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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!