Sunday, December 30, 2007

Getting a jump on the new year... a few days early

I have a favorite fitness instructor at my gym that has been out on maternity leave since October and I've missed her humor and friendship as well as her ability to kick my ass in class (even when she was 8 months pregnant!) Friday was her 2nd day back to work and I drug myself to class even though I haven't worked out in a couple of weeks and I was beyond tired. It was great to see her again and she looks fantastic. I figured it was a good way to jump back on the gym-going horse before the full onslaught of new years resolutioners start up next week.

In Februrary 2007, the 10 lbs I had put on since my September 2005 wedding finally became so upsetting to me that I really commited to trying to take off at least some of that weight. I joined Spark People and by summer had taken off about 10lbs through eating healthier, counting calories and working out consistently. I kept track of how many workouts I had each week and looking back, I actually averaged working out 3 times a week the entire year! That is such a huge feat for me and it's something that I'd like to do even better with in 2008. No, it's not a resolution as much as a goal that I'd like to reach. I've put a few of those lost lbs back over the holidays, but I know that over the next month or so, I can get it off again. I'm feeling just as motivated as I did when I started this journey almost a year ago.

From past experience, I've found I'm more consistent in my workouts and healthy eating when I am working towards a short-term goal. And conviently enough, I have one of those in reach right now. At the end of March, hubs and I are going with our good friends M & T to Peru! And no, this is not going to be a civilized luxurious trip. We're spending 5 days in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon in a lodge that is a 4 hour speedboat ride from the nearest road and 3 days in Cusco and Macchu Picchu. This is sure to be an experience of a lifetime, but one that is filled with a lot of physical exertion and in the case of Macchu Picchu, a shortage of oxygen due to the altitude. I just want to make sure I'm in good enough shape that I'm not struggling physically so that I can fully appreciate everything we're sure to see there.

My trainer has already been made aware of this little trip and his workout plan for me is brutal. No really, my co-worker (who is training for a half-marathon, btw) was at the gym with me a couple weeks ago and she said that she looked over at what I was doing and was suddenly quite thankful to just be on the treadmill running. :| It's gonna be a rough few months, but I'm sort of curious to see what he is going to put me through and then be able to prove to myself that yes, I can do it and I'm stronger than I might think I am.

I'm back full-force this week with hitting the gym and not eating crap all day and I know it's gonna suck, but I also know that my body is ready to be healthy again and March will be here before I know it!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fellow Blogger + Movie + Sushi = Fun Times

Knowing that I was going to be crazy-tired after all the Christmas festivities, I planned on taking the rest of this week off. Yesterday we spent at Disneyland, but today Jim was back to the office and I was on my own. After a recent blog post about wanting to see P.S. I Love You, Alyssa commented that she too, wanted to see the movie and we made plans to see it together this week. I met her at her place and then we were off to the theater to catch the first showing this afternoon, with a stop at CBTL first for a little pre-movie caffeine.

The reviews have been horrible for this film, but I'm glad we decided not to listen to silly reviewers and saw it anyways. I loved the book, even though I cried my way through the entire thing and the movie was no exception. Thankfully we grabbed a handful of napkins before going into the theater because we spent the next couple of hours wiping our eyes and sniffling. The movie did have some strategically placed comic relief, which was a welcome change from the book. I think we were both pleased with the movie version and I'm glad I saw it with someone who liked the book as much as I did.

After the movie, Alyssa brought me to her favorite sushi joint in her neck of the woods. The outside is not much to look at, but the interior had a fun vibe and the sushi was amazing!! The fish was fresh, the roll combinations eccentric and everything was well-prepared. I can see why she is such a fan of the place. As we filled up on oodles of raw fish and edamame, we chatted about everything from family to work to real estate. It was so much fun getting to know her better and basically confirming my initial impressions of her --- she is a fun gal that I get along with quite well.

Thanks so much for a really fun afternoon movie and sushi date! Can't wait to do it again soon :D

It was a Very Merry Christmas!

It's been a few days since the last post and needless to say, it's been busy around here. It's gonna be a long post b/c there is a lot to catch up on. :)

Saturday
Hubs and I spent most of the day recovering from our party the night before. We both had some lovely hangovers, hence the yummy peruvian food for lunch and then takeout pizza for dinner. We watched the Bruins in the Las Vegas bowl at night and that was just sad. Missed a last minute field goal attempt and that was the ballgame. :( Let's hope our season is better next year.

Sunday
Time to gear up for the holidays again! After a relaxing brunch outside at the Farm, Jim and I headed back to the apartment for him to get some work done and for me to get started on my day of baking. Over the next few hours I made another batch of snickerdoodles, rum cake and salty chocolate-pecan candy.
My mom came over that night and we had garlic chicken from Versailles restaurant for dinner and chatted while we watched some TV.

Monday
We decided to do Christmas Eve at our apartment this year and to change it up even more, instead of our usual cold cut meal, I decided to make a ham dinner. Hubs thought I was crazy, but I figure that one day it's going to be us in charge of all the holiday stuff and I might as well start getting some practice doing the big dinner early. I was so busy cooking and prepping that I totally forgot to take pictures, but the dinner went over quite well. The menu consisted of the following:
Baked Ham with Bourbon Glaze
Lemon-and-Herb Roasted New Potatoes
Glazed Butternut Squash
Green Bean Casserole
Rolls
Rum Cake and Salty Chocolate-Pecan candy for dessert

The only thing that really missed the mark was the squash. It was overcooked (ew to mushy vegetables) and I think the sage really didn't add anything to the dish. I'd like to try it again, but Jim informed me that he isn't even a big butternut squash fan in the first place, so I may just leave it alone. We'll see. My brother got sent home with leftover ham, much to his delight and we still have enough leftovers to eat on for several days.

