Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, new you?

On my way to work I was thinking how funny it is that this day is so special to many of us...I even wore a dress for the occasion. And yet, it's just the start to another year like all the ones before. But for whatever reason, a new year allows each of us to have hope that we will do better, experience more and live life more fully.

This year, with not only a work assignment looming, but the hope to really choose a few things I'm able to improve upon, I've felt a bit overwhelmed to pick the perfect resolution. Turns out, I couldn't choose just one, but a slew of resolutions for 2009. So in no particular order, yours truly is hoping she can work on the following things this year for her own sanity and personal growth...

1. Say yes/being open to more opportunities (Have you read Yes Man by Danny Wallace? If not, you can now watch the movie.) *This is probably the biggest one for me because ultimately it means being open to guys I'm not originally interested, letting people know me better, making more of a concerted effort to be outgoing and talk to people, doing things that might have me scared shitless (moving to a big city and leaving my friends behind) so I learn something new and expand my horizons.
2. Consolidate and simplify some areas of my life while saying yes to more (does that make sense?)
3. Stop biting fingernails (i do this when i'm stressed, bored, frustrated)
4. Move on, get new job, figure out the whole grad school thing (if i'm going, where i want to go, what degree i'm seeking)
5. Get 8 hours of sleep a night
6. Focus on finances, specifically curb impulse buying and decide i don't need everything i love

2008 was a good year. I got a promotion, traveled a fair amount: Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Fran, Seattle, Vermont, Maine, saw a ton of great races and athletes at the Olympic Track & Field Trials, ran my third marathon and a few 1/2s, 10k, and 5ks and learned how to put on snow chains. 2008 was good, but 2009 will be better.

I think 2009 is sure to be a life changer. With the Europe trip set for May and a head full of hopes, I'm looking forward to seeing what a new outlook on life (and the world, for that matter) will bring. I don't plan the adventure to be just three amazing weeks of my life that are like no other. No, I fully intend them to be the catalyst to a domino effect of changes.

So here's to a new year filled with greatness! Go ahead, pop open some bubbly because you deserve it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Not half bad

For the most part, it was good. I sang christmas carols, saw family, laughed with people I haven't in a long while, drank a ton of water, didn't eat a ton of candy, may have had more than my fair share of desserts, and besides last night (a little party with the grand grade/middle/high school crew), I didn't have more than 2 alcoholic beverages in a day. And, I worked out every day but today. I tried, but traffic, exhaustion and mounds of unpacking christmas crap willed it not to be.

Christmas morn the power went out for a bit, we opened stockings and then I took a quick walk before we headed to the grandparents for brunch and present festivus. After the fam got home and opened our gifts to each other, I headed out on a chilly, tough 6 mi run with hills and pace work included while the guys watched some high def action flick. A mom and her two daughters walking their dogs even shared a few laughs on my behalf, most likely in response to my crazy pace and the raspy "hi!" I sent their way as I passed. I did the stairmaster and lunges with weights at the gym. The legs (and ass) hurt, but say "thank you."

Grumpy Old Men, Home Alone, Christmas Vacation and several cheesey Hallmark holiday movies brought laughter, no matter how many times we'd seen them or how predictable they may be (thanks Hallmark). Four days off work felt like a few weeks. Four hours with the friends felt like forty minutes. Shopping with mom was fabulous. I was reminded once again how much you grow to value those times with the people you really care about. How precious every moment is, every laugh, every hug, every time you get to catch up.

A little panicked, I pulled out my training calendar tonight for the upcoming marathon in March. I was afraid I had already missed two important long runs after starting my training in early December. But after writing all my long runs in my planner I realized, it's all good b/c I'm actually right on schedule, no panic required. This Saturday calls for a 2h 20m run and I'm looking forward to it. Sometimes I just need to take a breathe and realize that shit's not going to hit the fan because I missed one tiny workout/detail/event. Life goes on, we adapt, we get better with every mistake. This time I was freaking out for no reason.

I'm still wavering on resolutions for 2009. Definitely need to solidify one worthy of the work enewsletter by Wednesday. Hm...

