Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Random Question

We were watching A Christmas Story the other day (you know--"You'll shoot your eye out!") and in the beginning of the movie where Ralphie is hiding the advertisement for his gun in Mom's Look magazine, I noticed that his parents had twin beds in their bedroom. Did this ever actually happen or was it just something they did on TV so that no one would know that people actually had sex in those days? In Little House on the Prarie, Charles and Carline slept in the same bed, but being prarie folk, perhaps it was more of a space thing--little house. I pride myself on being too young to know the answer to this question. Anyone?

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's a beautiful day!


Finally--we have something resembling fall...in December. Oh well. Better late than never. I feel like I've been waiting for years for the smell of fire in the air and the damp mist that follows the rain. It's amazing--here in the desert, I have a cold (54 degrees) fall day (on December 15th).


Iris is asleep in her bed; Ivy is away at school; Nick is somewhere in the sky. I am here at home, with a cup of peppermint hot cocoa (I'm having so much trouble finding the right kind of decaf coffee), watching Law and Order in a big, comfy sweater (ok, so it's short sleeved. But it's still a sweater!). What a day! I hope I get another tomorrow.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Iris




I can't believe it's taken me two weeks to post a photo of Iris--here she is, our new baby girl.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The dawn is DEAD!

Holy bad writing Batman! I can not say enough bad things about Twilight. The least of which is that I'm so very glad to have finally finished it. I will not be reading the other books in the series. I can't say it's the worst book I've ever read--that prize goes to any number of Stephen King books. I took the dreadful book to the hospital and EVRY nurse that came into my room practically swooned--"Are you reading Twilight? Don't you just LOVE IT!" Um, no. As a matter of fact, I HATE IT. They all seemed to understand my reasons, and one nurse did share my general "What's the big deal about this book" attitude. I can see why the movie will do well--they'll skip the first 300 pages and get right to the action, and hopfully they won't fade to black when anything remotely interesting happens. Sigh! Oh well. I've moved on to a classic--I need something to remind me that good writing is out there, even if I have to go back to the 19th century to find it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Stupid stupid STUPID!

This book is killing me. I'm finally about half way through it and it gets more annoying as I go along. Really, I think the plot itself would be ok if not for the horrid writing.

So, Bella's off to an unknown destination with Edward. We got to hear a completely useless exchange between the two of them as to why she had to drive her car. Charlie would know. Can't tell Charlie who she's going with. If he saw her car still home, he'd wonder. They had this elaborate back and forth about how Edward would get to her house without his car. Who cares? Not relevant! Why can't they just get going already? If her car would have been some necessary addition to their little outing in the meadows of Washington, fine. But IT DOESN'T! Oh, and if I hear one more thing about the fabulous Phoenix weather, I'm flushing this book down the toilet. She mentions this blouse that she wears in Phoenix "in the dead of winter". Um, there's no such thing. Phoenix has no "dead winter". If anything, that's when the plants get a chance to recover from the hell of summer. What she means is the middle of winter or the height of winter--the peak of winter, whatever. Winters are only dead in places where it gets really cold. We have no really cold days here--not ever. Besides that, who cares what you're wearing? Stop telling me all about your clothes. It's not important!

Sigh. I'm trying to decide if I should push through this book in the hopes that I'll be finished before I go to the hospital or if I'm better off being completely captive to it during my long, dull, days of recovery where I have nothing else to do, so I might as well read this dreadful book. Can't decide...

And I'm REALLY appalled the the inside back cover of this book lists the author as one of the most promising new writers of 2005. NO NO NO!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Don't Read This Book!


Almost 150 pages in and I STILL hate this book. Every week or so, I walk past Laura's (she's the one who lent me the book) cube and ask her when am I going to get to the good part? It just keeps getting stupider and stupider (Is stupider a word?). I remember in my earlier writing days (as if I were a seasoned veteran with NYT bestsellers in my portfolio) how I would think things like "Ok, I just described a work day and now I need to tell readers what happens at home. How do I get my character home?" The simple answer is--just skip that part. No one cares how the traffic was or whether or not it was raining. It's not relevant to the story, so skip it. That's the big problem with Twilight, at least for me. She goes on an on about stuff that doesn't matter. I don't care what Bella's English paper is on (Shakespeare and misogyny). I don't care about the weather (It's Seattle and always raining. Plus, how can you plan a trip to the beach two weeks after a snow storm?). And for goodness sake, Edward staring at you from across the cafeteria is nothing to get excited about! He does it EVERY DAY!

Seriously, I can only read a few pages at a time before I'm just...done! Ick!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Counting down the days...

Literally--I have 20 more to go until the big day. Part of me can't wait. No more sleeping on my side, no more tripping over the cat because I can't see below my belly button (I'll trip over him for other reasons), no more worrying about being able to find a decent cup of decaf coffee (Gloria Jeans does not make a decaf coffee chiller and I'm dying to try another flavor of K-kups. Butter toffee is great, but I'm ready for mudslide and pumpkin spice!) eating a full meal, lifting weights--all which will return shortly after birth (I hope). But then there are the good reasons to stay pregnant: Nick has to rock Ivy to sleep at night since I have no lap. I can pretty much always find a seat anywhere since nice people are always offering me theirs. I get to leave work early every Monday so I can go to my doctor's appointment. I have an excuse to lay down whenever I want. I can deal with the getting up every 2-4 hours for a feeding (sleep is such a waste of time!) and diapering two kids isn't going to be much worse than diapering one. What else was awful about the early days of parenting? I can't really remember.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

No Dawn Yet...

I'm scraping my way through this dreadful book. I'm only in chapter two--I know, not enough time to judge by. Ok, ok, I'll keep reading. But it's REALLY awful.

