the gift you hope you never give

Your regularly scheduled random ranting has been interrupted for a public service announcement. In this holiday season of gift-giving, consider the following…

Did you ever buy a gift for someone, and like it so much you want to keep it for yourself? Once you have it in your hands, you feel like you can’t live without that (insert option: new CD/video game/beautiful cashmere sweater).

Kind of like that, except that you truly can’t live without this gift. It is not to be wrapped in shiny paper or labeled with a card. A secret delivery, but you will not be present for the exchange. You will not see the smile on the recipient’s face, or know how it has changed their life.

Be an organ donor. Check the box on your DMV form – the tiny dot next to your smiling face may someday leave a legacy beyond your own – of many more smiles from the recipients of the greatest gift of all… LIFE.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.


icing by numbers

After the very succesful cookie baking last night, which finished ahead of schedule and without a hitch, the icing of said 81 (plus spares for a total of 94) cookies begins....

9:00pm - Scout entered the kitchen, and this is what he found... after 2 hours of work, I only had 11 snowmen partially decorated, and 7 circles with white icing. He asked me how I planned on finishing this, and I said I had no idea... so, he rolled up his sleeves, and joined me in the kitchen.

We came up with a plan of attack... base layers for all the cookies, accents will be applied later. I quickly realized that the amount of icing was not sufficient for the cookie inventory on hand.

9:50 - Another batch of icing (I swear this happened yesterday?)

9: 55 - Icing explosion in the mixer - so much white powder, I was expecting Kate Moss to show up at my door any second.

9:58 - What? Not enough sugar to make the icing... how did that happen? I had 10 cups of sugar at 7pm! Although our neighbors are very nice, I think this is a bit late for going next door for a cup of sugar. Plus, I need about 4 cups... of powdered sugar... not the standard request.

10:02 - Driving to the grocery store for sugar - hoping that they are still open.

10:04 - Phew... they are open until 11. Sugar in hand, headed home for the final stretch.

11:22 - Scout is ready to throw in the towel. He heads up to bed, and I finish up...

One hour later, all the cookies are decorated! Total investment: 5 1/2 hours, 12 sticks of butter, 20(ish) cups of sugar, and two tired decorators....

Plate for the contest:

1st place for Best Looking cookies!!!
1st place for Best Holiday cookies!!!
(did not win Best Tasting or Best Overall, but I think that is just cause voters wanted to give other people a chance!)

Scout's favorite: snowmen with green scarves
My favorite: peppermints or santa hats. Hey, I can have 2 favorites - it is my blog!


bake by numbers

Because I am one of those crazy people who likes the weird contests at work, I am on a mission to win our department cookie contest. But it is not just a cookie contest... it is also a cookie exchange. So, I need to make 81 cookies - 19 packs of 3 cookies each to trade and 2 dozen for tasting. Which means that I will get 57 cookies back at the end of the day on Friday. I will smile, bring them home and promptly toss in the garbage, because... well, because I see these people's hygiene habits all day at work, and frankly, I don't want to eat their cookies. Also, I don't want to buy new pants after eating almost 5 dozen cookies. So, here is the summary of my cookie making extravaganza, part 1:

5:00 - Assemble baking items

5:30 - Double batch of cookie dough in fridge to chill

5:40 - Dinner break - that was a tough half hour of work! We had leftovers, of course. Puh-lease... I don't cook on a regular day - I can't possibly cook dinner AND bake cookies!

6:30 - Rolling, cutting, baking - 4 dozen cookies - only 2 casualties! Fortunately for the vulture roaming around my house, they were the largest ones, so he made out pretty good as a result of my mistakes.

7:30 - Realize I don't have enough dough to meet my inventory requirements - dishwasher just finished, so I grab the mixing bowl (warning: metal is HOT when removed from dishwasher during 'dry' cycle), whip up another batch of dough and throw it in the fridge to chill - deja vu?

Blog break

8:30 - More rolling, cutting, baking

8:55 - Last batch in the oven - much quicker than I thought! I am a cookie making master!

9:00 - Yelling at hubs for emptying the dishwasher - hey, I appreciate housework, but he was in my production area - I was trying to get the cookies out of the oven, clean up, etc. and he was all up in my space. Then I had to convince him to finish emptying the rest of it when I yelled at him for walking away. Mixed messages? Who, meeee? (batting eyelashes)

9:15 - 7 dozen cookies snoozing away on the kitchen island, unaware of the fate that awaits them... first, a dressing of icing (as if there weren't enough sugar and butter in them already) to make them beautiful for the ball... then, a horrific battle scene in the office conference room, where the snowmen will be decapitated and the bells will be cracked worse than their fair mother Liberty.

Naked cookies below:

Tomorrow: Icing Capades

worn out

I was sitting in an all day meeting today at work (it was scintillating - thanks for asking), and while willing myself to stay awake, I began to notice things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Gazing at my keyboard with the same intensity as if I had never seen one before, I noticed a dull spot on the shiny keys. Thinking it might be a stain (perhaps a dried drop of soda from lunch - with extra caffeine - to help my eyes stay open), I tried to rub it, but it did not go away.

Apparently I only use my right thumb on the space bar. I have worn a tiny spot on the lacquer from my single sided spacing. Of course I have done all sorts of typing testing since I made this earth-shattering observation. My left thumb does no work at all when typing. It just sits there, waving around in midair - as if it wants to hitchhike to another activity as soon as a friendly passer-by will stop and pick it up.

So, I guess I will have to resign from my proud title of "ten finger typer" and reduce my status to "nine finger typer" - which is still better than the hunt and peck method some people employ (ahem, dad).


21 questions

I got this email today, and thought instead of forwarding it, I would just post it here...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper - I used to work at the wrapping kiosk in the mall at Christmas, so I like to do fancy bows and such - kind of dorky, I know - but it makes me smile. Sadly, it makes my friends nervous to give me wrapped presents - they always start with an apology about how they aren't good wrappers.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Real (and it smells SOOOO good) - but i reuse my grocery bags, so let's call it even on the tree killing.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Sometime in December... not too early, not too late.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Has to be down before my birthday (you all know how i feel about that).

5. Do you like eggnog?
Ewwwww... gross!

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I don't think i can narrow it down...

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
Nope, but lots of snowmen, reindeer and santas.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Depends on the year

9. Easiest person to buy for?
Does "myself" count? ;)

10. Worst Christmas Gift you ever received?
Any gift labeled a "combo" bday/xmas gift

11. Mail or email Christmas cards (or neither)?
Mail - I LOVE stationary!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life - or - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - or - A Christmas Story - or - Elf - or .... um, apparently i really like Christmas movies.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Not before December, and not until I have made a list. In red pen.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Not yet... but I have a collection at home in case we have an exchange at work - good thing I switched departments, else peeps might get the same presents they gave me last year.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Candy canes!!!

16. Clear or colored lights?

17. Favorite Christmas song?
I'll Be Home For Christmas

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Of course... but I have to sing the song in my head... you know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen... Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen... but do you recaaaaall... the most famous reindeer of all... Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer... (I'll spare you the rest)

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Nothing yet, but we have been looking for years, just haven't found the perfect topper. We have a star ornament hanging near the top of the tree, but it isn't quite doing the job.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
One present Christmas Eve (usually pajamas) - the rest Christmas morning.

