Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let's Be Real

I think this post is spreading like wildfire through the blog community.  The message is good, though.  Great, actually.  And I think we can all relate to what he's saying at least in a small way.  (Note, I think he's gone through some really tough, desperate times of late, which might make his post slightly more dramatic than what's going on in your own life.  Or maybe not...) 

So maybe read this in lieu of your daily dose of my brilliant, witty, fantastic, poignant writing.  And maybe at some point, instead of writing about apple cider and boots, one of these days I'll be "real."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Alt. Meds

Have you guys read Eat, Pray, Love?  I should maybe do a blog post about that in itself, because I liked it a lot more than I thought I would - but anyway.  There's a part of the book when she's in Indonesia.  She gets a urinary tract infection (Indonesia is the "Love" portion of the book - so yeah - that's why she got a UTI).  She had some medicines with her that she'd brought from home - one of those being the antibiotic to treat it.  But before she took it, she was complaining about the pain to her friend the herbal medicine woman who said, "let me treat you first - give it half a day - and if it doesn't work, then you can take your Western medicine."  The author then goes on to say something, light-heartedly, like, "I don't even need to tell you guys what happened, because I'm sure you can already guess, but the medicines from the herbalist gave relief and then cleared up the infection without the use of Western antibiotics."

Now this really fascinates me - so I sort of wonder - what do you guys think about non-traditional, more "Eastern-centric" medical approaches to ailments?

I was talking one time to the owner of my yoga studio's husband (who's also a yoga teacher).  And he wholeheartedly told me that he believes Eastern approaches to medicine are very beneficial in some situations.  (And he's not like crazy, guru, weird yoga guy.  He followed it up with, "but of course, Western medicine is awesome & essential in certain situations.")

Of late, I was also reading the blog of a woman who talked about her own doctor - her GP - who's an Indian woman.  And the blog writer described her as, "someone who would be just as likely to prescribe a special kind of soup as she would an antibiotic."

And this made me a little jealous.  I wish I had an Indian doctor well versed in both Eastern and Western medicine!

My thought process is this.  The way Western medicine has evolved over the years is awesome.  Undeniably.  And I absolutely do not dream of living in a more simple time when herbalists were the only people who could treat the sick.  Or when a quick blood let was a reasonable approach to an ailment.  Or when, unfortunately, most people died around 50-60.

But on the other hand, "medicine" as we know it today evolved from that more simple time.  Medicines (pain killers, antibiotics, cold remedies, etc.) were originally created from plants/fungi/etc.   And so wouldn't it seem plausible that the equivalent of Tylenol exists in something other than a chemical made in a factory?  Or that there's an extract oil or something that's as potent as, say, an Ambien?

I'm just fascinated by it.  And it makes me wonder how many of our medicines and ways to treat minor ailments are just the product of our 20th/21st century "can have" mentality.  For example, if you went to the doctor with a viral infection (which can't be treated by an antibiotic) and the doctor just said, "sorry, I can't do anything, but get some rest and drink fluids" you might be annoyed.  Like, I actually remember this happening when I was a kid and my mom would basically demand an antibiotic for me (or she would declare it a sinus infection herself and "treat" me with amoxicilan we had left over in the cabinet [which I 99% believe is the reason that specific antibiotic does nothing for me anymore - like, I think I built up an immunity because I was given it all the time - but whatev]). 

Or if you went to the doctor with a constant recurring pain and the doctor had no explanation or treatment to offer you, you'd be annoyed.  So - is that situation the reason fibromyalgia exists?  Like, I don't disbelieve people who have pain that has been called "fibromyalgia" - but the term itself - I just wonder if it's so doctors have something to say when they don't know the answer, you know?  And I wonder if a person with "fibromyalgia" went to a well-versed Eastern doctor and said, "my X hurts all the time, but mostly when I do Y" if he wouldn't have something better to offer for relief, other than a blanket term that describes the cause of pain as, more or less, unknown.

I also wonder if Eastern medical remedies were more mainstream, if people would be more interested in them.  Like, noone who's suffering from the worst flu of his life wants to sip some tea with an unknown result when he could be taking Tylenol Severe Flu that he knows will work.

Do you guys have any thoughts on this?  Do you ever consider any medical remedies that are outside the standard practice of medicine in America?

(Does anyone have an Indian doctor in Memphis who will prescribe me soup instead of amoxicilan?)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall, Glorious Fall!

I've made it no secret that Fall is my favorite season.  I love it!  I love everything about it.  And while Memphis Fall isn't nearly as awesome as more northern cities, I make the most of it. 

Yesterday & today, particularly, are having some awesome, seasonally cool weather (temps in the 70s).  So in honor of that - I'd like to present a list of the things I love most about Fall. 

(And yes - a lot of these are related to food.  BACK OFF.)

