Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mini Makeover

Michael and I are completely re-doing our back bedroom in what I hope will be a cool and soothing style, a subtle change from the bedroom's past theme, "Random things thrown together."

We've already painted the room and bought new bedding, but you'll have to wait for before and after pictures until I can find some good decorations to finish the look.

I do have a couple pictures, though, of a small project I took on all on my own. I wanted to make this little guy fit in with our new room:
Let's just say I'm not very handy, so this was kind of a big deal for me. So I sanded him down, primed him up and finally painted him with a couple of coats. This is his new look:
Stay tuned for the entire room before and after shots!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reader's Digress

Do you have a favorite genre of books? I used to think of a genre as broad things, like Romance, or Action, or Fantasy, or Historical Fiction. I’ve come to the realization that I’m a huge fan of a very specific genre of book: the near future dystopian society novel.

I just got finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I really loved it. You can check out my full review by clicking on my Goodreads icon on the right-hand side of this page.

It takes place in the near future when, after a series of global and environmental disasters, North America is divided into 12 distinct and oppressed Districts. As a way for the Capitol to keep the Districts under control and submissive, a yearly “game” is held where one female and one male teenager must compete in the Hunger Games. The 24 “tributes” are placed in an arena to kill each other, because only the one surviving person can leave the arena.

I know this sounds macabre and disturbing, and it is. You’re reading about kids feeling and doing these awful things, but it’s not the gruesomeness that stays with me, it’s the portrait of human nature. The main character wrestles with her complicated feelings for a fellow contestant, needing him to survive but also knowing that they inevitably would need to face each other down.

Why do you read? Do you read non-fiction to learn about real things and people?

I read because I love feeling new sensations. I love a book that, after reading only a few sentences, you are there in the story. The Hunger Games was like that. I couldn't really read it before bed because I became so tense and anxious (just like the main character) and couldn't fall asleep. Are you ever so into a book that you start to imagine things that aren't even written out? Like you imagine the background noises, even though there's not a single word to suggest it? Or you're convinced a character spoke in a Cockney accent only to later find out that there was never an indication of this, and suddenly you feel just a tad insane? No, just me?

Don't you love the way that books can let you live through extraordinary experiences that you'll probably never actually face? I would never want to face the things in The Hunger Games, but it’s still interesting to see and feel them. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite literary work. (That and, obviously, the Harry Potter series. I'm sure both are considered on equal standing in the scholarly world. Did you ever see the Friends episode where the friends are playing a group trivia game? The guy's team is asked "What does Rachel claim her favorite movie is?" and they say "Dangerous Liasons!" "What is actually her favorite movie?" "Weekend at Bernie's!" That's what I feel like when I list my two favorite books.) Anyway, I love Pride and Prejudice. Obviously because of the epic love story, but I can't be too jealous of that. Anyone that heard Michael's vows at our wedding knows that I've got my own Mr. Darcy. (Do you think Michael would approve of Fitzwilliam as a first name for our future children? I think it works for both male and female.) I will probably never be able to wander the English countryside in long skirts and petticoats carrying a basket of newly picked wildflowers. I might never get the chance to utter such things as, "She is the handsomest woman in my aquaintance" in context without getting some strange looks. But I can live those things, do those things, say those things while I read Austen's work.

How wonderful the written word is.


What is your favorite book?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Promotional Work

I got a promotion at work this week! I used to be the Manager of Adult Educational Services and Curriculum Development. A mouthful, wouldn't you agree? Now I'm the Director of National Programming!

Do you think the other countries hate it that the U.S. is winning the medal count? Do you think it just makes them roll their eyes at us Americans?

In the past two weekends Michael and I have tried to go to two movies and have found them sold out: Valentine's Day and Shutter Island, respectively. We did actually end up getting to see Valentine's Day, but still. And Avatar made about twenty trillion dollars. For these rough economic times, there are an awful lot of people going to movies. Escapism, perhaps?

I have a new favorite hobby. It's walking over to the Sonic a few blocks away and buying a large Root Beer for $1. Don't you wish we could walk more to do errands? Or at least bike with a large basket on the bike. I'd accept baskets on the front like this:
Or on the back like this:
But not both, like this:
You don't want to look like a pack mule, now do you?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tacky or Genius? YOU DECIDE!

I once told a co-worker (male) that the first thing I do when I get home from work is put on sweatpants. He told me that this is a sure sign you're married, and that he was sure my husband liked it a lot.

Also, Michael and I saw a preview for a movie the other day. I forget the name of it, but a husband was telling a friend that if he doesn't get home by 7 o'clock sharp, his wife puts sweatpants on and the likelihood of nookie goes from slim to none. The next clip showed him racing home and getting home right at 7. He walked in the door to see his wife walking out from the bedroom with sweats on, and she was tying the drawstring in a very deliberate double knot. Michael laughed very hard at this.