Since question 18 was missing, I added my own:

18. Where will you wake up on Christmas morning?
Marco Island, Florida - with Scout, my parents, brother, sister and brother in law - and my parent's fake Christmas palm tree (from SkyMall)!


simple pleasures

Many of the simple pleasures of childhood fade with time. No longer does running in circles entertain me, roller coasters give me a headache, and pixie sticks make me worry about my next dental bill. One thing, however, has stood the test of time, bringing me joy beyond reasonable expectation: sign making.
I remember making signs to take to Yankee stadium when I could still count my age on my fingers. I can vividly picture sitting with my sister, working on our masterpieces. We each had rolls of narrow butcher paper - hers purple, mine orange. We made a lengthy purple sign that said "We love Dave Winfield." I don't remember where our seats were, but since we usually went to day games during the week, we relocated to some empty seats near right field - yelling, screaming and jumping up and down to get his attention. Taking a brief break from his job (hopefully between batters), he looked up from the field and waved to us! Which led to uncontainable excitement - picture us jumping around and screaming like... well, like little girls.
Arts and crafts still occurs in my house before attending events. Whether it is a professional baseball game, a marathon that a friend is running, or college graduation, I bust out the posterboard, paints and markers. Posterboard is always on hand - you never know when you might need to make a sign! Have to be prepared. Scout's motto.

Here are a few of my favorites:

at a Rangers/Giants game in SF
(we were not cheering for the home team)
at little bro's graduation
(have to give my sis credit - she made these signs)
It was great - when they called little bro's name, we each had a letter, and jumped up - Gramps had the second "D", though, so he was "Tod" for a little bit until Gramps made it up to full sign holding position.

at the California International Marathon
(the "peanut" is pam's baby, who ran with her - inside her belly)
(note how I coordinated my outfit with my sign!)


obsess much?

Neatness is not my strength. I can still hear the disdain in my grandmother’s voice as she entered my bedroom during my teenage years – “Is that your UNDERWEAR on the floor?” I have gotten better at that. Okay, no, I haven’t, but I live far enough away that she will never have to experience that horror again, and when I stay with her, I keep my room fake neat (i.e., shove everything into my suitcase).

So I am not in danger of being diagnosed with OCD, but for some things, I am more obsessive compulsive than
Melvin Udall and his plastic utensils. Sitting at the top of that short list, you will find airline seat assignments. I am completely obsessive about getting the perfect seat for my flight. Well, truly, the perfect seat would be in first class, so I guess I am looking for the perfect seat in the cattle section.

It has to be an aisle – so that I can get up and use the spacious restrooms 45 times during the flight. Can’t be the seat in front of the emergency exit, since they don’t recline, and the only time my seat is not reclined is during take off and landing, and that is only because the flight attendants raise it for you if you don’t do it yourself (of course I tried fake sleeping – that doesn’t work either). Can’t be the last seat – double whammy with no reclining and the waft of blue toilet cleaner mixed with whatever the last visitor left in there. Not a huge fan of the first seat – no room to put your belongings at your feet. I like to have all my entertainment available at a moment’s notice. If I want to read, do sudoku, have a sip of $4.25 water I purchased beyond the security entrance, listen to my (not)iPod after we are above 10,000 feet, or whatever other fun treasures I lugged through the x-ray machine that are permissible on a flight these days – I would like to do so without unbuckling, opening the overhead bins and hoping that items have not shifted during flight.

My first choice would be an aisle seat in the emergency exit row. If there are two emergency exit rows, it has to be the second one, because the first one doesn’t recline – allowing for 3 extra inches of safety so peeps can squeeze through in case of an emergency where the plane actually lands and we have to evacuate – really, don’t you think people would get through even if the seats were reclined to the resting point of 94 degrees? Which leads me to the other reason I like to sit in the emergency exit row… I would like to be the first one out. Or, rather, the third one out. Apparently my priority for accessing the restroom without having to crawl over some sleeping stranger outranks my safety.

For my next flight (cross country during the Christmas holiday – sounds like fun, no?) the airline randomly assigned my seats. They are not to my liking. Yes, I am in the aisle (directly behind the emergency exits – ready to pounce if one of those suckers replies "no" when asked if he/she will assist during an emergency – hey, I’ve seen it happen) so what is my concern? Well, we have the aisle and middle seats. If the fun little buttons they taunt you with on the plane drawing they show you when you book your tickets online actually worked, I would have clicked on an aisle and window seat for myself and my lovely (but one seat away) spouse, respectively. Here is my master plan (don’t tell anyone, okay?): book the aisle and window seats – increases the chances of having the middle seat empty. Everyone wants a window seat (except me), so our row will most likely have 3 people in it now. But if the middle seat was the only one open, it could be the last seat assigned on the plane.

Weird that I don’t want to sit next to my loved one? Well then hold on to your horses (or mouses, as is the more likely case). On one of our recent flights, I put my plan into action, and booked window and aisle. Unfortunately, the flight was full, and the seat between us was assigned. We stayed in our seats. Yep, rode the whole however many hours sitting next to a complete stranger instead of each other. I think it is these little things that make our marriage stronger.

I was unable to change our seats due to the airline's strict rules on hoarding seats for platinum gold triple titanium club members, so I will wait until 24 hours prior to the flight to call in and request better seats. I am considering setting my alarm for 12:41 am to make sure I am the first to call in. Is that too much?


how many times do I have to say it... they are SEPARATE holidays

The hubs doesn't mess up much, but he blew it the other day. Big time. We were driving to Thanksgiving dinner, discussing the upcoming holiday season, and ideating about gifts for our friends and family. Then, he dropped the bomb. He dared utter, "So, what do you want for your birthday/Christmas?" Yes, he said birthday slash Christmas. The road got hazy in front of me, I turned my venomous eyes toward him (endangering other lives on the road) and seethed, "WHAT did you just say? Did you say birthday SLASH Christmas like they are ONE?"

Before I launch into the rant I delivered to him, I feel like I should preface it with the fact that my birthday is January 7th. A mere 12 days separate my special day from the colossal holiday. Yes, I have always been snotty about it being near Christmas. Yes, I realize I am a full grown adult acting like a whiny five year old (but you can’t ground me, nah nahnahnahpoopoo). Yes, I used to accuse my parents of holding back some of my Christmas presents for my birthday (I can’t believe they ever gave me ANY presents after that one). Yes, my sister is rolling her eyes right now about my constant complaining that my birthday is right after Christmas (she has a lovely birthday in August – birthday parties outside, on picnic tables, with balloons flying free against a beautiful blue sky). Yes, I do appreciate that my mother did her damndest to get my birthday as far away from December 25th as humanly possible (thanks mom) – 12 days is better than 2 – or none!

Now that you are all well informed about the facts (or, at least the dates in question), we can continue with my attack…
"How long have you known me? (Rhetorical – I couldn't possibly do math that quickly.) Have I not made myself clear that my birthday is NOT associated with Christmas? (I have.) Great, next you are going to just withhold some of my Christmas presents and use them for my birthday. (Even though it was horrible to accuse my parents of this, it somehow still didn't stop me from repurposing this accusation.) And while you’re at it, why don’t you just wrap it in Christmas paper, too? (The WORST! If you are out of birthday paper, just use newspaper – don’t wrap it in leftover Christmas paper.)" Harumph…

Okay, I’m off to do some growing up… May or may not happen by December 25th. Or my birthday. Which are SEPARATE. Sigh...


you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

I learned how to knit this weekend! AND purl! Also, I learned that purl is spelled with a “u”, not an “ea.” I was glad I learned that, because I don’t like misspelling words – not just on paper, but in my head. Does anyone else do that? Picture the word written in their head when they say it? No? Just me. Okay then. Carry on.

After I was sufficiently stuffed on turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc., I asked my mother-in-law if she could teach me how to knit. So fun! Okay, not really "fun" yet... or relaxing. It is still mostly work and concentration. I completed a couple rows with her, and then worked on it at home last night while watching football. I tried to watch Grey’s Anatomy, but I had to focus too much on the knitting to be able to actually watch the show. Also, I had to take a couple jaunts upstairs to go online to get some refresher training – I am attributing the memory loss to a belated tryptophan release from leftovers. I got cramps in my fingers and let a few trucker words slip (especially when the yarn fell off the stick). Sorry, needle. Yep, I am still a beginner.

