plastic beads which speeds the process up a little).

But I hate resolutions. I dislike arbitrary rules (I as that aggravating "Why???" kid growing up), and that's what I equate resolutions with. However, I am going to bow to societal norms, so here goes:

My 2010 New Years Resolution is (yeah, there's only one):

- Order more cocktails. Yes indeed, people! No more hiding behind my merlot and reveling in its fruity warmth! On to the world of multiple ingredients and ice cubes! Dangerous territory, this.


Perhaps even some more ABSINTHE cocktails!

I'll let you know how that plan plays out.

Your turn. Got any resolutions? Or do you think resolutions just set you up for failure? Do you make long lists, or just one major change like my cocktailing resolution above?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What was the dumbest thing you did in 2009?

Forget "accomplishments", "lessons learned", or "biggest decisions". It is so much more fun to look back at the dumb stuff we did, isn't it? I mean, with the way I live my life, it can be very entertaining.

Let's see, what did I do dumb this year?

Probably the dumbest was turning down a 6-figure job offer for one that paid thousands and thousands less...and never materialized.


OUCH.

Of course that story had a happy ending, but wow, that was pretty dumb.
Smaller dumb things I did?
- Used Emergen-C cranberry powder as a face mask since vitamin C is so good for your skin. I dyed my face dark pink.
- Almost flooded my car in a bad neighborhood.
- Trimmed my bangs into a shape closely resembling a parallelogram.
- Worked an overnight shift before Thanksgiving, followed by a 5-mile race the next morning then Thanksgiving festivities.
- Addressed a Christmas card to a cousin I barely know as "Mr. and Mrs. So and So" and they have been divorced for a year.
- Addressed another card to another barely-known relative and "Kate and Jack Brown and family" and, um, Jack's her oldest kid, not her husband. Whatever.

I'm sure there's more here but I better run to work - I want to be early and do a little shopping because it's employee 25% off day! Time to load up on toiletries!

Please share a dumb story below to trick me into thinking it's not just me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More Christmas pics, and a New Years recipe

I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite pictures from this Christmas, like hubby and I scrambling to make it in time for the timer:

Or kind of adorable kiss-pic (I have witch hair in this one):

And my wonderful in-laws!

And it's also a timely moment to share a party recipe that you can make ahead for New Years. It's delicious - more delicious than it sounds. It is also incredibly easy and fail-proof and no candy thermometer or complicated equipment is involved.

Dark Caramel Corn

You will need: About 4 - 5 quarts of plain popcorn. Follow directions on a bag of corn kernels to pop; let it sit uncovered while you make the caramel. (I actually don't measure the popcorn; I just pop a big pot-ful).

For the caramel, you will need:
1 stick butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
AND either 1 cup salted nuts (cashews are yummy) or 1 tsp kosher salt

Set up 2 foiled, greased cookie sheets and pour popcorn onto them. If you are using nuts, pour the nuts on top of the popcorn. Preheat oven to 250 F.

In a saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt on high. Stir continuously until mixture boils. Let it boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Turn the burner off and stir in the extract and baking soda (it will foam up). Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn and stir it up with a large spoon or spatula, trying to coat most of the popcorn (don't worry, as you bake the caramel will distribute more evenly).
If you did NOT use nuts, sprinkle kosher salt over the pans before popping them in the oven.
Set the timer for an hour and go watch TV. Every 15 minutes stir the popcorn and rotate the baking sheets if you have them on different oven racks. Remove the popcorn and let it cool; break up large chunks before storing in an airtight container.
I brought this to work and my technicians were actually fighting over it, which made for a rather hostile work environment.

Are you having a New Years' party or get-together? Or are you heading out on the town? Or acting like an old person and going to bed (ME!)?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas Weekend!

How was your Christmas and Christmas weekend? Thrilling yet relaxing I hope!
David and I were both off Christmas Eve. I had planned a long run for the day, but it stormed and I stayed indoors. The storm cleared just in time for us to head out to a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We drove under this amazing brilliant rainbow on the way. If you look closely, you can see that it was actually a double rainbow - the outer ring is fainter though.

After church we went to the in-laws for a wonderful meal and gift exchange. I snatched up my totally adorable nephew and played with him for a bit. The cheeks are killing me!


Our in-laws got all the kids tickets to see Wicked, which is coming to New Orleans in March. What a fun gift!
Our Christmas morning tradition is to have a fancy breakfast at home, followed by gifts and a walk to mass. This year I made homemade waffles with strawberries and cream, cantaloupe, mimosas, and this sausage pie (I burned the crust edges!).


We opened our gifts to each other. Hubby was ecstatic about the imac! Most of my gifts require returning (poor hubby) but my favorite is an autographed copy of John Besh's new cookbook. It is as big as 4 Bibles. The hubby was also incredibly brave and bought lingerie! He's usually squeamish about that kind of purchase. And the cashier made fun of him for buying lingerie and a whisk (I have a boring wish list)! However, he has to brave scorn again to return it because it's the wrong size. Seriously, do I look like a 36 anything?! LOL.
Our walk to beautiful Holy Name of Jesus was freezing, but it was fun and the mood on the street was jolly. The priest was awful, though! He had the most monotonous homily ever! But there were lots of cute babies to watch in their Sunday finery.
After mass, I made a dress, which you can see me in here: (actually, I just sewed an old skirt that was an awkward length to a turtle neck).


Later that night we had a family get-together with David's extended family. We had a plethora of desserts, but I focused my attention on the outstanding wild rice pilaf and peppermint ice cream (yes, I passed up macadamia nut cheesecake for a scoop of pink ice cream. I just adore the stuff!).
We were supposed to have my family over the next day for a little party but my dad called late Christmas night and canceled. Unfortunately, they call and cancel last minute a lot so I wasn't too surprised - but I was disappointed. Instead David and I decided to spend the weekend in Bay St Louis to get some time together. The in-laws' house was all decorated for the holidays.


We watched some football and rode around the neighborhood on my in-laws' touring bikes - which was fun! The weather was cold but beautiful. Sunday morning I ran a great 8.5 miles using Map My Run to find a route. It went through the cute downtown, across the tall Bay Bridge (major hill work there!), and along the beach. It was kind of rough running up the elevated bridge on the way back because the wind was so strong. Actually a got a bad face chapping! But it was a fabulous run and I got to use my new ipod armband from the hubby. The old one - yes I know this is gross - REEKED of sweat. I washed that thing in ammonia and it didn't help! Plus it was all stretched out. So this time, no ipod-around-the-elbow syndrome.

Oh and the Saints have me completely disgusted.

So how was your Christmas...and what was your favorite gift?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let's discuss the H1N1 flu vaccine


Did you get yours? If not, now is the time: the CDC recently opened up stores of the vaccine to anyone who wants it, rather than just priority groups such as pregnant women or school teachers.
While you make your decision about whether or not to get immunized, let's discuss pros and cons.
We'll start with cons, because there are lots of rumors out there that we should address.
So cons -
1. RECALLS. There have been several recalls of vaccines, but only one was for side effects. That was a lot used in Canada, so USA readers need not worry. The vaccines were recalled after a higher than normal percentage of adverse drug reactions were reported. We don't actually know if this is a vaccine problem or a statistical fluke. As of today, there have been 2 recalls in the US, both children's nasal doses. Both were pulled for potency issues: One was considered potent until the FDA changed guidelines; the other appeared to lose some potency before the expiration date and was pulled today. Neither one had safety concerns. Still, the recalls are a big con because if you received a low-potency vaccine you will likely need a second dose.
2. SIDE EFFECTS. Everyone saw the video of the cheerleader with Guillain barre syndrome walking around backwards after receiving the H1N1 vaccine. The syndrome is an autoimmune disorder; it occurs with some vaccines as your body responds to the introduced antigen. Apparently your immune system is somehow activated to attack your own nerve fibers as well. GBS is a risk with all vaccines but was seen in higher rates back in the '70's with the last swine flu outbreak. It's difficult to correlate it to causes, but your risk is higher with an vaccine that contains an adjuvant (a substance included with the vaccine to increase your immune response). The vaccines in Europe and Canada contains adjuvants; the US vaccines do not. To note, GBS is also a risk when you catch the flu - in fact, the rate of GBS due to influenza infection is much higher than the rate due to vaccination. Both are very rare.
3. BRAND NEW DRUG. This is a problem. No one likes to try out a new drug first! And examples of potency issues above heighten concerns. I don't blame you. I would only get a vaccine produced by a company that usually produces vaccines. Novartis is making most of the vaccines sold at Walgreens and I trust Novartis - the know their injectables and I can't remember any FDA manufacturing citations (and lots of companies get cited!).
4. MERCURY. Like all vaccines, the preservative in the H1N1 vaccine is thimerosal, which contains mercury. Many people don't care about this - there is no hard and fast evidence that vaccinations have caused health problems such as autism, and they figure that since all the vaccines they got as a child had mercury, it must not hurt. However, I don't like the idea of injecting a known-toxic heavy metal into my body. The H1N1 is available as a preservative-free single dose injection, and you can simply request that one if you share my concerns.

