Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reborn Jewelry-Part II

So, I finally received my new jewelry. I got the pendant first. The pendant is not exactly what I first imagined, but it is lovely. It is an 18K gold dome with diamonds inset. I really pictured something less perfect and exact - a more abstract shape. Now that I have the piece, I think it is much better than my original idea. This pendant will never go out of style. I can wear it tomorrow and I will still be able to wear it in 25 years. I still want to buy a black cord for it, but for now, I am enjoying wearing it with my gold and silver chains.

I got my ring just about two weeks ago. My ring was delayed because my friend, Karl, the master jeweler who created these pieces, did not like the original mold. He did not think the ring lived up to his standards, so it was scrapped and the process started again. I was really anxious to get the ring, but I trust his judgement. The ring is extra special because it contains the two center stones from my mother's wedding set. It is a bypass style ring in white gold. One side contains the oval stone from the engagement ring and the other side is the straight baguette from the wedding band. In the end, the ring turned out to be stunning. It seems strange to wear it everyday, but that is why I had it made. So, I will enjoy it whenever I want. The ring is stunning regardless if I am wearing jeans or a dress. I think part of the reason it is stunning is that it is so special to me.

In the end, it was expensive. It did take a long time. It wasn't exactly as I imagined. Still, I am glad I did it and I am happy with the results. It took special pieces that would have sat in a drawer for the rest of my life, and gave them a chance to be worn again. I will cherish these pieces forever.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reborn Jewelry

I recently did something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I took my mother's wedding set and a pair of diamond stud earrings to a local jewelry store and am having them reset into something I can wear. I am so excited about this process. Not only will I have very special pieces from my mother to wear, but I am having them restyled at a jewelry store where she went many, many years ago to have a piece redone from her grandmother. In a way, it is like a tradition.

My mother passed away in 1997. Since my father remarried and moved North, I have had most of her jewelry including her gorgeous wedding set - an oval center stone flanked by two tapered baguettes in the engagement ring and two more tapered baguettes on either side of a straight baguette in the wedding band. I have always loved this piece obviously as it is a symbol of my parent's love. It also has an amazing story. My father was serving in Vietnam when he decided my mother was the one. He had his mother shop for engagement rings and take pictures of the top contenders. My grandmother mailed the photos to my dad in Vietnam who picked the winner. My grandmother bought the ring for him, and mailed it to my mother. Can you imagine getting an engagement ring in the mail, then planning a wedding in the hopes that your intended is not killed in the war? Well, luckily, my father served out his tour, came home, and they were married about a month later.

I have had this amazing jewelry in a drawer for years. While the rings fit, there is really no way for me to wear them as I have my own gorgeous wedding set. I also have a pair of diamond studs that were given to me by my husband, so those were excess as well.

I took the jewelry to Jewelsmith and met Patrick. I arrived just before closing one afternoon, but Patrick was kind enough to talk to me about what I wanted and show my some pieces that they had custom made for other clients. While the work was beautiful, there was no idea that really spoke to me. We decided to have another appointment to discuss the transformation further. The next day, I have an idea (I was in the shower - it's weird that a lot of my great ideas come while I am showering). I was so excited, I could barely contain myself.

Patrick loved my idea - two pieces. We could not find a way to put all of the stones in one ring. It turns out that it is pretty tough to work with the tapered baguettes. I just didn't want to leave stones unused, but I also did not want to add additional stones. I felt like I would look at the ring and think "hmm - is that the original stone or a matched one?" Making two pieces, a pendant and a ring, would allow us to use all the stones without it looking like too much. And so, the design process began...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daniel Tosh Live!

This past Saturday night, hubby and I went to see the comedian Daniel Tosh perform live. We have been fans of his ever since we started watching his show Tosh.0 on Comedy Central. We also rented a DVD of a stand up concert called Completely Serious that he did. I just think he has a wonderful sense of humor. He is so quick, and he can point out things that are really funny in everyday life. I thoroughly enjoyed his show Saturday night. I had tears in the corner of my eyes for the entire show.

I think the thing that impresses me most is that he seems to have no limits. He is frequently nude (with the appropriate areas blurred-darn it!) on his show. He has no problems dressing like a woman or a fairy, or pretty much anything else. He is also very good at everything. Viewers will send in challenges for him to do, and he always succeeds in fulfilling the challenge-running faster, jumping over more folding chairs, bicycle stunts - you name it. He seems to have so much confidence-something I lack. Of course, that being said, he could be a total manic depressive nut case who can only pull his sh*t together when on stage. Somehow, I doubt that is true.

On top of all of that praise, he is really good looking. I think I need to add him to my list. Yep, Jason Statham and Daniel Tosh. A strange combo, but it works for me.

Check out the new season of Tosh.0 in January and look for his new concert DVD, Happy Thoughts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

End of the Season

I did my final scheduled triathlon this past Sunday. I was mostly pleased with my performance. I did really well in the swim and the bike, but I continue to have issues with the run after bike. I just can't get my legs back after biking for so long. I am not a fast runner to begin with, but it is even more difficult after biking.

I can't believe triathlon season is almost over. I do have the option of one more race. I keep thinking about it because I just think I am not ready for it to be over. I have really enjoyed the races I have done this year. I have had far more diversity this year than in the past. I have been able to reflect on the season a little bit and already have ideas for next year.

I want to continue to do the one mile swim events. I really do enjoy swimming and these events are just fun. After doing the final series event in August, I wished I have participated in the first three races. I plan to follow through on that plan in 2011. I also need more practice in my wetsuit. By participating in the first mile swim of the series, I think I should get the chance.

I really do like the sprint distance of triathlon, but I was not satisfied with my performance in the International distance. I missed my goal by a few minutes, and I know I can do better. I want to try the International or Olympic distance again in 2011.

I have improved on the bicycle, but there is room for more improvement. That means more and more riding. I would like to keep up our weekly long group rides, but I may also need to so a mid week ride. I have been receiving e-mails from a local women's riding group for months now, but have never joined them for a ride. I want to pursue that option this coming year.

My run is my worst event. On Sunday, I finished 137 out of 510 in the swim, 100 on the bike, but 355 on the run. If I could get my running to the level on the other events, I could really impact my overall finishes. I need to figure out how to make these improvements. I have a feeling it might start with practice, practice, practice!

So, I leave this season feeling good about what I have accomplished, but knowing that there is more work to be done. I have improved in 2010 over 2009, and I am looking forward to an even better year in 2011.

Friday, October 01, 2010

No Time!

It used to be that at the end of a given month, I would have a lot of free time at work. I would have time to update my blog between projects and do other personal things that you just can't accomplish during non-work hours. Things seem to have changed.

I have been much busier lately. It seems like most of the day is filled with actual work. I know it makes the day go by quicker, but I don't think I like it. I miss updating my blog and other things. It seems like there is no time at home either. I feel like I am constantly on the move. I have piles of magazines on the floor waiting to be read, and it seems like such a long time since I read a book.

I hope this period of "no time" is just a passing phase. It may be selfish, but I want my "me" time back!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Nuclear Swim

I have been meaning to write this blog for about 2 weeks now, so here it is!

Hubby and I participated in a one mile open swim event called the Nuclear Swim on August 29. Our friends, G and K, have been participating in this series of swims all summer. We kid of thought they were crazy for doing a one mile open lake swim, but then decided it is probably a good idea. Hubby will have to swim just over a mile for the half Ironman race, and we both need to swim just under a mile for our upcoming International distance. So, we signed up to make sure we could handle the distance.

Our swim was in Harris Lake, home to the Shearon Harris Nuclear facility (hence the race name). Interestingly, the lake is not open to swimmers on a normal basis. This event was our second swim of the year at Harris as it is also the home to The Triangle Triathlon. Our day started bright and early as we drove out to Harris, late, of course. I was panicked that we would not be able to get our race numbers, but we made it (with little time to spare).

We found our friend, G, and it was time to race. The guys headed into the water, and the ladies followed 10 minutes behind them. I watched from the water as the guys took off, and tried to calm myself for the event ahead. The scary thing was that I could not even see the first swim buoy from where I was treading.

Soon, the horn sounded and the women were off. My race strategy was to remain calm, and not worry about the race part. I just wanted to make sure I finished. The water was warm (thank you, Mr. Reactor) and very cloudy. I didn't really worry about not seeing in the water as I was more worried about finding the first sighting buoy. Luckily, my strategy kept me behind the pack and it was easy to follow along. I was swimming along when suddenly the water was not as opaque. I could see the weeds in the water and they seemed to be about 6 inches below my face. I didn't panic, but I was pretty grossed out by swimming just over the weeds. I was also afraid I would get caught in them. I did get tangled in a few weeds, but they cam right off. I just hated knowing they were there. Luckily, I was distracted by a kick to the face. There was no blood, but it did make me stop for a few seconds.