Do you think this is bad? Is it horrible that my first thought upon getting home is changing into something comfortable? Is that such a horrible thing? Am I giving up on the romance?

To be fair, Michael also has a few pairs of pajama bottoms that he changes in to. And let's be honest, it's just not as fun watching the Olympics and snuggling on the couch in pencil skirts and dress slacks.

I have a solution for myself. It comes in the form of two words: Pajama Jeans.
They are pajama pants that look like jeans! They have the denim look, the stitching and detailing, but they're soft and stretchy inside! They even have a slim fit dark wash, so they're practically Dressy Jeans! My prayers have been answered! I can look fancy and have the comfort of sweatpants at the same time!
The commercial on this page is (unintentionally?) hilarious. I linked it up for your enjoyment, and so Michael will know what to get me for my birthday this year.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

There is an awful lot of controversy over zoos out there. Do you feel that zoos are inhumane to animals? Or do you feel that they enable animals to live in a stress-free environment while having all of their bodily needs met? I don't think I've made up my mind on the subject yet.

Last weekend we went to the Phoenix Zoo. We met my friend Remi and her husband, Cole, there and had such a great time. Truly, I can't imagine having a better time there. But we did realize we were the only group there without any kids.

We started out at the big cats section. I feel a psychological connection with tigers because I was born in the year of the tiger, did you know? I think Remi and I really connected with this Bengal.



And Michael has a connection with lions because he's a Leo. This would make our future children "Ligers."

I had a great chat with a baboon. He was a better listener than you would expect. POP QUIZ: How fast can you run? I can run 11 miles per hour. Wanna know how I know this? I know, I know, my butt looks humongous. Don't judge.

At the orangutan exhibit, Cole decided to break out his banana to taunt the poor great apes.
Cole loftily enjoyed his fruit even under the pouty gaze of this baby.
Can't you just picture him thinking, "All I got was this stinkin' Romaine?!" For some reason, the baby orangutan has a slight New Jersey Italian accent in my head.
It was a day of learning about the circle of life. First we saw death in the form of a dismembered baby turtle.
("Maybe it's actually a figurine from the gift shop?" I supplied.
"Maybe the turtle just left its shell to move on to a bigger one. You know, like hermit crabs," Remi suggested.
"Right, and he just decided to leave his back legs and tails behind," Michael said.)
But with death comes new life. And we got to watch in horrified curiosity as two giant Galapagos tortoises mate.
I think the gross gutteral groans from these two animals will always echo in the deep recesses of my memory. *Shudder*

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Soccer Soliloquy

I was invited by some friends to join a co-ed adult soccer team that plays games on Tuesday nights. I wasn't supposed to go last night because I was going to be out of town in Washington DC. Because of a freak case of the flurries, all travel into DC was cancelled and my trip was called off. So I was available to go. Except:

a. It was a 40 minute drive away
b. It was cold outside
c. Lost was on tv last night
d. I have to pay $45 to join the league
e. I worked a long day at a work event standing up for hours in heels
f. I was nervous about not being good enough since a friend told me the team is awesome
g. One friend couldn't make it, so I'd only know one person there
h. Usually when you enter a team as a 'free agent' like I did, you get put on the sidelines while all of the friends in the central core of the team get played. I didn't want to pay the money, drive out there and miss out on sweatpants-wearing just to sit on the sidelines

Do you see that?! An alphabetical list up to "h" of why I shouldn't have gone!

Reasons I should have gone:
a. Exercise
b. I told my friends I would
c. I wouldn't know if object 'h' in the previous list would happen unless I actually went out there and checked it out
d. I love soccer

Let me take a minute to tell you why I love soccer.

Soccer was my first true love. And let me tell you, soccer is one fickle lover. Out-of-town tournaments while staying in a hotel room with friends. Scoring the game winning goal. The sound of the whistle ending the game after holding off a team while you’re up 2-1. These were the times when soccer and I were madly in love. There were also times when soccer wasn’t so good to me. Going to Club practice after finishing a two-hour high school track workout. Missing a free kick. Saying goodbye to one team when I left to join another one.

I feel that there are not enough opportunities in life to experience glory. We read books with enchanting tales of sacrifice, war, adventure, clashing forces and victory. Growing up, by day I was a quiet and well-behaved student and daughter. By night I was a wild and powerful competitor with only my skills and muscles as my swords, and a pair of tiny shin pads as my armor. It comes down to what one team is physically capable of against the abilities of the foe. And when it’s a one-on-one, or a race down the sideline after a free ball, it is the strengths of your body and mind against those of another person. I know that it sounds silly, and that my imagination runs away with me, but soccer was and still is my chance to go to battle and feel the rush of the glory of victory, or the clammy grip of the agony of defeat. There have been times where my team was dressed in our whites, and the other team was all in black, and I was convinced that we were about to engage in a ninety minute battle to tip the scales of good versus evil.