And, while I'm excited for another short work week, I'm not looking forward to Friday, my birthday. Truth is, I love birthdays, just not mine. I'm fine with the whole aging thing (sort of, minus the dying part). I could admittedly stay 25 forever, but I know the wise souls say life just gets better with age. The trouble is in the timing. A mere seven days post Christmas, this girl is never ready for ANOTHER round of presents and celebration. I don't feel like I deserve it. I really should start celebrating my half birthday or just suck it up and find a way to love it. This year, I've decided to take a vacation day and do the day as I wish. I have a run and a pedicure scheduled and beyond that, my hope is to simply enjoy and relax.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Panic? No fear, I've got a plan.

Is anyone else a little panicked about the upcoming few days of feasting? Not to mention Thanksgiving and the past few weeks we've endured of Christmas parties, holiday gatherings, cookies and chocolates sitting on the office table and all that extra indulging because "hey, it's the holidays!" I for one am a bit panicked.

As of Monday, after escaping the Portland blizzard, operation kick my own a** set in, which resulted in a 5 mile run Mon night, a hard 6 mile run yesterday at lunch AND an hour and a half at the gym after work, and a 5 mile run this morning before work. And I'm hoping to get to my parents gym later this afternoon for a short session in addition to a long walk or run tomorrow after brunch and opening presents.

To some of you it may sound a bit extreme to care about working out so much on Christmas when you should be spending quality time with the family, but this girl has no will power. If it's there and looks good, I'll go for it. So, armed with good intentions and some strong workouts, I'm ready to face this Christmas holiday, one cookie at a time. I'm looking forward to spending a few days with the family and hs friends, playing play station and Wii with the brothers and watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Grumpy Old Men.

My goals to stay on track over the next few days are:
1. drink lots of water
2. limit alcoholic beverages to 3 max in a day
3. choose one dessert and enjoy
4. don't eat endless amounts of candy because it's sitting in the dish staring at you
5. when tempted to fall into a food-filled, couch coma, get up and take a 10 min walk. you'll feel better and then you can get your nap on. After all, it's Christmas.
6. laugh, a lot.

Oh, and I just got word that my dad and youngest bro are on "operation rescue brother from Portland" at this moment. The other bro has a bmw and lost one of his chains last night on the way home from work, so my dad's 4wd pickup and 4 chains should do the trick. As for what time they'll get home tonight...I have no idea.

And if you're looking to make an easy, but oh so yummy cookie to wow the relatives with (and reverse any of those fabulous workouts you've been doing), look no further than the Super Soft Ginger Snap Chewies. I made them last night to give to a coworker this morning and was reminded of how yummy they smell and taste. Enjoy and Merry Christmas/Happy Kwanza!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Christmas week!

Did Christmas just come and slap you in the face like it did me? I just realized today is the 22nd! It's not like I have a lot of gifts left to buy, baking to do or major plans other than work, laundry and running, but wow. That's what happens when you leave on a innocent little trip to see the Nutcracker with friends and then find yourself stranded for a few days in the worst snow storm Oregon has seen in 30 years. So, this is what I've been up to the last few days...

Baked some cranberry banana bread




Went to see the Nutcracker with a few great hs friends in downtown Portland where snow had been dumping already for several days. Afterward we walked to Pioneer Square just to see the Christmas tree all lit up. We got a bit wet and cold, but it was worth it. The drive back to my friend J's was treacherous w/ 4wd and iced up windshield wipers, but we made it. How, you ask? Because we had NSYNC, 98 degrees and Mariah xmas cds in the car (and yours truly, mamma hen was at the steering wheel).

Walked to the mini mart down the street for mimosa and pancake provisions and cooked ourselves a feast. And later walked to Domino's for dinner, waited an hour or so for two pizzas and carried them back in the freezing rain so we could enjoy them while watching a crappy Lindsay Lohan movie "Just My Luck" on tv that I had never even heard of before (surprise surprise) that the guys even enjoyed.


And drove in the snow, in chains w/ 4wd a long ways, finally making it home. Let's just say what should have taken me 1 hr took 3. I'm tired and had to take a vacation day to scrape my ice encrusted car, put on chains and escape the Portland snow storm. However, all was not lost. I did stop at Gap and get a new pair of jeans, a tank and a cuddly hooded wrap sweatshirt that were all on sale and then used a coupon. Yipee!

