Friday, April 30, 2010

Disappointed in Self

I've been a long-time Self magazine reader. And I love it - it's the perfect amount of fluff to balance all the other stuff I read each month. In terms of women's magazines (which are all basically similar in terms of content: fashion, makeup, fitness, sex, health, etc.), Self focuses more on the health/fitness/eating side. So it still has all the other stuff, but it's not quite as smutty as Cosmo or makeup-y as Allure or fashion-y as Glamour. It's great.

In most issues they try to get you to go to their website with little catchphrases like, "Find your 'Happy Weight' at self.com." I totally took the bait and decided to check it out today.

They define one's "happy weight" as "the weight you were meant to be - one that's healthy and easy to maintain." So basically, "stop obsessing about your body and your diet and start embracing the skin you're in." Cool! Their reasoning for coming up with this formula was that apparently, statistically, many women are already at a healthy weight for their frame, yet continue to try to get the scale down.

So I entered all my info (5'9", medium frame, moderate workouts), calculated the number, and it was: 140.

Let me tell you something, internet. I do not weigh 140. I don't weigh a ton more than 140; but I weigh enough more to know that 140 would never be a place where I could "stop obsessing about my body and diet and start embracing the skin I'm in." I think if I weighed 140, I'd wear a size 6. For a person who is 5'9, is a size 6 really a relaxing, non-obsessive, average place to be? I guess definitely for those people who are naturally thin and have a small frame. Or maybe it has to do with curviness - like, if I had a smaller chest, I'd weigh a good bit less? But this number seemed really low.

So I also decided to search what a shorter person's "happy" weight is. For my friends who are 5'3 out there, you're looking at 116; and all you 5'4s, 120 (give or take a few depending on frame size, exercise level, if you've had a kid, etc.).

I have to say that being tall makes it tough for me to gauge weight on people who are a lot shorter than I am - but for you short people, are these numbers reasonable, or low? They seem low to me.

And it's just kind of the principle of the whole thing that bothers me. That this number they have come up with is supposed to be like "just take it easy - you don't need to be obsessive about your diet & exercise - just relax - you can carry a few extra pounds & be fine."

Anyway...happy weekend. If you'd like to join me in fasting for the next three months, let me know!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aches & Pains of the Office

A pretty large portion of my day is spent sitting at my desk in front of the computer. The desk is a really nice, large wooden number that's L shaped. Both outermost sides of the L have drawers built in; then, next to the drawers on one side is a pull-out tray for a keyboard, and the other side is a large drawer. Can you picture this?

Ok, well there are some issues with the best way to layout the items on the desk. One side of the L is against a wall. The wall contains the outlets & jacks for the electrical stuff, which are too short to stretch far. The pull-out tray for the keyboard is on the wall side.

In theory, the computer screen should be above the keyboard tray; but, 1) there are too many electric items with short cords (phone, space heater, 2 intercom things, computer speakers, and a lamp) to all fit on the wall side of the desk; 2) if the computer screen were against the wall, my back would be to the door of my office, and 3) if the computer were against the wall, anyone coming into my office - or even walking down the hall, really - would see what I'm doing on my computer - and come on people, you know you want me to continue blogging!

The only choice, then, is to have the computer screen at the crux of the L. And this is where the aches & pains begin.

1) Neck pain. For years I suffered a pretty constant pain on the right side of my neck. It wasn't debilitating, but it bothered me. I always attributed it to stress - like, I thought of that little spot as the place where my body physically felt stress. Well, about 6 months ago, the pain switched sides! Only this time it was 100x more awful than when it was on the right. Awful as in I felt the pain all day and needed to constantly massage it. Awful as in I had to sleep on my left side at night to support the neck and I take Tylenol every night before bed.

And then one day it magically occurred to me: the pain is caused by the position of my keyboard in relation to my computer screen! I switched offices about 6 months ago & my new office is oriented opposite of how my old one was. The new pain is so much more intense because the angle I have to turn my head now while typing is sharper than in the other office.

So I have now moved my keyboard onto the desk in front of the computer screen. Leading to...

2) Wrist pain. I'm no stranger to carpal tunnel problems. So I always have to be mindful when doing computer work that my arms are positioned above my wrists while typing and using the mouse.

So I had to get a new chair for my desk (one with an adjustable height feature) so I could set it on the tallest setting. Which has led to...

3) Sciatic Nerve Pain. Because the seat of the adjustable chair isn't flat (it has a little ridge around the rim of the cushion, so your butt has a spot to sink into), the ridge in the front hits my thigh in the perfect place to aggravate the nerve, and while I'm on the highest setting, my feet just barely touch the ground - so not enough to really put a lot of weight on them.

What's a girl to do? Not only does office work suck - but it causes pain!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

There's a sort of obscure Kathy Bates movie from about 10 years ago - and I can't for the life of me remember the title or find it on imdb - but, anyway, she plays this suuuper cynical character. And at one point in the movie, an overzealous guy says to her, "Just remember, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" To which she replies, "What about when life gives you a pile of shit?" Great scene - I wish I could give you more details on the movie.

Anyway, Jonathan and I decided to play the board game Life last night after dinner. On first spin, we both decided to "go to college," taking out $100,000 each in loans. His career was something to do with technology, which had an accompanying salary of $90,000. My career, on the other hand, was "Entertainer," with an unfortunate $20,000 salary card.

I guess Jonathan had lucky hands with the spinner, because these initial salary differences basically set up the general trajectory of the game. Jonathan would "Win a contest - collect $50,000!" and I would "Pay $20,000 if your car isn't insured." Well, I couldn't afford insurance because I only made $20,000! He lived in a beautiful Tudor home; and I had to buy a house on a fault line that was split down the middle. At one point, I thought my luck was changing when I landed on "trade salary cards with any player." About 3 spins later though, I had a "mid-life career change" and had to choose a new profession & salary. New profession: accountant; new salary: $20,000. Bummer. Jonathan got to retire in Millionaire Estates, and I was at Countryside Acres. Wah, Waaaaaaaah.