I soon passed the sighting buoy and was at the first turn. The course was like a rectangle, so we turned 90 degrees and continued to a second turn buoy. I realized that I felt great (despite the kick). I was calm and doing what I planned to do. I actually felt confident. I even decided to try a barrel roll around the second turn buoy. I was please to see that I was no where near the last woman in the lake. I kept this confidence as I headed back to shore. Soon, I could see the lovely dancing blow up man beckoning me to the sand. I was out of the lake in 44:31.7. I felt fantastic.

I later found out that I beat both of the guys. I was so pleased with my race. I didn't come anywhere near winning, but I felt great during the swim. I wish I had participated in the events earlier in the year. At least I know I can do the distance this weekend. I am already looking forward to competing in mile swims next year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Working is for Chumps

I know people who love their jobs. I know people who feel fulfilled and satisfied with their careers. I even know people who are of age to retire, but choose to continue to work. I am not one of those people.

I have never really liked working. I don't feel that work enhances my life or makes me feel good. The only real satisfaction I get from a job is the money I receive from it. I really find it to be more of a chore than anything else and I don't like to do chores.

I guess the best job I ever had was the first job I had. For the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I was an ice cream scooper. I worked at a local drug store (more like a small Target of today) where there was an ice cream counter. We didn't do anything fancy like shakes or sundaes, but we did do cones and cups or hand packed containers.

I don't know what made it such a great job. I guess we were busy - it was summer and we sold a single scoop of ice cream for 35 cents. Maybe it was the fun of being the first job and first paycheck I ever received. We did have a fun staff. Most of them were also high school students, so we knew of each other. It could have been the old fashioned cash register with the big buttons. You would have to push the 30 cent button, then the 5 cent button, then sub total, and then the big black key for final total to get the drawer to open. I even enjoyed the menial tasks like refilling the inventory and cleaning the utensils. The joys of youth.

Every job since then has become a little less enjoyable. I guess the youthful days of summer are gone. I don't hate my current job, but I can certainly think of other things I would rather be doing. I would retire tomorrow if I could. It is sad that those things that used to be such fun when you were a kid are not as much fun when you are a grown up. Oh well, I guess there is nothing that can be done now but wait for retirement. Then the fun will start again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pain Update

Update on my shoulder pain - there no longer is any pain!! I was shocked (and very happy) to recover most of my mobility just a few days after seeing the orthopaedist. Now, I have no pain at all. I am glad the Advil, heat, and rest did the trick. Now I know the recipe for muscle pain relief.

My shoulder felt so good that I participated in the Triangle Sportsplex Triathlon this past Saturday. It went fine. My results were not as good as I had hoped, but I don't think I can attribute any of it to the shoulder. It was the longest pool swim I have ever done in a tri - 400 meters. Luckily, the pool was really nice and had wide lanes. I only got passed once (by the 22 year old behind me). I had some bad turns off the wall, but I finished the swim in 10:10 which was 39th out of 54 competitors.

After a 2:03 T1, I was off on the bike. I really did not study the race course or even ride it beforehand (I wasn't sure I was even going to be able to race), so I didn't know what was in store. I should never participate in a race in a town that starts with the word "Hill". The bike course was one hill after another. I don't think there was a flat section of the course. It seemed that I was either going uphill or downhill for the full 12 miles. I am not a great uphill rider, so I finished in 46:45 - 42nd place.

I had a shorter transition in T2, and was off for the double loop run course. The uphills were not friendly to my legs. My calves felt like lead for probably the first 2 miles of the 3.1 mile course. I was planning to do 2 and 1's for the race, but I had to make adjustments for the big hill on the course. I was rounding the course to make the second loop when a water volunteer told me that I needed to start running now. It really upset me. He looked like he could run a marathon without breaking a sweat. It was my race, and if I wanted to walk, it was my business. I finished well, but my time was dead last for the run at 37:37. The sad part is that the time is very close to a PR for me. I don't know whether I should be happy that I ran close to a PR, or be sad because my near PR was the slowest run of the day.

I guess overall I am happy with the race. I was glad I could participate at all. It was nice to try a new race. I just wish it were in a flatter place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No Mosque

It makes me very sad to see the protests around this country regarding the building of mosques. I understand that 9/11 was a great tragedy for this nation. I know how many lives were lost, and I understand that mourning needs to occur. Still, I wish it could be different.

The vast majority of people who practice Islam are not terrorists. Islam is a religion that preaches peace, however, there is a sect of Muslims who believe in terrorism. It is really not unlike other religions or groups. There are extremists everywhere. There are people who call themselves Christians, yet believe it is their duty to kill doctors who perform abortions. It just seems that many Americans can't see that not everyone who wants to build a mosque is an extremist who will bring terrorism to our nation.

I think these protests send such a bad message to the rest of the world. We are supposed to be the land of tolerance - a place that was founded on the notion of freedom of religion. Isn't that why the first settlers from Europe came here?

Perhaps a location so near to Ground Zero may not be the best place for a mosque or a Muslim Cultural Center. Maybe it is too soon. Still, I believe that we need to remember the principals that are the foundation of this great nation. We need to continue to exercise those freedoms that we hold so dear and allow these mosques to be built around the country. Perhaps then, and only then, the true healing of this nation can occur.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Just when things seemed to be falling into place, they pain came. I had gone to Boot Camp last Monday morning and all seemed to be fine. I came home and changed for work, but did have some problems getting my sports bra off. It had happened before. I guess the combination of sweat and a warm body doesn't make it easy to get the piece off. I struggled a bit with my arms and torso stuck, but I did get it off. I went about my day and thought nothing more of it. By Monday night, my left shoulder was really hurting.

I thought it was one of those "just getting older" type injuries. After two days of increasing pain, I knew it was more than that. I was lucky to have already scheduled an appointment with my doctor for an annual physical, so I went and told her about the pain. She referred me to an orthopaedic doctor.

I am glad to report that there was no damage according to the X rays. It seems I have a bit on tendinitis in my shoulder. The recommended treatment is Advil and heat (I had been doing Tylenol and ice - definitely not right!) After three days of treatment, I am pleased to say that I feel much, much better.

I am lucky that I have never had an injury before now. I did decide to drop out of boot camp until the next session (the coach actually wanted me to continue on with one arm), but I want to be 100% while I am there. It seems that I have come to enjoy boot camp. I do like the changing routines and challenges. I hope I will still be up for it in a few weeks.

It was a bad week. I was really depressed and feeling such discomfort all week. On top of it, my doctor told me I am too heavy and I need to lose weight. I know it to be true, but it is still hard to hear someone tell it to your face. All of this working out is fine, but without better control of eating habits, the weight will creep up. I wound up crying for a little bit Friday morning, but it is amazing what a few days can do to your attitude. I feel better now and ready to focus on trying to lose that weight. I know it will only help my sport.

It's funny how just a few days ago I felt like I had no control and things were spinning away from me. I guess that's what pain can do.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Boot Camp

Today was my first day of CrossFit Boot Camp. CrossFit is a gym that had a different approach to fitness. Each day is a different workout that may feature anything from running and kettlebells to rowing and push-ups. You never know what you are going to get, but each workout is designed to be a complete core workout, even if it only takes a few minutes. The key is intensity.

I am familiar with the concept of CrossFit. My sister-in-law's sister-in-law owns a CrossFit gym in Florida. My own hubby has been a member of this gym for probably about a year now. I have been to an open house, but I have never done the workout myself because I always thought it would be too hard. Hubby forwarded an e-mail announcing their latest edition of Boot Camp, and I decided to give it a try.

I had hoped today would be an orientation session. It was not. Our instructor, Ashley, introduced herself to us and got each of our names. She then sent us out to run 400 meters as part of a warm up. When we returned, she said that we would always warm up together. She got us started crossing back and forth the gym floor doing a variety of activities like high knee lifts in front, butt kicks to the back, and squats. She then demonstrated each move for the main workout. Our workout today was repetitions of three exercises - push-ups, air squats, and sit-ups. We were to do them as fast as possible starting the first round with 10 of each, the second round with 9 of each, continuing until we were to zero. When we finished, we were to yell "Time!" so she could record our times.

