Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seasons Greetings, ya'll!

I just felt the urge to channel my inner Paula Deen. :-)

Hello out there blogger buddies, and happy holidays!!! Whatever you celebrated this week, I hope it was filled with love, laughter, good people, and all-around fabulousness. :-) I had a wonderful Christmas, and from the looks of it, you all did too!

Aside from all the festivities and celebrations, I've spent a large part of my time off from work being a leisurely Leslie. :-) AM workouts, relaxing afternoons, reading, writing, some errands, but nothing too strenuous. Exactly how I wanted to spend my time off! And I still have another week of it- woo-hoo! You know, for not doing all that much, it sure does seem to be flying by.... LOL. Tomorrow my sister is coming over to hang out and spend the night, and our exciting plans include going to Target (Target!!!!), going to Wegmans, making personal pizzas for dinner using Flat-Out Wraps (which, I've recently learned, the Giant near my apartment carries, which was very exciting to discover, because Wegmans stopped carrying them and that was very upsetting to me... at least now I know that I can get them nearby!), and watch Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, which I ordered off Netflix at her request. I've actually never seen this movie, and my sister says I just have to see it. It's on Comedy Central all the time, but I never want to watch movies I've never seen for the first time on basic cable, because they edit everything and cut stuff. So I don't get the full experience of the film. Anyway, so I rented that, and that'll be our evening! Aren't we exciting! And possibly a trip to Barnes and Noble the next day, because, well, we love books. And I'm looking for a specific book that was pilfered from my collection and I don't anticipate getting it back (long drama-filled story, not worth going into), and I still have a balance on a gift card, so I'm hoping to get another copy. It's SUCH a great book, one of my faves: The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures: 1001 Things You Hate to Love. It's hysterical!

Hey, so I went to Trader Joe's today and picked up two new products that I'm excited to try:

DSCI0895 It's organic multigrain hot cereal/oatmeal (according to the package, it's both): its only four ingredients are rye, barley, oats, and wheat. It's my new work oatmeal. I've been lacking decent oatmeal at work- I had these nasty sugar-free instant oatmeal packets, and they were awful and not at all filling, so I was looking for a more substantial, tasty, and healthy oatmeal. Hopefully this is it! I do have to work on Wednesday, so I'll bring it with me and make a bowl and report back with my opinion. :-)

I also bought this:

DSCI0896 Believe it or not, I've never had artichokes by themselves! I've had them in dishes, of course, and who doesn't love spinach and artichoke dip, but I've never had them by themselves. I'm not even really sure how to eat them or what to do with them, but I'm creative, I'll figure it out. :-) I'll take any suggestions though!

So quick book update- The Second Stage was boring. Not fun. I just wasn't feeling it. I think it was because I kind of felt like it was this political rant, and political feminism just isn't my cup of coffee... you know? The writer just seemed really angry at, well, everyone. She was very into "movements", LOL. I just wasn't into it at all. Which is a shame because I ordinarily love books of this nature. Oh well... they can't all be winners, right? :-) I might come back to it at some point, I might not. I know that my roommate had expressed interest in reading it, so I'll see if she wants to read it.

I didn't want to keep reading it, so I pulled out another title at random:

DSCI0877 Sixteen: Stories about that Sweet and Bitter Birthday. It's a compilation of stories written by various authors about- you guessed it- being sixteen. I'm already halfway through it, and it's pretty good! I skipped/skimmed over a few stories that I couldn't really get into, but other than that, it's cute. What was being sixteen like for you? Did anyone out there actually ENJOY being sixteen, or was it just universally awkward for all of us? LOL.

Okay, time to gift-wrap my sister's presents. I am a notoriously awful gift-wrapper. But I do try... I don't try and copout with gift bags. :-)

Hope you're all enjoying your post-Christmas weekends!!!! :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why I might not ever need to buy soup again

I made this soup recipe for lunch today: DSCI0861 It was only three ingredients, and it was awesome! (Well, okay, four if you count the dollop of ff sour cream I threw on top of it). I didn't have any fat-free refried beans, so I used Goya low-sodium black beans instead. I used chipotle salsa, so it was seriously spicy. And seriously yummy! I also threw in some crinkle-cut carrots for some extra veggie love... okay, fine, so it was five ingredients. But so ridiculously easy to make, buying canned soup might be a thing of the past for a while! Plus, lots of leftovers! So it's cheaper than a can of soup too. Happiness all around.

And I did one of my all-time faves for dinner tonight:

DSCI0864 A baked sweet potato with reduced-fat cheddar cheese, a Boca vegan burger crumbled into pieces, and frozen broccoli florets, with a little bit of crushed red pepper and black pepper. Wegmans was out of the Boca crumbles, so I substituted a veggie burger in its place, and it was just as tasty, if not tastier! On the side I made up a little dip consisting of chipotle salsa, fat-free sour cream, and chili pepper sauce. I am the proud owner of a happy and satisfied tummy.  :-)

Is anyone else being driven to the brink of insanity by that Target commercial with the kids dressed as elves, singing, "There's no place like Target at Christmas to save!". I swear, they are following me from channel to channel, taunting me!

I actually have to work a half-day tomorrow... it's my first and only day in the office this week... I'm going to have to force myself to go to bed in a little while! I'm a night owl by nature and can stay up until 2 a.m. easily... and I have been doing so for the past few nights. Perhaps I should have tried to go to bed a little earlier last night in preparation for tomorrow... oh well. It's not like there's going to be any real work going on tomorrow anyway. Last year I brought a book and read at my desk.   :-D

OMG!!!! THE TARGET KIDS ARE ON TV NOW!!! I SWEAR, THEY'RE STALKING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!   :-D   Make them go away!!!!!! 

How an episode of Family Ties brought me to tears today...

