Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Green Green Machine

Drum roll please!

We are the proud new owners of a 2008 Toyota Prius! Woo-Hoo!

Michael and I went into this saying that color was not a deciding issue for us. We would approach buying a new car with the mentality that a car is merely a thing that gets you from point A to point B. Color is the least of our concerns. At least, this is what we said when car salesmen asked us about it. But in the back of my head I had a dream about the beautiful pale green Priuses (Prii? Prius’?) I saw driving around every once in awhile. Every time we’d pull into a dealership my eye would immediately search for a Green. Many didn’t have one. A few did. In these cases, I’d casually meander around, secretly wanting to dash to the Green and check out the year and mileage. Unfortunately every Green we saw was either too spankin’ new (and therefore $$$ = not a great value) or had way too many miles on it for it to be a good investment.

Michael watched my internal struggle. “You were pretty disappointed about that green one, huh?” “No!” I’d protest halfheartedly. “A car’s just a thing to get me from…” I’d trail off.

So what did Michael do? He saw through my facade. He went online (he’s very resourceful online, have you heard?) and found a Green for sale by a private owner. Better still, this car was newer than some of the ones we’d been looking at, it had the least amount of miles AND it was the most competitively priced! (No sales tax or those sketchy fees when buying privately)

Because it’s sold by a private owner, it wasn’t a Certified Used Vehicle, so we took it in to get it inspected. Turns out that the car is practically new (it even smells new! How does that work?), and even the car inspector guy was marveling at its condition. So we bought the car – for well under the appraisal value on Edmunds.com! I couldn’t believe it! There are a couple nicks here and there, but like my father in law says, sometimes that’s good because then you don’t feel just awful when you get your first scratch on a new car.

I love driving it. When you turn the car on, or when you're stopped at a red light, you don't even think the car is on, it's so quiet. And you gotta love that 50.4 miles per gallon average from the driving I've done so far!

Anyway, the point of this post was not only for me to crow about how much I adore our new beauty, but also to lament my now unneeded expertise on haggling with used car salesmen. All that reading, research and printing-out for nothing. All those times when I role played the car salesmen and made Michael give me responses back wasted. Oh well, I guess Michael’s car can’t last forever, and then I’ll really get the chance to use what I learned!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tag, You're It!

I've been tagged in a little blogging game that's going around the blogosphere. I normally don't do these things, but since I was tagged by both Momma V and Stacey, I caved.

The rules are simple:

1) Go to your photo files, select the 8th photo folder
2) Select the 8th photo in that folder
3) Post that photo along with the story behind it
4) Then challenge 8 blogging friends to do the same!

So here it is:
Here's the story that you might remember from this post. The scene: Line for the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince movie. The foe: tight jeans. About two hours into my (what was it, 8 hours?) wait for the release, I realized my decision to wear jeans was a poor one. Sitting cross-legged for so long really emphasized the constricting waistline and bunchiness of thick denim in the behind-the-knees region. So I called my HubsHero to come and deliver a pair of yoga pants for the rest of my night of HP devotion. I knew I'd be blogging about the night, so I took this picture. Michael, however, didn't like his superenthusiastic face and insisted I take another picture. So although this game calls for the 8th (and not the 9th) picture, here is his more reserved face.

And here are my 8 tags. Ladies, I totally understand if you don't want to play!

Jaye
Lauren
Remi
Emily

Athena
Katie
Shell

I know that's only 7. I just realized I don't quite have 8 blogfriends. Sad.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Cake Only a Mother Could Love

I've been humbled by the spirits of cake making.

I made a birthday cake for the joint birthday celebration of two girls at the office. In my defense, I made the cake and the icing from scratch, which might explain why the icing was a little soft and therefore goo-ed out all over the place. My first attempts at flowers turned into blobs so I was left with no choice but to create an odd piping job that I hope others misconstrue as "intricate."