After dinner, we opened presents with my family. Santa was very good to everyone this year, bringing a slew of gift cards to all of us. My family hung out with us for a little while after dessert and we watched the end of the Chargers game. After everyone left, we straightened up the kitchen a bit and then Jim and I opened our presents to one another. We were again overly generous with each other and we both had a very merry christmas eve. One of my favorite gifts was a new necklace from that great little store with the blue boxes and Jim loves his new flying monkey toy! [Obviously he got more exciting gifts than that, but the monkey has been a huge hit]

Tuesday
We woke up early, got ready and then headed to Jim's family home to spend Christmas morning with them. We shared a huge breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, hashbrown casserole and muffins washed down with lots of coffee and juice. So good! Then, it was time to move to the livingroom for more gift-opening. Again, Santa was good to everyone and by the time we were done, the room was a mess of fun presents, torn wrapping paper and empty boxes. The big gifts were a 2 week trip the east coast from my FIL to my MIL, a really nice watch from my MIL to my FIL, a Wii for my BIL, headphones and new luggage for my other BIL, a cricut for me and a bluetooth device for his car for Jim. See, I told you Santa was good to us!

Around 2pm, it was time to pack up and head to his aunt's house who was hosting the big Christmas dinner for everyone. My family was meeting us there, bringing the total guest count to somewhere around 35ish people. so. much. fun. There was lots of eating and drinking before the main meal was ever served, putting the entire group in a merry mood right from the get-go. 2 families even shared a limo up from OC just so no one would have to drive --- such a great idea and it looked like they were already filled with holiday cheer before they ever stepped foot in the door!

Dinner was delicious as always and I ate too much, as always. After dinner it was time for dessert and to start the grab bag gift exchanges. The women's exchange is much more tame and laid back with very little stealing and mayhem. The men's exchange, on the other hand, is complete chaos, with different families trying to work together to get the more popular items (i.e. booze) and steal it from each other so that it becomes "dead" and thus stays within the family. This led to my dad, who doesn't drink at all, actually stealing the Patron from my husband so that it would secure it's position with our family unit. Hilarious, I tell you!

Because the gift exchange is really for the adults, several of us also bring small gifts for the little kids that are at Christmas (this year there were only 3). The youngest boy (at 2 1/2 years old) passed out before dessert was ever served but his little sisters (8 and 5 years old) were still up and ready for presents. I bought books for all of them and while the 8 year old was speechless in a good way over her present (she let me know she is collecting the whole set and that she didn't have these particular titles yet), the 5 year old looked like I had just given her coal. Her mom apologized profusely, but really, it was hilarious. I guess to her, I was a real scrooge this year. ha!

Wednesday
After much pleading on my part, I was able to convince Jim to take the day off and we headed to Disneyland. Granted, since it was still a work day, a lot of the time he looked like this:

Um, the park was freaking crowded!! Nevertheless, we still had a great time running around both parks and managed to still get on almost all of the big ticket rides without too much of a wait (thank you fastpass). We also realized that yesterday was the official day for the Rose Bowl teams -- USC and Illinois -- to visit the park. We saw several groups of very large guys wandering around in the park in their team warm-ups stopping to take pictures with people and sign autographs. We were really impressed at how patient the guys seemed to be with everyone. We also got a kick out of the little kids looking up at these guys with a real look of awe and amazement on their face. While waiting in line for the Tower of Terror ride, one group of Illinois players were seated on the ride and then a small group of little boys were seated with them. They looked like they had just won the lottery. Too funny!

At one shop in California Adventure I found this little gem. Of course, it reminded me of my favorite tater!

In the evening it got COLD! Poor Jim had only worn a sweatshirt and hadn't brought a jacket and he was freezing most of the night. We didn't stay too late though, but I still felt bad for him at how cold he was. Poor guy! :(

All in all, it was a great day and we had a lot of fun! It was a great way to wrap up the Christmas break!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

hangover food, peruvian style

saltado de camarones


I can't even tell you how good this tastes!

Food, Friends and Fun

Disclaimer: I am blogging completely hungover. So, if some things don't make sense, sorry, but the water and advil haven't really done their job yet.

Last night we had a group of our close friends over for a Christmas party to kick off the crazy holiday weekend. I've wanted to throw a full cocktail party for a while now and finally got my chance. I prepped all week (hence the complete lack of sleep and blog entries) and had about 3 hours after work to get the last minute stuff together. Since I know a lot of you are just as obsessed with food as I am, let's just get right to the menu and the accompanying pics, shall we?


The food and drink set-up before the party got started


Cheese Platter: (from left to right) Agour Ossau-Iraty, Brillat-Savarin and Morbier


Crudite with Lemon-Herb dip


Panko-crusted Crab Cake Bites with Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli


Stuffed Mushrooms


Seared Beef Tenderloin Mini Sandwiches with Mustard-Horseradish Sauce


Mini Mocha-Toffee Crunch Cheesecakes and Snickerdoodles (recipe from Martha Stewart's Holiday 2005 cookie magazine)


Not pictured: Garlic Fries. Sadly, these just did not cooperate and never made it out of the kitchen. Kinda sad, but at least it was just one boo-boo and not several.

As for drinks, my husband went slightly crazy-go-nuts at BevMo, so the booze were plentiful and varied; champagne, pinot noir, bourbon, and a plethora of belgian beer (stella, chimay, etc).

The food turned out really well! I forgot to take pictures of the table after we had finished eating, but there was pretty much nothing left. Everyone seemed to have their favorite dish; personally I thought the lemon-herb dip was killer and the stuffed mushrooms had a great flavor. I feel like next time (oh yes, this was so much fun that there will most definitely be a next time!) I'd add one more cold and one more hot appetizer. I think everyone had enough to eat, but it's usually better to err on the side of too much food than just barely enough.

Aside from eating and drinking, there was much talking, playing Wii golf and watching several episodes of Three Sheets [If you haven't had a chance to see this show, you're missing out. This guy's job is to go to different countries, explore their drinking customs, get hammered and then try out the local hangover cure the next morning to see if it works. I kid you not. As my husband says best.job.ever.]



