Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Very Merry Anniversary to You


mom's hairdo is the raddest
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
Thirty-eight years ago my parents, who were practically children at the time, were married. In 1968, the legal age for marriage was eighteen for women and twenty-one for men. My dad was only twenty, so my Grannie had to sign the appropriate documents for him. My mom, however, was freshly nineteen and, child bride though she was, was allowed to sign legally binding documents for herself. She has now been married twice as long as she was single, so I guess that decision worked out well for her.

For an anniversary present, I think my mom would like to have several large dumpsters delivered and then filled to the brim with all the useful junk my dad has been stowing away all these years. My dad, on the other hand, would probably love the gift of being able to keep every single thing just in case he might be able to use it later. Since a good marriage is built on compromise, neither one of them will likely get just what they want, so instead I simply ask that you join me in congratulating them on making it thirty-eight years with such divergent opinions. I think it's pretty remarkable.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Posting Because I Said I Would Post Every Single Day in November, and So Obviously I HAVE TO POST

Yesterday was partly miserable because I have this thing with feeling anxious about getting things done and getting them done soon and getting them done well, and right now it seems like there are a lot of things to do. After spending the better part of the last week either traveling or preparing to travel, I came back to discover that nothing that needed to be done here did so on its own, and DANGIT, now I have to do ALL THIS STUFF. So there's a huge list in my head and all over about twenty frillion 3x5 note cards (on the blank side mostly, if you must know, which is an awful waste, prompting me to add to the lists: use lined side of note cards and then recycle), and I have to do it all, and for some reason I feel like it needs to all get done right this second. Or yesterday. Yesterday would be preferable. Plus I'm trying to keep up with running and other assorted workouts for body and mind so I can live long and prosper or at least not be forgetting my own name and needing Depends by the time I turn forty-five. It's a little much. So today I decided to take a vacation. From, you know, being myself and trying to get it all perfect. I decided that I'd do each thing on my list if I felt like it, and only if I felt like it, aside from the work related concerns, which, let's face it, I kind of have to take care of unless I'd like to risk being jobless and homeless before my contract period is up.

I suppose I did all right. Mostly I just kept reminding myself that it doesn't take any more time to breathe normally than it does to hyperventilate with worry. I did everything that was necessary plus a bit more.

And now I'm down to the last item of the day; the blog post, the one I have to write becaquse I made a commitment to post every day of November. And this one I want to get right. I want it to be perfect. I keep sitting here, typing and delete and typing again just to get my point across. Except that's not what today is supposed to be about. Today is about leaving that p in the middle of because and just signing off because most likely no one cares but me anyway, and if they do, maybe they have too much time on their hands.

In which case, hey, I've got a list of things you can help me out with...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thirty-One

(I suddenly feel the urge to make a lot of Baskin Robbins-inspired puns.)

This is the first birthday I've spent far away from most of the people I love. I have appreciated all the good wishes from afar, as well as the little party thrown for me by the family here, but I must say that mostly it wasn't a banner day. I miss being around good friends, and that is especially magnified today. I've been lucky enough to spend all my holidays at home, but this little personal holiday found me on my own. And I'll be honest: It kind of sucked. I wish I could have beamed you all here for a little coffee and cake.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Still Trying to Figure Out What the "Plus" in "Fat Burner Plus" Means

As penance for having no time at all to exercise while home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and due to the fact that Frank had the day off from school today, so I couldn't run during daylight hours, I subjected myself once again to the StairMaster in the basement after work hours. After last time's effort at Level Ten, I decided I should take it up a notch (but not to the limit), straight to Level Eleven. I have a history of taking things up a notch, or maybe eleventy katrillion notches. For example:

When I was a kid, a preteen perhaps, young enough to have to go with my mom to the grocery store when she went, yet old enough to reason out strange revenge, I accompanied my mom on a shopping trip during which she purchased for herself, and possibly for my brother as well, who also liked them, a package of coconut macaroons. Having a serious aversion to coconut (the flavor, the texture, the YUCK), I reasoned that Mom should buy something for me to enjoy as well--perhaps some M&M's, or maybe some Soft Batch cookies. She declined, saying, "But you can have as many of the coconut macaroons as you want."

We came home, we put away the groceries, and Mom disappeared, to what location I don't remember. What I do remember is that shortly after her exit I poured myself an incredibly large glass of milk, sat down with the package of macaroons in front of me, and ate every single one, bite by miserable bite. I don't remember how long it was before Mom went looking for the macaroons, but I do recall the great satisfaction I felt when, after she inquired where the macaroons were, I simply said, "You said I could have as many as I wanted, so I ate them all."

I don't think she ever made a joke about me eating food I didn't like again, especially if it was one of her favorite things and there were limited quantities.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Finally, A Post That Will Suck a Little Less Than My Previous Posts

Maybe.

The thing about traveling home to Kansas City is that the visit is always too short. If it were a normal visit to a vacation destination where I, say, didn't have any friends, it might seem like a reasonable amount of time. (I say "might" because if I were sitting around eating croissants suisse in Nice, it would never be long enough. Ever.) There would be no families to connect with on opposite sides of the state, no friends that get completely left out of the visit, no episodes of America's Next Top Model that get missed because there's just no time for quality television.