Now I don't want to get all philosophical about a board game. But... Come on, the game is called "Life" - Milton Bradley is just egging us on to dig deeper!

I can think of a ton of different questions inspired by our "lives" in the game, but here's what I'm going to tackle: are some people just plain "luckier" than other people; or is "luck" just knowing how to make the best of a situation (like, when life gives someone lemons, they make lemonade vs. when life gives someone lemons, they interpret it as an unusable "pile of shit")? What do you guys think?

***

My first inclination is to lean toward option two (that you make life situations what you want them to be). But, I realize viewing life like that is incredibly middle/upper class-centric.

If a baby boy is born to a drug-addict who lives in the projects, I think he's going to have a very hard time doing something productive with his life. BUT - he could; he could work really hard in school, dodge gang membership, remain unharmed throughout his childhood, develop a strong work ethic, get funding to go to college, and then have a successful career. But that's a lot of "he coulds..." When the reality is probably: poor adult supervision/involvement, sub-par education, lack of positive role models, negative peer pressure, unsafe living environments, etc. Is this kid just unlucky for being born into his life? Or if he doesn't "make the most of life," is he just unwilling to make lemonade out of a lemon/huge pile of shit?

But then it goes the other way, too. Am I just lucky because I was born to the parents I was born to, and thus got: positive role models, good education, good friends, safety, etc.? Because I definitley made some decisions that impacted my positive outcome that could have gone the other way. For example, really bad 11th grade math teacher (lemon), so I got a math tudor to be able to make a good grade (making lemonade); 4th grade class with lots of "bad" girls in it (lemon, potentially bad lemon), so I was nice with them that year, but then made new friends the next (making lemonade).

All I can say, though, is that luck was very alive and active in our game last night. I just couldn't get a break: I'd have a good positive roll, and the very next one would throw me back down. By the end of the game, I was defeated (literally & figuratively). Imagine the people whose lives are actually like this - how could you stay determined to succeed, when day after day you're thrown back down to where you started?

(And I should say that because the board game inspired this post, I'm thinking about life in the broad way the game does - like, the stereotypical path of: college, marriage, home ownership, children, middle age, retirement. Fortunately for the targeted children playing this light-hearted game, there aren't squares like "Your parent dies in a car accident!" or "You get cancer!" or "Your child is autistic!" or "You cheated on your wife and now your divorce is long and messy!" We're generalizing here, people.)

But what do you guys think? Luck or perspective?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Car!

After quite a bit of waiting (since we had to order the one we wanted), our new Subaru Outback finally arrived!


It's really cool! The interior is quite spacious & comfortable; the seats are heated. There's a jack in the middle console where we can plug in our iPod to play through the stereo, which is the top-of-the-line Subaru audio system (a must-have for Jonathan). It drives pretty smooth & has all-wheel drive (for those mountain adventures we have in Memphis). We opted for a low-emission engine, so the car meets all the emission standards for the states (CA, I know, at least) that require low-emission vehicles. But generally, it's just C-O-O-L!

The plan is that Jonathan will drive this car for now. (And is he ever happy - the 1997 Mercedes with 150,000 miles just wasn't cutting it anymore.) And then probably in a couple of years, we'll re-assess.

We're super excited! (And yes, here are the obligatory pictures of us each driving the car.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Feel Good...I Knew That I Would...

This post might be really lame - but I just wanted to report that after a week of no breads/no sweets/no alcohol, I feel great! My scale is down about 5 pounds (which is definitely water weight/bloating), but it's an awesome, noticeable difference! It means all my rings easily slip on, all my pants that were starting to feel snug are back to normal, and my bras are no longer "busting" (ba-dum-chink) to the brim.

Most importantly, though, I feel good on the inside. General cravings for all things are gone. So no more strong desire to hit the candy jar, ever, really. No more ravenous, out-of-control snacking after work. No more eating just to eat, even if I'm not hungry. No more drinking and snacking (ie, a beer after work with lots of pita chips, hummus, etc.).

And I guess while these things are definitely the physiological result of not eating high-glycemic-index food (thus spiking insulin & making me hungrier), it's also a mental thing. I said I needed to do something radical to re-shift my focus to healthy living - so even though no bread/no sugar is radical, it's registered in my brain. Last night, for example, after dinner I was thinking about a sugar-free fudge pop, about how it would be good. But then I stepped back, realized I wasn't really hungry (I was just looking for something sweet), so instead, brushed my teeth and called it a night on eating. This would have never happened before.

I love, too, that no bread/no sugar/no alcohol basically means I'm eating all whole foods: fruit, vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts, legumes, olive oil, etc (I do eat lowfat dairy - and I definitely buy organic milk - but not organic cheese, so there is that in my diet). And, I'm sad to admit I cannot at this time break myself of 1 Splenda in my coffee - I know, I know, Splenda is the Devil...but it's so good. But other than that stuff, I think everything is looking good! We'll see how the coming week goes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Things We Buy

I was in Walgreens once and saw a girl - probably late high school/early college aged - walking through the store clinging to something at her chest. Each step she took, she looked both ways to see who was in her vicinity; and with each step, she clinged harder to the box she was concealing with her arms. Could she be stealing something? But then when I got behind her in the checkout line, and she released her death grip, what fell onto the counter was a box of tampons.

At that moment, she made a look: she shrugged her shoulders and looked back & forth at me and the checkout woman. The shoulder shrug/look on her face said, "I know, I'm sorry, I couldn't help it, I needed them."

