Christmas Break

Mark and I were treated to another white Christmas this year in Colorado! Good thing we didn’t fly in on the 22nd or my family might not have been able to pick us up from the airport because of the snowstorm. Either that or the flight might have been cancelled! And did I get any pictures of all this beautiful snow? Nope. Classic.

We flew in Friday and stayed with my brother for a night in Denver before driving to Greeley on Saturday to spend time with my mom, aunt and uncle. The customary Christmas Eve dinner at my aunt’s and uncle’s place is my uncle’s famous spaghetti, accompanied with tiramisu and of course pumpkin pie for dessert! It was all fabulous, especially because a neighbor brought over a pumpkin pie made from scratch (crust and all) that she removed from the oven minutes before walking over to deliver it. Don’t mind if I do.

Seeing family is always so refreshing to me. The good news: we get to go back in June because my friend Breanna asked me to be in her wedding! So we get to see everyone again in only six short months. :) Love.

The only picture I got this break:

Twins!

Mission Impossible


Here’s a cell phone shot of the Space Needle as we waited outside the IMAX at the Pacific Science Center to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. At least it wasn’t freezing outside. OH WAIT. But no snow on the ground so I suppose we can’t complain too much!

Back to the movie: a weak plot but what’s a plot anyway for an MI movie but a vehicle for cool gadgetry and terrific stunts? The shots of Tom Cruise climbing a half-mile high building in Dubai were absolutely breathtaking – I thought I was going to fall over. It’s a great movie to watch in the IMAX if you get the chance, if only for that scene.

Hearing that Mission Impossible music gave me flashbacks of playing laser tag in high school, and also of watching the MI television show reruns with my uncle. Good memories!

This year's gift exchange haul

We participated in two nice and/or white elephant gift exchanges this year and fared well for the most part! The first was my company Christmas party, which not only saw the return of the gift exchange (which had been nixed the past three years) but also the return of a popular piano player who apparently used to appear at our Christmas parties years and years ago. He played beautifully and also passed out caroling song books and led us all in Christmas carols around the piano! :) I don't know about you but that's my perfect Christmas party. The gift exchange rules dictated that your gift could be either nice or gag as long as it was under the $15 limit. We took a growler of Interurban Pale Ale from the Fremont Brewery and ended up with this solid glass vase from Crate and Barrel! I'm not too jazzed about the color but it'll look pretty with fresh flowers in it.

The second gift exchange was at a house party where the rules made it clear that the gift exchange item must be an item found in your house - no buying allowed. I got a glass fish bowl with all the fixings - fish food (partially opened - the previous owner's fish must have met an untimely death), pebbles, miniature castle, and fake plant! Mark didn't end up with anything great though - an Asian themed faberget egg complete with a wooden stand. It might make its way to a gift exchange next year...


#59: Decorate a themed Christmas tree


Since this is as themed as it's going to get, here's my submission for 100 List #59: decorate a themed Christmas tree. Our tree is (mostly) red and gold with a few accents thrown in, and this also marks the first tree of ours that has sported white lights instead of colored lights. Every year I forget to take stock of our Christmas decorations and every year I find myself making a trip during the actual decorating of the tree to Walgreens/Target/wherever to pick up additional decorations I thought I had! This year was no different - I thought I'd finally amassed enough white lights but I ended up buying three more strands. And I still think it could use more lights!

The tree is a noble fir, and I think it's about 7 feet tall. I struggled to get the star up there, even with a chair, because I was too impatient to wait for Mark to come home and do it. This is also the first year we've had a topper on the tree and I love it!

On my bookshelf

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something radical. I believe everyone should read this book. And no, don’t try to get out of it by saying you’ve watched “A Muppet Christmas Carol”. The book, while very short, goes much deeper than the movies can and will make you pause and consider the role of generosity in your own life. It’s quite excellent. 

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

I’m only 70 pages in but I’ve been thoroughly captivated by the tempestuousness and passion of little Jane Eyre. This is one of the few books that I’ve picked up without reading any summaries or picking up any clues at all on what the book might be about (save that it’s about a girl named Jane) and I’m enjoying discovering the plot on my own. I’m an “advanced notice” kind of person in that I like to know what I’m getting into, so I always research movies we watch or read the summaries of TV episodes before I watch them. I just like to be prepared, I guess!

So why am I into the classics at the moment? I downloaded the Kindle app to my iPad and searched their free collections for classic books I’ve never read that have made it into the public domain. Also waiting for me in my virtual bookshelf: “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells and “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo.

Madame Tussaud's wax museum (pic heavy!)

While we were in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, we got to visit the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Hollywood. They were having a Veterans Day special (11/11/11) where you could buy admission for only $11 instead of the normal $25. Some of the wax figurines were disturbingly lifelike, like the Robert Pattinson statue outside the museum that kept getting moved around Hollywood to entice people to visit the museum. I kept expecting him to break character and start high-fiving people or something. Or biting their necks.

Here are some of my favorite pictures we took in the museum. (Click the link below Robert to see more pictures). Warning: this post is picture heavy!


In defense of the neti pot

Yep, we’re about to veer into TMI territory. Put yo’ hat on.
neti-pot

I’ve had troubles with my sinuses off and on for about a year and a half now and at one point was subsisting on daily Sudafed to alleviate the pressure in my face. My eyes would hurt and get red, and it felt like something was pushing from the inside of my cheeks and through my gums (I even thought I had a cavity for a while). Never having had allergies or even a sinus infection, I didn’t figure out what the problem was for a couple of months – all I knew was that my face hurt.

I hated to depend on Sudafed to feel better so I started eavesdropping on my sinus-plagued co-workers for a more natural solution. The clear frontrunner in the fight against sinus trouble was something called a neti pot. I’ll spare you a demonstrative video and give you the written rundown: you fill the plastic pot with a saline solution (provided in most kits but you can also make your own solution), fit the spout against one of your nostrils, lean over your bathroom sink, and then tilt your head so the water runs up one nostril, through your sinuses, and then out the other nostril. It’s perfectly safe, I swear. You might feel like you are drowning the first couple of times but as long as you breathe through your mouth, you’ll be fine.