I can't do push-ups, so it was nice to see Ashley demonstrate several different options for movement including knees up or using a bar. She was more concerned with the posture of the push-up (straight back, chest down) that the leg position. I finished last among the girls, but strangely, sooner than both the guys. I was a sweaty mess when I finished, but I did my first workout. We finished with 30 seconds of plank, 30 seconds of rest for three rounds. I was not able to get my body off the ground, so she again showed a modification. Then, we were done.

On the drive home, I felt my right shoulder aching. I knew I would be sore, but I think I tweaked something during the push-ups or the plank. It brought to life my biggest fear - that this new workout could negatively impact my other training. I need to be able to use my shoulder for Masters swim and for the race I have on Sunday. I think it is just a fluke - a first time trying something new minor injury. I hope it feels better tomorrow.

I want upper body strength and core strength. I just don't want to have to work hard or hurt to get it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's Done

I finally did something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I quit The Junior League.

I have been thinking about quitting for a really long time. I have never had the guts to do it until yesterday. It is time.

I feel what I stated in my resignation letter is true. My personal life focus does not mesh with the demands and duties of The Junior League. I have been thinking for months about just how little I could do this year just to get by. I enjoy very little of the things the JL does. I hate Bargain Sale, I have no interest in children, and I have very few friends in the League. I usually stand by the wall by myself during the meetings just waiting for it to end so I can leave. I am just not in the same place in life that my fellow League member are. Most of the women I came into the League with are now getting ready to have or have already had their second children. They go to play groups together. I have no mutual interests with young mothers.

I am excited about this change. It means I am free to go to Tri Club meetings and yoga, or to do anything else I want on a Wednesday night. I can also enjoy the two things I like about the League-Holiday Market and Home Roam-without being a member.

I am glad I finally made the right decision. In this instance, quitting is good.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Training Time

We are now in serious training mode for the International Triathlon. This past weekend, I ran 10 miles with my running group on Saturday, then went out to the lake with hubby and a friend on Sunday. We did some open water swimming in the lake, then went on a 23 miles bike loop, and finished with a 1 mile run to get our legs under us. It was a long, hot morning. Afterward, we had sandwiches, so we didn't even have coffee on Sunday. It was strange, but I think it will be the norm for the weeks to come.

It is tough getting out of bed so early on the weekends. Weekends used to be the time we slept in and had a nice, big breakfast before reading the paper. While I like getting out in the morning to finish the day's workout, it makes you so tired for the remainder of the day. I think I will have to start adding naps to my weekend routine.

I am also contemplating joining a local gym called CrossFit for a boot camp. The whole concept of CrossFit scares me, but it may be a good thing. I have no upper body strength and very little core strength. I know I need to work on these areas and that they will help my overall performance. So, do I dive into the unknown? I have until tomorrow to decide.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Triangle Triathlon x2

This past Sunday marked my second year of competing in The Triangle Triathlon. This race is the toughest and longest race I have done to this date. The Triangle Tri is a 750 meter open water swim in Harris Lake (home to the Shearon Harris Nuclear Reactor), a 17.5 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run. It is a longer swim and bike than the normal sprint triathlon, so it is a great race to test your endurance and see if you really want to move to the next level of triathlon racing.

Of course, it was not the ideal time for a race. Hubby and I just finished a two week no holds barred vacation in Europe. There was plenty of eating and drinking (OK-lots and lots of drinking), but absolutely no training. I was a bit concerned about how I would fare in this race, but it all worked out fine. I would have probably done better without two weeks off, but that two weeks was worth it!!

We decided to do the Sunday edition of this race. Due to the popularity of the event, it was expanded to a full weekend this year. I am glad we chose the Sunday race as it was the smaller group of the two days. We arrived early at the race site, but had no problem getting a parking space inside the park. Soon, we had our race packets, our bodies marked, and our transition area set up. It was time to hang out with G & K and our good friend C who got up way too early in the morning to cheer the four of us in this race. G and Hubby were in the water soon, and K and I were waiting for our turn to take off.

I did my usual when starting the open water swim. I started in the rear of the group to the outside. The gun went off and we were off. The water was very warm (high 80s), but murky. The race course takes you out to a triangle buoy where you turn left and head to another triangle buoy before returning to the shore. The nice part about the first length of the swim is the electrical wires and poles in the lake. It makes for easy spotting while swimming. I felt that I held me own with the group and didn't get too far behind. My arms were aching, but I kept moving without getting run over by other swimmers. After what felt like a long time (really only 19:02 minutes), I was out of the water. I had trimmed over 3 minutes from my time last year and would later find out that I had beaten both G and Hubby in the swim.

There was a long run from the water to the transition, but again I bettered my time from last year. I changed as quickly as I could, and was off on the bike course. I was passed by a few folks heading out of the park. I think that biking may be the weakest area for me. The first few miles of the course are not too bad, with more rolling hills than steep hills. I did manage to pass a few people on my own, and played back and forth with a few others. I was nervous about what I knew was coming - the killer hill. It is a long steady incline a little over half way through the course. It wasn't as bad as I anticipated. I made the steady climb, and soon turned right onto Avent Ferry Road. I got some water and a GU packet, and was re-energized for the ride back to the park. I was picking up some really good speed when I saw something no athlete wants to see - a biker down of the side of the road. I heard later that he was clipped by a car and landed in a ditch. The police, a fire truck, and race officials were there with the athlete. I hope he was OK. I made it back to the transition area taking about 8 minutes off my ride from last year. I finished it in 1:08:49.

I started to have some problems at this point. My T2 time was slower than 2009 (must put the pull tabs on my running shoes!), and I knew I was tired. I headed out to the run course, but I knew what was waiting for me. It is a short run on asphalt leading to a trail. I am not a trail runner at all. I was having problems with my legs and had to take walk breaks more often that I wanted. I would count about 45 breaths running, then walk for about 30 breaths. I did improve over the course, but it was still difficult to run on the trail with little shade in July. It was getting hot. I would be sure to dump water on my head at every water stop. I finally reached one stop, and the volunteers told me I had about .2 miles left - thank goodness! I could hear the finish and I was heading home. I ran in from the trail to the finish (must look good crossing the finish line), but I was beat there by another triathlete - a 72 year old woman in a green tri suit! Oh well, she looked great. I finished the run in 42:07, a disappointing two minutes slower than last year. I blame the vacation.

Overall, I finished the race in 2:16:25, a better time than the 2:26:54 I posted in 2009. I hope 2011 will be even better. Now, it is time to hit the training hard. We have less that 2 months until the White Lake International race, and I want to be ready. Gotta run!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Forgot one!!

I can't believe that I forgot this item on my travel list. It's a good one!

11. Chocolate for breakfast - Our innkeepers introduced us to this concept. One morning on the table was a box of dark chocolate sprinkles, like the kind you would put on an ice cream sundae. These sprinkles, however, are not for ice cream. They are for toast! Toast a piece of bread, spread butter or jelly on it, and top with chocolate. Brilliant!! Every day after that one, we enjoyed some form of chocolate with breakfast. As Martha would say, it's a good thing!

Monday, July 12, 2010

What I Learned while Travelling

Hubby and I recently returned from an amazing two week vacation in The Netherlands and Belgium. We have been to Europe before, but this trip was the biggest travel endeavor I have ever taken. I learned a lot about travel, trips, and Europe, so I thought I would share some tips here.

1. Don't be afraid to plan a big trip yourself - Initially, we contacted a travel agent because I was too scared to plan a trip like this one by ourselves. We wasted time and effort with the agent. She just did not have the same vision we did, so we went in our own direction.

2. Buy the guide book - There are so many great travel guidebooks for purchase. Even on short trips, I will go to the library and borrow a copy of the guide for our destination. They give great advice and tips for the best places to visit, to eat, to shop, and to stay. I usually go for a Fodor's book, but we used Rick Steves' book for this trip. It was a great guide and we used it throughout the trip.

3. Stay in a B&B if possible - We stayed in 3 different places on our trip, and used bed and breakfasts in 2 locations. It was wonderful to share someone's home for a few days. The service was outstanding and the locations were small (one had two rooms, the other three). The hosts were amazing and were so helpful to us during the trip. It was just such a treat to be able to stay in a ship's captain's home from 1667. We also met a great couple in one of the B&Bs and have planned to get together with them here in the states. B&Bs are usually less expensive than commercial hotels, but offer the same (or better) amenities.

4. Cash! - If you are travelling to Europe, it isn't going to be cheap. As our new friends said, "Bring a few clothes, take bags of cash." We found that it was much easier to pay as much as possible with Euros. It is also less expensive in the long run. Our ATM fees were 1% of the withdrawl amount plus a nominal fee for using the machine. Credit card purchases carry a 3% transaction fee and may require a European PIN to work in certain places. We also found that our bank have a foreign currency department. We were able to order Euros from the bank and pay only a delivery fee.

