Saturday, December 31, 2011

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I managed to make it through a third book before the end of the year. This is what happens when you take a week off from work, ample reading time. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling follows Harry, Ron and Hermione as they study through their third year at Hogwart's. A new year means a new villain, of course. This time, the dastardly Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban prison and most people think he's after Harry. Black is likely in Voldemort's back pocket and a madman making him even scarier. Will Black catch Harry? Will another Defense of Dark Arts professor be better than the last? And what's gotten into Hermione? Read and see for yourself.....

These are really getting good now! Rowling does a fantastic job at weaving in secondary plotlines and keeping the reader guessing. I can't wait to move onto the next one, although I have a non-HP book coming up before continuing with this series. I am also really excited to start watching the corresponding movies, of which I have seen none. Luckily, at any given time, I can find just about every one somewhere on TV for me to DVR. Yea hooray!

Rating: * * * *

P.S. Have a safe and Happy New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Toasty Neck

I couldn't show this before Christmas so as not to ruin a gift but I made these useful neck warmers. I selected flannel for its coziness but I'm sure any cotton would also do. Tracing my own storebought warmer, I created a pattern and cut out 4 pieces. Four pieces because I made two of them. With right sides together, I stitched around the edges leaving an opening for turning. Once right-side out, I poured in 32 oz. of rice. I read somewhere you could add scented oil to the rice but I didn't want to do that because some people can be picky about scents. Then, I top-stitched the opening closed and voila! Throw in the microwave for a couple minutes and you'll be heated through and through. Perfect for neck pain or winter Ohio nights!

I also made some navy table clothes but they are so unexciting I didn't bother taking a picture. Plain navy fabric and all I did was hem them. Not too special on that front but I think they were enjoyed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. Harry and friends are no longer first years at Hogwarts. But, this year brings a new villain afoot. It is said, only a true descendant of Salazar Slytherin can open the Chamber of Secrets. Bad things are happening around the school and Harry, and others, fear he may be the cause. Is Harry a true Slytherin? I'm certainly not going to give it away!

I liked this one; it was a page turner. Multiple people told me the series gets better and better as it goes along and they were right. I'm already halfway through the third book while typing up this post. I don't think I'll be finishing my goal of reading the whole series in a week. This Christmas break has proven very busy indeed.....hence the lack of posts. Don't worry, I'll be back with more frequency in the new year.

Rating: * * * *

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #52 and MERRY CHRISTMAS

Although it's been said many time, many ways, "Merry Christmas to you!"

I hope you're all having the very merriest of Christmases and that Santa brings you everything you could ever hope for this year.

Can't let the last Sunday go by without posting a recipe though, right?
Should I know better than to try recreating the cover recipe of Bon Appetit magazine? You'd think I would.

Peppermint Meringues: I've never made meringue before but I thought these looked super cute and thought I'd give it a shot. Well, their taste was great. Very light and refreshing. A nice, crispy holiday treat. Their appearance however was.........

If you click on the link, you'll see why I was more than slightly disappointed by their outcome. I guess I need more practice. And maybe an actual pastry bag with the proper tip. My mom tried one and then asked me to make sure they weren't dog treats. She did say they had a good flavor but they were in a different container than my other cookies. Anyway, give it a shot. Maybe your piping skills are better than mine!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Carb City

Can we get real here people?

I am going to tell you something about carbohydrates that I've recently discovered. It's not something I want to admit to myself. It's actually going to very difficult for me to type but here goes. All those experts who said you should cut back on white flour and sugar and carbs....were right. A few months back, after hearing for the zillionth time that cutting out bread and pasta made a huge difference in some celebrity of another's life physically, I started to ponder. Is this really true?

I mean guys. I love bread. I love it so much I could subsist solely on grain and be a happy camper. All summer long I baked my own fresh bread, which is the best smell in the world, by the way. And multiple times a week, I tore off piece after piece to dip in olive oil and savor. I'm not sure what changed all that but I stopped baking so much bread and convinced John that we should be eating fewer potatoes and less pasta and upping the veggies on our plates. I knew this would help my calorie counting and hopefully, make me a healthier eater. Instead of hummus on crackers, we switched to celery. Instead of a whole baked potato, I had just half. And guess what, it was totally fine. I didn't starve and I haven't died.

I haven't given up bread and pasta and the like completely but I also wasn't so sure it was paying dividends until recently. For about 4 days in a row, I had major carbs and minimal fruit and veg. This was an unavoidable mistake. Well, not truly unavoidable but we were hosting guests and the meals eaten just weren't the healthiest options available. I also missed all my workouts for those days. Oh, and ate a whole bunch of cookies. Honest, I ate potatoes for something like 6 meals in a row. During that time, I could feel the lethargy creeping in. I felt downright sluggish. Even though I slept an adequate amount of hours, I was still sleepy the whole day. My normally chipper attitude was waning. The carbs were bringing me down!

By Sunday, I decided it was time to turn it around. No carb coma can't be cured by 6 miles in 53:15 (a personal best!) So, while the scale isn't really moving, I am definitely noticing a big difference in muscle tone and definition. Kind of like how the Victoria's Secret models drank only special protein shakes for 9 days before the big fashion show so their muscles would really stand out. Well, maybe not exactly like that. I'll get off my carb-y sopa box now but I wanted to let you know, if you feel like you've plateaued, and even though you think you might be eating all the right things, all calories are not created equally. This realization just days before a sure to be gluttonous Christmas.....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Steve Jobs

Smartly, I put myself on the hold list for this Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson even before the book was released. I only had to wait through 5 people who had a faster trigger finger than I.

Unless you've been living under a rock for a number of years, you know who Steve Jobs is. Chances are good that you own or have at least encountered one Apple product, and probably more than that. You've likely seen Toy Story or another Pixar movie. Yeah, he was behind that too. Jobs may have dropped out of college but he was so smart it's sickening. He had a work ethic that wouldn't quit and a drive that was unmatchable. You probably know all of this already too. What I didn't know before reading this biography was just how intensely he lived his life. Jobs would become so focused on certain aspects of his products and business that nothing else really mattered and those who stood in the way inevitably became collateral damage. But, that's how you build a technological empire. Even through his battle with cancer, which he lost this year, he was still present in all Apple had to offer.

