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


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! 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!