Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Hunger Games

I’m not even sure where to begin about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins without gushing. It takes place in somewhat of a futuristic United States divided into 12 districts and a capitol. From the ages of 12-17, every child’s name is put in a hopper in each of these districts. One day a year on the Reaping, a male and female are chosen from each district to participate in the Hunger Games, the object of which is to kill all of your other opponents and be the last one standing. The Hunger Games take place in the capitol but is televised for all to see. Tributes, the chosen contestants, have sponsors and coaches and are literally in a fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen ends up being the girl tribute for Distict 12, one of the less well off districts. She is versed in archery and hunts at home which comes to her advantage in the games that take place in an arena usually outfitted with lakes, forests, etc. Not only does Katniss have to fight to stay alive, she also has to engage in a lot of game play with the other tributes, including the male tribute from District 12, Peeta Mellark (great character).

I don’t want to give too much more about this plot away. I loved The Hunger Games. Even though its genre is Young Adult, I think it was my favorite book of 2009, fitting that it was my last read, yes? It’s the first in a series by Collins, the second being Catching Fire, which I am waiting not so patiently for at the library. I think the third is to be released in 2010. The characters are all so well written and full of emotion. The story, though clearly violent, was not gratuitously so. I couldn’t put it down! I told you it was hard not to gush. I also think this would make a great movie. Maybe someday…….

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009: The Year I Read 50 Books

Back in January I challenged myself to read 35 books this year. In fact, I started this blog in the first place as an attempt to keep track of what I had read. So often people would ask, "What have you read lately?" and I would just draw a blank even though I could have rattled off any number of titles suitable for the inquirer's reading. I am proud to say that I not only met my goal but far exceeded it! I ended up reading 50 books and if I have some time tomorrow, there's a chance I'll finish 51 before the ball drops.

So, in a little walk down memory lane, and as a quick reference for future readers looking for a good tome to tuck into on a cold winter or warm summer day, I present my:



Fifty Books of 2009 (all linked back to their original review -- yes, this took a long time)

The starred entries are ones I found particularly memorable and would suggest reading over any of the others. Not that there aren't other worthy reads, those are just my faves this year.


1.) Louder than Words, Jenny McCarthy
2.) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer ***
3.) Life of Pi, Yann Martel
4.) Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron ***
5.) Peony in Love, Lisa See
6.) Multiple Bles8ings, Kate Gosselin
7.) Julie & Julia, Julie Powell
8.) One Fifth Avenue, Candace Bushnell
9.) Plum Spooky, Janet Evanovich
10.) Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen
11.) Change of Heart, Jodi Picoult
12.) Such a Pretty Fat, Jen Lancaster ***
13.) Home, Marilynne Robinson
14.) The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff ***
15.) Here's The Story, Maureen McCormick
16.) New Rules of Lifting for Women, Lou Schuler
17.) Reading the OED, Ammon Shea
18.) A Little Bit Wicked, Kristen Chenoweth
19.) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
20.) Look Me In The Eye: My Life with Asperger's, John Elder Robison
21.) Master Your Metabolism, Jillian Michaels
22.) Mommywood, Tori Spelling
23.) The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
24.) Blessings, Anna Quindlen
25.) Still Alice, Lisa Genova ***
26.) Handle With Care, Jodi Picoult
27.) Best Friends Forever, Jennifer Weiner
28.) Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates ***
29.) We Are All Fine Here, Mary Guterson
30.) Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Janet Evanovich
31.) The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
32.) Resilience, Elizabeth Edwards
33.) The Center of Everything, Laura Moriarty
34.) Pretty in Plaid, Jen Lancaster
35.) Always Looking Up, Michael J. Fox
36.) Dismantled, Jennifer McMahon
37.) The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
38.) Supreme Courtship, Christopher Buckley
39.) Born Round, Frank Bruni ***
40.) The Wedding Girl, Sophie Kinsella/Madeline Wickham
41.) The Book Thief, Markus Zusak ***
42.) Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
43.) Sloppy Firsts, Megan McCafferty
44.) Before You Know Kindness, Chris Bohjalian ***
45.) Twilight, Stephanie Meyer
46.) New Moon, Stephanie Meyer
47.) You Better Not Cry, Augusten Burroughs ***
48.) In the President's Secret Service, Ronald Kessler
49.) Bitter is the New Black, Jen Lancaster
50.) The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins ***


So there you have it. I hope you'll be motivated to pick a few of these up in your future reading endeavors. While I think my 50 fifty reads to be quite a feat, I couldn't have done it without my fabulous library. I didn't purchase a single one of these books. (Sorry publishers being put out of business due to the Kindle) They were all borrowed from just 3 miles down the road saving me upwards of $1,000 (calculating hard cover prices). I hope you all have access to a wonderful establishment such as this. Libraries are tantamount in a reading list this large as much as having the time to read every last word written.

Happy Reading in 2010!

A Calorie Complaint

Come on, Christmas. You do this to me every year, with your promise of gingerbread and cookies and parties where cheese abounds. Cheese is my kryptonite. I am useless against it. Before I know it, it's December 28th and I've consumed more unintentional calories and worked out much less than I planned that I feel like the biggest heifer. Part of me feels like I should work out really hard for the next 3 days to end the year on a healthful high note. The other part of me feels like I should just take it easy and start anew on January 1st. What I know for sure is that I will not be replacing the dead battery in my scale any time soon. I am left to weigh myself on the sly at work on our heavy duty industrial mail scale. Yes, if you're wondering, sometimes I take off my shoes and step on it, pretending I'm a package to be shipped off. I'm not sure how accurate it is but I can at least ballpark my eating indiscretions.

In other news, I have been in the biggest funk lately. I'm hoping something snaps me out of it soon. Do you think my poor eating habits and lack of exercise are adding to my despondency? Nah, couldn't be.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Baking!

I made these recipes a few weeks ago and begrudgingly froze them in tins instead of storing them in my stomach. They will make their party debut on Wednesday at my Grandma's house. I hope they're well received. I didn't take any pictures but I wanted to pass along the recipes from What's Cookin, Chicago? because they were so tasty.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
- I printed out this recipe a year ago with every intention of baking them then. Well, that didn't happen but I held onto it until this year and they were the first ones I tried. They're not necessarily a traditional Christmas cookie but I thought they seemed Christmasy all the same.

Peppermint Brownie Rounds - I didn't want to bother with cut outs this year (so much effort!) but I still wanted to make something with color and a recipe that was unmistakably CHRISTMAS. I make red AND green frosting for these but, I took a shortcut and used canned Buttercream. Martha Stewart, I am not.

I also made some gingerbread biscotti but I printed out the recipe and now I can't find where I got it from. That was my first biscotti attempt and they were really good, I thought. I think they'll be a hit at the Christmas brunch on Wednesday.

Happy Baking!

Bitter is the New Black

Bitter is the New Black is Jen Lancaster's first memoir. It was published some years ago but it was the only one of hers I hadn't read. I don't typically read books like this out of order but somehow that's how things shook out here. Bitter follows Jen's toils after she's laid off and trying to make ends meet in Chicago with her boyfriend-then-husband, Fletch, who subsequently also gets laid off. It's a tale of a completely materialistic woman who is humbled at every turn as she has to trade in her designer labels to pay the rent.

