Sunday, November 17, 2013

Better Late Than Never: NYC Edition

Yes I was there a month ago, but I don't want to forget what we did!   More current events will resume later this week.  In the meantime I have created a Cliffs Notes version of my travels if only so a year from now I have an inkling of what occurred.


Arrived at Penn Station after a brief train ride from Newark.   Noticed a flower vendor so I got some flowers for Al and her roommate for hosting me.   They both commented that their BFs never got them flowers, so a sister would have to do.   I am happy to accommodate!  The three of us ate at a wine bar / tapas restaurant and enjoyed catching up

Off to Chelsea!   First stop Loehmann's so I could find a dress for Marissa's wedding.  No luck.   Al was a Loehmann's rookie and found an entire bag full of stuff.   Typical!  But she was pleased to have found a new store, and we had lots of fun trying on clothes and making comments.   We also stopped in a very fancy pants consignment shop where there were tons of designer duds- tags still on- way marked down.  Nothing I was looking for, but quite the experience being in Chelsea.

Time for me to have a first- going to Brooklyn!  Can you believe I had never been there?   Al and I met up with Sally and walked back to the city via the Brooklyn Bridge.  

We had to rest up before our night at the Barclay's Center to see Pearl Jam in a luxury box.

Eleven miler in Central Park.   It was gorgeous running weather - 60ish and cloudy.   The leaves were changing and the park was stunning.  [I did not have my phone since I was focused primarily on running but gosh I wish I could have taken photos]  We even got free pretzels and hummus near the exit!  This type of thing does not happen in my Florida neighborhood.  We took the train downtown to get TKTS tickets to see Newsies and a strange woman told us not to eat hummus because it's fattening.   Thanks, lady.   I am sweating and wearing running clothes.  I think I got this one.

One bad thing about running a long distance in NYC and then going somewhere else is that you don't have a change of clothes and are bound to be a bit chilly.   But this is why you treat yourself to a CAB when you're done buying tickets.

Dinner did not disappoint- gourmet grilled cheese and craft beer before heading to midtown for the show.  It's a good thing the lady from the train did not know how much fat I would consume that day.  The hummus was the least of our worries!

I was not impressed with Jack Kelly's singing, sorry to say.   Luckily the dancing more than made up for it and it was a terrific show.   The leg room, however, left something to be desired.

Energized from the fantastic music, we had to go to 16 handles for frozen yogurt.

Back to Chelsea to enjoy brunch with Tony and Carmen [who live there] and Marissa and Howie [who were in the city for the day].   We had yummy food and good visiting before heading to Chelsea Market.    Al and I even met up with Marissa and Howie later for a drink after exploring High Line.

Dinner included Shake Shack with Sal, and a tour of his new apartment.  Talk about a good food day - holy cow.

Went to the gym like good little 1/2 marathon trainers.  Then we headed to the Upper East Side to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art and grab lunch.  

For my last night in the city, the tenement museum in the East Village did not disappoint.  The hardest part was selecting a tour - we went with Sweatshop Workers and had an enthusiastic young woman tell us all about life at the turn of the 20th century.   Al and Melissa's apartment is above a pizza place and I FINALLY ate there with Al for dinner.  We topped off the evening with a stop at Momufuku Milk Bar and Al practiced doing my hair for the upcoming 1/2 Marathon… Full House Style

Got in a cab in the East Village and clearly say 31st and 7th please.  Aka PENN STATION but on the NJT side.   Cabbie heard 34th and 7th.   I got to walk a little extra to the train station.   Once inside, I must have looked like I had it together because someone asked me how to buy a NJT ticket and how to get to the trains.  Um ok.   I dashed down a flight of stairs, hopped on my train, and made it to Newark in plenty of time.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nobbin' with all the muckety-mucks, I'm blowin' my dough and goin' deluxe

Yes, Newsies fans, I was in New York to see Al, and we saw the show!  What can I say, I am a lucky girl.  

If you follow me on Instagram [yes, I got an iPhone and have joined the 21st century!] you have seen some of these teasers.   Let me show you some more while I further delay my full recap of 5 days in The Big Apple.

Nothing quite like arriving at Penn Station via NJ Transit on a Thursday night.

Girls night out!  Drinks and apps at a wine bar in the East Village.  
Melissa [our auxiliary sis and Al's roommate] took the photo

Selfie on the Brooklyn Bridge - my first time into the borough! 

Newsies at the Nederlander Theater
We totally took a photo during intermission despite the rather LARGE no photo signs.   
Whatever - it was the mezzanine and the stage was empty.  No regrets

Just a normal day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Recreating the Full House opening scene as I test out hair options for our upcoming race.  
Instead of Michelle, I got a Fat Bison

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Top Ten Reasons I Love Working From Home

So aside from my quick anniversary post, I've been spacing on blogging.    Sometimes I don't have anything to say [ok, admittedly for a chatter box like me, that's pretty rare] but most of the time I am unmotivated to put it down into a coherent format.  You know… to actually write!   I'm reading the archives of one of my favorite blogs and came across Top 10 lists, which she was running about once per week.   That seems manageable.   I can write a list.  I love lists.  So to kick things off…….