Looking back on the weekend, I can see two obvious themes: snow and food. It's no surprise why polar bears get so fat after this weekend. We were literally hibernating for three days, eating and drinking and forced to sit around watching tv and crappy made for tv movies because the wind was blowing ice and snow sideways and the roads were dangerous to drive on.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons

I woke up sick today with a cold and sinus infection with no choice but to stay home, drink lots of water and tea, sleep and try to ignore the massive pounding in my head. To pass the time, I did some wrapping and realized how pretty it all looks, even if you have just a few little packages. Seeing the presents all stacked together with their different papers and ribbons is one of my favorite part of the holidays. That, along with parties (looking forward to dressing up in LBD tomorrow night) and baking cookies.

As I was wrapping, conveniently BOTH of my online orders arrived at our doorstep. The Body Shop products were half frozen with ice crystals on them. It just goes to show how cold it's been here and all over the country. Even Vegas and Phoenix are getting snow! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Suggestions please...

One twenty something seeking creative ideas on possible New Year's resolutions for organization's monthly enewsletter. Will pay in cookies/baked good of your choice if your resolution is chosen.

Ok, so I'm asking for your help dear readers. Our enews goes out at the beginning of every month, for which I often write a few stories for and edit the entire thing b/c no one else seems to have editing skills worth a darn. Well, our enewsletter editor (AKA marketing and communications director) had the grand idea of featuring the entire staff and our New Year's resolutions in one of the stories. "Bah hum bug" I say, but I still have to do it. So, I need your lovely, creative, appropriate ideas. I could always do the standard "I'd like to lose 5lbs" or "To stop eating every baked good in sight," but really, who wants to settle for mediocre when they could have awesome??

I know you people have some good ideas, so bring 'em on. For example, for me to say "workout every day" would be silly because I already do that, at least once if not twice daily. But I would like to get more involved in my community, volunteer, give back to the world or venture into my future career and start making some huge changes (be open to new opportunities, guys, cities) in my life. Seeing as this is not the appropriate place to make statements about ones hopes for a new career/huge life change, I need some suggestions. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

19 degrees


That's right, a low of 19 degrees...in Oregon. This might be "normal" in your part of the world, but here, it just doesn't happen. In fact, growing up it was surprising if we had more than a dusting of snow that stuck around more than a day. This week, the week before xmas when parents are frantically trying to finish shopping and wrapping, the kids are trapped at home, unable to go to school because of a little snow and ice covering the city. And another storm is on the way tomorrow will freezing rain followed by more snow...fabulous.

Yesterday, I happily awoke to a blanket of snow. I shoved on warm layers and headed out into the early morn for a nice walk around the neighborhood with a cup of hot cocoa. I came back, scraped a bunch of snow off the car with the help of the roomies, got ready for work and slowly (10-20 mph) made my way to work across town.

Last night I even ventured out for a 5 mile run on the slippery pavement, but not tonight. I'm sure I looked hilarious to cars, especially being the ONLY runner braving the roads in this crazy running town. From head to toe, I was sporting: Nike headband, Native sunglasses (because the bright sun was bouncing off the snow), Smartwool thermal, Nike Dri Fit top, Columbia fleece vest, Burton ski/snowboard mittens (they're huge but oh so warm), Nike spandex pants, Smartwool socks and Nike Goretex shoes. About 15 min in I realized I could barely feel my legs, but hey they were still working so no harm done.

Oregonians know how to drive in some serious rain, but snow, now that's another story. Cars were being towed off the overpass, the honda civic next to me was sliding down the bridge, my tires spun at certain points. I grew up believing that you only drive in the snow in 4WD, so my toyota corolla just doesn't really do the trick (can't wait til the thing dies so I can buy a 4WD or AWD vehicle to take myself to the mountains). So today, when that packed snow turned into a skating rink covering the roads, I happily accepted the boss's invitation for a lift in the SUV. Tomorrow, I might just forge the roads, or walk the 4 miles. We'll see... And just when I was just starting to think it wouldn't be THAT bad living in a colder city during the winter months, I think I've changed my mind. I'd like a plane ticket to Arizona, Florida or Hawaii pronto.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cookies, cookies, cookies!