I really enjoyed Bitter is the New Black, mostly because I like Lancaster's writing. I will say, however, that this first memoir is not nearly as good as the later ones. I feel like she really found her voice as the books continued. Any of her 4 memoirs are worth reading and while you don't HAVE to read them in order, I'd recommend it. I'm sorry for the short reviews lately. As I mentioned before, things have just been so busy lately.

.....in fantasy football news......

Yes, you read that right. John is an avid Fantasy Footballer. He has tried to explain the excitement behind FF many times and I just can't get into it. I don't understand why you can't just cheer for your favorite team. How come you have to have players from all these other teams you don't care about? Well, I know why. That's how you gain points. So every week he tells me, "My team's doing great today" or "My team is really sucking it up on the field." I didn't care in the slightest until today. Today, he tells me he might actually win his league, to the tune of $300. Wheeee!!! Ashley gets to go shopping! Although somehow I don't think he'll see it that way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

In the President's Secret Service



In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents they Protect by Ronald Kessler, has the longest title ever. It chronicles the stories of many agents and their various protectees. Not much of a synopsis is really necessary here, in my opinion. This book was really interesting. Even if you have no interest in history, like me, you'll find a lot of juicy tidbits in here to keep you turning the page. #48 gets a thumbs up from me!

Sorry about the lazy blogging lately. The holidays have caught up with me and I feel like there's not enough time for anything these days. Christmas is in a week for Pete's sake! I will make a concerted effort to stay on task.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cards, all of you!

John and I purchase our cards half off the day after Christmas and pack them away with the decorations until next year. This always seems like such a grand idea to me until the next year as we unpack said cards. We typically purchase 3 different boxes, for variety. It never fails. I always hate one of the boxes. And it's always the one John has picked out. This year, not only was the design not very "holiday" but the quality of the card was crap. I can't really fault him for that since you can't feel the cards in the box unless you unwrap them but, I am faulting him for it anyway. Sorry, honey.

Moving on.....


I mailed my Christmas cards 2 weeks ago. I like to get them done and off my dining room table as soon as possible. I feel a great sense of accomplishment in finishing these. This year, I had return address labels printed. Best six bucks I ever spent. It totally saved my hand from cramping. What didn't save my hand was the personal message I wrote in every card. No signed names only here. This is the real deal. So, cards in the mail. And now we wait.....

Wait until all of my efforts prove fruitful. I send upwards of 40 cards and in the interest of full disclosure, I probably only receive cards in return from 50% of my list. What is wrong with the other delinquent 50%? How difficult is it to send a stinking Christmas card? They're not expensive and it really doesn't take much time. All I'm asking for is a card with your name in it. Come on. So this year, I'm doing it. I am crossing off anyone from my list that I don't get a card back from. In 2010, no card for you! Unless you're elderly, in which case I don't mind spreading a little Christmas joy in your direction. I realize this may seem petty and in opposition to the reason for the whole Christmas season but I don't care. No card for me? No card for you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You Better Not Cry


Book #46 of the year was great! I won’t mince words. I put myself on the hold list for Augusten Burroughs’ latest memoir You Better Not Cry as soon as I read about it. As you might guess, it’s a collection of Christmas related tales. If you’ve never read any of Burroughs work and are looking for some humorous non-fiction, give him a try. He’s the author of Running with Scissors (which I haven’t read) Possible Side Effects, and Magical Thinking (both of which I have) among others. I find his style extremely witty and enjoyable.

You Better Not Cry is split into short stories. The first two take place during Burroughs’ childhood and showcase his memories of Christmas. I laughed out loud like a fool throughout both of these. I laughed so much that I was trying to figure out who I could buy this book for as a gift but I’ve already finished all my shopping. The rest, while funny, don’t stick out as much for me but I still really enjoyed them. If you are thinking of this book as a gift for someone, make sure they are not offended by homosexual humor as Burroughs is gay and this features prominently in one story in particular, though it was very funny. Anyway, pick this one up!


In other news, I got 100 pages into book #47 and had to give it up, despite my challenge. It was ROUGH! It was the follow up to Sloppy Firsts which I thought was decent enough but the series has gone in a direction of the boring persuasion. So, onto the next. 4 books in 3 weeks. Can I do it? You can watch me try!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stories from the Crapper: InSTALLment #79

Today’s bathroom tale was brought to me by one of my employees. He was shopping at Wal-mart on lunch when he walked into the men’s restroom and there was a women in there. When I asked how old she was, he thought maybe 40’s at the oldest. So, certainly not senile, and apparently not blind.


Woman: Am I in the men’s restroom?

Employee: Yes, unless I’m in the women’s restroom.

Woman: I can’t believe I did this again.


Twice! Well, at least twice and maybe more than that this woman was confused by the pants wearing man figure on the door and the “MEN” word as well. My employee prefaced this story to me by asking what I would think if I walked into a restroom where the wall was lined with urinals. He said this restroom, like most men’s rooms I would guess, had a whole row of them that this woman somehow didn’t see prior to using the restroom, presumably washing her hands, and then turning around only to find another man coming in. How embarrassing! Has this ever happened to you? I can’t think of a time where I inadvertently used the restroom belonging to the opposite sex, although I do know someone (a male) who accidentally used the women’s at a Cracker Barrel. He was in the stall when some women walked in. Horrifying, to say the least.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Open Letter to Victoria's Secret

Dear VS,
I recently purchased 2 pairs of Flatter Me pantyhose from your stores. This morning, I opened one of the packages and slid the left leg up when I was dismayed, to say the least, to already find a hole in the toe. My great toe was peeking out at me. Imagine my disappointment as this, I believe I mentioned, was a BRAND NEW pair that had never been worn. Between choices expletives and upon further inspection, I realized that there was stitching around this hole. What the what? This completely intentional.
By this point, my husband was laughing and pointing at my misfortunes. Because it was only the toe, which would have been hidden by my shoe, I proceeded to put on the right leg. No hole there. I am accustomed to wearing hose until there is a visible snag or run. If it's hidden by clothing or footwear, it's fair game. Only then did I read the packaging. Right below where you have printed "Control Top, Lace detail" etc. It says three small words. Sexy naked toe. Wha-huh? Sexy naked toe? Toe, singular. Not toes, plural. Just one. And apparently, having one toe poking out of your pantyhose is sexy.
Did you people come across some crazy market research that proves men like to see some (read: a) toe? At first I thought maybe these were made for peep-toe shoes, but no. I was a bit flummoxed mostly because it was only on the left foot. Sexy naked toe. Give me a break. All day I felt foolish. I polled others in my office who all found this inexplicable.
Please help. Why the intentional hole? Who likes this sexy naked toe?

Signed,
Ashley (loyal, perplexed VS customer)


........in other VS news............

Guest blogger appearance!!! John noticed something this weekend at Victoria's Secret (two different store locations) that he thought needed to be shared.

In conjunction with the blog about sexy toes, I wanted to include some observations I have had while shopping at VS. When shopping with Ashley, I like to observe other guys to see what they do to pass the time at stores like NY & Co., VS and Forever 21 ( I loathe Forever 21). Victoria’s secret always provides the best experience because all men fall into three categories when present in store with significant female companion.

Apathetic: This gentleman can be seen with hands in pocket, looking blankly around the store probably pondering why women need a store for underwear and bras when he can just go to target and buy a package of his desired underwear. Befuddled by the selection, color and variety, he stands silently waiting to move on.