Top Ten Reasons I Love Working From Home

1) No commute
I work ten steps from my bedroom.  One flight of stairs from the kitchen.  I cannot even calculate how much money and gas I have saved by not driving to work.  The downside is I don't have time to read on a train [loved that in DC!] but it's a small price to pay.

2) Casual clothing
I am sitting here in a tank top and shorts.  Barefoot.  No one knows and no one cares.  I am comfortable!

3) Lazy Head
Messy hair, glasses, no makeup.  That sounds like me when I get out of bed.  And also when I start working at 7am.  I do always make myself  look presentable by 8 am in case I have to answer the door.  But presentable to answer the door is a tad different than presentable at the office

4) Saving Time
When I was in NY last week, I went to the office.  You know, working next to people.  Human interaction!  I had to get up earlier so that I could get dressed, fix my hair and makeup and eat breakfast.   And, you know, get to the office!   I also had to spend time driving back to the hotel.  Not a ton of time but when you work 5 days a week, these things add up.

5) Unlimited access to tea
I know, you can make it in the office.  But it's different in your own kitchen with the canister of teabags and the sink right there.

6) Less interruptions
We use instant message to stay in touch, but an IM is different than a colleague at your desk.   I can ignore it for a few seconds without being rude!

7) Quiet
I spent a lot of time on the phone.  All of my teammates do.  When we sit in close proximity it gets LOUD and can be hard to hear.  My home office is blissfully silent except for my own blabbing.

8) Space
My desk is small, but the office is spacious enough.  Anyone who has studied with me since the mid 90's know that I tend to spread thing out on the floor in a circle from where I am sitting.  It's a hazard when working in a traditional office.   It's no biggie here.   Well, unless the cat decides to nap on a binder, but that's another story

9) Flexibility
Last Thanksgiving I actually worked part of a day FROM THE CAR!  I kid you not.  I had a live chat with a guy in Africa while Michael drove north on I-95.  Very Marty McFly/ Back to the Future.  I need a laptop and internet to work, and can work anywhere.  I don't even need an office!  

10) Saving Money
This relates to several points above, but I don't have to buy gas for my commute, I don't have to buy business appropriate clothing [or take to the dry cleaner].   I don't have to buy as much make up or hair product because I don't 'get ready' every day.  Some of these are obviously more minor than others, but a penny saved is a penny earned! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy 4th Anniversary

Our anniversary falling on a Thursday night means nothing crazy over here.... just an evening of watching the Indians game and eating ice cream.   It's part of the routine, but isn't that what it's all about?  The little things that are part of your day-to-day that make life happy, and uniquely you.

All I know is that four years ago today, two high-school sweethearts got married.   It was a picture perfect weather day, the church was beautiful, and the flowers amazing.   Everyone we love was there, and they all had fun at the reception.

THAT is what it's all about, too.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Craziest Thing I Have Ever Done


What is Ripcord, you ask?   A ridiculous but extremely fun thing to do, that's what.

Back in my senior year of high school I decided Ripcord would be a good way to get over my fear of roller coasters.  So one summer day in 2001, Michael and I drove to Cedar Point to do what remains the craziest thing either of us has ever done.

I remember being nearly silent on our drive out to the Challenge Park.  Very rare for me.  Despite being scared and nervous, I knew I would go through with it and not chicken out.  I was on a mission to conquer my coaster fears.  We arrived, paid, got strapped in, and we were on our way up.   This short period of time is probably one of the scariest of my life.   I am not afraid of heights at all.   But I was getting raised off the ground knowing there's one way down.  It was not a ladder.  We had to pull the rip cord.  Yikes!

Ripcord is sort of a fusion of sky diving and bungee jumping.  You're in a harness with a buddy (or two) and get hooked up to a cable, which then hoists you up to the top of a 15 foot tower.  Once you are up 150 feet in the air, the folks on the ground say 3-2-1-FLY! at which point you pull the rip cord and swoop down to the ground.   They say you come within 6 feet of the concrete and that you are going 65 mph at the time.   I have no idea if any of that is true.

What I do know is that Michael was the cord puller and he did a marvelous job.  We dropped, but it was smooth and not at all unpleasant in that regard.  The view was magnificent and the sensation was different than riding a roller coaster.  It felt more like a glide, or what I imagine you'd feel like if you could fly.   The ride up was scary, but after Michael pulled the cord, the experience was amazing.  Exhilarating.  Invigorating.  The craziest thing I have ever done.

Since this was 12 years go, and I did not own a digital camera yet, I have no photos.  I do, however, have a video of this experience at my parents' house in Ohio.  I bought it as proof that I actually went through with it!  I must convert that to a digital copy.  Until then, this video will give you an idea of what it's all about.

Still enjoying the Bring Back the Words Prompts from Ginger at RambleRamble.  What's the craziest thing you've ever done was a fun trip down memory lane!  Can't wait to see next week's prompts.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sweet Summer

So it turns out I am enjoying these prompts.   I am trying to catch up because I started late.  This time I am working on June 23rd's topic.    Tell us a favorite summer memory.

When I lived up north, Summer is, by far, my favorite season.    After months of cold and gray weather, we enjoy warmth and sunshine and baseball.  The days are long, the pool is open, and school is out.   (Not that I didn't enjoy school.   I did.  But I also loved summer.)