I have a random local access channel on my cable lineup that will sporadically show episodes of Family Ties during the day. Not all the time, but every now and then. I loved this show as a kid, and so when I see it's on, I watch it. I have no pride or shame when it comes to admitting my love for the 1980s. You should see what's in my Netflix queue. Pretty much everything that Nick-at-Nite USED to show before they got lazy and decided to show crap like Home Improvement and The George Lopez Show 24/7. But thanks to Netflix, I have insta-access to all my favorite cheesy TV shows. What shows did you all watch in the 80s? Some of my faves were The Facts of Life, The Cosby Show, 227, My Two Dads, Small Wonder, Gimme a Break, Alf, Silver Spoons, Growing Pains, Perfect Strangers, Who's the Boss, Head of the Class....I could just go on and on. Haha. The 70s had some decent shows too- WKRP in Cincinnati, Taxi, Too Close for Comfort, Knots Landing,Three's, I watched a lot of TV as a kid.

Anyway, today's particular episode focused on a visiting family member (played by the lovely and talented Barbara Barrie), a great-aunt of Elyse's (this is how much I <3 the 80s... I even know that Elyse Keaton spelled her name with a "y" and not an "i"...), and she was becoming incredibly forgetful throughout the episode, and the Keatons take her to the doctor and she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. At the end of the episode, Elyse and her aunt have a heart-to-heart about the diagnosis. Elyse is having difficulty coming to terms with the situation, and she says to her aunt, "I wish I could just put you in my arms and hold onto you tight and never let you go so this can't get to you," or something to that effect (I am paraphrasing here, clearly). But that line hit home for me, because I had the exact same thought just last night while I was writing in my journal (I keep a handwritten journal in addition to my blog). I was writing about my grandmother, and I wrote about how I wish I could just hug her and hold on and never let her go, and then she would never let me go either. I know that can't happen. I know I can't stop what's happening to her. But God, if only it were that simple... you know?

In the end they recited a family story together, and that's what eventually drove me to tears. The aunt was considered the "gatekeeper" of stories in her family, and I'd say that my grandmother is the gatekeeper of stories in ours. The one with all the pictures, the one with all the family stories. I think that takes an already difficult situation and elevates it to heartbreaking. It just breaks my heart to think that one day she's not going to remember any of it. Any of us. But I really am trying to keep that thought in the back of my mind, because if I don't live for the moment, and be with her now, in the present, and I'm always wondering and worrying about what's going to happen when she starts getting worse, then I'm losing precious time with her, I'm not truly appreciating the time that I have with her now. And if I do that, I'll feel an immense regret for the rest of my life. So I'm trying really hard not to do that. I think it was just that particular line in the show that got me, because I'd just thought the same exact thought myself just last night.

Those damn Keatons... they really know how to tug at my heartstrings.  :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ah, the cold- literally and figuratively

It's official... I have a cold. :-( Nothing too intense- just your typical sore throat/feeling kind of cold and achy feeling. I don't have a thermometer, so I'm not sure if I have a fever or not. I just have that overall blech icky feeling going on. Eh, I'll survive. It gave me a great excuse to curl up on the couch with sugar cookie herbal tea, finish Songs Without Words, watch the season 1 DVDs of 30 Rock that I got from Netflix, and watch Ellen. It was a rerun that I hadn't seen, and she had on soon-to-be First Lady Michelle Obama, and I learned three things about her today:

1. She is TALL!!!

2. She can bust a move.

3. She's pretty funny!

It was cool to watch an interview of Michelle Obama just being so fun and cool and down-to-earth, talking about her daughters, the Tooth Fairy, etc. Also, the Jonas Brothers were on the show, and all these teenyboppers and women just started shrieking and jumping up and down like crazy. Can someone please explain the fascination with them if you are over the age of 17? There were women screaming and yelling in the audience that were my age or clearly older! They're cute kids and all, and they played some catchy songs, but still. I sound like an old lady, LOL.

It was so BRUTALLY COLD outside today. It SUCKED! It was so windy and chilly. Since I didn't start feeling crappy until this afternoon, I actually did hit the gym this morning, but I took it easy to be safe- I just rode the stationary bike on a light level while watching Rachael Ray. Then I stopped and ran a few quick errands on the way home- I picked up more cold medicine and some oranges (I need me some Vitamin C!), and then I found an exciting new realization at Trader Joe's! So they have my favorite cereal there- Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls- but I've never bought it there, because it costs a little more there than at Wegmans and other supermarkets I frequent. Not astronomically more, mind you, just twenty or thirty cents, but I'm cheap, LOL, and if I can get a product for cheaper somewhere else, then I will. But I needed more cereal, and the supermarket was OUT of it! Boo-hiss! Since my TJs is only a few minutes away from my apartment, I figured that I could suck up the twenty-cent markup if I meant I could have my cereal, haha. So I went to TJs, bought it, took it home, and put it in the cupboard next to the almost-empty box... and saw it was quite bigger! So I compared the sizes, and the one I've been buying is 15 oz., and the one I got at TJs is 24 oz. So all this time, I've actually been paying MORE for it, because I could be buying more of it for LESS! This is exactly why I am not an accountant. I can't believe I misjudged TJs so badly. I am ashamed. Haha. Needless to say, from now on I'll be getting my cereal there!

So I finished Songs Without Words today. It was a good book, but I am not so sure that I liked the ending, for any of the characters. But overall, I thought that the book was extremely well-written and engaging. I was hooked until the ending, and then I read the last few pages, closed it, and thought to myself, "Huh." Sometimes I get really pissed when I feel like a book was really great until the ending, and then the ending is awful. But I wouldn't call the ending awful... the story just didn't wrap up the way I expected it to. Still a good book.

Here's my new randomly picked book!

DSCI0860 ANOTHER book I just bought a few book sales ago! I swear, I shake up the box before I pick, several times, in fact! Luck of the draw, I guess! Anyway, it's called The Second Stage, by Betty Friedan. Here's a quick overview from goodreads:

"The Second Stage is eerily prescient and timely, a reminder that much of what is called new thinking in feminism has been eloquently observed and argued before. Warning the women's movement against dissolving into factionalism, male-bashing, and preoccupation with sexual and identity politics rather than bottom-line political and economic inequalities, Friedan argues that once past the initial phases of describing and working against political and economic injustices, the women's movement should focus on working with men to remake private and public arrangements that work against full lives with children for women and men both. Friedan's agenda to preserve families is far more radical than it appears, for she argues that a truly equitable preservation of marriage and family may require a reorganization of many aspects of conventional middle-class life, from the greater use of flex time and job-sharing, to company-sponsored daycare, to new home designs to permit communal housekeeping and cooking arrangements.