And I felt bad for her in that moment (although I didn't acknowledge the shoulder shrug - I thought it'd be best not to); I felt bad that she was so ashamed and that she felt the need to justify this purchase - especially considering who she was shrugging at: me (a woman older than her) and the crazy checkout lady at Walgreens who wears a wrist brace.

Then when we were on our honeymoon, we made friends with a couple from Chicago. They were in their early 30s, lived in the suburbs, and had a baby son. I have no idea how the conversation turned to this at one point (although I'm guessing it had something to do with a constant flow of drinks called "Banana Mama," "Playa Blanca," and "Caribbean Sunset"), but the wife told us she still gets too embarrassed to buy tampons at the store, so she has her husband do it. And he said he felt totally comfortable because he knew if anyone saw him, they'd know they weren't for him.

Tampons? Really? They are the most embarrassing thing one could buy? Because, I'd say I can think of many, many more things that would embarrass me to buy at a drugstore.

And yes, I do understand the younger girl, I guess - she's unaccustomed to doing her own drugstore shopping, she could see a cute boy she knows, etc. So perhaps, my shame has faded in that department because I'm in a serious relationship (married, I know, but my embarrassment faded before I took vows). But that doesn't really explain Stephanie from our honeymoon...

So what do you guys think? Are you embarrassed sometimes when you have to buy more personal items at the store?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!


Even though we've all seen images of the Earth from space a million times - just take a second to look at it. Look at it with "new" eyes. The bright blue water, the different shades of green, the hint of yellow, the swirling clouds. It's gor-geous!

So, in honor of Earth Day, here's a list of the most beautiful parts of Earth in Memphis, in my opinion:

-Shelby Farms
-The Wolf River
-The tulips at the Botanic Garden
-The leaves in my neighborhood in Fall & Spring
-The thousands of azalea bushes
-The oak trees at Rhodes
-The cherry trees at the Botanic Garden
-Martyrs Park on the river

Go enjoy some Earth today!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Neti


As I might or might not have mentioned on this blog before, I have some allergy issues. There's the obvious seasonal problem, which I'd say is somewhat unavoidable in Memphis, seeing as 2-3 weeks a year everything outside (car, sidewalk, furniture, roof...) is covered in a greenish-yellow film. But I also have a pretty consistent runny nose; and just about every day of the year, I sneeze for the first couple hours I'm awake. (And actually, it happens everywhere - even if we're on vacation - so I don't think I'm allergic to something in our house. And yes, we use hypo-allergenic stuff on the bed.)

Anyway, I don't really like to take allergy pills. It's kind of a mental thing - I'd rather just deal with it than take a medicine everyday. Now, I do definitely use a Tylenol Allergy-type product when I get allergy headaches, but that's generally just those bad 2-3 weeks.

So last week I decided to buy a Neti Pot. And I'm really curious to hear if any of you have used one! If you live under a rock have never heard of a Neti Pot, it's a super-trendy "nasal irrigation" system. You put a saline solution into the pot (shown in the pic), hold the thing up to one nostril, and the liquid flows out the other, basically cleansing your nasal passage.

I'm giving the NP two weeks. If I don't notice a difference in two weeks, I'm done. I've been doing it once a day, at night, before my shower, since last Friday (the 16th).


My Neti Report Thus Far: nothing. I've noticed no difference in my nose. Except, actually, I'm slightly concerned about my ears. I'm not sure I can explain this if you haven't experienced it. But, when you cleanse one nostril, you sort of need to blow the residual water out of it before you do the next. Well, if you blow too hard, you risk sending water into your ears (think squeezing your nose & blowing on an airplane to pop them - so, the ears and nose are closely related). Ok, so - I've learned my lesson, blow my nose softly before I do the next nostril. But then, after you've netied both (for even up to 10 minutes, I've noticed), there's still water in your nose. So you need to blow it again - well, at any point if you blow too hard, water is in the ears.

This whole situation is discouraging. Have you guys Netied?? I'm dying to talk to someone else about the problem & hear if you are sold on the NP. It has quite a cult following - but I've never actually talked to someone in the cult - it's always a friend of a friend/news article/Oprah.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Food Plan

My eating has been really unhealthy for the past four weeks. It started with my birthday weekend, followed by my mom's birthday/Easter weekend, followed by LB's bachelorette weekend in New Orleans, followed by my cousin's visit to Memphis. Too many meals out (where I made unhealthy choices), too many sweets, waaaaay too much candy from the Easter baskets, and too many drinks.

I generally do an "official" weigh in every Friday morning when I wake up; it's a decent way to keep track, actually, since most likely I'm not bloated or retaining water or anything from eating out/drinking (as I would be if my weigh-in day was, say, Monday). Well, the Friday before my birthday, I weighed in & was one pound away from a goal I'd set myself (if I weigh X, I'll get a pedicure).

And then what...? Did I get that pedicure??

Um, no. I now weigh five pounds more than I did on that Friday.

Fail.

I think Sunday was the day all the nastiness really set in. I'm super bloated, I've gained weight (I can see it in my face), and I've developed this massive sweet tooth (which is very uncharacteristic of me - I'd be so much more likely to crave cheese or salty chips than cake or candy).

SO - yesterday I started a 2-week journey into no carb/no alcohol land. When I say "carb," I'm referring to all wheat/grain/oatmeal products and all sugar - I'll continue to eat fruit (except maybe bananas & mangoes?), and I'll eat all vegetables & beans. Since I'm not a huge bread/pasta person to begin with, this is basically targeted at getting rid of the sweet tooth.