I made a beautiful tiny blue square – with my own bare hands! It is about 3 inches by 3 inches, with 2 concave sides. I am not sure how that happened, but I like to consider it “art”. Also artistic are the extra stitches, and missing stitches scattered throughout the masterpiece. Makes it one of a kind. And the two strings hanging out opposite corners? Well, one is from the start, and one is from the finish. Like a race, where you have to break through the ribbon… except that it is yarn. I have yet to figure out what to do with those strings. I was showing Scout some excellent uses for my tiny square (after he told me it is too small to be a potholder), and the best one I came up with was to affix more yarn to the extra string, and fashion a small (but functional) mask, like the ones Michael Jackson used to wear. I could make millions! Sell them online! Open my own store! Or, more likely, I could get my mother in law to teach me how to tuck away the loose strings on my tiny square.

I can't wait to make something other than a tiny square… Maybe a larger square? Potholders for everyone for Christmas!


holiday time is starting

With Thanksgiving upon us, and the Christmas season peering at me from around the corner (literally, around the corner - neighbors already have their lights up - which, I would like to note, is a neighborhood violation - you know how strict they are in my 'hood - I hope those peeps get a letter), I decided to take inventory of my holiday items.

We have a lovely Harry Potteresque closet under our stairwell that stores all things not to be seen. Some are put away in storage bins, nicely organized as if I had watched an episode of Mission: Organization and set to organizing my own items that very same day. Other items are scattered on the ground, or on top of boxes, waiting for a bout of organization to set in so they can be rescued from their respective piles. I parted the jackets at the front of the closet (which is very convenient, not only for quick coat retrieval on our bitter cold mornings of fifty degrees, but also as a curtain to mask the items hiding within) and scanned the contents for the Christmas bins.

Of course, they were at the back of the closet. When I say the back of the closet, imagine a long, dark tunnel, in which you can scarcely make out the end. Okay, well, a bit shorter than that (but not much) and fine, we have a light in it, so you can actually see in the back, but whatever. It is still hard to maneuver around in, as it is below the stairwell, and I can only get in the back portion if I am squatting. Or hunching. Which never works out, because if I am hunching, I get the urge to stand up straight, and inevitably, knock my noggin so hard at least one or two useless trivia items fall out each time. Instead, I squat and waddle around in there like a penguin. On a tiny iceberg, since there are only about 2 square inches of floor space available for shuffling.

I set to making the trek to the back of the closet to retrieve the Christmas bins. I picked up the first one... not too heavy (but certainly not light) and started backing out, lifting it over the other items in its way. Knocked over one other box (one of my famous boxes of junk that I have yet to unpack - maybe someday I will do that and let you know what is in it) and of course, hit my head on the growth stunted ceiling. Phew. One down, one to go.

The second box was holding coal for stockings, based on the weight. I am certain I pushed it into its current resting spot last year, but since that time, many other things have landed in its path. So, I got the bright idea to try to lift it out. I had the "this is not a good idea" flash as I was lifting it out, but somehow managed to avoid serious injury.

With my loot retrieved, I opened the boxes as if it were Christmas morning. And strangely enough, was just as surprised! Last year, I apparently bought Christmas cards at an after Christmas sale. Now I just have to start writing them. Maybe if I open the box of cards, I will find them already written. Wishful thinking...



You could see me in person, but since this is the internet, I will reveal myself in internet form. I think it looks like me. As does my mii. Or perhaps my sense of reality is now changing to internet reality? Hmmm. Might have to call my friend Mr. Anderson.

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

Thanks for the fun link, Suzi. Is it weird that I had so much fun making an image of myself? I suppose I could have just used one of those old timey things... what are they called? Mirrors? But that seemed so 1900s.


what did I do to you, karma?

Was it 11 days without blogging? I am not sure where I went wrong with karma recently, but I must have missed something big.

Last night, I met my friend for a run (okay, some running - more like slow jogging along with walking and chatting, but it was better than sitting on the couch all night watching the last few shows before the writers strike affects me). I picked her up at her house, and as we were pulling out of her neighborhood, she peered at the gleaming light on my dash. She shifted in her seat and said, "Um, do you want me to drive?" I replied, "Why, 'cause my gas light is on? No, it is totally fine. The park is only 2 miles away, right?" Squeaky hamster wheels spinning in my head... okay, 2 miles to the park, so 4 miles total... plus the 20 miles from work to get here... plus the 7 miles from my house to work... hmmm... I think the light was on yesterday, too. How many miles did that total? Whatever - we should make it. We are going for exercise, so if we get stuck, we could always walk back to her house.

If you think this story is going to end with us running out of gas, you have been misled like a hopeful prom date who thinks his investment in a corsage is going to pay off with the big jackpot. We went for a very nice run/jog/walk, and I delivered her home safely.

With my careful math (thirtyish miles?), and lack of memory on how long the light was on before I sort of started keeping track, I thought it best to stop and fill up before trying to drive home. Responsible, no? I pulled into the first gas station. Did you know that gas is a hundred dollars a gallon? I think I pulled into the most expensive gas station in a 200 mile radius. But, beggars can't be choosers, so I hopped out and set to giving my horse a tall drink.

I was yapping on the phone with another friend when I heard the "you are now broke" click of the pump. Upon opening my door, I saw the side of my car drenched and the ground soaked with pungent expensive liquid. I hung up on my friend (but I think I told her I was alive and not to worry before hanging up).

I glanced at the financial damage on the tiny screen, and my vivid imagination wondered if I would blow up like Derek Zoolander's friends. But then I remembered I was not a male model, nor was I toting an open flame near the pump. And then I got PISSED. Really pissed. My car (just washed a few days ago) had gas all over it... and I was CHARGED FOR IT.

So I marched myself into the "station" part of the gas station. A beautiful slice of Americana hustling Doritos and Marlboros, but it was the only place with bright lights on in the area. So, I went into the bright light. I explained to Devindar what had happened, and he (reluctantly) followed me out to my car with two orange cones. He motioned for me to move my car so he could put the cones down (which again made me flash back to blowing up in a gas station parking lot, but again I remembered that I am not THAT stupid).

After moving my dripping million dollar baby out of the kill zone, I reassessed the damages, and realized that the digital screen was notioning (notion is a noun, so this isn't technically a word, but I think it should be, considering all the legit words I have to put up with - like monies - that I don't think should be words) that I would be charged $69.12 for this incident. Oh no he dih-int... I reached for the receipt, but of course there wasn't one. In an effort to offset the global warming effect of their gasoline peddling, Chevron decided to save a few trees, and didn't bother printing out receipts. Al Gore would be proud of their environmentally friendly transactions.

I could feel Teen wolf taking over... you know what they say - you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the girl. I checked for a full moon, but it was only a slight sliver in the sky. Perhaps my experience was more akin to the Hulk, then, as I was instigated by anger. My hair poofed out, my nails were instantly fake, and I had a sudden urge to visit the mall. But first, I had business to take care of... where is Vinnie when you need him?

I told the attendant that I would like to be reimbursed for 2 gallons of my purchase due to the pump malfunction (the name of JJ's next scandal - you saw it here first). He stared at me, and I realized he did not understand a word I said. I asked him if he understood me, and he walked away from me... back to the motherland of pork rinds and Miller Lite. I followed him, of course. I asked him if he understood, and he said he could not give me any money. I tried to reason with him, but since he could not understand me, my thoroughly logical argument was for naught.

After insisting that he could not give me any money, I asked to talk to a manager. He said that the manager was off that day. Of course he was! So I said, I don't care, call the owner. Get me someone. He tried to evade me some more, but I said that I wasn't leaving until I talked to someone. I knew he had contact numbers - gas stations get robbed all the time on TV, wouldn't their owners want to know about it?