I'm not going to re-hash his whole life story here. What I'll tell you is that this was in incredibly interesting, albeit long, read. I found his rise, fall, and rise fascinating. While some of this 500+ page biography is a little slow, as a whole it's definitely worth reading whether or not you think you're interested in the Silicon Valley and its beginning or how Apple became the juggernaut it is today. Give this one a shot. People will think you're both smart and hip if they see you reading it!

Rating: * * * *

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gifts from John

John and I celebrated Christmas together a week early. We don't think it makes much sense to haul our presents up north just to bring them back down again. He got a new suit and a book from me. He likes it because it has pinstripes and makes him feel gangsta. The suit, not the book. He got me, with a little elf help, the earrings I was coveting in both gold and silver! And also, this beauty......

This is Josie. Isn't she pretty? She is a buttery celadon yellow, over the shoulder bag about 12" x 11". This means, he remembered every time we went purse shopping over the past year and I lamented about not being able to find a yellow bag. She also has the quirkiest black and white polka dot lining. That Kate Spade, she knows what's up.

The only question now is, can I start carrying her now? If the color were decidedly more lemon, I would have had to wait until spring. However, this is a muted yellow. Do I buck tradition and bring her out on the town? Or slide her in her dust cover until the ground thaws again? Decisions, decisions.

Opinions welcomed!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Biltmore Christmas White

If you're looking for an affordable, holiday themed wine to put on your dinner table or take to a party, look no further. Christmas at the Biltmore is a semi-sweet white blend from the vineyards of the Biltmore mansion in Asheville, NC. It retails for somewhere around $12.00. Light in  flavor, crisp in finish.

Isn't that a festive label? Biltmore holds a contest each year for a new label design on their Christmas offering. I served this when my parents were in from Florida. I just may have to pick up another bottle to take north for our other parties.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #51

OK, home stretch, folks. I can totally do this.

BBQ Chicken Pasta Skillet: Yes, this is a strangely title recipe. Now, to some this may not sound appetizing, at all. To those of us Chez G, it sounded amazing. I only knew we'd both be interested because I tried a similar recipe earlier this year using pulled pork as part of a cold pasta salad and it was to die. This recipe also only has 336 calories per serving, a winner any day in my book. I really liked this one. Give the sauce time to thicken. I also forgot to add the shredded cheese until a couple bites in. I liked it after I added it but I didn't miss it beforehand. Also, one pot cooking! Try this, s'il vous plait!
Guess what? One week until Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sewing Sorry

I had fully intended to post a sewing project today. When I planned out my December posts, the 14th said "sewing something." Well, guess what. I have nothing for you. Frankly, at this moment, I'm really sick of sewing. This was the first year I've made this many presents to give to people. Don't get me wrong. I really like gifting my handiwork to those lucky recipients. I hope they like it too. But, when you make 10 clutches, 4 pairs of slippers (because you made the first 2 too small), and many other items I can't show you yet because they haven't been opened, you get burnt out. I'm just lucky I started so early. Otherwise I never would have finished in time. My back is killing me from bending over my machine. The 2 1/2 hours I spent wrapping presents last Friday night didn't help either.

So, please forgive me. I'll be sewing again after the holidays. Until then, you'll just have to read my random ramblings.

Oh yeah, I also didn't finish the large book I intended for tomorrow's post so there's a good chance you're on your own for Thursday. I'm just disappointing you all over the place today, aren't I? Call me a victim of a hectic holiday season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pass the Kleenex

Guys, I am really not a crier. I have never been one of those people who cry at things they see on TV or books they read or anything like that. Well, I don't know what happened to me but lately this couldn't be further from the truth. Here is a list of things that made me mist up this week:

-the video of those dogs getting released from captivity after being medically tested for years and never having set foot outside

-a story on the Today Show when a father comes home from Iraq and the kids are surprised at school by his return

-likewise, a story on the radio about a woman's son who is still in Afghanistan and will miss Christmas again

-a special on the Ironman Triathlon when each person, old and young, fast or painfully slow, crossed the finish line, especially the 70 year old man who could barely stand up straight and kept falling down but made the 17 hour cut off mark with minutes to spare

-a Christmas card that was really nice

-reading race reports from other runners who crossed the finish line in various races

See what I mean? This really has got to stop. It's embarrassing. Sniffling and wiping snot on my sleeve while watching TV is not okay. What is wrong with me and how do I make it go away?

Additionally, the other night I dreamt that John and I were getting married again and Jay-Z was there. This didn't make me cry but, when I woke up I was slightly sad that I'm not actually friends with Jay-Z.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I love gooooooold

Recently, I purchased two new holiday nail polishes because I am a sucker. Luckily, I truly didn't have anything similar to either of the colors when I got home. Typically, I buy bottles and think, "Oh I don't have anything like this in my collection!" And I'm usually completely wrong. Isn't that weird?

This is called High Roller from Ulta ($6). Ulta has totally revamped their polish line with a sleeker look and I swear, a new formula. This stuff had great coverage. I think I could have gotten away with only one coat.The gold really says holiday and I do feel like a high roller up in here. I showed John my nails and immediately had to make it rain. High roller, comin' through!

P.S. Buy it when they're having a BOGO sale, which is pretty much all the time. What? Even high rollers love a bargain.

P.P.S. High rollers also eat at Fleming's but make sure they're using gift cards and getting their promised dining credits for reserving online.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #50

Is it any surprise that this week's new recipe is also from Rachael Ray? Probably not. Once again, it comes from 365: No Repeats. I have made many recipes from this cookbook. If you don't have a Rachael Ray cookbook and are interested in one, I'd start here. Lots to choose from!
Asian-style Cashew Chicken: I love a good stir-fry. They're quick, easy and often chock full of veggies! We even doubled up on the snow peas here. Well worth it. This recipe had a lot of ingredients but it was very simple. So simple that my sous chef put on the head chef hat and I helped out when I could. I was doing something else at the same time, I forget what. Anyway, this was a great cashew chicken recipe. Give it a shot and pump up the veggies!

p.s. This recipe is a revamped version of the one before it in the book, Park City Cashew Chicken -- click back a few pages to get the master recipe through that link
p.p.s. I numbered wrong. I didn't skip #49. Promise!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Slippers for Ben

A couple months ago, my sister said my nephew Ben could use some slippers (B - stop reading if you don't want to see these, also don't show Ben!) You know, for those cold Texas nights. I followed this Made by Rae Tutorial only I skipped the dragon parts. Too much more effort. Let me tell you something about sewing little fleece slippers. I wished I had a mini sewing machine for smaller sewing spots. But, they turned out okay in the end. I hope they keep Ben's toes toasty warm. I really wanted a bright colored fleece but everything I came across had a large pattern that wouldn't have worked.

