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Friday, January 29, 2010

Foody Friday: How to make your lettuce last and last

I sort of forgot about Foody Friday, that cute little bit of alliteration that allows me a paragraph or two to go on and on about food. I do so love eating good food.
Today I'd like to focus on one of those little tips that totally changed my salad life. I learned this tip when I was a "soda jerk" in a drug store in high school - my very first pharmacy job. We had a little cafe and soda fountain in the drug store, and business in the cafe wasn't exactly booming. Many people came in for a nectar soda, a real malt, or an ice cream cone; lunches were more rare with maybe 4-6 a day. So it was important for us to keep our leaf lettuce for sandwiches fresh for several days. Here's how we did it:

1. Open up the head of lettuce and hold it under running water and wash, wash, wash. Open all the leaves up so it gets clean at the base (ps - if you use soap or veggies wash, sprinkle it in here. I don't, because I like to live life on the edge and I'm anti-anti-bacterial. Vigorous washing usually dislodges most bugs).
2. Turn the lettuce upside down and give it a vigorous shake to get excess water out. DO NOT shake it dry: the key here is that there will still be moisture in the lettuce head.
3. Spread out about 2 1/2 feet of plastic wrap on your counter. Lay the lettuce on it, kind of at a slant so you can fold the corner of the plastic warp up to cover the base of the lettuce head.
4. Then just roll it up, pretty tightly.
5. With the last few inches of plastic wrap, fold plastic wrap over the top of the head to make a nice snug little cocoon.

Store in the warmest spot in the fridge; re-wrap every time you open and use the lettuce. If you have a bowl you can lay it in in the fridge it will decrease the dripping in the bottom of the fridge (it does drip because there's so much extra moisture in it).

If you're cooking for one or two this should keep your lettuce fresh for the duration!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In which I try barefoot running and end up with holes in my feet.

On my way home from work yesterday I heard a story on NPR about barefoot running. I've heard a lot about barefoot running lately: how it protects your knees, makes you land on your toes, etc. I figured I'd try it for a short run. This was really stupid. I get paid to stand on my feet for 8 hours a day...and I'm running a 30k race on Sunday! It is never a good idea to makes holes in your feet, but it's a really bad idea to experiment right before a race. Silly me. I slipped on some old socks and hit the road.
I only went about 3.5 miles, but here's my summary:
- It does feel good on your joints. It's a very cushioned, springy way to run.
- You use the backs of your calves more this way: I actually felt it in my muscles, and I generally never feel sore after running (even long races, although my joints will hurt).
- You can increase your speed quite a bit unknowingly, which I did. I was so surprised at my time because I thought I was keeping it slow to try the new technique. I was about 45 seconds faster per mile than I thought.
- It hurts like hell. Even with socks on I have ... holes in my feet. I got a few blisters and some red spongy spots on the tips of my toes (see graphic image above!) and on the balls of my feet I actually wore through my skin and have little red spots where blood is oozing out. Disgusting and monumentally painful.
- If I did this again I'd have to find a better way to protect my feet! New Orleans streets are rough!

The funny thing is that I was stopped halfway through by this guy in Vibram five finger "shoes" who wanted to know who made my barefoot shoes and what they were called. I responded, "Dollar Tree socks???" and he thought I was joking. No, friend, I was really running in socks from Dollar Tree. Got a problem with that?

How about you: Have you tried barefoot running? If you haven't, what do you think of it? Do you think it does protect your body - or is it actually going to cause an injury in the long run?

Monday, January 25, 2010


We won! We probably didn't deserve it, but I'm with Howie Long: it was destiny! The Saints are going to the Super Bowl!
Do you realize what this is doing to this city? It's gone crazy (er)! Last night after the win noise erupted in our neighborhood. People were setting off fireworks, running up and down the street, honking horns. Maple street has turned into one big street party. We walked down just to be part of the insanity - it was truly insane! We couldn't actually make calls from the 504 area code to another 504 number: the networks were overloaded. At one point a police car approached, presumably with the intent of clearing the street - but instead he rolled down his window and started blasting the "Crunk" song!