But it is what it is, and I am trying not to complain too much. Jarod and I did get a remarkable amount of things done. I had Starbucks more than once outside of the airport (and once in the airport). In fact, I got to hang out with Rachel and my cats while enjoying a delicious Starbucks beverage. If that's not a win-win-win situation, I don't know what is. The one thing I do wish had gone differently, which is a constant in my life of travel, was my last day in town.

The problem is that no matter how much I try, I always feel rushed getting to the airport for my flight out. I try my best to get up a little earlier, to pack some things up the night before, to convince Jarod that it's a good idea that he rise early and bring me a gourmet breakfast, but it just never works out. It usually ends up that I eat candy for breakfast while throwing things into my bag, make three cups of tea that get cold before I drink them and then finally, on the last-ditch-effort cup of tea, the one I actually remember when it's still at least lukewarm, I realize that there is only skim milk to put in it, that the half & half I glimpsed there before expired in September, and I don't do skim milk. (If I wanted a glass of water, I'd just have a glass of water.) At that point there's really no time to send someone to the store for half & half and some respectable milk, so we end up stopping at Starbucks, which would normally be fantastic, but I am tired and grumpy and I just want some tea the way I make it myself and also some more time to do all the things I wanted to do but didn't have time for.

And thus I get on the plane in a bad mood.

My goal for my Christmas trip is to work that one thing out, or at least make it a little better. I don't want to feel like I'm rushing back out of town, rushing back towards a places I'm not ready to return to just yet, rushing towards a layover in an airport that closes its shops before 6pm, rushing towards another shuttle ride that scares me to pieces. I'd like to wake up in a leisurely manner. I'd like to have a good breakfast and a good cup of tea. I'd like to get to the airport early and sit for a bit before I have to scurry through security.

In the meantime, when I'm not compiling a list of all the things that need to be in place to make that happen, I'll be enjoying New York City. Even though I'm never quite ready to come back, once I'm here and I'm settled back into life as it is here and now, I'm all right. I remember why I came here and I remember how much I love taking the train in for more NYC adventures. I also remember that, come springtime, I'm making all of you come to me.

Start booking your tickets, people, and let me know when you're showing up.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

As typed by my personal typist

Because I'm in an airport.

I should have brought my laptop.

the end.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Something I Forgot About the Holiday Shopping Season

It makes people stupid. Or maybe it just brings all the common-sense challenged folks out of their homes and into public spaces. Whatever the case, if you do choose to participate in any sort of idiocy in the name of shopping or seeing the pretty pretty lights, please get out of the way of other, more sensible folks when you do it.

Should I deem it necessary, further instructions will follow at a later date, when I am not so exhausted from avoiding hitting pedestrians who insist on walking out right in the middle of moving traffic, regardless of traffic signal and/or lack of crosswalk.

Thank you and goodnight.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Did You Hear the One About the Couple That Drove Across Missouri and Back in One Day?

Neither did we, because it wasn't a joke; we really did it!

Two Thanksgiving dinners, one holiday lighting ceremony, and a little Grey's Anatomy. I'd say we did all right, wouldn't you?

But now we're tired, and so I'm bowing out early. AGAIN.

And you can bow out early, too. If the tryptophan hasn't kicked in yet, you must not have eaten enough turkey. Go have a sandwich or something and hit the hay.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My DS is Cuter Than Your DS

I mean, unless you also have a pink DS. Because I have a pink DS. Thanks, Jarod. Early birthday presents rule, and so do boyfriends that give them.

...

My day started at 3:15am, after I dreamt all night of missing my shuttle to the airport.

It ends now, with me totally skimping on a post in favor of getting a little sleep before tomorrow's early morning wake-up call. I'm sure you understand, right?

Just say, "Right."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This One is Basically Just a Copy of My Itinerary

I'm hitching a ride to the train station, and we're leaving in half an hour or so, and guess who just now remembered the magic of NaBloPoMo? As much as it might be fun to blog from the Fifth Ave. Apple store, I don't believe I have the time to do that and sleep. Because my shuttle to the airport? Comes at 3:35am.

YESSSSSS!!!

My flight is at 7, I'll be on the ground in KC (hopefully) by 9:20, and then off we go for the whirlwind that is Mary's Thanksgiving "Break" 2006. I believe I'll get to sleep in, let's see...ONE WHOLE MORNING that I'm in town, and that will be the morning of the day I return to Connecticut. The day I have a four hour layover. In Milwaukee.

I'm just so very excited about all of this.

I'm sure you can tell.