Don’t believe that soccer can make you feel all this? Don’t believe that after an hour and a half of exerting yourself in every way imaginable can leave you emotionally bared? What else could inspire such raw emotions as these?
I fell in love with soccer over the course of fourteen years. We had a bitter falling out over the course of a year and a half. The sport lost its beauty at that time. The battle wasn’t between me and another girl or another team, the battle was between me and a coach and between me and myself. Soccer was no longer about the glory of the game; it was about “What am I doing wrong?” “What can I possibly do right?” “When will I get a chance?” and the knowledge that if you make one mistake you’ll pay for it in lingering ways. Soccer was now insecurity and doubt and favoritism. It was study hall and politics and how many extra hours you spent socializing with coach in his office. When I played, I couldn’t find a satisfactory contradiction in the girl standing before me. I was too terrified of my real foe on the sidelines.

Last night I went and I played. It was cold outside. I pulled out these old friends for another go.
And was left with knees that looked like this: (from a rather aggressive fall) SIDE NOTE: Don't my legs look unnaturally bendy?

I think I played well enough not to be considered completely useless to the male members of the team. (Truly, when playing with the uber-competitive menfolk, this is all you can really ask for). This leads me to a closing thought, one I discussed with my mom both pre- and post-game yesterday. Simply by doing you experience. By not doing, you can never know what could have or might have happened. I really do believe in that saying that you more often regret what you didn’t do than what you did.

And while I might not have experienced quite the level of exhilaration as I once had while playing a championship game, it was still lovely getting to play. It was like a night of catching up with an old friend. I think I’ll do it again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Tribe Has Spoken

Now that I've announced our big trip, I can post about the night that the family decided on it. We went out to dinner to celebrate my mom's birthday at Pappadeaux. Because of the occasion, the four piece band played a few songs for us. Because of the smokin' jams (and a bottle of wine or three), we had a great time dancing to the music.
Kai has really mastered the "jazz fingers" dance move, one quickly emulated by the rest of the family.
Kai showed equal abandon in attacking his butter with bread on it.
I wasn't at all ashamed to wear my paper bib while wrestling with my crab legs. I don't care what you say, all that work cracking, peeling, pounding, pinching, squeezing is SO worth those little pieces of meat you get (and then dunk in butter. I think Kai takes after his Auntie).
Finally, we got down to business. We briefly mulled over the other two vacation options disinterestedly, knowing about that third tantalizing choice. When it came time to discuss it, Mom broke out maps, printouts and cruising pamphlets and booklets. Those sad other two vacations didn't stand a chance.
Please vote in my new poll!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Greece is the Word

The vacation is booked. Plane tickets are bought. Vacation time has been asked off.

The only thing left to do is buy a ridiculously wide-brimmed hat.

Our family is going to Greece this summer! It's Michael's 30th birthday, my parents' 30th anniversary and JP and Shannon's 5th anniversary! And we'll be celebrating in the Adriatic Sea!

We leave from Venice . . .
And stop first in Croatia. This might seem like a random country to stop in, but I'm diggin it.

Then we move on to tour some Greek islands! Including Crete, Corfu, Mykonos and Santorini!


















Sorry for all the exclamation points, but I'm just so excited.

My gift to Michael for the big 3-0, we decided, is going to be an upgrade to a balcony room!

This means I have five months to get one of these:

And one of these:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

IT'S WAR!

Bad news, guys! The gummi bears have gone missing! There are two possibilities.

1. Michael is a chubbs and decided to eat all of the gummi bears since the last time I snuck (sneaked?) some

2. Michael is on to me and has since moved the bears to a more secure location

The preliminary search of the homestead has revealed no bears.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Geographical Poetry

Michael has a secret stash of gummi bears. They are kept in a place that is secret enough that he hopes I can't find them, but obvious enough that if I called him out on it he'd be able to say, "Wha-- What do you mean? We always keep gummi bears in a tightly wrapped package wedged between the decorative bowl and a stack of papers on the entryway table." Which would be a lie, because we don't even usually have gummi bears in the house.

My question to you is this: What do I do about the gummi bears? Option 1: Call him out on the secret hoarding of sweet treats. Option B: Continue sneaking gummi bears without letting him know I've found the cache. Option 3: Move the secret stash to another location and wait to see if he'll ask me about them. (Please give me your opinion in the poll box on the right hand side of this screen.)

I realize that if he reads this blog the jig will be up. You could call this an experiment for me to find out just how often Michael does read this blog.

Moving on, Michael used the word "isthmus" in correct context the other day. I'll leave it up to your imagination to think of how the word "isthmus" was used, but it was lovely. What a lovely word, don't you think? It got me thinking. Don't you think that some geographical features have truly lovely sounds to them? I'll give you some examples.

Isthmus.
















Archipelago












Plateau














Peninsula













Butte

(Do you think there's ever been an older Southern gentleman who's looked upon a really magnificent butte and said, "Yep, she's a beaut!"?)









Tectonic