-rich, Fall colors
-"back to school" clothes
-pumpkin-flavored beer (I also had a chocolate stout this past weekend that was delicious & Fall-like)
-pumpkin-flavored desserts
-corn mazes
-caramel apples (had one on Saturday - mmm)
-apple cider
-pumpkin patches
-Fall vegetables (Finally!  I think I'll die if I have to eat any more zucchini or squash)
-dinners on our deck
-JEANS - all weekend, every weekend
-boots (and I definitely bought the ones I wanted in my last post - the ones Sarah already has)
-warm, heavier dinners - like soup/stew, chili, pot pie, etc.
-snuggling with a blanket
-sweaters - especially when the weather is cool enough for a sweater, warm enough for no coat
-wearing my bathrobe & slippers
-someone's birthday
-college football on my terms - that is, the few times when I'm actually excited about drinking some beer, laying around, and watching it; that is, not as the thing that keeps someone uninterested in doing anything else on the weekends; and not as the thing that keeps the awful tv on constantly
-Halloween candy
-carving pumpkins (particularly with a pumpkin ale in hand)
-red wine as seasonally acceptable (I drink it year-round - but it feels more appropo with cooler weather)
-the beautiful, big trees in my neighborhood changing color

Ah - I'm excited just reading that list!  Did I forget anything?  What do you guys like most about Fall?

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Life in Fantasy vs. Reality

Maybe I've seen one too many romantic comedies.  Or read one too many "chick books."  Or maybe I've watched too many sitcoms over the course of my life.  But I have to say that sometimes I have a somewhat skewed vision of the way I think life should go.  "Life" for me, in this instance, implying the stage of life I'm in - which is married with no children.

Even a couple weeks ago when LB sent some pictures of her new place in Chicago, I found myself start to imagine for her what some of these things would be like.  Or I look at pictures of people on Facebook and I think "their lives must be like X."  Or "I bet they do Y."

Overwhelmingly, what I've found is that our young, married life doesn't pan out the same way it does in my head.

Myth 1: After-work time
When I think about a young married couple getting home from work, I see it like this: the husband gets home after the wife, loosening his tie as he walks through the door.  The wife's in the (huge) kitchen, heels off, work clothes untucked.  She's getting stuff ready for dinner.  When husband walks in he kisses her & then either jumps on a cutting board next to her to help with dinner prep, or sits at the kitchen bar and they talk about their day.
**
I guess in my fantasy world people don't exercise?  But this is how "after-work" pans out in my house: I get home before Jonathan.  So usually by the time he gets home I'm on the treadmill/doing a workout video.  If not, then I'm probably plopped on the couch.  If I'm not on the treadmill, he comes over & says hello, then goes into the other room (either to change out of work clothes/mess around on the internet or get into workout clothes himself).  We don't really talk until we sit down for dinner.  And that works for us.  It came up in our premarital counseling that Jonathan likes to have some time alone at home to disconnect from the office before he jumps into hang out time.  While it's not exactly what I would prefer, I can deal.

Myth 2: Take Out Food
I have this myth that young, married couples eat a lot of takeout.  Sitting on the floor.  By the fireplace.  Wearing cute pajamas.  Snuggling, feeding each other with chop sticks, and drinking wine.
**
No no.  We don't really eat takeout (although Jonathan is now wishing this myth would pan out in real life).  We never sit on the floor.  Our fireplace doesn't work.  Jonathan doesn't own pajamas.  And if we did get takeout, we'd probably eat it at the table or while watching tv.  And it probably wouldn't be Chinese food.

Myth 3: The Bedroom as a Cool Hangout
I can almost pinpoint this one directly to You've Got Mail, but sometimes I envision our mythical bedroom as a cool hub of the house.  We lay in bed with books all over, laptops, magazines and do stuff (read, play on the computer, peruse magazines) while also engaging in meaningful conversation.  We wear reading glasses.  It's good quality time (also spent in our lovely, comfy pajamas).
**
We just don't do that.  We read in bed sometimes, but when we do, Jonathan usually has headphones on so we don't chitchat.  I think, though, in my mythical world, we generally have a lot more time than we do in real life.  I can't really imagine myself sitting still long enough (and being comfortable in that) to lay around in bed for hours at a time.  I get too antsy & can't do it.  And again, Jonathan doesn't own pajamas.

Myth 4: After Work Drinks on the Porch
We certainly drink a lot in my mythical world, I guess.  But I see this time of sitting in the porch swing with a drink in hand (maybe while dinner is cooking?) and enjoying the early evening and chitchatting.  Saying hello to neighbors as they walk by, the smell of other people's dinner in the air.
**
We don't drink a whole lot during the week in real life.  And we exercise, which seems to be a recurring hindrance to my mythical world.  (We also don't get a ton of pedestrian traffic on our street - but that's neither here nor there, really.)

Myth 5: The Early-Morning Hours
We wake up naturally before the sun.  One of us goes to get the newspaper outside while the other starts a pot of coffee.  We drink and read the paper, and then one of us makes breakfast.  We're sitting at an island-type thing on a stool in the kitchen.  The house is silent except for the turning of newspaper pages.  The smell of coffee clings to the robes we're wearing.
**
This is almost laughable.  I wake up at the last second possible to get to work on time (sometimes later than the last second).  Jonathan gets up with enough time to shower & go (and if he happens to get up earlier, he watches SportsCenter).  Neither of us drink coffee or eat breakfast until we get to work.  We don't get a newspaper.  If I could easily wake up a lot earlier, I'd probably work out in the morning instead of after work.  And the best part of all these fantasies: our kitchen is tiny.  Teeny tiny, itty bitty.  There's no bar, no island, no granite.