After numerous misdials on his part (or fake dials, I'm not sure), I finally spoke to Pam, the assistant manager. I explained to her about the pump malfunction, spillage on their premises, and the discrepancy between the amount of gas pumped on the receipt (I requested a copy when I went inside) and the amount of gas my car holds. 18 gallons max in my car. 19.869 gallons on the receipt. So, I would like 2 gallons worth of gas reimbursed. At $3.50 per gallon, that is seven dollars. (Quick math - stay in school, kids - those skills actually DO come in handy.)

She couldn't authorize such a massive refund, so she had to call the owner. When Glenda called back, she tried to argue with me. Apparently gas stations do not follow the "customer is always right" policy. I had to restate my case to Glenda. She offered me one gallon because all she heard was 18 gallons and 19 gallons. I explained to her that I was rounding up - 19.869 is practically 20, yielding a difference of 2. Then I went Jersey on her when she wouldn't give me my seven dollars. Really? Was that going to put her out of business? Finally, Cody came on his shift, and was able to refund me seven dollars, per Glenda the wicked witch's orders after I wore her down. Ironically, the only way he knew how to open the register was by authorizing a car wash.

What was it, karma? I rescued a bug and let it out of the house last week. Isn't that enough? Or did that just cover last week?

Oh, and P.S. - nobody ever apologized to me for the pump malfunction that left gas all over the side of my car!

Names have not been changed to protect the not-so-innocent


what time is it?

I know this time change thing is only an hour, but it has MESSED ME UP today. I think I have a valid explanation, though. We flew home to California from Florida yesterday. So, three hour time zone change - plus, a one hour daylight savings change (or is it minus one hour?) No, it is plus one hour. Could be considered a four hour swing.

We got home from the airport around midnight (or 11pm) which was really 3am (or 2 am) depending on which time zone we were relating to at the time. Woke up this morning at 6am (or 7am or 9am or 10am). I was also starving due to meal time confusion during travel last night, and since we were not at home last week, there was no food in the house. Since I was up, I decided to go grab some bagels from our local bagel shop. Except that when my growling stomach and I pulled up to the store, the "hot bagel" neon light was still sleeping. What? I beat the bagel guy to the morning? Even with an extra hour. I guess the "time to make the donuts" concept doesn't apply to bagel guys.

So there I was - running errands on a Sunday morning at 6:45 am. I went to the grocery store, grabbed some milk, juice and yogurt. I went to the bank to deposit a check. And then I went back to the bagel store and waited for it to open. Pathetic.

And now it is dark out. What time is it again?


practice makes perfect

Not working sounds like a great deal... sitting on the couch eating bon bons, getting my nails done, lunching with my girlfriends. Oh, wait, that isn't what happens when you stay at home? As for my other "homemaking" skills, they need a little work.

Took the clothes out of the dryer... along with a bottle of purell hand sanitizer. Oh, shit! Unfortunately, no blaming anyone else for this fumble - I know it was in my pocket. Does that count as sanitizing the clothes? Maybe I didn't have to go through the trouble of washing them.

Drove the vacuum a little too close to some innocent bystanders... sucked up the rubber piece of a laptop cord. Note to others: those things are not attached very well. I checked under the hood of the vacuum for remnants, but it appeared the whole thing was sucked up. So, I continued to drive around the rest of the floor, until a strange odor started emanating... burning rubber. Oh, shit! I looked again, and there it was - caught in the roller on the bottom of the attack machine. Still in working order, just required some ventilation of the house - I can't imagine burning rubber is safe to inhale.

On the plus side, I did not start a fire in the oven... or overflow the bathtub... or break anything. Um, not counting the soap dish that I broke earlier in the day. Oh, well. Practice makes perfect. I think I need more practice, so maybe I should take a month off of work to get in some good practice?



My arm is sore. From playing video games. Now that I am a responsible adult, I can do whatever I want. Which today, meant playing video games. So there! But, um, owwwwwww. Scout was icing his shoulder this morning (seriously, I could not make this stuff up if I tried) from his tough games yesterday. I was making fun of him, and now I am paying the price. Damn you, karma.


glutton for punishment

I am a glutton for punishment. Really, I am a glutton for pizza, which instigates all my irrational behavior (as follows)...

Back in college, we had a pizza chain (let's call it Crapa John's) that was the sole pizza dealer on campus. I am not sure how much they paid for exclusive rights to an entire campus of late night drunk orders, but I am fairly certain that they were able to vacation on a private island during the summer months.

Since they were the only game in town (or, campus), when 1 am hit and we deemed ourselves incapable of operating a hot pot, we HAD to order from Crapa John's. Of course, we ordered the minimum amount to warrant delivery, and expected it to arrive quickly. We were paying customers, dammit! Even if we paid as much for the delivery fee as we did for the delicious doughy sticks.

As you can imagine, their service was... well, even below the lowly standards one would expect from a pizza joint with a monopoly on obnoxious inebriated academics. As a paying customer (and a true Jersey Girl), if their service fell below my standards (which, for the record, were pretty low at the time), I felt free to call and tell them so. One night when I was inquiring (probably not very politely) about a late delivery order, the voice on the other end of the line accused me of being a Chronic Complainer. My college roommate thought this was hysterical, and the name now lives in infamy.

You would think that I would have learned my lesson about Crapa John's, but not so, my friends, not so... we happen to have our very own Crapa John's near my house, 2,777 miles from the original crime scene. I continue to give the Crapa chances to redeem himself. He fails me every time. And yet I keep coming back for more... perhaps I should report him for an abusive relationship?

Why do I continue to order, you ask? It isn't for the quality of the pizza... it is no better (nor worse) than any of the other joints in town. Which, by the way, isn't saying much. The real draw... is the cheese sauce. Delicious zesty processed cheesiness (79 cents per tiny dipping container) with which to dip the breadsticks.

I have tried picking up the order, to verify that my order would be correct, instead of waiting for some random order to show up at my house. This resulted in me: 1) fuming in my car in the parking lot waiting for the corrected order to cook after I showed up to tell them that I had not ordered 2 XL anchovy pizzas; b) ranting when they tell me that they are OUT of cheese sauce (and yes, I do ask if they have it when I call - I make them check the fridge to verify it is on the premises); or iii) wasting my three dollars and eighteen cents per gallon of gas to drive to pick it up - isn't delivery the whole point of ordering pizza?

On Friday, after a long week, I tried Crapa John's again... I had a coupon, and a craving for cheeeeeeeeeeeese sauce. Ordered at 5:30 (because I knew it was going to take forever). Expected delivery time was estimated at 45 minutes. Okay, reasonable. Delivery guy shows up at 6:30 with a friend in his car AND the wrong order. After I tell him it is wrong, he says he will go back and get it - 20 minutes. As he is running to his car, I shout after him, "Don't you want to know what my order iiiiiiiiiis?" Sigh.

After 3o minutes, I call the store and inquire (politely, this time) as to my order. The teeny bopper answering phones told me that it was out for delivery. So I explained the situation - yes, the delivery guy showed up, but wrong order. He tells me to call back in 15 minutes if it hasn't showed up yet. I am sure he didn't think that the dough, sauce and cheese (and delicious cheese dip) was going to bake itself and roll on over to my house in the next 15 minutes, but I do think his phone lines were lighting up, and he didn't want to take a call from a pissy suburbanite.

I called back again, this time asking to speak to a manager (after vehemently replying "NO" to the "Thank you for calling Crapa John's, can you please hold" intro). He listened to my situation, and said they were really busy. I held back my "I don't care - and besides, don't you WANT to be busy? Isn't that how you make money?" response. He said they would make up my anchovy pizza and send it right over for free. So I thanked him for his offer, but I did not ORDER an anchovy pizza. I WOULD appreciate it if he could send over the original order that I placed an hour and a half ago (which I had to repeat, since he had no record of its existence). And young man, could you make sure to send over the extra cheese dipping sauces, since that was the WHOLE REASON I ordered from your Crappy business in the first place!