5. Prepurchase tickets - While we were in Amsterdam, I knew I really wanted to see The Anne Frank House. I prepurchased the admission tickets online a few weeks before our trip. I am so glad I did. We bypassed a huge line of people and walked right in to the museum with our paper tickets.

6. Trains - The trains really intimidated me, so we prepurchased the majority of our tickets before the trip. While it did save time standing in line, I think it was cheaper to buy the tickets at the station. I think in the future, I would buy day trip tickets in the stations. For major trips to big city central stations, I would buy those tickets online. I would also buy either Thalys (high speed with assigned seating) or first class tickets. On our train from Brussels to Bruges, we had to stand for the entire 45 minute journey. It was hot and uncomfortable. We almost had the same problem from Antwerp to Amsterdam (a 2 hour trip), but we did find out you can squat in first class if you don't have a ticket or you can buy an upgrade to first class on the train. That upgrade was worth every penny to not have to stand for 2 hours in a very hot area between two cars.

7. Europe is so laid back - I love the USA - please don't understand. While travelling to Europe, however, I realized just how restrictive the US can be. Land of "Yes, we can?" More like the land of "No, you can't because it is against federal regulation US527." We toured a medieval 13th century castle by ourselves. It was worn and have very steep stairs, but we know what we were going to be doing. I wonder if the various regulatory agencies would have allowed something like that in the US. There was no handicap access, no guiderails on the stairs, no screens or safety material on the windows - it was a fantastic "at your own risk" tour.

8. English spoken here - We never had any communication problems on our trip. Although English is not their first language, we met people who could speak at least a little English. Everyone was wonderful and had no problems translating menus or anything else we needed.

9. Go for it! - You are on vacation, so do things you would not do every day. We went for a hot air balloon ride over Bruges, and it was amazing! It was such a unique and wonderful experience, and a memory I will always cherish from this trip.

10. No goofy souvenirs - For once, I decided not to buy postcards, magnets, or other dust catchers. I bought a few pieces of jewelry and we got several Belgian beer glasses which we intended to purchase during our trip. Other than that, we have about 1500 amazing pictures to remind us of this great trip.

It truly was a wonderful trip. We were excited for months leading up to this trip, but we were both scared to hope it would be everything we wanted it to be. It was everything and more. It was the greatest vacation to date. We are already thinking about our next trip to Europe. Should it be Germany/Austria or Italy?

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Hate...

Last night, we were watching a new episode of Tosh.0 (if you don't know it, it is a weekly series on Comedy Central hosted by comedian Daniel Tosh where he shows and makes fun of various things posted on the Internet - love it!) One of the videos he featured was an I Hate rant. After watching a rant posted by a random person, Tosh did one of his own. I have decided to write my rant here. So, here goes:

I hate narrow minded people
I hate cigarette smoke
I hate disorganization
I hate poor grammar
I hate stubbing my toe
I hate vomiting
I hate being scared
I hate feeling insecure
I hate people who drive and talk on their cell phones
I hate that my best friends and family live so far from me
I hate reading about Heidi Montag all the time
I hate when my favorite sub shop puts too much mayo on my sandwich
I hate "sales" where you have to buy two or more things to get the deal
I hate season finale cliff hangers
I hate mosquitoes
I hate not remembering things as well as I used to
I hate that weekend are only two days
I hate paper cuts
I hate what the oil leak is doing to the Gulf
I hate war
I hate packing
I hate having to wait for the next book in a great series to be published
I hate people who cheat on their expense reports
I hate having to wait to get New Release DVDs
I hate unnecessary "Reply to All" E-mails
I hate traffic
I hate gray hairs
I hate when my printer says there is no paper when there is paper
I hate excessive amounts of staples in paper
I hate brown nosers

Aaah. I feel much better.

So, what do you hate?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Time to try something new

We like to challenge ourselves to doing at least one new thing a year. In the past few years, we have run half marathons, then marathons, then triathlons, then longer triathlons (still not done with that one yet!) We have also tried new classes and things we have just always wanted to do (Yes, I have a bucket list.) Well, I tried something new on Tuesday, sort of.

A few weeks ago, a website called Groupon (which I am now addicted to) featured a daily deal to a local indoor rock climbing center called The Vertical Edge. I was familiar with VE as hubby has climbed there on and off for many years. I have been there and I have watched people climb, but I have never done it myself. So, I used the deeply discounted deal as an excuse to go.

I signed up for the class and arrived at 7pm as an eager student. Of course, my eagerness waned after the instructor told us it was about a two hour class (I was expecting to be there about an hour so we could then head out to dinner). Since I was there, I tried to make the best of it. We first learned how to fasten the harness properly (see red and you are dead), and then we moved on to knots. We learned how to tie in to the climbing ropes safely. After learning how to be a safe climber, we learned how to tie in as a belayer (the person who stays on the ground to make sure the climber will not fall if he/she slips.) There were more knots, safety positions, and voice commands to learn. Soon, we were on the floor ready to belay with the instructor as backup.

Hubby got to be my climber. He headed up the wall and took a series of falls - some planned and some unplanned. I was able to belay him (after the initial jolt of weight - it is really not hard.) I took my test, and passed with flying colors. I am good to go.

Well, I did spend some more time belaying for Bill. It is actually kind of fun to focus on someone's climb and know you are there to catch them if they fall. It was nice to be able to hold up hubby's entire weight and lower him after he finished his climb. It made me feel strong (yes, there are pulleys, friction, and safety equipment so you are not holding all of their weight, but it still made me feel good.) The only thing I did not do is climb myself.

It seemed like a good idea until I got there, but then all sorts of things crossed my mind. What if I am too fat to climb? What if I get scared of the height and freeze? What if the rope breaks and I fall? What happens if I just can't do it? These thoughts kept me grounded this time, but I still had fun.

Luckily, the deal included a pass for a second session and equipment rental. I have a chance to go back when I am ready. I only hope that this time I don't keep my feet on the ground.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Toy #3

We have finally come into the cell phone technology era. For years, hubby and I had just phones. Yes, the salespeople at the store would just stare at us when we requested a cell phone that just made phone calls-no camera, no data, no messaging. Well, with the end of our latest cellular contract, we decided to take the leap. Yes, that's right. We are Smartphone users with full plans.

It has been strange getting used to the new technology. I can text message now - so weird! I have to say that it come in handy. Just last night, I was able to send a message to a friend who was at a concert. He got the message - no screaming over the phone or disturbing those around him. The phone also has a calendar function. It has been fun getting all of my various events loaded into the phone. There has been a lot of syncing between the phone, my computer, and my ITouch. I have been working the past few days to update my "people" as well. I have been eliminating the duplicates and cleaning up my entries (finding those entries that make you say who is this person?) It has been a lot of work, but I think I am finally ready to get the most use out of the phone.
My biggest issue is with my ITouch. I love my ITouch. It is a great device, but lacks the phone and camera functions of my new Hero. For now, I am carrying both with me, but I am wondering how long it will last. I really don't need the ITouch any more -the phone does everything it does and more. I just don't want to part with it.
It is always fun to get a new toy. With the new toy, you also get to buy new accessories. I got a great hot pink case for my phone that makes it look less plain and helps to differentiate my phone from hubby's exact same model.
I am happy for now, but I wonder what the next great thing in cell phones may be. I hope we can just enjoy this one before it becomes obsolete.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I had the great pleasure to be able to travel to one of my lifelong best friend's 40th birthday party this past weekend. My friend is of Indian descent and decided to throw herself a Goddess party. In true Goddess fashion, one of the traditions that my friend wanted all of her fellow goddesses to experience was menthi. Menthi is the process of putting henna designs on the hands (and sometimes the legs or other places). It was a unique experience.

The artist (and believe me, she is truly an artist) cleaned the back of my hands and used a small, fine point funnel to apply a mud colored paste to the hands. All of the designs were done completely freehand. The paste had a pleasant tingly feeling as it dried. After about 10-15 minutes, the paste started to turn black. The artist then used a lemon water mixture to apply to the black harden paste. We tried very hard to keep our hands stable and to not smudge the design. As it dried, it sometimes fell off in areas, like small scabs (gross, I know, but true). There were little pieces of menthi all over the condo - it was like a rampant rabbit pooped all over the place.