It's a high school book, no doubt. That's fine. I can understand that. The problem is, it reads like it was written by a high school student and not just from the perspective of one. I keep trying to remind myself that all of the ridiculous sentiments that Bella has and the feeling that the world and everyone in it revolves around her are really in tune with the way I remember high school girls thinking (I would know, I used to be one). I certainly felt this way. If a boy looked at me and said hi, he must like me. I mean, people don't just say "hi". Heck, if he tripped over me, he must like me. Why else would he walk that close? Ridiculous. Completely stupid. But realistic, nonetheless. I can't wait to get to the part where I'm in love with this book. The problem is, if I make it there, they I've just admitted to loving a horribly written book (unlikely). Then again, if I don't make it there, why am I wasting my time? Pressing on...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Elasticity

I read an article recently in Fitness Magazine where a reader asked the question "should I put my sport bras in the dryer?" The article explained that no, sport bras should not go into the dryer. They should be hung to dry on a line because anything over 105 degrees would deteriorate the elastic. So, then, what's an Phoenician to do? Is my clothes dryer cooler than 113 or should use a blow dryer on my elastics?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Twilight

This book has been recommended to me by more than one person so I figured I’d give it a shot. Everyone said how much they just couldn’t put it down. Nick and I went to the movie theater this week and I saw a poster advertising it’s debut on the big screen. It was all over the bookstore when the fourth book came out—quite the buzz, so I thought I’d better dive in. I tried reserving it at the library—I was 104 on the list. I tried another library—207. Blessedly, a co-worker leant me her copy (in exchange for my copy of Skinny Bitch).

I’m on page 7.

I hate this book.

I want to throw it.

The writing style alone is enough to annoy me. I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt and realize that the main character is in high school (why then, is she moving from Arizona to Washington? Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to make that move, but not as a high school student.) The detail to which she describes her cars is completely useless…so far. I mean, maybe this 1960-something truck will be a major character (like Christine—another annoying book. Don’t get me started on Stephen King!). I realize that I’m being premature and that’s why I’ve made it to page 7, but as soon as I read the words “I love Phoenix. I love the blistering heat.” I was ready to rip the pages out (can’t do that—it’s not my book.).

I’m going to keep reading. I’ll let you know what happens…

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Camping

Last Christmas was our camping Christmas. We dubbed it so because we'd gone to REI, made out a list and added all of those things to our Christmas lists that went out to anyone whom we normally exchanged gifts with. Whatever we didn't get, we bought ourselves. When December was over, we had everything we needed for a trip to the woods. Why then, did it take us more than eight months to finally venture into those woods? Who knows. But finally, at the end of August, we made the trip. We drove a little less than two hours north to Prescott, AZ--it's MUCH cooler up there and we figured a day or two away from the 105+ heat that still plagues Phoenix at the supposed end of the summer would do us good.

It's actually a very nice drive. Prescott is a small college town, but the Target and the Wal-Mart are just minutes from the camping area. We had no idea really, what to expect when we got to Lynx Lake. What we did not expect was that all of the camp sites would be occupied. Hmm. What to do now? We had no back-up. Who goes camping? Aparently, a lot of people. We drove a bit farther into the woods and found another camp site, but it too was full. Now what?

Sorely disappointed, we drove to the nearby Days Inn, spent way too much on a hotel room and slept there for the night. The closest we came to roughin' it was spending the entire trip without makeup. We did drive back up to the lake the next day and hiked a trail, but in the end, we were very disappointed. At least we got to spend a day in cooler weather.

When we got home, however, we found the proverbial silver lining. We'd left numerous things sitting in our living room that would have been essential to a successful trip including our camp stove and Ivy's nighttime pillows (absolutly essential!). Whew! Escaped a minor disaster. With that, we had renewed furvor. We would try again the following weekend with a few alterations. We would not go on a Saturday night, but rather, Sunday morning. We discovered on our way back home, that the occupied sites were clearing out by noon or so on Sunday. If we got there Sunday morning and nothing was yet available, we could just hang out at the lake until later that afternoon. At the very least, if nothing ever became available, we could at least stay in cooler weather all day long and drive home that evening. The one possible wrench in the whole plan was Labor Day. Likely, we suspected, people would be staying longer than Sunday and it was certainly possible that camp sites would still be unavailable by Sunday evening. To increase our odds, we located three other camp grounds in the area.

Happily, on our second trip, we found that camp site number 1 was vacant and immediatly took up residence. While Nick set to setting up the tent, Ivy and I walked to the pay station and left our $10 fee. We were all set! Just as the rain shield was going on the tent, we felt a sprinkle. Just a sprinkle, but soon, it was full on raining. We took cover in our tent and waited out the storm. It was during this stint stuck in the tent, we realized that there just wasn't enough space to be holed up with an almost 2-year-old. Ivy was jumping around and generally making a mess. Not to worry--we had an 8 person, two room tent with a porch at home and would surely bring it the next time. Another lesson learned.

Half an hour or so later, the rain let up and we ventured out into the woods. We gathered wood and kindling in hopes that it was still dry enough for a fire later. We hiked a trail and got a bit wetter. Back at camp, we desperately tried to light a fire before the rain got much heavier. We had almost no paper (note to self--bring something with which to get a fire going next time) no dry wood (add to that--buy wood) and not nearly enough matches (buy extra matches). But after a while and after burning every receipt in my wallet (hey, it was dry paper!) we had a roaring fire. I cooked potato soup in the rain as we huddled under a tree. Ivy could not have been happier to be outside for so long and eating chips for dinner to top it off.

Blessedly, the rain eventually quit and the clouds drifted away, revealing a sky full of stars. We all changed into dry clothes and settled around the fire. Now, this was camping! As we sat there, enjoying the outdoors and the smell of campfire, I looked off into the woods. It was completely dark. That is, except for the two eyes staring back at us from the trees.

"Something is out there." I said. We looked closer--something was out there. It wasn't big--a cat or a fox perhaps.

"Try to scare it away," Nick said. We started yelling and looking for things to throw at it. It was actually quite close--just a yard or so away from the edge of our campsite. As it turned away from our shouts, we saw a thick white stripe down it's back.