The Closet Perv: I sadly fall under this category. We appear very similar to the apathetic man, except if you were to look more closely, you would see our eyes wander to the maid outfits, Mrs. Claus outfits and other naughtier selections in the store. This type of man can also sometimes be seen with a slight twinkle of disappointment in his eye when his significant female companion picks up a nude bra or a pair of cotton underwear, because he really wants her to go for the crazy stuff.

Brazen Man: This guy rifles through drawers, image be damned, looking for what he will take off of his wife that night. This past Saturday, I saw a man of perhaps 50 going through drawers, hangers and racks pulling off some crazy stuff. It was an amazing sight. Sure enough, all that crazy, impractical lingerie made into his wife’s hand, several pieces no less. Kudos to him!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hair Help

I finally have a color appointment on December 19th and I'm way excited. My hair is super drab lately and I'm ready to shake things up. I haven't gotten highlights since July. JULY, people! That's a really long time. When I had them done, we picked kind of a middle blonde so my roots wouldn't show too badly. Now that the appointment is upon us, I'm having a little trouble deciding what to do. I am naturally (I think) a pretty dark blonde. I typically have a few different shades of blonde highlights put in to brighten things up. Last Christmas, after much contemplation, I went brunette. It was quite a shock, but I really enjoyed it. Until about 4 months later when I didn't really feel like me anymore and went back to blonde. Boy, this is really rambly.

Here's where I need your help.......should I get more blonde? Or go back to brunette? I like both and of course when I grow tired of the dark, I can always go back. John is no help here because, he "likes it both ways." Thanks, honey. I also feel that brunette looks really healthy and shiny!

Here are examples of your choices.


Blonde





Brunette


Help a girl out and VOTE! It's anonymous. Feel free to leave a comment about why you voted one way or another or why you feel strongly against one color or the other. Time is running out!

New Moon

Right after I finished Twilight, I started in on New Moon, the second book of the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer. Same characters, different drama. In this one, Edward decides he’s much too dangerous for Bella and the Cullens pick up and leave town. Warning – for the bulk of this book, Bella will whine about how empty she feels. You’re welcome to just skim those passages, they’re all the same. In Edward’s absence, Jacob has a chance to cozy up to her instead. But, Jacob’s got a secret too. Dun dun duh! I’ll just come out and say it since it’s clear from the movie trailer what said secret is. Stop reading if you don’t want to know…….He’s a werewolf. Well, he becomes a werewolf. (Insert lots of jokes about Bella trading one vicious creature for another.)

But, it’s a good thing the werewolves are around because Bella needs saving….again. So really, when I think about it, New Moon is the same drama with a few different characters. Reverse what I said in the above paragraph. My tone makes it seem like I didn’t like New Moon and I did. I think I probably enjoyed it a bit more than Twilight. However, I guess you could say I’m more Team Edward because I didn’t find Jacob’s life as interesting. Edward does make a pretty important appearance towards the end of this one and I liked the suspenseful part of the storyline more in New Moon than in Twilight. I also liked the more deeply investigated dynamic between Bella and her dad. If these books continue to improve as we get further into the series, then that’s a good thing. Maybe it just means that Meyer is also becoming a better writer. We shall see…..though maybe not until January. I’ve got a LOT of other books in my ‘To Be Read’ pile first. I need to recount but I think I’m currently finishing #47. So, I think I’m in good shape for my 50 goal. YEA!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Will power?

I have to stay strong here. I REALLY want to start baking Christmas treats and delicious goodies but I should absolutely not start doing so. The problem with my baking is not the end result, it's that I eat ALL of said end result. The only reason I can stick to some sort of a healthy eating regimen is because I don't stock these things in my cupboards. It seems, at Christmas, all bets are off. I found a recipe for Gingerbread Biscotti that I'm dying to try, even though I've never made biscotti before and it scares me just a little bit. I'd also like to make cut outs and the chex mix with the white chocolate (so good!) but if I start now, I fear I'll never stop.

Last year, I tried a few cookie recipes with low fat substitutes and they just weren't the same. I'm all for subbing low fat whenever possible but at Christmas, it feels like I'm cheating myself. What's a girl to do? Deprive herself of all things sugary goodness, or succomb to the wiles of the holiday baking temptress? For today, I'll hold off but I make no promises for tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Twilight

Well, I did it. Despite the fact that this series does not interest me at all, at my sister’s urging I got Twilight by Stephanie Meyer from the library. I thought before I continued to make fun of the Twi-hards out there that I should see for myself if the saga was worth all the hype. These books are thick, yo! But, the font is large and they’re relatively engrossing so they read very quickly. Actually, I was supposed to finish the first 2 books and see Twilight the movie all in less than a week so my sister and I could see New Moon (the second installment) together and she wouldn’t have to go alone. That didn’t quite happen. There’s always next time, B!

Unless you’re Osama Bin Laden (you know, cause he lives in a cave), you probably already know that this series focuses on a love story between a teenage girl, Bella Swan, and a “teenage” vampire, Edward Cullen. Bella moves in with her father in Washington halfway through high school. Although standoffish at first, Edward and Bella eventually fall head over heels in love despite her discovery of his affliction. The supporting cast includes the rest of the vampire bunch (including some nasty ones, the Cullens are all nice. Duh!), some folks on an Indian reservation including Jacob (who is also sweet on Bella) and a host of whiny high schoolers.

Twilight, to me, was a lot of exposition, A LOT! There was a whole bunch of explaining vampiric rules and a lot of long-winded passages of Bella’s subconscious. I felt like some of that was definitely necessary but much of it was simply superfluous. However, there was also more excitement than I anticipated and even a little suspense, toward the end. I just felt like things didn’t really get rolling until about 300ish pages in. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, have already finished New Moon (more on that another day), and am looking forward to completing the series and seeing the movies.

I can’t ever see myself sporting a ‘Team Edward’ t-shirt or lining up at a midnight premiere. Nor will I probably ever re-read the books but I’m glad I’m at least experiencing them for myself. Have I been bitten? Only time will tell. (Get it? Vampire. Bitten. HA!)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ms. Fix-It

Guys, my vacuum cleaner crapped out on me. Right in the middle of my wanting to vacuum up the (fake) needles that came off my Christmas tree in the branch fluffing process. The vacuum made noises like it was working but it wasn't actually picking up any of said needles. Being the mechanically minded woman that I am (yeah, right), I flipped that sucker over and saw that the cylinder with the brushy things wasn't spinning. It looked like there was quite a bit of hair (yuck) and string wrapped around it so I got to pulling.

It was right about this time that John sits down next to me and says, "Here, let me try." I am not a woman's libber by any stretch of the imagination but that offer of assistance frosted my cookies. I was doing fine on my own thank you. I declined his help so he and Sadie just sat there watching me clean out the vacuum. When the wheel was de-haired, it still didn't work. I realized I'd have to delve deeper.

After a few false starts, I finally pried off the base and reached the culprit....a broken belt. I can fix this, no problem! I was pretty excited about finding the crux of the matter because only seconds prior John was griping about not wanting to have to buy a new vacuum cleaner on top of the fact that his Check Engine light is on (it's NOT our year with vehicles). I forgot the broken belt to buy the new one at Sears but the guy there told me if they don't have it to try Flussnecker's. What the heck is a Flussnecker? I just said, OK thanks, and left.