Let's hear it for the holidays!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ticketmaster is the DEVIL

See:

dev‧il  [dev-uhl] noun, verb, -iled, -il‧ing or (especially British) -illed, -il‧ling.
–noun
1. Theology.
a. (sometimes initial capital letter) the supreme spirit of evil; Satan.
b. a subordinate evil spirit at enmity with God, and having power to afflict humans both with bodily disease and with spiritual corruption.
2. an atrociously wicked, cruel, or ill-tempered person.
3. a person who is very clever, energetic, reckless, or mischievous.
4. a person, usually one in unfortunate or pitiable circumstances: The poor devil kept losing jobs through no fault of his own.
5. Also called printer's devil. Printing. a young worker below the level of apprentice in a printing office.
6. any of various mechanical devices, as a machine for tearing rags, a machine for manufacturing wooden screws, etc.
7. Nautical. (in deck or hull planking) any of various seams difficult to caulk because of form or position.
8. any of various portable furnaces or braziers used in construction and foundry work.
9. the devil, (used as an emphatic expletive or mild oath to express disgust, anger, astonishment, negation, etc.): What the devil do you mean by that?
10. ticketmaster
–verb (used with object)
11. to annoy; harass; pester: to devil Mom and Dad for a new car.
12. to tear (rags, cloth, etc.) with a devil.
13. Cookery. to prepare (food, usually minced) with hot or savory seasoning: to devil eggs.
—Idioms
14. between the devil and the deep (blue) sea, between two undesirable alternatives; in an unpleasant dilemma.
15. devil of a, extremely difficult or annoying; hellish: I had a devil of a time getting home through the snow.
16. give the devil his due, to give deserved credit even to a person one dislikes: To give the devil his due, you must admit that she is an excellent psychologist.
17. go to the devil,
a. to fail completely; lose all hope or chance of succeeding.
b. to become depraved.
c. (an expletive expressing annoyance, disgust, impatience, etc.)
18. let the devil take the hindmost, to leave the least able or fortunate persons to suffer adverse consequences; leave behind or to one's fate: They ran from the pursuing mob and let the devil take the hindmost.
19. play the devil with, to ruin completely; spoil: The financial crisis played the devil with our investment plans.
20. raise the devil,
a. to cause a commotion or disturbance.
b. to celebrate wildly; revel.
c. to make an emphatic protest or take drastic measures.
21. the devil to pay, trouble to be faced; mischief in the offing: If conditions don't improve, there will be the devil to pay.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Just Can't Look Away

Or change the channel. From Dr. 90210, the show on which real people are seen receiving all sorts of plastic surgery for the most ridiculous of reasons. And also (my favorite!), parents taking their teenage children to have plastic surgery done. "Dear Mom, Thanks for the new boobs! The boys like me better now, and I have so much more self-confidence! Except not really, because I wish someone had liked me a whole lot just as I was!" It seems as if it doesn't even begin to occur to these mothers (I haven't seen a father bring someone in yet, though I'm sure that's coming) that perhaps there is a better way to boost their daughters' self-confidence. Like, I don't know, maybe telling her how lovely she is already, how perfectly beautiful she is just as she is, how she doesn't need some damn surgery to be confident. What must it do to a girl to have her mother agree that she "needs" (and yes, most of the mothers on this show have spoken of how their daughters "need" this surgery) something about herself to change?

One thing I now recognize that I needed as a teen, more than anything else, perhaps, was someone who would step forward and tell me how beautiful I was. I remember thinking then that I wished I were beautiful, when the truth is that I, like every girl, already was. That there was some roughness around the edges is true. That I needed to grow into myself and understand what best enhances what I already have and am is also true. But every girl is beautiful, and she needs, above all, to hear that from her mom.

You know, before she comes to the conclusion that she must need surgery.

Geez.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

You Demand, and I Continue to Deliver

This one is just for Holly, who wanted to see both my lips wearing the new lip color and my cute little face. Also the sweater is pretty awesome, but Holly didn't ask to see one of the awesomest sweaters from my vast sweater emporium. She asked to see my lips and my face. So there you have it. Enjoy.

...

I've been meaning to get around to replying to all your lovely comments, and I was doing a fairly good job of keeping up there for awhile, but then my life happened and that whole deal fell to pieces. The good news is that I've gotten a lot done lately, and will be getting a lot done in this next week; the bad news is that most likely that whole "getting a lot done" deal will mean that I initially have no time for commenting about your comments and then eventually that even if I have time to comment about your comments, I'd rather be napping or staring off into space without bothering to blink. Whatever the case, I am sorry that I can't manage to reply to everyone's comments, and I would like to remind you that I appreciate you all very much and thanks for reading and all that. Whatever, that's not what you're here for. You're here so I can tell you that I got kicked out of a lobby in New York City today.

Oh, yes, I did.

Because I (ohmygoodness) dared (how could I?) to sit in on the floor next to the wall in an empty lobby after purchasing goods from two of the retail shops in the building, one of which sells food and beverages but had no available seats, and get out a sandwich so I could eat part of it. I KNOW. I'm a rebel. I also desired (imagine! the audacity!) to consolidate some of my purchases into a few bags as opposed to the six I was currently wielding. And to quickly check a message on my phone. All at the same time, of course.

Apparently, these things are not allowed in certain lobbies of certain retail spaces in New York City. I had no idea.

