Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Enjoy Being a Girl

Ah, the restorative properties of some pampering and a trip to the mall! I've been looking forward to gettin' my shop on. I needed some new underwear. I wanted to get out of the house.

Stop #1: free pedicure courtesy of a gift card I've been saving. I purposefully haven't used a lot of my gift cards while we were hurting for money because I knew that being out and spending money was going to make me want to spend more money. I think that's how the stores lure customers in--we didn't have any extra so I was holding my freebies pretty tightly for a while.

I discovered what I think is my new favorite nail color, "My Private Jet" by Opi. Whatever that retarded name means, it's a sparkly warm grey-purple-brown. Awesome. I might have to wait until it goes on sale at Ulta and buy one.

Stop #2: Supercuts for the monkeys. Addie's overgrown A-line and the boy's bedhead chic needed to hit the road. Henry requested that the lady cut his hair "just like Daddy's." After I explained what that was, she did a really good job. I love his little faux-hawk.

Stop #3: McDonald's, to pay the bribe I promised if they'd be good at the hairdresser. Also, to keep them quiet on the drive to the mall.

Stop #4: Macy's, to spend another gift card I've been saving. I found a pair of dark brown Blowfish flats I liked, and they were marked down (I thought) to only $17. When I asked the salesperson to get me my size, she said that wasn't the price, but the aisle number. Boo. She said they were half off of $39.99, and she'd go grab my size. 20 bucks for Blowfish flats is decent, but I wasn't sure. I couldn't remember if my gift card was for $20 or $25. When she came back with a box, she said they didn't have any more of those in my size, but she'd give me this pair of light tan shoes for the same price, which turned out to be $15.60. COLOR ME HAPPILY SURPRISED. Sold.

Happy feet.

I used the other $8 on the card to buy a pair of chonies, but I'll get to Chonie Theory later.

Mostly I spent my time at the mall asking Henry not to jerk his sister's arm off, hop in circles around me, shout, or hide in clothing racks. He wasn't too big a bother, but he was a little antsy since he had to endure a lot of shoe shopping and bra shopping. We made up for that with a lot of escalator riding. We rode the escalator today like it was our job.

Stop #5: VS. I love VS because I know I can walk in and find chonies in the right size every single time, in a perfectly-fitting microfiber style that won't move or bunch or create a situation ending in the suffix "-toe" or any other horrid bit of underwear origami they can manage. VS makes chonies that stay put and don't annoy or need to be adjusted all day. ONLY APPARENTLY THEY DON'T MAKE THIS KIND ANYMORE. For the love of all things sacred, VS, WHAT THE FEEZ? I count on you for two things: comfy bras and life-altering chonies, and you go and ditch the latter, the best thing you ever had going, in favor of a third of a store full of wide side lace thongs? I like those as much as the next gal, but let's talk durability. If I'm shelling out 10 bucks a chonie in this economy, I want them to last, not get holes in them. Nobody is under any illusions about lace underwear being highly durable, correct? Ugh.

I went OFF on the salesgirl. No, I don't want to try your seamless supermodel whisper-thin blah blah blahs because they are just like wearing NOTHING and unfortunately something does need to come between me and my Calvins. Don't lie, you know they're just parchment paper with a VS tag stamped in the back. I think they make them out of those toilet seat covers. I want some MICROFIBER in my unmentionables, mmmkay? And no, I'm not going back to cotton. Ever tried running in cotton unders, honey? No? Cotton socks caused a golfball sized blister on my foot. Imagine, if you will, what cotton underwear is going to do for a runner when it's BETWEEN HER LEGS. Cotton unders are out like parachute pants. They were fun while they lasted, but let's face it: it's time to grow up.

So the poor little petite, black-clad salesgirl looks up at me with Disney character eyes and goes "um, we have some similar ones in the Pink department, you might want to give those a try?" In 3.2 seconds I was next door, praying I wasn't going to hear gasp-screech-Mrs.P? Is that you? from some 9th grader from my English class with her hand in the same underwear drawer. I was willing to give those chonies a try, AND I DID, but let me tell you that I am violating a personal rule I established sometime in my 20's about NOT WEARING ANY WORDS on my tush or, in this case, my... um... you get it. Not only do I think I'm too old to wear words on my ass, I don't really see why anybody wants to go around wearing a sign on their posterior that says "here's a preview of my stripper name, in case things don't work out with like, you know, college." Undies that say PINK? Can we just not?

But I bought them. I was desperate, okay? I tried to stay away from rainbows and cute sayings--does anybody else feel like the entire Pink line is simultaneously up-sexing young teens and perpetuating a baby-chic sexiness that is just creepy on people over 18? Well I do, and I bought the damn underwear anyway. Because it's that important to me that my lady parts have a nice microfiber home. I'm going to try these new ones out and in the meantime I'm going to focus all my nightly prayers on the marketing team for VS and hope that they come to their damn senses and put things back the way they should be in the world.

Come back to me, low rise body by Victoria thong. I'll never let go, thong. I'll never let go.

Stop #6: Nordstrom potty. Of course Henry told me he needed to go right now just as I tried on bra #52 out of 100. Or something. We hightailed it over to Nordy's for the best lil' woman's room in town.

Stop #7: Disney store. Kid PJs, lots of browsing and playing. They needed a break.

Stop #8: Shoe store. Nothing.

Stop #9: White House Black Market. Nothing again. But apparently Kayla works there??

