Wednesday, April 28, 2010

HACKED... sort of.

As most of you know, I updated the URL for this blog a few months ago. When I started My So-Called Life in 2006 I was a novice blogger who had no idea that it probably wasn’t a good idea to have the site address contain my real first and last name. So at the risk of losing loyal followers I posted a warning, waited a week, said a prayer, and switched URLs to something a bit more generic.

I’ve been really happy with the new address and it seems like I’ve somehow been able to retain the majority of my readers. THANK YOU all for sticking with me! Especially Bek from Australia, who sent me the most thoughtful message via Facebook last night...

Bek alerted me that something strange has been going on over at my old URL. Apparently, those who still have my previous site address in their feed readers suddenly began to see postings again… WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY ME. Apparently, “Paul” has obtained my old site address (did I mention that it contains my first and last name?) and is using it to post his “Insurance Thoughts.” Strangely, when I go to the link I can’t see any of the posts, just the headline.

WTF?!

“Paul” has no email address linked to his profile and no information listed other than that he is a male Leo, aged 36, from the Bronx.

I find this whole situation to be a little weird and frankly quite aggravating, because I made the decision to switch URLs specifically because I do not want a site address out there containing my real FIRST and LAST name! I have no idea what to do about this. I used Blogger’s Help feature to report it as a spam blog, but I don't know if that will really accomplish anything.

Ugh, I’m annoyed.

Does anyone have any advice or can you tell me why or how this happened?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Marriage...

My parents celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary today. Now that’s an accomplishment to be proud of, if I do say so myself!! They’ve had their ups and downs over the years, but I really admire them for sticking it out, and these days their marriage is stronger than ever.

Sometimes I feel really terrified about the prospect of getting married because I don’t want to fail. Two years ago I was a part of four different weddings, and since then half of them have ended in divorce… there’s that 50% divorce rate you're always reading about, I guess. Statistics like that, especially when they hit so close to home, just make me feel slightly wary about the whole situation. Almost like… why even bother if your chances of making it are so slim?

But then I look at my parents and the life and family that they have built together, and I think that maybe someday I can make it work, too. Here’s hoping…

Congratulations, Mom & Dad, on 31 fantastic years together!!

Are your parents still married? What are your opinions on marriage in general?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Adrenaline Rush

I jumped out of a plane on Sunday, and lived to tell about it. Yep, that’s right, I can finally cross skydiving off my Bucket List!

As a graduation present for Stewart’s stepbrother, we made an appointment at Skydive Oregon last weekend, and by Sunday morning we were on our way to the jump zone. Surprisingly, I didn’t even feel that nervous. We arrived at 10 a.m. and less than an hour later we were walking across a field and climbing into a teeny, tiny airplane. You’d think panic would have started in by this point, but I was actually feeling great! The short flight to 13,000 feet went by quickly while we enjoyed the gorgeous views and got some last-minute pointers from our instructors. Then the door opened and it was time…

All of the sudden, Patrick was gone. As I inched my butt forward on the narrow seat as Stew looked back, gave me a thumbs up, and then he was gone. I scooted my toes toward the edge, looked to the right and gave my photographer a big smile, and jumped. (Okay, my tandem instructor might have had to give me a little push…) But there I was, experiencing the thrill of freefall for almost a full minute! I’m pretty sure I had a ridiculous grin on my face the entire time. The sensation wasn’t even like falling at all, it was more like flying. All I could think was, “Is this really happening?!” Then, the parachute opened and we began our swaying decent, enjoying gorgeous views of the mountains and Portland on the way. My instructor even let me steer! Awesome.

I am so excited that now I can say I have been skydiving! I never thought that I would do something like this, and I even paid an extra $95 dollars for photos and a video of the entire thing, figuring that it was a once in a lifetime experience that I would want to remember forever. However, now that I’ve done it, I would definitely say I would go skydiving again at the next opportunity! Woo hoo!

As if that wasn’t enough, I decided to max out my adrenaline for the day and sign up for another first… riding a motorcycle. I’ve always been terrified of these death machines, but Stewart’s dad rides and since it was such a gorgeous day we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and he offered me a ride. This is going to sound strange, but the motorcycle ride was much scarier than skydiving! I felt way more out of control flying down the highway on the back of that bike than I did jumping out of an airplane. Very weird. But when you skydive, the ground is so far down that it’s almost like your body can’t process what’s happening… it doesn’t even know to go into panic mode. But on a motorcycle, the pavement is just a few feet away, and it’s absolutely clear that if the driver loses control, death is right there to greet you in the form of smashing into the pavement. Yikes!

So I think I’m done defying death for now. I’m still coming down from my adrenaline high and I’m sure this feeling with last me a while. I still have bungee jumping to cross off my bucket list, but that can wait… for now.