Or maybe I did, and I was flagrantly disregarding the NYC social code which indicates that one shall not, under any circumstances, spend time in a lobby other than to pass through with one's purchases.

Still. Seriously. Do you know how many lobbies I've paused in to eat a quick snack and rearrange my purchases over the years? And in multiple cities around the globe? Lots, that's how many. I am not a stranger to lobby floors.

The security guy that was working, an old guy who has seemed generally pleasant in the past, was a bit worked up that I was there. He just opened the door from the inner lobby to the outer lobby and started saying, "Aaaaah, NO. NO. You canNOT do that. NO." First I thought he was talking about eating the sandwich, and then I thought maybe it was because I was checking a message on my cell phone, but then when I asked nicely if I could please just put my things together into a smaller number of bags quickly, while standing even, on my way out the door, really, he just kept saying, "NO. Aaaaah, NO. My supervisor is here today and NO. You can't do that." Oooookay. Well. I know where not to shop anymore. Thanks a million.

Dang. New York is weird.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I'm Wearing Mary Poppins Penguin Pajamas and an Oversized Fleece Jacket While Watching What Not to Wear

Which is code for, "Please come and get me and give me a $5000 Visa Card with my own name on it!"

The truth is that I know how to dress myself; I just don't bother sometimes. Is that against Stacy and Clinton's rules? I think it probably is.

...

This week was hijacked by the most boring inconveniences imaginable and capped off by a flurry of activity that resulted in a serious bump to the head while I was putting the dog food away. I had rushrushrushed all day long and into the evening just so I could arrive in my own room above the garage in time to watch the nighttime replay of Oprah in its entirety. And I totally would have made it, too, except that I had to stoop over and clutch my head for awhile in order to recover.

...

I've decided that I really need to be nicer about people making things more difficult or time-consuming for others. After all, most people probably have good reasons for doing the things they do, and some of those reasons are probably the same reasons I've had for doing the exact same things in the past. Or they're senior citizens, and really, can they help it? No, they cannot. Someday I'll be a senior citizen, getting in the way (and doing it very slowly) of all the younger generations, annoying the crap out of them. I so plan to enjoy that part of being old.

...

It isn't acceptable, however, to be a bona fide jackass and do things you know are wrong because you think you're more important than everyone else.

Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. "I have a BMW and I can drive on the shoulder when I'm in a hurry."

...

Right. Anyway. Have a spectacular weekend.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Do You Think the "Plus" in "Fat Burner Plus" Stands For?

And why do I feel like I've been spending a long time at sea after I step off of a StairMaster?

I thought I should choose "Fat Burner Plus" as opposed to just plain "Fat Burner" or "Aerobic Fitness" based solely on my knowledge of the amount of cream cheese I globbed onto a bagel this morning while waiting for the minivan to receive some service. Not only did the service keep me from the run I'd planned, but it also allowed me to ingest as many bagels and cups of coffee as I wanted for free. The guy said, "Help yourself to all the stuff that's over there, whatever you want," and since he seemed like a sincere man, I took him up on it. I was there for four hours, reading magazines that were leftover from 2005. Let's just say that's a long time to take advantage of free bagels and coffee.

Sometimes the idea of anything free just takes over and I can't help myself. Have I ever mentioned that sometimes in Lindt stores they offer free truffles, and that usually there's more than one employee walking around with a small bin of truffles? And that I have no shame in taking one from each employee so long as they haven't seen me taking one from another employee?

Well.

Now you know.

...

After that confession, I feel like I should go eat a bowl full of sprouts.

...

It's all about the balance, people, all about the balance. If you eat a lot of bagels and cream cheese and drink a great deal of coffee laden with sugar and half & half, you have to exercise and get some proper nutrients. It's the deal I make every day so my pants will continue to fit. I think, all around, it's totally worth it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Lips of a Stranger*

Yesterday while whiling away the hours at Target, I selected a new lipcolor, one that is a bit bolder than I normally try, one that promises to stay put for up to twelve hours, one that even includes sparkles (which I did not know about in advance, but like just the same). As I normally use cherry Avon lip balm as my lip stuff of choice, you might say that this is a bit of a change. I think my lips are stunned. They're not sure they really belong to me anymore, and I'm not sure I belong to them either. But they sure are cute.

I have a couple of reasons for trying out new lipcolor, one of which I won't tell you about so as to tease you mercilessly, and one that I'll brag about because I'm just like that. You see, I get to wear make-up tonight because I am going into the city. New York City. On a WEEKDAY. For a CONCERT. Because I am SPECIAL. And also because I am able to get off work way early, so thank you very much to my employers for that kindness.

My lips and I, whether we belong to each other anymore or not, are ready for a night on the town.

*I stole this title from Bailey White, who has a short story by that title. Because I was so rude as to steal it from her, I hope you'll balance things out by reading some of her work.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Brother Demanded, and I am Delivering

One of the problems that many consumers face today is how to eat healthfully on a budget. I suppose it seems nearly impossible to eat more naturally without breaking the bank. That, I believe, is something we've been conditioned to believe by the food habits we've adopted as well as the cultural habits we have.