Stop #10: Wherein I go all Tracy on the Cheap on ya. (Tracy, you would have been so proud of me today!) I found a $7 maxi dress at Forever 21. It will make a cute jumper over a tank or t shirt for school once it warms up, and in the summer it will be a good bathing suit cover or date dress. SEVEN DOLLARS. What now, world.

Stops #11-14: Build a Bear (I made them promise not to even ASK to buy anything and I'd take them), car, Cost Plus (no purchases) and Nordstrom Rack (no purchases).

I'm beat! I barely spent any money at all but I came home with a nice haul. It felt good to bargain hunt in an environment other than the meat aisle at Winco. I feel sufficiently reintroduced into the female world again.

This wasn't from today, but it was on my camera. It's from when I had Roo at school with me on Thursday. My little reader, reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Aww...

Unsolicited Advice: Crochet

I love to crochet. Few things I do feel as productive. It's entirely satisfying to sit down and create a tangible product. It's repetitive, but allows me a lot of freedom to choose color combinations or patterns I think might be cool. It occupies my hands when I'm in front of the TV, and keeps me from eating. Even though it's wordless, I know it's one way to convey love to people around me. Nothin' says lovin' like a hug from a warm blanket. I like that it's very old school.

How do you get started? Get a book. You can have someone show you, but the real learning is going to happen when you're working all by yourself and have to figure it out. The first time I learned I had a friend show me, and I gave up within a few weeks. It was difficult feeling like I was tied to her and had to have her there to help me. I started up again when I was dancing as an apprentice at Sac Ballet, and I needed something to fill the hours between rehearsals. It was then that I bought a book and committed myself to learning on my own.

The book I used to teach myself is called I Can't Believe I'm Crocheting. It's cheesy as a vat of Que Bueno, but it works because it has step by step diagrams. You need a book that will show you what the yarn is supposed to look like on your hook. That's better than having someone help you anyway--even a good friend is going to get annoyed with you asking the same question over and over again. Expect to ask the same question over and over again. Expect to look at the book a lot. That's all completely normal.

What you need to start
is a hook (probably size H, I, or J, I like metal hooks), some cheap yarn, a pair of scissors, and your book. I recommend cheap yarn--Red Heart Super Saver is the best, I think--because any kind of fancy yarn will be nubby or loopy which means it will be hard to see your stitches. Until you're fancy schmancy, you want to stick to plain stuff. Don't get discouraged or think this means your stuff is going to suck. I use the cheap stuff when I make blankets because I like the "clean" look of the stitches, it's affordable, and it's acrylic which means it's washable. Snooty yarns are usually wool or something delicate. You can graduate to fancy yarn after you figure out what you're doing.

Learning basic stitches takes a long time. It's not that they're difficult to understand, but even learning how to hold the yarn and hook takes practice. A good thing to keep in mind is that there's no right way or wrong way to hold the hook. You should hold the hook however it feels comfortable in your hand. I hold it like a pencil, but others hold it underhand. The same goes for how you keep tension on the yarn. I haven't ever seen anyone who holds the yarn in their fingers like I do, yet my blankets come out fine.

The first thing you'll learn is how to tie yarn on to the hook and how to make a chain. Tying on the yarn took me a long time. I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. Chains are easy in theory, but keeping the same tension on the hook can be a challenge at first. One thing to keep in mind with chains is to do them loosely so you can go back through them later. If you're not a crocheter, you don't know what that means anyway, but maybe you'll look back at this when you're learning.

Single and double crochet stitches are the basis of almost everything you'll make. IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO GET GOOD AT THEM. Repetition is key. When you start, you'll have a hard time keeping your rows the same because you'll have a hard time "seeing" and counting your stitches. Also normal. And guess what? I HATE counting stitches. I purposefully choose patterns where I don't have to count because I'm way too likely to make an error. I do much better with a pattern where I can memorize the movement rather than calculate stitches over and over again. To each his own, and that's okay. In the beginning you'll have to count but it will get easier to see what you're doing.

Even though you might not feel like you're good enough yet try a simple pattern. Make sure it's both of these things: flat, and rectangular. Oddly enough, it was making my first afghan that made me learn to crochet. Many people start out learning chains, single crochets, double crochets, etc, and they get bored so they drop it. If you make something, you're bound to have a lot of frustrations at the beginning but you will learn to do it. I would not recommend that this first project is a scarf. Though it seems like that would be a good choice, scarves mean lots of rows (if you're stitching across the scarf horizantally) which means lots of ends, which means lots of chances to mess up, which means lots of chances to make your scarf wavy or get skinny then fat. It's a recipe for a headache. I would recommend making something like a potholder or a simple afghan. The afghan will force you to learn pattern stitch codes and start to recognize what you're looking at.

Reading patterns looks scary at first, but it's not. Every single crochet book I've ever bought has a key in it somewhere. I don't have all stitch codes memorized. Sometimes a pattern uses a special stitch, and it will explain that on the same page. Your simple crochet book will teach you how to read them. Go slowly. I draw an arrow on a post-it and stick that on my pattern. When I put the book down, I stick the arrow to the pattern pointing to the place I left off. The more complicated the pattern, the more I do that. Even now, I can't remember more than a few stitches at a time. Don't get intimidated by complicated looking patterns, they just take more patience. That said, you can find simple patterns that make beautiful projects. Know your goals. For me, crochet should be relaxing, and something I can do in front of the TV. Most of the patterns I make are very basic, but I make them look more complicated with edging, colors, etc.