There was a time when I wouldn't have even bother to try to fix it and just went to buy a new one. That vacuum is only 18 months old and I totally would have just replaced it. I have decided I cannot be so wasteful anymore. There's no reason to buy a new vacuum when the repair will probably cost $5.00. So, now I'm on a mission! Stay Tuned........

Did You Miss Me?

I'm back in Ohio after a wonderful week in Austin with my sister, B, and brother-in-law, M. John and Sadie came too, of course. We had a lot of fun and there were really only a few points of annoyance.

1) I think I told you that it costs $100 each way to fly Sadie in cabin with us. However, American Air won't let you pay ahead of time. We checked in last Friday to our flight in Dayton and the ticketing agent didn't say anything about Sadie. Nor did security, or the gate agent on the first flight. Home free! $100 in my pocket, right? The only time anyone said anything about her was when the connecting flight's gate agent asked if it was a cat or a dog. We were beyond stoked that we didn't have to pay. Fast forward to our return flight. Check in at Austin was just as smooth. Again, not a soul said anything about Sadie. Well, the security guy said to keep an eye on her because the K-9 units were out. (yikes!) We get all the way to our connection in Dallas and as I hand the lady my boarding pass she says, "Can I see your pet receipt?" Effffff...... I said sure, and tried to pawn off Sadie's vet letter as the receipt. She saw right through that. She also didn't believe me when I said we didn't get a receipt. I did however, have the receipt for the $40 I had just paid to check our bags. That didn't really help me when another agent pulled up my account and didn't see any charges indicating that I had paid for Sadie. The first lady says, real snotty, "She didn't pay" to the other guy.
Prepared to part with $100 I handed over my Visa when the guy said, "If you tried to pay over the phone, it didn't take it." Then he says, "You didn't pay for her on the way here either. So that will be $200." Oh my stars! I was not a happy camper. He apologized as I signed the receipt for my two hundred clams, as if his 'sorry' will pay for all the dinners out we just ate over the past week.
Let's sum up. American Airlines did a shoddy job on my coming flight so I didn't speak up even though I knew I owed money. I made it all the way to the last possible person standing in my way and got busted. I may have been in the wrong but I'll tell you, American Airlines is now dead to me. DEAD!

I just realized I numbered this list and that was really the only annoying thing that happened. I suppose I can be happy about that, right? My week off afforded me the ability to finish 2 books, hang out with B and M and their dog Pumpkin, consume loads and loads of unnecessary calories and love every second of it, and reaffirm how sucky Dayton is.

Some more highlights:

Chuy's - MMmmmmm.....I have the recipe for their creamy jalapeno dip and I can't wait to make it. My mouth is watering as I type.

Esther's Follies - This is an improv/variety/magic/comedy show in downtown Austin. It was hilarious! Well worth the $20 ticket.

Becker Vineyards
- This is in Fredericksburg, in Hill County Wine Country about 90 minutes from Austin. Their wine was really good, and the bottles survived the plane ride home in my luggage too! The only downside was the size of the tasting pours. tiny.

LC Rocks
- This is an 80's cover band we saw. They were awesome! The drinks at the bar were expensive but there was no cover. The only downside was the smoke in the bar. I haven't come home smelling like that since college.


There were more good things too but a week is a long time and I think you'd get bored reading about it. I've got 2 book reviews to do as well but they'll come another day.

Hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Adios and Vaya Con Dios

By Friday night, John, Sadie and I will be deep in the heart of Texas! We'll be visiting the Casa de B&M (that's my sister and brother in law) until next Saturday. Sadie will get to play all week with her cousin Pumpkin, a fellow shih-poo, who actually doesn't like to play very much at all. I should have much to report when we return and if I have time, perhaps I'll give you some book reviews while on vacation. We'll have a lot of downtime. This trip is all about relaxing and spending time with family.....oh yeah and eating our way through Austin. My mouth is watering at all of the meals we'll be having. A regular calorie fest! Good thing I'll have plenty of time to run and zumba.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Before You Know Kindness

Before You Know Kindness , by Chris Bohjalian, was recommended to me a couple years ago by my librarian aunt. I take her word on good authority because she is surrounded by books all the livelong day. It is the story of two families, well, two siblings and their families within one family, the Setons and the Mcculloughs. The two granddaughters, Charlotte and Willow are spending the summer with their grandmother when their parents come for vacation. During this visit, Charlotte accidentally shoots her father Spencer, an animal loving, hunting hating vegan, with a rifle no one knows her uncle owned and he thought had a round stuck in the chamber. That was an awful start to a summary, sorry. This plot is pretty involved. What comes thereafter is a nasty family feud, lies, deceit, and lawsuits and potential marriage dissolution.

Before You Know Kindness is not a cheerful story but it was pretty riveting and I was pleased with the outcome. I wouldn’t call it a fast read by nature, and certainly not in page count, but I did finish it in a short amount of time because I couldn’t put it down. There was quite a bit of, in my opinion, unnecessary focus on why the bullet was lodged in the gun but I got through those parts okay. I realize that Bohjalian was trying to place a world of importance on this one piece but it got tedious. I give this one a thumbs up for sure. And it felt good to read something a bit heavier before my foray into the world of fluff and vampires…..dare I? I guess so!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quandary

I have a bit of a problem. I'm currently on Book #44 which I should finish in 2 days. Five of my books came in from the hold list at once at the library and I don't know which one to start next! I am embarrassed to say that two of them are the first two Twilight books. Really, I just want to hit my 50 goal and I heard they were fast reads. I'm really not intending to enjoy them but, I will do my best to keep an open mind. This upcoming week-long vacation in Austin will afford much reading time both on the plane and when in Texas. All 5 books to be read are probably fast reads and part of me thinks I could finish them all on vacation. However, airlines have these pesky baggage weight limits that are not conducive to packing volumes of reading material. Oh my.

My other problem is very sad. Last year, my mom gifted to me her black fleece North Face Jacket. Well, it was 'on loan' which in my might meant, 'she'll never want this back.' Some might think this was a foolish (and expensive, thus the foolish) purchase on her part since she lives in Florida. She bought it on vacation in Alaska. I think she must have been on some crazy vacation high to have bought it. But buy it she did. And then, a few years later, it didn't fit her anymore. Her loss was my gain! Maybe I should say her gain was also my gain. Because I live in Ohio, she knew that I would get much more use out of it than her. Also, I feel as though North Face jackets are a younger style than her 60 some odd years. I didn't tell her that when I was seething with jealousy as she unveiled it to me and wore it right in front of my very eyes those years ago.

Here's my problem.....the other day, she asked me if I wear it and I said, "YES! I wear it all the time and I love it so." There was some hesitation on the other end of the phone and a brief "oh" stutter. Then she goes on to say that she thinks it would probably fit her now since she's lost weight and she could use it when in Atlanta this winter. Dagger to my heart! I love that coat and cannot afford to purchase my own. Begrudgingly, I told her that if she thinks she'll get more use out of it than me, and her being the rightful purchaser, that I would give it back to her at Christmas.

What am I to do now? Buy another fleece jacket I suspect. Curses.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Spectacle, Spectacle

I didn't really need new glasses. Well, that's not true. My current glasses did fall off my face a few times when looking down. This was due to a bent temple which I probably could have gotten fixed for free at Lenscrafters. Instead I decided to just go ahead and buy new glasses! The bent glasses were pink metallic, rectangular frames. I liked them but I was missing my quirky plastic frames I used to have and decided it would suit me to go back to those.