Myth 6: After Dinner Walks
After dinner, as the sun begins to set, we head out to walk through the neighborhood and enjoy the night air.  We wave at other families doing the same thing.  We stop and talk with neighbors.  We engage in meaningful conversation
**
One, midtown Memphis probably isn't the place to walk around in the dark every night.  Two, we like to veg and watch tv or read books.  Three, the reality of being married is that every second you're together is not filled with meaningful conversation.

Do you guys ever have visions of how you think something should go, even if it's never happened that way for you before?  Does your vision involve a kitchen as awesome and open as the one in mine?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Big Mac Attack

Yesterday morning I went to the breakroom to put my lunch in the refrigerator.  The shelves were really packed, so I had to move a smaller bag to a small shelf so I could put my big bag on a big shelf.  I swear I wasn't looking through the person's lunch bag - I just happened to notice what was inside when I moved it:

A Big Mac box (that wasn't heavy enough to have a full Big Mac in it - so a half sandwich, we'll say) and a can of v8.

Interesting.  So this person decided that the remainder of his Big Mac (that he couldn't eat the previous day) was good enough to be saved for lunch the next day; that the Big Mac was so good the first time, that even re-heated, it would be a good meal. And the v8...?  I guess that adds some veggies where the burger is lacking?

Anyway - it was pretty funny.  And I really wish I could've staked out to see who claimed that bag at lunchtime.  But the mystery remains.

It did get me thinking, though: I've never had a Big Mac.  Not even a taste of a Big Mac.  (And obviously I don't eat meat now, so I won't have one anytime soon - but I ate meat for a lot of years!)  When I was a little kid and birthday parties at McDonald's were cool (what??  they were!) and each kid was served a happy meal and an orange soda, it took about two parties for me to realize I couldn't eat the cheeseburgers because I hated them.  And I guess I carried that hatred with me, because I never gave the golden arches another chance to burger-wow me.  (Now chicken McNuggets?  That's a different story.  I've probably eaten hundreds of those in my lifetime.)

Some things I have eaten from McDonald's and loved, though:
1. Pizza!  Many people never had these when they were out (I think there was a select test market - and I had an uncle who was a McD's exec, so we got stuff) - but they were awesome!  Little personal pizzas.
2. The McRib.  Oh yes.  I went there.  And it was awesome.
3. Those boxes of cookies!  Do you guys remember how delicious they were?  Sort of like animal crackers - but better.
4. Cherry pies.  Oh my gosh - do you remember how delicious those fried pies were?

Anyway, I don't ever really eat fast food now.  Do you guys?  If I want something really quick, I go to a sandwich shop or an order-at-the-counter take out-type place (which, in terms of calories [depending on your order] might not be all that different from McD's, but something about it feels cleaner and healthier).  Actually, I think if I went to McDonald's now, I'd be embarrassed that someone I know would see me there.  Do you guys feel like this?  Or am I just a food snob?

Those McD's fries are pretty awesome...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seasonal Decorations - Yay or Nay

This is a sort of funny question, I guess, but I'm curious: what are your thoughts on seasonal decorations?  That is, non-Christmas seasonal decs (because at Christmas, I definitely go for it).  So - stuff like Fall decorations or Spring/Easter decorations?

The way our house is set up (which I promise to post pictures of once we have the new prints up) is like this: you open the front door & you're in our formal living room.  Behind that (in an open-style floor plan) is the dining room.  Our dining room doesn't have a table - it has a baby grand piano, an upholstered chair, an antique desk, and a bookshelf.  Behind that (accessed by two sliding doors - one we keep open, one we keep closed) is our very large, casual family room, or "den," if you will.  (And then obviously the other side of the house has the bedrooms/bathrooms/kitchen, etc. - but that doesn't matter for this post.)  The fireplace is in the formal living room.  And the kitchen table is in the big, back room.

So in thinking about some houses I know that do seasonal decorating, two come to mind: my mom's house & my mother in law's house.  At my mom's house, she puts her seasonal decorations on the really large coffee table in the family room and around the fireplace.  At my in-law's house, she decorates their really large dining room table (which is centrally located in their house).

And I should say, when I'm talking about Fall decorations, I mean really tasteful stuff.  Like: decorative/arty pumpkins & gourds, decorative dried corn, Fall-colored leaves, acorns, pine cones, etc.  Not: anything Halloween, turkeys, scarecrows, hay, pilgrims, dressed-up pumpkins, etc. 

More this:
And this:
And not so much this:
(Ha.  I love how they placed the random sunflower in the middle of that wheel thing.)

Or this:

So the questions are:
1) Do people our age decorate seasonally?
2) Where in my house would I put the actual decorations since I don't have a dining room table?