Repetition, repetition, repetition. Everything you do in crochet requires consistency. There's no rule that says you have to crochet really tight loops or really loose ones. Make your crochet feel good in your own hands and you'll be more likely to do it. I crochet very loosely. It's the only way I've ever been loose in my life. But that works for me. When I first learned in high school I was trying to crochet so tight that I made myself angry. It just wasn't me. The more you practice, the more you'll discover what works for you and you'll learn how to keep things consistent.

Messing up is no big deal. Most blankets I've made have some error in them--a place where I did two stitches instead of three, a dropped loop, etc. One great thing about crochet is that you can just pull out what you've done and redo it, but sometimes I don't. Most errors don't show. I don't think anyone could look at one of my blankets and find the error. After it's all done, it still doesn't have to be perfect to be good. It's a judgment call. One error in a giant blanket isn't anything to beat yourself up about.

Anyone can learn how to crochet. Devote some quiet time to learning in the beginning, have a clear book nearby for questions, and try to make something early on. You'll be making blankets before you know it.

Here are some of my favorite crochet resources. Of course there are a puzillion things you can find on the internet, too. I find that videos move too quickly for me to follow--I prefer pictures and text--but there are lots of video resources available online too. Here are some of my favorite books and websites:

I Can't Believe I'm Crocheting (book), Leisure Arts
Available at Craft Stores

Stitch and Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker
(book), Debbie Stoller

Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters (book), Betty Barnden

Vanna's Afghans All Through The House (book), Vanna White
Bookstores, Craft Stores

Best of Terry Kimbrough Afghans (book), Terry Kimbrough
Craft Stores

101 Ripple Stitches, Knit and Crochet
(book), Jean Leinhauser
Craft Stores

101 Crochet Stitches (book), Jean Leinhauser
Craft Stores Learn Crochet (website)
Stitch photos and patterns for beginners

Lion Brand Yarn Learning Center: Learn to Crochet (website)
Personal favorite online resource--always recommend to friends

Bernat: Learn to Crochet (website)
Handy one-page printout with pictures of stitches

Happy hooking!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Que Bueno

Ugh. My yucky tummy.

Apparently steak + shrimp + caesar salad + tummy that hasn't eaten much more than chicken in some time = blehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I'm still trying to decide if it was worth it. Also I think that going to dinner someplace where 99% of the servers are former students contributes to the bleh. And let's not mention that I had Apple Jacks for breakfast and Taco Bell for lunch. OOPS. I believe they call this binge eating.

Today I took Mom cheap grocery shopping at Winco--she's never been. Mom's a self proclaimed "brand snob" so I'm not sure she got the full benefit of the Win, but she did leave with a cart full for $150. I'm willing to bet it's cheaper than her normal bill. It was nice to spend time together. She then took me to a different store, Grocery Outlet, where she needed to get some cheese. I'm not generally one for a special trip for cheese, but I guess if you needed some $1.50 brie or $2 smoked gouda for a party it'd be worth it. She sent me home with a pack of muenster, which in itself feels like some kind of special cheese treasure. Lis is the cheese lover in the family, but I run a close second, my preference for the stinky and moldy edged out only by her proclivity for things like EZ Cheese, Velveeta and Costco-sized Que Bueno. Actually, Lis will eat anything cheese related. ANYTHING.

E and I are watching sophomoric but funny movies and enjoying our lazy little Saturday. Just like when I go on summer vacation each year, I keep forgetting that we're okay now--that we have his paycheck in the bank and we're going to pay all our bills, no problem--and every time I remember, it's wonderful all over again.

Que Bueno.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gluten & Dairy-Free Zuppa Toscana Rip Off

I was going to call this post "Take a Leek" but I didn't think anyone would click on it.

This is Olive Garden's Zuppa Tuscana. Yummy, but full of cream.
Not so awesome for the dairy-allergic husband, but he loves it.
Tonight I made a satisfying, allergy-friendly rip off.

Potato Leek Zuppa E

3 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed very well and chopped
2 tbs Earth Balance Spread (dairy-free butter substitute)
2 lbs potatoes (about 4 large), peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups water
3 cups chicken* broth (make sure broth is Gluten-free)
1 cup of bacon or Italian sausage, crumbled*
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup kale, chopped
Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning

*could easily make this recipe vegan by using vegetable broth and sausage substitute

1. Saute leeks in Earth Balance spread in a large saucepan. Cover pan, cook on low for 10 minutes. Watch leeks--do not brown.

2. Add water, broth, seasoning, and potatoes. Bring to a low boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Cook bacon or sausage in a separate pan. Place on a paper towel after cooking to drain oil. Let cool, then crumble.

4. Ladle soup mixture into blender. Blend until smooth, return to pan.

5. Add kale, parsley, bacon (or sausage). Taste, season more if needed. Needs a decent amount of pepper to taste like the OG soup.

Primary reason for writing this post: to tell the world that E, AKA: E "I don't eat veggies" P, ate LEEKS and KALE. Voluntarily. That is all.

Confession time

I'm not working right now. I'm supposed to be working and I'm not working. I was working, and I have to work again in a few minutes, but right now I'm not working.

I'm drinking a mocha. Remember how I'm not drinking caffeine? Well I'm drinking a mocha and feeling the buzz that is the unraveling of my steadfast stimulant eschewal. Mmm..