"It's a skunk," I said.

"Ok, quit trying to scare it." We all backed up and started putting any and every scrap of food into the car. He eventually scurried off into the woods, but he came back several times during the night--all while we were still awake. There's no telling how many times he ventured even closer while we slept. Thankfully, we did not get sprayed. We put EVERYTHING into the car before going to bed and zipped up every zipper on the tent, vowing that if we so much as heard rustling in the grass, we were all sleeping in the car.

Funny how nothing is quite as scarry in the light.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Inside Out

It was a rainy day
But outside the sun is shining
I’m chilly
But it’s 106 degrees
I’m having a hot cup of coffee
And my ice is melting
I have days and days
Fifteen minutes have passed
Leaves are falling
The palm trees sway in the breeze that
Is so cold I can hardly stop shivering

The summer is
Fall and I’m home
For the first time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

No Relief

I am not an avid sports fan by any means. But baseball is one of the few professional sports that I can watch and understand. I enjoy going to games and I can even watch it on TV. Ingrained in my blood is a loyalty to my home team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite my variety of homes, the Cardinals are always the team I root for. If I’m flipping channels and passing baseball news or a game, I’ll pause to see if the red birds are on. Because of my loyalty to them, it is required that I hate the Mets and the Cubs. Living in Chicago, I could have gotten killed for wearing any type of Cardinal gear. Nick suggested we become Cubs fans while living there. I said it was absolutely out of the question and should he feel the need to suggest it again, I’d file for divorce (ok, not really but it’s a serious offense!). While I was in the hospital delivering Ivy, the World Series was on. I don’t remember who the Cardinals beat in that series, but it doesn’t really matter. As I sat in my room waiting for serious contractions, I turned on the TV.

“Ooh, the baseball game is on.” I said to the nurse.

“Are you a baseball fan?” She asked.

“I’m a Cardinals fan.”

She frowned. “Honey, you are in the WRONG town.”

Similarly, when I visited the New York area earlier this year, I went into a gift shop with my boss looking for a souvenir for Nick. She suggested I get him a Mets hat. I politely reminded her that Mets are pond scum—the mantra we chanted as children.

This is the extent of my baseball following. I admit, it doesn’t go very far, but it’s there nonetheless.

This past Sunday was Make-A-Wish day at Chase Field (where the Diamondbacks play). Everyone in the office got two free tickets, so we decided it would be fun to go—which it was. Ivy was a great sport—clapping when everyone else did and eating ball park nachos (sadly, they did not have veggie dogs.). The home team was in the lead all the way up to the ninth inning—4-1 against the Dodgers. To wrap up the game as a sure fire win, they bring in the relief pitcher. This guy (Brendan Lyons or something like that) comes in to growling and a song I don’t remember—lots of heavy fanfare. Well why not? He’s going to bring it all home for us.

Three outs later, the Dodgers have picked up four runs! FOUR! IN THE NINTH INNING!!! What the heck?! What kind of relief pitcher gives it all up in the NINTH INNING? It really shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve seen it all before in San Diego. Nick and I went to a Padre’s game before we moved to Chicago. They were playing the Giants and in a similar fashion, were winning throughout most of the game. It was a sure victory. But just to be safe, they bring in the relief pitcher, Trevor Hoffman. He walks in to flames and Hells Bells blaring through the stadium. I’d heard plenty of hoopla about Trevor Hoffman, though in the few games I’d paid attention to, he’d yet to impress me. Well, here I was going to see it first hand. Ok, get ready. He’s gonna bring hell to the batter in the form of a baseball!

Not so much. I don’t remember how many runs the Giants scored in that final inning, but it was more than enough to win them the game. So much for the relief pitcher. Relief for the other team maybe. Oh well. If I were a serious sports fan, I’d be REALLY mad.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Secret to Weight Loss

I know the secret. I know... It so simple and yet so...contradictory. But it's true. I know it! The secret to the most often asked question particularly among women: What do I have to do to loose weight? Well, let me just tell you...because I KNOW!

Here it is. Get ready. It's not eat less or exercise more. It's way easier and less time consuming than that. What is it? I'm going to tell you...

GETTING PREGNANT!

Yes, that's it! Sorry men, you're out of luck. You'll have to stick with your higher metabolisms and ability to just eat more. I feel no sympathy for you. Yes, I have simply lost 12 pounds and 2 pants sizes in 22 weeks. People usually assume I have dreadful morning sickness. While I did for a while, it's long gone. Well, you must be taking better care of yourself. No, I don't think so. As you know, I'm obsessed with food altogether and have been for some time, not to mention a rigorous worker-outer. Those things have not changed. I still drink coffee, though I've given up on going black. I like to think that I'm just more efficient. It makes total sense if you think about it. My metabolism is way up. Sure I'm hungry all the time, but it takes a lot less to fill me up. I smell everything and sometimes that's enough to keep me from eating.

Really, I have no idea why I'm shrinking everywhere except my tummy. The doctor says she's not worried, so I'll just not question and be thankful. It can't last forever. At some point, I'm bound to gain. Until then, I'll just keep sporting my pre-pregnancy clothes that are now too big!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Estrogen Overload

It's a girl! That's right, we're pregnant again. We had an ultrasound this afternoon and actually got to see a 3-D picture of her face! Weird but very cool. She actually looks a lot like Ivy (big shock). I was actually quite sure that I was having a boy. I guess that women's intuition isn't as right as we gals like to say it is. Oh well. It was surprise to both of us. Nick, of course, is now fearing being outnumbered. He was safe as long as we had our kitties, but since Oberon has found himself a new home (where he's much happier), the estrogen/testosterone ration has been reltaively equal. Of course, Jean-Claude has been neutered, but we'll just pretentd his hormones are all there. Poor Nick now realizes that his bathroom time will be drastically shorter and he will have to learn to braid hair. He will have to threaten two sets of male suitors and deal with three women with PMS every month. He will now have to pay for two weddings and give two little girls away when those weddings take place. Thankfully, they're a long way off at this point. I am thrilled that I can simply dig out Ivy's old baby clothes and see how adorable they look all over again.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Petition

