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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wedding gifting

This summer two of my childhood friends married and I was unfortunately unable to attend either wedding. The first was actually a private, family wedding anyway, and I am going to see this friend in October anyway when I'm in West Virginia for the Freedom's Run marathon. I plan on bringing a gift when I visit, and I need some time to think about this one because the couple isn't registered at any of the big name stores where I usually look (Bed, Bath, and Beyond; Target; Macy's; etc). The second wedding is in New England early next month, but because of my last-minute job changes I'm unable to swing that one. It falls on my weekend to work and another pharmacist is already on vacation that Thursday and Friday. I feel terrible about missing it because this girl and I were pretty close in junior high days.
So I compensated by spending a lot of money. I bought her a few items (since I missed her shower, too), including this guy:

Yeah, a mop. Nice, hm? This brings me to two questions:
1. If you can't make a wedding, do you automatically spend more on a gift? I always do. I find myself picking out high-ticket items if I bail because I feel like I'm insulting the bride and I somehow want to pay my way out of the insult!
2. Do you buy the yucky items? Like mops? Or trash cans? Or composters? I would rather buy the pretty sheets set or the set of goblets, but sometimes I feel bad for the neglected ugly items that sit all lonely on the registry. Of course they present wrapping challenges. I remember a friend who brought a bathroom trashcan to our wedding with a bow on top, too funny!
My husband and I disagree on both of these issues. He thinks ugly is in the eye of the beholder, and sees nothing wrong with buying the set of car cleaning supplies. He also can't understand spending more than $30 on a gift (so, basically, one utensil at Williams-Sonoma). To circumvent these little disagreements I just do all the gift shopping myself!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Changing Attitudes

A little job update: It's killing me slowly. As I get used to the new location I'm daily appalled at the lack of structure and organization. It seems that things were a mes for so long that now the employees operate with total apathy. They don't expect a good day and do nothing to achieve a good day. I have a feeling this is why there was some abrupt changes in the work force (two new pharmacists at once!).
I wish the attitude at work was different, but I don't know how to subtly encourage a change without being the bad guy. I feel like I'm always the one telling my techs to put their iphones away, help the next customer, fill the waiting prescriptions, answer the phones, etc. The worst part is when I find something that they've "always done that way" and yet it goes completely against company policy. How can I encourage changes without alienating people I have to work with every day?
Advice? Have you dealt with a similar situation?

Monday, June 28, 2010


I'm the godmother of this little bundle of cuteness, who I'm pretty sure is actually a bisque French baby doll who can make sounds.

So far I'm failing miserably at the godparenting thing. For one thing, my charge, Mattie, lives in Pennsylvania, so we don't get a lot of bonding time. For another, I can't seem to get my act together a regards holidays, so her gifts are always late. Mattie turned one about two moths ago, and I'm just getting her gift into the mail today.
I went all Martha Stewart on you again.

These are little tank tops embroidered with roses. This type of embroidery is called "bullion roses" and it is very easy (but it takes a lot of thread). It's free-form and the stitch is difficult to mess-up, so you can really be creative and enjoy yourself when embroidering.

I have my own little list of tips and tricks for bullion roses, but I found a pretty good tutorial here.

Some of my tips -
1. Use a small-eyed needle. Bulky eyes are hard to pull through wrapped thread.
2. When making rose petals, make the wrapped thread section a little longer than you want the stitch to be and it will create a life-like curve (see how in the tutorial some of the rose petals seem too straight? You want to avoid that).
3. When you wrap thread, usually the bottom of the wrapping tends to unspiral a little bit and make that end of the stitch a tad wider than the other end. So make sure that if you are making leaves, the bottom of the stitch becomes the base of the leaf (otherwise the tip of the leaf will be wider than the base, which only works on Ginko leaves).
4. To make a color gradient, I use two strands of thread of different colors but I keep one strand the same. For example, in a pink rose the center will be two strands of pink, the next row of petals one strand of pink and one strand of light pink, and the outer petals one strand of pink and one of peach.
Try it. It's not hard at all and you can whip up some pretty good last minute gifts if, say, you forget an important birthday!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Marathon training, re-worked