Before you go assuming I'm such a bad teacher (a fair assumption, though not for this particular reason), you should know I'm not at work. I have a meeting at work from 10:45 to 1:45 today to review the draft of that beastly report I've been writing, and since that was smack in the middle of my teaching day, since I've spent copious amounts of time working on this report and will need to continue to do so, my boss gave me a sub day today. That way I can make the meeting, work on the report all morning/ afternoon, and someone qualified will be watching my lovelies for me. Nothing like a "free" sub day, even if I have to work all day. Sometimes it means the world just to not see students. It is a breath of fresh air that doesn't have to deplete my sick day supply.

There are few things I enjoy as much as the din of a cafe. I love to sit in a corner and wrap myself in the lulling comfort that is the ambient noise around me. The fact that JK Rowling scribbled bits of Harry Potter on cafe napkins gives me even more of a fondness for her books (which I'm about to start reading with Roo--her first time--Yipee!). If I was going to write a book, I'm sure many compelling chapters would be written in the Starbucks and La Bous of the greater Sacramento area. Currently they're my home office, my editing and grading outposts for work.

I didn't blog anything last night because the excitement of our two-paycheck reality was too great. It came a day earlier than I expected, so I almost didn't know what to do with myself. In the way that things always crumble to pieces, we limped and crawled and scratched our way to the finish line of the worst month ever in the worst year ever, financially. E got a fix it ticket, our credit card payment was flirting with being overdue (thankfully, it wasn't), E's school loan consolidation and abeyance faxes got lost at the loan office, he got sick, etc etc etc etc. When it rains, it pours, then it gushes and spews. I was crossing my fingers that neither of us would wreck our cars or break the washing machine. I just knew it was the kind of week where major appliances conspire to the detriment of their owners who are just trying to make it to the next payday.

We made it, though. I kept telling E this was the last day of the worst of our lives, and now suddenly it's the first of the rest. Last night I tweeted that "income is freedom" and it certainly feels that way. Not total freedom, but freedom from worrying about what I'll feed our kids, how we'll make it to the end of the next week, what we need to sell on Craiglist just to keep the water on. We've been living in a way that was so restrictive. I'm thankful the grip we had on life can loosen a little.

Last night after I hit up Nugget for E's gluten-free food needs, we went to Cosctco for the first time in about six months. Since we'd used up our supply of just about everything--meat, dog food, shampoo, laundry soap, salt, EVERYTHING--we spent an obscene amount of money on two carts full of Costco goods. I am now resting easier courtesy of a freezer full of protein choices and a garage full of backup pantry items. I'm proud of us for taking our stock down to nothing, but this felt exactly when we started our life together and we went oh crap, we have to buy all that stuff Mom always kept in the cupboard?

I do notice a change in my spending habits, even with those two carts full. There are some things I just can't justify now that we've been in such dire straits. I also wouldn't let myself buy anything other than the gluten-free essentials at Nugget, where groceries are almost twice the price of Winco. Anything that I could get elsewhere I didn't buy. At Costco it was much easier for me and E to think about what we need vs what we want. I'm going to try to hit up Winco this afternoon to complete the Grocery Trifecta. Then I'll just sit around on my couch like some laurel-wreathed fatty from ancient times and dine on grapes while rejoicing in my bountiful grocery harvest and peace of mind.

Whoops. I got so enamored with my grocery story that I forgot I need to go back to working. Peace out, dudes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baboon Shenanigans

I successfully awoke before 5:00 AM today and worked out for the third time this week. It feels satisfying to have my workout done before I leave for school--not because I'm so happy to be healthy, but because that means I can look forward to a full night of reality TV when I get home, no guilt. I walked this morning, made breakfasts, ate breakfast (I am loving quinoa with a sprinkle of brown sugar), made lunches, and hopped in the shower. I felt a bit like Roz from Monsters, inc, but that was for no particular reason. I was just a little grizzled.

Upon getting out of the shower I remembered that I had no clean underwear. Well not really none, but none that I wanted to wear. If there's a drawer in the house that's suffered under the tight financial regime we've instituted while E was out of a job, it's my underwear drawer. Everything left in that sad drawer this morning could have had the qualifier "granny" in front of it, or it was so full of holes it was basically commando plus. No options for me there. I remembered that I packed a bag last weekend when I thought I was going somewhere overnight, but I hadn't touched it. It sat there by my side of bed all full of clean underwear and promise. I didn't go anywhere, so everything in the bag was clean. (Speaking of my bag, it's worth mentioning how much I adore it. It's the one pictured above, in orange. E surprised me with it a couple of years ago and I lurve it.)

Our bedroom stays pretty dark in the mornings; I'm sure that's a leftover habit from all the years I've been getting up to go to work while E was home with the kids. He was in the bathroom with the light was on, but I was just using the ambient glow and my spidey sense to navigate the room. I reached into the bag to find--yay--one good pair of chonies, and promptly put them on. I reached for my jeans and just as I was pulling them up, a red streak on the side of my thigh and knee caught my eye.

Hmm. That's strange. I don't remember scraping my leg.

This is not an unusual occurrence though. Injuring myself without noticing is habitual. I have a random bruise on my foot right now to prove it. I merely assumed that I scraped the mother-loving-daylight out of my thigh and I moved on. No sense in dwelling on something that was keeping my butt out of my pants. It was dern cold this mornin'. Pulled those suckers right up, I did.