The best part is that the pressure relief is immediate. As in right that second. You might hear a popping sound comparable to the popping you hear in your ears when pressure is released, and MAN does it feel good! I’ve read that you shouldn’t use the neti pot more than a couple times a week because too much “irrigation” can lower your immunity, so I’ve been using it about twice a week or when needed, and to great success. I highly recommend it if you have nagging sinus issues and you’re sick of feeling like your face is about to pop off.

#26: New Bride Chicken Curry

After convincing myself that after this holiday weekend’s food extravaganza I REALLY shouldn’t be ordering us pizza (especially considering I did no cooking at all), I decided to tackle another recipe from my Indian cookbook last night. The curry, made with onions, tomatoes, garlic and an assortment of spices, turned out a little more soupy than I thought it would but that could be because I decided to use boneless chicken instead of bone-in chicken like the recipe said, cutting down the simmering time by about 20 minutes. I used boneless because that's what I happened to have on hand. I thought the broth had excellent flavor but all that flavor was lost in the brown basmati rice I made to accompany the curry. So maybe the curry would be better all on its own, sans rice? It still tasted okay on the rice, just very mild.

Substitutions/omissions: I used one onion instead of two so Mark wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed, and I also cut back the cayenne pepper since a teaspoon and a half seemed like a whole lot of spice to me. I think I could’ve thrown in the extra half teaspoon though, especially since I’m now nursing a cold! And as mentioned earlier, I subbed out bone-in chicken pieces for boneless thighs.

Mistakes: I don’t think I made any!

Repeat: Probably but without the rice. Maybe next time I’ll use rotisserie chicken to save more time.

Sweetness

Crazy day, y'all.

Our office manager is out on vacation so I'm covering her position for a couple of weeks; meanwhile our server decided to FREAK OUT today, which never makes the office very happy. Quite antsy, in fact. But you know what made this day better? My sweet, sweet co-worker brought in the most amazing almond cake about a month ago and I begged her for the recipe. She said I needed a special pan for it so she'd track down what type it was and bring me the recipe. I forgot all about it until today, when she showed up PAN IN HAND all the way from Minnesota (her sister shipped her one just for me) along with the recipe card. I'm so thankful to work with such sweet people. :)

More things to be grateful for:
  • My bestie Jess should be showing up in five minutes so we can watch yesterday's episode of the Sing-Off.
  • Pizza Hut should ALSO be showing up in five minutes.
And the doorbell is ringing. Happy day.

California love

weather LA

Looks like the Seattleites will be bringing the rain with them to California this weekend. Here’s hoping it will keep the locals out of Disneyland so we can run around and have some fun! We’re attending a friend’s wedding on Friday in Los Angeles and will be free to roam the rest of the weekend. My brother went to college in L.A. and I loved having an excuse to visit California – sadly, that excuse moved back to Colorado four years ago so I haven’t been back since. Hurrah for four-day work weeks!

#14: Visit the San Juans


Mark and I took a mini vacation up to Orcas Island last weekend to celebrate our third anniversary, so I got to cross #14 off my 100 list! I've heard such great things about the San Juan Islands and I can't believe it has taken me eight years of living in the northwest to visit one. I didn't have a specific reason for choosing Orcas other than I had some friends who had gone before, and I secretly hoped to see an orca whale while we were there. That didn't pan out unfortunately but I have no regrets. This little trip reminded me that while we talk a lot about world traveling, there are still plenty of locales worth visiting that are close to home!

I've posted more pictures after the jump: click the link below to expand the post.

Sewing projects?


For some reason I thought learning to sew was on my 100 list but I was apparently wrong. Regardless, my mom sent me her sewing machine but it's been sitting in my closet for a couple of months while I figured out an easy project to ease me into it. Then my friend Sharon suggested we sew some scarves and I jumped at the chance! So I can now thread the bobbin and thread the machine all by myself, and sew in at least a semi-straight line. Above is the photographic proof. Funny thing though: we set up the machine on a coffee table and sat on the floor, but you can't really operate the foot pedal while you're sitting on the floor. So our sewing was a dual effort with one of us guiding the fabric and the other one operating the pedal. Cooperation makes it happen!

So if you have any *easy* projects to send my way, please do!

At season’s end

I didn’t end up with the winning season but I didn’t end up with a losing season either! I came out in the middle of the pack: four wins and four losses. Unfortunately, my last win had to come as an opponent forfeit but hey, I’ll take it!

 

The league standings haven’t been updated as some aren’t done with the season yet so I’m still waiting to hear if I’ve made it into the end-of-year tournament, which is similar to the season where you get the schedule in advance and organize the matches yourself. I hope we hear soon because I have a feeling our prime weather may be waning, though we’ve been lucky to have had such a streak of sunny days this October.

 

So we shall see, tournament-wise. One of my reasons for joining the league was to meet some other tennis players in the area and since I now have a list of girls I can call up for a friendly, I consider the whole thing a success. :)

A tennis update

Remember that time I told you I joined a tennis league? I’m now six games into the eight-game season with a record of 3-3, though one of those wins occurred because of an opponent’s forfeit due to injury. I’ve so enjoyed being a part of this league and I’ve had a great time meeting other tennis players in the Seattle area and playing a friendly but competitive match. 

 

My most challenging match so far came earlier in the season where I lost the first set 2-6, then was down in the second set 2-4 but came back to win the set 6-4. We called the match in the third set while I was up 2-0 because we were playing by the light of one streetlamp in the parking lot and both of us were practically playing blind. It was getting dark by the time we started the second match and at one point I suggested we reschedule since the courts didn’t have lights and it was getting hard to see. My opponent didn’t want to though (she was up 4-2 at the time and was probably hoping to finish me off) so we continued and I kicked my competitiveness into high gear, unfortunately for her. Even though we did have to eventually call the match and I took the win, I felt that it was more of a mental victory – you can always come from behind for the win! I just figured, hey, if I’m playing blind then so is she!