The gray fabric on the left is sherpa lined suede. Soft on the inside, non-skid suede on the outside. Then, black fleece for the interior, and a black and red (though it looks like white too) plaid for the exterior.

Slippers are tough to photograph without a child to put them on.

Perhaps this model will do? Sadie loves her Christmas bandanna but wasn't too pleased to add
Slipper Model to her doggie resume.

Anyway, I hope Ben and the other little boy I made a second pair for enjoy them a lot!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Weird Beer

Chocolate Cherry Beer: Dark wheat, O'Fallon

I only have one beer to share today. I've tasted others recently but this one deserves its own post. My apologies for the photo. I was so excited after tasting it I simply could not get a clear shot. This, my friends, is the Cherry Chocolate Beer from O'Fallon Brewery. While everyone else is offering up their Christmas and holiday spirits, O'Fallon is marching to the beat of their own beer vat. It's a dark wheat in variety and yes, it tastes like cherry chocolate. Think liquid cherry cordial.! Is this good. Sweet, yes. Chocolate-y, yes. Cherry-y, oh yes. No, it doesn't really taste like beer but really. Did you buy something called Cherry Chocolate beer because you were craving a brew? No, you did not. Check it out if you can find it. Try your local Kroger. That's where we got ours. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Am I the last person in the world to read Harry Potter? I mean really. I have avoided it until now because I truly had no interest in it. Millions and millions of people could certainly be wrong about this popular series, I'm sure. Call me crazy, or a lack of to-be-read books, but I picked up the first in the series at the library and tucked in. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in the series by J. K. Rowling.

Here is the very briefest of synopses for you. Upon turning 11 years old, orphaned Harry Potter learns he is a wizard and is enrolled in Hogwart's, a wizarding school. For the next 6 years, he will learn potions and spells and what it takes to be a part of this life he previously knew nothing about. He quickly hears of evil wizard Voldemort and finds himself involved, along with his wizarding friends, in a race against time to rescue the Sorcerer's Stone from falling into the wrong hands.

Verdict: I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. I can see why the world is enraptured by J.K. Rowling's creation. A friend of mine advised that the books get better as the series progresses. I'm looking forward to continuing on with them and hoping, perhaps, to finish all 7 (or 8? I can't remember) by the end of the year. A tall order since I have the Steve Jobs bio to pick up as well. But, I love a good reading challenge and have a lot of time off around the holidays.

Rating: * * * *

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fitness Check In

This is a smidge belated but I wanted to report, I survived Thanksgiving and am now fully back on track with eating and working out. I accomplished two goals over that holiday: 1) No seconds at the Thanksgiving table and dessert at only 1 of the 2 dinners I went to, 2) Don't drink too much. John and I both policed ourselves really well in both regards. That's hard to do when we are back in our hometown for a long weekend. His parents are bad food influences.

Oh, and the most amazing feat, we both got up and ran outside on Thanksgiving! I was super proud of us for that. Even though John wouldn't register to run a turkey trot, we waged our own trot around the streets of A-Town. It  sunny but chilly (in the 40's) and I do not like running outside, especially not in those temps. I didn't have any mittens so my hands were cold but I thought I fared pretty well. My time wasn't so hot but I was just going for stamina, and surviving. I only walked one hill, and it was a beast. The sad part about this was that I missed the Newsies performance during the parade. I love Newsies! I need to get to NYC and see it on Broadway. Then on Black Friday, I walked at the malls for a good 5-6 hours and then came home and went on an hour walk with Sadie, her dog friend Dexter and my good friend of 20 years. It was awesome! Though I was exhausted, having gotten up at 5:30 to shop.

So, now that we're a week post-Thanksgiving, I'm allowed to weigh myself again. A month or so ago, I promised myself I would cut back on carbs and incorporate more fruits and veggies instead. I'm happy to say that too is going swimmingly. I'm also loving my new Zumba toning class on Mondays. I traded a normal zumba day for treadmill speed work. If you don't have a plan of attack with eating and fitness heading into the holidays, you're sunk. Fortunately, I have plans for both and so I am swimming!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #48

We are in the home stretch, my friends. Only 1 month of new recipes to go.

Ginger Chicken Noodle Bowl: This recipe comes from the enigmatic Rachael Ray and can be found in her cookbook, 365 Recipes: No Repeats. I was craving Asian and while I really wanted Sweet & Sour Chicken, preferably of the fried variety, I was trying to healthify dinner a bit. This recipe has lots of ingredients and I didn't skimp on any of them! That never happens. Did you people know that you don't have to buy that entire chunk of fresh ginger in the grocery store? You can break off a piece to your liking and purchase just that instead. My ginger only cost me 12 cents and was so much more vibrant that ground ginger. I'm never turning back again! I couldn't find a legit link on her site but the link above is to a reprint of the recipe. I really liked this one! It was delicious and healthy. A suped up chicken noodle soup, much thicker and flavorful. Plus, garlic and ginger have naturally healthy qualities. Winner winner chicken noodle bowl dinner!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

To E-read, or Not to E-read....

As you are likely aware, I love to read. If you didn't know that, then you haven't been paying very close attention to my blog. I love books. I love my library. I love book stores. But, my friends, I am at a literary crossroads. Do I want an e-reader? Since the advent of the Kindle, Nook, etc., I have been staunchly against them. Never do I want to see my bookstores and libraries suffer any further due to technology as they certainly already have. But, the other day on my library's website I discovered that I can download books for free to a Kindle. So really, I'm still supporting the library's circulation and getting my read on. Right?