We also did a gift exchange that resulted in some fun gifts, most of which were *surprise, surprise* alcohol related. One gift in particular sparked a laughing fit from all of us that made my stomach hurt. My husband was literally on the floor laughing, several folks wound up crying... it was hilarious. I really can't share details as it wouldn't make sense, but trust me that this was easily the highlight of the evening. Mark, you rule dude! My friend J works in PR for beauty companies and the samples she gets are amazing. For her contribution to the gift exchange, she put a bunch of those (rather large) samples in a stocking and called it a day. Huge hit!


Our last guest left a little before 2am and then Jim and I collapsed into bed. This party so put me in the holiday spirit! I'm still feeling slightly ill this morning, but it was so worth it. Thank you everyone for coming over and sharing the evening with us. We had a great time and can't wait to do it again next year!! :D

These were taken before folks started heading out. My eyes tend to disappear in pictures anyways, but obviously alcohol makes that worse. Oops! ;)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cookie Exchange and Holiday Lunch

Well, I survived the party planning hell that I've been in for the past few days. I slept for 9 hours last night and while I still have the remnants of a headache, I'm feeling much less stressed out.

I was officially in charge of the office holiday lunch/party and then also assisted my co-worker with the cookie exchange that she organizes every year. By some awful scheduling, these two events wound up on back-to-back days. In hindsight, this was a horrible idea. Never, ever again. It's the same core group of worker bees/organizers that make sure both events get off the ground so to say that we were exhausted by yesterday afternoon is the most gigantic understatement ever.

But, we did have a great guy who went around and took pics of everything so I have a few to share with ya'll. yay me!

Cookie Exchange:
We had around 35 participants this year, more than we usually have. The room smelled like sugar and butter and all things fatty and yummy, which was awesome!


We had a lot of cookies. The little nametags were made by yours truly.

Highlights included Gingerbread Girls, Holiday in the Tropics balls (rice crispie balls w/ pineapple and coconut oil, rolled in shredded coconut), Jam Thumbprints and Chocadamia Coconut cookies.

Office Holiday Party:
Let's start off with the stuff that completely pissed me off and then we'll move onto happier things from there.

1. If you don't volunteer to help with the party, you don't get to complain about the decisions that are made. So, if you'd like to only do a White Elephant exchange at the lunch, then you need to make sure you're on the planning committee. If not, then shut it.

2. Even if you are the head of the program, please do not come up to me and tell me about how great other program's holiday parties are. And then proceed to tell me, in detail, how it was run, what they did and how you wish ours was like that. If you want a kickass party like that, then give me the green light to plan it. And then do not bitch and moan when I use work hours to accomplish this task. 'Cuz see, as much as I like where I work, I'm not spending hours and hours of my free time to plan the annual holiday event. Ugh. I could go on and on about this, but I'm trying to build a bridge and get over it. Obviously, that is not working out too well, eh.

Aside from those little (um, big) annoyances, the party went off really well!! I heard from several staff members that it was the best office party they've been to and can't wait for next year. After all the time and effort my team and I put into it, I'm so glad folks had a good time.

We only had 45 minutes to transform a basic conference room into a holiday lunch space, but my team of 8 superstars took care of it all in fine form.


Covering the cabinets; Hanging up decorations


Table centerpiece; Gift Table w/ Secret Santa gifts, agendas and ice breaker games


Overview of the entire room

We had a local Italian deli cater the event and there was more food than we knew what to do with! A lot of people had seconds yesterday and we still had enough leftovers for at least 25 or so people to eat on today at lunch. And the food was good -- always a plus.

Green Salad w/ Italian dressing; Italian rolls

Pasta w/ marinara and cheese; Lasagne


Sausage and peppers; Meatballs

Dessert came from good 'ol Costco. My co-worker and I hadn't had lunch before we went to purchase the goodies so I think we might have gone a little over-board. Oops!


Chocolate cups; Apple-crumb bread, Pound Cake and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread


Side View: Apple and Pumpkin Pies (2 of each), Chocolate Mint Fudge Cookies; Top view
Not pictured - Tub of vanilla ice cream


For entertainment, we had several ice-breaker games that were played while everyone was filing in and getting settled. We usually do a White Elephant exchange, but in order to shake things up, this year we did a Secret Santa exchange. This annoyed at least one person (see above), but I think most people appreciated the change. I participated and I scored an awesome gift -- stemless wine glasses! :D


Gift table; Posing with my uber-cool present

All in all I'd say it was a great afternoon for everyone. I'm slightly afraid that I may be tasked with planning this again next year. Right now, I'm feeling like I never want to do this ever again, but who knows how I'll feel next year. For now, I'm just happy that it's done and it was a success!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Swamped

Weekend was awesome, so much to tell. And pictures to boot!

However, I'm absolutely swamped with planning our office holiday party and assisting my co-worker with planning the annual cookie exchange (which was yesterday) -- as in, the stuff is bleeding over into my evenings and I'm doing well to get 6ish hours of sleep a night. Blah.

It's all over with this afternoon. Tonight I'm having dinner (and a glass of wine I could swim in) with the hubs and tomorrow night is the laker game. And then, on Friday, I have day off and am catching up on my posts.

And now, back to holiday party planning madness....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday Thoughts

So many things to write about, but I've been too busy to actually get to a computer to write them. blah!

* I've been the biggest gym slacker these past few weeks. Sure, I've made it once a week for weights, but besides that, it's been dismal. This week I recommited to actually getting my bum there at least 3 times a week. I'm proud to say that I went after work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and have plans to go again on Friday! Amazingly enough, I feel really good and I'm sleeping better.

* I'm not usually one to shower at the gym after working out because I literally live 2 blocks away and it's just easier to drive home right quick and shower in my own cozy bathroom. However, I had dinner plans Monday and Tuesday nights after I was at the gym, so it was easier to just get ready there and not have to go home first. And I have rediscovered that jumping into a hot shower immediately after working out is one of life's little pleasures. I practically melted into a puddle both nights as my entire body seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Since I can't afford a massage every week, this seriously might be the next best thing.