Have you ever skydived? What are some items you’d like to cross off your Bucket List?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I got VD in Portland

I have been wanting to go to Voodoo Doughnut ever since I saw it on Man v. Food last year. Voodoo Doughnut is a little independent doughnut shop in Portland that is known for its unusual doughnuts and d├ęcor, and when Man v. Food host Adam Richman visited he sampled treats like the Bacon-Maple bar, a traditional maple bar topped with strips of fried bacon, and the signature Voodoo Doughnut, a gingerbread man-shaped pastry with a pretzel stick stabbed through its abdomen and red jelly “blood” filling. I just had to check this place out.

A trip to visit my sister and her husband outside of Portland last weekend provided the perfect opportunity. Late Friday night we headed into downtown Portland in search of Voodoo magic (the shop is open 24 hours a day). About 11 p.m., as we drove slowly past our destination, I noted a huge line of people stretching down the block and around the corner. “There it is,” my brother-in-law exclaimed. I insisted that could not be the line for the doughnut shop; there must be a new nightclub opening next door or something. But no! Another drive-by revealed that the line was for Voodoo Doughnuts, and it was getting longer by the minute! We decided to drive across the bridge and check out Voodoo’s second location, hoping the wait time would be a little more realistic. 

At Voodoo Doughnut Too, things weren’t looking much better, but that just made me all the more determined to find out just what is so special about these doughnuts! Even though the line was almost out the door, we entertained ourselves by checking out the shop’s eclectic decorations which included a photo booth, pinball machines, and a bench made out of a coffin. As we gazed hungrily into the display case, the sweet smell of sugar and fried fat tickling our noses, we were completely overwhelmed. In the end, we decided on a Baker’s Dozen filled with traditional varieties.

I was in love with the Bacon-Maple bar (it was just like dipping sausage in your leftover pancake syrup!) and the Grape Ape (a raised doughnut with vanilla frosting and grape powder). We also tried an Old Dirty Bastard (a raised doughnut covered with chocolate frosting and crushed Oreo cookies and drizzled with peanut butter). Unfortunately, we never did try the Cock and Balls doughnut, featuring cream filled “balls.” Too bad, I would have loved to watch Stew enjoy that one, ha!
Have you ever been to Voodoo?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Nerd: Better Off

Let’s just say I read A LOT. I’m in two book clubs. Nerd alert. When I was a kid I used to get in trouble for reading under the covers with a flashlight. In hindsight, I wonder what my parents were so worried about… at least I wasn’t glued to the boob tube. Anyway, since literature constitutes such a large part of my life (mainly, my morning and evening bus commutes), I decided I would share little tidbits with you here every now and then.

Don’t worry, my intention isn’t to turn this blog into a book review site, but I think a few quick opinions here and there might be interesting to at least some of my readers. So here goes…

Last night I finished Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, by Eric Brende. I originally bought this book because I noticed several other bus commuters reading it, and I thought it seemed interesting. It’s a true story about a young couple (a MIT grad and his new wife) who have become disillusioned with the way technology has taken over our lives. So, as an experiment, they move to an undisclosed community where the lifestyle is considered ancient even by traditional Amish standards.

The book is written like a compelling story, and even though it is non-fiction I was really drawn in. It highlights the couples’ struggles and triumphs throughout 18 months in the community, including the birth of their first child (all without the help of modern technology). In the end, they did choose to leave the community, but to this day they live with a very limited amount of technology in their lives. The author still doesn’t have a computer at home and only got an email address at the insistence of his editor.

The thing I especially liked about this book is that the author took a very objective and non-religious standpoint. He looked at the benefits of the community’s lifestyle without getting into the religious implications. It makes the reader ask the question: How much technology is needed for human comfort and leisure? Now, I find myself pondering how technology influences society, and wondering if there is too much of it in my own life. Maybe I should close my Facebook account. Or not... Just interesting stuff to think about.

It’s a quick read and I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something to make the wheels in your head turn for a while.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Free Money

If you ever have the chance to opt into a class action lawsuit, do it. I’ve received paperwork several times in my life offering the option to participate in these types of lawsuits. Usually I fill out the paperwork, mail it in, and forget about it. Then, months and months later, a check magically appears in the mail! Not for a lot of money, but still I feel like I got something for nothing. Very exciting stuff.

This weekend I received a check for $37.50 from the iPod nano Cases Settlement Fund. Apparently, when I purchased an iPod nano several years ago, the cases scratched easily. I never really noticed or was bothered by it, but hey, I’m not one to turn down free money if it’s offered!