Called "utopian" fifteen years ago, when it seemed unbelievable that women had enough power in the workplace to make effective demands, or that men would join them, some of these visions are slowly but steadily coming to pass even now. The problem Friedan identifies is as real now as it was years ago: "how to live the equality we fought for," and continue to fight for, with "the family as new feminist frontier." She writes not only for women's liberation but for human liberation."

Ah, who doesn't love a good book on women's rights and injustices. The perfect holiday present for everyone on your list, LOL. All kidding aside, I'm looking forward to reading it. Clearly there will be quite a bit of outdated information, seeing as the book is the same age as I am, but it will be interesting to read about women of the 1980s thought about their rights and equalities during that time.

All right, it's time for some dinner and TV and another rendezvous with my cough and cold medicine. And lots and lots of blog reads to catch up on! ;-)

A fun-filled, festive weekend!

Hello fellow bloggies!!! How was everyone's weekend? I hope they were as merry and fun as mine! And I don't have to say that I'm sorry to see it end, because mine's still going!!! That's right- I'm on VACATION!!!!!!!!!! Woo-hoo!!!! I'm off until Wednesday, and we only have a half-day that day, and then I'm off for a whole solid week, and then I have to be back in the office for New Year's Eve (but it's another half-day), and then I'm off until the following Monday!!! Needless to say, excitement doesn't even begin to describe how I feel right now, LOL. I feel like a kid on Christmas Break. Why can't adults have Christmas breaks too? We have it MUCH harder than kids do! :-)

Unfortunately, I think I'll be spending the first day of my vacation with a cold. I've felt kind of icky all day. I started getting a sore throat this afternoon, and now I'm just feeling a little achy and tired and blah. My roommate was sick a week or two ago, and one of my coworkers came into work all last week sick as a dog because she was out of vacation days, so I have a feeling that whatever going's around is headed my way. I took the last of my cold/cough medicine tonight, so I'll have to get more tomorrow morning. Oh well. Most of my break entailed R&R, so if I end up catching a cold, it's not the end of the world. I'll just heat up some chicken noodle soup and watch me some Ellen.

Anyway, so here's a quick recap of my fabulous weekend. On Friday night, my awesome roommate treated me to the PA Ballet performing The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music as part of my Christmas gift! It was absolutely beautiful. It was especially touching to go this year because The Nutcracker brings back all sort of nostalgic memories for me. My grandmother and aunt used to take me and my cousins to see it every year when we were little. They'd also take us to see the Wanamaker window display, and the lights and trees at Longwood Gardens, and all sorts of fun stuff like that this time of year. They really did a lot to make this time of year feel special and magical for us when we were kids, as opposed to just taking us to the mall and letting us sit in Santa's lap. So in light of my grandmother's diagnosis this year, it felt especially heartwarming to see it again for the first time in about 15-20 years. I told my grandmother that I saw it, and she was thrilled. So thanks again to my AWESOME ROOMMATE for such a great gift that brought me back to a wonderful time in my childhood. And she didn't even know the importance/significance of it to me. She just gave me a ticket! But even with all the fond childhood memories aside, it's really just a beautiful show. I'm thinking of being a Sugar Plum Fairy for Halloween. Their costumes are so pretty and sparkly and fun. Hahaha. :-)

So that was Friday night. Saturday night was my friends' annual holiday get-together/gift exchange party, which is always a guaranteed fun time. I brought a wafflemaker as a present, and the person who ended up with it was very happy (well, sure... who doesn't like waffles? LOL!). And check out what I got:

DSCI0859 A little blender! How cute is that? I don't think it's big enough to make smoothies or anything like that, but I can use it for sauces, mashed potatoes, etc. Sweet! And more importantly, it was nice just spending time with friends. We're all so busy and spread out and always doing our own things, sometimes we don't get to see each other or keep in touch as often as we'd like to or should, but it seems like this holiday party is the one time of the year we can manage to get it together... my friend Alison was even in town from New Mexico! It was a blast catching up with people I hadn't seen in a long time. Ah, the magic of the holidays, good friends, and a lotta liquor. ;-D I took my cue to bow out gracefully and head home when the tequila shots started though!

At some point throughout the night, we got ice and some snow, because I woke up this morning and peeked out the window, and the cars and the parking lot were covered in ice and slush. Joy to the world. I hadn't been to the gym in a few days and I really wanted to go, plus my gym is just five minutes down the road anyway, so I braved the cold and ice to scrape off my car and go. Actually, the roads were fine, so I'm glad I didn't use the weather as a copout excuse not to get my butt to the gym, haha. Actually, I had a great workout, and it was a little therapeutic even, because I had some stuff on my mind, so I'm really glad I went and worked it out physically and mentally speaking. And I love working out in the morning because it seems to make the day seem longer (in a good way), plus I don't feel bad about lazy the rest of the day! But I was actually a productive little bee today- I ran the dishwasher, changed the cat litter, did a load of laundry, cleaned my room, etc. So much for being lazy!