First, we live in a society that is focused on two things: immediate gratification and convenience. We have bagged salad. We have instant meals. We go to the fast food drive thru so we won't have to cook or get out of the car to get some grub. We get e-mail instead of letters, find out about the news via twenty-four-hour news channel, and can now even pause live television or save it for later at the push of a button. It's all about using time for the things we enjoy or that we deem necessary, and foregoing anything that might put a monkey wrench in the gears of our lives. We have little patience to speak of, and why should we? We can get it all now, and we don't really have to spend much time on getting it (unless we count the increased hours we spend working to afford it). I'm going to admit right here and now that when we choose to eat better, we have to throw a lot of those ideas out the window. I'm not going to be offering you a lot of low-cost, non-labor-intensive solutions.

But I will offer you things that, once you become accustomed to them, will get easier as time goes by. We have to recondition ourselves to accept that things that are better for us often take longer and may take a bit more effort than the things that are not healthy for us.

This post I'll focus mainly on snacks, though the principles can be applied to meals as well.

My number one recommendation is to eat more fruits and vegetables, and to eat these more seasonally. Things that are in season tend to be cheaper, so you can get your snacks on the cheap. While it is optimal to get organics, if conventional fruits and vegetables are what you can afford at the moment, go for that. I recommend visiting farmer's markets in the spring and summer if you have one locally, and to do some research to find produce markets with good prices that are either in your area or on your way to or from work.

The great thing about fruits and vegetables is that they are very portable and don't require refrigeration if they are used quickly. To make things easier, I wash everything and cut it into snack-sized pieces very shortly after I get it, and then I store it in plastic containers in the fridge. That way, when I am hungry for a snack, it is available immediately. When it comes to apples, oranges, and bananas, you can leave those whole in a bowl on your table so long as you'll actually eat them that way. If you're someone who needs things cut up and peeled, though, I recommend doing all that work at once and having it ready at hand. One of my favorite sweet snacks happens to be grapes, and these are easily washed and kept. I put some in the fridge so they'll keep longer, but also put some in a bowl on the counter so that it's incredibly easy to grab those as a snack instead of something else. On the vegetable side, cucumbers are a favorite around here, so I usually peel those and cut them into cucumber spears. All fruits and vegetables are easily transportable, and if you have an insulated bag you can add an ice pack to, you can even put dips in if you want. I really enjoy plain yogurt mixed with honey as a fruit dip, and low-fat sour cream with a little dill and salt mixed in tastes great on veggies. In addition, you can also look for individually packaged items like fruit cocktail and applesauce that say "unsweetened" or "in juice." Check the labels to be sure that you're only getting fruit, though, as sometimes they'll try to sneak something weird in. You should always focus on fruits and vegetables as your go-to snacks, and then if you still want a little something that's more fatty, you can eat other things in moderation.

For the higher fat, baked or fried-type snacks, I'm going to ask you to do some label reading. I want you to read every label of everything you normally buy, and if it contains hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) oils or high fructose corn syrup, put it back and don't buy it again. Also, if it contains anything that sounds suspiciously like something made in a lab in New Jersey, put that back as well. You'll be left with very few choices when it comes to pre-packaged foods, I know, but at least you'll know what things are good and which to pass by next time. Also, even if the label says "all natural," check the ingredients, because for some reason high fructose corn syrup is considered all natural. I have no idea why.

Now, I want you to make an inventory of the things that you normally buy that you can't anymore. Which of these things can you easily do without? Cross those off the list. Now, narrow the list further to things you can make yourself from scratch, such as cookies and brownies. Even though sugar and fat content of these items may be high, if you're making them yourself, they will be better for you than the processed varieties. I also advise making cookies smaller and cutting brownies into smaller pieces. Studies have shown that we'll eat what's in front of us, so making those just a fraction smaller can cut out a great deal of saturated fats and sugars over the long run. Also, many baked goods can be frozen and pulled out as needed. I find this handy because you can make a lot at once and have them for a long time, which saves time. When push comes to shove, I also find that Newman O's are a perfectly acceptable subsitute for other processed cookies. They may be a bit more expensive, but if you're primarily eating fruits and veggies as snacks, then you won't be spending as much on processed foods anyway, so you'll be able to afford it.

When it comes to salty snacks, there are a lot of pretzels that contain a simple list of ingredients. Look for the braided wheat kind, as those contain the most whole grains. If you are a chip-lover, there are numerous brands that are made from simple ingredients and aren't terribly expensive. My favorite are Cape Cod reduced fat potato chips, which are made from potatoes, canola oil, and salt.

The last thing I'll cover for today are beverages. I know that a lot of parents and caregivers buy juice boxes or bottles of juice cocktail. Please, please, please read those labels and choose 100% juice products. If you'd like to give it a little fizz, then buy some store brand soda water or seltzer (it should just be water and bubbles, nothing else) and mix. My favorite is pear/white grape/cranberry/seltzer, but you can experiment to find what you like best.