Then, there's this other little matter. I am constantly waiting on the Hold list for books. Some of these lists take me months to move to the numero uno spot and it's very frustrating. I read relatively quickly and yet the books that I'm waiting for never seem to be ready for me. My fellow library patrons must be slow-poke readers. If I could download all the new releases in addition to the classics and other older books, I could read even faster! But, I do so love to hold a book in my hands and crack open its spine for the first time. If I could get over wanting to hold the book, this is a vote for yes, yes?

Here's another little peccadillo. I heard the other day that smart phones and other gadgets can impede sleep because they slow down the release of melatonin into your body. If you are using these devices near bedtime, your brain does not have enough time to properly relax before bed. I already have trouble sleeping and reading can often calm my busy thoughts. Do I really want to calm down while staring at a screen? And would this really be as cute behind the glow of a screen?

You can surely see my dilemma. Do you have an e-reader? PLEASE WEIGH IN!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hey! Clutch Clutch

I have been a seriously busy sewing machine these days. Not only did I finish up my cardigan, but I also stitched up 8 of these cute clutches. Eight! I followed this tutorial. Why would one person need 8 clutches? Well, they wouldn't. But, if they had eight people to give them to, then there you'll find your answer. They are intended for co-workers, employees, and bro-in-laws' girlfriends.

And actually, I need to make 2 more. I think they're very cute and I think it shows more thought and care than another candle or ornament. I hope they'll like them!

My major beef is this: I used the heaviest weight of fusible web I could find and I really wish they were a bit stiffer. I need to research other stiffening methods besides fusible web before I tackle another round of these. I have some wool that I think would make a really cute winter clutch but I want it to keep its shape better. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Born to Run

This is my second running book in as many weeks. What is wrong with me? I borrowed this from the library some time ago but returned without reading. At that time, I was lukewarm on running. I checked it out again since I've been upping my speed and mileage and am finally starting to feel like I'm an actual runner and not a fraud.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race The World has Never Seen was written by Christopher McDougall, a journalist and runner in search of the answer to his running pains. On his journey, he discovers an incredible breed of runner, the Ultrarunner. These athletes run back-to-back marathons for their races, up to as much as 100 miles during one race. That's right, without stopping, and usually in very rough terrain and difficult climates. While researching these ultras, he stumbles upon an ancient tribe of runners, the Tarahumara. They live deep in the Mexican jungle and have no interest in modern-day technology.

Following his guide, Caballo Blanco, McDougall begins to transform his running style and attitude. The Tarahumara run everywhere throughout their lives and they do it in low profile, rubber-fashioned sandals as opposed to fancy running shoes. Eventually, McDougall and Caballo plan to hold a 50-mile race bringing together a handful of the best ultrarunners in America and as many Tarahumara that would show up.

I really enjoyed Born to Run. The chapters hop back and forth between the unbelievable path McDougall and Caballo took to make this race happen and other runners' stories and advances made in running shoes that were actually causing a lot of chronic pain issues. This format was sometimes difficult to keep up with. McDougall's research on the problems Nike and other shoe companies have created for runners with their suped up shoes was incredibly enlightening. I am one of those sufferers of foot problems and run with orthotics. Orthotics that McDougall heard from multiple doctors and running specialists were really crap. If you are not a runner, you probably won't get as much out of it as I did. However, McDougall paints amazing characters from all these runners he met along the way that you will likely still get swept up in the story. You just won't find the running research parts as interesting as I did.

Rating: * * * *

Monday, November 28, 2011

Over Achiever

I am nearly finished with my Christmas shopping and it's not even December yet. I think this is a large feather in my savvy shopper's cap. While I love shopping, I have been in the malls on December 23rd and it's not pretty. Granted, I wasn't looking for a gift at that late date but holiday-wear for myself but still, not pretty. I only have a couple more people to finish and I think I can do all of that online.

Do you know what else you can get online? These earrings.

They are the large lotus hoops by Peggy Li and I NEED gold. Charlotte wears them on Private Practice which is where I first discovered them. They are simple hoops but I think they're so unique. It's probably wishful thinking to hope that John is reading this and picking up my not so subtle hint.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #47

Two new recipes this week and neither were made on Thanksgiving. You didn't really think I'd skip my new recipe during the World Series of Eating, did you? Silly rabbit. Surprise! Two more crockpot recipes. I only have a 4 quart crockpot but it's been a workhorse for me. Rarely do I find a recipe that won't fit in its petite size.
Crockpot Turkey Pumpkin White Bean Chili: When I asked John if it was okay to make a turkey and pumpkin chili just days before Thanksgiving, he scoffed. That man LOVES pumpkin. The flavors in this recipe caught my eye. It's crock-ability had me hooked. And as if that wasn't enough, it has under 200 calories per serving. Hot dog! I really enjoyed this recipe but next time I might add even more pumpkin and double the chili powder. Other than that, parfait!
Crockpot Mulled Wine: Mmmm, warm wine. I have discovered my cold weather alternative to sangria. This recipe will elevate your single digit price tag wine to new levels. You can easily cut this batch in half like I did as the full recipe calls for two bottles. One half to test on Friday night, one half to serve to friends on Saturday night. I didn't think making a whole batch for just John and me was a wise choice. This spicy sipper was just what we needed up a chilly evening. A mug of mulled wine, a new episode of Grimm on TV and we're all set. Give this one a try!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, you turkeys! That's what my mom would say. Mark my words, that will come out of her mouth when we Skype today. For the first time in 3 years, we are not celebrating Thanksgiving with my family in Texas or in further back years, in Florida. I'm pretty sad not to be enjoying the mild temps but I have to admit, I didn't miss the airport this year. Sadie didn't either. Girlfriend does not like her traveling crate. I'm also glad to be spending Thanksgiving with our family in northern Ohio, which we don't typically do.

This year, I'm thankful for too many things to list here. My life is grand. I hope yours is too!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Party in my Cardy

I am in love. I want to live in this cardigan forever and have all its cardigan babies. I purchased this fabric from Joann's a couple months ago with no project in mind. Before I even sewed one seam, I went back and bought another yard because I loved it so much. I should have purchased the whole bolt. I had to buy 8 yards of navy polyester for another project in the works and I asked them to leave it on the bolt for me. You have no idea how excited I was to walk out of the store with a nearly full bolt of fabric, and I'm not even keeping the end product of that. I think John is afraid to walk into my sewing room these days. It looks like I'm about to open my own fabric shop. I digress.......