Oh, and my roommate and I exchanged presents tonight! I gave her a silver-plated cat bookmark, a cat mug and picture frame (she's the cat lover in the apartment, and I'm the one with the cat- how funny is that?), an adjustable three-hole punch (inside joke, sorry!), and the DVD Wall-E. And she gave me a pink yoga mat and a yoga block (both of which I desperately needed!), and my favorite thing ever- BOOKS!!! Not one, not two, not THREE, but FIVE books!!!! Want to know what they are? Well, you're finding out anyway. ;-)

*Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man, by Norah Vincent. It's about a woman who goes undercover dressed and acting like a man for a year and a half and writes about the experience. I remember hearing about it on The Today Show. It sounds really interesting!*

*The Journals of Sylvia Plath, compiled by Ted Hughes (her husband). It is what it sounds like- her journals, from childhood on, all rolled into one big probably-sad-and-depressing-but-really-damn-good book! I'm really excited for this one!*

*Saturday, by Ian McEwan. It's about a neurosurgeon who gets involved in a minor fender-bender and the aftermath of the accident... it turns his life completely out of control. It sounds like that Ben Affleck/Samuel L. Jackson movie Changing Lanes, no? I'm sure the book is a million times better, since that's usually the case!*

*To Hell with All That- Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, by Caitlin Flanagan. It's a collection of short stories/essays about weddings, marriages, motherhood, sex, nannies, etc... of those women's studies/sociological books you know I love so much. Looks awesome!*

*Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, by Ruth Reichl. Ruth Reichl is a food critic for The New York Times, and I actually just bought her other two books at the very last book sale I went to, so it's perfect timing to get this one as well! The book is about the author going "undercover" in different disguises and characters- from a harried soccer mom, to a Bohemian hippie, etc.- and writes about how she's treated at restaurants as a "regular" patron, and comparing it to her experiences because, as a recognized and renowned food critic, restaurant managers are always doing everything they can to accommodate her and kiss her ass, free meals, bribery for a better review, etc. So she writes about the contrasts of this life vs. being treated as "one of the regulars". Ah, the scandalous world of NYC restaurants. ;-)

They all sound like excellent books and I'm so happy to add them to my collection. My roommate definitely knows that the way to my heart is through a good book! :-)

Okay, I'm beat. I need to rest and fight this SOB cold. Time to curl up in bed with my book and my flannel sheets. Goodnight! :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All-around great day

Why today was awesome:

*I had my year-end review, which went very, very well. And I'm happy with my raise too, which isn't nearly as great as it had been last year (thanks, economic recession!), but was higher than the department average, or so I was told. But you know what? I don't care if that's true or not. I'm just happy to have a job in general with the way the economy is right now, let alone a raise! I feel very lucky.

*I wore a new shirt and received many, many compliments.

*I had a kickass workout at the gym today.

*I am LOVING my new book.

*Our office holiday party is tomorrow. Meaning hardly any work will get done. I'm on the Party Planning Committee (just like The Office, haha!), so I'll be getting there early to help set everything up, and afterwards, everyone will be too hyped up on sugar and excitement and presents to get any real work done.

*TWO DAYS left of work until my (almost) two-week vacation!!!!

*Good TV on tonight- the season finale of Stylista and a new episode of Top Chef.

Yes, indeed, a very good day. I hope you all had good days too. :-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good reviews... and not-so-good reviews!

So I tried to read Nip n' Tuck on my lunch break today, and it was just awful. Dreadful. It didn't make any sense, it wasn't funny, and I didn't understand most of it. The author was trying too hard to be funny and witty, and I left my Irish-slang-to-American-humor translator at home. I had said yesterday the author was British, but she is in fact actually Irish. I normally don't have a problem reading Irish fiction- I love Cathy Kelly and Maeve Binchy. But I couldn't understand one word this lady was writing, and she wasn't funny! Argh! I finally gave up and put it back in my bag and spent the rest of my lunch break catching up on my favorite food blogs.

So into the Box o'Titles I dug for a new book to read... I was hoping to pull a good title, and I have been craving some fiction, and lo and behold!

DSCI0848 <insert jazz hands here>

Songs Without Words, by Ann Packer. I just bought this at one of the more recent book sales I frequented in the fall... interesting how my random picks have all been recent acquisitions! But I always give the box several good shakes and get the Post-its all mixed up and jumbly, so I assure you, it's all random coincidence!

Anywho, so here's a quickie synopsis of the summary, which I was not clever enough to paraphrase... this is a direct lift from When her mom committed suicide 30 years ago, Sarabeth moved in with Liz, finding a safe haven with Liz's warm and nurturing family. But now it's Liz who is in need of comfort, following the suicide attempt of her depressed 15-year-old daughter, Lauren. For Sarabeth, however, the traumatic incident triggers old memories and "distant music, familiar and sad. A song without words." She doesn't call or visit for days afterward, and Liz feels shut out and let down. All of their dissimilarities emerge: Liz is the staid stay-at-home suburban mom, while Sarabeth is the artsy, single urbanite. Meanwhile, Liz's husband, Brody, and son, Joe, deal with Lauren's illness in totally different ways, leading to a rift in the marriage and the family.

Ooh... intense drama fiction! Just in time for the holidays! I can't wait to get started on my new book tonight!

Now on to the promised good reviews. The first:

DSCI0847 I found a Peanut Butter Blisscrisp Jamfrakas Bar (what's up with the name??? I don't get it!) at my local TJs and had to buy it. There's also a Chocolate Chip one waiting to be taste-tested, but I was feeling the pb love today.

My first impression when I opened it was hmmm.... it's awfully small. I know it's for kids, but I was still a little skeptical of its potential to fuel my afternoon workout (not like that was particularly labor-intensive today... it's all sleety and snowy out, so I skipped the gym and did my Abs for Dummies tape at home!), and hold me over until dinner.

Well, first and foremost, let me just say that I underestimated the staying power of this little bar. I ate it at about 4:45, and not only did it get me through 45 minutes of abs and crunches, it's also gotten me through a load of laundry, a shower, and taking out the trash. It's almost 7:30 and I'm just starting to get a little hungry.