If you have glasses, you know how expensive they are. Ashley, you must be made of money, you are saying to yourself. Au contraire, my friends. I'll let you in on a little secret. Much like everything else in the free world, you can buy glasses online at greatly discounted rates!! All you need is to screw up enough nerve to ask your optometrist for your prescription after your annual vision appointment. Having done this already for the pink glasses (Yes, I felt like I was cheating on my optometrist. No, she didn't give me a hard time), I was ready to go.

EyebuyDirect is where I got my first pair. I chose that site because they had a money back guarantee return policy. This was important as buying glasses without trying them on is quite a gamble. Their selection, however, is not great. This time I went with Zenni Optical. Their return policy is a bit more stringent, exchanges only. But they have many more styles to choose from. Prices at both sites are comparable. I selected my first (second) pair at Zenni and I was drunk with power and a large selection. I decided on two pairs! They're so cheap and the shipping is the same no matter what, you almost HAVE to buy more than one, right? See what you think below....pardon the red nose, there was a nip in the air on our walk with Sadie tonight.

These are black but they are light blue inside so in certain lights, you see a pretty color too. They could probably use a little adjustment on where they sit on my nose but that's a luxury you lose when buying eyewear online. Price: $17.00 SEVENTEEN!




These, admittedly, look better a little further away. I'm not crazy about them when I look right up in the mirror but if I catch a glance from a distance, I think they look ok. They have some neat metal detailing on the temples and are rimless, obvs, on the bottom which I like because there isn't anything in your lower field of vision then. They have a more cat's eye feel than I would have liked but, also at $17.00, I really can't complain.

See what I mean? With prices like these, you can buy as much as you want! That cost also includes the extra $5.00 I paid for anti-glare lenses. I think I'm going to get some prescription sunglasses next so I don't have to wear double glasses anymore. Again, unless you have glasses, you don't know the plight of double glasses, which is just what it sounds like when I wear my sunglasses over my real glasses. Also, my best pair of double glasses just broke. Oops.

Only 3 1/2 more days of work until vacation!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts, by Megan McCafferty, is the first of the Jessica Darling series which has been out for about 8 years or so. I am a fan of series because I like to get to know a character. I like to get all up in their business. If I’m going to invest time in you as a character, I want to like you and care about what you care about. The Jessica Darling series was so not what I pictured when I read several recommendations for reading it. For starters, Jessica Darling is a high school student but the series is not billed as Young Adult (although it sort of reads like that). Jessica’s best friend, Hope, has moved away leaving her as somewhat of an outcast at Pineville High School. She is athletic and angst-ridden, and, lamentably, has no boyfriend. The friends she does have she doesn’t really like. Sloppy Firsts follows her sophomore and junior years and she makes her way through school and tries to avoid her parents. She’s pretty whiny but I surprisingly found myself rooting for her.

That wasn’t the best synopsis but it’s the best I feel like doing right now. It also kind of makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy Sloppy Firsts, but I did. It was a light, mindless read but the characters were all relatable, which I appreciated. At the end I wanted to find out what happens in Second Helpings, the next book. Which I think is always the mark of a decent series. It’s probably the same reason I like the Stephanie Plum series, they’re very similar in many ways, crazy heroine, unrequited love stories, humor. If you’re looking to invest in a new series, give this one a try.

I can’t help but feel like I’m reading fluff to cram in 50 books. #44 should be a bit different though. Hoping to finish it before my trip next week where I plan to read lots and lots of fluff. I WILL read 50 books by December 31st. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lookin' Good (or not)

You know you’re probably not looking so great when one of the pieces you’ve selected to wear is destined for the Goodwill pile. I pulled this sweater out knowing full well it would be experiencing once last hurrah at work today. I’ve had it for a number of years. It’s had a good run but it’s short all over. Sleeves and waist. Not a good look for me.

I spent the better part of the day lamenting my appearance in front of the bathroom mirror. Is there anything worse than knowing you look crappy? In this case, I even tried to make an attempt today that has gone afoul. I can understand when you just don’t feel like putting in the effort. On those days I end up in khakis and some shapeless, solid color shirt, praying that no one comes in to see me. I’m sure you have this type of outfit to put on too when you’re just not feeling it.

There are often times when I want to purge 90% off my closet and start over. Unfortunately, my bank account will not accommodate this urge to purge. I finally switched out my summer/fall clothes for winter on my closet shelves a couple days ago. With the final sweater folded and placed on the pile, I realized I had three more still to fit up there. Is the lesson here to stop buying, or donate to make room for the new? I’m going to go with the latter. Hence, today’s plum wrap sweater will go in Goodwill bag with my jean skirt (another old friend that took me YEARS to find a suitable replacement for) and a number of too short shirts that John is getting rid of.

I think some of the sweaters know they’re on the outs. Since I’ve made the seasonal switch, Ohio has experienced somewhat of a November heat wave. My office is sweltering and it’s not much better at home but I refuse to turn the air back on for a few days. I can tough it out. Anyway, the sweaters, I think, are responsible for causing this heat wave as some sort of last laugh. Also in cahoots is my winter bedding, which I changed to last week. For the past 3 nights I’ve had to turn on 2 fans and open the window because of the weight my comforter brings. Sheesh! I guess I shouldn’t complain. It will be warmer than this in Texas, which I am greatly looking forward to.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm back!

.....to running that is. I got my orthotic inserts re-fitted and picked them up last Monday. At first, they made my feet hurt just as badly as before and I was beyond frustrated. I was able to make it through about 45 minutes of zumba without foot pain. But, that wasn't good enough for me. I haven't gotten the bill from my podiatrist yet but you can bet your sweet bippy that it won't be cheap. He should fix my foot, right?

Well, Sunday here was just gorgeous. The whole weekend really. Sunny and 60's. I decided to try running outside. I haven't really run outside since my first and only 5K in July. The running I've done on my indoor track has been minimal, and not without pain. I thought maybe I could work through the pain. You don't know until you try, right? And then I realized something that made me feel like the biggest idiot in the world. My new inserts are thicker so I can't tie my shoes as tightly. I loosened my laces and off I went. 30 minutes outside and NO PAIN! I was smiling by the end of the run because my foot didn't hurt a lick. I probably looked like a fool but I didn't care. My pace was awful but I didn't care about that either. The only downside is that the weather will turn to cold for outdoor running (for me anyway) soon, but at least I can continue inside. YEA!

In other news, I've got to snap out of this funk I'm in. I'm really hoping our upcoming Texas trip will help. That and 8 days off from work.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wishful Drinking

I decided to read Wishful Drinking, a memoir by Carrie Fisher because it’s supposed to be a very funny one woman show. I thought the book came first but I’m pretty sure she wrote the book after the show began. Anyway, it’s won awards and whatnot so I thought the book would be funny. Fisher’s biggest claim to fame is that she was Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I got Wishful Drinking from the library nonetheless.