After my pants were on, I headed out to check on Roo in the kitchen. By that time she'd taken her father's lunch and I had to straighten things out. Not good, switching foods with the food allergy guy, especially when it's PB&J/CB&J day. The C makes all the difference. In the kitchen I saw the same horrid streak on my left hand, fingers, and wrist, only it wasn't red as I thought. By the light of the kitchen I saw that I had a 1985 spandex bike short-worthy fluorescent pink hand. Glowing, even. I had no earthly idea where it came from.

I ran back to tell E and my eyes landed on Roo's fuchsia Princess towel which I'd used to dry off about three minutes earlier--also out of necessity due to lack of clean grownup towels. "This thing must be bleeding on me," I told him. We both looked at it, but we didn't see anything that looked like it was giving off pigment, particularly not the color on my hand and thigh which wasn't a color found in nature.

I had a thought.

I'm terrible when it comes to unpacking bags after I use them. I have a closet full of purses, all in various stages of unpacking. I bet if I went in there right now I could find one with the program from a dance performance I viewed or a nine year old chapstick. I tend to take out whatever I need in the next five minutes and leave the rest until some imaginary date in the future when I'll take care of it.

This epiphany led me to walk over to the bag and plunge my hand to the bottom of the blue and gold T shirts. Just as I suspected. One PINK HIGHLIGHTER, cap off. The last time I'd used the bag was to carry papers I was grading. I'd taken the papers to school and left the highlighter there: one solitary, angry highlighter hell-bent on revenge. My chonies soaked up every drop of dye from that pen. Oops.

"I figured it out," I groaned to E, describing the situation. He had no trouble believing this happened to his uber-organized wife. Since I knew it was the underwear that had been the culprit, I went into the bathroom and winced as I undid my pants and pulled them down. Slowly, fearfully, I turned around.

Sometimes, there are no words. It was not altogether different from this:

By that time it was too late to shower again or scrub any of it off. I changed the offending garment and wore my secret all day under my clothes. Every time I'd look at my hand of shame today I'd burst out laughing. Only me. Really, only me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Need a place to stay in Maui?

Alternate titles:

A little love for Mom and Dad
Maybe if I throw them some business they'll keep babysitting
Hey, check out one of my favorite places on earth
Like, Mahalo for reading, Dude

The Whaler at Kaanapali Beach

One of the best places on earth, hands down, is Maui. Specifically, I'm very lucky that my mom and dad own a condo on Kaanapali Beach, Maui, near Lahaina. Their condo is in The Whaler, right next to the Whaler's Village. It's a studio unit vacation rental, and it's FABULOUS.

E and I are trying to go during Spring Break this year, but I was thinking that somebody else out there might be looking for a great place in Maui. This is your place. Check it out.

The unit is a studio condominium with a new King sized bed and a foldout (sofa) bed. It sleeps 2-4 people. My parents also just completed a remodel on the unit in 2009 to open up the space and add granite counter tops in the kitchen and bathroom. Staying in a condo with a kitchen is KEY for me and E when we go--I love being able to cook (there's a BBQ at the unit too--E has to eat fresh fish the entire time we're there) and it saves us a lot of money to eat in once in a while, especially for breakfasts and lunches. Who knew Maui had a Safeway?

Here are some pictures of the unit:

Beach view from the condo

King sized bed, tasteful (but tropical!) decor

View from the kitchen

Dining area and newly remodeled kitchen

I'm lifting pictures off my Dad's website, so they're small. If you want to see the unit, the calendar of availability, a map, and all of the details, CLICK HERE to go to their website for the condo. Contact information for my dad is on the site. There are a whole bunch of other amenities I'm not including--but they're all on the website. I can highly recommend the condo. The owners are nice folks too!

Be sure to pass this along to anyone you know who might be looking for a place to stay over there.


Robot walk

Whoopsies. I overdid it on the lunges yesterday. I woke up sore this morning and I thought I should totally run it out and get the pain out of my legs. Um, let me tell you a little story about how well that worked.

My walk is now 3 parts robot to 1 part granny.

I ran it out, but it ran right back about a half hour later. I can't move! I especially can't bend at the knees, sit in a chair, or go down steps. It's comical. I'll give you a minute to picture it. Yeah, pretty good, right?

It felt great to run this morning--I watched an especially Constitutionally thought-provoking (aren't they all?) ep of The West Wing--and I admit it I wasn't feeling the pain of not running last week. It was great, and it didn't get boring or hurt. But nevermind any of that, I'm thinking about adding something huge to my workout routine. Have you heard of P90x? Why not? Do you live under a rock or something?

Okay, if you don't know what it is you probably just don't realize is that right between infomercials for Ron Popeil's pocket fisherman and the Juiceman Juicer, there's this ubiquitous ad called "Get Ripped in 90 days." This is P90x. Now I don't want to get ripped, nor do I think I could "rip" anything other than the seat of my pants even if I tried. But I do know that when I was dancing a lot (even as recently as a few years ago) I was more toned. I miss having muscle definition, especially in my arms and back. Don't even talk to me about my hangy baby skin tummy. That's another issue. But I miss looking toned and running isn't going to do that for me. I've also been watching what I eat for a long time and not seeing results. I can eat really well and not see any loss, and I can eat chicken wings all weekend and not see any gain. Run? Same. Not run? Same. I think I need to do more than just cardio because my body is too good at adjusting to whatever I throw (or don't throw) at it.