But let's move on to the taste. It tasted AWESOME! You know what it reminded me of? Remember those Girl Scout cookies Do-Si-Dos? The peanut butter sandwich ones? I thought it tasted just like that! A repeat purchase for sure! The perfect little snack to stash in your purse or for little core-focused workouts like Pilates or Yoga, where I like a little something in my tummy but nothing too heavy. I love finding tasty new bars! :-)

And now for the best review of the day... ME!!!! I got my year-end review at work today, and it was positively glowing! Apparently I rocked the casbah at work this year. Not that I thought I'd done a bad job or anything throughout the year, but I've had a rough year personally, and although I've tried extremely hard to keep my personal life out of the office, I know there were days where I came in a little stressed and upset. That was actually pointed out in my review; however, it was the ONLY negative feedback that I got, and that wasn't even that bad- just that I seemed a little "withdrawn" and "quiet" at sometimes. But the rest of my review was amazing! Colleagues complimented me on my skills, my work ethics, my ability to meet deadlines, they said I went above and beyond, had a great attitude and a great sense of humor, was a pleasure to work with, etc... it went on so much, I actually got a little teary-eyed from happiness! My official review is tomorrow- that's when I find out how much of a raise I'm getting. But we get our reviews in hard-copy format in advance so we have time to review them before we meet with our managers. Anyway, that just made my day! (Finding out about the raise will make my year, LOL)

Okay, time to make a quick dinner (salmon burger and steamed veggies for me tonight- quick, easy, and healthy!) and watch the season finale of The Biggest Loser.... GO MICHELLE!!!!!!!!!! :-)

Hope you all had as great a day as I did! :-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Whirlwind weekend

Wow, did this weekend just FLY by! But I successfully tackled everything on my "to-do" list, so it's all good. Plus, I don't really have much room to complain about the weekend going by too fast, because as of this Friday at 4:30 PM, I will be on vacation for TWO WEEKS!!!!!!!! Well, sort of. I'll be in the office on Christmas Eve, but the office is closing at 1 PM, and I also will be working New Year's Eve, but we usually get out early that day too. But other than that, I will be on vacation from this Friday until January 5!!! I am so excited!!! And I'm going to start off my vacation by going to see the Pennsylvania Ballet performing The Nutcracker with my roommate in the city on Friday evening... my grandmother used to take me and my cousins to see it when we were little, and I always loved it. I haven't seen it in years, so it'll be nice to see it again, especially this year when I got such devastating news about my grandmother. She'll be really happy to hear that I'm going... and maybe even a little jealous! ;-)

I had such a great day today. I can't remember the last really good day I had. It was just one of those days where everything went smoothly, you know what I mean? I slept really well last night, I had a good day at work, a great workout, an awesome dinner (simple, but delicious- grilled chicken sandwich with a Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb cheese wedge on a toasted Arnold's 100-Calorie Whole Wheat Thin and sauteed mushrooms, along with some steamed carrots and broccoli with light balsamic vinaigrette... yum!) my Cosmo actually came early for once... happiness all around.

I finished Life's Work today on my lunch break... I read it in just four days! And I had not been so busy this weekend and committed more time to it, I probably could have finished it in even less time. It was a very fast read- 218 pages- and it was great! The author was (is? not sure if she still is) a columnist for The New York Times, and the book seemed to be pretty much a compilation of her columns. Each "chapter" was only a page or two long, which is probably another reason why it was such a fast, easy-breezy read. Anyway, it was very cute and quirky, and I liked it a lot. In one chapter/column, she quoted a playwright that I'd never heard of before, Ionesco, regarding the concept of time, and I think it was my favorite sentence in the whole book, and I most definitely related to it: "We haven't the time to take the time." Ah, so true! We get so busy with work, with school, with functions and parties and obligations and commitments, that we often don't have the luxury of time itself. There are definitely days where I feel that way! I try to savor and appreciate the little things in life, as I'm sure a lot of us try to do, but some days, life seems to just get in the way of what should be a simple pleasure, and a necessity for our personal sanity! Think how much happier we'd all be if we just had the time to take our time. Let's all try it tomorrow, even just for a few minutes, and see what happens. :-)

I'm tired, so that's about as deep as my thoughts are going to go for the evening, and that's admittedly not even all that deep, LOL. Anyway, I enjoyed the book very much and recommend it if you're looking for a quick read about the day-to-day struggles of the daily grind!

Here's the new book I picked out of the box!

DSCI0845 Like the Powerpuff Girls fleece blanket chilling on my bed? Haha. What can I say... I never grew up! In fact, if you look really closely, you can partially see one of my Care Bear slippers peeking out in the back righthand corner of the picture.

Anyway, the new book pick is called Nip n' Tuck, by Kathy Lette. I didn't buy this; a friend of mine gave it to me, literally, about seven years ago, and I've never cracked it open. It's a British chick lit book, the typical story of a plucky woman who's hit 40 and her husband has left her for a hottie half her age, and she contemplates getting plastic surgery in an effort to get him back, and she relies on friends and family to get her through the troubled times. A familiar story! I thumbed through it and am a little leery of it, it doesn't look really all that interesting or funny, but I'll give it a fair try- a day- and if I'm still not feeling it by tomorrow, then I'll pick another book. Life's too short to read books you're just not that into!

Hope you all have fabulous weekends! I'm beat, so I'm off to go watch TV and read... I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I sleep as well tonight as I did last night! I can't remember the last time I slept that soundly! Then again, I had no coffee at all yesterday, and four cups this morning at work, so I need to prepare myself for the fact that it might not happen. But here's hoping it does! :-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

TGIF doesn't even begin to describe how happy I am that it's Friday!!!

Hello blogland! Sorry I've been MIA lately... I've just had nothing new to report on the homefront. I've had a pretty crappy week- the weather has been just awful, cold and rainy and gray all week- I don't think we saw a ray of sunshine once this week! Boo-hiss! The blah weather didn't do much for my blah attitude all week either. I just dragged everywhere- work, the gym, home- blahsville all around. And work was really stressful and busy for most of the week- which normally doesn't really get me down that much, because work stress always comes and goes, plus I've got a lot of vacation time coming up so I don't mind a busy few days; they'll just make my two-week vacation even sweeter!- but when you combine work stress with a blah mood and serious slackerdom, it's just a recipe for disaster.

So needless to say, I'm immensely happy that it's Friday! And it's a payday Friday, so an extra yay for that!