We kept the paste on our hands as long as we could, and eagerly awoke at about 7:30 am to see how our hands looked. Leaving black pieces all over our respective sheets, we went to the sink to wash off any remaining bits. Under the faucets, we got our first glimpse of the gorgeous work. I absolutely love my hands now. It looks like lace on my hands. I am sad to notice a difference already in the quality of the henna. I wish it would stay longer that the week or two, but it just gives me an excuse to do it again. Soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The other alternative is dying

It seems that this year, more than any other, I have really noticed that I am aging. It is not so much my mindset, but my physical body. In my mind, I am still the same person I have always been. I know that technically I am an adult, that I have a job, pay my bills, take care of a home, a husband, and two dogs. I still feel like a kid though, as if I am just playing at these things. My mind does not feel any different that it did 10 years ago.

The body is a totally different story. I noticed this week that I have a lot of silver hair growing near my scalp. I have been coloring my hair for years, but I have never noticed these hairs like I have this past week. It made me briefly wonder what my hair really looks likes under all this dye, but then it made me even more determined not to find out. I also have floaters in my eyes now. Every now and again, a lovely little black spot flies past my eye and there is nothing I can do about it. Some days, my body just feels like it is slowly breaking down - the knees are a little tight, the muscles are a little more tender. I went through a phase where I believed I was having heart issues. Every little twitch makes me think something could possibly be wrong. I was never like this before. I am middle aged. When the heck did that happen?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just When I thought it was over

Funny addition to the Great Hair Saga...

I decided that K did a really great job, and I have decided to continue seeing her. I had booked my next appointment about 3 weeks ago, but as of last night, I have a change of plans. I won't be able to keep my scheduled appointment - I needed to move it back one week.

Well, K is not available one week earlier, but guess who is? That's right. It looks like I will be seeing J again. I hope she believes in bygones...

Monday, April 19, 2010

First Triathlon of the Season-2010

Yesterday was my first triathlon of the 2010 season. Bill and I chose to do the Triangle Orthopaedic Sprint Traithlon. We figured this would be a good event to start because it featured a challenging swim - a 750 meter open water lake swim. In retrospect, I may not chose this event again.

The race began at 8:00 am on a very chilly April morning. The race took place on NC State's Centennial Campus in Raleigh. We woke at about 5:30 am, and arrived at the race site at about 6:30ish. At this point, I was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt over my tri suit. I was still a bit cold setting up my transition area. I did recently purchase a wetsuit for racing, but I have been having issues with the fit. Since I have not been able to get it on properly, I decided to forgo the wetsuit. I was quite disappointed to find that about 98% of the other 257 participants were wearing wetsuits. I became quite nervous prior to the start, but I have never quit a race. So, I stripped down and headed to the lake.

The swim was in Lake Raleigh. It was a "dock" start meaning that each participant went in to the water one at a time. We walked down the boat ramp into the water. I was freezing just standing in line waiting for my start. I had no idea what was coming.

The lake temperature on Friday afternoon was 65 degrees. In contrast, our pool at the wellness center is kept at 84 degrees. To say the water was shockingly cold is an understatement. I went in to the water and pretty much screamed for the first 100 meters. I was just shouting "cold" or "ah" because I could not help it. I could not put my face in the water; it simply took all of the air from my body. So, I did a weird version of a doggie paddle until I was able to get acclimated. I can honestly say that I never became comfortable in the water, but I was able to get my head down and take two strokes before needing to breathe. There were some good things about my swim. I did not feel tired during the swim. It is a much longer distance when you get in the water than it looks from the shore. Still, I felt my sighting of the buoys was good. It was a much smoother swim than my first open water swim at the Triangle Triathlon last year. I did not have to stop to look for the buoys, and I did not need to resort to the breast stroke because I was tired. It took a bit on time getting out of the water (I planted my right foot on the boat ramp to get out, and my left foot slipped off. I was down in the water again, so I took extra time making sure my footing was good before trying again). I actually knocked about 2 minutes from my other 750 meter swim time. I wonder how much better I would have done in perfect conditions.

I hate being barefoot, so I left a pair of flip flops to grab on my way to transition. From the lake, you had to run up a long hill to the sidewalk, then over to the grassy transition area. I decided to take my time getting back to transition, but I was soon off on the bike. I saw my friend, Amy, shortly after starting the bike. I was still pretty cold, but it was nice of her to check in with me. We shouted encouragement to each other before we parted ways. The 10.5 miles bike route was on open roads. It was a big, hilly loop around Raleigh. I found out very quickly that the roads around NC State are not well maintained. At some points, I was shaking quite hard going over the rough asphalt. Again, the bike was the strongest of my disciplines. I finished in 43:45.

I went into transition to drop my bike, and found that my neighbor's bike was laid down across my spot. I was really frustrated since I now had to put up that bike while attempting to balance my own. Luckily, a nice man head my cries, and took my competitor's bike from me. I changed shoes, and headed out on the 3.1 mile run. Running in a triathlon is always a weakness for me. My legs are just shot after the bike. This run had a particularly hilly first mile. We wandered through campus, and I thought it seemed like most of the mile was uphill. I had to stop to walk quite a bit. Mile 2 was much better as we finally got a bit of a downhill break. I was able to run more by then and felt much more comfortable. Of course, the race ended on yet another up hill, so I walked a bit until I got near the finish line. I did finish in a run at 39:15. My overall finish time was 1:51:02.4. I was hoping to finish under 2 hours, so my goal was met.

It was a tough choice for a first race - cold weather, COLD water, and lots of hills. During the race, I would have said I will never do this event again. Now, a day later, I am thinking about next year. With some better preparation, I just might be able to break my course record.

Next triathlon: Ramblin' Rose Raleigh - May 23.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Great Hair Saga

Well, I got my haircut last Saturday, and received another good cut from K. J was there during my appointment, and was very nice. She came over to say hello and returned later to show me pictures of her new baby. There seemed to be no awkwardness in the appointment. Still, I did not make another appointment yet. I was not sure who to choose.

After a week of styling my hair and looking at it in the mirror, I am still happy with my cut. So, I think I am going to have to make the next appointment with K. She does a good job, and I really like her. It is no bad reflection on J, but it just seems that K and I are on the same page. It is not a personal decision, it is purely business. I just hope J sees it that way.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A love of Reading

I was very lucky to be raised by two parents who loved to read. The love of reading was passed down to me at an early age. I can remember the first book I read - Richard Scary's I Am A Bunny. I actually bought a copy of that book a few years back and have it proudly displayed in my living room. It is still a favorite!!

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I recall finishing up my math problems as quickly as possible in high school so I could have a few minutes to be able to read my latest novel. I remember moving away to college and having no television. I remember thinking I would never be alone or be bored as long as I had a good book. I remember travelling to Europe for summer school in college and carrying 10 books for the six week trip. I could not be without a book! I still do not understand friends of mine who say they are not readers. I cannot imagine my life without books in it.

I still love to read, but it has become harder and harder to find the time to do it. Our library allows a three week period for each borrowed book. I used to laugh at the time period. Really, who needs three full weeks to read one book? Now I know - I do! I just recently finished reading The Help (fabulous book - you must read it!) and it took me the one day shy of three weeks to finish it. It took so long that I had to return the other book I borrowed unread. I have never had to return an unread book until recently.

To quote Charles Buxton "You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it." I guess I need to start making time for reading. It is something I truly love to do, so it shouldn't be too difficult. I do know what I will be doing during my two week vacation this summer. There are a lot of books out there just waiting for me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is the substitute better? - Part 2

Please see my 2/6/10 blog post for part 1 of this saga.

So, I have a hair appointment this Saturday at 1:00pm. Last week, I received a call from the salon about the appointment. The receptionist told me that J, my stylist and friend who was on maternity leave, will be in the salon on Saturday. She said it did not matter if I wanted to keep my appointment with K or change over to J. She just wanted to let me know since it would be one of J's first days back at work. I was torn. I knew this decision was coming, but I still did not want to make it. K gave me a good haircut, and I thought I would get one more appointment to decide if I liked her styling. In the heat of the moment, I told her I would go ahead and keep my appointment with K.

Well, on Monday I received a phone call from J herself. She wanted to be sure I knew she would be in. I kind of stammered and said I wanted to keep my appointment for that specific time of day. She said she could take me in the same slot, so it was not a problem. Then she said it did not matter either way. Well, I stuck to my guns and said I would go ahead and keep the appointment with K. I can at least say (this time) that I had scheduled the appointment 6 weeks in advance (which is usual for me) and I felt I needed to keep the commitment to K. J seemed OK about it. I told her I was looking forward to seeing her, and she said she would bring pictures of the baby.