Two hours later, the free pizza (and breadsticks) arrived at our doorstep. The cheese dip was delicious (and did I mention free, except for the pending charge on our bank account that I am REALLY hoping reverses itself in the next day or so, else I am going to have to march down there and bust out my Chronic Complaining skillz). Next time I want pizza (or cheesy dip goodness), I will have to employ all my brain power to recall this scenario (and the four thousand preceding instances). Or, maybe I should just swing by Crapa's evil lair and stock up on cheese dip (I mean, really, there is nothing natural in it, so it can't possibly go bad... ever) and order from another of the coupon sending pizza joints.

Don't even think about offering up the solution of giving up pizza...



Second music post in a row... not sure why, but maybe the right side of my brain is jamming these days (is that right? is it the right side that is the creative/artistic side? I suppose I could look it up, but I'm not feeling that thorough right now -- see? my logical left side is going numb)!

I was driving to yoga class yesterday, and Zombie by the Cranberries came on the radio (the alternative station in town that is constantly playing Nirvana and reggae music - I can't quite figure out the method to their madness). You know how music can transport you to a time and place? That song takes me back to high school, and driving around in my boyfriend's Ford Probe. First of all, what was Ford thinking when they named a car "Probe?" Second, didn't they have an advertising agency to advise against such bumbles? Back to the point, driving around in cars in high school...

My boyfriend was a year ahead of me in school, and driving around in his car was fun and exciting, because I didn't have a license. But, I did have to learn how to drive. His first car was a Jeep CJ-7. (Yes, he went through 2 cars in high school). It was an awesome high school car. My mom hated it, because he would take the doors off in the summer - which is clearly advised against on page 187 of the parenting handbook. He had to have the doors on when he picked me up at the house, but of course we would just swing by his house and take them off before we went anywhere. I can't imagine this is a surprise to the parentals (hi mom!), because I have since learned that they are quite a bit smarter than I gave them credit for in high school.

While the Jeep was fun to cruise around town, it wasn't the most practical transportation... the major flaw being that it didn't always start on demand. When it didn't start, you had to push it to get it to start. Since I didn't want to be the pusher (especially in winter), I had to learn how to drive a stick shift (back to my point way up at the top of the previous paragraph - I am not so organized in my thoughts today). I did not have my license, but I really only had to drive in parking lots to get it started, then I would switch to the passenger seat. Because that justifies the whole thing. "Well, occifer, I was just trying to get it started in the parking lot of the Burger King - I know I don't have a license, but I wasn't driving on the ROAD."

So, I learned how to drive a stick shift. I would like to note that to this day, my sister still has not mastered this skill. I have commented to my parents that this is one of the life skills in which they failed their children. But, if that is my only complaint (and it isn't - I also am not good at cooking, so I will feel free to blame that on them, too). Okay, so if those are my only complaints, I would say they did a pretty good job. Hi, mom and dad! After I thought about it some more, it actually worked out for them. I mean, I still learned how to drive a stick shift, and they didn't even have to fork over the money to buy a new clutch - or take 5 years off their life sitting in a car yelling at me while I struggled to learn. Hey, maybe they are A LOT smarter than I gave them credit for... nice move, elders!

As I was driving home after yoga class, the song came on AGAIN. Ever heard of a playlist, people? I think my [not]iPod can shuffle better than your fancy radio computer. But, you might have to listen to Jingle Bells.


stuck in my head

You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your li-ips...
And there's no tenderness like before in your fingerti-ips...

Why at the end of the (work) day did this song pop into my head? And why is it stuck there with no sign of leaving soon? To solve this mystery, I tried what all good TV detectives recommend - I traced my steps. Fade to earlier today... right before this song popped into my head, I was in a heated IM discussion with RunnerGirl. She swore that (grown up) Ralphie red rider bee bee gun was in the movie The Break Up, and like a good friend, I didn't believe her. Because, hello?, I saw the movie, and I could not have missed a frame. Impossible. So, I looked him up on IMDB (the source of all truths that cannot be found at Google or Wikipedia). Turns out she was right. I'll be damned.

Okay, so clue #1: I was on IMDB... hmmm... that song was in a movie. Was there a link to Kelly McGillis from one of the pages? No? A photo of a chick with a guy's name standing at a jukebox with a leather jacket in a very warm climate? No? After examining the evidence, I cannot find anything to support that theory.

Perhaps I have watched Top Gun so many times that my neurons are now misfiring clips at random. System overload?

Since I can't figure out how that damn song needled its way into my grey matter, I will just work on trying to get it out. Now. Before I lose my loving feeling for the Righteous Brothers!

I tried my rock solid approach that has worked in the past. Sing another song. Simple, but effective. I have a particular song that I always use... is that weird? Anyone else out there do that? It isn't even a favorite song, or by a favorite band. Just a song that pops into my head whenever I am trying to get rid of another song. And strangely, it never stays in my head. Must have a broken neuron there. But this time, it didn't work! I'm trying hard not to show it, baby...

I tried to purge it by belting out the whole song on the way to pick up dinner. Scout was not pleased. He might not ever ride in a car with me again. Perhaps it was the quality of my singing? Naaahh. Couldn't be. He asked me if I realized that the window was down as we were pulling into our neighborhood. I said I knew.. maybe I was caroling. From the car. Off season. Damn holiday season sneaking up again!

So now I am on my last idea... I am sorry I have to sacrifice all of you, but it has to be done. If I can get it stuck in someone else's head, maybe I will have some peace. Now it's gone, gone, gone... wooooah-ooooah-ooooh.


they did

I was thinking about my HOMEbody post, and reflecting on some of my adventures over the past few years. What have I done? Where have I been? For those of you who know me, I have adopted a pastime of attending weddings. If I were in high school, I would have been president of the "Going To Weddings Club". Not as lucrative as my original plan to be in the Babysitters Club, but my name isn't Claudia, so I had explore alternative options.

So many weddings that my hairdresser asks me where I have been and who got married every time I see her. She has been a bit disappointed with the decline in weddings this summer, as I only attended two, and only one required travel.

Halfway through the wedding tour, my husband asked me to count out how many more friends I had so he could prepare himself for the quantity of potential weddings in his future. I think he also requested that I not make any new friends that are single.

So, here is a summary of the weddings I have attended over the past half decade (not including my own):
  • 18 weddings
  • 9 states (California, Oregon, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada, Vermont, Maryland, Washington)
  • 4 winery nuptials
  • 6 church ceremonies
  • 5 bridesmaid dresses
  • 5 second marriages (per person, not per wedding)
  • 9 resulting children
  • longest ceremony: 1hr 15 mins
  • shortest ceremony: 5 mins
  • frequent flyer miles collected: approximately 29,586 (per distance calculator)
  • only 1 resulting divorce! Way to beat the national statistics, people! I wonder if I have to calculate for the second marriages to be an accurate statistical analysis? Hmmm...