In a brief 150 pages, Fisher discusses her substance (drugs and alcohol) addiction issues. Name drops her life history from childhood and moves rapidly up through her adult years to her current marriage. Yes, I just summarized the book in 2 sentences, it was that short. I gotta say, I was not really a fan of this one. It felt like it never went anywhere. I’m not even sure what the point was. Was it to talk about her issues with alcohol or to say how she overcame them? Both of those things happened, sort of, but overall I felt like it missed the mark. Also, I finished it in under 2 hours….never a good sign. What I will give her is the numerous one liners. While I did find myself laughing out loud at some of them, they weren’t enough to redeem Wishful Drinking for me.

Oh, well, on to Book #43.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two Unrelated Incidents from an Otherwise Hum-drum Tuesday

I had to call American Airlines to confirm Sadie’s In-Cabin Pet reservation. She will be traveling with us to Austin but she was not appearing on my account online and that concerned me. If you’ve ever called American Airlines, you’ll know that it takes a good 10 minutes to maneuver your way through their website. During this time, you will be asked to say full sentences instead of just ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to move on to the next menu. “I have an existing reservation.” Often, no matter how articulately you enunciate, the computer will respond, “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that.” Then you have to say it again. It’s best to make these calls in private because you will sound like a fool. Also, pressing zero to reach an operator does not work in this instance. You will simply be asked to answer more questions before you can talk to an actual person. And don’t even bother calling if you don’t have your frequent flyer account number, flight number, dates of departure, cities and connecting cities on your itinerary, Great-Grandmother’s dog’s middle name, the meal you ate last Saturday and a myriad of other pieces of information.

When you do finally reach a person to ask a simple question, you might speak to the person I did yesterday. It is always unfortunate when you cannot determine whether the ticketing agent is male or female by their voice. I think he/she may have mentioned their name to start but because this person sounded like they had just been toking up in the parking lot on their lunch break, I could barely understand what mumble mouth was saying.

Ashley: Hi, I’m calling to confirm my in-cabin pet on an existing reservation.

Agent: OK, did you want to book them round trip?

Ashley: No, I already made a reservation but it didn’t show up online so I’m confirming that you do have a pet booked with my ticket. Does it not necessarily appear online?

Agent: I don’t really know what shows on the accounts online.

Ashley: Oh. Do you have a pet listed on my reservation with confirmation number GTRVOL (side note: Why is this still called a confirmation number when it consists only of letters?)

Agent: Yes, we do.

Ashley: OK, thanks.

Part of me is still a tad concerned that Sadie’s reservation does indeed exist. I don’t want her to be turned away at the gate. Another part of me can’t fathom going another round with that menu before reaching a person. Plus, if I call again, will they put notes on my account such as “difficult customer – seat next to overweight smelly man on board”? I think I just have to hope for the best on this one. Only 16 days!

Incident dos!

You may or may not know that John is a notorious sleep talker. I find great amusement in this and will typically try to keep him talking just to see what he has say. His conversations are usually nonsensical. He hasn’t had an outburst in quite awhile but, I think this will suit your needs.

Around 2:00 am last night, John grabbed my face with his palm and squeezed. It was sort of like a sadistic game of ‘Got Your Nose.’ This woke me out of a dead sleep so I say, “hey” when what I was thinking was, “hey – what the heck do you think you’re doing, trying to suffocate me you wacko?” He immediately apologized and rolled back over. About an hour later, he wakes me up again to say, “I’m sorry. I was dreaming I was picking up a pencil.” Oh, I see now. What a perfectly normal explanation, in some crazy dream world in which a pencil resembles my face.

Then, while we were getting ready for work today, he claimed he was actually dreaming that he was pushing Sadie off of him. This is quite different than pencil picking up especially as Sadie was nowhere near him at the time of the attack. Quite narrowly, I survived.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Book Thief

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, was recommended to me by my sister and also a number of book boards/blogs that I read. I shied away from it for some time because it’s in the Young Adult genre. Call me crazy but I do not understand some 20, 30, 40+ year olds’ obsessions with Young Adult literature. There is nothing about Twilight that appeals to me. I don’t get it. That being said, I didn’t feel The Book Thief was juvenile at all and it was certainly one of the longer books I’ve read lately at more than 500 pages. I wanted to give it a fair shake.

Told from Death’s point of view, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a girl in World War II Germany who has been sent to live with foster parents after her mother can no longer care for her and her brother dies. Liesel steals a book on her way to her new life as her obsession with reading and books begins. Her foster father teaches her to read as the story watches her come of age in a war torn country. With Nazis and Jews fighting all around her, Liesel learns valuable lessons about the human race and survival. I’d go into more detail but I really don’t want to give anything away.

The Book Thief was filled with emotion. There was suspense, entertainment and certainly sadness. Do not be deterred by the length of this book. It moves along relatively quickly and is quite a page turner so it held my interest well; I finished it in under a week. I really enjoyed all the characters in The Book Thief. Zusak has a brilliant way of unraveling a story and introducing all plot elements.

I suppose I shouldn’t turn my nose up at Young Adult literature any longer. I have myself on the hold list for a few others. Hopefully they will be just as good at The Book Thief.

P.S. This was Book #41!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Wedding Girl

I thought The Wedding Girl was Sophie Kinsella/Madeline Wickham's newest book because it was on my library's Express shelf. I was wrong. It came out something like 10 years ago. Oh well. It's the story of Milly Havill who goes through a secret green card wedding as a favor for a friend and then fails to divorce prior to her upcoming nuptials to Simon, her wealthy fiance. Throw in a sister with problems of her own, a set of parents with a crumbling marriage and an overbearing wedding planning mother and you've got yourself a nutty little novel. Milly's secret unravels just days before the wedding. What's a bride to do?

This was a cute one. If you're a fan of the Shopaholic series, also by Kinsella, you'll like this one too. I was thinking it was pretty predictable but there were a couple twists I wasn't expecting that I was pleased to find. It's a light read that's entertaining. So, if you're into those kinds of books, pick The Wedding Girl up!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

This is Sadie's homemade costume. She is a cave woman, AKA Pebbles. I started just telling people she was Pebbles when every person I told about her costume replied, "A Cave woman?" Sheesh, people. Ever seen Tarzan. Come on, clowns. Anyway, Sadie loves to wear her costume. However, she does not like the bone on her head, which really makes the outfit. It's a Milkbone and she shakes it off her head only seconds after I have wrestled it onto her. I suppose I can't blame her. I picture her saying, "Treats go in my belly, not on my head." She's sassy.



Can you see the sneering lip, and the glaring eye?



Please give me that treat. Please! (Whenever Sadie wears costumes or shirts, her chest hair tends to stick out the top like an Italian mobster.)



I will dance for it if you want.



Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Living Room Makeover

I know I promised this forever ago. The makeover of our living room has been complete for awhile now but I've been busy and then the computer crashed and I couldn't upload pics. Excuses, excuses. I also cannot find the before pictures I took anywhere. I'm sorry you won't get to see the real transformation. I fail. Anyway, here it is!

This is the view from the kitchen. What I changed here was the artwork (details on that below), and the candles in the sconces. I also re-covered my throw pillows. Remember that? And I switched out the centerpiece. Sadie not included.




Here's a close up of the artwork. I painted a 20"x24" canvas with burnt orange paint. The saying is from World War II England and I love it. They are vinyl letters I bought from lostcabin on Etsy. They were a steal at $9.00! This picture is kind of crooked. Oops!