Friday I came home hungry after having no dinner and meeting up with the girls for dessert at 5pm (hey, that's what happens when work holiday parties make you rearrange your fun time plans). And what did I find? A fabulous package full of cookies! Who needs dinner when you have your second dessert from a fellow cookie exchanger? So, what did I find? Not one, not two, but FOUR different kinds of cookies from Erin in Virginia at Pastry Brush.

Enclosed were: Italian Fig Spirals (quite impressive looking), mint choc chip cookies, mexican wedding cakes and my favorite of the bunch, oatmeal raisin with cinnamon chips. I'm glad I participated in this fun exchange. It's fun to send and receive a little bit of holiday cheer to and from people you've never met. Speaking of holiday cheer, I'm now watching Love Actually on the couch with a glass of red wine. How sad is it that Sarah and Carl never actually get together? Very sad, in my opinion.

Saturday, I did my first long training run for the Whidbey Island Marathon in March. It was half snowing/half raining and I was supposed to run for two hours. I armed myself with my ipod, my fav running shirt (a red Adidas number that has hand covers and a hood), a small bottle of powerade and water mixed, a mini luna bar and a little bit of hope that I had the energy to run that long.

As usual, I don't bail on something I've committed to, so this run was no different. I arrived home tired, but not super sore. I stretched and made some blueberry waffles and eggs to celebrate. I'm excited about this training plan. It's one from Amby Burfoot that I used to train for my very first marathon (Portland Marathon 2006) and it was fabulous. Hard to imagine, but my time (3:49) was the best of the three I've run so far, so I'm going back to reverting to the plan that worked.

They've called for snow in the Willamette Valley, but we have yet to see much of anything that is willing to stick, although temps threaten to be in the teens this week, so we'll see. I did however, see some beautiful scenes on my drive to my grandma's house on Saturday afternoon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Goodshop, you know you want to

This summer, we started doing all of our "searching" through goodsearch.com at work rather than googling. Working for a non-profit, we're able to select our University, search as normal and in turn receive 1 cent back for every search, which we put directly into our scholarship fund.

On top of that, you are able to goodshop on your chosen non-profit's behalf as you normally would through most retailers. The last few days I've been doing some online shopping for Christmas presents and shopped at both the Body Shop (which donates 4% of your total purchases back to your chosen organization) and Amazon (which donates 1.5%). Awesome, no? Basically, it wasn't any different than doing my normal ordering other than going to goodsearch.com first and clicking on amazon/body shop/etc. An added bonus was that I wasn't forced to face the crazy mall crowds. Try to beat that.

If you want to know more about how it works and why it was developed, check it out. Goodsearch.com should be paying me to write this fabulous praise, but they're not. I just think it's that fabulous. Happy shopping!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cookie exchange: completed!

Thanks to Miss Molly over at Batter Splattered, I participated in a holiday cookie/ornament exchange. Last night I spent about three sugar, flour and butter-filled hours in the kitchen baking not one, but two yummy cookies for my lucky recipient.

My first choice was these lovely little Peanut Butter Blossoms because they just look so cute when they're finished and who doesn't love choc and pb together??

I wanted to bake two different kinds in case the recipient (Jennifer from Houston, TX) didn't like one or the other. The second, was a fabulous recipe from Joy the Baker for "Sugar Crusted Ginger Chewies." What that means to you my friends, is a fabulous ginger, molasses melt in your mouth cookie. Needless to say, there was a LOT of cookie baking going on. After eating 5, yes 5, I said "Enough! These extras (beyond the 20 or so I sent to Jennifer) are going to the office and the runners." Thank goodness for friends and coworkers who will bail you out when faced by massive amounts of lard, sugar and in general not so favorable to the size of your ass/hips/six pack abs kinds of food. As instructed, they finished off the remainder so all I had left at the end of tonight was two empty plates to bring home. Halleluiah.