*Have you guys seen this? It's a curling iron cover bag - you pop your still hot curling iron in it and the bag insulates it so the curling iron can be packed and not burn whatever it is touching. I'm not usually one for buying a new bag that only has one purpose, but this little gal is genius! I tried her out twice this week and I have no idea how I've lived without it. Oh, and it works for flat-irons too. :)

* I was killing some time before meeting a friend for dinner on Tuesday night and I felt like something hot to drink. I wandered over the Coffee Bean (yes, I'm usually a Starbucks girl, but I was trying to branch out a bit) with the intention of trying the Gingerbread Latte (the monkey swears it's better than Starbucks version). When I got there, I just wasn't in the mood for coffee, so I opted instead for a Double Vanilla Tea Latte. Oh. My. God. How have I never tried one of these before? It was unbelievably delicious and much lighter than a coffee latte - perfect for a pre-dinner drink. I'm not trying to figure out how I can get another one of these this weekend....

* I met one of my BMs for dinner around 7:30pm. We finally had a break in the conversation and looked down and it was almost 10:30pm! On a work night! Granted, we've been known to close restaurants before, but still. We wrapped it up shortly thereafter, but it was great to catch up with her and just talk about everything.

* Last night Jim and I went to get our tree. The original plan was to get it Friday night, but since weather report has been claiming lots of rain this weekend starting late Thursday evening, I thought it best to get the tree early so we wouldn't be dragging home a soggy mess on Friday. Our original stop, Home Depot, had no 4-5' trees to speak of, so we headed down to a nursery down the street. There they had an abundance of smaller trees and after 5 minutes of looking around, we found The One. It's more expensive than Home Depot (obviously), but this is by far the nicest tree we've ever had and it's in fantastic shape (hardly any pine needles came out in the car during transport). It's at home all naked right now, but by tomorrow night, the apartment, including the tree, should be fully dressed for the holidays.

And I've been a total slacker about pictures recently, but lots are coming this weekend. Promise!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I like my books to come on paper, TYVM


Have you guys seen this latest product from Amazon, Kindle: New Wireless Reading Device? I stumbled upon it last week while doing some online shopping and am not very excited about it. I know that we're living in a very techie age right now, but the thought of paper and ink books being moved to the electronic world makes me sad.

One of my greatest treats is to wander around and get lost in a bookstore, finding new books to add to my ever-growing "must read" list. There is something so soothing about browsing through books, taking in the jacket design, reading the inside or back cover synopsis, thumbing through the pages... it is something that for me, cannot be replaced by an electronic reading device.

I'm sure the device will be a godsend for travelers. Already airport bookstores understand that travelers don't want to be stuck lugging heavy books around after they've read them and so "Read and Return" programs are becoming commonplace. The next logical step, I guess, is to move books into the electronic sector allowing a traveler to simply purchase and download a book to a device that can store many books at once, much in the way the ipod and mp3 players revolutionized the way music can be stored and carried. But for general reading, nothing in my mind, can replace holding a real book in your hands.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I almost forgot...

I had to take my car for an oil change on Friday. I had a coupon for a free one at the dealership, but was sure they'd find something else that needed to be fixed on the car during the complimentary diagnostic. [I actually really like this particular dealership service center and find them to be quite honest. It's just that my car is not very new and it's never a surprise if something needs to be tweaked or fixed]. 45 minutes later my oil was changed, my brakes looked great and the tread on my tires still has a lot of life left! Total cost = $0. By far the best present of the weekend!

Almost done!

After just killing myself this weekend running here and there from store to store, I am thisclose to being done with Christmas shopping!!! Hallelujah! Not only that, but most of the gifts are already wrapped and waiting to be put under the tree (that we don't yet own, but soon.) :) I really wanted to be able to enjoy the season, but I felt like I needed to get the shopping out of the way first. Now that I'm about done, I'm looking forward to baking and decorating this weekend and then just sitting back and enjoying it all. YAY!

Some of the notable purchases from the weekend:
* Burke-Williams spa gift certificate for my mom - The perfect gift for someone who is trying to purge their house of "stuff".
* Logo pint glasses for my brother - found them at BevMo for $2.50 a piece. Such a steal!
* Non-logo belgian beer goblets for Jim - Thank you pubglasses.com!! He has been looking for these for months and I finally found them online. He's going to be thrilled.
* Bread mixes from Williams-Sonoma - um, they had the pumpkin pecan and vanilla spice bags marked down to $1.99 a piece! Considering they retail for $10.50, I'd say it was quite the bargain!
* Humorous garden picks - for my secret santa person at the office who is a gardener. They say fun things like "Grow Dammit!" and "Bugs need not apply." It's really hard to get a good garden-themed gift for under $15, but I found one.

There are quite a few other fun gifts I picked up, but the recipients read this blog so I don't want to spoil the surprise.

It was a crazy weekend and I was frustrated during parts of it because it was taking longer than it should to get the shopping done. But this morning I woke up feeling so good about it all. Definitely worth it!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blessed

Last night I was watching TV and the trailer for the movie "P.S. I Love You" came on. I made the mistake of reading this book shortly after I had gotten married and pretty much cried my way through it. It's a great story, but one that really hit a nerve for me. I knew they were turning the book into a movie, but didn't know who was being cast. So, as I'm watching the trailer, I notice that Hilary Swank is starring and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is playing the love interest. He is most recently known for playing Denny Duquette on Grey's Anatomy. <3 <3 Great casting IMO.

My mother-in-law is the one the got me hooked on Grey's Anatomy. I was having dinner with the in-laws on the night of the third season finale and we watched it together --- and proceeded to bawl our way through the final scene. Ever since then, I've been hooked. Denny is still one of our favorite characters from the show, so when I saw this trailer, my first thought was to call my MIL and see if she had seen it yet.

She was home when I called, so I told her about the movie (she has read the book so she was familiar that a movie was being made, but like me, hadn't seen the trailer) and then we proceeded to chat about other random stuff for the next half-hour. Keeping in mind, of course, I'm seeing them tonight for dinner, too.