Growing up with a pool in the backyard certainly spoiled us.  Al and I spent hours and hours swimming, splashing, making up games, diving for rings, and remaining generally water logged for the better part of 3 months.   Eric, our next door neighbor and de-facto sibling, was over almost every day.  We made him talk under water and have us guess what he said.   It was a ridiculous game and we loved it.  Every 4th of July we watched fireworks with Eric and his parents, and often had them over for hot dogs and sparklers before it got dark enough for the fireworks to start.   I have so many photos of us goofing around during the 4th holiday, but they are not scanned!   The below photo was no doubt taken with Eric near by.

A few summers, Mom went to grad school and spent a lot of time with Nene.   We covered a tri-county area fitting in zoo trips, SeaWorld, Cedar Point, visits to the park, and of course, more swimming.  Often during these carefree days, I ate dinner while wearing my swimsuit, and often ate ice cream in the pool.  (Dad sanctioned and still performed)

We caught fireflies, looked at stars, and stayed up "late" watching movies we rented for free at Drug Mart.  You see, my parents were avid weekend movie watchers, and always new releases.  After 10 new release rentals, they earned a free 'old' movie.  My parents never cashed in on this, so Al and I spent many evenings watching and re-watching our favorite movies at no charge to our parents.   We also ate our weight in Combos.  Evenings also included baseball games.   Either on TV or just on the radio, nearly every evening from my junior high career on, I had Indians on the brain.  I even dragged my little boom box out to the pool deck so I could listen to the Tribe while in my favorite place in the world.

In our house, Dad and I were the 'biggest' water babies.  We were up earliest and in the pool first.   This also meant that Dad cleaned and I helped, but it was a small price to pay for being able to enjoy the pool every moment of the day.   

When we were kids we had a small above ground pool that was large enough for floating around and playing.   One of our favorite things to do was to 'double dunk' Dad, in which we would both fill water bottles [from Rax kids meals!] and pour water all over him.   As we got older, this game shifted to mean we tag teamed him and flipped him off the float into the pool.  A double dunk indeed.

As you can see, I have many sweet summer memories.   But I leave you with one that always makes me laugh.  As we got older, a typical weekend included Juj and Dad breakfast outside, pool cleaning, and swimming laps.  Dad was on the East side of the pool, I was on the West side.   We alternated free style, and breast stroke.   Dad backstroked, and I kickboarded.  (Jules + backstroke = disaster) Kicking in the pool was loud and did not allow for conversation but we were united in our swim.

We often ended up on floats as the morning turned to afternoon.   One day in the late 90s (I think I was in high school, so I am guessing on the year), Mom and Al were inside and Dad and I were relaxing.  I was not asleep, but Dad might have been.   My eyes were closed, but it was sunny and I was chilling out.  Our relaxation was short lived.  All of a sudden, Dad and I were covered in ice and freezing.

You see, Mom had come up with a scheme that she and Al would fill pitchers with ice and sneak out the front door (not the back door by the pool) so we would not hear anything.  They then walked through the side yard to sneak up on us, and doused us with ice.   Dad and I both screamed, fell off our floats, and burst into laughter.  

Something you have to know about my mom is she is not the type to play these types of tricks.  She has a sense of humor and is fun and wacky, but this is atypical.   We never would have thought her as the mastermind.   I think that's what makes it so funny looking back.  It was MOM who was doing it!  Ganging up on her own kid, and encouraging the other one to help.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What's the Best Decision You've Ever Made?

I've been in a bit of a blog funk.  My days are routine, and I do enjoy a routine for some aspects of my life.  But it sure makes for uninspired blogging.  Florida summers are the epitome of routine. Each and every day from about mid-May to late September is the same.  Highs near 90, chance of afternoon storms.  Like clockwork.   Quite frankly, I don't know why the weather segment evens airs on TV.  What's the point?  We know exactly what they're going to say.

A few weeks ago, I came across Bring Back the Words Prompts via Leah's blog.   Leah's blog is one of my favorites and I was intrigued.    The first week of the prompt series, there were actually two prompts:

Prompt 1:
Why’d you start blogging?
Prompt 2:
What’s the best decision you ever made?

My answer for #1 is not that exciting for me to write about.  Hannah had started a blog and it was fun.   I figured this was a good way to show my family, scattered around the country, what I had been up to, while also creating a sort of journal of my escapades.  So I was thinking about #2.   At 30 years old, I feel like I still have some big decisions in front of me, but at this point in my life, I also think I have a decent answer.   It's a long one.  Grab a glass of something and get comfy.

My senior year of high school I was convinced I was going to be a broadcast journalist.   I considered schools with strong journalism programs, specifically those with broadcasting options.  The number of schools who fit the bill were few, and I had narrowed my list down to two: American University, in DC and Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio.  

Mom and I visited AU first (in August 2000) and I fell in love with the relatively small but diverse campus, nestled into NorthWest DC.   We were minutes from the center of the city, but the campus was distinctly its own.  I was hooked and decided this was my place.