Not too shabby, eh? I wonder how I even know that many people! And now, for some of the more memorable moments from all these festivities:

  • jumping in the pool during a reception... in a bridesmaid dress
  • playing cops and robbers in the hotel after reception
  • a sign plane fly-by congratulating the couple
  • standing on top of an air conditioner vent because bridesmaid dresses are HOT AS HELL
  • the cake that didn't show up until 9pm (was one of the best cakes I have ever had, so it was worth the wait)
  • wearing an ice pack inside the cleavage of my bridesmaid dress to stay cool during a 100+ degree ceremony (it was a tiny ice pack, and didn't help me gain any cleavage, but it was much cooler than a bunch of tissues)
  • timing all of the ceremonies to establish longest and shortest ceremony winners
  • vodka bar - for those of you considering this for your next event, it is the best worst idea ever... it seemed great at the time, but I felt quite differently the following afternoon when I was boarding the plane
  • stopped up commodes
  • running onto the dance floor every time Bon Jovi started playing
  • bride, groom & bridal party of 16 leaning out a trolley singing yelling along to the song Gold Digger, "Holla! We want pre-nups!"
  • a photo booth for the guest book... I almost beat out the 5 year olds for most trips into the booth, but they just barely edged me out on that one
  • drunk dialing my brother at midnight from my mother's cell phone (and not leaving a message). That really freaked him out... one point for you, mom... though I barely put a dent in the paybacks for all his midnight calls to you...
  • locking ourselves IN a hotel room (which I still think must have been a fire code violation)

To all my friends and family who have said "I do," thanks for all the fabulous memories of your celebrations.



Aaaahhhh... another relaxing weekend at home. A bit out of character for me. I am one of those crazies who is usually on the go. Out for dinner with the girls, out of town for a weekend trip, game night with the gang, etc. For the last month, I have been hanging out at home on the weekends, with no plans at all. Sometimes I look at my planner (yes, a book - made of paper - I can't seem to make the digital leap to electronic planners) and wonder if I forgot to write things down, the squares for Saturday and Sunday strangely stark.

I used to think staying at home was boring, but I have managed to fill my days nicely, and leisurely. Doing laundry all at once, instead of throwing a load in before I go to bed, and having to remember to put it in the dryer before rushing out the door for work, else it will smell worse than when it started after percolating in the machine for a day and a half. Actually folding my laundry right away instead of dumping the basket on the dresser, and picking clothes out as I need to wear them. Sitting on the couch watching football all day long. Lying in bed reading a book mid afternoon, drifting off to sleep without a care in the world. (I can hear your jealousy, internets - don't be a hater.)

So, I guess I have turned into a homebody. Never thought that would happen! Not sure how long this will last - if it is just a phase - my energy waiting to be recharged, like a cell phone. Except that it takes me a bit longer than 30 minutes, and I can't seem to recharge in the car. Have to work on that one.



I love my [not]iPod! It is tiny, cute, and filled with tons of songs that can keep me occupied at work, remind of days gone by, get me fired up to go running (infrequent as it may be), or calm me down when I get too fired up at inappropriate times.

Recently at work, I have been locked in a conference room with a bunch of other people all day. Yes, ALL DAY. Since my desk is in another building, I just set up in the conference room and work at a table with about 10 other people. This means I have no personal space, so I pop in my headphones to pretend I am in my own space. Or to prevent the other peeps from asking me questions.

This morning, I selected random play all, my favorite feature on my [not]iPod - you never know what you are going to get, and it is more entertaining than just listening to a single album. Granted, I am most likely to get Bon Jovi, followed by Dave Matthews Band, then Bruce Springsteen, back to Bon Jovi, etc., but today I was in for a surprise.

Blasting into my eardrums was: O, Come All Ye Faithful by Frank Sinatra... What the? First of all, how did a Christmas album even get on my [not]iPod? Oh, yeah... I recently wiped out all my songs and just randomly loaded a bunch of stuff from our computer. For variety. Resulting in... a Christmas album and about 45 Madonna albums (I might be exaggerating, but not much). I remember deleting a bunch of Madonna albums, because, really? Do I need to listen to that much Madonna? But somehow the Christmas album snuck through. Those mobsters... they are a sneaky bunch.

As I am not yet into the holiday mood, I hit next , only to hear Silent Night. This is ridiculous! I was just getting used to the Halloween items that have been out in stores since mid August, and now I have 2 Christmas songs in a row! The conspiracy theory is forming in my head... these electronics must have chips that are controlled by Big Retailer... who has clearly surpassed Big Brother with all their power and influence over the eager buying public (and, yes, I do count myself among that crazy group). So, they trigger all iPods and [not]iPods to play Christmas music starting after the autumnal equinox, which sends people running to the stores to buy presents! Ahhhhhhhhhh....

I hit next again, and got a normal song, and then the next next song was Holiday by Madonna. I swear, the tiny man inside my [not]iPod is going to get it as soon as I can open that tiny box! Do NOT mess with me! I will NOT buy Christmas presents yet. I haven't even thought of an idea for my Halloween costume!


t-shirts and texting

I have some bad news for my ego that I have been avoiding for quite some time. I might be old now. Maybe. I'm not entirely certain, but I have seen some evidence lately pointing to that conclusion.

1. I have not been IDed in, um, I don't even know how long. Not at the grocery store (but they did yell at me for just putting the six packs in my cart after checking out - I was trying to save a plastic bag, but apparently, beers must not leave the store naked, and there are no exceptions - even if you are trying to be environmental), not at the bar, not at dinner out with my girlfriends. I swear I heard one of those "We ID anyone that looks under 30" signs laugh at me last week.

2. When cleaning out my trunk of "things I somehow cannot bear to part with for no good reason" this weekend, I found a bunch of old t-shirts. I was showing them off to Scout (who was not entertained at all by my antics), and I pulled out a Rutgers rugby t-shirt... from 1993. I have a t-shirt that is 14 years old?

3. My dad challenged my bio line of "newly 30". He said it no longer applied, as I am closer to 31 than 30. Wait a second... my DAD is making fun of my age? By the nature of our relationship, he is clearly older than I am! How can he make fun of me? Hmph.

4. Professional athletes suddenly look young. College athletes look ridiculously young. When did that happen? Whilst I was munching on chips and cracking open a beer on my couch?

5. I stopped the other day to look at new cell phones. I picked up each shiny new device and examined it. After looking at half the phones in the store, I found myself asking the salesgirl (and I do mean girl - I think her parents had to drop her off at work, 'cause there is no way she is old enough to drive) if there were any simpler phones. You know, phones without all the fancy features - I don't need to play music or send video or email with a miniature keyboard. Apparently my technology aged out at text messaging.

Okay, off to bed for me... it's getting late! I guess that should have been number six on the list...


trophy wife

When my parents recently moved to Florida (I know, how atypical – old peeps moving to Florida – it is a new trend sweeping the northeast), one of the many boxes was lost along the way. Obviously, it was filled with critical items one cannot live without, for when the moving company notified my mother weeks after the move, she had no idea it was even missing. The moving company sifted through the box carefully examined the contents of the box, and when they decided it wasn't worth hocking determined it was a box of items belonging to yours truly, she told them to ship it to me in California.

Three and a half months after the move, said brown box arrived on my front porch. With five “FRAH – GEE – LAY” stickers affixed to the crumpled cardboard, I suspected it had been visiting with Tom Hanks and his buddy Wilson on their deserted island during its three month tour. After photographing the damaged box (in case the valuable contents were ruined, I had exhibit A for the lawsuit accusing emotional damages), I carried it inside.

I opened the box, and after removing the top 6 inches of paper stuffing (the contents must be very important if they were packed with so much non-news-paper), I reached the first item. I lifted it out of the box… it was pretty heavy… I slowly unwrapped it, and there it was in all its glory. Gleaming in the late afternoon sun, it looked exactly as it did the day I first saw it – a gold-leafed statuette marking the memorable softball season from 1986. I cleared off the mantle above the fireplace, and placed the trophy in a spot for all to admire, and continued unwrapping items. By the time I reached the bottom of the box, I had quite a display, and a new wardrobe!

My new(old)found treasures contained 7 trophies and 4 plaques ranging from 1986-95. Strangely, there was a disproportionate amount of softball trophies to my participation in that sport - perhaps softball teams are more trophy oriented than soccer or basketball? The plaques started showing up around '91 - not sure if that is due to a trend towards plaques in the nineties, or if it was a result of my age at the time - was it cooler to give plaques to high schoolers?