I listen to a lot of books on CD in my car. Sometimes it feels like cheating, but when it’s a book that I really need to pay attention to and just can’t get a decent chunk of time to sit down and read it, this is a good option. I get a lot of these books from the library. The Phoenix Downtown Library is HUGE. It’s got five floors and lots of books on CD (a great writing section too). It’s the perfect way to spend my lunch half hour.
One day last week, I’d gone to pick up a copy of Charlie Wilson’s War (a book I couldn’t even get through on CD—politics is just not my thing. It’s like football—goes right over my head.). As I was leaving the library, I was halted by one of many solicitors. I always see a homeless person or two asking for change and usually people trying to get me to donate to some cause. Today, it was a petition.
“’Scuse me ma’am, could I have just a moment of your time.”
I eye him suspiciously, but stop. After all, I don’t want to be rude.
“I’m collecting signatures for this petition.”
“I’m not a registered voter.” This is a lie. My dad physically FORCED me to register when I was 18. I’m determined not to vote (the subject for another entry) and therefore have never registered in another state. As far as I know, my Missouri registration is intact.
“Oh, well that’s ok. You can just sign saying that I presented this to you.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a petition to support expansion of pedestrian walk ways. Safer sidewalks near schools and busy intersections.”
“I’m not sure I’d support that.”
“You wouldn’t?”
“Maybe not.”
“Well, don’t you want safe walkways?”
“Sure, but how much does it cost.” This is a question my mother-in-law taught me to ask. Someone has to pay for these things. Money does not magically appear.
“Well, see, that’s on a need to know basis.”
“Ha! Well, guess what? Before I sign anything, I need to know.”
He’s getting frustrated. I can tell.
“Look, I’m just trying to collect signatures. This is how I earn my paycheck.”
I’m still skeptical. “So, signing this just means that you told me about the petition?”
“Yes.”
“Ok, I’ll sign.” I sign where he tells me and then—
“And I just need your address here.”
“Oh no—I don’t want to give my address. I don’t want any mail.”
“Oh, we’re not sending mail.”
“Then why do you need my address?”
He says nothing.
“Look, I work in direct mail. I know how this goes.”
“Ok, well just put your last address.”
“Ok.” I start writing my last legal address. He’s watching and I can tell he doesn’t recognize Downers Grove.
“Is that Arizona?”
“No. It’s Illinois.”
He’s exasperated now.
“Hey, I warned you!” I said. “This is my last legal address.”
“Well, just use your local and put it off by one number.”
“You’re asking me to falsify a document?”
“No!” He’s panicking now. I’m trying not to laugh. “Look, just put something down.”
I do what he asks, signing my name five or six times, more or less illegibly. I’m starting to feel sorry for him.
“You’re really earning your paycheck today,” I say.
“Man, you’re not kidding! I deserve a break after this!”
I’m chuckling as I walk away. He wishes me a nice afternoon. I’ll certainly have one. This was so worth the fifteen minutes or so it took.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Phone Call

The phone rings.

“Please stay on the line for a message from your doctor.”

Sounds important, but I’ve just taken two telemarketing calls. Just in case, I hold on.

“This is a message from the Arizona Wellness Clinic for Women. We have a message for Robin Olson. At your convenience, please call 480—“

Crap! I need a pen. What was that number?

“Please have your social security number available. Once again, the number is 480—“

Ok, so I’ve been to the doctor lately and had tests run. This must be legit. I wonder what’s up. Why wouldn’t they just call me? Oh well. I hang up and dial the number.

“You have reached the Arizona Wellness Clinic for Women patient information line. Please enter your social security number now.”

I enter it.

“Thank you. To hear your message in English, please press one.”

I don’t even wait for the other options.

“Thank you. In order to replay your message, we need to make a recording of your full name. Please state your full name after the tone. Beep!”

“Robin Olson.”

“Thank you. Please stay on the line while we retrieve your message…This message is for Robin Olson. This is name of technician I’ve never hear of—we’ve gotten the test results for your blah blah blah tests. Everything was normal.”

That’s it? All of that to tell me I’m fine? Why didn’t they just call? I wonder how much that system costs…

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Shoes=Outside


When Nick comes inside from anywhere, he takes off his socks and shoes. He just likes to be barefoot inside. He also doesn't like shoes on the couch or beds, so when Ivy's inside, most of the time, her shoes and socks come off too. Naturally, this necessitates putting shoes on when we've been home and then decide to go somewhere. Ivy seems to understand this.


She LOVES to be outside. She's tall enough to reach the door knob, so it's locked all the time now. She'll go up to the door, try to turn the handle and say "side" when she wants to go outside (which is all the time). When she sees one of us putting our shoes on, she naturally goes to the door and says "side".


Yesterday, Nick took Ivy out to the pool for a while before I got home from work. They put their feet in the pool and splashed a bit, but no real swimming (water is still cold). When I got home, they were back inside, shoes off.


Ivy wasn't quite done being outside for the day. She kept going to the door and saying "side". She'd bring us her shoes and try to open the door, but we just said no, and continued doing whatever we were doing. After a while, Ivy changed her strategy. She started up the stairs. We noticed this and decided to wait and see what she was up to. After a while, we heard a thud...then another...then "side". Immediately, we knew what she was doing.


She has several favorite toys. When she's downstairs, she likes to have them with her, but she can't carry them down the steps by herself. They usually get thrown down, one set of steps at a time. But it wasn't toys she was throwing--it was daddy's shoes. This was her not so subtle way of saying she fully expected to go outside if shoes could be put on. After getting them down the stairs by herself, we figured she deserved to go out again.

Friday, May 02, 2008

It's coming...