Eh. I had to re-work all my runs in my marathon training plan. Paperwork, math, thinking, blah.
Here's why: my new work schedule has me working every third weekend. On the other two weekends I go to church. Thus, Sunday mornings runs would have to start at, oh, 4 am (at least once I got to the long ones). Not happening. Even with my old-lady Saturday night schedule of a nice dinner, a book, and early bed - not happening.
However, Thursdays I work either super late, super early, or not at all. So I re-worked my schedule to put my long runs on Thursday - early morning or late afternoon/evening - and my cross train day on Friday. That way I get to go to the Friday kickboxing class which is super duper fun (I did it this morning)!
I also canceled some short runs - 3 or 4 miles - and replaced them with timed hills runs. There is one tiny stretch of levee with two built in hills, so basically the plan is to run that itty bitty stretch of ground over and over again for 40 minutes. I can already hardly contain my excitement. But I'm getting skeered of the hills so I thought it was needed.
Yesterday I brilliantly decided to test out my afternoon run options and went for a 12 miler at 1 pm. It was 97 degrees. That's just the heat. Heat index with the humidity was astronomical. For some reason the Audubon Park area is always hotter than other places (airport, westbank) when the weather guys go over the day's highs and lows; naturally that's where I run!
So anyway. I carried water this time since there are no fountains until about mile 5 and I decided to do a stop-walk-drink-water thing every ten minutes. I knew it would impact my time, but maybe I wouldn't die that way. Unfortunately, ten minutes apart is too much time in this kind of heat. I quickly decided to make that every five, and I stuck to that schedule down Carrollton (no shade), back up Carrollton to the levee (total hell; no shade or breeze; this part of the course is murder), and over the "fly", the riverfront park that leads into Audubon park. Once you hit Audubon there's some breeze and shade so I went back to every ten minutes for water breaks. I left the park and continued up St Charles to General Pershing St and back to the park. At this point, thank you God, a thunderstorm threatened and the sun finally went behind a cloud, giving me a much-needed break from the heat. As I headed back to the park I realized that I was slowing considerably and my muscles felt crampy. I remembered that I hadn't really eaten all day! Between no glucose and no electrolytes (my clothes were sweat-saturated within ten minutes of leaving the house) I was losing energy fast. Thank goodness I had brought a Gu. I gulped it and felt better in moments - enough to pick up the pace for my last loop around the park, completing the 1.8 mile loop in 14 minutes including a water break at the fountain (I HAD to have cold water at this point; my bottle was now quite warm). I made it home in one sweaty disgusting piece and sipped vitamin water for the rest of the afternoon. My head felt like it had been sitting in a crock pot all day and I was a little dehydrated, but I "proved" that I can do long runs in the summer heat. The only problem is that my pace is very very slow in the heat. I did this run in 1:43, which is over ten minutes longer than I ran that distance in the winter. However, since I'm not running this marathon with a time goal, I'm just going to deal with it. While I can sit here today and complain about how slow my time was, the truth is that while I was out there in the heat I could not have gone faster and still have finished. That's all I got, folks! I have to keep in mind that because of thyroid issues I can't adjust my body temperature as efficiently or as quickly as others and I simply won't do as well in temperature extremes. So I'm scaling back my expectations for hot runs.
In other news, my feet and joints were kind of feeling this run. You think it might be time to replace the shoes?

That's the tread at the ball of my foot. Incidentally this is around 600 miles. I have gotten 700 out of Saucony's with less wear. Don't buy Nike!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This is my reading nook.

I decided I needed a reading nook, just so I could have something to call a "nook". What a fun word to have in your house!
I wanted to have a little place by a window with a table and a comfy chair, well-lit, so I could read my books without hunching up in bed. Bed used to be the only place to read in my house because there is no air conditioner in the living room, so it's off limits for 6 months of the year.
Because of a window shortage, I had to scratch that particular requirement off my reading nook list of wants. You see, the window nearby has an A/C unit in it, which as I mentioned a minute ago is of tantamount importance. So I just got a super bright light instead. My "table" is a rope chest that I store my yarn in (I have lots of yarn hanging around so I'll be ready to crochet a teddy bear for a friend's new baby at a moments notice. Crocheted teddies are so cuddly!). The chair is a dark wicker chair I got on ridiculous sale at Pier One, with a plain old cushion on it.
What's missing? Wall art! Look how plain those walls are! I simply must find time to drag my easel out and paint some pictures!
Where do you like to read? Are you a bed-reader? Or do you have to have lots of light or windows?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cheap Date Wednesday: Biking at Bayou St John