I know it seems extreme to cut out a whole food group. But I have to say, when I'm this far off course, I need extreme. I've learned from experience that if I just decide to count calories (when I've gone this far away from doing that) - I can't ever follow through. It becomes too easy to "slip in" a donut ("I'll just eat a smaller dinner"), and thus begin the sugar-crave that has me in a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips by 5pm. Or on a Friday, "I'll just have one beer and count the calories" leaves me drunk off three because I don't want to eat dinner since I've used my daily calories.

It's absolutely a will-power thing. And just so I don't sound like a total slob, I definitely spend most of the year counting calories - or at least keeping them in check - and maintaining about the same weight, give or take a couple pounds. But when I fall off the wagon, I really fall off. And I'm off now - waving at the wagon as it passes, with a cupcake in one hand & a Bud Light Lime in the other. I'll keep you guys posted.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Round Up

I had such a lovely weekend! One, the weather was great - we had a major coldfront come through that dropped temps down about 15 degrees. It was chilly, but I loved it! And two, my cousin was in town! He had a work conference with a pharmaceutical company in Memphis. So we were able to hang out with him Thursday night, Saturday night, and all-day Sunday.

We had a great time Friday night with another couple. First, an interesting experience at Happy Mexican (which might or might not take it off the list of go-to restaurants...), but followed by a great time at Calhoun's, a bar in South Main (right next to the Cheesecake Corner). We sat on the front patio, so we could see everything going on around South Main, and just chilled and chatted. A good time, indeed.

Saturday I met some friends at a cool new lunch restaurant that's attached to Restaurant Grace (where we went for my birthday dinner). Hello calorie exploding deliciousness! But overall - a neat new place for Saturday lunch and some quality girl time.

We took it d-town Saturday night with Mike & his friend. And then Sunday, after Jonathan and Mike played golf, we cooked out at our house & enjoyed the crisp Spring day. Good times all around.

On Saturday night, a sort of random thing happened. We were at the Flying Saucer (a cool beer bar downtown - but not a place I really frequent anymore). And when we walked in, we saw a semi-open table, so I asked the guys sitting there if we could have the other half. I wasn't really talking to them, but Jonathan was & realized it was a bachelor party from St. Louis. So I asked where they were from in St. Louis - and when I told them where I went to high school, the guy next to me said, "I went there for a year but then transferred to DeSmet." And so we went on, where did you go to elementary & middle school? We'd gone to the same places! So of course, "what's your name?" and he said "I'm Nick X----." This guy was one of my best friends in 8th grade!

It might seem strange that I didn't recognize him, but you have to know that I went to a huge high school, so friends changed a lot, and a lot of people were in & out of my life in a flash. I hadn't heard his name since probably 10th grade - but he was sitting right next to me at the bar! And I guess the fact that we were in Memphis was even weirder; had we seen each other in St. Louis, it would have just been another run-in.

I love the implications of the whole experience, though. That at any given time we could, unbeknown to us, be sitting next to someone we were friends with at another point in life - or who we will be friends with at another point in life; that person could go on to be a best friend or boss or lover or husband/wife - but could remain completely anonymous at the time.

The whole time I've lived in Memphis (almost 9 years - holy crap), Jonathan has lived here too, and I often wonder how many times we were at the same place (bar/grocery store/restaurant/gas station/etc.) but didn't know each other. The answer could be zero - but life feels a little more magical with the possibility that it isn't.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'd say right now is the absolute prime for outdoor activities in Memphis. We've had a lot of sun, the temperatures are warm (not hot), and it isn't incredibly humid yet. The pollen is awful, unfortunately, but I'm not sure there's ever a time when it isn't, so we'll overlook that.

We decided a couple nights ago to get our deck furniture cleaned up for the season. Usually the first clean of the year (a glass dining table, 4 table chairs, a glass end table, and 2 "lounge" chairs) is awful. We don't have room in the house to store these things, so they stay out on the deck all winter. And by the time we do the first clean, they've been through all the elements and are saturated with pollen. Well, using our genius brains this year, when we closed up the deck for winter, we covered everything with a tarp. And it was awesome! The big clean took probably an hour, max! So now our deck is up & ready to go!

I was reminded during the clean, though, how much I wish we had a screened-in porch. Why? Because I got 2 mosquito bites - and it's only April. By midsummer, the deck is almost unusable because of the heat and the mosquitoes.

Thinking about decks and screened-in porches makes me so nostalgic for my parent's house in St. Louis. Actually, I think growing up, I sort of took the screened-in porch for granted. But it's this beautifully, well-constructed area (small deck, large porch) that was built to be an extension of our house. And we had nice outdoor furniture, and rugs, and a ceiling fan, and a ton of hanging candle wall sconces that you could light at night. And it connected to the house with a big sliding-glass door, so even if the door wasn't open, you had a view into this other room. We literally had dinner out there every night of Spring and Fall (and many nights in Summer if it wasn't too hot). Good call on building that, Michelle & Jed.

It's a great hope of mine that in our next house, we can build a similar structure. The lack of bugs is obviously number one, but having that ceiling fan really does cool things down.

I'm surprised by how many people in Memphis build patios (like, brick laid into the ground) instead of screened-in porches. Because like I said, the bugs are out of control. At my dad's various houses in Ohio, he's never had a screened-in area - it's always been a patio or an uncovered deck. So I guess the bugs aren't really an issue? Maybe mosquitoes just aren't that bad in Ohio? Because we definitely had all summer dinners outside at his houses as well (since Ohio has this wonderful, not-too-hot summer).

Anyway - as you can tell, I'm really excited about Spring (since the heat of summer nauseates me just to think about). Happy weekend, guys - and happy outdoor patio/grilling weather!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I pulled out this little beauty for the first time a couple nights ago. Not sure if you can tell from the picture - but it's a Cuisinart Mini Prep (notice the cup placed next to it for perspective). It was pretty cool - I definitely need to remember it's in the drawer when I need to mix small things or chop just a small amount.