I know it's lumpy on the sides. The icing kept oozing out from between the two layers. But at least it tasted great. That's what counts, right?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mystery Castle

Last Sunday my mom and I went to a castle. It wasn't what you'd normally picture when you think of a castle. It was built in the desert by a man who wanted to build a castle for his daughter. The story was sweet and the castle was certainly interesting.

The main problem was that the daughter still lives there (must be in her 90's) and has brought her own sense of style to the place. So some parts of the castle show the well-preserved original design and historical importance ("Votes for Women" dishes from the suffrage movement). But other spots look strange with hundreds of stuffed animals, cheesy posters and homemade signs ("People that don't like cats were rats in a former life" written in marker on a rock.)

For example, there was a really interesting bar and cellar that was built around a wagon. It would have provided a cool rustic look if not for the stuffed vampire holding a can of Bud Light. The place is called Mystery Castle if you're interested in visiting, and it's located near South Mountain.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Keep in Touch

There are a lot of things in life I wish I were better at. Packing efficiently. Singing. Not making unintentional sexual innuendo during staff meetings.

One thing that I really wish I were better at is keeping in touch with people. I'm a firm believer that, in life, some people are meant to flow into your life for a short period of time, then flow back out. You take what you can from these experiences and friendships and you let them fade away. I remember coming to this realization after saying goodbye to the friends that I'd met on my 4 week trip to New Zealand. I remember looking across the group at a girl named Margarite, a funny sort of flighty girl who I hadn't even been that close with on the tour, and knowing I'd never see her face again. I wasn't sad or relieved with this knowledge, just content in the understanding that our lives had touched only briefly and weren't meant to be more intertwined. (Of course, there was a little group of 6 girls that stayed in contact, but not regularly. Just enough to plan our next reunion when we can binge drink and laugh about our times in the Land of the Long White Cloud.)

Anyway. I'm just plain bad at keeping in touch. It might come down to a combination of laziness and the feeling that if they really wanted to stay in contact with me, they would make an effort too. Some insecurity in me takes their lack of correspondence as disinterest, so I stop calling or writing and then they stop and the vicious cycle has begun its twirl.


I'm jealous of the people who have scheduled weekly phone calls with their long ago best friend that moved away in the 5th grade or have bi-yearly reunions with their closest group of high school friends. I am grateful my New Zealand group, but I missed the last reunion because it was too close to Christmas and other travel.


Let me tell you what inspired this whole dive into introspection. There's a girl on my adult league soccer team who I used to play soccer with in college. We had a conversation Wednesday night that went something like this:


Me: What are you doing this weekend?
Her (casually): Going up to Flagstaff. There's an Alumni soccer game on Saturday.
Me (enviously): Oh, how fun! Who all is playing?
Her: Oh, just a few of the girls. You know, Lisa, Karla L., Karla R., Lindsey, Tschana, Liz, Karen . . . (the list goes on and on)
Me (crushed): Oh. That'll be fun.
Her (oblivious to my devastation): Yeah, then we'll probably all go out to the bars.
Me (hand clutched against my breaking heart): Cool! Tell everyone I said 'hi!'


I know that I'm not considered an alumna. But I did play there for two years, and for those two years I really cared about these girls. It hurt that I wasn't invited, and that even in this conversation my friend didn't think to ask if I'd want to come. Does the fact that I quit the team essentially mean that I never played at all? Do I give up all claim to collegiate athleticism? I've already used Michael as my therapist to decide if I'm even allowed to wear my old logo-ed out soccer shirts in public.

Michael made a great point. If it had been that important to me, I would have kept in touch with these girls before now. I made the choice not to invite any of them to our wedding (small guest list + large team + invite one, invite all mentality = not great). I know I sent myself into self-induced banishment for quitting.


I don't regret leaving the team. I was miserable playing for an emotionally abusive and unstable coach. I don't regret moving out of the house I was living in up there (not for one second). I don't regret coming to Phoenix. If these things hadn't happened, I don't know what would have happened for Michael and me, and I know we wouldn't have been where we are today.