In my opinion, these changes can be a little difficult at first. You'll probably miss some of the foods you won't be buying any longer. You'll have to retrain your tastebuds to enjoy fresh foods as opposed to processed ones. What I've found now, though, is that I enjoy the flavor of the healthier snacks much more than the processed ones, and in some cases the processed foods have come to taste terrible to me. It takes time, but it's doable, and you'll feel much better about what you are eating and what you are offering your family to eat.

I have a lot more info to give, but I think that this is enough to start with for now. If you're interested in knowing more about natural meal preparation and getting away from fast foods (hint: you'll have to cook), feel free to drop me a line via comments and/or e-mail and I'll let you know what I'm doing currently that is working well. It's not as complicated as you might think, honest!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sometimes I Still Dream About Doughnuts

Some time ago, after reading a ton of information from a number of varied reputable sources, I decided to do what no one who has seen my snack stash of days gone by would ever think I'd do: I decided to stop eating products containing hydrogenated oils and/or high fructose corn syrup. This meant, and means, no Pringles, no Double Stuf Oreos, no Pop Tarts, no cheese danishes from my local Starbucks, and definitely NO DOUGHNUTS from any doughnut-producing retail outlet (I can make my own doughnuts). This decision came in the wake of my decision to no longer consumer artificial sweeteners, and so, I'm sure you can imagine, I can no longer lunch at convenience stores unless I'd like to have dry roasted peanuts and a water.

It's been a bit of a challenge sometimes, but it's something I believe in wholeheartedly, both for my own health and for the health of others. I watched a documentary called The Future of Food, and one of their main points was that we vote with our dollars. In my opinion, I think that our dollar votes often matter much more than our election day votes (especially since the dollar votes we make sometimes influence the votes on bills that are presented to our legislators). While I don't think it will kill you to eat one Ho-Ho every now and again, I do think that it will kill you slowly to consume that sort of food regularly. And I also think that, given proper incentive, most companies that make those processed treats that America loves will be more than willing to change their ways if it means keeping your dollars flowing into their over-flowing coffers.

After all the things I've read, particularly about hydrogenated oils, I find myself cringing a little when I see kids chowing down on processed snacks. I have this horrible mental image of what it is doing to their little bodies, and I just can't take it. (Though I'd like to take it...right out of their hands.) I know that many of you will read this and write me off as one of those obsessive weirdos, and if that's the case, okay. However, if you're at all interested in knowing more about nutrition and how processed foods affect your body and the body of your kids (or someone else's kids), I encourage you to read The Family Nutrition Book. It's a good, solid reference, with nothing hype-y about it. If you won't consider changing your eating habits for the sake of your own health, consider changing them for the health of the kids you know and love. I think we'll all be better off for it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

You All Are SO DEMANDING

Or maybe just Anonymous and Cara are demanding. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to post a photo of my new haircut, and I'm pretending that I'm doing it for the satisfaction of the entire internet. So. Here:

new haircut

Are you happy now?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Jean Louis David Must Be French for Supercuts

I should have known something was up the moment I walked in the door and noticed that the receptionist had terrible hair and drawn on eyebrows. But I could not be stopped! I wanted a cheap haircut, and I wanted it right then! So I smiled brightly, accepted the black robe I was offered, and followed the woman I thought was the shampoo lady back for my shampoo. In heavily accented English, she simply said, "Come!" and then patted the chair she wanted me to sit in. I settled back for the wash. She hummed softly as she rubbed in the shampoo and then the conditioner. She gently rinsed with water that was exactly the right temperature. I thought, "Wow, this shampoo lady is getting a STELLAR tip from me."

And then she led me back to a chair. And sat me down. And set the order slip on the counter. And opened her mouth and said, "How you want?"

I only wish I were kidding.

I also wish I were kidding about how the stylist next to us had no customer and proceeded to sit in her chair, doing her own hair in a style straight out of 1981 and applying garish make-up.

Oh, Jean Louis David, you look so hip on the internet. I guess it's all just an elaborate facade.

Still, the haircut is not half bad. Through the miracle of hand gestures and me repeating the words long bangs at increasing levels of volume as the haircut wore on, I managed to exit the store with something vaguely resembling what I had in mind. And for $23.50 in a city where most cuts run $80 a pop? I suppose that's the best I can expect.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dear Mr. Cell-Phone Talker and All Other Marathon Spectators Who Were Not Participating in the Actual Cheering

Last Sunday I set out with the intention of watching the elite women cross the finish line at the New York City Marathon. I figured I'd stick around for the elite men, too, and maybe even Lance Armstrong, if he was lucky. I got there early, secured a spot at the half-mile-to-go mark, and watched what was one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen. No, it wasn't the elite women, though they were good, nor was it the elite men, though I did like seeing Meb Whatever-His-Last-Name-Is go by, and it certainly wasn't Lance Armstrong, as I mostly think he's a pompous ass. It was the wheeler category people. The ones who were unable to walk, but finished the marathon just the same. I didn't really know they'd be coming in so soon, and I defininitely didn't know that there would be so few people out to cheer for them, but there they were, magnificent and mostly smiling, making it through to the end of the course. I got all choked up just watching them.