I tried a new recipe for spicy peanut noodle sauce that I wanted to share with y'all because it was delicious and pretty easy. Also, it came together nicely since I had all things on hand.

So.....Spicy Peanut Noodle Sauce

1/4 c toasted sesame seeds (which, I didn't have & instead substituted 1 Tbsp of hummus - get it, chickpeas & tahini - tahini is sesame seed paste...? Anyway...)
1/4 c peanut butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp grated ginger
5 Tbsp soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp hot sauce
2 Tbsps light brown sugar

I mixed it in the Mini Prep - and voila - a delicious, spicy peanut sauce! I'm sure you could think of a number of inventive things to do with this. I cooked up some whole wheat fettuccine. Then heated some shrimp in a huge skillet with chopped green onion; added the pasta when it was cooked; tossed the pasta & shrimp with a little more sesame oil; then added some steamed, chopped broccoli and 2 grated carrots; added the sauce; and let it all cook together for a couple minutes. I garnished with more chopped green onion & chopped peanuts - and squirted each plate with lime. Totally yum, totally easy - just a lot of dishes to be cleaned at the end [enter sous chef].

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WEBSITE/APP ALERT!

MarksMenus. Have you guys heard of this?

Our local newspaper did an article about it. It's a Memphis-based company that collects menu data from restaurants & posts it. So you go to the site, enter your desired location (or you can use your own current location) and it gives you a map of all restaurants in the area. Then you can view it as a list, and when you click on the restaurant, it has all menus (breakfast/lunch/dinner) with prices.

BUT - but - even more exciting is the iPhone app. It's FREE! Get this immediately if you have an iPhone - it's so cool!

*As a slight disclosure, the newspaper article says it has collected data from 30,000 restaurants - but Memphis apparently has 200+ contributors - so potentially this is really awesome because it's based in Memphis, and in other cities, might not be so comprehensive. But I think it's still worth a shot. Because it's SO COOL!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Email

I'm curious about other people's non-work email inboxes. Most email servers have a strong spam filter - so most of the absurd stuff goes to a spam box: things like "A Little d.i.c.k?" or "Your Sex Pill Outlet" [actual emails in my spam box right now].

But every morning, when I load my email on my iPhone, I have about 10-14 emails of spam-type mail from stores that aren't filtered as spam. Today's went as followed: Williams Sonoma, Gap.com, MyShape.com, Piperlime, Amazon, Aveda Online, Sierra Trading Post, Neiman Marcus, Barnes & Noble, RedEnvelope, Victoria's Secret, and Barneys New York.

I know these come to me because I've bought something online from all of them - but do you guys have a similar email situation every. single. day. when you first check your email? Because they're being sent in the middle of the night & early morning (today's ranged from 1:46am to 7:24am). And some stores (I'm especially talking to you, Neiman Marcus) probably send about 3-5 emails per day.

It's annoying. But also - for a place like Gap.com, say - I won't buy anything online from them unless I have a coupon code. So even though I rarely shop online there, if I really need something, I'll wait until I have a code for 20% off (because they send them every couple days). Or a store like Neiman Marcus, for example - I don't really shop there, it's not a go-to store for me. But what if they are having a HUGE, UNBELIEVABLE sale, well, then I'd probably look.

So what I'm really saying is that even though I'm annoyed by all the store spam, I don't like the idea of never having a discount coupon or never being notified about one-day sales. Today, for example, Amazon was offering 35% off certain brands of handbags. I've been needing a big summer/spring purse to use instead of my heavy leather winter bag. Voila! I bought a cute new $120 tote purse for $78!

What do you guys do about these emails? Stay on the list? Or cleanse, and avoid falling victim to consumerism?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Well, We've Got Einstein Over There...

Last week at work, I was discussing something home repair-related with a close friend coworker. He got on a really intense tangent about the specific home repair; as in, he was talking in-depthly for quite some time. When he finished, I said, "well, thanks Einstein, I've got it now." We had a good laugh - because I think when he finished, he realized how long he'd been talking.

I must have heard or read something Einstein-related recently, because I can't imagine calling him that would be my normal, go-to phrase. But in reflection, I've been wondering why is Einstein the most famous smart person?

I know that what he did for the field of physics was revolutionary. I get that. And that at the time, he was way ahead of his peers in the field. But what about now? Is he still the smartest person that has ever lived? Obviously we are quite technologically advanced from when he was studying quantum physics. But aren't there more people who are discovering things now that are as ground-shattering as the stuff he was studying? And if so, why don't we know them by name?

Also - how would Einstein have become so famous to begin with - famous enough that almost a century later, his name can allegorically imply intelligence? Or, even more interesting, that almost a century later, his name can still casually come up in conversation? It's a pretty understood metaphor, as well; most people know that if you call someone "Einstein" you mean "smart" (whether it's used facetiously or not).

Did people know about him during his lifetime? Or is it something we all learned about because we learned it in physics class after it had been accepted in the science community? Doesn't that make you wonder about scientific advancements that are being made now? For example, what if the modern-day equivalent of Einstein discovers that a method that's been commonly accepted for years is, in fact, wrong. How would we learn about that? We're done with school, we probably aren't reading Physics Today magazine. Would it be a newspaper headline? E DOESN'T EQUAL MC2! And if that were the headline, do you think we would know the physicist's name who discovered it? Would he replace Einstein in all the allegories of smartness?

Just something for you Einsteins out there to think about on this manic Monday. And as a side note, I'm going to tag this post with "The Way Things Work." A lot of times I wonder about life's greatest questions - so you might join me on those journeys sometime.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My goodness yesterday's blog post was long! I just LOVE to read my own words - I can't stop writing!!