Now for the pros. This is simple.
1. YOU DON'T GET A POTENTIALLY FATAL INFECTION. Let me tell you why I'm MORE concerned about H1N1 now than I was at the height of the pandemic. We saw this year that H1N1 is quite alive and active in warm weather, and in fact the CDC is predicting another surge of the virus in the Spring. I'm afraid that this next wave will be resistant to our antivirals. We only have two - Tamiflu and Relenza - and the virus has already shown signs of resistance. I am almost positive that virus will return in a mutated form that is not treatable with antivirals. I say this because of the incredible volume of Tamiflu we filled at pharmacies this year. Most of the doses were either not necessary (mild cases) or preventative; the result was a gigantic exposure of Tamiflu to the H1N1 virus. Viruses are smart for non-living things. They mutate to protect themselves. I see the return of H1N1 as a big ugly super bug. This is ok if you're planning on staying in bed for a few days and taking in lots of fluids, but it you (God forbid) end up with a severe case or have underlying health conditions - well, there is no treatment. That scares me a tad.

So, having said that, run along and get your vaccine! If you live near me, I'll even do it for you (I'm a certified immunizing pharmacist in Louisiana, so I can give vaccines). I promise it won't hurt.


Did you get your vaccine? Was it hard to find? Are you planning on getting one?

Monday, December 21, 2009

A complicated and yucky weekend

I messed up at work, and that is the most miserable feeling ever. I made my first pharmacist mistake (that I know of!) and I feel terrible! Luckily, it was a minor error and no one was hurt. A doctor wrote a prescription for an antibiotic ointment, with the directions to "apply to affected area three times daily", which I dispensed. However, the patient called later and said the affected area is the eyelid, and this ointment said not to use it on the eye. Turns out that this doctor is an ophthalmologist - I just didn't know that since I am not familiar with MD's in the area. Had I realized that, I would have automatically dispensed the ophthalmic version of the ointment (which is sterilized) instead of the regular. Luckily we were able to exchange the ointments; even if the patient had used the ointment it would not have hurt her since the ointment was going on the eyelid, not in the eye.
Still. I feel so stupid for not catching that. I really feel dumb. And I made myself feel more dumb with my next brilliant move - I took the pharmacy key home! Those of us who work at many different stores have to check the keys out and back in each day. I stupidly walked out with the key - later the pharmacy manager called me (she must think I'm an idiot!) and told me I still had it. And this store is over an hour from my house!
Thankfully, that scenario worked out ok. I worked Saturday morning with a pharmacist who is best friends with the pharmacist who needed the keys to open Monday morning, so I passed the keys along through her. I haven't gotten a call yet today so I assume she got in ok! But too late, my reputation is shot.

Why else was this weekend yucky?
- The Saints got mutilated by the Cowboys.
- I had to go to a Christmas party with lots of people I don't know who are out of my age range / stage of life. Because the hubby is 8 years older than me many of his friends are at least a decade my senior and have families, kids in high school, serve on the PTA. David's friends are mostly lawyers and their wives are Uptown socialites. Nothing wrong with that, I just don't know what to say when I get caught in a heated debate about whether or not they should postpone a debutante party because one of the debutantes broker her leg and is in a cast.
- One of the drug stores at which I regularly work (like, I worked there Wednesday) got held up for drugs! They caught the criminal, but that's not my idea of fun even though he was only armed with a srewdriver. Now I remember why they pay me the big bucks.
- My husband started his new job this morning, and since I'm an OPT worrier (other people's troubles) I fretted all weekend. He still doesn't have a car so I actually dropped him off this morning and he will walk home while I'm at work. This upset me because I'm afraid it looks bad to be dropped off at work your first day. I also don't like him walking home at night. It scares me.
- Oh and USAA is actually repairing his car, not totaling it, so until this car dies we'll have a post-flood Civic. That just killed the blue book value.
- I managed one short run on Sunday and my knee hurt so much I actually started trembling; I looked down and realized it was twice the size of the other knee. I think I really hurt it!
- This evening I work at the same store where I made the mistake - I don't even want to look at anyone in the eye over there! Ugh! I feel soooo silly!!!

On the bright side, this is a 3-day work week so perhaps I should stop complaining.
And how was your weekend? Please say less eventful!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fun and Free Christmas


Here I am, getting ready to drop big bucks on tickets for a Christmas concert, and I'm posting about free stuff to do for Christmas.
Silly me.

1. Attend a cantata. Most churches put on a big Christmas program for free and nice big churches with nice big choirs usually have a lovely cantata! Tiny little churches with names like "Second Christian Church of Jesus' Redeeming Fire and Blood" should probably be avoided.
2. Sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Have you seen these programs in which singers of all skill levels form a massive choir and sing the hallelujah chorus? Most programs provide the score and a conductor and you provide your voice. If you enjoy singing but aren't too critical of others' singing skills this is fun and very christmas-y.
3. To me the most reverential Christmas feeling comes with a candlelight service.
4. If you live near me, you've got to go to a bonfire on the levee!
5. Volunteer with a group to go caroling at a local nursing home (a personal favorite since most of the residents can't hear how bad I sound).
6. Go on a lights tour around residential neighborhoods, trying not to look like you're casing the joint.
7. I bet if you turn your tv on some station somewhere is playing It's a Wonderful Life. Watch it in your Pj's. And if it isn't on when you want it to be, your library probably has it for free.
8. When we were little we would read Dicken's A Christmas Carol aloud, taking turns. I remember once an aunt sent us a large tin of those hard striped candies and we happily developed cavities as we read. It made enunciation difficult, but I'm sure that just encouraged appropriate elocution.
9. If it snows, get together a sledding party! Sledding might be my favorite sport, and i really think it has a shot at becoming an Olympic feature. If you can persuade some kids to come with you they probably have all the cool sleds.
10.Go window shopping downtown....and drag your honey past all the jewelry you would like so that when he has to rush out and buy a last minute gift (he will) he remembers what you pointed out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kitty Rescue!