So, I have bought some time. I get another appointment with K, and I hope I have not ruined a relationship with J. I guess I will know on Saturday. I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baba O'Reilly Meets Slowhand

On Monday night, hubby and I had the great joy of being able to see two legends in concert - Roger Daltrey and Eric Clapton. Hubby says it was the best show he has ever seem, and I have to agree it is definitely near the top of my list, too.

The show took place at the RBC Center - home of the Carolina Hurricanes and NC State Wolfpack. The stage took up a good portion of the oval shape floor. We had great seats - row N on stage right about 3 sections from the stage. Those seats were worth every penny.

The show started promptly at 7:30pm (gotta love the more seasoned musicians - no need to stroke the ego by having the crowd wait). Roger Daltrey and his band (which includes Pete Townsend's brother, Simon) started the crowd rocking with a favorite from The Who "I Can See for Miles." Hubby and I were lucky to see Daltrey in another venue in October. His set list was a condensed version of that show, and just as fantastic as it was. He did several Who songs as well as a few bluesy covers and his own music. It was an absolute treat to be able to see him again. My hubby is a huge fan, and to see Daltrey twice in 5 months was just great. He finished with Baba O'Reilly, which is now on my short list for greatest song ever written, and the whole arena was on its feet. I have never seen an opening act receive a standing ovation, but it was no ordinary opening act.

Clapton took the stage about 20 minutes later. Again, no making the crowd wait. He said very little to the audience over the course of the show, but his guitar sure did speak. He is probably the most amazing guitar player I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and hearing. It was wonderful just to watch his hands. His voice sounded great - just like the new Cream of Clapton CD I purchased. His set focused mostly on the blues side of his music. I never realized just how much the blues influenced Eric Clapton. I know the blues brought about the birth of rock and roll, but I had always associated Clapton more with rock. I was glad to be introduced to these other songs. He did play some favorites - I Shot the Sheriff, Layla, Wonderful Tonight, and Cocaine. He closed after a single encore song - Crossroads.

It was just a fantastic show. I cannot say enough about how wonderful it was. I feel truly lucky to have been able to see these two legends in concert. The talent, both from years of experience and natural born, was great to see. Even over 60 years of age, these two men can put on one heck of a show. The younger guys should take note.

Photos courtesy of John Rottet,

Up next - George Thorogood and The Destroyers

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Oscar Wrap Up

I love all of the award shows, so I was, of course, seated on the sofa Sunday night for the big show, The Oscars. I watched the show in its entirety - from the Barbara Walters Special to the Red Carpet arrivals and all the way through the Best Picture announcement. Am I glad I did it? Two days later, I can actually say not really.
I loved the choice of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin as co-presenters. They were fabulous every time they hit the stage. I laughed all the way through their monologue, but there was not enough of them. I thought we were off to a great start. What happened over the course of the next 3 hours and 45 minutes was not as exciting.

This year the Oscars doubled the best picture nominees from 5 to 10. They expanded the list because the chief complaint about the Oscars is that the show is too predictable. It's true. It is the last award show of the season, so we have already heard what the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globes), the actors (SAG Awards), the directors (Director's Guild), the producers (Producers Guild), and even the British (BAFTA) have decided are the best performances of the year. When it comes to Oscar time, it is really a moot point.

As it happened, the Oscars went to exactly the actors, director, and picture that were most often predicted to receive it. It was kind of a letdown. I almost wanted Jeremy Renner or Meryl Streep to win just to shake it up a bit, but the odds on favorites did win. The sad part is also that the actors knew they were all expected to win as well. None of them expressed any surprise when their names were called. In January, there was a little shock and an impromptu acceptance speech. Now, the speeches were all well rehearsed. Nice, but a bit too thought out before hitting the stage.

There were some nice surprises along the way - a great tribute to John Hughes, a funny give and take between Tina Fey and Robert Downey, Jr., and a special Modern Family commercial that had me laughing. There was also, however, and awful interpretive dance, an unnecessary tribute to horror films, and an awkward on stage appearance by all of the lead acting nominees.

Perhaps next year I will skip the staying up until midnight and just catch the highlights the following day. Or maybe I will DVR it so I can skip all the boring stuff and get right to the end. What I won't skip is the fashion photos and reviews. I think that is possibly the best part of the evening. My pick for Best Dressed at the 2010 Oscars? Sandra Bullock, hands down.

So, tell me, what did you think? Or did you even watch the show?

Friday, February 26, 2010

I am an old hypochondriac

Well, I started getting nervous about the problem of my eyesight, so I called my optometrist and made an appointment. It turns out those lovely gray spots passing through my sight are floaters. They are caused by the deterioration of vitreous fluid in the eye. It is a normal part of the aging process, and is not serious. I can confirm, however, that they are highly annoying. So, I was glad to find out that there is nothing serious wrong with my eyesight. My doctor says it is like getting a grandfather clock. You will hear the ticking of the clock at first, but will get used to it the longer it stays around. So, I guess I just need to get used to these little buggers.

I also realized why my chest has been hurting. I have been swimming more than ever - an hour at a time of upper body exercise. I am not used to doing any exercises with my upper body (as a matter of fact, I have a pretty weak upper body). My poor chest muscles are not used to any use, so no wonder they hurts.

So, I am well. I am just getting older. It could be worse.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mystery Pains

I am beginning to worry that I am a hypochondriac. I am not feeling well, and I worry that it is something really bad. I always imagine the worst when it comes to feeling a little sick. After my bump in the night fears, I am nervous to go to the doctor again. Hubby says I am just getting old. Maybe there is some real truth to it.

Since January, I have had little black spots in my vision. They come up occasionally, move across my vision, then disappear. It is annoying, but hasn't caused any other problem. I Googled black spots (I guess I did not learn from the last incident), and it says it is just a sign of getting older. Today, though, I did decide to e-mail my eye doctor to see if he thinks I should come in for a check up.

Last night, my right thumb started hurting. It was hurting very badly. It did not look swollen and I did not bang it. I could just barely seem to move it. When hubby touched it, I thought I was going to cry. It still hurt this morning, but I heard it pop around lunch time. It is feeling much better now.

The left side of my chest hurts. It hurts from under my arm down the side of my chest. It feels like a muscle ache. I have felt around and there are no bumps. I really have no idea what it is. It started last night too, but before bed. It is not from sleeping in a bad position.

I wish my best friend was a doctor. I wish I knew someone who could say "Don't worry." For now, I guess I will just try to rest and hope it goes away. The groin pull I had a few weeks ago went away. Maybe I really am getting old.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday Cooking

I have been on this new kick lately. For the past three weeks, I have been cooking a soup, stew, or chili on Sunday for the week. It has really been quite nice. It gives me a chance to enjoy cooking because I don't have to rush on a Sunday. I can make a big dish like chili and don't have to worry about waiting an hour for it to cook while we are starving. It is also nice to get everything cleaned up without having to do dishes at 9pm. There are plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week so we can have it for dinner one night or lunch throughout the week. The best part of all - soups and stews usually taste better the next day anyway.

I have made a white bean vegetarian chili, butternut squash soup, and black bean turkey chili (we're having that for dinner tonight) so far. I have two more recipes lined up - a Moroccan sweet potato stew and a red potatoes with chickpeas Middle Eastern stew. Today, I just downloaded Senegalese Peanut Stew with Spinach and Sweet Potatoes. Yum!

I am so glad I started this process. It has been so nice to cook hearty food for Bill and me. It has really brought back the joy of cooking and has encouraged me to try new things. I can see myself continuing the process for a long time. Chilled soups over the summer, anyone?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Winter Olympics 2010

The Winter Olympics started last Friday with the Opening ceremonies. We watched "Couples Retreat" on DVD that night. After seeing that movie, perhaps we should have watched the opening ceremonies (just kidding, it wasn't THAT bad). Over the next few days of competition, we still did not tune it. I have seen some of the medal tallies and results on various Internet pages, but I have not watched a single thing. I have seen friends make comments about the Olympics on Facebook, but I still have not tuned in. I don't really know why. I do love sports and, let's face it, there is really not much else on TV to watch.

Yesterday. Team USA had a record day (thank you, The USA got more medals in the Winter Olympics yesterday that any other previous day. I was intrigued so I watched Lindsay Vonn's downhill run and Shaun White's half pipe skills. I was so impressed by the pure athleticism and the emotional charge of these two athletes. It made me want to see more. I used to watch the Olympics every year. It is sad that it seems like there is not enough time to watch the world come together in celebration of incredible athleticism. I hope I can catch more in the second half of the games.

Have you been watching the Winter Olympics?