Of course, this is bittersweet for those New Orleanians who left the city after Katrina. This is a dream decades in the making, and to not be home to celebrate must hurt. I have friends who flooded in Katrina and live elsewhere now, and while they're happy, they're homesick. We promised to save them copies of the Times Picayune today, but everywhere was sold out at 7 am! I actually called the pharmacy I'm working at this morning and begged them to hold me a few copies. It's kind of cute to watch the hubby, too. I've had other teams: in the early '90's I was a rabid Skins fan, and when they won the Superbowl (in 1992?) I swore I'd marry Mark Rippian. And I've been a Pats fan for years, and they dominated football for many years. But for the hubby, his team is finally making it. I think last night he was in shock, and I'd be lying if I said he wasn't a little emotional!

The Super Bowl will be tough, of course, and our offense actually has to show up this time. But I'm not worried yet. I think I'll just bask in it all for now. Who dat! I believe!

Friday, January 22, 2010

So what's up with the running?

I have tossed running references around here and there and perhaps mentioned that I am running the upcoming Mardi Gras Marathon (which is now part of the Rock 'n Roll Marathon organization, and therefore appears to be becoming a major mess). But I almost never write about running: I'm not really a runner, I just run for exercise. I'm not fast, and I'm a big old wimp. If that weather is ugly or there's cake at home, I'll skip. I do enjoy running, but I like many forms of activity because moving around burns off some of this excess energy bubbling forth from my irrepressible soul.
But in case you care, here's what's up on the running front:
In winter of 2008-2009, I hurt my knee preparing for a half-marathon. It turns out that this was due to wearing shoes designed to correct pronation, when I actually my gate is self-correcting for a leg-length anomaly (minor scoliosis). This is why they tell you to talk to your doctor before adopting an exercise plan. I continued to run, but by the summer the pain was keeping me awake at night. While training for the Jazz half-marathon I made an appointment with a sports medicine doctor, who told me I was in the wrong shoe and had severe tendinitis. I ran the half anyway, and I'd already registered for the full marathon in February 2010. I did buy new shoes, but I'm terribly disappointed in them. Right after buying them I ruptured my bursa (self-diagnosed but I think I'm right) and had to take several weeks off. I can't contribute that to the new shoes, but I have lots of other complaints about them. I've only put about 140 miles on them and they give me blood blisters and joint pain. The sides are already blown out and the tread is worn half off. I feel like there is no cushioning whatsoever: if I run over an area with acorns and sticks, I can feel each one digging into my sole. During fast runs I get blood blisters on the BOTTOMS of my feet!

Right now I am running with a knee strap on my right leg, which helps with the second injury, but not the constant nagging knee pain. Now I've adding hip pain and ankle pain - both of which feel like impact injuries. I've had to scale back on my long runs and frankly, I'm not ready for a marathon. The furthest I've run is 20 miles and my race is in 5 weeks; I did poorly for the 20 miles (it was boring, cold, and painful and took me far longer than I expected). I have a 30-k race next Sunday and I doubt I'm ready for that!
After the marathon I think I'm going to take a little time off running and have a heart-to-heart with my knees. Maybe I'll do spin or boot camp or something for a while.
In the meantime, advice on how to build my endurance and mileage in the upcoming weeks would be appreciated! At this point I'm not looking for time, just finishing without breaking something!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My meeting with my boss...

...went pretty well yesterday. My scheduled meeting last week got postponed until yesterday, which turned out to be a good thing. Last Friday one of the other pharmacists called in sick and - being short-handed - we got kind of overwhelmed, and I'd rather my district manager NOT see me overwhelmed!
Yesterday I was working at a "bad" store: one with slow service, customer complaints, low sales, long lines, etc. But super-pharmacist came to the rescue! I had that store in tip-top shape. When my boss came in the store was busy, but everyone was being waited on; one person was getting an immunization; everything was on-time and caught-up and frankly, the store looked fantastic! That was good for me since I had opened the store that morning and my boss complimented us on it. Then while I was talking to him I got two compliments: one from a customer I'd helped and another from an employee. I have been doing pages over the loudspeaker advertising our immunization program (mainly because I like to hear myself speak) and she was saying how good they sounded. Perfect! And no, I didn't pay either person to compliment me, although in retrospect that's not a bad idea.
So anyway, after making a sterling impression, I met the boss in the office to talk about my next steps. Basically he is still encouraging this next step into a clinical/management position, but the position won't open until May. It has been pushed back since the original opening date (November 2009) several times. I will have to apply and the position will be open nation-wide, but it's good to know that I have the support of the DM as I apply. I was worried that he had been thinking about putting someone else in that spot, but he told me he's only had one person express interest - and she has since changed her mind when she found out she was expecting her second child.
In the meantime, I suggested some additional training I could do and he enrolled me in a webinar he thought would be beneficial too. And he's trying to set up a meeting between me and the manager of the division I will be applying for. So we're on the right track here.
I feel better after talking to him so I think that was definitely good advice - thanks :)
Now just to keep making good impressions until I apply!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Other cool uses for your toiletries