What, oh what, will I do with all my extra spare change?! Let’s see, it is enough to…

  • Pay half of my cell phone bill for this month
  • Purchase seven used items from my Amazon.com Wish List
  • Buy myself lunch for an entire week
  • Go grocery shopping so I don’t have to buy myself lunch for an entire week
  • Get myself a skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks every morning for two weeks
  • Go to happy hour twice (or maybe just once)
  • Buy some adorable wedge sandals
  • Make my favorite Real Change vendor think he died and went to heaven
Decisions, decisions.

What would you do with an extra $37.50?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

My boyfriend and I actually had “Spring Cleaning” marked on our calendar this weekend. Yes, we planned it out in advance. Sometimes things like this really make me face reality… I am getting old.

Because I have to admit I feel super excited about what we accomplished. I know, I know, it’s super nerdy to feel such tremendous pride about two days of deep cleaning, but I really do feel awesome. All those little things that have been nagging me for months are finally taken care of. Windows washed, shower tile scrubbed, floors under large pieces of furniture mopped, blinds dusted, and the list goes on…

And to top off just how dorky I am, my main thrill of the weekend was finding these absolutely amazing wipes that make your stainless steel look just like new! I’ve been struggling to find a cleaner to use on our refrigerator, dishwasher, and other various appliances for months that will take off the fingerprints and watermarks without leaving streaks, and I finally found the perfect product. If anyone really wants to know the name of it I can look it up for you.

So now our condo is bright and shiny as a new penny, and my new goal is to keep it that way. We’ll have to see how long that lasts.

I was able to fit in a couple other slightly less domestic activities this weekend, too. I went to an old friend’s birthday party on Friday night at The Parlor in Bellevue. I’ve never been there before but it was a super cool venue! I really want to catch a comedy show there sometime. Saturday I met up with my former boss to work on some materials for a law school that has waitlisted me. She wrote me a killer supplemental recommendation letter that I hope will help my chances. We had a bite to eat at Duke’s on Lake Union and I forgot how much I love that place! On Sunday I had brunch with the girls at Hector’s in Kirkland. If you are ever there, please try the Hector’s Rancheros, it was absolutely dreamy. Then, once Stew and I finally put away the last bottle of Windex, we rounded out the weekend by having dinner with another old friend at Tawon Thai in Fremont. Yum.

So my weekend basically consisted of cleaning and eating. Not the most glamorous, but I still feel like I got a lot done.

How was your weekend?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

I recently received an email from the wife of one of the other firefighters at my boyfriend’s department for an unusual charity drive… prom dresses! She is a high school counselor for a local school district, and started a program collecting donations of prom dresses for girls who may not be able to afford one themselves.

Most women I know have at least one or even several fancy dresses still in great condition tucked away collecting dust in the back of a closet. Old prom dresses, bridesmaid gowns and dresses from fancy benefits that you know you will never wear again. So why not give them to a young girl who might not be able to attend prom, otherwise? Genius!

I immediately set to work contacting my lady friends to collect dresses in all sizes, colors and styles. In less than I week I was able to gather twenty beautiful dresses that will now be put to good use.

What a great opportunity to help give girls who are less fortunate a stress free prom experience! I’m quite proud of myself! Thank you to everyone for your incredible generosity, you really helped make this a success!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Poisoned, Again?

I wonder what actually causes headaches, anyway. I'll have to Google that one of these days. Because sometimes it feels like your brain has swelled so much that it's going to burst through your skull, and there's nothing else that could possibly cause that much pain.

That's what happened to me at 4 a.m. this morning. I woke up with an absolutely mind-numbing, brain-splitting headache. I only get migraines once a year or so, but this was a do-sie. I have no idea where it came from, but it woke me out of a deep, dreamless sleep. I rushed to the bathroom and popped three ibuprofen, expecting to fall asleep again twenty minutes later. But it never kicked in!!

Three hours later the sun had started to come up, and I had to transfer my tossing and turning to the bathroom floor (the only totally dark place in our condo) because the sunlight was making the whole thing twice as intense. I felt like I had been whacked in the back of a head with a two by four. My eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my head. The throbbing was indescribable. I wanted to cry, but I knew that would just make everything worse. And on top of everything I felt ready to hurl at any moment.

Finally, around 8:15 a.m., the pain had ebbed enough that I was able to drag myself into the shower to get ready for work. I arrived very late and still with a persistent (but, by then, manageable) headache. What could have caused such a thing!?

I did go to happy hour the night before... But I had one sangria and shared an appetizer, and was home by 8 p.m. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, my boss has since informed me that she definitely thinks it was that sangria that did me in. Apparently, this particular drink can be mixed with all different kinds of wine and booze, and maybe the combination just added up to bad news for little ole me. I guess I'll never know for sure, but I'm still wondering...