So anyway, we'll keep things light today. I. Love. Spray. Tanning.



(And so does this guy - look how TAN he is!!)

Until my senior year of college, I'd never been to a tanning bed. Even when it was super popular in high school. Even when I was pas-ty white. Even before our HS senior year Springbreak cruise. Even though everyone who tanned said it was so relaxing. Never. I knew it was bad for you. And even though I can get really tan (utilizing low-number SPFs), my pale skin's first response is to b-u-r-n without any sunscreen on - so that leads me to believe tanning isn't my wisest choice.

(And 2nd semester senior year of college - man, we hurt our bodies that semester. That's the only way to explain it. But we were really, really tan. I think the last few weeks of school we went to "the bed" close to everyday, right? HA!)

So anyway, after those few weeks of lapsed judgement, I went back to my mantra of no tanning beds. But really, what's a lady to do when she's super PASTY, but needs to, say, show some skin in a dress? Or is getting married? Or is in someone else's wedding? Two words: spray. tan.

I really do love it. You can get either the slightest hint of color. Or a full-on, back-from-the-tropics tan. It makes your skin look really even, hiding scars/scratches/red blotchy parts, etc. And I've found that with a little preparation - mainly exfoliation and lotion - it's basically foolproof. The main drawback, in my opinion, is that if you go to a tanning salon to get one, you risk people seeing you going in & thinking you're going to "the bed." But that's a risk I'm willing to take. Tonight, for example (since bachelorette party falls on the list of "Things For Which I Need a Spray Tan").

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Cleanse

Our household is in desperate need of a technology cleanse. Or, at least, I am desperate for a technology cleanse. Not cleanse like get rid of - but more like an actual food cleanse: for a month (or whatever time we decide) we set limitations on our amount of technology at home and follow them - all the time - not just when the other one is present.

When I say "technology," I foremost mean tv, including at-home movies. But I also mean: Wii, cell phone stuff (including Facebook, Twitter, and games), and general putzying on the computer. And I'm not trying to be a freak about it - as in, I recognize that we don't get a newspaper, so our only way to read the news is on the computer; or I recognize that if there's some disaster in our country, we'd probably want to turn on cnn; or if the President is making the most important speech of his life, we'd want to watch in real time; I understand all these things and feel lenient about them.

What I want to cleanse us of (at least during this denoted time - so I can at least see that it's possible) is all the excess.

I've been walking outside after work the past couple of weeks since the weather's been beautiful. And surprisingly, being outside in our neighborhood allows for a certain level of voyeurism. I can see people mowing their grass and working in the yard. Or neighbors meeting outside their houses to chitchat. Kids playing; families taking bike rides; young couples pushing their babies in a stroller. Meanwhile, the smell of grilling wafts through the air. Idyllic, yes - but, surprisingly true.

And I have to say, to a certain extent, it makes me jealous. Jealous that everyone is having so much fun just being together, outside. Then I think about my own house; how, when I walk in the door after my walk, I know that if Jonathan isn't working out he'll be: on the couch watching tv or playing Guitar Hero. No question. And how, once I walk in the door, I will plop down right next to him and watch. For the duration of the night, we will stay in front of the tv (minus dinner & food prep). Then, we'll get in bed, turn on the tv, and watch until we fall asleep. During this time, I will check Facebook 100 times on my cell phone, check email a couple, and play a crossword puzzle or two on the phone. Jonathan will check Twitter a few times, Facebook, and maybe play a game on his cell phone. When we read books, we keep whatever sports are on that night in the background with the volume muted.

It's driving me insane! I think about all the things that don't happen because of the technology distractions (playing the piano, listening to new music together on the stereo, playing board games, working puzzles, having a drink on the front porch, going for after-dinner non-exercise walks, playing with the dog, reading more books/magazines, etc.). It's basically the embodiment of our laziness: instead of doing any of those things I just mentioned, we sit on the couch together everynight & watch tv. Totally veg out.

And it also extends to the weekend. When we wake up in the morning, I mindlessly watch Food Network in bed for awhile, while Jonathan watches shows like "Survivor: Villains & Heroes" or "Castle" or "Bones" that he's TIVOed on the big tv. Then, on a typical weekend (as in, when nothing out of the ordinary is going on) we maybe run an errand or two, and then come back home, put on sports and lay around. And I usually sit next to him and watch, even though I don't have a ton of interest, while I mess with Facebook on my phone/play crosswords/etc. We do read a lot - I can't deny that - but 1) it's really hard to fully concentrate on a book when the tv is on (and I can't even approach the NYer if there's any kind of background sound), and 2) I hate it when we'll be reading but have the tv paused, so when we're done reading we can watch it. This feels to me like reading is important, but the tv is so important that we need to return to it when we're done with our books.

I know the weekend is for relaxing, but I'm starting to see a clear difference between relaxation and utter, mindless vegetation. In addition, even though we want to be relaxing, I think the weekend is also for getting stuff done. One of the sucky parts of being a good homeowner (or just a homeowner who hopes to one day sell the house) is that you have to keep the house clean, keep it repaired, keep it up to date. That might mean going to Home Depot to buy a part to fix something (instead of watching golf); or cleaning the tile in the shower every week, even though that job is lame & gross (instead of watching a rerun of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives); or, dare I say it, dusting/vacuuming every weekend (because, come on, that's why our house is so dusty - I don't do enough to combat it - but thanks, guys, for all the suggestions - I definitely need to get some more Swiffer products!).