My bathroom is full of toiletries that I use in ways distinctly NOT recommended on the labeling. This sort of thing is why I consider myself to be "living on the edge". For example:

- If you have oily skin, you can wash your face with toothpaste. When I was a teenager I washed with toothpaste and warm water daily and NEVER broke out. It is too harsh, however, for dry skin. Disclaimer: this is a miracle worker, but it does contain fluoride. Of course, you put it in your mouth every day, so I'm not sure that matters. Just thought I'd make sure you knew.
- Old toothbrushes are magnificent for two things: combing your eyebrows and removing excess mascara. Instead of discarding your old toothbrushes, run them through the dishwasher to disinfect, then store in your make-up drawer. Nothing is superior for getting natural lashes: you have to try this!
- Big bottles of cheap conditioner make great in-shower body lotion. After you wash, slather on Suave's coconut conditioner and rinse off for softer skin.
- You can also use conditioner to tame bangs: if my bangs have gotten too much personality during my beauty sleep, a TINY bit of conditioner on a dry toothbrush (yet another toothbrush use!) brushes the kinks and unwanted waves out.
- Mouthwash is a strong disinfectant. If you - horrors! - picked at a pimple, dab mouthwash on with a Q-tip to kill the infection and dry the spot out. Or use mouthwash on a scraped knee; it stings, but it kills bacteria that might have entered the wound.
- If you are messy with mascara (I am - I almost never use it because I'm so bad at it), wipe Vaseline over your eyelids before applying mascara. Once it is on, use a tissue to wipe the Vaseline off and your mascara mistake will come right off. Wipe once more to remove excess oiliness before applying eyeshadow (or if you leave your skin with a thin layer, your eye shadow will go on a little thicker and the color will be more intense).
- Body or hand lotion is a great definer for the ends of your hair. Rub some in your hands and run your fingers through just the tips of your hair to smooth split ends and add definition.
- If your cuticles get dry and frayed in the winter, grab some Chapstick or lip balm and run the stick over your nails. Rub it in for softer cuticles and nails.
- I use my lipstick for blush. Put a dot on each cheek bone and rub it in. This gives a lovely sheer color and I think the rubbing motion encourages more natural placement than brushing.
- And I use lipliner for lipstick. I never wear lipstick because I have clown lips so I look funny. But you can add some color with lipliner: line around your lips, then add a few vertical strokes along the upper and lower lip. Put a little lip balm or Vaseline on your finger and rub the color in: start at the edge of the lip and rub towards the center, blending all the lining in towards the middle. This gives a very natural sheer tint. If you add a sheer lip gloss on top (I love Victoria's Secret Beauty Rush, even though it is sticky and unkissable) it will stay put all day.

So that's how I break all the rules in my morning routine. Do you do any of these, or have any unusual uses to share?
Do please tell. I'm always looking for new ways to displease the bathroom gods.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things that make me mad at the hubby

I adore the hubby. He's cute, sweet, polite, a total gentleman, and he thinks being mean is funny (so do I!). He also worships the ground I walk on, loves my cooking, and never ever complains about the money I spend on shoes.
But there are some things that make me want to wallop him with the closest dictionary. In the interests of a long and happy marriage, I'm compiling a list of the things that make me hate him, just so we can avoid these situations.

1. Exercising together. He wimps out at mile 0.2. I inspire! He wimps out again at mile 0.4. I cajole! He wimps out again at mile 0.5. I belittle! He wimps out again at mile 0.6. I stop, annoyed, and we go through this big rigmarole about where to meet, who has the car or house key, etc. I run off in a huff and hubby stops to talk to someone he knows.