If you live in New Orleans, please discover the bike paths around Bayou St John. A few weekends ago David and I drove to Mid-city to check the paths out and have a little iced coffee.
What we discovered was that we could actually bike from our house all the way to the bayou on bike paths, without getting creamed by an 18 wheeler!
In preparation for such a cheap date I purchased this awesomeness for $18 on Ebay (shipping included):

An insulated picnic basket back pack, complete with blanket, utensils, plates, cheese board, etc. Can't wait to use it, once hubby fixes my bike which he inexplicably broke (we have spent the past month repairing bikes. This dude is rough on his wheels).
Cute story from our last trip to the Bayou: We were watching a mother duck and her baby walk along the edge of the bayou, with the little duckling shakily trying to keep up. All of the sudden he lost his balance and fell into the water! It was so funny to watch his mother's response - quacking and snapping at him as she herded him back to the wall at the edge of the water. She was so obviously annoyed at her duckling, a lot like a human mom!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is anyone engaged?

Because here is a killer adorable bridesmaids dress for like, no money at all, on sale at Limited.

Look how pretty.

Also you might just want to buy it because it's cute, bridesmaids aside.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Sketch Group!

Remember when I mentioned I was trying out a Meet-up? Since that first meet-up I've actually joined a few more groups. A few weeks ago my "food book club" met (I know, we're pathetic) and this morning I got together with a group of artists for a plein air sketch at City Park. I figured if I didn't get out there with some other artists my paintbrush hand would start to atrophy.
The meet up was a little strange because 15 minutes into the meet-up, the organizer stood up and announced that he was going in to the museum. I sort of balked at that - for one thing, I was hot and sweaty. For another, I don't want to sit around and draw other peoples' art. And of course, I didn't feel like paying $8 to get in when it's free on Wednesdays. Duh! I'm cheap!
But it worked out well in the end. Another girl, Shanna, and I agreed to stay outside to sketch and we ended up hitting it off quite well. She's a real artist, as in she sells her work (!), and we found a little bench on the water to chat and draw. The drawing didn't go so well. Ducks are rapidly moving targets and kind of boring colors. I did this watercolor wash of a bizarre looking black swan, whom I dubbed, "The swan from hell", because of his black and red color scheme and absurdly long neck. The wash doesn't do justice to the size of this guy either - he was as big as a runty teenager.

But art aside, Shanna and I had a good time and grabbed lunch at Fellini's after (yum, chicken portabello wraps!). Much fun! Check out Shanna's art here.
How are you spending your Saturday?

Friday, June 18, 2010

My hubby is cute.

As I mentioned, the hubby is on a silent retreat this weekend. Who would think a silent retreat would be fun?! Sounds like a distant relative of water boarding to me. But off the hubby went, leaving me all alone.
He did leave me flowers, though.

And cute notes all over the house: on the coffee pot, on my coffee cup, on my pillow, in the bathroom, on my mail (the "fashion show" note was stuck to an Ebay package containing long-awaited Banana Republic capris!).

I still miss him but the little notes make it better!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Making stationary - a DIY

I make my own stationary - always have. I love paper crafts! It's an addiction to scissors and scraps! I even made my own wedding invitations, programs, and thank you notes (and I did the calligraphy on the envelopes - real calligraphy with a real calligraphy pen, ie I mixed my own ink. Hard core stuff, but look how adorable! Actually this is a bad example, but that's because it's my in-laws invitation. I practiced on family, haha!)

Today I'm going to show you how to make some cute, easy stationary that serves equally well as a thank you note, birthday card, invitation, or just a note. You will need colored cards for decorating. Mine are from Michael's. There are plenty of similar products to choose from; I like these because they came in a variety pack of colors. You also need some kind of thick plastic. I used a bronze plastic boutique bag, but last time I used an Anne Taylor bag- stiffish frosted clear plastic. It was precious. You also need a needle and thread; I used a big embroidery needle and brown upholstery thread. The only reason I used thick upholstery thread is because I purchased it accidentally once and I have this entire spool to use up.