And then I got annoyed. Why is it, people of New York City, that I was the only one within earshot calling out, "Good job! Way to go! You look SO GOOD out there!" Why is it that more people commented on Lance Freaking Armstrong than on these people who were working their arms off to get to the finish? Why is it, oh Mr. Cell-Phone Talker and Morose Lady Next to Me, that both of you gave me dirty looks when I cheered, as if I were invading some hallowed silent ground? You are poor excuses for human beings, and I'll thank you both to never show up and gawk again.

As for the rest of you, I'll thank you to show up early next time and use the lungs God gave you to belt out some serious encouragement. These people deserve your attention and as much enthusiasm as you can manage. Next year, people. Set those alarms. I'll be watching for you.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What, Don't YOU Pack Light Fixtures in Your Bag?

Last time I flew I came home to discover that the contents of my suitcase were a little disheveled. Really this didn't surprise me because I had gone into town with a suitcase full of stuff, yet come back with just a few things rattling around in the big orange mammoth that is the bag I usually check. Still, it seemed a little off. I did remember separating the dirty clothes from the clean clothes, and the shoes from the makeup. Yet here it was, all jumbled together. I know I had a lot of room in there, but things don't make it out of zippered compartments on their own. I dug further until I found what I knew I would find: the TSA card indicating that my bag had been searched for the sake of national security. Inspector 318, apparently, is thorough in his or her search, but none to careful when re-packing the items. This irks me mainly because I'm a tiny bit neurotic about the separation of the clean clothes from the dirty clothes, but also because next time my packing will be careful and precise. My travel items must be cradled just so.

So I'm making this plea now. Inspector 318, whoever you are, please pass my bag on to someone else. If you search it, I'm afraid this will never make it to Kansas City alive.

Thank you and enjoy your holidays.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Really Need to Start Remembering to Put My iPod in My Work Bag

Since I moved here in June, I've been, off and on at least (Read: when I forget my iPod), trying to find a radio station I can listen to in the car. I've found plenty of NPR stations, but I'll be honest here and say that I've no patience for listening to the news extensively, and that is what seems to be on NPR when I'm driving around. I'm looking for songs. Just songs. Good songs. Now I'll admit, there are a great many stations to choose from, what with being so close not only to NYC but also to, well, a ton of other cities (Ya'll like to keep 'em packed together over here). And yet, I still cannot find a station I can bear for more than three songs in a row. So I finally settled it by deciding to listen to what a person driving a minivan would be expected to listen to: light rock. The greatest soft hits of yesterday and today. So far this week I've forgotten my iPod, um, let's see...every single day, so that makes for three days of light, soft rock action. And here's what I think: I can take the Elton John (If you don't have a soft spot for "Tiny Dancer," you are dead to me), and some of the current soft hits are actually songs I listen to when my iPod is present, but I draw the line at two things.

1. Kenny G.

2. Those soft rock hits of the eighties in which the artist (I'm not sure I'd call them artists), tries to convince us via electric guitar solo that he is not merely a soft rock hit-maker, but is, in fact a bona fide ROCK STAR. The screeching of the guitar in the middle of what is otherwise the most boring song on the planet? Has got. To stop.

I'd rather live in silence, or, alternately, just talk to myself to fill the void.

Or listen to the news.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How Appropriate That Today is Day Seven of NaBloPoMo

Because that's exactly how many brownies I've eaten today!

This time around, you can eat a brownie for each time I mention the word seven. Except that I don't have many things to mention that include the word seven, so here are some sevens just so you may eat more brownies: seven seven seven seven seven

I hope we're all happy now, in addition to being a bit full.

...

The thing I really don't get is why people who know how to make homemade brownies and have come to appreciate the simplicity of it ever buy boxed mix again. With a standard mix you use four components, while from scratch you use six (unless you're getting all fancy or something). America, are we really that lazy?

Oh, wait, yes, we are.

Nevermind.

Monday, November 06, 2006

This One is Courtesy of the Children

Last night I took my work cell phone out of my bag to make sure it still had a charge, since, as usual, I'd forgotten to plug it in over the weekend. Not only was it still charged, there was also a message from Franc, being all bershon. I truly wish I could play it for you here, but that would fall into Category: Violation of Family Privacy, so you'll just have to imagine an eleven-year-old girl, a middle-schooler no less, sounding equally bored and annoyed, like, "OMG, I can't believe I have to leave a message, I so totally can't be bothered." Start with an irritated sigh, and then it goes, "Mary this is Franc and I'm just wondering if you've seen my band music because I can't find it anywhere bye." (Commas left out on purpose. Bored, annoyed nearly-teenagers use no commas in their irritated drone.)

I could practically hear her eyes rolling. Obviously she had better things to do than look for her band music, such as waiting for the delightful ping that means someone sent her an e-mail, maybe a boy, and couldn't you just die because, like, Philip wrote her back about homework right away.