What's everyone up to this weekend? Here are my oh-so-exciting weekend plans:

*Tonight: I hit the gym after work, ran a small quick errand to the local grocery store to grab a banana for breakfast tomorrow and a few other items- my favorite popcorn was on sale- Smart Balance Heart Healthy Popcorn- they were 3/$5. Now how could I turn that down? I needed more anyway, and even if I didn't, that's a deal! I also picked up two ThinkThin Cranberry Apple Bars, because they were on clearance for .84 cents each. Score. As for the rest of the night, it's cold and rainy out, and I am totally worn out from this miserable week and have no desire to be anywhere tonight except at home in my comfy sweats! I am making one of my faves for dinner (baked sweet potato with some grilled chicken, broccoli, chipotle salsa, and melted reduced-fat Provolone cheese- drool), and then I have a date with my DVD player. I ordered a movie from Netflix called Pieces of April, with Katie Holmes. It's about a young girl who's estranged from her parents, and she has them over and makes them Thanksgiving dinner in her tiny little NYC apartment. It reminds me of the real family drama that goes on during the holidays, LOL. The movie's a few years old but I've always wanted to see it, and I was in the mood for something holiday-themed but not cheesy, so I ordered it. I think it's a good night to watch it! I'm also going to start a new book! More on that in a few. And since I'm in for the night, I might as well do some laundry. I want to wash my flannel sheets and then put them on my bed and climb in them when they're still warm! That's the best feeling ever in winter! :-)

*Tomorrow: Errands, errands, errands galore: I need to pick up some stuff at the dry cleaners, pick up a prescription at CVS, hitting two of my favorite places- Trader Joe's and Wegmans- and starting- yes, I said starting- my holiday shopping. In my defense, I don't have much to get! We don't exchange presents in my family anymore so the only person I really get stuff for is my sister, and I actually already have her presents. And my roommate's presents too. We're doing a gift exchange both at work and with my group of friends, so I just need to bring in one gift for each of those events. My boss is getting something small and my teammates are getting mugs filled with candy, so when I say I really don't have much to get, I'm serious! Anyway, after lunch my roommate and I are taking our cat to our local pet shop because they are offering free photos with Santa, and she really wants to do that. The only reason I agreed is because it's going to be really, really funny to see how pissed off the cat is going to be trying to get his picture taken with Santa. Talk about a Kodak moment! LOL.

*Sunday: Any errands that I forgot or was too lazy to accomplish on Saturday, going to the gym, and maybe squeezing in a quick yoga workout in the evening... after a busy weekend, I'm sure I could use it! I have a great 30-minute tape (yes, tape, I still have my VCR!), that is specifically designed to be "PM Yoga", and is supposed to help you sleep better at night. I've only done it twice since I got it, so I'm not really sure if it truly works or not- more research is needed, I guess! :-)

So it's going to be a busy weekend! Luckily most of it will be fun errands, although I really can't get too jazzed over the dry cleaners and CVS. :-) But, I love grocery shopping, and I've got a few new products in mind that I want to scout out and buy, so hopefully I'll have some exciting new treats to post about later in the weekend!

So I finished up Consuming Kids at the gym this evening. The verdict? It was pretty good. Interesting read. Nothing I didn't really know before, but never thought too much of either. My only gripes about the book were that the research was a little outdated (the book was written in 2004), and the author was a little too preachy. She wants to ban marketing on children, and I see her point; however, that would be virtually impossible. Marketing and the media are everywhere. Everything's an ad, a product placement in someway or another. That's how companies and products and businesses thrive. Even the most simple of activities, like coloring and playing sports, involve some sort of branding and advertising- using Crayola crayons to color in a Barbie coloring book, kicking around an Adidas soccer ball. I mean, it's evitable, you know? I agree with the way children are targeted and influenced can be appalling and disturbing depending on how the message is sent, for example, suggestive clothing to young girls, but you can't just do away with marketing altogether. That's just not even practical. But all in all, an interesting read.

Which brought me to pick a new book from my Book Box:


Tada: Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom, by Lisa Belkin (she's a columnist for The New York Times- her column is actually titled "Life's Work"). Basically this book is about her story of trying to balance work, marriage, motherhood, and sanity. It looks like a fast, fun read, and I'm looking forward to starting it tonight! I LOVE starting a new book!

Okay, it's almost 8 PM, and so I think it might be time to get dinner started. I'll check back in over the weekend. Hope you all have fun and fabulous plans lined up! :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exciting change to the blog

I decided a few weeks ago that I kind of hated the name of my blog. I never really liked it much, to be honest, but someone suggested it and I really wanted to get my blog up and running, so I used it. But I've never really been on board with it. I always thought it was kind of stupid. I mean, "no book left behind"? What does that even mean?

So I renamed it. What do you all think? Better? Worse? Anyone? Bueller?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hardly amazing

Okay, so I was wrong. Nothing amazing  happened. Actually, today was pretty suck-tastic. One of those days where everything goes wrong from the time you wake up until the time you whine about it in your blog before bed.   :-D   But I DID say I'd post. And I do enjoy keeping my word. Sorry it wasn't a happier post!

I don't really want to get into why today was so horrible; it just was, and I'd just like to forget as much of today as possible! LOL. I hope you all had MUCH better Tuesdays than I did! At least it's one more day closer to the weekend, right?  ;-)  Gotta think positively!

On a side note, yay for The Biggest Loser- I'm so glad that Michelle is in the top three! I want her to win!!!! Vicky, not so much. I can't stand her. If she wins, I swear I will not watch next season... out of all the remaining contestants, she deserves to win the least. I can't stand her or her husband. As for Ed and Heba, between the two, I like Heba more, but that's not saying much because I don't really like either of them. I'm rooting for Michelle!!!!! Any Biggest Loser fans out there? Who are you all rooting for?