Also you need coffee. Always.
First, you cut butterfly shapes out of the plastic. They're about an inch and a half tall. I cut them out by folding the plastic in half first and cutting a half silhouette to keep them symmetrical.
Next, you actually sew the butterfly onto the card. This is super easy to do.
1. Hold the butterfly in place and insert the needle at the "head"; pull it through to the back so that you leave a little piece sticking out to be an antennae.

2. Stick the needle back through the butterfly's "butt" OUCH.

3. Stick the needle through the butterfly's "neck" to form the body, as shown. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to make a thicker body.

4. If you want, you can do a quick stitch in the center of the body to make it segmented like a real insect body. Push the needle up in the center of the body, loop around the body, then go back down through the same hole you entered.

5. Push the needle back up at the head.

6. Tie the two ends in a double knot at the head and trim to make antenna.

How cute.

You can make lots of them. Even after mailing the butterflies keep some motion. I made a flower, too, using triple layers of petals.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New store!

Tomorrow I'm starting at a new store as a staff pharmacist! Wish me luck! company works kind of fast. I first heard of the whole plan yesterday afternoon and I'm jumping right in tomorrow. There will be challenges for sure, especially since the pharmacy is undergoing personnel changes. In order to not stress, I am taking a little mental vacation tonight (as, apparently, are the Boston Celtics. C'mon, guys!). I am eating ice cream and looking at pictures from our mini-DC trip last fall. Look how pretty!

Monday, June 14, 2010

In which my job takes a weird turn and I don't know what to think

Last year I was hired with the goal of becoming manager of my company's first on-site, clinical pharmacy in the state. It was to be located in a prominent hospital with the goal of bridging inpatient to outpatient medicine. Brilliant idea. I was excited.
That was a year ago. Since then the project has been postponed and put on hold numerous times. And just when it seemed like the project was rolling, and I had submitted an application, my district supervisor called me. The hospital canceled the lease for the pharmacy. They decided they didn't like the 5 year renewal options and canceled. The lease is now in arbitration, but it looks like it's going to be a good long while.
While I waited for this job, I had been "floating" from one pharmacy to the next, covering other peoples' vacations. It's been ok, but the driving was getting to me. I had to drive over an hour to Hammond FOUR TIMES last week! My supervisor knew this was wearing on me and he's suggesting that until the clinic situation clears up I be promoted to a staff position in a nearby retail store.
I have mixed feelings about this.
- The store is close to my house - a little far to walk; easily bike-able
- It's on an "every third weekend" schedule so I'm not doing every other weekend
- The shifts are arranged starting at 7 am so on early days I get off at 3!
- There are three shifts - early, middle, late - so basically I only have to work a late night every third day.
- Finally a set schedule, no more driving all over the world, no more schedule changing at the last minute. I can make plans!
- The clinic might still happen, plus my supervisor has another opportunity in the works he thinks would fit me.
- This gesture illustrates that my supervisor is looking out for me and thinks highly of me, which bodes well for future opportunities.
- The store is in the ghetto and I might get shot for drugs.
- It's a busy store and I've noticed that the employees don't...shall we say...have a sense of urgency? I do. We might clash.
- The manager is a slob. S-L-O-B. I foresee myself cleaning up after him constantly.

So basically I don't know what to think. I guess I think...I'm glad I'll be near the house and have a set schedule and most of all I'm glad I have a job!!!
You know what's strangest about this whole thing? Exactly a year ago I got my bad job news while my husband was away on a silent prayer retreat (couldn't call him, couldn't cry to him). His retreat is scheduled for this weekend, and I have had a heavy premonition that I would hear job news this week. I was POSITIVE I would hear something this week: so much so that I said a prayer that it would be before hubby left for the retreat!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Foody Friday: Asparagus Pesto and My New Favorite Condiment