When I was considering quitting, my parents wrote me a long letter helping me see some of the pros and cons of leaving the team. One of those cons was that I'd be giving up my sisterhood in that group. That was very true.


And as much as the good times at that school are overshadowed by the bad, I did know some funny, smart, talented girls up there. And I'm sad that quitting made me feel like I couldn't keep them in my life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Zipper Technique

I hate it when I feel like I'm on an emotional roller coaster.

While driving to work this morning, one minute I was singing along happily to a Taylor Swift song and the next moment I was on the verge of a road rage breakdown.

Can I ask you a question? What happens when a two-lane street merges into a one-lane street? One car from one lane, then one car from the other lane, and on and on. Right? RIGHT?!?!?! This is only the operational definition of the occurence. The official name is the Zipper Technique.

Well right when it was time for me to make like a zipper and merge in with the lane next to me, the driver did one of those little dance moves where they zoom up on the bumper in front of you to expressly not let you in. It's not like I was trying to sneak in out of turn. It's not like I was one of those people that try to zoom past everyone to do a last-minute swoop in to get off a freeway exit. It's not like every single other person hadn't accomplished this move for the past 20,000 people. What does one do in a situation like this? I tried the little thing where I keep trying to get in, but by them I'm practically driving on the sidewalk.

(Have you ever seen the Kill Bills? You know when the Bride first sees her attempted murderers and the screen focuses in on her eyes, and everything's seen through a red filter, and the crazy siren noise happens? That's what it felt like.) (Seriously, though, what is wrong with me?)

So I might or might not have rolled down my windows and cried some pathetic profanities at a man who refused to look over at me and looked more than a little murdery. Taylor Swift was long forgotten.

Then the thought occurred to me that this guy might go crazy and kill me over this. A.) What kind of world are we living in?! and B.) What if I died over the Zipper Technique?! Would Michael ever get over it? Would he find solace in the fact that I died for my beliefs? Or would he develop an incurable aversion to zippers? This made me very sad. Michael looks very nice in things with zippers.

So I'm glad I didn't die this morning. But you better bet your butt that, after the lane widened to two lanes and the murdery gent intentionally drove down the middle to keep me from passing, I zoomed around him at a perfectly placed pirouette move in the middle of a round-about. TAKE THAT!

(Yes, I'm aware that I need serious help.)
(Please vote in my new poll.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Ties that Bind

Let's play a game. What do all of these pictures have in common?
The ballet:
Our engagement:
Signing the marriage license: Vegas:Easter 2009:Bachelorette Party:
Bridal Shower:
Harry Potter Release Parties:Family Christmas Card: Luau on our Honeymoon:

Hm? Did you catch it?















In case the answer is eluding you, it's this:

A hair tie around my wrist.

That's right, folks, there is no picture of an occasion too great or too small that I can't ruin with my forgotten hair-securing device. A blog by my friend, Remi, illuminated that I'm not the only person alive to suffer from this affliction. But after her post comment (insisting that she didn't see any hair ties in my pics), I was inspired (read: challenged) to conjure up just a few pieces of evidence of never going without a black elastic.

It was only with incredible self-control and reminders from my bridal party that I don't have wedding pictures with these little black eyesores visible.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Used Car Salesman

Did you ever stop to wonder why people say that used car salesmen are so awful? Not just car salesmen, but used car salesmen? I found out this weekend by reading this book. It was given to us from my FIL (father in law) by way of my SIL who also recently used it to buy a car.

The thing with new cars is that - within a single make - they're all on the same playing field. All things being equal, new cars all should cost about the same. They all have no miles on them, they're available in a bunch of colors, they're all brand new. So they should all cost about the same. If one dealer won't negotiate with you, you can go down the street and anothe dealer will have the exact same car. It's different with used cars. They're all different ages, with different miles, with different features in the car. You never know what color you're going to get when you show up in the used section of a dealer. The salesmen count on you not knowing how to evaluate how these different factors affect the worth of the car, so they're able to really take advantage of consumers.