 

The only downside to a fall tennis league in the northwest is the weather. So far I’ve been able to play all my matches outside – it’s my personal goal to get through this season without having to reserve an indoor court. Nothing against indoor courts, but man are they expensive here! There are only two options in the Seattle/Bellevue area and the Seattle court takes the cake for most expensive at a hefty $36 per hour. The Bellevue courts aren’t much better - $32 per hour. But I hear we’ve got a spate of sunny days coming our way so I’m going to try to get my last two matches scheduled during them. The goal is to end the season with a winning record of 5-3, so I’ll let you know how that goes!

Lost and found!

I was THIS close to ending up with a dog this weekend.

And when I say THIS close I mean I could’ve kept him for a couple of hours and then had to whisk him away to an animal shelter. But fortunately for little Helmud, it didn’t come to that.

I had dropped off our car for its oil change and was jogging back to our house when I nearly stumbled over a collarless chihuahua wandering the sidewalk alongside a busy road. If it were any other dog, I wouldn’t have stopped. But everyone knows that chihuahuas can’t really take care of themselves and I was afraid he would get hit or die from cold, so I stopped and looked around for his owner. No one was in sight so I knelt down to the dog and tried to get him to come to me, to no avail. He wasn’t interested in me at all, only in peeing on everything he could see (no joke). He seemed skittish when I reached out to pet him so I gave him some time and he eventually warmed up to me. So I scooped him up and headed to the apartment complex we were in front of since I thought his owner probably lived inside.

We hung out around the front of the complex for a while as I waited for someone to come out (stalker) but no one did, so I headed around the block to the alley behind the complex and made up my mind to talk to the first person I saw. As I walked down the alley, a garage opened and I saw a couple heading from their house to the garage. Before they got in their car, I approached them and asked them if this lost dog looked familiar. Imagine my shock when they told me they did, and that they were pretty sure the owner lived in the apartment building I had just been stalking and also pointed out her apartment (her balcony faced their house).

So I did what any good stalker would do – I went back to the apartment building and started ringing doorbells! A guy and his dad came out to look at the dog but told me it didn’t look like the chihuahua that did live in their building, which disheartened me. What on earth was I going to do with this dog? I couldn’t just put it back down and walk home but I also couldn’t take it anywhere since I didn’t have my car and I didn’t want to bring it to the apartment because dogs are not allowed. So I stood outside the building for a while and looked lost.

Then, miracle of miracles.

A family parked in front of the building and got out of their car. The man looked at the dog and said tentatively, “Helmud?”

Turns out the chihuahua was his mom’s dog, who did indeed live in the unit pointed out to me by the couple in the alley. And her son just happened to pull up outside while I contemplated what to do with little Helmud. So I turned him over (somewhat reluctantly by this point but I’m pretty sure Helmud peed on me) and said my goodbyes. Then I called Mark and said he was darn LUCKY that I didn’t come home with a chihuahua. And that I wanted one.

I’ve Seen You Somewhere Before… part three

If you watched last week’s “Community” on NBC you saw a cameo by Martin Starr as the college political science professor. I couldn’t place him at first (he looked SO different) but a little IMDB search proved he’s the same guy from the since-defunct Starz product “Party Down” as well as from the older “Freaks and Geeks”. I couldn’t find a good screen shot to include here to show you what he looks like, so instead I found this hilarious image of him with fellow “Party Down” co-star Jane Lynch (better known as Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester from “Glee”). It’s not really the best shot of him but I just thought it was too funny not to include.


In other cameo news, I was delighted to see David Cross on this week’s “Modern Family” episode, especially after hearing that there will be one more season of “Arrested Development” leading up to a feature film based on the series.

I’ve Seen You Somewhere Before… part two

I used to be a big SNL fan. And when I say that, I mean I watched it post-Will Ferrell and  that crew so I know I missed the golden years, but still. Sometimes I still watch it on Hulu but I’m no longer willing to stay up late to watch it, especially since someone *ahem, Mark* just falls asleep during it anyway. Nonetheless, I remain a huge fan of Kristen Wiig’s and feel like I’m supporting Kristen by supporting her former castmates so today I’m throwing the spotlight on Casey Wilson.

CaseyWilsonCasey was only on SNL for a year and a half, but that’s long enough to help me recognize her when she’s moved on to greener pastures, namely ABC’s “Happy Endings” where she co-stars alongside Elisha Cuthbert (“24”) and Damon Wayans, Jr., among others. I probably won’t watch the show (I’m following way too many shows at the moment) but I saw the first 10 minutes of this season’s premiere and was entertained.

Tomorrow: Martin Starr!

I’ve Seen You Somewhere Before… part one

Fall television is finally back! Now I have MORE excuses to not clean the apartment. And with new shows come new faces and perhaps some old ones, to which this post is dedicated.

Exhibit A: Max Greenfield
 maxgreenfield
Viewers of FOX’s “New Girl” starring Zooey Deschanel may see familiar face Max Greenfield, best known (at least to me) as Leo D’Amato from the CW’s “Veronica Mars”. Mark and I went through a huge “Veronica Mars” phase last year when we discovered the series on Netflix and burned through all three seasons. Max played Veronica’s love interest, a sweet-talking, small-town cop. I’m always glad to see anyone at work after “Veronica Mars” since it was canceled WAY too soon.

Speaking of FOX, mind if I go on a little tangent? I didn’t think so. FOX locks their episodes online on Hulu and on their website so you can’t watch them until eight days after the air date. An eight-day delay means that now I can NEVER watch their shows when they actually air because I missed the series premieres, and now I’ll always be behind with no way to catch up. The only way around this is to watch it online through Comcast but you have to be subscribed to their cable service, which we aren’t. Does anyone else think this is ridiculous? No other network does this. So now if YOU wanted to check out “New Girl”, you’re doomed to only watching it online because you can’t get caught up. FOX is missing out on potentially higher ratings here. I wish I could say I’m boycotting FOX in protest but Zooey Deschanel is too adorable and I need my “Glee” fix. Dang FOX and their addictive programming.

Tomorrow: Casey Wilson!

Spicy tomato basil soup

I’ve been a little under the weather this week, which always means it’s time to dust off the trusty soup recipes. I found a great recipe last year for tomato basil soup that I use and tweak depending on what ingredients I have on hand.
  • 2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 TBSP sugar, more to taste
  • 1 cup of cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 20 leaves of basil (or dried basil to taste)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper, more to taste
I puree the tomatoes beforehand to make a smoother soup but you don’t have to if you prefer your soup a bit chunkier (or don’t want to bust out the blender). Add the crushed tomatoes and broth to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir to melt. Reduce to a simmer. Add the cream, butter and basil and stir to combine. The soup is ready when the butter is melted!