I tried out a light and summery pesto this week and I love the change from heavily seasoned basil pestos. The original recipe was from the Times-Picayune but I heavily doctored it.
I got about a pint from this recipe, which is a lot of pesto for two people to eat, but it keeps well despite the asparagus ingredient (probably due to the acid content). Or you can always freeze some in tiny containers.
1 bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed
Garlic (I used two small cloves)
1/4 C macadamia or pine nuts. Macadamia are a good substitute if you can't easily find pine nuts.
1/2 - 3/4 C parmesan, grated
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Olive oil if you want it.
Boil the asparagus in salted water until just tender; drain (reserve some cooking liquid to add to pesto if it's too thick).
Blend ingredients in food processor until smooth. I added the juice of 1/2 a lemon, but for a little more kick I put some white balsamic vinegar in as well. Most pestos call for olive oil but I omitted it, adding some asparagus water instead. Leaving it out made the pesto more summery!

Is this all that's left?!
Here are some ways I've used the pesto:
- Tossed with toretellini and summer squash
- On grilled fish
- As a sandwich spread
- Spread on tomato halves and broiled
- Stirred into brown rice
- Added to spaghetti sauce for flavor
- On bruschetta

I mentioned the inclusion of white balsamic vinegar in my pesto. I'm having a love affair with white balsamic. It has totally replaced regular balsamic, which is very sweet and strong. I picked this up in the grocery store for basically nothin', maybe $1.75, and I've been using it to bring out the flavor in so many dishes! And of course, it's divine on salads.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Safe Driving Tips...and cholesterol

Today I'm taking a moment to share with you some safe driving tips I received in the mail from my health insurance company. You may guffaw if you like.
"Put your cell phone on silent before you enter the car."
"Pull over in a safe location and park your vehicle if you must make a phone call."
"Explain on your voice mail greeting that if you are driving you will be unable to return the phone call immediately."

Now I personally believe I am what is known scientifically as a "supertasker" - someone who can complete multiple tasks while performing dangerous operations with no detriment to attention. I am a big multitasker (you think I'm blogging right now but I'm also listening to NPR, doing a webinar, eating breakfast, folding laundry, and answering an awkward email). When I was an undergrad I had a 30 minute commute to class. I used that time for assigned reading, eating my breakfast, and flashcards. I ate lunch on the way to work and dinner on the way home from work. I got SO used to eating in the car that I had no appetite if I wasn't driving! None of this ever seemed to distract me. I still multitask in the car, sorry other drivers. It's the only time I make phone calls and I (forgive me!) usually I bring something to do, like scientific literature reading to catch up on. Louisiana recently passed a law that texting while driving can be a primary offense, so I have to stop that, however.
I should probably cap this paragraph off with the fact that I've never been in an accident despite long commutes basically since high school. And as far as I know I haven't left any accidents in my wake either, haha.
How are you in the car? Distracted? Multitasking? Texting and Talking? Updating your facebook status?
And now a word about cholesterol. I worry about mine because I'm half Armenian and some Armenian women have hereditary low HDL. Mine used to mediocre - 42 - not low, but not at all good. After increasing exercise and increasing fiber (which definitely lowers LDL and I have a theory raises HDL) I have bumped it up to 68! High-sky, as my Lebanese professor used to say! May I recommend a little Metamucil daily? (For interested parties, yes, my high HDL did spike my total cholesterol; it was about 140 but that doesn't bother me as my LDL was in the 70's).
And in totally random and un-related news to anything under the sun, at the hubby's work picnic I came in second female in the 2 mile fun run. I earned the hubby instant notoriety for finishing several minutes behind me and we have been the subject of several teasing work emails. Good thing he's such a good sport, poor kid!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I love my husband.

This is an uncharacteristically mushy post.