In the fall of my senior year, I learned I had been nominated to be a Manasseh Cutler Scholar, a prestigious scholarship opportunity at Ohio University.  Not only was this essentially a 4-year FULL RIDE to Ohio University, but it also included summer opportunities between each school year, including a summer abroad internship.   I still loved what AU had to offer, but this was a big deal.   I asked teachers for recommendations, submitted required essays, and I waited.   I don't remember how many people were nominated, but there was a decent sized group of us.   After some time, I found out I was a finalist.   It was between me and one other guy from the county.   Very exciting

The two of us were then invited to visit the campus and participate in a panel 'discussion' which was basically a table of 10 - 12 adults asking each of us [separately] all KINDS of questions.  I drove to southern Ohio with my parents and Auntie, an alumna of Ohio U.  She was excited to go back to campus, and was excited that I might become a Bobcat as well.   We enjoyed a campus tour, and I participated in the discussion - aka was grilled.    I felt great about it.   As Student Council president, aka "Suzie High School" to Pannie, I was used to talking to all sorts of people in all sorts of situations.   I wouldn't say I enjoyed the interview, but I felt confident.   It went very well and after meeting the other guy, who reminded me of Minkus on Boy Meets World, I felt like I had it in the bag.

I forget how long it took for me to hear the decision, but when the decision came, I was shocked.   The other guy was awarded the scholarship.   I was offered a 'consolation prize' which was generous but no where near what I lost out on.   I was legitimately surprised, and also a bit upset.   On paper I looked good enough to invite me to campus.   In person, I felt great talking to everyone.   What could have happened in his interview that landed him the prize?  Obviously, I have no idea.

But then I had a decision to make.  Ohio University, a public, in-state school, had a much lower price tag than AU.   Plus they were offering me a decent scholarship.  AU offered me a scholarship as well, but it covered much less of the tuition than OU's did.  I was torn.  Where should I go to school?   In some ways they were very similar - two of the best journalism programs in the country, I had been accepted to both programs, and would have done well in either school.  Their differences were perhaps a bit more obvious.  AU is located in our nation's capital, a stone's thrown from the White House, Capital Hill, and countless museums, among other things.  There was never a shortage of things to do.  OU, on the other hand, is located in rural Ohio.  Its somewhat isolated campus has, some would say, turned OU into quite a party school.

The decision sort of consumed my life.  I thought abut it at school, at home, while falling asleep.   I called Auntie to talk to her about OU.   It had obviously changed since she attended, but she could provide insight into some things.  I really was torn.

Finally, and here's the answer to the prompt up there, I chose American University.

At this point in my life, it is if not THE best decision I have made, certainly one of them.    Up until 2001, I had lived in the same house my whole life.  I had attended the same school, K-12.  Ohio was my place.  I had been to DC just twice, once in 9th grade for a long weekend, and again to visit AU's campus, during which time we did not get south of Ward Circle.  It was a brand new place with a lot of unknowns.   I was not used to that and it was kind of scary, but it was important.

Full disclosure- Michael and I were dating in high school and decided NOT to intentionally go to the same school.  Junior year, our college counselor [who was not still there for our senior year!] told everyone and their uncle to look at American University.   So we both did, and we both liked it.   Hmm.   As it would turn out, Michael was at AU and so was I.   He was the only person on campus I knew, but we lived in separate dorms on the opposite side of campus and had no classes together.

As with many people, college was an impressionable time.   I lived by myself for the first time, met people totally different than those I'd known back home.   I loved my new stomping grounds and immediately became involved in the ambassador program and served as a tour guide.  In keeping with the familiar, I joined the choir and met my two best friends.   If I had not gone to AU, I would not have met Ash and Pannie.   That is HUGE!   When I really think about it, I get sort of panicky.   What would my life be like without them?   Not to be dramatic, but I literally cannot think about it.

After a choir concert
Low quality scan from 2003

Ash's 30th [yes these are costumes]

But during my time at AU I experienced some big happenings that no one ever could have predicted.   I was in DC during 9/11 and we could see the Pentagon burning from the campus parking garage.  We also had an arson scare.  The following year, the DC sniper kept everyone on edge.

Ironically, after nearing the end of the journalism program, I decided I did not want to live that life.  Being a broadcast journalist was not for me.  I got my degree in broadcast journalism, but was not going go pursue those types of jobs.

After graduation in 2005, I decided I'd like to work in DC in some capacity.   I applied for many jobs, and finally got hired at Inside Higher Ed in an entry level communication-type role.   It was my first real job.   I had an amazing boss (we are still in touch!) and worked with a fantastic group of people.   While at IHE, I learned SalesForce, a CRM used among many many sales departments.  And, most importantly, I was good at it.

Flash forward to 2010.  Michael is studying at Cornell, and I am looking for a temp position.  The temp agency has heard about a job where the supervisor would love to get someone with SalesForce knowledge.  I get a call less than 24 hours later setting up an interview and am hired as a temp on the spot.   Over time, as longtime readers know, I was hired for a full time position at the same company, and continue to work for them today, from my home in Florida.  I am happy to report that I once again have an amazing boss and work with a fantastic group of people.   It's truly remarkable that in less than 10 years working I can say that about two separate institutions.

Sure you can argue that I might have become a broadcaster after OU's program [I highly doubt it] or that I would have found another job that taught me a valuable skill that I could employ after I became a traveling spouse.  And that may be the case.  But for me, the combination of the skills I developed, and most importantly, the people I have met, cannot be questioned.  