...

Today Alex was trying to do his homework any way other than the way he was supposed to do it, and in the meantime decided he needed to use a yardstick. Except he didn't call it a yardstick. He called it a "three feet stick."

Classic.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It's Like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Around Here

This afternoon I came back from a run to find twelve turkeys and five deer in my yard. I approached the house slowly so as not to scare anyone unnecessarily, and the animals just waited, watching. I stood still near the top of the driveway, just watching them. A couple of the deer stared right back at me, and the other three munched idly on the grass, while the turkeys decided they had better things to do and wandered off in the direction they'd originally been heading.

It was kind of a magical wildlife moment.

And then I opened the garage door. I'm sure you can imagine how much docile deer like noisy garage door openers.

Maybe I'll see them again tomorrow.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm Not a Nanny, I Just Play One at Work

I always wanted to say that.

One of the hardest things about being a nanny is accepting that there are a lot of decisions I don't get to make about the children. While some families have been open to a lot of my hare-brained ideas (I'd like to teach your children to ride the bus! Lots!), some families have their own way of doing things, and it's not the way I would do them. I recognize that I am not the parent, that I am paid money to do as someone else wishes when it comes to their children, but still, sometimes that's pretty hard to swallow. I don't often get to choose what kinds of television programs, games, and activities are good for the children. I don't always get to encourage the kind of lifestyle I think will benefit them most (though let's face it, I certainly try--does anyone remember my "Television rots your brain" campaign?). Someone else gets to do that. And that's as it should be, mostly (there are always exceptions). Parents are meant to make decisions for their children. I guess sometimes I just wish, well...that I were a little more in charge.

I was very fortunate in my last job that the kids' parents allowed me a lot of liberty with their children, and also that the children were so young when I began that I got to teach them from the beginning how I'd like them to behave. To this day I see little evidences of my hard work. They say please and thank you and excuse me. They eat their food as neatly as can be expected, using utensils instead of fingers unless its finger food. They give lots of hugs and kisses and they love all the things I taught them to love, like Starbucks and playing games on the computers at the Apple store and wandering around the bookstore like we own the place. I cut television out of our daily lives and injected a lot more free play time. We hung out in the back yard, we went around the block, we told a lot of really silly jokes. I suppose I didn't realize how carefree our days truly were until now.

trio

Man alive, I miss those little muffins.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Two by Two

Today is Day Two of NaBloPoMo, and I haven't fallen off the bandwagon yet. I'm so persistent! Two cheers for me!

So.

Two days ago I carved two pumpkins and now I have two pictures to show you. Only one is of the pumpkins I carved, but please, people, I have a theme going on here, and you should have two of everything today. Especially chocolates. In fact, every time you see the word two today, you should eat two chocolates. I require it. And now, the two pictures:

i carved these

This one is a little blurry, but I think you can see the two pumpkins. The one on the left is a goofy Frankenstein, and the one on the right is Al's design. I carved both with two kitchen knives that were ill-suited to the job, which is why the one on the right looks like it has eyelashes, even though it's not supposed to have eyelashes. No eyelashes were requested in the carving of this pumpkin. I went to way more than two stores (I wish it had only been two) to try to find a pumpkin carving kit, but when you shop for a pumpkin carving kit on Halloween, every store has already run out. Shocking, I know. So here's what I've got: two marginally well-carved pumpkins and a blurry photo to show how far I've fallen since last year's effort. Oh, well.

lining the driveway

This second one is of the pumpkins that line the driveway where I live. They are joined by many others like them, as well as two large inflatable pumpkins, some light-up pumpkins, a skeleton, a tombstone, a screaming doormat, and cardboard pumpkins in nearly every window. Yes, that's right, Halloween threw up on my house. It's quite festive. I can't wait to see what it looks like come Christmastime. I've heard it's nothing short of Chevy-Chase-style impressive.

See you on Day Three...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In the Beginning

Once upon a time there was (and is) this crazy thing called NaNoWriMo, in which a bunch of crazy people decided they'd write a novel in a month, specifically the month of November. Because, as mentioned, they're crazy. And also maybe they wanted to get their creative juices flowing or something weird like that. I don't judge, I admire. But I haven't done it, and I won't be doing it myself, at least this year, mostly because my mind goes in eleventy billion different directions, and I simply don't feel it's wise to try to discipline myself like that right now. The results could very well be disastrous. I don't think anyone wants to witness the kind of carnage I might crank out it novel form if I tried to do it right now.

I can, however, discipline myself to crank out mindless blogging drivel every day for the entire month of November, and thus I am participating in this. NaBloPoMo! Hooray! A great many thanks to Mrs. Kennedy for putting it all together.

Because I feel that simply saying I'm participating for the very first post of the project would be cheating just a little bit, I also offer you this:

Shirt: $9.99
Trousers: $19.99
Suede Jacket: $29.99
Shoes: Who knows? They're old!
Being Mistaken for a Wealthy Suburban Housewife: Priceless. Hilarious!