I wonder too, though, if we purged the technology, if we'd find more time for social activities. Like, go to dinner with other couples during the week (which, I'm not saying we don't do because of the technology - it's more the lazy mentality that's embodied through the tech - that is, it's easier to come home from work, put on comfy clothes, and lay around than it is to go to a restaurant on a Wednesday). Or if, on a Friday afternoon, individually we'd both maybe have a drink with a friend afterwork before we started hanging out together for the night - like, if we knew we weren't going to just come home and veg, if we'd be more likely to do something else before seeing each other. Or if I would try to get some of the weekend chores done before the dreaded Sunday? I can pretty much guarantee that my Sundays would not be stressed if I didn't spend the morning hours watching Food Network doing nothing. And I can also pretty much guarantee that two of our faucets wouldn't have had leaks for 3+ years if there wasn't a little laziness involved.

So why do I want to enact the great Technology Cleanse?

Because I want to - I have to - know that we can do this. Just generally, I think we could be enjoying life outside our house more than we are now. But also, since we're a young married couple and babies are sort of in the mix of life topics, I feel quite strongly that we could not have a baby with the current life we have. And before we even begin to think about having said child, I want to know (through seeing) that our lives can consist of more activity than they do now - that we can get stuff done around our house on a weekly basis, not just before company comes.

I don't want to feel burdened by my kid when I don't get to watch tv in bed all morning on a Saturday - and so now, I want to see what it's like to not lay in bed all morning (test the waters, if you will, before Baby M comes along and I physically can't lay in bed for hours anymore). And I don't want Jonathan to feel annoyed when on a Sunday night, Baby M wants to have his daddy push him in the swing or play outside, but daddy just wants to lay on the couch. I want to see (before Baby M comes into the picture) that Jonathan can do a Sunday night of not vegging in front of the tv, and not feel grossly annoyed/burdened by it.

But also, for our relationship, I want us to tackle something difficult together. I want us to both be on board for a challenge that we're not always going to be excited about - and hold each other accountable to that and encourage each other in it. I loved how when we did P90x, we really did keep each other going. There were days when I didn't want to do it, but he was pumped (so then I became pumped as well), or vice versa. Or days when we decided to do a double, because why not? We can do it! I felt like we were so close during that time because we were trying to reach a goal together - like a team. (Not to mention that we were about to get married, but you know what I mean.)

And of course I realize that laziness is the underlying theme here. But I think the technology binge would be a way to embody the eradication of the laziness. Instead of saying, "for a month, let's try to not lay around as much" we can do something solid about it. And really, I know my life without cooking shows will still feel rich and fulfilled. And I believe that Jonathan's life without Survivor or movies on demand would be just as nice. Maybe Patti & I will have to reschedule our weekly hang out (which usually happens while we have dinner & watch Biggest Loser), but as long as I can spend time with her, I will feel good (Biggest Loser or not).

I'll keep you posted....I guess this post is To Be Continued, in a way. But do you guys ever feel bogged down by technology? I guess I really focused on tv in this post - but I can say the stupid Facebook app for my phone takes so much more time from my life than I'd like to admit.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Help Me!

Ok friends, I need your help in tackling...

DUST.

Thankfully we're not quite in full-on dust storm mode, but it's a major problem in our house. My allergies are really bad. And I'm not talking about dust bunnies in the corner of the room, I'm talking about individual little particles of dust everywhere. I will wipe down our coffee table, and the next day, it will be covered with little dust particles.

We have lots of bookshelves, and they are just constantly covered in dust. What should I use to combat it? And how often do I need to do it?

I've tried using one of these little beauties......and it basically laughed in my face. Like, did nothing to combat dust - if anything, spread it into every little nook & cranny of the room.

I know our house is old - and old houses seem to be dustier than newer ones. And I know we have a cat - whose little kitty dander and hair is everywhere. But do these two things mean I just have to deal with a dusty house?? The house has carpet in two of the bedrooms, and the other bedroom & rooms are hardwood and ceramic tile. Should I be vacuuming everything (carpet & hardwood) multiple times a week? Is that my only option? PLEASE help me, friends! What should I do & what cleaning items should I use to STOP. THE. DUST. ??

Monday, April 5, 2010

Belated Easter

Happy belated Easter!

I had a great weekend with my mom in town! I think Easter is one of my favorite holidays - just because it's totally low pressure (ie, not buying 300 presents for your family), and it's during a lovely time of year when everything's in bloom but it isn't too hot, yet. And I love church on Easter morning - so much happiness & excitement, beautiful flowers, full choir, people donning their Easter-wear; and we're finally singing all the glorious, happy songs (not the minor-keyed Lenten hymns). What a great day! And since it's Easter, it's totally appropriate to go to brunch afterwards and eat your heart out (which is what I did yesterday, with 4 plates, one of them a dessert plate Jonathan described as "inappropriate").

As you may recall, Friday night was the great Lobster Pot Pie bake of 2010 - and all I have to say is AWE-SOME! It was soooo good! Here's the recipe, because seriously, you guys should make it (and here's the recipe for the crust I made - since the Lobster crust calls for lard & I was fresh out). Ina says this feeds 4-5 people, but I'm so happy that I did one big pot pie instead of 4 ramekins, because in actuality, I think this would feed 8-12 (depending on how many apps you serve and/or salad) - if we ever get a dining room table, though (and can have a real dinner party), I'm definitely making this again! (Two things I deviated from the recipe: I used Sambuca instead of Pernod and I used 3 lobster tails [a little shy of 3 lbs] to really beef it up & make it more lobstery.)