Friday, February 12, 2010

V Day 2010

Valentine's Day is nearly upon us. I honestly haven't thought about it too much this year. It is one of those holidays that is blown out of proportion as far as I am concerned. Much like New Year's Eve, all of the restaurants are crowded and serving "special" menus for crazy prices. I am not interested.

I told my hubby that my perfect Valentine's Day would be staying at home with him and our two dogs. I would like to cook a nice dinner, but I don't need a gift or even a card. I guess I like cards sometimes, but really, what do you do with them? You read them once, you are thankful for the sentiment, and then they sit on the table for days. I always feel guilty about throwing away any cards, so I keep them in a basket in our bedroom. I don't read them again, but I have them all...just in case. When the basket gets full, I toss the oldest cards. It just seems a bit silly to me. My husband can tell me he loves me, and I will be perfectly happy.

So, that is our plan for this Sunday. We plan to go to Whole Foods to get steaks and lobster tails. I would like to cook a butternut squash soup for us as an appetizer, and we will probably get something sinful for dessert. After dinner, we will probably sit on the sofa and watch a movie. I think it sounds great and it sure beats a crowded restaurant any day.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Master Swim

Since this year seems to be the year of the triathlon for us, hubby and I have started to take a Masters Swim class. Last Thursday night was my first class.

I learned to swim as a youngster at the YMCA. I continued to take lessons at various recreation centers in my youth, but I was never a great swimmer. I can manage to swim well enough to complete a sprint level triathlon. Since this year's goal is an international distance for me and a half Ironman for hubby, we decided we needed extra help.

I was very nervous in the class. Luckily, there were about 12 people there, so it worked out well to have 4 people in each of the 3 lanes. Both of us easily got spots in the beginner's lane. The Masters class has a set workout for a one hour session. There is a trained coach there for assistance and critique. There are also lane leaders who are people who have been to several classes and know most of the technical drills.

I was scared that I would not be able to swim for a full hour. Our warm-up consisted of several 200 meter drills (that's 8 pool laps per drill!). At the end of the first drill, I was pretty tired. I felt like I had to swim as fast as I could just to keep out of my fellow swimmers way. I was getting pretty discouraged at first, but with the help of my hubby and my other lane mates, I continued to swim.

My normal reaction to critique is to quit. I almost quit the class. I realized that the coach was giving me tips and not making a personal assault on my swimming skills. I also realized that I came to the class to become a better swimmer. If a certified swim coach says I need to rotate my hips more, then it is not a criticism, but something I need to do to have a better swim stoke. Once this realization was out of the way, I actually enjoyed and got a lot out of the class.

Sadly, I have a different class this week, so I will be unable to attend this week's Master swim. I am already looking forward to next week. I feel confident that taking this class, listening to the coach, and swimming on my own will have a very positive affect on my swim times this year.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's all about the fitness

I am very excited about an upcoming event at work. I serve as a member of the employee appreciation team. One thing we thought would be fun to do while the year is still young is a Health and Wellness week. We have a couple of things planned, but I am by far most excited about our fitness challenge.

A colleague of mine has been doing fitness challenges for a while now. I have been doing them with her and her group of friends (which does include some of my colleagues) for over a year now. The challenges all have a theme, but the core remains the same. Workout, record your workout time in minutes, and submit that number each Monday via e-mail. I contacted my colleague to see if she would be interested in doing a company wide challenge in association with Health and Wellness week. The ME Fitness Challenge was born.

We are using a theme of March Madness. For 8 weeks, each person records their workout times, and those times are converted into baskets. The teams of 5 people have their individual scores tallied, and the teams play in a round robin type tournament until the ultimate winner is chosen.

I thought it would be nice to have 10-15 people join. Based on experience, I really thought that was all I would get. I am thrilled and excited to say we have 40 people doing the challenge - that's 50% or more of the company!!! We had to expand the teams from 6 to 8 to accommodate all of the people. I am so, so very excited that folks are participating in this event. I think it will be lots of fun, and any effects from the challenge will only be positive.

The challenge starts 2/14/10 (I know, not the best day, but people can start working off those Valentine's Day chocolates right away). I'm sure I will be posting more as the challenge continues.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Is the substitute better?

My stylist, J, just had her first child last week, a gorgeous baby girl. We knew it was unlikely that she was going to be able to do my next haircut after our last meeting, so I went ahead and scheduled an appointment with K for today. I knew K was new to the salon. I actually did not recognize her at all when she called me name for my appointment. We hit it off right away and got down to business. We picked a nice chocolaty brown color for my hair, and away we went. After the color processed, she asked me what I wanted as far as the cut went. She took some off the bottom and cut my bangs, something that was much needed. I looked and felt great when I left the salon.

Here is the problem. I have been going to J for about 4 years now. She is actually a personal friend as well as my stylist. I attended her baby shower not 3 weeks ago. The thing is, K gave me one of the best haircuts I have ever had. What's a girl to do? I did schedule my next appointment with K for 6 weeks from now. I don't think J will be back by then, but she will surely be back for the appointment after that one. It's not like I would be leaving one salon to go to another. I would still be at the same place. I would still see J if I did decide to switch. I guess there is no sense worrying about it now. I have at least one more appointment to make a decision.

What do you think? Stay loyal to a friend who does a good job or make a business decision to change to someone who may do a better job?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Snow on a Friday night?

After several false reports this year, we finally got some snowfall in 2010. Where I live in the Southern US, we don't get much snow at all. It is actually very rare for us to get any sort of accumulation of snow. It is a big deal (and sometimes too big a deal) when we actually get some. People race to the grocery store in a panic to make sure they get their bread and milk before the snow starts falling. And when it does start falling, it is like the world around us shuts down.
It really is comical, especially when you hail from the North where winter snowfall is just a yearly experience.

Well, we got a big snowfall (guesstimating about 4 inches) this past Friday night. Yes, it started about 6:30 pm, once I was home for the day and ready to enjoy the weekend. It continued overnight and even a bit into Saturday. My hair appointment was canceled (I can barely see through my bangs) and we had to forgo our dinner date Saturday night.

On the plus side, fresh snow is always so lovely. The dogs just love it, and it was so much fun to see them run around in the new snow. We all took a walk together on Saturday afternoon, then played snowbound for the rest of the weekend. We always seem to be running around so much, and it was nice to be all together as a family in our home with no schedule. We also had electricity for the entire time, so there is no complaining from my side.
I just wish we had another day snowbound. What fun is it if you can't get a full day off of work? It is like this wonderful free day to just do as you please. I am lucky to work for a good company that decided to open at noon today. My dear husband was not as lucky. He had to go in at normal time, even with the frozen roads.

Soon, the snow will be melted and the backyard will be a huge mud pit. At least we have the memories of the great snowfall and the fun we had. Who know what the remainder of the winter will bring? I hear there may be snow in the forecast for later this week. On Saturday!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Bump in the Night

This past Sunday night, I was sitting on our sofa watching a movie and wondering why my upper arm seemed to hurt. I reach up to my left armpit to try to rub out the muscle when I felt the bump. There was a rock hard lump about the size of a pea in my left armpit. It startled me so much that I went upstairs, woke hubby, and asked him to feel it. He said he couldn't feel anything. I tried to see if I could see anything in the mirror, but it just looked like my normal armpit. Since there was nothing I could do at 10pm on a Sunday night, I went to sleep.

I woke Monday morning, and the lump was still there. I decided I would call the nurse hotline provided by our health insurance company. The lady was really nice. I could hear her typing on the computer to get further information. She advised me to wait a day and see if it was still there. I decided I needed a second opinion, so I went to Google.

The internet is a horrible place for medical advice. I typed in "lump in the armpit" and immediately got a thousand hits on cancer. The lymph nodes are located in the armpit region, and a lump may indicate a built up of cancerous cells. All of these sites seemed to scream BREAST CANCER at me. I was scared out of my mind, so I called my regular doctor for a same day appointment.

I arrived at the doctor's office at 2pm. I have to doctor check the lump which was now harder to locate because the swelling had gone down. Basically, I rushed to the doctor and spent $121.00 for nothing. She said it was too close to the skin surface to be a lymph node. She suggested it may be from shaving and would probably go away in a day or two. She was right - the thing was halfway gone when I got to the doctor's office.

I felt like an idiot, but I guess it is better to be safe than sorry. I think next time I will just listen to the healthline nurse and wait a day. No more Dr. Goggle for me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Avatar - maybe it's me

Hubby and I finally went to see Avatar last weekend. I will admit, I wasn't really too excited to see it when I first saw the trailers. I am really not a huge sci fi/fantasy person. I didn't think the movie looked like something I would enjoy, so I made no plans to see it as soon as it came out.