Michael and I are in the market for a used car. (Michael prefers the term pre-owned. Do you think that makes it seem like it's been used less? I guess I do.)

We did a preliminary sweep yesterday. We checked out two different dealers and test drove a few cars and I came out of it with a leading contender (a Prius!). Any Prius drivers out there that can give a review? I like the fact that it's a hybrid, but we weren't looking only at hybrids. Of the ones we did check out, this one was my favorite.

The above book really opened my eyes to how much of a competition buying a car is. It really is us versus the salesman, with him seeing us as a potential sucker deal. And while I know that they're people too, I'm not going to let my gaurd down around them until a good deal has been signed. Now we're going to do some research online to find out exactly what these cars are worth so we can be more knowledgeable in our negotiating.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Backyard in Bloom

Our backyard is very small.

The other day I was going into a Cost Plus World Market and was drawn to the PetSmart next door in a way that was sort of magnety. The cause? Puppies up for adoption. I fell in love with a little pup named Serena and even called the Hubs to see if he could relocate himself STAT to see the little mutt. Needless to say, we didn't get the dog (you would have definitely seen a blog about this by now if we had), but the guy working the adoption booth asked me if I had a big yard. He went on to say that this dog would need one. I hung my head in shame knowing that our little yard wouldn't be enought for Serena. In my head I did all sorts of acrobatic justifications, not just for Serena's sake, but for Toby the imaginary Doberman I want to get (But I'll start running again and take the dog... that'll give him exercise).

Oh, but in that moment I wished I had a big yard.

But most of the time I'm glad I don't. It's very little upkeep. It takes Michael about 3 minutes to mow our little patch of grass, and if the mower ever stops working I might just go at it with a well-oiled pair of scissors. I'm sure my three year-old nephew could throw a ball longer than our yard is wide, and it's only deep enough for me to take a couple leaping steps to get across. So it's little, but I love it.

And now that everything is in bloom, I'd like to show you why.

We've got our own little palm tree.
And a couple of bougainvillea that are a delightful shade of pink.
We've got an orange tree that a.) smells amazing, b.) we've eaten from, and c.) is threatening to overtake the neighbor's yard as we speak.
And the blooming glories of our tiny yard: the roses. They're Black Magic roses, which just happen to be the ones that were in my wedding bouquet. (My faves because they have a bit of a darker, deeper red. And because they're called Black Magic).

^^ Black Magic. Truly, when I saw the little label tag on the rose bush when we were house hunting, I saw it as a sign.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dear 7:00 pm Zumba Classmates:

First of all, I’d like to thank you for such a warm welcome to this new exercise class. When I raised my hand to indicate this was my first ever Zumba class, your applause really made me feel nice.

Things I have learned from my class time with you:

  1. In a trend opposite of yoga, the frontmost positions are the most coveted in Zumba. Although people in Yoga are afraid to be in the front because of the watching eyes of fellow classmates, Zumbans are more concerned about the judging gaze of onlookers through the window at the back of the class. I will get there early next week to secure a front spot.
  2. While the older crowd sticks to the back of the room, the younger groups surge forward, seemingly to gaze upon themselves in the mirrors to watch their hips rumba and chests shimmy. I plan on infiltrating a teen gang next week and hopefully be asked to be featured on America’s Best Dance Crew.
  3. Look hip in class so you can blend in with your future Crew. Oversized t-shirt and shorts =/= cool. Gotta find some phat cargo pants and supertight tank tops with kickin’ sneaks for next week.
  4. I should probably stick to a spot in front of the fan. And if you also have a tendency toward the ubersweatiness, you should too.
  5. Being overzealous with hip gyrating and flippant with arm gestures is not frowned upon, and is in fact encouraged.
  6. No matter how cool you think you look, always check in the mirror. During a particularly pop-lock it-drop it hip hop routine, I was convinced I looked as frrreal as the instructor until I caught a glimpse in the mirror. One sight of my cherry red face and awkward limbs humbled me from diva dance goddess to girl who should probably be back with the grandmas.
  7. Everyone is watching either the instructor or themselves. No one is watching you. Do whatever you want. Get as into it as you want. In my case, this meant get really into it.