I don't think our formal living room is the right place for anything.  It's too nice & there isn't a lot of extra space for deco.  The piano room also doesn't really have any extra space.

That leaves the big back room.  But I don't have a very big coffee table.  And so I'm wondering if I put some stuff on the kitchen table if it would just be too random since there wouldn't be any other decorations.

What do you guys think?  Will you decorate for Fall?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Product Plug: Crest 3D White

I should preface by saying that I'm not being compensated in any way for this review.  These opinions are entirely my own. 

(But Crest, if you're reading this & want to compensate me for my opinion, I'd happily join your payroll.)
You guys - this is the best whitening toothpaste ever.  I'm serious.

I do this weird, conditioned behavior when I'm drinking coffee.  I immediately put the liquid behind my bottom teeth when it goes into my mouth (in an effort to avoid staining my front teeth).  Well, because of that, if I open my mouth and look at the back of my bottom teeth in the mirror, I have coffee stains.  A lot.  And they don't go away with normal brushing.  I've tried to pay extra attention to that area, but they just don't budge.

But!  I'm serious, you guys, they went away in less than a week of using Crest 3D White.  Less than a week.  Months of stains.  Gone - POOF!

The toothpaste isn't abrasive and it doesn't cause any sensitivity  In the past I've had: 1) weird gum reactions to toothpastes and 2) crazy sensitivity to whitening products.  But nothing with this one.

So yeah.  Bottom line: use this stuff.  It's awesome.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Animal People

Am I, could I be, (gasp) a "cat person?"
I can't believe I'm even writing this post because I really hate stereotypes of "if you like X, then you must not like Y."  In this case, the stereotype being you're either a "cat person" or a "dog person." 

(And for the record, what about "bird people," "fish people," "ferret people" etc.?  Whatever.)

So, fact: Ben the Cat (sweet, sweet BenCat, RIP) was my first really cool pet.  I never had a dog or cat growing up.  We had fish and two hamsters. 

Ben was my little guy.  He was a cool cat.  He did things like wait for me at the door when I got home, follow me around the house, snuggle with me on the couch (he slept with me for awhile, until I realized I wasn't sleeping that well).  But he was never obnoxious.  He'd follow me around the house, but it wasn't like he was running between my legs, trying to get my attention.  He'd follow me into the kitchen, for example, and then he'd just lay down behind me and watch what was going on.  Then when I left the kitchen, he'd leave too.  Also, he could handle distance.  So, if I was laying on the couch & didn't want him laying with me, he'd just go sit on the other couch, no big deal, no hurt feelings.  When guests came over, he was interested in them, ie, he never went to hide in another room.

The way he acted led a lot of people to say, "wow, he's a lot like a dog."

But I'm not sure this is 100% correct.  Because, I'm sorry to say, Ben was a lot cooler than a lot of dogs I know.

Fact: I like dogs.  My dad & stepmom have two (well, one now, RIP Sadie girl).  My cousin Dianne has always had golden retrievers that I've loved - like, can't unattach myself from them when we're visiting her.  When I was growing up, we used to dogsit a Bishon named Rambo that I loved to walk & hang out with.  I like dogs.

But also, sometimes dogs are annoying.  They jump on you, they jump on your guests, they get so! excited! when people are around.  Their tails knock stuff over sometimes.  They follow you around the house, but not in a cool, let's hang out sort of way.  They slobber.  Sometimes they pee when they get overexcited.

(It's funny for me to imagine animal language if Ben had ever been around one of those crazy, hyper, barking/peeing dogs.  I think he would've rolled his eyes and said, "get a grip, man.")

So maybe I'm not necessarily a "dog person" or "cat person" exclusively, maybe I just like the coolest version of each animal.  But one thing about cats is that since I've had one as a pet, I feel like I know how to handle them.  Like, I know how they like to be petted (& how they don't), where to scratch them, how to coo at them.  With dogs, I have a general idea, but it doesn't feel as personal as it does when I encounter a random cat.

I think cats get a bad rep, though.  Because there are some Powder cough who aren't as cool and social as others.  But dogs?  They don't ever get a bad rep unless they're mean.  Everyone, it seems, loves dogs.  Which is great, but do people other than me not see how annoying they can be sometimes?  It's annoying if you can't control your dog.  And it's annoying how every single dog owner thinks their own dog is the cutest/coolest/best dog in the World - such that even if he's jumping on top of a stranger slobbering on them, it's ok because he's the cutest/coolest/best dog in the World.

And I know, some cats really suck.  And some cats are vindictive - like, if the owner pisses them off, the cat is going to get back at him (hello peeing in weird places, scratching upholstery, tearing up stuff).  But a lot aren't.  Yet, good cats continually get classified with the bad ones.

My aunt Natel had this long series of poodles (all named "Napolean," fun fact) who were awful.  They were the meanest, least cool animals you could possibly imagine.  And there were 4-5 of them in a row - all really mean.  But that didn't taint my view of dogs in general.  Hardly.  So it bothers me when people say "I don't like cats, I like dogs" because they've met one or two bad cats.  (And for the record, it's not an all-or-nothing thing.  If you like dogs better, it doesn't mean you don't like cats.)