What's new here are the curtains! We didn't have anything before and while the blinds are still crappy, we're renting and I'm not buying new ones. Anyway, I think the curtains soften the area because they're just a sheer white cotton. I wish I had a before shot to show you. BIG difference.


Instead of a rod, I hung the curtains on little hooks. I think this is super clever. I can't take credit for that idea though. My sister sent an example photo of it to me from somewhere and I went with it. The hooks kind of blew my budget but I went as cheap as possible. More on that later!




Coffee Table Decor -- I already had all of this stuff so that line item in my budget read "free."




For the past year, we've had our engagement picture above the mantle. One day I realized that pretty much every picture we have framed is of us. We're really not narcissistic. Honest. Anyway, I thought this fall grouping came out nicely. I put the glitter leaves in the wreath. The Pumpkin egg I got in a cute little store in a nearby town. On the back it says "Happy Jack."
He sure is! I had the candlesticks and clock.
The bottles I got at Christmas Tree Shops for next to nothing. Holla!



Oh yeah! Those white pumpkins are Baby Boos and I am officially obsessed with them. I will be sad to see them go come December. I think they are so cute.




Happy Jack!


So there you have it, friends! Remember my $50 self-imposed budget? Here's how it all breaks down:

Artwork, self made $18
Curtains, IKEA $10
Candles, IKEA $4
Pillow Covers, self made $6
Hooks for curtains, Drug Mart (seriously) $14
Wreath, Hobby Lobby $8
Bottles, Christmas Tree Shops $2

Total:$62.00

Yes, I went over budget by $12. However, when I set my limit, I did not intend on doing curtains. If you have curtains, you know how expensive they are, especially including hardware. So, I think I did really well all things considered. And really, if I find those 'before' shots, I'll post them! I think the biggest money saver was my pillow covers. Since I made them myself out of a yard of fabric (with coupon!), I saved a ton. Throw pillows are pretty expensive, or they can be. Mine were still in good shape, they just need a facelift. Have I inspired you to do a makeover? You can do it on the cheap and still have it look great! I promise.

Bow-Wow-Ween

This past Saturday, we put Sadie in her homemade by me costume and headed up to our outdoor shopping center for a dog costume contest. The rain didn't keep us away, but it did keep most of the other dogs away which was a shame. We also got there with only about 10 minutes left in the whole thing. Drat. Anyway, here are some shots I got of other doggies in disguise. Sadie's costume pics are forthcoming...a little closer to Halloween.


Honest Abe Lincoln! This was one of my favorites.


I'm a sucker for a bully. There were more there but this was the only one I caught straight on.


This one is a little harder to see. Right in the center is a pug with the best spider costume. 8 legs and all! His owner was the web. I think they won best Owner Doggie Duo.
If not, they should have!



And here's little Miss Sadie to whet your appetite for her costume pics. Her new thing is hanging off the end of the chaise to check out a different point of view. I'm boycotting her haircut. She's so flipping cute with long hair. Even if she can't see.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caliente!

I tried three new recipes on Sunday. 2 out of 3 turned out way spicier than I like. Next time, I shall cut the seasoning amounts in half and maybe I won't get heartburn, or crazy dreams.

One was this recipe for Flautas de Pollo. Flautas are my favorite Mexican food. They're hard to come by in these parts but in less than a month, I'll be in flautas heaven. These were super easy to make and were very tasty. I left out the jalapeno and they still had quite a kick. Just a word of warning if you don't groove on the spicy stuff.

I also made a Tomato Tortilla soup. This was WAY spicier than I thought 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes would garner. It was from Everyday with Rachel Ray and I ripped it out a couple years ago but only made it just now. It's super easy so you can make it too, if you can stand the heat!

I saved the best, and not at all spicy, for last. It was a low fat Pumpkin Bread from Hungry Girl. I couldn't convince John that the cranberries would be good in it so I left them out. This bread is dense, yo, but SOOOOO yummy. It was especially good with my homemade apple butter on it. I love Hungry Girl. I'm asking for her new cookbook for Christmas. Make this if you're in a sweet mood. I didn't have Splenda and ended up substituting 1/3 c. of regular sugar for the 1/2 c. Splenda the recipe called for. I thought that was fair because I think Splenda is sweeter than regular sugar.

See? I was a cooking fool. I feel like Sunday afternoons are perfect for cooking and it keeps me out of the mall. Since the holidays are upon us, I should be saving my pennies for gifts.....and for our vacation which commences in less than 30 days!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

On Sunday mornings, when we should be in church, John makes Belgian waffles. He's the breakfast lover around here but I'm warming to most breakfast dishes. I now like waffles, pancakes, eggs, most sweet things, etc. I do not like french toast. I just can't get into it. Anyway, after waffles, we get coffee and go to Target and grocery shopping at Meijer. Today at Target, we had a humorous encounter with a cashier. If you've seen the SNL skit at Target ("Approved!") you may already know where I'm headed with this, although our cashier didn't take it quite that far.

Cashier: Oh, this sweet 'n spicy tuna is the best kind!

(She tells us this every week. No joke. It is the best but, come on lady, we see you every Sunday.)

Ashley: Yes, it is.

Cashier: Look at this cute wrapping paper. Is this already in the Dollar Spot?

(It was Christmas wrap, the short rolls.) John, biting his lip to stifle a burst of laughter, has to look away at this point. He told me later he was expecting the lady to run over to the Dollar Spot much like Kristen Wiig does in the skit.

Ashley: Yes, it is.

Cashier: I just love these rolls because there's no waste. They're the perfect size.

Ashley: I know. We got 4 of them!

This encounter won't be very funny for you unless you've seen the skit. I found one of them on You Tube here, if you're so inclined. The quality isn't great but you'll get the idea.

......in other news........

Unfortunately, since our computer has been slowly working its way back from the great beyond, not all areas and applications are working properly. The main one I'm concerned with is the ability to upload pictures. I have much to report including my living room makeover, Sadie's costume for this year and Saturday's washed out Bow-Wow-Ween. There's some good stuff there that I know you can't wait to see. But.... you will have to. My apologies.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Born Round

Despite the fact that I haven't been to NYC since 2006, I still read the NY Times everyday and am always interested in Frank Bruni's restaurant reviews as head food critic for the NYT. When I heard he had a book coming out, I put myself on the hold list straight away. Born Round: The Secret Life of a Full Time Eater by Frank Bruni was released just weeks ago. As someone who finds weight a constant struggle (don't we all?) I was interested to see how someone whose career revolves around food tackles this hurdle. Bruni deftly describes his weight issues as they began when he was a toddler and continued through his adult life. He goes into detail about his family and the role the Italian mentality regarding food played in his weight and the extremes he took some diets to. Eventually, he was hired as food critic for the NY Times, after he had gotten his weight under control. He shares the ups and downs of life and the scale in this relatable memoir. Bruni has a quick sense of humor that is always appreciated by me. As a reader, I am often looking for a literary laugh.

I really liked Born Round. I think it's one of my favorite memoirs from this year. It was particularly well written and as I said, relatable. If you've ever struggled with weight and wondered why, Bruni's journey will help you realize that everyone fights the same battles and what matters is how you approach them. Pick this one up if you come across it. Thumbs up!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Challenge met!