Thanks, classmates, for making me feel welcome. See you next week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday Seeker

Tell me: are Sundays a good day for you, or bad? I mean, in a way they’re nice because you have the whole day off. It’s that sweet slow close to your weekend. But it also used to be common for me to come down with what M and I referred to as a Case of the Sundays. I’d sink into this funk around 4pm on Sunday evenings because it’s when you realize that you have to go to work the next day and you haven’t even started the laundry yet and that you probably shouldn’t stay up too late. I usually approach this with increasing grumpiness, while Michael is more the type to enjoy every second of the weekend until its end. (He is so much more pleasant than me sometimes.) In all fairness, I’ve been a lot better about this lately.

Especially yesterday. It was such a great Sunday. Let me tell you what we did.

Michael watched the Masters on TV. I watched episodes of Legend of the Seeker on my laptop.

Okay, listen. Before you go judging me about such a corny show, let me explain. For my birthday I was gifted the first book in an 11 part series called the Sword of Truth series. The Legend of the Seeker show is based on this series. So yes, I watch what might – to an outsider – be considered the cheeseballsiest series on lower-channels television. But only because I’m using very complex scientific equations to compare it to the book series (Venn diagrams, quadratic equasions, algorithms, etc.).

Michael's having a hard time taking the series seriously because every time he looks over at my computer he sees a sight like this:
Or this:

So anyway, Michael sat on the couch watching golf. I sat on the couch next to him watching wizards and magic and romance and make believe. We both had diet colas. Sometimes Michael would dump warm laundry on me. Sometimes I would let one foot snake out of the laundry to find its way into Michael’s lap. Sometimes he would give it a little rub. I’m not lying to you, I nearly teared up for happiness.

We only left the house at 7:00 pm to walk to the Walgreens to return our Redbox DVD rental.

Doesn’t that sound like a marvelous Sunday?

What did you do?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Went to Boston and All I Got Was This Stinkin' T-Shirt

Usually my work trips do allow for some time to enjoy the local sights and get a piece of a city's culture. For example, I went to Sea World in Orlando and saw the Alamo in San Antonio.
Unfortunately Boston was a little different. We drove outside the city itself to a town called Norwood where the actual conference took place. It was a little strange to be surrounded by 250 seasoned and tough Boston police officers. The best part of the trip was when my coworker and I went out to dinner with about 40 of these devoted civil servants. We took a ten minute drive over to the home of the New England Patriots and ate outside at a sports bar.
But other than that, it was truly a business trip. We ate at the hotel restaurant and I got a lot of reading done (just started another very looooong series that I'm both dreading and looking forward to pursuing). But I did have an awful nice view from my room.

Cities aren't always very pretty when you're actually in them. There's trash, pollution, homelessness, abandonment, crime, danger and parking meters. But there's something about cities that I like from afar.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

100th Post! Also, Easter!

This is my 100th blog post! That went by quickly, didn't it?!

Although the above cake won't be added to my Bakery Page, I have updated that page with my newest sweet creation. I made these little chic cupcakes for Easter:
They are Pink Champagne Cupcakes that I learned about from Vanessa's Blog.


Kai had his own 'kids' egg hunt first.








Then us 'big kids' had our own little hunt. There were only five eggs out there (one for each hunter), so we could only end up with one egg. Obviously this is a more difficult hunt, so the eggs were in strange locations.