After I hung up, I realized just how special that conversation really was. Sure, we weren't talking about anything all that important, but the fact that I can call my MIL out of the blue to discuss a movie trailer is pretty darn cool... and I think rare. I'm always calling my own mom to tell her silly little things that happened or just to chit chat for a minute, but to be developing the same type of relationship with my MIL is something I'm so proud of.

I love that our relationship is such that I'm comfortable having dinner with her (and my father-in-law) every couple weeks sans the husband, that we can talk to each other frankly and express varying opinions on issues without the other person taking offense, that she feels comfortable conviding in me about things that are personal to her, that I can call her randomly to tell her about something I saw or heard. It helps, of course, that my in-laws are far from overbearing and are very careful to give us our space as a married couple (no random drop-ins or incessant phone calls from them ever). And that in turn, has made me much more keen on keeping them involved in our lives and treating them the way I treat my own parents.

I'm just so very blessed to have not only found the perfect husband for me, but to have also found a family that has welcomed me with open arms and has never been a source of stress for me as an individual or us as a couple. And my MIL is a huge part of that. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I may not have decorated the apartment yet...

but my office cubicle sure got into the Christmas spirit this morning!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Loooong Weekend Roundup

I probably should have blogged about my mid-week through weekend activities a little at a time, but quite frankly I was just too lazy to get around to writing about it until now. So, sorry in advance for this being a novella. ;)

Wednesday

My mom and I spent the morning and afternoon together doing a little shopping and a little cooking before getting ready to go to the SYTYCD tour at the Nokia Theater. We got to downtown really early to beat the traffic and had a nice dinner at Liberty Grill. From there, we walked over to the theater and braved the horrendous crowds to get through security. The short version is that the show was absolutely fantastic, but here are a few specific comments:

  • Lauren and Shawna are much more impressive dancers in person than they ever were on the show. I really wasn't expecting that.
  • Lacey, one of my favorites, had a knee injury so was only able to perform a couple of numbers and with only minimal energy. Pretty sad.
  • Danny is chiseled out of a piece of rock. No really, the guy has like no body fat. So impressive. Oh yeah, and he is an amazing dancer to boot.
  • Each of the top 10 dancers performed a solo, but they were only given 30 seconds or so. I would have loved to see each person have a minute or more to perform.

Thursday

Hubs and I hung out at home in the morning and watched a little football before getting ready to go to his family's Thanksgiving dinner that afternoon. As usual, it was complete organized chaos, but so much fun. This year, my mom, dad and brother also joined the festivities, which was really nice. There were probably around 50-ish folks there so it was what you would call a large group. The guys decided to deep fry the turkeys and they were so good! My vote is for deep frying them every year. :) It was great seeing everyone again, especially his cousins who lives in PA and their 5 adorable children. It was our first time seeing their twin girls (almost 7 months old) and they are just as cute as their older brother and sisters. We also found out that another one of his cousins is pregnant and due next summer. So fun! [...and the more that everyone else is having babies, the less we're getting pressured to add to our family - ha!]

That night I drove to San Diego to spend the night with one of my bffs, K, so we could get up early (like 3:30am early) and shop til we dropped! This is a yearly tradition for us and really marks the beginning of the Christmas season. There was actually one year that K's now husband took her out of town to visit his cousin over Thanksgiving and we were both so miserable (and she was quite vocal about that fact) that he vowed to never do that again. Smart guy ;) Yes people think we're nuts, but we have a great time together and usually get most of our shopping done. Good times!

Friday

Yup, K and I are crazy and we got up at 3:30 like we planned, got ready and headed out to the Carlsbad outlets. K's sister L came with us too and we spent several hours there milling around and picking up a few things. After a quick run to Target and Old Navy, we dropped L back at home and then continued on to UTC in La Jolla for more shopping. Sadly, this year we were both pretty uninspired so we didn't get a lot of our shopping done, but we still had a great time just hanging out and catching up with each other.

That night, we had leftover Thanksgiving dinner with K's parents and her sister and soon to be BIL and then us kids played Movie Scene It! We were all delirious from lack of sleep, but it was good times.

Saturday

After catching up on some sleep, K and I woke up, got ready and met up with J and her mom to chat a little and hang out. From there, K and I grabbed lunch and then I was on my way back to LA. Jim was working (poor thing) so I sat on our couch and caught up on my DVR shows. That night we had dinner together and just chilled.

Sunday

Yet another chill day. I cleaned the apartment, did a silly amount of laundry (but now our bed looks and smells all purtty) and cleaned out more of the DVR box. Our Pats gave us quite a scare last night (how did they let Philly stick around?!?), but they perservered at the end. Woohoo!

And now, it's back to work and time to start prepping for Christmas :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Drinking and Chatting in Las Vegas

Pretty much sums up my weekend! Thursday night I flew out to Vegas to meet up with J and K (who was to meet us the next evening after work) for a girl's weekend at J's house. Her fiance was out of town, so we had the house all to ourselves. This for some reason made the boys nervous, but they really had nothing to worry about. It was one of the most mellow girl weekends we've had. I mean, we didn't even make it to the strip once!

After J picked me up from the airport, we headed back to her place where I got the full tour of her house. OMG, it is so nice! They've been slowly decorating and getting all of the rooms together and while she says there are still some projects they need to tackle, it is really beautiful as it is right now. I informed her that I was going to live on her kitchen island because I loved it so much. (We told K this and she said she'd move in to the cupboards below, so hey, at least I'd have company!) Later, we sat around nursing a glass (or two) of wine, just talking and catching up.

Friday, I managed to sleep until 10! Good lord. By that time, J had already gotten up, made breakfast for us (which she waited to eat til I finally pulled myself out of bed) and was almost done watching a taped episode of One Tree Hill. I joined her on the couch while we ate and then got ready to run around a bit. We hit Target (we both scored a couple of Christmas presents), Barnes & Noble (we managed to spend about 1 1/2 hours reading cookbooks) and Whole Foods. There they were giving out samples of their Beaujolais Noveau wine and brie with strawberries. So.Freaking.Tasty. We bought a bottle of wine to share over the weekend and then picked up the ingredients for a DIY version of the strawberry brie and also fig brie. Wine and cheese was definitely a theme for the weekend.