I know, this striped stretch jersey doesn't seem like it would provoke such strong feelings. Maybe you don't know me very well. The only reason I didn't purchase even more yardage of it on yet another return trip to Joann's was because it was on sale (only 30%) so I couldn't use my better coupon. When I bought it the first and second times, I got it for half off and it ended up costing only $6/yard. Seeing that price in print resulted in me kicking myself just now for not buying even more. Gosh, I digress again.......

Sewing with stretch fabric frightened me a bit. I did it before with a dress but I wasn't too pleased with my result. You are supposed to use a ballpoint needle, which I have. But, let me tell you something, ballpoint needles and universal needles look identical. IDENTICAL! I couldn't remember what kind was on my machine and I had a vague memory of possibly putting a universal back in with the ballpoints. Why would I do this? So, I threaded a new needle that I presumed was ballpoint, switched my stitch to a stretch zigzag and set out to sew.

Patternless, I had a concept of what I wanted this cardigan to be and went with it. I was inspired by this post on Elle Apparel. Using a stretch jersey cardigan that I own and love. I cut out a pretty loose pattern with some variations to the cut and length. Cutting into this fabric made me nervous. Going patternless also makes me nervous. Sewing this cardigan was giving me the sweats and I hadn't even put my foot on the pedal. I wanted this to come out beautifully and I did not want to ruin my fabric to an unsalvageable (not a real word) state.

                  Sorry this picture isn't pretty, also yes, the one side needs to be shortened in the front. :|

Luckily, it all turned out fine. I could not love it more! The length is amazing and I made the sleeves extra long. That's the best part. Nothing worse than too short sleeves. I'm going to wear it every single day. And now I'll be on a hunt for a similar fabric in other colors.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

This year, I promised myself to seek out new-to-me authors. I have failed. Haruki Murakami is a contemporary writer that I've known about for some time but have never read. When I remembered I was supposed to be broadening my literary horizons, I checked this out from the library.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Murakami about his life through running. Over a span of 20+ years, he chronicles races he ran, training he endured, and how he survived a marathon (or more) a year for the entire second half of his life. He discusses running in different geographical locations and how his feelings towards running have remained constant throughout his life.

Because this is a memoir, I didn't really get a sense of Murakami's fiction writing abilities but it piqued my interest enough to check out one of his other novels from the library that I'll delve into after my current read (incidentally, also about running). I really enjoyed What I Talk About. As a no longer fledgling runner, I appreciate his agony in training. I love hearing about others' workout regimens and race reports. Does that make me a runner? I guess so. A runner and a reader. However, I think even if you're not a runner, you can appreciate his stories of running and life and all that happens in between.

Rating: * * * 1/2

P.S. I love love love when they make movies out of books I read. Coming out in the next weeks/months, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and of course (although not until March) HUNGER GAMES! Cannot wait. I'd like to point out that in my 2009 review of Hunger Games, I said it would make a good movie. I am psychic and Hollywood should hire me. If you haven't watched the trailer yet.....for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #46

I pulled out the crockpot again this week. I am obsessed with my crockpot these days. If I can crock it, it's okay by me.

Crockpot Dijon Pork Chops: Guys, I search high and low online for this recipe and came up empty-handed. It's from the Better Homes & Gardens Crockpot cookbook and they have a recipe with the same title on their site but it's not the same recipe. What gives? I am not a big pork fan. I keep trying with pork chops because I think there's got to be a recipe out there that will make me enjoy this lean cut of meat. These chops were crocked on a bed of scalloped potatoes mixed with cream of mushroom soup, onion, dijon, and some other seasonings. The flavor of the potatoes was great. The chops still came out dry and on leftover night I doused them in BBQ sauce. So, in the end, I guess it's okay that I couldn't find the recipe. It's not really worth making again. are your Thanksgiving menus coming? This year, I don't have to cook. I just have to eat twice. I know. Life is rough.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Things This Week

-I was probably unnecessarily excited when I discovered that my DVR goes up to 4x fast forward now. Those few valuable seconds saved speeding through commercials will certainly add years to my life. Did you know about this DVR Owners? How long have I been wasting my time on 3x fast forward only?

-For the last 28 years, I've been using Q-tips incorrectly. I've been sticking them in my ear canal and rolling between my fingers. Recently, I dragged the q-tip around the inner rim of the canal instead and it was much more productive. When I asked John if that was how he used Q-tips I think he questioned who he had chosen to be his life partner.

-Here's another 'duh' moment from Ashley. Last weekend, John and I went to a winery about 45 minutes away in Hanover Twp. called Hanover Winery. I'm the one that looked up the address AND put it in the GPS. But, it wasn't until we were nearly home after having tasted and purchased our wine that I realized why it was called Hanover Winery. Previously, I thought it was the proprietors' last name. See above, John questions wife choice. It didn't help matters one bit when I had to be told that Summit Mall was named as such because it's in Summit County.

-It's much more difficult to come up with Christmas wishes as you age. Do you agree? I had to try really hard to think of things to ask for. I am lucky that so many people want to buy me gifts but it was quite a task to give them ideas. And don't say 'surprise me.' I loathe when people do that to me so I refuse to do it to them. Maybe if I didn't shop so much throughout the year I would have more needs and wants to be fulfilled.

-And another thing about shopping for Christmas, why is it that when you hit the stores hoping to purchase lots of gifts, there are none for you to buy? How come you find only beautiful Lacoste trench coats that you must buy for yourself because they are 80% off? (Sold out online, sorry. But I got it in tan.) It's not as if I can wear my trench coat Christmas morning and say to my dad, "Oh, I couldn't find anything for you, but isn't this trench a stunner?"

-Where can I start a petition to have Hollywood re-release Newsies to theatres? Sing-along format is preferred. I know I'm not alone in this one. Perhaps for the 20th anniversary next year.

...that's all I got today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Make It: Seed Stitch Cowl

A couple weeks ago I decided it was time to put a little knitting back in my life. I learned how to knit years ago thanks to my Grandma. She's also the one who taught me how to sew. These skills will last me a lifetime and I'm so grateful to have had a wonderful teacher to impart such wisdom.