Some notes:
  • I’ve used diced tomatoes as well as whole tomatoes in place of the crushed tomatoes and haven’t been able to achieve the same texture that crushed tomatoes give. I’m not sure what’s so different about the crushed tomatoes but I think they make the best soup. If you go the whole tomato route, a good starting point is a peeled and seeded tomato. That was the problem with the diced tomatoes: all the seeds.
  • You could probably use milk in place of the cream or half-and-half, but the soup will be thinner. Don’t look at the calorie count of cream – it’ll make you faint! Or go look but you might never eat it again! You’ve been warned.
  • I prefer my soup spicy so I use a healthy sprinkling of cayenne pepper. This may be too much for some people but if you like spicy food then I completely recommend it.

Zedonk?

How.adorable.is.this.

 

zedonk

It’s a zedonk! A zebra-donkey hybrid.

 

Pretty sure I want one.

A lesson in patience

I received a voicemail today informing me that my doctor’s appointment this afternoon needed to be cancelled due to an emergency, and asked if I could please call back to reschedule.

 

First of all, let me just say that voicemails and I do not mix. We are not friends. I hurriedly memorized the number they gave me to call, deleted the message and called them back.

 

Me: “Hi, I received a voicemail from your office asking me to call back and reschedule my appointment from this afternoon?”

 

Receptionist: “Oh, I wasn’t the one who called you, do you know who left the message?”

 

Me: Shoot. “No I don’t remember… sorry.”

 

Receptionist: “That’s ok, what’s your doctor’s name?”

 

Let me explain. My primary doc isn’t at the clinic anymore so they scheduled me with a different one. Did I write the name down? No.

 

Me: “Actually, no… my primary doctor left the clinic so I was scheduled with a different one but I don’t remember her name… sorry.”

 

Then Ms. Receptionist got huffy.

 

Receptionist: “Well I’m going to have to ask you to go back and listen to that voicemail and call back when you have more information.”

 

Me: Um, rude much? “Well, my appointment was supposed to be at 4:40 today, is there no other way to look it up?” You called ME, people!

 

The story ends with them figuring it out and rescheduling me. But then I started thinking about all the times people call into my office saying they saw one of our real estate signs in Auburn, or wait maybe it was Kent? I guess it could’ve been Auburn though? Then we go through the rigmarole of me asking them if they saw an agent name on the sign (“There was no name!”) or a more precise location (“Well how many signs do you have??”), to which my responses would be that I MAKE these signs so I know they all have agent names on them, and that we have over a hundred properties which makes the sign count at least 200.

 

… ok, so I don’t really respond that way. But I think it. Anywho, I just wanted to say that I identify with today’s receptionist and can sympathize with how annoying it must be to deal with people who can’t hang onto the simplest of information, myself included.

 

To which I respond, maybe next time they could just send me an e-mail? Then we could all have the information in front of us? Send voicemails to the grave, I say!

Now and then

Isn’t it funny how your tastes and preferences change from when you were a kid?

Then: I absolutely couldn’t stand tights. If I had to wear hosiery then I wanted it to be sheer – opaque was like a bad word to me. Methinks I just wanted to grow up too fast. :)

Now: Tights are all I wear through winter! Well, that sounds bad. But I LOVE them and think they’re the answer to any outfit. I now balk at sheer hosiery and refuse to wear it, inspiring the ever-ongoing argument in my office (between the women, that is) of nylons vs. bare legs. Though I have heard that some offices require nylons… isn’t that strange? I might revolt. I could also say this about turtlenecks in that I was adamantly against them as a child but now think they are genius.

 

Then: Our Whole Foods outings as kids usually included an 8 oz. cup of carrot juice preceded by a shot of wheatgrass juice. I persistently fought against this infusion of antioxidants as only children do (“I don’t like it! It’s gross!”).

Now: Carrot juice tastes like candy! Ok that might be going too far but I think it’s tasty. On the other hand, I still refuse to touch wheatgrass juice. Superfood or not, it still tastes awful. In other news, I accompanied Mark to his first visit to Whole Foods a couple months ago. When he said he’d never been there before, I said, “Really?! I feel like I was raised in one!” Turns out they have quite the microbrew selection, too! I never picked up on that as a kid. :)

Beauty Picks

I’ve actually been working on this post since Monday but things have been so crazy that I haven’t had much time to put some effort into it! I’ve been loving some new (and old) beauty products and wanted to share them with you.

1. Eyebrow kit by E.L.F.  eyebrow
I’ve always been under the impression that my eyebrows have never needed any help looking more full but a recent makeover I received for a wedding showed me what my brows could be with just a little fixin’. I heard of this eyebrow kit through a makeup tutorial on Extra Petite and the best part is it’s only $3 at drugstores. The left side of the compact contains a brow gel you comb through your brows and the right side holds a setting powder. If I was in a rush and could pick only one makeup product to put on my face before I run out the door, this would probably be it – your eyebrows frame your face and give you a look of completeness.

2. Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer
I’ve always been a huge advocate of finding a daily moisturizer that has SPF in it, and this Neutrogena pick hits the mark at SPF 30. If you’re going to protect anything, it better be your face! This moisturizer applies like silk and I sometimes use it for my hands too since your hands can never escape the sun. Of course, the only downside of using a daily moisturizer with a higher SPF content is your face frequently doesn’t match the rest of your body – but when I’m 40, hopefully my face will thank me. In the meantime, there’s always bronzer. You can find this product in drugstores for about $12.99.

3. Target brand nail polish remover pads
I change my nail polish quite frequently, so I need a heavy-hitter for my remover! Bottled polish remover is a better bang for your buck but I also like having these pads in my purse or car just in case a nail disaster occurs (oh it happens) or I just can’t take the chipping anymore. I can’t find these on Target’s website but I think they run around $3.99 for a pack of 10, and one pad can usually take care of all your nails (stubborn glitter may require two).