What would my life look like today without these people?  I made, and kept, some wonderful friends at AU.  I did not have a ton of friends while I was there, but the ones I had I still have.

What would my life look like today had I not dated my now-husband during that time?  The hopeless romantics may say we'd have ended up together no matter what.   The realists may disagree.

What would my life look like without my first boss?  I still see her every time I am in DC.   She has also written me some fantastic job references, for which I am forever grateful.

What would my life look like without my temp job?  A one-year stint in Ithaca would have felt a lot different without my first gig.  But would I have even been in Ithaca with Michael?

What would it look like today?   Nobody knows.

In retrospect, I don't think there was a -wrong- decision to be made during my senior year of high school.  I certainly would have done well, met new friends, etc.   But these specific people are special, and have truly impacted the last 12 years of my life.  

So, the best decision I have ever made?   To attend American University.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day: Why My Dad is the Best

Today we celebrate Dad.  My Dad great up outnumbered in a house full of women.   It was three to one, with two daughters and of course my mom.  Then when I was eleven, we adopted a cat.   Against his wishes.   And she was a girl, too.  

But one of the good things about growing up in this environment is that as a girl, you learn how to do all kinds of useful stuff.   Like how to help put up [or take down] a snow fence (I grew up in the North, y'all).   How to winterize a swimming pool.  

How to caulk a bathroom sink.   How to unclog a toilet.  How to paint a room - and the ceiling!  How to make dinner when Mom's not around.  How to drink egg nog the 'right' way.   For those who wonder, it's with 'extra nog' from the liquor cabinet.

How to spin the aerial antenna toward Toledo to watch Browns games on Sunday afternoon.  How to change window screens on Derby Day. How to eat a ridiculous amount of ice cream in one sitting.

 And, evidently, how to rock a baseball cap.   For reasons unknown we called these Spanky hats.

I have learned much from both of my parents.   But my dad has always had a way of saying things in a funny way to make us laugh (or at times, cringe).  For example, a hard rain is known as a "frog strangler" if Dad is around.  His jokes are unmatched, and he never lets you win at board games or at cards or at anything else, really.   If you win against Dad, you earned it.   To this day, I am a competitor in every game I play and I don't let people win.  That is 100% because of Dad.....  for better or worse!   Dad can be a cornball at times, but he is also one of the most honest and straightforward people you'll ever meet.   I like to think those traits are pumping through my veins too!   He also has a ton of expressions to teach you lessons- like fables but wittier.  I really need to have him write them all down because I can't remember them all.

A few gems from Dad:

If you fail to plan, you plain to fail
Measure twice, cut once
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
The school of hard knocks has the most expensive tuition

If you stop by for a visit on a summer day, and Dad is washing the family cars, he'll wash yours too.  Just ask Hannah.  

And if you're hungry, he'll grill you something for a snack.   Even if you don't ask for it, he'll offer you a 'frozen treat'  If you go into labor and your husband is not home, Dad will take you to the hospital.  Just ask my aunt.  

As if the jokes weren't a giveaway, Dad loves to laugh and kid around.    It was his idea to do the stunt, below.   Last September Al and I recreated the scene nearly 20 years later....  if only he was in town, too, to join the madness!


So, I know it's just one day to celebrate Dad, but if you have an awesome Dad, like my sister and I do, try to celebrate him every day.   He deserves it!  As always, I leave you with one of my most favorite pieces ever written.

Paul Harvey's "What Are Fathers Made Of"

A father is a thing that is forced to endure childbirth, without an anesthetic.

A father is a thing that growls when it feels good–and laughs loud when it’s scared half to death.

A father never feels entirely worthy of worship in his child’s eyes. He never is quite the hero his daughter thinks, never quite the man his son believes him to be. This worries him, sometimes, so he works too hard to try and smooth the rough places in the road for those of his own who will follow him.

A father is a thing that gets very angry when school grades aren’t as good as he thinks they should be. He scolds his son although he knows it’s the teacher’s fault.

Fathers grow old faster than other people.

And while mothers can cry where it shows, fathers stand there and beam outside–and die inside. Fathers have very stout hearts, so they have to be broken sometimes or no one would know what is inside. Fathers give daughters away to other men who aren’t nearly good enough so they can have grandchildren who are smarter than anybody’s. Fathers fight dragons almost daily. They hurry away from the breakfast table, off to the arena which is sometimes called an office or a workshop…where they tackle the dragon with three heads: Weariness, Work and Monotony.

Knights in shining armor.

Fathers make bets with insurance companies about who will live the longest. Though they know the odds, they keep right on betting. Even as the odds get higher and higher, they keep right on betting more and more.

And one day they lose.

But fathers enjoy an earthly immortality and the bet is paid off to the part of him he leaves behind.

I don’t know where fathers go when they die. But I have an idea that after a good rest, he won’t be happy unless there is work to do. He won’t just sit on a cloud and wait for the girl he’s loved and the children she bore. He’ll be busy there, too…oiling the gates, smoothing the way.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Have we talked about friffles?   I don't think we have.