To take a break from posts dealing with insurance claims and flood waters (by the way, it rained again last night and my husband's car flooded again! Not that it matters at this point), I will tell the tale (tail?) of the three kittens under our house. The were abandoned by their feral mom after being disturbed by our gardeners. It was a bitterly cold night and they sat under our house mewing, mewing, mewing. The sound traveled right through our large floor furnace and echoed in the house. Finally I could stand it no longer and we pried the skirts off the house (we screw wooden "skirts" to the house to cover the crawl spaces in winter to make the house a little more energy efficient) and peered under with a flashlight. The poor kittens were crawling in 3 different directions and making a racket! I grabbed the only one close by and made the hubby (poor guy) crawl under and retrieve the other two. They were dirty, hungry, and flea-ridden. One was a runt and was mewing piteously; he was so cold and actually had scabbing from flea bites since fleas prey on weaker animals. I turned up the heat and placed them in a lined basket in warm spot, but I had no way to feed them. I soaked brad in milk and tried to get them to suck the milk that way, but only the black kitten could figure it out (the minute he got something in his tummy, he shut up. Silence. No more mewing). Meanwhile I had sent the hubby to the pharmacy for droppers and baby formula. We heated the formula up and fed everyone - ah, the blessed silence! Let me tell you, hungry kittens are incredibly loud. Once the kittens were fed the dropped off to sleep in a furry heap. We ended up keeping them overnight (they slept in a bucket with a hot water bottle and a heater nearby) before giving them to my parents. My parents run a sort of cat rescue operation accidentally - they live on a long winding road and unwanted cats are often dropped there. I think they have like 7 cats. Ok, that's 10 now, thanks to me.
I gave the kittens a bath before I presented them to their adoptive parents and I read that 50-50 apple cider vinegar will kill fleas. I am here to tell you that that is a lie. I think one flea died during that traumatic bath-time and it had underlying health conditions.
However, my mom swears that lavender oil will cure them all.

Do you know any natural flea products? It has to be natural. My mom does not like chemicals. Seriously. She doesn't ever use bleach and she is wary of rubbing alcohol, so this has to be mild!

Anyway, I was glad we got the kittens out when we did because that night was bitterly cold - followed by torrents of rain the next day!

Aren't they cute?

Monday, December 14, 2009

FLOOD UPDATE

Well. Hubby started the car up again and black smoke billowed out as the engine completely burned up. So much for that.
So I guess we're looking for a new car!
The insurance adjuster shows up next Wednesday - lucky us, we bought flood insurance for the cars. Even though David's car is old and only carries liability otherwise, we did buy flood and it is certainly a blessing now!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Orleans flooded...again!!!

This is the worst, most stressful, un-relaxing weekend ever. I already want today to be done and it just started!

We started out the weekend with a dramatic kitten on Friday. But more on that later. The kittens are safe and sound and I have bigger things to gripe about.

Last night New Orleans was hit with torrential rains and flash floods and suddenly we were all reliving Katrina. I was driving home from the Northshore (across Lake Ponchartrain - about an hour out of New Orleans) after visiting my family. I was on the 2-lane, 26 mile bridge for the worst of it (Which was mildly terrifying). The hubby had called to tell me he was going to mass earlier. The next call I got from him was to tell me his car flooded! The rain was so intense that during mass his car - and others parked outside - flooded out. He drives a 12-year old Civic that refuses to die, and yesterday was so exception. He overrode the transmission to drive it in neutral to higher ground, where he parked it on an angle to drain. He had to walk 2 miles back to the house. Then he tried to guide me home, but it wasn't happening: every avenue to our house was flooded and impassable. I had some narrow misses getting on the interstate, but I made it to New Orleans East and his parents house. Ah! I love you, inlaws! Warm tea and sandwiches! Unfortunately, the worst news was still to come - my sweet and talented sister in law Liz is a wedding singer. She had a wedding that night at Ursaline in Uptown New Orleans. While she was singing preludes someone came up to her and whispered that the streets were flooding. She rushed out to move her car but the rain was so bad that as she drove the water rose and she stalled! She drives a 2009 SUV that she just bought - she had to abandon it and wade in water over her waist.
Basically all hell broke lose from there. The wedding went on once the priest got there - after first his car, then the car of the kind couple who gave him a ride, flooded. David was going to try to come to his sister's aid, and in fact he walked the 2 miles back to his car - which started up without a hitch. Seriously, I don't know if you CAN kill a Civic! However, the reports of flooding were worsening, and he couldn't reach Liz. The water in her area was 4 feet deep in the street! Luckily the rain slacked up enough for the large limo bus to carry all 25 or so people who made it to the wedding through the water to higher ground, where my FIL was able to pick Lizzie up. He took a route that brought him close to my house, so I took notes so I could make it home, too! He picked up the hubby too and they attempted to retrieve her car but to no avail- it was a lost cause and they almost flooded in the inlaws SUV trying to get it. Finally I tried to venture home from New Orleans East. It was a huge mistake. The lull ceased as soon as I got on the interstate and I was in a downpour. The streets started to flood again and for almost an hour I drove frantically, on the phone with hubby, just trying to stay on higher ground. Naturally I ended up in an intersection surrounded by water in a bad neighborhood. In front of me was flooded; both sides were flooded. The way I came was dry, but it was a divided road. If I tried to head back on my side of the road, it was flooded too! SO....
SCION POWER! I took my little XA up on the flooded sidewalk and by the grace of God we made it home. I was so stressed out when I got home! My husband was soaked through and we were exhausted. We had a much-needed glass of wine and headed to bed - but the drama isn't over. My hubby got up at 5 am to meet Liz's dear friend Fr. Jeff at her SUV to push it out of the road (she had abandoned it literally in the middle of the street) and they confirmed that the car is totally dead. The computer system was saturated and sat in water overnight. Hubby crawled home to get some sleep but poor baby, the calls kept coming. Now he's back out meeting the tow-truck by Liz's SUV.
Phew!
What I have to be thankful for:
- We are all safe. Many people had accidents last night.
- My car did not flood and it is a very low riding little thing
- Liz has good insurance
- I have wonderful in-laws who love me

What I am not-so-jazzed about:
- The local news was USELESS about this. Not a word of warning, no helpful weather alerts. We're talking about 18 hours of flooding and no source of info! We had to base our decisions off twitter!
- POOR LIZ!
- David's trade-in value is about down to zero now.
- GAGH! I want my weekend back!

I tried to get a good picture of the water for you, but guess what? Not a single image on any news websites. Because our news sucks.

Tune in tomorrow to hear the much more heart-warming tale of the three kitties who made it through the cold cold night.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm getting my husband a pun-y Christmas gift!

My gift to the hubby this year is my second favorite thing, a verbal-visual pun (my first favorite being a plain old verbal verbal pun).

It is this painting, shown here still on the easel, which I entitled "The apple of my eye". This will be accompanied by a cheesy note about how he is the apple of my eye. This is so uncharacteristic of me that the hubby will get suspicious and flip the note over, where he will find that I am actually giving him permission to buy an imac. Haha, get it, an EYE MAC (that's a McIntosh apple in the picture for non-New Englanders).
I am resigned to having to explain this pun to him...but he won't mind since he'll be thrilled that he gets a new computer! I was too unsure to buy it myself - a computer is pretty personal. Hence the dorky pun.
The painting is acrylic on vellum bristol and I did it quickly this morning before work. The eye looks creepy. Let's get a close up:

Nice. There is a trick to getting the creepy eye: you leave out the "stripes" on the iris. But please don't steal that trick. I invented it. Then I put the picture in this dual frame:

So what do you think? Think he'll get it? Did YOU get it???

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thrown off the Scent

Recently I made a great bargain purchase at Pier One. It's this autumn hand lotion complete with cute little leaf charm that I will re-use to make a necklace later. It was only $1.99! The scent is "autumn leaves". The lotion smells exactly like apple cider. This is very confusing to me, especially since the lotion is green. It is baffling my visual-olfactory interactions. I'm glad I'm not struggling to learn the English language because I'm sure I could confuse "leaves" and "apples" for the rest of my life.


I got this body wash for free with a purchase (that I paid for with a gift card, go me!) at Bath and Body Works. The scent is "Ps I love you" which is hard to define anyway, but I'm pretty sure this isn't it. I mean, I know that BBW employs fragrance experts and all, but this smells like potpourri. It should at least be ammended to "Ps your grandma loves you".