Not only were the trophies wrapped in paper, but the bottom layer of wrapping was handled by reversible jerseys. It was a double surprise with each item - one trophy and one reversible mesh jersey! I now have 4 reversible mesh basketball jerseys (two with my name and number on the back), 1 non reversible basketball jersey (lame - what if I change my mind in the middle of the day - I am only stuck with only one color?), 1 soccer jersey, and 2 shorts - all PURE POLYESTER! Too bad summer just ended - they would have been perfect when it sails past 100 degrees here. In case I want to mix things up a bit with some natural cotton, I have 2 sweatpants (which are so old that when i held them up by the inside of the waistband, the elastic just crumbled, so now they are stuck in the stretched out position) and 1 project graduation tshirt.

I arranged the trophies and plaques tastefully on the mantle, and laid out my new wardrobe in front of the fireplace (as if Mr. Claus had just deposited them there after squeezing through the natural gas line, landing with a bound). I think it is quite a nice display for the room, and the golden bronze colors are very autumnal. How lucky is my husband to have a trophy wife?


PEN pals

I remember when I was in school (back in the nineteen hundreds) and all English assignments required writing essays. Actually writing essays - with a pen - on paper. These days, the most writing I do is on my grocery list,which, as you know, isn't a very frequent occurrence.

Well, I think I have developed carpal tunnel syndrome today. Not from excessive repetitive use while typing , but from writing too much with a pen. I have been corresponding as a pen pal with my sister's nieces (not my nieces, so follow: her husband's sister's kids). They are eight and five, so not only do I write (on paper! with a pen!), but I have to write neatly so they can read it.

I draft my letters on the computer (did I write that out loud?). I just can't write as fast as I think... but I can type like crazy! And Bill Gates is kind enough to include spellcheck with his programs... I have yet to see a Bic that can do the same. Also, I can edit my letters better when I type them... you can never have too much rigor around a pen pal letter to an 8 year old. Did I convince you yet? I think the drafting is a bit strange myself, but who am I to criticize my own behavior?

So, after the ink dried on two letters to my pen pals, I have self diagnosed myself with carpal tunnel syndrome. My wrist is killing me, and I think I also may have torn a muscle in my forearm from so much writing. You would think I wrote a novel to them, but it was only 23 lines (for 223 words - see? Bill even put a word counter in his program... what do you have to say to that, Bic? .... Bic? Hellllllo? Are you still there?).

I have often wondered why we have so many pens in our house. Those scripting sticks are everywhere... in drawers, two full pen holders (one downstairs, one upstairs - in case of pen emergency), a few in the car, 2 or 3 in my purse, probably even one in each purse in my closet! Now I know why they are so prolific - with the digital age, it will take me until 2023 to use all the ink in those pens. Hopefully by then, someone will have developed a bionic wrist so I can get a replacement after mine is damaged from all that writing!


speaking... the public variety

Since I was not going back to school this fall, I thought I should at least take some sort test this year... but I didn't really want to put too much energy into it, so I found a test that questions me on something I know quite a bit about... myself! Here are the results of my personality test:

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Am I surprised by the results??? Hardly! If anything, I am surprised that I am not 100% extraverted!

Surprising, however, would describe my behavior today (as compared to the results above) during an "All Hands Meeting." We had a 150 person meeting at the Marriott today - I kind of felt like I was at a wedding reception... um, without the bar, or the dancing, or the centerpieces, or the favors, or the white dress and tux... and instead of toasts, we had speakers with power point presentations. Pretty much the same thing. Riiiiight...

Anyyyywayyyy... as with all "All Hands Meetings" (can you use repeated words if you are using quotes), we had a breakout session for some random activity, and I was the scribe. Partly because I love writing with Mr. Sketch markers (we had the yummy blueberry scent), and partly because I wanted to get out of my chair. After we compiled our illustrious list of positives and challenges (don't say positives and negatives, because in holding with buzzword lingo rule 10.c, all negatives are to be referred to as challenges or obstacles), they asked for a representative on each team to present our top two items to the room. Since I was the uber-dork that jumped up to use the (sniiiiiiiiiif) blueberry marker, my team unanimously voted me the speaker before I could even put the cap back on the marker and enjoy my last inhale.

We were table 13, and as they were working their way from table 1... table 2... up to our lucky number, I felt the familiar panic setting in... My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and my mind was at odds...
Halo: "There is nothing to be nervous about - you know all these people"
Horns: "But you have never liked public speaking"
Halo: "All you have to say are two stupid things"
Horns: "But they are approaching with a microphone"
Halo: "Nobody will even remember what you said"
Horns: "Unless you totally fuck it up"
...I know, I shouldn't reveal my inner thoughts. They have trucker mouths!

As I sat in my red and gold diamond patterned banquet chair, sweating, shaking, and breathing quickly, they decided to sneak up on me, and suddenly, microphone Vanna chick was in my face, waiting for me to bestow my brilliant comments upon the crowd. (Yikes, I think my heart rate is going up just typing this)! I quickly said my lines (forgetting to say my name), and sat back down. It was all a blur. I remember as much from that 30 seconds as a young freshman girl would remember about a frat party come Sunday morning.

I don't understaaaaaaaand (read in a whiny voice). I LOVE to talk... Verizon can vouch for that fact! All 14 pages of my cell phone bill, listing each call and the ungodly total minutes used per month. Sometimes I wonder how many minutes actually are in a month, but I am afraid of the answer. WHY can't I master talking in front of a crowd? And it isn't all crowds... I can talk in front of small crowds. In fact, I lead sessions at work. Small sessions. Not a problem. In fact, I like doing that kind of stuff. I am always the person with a comment. On Monday, I was cajoled by my team, because in one day, I uttered the strange phrases, "I don't have any questions" and "I am ambivalent"... both in one day! They all asked if I was okay, or if an alien had possessed me.

It has always been like this for me - speaking at weddings is terrible... and yes, I have tried the age-old trick: attempting to dull the nerves with some champagne (but not Bud Light - I have seen how those toasts go). Strangely, it doesn't seem to help. In fact, Scout reports that it just makes me talk faster. SofastthatyoucanhardlyunderstandwhatIamsaying.

So, I will add another item to my lifetime "to do" list: master speaking in front of crowds. (Knees knocking as I add it to my mental list)... I am off to have horrible nightmares about standing in front of a crowd.


cheese IS dairy

Today was chore day - laundry, ironing, carpet cleaning, meal planning and grocery shopping. Although I am a chronic planner, I just cannot master meal planning. Part of the problem is that it involves cooking (I shudder just typing that word). But, today, I tried again... attempt 42 at planning meals for the week.

I sat down on the couch with my favorite cookbook (Better Crocker's healthy AND hearty - 'cause what is the point of eating healthy if you are just hungry after your meal?) and picked out a few recipes. I wrote down the ingredients, confirmed the items in the house (surprisingly, a lot of them), and added the needed items to my grocery list. I KNOW... a list. Novel idea, and not usually something that accompanies me to the store. I generally wander and grab the usual suspects: milk, eggs, cheese, deli meat, fruit, bread... and whatever else looks good along the way.

I entered the grocery store with an air of confidence. I had a list! And in a bout of energy before I left, I organized my list by aisles in the store (since when am I type A?) Rather, where I thought they might be in the store; I didn't actually know, since some of the things were items I had never purchased before.

Before I continue, let me explain something about the grocery store I frequent - it is not your typical grocery store. It is humongous. They have a section that sells dinnerware - not paper plates, not plastic plates, but actual real pottery plates. They have wine tasting on Friday nights. It is so big that you can't just run in to quickly grab a gallon of milk, because the milk is located in the back 40. So they added an end cap in the front of the store stocking milk, butter, yogurt and other quick pickup items. It is so big that they have a convenience store inside the store!