4. A blending brush
After watching the tutorial on smoky eyes I referenced above, I became obsessed with blending! I always wondered how people get their eye shadows to look so flawless and the key really is to blend, blend, blend. But you need a blending brush first! I don’t have this exact brush (actually, I don’t even know what brand mine is) but here’s one from E.L.F. At $1, it’s an excellent investment. You can use your fingers to blend as well, but I find a brush works better and is less messy. A tip: don’t be afraid to get a lot of shadow on your eyelids – it’s ok for it to look bad before you blend! That’s what blending will do: even out the shadow “edges” and create natural-looking gradients. Practice makes perfect, I promise.

5. Blush
My cheeks are not naturally rosy so I can’t live without a blush compact. I think this is a step a lot of people skip but blush is instrumental in livening up your face and giving you a little glow. I can always tell when I forget blush because my face looks so BORING. A little blush makes you look alive! My all-time favorite blush was by Bobbi Brown but I have no idea what shade it was so I’d have to go back and get re-matched. I prefer trying out blush before buying because it’s hard to match a packaged shade to your skin tone, no matter what the marketing people tell you (warm tone, cool tone, olive complexion). I’ve had many more fails than wins with blind drugstore buys so I’d rather save myself the guessing game and let the professional match me with a color with which I know I’ll be happy, because once you have the compact then you’re stuck with it!

Now that this is a novel, I hope you’ve gotten some ideas! What are your current favorites?

Contagion

Last night we went to see the movie “Contagion”, a thriller about the worldwide spread of a virus and what that might look like. I had a little scare courtesy of Mark before we left for the theater – he tried to capitalize on my zombie fear.

Mark: “I’m surprised you wanted to go see a zombie movie.”
Me: “I don’t think it’s about zombies, I think it’s like a flu virus.”
Mark: “No, it’s a virus that turns people into zombies.”
Me: “No… I think it’s the flu?”
Mark: “It’s zombies.”
Me: …
Mark: “Just kidding, it’s the flu.”
Me: “GOOD because I was about to ask if it was too late to get someone else to go with you.”

It was a great movie though and I definitely recommend it, if only to get everyone to wash their hands more and stop touching everything! I know I’ve been a lot more conscious about touching my face – according to the movie, we touch our face three to five times a minute. But if you’re borderline OCD then don’t see this movie – it might send you over the edge!

Kayaking!

Gorgeous day...

Self-portrait
I just thought this was funny - my attempts to take a picture of Mark
over my shoulder. Third time's the charm!


Our friends Fabio and Sharon joined us.

(non) Labor Day

What a great Labor Day weekend! We made it outdoorsy just like last year’s Labor Day weekend and got to enjoy the late summer sun we’ve been graced with as of late.
  • Saturday we went hiking off Highway 2 up to Serene Lake, a mountain lake nestled below some craggy peaks. Our friends Maile and Brian accompanied us – they are great hiking buddies!
  • Sunday we finally did something I’d never done before: kayaking on Lake Union! Mark had taken out a kayak on the lake before but we’d only had a single kayak so this time I got to join in the fun. I suppose one time we took out a little yellow raft together but it isn’t quite the same. :) We went through a company called Moss Bay, which cost $18/hour for a double kayak – not bad at all. Pictures forthcoming!
  • After kayaking, the boys decided they needed some more water time so we headed to Madison Park Beach to lay out and do some swimming.
  • Monday was a bit more chill – an unsuccessful shopping trip to look for a new dining room table set and a barbecue at a friend’s apartment where I feel like I ate my weight’s worth in Skittles. Time to floss.
What did YOU do this weekend?

Pioneer Woman to the rescue

I just finished Ree Drummond’s book “The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” and it was HILARIOUS. I totally recommend it to all those women out there looking for a funny and sentimental read. Some notes:

  • STEAK. That is all.
  • The book simultaneously made me want to have a baby yet NEVER want to have a baby. That’s skill.
  • Ree made me want to try more recipe planning and cooking – I used to be at least halfway decent at meal planning but lately I’ve really fallen off that wagon. So this week I’ve tried to be on the ball with planning out our meals and trying new things like pasta with a thyme-mint cream sauce, a steak marinade, and chipotle-honey chicken. The steak marinade was amazing and I’ll definitely be keeping it in my stash. I’m sure the 24 hours of marinating time also helped!

Family reunion

Mark and I went down to Portland this weekend for a family reunion with GREAT food and awesome people. I got so lucky - I love Mark’s family so much! This reunion was a bit different because Mark’s parents and sister/brother-in-law couldn’t make it, so we were on our own from our side of the family. We spent the afternoon chatting it up, dodging bees (maybe I was the only one running from them? Has NO one else been stung before??), and eating tons of food.

And maybe ogling some turkeys.

Christmas and Thanksgiving. Really!

Weekending

This weekend we’ll be heading to Portland for a family reunion and some fun in the sun. Though… I just remembered we’re supposed to bring a dish to share at the potluck. I guess we’ll be making a quick visit to Safeway tomorrow!

 

Another thing we’re doing this weekend that I’m excited about is going to see Mark’s cousin play in a wheelchair tennis tournament. I can’t wait to go support her!

 

Not much else going on, really, besides staring out the window and wishing I was anywhere else… I could go for an oceanside dock right now. I’d love to be back in Utila, Honduras, jumping off the dock into the blue!

Lake Union 10K

Me, Karen and Kim after finishing, chugging water like crazy
I've decided that the 10K is the perfect distance: long enough to require focus and training but short enough so you don't feel like your legs will fall off at the finish line. Yesterday was a gorgeous morning for the run around Lake Union, and it was a good thing it started at 7:30 since it got HOT yesterday. Although that put me up around 5:45 to eat my bowl o' oats, and I don't remember the last time I got up that early.

The post-run breakfast was provided by Portage Bay Cafe but we didn't stick around for it since the line was so long. Plus I'd just eaten at PBC the day before so I didn't feel like I was missing out too much. Blasphemy, I know.

Serve it up

Now I’ve gone and done it.