Now I like the scent of my current bottle of shaving cream (not that I plan on using it again until oh, say, March), but it definitely isn't avocado. Or alluring avocado, whatever that is. Trust me on this - I am an avocado aficionado (and amateur poet, teehee) and this is most definitely not avocado. It is cucumber. Cucumber, dear shaving cream people, is another veggie with a dark green outside and light green inside. You can distinguish it by its long thin shape...


And this is just ridiculous. It's a "Great new fragrance" but the scent is "original fresh"?! Make up your mind!


Bath and Body Works redeemed themselves with this one, though. I just bought this White Citrus perfume and it is just as it should be: light and fresh with citrus notes, but...white ones. Think lemons and kumquats instead of navel oranges. (This is what I bought with my gift card to get the free body wash!)




Whats your favorite scent for the holidays? What's the newest scent you bought, and what is it? And it is aptly named, hehe?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What have you crossed off your shopping list?


For no real reason, I'm going to do a quick run down of the gifts I've bought. Maybe you will be inspired if you haven't finished all your shopping yet!

For David's family: A few years a go we instituted "cheap Christmas" (a phrase introduced by my SIL Miriam when she was broke and gave everyone homemade artwork)and give each other $5 gifts. We ended up spending about $15 though.
Pete (my FIL): He loves to cook and watches a lot of food network, so we bought him the "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" cookbook.
Gayle (my MIL): I found a very pretty jar of bubble bath with seashells inside - it's a beachy look and scent and I think it's perfect for the master bath jacuzzi at their beach house.
Liz (my SIL): two pretty stationary sets that reflect her love of things Victorian.
Mir: She had admired a necklace I was wearing a few months ago that I made. I bought her the supplies to make one, and we will make it together.
Chris (my BIL): He just bought his first Mac, so David picked out a book called "The Missing Manual" that guides the switch from pc to mac.
Chris's wife: Monogrammed washcloths that match her decor and several bars of homemade soap. It's soap from Pier One that was on sale - normally $3.99 a bar; clearance for $0.48! That's how I stayed in the cost limit!
Baby Jacob, their son: a Curious George story book (big one) and a Saints Tshirt. Got to start the fans early.

Now for my family. Remember that I have a zillion brothers. So please excuse me for my boring choices:
Brothers Matthew, Izzy, Sam, Abe, and Joey all got Saints polo shirts.
Nate, who is a English lit/philosophy double major and aspiring chef, got a cookbook called "The Philosopher's Kitchen" and some money (I threw some money in for Joey as well since he's a poor college student as well. I well remember the days!)
Melissa, my dear darling older sis, and her husband Matt, are going through a hard time this year- they recently heard some bad news that I may or may not get permission to discuss here. But they're feeling a tad out of the Christmas spirit and requested no gifts this year. I blatantly disregarded this request and got them the Planet Earth dvd set, an espresso machine with fancy espresso, and a coffee drink cookbook. Hopefully little useless things that will cheer them up!
Johnny, my older brother, and his wife Brenda are getting coupons to 5 restaurants in their area> I bought them on restaurants.com so it was less expensive than you;d think!
My parents are health food eaters ,so I made them a gift basket of herbal teas: two boxes of assorted herb and green teas, a little honey bear, tea cookies, a tea bag saucer, a few Lipton instant green tea packets, and a lemon!

How's your shopping going? Share your list with me!

My knee is blah

Last Wednesday I headed out for a long run, feeling great. I was planning on 16 miles, but at mile 9 suddenly my knee exploded with pain! I tried to"run it off" (bad idea no matter what) but the pain was so bad that I actually cried. And I don't really feel pain - seriously, I had my bottom wisdom teeth cut out sans anesthetic or painkiller and ate a steak afterward. I can't even remember the last time pain brought me to tears!
I had to walk the mile and a half home and have basically been in agony ever since. Walking aches, running throbs, stairs are fine...on the way up, But then I have to stay up there indefinitely.
Well, that was yesterday anyway. Today I braved a very short run - and I could do it! The pain was so bad when I first got hurt that I was convinced running was over for me. But I limped out for 2 slow miles and I feel so relieved. I followed my run with ice and ibuprofen and plan on rest for tonight.
What a scare! If I couldn't run I would blow up like a balloon, I'm a food addict. Phew!

Have you ever had an injury scare? Or health scare? And do you have awesome recovery tips for me?

Friday, December 4, 2009

SNOW?!


There's a possibility of snow this weekend! In New Orleans! Last year it snowed and - horrors - I was out of town and missed it. My little brothers sent me a picture of a message for me though :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My worry fixes


Thanks for all the congrats yesterday for the hubby. It is such a big change, and since it is an area of law I don't know too much about, I can't run every detail of his work life anymore. Sigh.
Some of the responses got me thinking about how I respond to worry. Specifically, I was thinking about how I deal with worry so it doesn't take too much out of my life. I made a little list to share but I totally expect you to share back. And you can't say running because Lindsey and Britt already did.

SO my worry fixes:
- Do something special for somebody else. Write a card, buy flowers, send Facebook gifts, whatever. It takes your mind off your own life and worries!
- Drink coffee. True, I drink coffee no matter what my state of mind is; but there is something empowering about a cup of coffee. As your heart rate picks up you get the sense that you can solve or survive whatever your problem is. Did anyone else read Margaret Jensen's book First We Have Coffee? The mother in this autobiographical work always tackled problems after a good pot of coffee. It's a cute story. You should read it.
- If I'm worried about something I can fix...quite simply, I fix it. For example, if I had a big report at work or a research project in school, I would jump in and start work. Once you get started you see that things aren't as bad as you first thought.
- If it's something I can't control I verbally remind myself of this. I frame a sentence and say it out loud: "It isn't your duty to make sure your brothers get good grades. They are smart kids and are grown-up enough to study on their own, and they will earn the grades they deserve." Truthful - not sugar coated - but it takes the weight off of me!
- If it is stressing me out I exercise (I didn't say run so it isn't against the rules). Endorphins = happy feelings.
- PRAY. Once, then let it go!

So your turn!
How do you deal with worry?
What is your response?


PS - the picture shows worry dolls. I used to have some when I was a little kid (choking hazard! Do not endorse!). You tell each doll a worry and it takes care of it overnight. The idea is that you only get 5 dolls, so you only get 5 worries. The person above is clearly an overachieving worrier, since she is well over quota.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NEW JOB!

...For the hubby, not me.
My husband is an attorney and for the past 6 years he's been working as a real estate attorney for a title company. It's been good, but some of you may have noticed that the housing market ain't what it used to be (Housing market 2004: Can you sign your name? You qualify for a home loan! Oh, you can't sign your name? Lucky you, we offer the special "x is ok" package! Credit score lower than your bowling score? Don't worry, you too can live in a McMansion! Housing market 2009: Foreclosure is the new open house.)
Basically, his company was stagnating. Thanks to good management, they stayed open and barely downsized (many title companies closed their doors), but he didn't get a raise last year- even though he got promoted!- and the company stopped matching his 401-k. So this summer he just casually logged on to a job seeking website. The first job he saw was a property attorney position with the Army Corps of Engineers.
It takes awhile for the application process to get moving on these government jobs, but to make a long story short, he got the job. He'll be starting in December!
The upcoming big changes have started up my worry engine. Weirdly, I don't worry about myself much, but I am great at worrying about others' problems. My current worries:
- What if he doesn't like his boss?
- What if he needs to brush up on his skills/knowledge (he's been practicing one narrow field of law for a long time!)
- What if this temporary position - it is temporary - isn't renewed and he's jobless in 2 years?
- What if I get insanely jealous of the fact that his office is within walking distance of our house?


Sigh. SO many worries these days...
But congrats to the hubby, good for him to get a job when so many people are jobless right now!

What's on your mind these days? What worries you? What are you doing to stop worrying? (please do not reply in the form of a drug name)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Our tree is up! ...And ornament how-to's...