Several years ago, when ruffles were just becoming trendy and were consequently added to every single piece of women's clothing, the word was born.  Hannah and I were waiting in line at Loft in DuPont.   I noticed a particularly ruffled dress while we were waiting and I said something to the effect of "Look at that giant friffle dress!" and thus created a new word.  (Hannah and I have learned several words together.   Er - I have learned the new words, she stood by me.  See also: delicatessen)

The thing is, I don't really like friffles.  I am more of a tailored or preppy person, you see.   Think Banana Republic, polka dots, linen pants, etc.  I am also 5'9 and rather athletic in build - long arms, long legs, not super curvy.   I joke with Hannah that I look like RuPaul when I wear the frilly stuff.  It works well- it doesn't like me, I don't like it.   Also I like making fun of myself, so this nonsense goes a long way.

So, for the last 5 years or so, we have had an ongoing joke about the excessing fabric additions.   In my defense, I have purchased clothing with fabric adornments, more pleats than friffles....  though I did buy a decidedly friffly dress to wear to my cousin's wedding last year.   Yes I sent a pic to Hannah from the fitting room.   I was petrified, she was cracking up.  Baby steps.   But nothing on this earth could prepare me for this.

During the Tony's last night

H: We need to talk about Cicely Tyson's Tony's dress.  The friffle is EATING HER
J: I know!  Dangerous sartorial choice
H: That is excessive friffle

Friday, May 24, 2013

Turning 30 Wasn't So Bad

As I mentioned earlier this month, we had a whole festival planned to celebrate 30 years of my life on this earth.   The Yeti Run was fantastic.  Update on the rest:

Flying Fish was tasty.  

YAY for dinner with good company and good wine AND a Happy Birthday pin
BOO for the special NOT being Surf and Surf with rock shrimp -and- for the kitchen goofing up our order.  ML and Michael's dishes were a bit dry.  I think the chefs messed up my scallops so their plates had to wait. 
YAY for the palate cleansing sorbet we got after the appetizers, while we waited for the main event.
YAY for my free dessert.   It was peanut butter and jelly creme brulee.

As a general rule, creme brulee does not excite me too much.  But this was peanut butter and jelly creme brulee so what could go wrong?   Even more exciting was the pipet of melted chocolate I got to drizzle on top.   It was a cute presentation but the execution left something to be desired.

After dinner we headed back home where ML had a peanut butter PIE waiting.  Y'all.  Two peanut butter desserts in a matter of hours.  I was definitely not seeing why 30 was bad.  

The pie was DELISH but I had a bit of trouble getting the first piece out.   Dessert plating FAIL.   

I ate it anyway.  It tasted great.   I said to Michael once I had set scooped it onto my plate "I did OK!" which for some reason cracked him up.

Wednesday May 8 I took the day off work and we headed to….. SPACE MOUNTAIN.    What can I say I am a kid at heart.      I even got the front seat of the rocket.  Life is good.  After just a couple rides, we were hungry so we shared a cinnamon role - which was the size of my face - and a "LeFou's Brew" which is basically frozen apple juice with liquid marshmallow fluff on top.   It seems like a Marissa drink for sure with the marshmallow!

Michael and I were in "Gaston's Tavern" and sadly you can only see glimpses of the fantastically themed antler decor as well as a portrait of him above the fireplace.  Hilarious.

We rode the "Mountain Trifecta" which is my nerdy way of lumping together Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain.   Big Thunder is my favorite so we did that twice . Dare I say it was a "Mountain Superfecta"?

One can only spend so many hours in the beloved Magic Kingdom, so we high tailed it over to the Polynesia via monorail.  Highly recommended.  Full service restaurants and alcohol await at the resorts!  The Kona Cafe is a favorite lunch option and they even brought me a cupcake - how nice

After lunch we hopped back on the monorail to rent a boat and doodle around in the lagoon in front of Magic Kingdom and also the lake to the east of the park.  Michael and I have been to Magic Kingdom countless times and have ridden the park's Staten Island style ferry frequently, but had never driven our own boat around.  The big guys have the right of way, but being in a small water craft allows you to see the area in a new way.   New experience for US at Disney World?  You bet!   We encountered a fellow Tribe fan, too!  A deck hand?  Sailor?   I don't know his official title, but he said "I love your hat by the way"  as I walked toward our boat.  The hat is an old spring training hat that doesn't even have Chief Wahoo on it - this guy is a super fan.   I make friends everywhere I go- but I am nothing compared to my mother.

They told us not to take pictures while we were out on the water, but Michael was driving so I snapped away!   I made him nervous.  
"Jules you are not supposed to take pictures"  
"What difference does it make?  You're driving"  
"The boat rangers are going to see you"  
"I look innocent.  They can't see a camera from far away.  Anyway, if they notice, I'll just say I thought that rule applied to drivers.  Easier to ask forgiveness than permission!"

The boat ride was super fun, and I have covertly taken photos to prove it!   

Magic Kingdom from the water!  The green awnings are boat docks, and the steel beam is the monorail track

Ferry boat, with Space Mountain behind it

What remains of River Country, an old school "Swimming Hole" that closed in 2001.  
I would love to be able to see this up close.

We would love to do a boat ride again, any time!  

Since the only thing better than one new Disney experience is two, we headed over to Downtown Disney to redeem a Groupon for the tethered hot air balloon ride.  