The insane heat is on it's way. At this early May date, our high today is only 85 (that's still too hot for May) but last weekend, we reached 100--a reminder of the horrid desert climate that I've managed to somehow imerse myself into.
I meet new people all the time--mostly at work. They come from nice cold states like Wisconsin and Massachusetts and say things like, "Oh, it feels sooooo good here." I can't help myself from raining on their proverbial parade. It won't for long. The heat will come. With a vengence. Heat like you've never felt it before. Of course, then they say they'd rather be hot--they can take the heat. Not me! I'll take a blizzard over a heat wave any day. Then, I get a quizzical look and this question: "What are you doing here?" Excellent question. I have no idea!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Birthday Extravaganza





I love my birthday. No, no—I LOVE it. It’s my second favorite holiday of the year—second only to Christmas. Strangely, in the seven years we’ve been together, Nick and I have only been in the same city twice on my birthday. This year will be the third. When we were first together (but not officially together) we were in the same city, but Nick was in the hospital with mono. The second and third years, I was in Kansas City, he was in San Diego. The fourth year, he was in Pensacola, I was in San Diego. The fifth year, we’d just been married and though he was working, we were in the same city. This year, 2005 marked the very first Robin Olson Birthday Extravaganza. WOW! It was AMAZING. I got standard gifts—flowers, chocolate, a lunch date. But then, we took two days off in the middle of the week, packed a back pack with nothing but a change of clothes, went to the airport and said “where’s the next plane going”. It was Oakland. We hopped aboard. This was the first of many random vacations we’d take but so far, it has been the only “Birthday Extravaganza” trip. In Oakland, we took the B.A.R.T. into San Francisco. We walked around downtown for a while, had lunch in a local diner, then tried to find a hotel. We stopped first at a Hilton. The price for just walking in the door was high. The receptionist recommended finding a computer and booking something online—we’d get a better rate. We found a copy shop that sold Internet by the minute, found a Travelocity hotel and booked it. We hopped on the cable car and took it down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Our hotel was right near the water. We checked in and then checked out the city. We had dinner, watched a few street performers, bought our token cheesy picture frame and went to Alcatraz the next day. It was a quick trip, but completely full of adventure—all for my birthday.

This year, I expect no less. My husband has his work cut out for him. In addition, I really hype up my birthday to most people I know. My colleagues at work jumped right in. I got to work this morning to find my cube covered in streamers, balloons and glitter.

They took me to lunch after sending me on a treasure hunt. Based on clues, I had to find various people in the office that eventually lead to my present—a can of coffee. Knowing my preference for quality coffee, I knew this had to be a joke. Inside the can was a bag of Chocolate Raspberry Gloria Jeans whole bean decaf coffee! I can’t wait to try some tomorrow morning.

My birthday’s not until Sunday, so I have at least two more days of fun. Who said turning 30 was traumatic? I’m having a blast!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hot Dogs and Macaroni

The first time Nick and I had dinner together was in his apartment in college. We weren’t officially dating, but I’m pretty sure it happened on the day that we now celebrate as our dating anniversary. I’d just gotten off work and he’d called to ask me what I was doing.

“Nothing—I just got off work.”

“Wanna come over? I’m making diner.”

“What are you making?”

“Hot dogs and macaroni.”

That actually sounded good. I drove over there and hot dogs and macaroni has been one of our favorite meals ever since. I’ve had to alter it to fit our veg. lifestyle, but I think I’ve gotten it down. Actually, needing to be able to keep making this dish was what sparked my exploration into the world of veggie dogs. I’ve tried several varieties and I really only like the Morningstar Farms brand that comes in the freezer section. And you have to cook them just right. Above all, read the package directions. My first attempt to make them, I admit, was rather arrogant. I knew how to make hot dogs! Who reads directions on these things? Anyone can boil hot dogs. What I got was boiled mush. You have to boil the water first, then take it off the burner, then put in the dogs for 2 minutes. No boiling of anything but water. Grilling works too, but they never achieve that same blackness that a great bar-be-qued dog can have. They do get crispy thought, and it does the trick for me.

Now, I could use the same blue box macaroni that Nick made that first night, but of course, I like to go gourmet whenever I can, even with something as simple as Mac. & Cheese. I start with elbow macaroni—boil according to package directions. See, I listen to that stuff now. Then I add some cubed Velveeta cheese—it has to be the processed kind or it will get stringy. I stir that in until it melts. Add some butter and milk, and presto—mac & cheese. To add the hot dogs, I cut up thawed dogs and sauté them (sounds weird, but for the soy variety, it works great). Once they’re nice and crispy, they get stirred in. If I really want to make something impressive, I take some melted butter and stir in crushed corn flakes. Sprinkle that over the top and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. WOW it’s GOOD! This is our nostalgia meal which we actually had last night—today marks the 84th month since the first time we had it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Onion

I wasn’t there, so I can’t say for certain that this is exactly what happened, but this is the way I remember my dad telling the story. I’m not sure how old my older brother, Jeremy was, maybe 3 or 4, maybe older. I really don’t know. But Dad was chopping garlic for something and Jerm asked for a piece. Dad insisted that he wouldn’t like it, but Jerm assured Dad that he really liked garlic. I can only assume that it’s pleasing aroma is what caused my brother’s mistake. Garlic smells great. Dad eventually gave in. I can picture my brother, chomping down on that piece of garlic, insisting that he liked it while displaying a horrified grimace. Oh, how I would have loved to be there.