Since its release, I kept hearing good things about it. Several friends said they were not huge fans of this genre either, but really liked the movie. I heard that the visual effects were truly amazing, and worth the price of admission. The movie also won the Golden Globe Award for best drama motion picture, so I figured it must be good. So, I pre-purchased tickets at the IMAX for a Saturday night showing.

I figured that if I was going to see the movie, I needed to see it on the best screen possible. I was glad to have purchased the ticket in advance. Our showing was sold out, as were the next three shows (about 4 weeks after the opening). We sat down near the front (we were a bit later than I expected) with our lovely 3D glasses and prepared to be wowed.

Well, I was underwhelmed to say the least. Sure, the effects were fine. The screen seemed to have a bit of depth to it. The big blue Navi people were kind of cool. It just was not what I expected. I expected to have the jungle popping out of the screen all around me. I expected to see objects floating in the air and to feel like those things were close enough to reach up and touch. I remembered effects like these when I was a kid watching Captain EO at Disneyland. I didn't get any of that.

The plot of the movie was lacking, too. Sure, the natives of Pandora were unique, but the overall plotline of the movie was the same story that had been told a million times over. Within 5 minutes, I could tell you exactly how the story was going to play out. Unfortunately, we had to sit there for just under 3 hours to confirm we were right. The movie was way, way too long.

Hubby and I seem to be the only two people who did not like this movie. Maybe we saw it too late in the day. Maybe we expected more than was possible. I don't know. All I do know is that I will probably pass on Avatar 2.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Awards Season Begins...The Golden Globes

I am usually a big fan of awards season. I enjoy seeing all of the celebrities dress up and walk the red carpet. I like to see what others think were the best performances of the year, and I like to hear about different movies and shows. I was not disappointed by this year's Golden Globes awards.

I will admit that I DVR'd the show. I an glad I did. I was able to cut out all of the excessive commercials, the clips from each nominated film, the speeches by the boring people (sorry directors and writers) and the lifetime achievement section (I am a fan, Marty, I was just not interested in your speech). I was able to get the the heart of the matter - the acting awards.

I was thrilled to see my new favorite win. I think Michael C. Hall is very deserving to win best actor in a drama series. It was good to see him since he announced he is fighting cancer. I looked like a person who has gone through chemo, but his energy seemed good. I was also glad to see Julianna Margulies win for The Good Wife. I have been watching the series since the beginning and I really like it. I think she is a fantastic actress, and I am glad she got her due.

There were a number of great speeches. I enjoyed Mo'nique's speech for best supporting actress in a movie. She seemed genuinely touched to win the award. Her shout out to her husband was so full of love - I teared up a bit. I also liked Meryl Streep's tribute to her mother in her acceptance speech for Julie & Julia. While I did not expect him to win, Robert Downey Jr.'s "not thanking anyone" speech was funny and very touching. I also really liked Sandra Bullock's speech about family are the people who have your back, not just the people to whom you are related. I really want to see The Blind Side now.

As for the dresses, there were many great looks last night. I really liked Kate Hudson's white gown and Toni Colette's golden shimmer. My pick for best dressed, however, goes to Halle Berry. She is just so stunning, and she seems to get better and better looking with each passing year.

Awards season is off to a good start - can't wait for the Screen Actors Guild awards next weekend!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Latest Obsession - 1/11/10

Wow. You know it is really bad when you have to title your blog entry with My Latest Obsession followed by a date because you have already used that title. What can I say? I am an obsessive person. I tend to get in to a book series, a TV show, or a movie, and I think about it all the time. I want to see what happens next, and I try to guess what will happen. Sometimes, I even dream about it at night. Yep, sounds like an obsession to me.

Well, my latest is the TV show Dexter. I know I am late on the bandwagon with this one, but I don't pay for premium channels. So, I am starting to watch the DVDs for all of these series that I have heard of over the years, but have not seen.

Dexter is a blood splatter analyst for the Miami Metro PD. He helps the police capture killers every day. What people don't know is that Dexter is himself a serial killer. He is a serial killer with a code taught to him by his stepfather. Kill only those who have killed. Do your research and make sure you do not get caught. So far, it has been a fascinating story to watch. I love Dexter's dark humor and charm. You actually like him and hope he can continue on his killing spree. The cast of characters around Dexter are great, too from his fragile, yet tough cop sister, his broken, yet strong girlfriend, and his cop co-workers.

We are on Season 2 of this great show. Four seasons have aired so far, with three seasons released to DVD. Check it out if you haven't see it yet. I think you will enjoy it, too. I sure hope season 4 comes out soon. After all, I am obsessed.
By the way, Michael C. Hall is a new addition to my list which already included Jason Statham and Hugh Jackman. Sigh.

Friday, January 08, 2010


No snow. Not a dusting, not a flake. Had to go to work on time. Or, at least I had to go to work as on time as I can be. Bummer.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Baby, It's Really Cold Outside!!

I love winter. I love big sweaters, bundling up, hot cocoa, and lit fireplaces. I really do. After this week in the Triangle, however, I wish Old Man Winter would back off a little bit.

We have had unseasonably cold temperatures this week. We are talking crazy temperatures like highs in the 30s (we would normally be around 40-50 degrees), and lows in the teens. It has been so cold that you don't really want to go outside at all.

It was a bad week for me to start running again. It has been close to 20 degrees in the mornings when I have gone out for a run. It has made me want to not want to run, but I have and I warmed up well once I got started.

We now have a prediction for snow tonight. We may get a dusting, we may get an inch, or we may get nothing at all. Predicting snow in our area if always difficult. The only certainty is that people will overreact. There will be runs on milk and bread, and several counties have already delayed their start tomorrow. Luckily, I have a fridge full of beer, half a loaf or bread, and some milk to get me through the day.

I really wouldn't mind an inch of snow. I would love a delayed work start tomorrow. It has been much harder than I thought to get back in a work routine this week. I could use a day of sleeping in. We will see what happens.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

New Year, New Challenge

"Courage is about doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared." - Eddie Rickenbacker
I like to have a new challenge when I start a new year. In 2008, the challenge was a half marathon. Last year, the challenge was a full marathon. Well, yesterday I signed up for an international distance triathlon. As a former PE class loser, I think I may be going crazy.
This triathlon will take place in September (thank goodness - it gives me lots of time to train) at a place called White Lake. It is supposed to be the flattest and fastest course in the great state of NC (again, thank goodness - I will need all the help I can get). It consists of a 1500 meter lake swim (double the distance of the Triangle Tri last year), a 45K bike race (longest I will have ever done), and a 10K run (double the distance of the Triangle Tri last year). It all has to be done within 4 hours. It will certainly be a challenge.
I was able to complete the Triangle Tri last year in 2 hours, 26 minutes. At that race, I did not have my road bike. I know that having the new bike will make a huge difference. Also, the course of the Triangle is not exactly flat (not bad, but not flat). I think with decent training and a good day, I can make it before the deadline.
Time to get to work - a new challenge awaits.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

And the holidays are officially over...

It's over. Christmas is behind us. It is now official in our house as all the Christmas decorations were taken down and put back in the attic. Today, the new begins. It is a day for cleaning the house and putting the familiar back in its place. Maybe it is a cathartic cleaning of the Christmas holiday, or maybe is it just getting back to the norm. All I know it that it is over. Tomorrow at 9am, I go back to work. I am back to reality. No more holidays until April 2, 2010.

Not only are the holidays gone, my favorite time of the year is over. I have always loved September 1 to January 1. Now, I am left with winter ahead struggling to find something to look forward to in the near future. I do have our Orlando weekend in March to think about, but it seems so far away. I think it is time to begin the planning of the big summer trip so I can really have something exciting ahead.

It is sad to see the holiday go, but it is time. As my dad used to tell me when I cried every year as we left Gammie and Grandpa's house after the holiday break "All good things must come to an end." It's true. If it were the holidays everyday, we would not appreciate them when they come every year. They would lack meaning. Still, it may be fun to try.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Hello 2010!!

2010 started great for me. It wasn't the most exciting New Year's ever, but it was really, really nice. Bill and I decided to stay home with the puppies. We went to Whole Foods, and got two gorgeous steaks and two nice lobster tails. It was a delicious home cooked surf and turf dinner with asparagus. No crowds, no noise, but great food.

We slept in in the morning, and had a really nice breakfast together. I went to meet a dear friend for lunch, movie, and shopping. After a great afternoon, I headed home to my hubby. We went out to our favorite bar for a few beers and met up with another dear friend. What better way to spend New Year's Day than with good friends, doing the things you love. That's the way to start off the year.