Cats are suuuuuuper easy pets to have, as well.  They make great companions, but don't need to be let out or walked multiple times a day.  They can also stay by themselves at the house if you go away for a vacation.  They wash themselves.

Sadly, though, I'll probably not ever have another cat.  My mom has one of those really, really bad allergies that makes her throat close when she's around them.  I'd like to get a dog at some point, though.  But preferably one on the chill side of dogs.  And preferably one who will get intense obedience training so I don't become one of those obnoxious owners who lets him jump around crazily.

Anyway - what about you guys?  Do you prefer one animal to another?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ah, Consumerism...

It might be approaching Fall, or spending the weekend in a cooler climate, or maybe just straight-up consumerism, but here are some things (mostly boots) that I really have my eyes on for future purchases!

These boots.  I've wanted them since I saw Sarah in them last winter.  I think they're the perfect casual, wear-around-town boot.

These boots.  (Like I said, boots are on the brain.)  I think they're cool and could also be a good wear-around, casual boot.  I love the greyish brown.

These Uggs - which I will not get.  But how cute are they!  How cute would it be to slip these on before yoga?  Or with some leggings & a big, comfy sweater?  (Actually, I'm wondering if they could be weather/water proofed which might actually make them something worth having [for the couple times a year we have snow and the many times a year we have rain] - but maybe a normal Ugg-type boot would be better for that?)
Things I also want but don't have a picture:

-some Fall/Winter-y tunics (or too-short dresses) to wear with leggings (and boots!)
-some more long (below the butt) open cardigan-style chunky sweaters (although I did just get a really cute one this weekend)
-some casual, winter skirts that could be worn with tights or leggings (the only ones I have are definitely more formal, work clothes)

But the main reason I probably won't get a lot of this stuff is because Jonathan and I discussed how I'm going to put a little money aside each month so I can buy one of these beauties.
A laptop of my own!  A beautiful Mac (of some kind - the variety is TBD) where I can write blog posts and edit pictures and write my novel and store music and use garageband to play piano duets with myself.

Are you guys feeling the consumerism itch now that it's Fall?  Anything in particular?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yogurt Taste Off - 2010

I think it's pretty common for people who do a lot of international travel (or have lived in another country) to have a specific non-American food product they think is awesome.  And not available in the US.  Or, the US equivalent isn't as good as the other.

I don't mean dishes of food (because obviously you'll get the best paella in Spain, the best masaman in Thailand, the best spaghetti in Italy, etc.), I mean food products.  Some common ones I've heard:

-Cadbury chocolate in the UK (which is apparently more awesome than Cadbury chocolate in the US).
-Coca Light vs. Diet Coke.
-Rice pudding containers in Germany.

Stuff like that.  Well, not that I'm an "international traveller" by any means - but I do think I might have found my thing that I crave in the US but can't get.

Mexican plain yogurt.

I'm not the World's biggest yogurt fan.  I have some issues with the sometimes goopy texture & artificial sweetener.  But "plain" yogurt in mexico is fantastic!  It tastes to me like tart-flavored frozen yogurt - a little sweet, a little tart, a lot delicious.  But the texture - it's incredible - it's creamy, but really runny; almost as runny as milk.

So in the grocery store on Sunday, a day after returning from vacay, I decided to buy some vanilla yogurts to see if any match up.  "Vanilla" is really the closest thing we have to the Mex "plain" - but I'm determined to find one!

(I should say, too, this wasn't really a long-imagined taste test.  I didn't do any kind of research; the thought actually dawned on me at the grocery store, so I just chose three to try.)
From Left: 365 Everyday Value Fat Free Vanilla yogurt (this is Whole Foods' generic brand); Wallaby Organic Nonfat Vanilla Bean; and Stonyfield Farms Fat Free French Vanilla.

I'm going to give general thoughts, calorie counts, cost, and sugar count (because oh my goodness there's a lot of sugar in these things!).  Here we go - The Great Vanilla Yogurt Taste Off of 2010 (or at least the first one).

365 Everyday Value Brand
Cost: $0.58
Calories: 120
Sugar: 16 grams
Thoughts: Taste-wise, this was pretty good.  Not too sweet, not too vanilla-y.  It isn't anywhere near as good as the Mexican one.  But I will say, the texture was good.  Not too thick, not too goopy.  And this one definitely has the best stats - lowest calorie count, sugar count, and cost.  Win, win, win.

Wallaby Organic
Cost: $0.99
Calories: 140
Sugar: 22 grams
Thoughts: This was my favorite in terms of texture.  Hands down.  The texture was about equal to the Mexican one - it's reaaaaaally runny.  And while the flavor is not like the Mexican plain - I actually liked the vanilla bean (you can see little pieces of bean floating around) - it's the slightest bit smokey, in the way that vanilla bean can be.  This was probably my favorite.  Although, 99 cents for 6 oz of yogurt seems a little high, right?  As does 22 grams of sugar, right?