Later in the day we had lunch and then went home to watch some TV before picking up K at the airport. [The poor thing had her flight delayed over 2 hours, which was no fun for any of us.] J and I watched Stick It, the gymnastics version of Bring It On and half of Ice Princess, the figure skating version of Bring It On. Basically, if there was a movie on that our husbands would rather gouge their eyes out than watch, we saw it this weekend.

K's flight finally came in around 10:30ish, so we scooped her up and headed back to the house where we had a repeat of Thursday night; lots of wine and lots of catching up. We also thought it a good idea to stay up until after 3am. I was seriously seeing 3 of K by the time we went to bed.

Saturday morning I was, again, the last one to get up. Oops! We had breakfast and then sat around just chatting, watching TV and helping K plan her sister's bachelorette party until it was time for lunch. After getting ready we headed over to Pei Wei for lunch and then Golden Spoon for dessert (their pumpkin pie yogurt is delish in case you're wondering). J is getting married next fall so she took us around to several places they were considering for their wedding after lunch. They are all beautiful, but of course, K and I had our favorites. At the last place, we actually parked ourselves at the bar of the possible reception site, ordered drinks and started brainstorming wedding colors, room set-up and table decor. Thankfully, the bartenders were very nice, one of which is in the middle of planning his own wedding, so we didn't get too many strange looks.

None of us had the desire or energy to go out on the town that night, so after heading back to the house, we got into comfy clothes and did more of the same; more wine, more cheese (and other assorted goodies), more cheesy movies and lots more talking. It was almost 2am before we finally called it a night.

The next morning we were up fairly early. K wanted to watch the Charger game (kinda rough b/c they lost) and we got in a few more hours of just hanging out. That afternoon they drove me back to the airport, where I had a 3pm flight back to LA. Sad.

You know, I don't get to see them very often, but I love them to pieces and so enjoy the time we do get to spend with each other. I know with J's wedding next year I'll be seeing them more frequently in the coming months and I actually get to see them both over Thanksgiving (more on that in a later post). It was another great girlie weekend and while it was mellow, it was also so much fun! Thanks for a great weekend girls and I can't wait to do it again :D

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Light sky blue

Alyssa tried out this fun color personality test. Her results were mixed so she invited the rest of us that read her blog to give a whirl. I actually think my results are a fairly decent description of my personality.

you are lightskyblue
#87CEFA

Your dominant hues are cyan and blue. You like people and enjoy making friends. You're conservative and like to make sure things make sense before you step into them, especially in relationships. You are curious but respected for your opinions by people who you sometimes wouldn't even suspect.

Your saturation level is lower than average - You don't stress out over things and don't understand people who do. Finishing projects may sometimes be a challenge, but you schedule time as you see fit and the important things all happen in the end, even if not everyone sees your grand master plan.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the spacefem.com html color quiz


I'm definitely a people-person (come by it honest as my mom and grandma are the same way) and I think I have a optimistic outlook on life. I'm definitely conservative day-to-day stuff (not sure that would completely describe my political views) and if people respect my opinions, well that is great! I'm not, however, always relaxed about things as when I'm feeling overwhelmed I can tend to get a bit frazzled. And like Alyssa, I was kind of hoping I'd be some shade of pink. ;)

Okay, now it's your turn!

Random act of kindness

Monday started off bumpy. Like as in literally bumpy. I had the day off in observance of Veteran's Day so I had a full day of activities planned -- run a few errands, cook, clean, etc. Basically, just be a domestic diva for the day. Fun!

I get out to my car, hop in, back out and... it sounds like there are rocks in the engine. :X Oh crap. This car is supposed to go for another 80K miles at least and now it sounds like something is terribly wrong. I start panicking and call Jim to fill him in. As I'm on the phone, I circle the car and lo and behold, there is the problem. A very, very flat front right tire. Oh. Okay, well that's not so bad. Annoying, but not awful.

I don't change tires, so AAA comes out, puts on the spare and I open up the yellow pages to find a tire shop in our area. I've had to do the whole "let's drive on an LA freeway while only being able to go 45 mph" and it's absolute hell. I needed something that wouldn't require hopping on a freeway.

The first place I see is Globe Motorsports. Based on their ad, they sell Goodyear tires (what I currently have on the car) and they are only a few miles away. Perfect. I make my way to the shop only to find the tiny parking lot overrun with customers. Lovely.

One of the employees, Greg, comes over and asks what the problem is. I fill him in and he asks to see the tire. He looks at it, turning it this way and that. And then says "You know, this tire looks new to me. I think it's just the patch that leaked. Um, let me run some tests on it, but I think we should be able to just fix it. I mean, no need to sell you a new tire if you don't need it."

I'm sorry, did you just say you're trying to save me $$?!? What the...?!?

After coming back to my senses, I walked into the lobby and waited there reading a magazine. About an hour later, Greg waved me over and said they fixed the tire and the car was ready to go. Awesome!! And then we have this exchange:

Me: Fantastic! So, how much do I owe you?
Greg: You know, I don't even have a bill for you. Don't worry about it.
Me: Wait, what?! No, I mean...
Greg: Really. If you want to do something, just give my guy like $5 and it's fine.
Me: [speechless]

We all know how it usually works when a woman walks into any shop dealing with cars. They automatically see dollar signs and try to take you for whatever they can get. I have never had something like this happen anywhere, much less at a car shop!!

I gave the service guy $10 (everything I had in my wallet) and then got in my car in a daze. Once I stopped freaking out over how amazed I was at what had just happened, I promptly drove over to Crumbs, picked up a dozen cupcakes and drove them back out to the guys. They were a little shocked that I dropped off a thank you gift and I think they were probably as happy with the situation as they had originally made me with their generousity, kindness and most excellent customer service.