Last night we put up our tree (to the sweet sound of the late football game) and this year I decorated with a combination of Christmas card cut-outs and alphabet block ornaments.
Of course, since it's me, I couldn't find the right type of alphabet blocks. All I could find was some modern, bright pastel set in which the letters all stood for up-to-date, politically correct things ("C is for climate change"). Still, I think they're pretty cute.
How to make the ornaments:
For Christmas card ornaments, save all your old cards this year. Cut out around the picture and use rubber cement to glue the picture to black poster board. Cut out, leaving a small border, and rubber cement to gold metallic poster board. Cut out ornaments, leaving room to punch a hole for hanging (use a paper punch), and decoupage with acrylic varnish. Spray varnish is best since it prevents colors from running. You will need quite a few coats of varnish- I used 7 coats - so make sure you have the time and place for ornaments to dry between coats.

For alphabet blocks, simply cut a 16" length of wired ribbon and tie it with a double knot around the block. Tie ends into a loop and trim.


I made some mantle decorations, too, that say "peace" and "joy".






We had cheese and wine while we decorated. I bought pickadew havarti, horseradish havarti, brie, chedder, and meunster. We tried a juicy new wine called a "bonarda" - delicious.


Doesn't the tree look pretty through our front window?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

So how was your Thanksgiving?

Good morning! I'm enjoying a lazy morning with my adorable husband and a cup of raspberry macadamia coffee. I'm also still recovering from my insane Thanksgiving. After my overnight shift (and I got no sleep before the shift - I simply can't sleep during the day), I rushed home, changed, and ran my Turkey Day Race. It was a gorgeous day for a race - crystal clear blue skies, fresh cool weather, bright sun - but I was miserable. I was stiff, exhausted, and bordering on delirious. I ran a 40:16 5-mile, which was embarrassing because I really thought I would be under 40 minutes - and I'm blaming sleepy stupidity. I couldn't get out of the starting crowd because I was too bleah to think clearly and maneuver. And I just couldn't get my pace up. Still, it was fun, and hubby ran it too (cursing me all the while). I waited for him at the finish line and we trotted back to our car...to see hundreds of parked cars with parking tickets! The neutral ground (it's what New Orleanians call the median) has always been used for parking for races held at City Park. Well, some aspiring city official decided to ticket us all! On Thanksgiving! During a charity event! Gah! Read the story here. If you can stomach it!
Speaking of stomaching it, following my quick post-race shower, I bundled my exhausted self off to the in-laws for a delicious meal that I could barely taste. Even my taste buds were tired.
I got to bed around 10 pm (after being up for 40 hours) and slept until 9:30 on Friday! No sales for me...not that you would catch me dead in those shopping crowds. Nothing scares me like spendthrifts trying to get a deal.

Today my dear friend Brian is coming to visit. Brian and I were pals way back in my art school days. He was still in high school and we worked at the same pharmacy. We have so many hilarious memories together and hope to make some more this weekend!

So tell me your T-day story...or your shopping story! Any amazing deal? Any great turkey day races?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's going to be a loooong day...


...because I'm working overnight! Yep, the joys of being the new kid on the block. Actually I volunteered to work overnight. You see, if you work a Thanksgiving or Christmas shift in one of the 24-hour stores, you don't have to work another one for 2 years. I volunteered to work overnight so that it wouldn't mess with my holiday plans. If you don't volunteer and you haven't worked in the last 2 years, your name gets put in a drawing for open holiday spots. I didn't want to risk being picked for Christmas morning, so when I saw one last overnight shift I snatched it up.
Without reading the fine print.
See, the shift is overnight the night BEFORE the holiday. I thought it was the night OF the holiday. This is kind of bad news for me because I registered for a 5-mile Thanksgiving race tomorrow morning! So I will be working all night, driving an hour home (the store is 58 miles away!), then running a race on zero sleep!
Ah, the craziness I submit myself to.

The shirts are cute, though. Notice those little words at the top? Yeah, this is the 102nd annual race! My gym has sponsored this race forever, and the gym itself has been around for more than 100 years. It used to be a "club", as in the place men would go to smoke cigars and read the paper. In fact it still has a functioning library and bar!
I believe the New Orleans Athletic Club is the oldest gym in the country - and it is beautiful. Working out there is so inspiring! Check out the slide show on their website!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How sweet is Abe?

My little brother Abe can run crazy fast, act (he stars in community theater), paint, play the piano (he taught himself), and speak Chinese. He is also very polite for a 19 year old. After hubby and I brought him to the Jazz half-marathon he sent us this letter:
"Dear David and Grace,
Thank you so much for registering me for the race, and for the fantastic time I had Saturday with you. I really appreciate the transportation and your waiting for me to receive my award. By the way, the photos you took are great! See you soon, possibly at another race!
Love, Abe"

Now if only all teenagers could be so nice. By the way girls, he is single and I think quite handsome (I mean, we're related and I'm cute as a button, so he must be cute, right?.

What do pharmacists read for fun?

Why, the American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, only the most fascinating bit of paper and type you ever laid your eyes on.
Take a look at this baby.



Just wait! The void-of-interest cover (it would KILL them to include pictures) doesn't do the scintillating articles justice. Check out some of these headlines:



Other article titles include "Anticoagulation experts assess practical effects of new heparin potency assays", "Effect of lean process improvement techniques on a university hospital inpatient pharmacy" and "Update on robotic medication-delivery systems".
And the articles are a fascinating read. I can barely tear my eyes away:



I'm just so glad I bought this subscription!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving week! What are you cooking?


No matter where or how you're celebrating Thanksgiving, I bet it involves you cooking something...unless you live with your parents or have mastered the fine art of always bringing wine to family gatherings (a great cooking cop-out).
I grew up in a family whose eating habits were as variable as x, so some years we had a full turkey with trimmings, but other years we had tofu steaks with vegan gravy. Even on a non-vegetarian year the fare was questionable because my mother lives in constant dread of salmonella. Any poultry product that crossed our refrigerator threshold was zealously overcooked (My brother Nate created a family joke at age 6 by requesting a second helping of Thanksgiving dinner but "none of that wooden stuff", pointing to his uneaten slice of turkey breast).
Things have changed since I got married. I married into a big New Orleans Italian family and they take their food SERIOUSLY. We're talking about Thanksgiving in a land where they DEEP FRY their turkeys. Thanksgiving is a big event that everyone must attend and which requires overeating (unless you want to offend someone and risk an Italian grudge). Everyone cooks and everyone eats, and the dinner conversation consists of critiquing your own dish ("Well I used Mama's oyster stuffing recipe but you know it just came out so dry to me, the oysters just didn't have any juice this year." "No, honey, it's delicious! Tastes just like when she used to make it. Now what disappoints me is these stuffed mirlitons, I guess I should have used more salt, you can barely tastes them." "Well baby, that's how I like them, I think most people put too much salt in their mirlitons, kills the flavor." "Oh ya think? Well thank you honey, you take some more of those then.")

So you see, I'm under lots of pressure to cook something (preferably including a stick of butter). I couldn't come up with a legitimate excuse to let others handle the cooking this year, so I'm contributing a vegetable dish. I am letting a spicy carrots recipe inspire me to create a dish of caramelized onions, garlic, and thin sliced carrots (still a little crunchy) with a drizzle of cream sauce with cayenne pepper. Sort of sweet and spicy.
What are your Thanksgiving plans, and what are you contributing to the table? Got a good recipe to share?

Friday, November 20, 2009

New pap smear guidelines!


Well, after recent controversial news that cancer screenings may not be as beneficial as originally thought, several physicians' groups are amending their guidelines. First we had an uproar about delaying mammograms until women are in their 50's (poor timing to make that announcement during October, breast cancer awareness month). Now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has released new pap smear guidelines. The new guidelines recommend pap smears starting at a later age (21) and repeating just every 2 years - and only every 3 years once you hit your thirties.
To me that's great news...since I never go anyway (I know, I know). However, I bet it affects your health insurance. Watch them drop once-yearly-well-woman-visit coverage. They'll start only paying every 3 years!
The reasoning behind this change is that very few cases of cervical cancer are caught by pap smears. This - and the delaying of mammography - is sparking a debate about the value of life. Should we reduce screenings because the cost-per-life-saved is too high?