Stonyfield Farms
Cost: $0.99
Calories: 130
Sugar: 24 grams
Thoughts: Yuck!  I would imagine a lot of yogurt fans would really like the texture here - but I hated it.  It was really thick & creamy.  But not "thick & creamy" in the way a delicious Greek yogurt is - it was almost gelatinous-like.  The flavor was fine.  But I couldn't get past the texture.  I didn't finish the 6oz.  And 24 grams of sugar??  Come on.

So it's tough to say who the winner is here.  Maybe the 365 just because of the stats?  If Wallaby cost less it would win. 

I sort of like the idea of taste testing yogurt - I might continue!

Also - you might be thinking Greek yogurt could fill the desire for Mexican.  And my thoughts are this: the flavor is fairly close (but still a little too sour creamy, not the slight hint of sweetness) - but the texture is 100% different.  I like Greek yogurt fine, but I want to find a Mexican yogurt substitute.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

House Hunting

I would say Jonathan and I have titled this phase of life: "Saving Money."  Without kids, it feels like now's the time to be saving as much as we can.  There aren't any major, pressing purchases that need to be made (we have a house that fits us, we have furniture for every room [plus some], we have functioning cars [although the Sube functions a wee bit more than my 10 year old Toyota], etc.).

But completely contrary to the idea of saving money, one of our favorite activities on a Sunday afternoon is going to open houses in our neighborhood.

We live in a really cool, old neighborhood that's pretty diverse in its real estate.  There are smaller houses like ours (2-3 bedrooms/1-2 bathrooms); mid-sized, family homes (3-5 bedrooms/2-5 baths); and million-dollar mansions (a gazillion bedrooms/a cajillion bathrooms).

I think we both envision our next house as one of the mid-sized family homes.  Jonathan grew up in one (in our neighborhood, actually), I grew up in one (in a cookie-cutter suburb of St. Louis) - and it's where we'd like to raise kids (unless of course we win the lottery or I write a bestseller, in which case we might consider a mansion).

The reason the open houses are so cool is because all the mid-sized houses in our neighborhood are totally different!  They often share a similar, square floorplan - but since the houses were built in the early 20th century, so many different additions/renovations/updates have been done over the years that the real estate inventory ends up being quite diverse.

Now, we've been to quite a few showings over the years.  It's always for fun.  And we've definitely seen some cool houses.  There have been quite a few I've walked into and thought, "I could live here."  And quite a few more, "this house would be awesome if you did X to it."  But there's never been love.  I've never walked into a house and thought, "We Have To Have This." 

Until Sunday.

It was a big day for open houses.  We walked through 4 total.  There was one we specifically wanted to see, which is gor-geous on the outside, but was just "livable now, needs some work" on the inside.  The other two were no good.  But then there was the fourth.

For starters, it's located on one of the top 3 (arguably the) most desirable blocks in our neighborhood.  It was previously owned by an architect (who has since been transferred back to Chicago - so the house is empty & needs to be sold).  The family apparently moved into the backhouse for awhile while they ripped out the inside of the big house and made it awesome.

Some things the house has:
1. Awesomeness.
2. New hardwood floors throughout.
3. An open floor plan (sort of hard to come by in an old house).
4. A really good upstairs floorplan (a master with a little sitting room, 3 other good-sized bedrooms, and an upstairs den).
5. Really cool, modern track lighting throughout.
6. A really big, friggin cool kitchen.  This is where he took his architectural genius & went to town: he added cool archway-type things to the ceiling; cool lighting; awesome countertops (a sort of smooth stone that has tiles pressed in random places); cool cabinets; all new, updated appliances; a heated tile floor; and perhaps the coolest feature - they took out the back staircase & put in this big rustic-wood spiral staircase.
7. Re-done bathrooms - but redone in a really cool, artistic way.  I would define the materials used & the appliances and stuff as "rustic-modern."
8. A big back yard.
9. A big front porch with 2 ceiling fans.
10. Just general coolness - he's added architectural interest with unique molding, interesting light fixtures, unique materials, etc.

Some things the house does NOT have:
1. Lameness.
2. If we're being picky, it doesn't have a screened-in porch.
3. And again, pickiness, it doesn't have a defined "office" room.  I suppose the upstairs den could be one - but a lot of the houses we look at have small offices off the living room that would be good for my little worker-bee husband.

So we left that showing and were like, "what do we do?"  The house is listed almost $100k less than when it started on the market 4 months ago (which, even at the higher price, is probably absurdly low for what the house would go for in normal economic times).  The people are gone - they want to sell.  Interest rates are c-r-a-z-y low right now.

But on the flipside: we're in saving money mode!  We already have a house (that we'd need to sell - that probably isn't in ideal selling condition right now).  We don't have kids yet (or even one on the way).  We'll probably need to get a new car (to replace my beloved Toyota) in the next couple years.  Buying a new house would be silly.

But the house is so cool!

***

So in the end, after a good bit of debate (and there really was a good bit of throwing around numbers & ideas), I think we're going to let it go.  Now isn't the time for us.  And that blows.  This house is absolutely one of a kind - and I think that's the reason we really considered it.  There are a lot of great houses in our neighborhood, but no others that have been redone by this specific architect who happens to have a really cool, interesting style. 