I am still blown-away at the situation. Needless to say, they have a customer for life with me. It's just so rare to find people like this today and it was so uplifting to know that they still exist.

So, if you ever need tires, you know where to go! Tell them Amber (with the cupcakes) sent you!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Musings

I was totally that girl this morning at Starbucks ordering a "tall, sugar-free, non-fat, extra-hot gingerbread latte, light whip". I felt totally silly ordering it, but it was so darn good.
_______________________

I'm currently wearing "Tea & Crumpets" on my toes courtesy of my morning pedicure. Nail polish names just kill me (in a good way).
_______________________

I'm loving this dreary cold weather. Jim worked from home today, so we've been in the apartment all day with the tv just hanging out. So great.
_______________________

They played most of the Chargers-Colts game in the pouring rain. In no way, shape or form does that look like fun.
_______________________

My new Le Creuset dutch oven is so purtty, but it's gonna take some getting used to. It definitely works differently from my regular cookware, but the baked potato soup still turned out fairly well. Hopefully this cold weather hangs on so I have more excuses to use it for comfort food dishes.

ABC, easy as 123

I was tagged by Nanette to do a meme. Um, some of these were hard!

Rules: List a word that describes you for every letter of the alphabet. Offer as much or as little explanation as you wish. Please keep the words positive (for example, don’t use “fat” for F or “lame” for L), and feel free to get creative. Tag as many or as few people as you wish.

A: Agile (Well, when I'm dancing at least)

B: Blue-eyed

C: Clumsy (I'm always bruising myself on something or other it seems)

D: Dancer

E: Educated

F: Fun

G: Generous

H: Happy

I: Interested (in so many different things really)

J: Joyful

K: Kind

L: Lovable

M: Married (I love being able to describe myself as such)

N: Nonstop

O: Old-soul (My mother-in-law often says this about me and she is probably right)

P: Pear-shaped

Q: Quiet (As much as I love hanging out with people, I also adore my alone time)

R: Reader (Have been ever since I was a kid)

S: Smiley

T: Tailored (I've given up trying to follow most fashion trends)

U: Upbeat

V: Volunteer

W: Wacky

X: X-rayed (at least once every 2 years at the dentist)

Y: Young

Z: Zonked (by the end of the week this describes me perfectly!)

I'm now tagging:
Alyssa at 2007's Journey
Leslie at Adventures in Randomness
Aline at Screw the Turtle, Isn't it Time I Win the Race?
Tater at tasty tater talks

No worries if this isn't your cup of tea. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Music to my ears

Last weekend I was just thinking about how funny it is that a specific song can bring up such strong emotions or bring you back to a specific moment in time. And then I was catching up on Nanette's blog and saw this. I love this post so much that I've been inspired to re-create it with my own little ipod. Here are the first 10 songs that came up on my ipod (after putting it on shuffle) with a little commentary about each song:

1. You've Got a Friend by James Taylor - The last time I volunteered at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, it was a winter session specifically for the kids aged 15-18. One of the counselors, Judge, who has been around forever brought his guitar and during one of the activities a small group of us counselors were sitting outside together and he started playing. And guided by Judge, the rest of us joined in singing. Lots of old stuff from Paul Simon, John Mellencamp and James Taylor. I specifically remember this song because I just felt so happy at that moment to be outside, enjoying the gorgeous winter afternoon in the woods and being surrounded by such a wonderful, talented bunch of volunteers and campers.

2. Too Much by Dave Matthews Band - I didn't even know who this band was until I started dating my husband. But Jim was obessesed with them and would constantly play their music in the car. The is one of the songs I came to love and we would often sing it together while he was driving me home after our dates that first year.

3. Gangsta Lovin' by Eve & Alicia Keys - I love listening to Pop and Hip Hop stations in the car when I'm driving around. This was a popular song a few years back, I always found myself grooving in my car when it would come on, so I finally downloaded it onto my ipod. And yes, I still find myself groovin' to the beat when I hear it.

4. Cherry Bomb by John Mellencamp - Another artist that my husband introduced me to when we started dating. It is such a happy albeit somewhat sentimental song and it reminds me of many car trips with Jim, just driving down the road singing our hearts out.

5. London Rain by Heather Nova - I was introduced to Dawson's Creek by my 2 best friends my senior year of college. I fell in love with the show and became quite enamored with a lot of the music that was used. This led to buying both Soundtracks for the show and downloading many other songs from itunes. This specific song was used in several different episodes and I really enjoy listening to it.

6. You Can Do It by Ice Cube - Oh man. Senior year in college, we're at a formal date party for my sorority and we're all having a swell time dancing and drinking and just hanging out. My friends and I hear that one of the younger girls is not feeling well and we head into the bathroom to check on her. And there she is in her big party dress worshiping the porcelain god. I grab a hairband and start gathering up her hair to make sure it doesn't fall into the toilet when this song comes on and you can softly hear it in the bathroom. And wouldn't you know, this girl starts boppin' her booty while she is still being sick. I think I started laughing from the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. Amazing.

7. You and I by Michael Buble - No real specific memory or moment tied to this song from me, but it's from his first album, which happens to be one of those great CDs that you can play straight through and enjoy every song. Love that!

8. Jive Talking by The Bee Gees - I'm not sure why I like this song but I do. It's just so happy and upbeat. Fun!

9. Life, In a Nutshell by Barenaked Ladies - Yet another artist I wasn't terribly familiar with until I started dating Jim. Sure, I had listened to One Week on the radio when it was really popular a few years prior, but I didn't know their old stuff. We listened to their live album often that first year we were dating and then when he left for school that next year, it became bittersweet. I was so sad he was gone and listening to the album would alternately make me happy remembering the good times together and also heighten the sadness of him no longer being in California. Even now, hearing that album can totally put me in a melancholy mood.

10. The Glamourous Life by Sheila E. - In high school, we used to warm up to this song in jazz dance class and I will forever associate it with stretching and doing across the floor kicks and turns.