While at my Mecca (aka Joann's) I stumbled upon a skein of Lion Brand wool yarn in the clearance bin for a dollar. ONE DOLLAR! It's taupe so it should be pretty versatile and oh yeah, it only cost me a buck. I have lots of scarves but no knit cowls. I was inspired by Luvin' the Mommyhood's cowl knit along. I couldn't get my act together to participate by the deadline but I'm proud of my cowl all the same. Crafting on a schedule isn't my forte. Sometimes I'm feelin' it, sometimes not.

If I do say so myself, I got pretty fancy with this cowl and broadened my knitting horizons. Having never attempted a seed stitch before, I thought this bargain cowl was a good project to give it a shot. For you non-knitters, seed stitch is a knit one, purl one alternating stitch for each row, beginning with the opposite (knit or purl) on each row you start. I thought I would have a lot of trouble trying to figure out which to start with as I'm not a fancy enough knitter to look at a row and know whether I knitted or purled last. I finally figured all that out though and came across a helpful tip, whatever you ended your previous row with, also starts your next row. So, if you ended on a purl, when you turn your knitting over, you start with a purl. Got it? Easy peasy lemon squeezey. I only messed up on 2 rows. I thought that was pretty good for my first seeding.

I didn't use a pattern for this, just cast on 14 stitches and went to town. When my desired length was reached, I stitched the two ends together. If I do this kind of cowl again, I'd probably only cast on 10 or 12 stitches. It could be a bit narrower. What I like most about the seed stitch is that it's tight and doesn't stretch too much (like garter) or curl (like stockinette). I also like the pattern all the little seeds create. I am definitely seeding again in the future.

So, that's my cowl! I can wear it loose, or doubled. I prefer the doubled look. I think it's going to look great with my cream winter coat.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Drama: An Actor's Education

I first heard a review of John Lithgow's memoir, Drama: An Actor's Education, on the radio. Somewhere smart, like NPR. An excerpt was read and I thought, "yeah okay, why not?" I checked it out from the library and got underway.

In Drama, Lithgow chronicles his life from growing up as part of a family that led a relatively nomadic lifestyle moving from city to city to sustain his father's career in the performing arts industry as a theatre festival entrepreneur/theatre program director and more. He spent a number of years in Ohio, which I never knew and was excited to learn. As a child, he didn't necessarily want to be an actor but spent his life growing up onstage, when needed, and backstage while watching his father work as an actor and director.

At Harvard, he studied performing arts and theatre and eventually was even awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study and act in London. Lithgow discusses his sometimes strained relationship with his father, his first marriage that began in his very early 20's while still a student, and the hardships of being an often unemployed actor just hoping to land his next gig.

I really enjoyed this memoir. I knew nothing of Lithgow's career and extensive theatre background. If I had to guess, my first experience of Lithgow's work was probably watching Harry and the Hendersons (classic 80's!) Throughout his writing, he seems like such a nice person with a good work ethic and positive attitude. I caught myself chuckling in many parts of Drama as well. It was an interesting and entertaining read.

Rating: * * * 3/4 (not quite 4)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #45

Another pumpkinny week here in Ohio! Still not sick of the stuff. I also discovered a new to me local coffee shop that had an awesome pumpkin latte. Pays to try new places and support your local establishments!

Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts: I woke up Sunday morning and wanted doughnuts. Luckily, I have a doughnut pan and can make that happen. I had all ingredients on hand for these except the Pumpkin Pie Spice. How did I run out of that without replacing it? I subbed in some other spices and it was just fine. These were moist and tasty. I cut the recipe in half and got 12 mini's and 1 regular sized doughnut. I skipped the chocolate glaze in the interest of calories and because I knew it wasn't necessary. These are a keeper for sure! I cooked them with my laptop on the counter. Guess it's time to print out the recipe for my binder.

Pumpkin Lasagna: I'm auditioning new lasagna recipes. I don't really like the simple one I am currently using. This is from Robert Irvine on the Food Network website. Being a pumpkin lasagna, this will not be my go-to recipe as it's relatively seasonal. However, the pumpkin was not overpowering and worked well with the surprise ingredient, zucchini! My sous chef and I used turkey sausage to cut calories and left out the romano cheese. This pan must have weighed 5 lbs when I put it in the oven. It was very filling and tasty. It's a keeper for sure!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Stolen Life

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard is a memoir about her years in captivity after having been kidnapped at age 11. She was kept from her family and childhood for 18 years. In that time, Jaycee was sexually abused and gave birth to two daughters fathered by her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido. He, along with his wife Nancy, kidnapped Jaycee and hid her in a strange secret backyard in tents and outbuildings.

Phillip had a drug problem and suffered from schizophrenia and other mental issues. He was also out on parole from another sexual crime in his past. A Stolen Life is Jaycee's recollection of her time there astounding. The Garridos were horrible people who created a terrible life for Jaycee giving her a false sense of love, as a child, and forcing her into many things she did not want to do.

A Stolen Life is an incredibly interesting memoir of Dugard's recollection of her life during those years. Though not particularly well-written, considering she had no formal education from 11 years old on, it's pretty impressive. A fast read, well worth your time.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Butt Bible

Guys. I have found the BEST workout for your posterior region. It's by Pauline Nordin and it's called the Butt Bible. If you have Time Warner, you can find it free on Exercise TV. If you don't have Time Warner Cable, you can purchase the DVD's here for $24.99.

But seriously. There are three levels of both upper and lower workouts. I prefer the lower but have also seen good results with the upper. My butt isn't really a problem area but who wouldn't want a perfectly round tush. Let me tell you, she will kick your butt for sure. Pauline is Swedish and no nonsense. I love it! There's nothing better than the soreness on the 2nd day after a good strength workout. Am I right, or just crazy?

These toning routines coupled with my new running efforts are really starting to pay off, I think. I'm not yet in a smaller pants size (the ultimate goal) but I definitely feel stronger and see more definition. I know the strength training is helping my running pace as well. Quads, hams, and glutes are large muscles that take a long time to tone. I constantly remind myself of that fact but it's hard.

If you're looking for a new strength routine, give this a shot. If you prefer cardio (like I do), you'll still work up a good sweat with this. You try not to sweat during 2 minutes of single leg weighted dead lifts. I dare you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Beer, Part III

Did you think I was done trying any and every pumpkin beer I could get my hands on? I guess you don't know me very well.