Okay, well, that's all I've got. Time to curl up in bed and pull the covers over my head. Goodnight!   :-)

Monday, December 8, 2008

No excuses

I wish I had a really great reason for my lack of posts, like I was out doing a ton of holiday shopping, or I was off having a jet-set weekend getaway in Bermuda... but the truth of the matter is, I was just lazy and didn't really have much to update anyone on anyway. :-D

My weekend was nice. I went and saw Four Christmases on Friday night with some girlfriends, and it was really funny and cute! I liked it a lot. I mean, how can you go wrong with a cast like Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Mary Steenburgen, Robert Duvall, and Kristin Chenowith? I also saw a preview for He's Just Not That Into You... I'm definitely going to have to see that! And I'm starting to see commercials for Bride Wars too... I forget when that's coming out, but I'm definitely going to see that! I heard that Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson didn't get along on the set... oh, how I love to hear about feuding celebrity on-set drama!!!! :-) And one of my favorite books is going to be a movie soon too- Confessions of a Shopaholic- have you read that? It's a series, and that's the first book... they are so funny! I <3 British chick lit. The Brits have such a great sense of humor!

I had a seriously difficult time getting out of bed this morning. I just felt extra warm and cozy in bed today. Plus, the cheerful weatherman letting me know how cold it was going to be today certainly didn't make it any easier. Jerk. I pretty much dragged all morning at work too (although the chocolate-flavored coffee helped).

I'm about 90 pages into Consuming Kids, and I'm really enjoying it. I just started the chapter on food marketing to kids in schools, so I'm all sorts of excited about that.

No exciting meal concoctions lately either. I just picked up some more Arnold's Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins this weekend, so a lot of my meals have been in veggie burgers or chicken sandwiches. I was inspired by See Sarah Eat to try and use it more of the stuff I've had lying around my cupboards and in my freezer for a while. So there might be a lot of veggie burgers and chicken going on this week. It's all good, though, because then I can go crazy on my next grocery trip, LOL.

Sorry I'm not a more exciting blogger this week! Maybe something amazing will happen tomorrow. Either way, I'll post anyway. :-D

Time to go read all your blogs and hit the hay. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Introducing... Happy Moments of the Day

In an attempt to bring more positive energy into my life (I've been feeling out of sorts lately... I totally blame winter for this), I have decided that from now on, each day, I will jot down what I oh-so-creatively refer to as "Happy Moments of the Day". I decided to write them down in a little notebook/journal as they occur, so if I start feeling negative or discontent, I can just whip out the notebook and remember all the good things that happened that day, and not the bad, and to appreciate all the little things that occur throughout the day. I tried it out today, and I must say, I think it helped- I was in a pretty upbeat mood all day today! Maybe all those psychologists and "joy experts" are onto something!

Without further adieu, I present you with today's happy moments of the day!

*I had a very tasty bowl of oatmeal this morning.

*My first day back at work from Thanksgiving vacation was not as painful as I thought it would be... I was busy enough to feel productive, but not so busy I felt bogged down or overwhelmed. I was not inundated with e-mails, and I had no voice mails waiting for me- believe me, I have learned from experience, that is a good thing... people usually only leave messages when there's a problem! Guess there were no "proofreading emergencies" in my absence! :-)

*I received several compliments from coworkers on the sweater I wore today.

*I had a great first cup of back-to-work coffee (we have a coffee club at work and we each bring in all kinds of yummy flavored coffees... my contribution this month is Gingerbread Cookie- we haven't opened it yet but I'm excited to try it)- Chocolate Truffle! I threw in some fat-free half-and-half and a Splenda packet (yes, Splenda, I know, I know, I'm working on it! I'm down to one packet per cup, and believe me, for someone who used to use SEVERAL packets of Equal PER cup of coffee, this is a huge improvement!!!), and it tasted just like a mocha!

*I had a GREAT workout at the gym today- 45 minutes on the epliptical + cooldown+ some leg weights... it was great! It felt so good to get in a good workout, because I really feel like my past few workouts have been a bit lackluster.

*I started Consuming Kids on my lunch break today, and it's GREAT so far! It's interesting and informative but not boring, you know? And it's really disturbing just HOW badly advertisers target children! I read today that children see 400,000 commercials every year. That's crazy!!!! And it's especially dangerous to target children at such a young age because then they grow up thinking that they need all these material possessions in order to be "cool" or "happy" or "popular", etc.... and because they are too young to have fully developed their information and judgment skills, they're especially vulnerable to these messages. Also, according to the book, 26% percent of children under the age of TWO had TVs in their room back when this book was written in 2004! Oh my God! Why does a two-year-old need a TV in their room??? And I'm sure that number has only increased within the past four years... that's so messed up. Anyway, the book has all sorts of interesting (and kind of sad) statistics like this. I'm only on page 13 and I'm already loving it!

*I had a very yummy- and simple- dinner- a Gardenburger Chik'n Patty with spinach and some crushed red pepper, turmeric, and chopped onion, and steamed broccoli and carrots on the side- DSCI0820 I have completely given up with rolling up wraps the way that Chandra does- I just rolled this up, LOL. Whatevs- it tasted great! I wasn't very hungry for dinner, so this was perfect. I had planned on finishing up the meal with some grapes, but since I finished dinner so late (past 9), I figured I'd snack on them with some Apple Cinnamon soy chips for dessert.

All in all, a good day! Hope everyone else had a good day too! I'm off to watch Stylista and Top Chef- later, kids! :-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another happy dinner concoction

 DSCI0815  DSCI0817 What you are looking at: 1/2 cup brown rice, steamed broccoli, and pepper and onion stir fry mix that was stir-fried with Boca crumbles in chili sauce. This was very tasty!

I <3 Boca crumbles. I really do. They're so versatile, and cheap ($2.49 a box, and there's six packets in there, so that's basically six fun meals for $2.50! Can't beat that!). This was my last one in my freezer.

Other than dinner, nothing too exciting happened today. It was my last day off until Christmas, and I just bummed around, did some yoga, put gas in my car, went to Barnes and Noble to look for a wall calendar for my room for 2009, although that was unsuccessful. I've had a headache off and on all day, and aspirin hasn't helped at all, so that's kind of sucked. I think a nice cup of Sugar Cookie tea will be in order tonight. I've already had three cups today. I wasn't kidding about this new addiction. I just can't get enough of this stuff!