And now, I want to hear about the first 10 songs that come up on your ipod and what memories and stories they evoke. :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Oodles of noodles

This week I'm finally getting back to my normal Monday-Friday post-work schedule now that I've gotten over being sick. I wanted to try some new recipes this week, but I didn't have a ton of time to cook this week. I found this recipe for chicken chow mein on Cooking Light that looked fairly simple but also really yummy.

I couldn't find the pre-cut carrots, but instead substituted julienned red bell pepper. And let me tell you, this dish was awesome! It's fast and easy to prepare, makes a ton of food and the flavor, while not authentic, is really good! I can't wait to make it again, but next time I'm going to add in even more vegetables to balance out the noodles a bit. I highly recommend this dish :)

Clean Sweep -- it's not just a tv show

Last weekend started early for me as I flew to my mom's house Thursday night to spend the weekend with her. And what were we going to do over the next 2 1/2 days? Why, clean out, organize and re-arrange her downstairs bedroom! Although really, this is only the tip of the iceburg....

Backstory: My parents had been married for 32 years, when early this year my mom filed for divorce. The reasons are long and complicated and messy to go into, though I will say that adultery and abuse were not part of the equation. Thank God. That being said, the divorce should be final by year's end. My mom is now living in the house where I grew up in Northern California by herself (my dad is living in Arizona) and the 30+ years of stuff that has accumulated in the house is just out of control. My mom finally hit a turning point this summer and has started changing her outlook on life. I think there were a number of years where she hasn't been happy, but buried that unhappiness to not make waves within her marriage or the family in general. Instead of dealing with it, she compensated by shopping. Which, of course, just added to the clutter and craziness in the house leading to more unhappiness.... Well, you see where this is going. But over the past few months I have seen such a change in her and it is definitely for the positive! She is getting her life back in order in so many ways, but it is partly expressed by getting her literal house in order, too.

So, this weekend's task was to tackle the bedroom. Quite frankly, we were both overwhelmed with the sheer volume of "stuff" we had to go through. I have tried to help her organize and clean out the bedroom before, but she fought me on purging a lot of the clutter and instead of weeding things out, we just re-arranged what was already there. But not this time!

Once we finally found a place to start, she was throwing stuff into the Goodwill and "sell" piles with wild abandon. I think we had a disagreement on whether to keep or sell maybe 3 items in the entire room. Over the course of 2 days we made 3 trips to Goodwill, 1 trip to the hazardous waste recycling center (for an old TV and batteries) and filed up at least 2 garbage cans of boxes, papers, old mini-blinds and whatnot. She also has several boxes of items that need to go to the antique dealer next week to see if it can be sold. Amazing!

After the room had been purged of all the unnecessary crap, we found homes for the things that were staying in the room, gave the whole thing a good cleaning, replaced the mini-blinds and window coverings and updated the bedding and lamps. It is not an understatement when I say the room looks like a million bucks!!

My sweet mother was just giddy at how much we accomplished and with the final results. She said it was just the motivation she needed to get her started again tackling other rooms in the house. [Prior to my arrival, she had already been working on the garage, backyard and various rooms in the house for at least several weeks. It's just that there is so much to go through, it can be overwhelming and quite tiring at times].

I am so happy for her and really proud of her for taking charge of her life and making some big changes that are right for her. My mom has always been a "people-pleaser", putting everyone else's wants and needs ahead of her own, and now for once, she is putting herself first. It just puts a huge smile on my face when I think about how far she has come in just a few months.

It was a work weekend and I'm still somewhat tired from all the activity, but it was also a lot of fun and well-worth the effort. :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Weekend Rewind

The short answer is it was far from exciting. That lovely little cold I picked up last week? Yeah, well, it decided to go crazy this weekend, leading Jim to ask at one point "How are you getting worse?!?" I was home on the couch from late Friday night until Tuesday morning, when I finally drug myself back into work. And it's taken me until this morning to finally feel somewhat normal. It's the cold from hell.

Before I became permanently attached to my couch this weekend, I did have a fun Friday night. Jim and I decided to have dinner at the Farmer's Market at the Grove, but since I get off of work before him, I went early and did a little shopping. Mainly, this was an excuse to swing by Victoria's Secret to see Heidi Klum who was doing makeovers there for 2 hours to promote her new make-up line. I love Project Runway and was quite excited to see her up close. Stupid me forgot my camera, but I did grab a couple of camera-phone pics.


She is so pretty and seems so sweet! She was all dolled up, but wow --- the girl has some really good genes going on there. They had other professional make-up artists at the event as well doing free make-overs, so I took advantage of it. My artist said that Heidi is just a genuinely nice person and a lot of fun. Always nice to hear.

After getting my Heidi fix, I headed over to the Apple store to pick up a protective case for my new computer. And wouldn't you know... I bought a pink neoprene one! The store was packed to the gills with folks because it was the launch of their new operating system. My one observation was that the store had quite the funky smell --- I'll let you come to your own conclusions on why that might be....

Jim finally met me for dinner around 8ish and we scored a table outside. We started off with soup, lobster bisque for me, corn chowder for him, and then he had the meatloaf and I had the chicken greek salad. All of the food hit the spot. As we were waiting for the check, a couple started walking in the restaurant, I looked up and thought "Hmmm, that guy looks familiar". Well, that would be because it was Mr. and Mrs. Pearl! They stopped and we chatted for a bit, but they were just getting ready for a meal and we were past done with ours, so we weren't able to combine our dinners. :( But, it's always fun to run into friends unexpectedly.

The rest of the weekend was spent on the couch with hubs watching sports 24/7. I apologized for being so boring to which he responded "What are you talking about? I've had yummy food (re: junk food), beer and watched a ton of sports. What is boring about that?!" Men.

This weekend I'm flying to my Mom's house to spend the weekend with her and help her clean/organize the house. And then I'm flying back on Sunday morning in time for lunch for my mother-in-law's birthday. Lots of family stuff this weekend, but it should be fun!