What's your view???

My Christmas Card


I am trying to use this artwork on the front of my Christmas card. Actually, I am trying to make Christmas postcards in reflection of the scaled-down economy of 2009. The problem is my scan is coming out faded, washed out, and all-around ugly. I did so much rich shading with my trusty charcoal pencil yesterday, so the poor scan is really annoying. Any ideas on how I can get this image on a postcard without losing the depth of the original?

PS - Like how her head scarf makes a sort-of halo? Creative, huh? I charm myself!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ten things I hate to see on your facebook status

1. A commentary on your digestion. "Pam wishes she hadn't had that taco bell! Argh, fire!"
2. A gooey, icky-sweet mention of your spouse or significant other's wonderfulness. "Jenny is so in love with her cutie-patootie Todd." Barf, barf.
3. is. Just is with a period. If you're trying to make some existentialist statement, it's already been made a thousand times. Not cute! Try harder!
4. Sarcastic comments meant for others on facebook. "James knows now who his real friends are, because a real friend would have returned a favor after all I did for you last week". Or: "I'm taking the trash out in my life! So if you stop hearing from me, I guess that means you know you were in that trash pile!" (hint, they're called friends! So if they aren't your friends, why are they your friends?!)
5. Your cleverly masked bragging. Example: My classmate who always works the distance she ran into her status, hoping for compliments. "I saw Angelina Jolie in the park while on my 12 mile run".
6. Serious stuff. Get a sense of humor. "Dan hurts deep inside his soul and is ashamed that he had a second cocktail to mask the pain instead of talking to someone who cares."
7. Your TMI. "Belle just saw her credit score and is totally freaking out!"
8. Your politically-charged tirade that requires additional comments to finish the statement out.
9. Your gripes about your job. Where is your brain? Don't you think your employers check facebook once in a while? They do.
10. Your every little move. "Alicia is drinking her coffee." "Alicia is about to make some breakfast." "Alicia is heading to work." "Alicia is commuting." "Alicia is at her desk for a long day of work." "Alicia is wondering what to order for lunch?" "Alicia is about to pick up a $5 foot-long." etc.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I took my new shoes for a test run...

...AND THEY ARE HORRIBLE!
I don't expect blisters from new shoes, but if I get a few blisters I wouldn't be shocked. No big deal. But I've never gotten blood blisters before! My feet were killing me during my run last night and when I got home I saw two large blood blisters on the sides of my feet. Ugh!
Any ideas on how to prevent this in the future? These are brand new $130 shoes so I don't want to just toss them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Am I a bad wife?


The hubby is out of town this week. He is in Vegas with a pal (um, and the pal's mom and elderly friends, totally weird), and I am working hard every day and coming home to a cold empty house. The reason for this bizarre arrangement is that he has weeks of vacation to use or lose, and I have NONE. I thought this was a good solution since his friend has been begging him to go on the annual old-people-in-Vegas trip for years. Of course now I'm insanely jealous; not that I have any particular desire to go to Las Vegas (I still re-use my aluminum foil - it would kill me to gamble), but because I have to work!
So here's why I might be a bad wife. I'm a little jealous, but I don't really miss the hubby! In fact I'm sort of enjoying the free time! The best part is that the pressure is off at dinner: I always feel like I have to cook my picky husband something extravagant for dinner. But I'm happy with a little bowl of pinto beans (which is what I ate tonight). Skipping all the cooking and cleaning leaves me with so much extra time!
So, verdict... am I
a. The best wife in the world for letting him go to Vegas unsupervised
b. The worse wife in the world for not being lonely while he's gone?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My safety-net job

I was forced to make a trip to Wal-mart to buy building blocks for Christmas ornaments I am making (pictures to follow!). I also picked up a few other things while I was there...even though I hate buying food at that place. Weirdly, I got stopped by the store manager, who noted my efficient shopping and encouraged me to apply for a cashier position. What a comfort to know I've got what it takes to bag groceries at Wal-mart.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ten new things to try for $10 and under


1. Still scared of skinny jeans? Try a pair from Forever 21 for less than $10. If they make you feel like a cow you didn't lose that much cash.
2. Instant coffee never really appealed to me until I started working strange hours in places without a coffee pot nearby. Starbucks Via is a new alternative you can try for free with the purchase of a regular drink (at most locations).
3. Have you ever made your own waffles? They're SO good. Go to a Walgreens that has a small appliances section and you can buy a waffle maker for $7.99!
4. Colored eyeliner is big this fall, but buy an inexpensive liner to see how you like the look. I love Revlon's color stay (about $7), and the colors are more subdued than bright.
5. Fedoras have always been my favorite winter hat. Try out the look while working some stylish plaid into your wardrobe. This hat will be on sale for $10 at Target this week (why does the add say "mens"? It's a girl hat, promise!).
6. Try a new restaurant this week. Restaurant.com has a standing offer of $25 coupons for $10. That's a great deal, but if you wait until they have a sale, they often sell certificates for just $2! Just be careful: after your purchase they offer all kinds of "special deals" like magazine subscriptions and memberships. Don't fall for it.
7. Want to change your hair shade slightly? I've been using John Frieda's color glazes - the dark brown makes medium brown hair slightly darker, and the blond layered over brown adds a sort of golden glaze after several uses. It's temporary, so you aren't committed, but it's a great way to experiment for just $10.
8. Now is a great time to try a new magazine subscription - many magazines offer holiday sales. Amazon has a large array of $10 subscriptions available.
9. Add a color to your decorating scheme without resorting to say, painting all your walls mustard. These World Market throw pillows are well-made and only $9.99.
10. Stuck in a wine rut? Try an incredibly drinkable, light and fruity - yet not at all sweet - valpolicella from Bolla. It's usually about $9 and is one of my favorite wines to drink by itself.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Worse than latte-tude

My last post about coffee, oddly enough, made me want coffee. So I hit the PJ's before work, hoping for a more pleasant experience. What I got instead was my server, back to me, volubly telling another employee how he went home sick early this a.m. because he couldn't stop throwing up...but he took a Zofran and felt better now, so he came back. Then he turned around, took my order, and smashed the lid onto the top with his bare hand directly over the mouth area. Fabulous.
This might be a sign that I should make coffee at home.
By the way I thought of changing my mind and skipping the coffee once I heard his story, but like I've said before, I'm sort of terrified of these kids so I didn't dare.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm so sick and tired of Latte-tude!

Latte-tude, n.: The attitude exhibited by your emo coffee-server which includes disdain for your order, inability to say thank you, and desire to ignore customers at the counter.