2. Letting him drive my car. He always hits the curb when he parks it. Of course, I drive a Scion, so it's sort of low to the ground. Still, no excuses! It can't be that hard to drive since I have no problem! Irritation!!!!

3. Letting him all. I have realized that the hubby is kind of a bad driver. He looks the wrong way down one-way streets at stop signs. He pulls out in front of 18-wheelers. He can't decide what to do at yellow lights and alternately brakes and guns the engine, generally ending up in the middle of the intersection with a red light. I know guys like to think they're cool race car drivers, so I bite my tongue on this one, but inside I'm seething.

4. When he does groceries. I sent him to buy bacon and he returned with a tray of four pre-cooked microwaveable bacon strips for $3.99. He bought Lactaid with extra protein instead of plain old milk. The produce he purchases is wilted, wormy, and rotten. And forget sending him with coupons!

5. When he shrinks my clothes. Sometimes he tries to help with the laundry, which is cute, but he never reads clothes labels - meaning I now own about a dozen doll-sized sweaters and some not-quite-capri pants. When he's in the laundry room, it all gets hot water, and it all goes in the dryer.

So my solution is to always drive when we're together, do all the laundry and groceries, and do our own exercise thing. How's that for saving a marriage? I should be a counselor!

What does your significant other do that bugs you? How do you deal with it? And sort of off-topic, who does the groceries at your house?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Job update...and the weather is gorgeous!

Contrary to weather reports of more freezing temperatures, it's gorgeous out. Weird.

I did get in touch with my district manager and he is meeting me on I should have news then. I followed everyone's advice on this one!

Now off to enjoy a Louisiana Sweet orange, a run in this finally thawed weather, a chapter of a good book, dinner, then small group Bible study (we're listening to a video series called the War of Words. If I were a better person, it would convict me for my smarty-pants mouth).

Monday, January 11, 2010

music for your running playlist....

...courtesy of my sis! My sister is a talented musician and quite the music critic, as well. I am getting a little tired of my running playlists and decided it was time for something new, so I asked her to find some classical pieces to keep me going. Here is her list:

Pines of the Villa Borghese, by Respighi
just about anything by Scarlotti
Finale from Beethoven's 7th
Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 3
Bach's Italian concerto
Rondo from Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto
Beethoven's 5th (1st and 4th movement)
Mussorgsky's Bydlo
First movement of Chopin's 2nd piano sonata
1st movement from Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony
Mendelssohn's Scottish symphony, 4th movement
1st movment from Tchaikovsky's 2nd piano concerto
Rite of Spring, Stravinsky
1st movement of Paganini's 1st violin concerto and last movement from his 2nd
Prokofiev's 5th symphony

I added in quite a few violin pieces from an Itzhak Perlman album I already had. There are definitely some slower tempos in this mix than I'm used to, so I will have to see how I like it.

Speaking of...what is your favorite running song? Mine is...don't laugh...
Head by Tin Star. The lyrics mention "gotta do my exams today" but "couldn't revive" and I started listening to it during runs before tests in school to give myself a kick. It just cracked me up! I still like to run to that song and in fact I put it into my "race" mix twice. I can estimate my speed by how far I've gone when I hear it both times!

Friday, January 8, 2010

I need job advice!

I think I need some advice here about my current job. Here's the quick run-down:
I was hired to take over a clinical position - all brand-new, never done before - for a pharmacy chain. This position was slated to open up in November 2009 and I was assigned a "floater" position until then. Floaters fill in for other pharmacists within the area, so we drive a lot (up to an hour!) and there is very little continuity at work. Every day it's a different store. I don't mind this, but I don't want to do it forever. Well anyway, the November open date for "my" position got pushed back to March 2010, and I'm still a-floating. Here's where I need advice. I like my job now, but I really want the position I was hired for. I am supremely qualified for it. I'm not kidding. This job loos like it was made based on my resume! It's absolutely what I want to do, too. Given that I definitely have the qualifications, I should still get this job, but actual interviews for the position haven't started yet. I'm afraid that other employees with longer tenures in the company might start making bids for it - and they might get it simply because they don't fit the place they are now. My company does this sometimes: moves people around in an attempt to find a good "fit" of co-workers and location.
As time passes, do you think I should sort of hassle my boss? Have a talk about my future? Keep reminding him? Should I call him today and ask for a minute to talk face to face about this?
My gut says yes.
My father-in-law says yes, too.
But what do you say?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Let's do some smart easy things in 2010!