At the beginning of the year, I tasked myself with reading 35 books in 2009. Well, 35 came and went and I didn't even know it! I'm currently on book #38. Can you believe it? Man, do I love reading. Anyway, in light of this revelation, I've thrown down a new challenge for myself. Dare I say......I'm shooting for 50 books by the end of the year. That was my original goal before I amended it to 35 not wanting to set myself up for failure. But, with a little over 2 months left, and a week long vacation at Thanksgiving, I'm confident I can make it. Sure, I may have to pick a few fast fluff books but, hey, those still count.

How have you done on your reading this year?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Supreme Courtship

Guys, my computer went nuts for a week! We thought we were going to have to replace it completely and since my recent car repairs were $900, I wasn’t too keen on another large expense such as a computer. But, my non-tech savvy man figured it out, I think. Regardless, I can now blog for you! Exciting, yes?

Last week, or the week before, I finished Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley. I have read a number of his other works and this is the most recent, though I think it was published in 2008. When President Vanderdamp’s first two nominees to the Supreme Court are turned down by the search committee, he throws them for a loop by nominating Pepper Cartwright, a popular TV judge on the series Courtroom Six. By the miracle of literature, she is approved and causes quite a fuss as she begins to hear cases and raises eyebrows among the other eight warring judges. In the midst of it all, the President decides he must wage a campaign for re-election. A romping tale of wacky divorces, unexpected romances, and general mudslinging ensues in this politically charged comedy.

Supreme Courtship moves along at a pretty good clip and had its moments to chuckle at but it’s not nearly as good as some of Buckley’s other pieces. I enjoyed Thank You for Smoking, No Way to Treat a First Lady and The White House Mess far better than this one. If you’ve not read any Buckley, and even if you have no interest in political humor, I think you might enjoy one of the three I rattled off. Just don’t start with Supreme Courtship. It was really nothing to write home about.

I didn’t get to post about my in-law invasion and now it’s come and gone! Lots happens in a week, apparently, when you don’t post even though you think your life quite dull. John’s parents have never visited us and this past week, they made the 3 ½ hour drive to do so. We had a great time! I won’t list all of the details but they wore us out. We have had a string of weekends in which we don’t really feel we’ve accomplished much at all but have no room to relax. Let me also say, November is shaping up to be extremely busy. How is October half over already? How come I had to scrape ice off my windshield yesterday? Cut a girl some slack!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Transportation Woes

Last week, my car started doing strange things. I took it to Saturn and had to drive around with a technician. This was slightly unnerving. I always feel as though my passengers are judging my driving. I don't feel I'm a poor driver; I just don't usually have an audience. On this co-piloted drive, of course, my car was behaving perfectly. I went on my merry way, stupidly optimistic that the problems would subside on their own. Saturday, I took it in for a routine oil change. In the 3 days prior, it seemed my problems had indeed gone away on their own. Fingers crossed anyway.

Forward to Monday and my darn Check Engine light comes on. I was disheartened at first but knowing that my car probably wouldn't have righted itself, I was glad that they now had something concrete to look at. I took it in today after work knowing full well that it costs $86 just for them to hook my boy Blue (that's my car) up to their handy machine that tells you why your lights come on.

I hadn't heard anything by the time I was supposed to so John called my new buddy Dale over at Saturn. I hate cars and I'm also car stupid. John's not a whole lot better in this area but he agreed to call and check on it anyway. He also deals with the unpleasant money situations in this marriage. He already knew he would be fielding the call about the bill for this service because if it was over $500 (my hopeful amount) there's a good chance I would start crying. I'm not usually a big crier but I will confess an embarrassing story. One time when I was younger, too young to be driving or have credit, I went to pick up some pictures I had developed at Drug Mart. For some reason, they were way more than I thought they were going to be and I didn't have enough money. I started crying in Drug Mart. I had to leave and ask my dad for more money. He had been waiting in the car for me. I'm pretty sure he laughed at my misfortune and sorrows. I can't really remember as it was quite some time ago. Thus, why I don't deal with unpleasant money situations.

I digress.

The whole blasted point is: it's now almost 9:00 pm and an hour ago, after they had been looking at Blue for 3 hours, they still didn't know the crux of the problem. They know it is transmission related, not a cheap fix, but can't say for sure how to repair it. THIS IS YOUR JOB, Saturn Technicians. You work on the same models of cars all day long. There are only so many issues that can possibly arise. They're keeping Blue overnight, and there's a good chance they'll also have to wait a few days for parts. Eff it. This sucks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

wRECk-reation

Because of my foot issues that have not yet subsided, I am forced to use the workout room instead of the indoor track at my local recreation center. This upsets me for a number of reasons first and foremost being hygiene issues. I don’t know what is so difficult about wiping down machines that you have just sweat all over but apparently, it’s very taxing. For this reason, I wipe down everything I use before and after I am on it, just to be safe.

Also troubling are the noises that some people make in this room. There are both cardio machines (bikes, elliptical, etc.) and weights in the same area. I don’t think I have ever once felt the need to grunt while doing strength exercises but, that seems to be the common sound of choice to make while lifting. The way to avoid hearing this is to turn up your ipod as loud as possible. However, if your ipod volume is considerably high, you will not be able to hear when other people talk to you. I take the following conversation as an omen to just ignore any future contact. People will stop talking to you if you ignore them when they notice you have headphones in.

Let me paint you a little picture. I’m getting on my stationary bike, minding my own business and an old lady flops onto a recumbent bike two spots down from me. She has to be in her 70’s and has her hair pulled into a tight bun. Her neck is adorned by a beaded necklace which is completely inappropriate for the gym. She’s got on a red shirt and black pants, neither of which I would classify as workout wear, and no bra to speak of. A portly person, she also has lipstick far outside her lips and in general, looks about 6 shades of crazy. I’m trying not to stare as she makes a comment about the Bengals score but then says, “Oh, you have your headphones on.” Stupidly, I pull out one of the buds:

Ashley: I’m sorry?

Crazy Lady: I just was wondering what the score is.

Ashley: They haven’t shown it yet but I think it’s zero zero.

Crazy Lady: Do you go to Centerville or a different high school?

A bit thrown, I’m not too sure how to respond. Yes my hair is pulled back but does hair being down really age me? Also, I’m wearing a wedding ring. This should be a clue for her.

Ashley: Uh, no I’m 26.

Crazy Lady: Oh, what college do you go to?

At this point I can’t decide if I should be offended or flattered. At first, she knocked 10 years off my age, and now she has no concept of how old college graduates are.

Ashley: I graduated college 4 years ago.

CL: Where do you work?

Honestly by now, I am trying to figure out if there is any way for me to just leave the room. Quit talking to me so I can get on with my workout, weirdo.

Ashley: I work down in Cincinnati.

CL: You drive down there every day?

Ashley: Yes.

As she crosses herself…..

CL: Bless your heart. My son is a lawyer and he works 24 hours a day trying to hold onto his job.

Ashley: That’s too bad.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Thankfully she stopped talking to me and I went about my business. She may have said something else to me later on, much like the lady who asked me if I could also squirt her paper towels when I was cleaning my machine because she couldn’t find the spray. What is wrong with these people? That’s the problem with rec centers. Every geriatric gets a membership because it’s cheap and they don’t know proper gym etiquette. Also, some old man stared at me while I was doing squats. I was facing him. I’m not sure if that makes it more or less creepy. I wanted to tell him to take a picture and it would last longer but I just pretended I didn’t see him looking. Rough.