I dropped the cookies (and a super cute xcountry ski ornament) in the mail this afternoon. We were instructed to give an ornament (in addition to the cookies) that represents our state. While I really was tempted to get her a John Deere Tractor ornament that I found (because I grew up in a place that's considered the grass seed capital of the world), I opted for the cuter, more tree appropriate ornament. And, you know, we hicks from the sticks out here in Oregon get around by horse and buggy, and come winter, cross country skiis. No, I kid. But I did grow up cross country skiing and doing all kinds of crazy outdoorsy things (all the while crying and complaining to my dad to stop torturing us) so I figure hey, that must be Oregon, right? Either way, I have faith she'll enjoy the whole package, which I so kindly wrapped in cute paper and ribbon. Go me. Happy Holidays...

Now I'm really looking forward to seeing what the person who was matched with me bakes up!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why it's ok to keep on spending...

In other words, I'm giving you permission to keep on spending that extra cash on those unnecessary haircuts, facials, mani-pedis, massages, extra purchases at Target, a night or two out on the town, etc.

On the front page of today's Oregonian was "The $1 you don't spend today is missed by others not far away." Their example: The preschool teacher cuts back on haircuts and highlights. The hair stylist cuts back on eating out and learns how to make her favorite dish at home. The waitress starts adding oil to her car herself instead of visiting Oil Can Henry's. The Oil Can Henry's manager cuts back on family vacations to California and trips to Chuck E. Cheese (yikes) with five children. In other words, one person's small decision to cut back, combined with the choices of others, creates a ripple affect we're seeing across the board through every industry.

So, why did this strike me? I'm going to get my haircut later this afternoon. I thought about waiting another month and then decided, "ah, who cares. It's just another $35." I have however, decided to hold off on my every other month pedicures for a few months and have been painting my own toenails in all the pretty colors I have at home. So cheers to spending! I never said I wouldn't contradict myself on back to back posts...

A few other ways I've been curbing spending lately are:
1. Saving the other half of my extra large bowl of soup I order at a nearby bakery for the next day's lunch
2. Buying the boxed tomato soup for $3 that lasts me for at least three lunches
3. Skipping out on dinner after our Thursday night runs once in a while
4. Passing on ordering beverages with dinner
5. Ordering an americano instead of my cinnamon dolce latte once in a while
6. Not spending on xmas gifts because I feel guilted into doing so

What about you? Doing anything to cut the corners where you can?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Frivolous spending

Do you ever walk into a store, grab the first thing you see, put it in your basket and keep moving with no thought involved? And, it wasn't even something you came to buy. It happens to me more than I'd like to admit.

Well, last weekend was a dangerous one. I was still sick (and still am...3 weeks now!), had my athletic pants and a hoodie on and rocking a bit of a head cold. After meeting up with the runners, I stopped in at a local boutique just to browse. I swear, that was the intention. And then, I saw a pair of Paige jeans I've been eyeing for a while that just happened to be my size.

I kid you not, it was the first pair of jeans my hands touched. All of a sudden, the jeans are on me in the dressing room. I take a quick glance or two at the mirror, say "yep, I'll have to get these hemmed as usual, but they look good." The next thing I know, my REI VISA is being handed over to the sales assistant and bam, I have ANOTHER pair of jeans that will make me very happy, but very broke. I'm hooked and it's getting dangerous. It's time to find a new, cheaper, equally healthy addiction...quick.

Shopping is just one of those things that can be so therapeutic at the moment, but leaves you only wanting more. This holiday season I'm trying to make good choices about what gifts I buy/make/give, rather than just spending to feel like I've met the appropriate $ amount for each person. My family decided we're only giving one gift to each other (i.e. my aunt, grandparents and cousins are each getting just one gift from our family). Now, if I could only put the same thought into my personal spending. Ah, to be single and free to spend as you wish with few cares in the world. Right...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

For the Record

I was watching a bit of Britney's documentary tonight on MTV. I know, quality stuff, huh? But honestly, I was impressed. I gave up on her after her two years of drug use, partying, letting K Fed take custody of her kids, etc. But you know what, everyone, even Britney deserves a second chance. It's about time she dug herself out of that mess of a life she was living.