Last week I was making Sweet & Sour Tofu (yummy!) for dinner. As is our tradition, Ivy was sitting up on the counter while I chopped vegetables. First the carrot. She took a piece off the cutting board and ate it. Next the green peppers. That was tasty to her too. Next came the onion. Most of the time, I have to open every window and turn on all of the fans to keep from making myself cry and to make sure that Nick eventually comes down for dinner. Ivy seemed unfazed. She simply reached for a big hunk of onion. Now, these are about ½ inch pieces—not a fine dice. I tried to take it from her. She wasn’t too happy about that and started making a fuss.
“Ok! Fine, but you won’t like it.” I gave her the onion. She took a bite. Then another. She ate the whole piece. She reached for another, saying “More.” What could I do? I let her have it. Before long, her little eyes were red and puffy, but she continued to chomp away at that onion

Friday, March 07, 2008

Veggies Galore!

Being nutritionally sound is tough! I spend I don’t know how long digging through recipe books to find not only something that sounds good (to both Nick and me) but isn’t bad for us as well. I have a favorite food website, but it’s not what you think. While foodnetwork.com and vegtimes.com are two sites I frequent often, my most reliable food guide is nutritiondata.com. It’s fantastic! I just plug in the ingredients to whatever I’m making and presto! It gives me the nutritional information. I’m actually really in tune to what I’m eating—that’s not to say that I don’t totally blow it calorie wise on occasion. It just means that when I eat naughty food, I always do it intentionally.

This little website also helps to answer the “where do you get your protein” question that I get all the time—especially when I’m eating vegan. I realize that I’m at least one of the oddest vegetarians alive since I don’t like vegetables, but having this handy dandy website helps me get my vitamins too. Saying that I don’t like vegetables is a bit of a misnomer—I do like them…some of them…ok, a few of them. I had a new vegetable yesterday, in fact—capers. They’re kinda like mini olives. I made ratatouille pasta (love that Rachel Ray!) and then we watched the movie—very fun. Anyway, it was loaded with vegetables—zucchini, tomatoes, onions, red and green peppers, garlic, olives, capers and eggplant (yum!). All good veggies. Ivy and Nick even liked it. We were all a bit skeptical after Wednesday night’s disatster—Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Uh, no. Nasty! It was sort of a puree of squash, potatoes, leeks, and carrots with lots of veg. broth and miso. We ate it, but I didn’t save the leftovers. It looked like baby food. We almost ordered pizza.

It’s really on the common vegetables that I don’t like. I went out to lunch with work people today at a FABULOUS little Asian Diner, Peiwei. WOW! They have great tofu! I can eat almost anything on the menu, which is also a nice change. I even ate most of the vegetables on my plate—just picked out the broccoli and snap peas. I can pretty much say that if it comes in a bag in the freezer section of the grocery store, I probably don’t like it: corn, green beans, lima beans, peas, broccoli—all of those nasty ones. But parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, squash, leeks, eggplant, carrots, celery, salad, peppers—all of those are tasty. Beets—I don’t think I like beets. I’ve never had one that wasn’t canned, but I’m not sure I’m really that interested in proving myself wrong…or right. I’ll just leave the beets for borscht.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Playmates

Ivy has a boyfriend. Eric is in her class at daycare. He’s got the cutest sleepy blue eyes and blonde hair. He’s usually already there when we arrive in the morning. I’m not sure how they got to be such good friends, but in her first few months at daycare, it wasn’t unusual for us to find Ivy and Eric together. When we arrived in the morning, Eric always greeted us with a smile and what I can only assume was an affectionate point. It was a sad day when Ivy left the infant room (and Eric) for the toddler room, but Eric soon followed and once again, they were the best of friends.

This morning was a bit different. As I was un-strapping Ivy from her car seat, a car pulled in next to us. It was Eric. From his car he was calling out to us—“It’s I. B.” We all walked in together and as soon as Ivy and Eric were free of their mothers’ arms, they went straight for each other. They hugged and kissed as though they’d been apart from each other for weeks. Eric’s mom and I shared an “aw” moment before ushering our kids into their room where the two went off to play like any other day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Have Coffee Will Travel

I realize that I have a bit of an obsession. I know this about myself and though I’ve tried to overcome it many times in the past, I now realize that it’s a part of who I am and I’m ok with that.

I love coffee.

No, no, I LOVE it! It’s the most fantastic substance I’ve every consumed. Ask me to pick my favorite food—this is it. My favorite drink—no question. My favorite dessert, the one thing I’d take with me to a deserted island, if I could choose the last food on Earth—all coffee.

When I travel, there’s no exception. My boss makes fun of me, but I feel no shame. I recently went on a business trip to New York/Connecticut. Heather (my boss) and I stayed at the fabulous Ryetown Hilton (very rustic and cute—I loved it). When we first got our reservation confirmations, my first task was to call the hotel and see if they had coffee makers in the rooms. Most hotels seem to, but the Waldorf=Astoria did not! Upscale my foot! I was pleased to learn that the Ryetown Hilton did provide this (as well as a hairdryer and onsite fitness center. Whoo hoo!) When packing for my trip I had to decide if I was going to carry on or check my bag. With the new (not so new anymore) liquid restrictions in place, I knew I’d have to check my bag—how else was I going to get a 32 ounce bottle of coffee-mate on the plane? Of course I took coffee with me! Rely on the hotel brand? No, no. This is me we’re talking about.

I wasn’t sure if my bottle would survive the trip or the pressurization of the bin (that’s where the bags are under the plane). I asked Nick if I packed my bottle inside of a plastic bag would the bag pop. He said maybe, but the odds of both the bag popping and the seal on the bottle breaking were pretty slip. Great! I could bring my coffee. When I told Heather I was going to check my bag and why, she immediately understood—I had to have my coffee.

I’m happy to say that it made the trip. No leaks or punctures anywhere. When I checked into my room, I went immediately in search of the promised coffee pot. It wasn’t in the bathroom where I first thought to look, but rather in a cabinet next to the TV. What I saw there presented a challenge. Not only did I bring my own cream, but my own coffee as well. In my past hotel experience, I’ve noticed that maybe rooms are provided with enough coffee for two small pots. Well, I go through that in a couple of hours. It certainly wouldn’t last an evening and the following morning. I even packed filters! I was really on the ball…or so I thought. The coffee machine was, indeed there, but it was one of those pod brewers. I could brew two cups at once, but basically, there was no pot. The hotel had provided four pods (only 4 cups of coffee), but I wasn’t sure how I could conform my coffee and filters into a pod. Still, I was determined.