So I'm not sure if I'm going to do this P90x thing but we've had the videos for over a year and I might be thinking about it. You heard it here, folks. I might be thinking about it. How's that for non-commitment? I want to still run, but maybe I need to ease up and kick my own ass for a while with some other stuff too. Is that even a good idea? From research it seems like it would build my stamina which would be awesome for running. I may even be able to run and still do it--that's what I'd like to do. But like I said, only thinking about doing it. It's such a time commitment.

The fact remains that I'm not living life in a ballerina body anymore. I'm also not living life in an 18 year old body anymore. Something happened to me at 30. I'm amazed by the shift in my metabolism, energy, all of it--not in a good way. It's time to work for what I've always had. I know I've been running and my heart and lungs and hamstrings are doing great, I just wonder if the rest could look a little better, and I wonder if this might be the way to do it. Then sometimes I wonder if this is just a whim--a lark--that came out of nowhere. But really, so was running. That turned out okay.

The biggest thing keeping me from doing this is fear. I'm afraid it will be too hard and I won't be able to get through a workout. I'm in decent shape, but it's intimidating. It's not like running where I can just go and all the sudden I'm a runner. This feels like something to master. A scary something.

I'll let you know how it goes, or if it goes.

Monday, January 25, 2010


(You have to say it like Gretchen says Tamra's name when she's drunk on The Real Housewives of OC--Tam-RAH! keen-WAH!)

I have to say something real quick. I have to say something real quick. WAIT--I have to say something real quick.

Oh, that's not how normal people start conversations? I've been absorbing too much freshmanocity today while teaching. That's how they start a conversation.

But I have to say something real quick.

Quinoa, au naturale

I had quinoa for breakfast today and it was delicious. Heavens opened up, lights shined down from heaven, and it was delicious. I've been eating savory quinoa with whatever veggies/meat/cheese/spices are on hand but this was the first time I tried it for breakfast, a la Martha "pole dancin'" Stewart. She had a segment on MS the other day about making quinoa for breakfast--cooking it in milk rather than water, serving with cinnamon, fruit, or honey. I liked it a lot. I cooked it in skim milk and ate it with a light dusting of cinnamon sugar. I think next time I'd skip the milk (it didn't make a huge difference) and I'd like to try it with some fruit or brown sugar. It was a lot faster than cooking steel cut oats and pretty filling.

I made a new week's resolution (get it?) to try to be in bed by 9:00 every night this week. Not to be asleep by 9:00, just body in bed. Failed last night, but that shouldn't be a reason to quit, right? To my credit (and the hubs'), we were fast asleep by 10:00 so the 9:00 thing wasn't so bad. I figure if I can get in bed by 9:00 I can fall asleep by 10:00 or 11:00 and then I can resume my morning running. I all but abandoned that in the last week. First I got all excited about running at night while watching my shows, but it's too hard to stick to a night exercise routine. Too many variables. The morning is consistently lonely, dark, and cold. But it's consistently free.

I decided (even though today wasn't a running day on the ol' half-marathon skedje) I'd get myself out of bed anyway for goodness sake. I got up and tried a new core workout routine I found through another blogger I follow. I just spent five minutes looking through Youtube for it, and of course I can't find it now. It's very basic. I know myself and I know if I have to spend a lot of time on something it will last exactly 2.3 days. It went something like this:

Group 1:
10 full situps
10 bridges (in dance we called these "butt ups")
10 overhead lunges
Do all three in order, then repeat until 10:00 is up.

Group 2:
10 pushups
10 squat curls
Do both exercises, repeat until 10:00 is up.

20 minutes total. Not too shabby. I have zero plans about how often I might want to do this, but I wanted to try it today to see how I feel. I feel good, like I used my muscles, and bad like my muscles are out of shape. Oh well. I am thinking it might help my running if I do a little resistance training on my non-run days. Not so much I mess myself up, but maybe a few days a week. Last week was a big wake up call when I spent two hours teaching the ladies their dance routine (essentially a basic jazz routine) and all of my "wiggle" muscles were sore. I've spent all my time focusing on my running which is cool--my legs are in great shape, but my middle wiggles because of gravity and not because I'm workin' it. You know?

I really do like being awake before the rest of the family--pouring the cereal in peace is a good deal. I think I'm going to try to create a consistent waking routine. TRY, I SAID. We'll see how it goes once I start dancing again this week.

As far as running, I'm going back to what worked for me with the first half marathon--good ol' Hal Higdon. I'm still technically very novice anyway. I know Hal worked for me for the first one and the schedule I created on Runners' World wasn't the best fit. It's hard for me to devote more than an hour to running on any given day in the middle of the week (which means I need to keep at or around 5 miles). I know I'm no Olympian. Just keepin' it real. I think the other schedule is much more comfortable for me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nerd alert!

Saturday night/ Sunday morning: sitting around playing original PlayStation games we downloaded on the PS3. Namely, Final Fantasy Tactics, the only FF game I ever really got sucked into playing. It's pretty fun, I won't lie. Actually right now I'm not even playing, I'm just tucked into my new quilt and I'm working on a crochet project for an order. I'm enjoying the familiar soundtrack and watching E teach Henry the ropes. I have no desire to go anywhere today at all.

There's a box sitting in my office full of papers to grade--that will have to come sometime later. I spent the better part of yesterday on projects in the house and on ignoring the stuff from work I really needed to get done. I had such a packed week where every spare minute I was taking care of the details of some work project; I decided a full day "off" (read: working house stuff rather than work stuff) was a better use of my time. I'm glad I did--I feel a little bit more able to tackle things now that I've had some time to take a breath. Plus my house is clean enough for E's mom to come tomorrow: a rarity.