I’ve been itching to start playing tennis more regularly for years now, so when LivingSocial offered a 50% discount for entry into a Seattle tennis league, I just had to do it. The problem is I’ve never really played tennis competitively before! I’ve had lessons and camps here and there but have never been part of a team or an organized league. The camps were in middle school and the last organized lesson I took was right out of high school. I haven’t hit around regularly since the summer of 2004 when I lived with my mom in Kansas City, but “hitting around” literally meant just hitting around and not playing a regular match. Even when I tried to play a match with my mom (who has taken up the sport and is quite good), I didn’t have the stamina to play through the whole match because my fitness was so poor.

Cut to 2011 and my fitness has improved drastically, but my tennis experience is still lacking. However, I can’t keep hoping that someday I’ll make the time to get better without actually making the time to take some steps to get better. So this is my first step. True to form, my second step was panicking about my unpreparedness and asking a friend of ours if he could hit with me so I wouldn’t feel completely out of place when the league starts in September. He had some great pointers and it felt SO good to be able to work on my form and rally consistently. Of course, also true to form, I’m now sore from using these muscles that haven’t seen consistent action in years. But I love being sore because it means you’re actually doing something! Plus, I love the forearm muscle you get from playing tennis, even though I only get it on my right arm. Unbalanced arms, what can I say.

And I may also be sporting a Transformers Band-Aid on a monster blister I got from my racket (nice to see you too, racket). Hopefully it’s a one-time-only kind of thing.

Sprints?

I wanted to do one more tempo run yesterday before the 10K on Sunday so I could get in a few days of rest before the race, so I set out to the Burke-Gilman with MiCoach to do some sprint intervals sandwiched between jogging.

Sad that I still got passed on one of my "sprints" by a loping 6'4" male who didn't even look like he was trying. I'm gasping my heart out trying to get into my red zone and he just breezes by. I think I detected a pity nod. So... as I like to say, A for effort! Even though my grade for the workout was only 72%. Dang you MiCoach and your red zones!

You shall not pass!
At least I got a brief reprieve when the University Bridge went up. Oh darn, I guess I'll take a break.

MiCoach!

I made a friend!

Her name is MiCoach and she’s a free app I downloaded on my phone to help with my running workouts. The MiCoach app is made by Adidas and has an online component you set up where you can make a workout schedule, say, plan to run a 5K, which syncs to your phone. Then you can open up the app on your phone, select the day’s workout (or any workout from the schedule) and go! It also works with the playlists you upload to the app, turning down the music when your coach tells you to speed up or slow down, depending on what your goal pace is at the moment. The GPS feature tracks you, updating you at every mile as to what your time and average pace were for that mile.

I love it so much. I may not be able to run without her anymore! I’m doing a 10K plan right now (a very ambitious plan that is supposed to have me running four times a week – yeah right) and I’ve found the interval training to be most beneficial. The longest I’ve ever been able to do sprint intervals on a treadmill is 15 minutes (counting the warm-up and cool-down), and they’ve been sprint-walk intervals at that. But using MiCoach, I’ve been able to double those interval workout times and improve my pace. One goal on my 100 List is to lower my mile average to 9 minutes, which I now see is quite lofty. I’m a slow runner, you see, and my fastest mile I’ve logged on MiCoach so far is 9:05. This may sound good, but that was the first mile on my run that day – the next mile took 10:19 minutes. Maintaining that nine-minute pace is hard! But that’s why I have a coach to tell me when I’ve fallen out of my target pace and to get my rear back in gear.

Another cool thing: all the pretty graphs! I’m a sucker for visual data and the website and app provide charts galore. I can analyze my stats and admire the pretty colors to my heart’s content. One thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to easily view my mile splits on the website. The app gives you a simple table with the information but I haven’t been able to find it on the website yet.

The dips you see are when I had to slow down for lights and bridges,
then get back up to speed. I'm not sure how I got into the red zone
a few times - the music must've been good.

 One more thing: your workouts get graded. To some that may seem like a nightmare, but I always loved when grades were posted in school! How do you know how to improve if there’s no benchmark? I perform best under pressure. My best workout to date is a 95%, which was a huge improvement over my previous best of 86%. I’ve never failed a workout but I don’t think I’ve gotten above a C+ in interval runs… see, always room for improvement!

So if you need a little motivation, I completely recommend the app. And it’s not just for running; it can be used for biking, walking, and weight training, as well as give you personalized fitness plans to improve your tennis game or soccer physique. It’s pretty sweet. I swear they aren’t paying me to write this. So go get active!

Visitors: continued

We took Megan and George to the Fremont Brewery, a real kid-friendly
place close to the Fremont Troll.

The weather did not cooperate the day we took them to Alki Beach.
Yes, I'm holding a manta ray... Lily's souvenir from the aquarium!



George and Lily

Friends since '93... yay. :)

Visitors


Lily having a grand time at Chinooks
 I’ve known Megan since third grade and I could tell you SO many memories that involve her…
  • An unplanned trip to the pool involving bikes and, uh, fibbing, that landed both of us in big trouble
  • Goldfish crackers and glow-in-the-dark silly putty
  • dc Talk and Sarah McLachlan. LOTS of Sarah McLachlan.
  • Riding the Zipper at the carnival over and over and over. And over.
  • Getting to be in her wedding to George nearly five years ago
  • I could go on!
And now she and George have a baby! Lily is 15 months old now and a bundle of energy. Which brings me to how “baby illiterate” I am. When Megan asked me if I might be able to procure a portable high chair and a pack-and-play for their stay, I said, “Sure!” Only later did I think, “What in the world is a pack-and-play?”
I’m really not joking when I say I know nearly nothing about babies. My (twin) brother and I were the babies of our extended family so we never had younger relatives around to take care of on a regular basis. The youngest child I’ve ever babysat was two and a half, well past those infant months. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve held a baby. I know. I told you I wasn’t joking! I was also never one of those kids who played with baby dolls – I jumped right into Barbies and paper dolls and completely skipped anything having to do with babies. Just never struck my fancy. Nor have I ever been someone who is fascinated or entertained by babies. I’m not really sure why, but I think it must just be because I’ve never been around them for long. Maybe at some point in my childhood I decided I wouldn’t be stereotyped into the typical female who loves babies? I don’t know! All I do know is that at some point we’ll probably have a baby and I’m sure I’ll be in love with her/him. I’m not worried. :)

Patience pays

Adorable, no?
I fell in love with these Target wedges about a month ago but couldn't bring myself to pay full price for them - a whopping $29.99. On a side note, that's what the economy has done to me - I now expect more from my retailers for less. Charlotte Russe absolutely ruined me by charging $2.99 for some cute embellished tank tops that I now wear at least once a week. So now when I see a tank going for $15 or more, I think, *gasp* robbery!