Yesterday I joined the hubby for part of the day for a work-function picnic. I got to meet many of his co-workers for the first time. And you know what? They already knew all about me. Let me correct that. They already knew good things about me. They didn't know any of the silly things or embarrassing stories, just accomplishments and nice things. Isn't that sweet? The hubby talks nice about me at work. He's a doll. I love him!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The amazing fruit fly trap

I have learned one thing in my twenty seven years. Cantaloupe = fruit flies. Period. The problem is that once they're in your house, they won't die until they've drowned in your Cabernet.
Here's how to catch them:
1. Pour apple cider vinegar into a small shallow dish. Fill it near the top.
2. Drop one drop of plain old dish soap onto the surface.
3. Leave it out overnight (near the source of interest, ie aging bunch of bananas, if such is the scenario).
The soap reduces surface tension so that when the flies land on the cider (and they love the stuff) they will sink and drown. It is amazing. I feel a little brutal but I rather like seeing how many flies I drowned over night.

(image lifted from here).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Marathon training commences

Mile 7ish of mardi gras marathon; the big grin is in response to the news that little brother Abe was 6th and running under 6 minute splits. He dropped down to 16th...still pretty grand for a first marathon!
I said I'd share marathon training plans for the upcoming Freedom's Run marathon, so here goes. But first a little blurb about morning running.
I HATE IT. I'm not awake, I haven't had my coffee, my joints are stiff, my sinuses have the nasal equivalent of sleep sands, and I'd rather be sleeping. Worst of all, I have strange blood sugar - I dump insulin in the mornings - so I'm usually weak and shaky in the morning. However, this morning I dragged hubby out of bed and we went for a run. I'm working until 7 pm tonight, so I didn't want to wait until after work. SO someone please say kudos because it took monumental effort to run caffeineless.
Our marathon training plans are a little laughable. They are 18 weeks long, which is LONG, but I worked in extra time so that if I was injured or we were traveling we wouldn't really miss much. Since hubby is only running a half he should be UBER PREPARED. For my first half my "training" was adding a long run two weeks in a row - 7 miles and 10 miles - and then doing the half on the third! So basically after 18 weeks I expect him to set a world record.
Hubby's half-marathon training has one day of weights a week, 1 short run, 1 long run, 1 rest day, 2 days of either running or aerobic cross training. He also has one "speed" day which isn't really speed work; it's either hills or fartlek or treadmill incline. I made his schedule myself so I could work in his normal running routes. I'm an awesome wife like that. His longest long run is 12 miles.
My marathon plan has one cross train day, 2 short runs (between 3 and 8 miles), 1 speedwork or training day, 1 short-but-at-race-pace day, and 1 long run. On the short run days I am also doing some strength training once a week. This is mostly focused on preventing knee injury.
So far hubby is loving this. Our cross train day number one was spent playing football on the beach (puh-lease, that can't be exercise, it sounds like something out of a cheesy movie) and his first week starts out at shorter runs than he's doing on a regular basis. That's all part of the plan to suck him in until he's running 8 miles like it's nothing!
If you have any training suggestions for me I would very much appreciate it. My first marathon training fell apart thanks to illness and injury, so I'm still feeling a little unprepared. Do you think one rest day is enough (but I also have one cross train day)? Are three long runs at or over 20 miles enough, or should I do four? How many miles total should I run - I think this plan is about 525 miles including the race but not counting any cross training (spread over 18 weeks)? Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great gift ideas from Francesca's

This weekend I went shopping at Francesca's for some (late) birthday presents for my in-laws. I was planning on taking photos of the cute gifts I bought, but as mentioned previously I've been feeling a little sick so I didn't get around to snapping photos. This is too bad, as the Francesca website doesn't carry the same items as the boutique carries. So bear with my descriptions: for one sister in law I bought black flats with tiny gold studs and a black hairband with a rose trimmed in gold zipper (you know, the whole zipper as decor trend - she's kind of trendy) and for the other sister in law I bought a dark purple top with a neck ruffle and a lighter shade of purple crystal earrings. Yes, the pictures would make this so much better. The cool thing is that it was 40% off for Memorial Day! Hurray!
Since I couldn't show you the gifts I bought, I picked out some alternative gift ideas (my birthday is in September FYI):
This cute striped top

with un-fussy earrings.

This bold clutch

with a statement necklace

This casual cardigan

with a belt; for a less girly look you could buy this brown leather belt.
I love many of the items at Francesca's and they are reasonably priced.

Memorial Day turned out to be exhausting, as holidays are, so tonight I am going to catch up on chores and try to get some sleep. How was your Memorial Day?