It breaks my heart to think that the next owner is probably going to tear the house up because it isn't "traditional."  Actually, when we were walking through, there was a chatchy guy with his realtor walking through (who, we learned, had already put in an offer on the house that was rejected) who was like, "ok, give me the numbers again for ripping out the countertop and putting in granite."  Now I like granite as much as the next guy, but at the moment, I wanted to scream, "Gah - you're so Typical!"  He also mentioned taking out the wood spiral staircase... But WHATEVER - it's not my house or my design to feel protective of.

So yeah, no new house for us.  And it's fine - it's good, actually.  I think, too, something we can take away from the whole experience is that a lot can be done to older houses to "awesome them out."  That is, a re-done kitchen doesn't have to mean granite counters and maple cabinets; a lot can be done with molding; choosing the right light fixtures can really affect the way a house looks, etc.

But still...Sigh.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vacay Part III

Ok, ok.  This will be the last one.

One thing I've failed to mention in these posts is how awesome our weather was!  We were pretty nervous before we headed down - weather.com had rain showers predicted for every day.  When packing, we were planning what sunscreen to bring and Jonathan was like, "I mean, I don't think it really matters because we aren't even going to get that much sun."

So wrong, though!  Thank goodness.  The weather was perfect.  It was perfectly sunny & cloudless every. single. day.  It was pretty hot, but that was to be expected.  Luckily this cooled down the heat.
On the second to last day, we got a couple's massage which was lovely and relaxing.

Another highlight of our trip was a day outing to Selvatica.  It's appropriately subtitled, "The Adventure Kingdom."  They offer all kinds of different day-long excursion packages. 

The one we did first had these awesome ziplines through the jungle in the morning.  They were strung between trees and were really long, so you felt like you were flying through the jungle.  Jonathan might or might not have done one upside-down (that little daredevil).  That part of the day was so cool (unfortunately we have no photo evidence because we didn't want to drop the camera). 

After that, an army truck took us even farther into the jungle.

 Out there, we drove these off-road buggies through all kinds of mud trails.  It was messy and awes.  Jonathan did the driving because I was a little freaked out to even be a passenger. 

Then the last part of the day was spent at a gorgeous cenote (pronounced "suh-note-ahy" [or as Jonathan preferred: "c-note"]), which is an underground river.  They're apparently everywhere in Mexico.  It was so pretty!  (Note all the ropes and stuff you could hang on to climb around out there.)
We really enjoyed ourselves that day.
Actually, we really enjoyed ourselves the whole week.  It was such a joy to get away from our everyday lives for a little bit and reconnect, relax, read, talk, just be with each other without any stresses. 

Absolutely no regrets about the whole trip... 

Well, maybe one.  I regret holding my tongue when I wanted to correct the maitre-de at the Mexican restaurant.  When couples would walk in (male/female couples) he would greet them with "hello gentlemen."  "Table for two, gentlemen?"  "Right this way, gentlemen."

So that was our week.  I hope you enjoyed hearing about it!  We'll be back to normal blogging tomorrow.  Gentlemen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Vacay Part II

So now you've seen our lovely surroundings for a week, you might be wondering what we actually did on our trip.

I should start by saying that this was the view I saw most of the week.
And what Jonathan saw.

What you can't see in these pictures: the beer or frozen cocktail that occupied our hands for seven days.  But yeah, we went to the beach every day.  We would get one of these cabanas.
And throughout the day sit under its shade or in the sun.  Here was our view.
And this (a little blurry).
I enjoyed swimming in the ocean (especially on the first couple days when the waves were really big).
And after our day of beaching/pooling, we would clean up, go get a drink, and go to dinner (there were 7 restaurants to choose from: a steak place, a lobster place, and then Mexican, Indonesian, Italian, French, and Japanese restaurants).  Ole!

We cleaned up alright.

Then after dinner, we'd go get one last drink (or two).  This was one such "last drink or two."
And good old tequila showed his face a little, as well.
One huge difference we saw between this resort & the honeymoon place was the quality of food.  At this one, it was so delicious!  We really enjoyed the Indonesian restaurant and the Japanese one, so we ate at each of those twice.  And a couple times in the afternoon at the big pool, I'd order nachos that came heaped with cheese, guac, pico, and jalapenos.  Yum!  We also ordered snacks from room service a lot.

So yeah, that whole "eat less, exercise more" thing I had pre-planned?  Didn't happen so much.  But the food was good, which was a little different than the last place - so it wasn't like I was forcing something down just to eat - I was eating because it was awesome.

We got some exercise, too.  There was a lot of walking because the resort was huge!  Then one morning we took a bike ride around the grounds.  One morning we played tennis (a hot, sweaty disaster that ended with me just about passed out on a chair in the lobby while Jonathan frantically tried to find me water).  And one afternoon we took out a sea kayak.