Back to the wedges, it's a pretty good bet that you'll see cute summer fashions on clearance in a month or so after they hit the shelves, and since Seattle summer doesn't start until August anyway, why not wait? I found these on the clearance rack for $14.98. A worthy deal.

The only problem with waiting to purchase is your size might not be available anymore - these wedges also come in beige but they sold out in size 6.5 faster than I could search for them. I'm hoping for a restock at some point!

In other shoe news, I just had to return my second pair of Nine West pumps to Nordstrom. I know I wear shoes hard and fast, but I expect better from pricier (not to mention real) leather. The leather along the bridge was ripping on the inside, which I consider unacceptable since I'd only had this second pair for less than two months. The first pair started ripping in the same place after three months and I exchanged them for a new pair, hoping it was a one-time-only defect since the shoes fit me SO well. But alas, not so much. I hate to continue taking advantage of the generous Nordstrom return policy (anything can be returned at any time, no questions asked or receipt necessary) so I didn't exchange for a new pair and am now on the hunt for some new classic blacks. 

Motorcycle ride #1

The scary part is over – I went on my first motorcycle ride with Mark. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me but I tried to get over my fear enough to look around and enjoy the scenery. Our friends were nice enough to loan us a jacket and helmet that fit me perfectly, even down to the purple flowers. :) No doubt Mark’s passenger was a girly girl!

We drove from Seattle to Issaquah, a 25-minute freeway drive that crosses Lake Washington. As I watched the road pass beneath my feet, I had to make myself pretend I was in a car so I didn’t get overly nervous. And yes, at times I just closed my eyes and held on. But I couldn’t get too close to Mark because if he let off the gas or braked, our helmets would bump into each other – so every once in a while he’d get a bump from behind and an “Oh, sorry!”

Being on the motorcycle reminded me of ocean snorkeling, and here’s why: you’re out in a vast environment with very little protection against the elements. It sounds dramatic but that’s what it felt like, especially to a newbie like myself. Now that I know Mark is more comfortable with the extra weight on the back, I bet our second ride will be a little less white-knuckled on my part. And hopefully I’ll be less sore next time! My inner thighs were aching the next day from holding on. Who knew?

It’s Friday, Friday, Friday

Happy Friday lovelies!

Have you discovered that once someone forms an opinion of you or your behavior, that opinion is quite hard to break?

I gained a reputation early on in my nearly four-year tenure at my current company that I’m a healthy eater, which is certainly not a bad thing. But I do consume about three small cups (probably equivalent to a mug and a half) of coffee in the morning and have for quite a while. I remember going through a green tea phase shortly after starting here, which must be the reason that nearly every time a certain person catches me filling my coffee cup, I hear, “YOU’RE drinking coffee? That’s pretty unusual!”

I’m not kidding – nearly every time. Of course, I don’t really have the heart to correct him so I usually just laugh or say something like, “I know, right??” Which obviously doesn’t help at all. But I do still drink coffee every day and I heard somewhere that actions speak louder than words? Or something. :) Ah well, I’ll take the health nut pigeonholing!

Side note: the reason I got into the green tea phase was because my office has – I kid you not – at least 15 varieties of tea to choose from in the kitchen. Which begs the question, why am I even drinking coffee? I know, right??

#46: Pop popcorn on the stove

Can you believe I've never actually done this before? I didn't know I was such an anomaly until we had some friends over for a movie the other night and I asked them if they wanted some popcorn. Claire, a vegan, said she normally pops her own so she can omit the butter, and another friend said she was used to popping hers on the stove, too. Then last night, someone ELSE said, "Oh yeah, we always pop it on the stove - it's way cheaper." How have I never known this?

It's pretty easy, really. You all probably know how to do this already.

1. Coat a pot with some cooking oil and spread corn kernels on the bottom in a single layer. Good thing Claire was with me when we did this or I would've put FAR too many in there and made a huge mess. A certain Calvin and Hobbes strip comes to mind where they pour in a load of kernels and pop them without a lid, so the kitchen is buried in a few feet of popcorn. Anywho.

2. Cover said pot and wait for the popping! Once the popping starts, gently lift and shake the pot to get the kernels moving so they don't stay in one place and burn. Set the pot down for a few seconds, then shake again. Repeat until the popping subsides.

3. Pour and serve with desired accoutrements.

Still shocked at how easy this was.

Emily assisted. :) Claire played photog and coach.

And since we were talking about Calvin and Hobbes:
Courtesy of: GoComics



Sailing on the Sound

The (belated) birthday boy on our sailing excursion Saturday.
Mark and I were lucky enough to spend an hour and a half out on Elliot Bay on Saturday sailing on a 70' boat named Obsession through a Seattle business called Let's Go Sailing. Mark used to work at a sailing club during college so I thought this would be the perfect birthday gift for him, even if he didn't get to sail it himself. There were probably 30 other passengers on the boat but I didn't think it felt crowded, and 90 minutes was the perfect amount of time to be out on the water.

Happy birthday Mark!

The Olympics on one side.

The Cascades on the other.

Hello Seattle.

Mount Rainier behind the dinosaurs.

Sun dance

In light of the heat wave sweeping the central and eastern parts of the U.S. (which even made BBC News), it’s hard to complain too much about the cool, gray weather we’ve been having, though much has been made about our 78-minute summer.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t do a little dance about THIS:

Weather Seattle

 

The best part is we get to sail in Elliot Bay tomorrow, a little trip I got for Mark for his birthday back in June. This is the first sunny weekend we’ve been able to use it!