I was quickly filling my cart and crossing off items on my list: milk, yogurt, mozzarella cheese, and then I encountered cottage cheese. I looked through the entire cheese section, but it was nowhere to be found. One of the helpful employees was stocking the cheese, so I asked her where the cottage cheese was located. She replied, "In the dairy section." Huh? As far as I know, cheese IS dairy. I recognize that the FDA has changed the food pyramid a hundred times since I learned it in 6th grade, but I seriously doubt they reclassified cheese. I stood there with a blank look on my face, and she added, "by the milk." Of course... why would cottage cheese be in the cheese section? It would be too obvious.

I would also like to add the fun tidbit that there is a second cheese section - the GOURMET cheese section. No wonder I never want to cook - too much effort to find anything at the store! Oh, and the effort of cooking.


culture... of the pop variety

As mentioned previously, I am from Jersey. Undisputed fact when you get me fired up, or on the phone with one of my immediate family members. RunnerGirl is also from Jersey (how we met is another story for another day) and since we are from Jersey, we have instituted a rule that anything Jersey related is automatically approved in the fiscal budget (hi, honey!).

On Sunday, we went to see the musical "Jersey Boys" at our local travelling Broadway theater (rather, theatre - apparently, it is fancier with the "re" than the traditional "er"). The funniest part of the whole night was when we were in the lobby before the show, and we overheard a fellow patron say, "You know how those people in Jersey talk"... I think he meant "tawk", but I'll let it slide.

The play was awesome, even though I knew nothing about the Four Seasons. Sure, I had heard the songs, but I was not really "into" them when I was younger. RunnerGirl was practically jumping out of her seat with every new song (and I think I heard her sing along a couple times) since she had the full cassette tape collection, as it was one of the approved musical groups by her parentals when she was younger. I did not know the story behind the group (giant gasp by the entire state of Jersey - shame on me!), but I learned so much during the 2.5 hour show... in fact, I am sure that if they had presented History in the form of a musical, I would have learned much more history in high school! Really, between the History channel and musicals, they could have saved me hours of schooling!

When I came home, I was telling Scout how I loved the play, and I was going to expand my cultural exposure by going to see Phantom of the Opera in the spring... you know, a play that was a real play, not a musical! He had a moment of silence (that I have come to know as the "is she kidding?" thought process). When he realized I wasn't kidding, he said, "but you know Phantom is a musical?" I replied, "yeah, but it's not a musical musical".

Clearly, he does not understand that musicals consist of pop culture music. Musicals have songs that are/were on the radio... songs that people sing in the shower. Songs that I can sing along with in my seat on the tippy-top row of the theaTRE. Which means that Phantom qualifies as real culture, not the culture that I am so masterfully versed in... the POP variety. Duh.



I was willing the start of fall with my outfit today. Unfortunately, autumn was on to my silly ploy, and the only outcome was me sweating in my September outfit because it was 95 degrees outside.

Although the weather was uncooperative, fall did respond with the start of football season. Now, I am not a team fan, nor is Scout. But I do love watching football. Not the dedicated sit-on-the-couch, cheer and watch every game of the season type of watching football, but I do love the game. In fact, I like watching all sporting events. I am unbiased, as demonstrated by one of my favorite sport shows, Ninja Warrior. I digress... the start of football, but not fall...

Football brings back fond memories over many different eras of my life. (Am I old enough to have eras of my life?) Junior high games at Ungermann field (under the lights - so very grown up)... the Warriors vs the Red Devils... followed by a trip to Dairy Queen. High school football games... getting all dressed up in my corduroys, plaid shirt and wool sweater... and maybe my barn jacket if it was really cold out.... standing in the upper left section of the stands cheering for our not-so-great team. College games - okay, I need to clarify this... I only went to about 3 games in my entire college career. In fact, the only reason I knew we even had games was because I had a penchant for dating the football players. But we did have some great tailgating!

Fantasy teams, friday night lights, body painting, first and ten, player of the game, and only two nights of the week without games... now that football has started, maybe the weather will catch on?


the bears and the bees

Camping trip was a success. Such a success, in fact, that we brought back the lovely aroma of campfire to our house. Why is it that every time we go camping, I forget that we will have that scent in our lives for the week following the trip? I have washed my hair 3 times, and sent all our clothes through the washing machine to no avail. I hope our house doesn't catch on fire - I'm not sure I would notice.

I really enjoyed our time in the great outdoors, with the exception of the following: the bears and the bees... (RunnerGirl would argue that I should add birds to that list - from her personal aversion, and also to create a more ironic title).

the bees
Scout and I were the first to arrive at the campsite on Saturday. We stepped out of the car with our yummy sandwiches from the Yellow Submarine (our favorite sandwich place in Tahoe - we might be partial based on the name alone). Plopped ourselves down on the picnic table, enjoying the great outdoors... and were immediately joined by 20 bees. They were clearly more interested in our processed meat sandwiches than any food they might scrounge up in their natural habitat. To avoid accidentally swallowing a bee trying to nibble off our lunch, we headed for the safety of our car. Yes, we ate our lunch - in a campground - inside our car - with the air conditioning blasting. Very outdoorsy and environmental of us.

the bears
As always, the campground has a form you must sign upon entering the park acknowledging the danger of bears and vowing to place all food items (including toothpaste) into the bear lockers provided at each site. Should you fail to comply, a $1,000 fine will be assessed... if you manage to survive the night without getting eaten by a bear. I have signed (or seen) this form many times, and always have the tiny nagging fear in the back of my mind that a bear could come into my tent and devour me while I slumber. Scout assures me that I will not get eaten by a bear, but I have seen Grizzly Man, and - spoiler alert - he most definitely was eaten by a bear. Could happen.

Due to the fires in Tahoe, and the destruction of their natural habitat, bear sightings have been more prevalent recently, and unfortunately, someone in our campground saw a bear on the first night. This news travelled faster than the high school rumor mill, and was all the buzz in our campground.

At the restrooms, random dad was waiting for a group of kids to make their last pit stop before tucking them into their sleeping bags for the night. The kids were riled up about the bear sighting, and to assuage their fears, he told them, "The bears are always there - the only difference between last night and tonight is that someone actually SAW them." Um, is that supposed to be comforting? Now you are telling me they are always there? I like to think that if I can't see them, they AREN'T there (mild panic ensues). He continued, "The bears are not interested in us - they are only interested in our food, so you shouldn't worry about them." One of the boys bravely proposed, "And they are more afraid of us than we are of them, right?" Random dad chuckled and replied, "No - in this case, you are definitely more afraid of them." I second that motion. And thanks Random dad, for not making me feel any better about this bear situation.

My first night was spent listening for giant footsteps, and jumping at every light I saw through the trees (in case the bear coming to sneak attack me was carrying a flashlight?) We heard gunshots at 1:30am - what? Were we camping in the hood? A bear drive-by shooting? Bear gangs? Scout suspects it was merely a noise scaring tactic. Which clearly means the bears were too close to people. Not helping...

The second night, I developed a highly complicated plan... drink enough beer to bring my judgment down just enough notches to quell my fears, but not so many notches that I would have to get up during the night to make the lonely trip to the restroom. You never know, that bear could have been waiting for me, if he knew I had to pee in the middle of the night. Those bears are smarter than you think.

Scout said he was proud of me for making it through the night without freaking out. Yes, I am a master of overcoming fears... with 5% lager assistance. I think this method will work great for the future... can't you just see us, heading out for a family camping trip, Scout advising the kids, "Remember to brush your teeth and put on your PJs early, cause mommy is going to have to drink herself silly so she isn't afraid of the bears." What a shining example I will be.

Or, maybe I could submit a comment to the campgrounds of the world to please not allow bears or bees at their facilities. They ruin the great outdoors.