We had dinner and coffee in the downstairs restaurant, so I was good for the night. The next morning, I decided to give it a shot. I poured what was probably two tablespoons into one of my filters, shoved it in where the pod goes, poured in water and pushed the button. Slowly, a stream of brown liquid started to stream into the cup below. Success!

Or not. It was pretty weak. Ok, no problem. More coffee. I tried again. This time, only half of the water came out before the machine shut off. I was getting desperate here. To hold myself over until I figured this out, I put in one of the pods. Maybe the machine wasn’t working right. When I had a successful cup ready in a few minutes, I knew the pods were somehow the answer to my dilemma. I tried the pod coffee—ok, but not great. Good enough, though. Well, that would be at least four cups. I tried tearing off the top of the coffee filter, hoping that maybe room in the small filter area was the problem. This seemed to do the trick. I had to push the on button a few times during brewing, but I managed a more than decent cup of coffee. I headed down to the lobby to meet Heather and Don (our driver for the week) carrying a to-go cup (those were provided too!).

“How was your coffee?”

“Good.”

“The hotel pods aren’t bad.” Don said.

“Oh, yeah, I went through those pretty quickly.”

“Is that decaf?” Don asked.

“Uh, I’m not sure. This is like my sixth cup.”

We got to the office of our vendor (whom we were visiting) and were given an immediate apology for the broken coffee maker they had. Not to worry—someone was out at Dunkin’ Doughnuts getting a box of coffee. Was this like boxed wine? I wasn’t sure, but still, glad it was coming. I sat through the early minutes of our meeting, glancing at the door every few seconds. Was it here yet?

Living in Chicago where we had Dunkin’ Doughnuts everywhere, I was told often that this was the coffee to out coffee Starbucks. I’d never tried it though, but the hype was enough to put it in favorable light. When the log awaited box did arrive, I was terribly disappointed. This was good coffee? I had one cup but didn’t drink much of it. I would just have to be prepared tomorrow.

Before I’d left my room that day, I left a nice little note for the housekeeping staff. “Please leave extra coffee.” If I couldn’t stand dealing with my filters I could at least drink the pod stuff. When I got back to my room after dinner, I saw again, just four little pods. Sigh!

The next day (after struggling again with my filters all morning) we were told early on in our meeting that if it wasn’t too much of a distraction, would it be al right if the coffee repair person came in to fix the pot. YES! Bring him in! By all means. I have to admit, I was slightly distracted by the thought of good coffee. The pot he was fixing was my now coveted Krupps model that brewed K-Cups. They weren’t Gloria Jeans, but I was excited at the prospect of giving these K-Cups a shot.

There were a few glitches once the new pot was installed, but overall, I was quite impressed with the Krupps model. I CAN’T WAIT to have one of my own.

Over our four day trip, I used up my entire bottle of cream and the better part of my coffee. I really wish that I would have known ahead of time that my in-room pot took only pods. I would have found some other brand that made pods and brought them with me, but I certainly made do.

My next business trip in April is to New Orleans. Heather and I will be staying at the Chateau Sonesta Hotel. I’ve already called—they do have an in-room coffee pot in each room…and it’s not the pod variety. That is now on my list of things to ask hotels. My only challenge this time is that I’d really like to avoid checking my bag. It’s just a hastle and it got stuck in New York for three or so days (during Superbowl weekend AND a nasty snow storm). I’m thinking of shipping my coffee cream to the hotel before I leave. Nuts, I know, but I GOTTA HAVE MY COFFEE!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Deep enough to dream...Except for that buzzing noise!

I was in my car this morning, listening to a Chris Rice CD. The first song, Deep Enough to Dream, is a nice upbeat song. It’s a little abstract, but nice, just the same. It’s a song I know well.

“Deep enough to dream in brilliant colors I have never seen.
I join a million people for a wedding feast.
I reach out and touch the face of the one who made me.
And oh, the love I feel and oh, the peace.
Do I ever have to wake up?

Awakened by a familiar sound
A clumsy fly is buzzin’ ‘round
He bumps the screen and he tumbles down.
Gathers about his wits and pride,
He tries again for the hundredth time.
‘Cause freedom calls from the other side.
And I smile and nod and slowly drift away.”

Every time I hear this verse I have the same thought.

You jerk—get off your butt and let the poor fly out! Silly, I know. But that buzzing would be enough to keep me from nodding back off.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Majesty of God


There are two Christian radio stations that I listen to in Phoenix. One of them often plays sermons or other programs (as opposed to music) in the afternoons and early mornings. This morning, on my way home from the gym, I listened to a preacher—who’s name I don’t know—talking about the miracles that Jesus performed in the presence of his disciples. The first one he mentioned was the feeding of the 5000. (Referenced in Matthew 14:13–21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15). The preacher discussed how the disciples were worried that there wasn’t enough food, and then astounded (as was the crowd) and amazed when the food multiplied. The next miracle he talked about was just after this story where Jesus calms the storm. Again, those silly disciples worried.

I’m always a bit annoyed when I hear preachers talk about the disciples and their unbelief as though they themselves would have acted differently. Didn’t they remember in the boat how He’d fed the 5000? Of course they did! It was just earlier that day! But this was different. Their lives were in danger and they were afraid.