Our new wheels

Mark's new ride - I call it his Sounders bike!
I had to give up my beloved car a week ago because the three-year lease term was over, and I wasn't about to buy it after the hit it took to its back rack. It's strange going down to one car, even though we know multiple couples who get along fine with only one car (and not even a motorcycle). Mark has had the opportunity to ride his new bike frequently since we've both been busy separately lately with wedding itineraries and church things, but I won't be riding with him until:
  • he is completely comfortable on the bike. Adding another person on the back changes the bike's maneuverability and I want him to be competent before I get on.
  • we get me some gear, like a helmet and a jacket. Can't ride until we have those!
One last picture of my car, which served me well over three years.
The view from the University Bridge on my walk home from the Mazda
dealership after I'd turned in the keys. What a lovely morning for a walk!


Weekending

Mark, after shaving off his goatee but leaving the mustache
for a (brief) picture.
What a busy week! Our friends Brian and Maile got married on Friday and both of us were in the wedding, making for a great week of parties, errands and FOOD. Sadly, I have no pictures from the wedding since I was separated from my purse for the majority of the evening, so I'm counting on everyone else to post some. The professional shots will come soon enough though, photographed by the ever-talented Lucas Gray! He did our wedding too and I'm always impressed by his creativity and beautiful photographs.

Back to Brian and Maile, we like to say we set up this whole wedding extravaganza since it was on a hike last year with us that the first sparks began to fly between them. Yes, a hike. It's all very Northwest, isn't it? :) Congratulations to both of them!

Garden 2011

Have I mentioned I have a small garden again this year?

"Small" being the operative word.

Anaheim pepper #1
For whatever reason, the garden just did not take off this spring. I started later than I did last year plus the weather was awful during May and June, and I just can't get anything to grow. I pulled up the cucumbers because they had stalled, the first-round zucchinis didn't sprout at all, and only one seed of the second-round zucchinis sprouted but was killed shortly afterward by a slug. Last year I didn't have to do anything - I just planted and the plants shot up by themselves! The only veggie this year that appears to be thriving is my butternut squash, which is apparently impervious to nature's attempts to kill it. I also planted two anaheim pepper plants and a jalapeno pepper plant, all three of which have survived though they look sickly and droopy. Both anaheim plants are sporting little peppers though, so I can't complain. If anything, I'll have anaheims!

There and Back Again: Mount Pilchuck

Destination: the peak in the distance
As much as Mark and I say we love hiking, we don't actually make it to the mountains all that much. Part of this is due to the difficulty in finding a completely free Saturday where the weather is half-decent, not to mention mustering the motivation to drive nearly two hours so we can avoid the crowds at the nearer hikes off I-90. But trust me, long drive aside, the views from the hikes in the north Cascades off the Mountain Loop Highway are unparalleled.

The vertical paths cut straight up
the slope.
Mount Pilchuck is a very doable day hike (5.4 miles roundtrip) but it still has plenty of lingering snow even in July, so I'd recommend it in August or September. Apparently there is an actual trail with switchbacks most of the way up but as soon as we got out of the trees, there was no trail in sight. Only heaps of snow! We lost the trail for a bit (actually, we were misled off the trail by another group of hikers) and ended up on an outcropping of snow and rock that we had to carefully backtrack down once we figured out we weren't on the correct path. We did see later that if we would have kept going then we would have intersected with the main trail, but as that wouldn't be advice we would give anyone under ANY circumstances, we played it safe and backtracked. We didn't want to be the *stupid* hikers who had to be rescued out of the Cascades because we thought we'd come out on the trail any minute now! So since there were no switchbacks to follow, everyone forged a path vertically up the steep slope. We were told that this cut down the distance considerably (obviously the shortest path is the most direct one) but boy was my butt killing me by the end.

But oh the view. You could see to Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Glacier Peak, and all the other craggy peaks of the north Cascades and on the other side all the way to the Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains. Incredible.

video

So how did we get safely down these steep slopes? Someone had the bright idea to create a slide (four, actually) so we just had to sit down and push off. We unfortunately didn't get any video of the slides (our phones were safely packed so they didn't get wet on the way down) but they were SO fun. Time-saving too! But snow slides are one of those ideas that are great in theory but less so in practice - we were soaked for the rest of the hike. But it was worth it!

Le sigh

I haven’t been very bloggie myself lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been following *other* blogs.

One of my favorite bloggers I’ve been following is Lee over at Fit Foodie Finds – she inspires me to eat well and exercise!

My newest Internet blog obsession has been personal style blogs, specifically for petite people such as myself. I’ve long noticed that plenty of clothes just don’t seem to be “built” for those of my stature, even the small or extra-small sizes: the straps are too long, the darts are too low, the V-necks are too deep. The clothes don’t need to be smaller, they just need to fit better. These blogs have lit the fire under me to attempt alterations so my clothes will fit better – I’ve already shortened the straps on one shell and have a couple others on my to-do list! A couple of my new favorite style blogs are Extra Petite and My Dressy Ways.

In other news, I got a deal off Tippr for a discount off a box of organic produce from Pacific Coast Harvest. The good news? They deliver it to my door! Time will tell if I’ll actually USE all this produce… we’ll see.

#60: Go on another mini-vacation with my brother

Last weekend I got the opportunity to drive down to Portland with my brother, Richard, to watch the Colorado Rapids play the Portland Timbers. The original plan was for Richard to fly into Portland and I would drive down and join him but we decided that was silly since he could fly into Seattle and join me on the drive! Saturday morning we met up with a friend of his from college and then hit the road south. We arrived in Portland with enough time to roam around downtown for a bit and gather with the rest of the Rapids fans at a tailgating event and then a pub near the stadium.

The Rapids boasted an excellent contingency of fans considering they had to fly two and a half hours to get to the game, and their energy made the match a lot of fun. My only concern was the setting off of smoke bombs near the end of the game, one of which exploded into the back of my legs - it felt like getting snapped by a giant rubber band. My jeans still reek of smoke too, even after a round in the wash! Maybe the Rapids owe me a new pair of pants. :)

We stayed at Mark's parents house outside of Portland and spent Sunday relaxing before we had to drive back to Seattle. Then Richard got to hang out with me until Thursday, when I had to take him back to the airport. Richard, it was so much fun getting to spend time with you!

From our first mini-vacation together in Toronto, July 2008.