Like submerged in the hot tub. And under the waterfall. And attached to one of the dogs.





In the end, we each found an egg, but it was Bethany that walked away with the GPE (Grand Prize Egg).

Then we laid out by the pool and ate a ton of cupcakes.



Happy Easter, Everyone!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Final Four

Hi from Boston! I'm here for a work conference. Travel is always kind of fun. The best thing about these trips is that I'm gone just long enough to miss home a lot, get tired of the conferencing thing, then I get to come home. Three days is the perfect length of a work trip.

The Hubs and I hosted a little soiree at our house to watch the Final Four on Saturday. If you know anything about Michael, you know that he's a Hoosier and he was rooting for the underdog Butler. If you know anything about me, you know that such questions were uttered as, "Who's playing again?" and "So which team is wearing white?"Bethany came over, who is a former Mitten Dweller (from Michigan), so she was cheering for Michigan State. Shan stood true to her Best Friend status and also sported Spartan Green. Unfortunately for them, Butler beat them out for the win! After the buzzer (and after a strategically placed clip switchover of the movie Hoosiers courtesty of one Hubs), they were thrown into the depths of despair, which is only curable by texting fellow Michigan fans. I can't really tell you much about the second FF game because I didn't pay attention or care, really.

Except it's always nice to end a post with pictures of Kai. So I will now proceed to do so.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Task at Hand

On Thursday night Michael and I went over to Remi and Cole's for dinner and entertainment. Entertainment came in the form of a Competition Extravaganza that Remi and I have been talking about ever since seeing Minute to Win It on TV. So after some delicious homemade Mexican food, the Games began. (Keep in mind that you only have sixty seconds to accomplish each task!)

First was Cantagious, where you had to swap three stacked soda cans in each hand with each other without setting them down or letting them touch your body.










Next came Bite Me, where we had to pick up bags of different heights off the ground with our mouths while only touching the ground with your feet. This one was hilarious. Remi (who works part time at a yoga studio, who works full time as a flexible member of society) had no trouble, but I had to utilize my "second try" option.
Here is Cole attempting Rapid Fire. You have to knock six cans off a pedestal using only rubber bands. Artsy pic or shameless product placement? YOU DECIDE!
Then the womenfolk had a try at Bobblehead. After attaching a pedometer to your head, you have to nod your head enough times for the device to read 125 steps. Good thing I always keep a healthy stash of pedometers around the house!Problem was, we put the pedometer on upside down hoping we could give Remi updates as she used up her 60 seconds. After nodding her little heart out, we were shocked to find that she only counted 1! Who'da-thunk that a pedometer only works right-side-up? Not us! (The pedometer did read only "1", I wish I could have caught it in this pic. But risk cropping out Remi's hilarious expression? No, thanks.)

So we had a go of it again.











Next the guys had to stop 10 times on their sides while spinning, and then pick them up and place them aside without letting them fall flat again. This was the perfect example of "it's harder than it looks."

"Don't Blow the Joker" (let's keep the jokes to a minimum, folks) involved blowing a deck of cards off the top of a bottle until only one card remained (the joker). I failed miserably at this, but Remi did it!









The guys' final task was Defying Gravity. You have to keep three balloons in the air at the same time by hitting them upward with any part of your body. Sounds easy, eh? I do have some cheery pics of Michael and Cole posing with their balloons, but I'll post these instead. Because they guys were so very confident going into this task, and this task showed them who was boss.

("Behind you! BEHIND YOU!")

And the girls finished off with Face the Cookie. It was a good one to leave off on. The point of the game? Start off with an Oreo on your forehead.









Using your facial muscles only, move the Oreo down your face...











Until it lands in your mouth. Do Victory Dance.












Okay, so the part about the dance wasn't in the rules or anything, it's just a natural consequence of such an emotionally arduous task.

The ending scorecard was us 3, them 5. Well played, Remi and Cole. You win....FOR NOW!