Going to work tomorrow is going to be so brutal!!!! I'm not looking forward to it! Well, I am and I'm not. As much fun as days off are, I'm always a creature of habit and routine, and my body and mind are definitely ready to get back into my normal routine. Still... I will miss sleeping in and having breakfast in my pajamas while watching The Golden Girls!   :-)

Okay, time to finish watching The Biggest Loser (I want Michelle to win!), and try to go to bed early! I have not gone to bed at a decent hour the entire time I was off, and so I definitely need to try to go to bed early tonight!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Still in vacation mode!!!

Hey blogland! What's shakin'? How's everyone's first day back after the holiday weekend? I'm actually still on vacation from work!!! Woo-hoo!!! I have off until Wednesday... it feels so nice! I'm not really doing much of anything exciting, really- catching up on errands, laundry, LOTS of reading and writing, catching up on all the daytime TV that I never get to watch (Rachael Ray and Ellen!!!!), going to the gym, just kickin' it in my apartment, haha.  :-D  I SHOULD probably be doing my Christmas shopping, but I just can't bring myself to do it... hey, what can I say, I'm in lazy vacation mode!

So how was everyone's weekend? I've been reading everyone's blogs and it looks like you've all been having a lot of fun! Lot of football fans out there, apparently! I have had a great past few days myself. On Saturday my sister and I went to go visit our grandmother. We wanted to spend some one-on-one time with her. Our grandmother has always been a bit of a private woman, and so it really hasn't been easy to get to know her well, not as well as I would have liked. In light of her diagnosis, I have a feeling that is something I am going to regret later in life- that I didn't get to know her as well I would have liked to. But I'm trying not to think like that. I'm trying to live more in the moment and appreciate the time that we have together now. And ever since she's been diagnosed, she's been a lot more open with everyone and sharing a lot more about herself- I think she's realizing that she should do it now, while she can. So my sister and I drove to her apartment in New Jersey and we all went out for lunch and Christmas shopping (she wanted to go to Macys to pick up some things that were on sale). And we had a great afternoon with her. We got to hear some stories about her that we never knew before- stories about her childhood, her parents, etc. Parts of her life that I never knew about, and that I learned in just one afternoon. It was great. It was SUCH a nice visit and I'm so glad we got to spend some quality time with her. She will be moving to an assisted living/retirement community in the city over the next month or so, and she's really excited. She grew up in Philadelphia and has always loved the city, and so she's already talking about going to the art museum and shows, taking morning walks, doing yoga, starting a glee club within in the center, haha. One thing I have always admired about my grandmother is how feisty she is. She's determined to make the most of the time she has left, which hopefully is a long time!!! Saturday night was low-key- my sister was spending the night and we were both pretty wiped out from running around all day, so we chilled and stayed in and watched The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, which was pretty cute!

Sunday was dreary and blah. It was cold and gray and rained all day long! Ick! I took my sister home and ran a few errands, came home for a quick soup lunch, hit the gym for a quick epliptical workout, and that was about it! Also some high-quality TV watching and reading... more on that in a minute!

Today was similar to yesterday, only with less rain (although still cold). A few quick errands, the gym, two loads of laundry, leftover soup for lunch, vacuuming. I know- I really know how to live up those vacation days, don't I?   :-D     Tomorrow, I'll probably do some yoga and read. The holidays are fast approaching and that is always such a crazy, hectic time, and so I'm really looking forward to one more day of R&R before I come back to work. Although I tell ya, after being off for six days, Wednesday is going to be nothing short of brutal.

Here's a piece of exciting news to share with you all- my roommate bought a Wii, and it came today! She's already set it up and has been bowling, skiing, playing tennis, you name it! She also got Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit. I'm looking forward to trying out Wii Fit. And the Wii tennis. I've actually never tried out the Wii, so I am really excited for this new addition in our home!  :-) 

Now, on to fun and exciting book news. I finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Saturday morning. It was SUCH a quick read! Anyway, it was pretty good. The main character, Charlie, was such a sweet, sensitive person... it was hard to remember that he was just a fourteen-year-old boy. He definitely was an "older soul", if you know what I mean. Very intuitive and compassionate and caring towards others, and always putting his friends and family before himself. Not too many teenagers like that walking around in the world! The ending of the book was a total shock, and very unnerving and unsettling. I definitely felt a little shaken up when I finished this book. But it was a good story, and I liked it. My favorite line from the entire book was in the last few pages: "So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. Any maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them." This particular passage definitely hit me- I come from a very troubled and dysfunctional family, and so this spoke to me on a personal level. Anyway, it was a good book. It's kind of for the high-school crowd maybe, but I think that anyone who suffered through feeling like they didn't fit in at school and/or in their family would really appreciate this book. Two teen-angst-filled thumbs up for this book!

So I picked a new book at random, and came up with The Simpsons and Philosophy. I bought this, like, years ago for $1 at my favorite annual book sale. I tried to read a few pages last night and today, and I gave up. I couldn't get into it at all. I just don't think I have enough of an interest in The Simpsons OR philosophy to really be able to get into this book. I might hold on to it to see if any of my friends wants to read it; otherwise, I'll just donate it to a library. Oh well... they can't all be winners!

So I picked another book! Wanna see? Wanna see?   :-)

DSCI0802 Score! Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, by Susan Linn. It's a look at how the marketing/advertising industry shamelessly targets children, and how this can affect children's health, education, creativity, and values. I'm very excited to read this. This is WAAAAY more my kind of book than The Simpsons and Philosophy. Sorry, Homer.

Children aren't the only demographic that succumb to shameless marketing and advertising ploys:

DSCI0808 Yes, I bought four boxes of Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Tea this weekend. I kind of couldn't help it. It's the best tea I've ever had in my life, and it was on sale, and it's Limited Edition, and so I really had no choice. I wouldn't be surprised if I did this at least one more time this holiday season. I've been drinking at least one cup of this tea a day, sometimes two. I've never been a huge tea drinker, but I think I was just waiting for "The One". Well, I have found The One!!!

Sugar cookie tea and my book sound pretty good right now... I think it might be time to get nice and comfy with my book! Goodnight!