My mom and I did some shopping on Saturday. Two of our stops were Sports Authority & Dick's Sporting Goods so I could look at running shorts, and also so I could try some larger-label running skirts. I got two pairs of shorts (one Nike, one Adidas) to try. I wore the Nikes on a walk last night - and I have to say, they'll be for walks only. They wouldn't work on a run (they'd ride up) - but I think they'll be great for walking & they're cute. But then, I'm sad to report, I was really disappointed in both the Nike and Adidas running skirts. Both suffer from the same problem: the material of the inner short is too soft & doesn't compress enough. I'll repeat myself from earlier, that this might only be a problem because my thighs are bigger than the "typical" runner's, but for me, the inner shorts on these skirts would immediately ride up when running. (Now, once I started sweating a little, they might stay put - but I want a skirt that will work for all phases of my run. And yes, I tried 2 sizes in both styles [to see if I was wearing something too big], but the skirt size had no effect on the inner short compression.)

So anyway, I hope everyone's Easter was as good as mine! And I hope if any of you venture into running skirt or lobster pot pie land, you'll let me know how it goes!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Fluff

Here's a Haiku I've written:

Dear Stock Market Holiday
by Jackie

I love how you show
your head about once a month.
You make my life good.

If you need some help reading between the lines (I know, poetry is tough), I'm HOME today! As in, not at the office! As in, not wearing a suit, making small talk about the weather, smelling the awful cologne of one of my colleagues, or drinking coffee out of the LoEstrin mug I hide from my coworkers so only I can drink out of it. What?

Anyway, I'm excited about my mom arriving in a couple of hours! Our birthday agenda includes lunch at Miss Cordelia's, pedicures on Mud Island, and the great lobster pot pie bake of 2010. Not to mention cupcake and alcohol consumption. What a great Friday!

I also wanted to follow up really quick with my post about taste tests. When I was at the fancy grocery store on Wednesday buying lobster, I saw that they had the Annie's Organic Ketchup (the one Claire mentioned in her response to my post - the one that won some taste tests). So I bought it and tasted. AND...it was really good! I highly recommend. It's pretty sweet, but also had a really nice sort of secondary vinegar flavor. It's a lot more textured than most other ketchups I've tried, which made it nice, I thought - as if it actually came from a tomato. And you can see pieces of pepper in it, which is fun. The ingredient list, as well, is a lot less scary than other brands. So overall, if I remember when I'm at the nice grocery store, I'll definitely pick it up again. (A sort of random thing about it was that I put it in the fridge [I usually prefer my ketchup room temperature], but something about this one [maybe the texture?] just made me think it'd be better cold.)

So I'm wishing you all a Happy Easter! I hope you'll get to be with family or close friends to celebrate the glorious Resurrection. (And believe this or not, Peter Cottontail usually still comes to my house - so I'll be looking forward to some treats from him before church - what a great day, indeed!)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stressful Times/Stressful Measures

My mom is coming in town for Easter this year. I'm really excited to see her! I have to say, though, that whenever she comes in town, there's a certain stress that falls over me the few days before she arrives. If I'm a Neat Freak, she's a Neat Nazi - but also, a cleanliness one. So having a straightened house is good, but not quite good enough. Thus, a really clean, straight house is essential.

And also, one huge, sucky, annoying addition to the stress factor is that my mom is terribly allergic to cats. And since we have a big, fat, lazy ball of love living in our house - the cleaning factor has to be increased 100%. If my in-laws were coming over, for example - we'd do a total house straighten, maybe clean the kitchen & bathrooms, maybe use the hand vacuum to pick up fur balls in the corners of the room, and call it a day. But when a cat allergy comes to visit (or a Neatness Nazi), we have to do all those other things, plus vacuum all floors, and vacuum on the couches, and probably clean the kitchen floor (because it's kind of dirty and I can already hear a passive aggressive comment brewing). And we all know that really, truly cleaning a house before company comes can't happen more than say three days in advance - or else it just gets messy before they arrive (especially true with the pet hair).

I'm also a little on edge because not only is my mom coming in town on Friday, but Friday is her birthday. So - imagine all the general stress of getting the house ready, in addition to the stress of planning birthday activities for someone who will expect something awesome (and yes, she will expect this - none of the "just being with you is enough" - it's not, for her). And I'm really happy I'll get to spend her birthday with her - and I do want to make it awesome (I love doing that kind of fun planning stuff) - I just wish it didn't coincide with the need to beautify and de-cat our house.

So yesterday during lunch I swung by our house to get the dry cleaning that was piling up in the corner to drop off (then it'll be ready by this afternoon). When I was home, I was going to grab a gift card we got for our wedding to a fancy, local grocery store (since for my mom's birthday dinner, I'm making lobster pot pies). Well, I walked in and the house was pretty messy (and we all know how messes make me feel); but in addition, it's kind of dirty - like, since the sun was overhead, shining in, I could see all the cat hair on the floor and the dust suspended in the air and all the lint balls/general crap on our rug and the cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling. You don't really notice all that stuff late in the afternoon or at night when there isn't a direct sunbeam coming in.

So this got me a little on edge - just thinking about how much bigger the cleaning job was than I imagined. Then I went to the place where I thought the gift card was - and it wasn't there. And I looked in the other place it could be - and it wasn't there. And thirty minutes later, every possible place it could be, and I still couldn't find it. So what did I do? I'm warning you - this is a little weird: I stress ate. Like, went into the kitchen, ate a ton of cheese, ate some ketchup, ate a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, a couple bites of ice cream, and two hershey kisses. I wasn't even really hungry. But I was stressed about the house, super annoyed about the gift card, and just generally feeling helpless. And I filled the void with food, which is so so gross to me. It's like one of those weird behaviors like hoarding - where the person is all out of control but can't do anything about it. I felt utterly out of control - and I didn't like it.

I'm hoping now that everything is back in line (since we tackled a couple major cleaning projects last night) - but what a strange little glimpse into neuroses. I really wish the cleanliness of our house didn't affect my sanity so much! What about you guys? Any weird neurotic things in your life that might make me feel like less of a freak??