I'm here to increase the quality of your life, folks! And I'm doing it by suggesting a few easy things you can do to improve your health and well-being:

1. Add some fiber. Fiber has three big benefits: it lowers your cholesterol, it decreases your risk of colon cancer and polyps, and it causes feelings of satiety. If you tend to snack during the day or you overeat, drink a little fiber after your meal and you will stay full for longer. And it doesn't really taste bad at all.

2. Buy Aquaphor. It's a little expensive for something that looks just like vaseline, but it's better than vaseline because it actually has water emulsified into the oily base. You can use it to protect your skin from chapping, to heal dry or cracked skin, and it is unbeatable on chapped lips.

3. Eat seasonally. Be flexible with your menus to allow yourself to eat in-season produce. Your fruits and veggies will be fresh and more likely to be local. The difference in taste is huge. You will also save money since prices are lower during harvest.

4. Skinny-down your coffee. Many, many, many years ago I put sugar and cream in my coffee (like 18 years ago. Which is sad, since it means I started drinking coffee when I was 9. Actually we drank "coffee milk" in our bottles at our house and I think I started with real cups of joe at age 7). However, I developed a strong distaste for sweet beverages somewhere along the way, and I dropped the sugar. Then in college my dairy choices were limited to whatever the cafeteria had -and I started to use milk. Now I generally use 1 or 2% milk and no sweetener. My sister actually went black, and she loves her strong black coffee! The idea is, since we treat coffee like a daily must-have, we should probably make it a little more healthy.

5. Go whole-wheat. Three things you can switch out for whole wheat:
a. Pasta. Buying wheat pasta is not a huge change. The taste is a little different, but it's a good taste.
b. Flour. Start substituting half or even all of your flour with whole wheat. It gives baked goods a heartier feel and a nutty taste.
c. Bread. White bread is just plain gross - no substance to it, mostly air. Next time grab a whole wheat loaf!

6. Watch sales at your drug store to pick up these essentials for cold and flu season:
Zinc lozenges: suck on them as soon as you feel a cold coming on (but eat first: they can upset your stomach).
Emergen-C: the little fizzy packets make keeping a cold at bay fun!
Saline spray: a little squirt is a drug-free way to open up the sinuses and keep nasal tissue from drying out.
Gold Bond ultimate skin therapy lotion: It's super rich and creamy and is the best for the tip of your nose! Use it to prevent the red nose cold syndrome.
Delsym cough syrup: If you have to have a cough suppressant (hopefully you won't!), this one's the best. It's just one active ingredient and it lasts overnight.

7. Buy instant hand-warmers for a chilly work place. If your job is always too darn cold, these little warmers ($1 for two) can be a lifesaver! They work by a chemical reaction and stay warm for about 12 hours. You can stick them in your shoes, your pockets, or - ahem - your bra (this is an old pharmacy trick; pharmacies are notoriously bitterly cold and you'll see techs using warmers in July to fight the 65 F thermostat!).

8. Invest in a ceramic travel mug. I saved my pennies for one - not only does it not leave a metal taste in my tea and coffee, I can stick it in the microwave if my beverage cools down - or I can pack some tea bags and make tea while I'm working. I bought some green tea bags and stick them in my purse.

9. Eat beans. They are inexpensive, delicious, and full of protein and fiber. And they're fast food, if you make them in the crock pot while you're working!
I have beans for dinner at least twice a week. I cook a whole pound and save some - I can use leftovers in soup, to make chili, in pasta fagiole, for burritos, in hummus, even in an omelet.

10. Make water your beverage of choice. It just makes sense: stay hydrated for free and avoid unnecessary calories!

Now I'm going to go grab my ceramic travel mug and head to work!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I can't run in the cold!