Oh, and I suck at holiday crafts. Spent $62 at Michael's and the craft I decided to make just isn't as cute as it was on martha stewart's website. Luckily, I have some pretty ribbon, cute cupcake papers and other festive things to spread some holiday cheer. On the way to work this morning I realized it's only three weeks until xmas. Time to bust out the Mariah Carey, Charlie Brown and 98 degrees Christmas cds. That's right, 98 degrees. Don't hate, you know you wish you owned it.

But my most embarrassing (and awful) xmas cd has to be Hanson's Snowed In. Can anyone else top that?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shiz hath hiteth the fan

The truth is, I don't like the way the media always plays things up, especially this dive the economy's taken (and tropical storms and terrible human interest stories), but things didn't really hit home until yesterday when a good friend found out she was being laid off and will soon not be employed by the company that has employed her for about five years now. This is the second friend I know who lives in my city who has been affected. It sucks and it has me thinking if I didn't work for the state, man I could be in her very same spot.

And, in other business, I've been messing with my blog layout. The other one just seemed so narrow and maybe too dark? Not sure. It seems like those on wordpress tend to have more flexibility with everything in their blogs. And, I'd really like to spiff this thing up with some pretty designs or something, but I'm html handicapped so that will have to wait. It frustrates me to no end that I don't have proper html and photoshop skills.

Anywho, I'm thankful for job security and if this whole economy thing is affecting your life, just know that even those with jobs are constantly thinking about you and in general, ways to curb spending and save where we can. Because it's only a matter of time before any of us could be in the very same spot. It even has me reevaluating my career ideas and thoughts of going back to school. And at other moments it has me thinking "surely this will blow over in a few months," so keep living your life. Don't be afraid of the what ifs.

How about you? Anyone having friends/family who have been laid off, reduced hours, etc?

Oh, and I just remembered that my dad who is a foreman at a large company has had to reduce his crew to only eight hour shifts (at a place where overtime was common and necessary) and he in turn clocks just eight hours but often puts in about ten. He's a dedicated guy, what can I say? Ok, so maybe this time the media isn't exaggerating as much as I'd like to believe... Heads up kids, it's a tough world out there, but I believe in you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Last Night

I was watching Diary of a Mad Black Woman, circa 2005, thanks to Comcast On Demand (which I have recently discovered it's fabulousness, by the way). Do you know what I'm talking about? This weekend while hanging out with the fam, my mom discovered the fitness section where you can watch all kinds of workout videos. There's everything from Carmen Electra's Striptease to SuperSculpt Abs to Jillian Michaels Biggest Loser workouts. So, what did I do? After my two hour sweat fest on Saturday at the parents' gym (lunges with a 30lb bar included), I decided to do FOUR of the On Demand workouts. Yeah, let's just say it's Monday and my butt and hamstrings are still sore.

Anyway, one of the other great pieces of On Demand is the free movies, hence the Diary of a Mad Black Woman. And in the current state of our economy, it can really save the pocketbook from those lazy Sunday afternoons at the movie theater watching some random movie for $8.50. So last night I flipped through On Demand's free movies and chose one that sounded mildly entertaining.

On of my major weaknesses are "sappy crappy" movies as I put it. My close friends know all too well, often saying "oh yeah, that one's right up your alley" when referring to my recent chick flick. I guess when you don't have love in your life, but you'd love to find it, romantic comedies are the next best thing. So, what are some of my favs? Ten Things I Hate About You, Love Actually, Save the Last Dance, Grumpy Old Men and Love & Basketball. When I heard this quote from Orlando (Shemar Moore-previously on Young & the Restless), my heart skipped a beat. Gotta love chick flicks for always having men say the right thing at just the right moment, especially when that girl he's talking about could be you.

"It's so easy to say no sometimes out of fear, so how about taking the hard road and just saying yes this one time? What's so wrong about being right? 'Nothing I guess.' Yeah, nothing. So, I'll see you tomorrow? 'So you're asking me out again?' This wasn't a date, remember."

So, what's the point of all this? I loved it, every second, every time he said exactly what I hope a man will someday say to me. But honestly, I get it. I get that although he's just a character who was fed a line, the words are so true and based on fact and someone's real experience. The longer we keep saying no to the things we're afraid of, the harder it's going to be to one day say yes. The harder it's going to be to make up for so many no's, so many years of missed opportunities.