Wolaver's Pumpkin Ale: This is an organic beer from Vermont. Unfortunately, we drank them all and I can't find any tasting notes online. Sad. However, this was probably my least favorite of all the beers I tried. The pumpkin flavor was too subtle for me. Pass on this next time.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale: I liked this one a lot. It was a bit pricier than the others but still worth it. From the bottle: "This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is the mother of all pumpkin ales. It is heartier, spicier, and more “caramelly” and “pumpkiny” than its faint brethren! We have added lots of pumpkin along with Cinnamon, Nutmeg and a touch of cardamom and clove giving this beer a spicy, full-bodied flavor. This truly is an Imperial Pumpkin Ale." The higher alcohol content means you should probably only have one lest you do something regrettable.

O'Fallon Pumpkin Beer: I saved the very best for last. This was my absolute favorite out of all of them I've tried this year. It was the best pumpkin taste hands down. From the bottle: "We added 136 pounds of real pumpkin to the three-barley mash and then season the finished beer with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves." I found this at Kroger, of all places. I discovered O'Fallon earlier this year with their summer wheat and I loved it. They have a Chocolate Cherry beer coming out soon that I also can't wait to try. But for now, this pumpkin beer is the Grand Champion!

Stay tuned for all those delicious, stomach-warming winter beers to come!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #44

This week I'm crockin' it up again. When the temperatures drop lower and lower there's only one thing to do, turn on the crock pot!

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff: Beef stroganoff is not my favorite meal. It's even in my top 10 favorite meals but I came across this recipe in my Betty Crocker Crockpot Cookbook (say that 5 times fast) and it sounded good. John is a fan so we gave it a shot. Crockin' on Sunday is my new favorite thing to do because the meals usually yield 3 dinners for us. I totally goofed when putting this together. The sour cream isn't supposed to be stirred in until after it's cooked 8 hours, along with the cream cheese. I wasn't paying attention and poured the sour cream in with the soups and seasonings at the beginning. I realized my mistake about 2 minutes later and was beside myself. It turned out okay in the end, luckily. Also, it calls for condensed Cream of Onion soup. Supposedly, Campbell's makes this but I couldn't find it in 3 stores. I used an onion soup packet and a little milkas a substitute. This one is a keeper for sure!

P.S. Only 8 more weeks of new recipes to try! I can't believe I almost made it to the end of 2011.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hola Mexico!

For 4 nights in October, John and I vacationed at the Valentin Imperial Maya in Riviera Maya, Mexico (near Cancun). This was our first experience at an all-inclusive resort. After months of research and careful consideration, we selected the Valentin based on glowing reviews, cost, and the fact that it was adults only. I am obsessed with Trip Advisor. I don't book anything without checking it out on there first. I realize that you have to take the bad reviews with a grain of salt. Some of them knock perfectly good establishments for the littlest things. You'll quickly learn to ignore those reviews and focus on the better ones.

We arrived during a monsoon. A tropical system had settled over the Yucatan Peninsula a few days prior and though we contemplated cashing in the trip insurance and rescheduling, we went anyway and landed on, luckily, the last day of bad rain.

I got a little wet in the golf cart on the way to the room.

Upon check-in, we learned we were upgraded from a Deluxe Silver Suite to a Golden Swim-up room. Score!

This is the off-season for travel to Mexico so the resort was not at full capacity. I'm sure that's why we were upgraded. The room was spacious and as promised, had a pool right off the patio. The only rough part about being on the ground floor was the accessibility for bugs and other creepy crawlies (like geckos) who made their way into our room without invitation. The room had a stocked mini bar (also included), jetted tub, bidet (fancy!), and a separate seating area.

The resort boasts 11 restaurants including a breakfast and lunch buffet. The food was awesome, at times, and not so awesome at other times. We are pretty easy to please in the dining room but some of the dishes had no taste whatsoever. We found this incredibly odd. The guacamole, for instance, had zero taste. The best meal we had was at the French restaurant, L'Alsace. I was adventurous and ordered Chateau Briand. Delicieuse!

In the evening there was entertainment of the cheesy variety. The lip syncing was not so great, but the dancing was top notch. There was also a band in the main plaza that was very good. We sat and listened to them most nights. We also found the sports bar a great place to hang out at night. They had a variety of games on TV, you could always find a seat at the bar, and there were board games! We are board game people so this was very exciting.

During the day, when we had hoped to be soaking up the rays, clouds rolled in. Had it been a bit warmer, we could have enjoyed a large main pool with two swim up bars (plus very cold water) or of course, our own private pool. Finding a lounge chair was no problem but we tended to get there relatively early each day. We preferred the beach and its abundant palapas over the pool. The atmosphere was more relaxed and the ocean water was a touch warmer and much more pleasant. The cloudy skies, plus my 50 SPF, probably saved me from getting sunburned. But, they also prevented me from getting any color whatsoever.

There were many activities included for guests to partake in such as kayaking (which we did), bike riding (which we also did), zumba and fitness classes (that I could never get my act together to attend), Spanish lessons (conflicted with other activities) and more! We didn't plan any excursions but they were readily available as was a daily shuttle to Playa del Carmen, for those hoping to sample the local cuisine and shop!

The service could not have been better. All of the employees went out of their way to help you with a big smile. That was much appreciated. We tipped but never felt pressured to do so and felt badly when we didn't. They did just bring you a drink while you laid on your butt, right?

Sunrise on our last day

As a whole, we really enjoyed our first all-inclusive experience. I would return to the Valentin but probably not before trying some others just to compare. We still love cruising but the resort gives you a lot of bang for your buck! And, it was very nice not having a large bill upon check-out like you typically do on a cruise. Just turn in your keys and head back to reality!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No-Sew Jersey Vest

I bought this burn-out tonal zebra fabric a couple months ago with not much of an idea of its end result. It was $4.?? for just under a yard because I got the remnant price. Then I watched this YouTube video and decided to give it a try. She calls it a sleeveless cardigan but really, isn't that just a vest? Anyway, GiannyL has tons of video tutorials. I can't wait to try more of them. You can try them too even if you don't have a sewing machine. This one just requires scissors!

I laid out my slightly under a yard of fabric folded in half.