Oh gosh.  There's still more to tell (lucky you!) - stay tuned for "Vacay Part III"...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vacay Part I

Oh the sadness of arriving home after an awesome vacation.  The blandness of salmon and steamed broccoli after a week of all-inclusive gluttony.  The bore of plain water after a week of around-the-clock drinks, appropriately named things like "Banana Mama," "Dirty Monkey," "Chi Chi," "Grasshopper," etc.  The pain of the first run after a week of little-to-no physical activity.  The hardness of pavement under foot, not sand.

It was such a great trip, though!  So...I present you....
The resort itself was really pretty.  Our room was a swim-up suite - so, it was on this little river of pools.  There were three rooms to the suite: a really nice, big bathroom; the bedroom section; and a sitting area with a couch & tv.  Then out a sliding glass door was the patio, a little bit of grass, and a river of pools.

Here's the view out our patio (one of my favorite activities was reading in the pool after a day at the beach).
This is a side view of the river of pools.
Here's another of the river pools.
And here are a couple pics of the room.  Standing a little past the bathroom (which was behind me on the left) into the whole suite.
Here's the bedroom portion.  Stop looking at me, swan.
Here's the living room area.
Someone is enjoying the complimentary bathrobe...
Then aside from the room, the whole resort was quite pretty.  It was very lush.  Here's a pic of a walkway that leads to the main pool.
All the walkways felt tropical.  There were a ton of iguanas.  (And other indigenous animals - ie, on the second night we saw a big, nasty tarantula that might or might not have given me nightmares for two nights and might or might not have led me to request Jonathan check under furniture before we got into bed.)

But it was great.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's "Vacay Part II"...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cheese Please

Since I had such good response to my last post about old food, I thought you guys might like to know what happened the other day after work.

I got home and went in the kitchen to have a snack.  I opened the refrigerator door and went to the inner drawer where we keep all our cheeses.  I intended to eat some Cabot white cheddar that I'd just opened the day before.  Only - it wasn't there!

I always always keep cheese in the cheese drawer.  Even so, I looked through the rest of the fridge to see if I somehow stuck it on another shelf.  No dice.  Where could the cheese be?  Who took the cheese?

When thinking of possible scenarios, one came to mind: when I was getting a plastic baggie out of the drawer to put the opened cheese in, I accidentally stuck the whole cheese block into the drawer instead of the fridge. 

Eureka!

But then I was in a sort of weird place.  My cheese had been sitting in a drawer (unrefrigerated!!) for a day.  But it was good cheese!  And almost an entire block!  What to do...what to do...?

Maybe you can guess the outcome?

I ate it.  In all its delicious, warm, oozy-goozy glory.  It tasted the same (awesome) as if it'd been in the fridge.  And I'm alive to tell about the experience.  I experienced no side effects.  No unwanted trips to the bathroom.

And my theory about old food lives on...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Help Me, Fellow Non-Doctors

Yeah - work this week has been a little crazy.  So here's a quick blog update where you all weigh-in with your non-doctor advice (and please don't give me the advice "go to the doctor" - I don't think I'm there yet).

About two-ish months ago in my yoga class we concentrated on the low/mid back.  So basically, an hour of cobra & up-dog & various exercises using weights (it's a "yoga sculpt" class).  There was never a moment in the class that was like BAM where I was hit with back pain or something popped, etc.  But afterwards my back was sore (which was common - I'm always sore in whatever body area we focus on).

Around the same time (I think the same week, actually) I got new running shoes.  For years I've worn Sauconys, but this time I decided to spend a little more money & got some Nikes.

And my back has not been the same since.

Nothing has changed about my workouts.  So I'm still doing yoga 1-2x per week, walking on some days, jogging on some days, a combination of walking & jogging on some days, and usually doing a P90X video at least once a week.  And I've not increased anything about the workout regime, in general.  So some days I'll push a little harder than others, but I imagine it all evens out in the end.

I would define it as mid to low back pain (that is, in my mid, low back - not way way far down, but not above, say, my natural waist).  It just feels like soreness.  It doesn't feel like a pulled muscle.  And it's equal throughout this whole area (not stronger on one side or the other).

I have two theories: 1) I pulled something during yoga & never gave it time to heal; or 2) it's the new shoes.

I gave it some rest this past week (I didn't work out Friday - Tuesday) and it was feeling normal by Saturday.  But then last night I did an ab P90X video followed by Cardio X (which is general cardio-type stuff) and it's back, full on.  I was up a portion of last night very uncomfortable.

Could my shoes be causing this?  Have you guys ever had shoes that caused a problem?

I wondered a little if it could be from standing for a long time (that is, last night I did my whole workout, then stood in the kitchen while making dinner, then stood in the shower, basically didn't sit down until 7:45 when we ate).  But at family fun night at church this past weekend, I stood in crappy, zero-support flip flops for hours (after a day of running around doing errands) and there was zero effect on my back.

I guess my next step would be to rest a few more consecutive days and try yoga and see if it hurts after that?  Or rest and try cardio in my old running shoes?  It sounds silly but: 1) I don't like to do a ton of "rest" because it mentally makes it easier for me to get out of the groove of daily exercise; and 2) the shoes were pretty expensive - it's going to be really annoying to buy another new pair.