I know, I know. I said I don't like made-up words, and here I've just made one up myself. Sometimes I just feel like being a rule-breaker!
Have you ever noticed that some of the barristas out there are really disinclined to serve you? Make you feel like an inconvenience? Sigh audibly when you ask for an extra - or worse - a deletion? Ugh.
I've already mentioned the ugly characters at my local Pj's coffee house. Well, things have not improved. A recent example of latte-tude experienced at this joint? My server - whom we call the chair nazi, because he is persuaded that each chair in the store has one specific location and should not be moved from that spot - allowed me to stand at the counter for 5 minutes while he finished sending a lengthy text. Then he asked, "What do you want?" grumpily. I ordered, and he rolled his eyes and sighed because it was not just a plain cup of coffee. Then when he rung me up he just stood by the register, never telling me the total. He also expects you to tear off and sign your own credit card receipt when it prints - he's long gone back to his iphone!
What's your latte-tude experience? And am I a hypocrite for inventing a word?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why running a race in a costume is SO SUPER DUPER FUN


I ran 13.1 miles in a cowgirl outfit last Saturday, complete with bedazzled denim shorts, holsters with squirt guns, plaid shirt, cowgirl hat, bandana, and even a commemorative belt buckle (made out of tin foil, decorated with the race symbol). It was crazy fun, and here's why:
1. It's New Orleans, so you can have fun without being totally weird. A lot of people dress up for races here...especially since it was Halloween.
2. It's sort of like taking 5 minutes off your time. When you tell people your finishing time, they look at you like, "IN THAT?!" and automatically assume you could have run faster in normal clothes...which might be true.
3. In the first mile a pedestrian hollered at me, "Hey Cowgirl! Ya want a biscuit to go with dem chicken legs?!"
4. Around mile 6 I challenged a gladiator to a duel. I won the duel, and I beat him to the finish!
5. The kids watching LOVE it. I actually gave a squirt gun away to a little kid wearing a cowboy suit!
6. Other runners love it, too. I was chatting with someone during the race about how awesome my little brother is and he said, "You know what else is awesome? Running in jean shorts!" Touche.
7. Whistles and catcalls are acceptable when you're running a race...it's all in fun then.
8. It's really, really, really fun to zip past the guy in all the fancy race gear: special non-chaffing shorts, aerodynamic ipod cuff, water tank strapped to his back.
9. It's inspiring to yourself and others. Basically others think "If she can finish wearing that get-up, I can too" and you yourself think "I will look so stupid wearing this silly hat puking on the side of the road so I better persevere".
10. The finish line is just more fun in costume, although this time a spectator near the finish encouraged the runners to speed up and "Go catch the cowgirl! You can't let her beat you, she's running in denim!" SOOO not fair.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jazz half marathon: my brother is officially awesome!


I've said it before: strangers I will protect, family I will not. Therefore I give you my brother's real name: Abe. And he is amazing! We ran the Jazz half marathon this Saturday: 13.1 miles of cold New Orleans streets. I ran a good, solid 1:50:20, which beat my 8:30/mile goal (about 8:24's). And I did it in costume...hey, it was Halloween!
Abe, however, blew me away with a stunning 1:17:30, coming in fourth overall and first in his age group. He was actually the first non-professional to finish! Do the math: he ran 5:55 splits for 13 miles!
Now here is the TRULY amazing part: Abe trains himself and is his own coach. He doesn't run for a school and he never ran track. He started running last year because he was significantly overweight and he simply did not want to be a fat teenager. He lost the extra pounds - about 50! - and now he's a lean mean running machine. That's him above, easily holding fourth place near mile 9 in Audubon park. Look at the concentration! Look how no one is NEAR him! Go, Abe!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fake word to hate: "Recessionista".

I'm not a fan of any invented word, since it cheapens the language and leads to misuse of root words and suffixes. I really hate it when Miriam-Webster's liberal editors throw words like "woot" into the latest dictionary edition, or credit wrong word usage as "colloquial" or "popular use" (Case in point? Nauseous. It means "To cause nausea" yet most people use it to mean "To feel nausea". Recently MW allowed that definition as a popular usage. I find that disgusting...I feel like it's giving in. We don't give in for math or history and allow people to believe the French and Indian War is the same as the Boer wars, or that four is a prime number, so why do we give in on grammar and English?).
Ahem. Allow me to step down off this soap-box.
Anyway, my most recent hated made-up word is "recessionista". I hate this word for several reasons. The first is that it is a made up word, and tacks the silly suffix "ista" on to the end for know apparent reason (try tracing the etymology of that one, future generations!). The second is that it uses a negative connotation to describe smart shopping, dressing, and living that should be a part of every day life, not just life when the economy is in the dumps. It implies that someone is wise for making money-saving choices, since we are in this nasty recession. What we need is a word for someone who wisely makes good financial choices all the time, so that cutting back is not such a necessity - nor such a huge jump - in times of economic duress.
My last reason for hating this word is purely personal: I keep getting lumped into this category, and it's getting crowded. It used to be my secret little thing to shop at thrift stores and buy accessories at Super Ten. Now that everyone's doing it the Goodwill racks are looking a little picked-over. So back off, all you "recessionistas" and let me get first dibs at the new arrivals at the Salvation Army. I was here first!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Found: super comfortable boots!



I just bought a pair of boots at Target that are truly comfortable as well as cute. The trick is the low wedge heel - it gives just enough support and adds a little height as well. Another great feature is the little buckle in the back that lets you adjust the calf size. Since I have skinny calves I tightened it up to prevent sagging and slouching. I actually wore these to work for 8 hours and wasn't even aware that I HAD feet (but I was still painfully aware of my knees...).
Check out how cute they are above, and see my outfit for running errands (plus, examine my beautifully distressed Victorian era hardwood floors. Geez, they're showing their age!). I walked like 7 miles in those boots and they felt fabulous!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brilliant me, vanity gave me a knee injury


One day the hubby and I were returning from a run when my hubby informed me that my feet turned in. "You know, that can't be good for you," he said. I barely cared about the good for you part...I was too concerned about the turned in feet part. I began over-analyzing my stride, and noticed that my foot rolled in sharply as I ran. I decided that I was an over-pronator,and immediately sought shoes to rectify my gate issue (mind you...I'd never had a smidge of pain running before or noticed any issues like severe wear to one side of the shoe). My hunt for shoes was complicated by the fact that I have extrememly high arches. Super high. Skyscrapers. However, pronator shoes are all made for low arches! I actually have both high arches and a tendency to roll in onto my toes - simply because the arch is SO high that I otherwise have nothing to roll to at all. Basically most people hit on the heel, roll through the arch (or arch support of their shoe), onto the ball of the foot, and push off for the next step. I don't - I go directly from heel to toe in a kind of rough transition. So in all my heady knowledge on the topic (um, none), I decided to buy the the Brooks Ariel, a massive, heavy, stiff shoe made for people with no arches and crazy pronation. Nine months later I am in the doctor's office with excruciating runner's knee. It turns out I have a normal gate with healthy pronation - I just needed a little more arch support. Normal pronation actually protects the knees. In other words I had selected exactly the wrong shoe, forcing my knees out of their natural "track" and developing all the wrong muscles. Now I am in therapy. Moral of the story? Don't let your vanity sway you to make stupid choices, and don;t listen to people who know nothing about a sport and want to give you advice! And for me, that includes me :)
PS - I have a great sports med doctor and great new shoes now!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Foody Friday: Coquette (NOLA)

For those of you who are in the New Orleans area, may I recommend Coquette, a restaurant and wine bar on magazine street? The ambiance is adorable (but - warning - loud!) and I like the options of large plates or small plates. I chose two small plates, the salad with pecans and goat cheese and the venison with foi gras. Now it would be hard for me to say anything against foi gras under any circumstances, but this was especially delicious paired with cherry and satsuma sauce. I did not share.
When you go, go on a Thursday: it's $5 cocktail night and they have some amazing ones! I recommend the satsunami, a clever creation that pairs satsuma juice with flavors of cocoa and cashew. It sounds strange and too sweet, but it is actually much more masculine than I expected.
Reservations are definitely recommended - I have actually called a few days in advance for reservations for a Friday night and was told there were no availabilities.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Loose ends: atheism and unfriends

Let's catch up on some serious issues that cropped up in the past few months.
Issue number one was the sudden atheistic views of my little brother Joey. As you may recall, he made an about-face from conservative Christian to adamant atheist, and stopped speaking to the rest of the family in the process. I was pretty sure that I just needed to give him time to get over his college-freshmanitis before approaching him. I hoped to contact him again in a calm manner, making sure he knew my feelings weren't hurt and I wanted to "stay friends". Well, he actually beat me to this one: he called me out of the blue only a few weeks after the storm started brewing. Since then he simply hasn't mentioned the topic, and I haven't either. But I did hear from another family member that there was more to the story: Joey's employer was his pastor's son, and they had a big falling out over working conditions and favoritism. So the sudden bitterness towards Christians stemmed from a bad experience in which Christians acted like selfish idiots. In the past few months Joey has been slowly easing back into normal contact. Phew.
The other issue I have been facing is that my husband has a friend who is a big jerk. I took your advice and unfriended him. However, my husband is not playing along! In fact he is flying to his out of town wedding! Of course I think this wedding is a big sham: his fiancee happens to need a green card, and the wedding invitation arrived in the form of a facebook invite (I am absolutely telling the truth). Basically this is a big ploy for gifts - as evidenced by the Vera Wang and Kate Spade china the couple registered for (I bought them a nice gift off there registry, but they don't need to know that it was on sale the week I bought it AND I had a 15% off coupon). The funniest thing is that the groom sent out an email notifying guests that the time of the ceremony had changed by an hour...a week before the wedding. Doesn't this just sound like we are all being scammed???