I also finally got around to watching some of the movies I missed during the Christmas season. Yesterday I finally saw The Blind Side and It's Complicated. Loved them both. This morning I started watching Up in the Air, but once E got up I shut it off. I will try to finish it later this afternoon. I like that one so far too.

This coming Friday is monumental--finally we'll bridge the chasm between school loans and E's employment. I am anxious knowing that payday is so close. I had dreams last night about browsing the aisles at Costco, and actually being able to buy red meat. I'm so excited I can barely contain myself.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oops, forgot to blog.

I forgot yesterday. Weird, huh? Sometimes I make a decision not to write anything, but yesterday it just slipped my mind. I think that's a sign of the sort of week I was having. At work yesterday I knew it was just one of those days when I was going to forget to do something. I thought it would be work-related, though.

I've had pictures of this since last week but I didn't post yet:

Last Sunday we went out to lunch for Auntie's birthday and then back to her house to have dessert and presents. Mimi brought the monkeys their new quilts as a surprise. Aren't they adorable (the kids and the quilts)? Buddy's is Transformers and Roo's is Littlest Pet Shop. What a Meem. The kids put them on their beds that night and they've been sleeping cozy under them all week.

I got a nice surprise yesterday too--E brought home my quilt from his mom that was a Christmas present. She was keeping it so she could quilt it (she just got her own quilting machine). The fabric is this beautiful pinkish-red and green flower print that's very vintage-looking. The best part? Drumroll please... IT'S A FLANNEL QUILT TOP ON A FLANNEL BACK. My MIL knows me so well. I'm all about the warmth and weight when it comes to a quilt. Normal quilts are cotton tops and backs, maybe a flannel back. Mine's all flannel all the time. WIN.

So speaking of crafts and sewing, I got on a baby hat kick yesterday. A friend had a baby a while ago and I haven't seen her, so I thought I would put my new crochet book to the test. Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters probably appeals to a very small audience, but I'm in that group. It's a book filled with edges, appliques, and stitch patterns. Very useful. Though it looks a little blobular in the photo (above), the purple ball of goo is a star.

Well then I got home and decided I wanted to keep refining the baby hats, so I made this lil' one for one of my friends from CORE who's expecting a little girl. You can tell it's the leftover yarn from the blanket that Sarah won--I'm loving the brown with pastels lately. I want to make a yellow and brown something and a pink and brown something. I also got inspired to try something new and ended up staying up until 2:00 AM last night working on a prototype. I'll post pictures soon.

This also happened last night--E and I got the Blue-ray of Star Trek in the mail and our little nerd hearts rejoiced. Henry was curious about all the "spaceship fighting" so he came in and fell asleep first on E's leg and then Roo came and snuggled right into the shoulder of his fleece sweatshirt just like when she was a baby. E was so happy. Our kids sure snore a lot, but they're cute.

The other thing I've been up to lately is bread making. Gram gave me this bread maker for Christmas and E finally hauled it out of the garage for me to set it up. The first night I tried Gluten-free bread and last night I made sourdough. Both were really good. The GF bread was comparable to if not better than what we've been buying. GF bread is one of the few things I can't get at Winco, so it can often necessitate a separate trip to a different store for E. GF food isn't cheap, either, so I'm glad I found something that works and is a little bit cheaper.

I've blogged before about Pamela's Gluten Free mixes and how good they are, and the bread mix was just another example of how true this is. The bread was more dense than a "normal" loaf of bread, but it had good flavor and texture. E's going to be able to make sandwiches on it and toast and whatever else he wants and we're not going to have to go to the store as often. I'm thinking that on payday I'll order a set of mixes from Amazon to save a bit of money and then I'm good to go. If anyone's looking to remove gluten from their diet or cook for someone who has a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, I can't say enough good things about Pamela's mixes. You can find them in most grocery stores.

The bread was a success but I managed to lose my grip on a potholder last night and burn the tip of my left index finger and the side of my right arm pretty badly on the handle. Is it possible I might be able to do something constructive without hurting myself? Probably not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's like a gift card for crack.

You know it well: red cup season. Hello, Holidays. Hello, pumpkin spice latte. Hello, rack of adorable mugs I really don't need to buy. Tea tins? Hello. Bonjour, ill-fated time when I went on blind faith and purchased that gingerbread latte. Hola, cinnamon in my hot chocolate. I'm a sucker for the red cups. Yeah I said it. I own it, at least. They say that when you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, it costs more because you're paying for the atmosphere--and I'm BUYIN'.

Yes indeedy do, I'm buyin' those red cups, those gentle little snowflakes, a sprinkle of cinnamon, the lacquered wood tables, the muted wall tones, the deceptively chic but comfy (and I'm sure, easily wiped-down) chairs. I'm buyin' indie rock, singer/songwriters and a dash of Miles Davis. Original? No. Cookie-cutter ambiance? Yes. Do I care? Heck naw, son.

What else is there in this town? Taco Bell? Give me my faux-chic cup o' joe. Faux-chic's better than no chic.

There's a definite annual cycle when it comes to Starbucks. Spring ices lattes blooming with espresso; summertime chills black tea over ice. By fall I'm jonesin' for a cup full o' Thanksgiving; by Christmas it all goes to hell in a hand basket. I blame none other than my wonderful, caring mother in law.