I measured my back, shoulder to shoulder (just under 16"). Then I marked 8 inches down and 8 inches over to see where I would cut the arm holes. Borrowing the lid to my cotton ball jar, I sliced around it with my rotary cutter (love that thing!)

You need a round object with at least 4 inches of diameter, I'd say. The arm holes will stretch out a bit, depending on your fabric.

And that's it! You don't need to finish the edges because stretch jersey won't unravel. I put it on over a black shirt and skinny jeans, that I'm unfortunately not looking so skinny in these days. :(

From the back

And with a belt

I put on the vest and John gave me the side eye. Admittedly, it did come down to my knees. "Do I look crazy?" I said. He didn't want to crush my dreams, I could tell, but he was having a lot of trouble coming up with something nice to say. I ended up folding it back in half and cutting about six inches off the ends to shorten it up.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I feel like it makes me look hippy. That's hippy as in "large hipped." According to the stores, the 70's are back. But, I can't help but remember a vest phase I already went through some time in the mid-90's. Yes, I was super cool. Though this is an updated, deconstructed vest, I'm having visions of a white waffleknit number I used to wear over a black turtleneck. I wore it to a 6th grade dance with earrings that looked like globes. I thought that was the most fashionable thing I had ever worn at the time.

The other day I told John I want to take more fashion risks. He looked frightened. I have a feeling he thinks his wife has gone off the deep end.

So, what do you think? Belted, unbelted, back in the scrap pile to be made into something else? You won't hurt my feelings, promise.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen

This is the latest offering from Janet Evanovich in her Stephanie Plum mystery series. I waited on the hold list for MONTHS at the library for this one. So long, in fact, that her 18th both comes out in November. Guess I better put in my request for that one now.

Stephanie Plum is once again the target of a bad guy. Someone is leaving dead bodies, some even labeled for her, on the bail bonds office construction site. Also, an angry mobster and a former bondee would both like to see her six feet under and are trying their darnedest to put her their. On the relationship side of thing, Stephanie is having trouble choosing between Morelli and Ranger (What else is new?) and her mother keeps trying to set her up with a new guy who quickly becomes relentless. What is Plum to do?

This was just so-so for me. These books are pretty fluffy for the first half and then in the second half I get more into trying to figure out whodunnit. In this one, I figured it out really early on (which never happens) and so I kept hoping I would be proved wrong but it didn't happen. Evanovich has quite a formula for this series and they are all extremely similar, right down to phrasing and character descriptions. It only took me a couple hours to get through so I'm glad I read it but if I have to wait months for the next book, it wouldn't be the worst thing.

Rating: * 1/2

P.S. November 1st?! How did this happen?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Boo to you ghouls and boys! Hope you're having a spoooooky day. (I typed that in a scary voice. Say it out loud. It'll help.) Today we are passing out candy at our house for the first time. Last year, we had other plans and just left a bowl out that was likely emptied in 10 minutes flat. I don't think we know what we're getting into. I'll be mortified if we run out of candy. I have a plan if it comes to that. Turn off the lights and take Sadie for a walk.

Speaking of Sadie........

She's a bumblebee this year! She runs around singing Black Eyed Peas I'mma Be when she wears her costume. Or, I'm the one doing the singing. Same diff. You can bet your bottom dollar John sings the word "bumblebee" every time they say I'mma Be. We are hip.

You better watch out not to get stung by the cutest bee ever! I wish I could take credit for making this costume but I completely ran out of time. Dog mom fail. When you first put this on her, she gets really low to the ground. My childhood cats used to do this when we put harnesses on them. Yes, my sister and I tried to walk our cats outside wearing harnesses. What of it?

Anyway, here's hoping this bee won't bark at all the trick-or-treaters coming to our door. Those eyes are scary enough!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #43

You know what's tough? Coming home from vacation where all you've done is order meals from a menu or walk through a buffet line and then have to get back in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I love cooking. But, I also love being waited on hand and foot.

Spicy Bean Soup: A couple years ago, I made a new soup almost every week to take to work for lunch. It was great! No, it wasn't any cheaper than just buying cans but I like to think it was probably healthier and tastier. Last year, for some reason, I don't think I made any new soups. But, the temperatures here are delving squarely into the 40's and that means, soup time! I busted out my crockpot for this chock-full-o'-fiber bean soup. The recipe was in my Better Homes & Gardens crockpot cookbook. For me, the flavor was a little lacking. I think I would make it again but bump up the seasonings quite a bit. Also, have the Gas-X near. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thoughts on Travel

  • Should it be a new rule for Homeland Security that you must shower before boarding a plane? I think we can all agree that being trapped near a smelly person for 2+ hours of a flight is pretty unbearable. Perhaps if you haven't had the chance to properly cleanse, you can be sent through some sort of deodorizer.

  • If it is 11:30 in the morning and you are on a shared van transfer to various area resorts with other travelers and you are also already inebriated, you should probably just keep your mouth shut. At the risk of irritating all other passengers, you should not repeatedly ask each of their names or if they're married or honeymooning. If you can't remember their answers, you probably didn't care in the first place. Or maybe it was just that 4th can of Bud you cracked. Looking at you, sweaty guy from Texas.

  • Even though you've been in Mexico for a few days, if you are American, you should probably not say "gracias" to the Customs Officer granting your readmission into the country. It will cause him to look twice at your passport. You never want them to look twice.

  • When you arrive at the airport with what, in your mind, is plenty of time to get checked in and through security, only to discover a line the lengths you've never seen at the ticket counter, be sure you get in the RIGHT line to begin with. Do not go on the say-so of other passengers around you. This will cost you valuable time and the counter agent will admonish you for checking in 5 minutes past the 60 minute ahead deadline for an international flight. They'll still check you in. But you'll get the stinkeye.

  • If you think you've gotten a great deal by traveling to Mexico towards the "tail end" of the "rainy season", you might want to reconsider why that deal was so great. And also why the resort is only at 50% capacity.

  • Should a gecko make his way into your room just before bedtime, you will need the following in order to catch him: 1) a wife hiding in the bathroom, 2) a husband who doesn't feel that great from all those drinks, 3) a styrofoam cup, 4) a chair, 5) an umbrella. It may take awhile, but you'll get that gecko.

More on Mexico another day. Promise!