Let’s put it in a more modern situation. The bills are piling up. You’re not sure how to make ends meet. You have to eat, but the rent is due. Healthcare is more expensive. Gas has gone up, but you have to drive to work. Credit cards are looming and you can’t put another thing on your VISA. There’s just no money. I’ve been in this situation. Maybe not to this extreme, but who hasn’t noticed when the debits outweigh the credits? What do you do? You worry… But, silly you, don’t you remember when Jesus fed the multitudes? Sure you do. But you also remember how despite your prayers you still lost your job years ago or how your car wouldn’t start or you didn’t get that promotion…

Bad stuff happens. It’s unrealistic for us to think that God expects us to never be afraid of something bad coming our way. Guess what? Some day we’re all going to die. I know it, you know it, He certainly knows it. I believe that we Christians have nothing to worry about when it comes to death. I know where I’m going. But even then, it’s not death I’m afraid of; it’s the process of dying. Will I be shot? Will I slowly deteriorate? Will I be eaten alive by mutant frogs? I just don’t know. All of that sounds awful. I’d much rather just go to sleep. But even then, would knowing that I’m going to die that way make me not want to sleep?

My point is that remembering God’s miracles, whether those mentioned in the Bible, or those we see in our present lives, doesn’t change our humanity or our natural instinct to fear certain things. After all, bravery isn’t a lack of fear, it’s pressing on despite being afraid. I would hate to think that if I were one of the 12 or even one of the 5000 that I would be in the boat with Jesus, thinking all the while that he was going to take care of things and I wasn’t going to worry about it. When eventually he did wake up, calm the storm and nod off again, I’d be oblivious. Of course Jesus would take care of it! He always does. How then, would we give glory to God? That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? To reveal His Glory. The majesty of God ought to catch our attention such that we must take notice and be in awe of it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Two by Two







Ivy has a toy Noah's Ark that Grandma and Grandpa Schleicher gave her for her birthday. It's a cute little plastic boat with three sets of animals, two each, and of course, Noah. Noah often finds himself in the midst of a storm by way of the dishwasher. Aparently, he belongs there. The animals, too, find themselves wet very often. I was taking a bath one day a few weeks ago, when suddenly, the bathroom door was opened and a zeebra decided to share my bath. He floated, so everything was OK. One can never tell what might find it's way into the ark. It has what I can only describe as a drawbridge at the base of the boat for storing the animals, and Noah has his pertch up on the deck.

Ivy seems to be learning how to put different things into different holes. Certainly, animals find their way into the ark, but so do other toys--whatever fits into that hole. She's starting to put her toys back into their bin...and back out...and back in... Nick and I bought her a princess car for her birthday--one of those that a toddler can walk behind and push or ride on. The seat folds up to reveal a hidden compartment. For days after we'd bought the car, we couldn't find the TV remote. It suddenly occurred to us to check the car--sure enough, there it was.

Yesterday, I hadn't talked to Nick for most of the morning. It's unusual for us not to talk every few hours while we're at work, so when I realized he hadn't called, I called him only to find that he'd called me eight times. Hmm. I must have left my phone in the car. I checked the car at lunch but didn't find it. It's at home somewhere.

I'd forgotten about my phone until this morning when while I was painting my face, I heard the little jingling sound of my phone with a low battery. Where is it? I heard it. I called it and stood still. It was in Ivy's room. Of course! Why hadn't I checked there first. She loves to play with phones. When she woke up an hour later, I called myself again. It was in the toy bin. I searched through it as best I could, but in the end, had to dump it out completely. Still no phone. Hmmm. I knew it was in there--I heard it ringing. One more time, I called it.

Suddenly, the ark was glowing. Sure enough, along with the zeebras, elephants and lions, my cell phone was rescued from the flood. Thank goodness! How did Noah EVER manage for forty days without his cell phone?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Not so much...

Um, yeah, that whole giving up coffee thing? Not happening. What can I say--I missed my morning java...and my afternoon java...and my evening java..and all of the other times of day when I gotta have my java. It wasn't so much an addictive thing--I've said before that I'm not addicted to coffee and I hold fast to that. I just LOVE the STUFF! I made it through October with not so much as a Gloria Jeans until Halloween. We took Ivy to the mall for trick-or-treating and there it was--Holiday flavored coffee (yes, that's right, it tastes like a holiday!). Then there was the peppermint mocha Coffee Mate, and the Starbucks white peppermint mocha--what's a girl to do? I gave in. I actually missed being the crazy coffee person. Shockingly, I did NOT win the award for person who drinks the most coffee at the Make-A-Wish holiday party. I guess I'm not that well known yet. (I totally drink more coffee than Marcia!) Still, the prize was a can of GASP! Maxwell House. Kinda glad I didn't win that.

So, I'm back to my old caffeinated ways. I'm still doing my best to eat as vegan as possible, cooking with soy milk, not eating eggs for breakfast, only the very darkest chocolate. Yes, that's right, I'm not eating much chocolate. I've been getting these bars that are 85% cacao. Most of them say "may contain traces of milk", but that also means they may not! I'm optomistic. But that dang cheese! It's so good! I guess it will be a while before I can claim to be a Skinny Bitch. Then again, do I really want to be thought of as that? Probably not.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Aunt Maureen's Potatoes

My Great Aunt Maureen makes an amazing potato dish that she (or someone) always brings to family functions. We call them Aunt Maureen’s Potatoes. (Clever, huh?) I’ve been told that most people refer to them simply as Pot Luck Potatoes. I was actually really disappointed when I heard that. It made them sound generic. Like anyone could make them. I prefer to think of them as something exclusive to the Schleicher/Wirtel family (and now, a select few Olsons). We’re the only one’s who can make them because we’re the only ones with Aunt Maureen…and we’re not letting anyone else have her! The secret recipe will pass from family to family, continuing on the tradition. You can only marry into the family and therefore, learn the secret. You may come to a family gathering as a guest and get to sample the famed potatoes, but don’t ask for the recipe. We’re not telling. You may wonder how to get those crumbly crumbles on top to brown just right and not burn, or how the potatoes stay so white and so perfectly cubed. What’s that sauce? Is it cheese? Cream cheese? Marscapone? Sorry. Our lips are sealed…until we ourselves take a bite. Mmmm. Aunt Maureen, your secret is safe with me.