We're having a cold snap down in NOLA and it's making me wimp out. It has been in the 30's to low 40's and I haven't talked myself into running in the chill! I'm working a lot of late shifts this week, which in theory gives me plenty of daylight hours to get my runs in. But I can't drag myself out to run in this cold! There are three reasons for this:
1. My knee is very slowly recovering from an injury this Fall, and the cold makes it ache. Very unappealing. As soon as the ache starts I begin to have second thoughts about any form of exercise.
2. I don't own any cold weather running clothes: No running tights, no fuzzy fleece tops, no hats, no gloves. Just T-shirts and shorts. FREEZING.
3. My cozy bathrobe, a library book, and a cup of tea are more enjoyable than running anyway.

I actually did get out for a run on New Year's Day, and it was bitterly cold. We were in Bay St. Louis and the temperature was in the 30's. Worse, I got up very early, so the sun had not risen yet. And worst of all, there was a stiff, icy, relentless wind and the run I chose had zero protection against the wind.
I ran 9 miles in a usually enjoyable loop that goes through the quaint downtown Bay St. Louis, across the Bay Bridge (which has a lovely walking path), along the beach in Waveland, and back across the bridge. However, there are big hills on the bridge and of course you are completely exposed to the elements. The wind was so strong that I actually couldn't stand up straight at the top of the bridge! Then, of course, it got no better once you hit the beach: the wind just screams in over the water. And what was I wearing? Why, a little T-shirt and some stretchy capri things. My skin was rough, raw, and numb by the time I finished and my long hot shower barely thawed me.
So that taught me a lesson. Stay home in the cold until you have a chance to go buy cozy running hats with optional face masks.

What deters you from your run? Is it the cold weather, or a pressing schedule? Something good on TV? Too much work in the house? Aching joints? Fatigue?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to the ol' grind.

Back to work after a lovely holiday break. Today is probably going to be the worst day of work all year for me. I predict it will be insanely busy and miserable. Why? Well, it will be busy because it's the first weekday of the month, always a busy day in pharmacy (plus it's a Monday, another busy pharmacy day). And it will be miserable because many people will have new insurance cards, a fact that they will be totally oblivious to. I'll spend my day something like this:
First of the year scenario #1:
Patient: Can I get my Plavix refilled?
Me: Sure. Do you have a new insurance card now that it is 2010?
Patient: No.
Me: Your insurance is rejecting the claim, saying coverage ended 12-31-09. Did they send you a new card?
Patient: That is ridiculous! I just got my Lipitor last week and they paid for it!
Me: Yes, that was last year. Your coverage changed for 2010.
Patient: That's it, transfer my rx to CVS, I can't deal with this BS!

First of the year scenario #2:
Patient: I'm here to pick up the refill I dropped off this morning.
Me: Ok, your total is $178.26.
Patient: But I have insurance!
Me: Yes, this was billed to your insurance. It looks like this claim was applied to your annual deductible, which restarted january 1st.
Patient: I don't have a deductible!
Me: (In my mind): Oops, you're right, you don't! I just invented your deductible so I could secretly skim $150 off the top of your rx, hehehehe! (out loud): Well let me call your insurance company and we'll find out. (seething, since this call is so pointless when the company just sent us back this price with deductible, I call - annoyed that I have become an insurance expert rather than pharmacist, and annoyed that no one has a clue about his own insurance plan. I hang up.) Your insurance company confirms that you have a $300 deductible on rx's each year. After this claim you have $122 left on the deductible.
Patient: Well I can't afford that! (throws rx at me, misses, paper-cuts the eye of another customer, we get sued).

First of the year scenario #3:
Patient: I need to pick up my new rx.
Me: Can I see your new insurance card? Your old one expired last year.
Patient: What! I don't have a new one!
Me: Well, Express Scripts says your coverage ended in December. Looks like your company changed prescription insurance for 2010.
Patient: Express Scripts?! What are you talking about, I have Blue Cross!
Me: Yes, that is your health insurance. But they contracted with Express Scripts for your prescription coverage, and now it appears they use a different prescription company.
Patient: What?! What?! I have Blue Cross! I've always had Blue Cross! WHaaa?!
Me: Yes, yes, you do. But they hire another company to handle your prescription insurance, and since that company changed I need your new card.
Patient: I threw out my new card! Because it's still Blue Cross! Blue Cross! Blue Cross!

Yep, happy new year to the health care world!