I do love a deal.  It was essentially buy 1 get 1 free and offered us a unique view of our stomping grounds.  

After heading home for dinner, we ate some cake.   (Oliver, our large tabby, is in the window, oblivious to the goings on)

Seriously this thing is a monster.   No peanut butter, but I was ok with it.  This is a Chocolate Zuccotto cake, which includes an Amaretto soaked cake, which is filled with both chocolate and vanilla mousse.   The Dessert Lady then covers it with ganache.  Oh boy.   I am sure there are no calories on your birthday right?   Ok good.

It was a busy, fun-filled day, which are my favorite kind!   A great way to usher in my next decade.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Expedition Everest Challenge

At the beginning of the year, after I had signed up for the Princess Half Marathon, but before I had run it, I heard about the Expedition Everest 5K Challenge at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Mary Lynn, my mother in law, asked me if I would like to run it for my 30th birthday.

It did not take much thinking - I love the Animal Kingdom park, Expedition Everest is my favorite ride there, we both run, and it was a NIGHT race!   Excellent.   Plus, at only a 5K it would not require too much training aside from our regular 'stay in shape' running.   We decided to do it, for fun.   No pressure, just see what it's all about.  We even chose a team name - Tea For 2

Disclaimer: the following entry is very long, but I wanted to document the experience in detail.  That's what the blog is for- to remember all this stuff years from now!  

The fun started at the expo, where we picked up our race bibs, and also acted silly.

The race itself was a blast!   There were about 4,000 runners, We were placed in corral groups of 500.   We were assigned based on the date we signed up.   I think it was late January when we did it - our assignment was the 3rd wave, group C (out of a possible 8, up to G).  The course map is below.

I thought the parking lot start [bottom right, white dot] would be kind of boring, but it worked out really well.  This part of the course is pretty wide (a 2 lane road, essentially) so there was plenty of room for everyone and we were able to run around slower participants.  Around the 1/2 mile mark, we encountered our first obstacle- hay bales!  There were probably 5 or 6 and we could either climb over them, or hurdle them like a track star.   Considering my non-track star status, I chose option 1.   We got through pretty quickly - no one was slow in front of us, causing a wait.  We kept on running and hit mile #1 as we entered the park.  I saw on the official clock we ran our first mile in 8:36 which, for me, is A-MA-ZING!   I was very excited about hitting that, and also trying to keep it up.

The park itself is gorgeous at night with beautiful lighting on the Tree of Life, but also attention to detail in the smaller buildings and landscapes.   What a wonderful way to see a familiar area of Disney in a brand new way.   We ran through Africa, backstage for a bit, and then back out in Asia past Expedition Everest roller coaster, and then backstage again.   At this point we were running behind the coaster and could see the backside, where they only paint what you need to see.  Pretty cool.   The road here narrowed and was the 'out and pack' portion where we experienced our first bottleneck.   Our pace slowed a bit, and when we got to the tires we could only go as fast as the people in front of us.  There were not that many tires, so we picked up speed again and headed toward the finish.  We did not see mile marker #2 but figured the tires were at least at mile 2.   Looks like it was more like 2.5!   We approached the finish line, but not before seeing our final obstacle.  This was a low net strung very low to the ground.  On the ground, under the net, was turf and some sandy dirt.  We had to get under the net and crawl on our bellies/elbows/hands through the turf/sand.   It was very messy!   Also, side note, my cute pink headscarf came off here!   A nice girl behind me passed it up so I could fix my wild hair.  Unfortunately, the people in front of us were pretty slow so we had to wait for them to get through.  Once we did, we had no problem crossing the finish line.

We finished the 5K portion in 29:04 which is not too bad for us, considering we had those 3 obstacles.  What made me a little sad - but not too much because it was just a fun run after all - was that in the tire obstacle and the net, we caught up to the people in front of us.   In a regular race you can pass people, but with obstacles, you can go only as fast as the person ahead of you.   Therefore, folks in the first corral who were running (as opposed to walking) were probably in a good spot, without too many people in the obstacle portions ahead of them.

After the 5K and obstacles, we headed to the scavenger hunt portion.  Right after we crossed the finish line, we were handed a clue card and a very crummy flashlight that I have since thrown in the trash!  Mine was flashing on and off and looked like an SOS signal - not super useful.  Luckily the park was lit well enough that they were more an accessory than a necessity.  :)

We took a moment to walk and read the first card as we went from the finish line back toward the park entrance, where most of the hunt would take place.  (note the pink scarf in my hand!)

Our first card said
Zero in on this clue to look
for the pattern in place.
The answer is a direction that you will need later in the race.

Do you see it in the photo below?

We had just finished running and had a little trouble.  Pattern?  What pattern?!   We went to the "Oasis Palms" area without an answer.  A helpful volunteer gently guided us to the zeros, and had us ignore everything else.   If you follow just the zeros, you can see they form shapes.  More specifically, they form two letters- N in the first portion, and W in the second.   Answer: NW.  So, knowing we need a direction, we kind of got in the groove- NorthWest.    DUH!   She confirmed we got it, and handed us the second card with our next clue.

The second clue:
Confused as to which letters to pic
to spell out the answer in this clue?
"Wear" ever shall you look?  Let the staff
here provide you with a "heads up" and
you'll find it if you search high and low.