You see, every Christmas (for the last--oh, let's say, five, years at least--excepting that one time I separated from her son and missed out on Christmas with the other half of my family--wait--I'm pretty sure she gave me one in the Christmas presents she gave me that year too) there's been a $30 Starbucks gift card in my stocking. And generally by December 25 my personal assets and my ability to swing through the local Starbucks have all but dried up. By Christmas I've usually made up my mind to quit coffee or some absurd thing because it costs too much money and I don't need the sugar or the fat (yeah, I love me a real latte) or the calories or the caffeine or whatever it is that particular year. And every year I end up with a gift card that's all, "Go ahead. Go inside the Starbucks. All this can be yours. Do it."

I love that little card. That little grey stripe and clear section and some woodland creature? Le sigh... It's one of my favorite presents (I know, I say everything is my favorite present) because it keeps giving even after all of the other gifts aren't new. That little card, so full of hope. So full of money that I can't spend at Winco, money only to be spent on one of life's greatest luxuries: a warm cup of happy.

One year I think I had close to $80 with all the gift cards I got from students and relatives combined. Hi-yo! Do you know what that kind of power can do to a girl? I do. In just three short weeks she'll have blasted through an entire bank of scone/tea/coffee cake/espresso goodness. Just like any junkie, she'll burn through her stash too quickly. She'll drive by the local haunt and salivate, longing for that which she could easily score only moments ago.

I start to believe in this habit, to trust my false Starbucks financial security. I start to crave the smell of steamed milk and the sound of grinding espresso over the chatter of delicately tattooed Samoan baristas. I find myself helplessly, mercilessly, pathetically addicted... again.

And then said Samoan barista hands me the card out the drive-thru window and says "that'll do it, but you still owe me $1.15."


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teriyaki Meatballs

This is totally not my picture.

I'd put up a pic of mine, but I ate 'em all...

Teriyaki Meatballs

White Jasmine Rice
2 slices of bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup - 1 cup milk
1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
garlic pepper
McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
olive oil

1. Cook desired amount of rice on the stove or in a rice cooker.
2. Put bread pieces into a large bowl, add milk and mix with your hands until it formes a wet paste, breaking up bread.
3. Mix ground beef, chopped onion, seasonings (1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp garlic pepper, 1-2 tsp Steak Seasoning, more if you like it more heavily flavored).
4. Mix with your hands until spices, bread and onions are incorporated. Form into meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
5. Pour several tsp of oil into frypan, heat until hot. Fry meatballs on all sides. Remove to a paper towel to drain the oil.

Teriyaki Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
11/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
5 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1-2 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

1. Combine all ingredients except cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Heat until combined, stir.
2. Mix cornstarch and water, add slowly to sauce, stir. Sauce will thicken as it heats.

Serve meatballs over white rice, top with sauce.


I'm thinking about making them gluten-free next time--didn't have enough gluten-free soy sauce or any GF bread. But it would be easy enough. I also thought about adding green onions. Overall though, a total new recipe success! I love the thick restaurant-style Teriyaki sauce--more like a glaze. YUM.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pants on the Ground

Translation: Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground *thump*

Well hello there, Handy Manny!

Guess who sent her son to Baptist preschool today looking like that? Yeah. I'm already one of the only moms who has to leave her kid at "Stay and Play" after hours because she works--now I'm the mom who didn't give her kid a belt. We pulled up to the babysitter's house this morning and just before he reached up to knock on the door, Mr. Bood lifted his jacked to show me a sly Handy Manny peering out from his britches. At that point there was no turning back. I'm just glad I didn't get more than a mention about it from the preschool. Hilarious.

Speaking of pants on the ground, I can not get that little Youtube Ditty out of my head. I sang it to my students all day, because nothing embarrasses a 9th grader like a teacher doing a cheesy rap from American Idol. I live for the awkwardness. I wear it like a homecoming crown. I also had my first day of rehearsal with the dancing ladies--it went great--but it made my "Pants"-singing day blast by just as quickly as the winds outside.

Seriously, what's up with this weather? There's nothing like turning on the weather forecast to see six days of forecasted rain. That is the point when I believe that weathermen (nay, weatherpersons) should just lie. Let's face it, they're only right about as often as I am at the roulette table anyway. Throw me a bone of happiness and tell me it's going to be 75 and sunny tomorrow, people.

After school today we went from zero to sweatpants in about 4.2 seconds. Henry didn't even bother with cozies, he went straight to Mario PJs. I'm enjoying the flip out of my mukluks and some figure-flattering blue sweatpants. It's a tough call tonight between exercise and housecleaning, each equally necessary around here. I'm leaning toward the cleaning, as I can't see my couch or my kitchen counter. I also think I want to revamp my running plan tonight.

Yes, that's a giant pile of laundry next to the boy.

(Just FYI, I totally shot my confidence in the foot by writing about writing the other day. Please don't look to this post as a model of anything I said I try to do. Ha! Oh, seriously, I messed myself up with that one.)

We've done a pretty good job keeping our room clean lately (it helps to have that treadmill in there), save one source of constant irritant to my peaceful, perfect soul--E's side of the bed is a laundry repository. Don't ask him about my bad habits, this is only about him. This is where I go all pot calling kettle black. Do any of your spouses do that pile next to the bed thing? Gawrsh, it makes me BATTY. He leaves things like jeans there that aren't "dirty enough" or that he wants to wear again. I guess they're not clean enough to get put away? They can't go in the hamper, or he'd forget that he could still wear them. Stupid pants on the stupid ground. WHY?