My happy nail polish accident



Last week I purchased a new nail color off a Halloween beauty rack (the things one finds at Walgreens...). All the colors in the display were garish neons, and the bright fuschia appealed to me. Alas, all that glitters is not gold, and all that glows in the bottle does not glow on the fingers! To my surprise the polish dried to a soft matte finish - almost a satin finish. To my greater surprise, I kind of liked it. The only problem is that adding a topcoat ruins the matte effect, so you either have to skip the topcoat (and this polish is kind of cheap, so it sort of comes right off that way) or buy a matte topcoat, which I hear are out there but could not overcome my ennui enough to purchase.
The polish is something called "Sinful Colors" and is part of Halloween displays, right along side glitter pens and face paints.
My ragged fingernail above demonstrates one flat coat...the color deepens with a second coat of course.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Website you should check out

If you run, jog, or walk in your neighborhood and get sick of the same old path, check out this website. It allows you to find running maps in your neighborhood and upload your own route. I love it for training for a long race, because otherwise I get bored going the same way every day.

Ten things I just cannot do right.

1. RETURN LIBRARY BOOKS ON TIME. I live at the library. You'd think I could remember to bring my finished books with me for my almost daily trips! What is wrong with me! And why is the library assistant always snickering?! I'm pretty sure my fines have paid for a brand new air conditioner at my local branch.
2. Trim my bangs. I know what they are supposed to look like, and I feel as if, as an artist, I should be able to direct my hands to perform the snips required to obtain that look. Instead I have this really alien angle to them.
3. Drink a Starbucks frappucino drink without dripping. I can't do this because it is not physically possible. I dare you, go buy one of those ill-designed glass bottles and just TRY not to dribble on your crisp white button-down.
4. Take medication. You know, if I was an organ transplant patient, I would just have to die, that's all there is to it. I simply cannot remember to take prescribed medication. I hate to admit how many bottles of unfinished penicillin are in my medicine cabinet (and I sure ain't telling my dentist). And I'm a pharmacist!
5. Take vitamins. Same story here. I have a bottle of 90 multivitamins on my desk and I just glanced at the half-full bottle and noticed that the price sticker is from a store in a city I lived in four years ago. It took me four years to take 50 vitamins.
6. Cook turkey bacon or sausage. I zealously add microwave minutes, trying for a golden brown. I simply cannot figure out that turkey sausage is supposed to be a lifeless gray resembling the fingers of a drowned corpse. Therefore I end up with turkey briquettes instead.
7. Paint the nails on my LEFT hand. I'm right-handed, so this should be easy. It's not! I always have colorful cuticles though. Maybe I can start a trend.
8. Feed babies. I give them colic. Moms hate me.
9. Get off the escalator gracefully. I dread that last step when I trip on my toe.
10. Water my plants. They all die a dreadful death in about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Exercise solutions when it is pouring rain

It has been pouring, pouring, pouring for a week and a half here (NOLA has also been boasting record-breaking temperatures for October - this is making running a chore instead of a pastime).
It's tempting to skip your exercise when it rains, opting instead for a good book and a fat-laden snack. But here are a couple of ways to work in exercise despite the weather:
1. Perfect time to go to the gym or an exercise class. Shower at home so it won't matter if you get rained on running to your car!
2. Break out the exercise mat and old exercise video!
3. Do the stairs. Jog up and down your stairs for half an hour you'll definitely feel like you got a full work out!
4. Make today an "abs" day: do a series of sit-ups, crunches, and other ab exercises: all of which you can do with minimal or no equipment.
5. If it's a light rain, put on old shoes and go for a run in the rain. It can be refreshing.
6. Create your own boot camp by spending 15 minutes each on hard and fast cardio, weights, and stretch and strengthen exercises. I usually start out with several abs exercises, squats and lunges, and pushups; then do cardio (exercise bike, stairs, running in place, etc); then finish with weights.

Complicated birthday party

Is there someone in your life who manages to take every situation overboard? Most of my friends agree that's me. No, just kidding. But I have a semi-relative (through layers of marriage) who turns every little get-together into an insane party. For example, if a group of people decide to play cards on Friday night, it turns into a giant game night with 50 guests. If we are planning to watch a movie together, she suggests a movie marathon in to the wee hours. In this instance, our laid-back birthday dinner we had planned for my mother in law has turned into an elaborate affair with - wait for it - four desserts. As if anyone needs more than one dessert, let alone four. Isn't that just the epitome of the fat American lifestyle?
FYI I got roped into bringing a soup and a salad. We are also having appetizers, main course, and side dishes. I already feel the need to have my stomach stapled.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

sad lady at the park

Last year when I was training for a half-marathon I was spending a lot of quality time in Audubon park. I often passed a very old couple teetering along together. What was so cute was that even in moderate weather they were completely bundled, head to toe; and the husband always helped his wife over ruts, roots, cracks, and bumps (the track ain't what it used to be). Sadly, I didn't see them this spring, and this summer the woman reappeared but without her husband. She started taking walks alone (the strange thing is that she seemed much LESS frail by herself!). I couldn't help but be saddened - they were so cute together. However I am happy to report that on my recent runs I've seen her with a beautiful greyhound, so I think she has found some sort of companionship again!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My birthday perfume substitute


I replaced the perfume my husband got me for my birthday that I didn't like (I can't tell you what it was because I find it disgusting, but it is a kind of popular scent so I don't want to offend. Bet you're dying to know now, too!). I ended up buying Burberry Weekend, which has a surprisingly rich scent (you'd think "Weekend" would smell country, or sporty, or relaxed...). I like it, but I have one complaint. The scent vanished in about an hour! As in, no trace! I like to be able to catch a hint of scent even towards the end of the day - say, when I take my hair down or as I am undressing if I got a little on my shirt collar. That's the idea - a nice smell that stays with you. I feel like I'd have to re-apply this one, and with my spasticity I don't dare bring perfume with me: I'd surely break the bottle in my purse.
But if you have a one-hour date coming up, I'd recommend the scent!

making a fru-fru bow headband





If hard plastic headbands hurt your tender temples, you're probably all disappointed that you can't wear all the cute headbands for sale now - the ones with big colorful flowers, bows, pearls, whatever. I kind of am. I say "kind of" because part of me thinks the only people who should wear flowers glued on headbands are bald infant girls. However, succumbing to the trend, I made my own version. I used a soft stretchy band since it is gentler on my oddly shaped skull.
You need: an elastic hairband, lace, and a needle and thread. I used lace to add texture and interest; it is also a good choice because you don't need to hem it, making this an easy 2 minute project.
Simply cut a strip of lace twice as long as you want the bow to be, then fold the edges in to the center of the bow. Position the lace on the headband (I put the center of the bow over the metal piece to hide it); stitch in place making sure you sew through all layers of material. If you want to hide your stitches, cut a tiny strip of lace and wrap it around the middle of the bow, sewing in place in the back. You can also see in the picture that I stitched the bow down on the ends, too, going through the back layer only. This makes the bow lie flat against my head instead of sticking out childishly.
I like to pair this with a plain pearl necklace for a look that screams, "I drowned on the Titanic".