Do you see it in the photo below?

This one was pretty easy for me.   I didn't even think about the "Wear" and the "heads up" but instead looked at all the capital letters, which spell out  NORTHEAST.  We then high tailed it into the park, toward Camp Minnie-Mickey.   I was repeating NW in my head and out loud because I was afraid I would forget!

Camp Minnie-Mickey is the first 'land' off the entrance, around where 8:00 would be on a watch face.  Lucky for us we know this park very well and got on the right path rather quickly.   The bad part is that CMM kind of meanders down a dead end area so we were swimming upstream (kind of) to enter.  Folks finishing the race ahead of us, in previous waves, already had their next clue while we tried to give the answer for this one and move along.

We got into CMM and saw many different spots to obtain the next clue card.   A nice lady was yelling "Find your character!" and we noticed our character was Donald Duck.  We shouted NORTHEAST! at the people in this area, and got the next piece of our puzzle.  We were running and reading, which is kind of tricky, but we had to dodge the people coming IN because we were now the OUT people on the dead end path!  Nothing like a little adventure at 11:00 at night.

The 3rd card said:

For the answer to this one-
you need 19 and 23 of 26.
They are the answer you
need to add into the mix.

As soon as I finished reading [shouting] the clue, Mary Lynn said "Julia!  It's the alphabet!   What are the 19th and 23rd letters?"   So I know J is 10 so I just started counting - out loud and on my fingers - until I got S and W.   It was pretty amusing to be running in the dark at a Disney Park, essentially singing the alphabet song.  We kept repeating SW SW SW as we ran over to the Africa portion of the park, specifically, to Kenya.    After saying "We know the answer!  It's Southwest!" a nice man handed us the fourth clue:

At this point you may have figured 
out that all of the clues provide 
you with "direction" and this one is
no exception.  Don't look up - fall
down - and you'll find it stacked
within the three lines..

What do you think?

We were a little bit stuck, but before we could even think about asking for a help, a volunteer guided us to the word normally and we saw that if you took the N O R of normally, and then moved down to the, taking T H E, and finally, go the word fast, taking A S T you once again had a direction -NORTHEAST

At first I was thinking wait we already have a northeast clue in here (Clue #2 that we used to get to Camp Minnie-Mickey) but whatever- we went with it and high tailed it to Asia: Laos to get our fifth and final clue, so we could cross the finish line!  Woo hoo

We have runners from all corners of the 
world here tonight.
And that fact will help you determine what's needed 
to get the final portion of the hunt right.
Look back, and piece all of the answers together and a 
symbol will appear.
It matches something on your bib and it
will all become quite clear.
Point to that symbol as you cross the finish line
and you are all set.
As long as the volunteers see that you
indeed pointed correct.
Head to the front of the park now to the finish line.
Follow the staff instructions and you will do just fine.

We were stuck.   We knew that all 4 clue cards were necessary.   We figured what was on the back is what counted.

We noticed that the backs were identical with the picture of the race logo and the compass directions on the edges, and we noticed that the lines in the corners were a bit different.

We kept reading the poem over and over again.  Eventually we sat down on the pavement, covered in dirt and some rug burn (remember the final obstacle was crawling, army style, under a low net over astroturf and dirt).  What in the world?   I took my race bib off and set it on the pavement.   We were thinking it was a symbol on one of the 5 prayer flags, but could not get the correct symbol to appear. So we started to arrange the cards based on their clue - Northwest in the northwest portion of a grid, Southwest below it, etc.   We got stuck with those 2 Northeast clues.   Then we figured the race logo was the answer.  Nope!

What do you think?   (Admittedly, it is very difficult to figure out using 4 separate photos and not moving around 4 separate cards!)

Ultimately, Team Tea For 2 finished the 5K in 29:09 and the scavenger hunt in 33:51 for a cumulative of 1:04:12.  That was good enough to be 36th out of 504 female teams!   We were pumped.   We decided we should probably do this again at some point and will have an 'edge' since we will have experienced the clues before.   The corrals are assigned solely by the date you sign up.  So corral A folks signed up the day the race opened.   We would probably try to do that, if only to try to avoid slower people in the obstacles and shoot for a better time.  :)

Oh, and the answer to the scavenger hunt?   The 'direction' that served as the answer to each clue was ALSO a hint that the corner 'shape' between those two letters on each card should point toward the center.   It make the symbol on the white flag on our bibs.  I totally spaced and did not take a picture of the cards in this puzzle configuration, so I had to crop and rotate in iPhoto, hence the shoddy piecing-together below.  Rest assured, the cards did 'fit' and the image matched the bib.

See?  That weird shape is on the white flag.

Once the challenge was over, participants and their families were able to enjoy a post-race party at the Animal Kingdom.

The 'big' rides were open, so we rode Expedition Everest, of course, and even got the front car!    Side note- I do not know the kid next to Michael but he was super friendly and a lovely car companion.

Despite Mary Lynn's hope to avoid it, we also rode a very very loud Dinosaur ride,

as well as a raft ride.   Yes, folks, nothing like riding a water ride at 1:30 am to end the night with a bang.   No photo of that one.... although it would have been funny.

It was a great way to start off my birthday celebration, and definitely a race we would consider again.