What exactly does cause a headache?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What Makes You Gag?

I don’t consider myself a picky eater at all. There are a few foods that I dislike in general… bacon, marshmallows, eggplant. But even these foods I will eat every now and again if there isn’t another option available, or they are part of another dish and impossible to avoid.

But there is absolutely nothing worse than the dreaded banana. Everything about them grosses me out… the flavor, the slimy texture, the weird stringy things inside the peel, the little black seeds. Sometimes I will order a smoothie and even though I chose a recipe that didn’t contain banana, if the blender wasn’t washed out well enough after a previous banana shake, my own smoothie is ruined. All I can taste is banana and it just sicks me out. Banana bread, banana pudding, banana yogurt… I’d rather starve. I can’t tell you how many brunches I’ve attended where perfectly delicious fruit salads are poisoned by banana.

And don’t even get me started on artificial banana flavoring. It takes me twice as long to get through a box of Jelly Bellies because I have to make absolutely certain I don’t accidentally ingest a banana flavored bean. Runts… I won’t even bother with them. There are always more yellow ones, so I end up throwing about half of them away. Even the smell of a banana flavored Laffy Taffy makes me nauseous. And I can’t tell you how many times someone has offered me a handful of Mike and Ikes that I’ve had to spit out because a strawberry/banana flavored candy snuck its way in there.

However, I get these strange cravings about twice a year. Sometimes I will feel the urge to eat a sliced banana on plain Cheerios, and other times I just need to eat a banana with a little peanut butter on every bite. But lately, my appetite has increased. My boyfriend is constantly buying bananas for his breakfast, and a couple times last week I grabbed one on my way out the door. And somehow, lo and behold, a banana with peanut butter has become my favorite breakfast food!

Someone once told me that your taste buds change every seven years, and that’s why as an adult you begin to like foods you once hated as a kid. I guess I buy that… I can list multiple items I used to hate but now think are delicious: beets, seafood, spicy food, coffee… the list goes on.

So either my taste buds have changed, or I am just finally getting used to the dreaded banana. Thinking of it mixed in with anything still makes me gag, though.

Are there any foods you particularly dislike?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It's A Lifestyle...

Wake. Brush teeth and hair. Makeup. Clothes. Bus. Work. Bus. Gym. Home. Make and eat dinner. Dishes. Pack lunch. Shower. Brush teeth and hair. Sleep. REPEAT.

I’ve discovered that when you decide you want to live a healthy lifestyle, the schedule begins to consume your life. I feel like I don’t have time for anything anymore other than sleep, work, exercise, hygiene and food preparation. And I couldn’t say that any one of those things are more important than another.

I read books on the bus when my motion sickness doesn’t get too bad. I watch TV and chat with my boyfriend from the kitchen when I am dealing with the aforementioned food preparation. I socialize with a friend before and after classes that we take at the gym. But there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to fit in any other “me” activities – at least not while I am attempting to obtain the perfect summer bathing suit figure.

But it’s going on three weeks now and I am exhausted. My weekends have been filled with family and other obligations, and the few hours to myself I do end up with on Sunday evening must be spent on grocery shopping and food prep, in order to save a few precious minutes during the week. I’m just so tired, and the monotony is really getting to me.

However, which is worse… monotony or guilt? I am going to happy hour on Wednesday after work to catch up with an old friend. Maybe I will splurge and get a diet coke. But even if I don’t sample any of the delicious half price appetizers, it’s likely that I will get home too late to squeeze in a workout, and instead of feeling good about reminiscing with my friend who I haven’t seen in six months, I will feel guilt over not hitting the gym. I definitely need to find more of a balance.

Does anyone have any tips? How do I maintain a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy a full and happy personal life… guilt free?

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Bunny Hop

I got to celebrate Easter twice this year. My mom accidentally booked a Hawaiian cruise on Easter weekend this year (a very strange mistake for a devout Catholic), so I trekked back to my home town last weekend to celebrate with her a week early.

I’ve never had strong feelings about Easter either way, but in general it seems like a holiday that’s mostly for kids and religious people. The Easter bunny, egg coloring and Easter egg hunts, stuffed annimals and loads of sugary-sweet treats in every variety you can imagine. Since I am neither a child nor religious, I don’t pay much attention to this particular holiday, except to show up at the annual obligatory family gathering. For my mother, however, Easter is “the most important holiday of the year,” and she was absolutely devastated when she realized her scheduling blunder.

My mom loves Easter. Each and every year she seems to forget that she has children who are adults, and have been for some time. So we opened fully stocked Easter baskets from the Easter bunny with oohs and ahhs, and we colored eggs at the kitchen counter, just like old times. And every morning at work last week I had to explain to one co-worker or another why I was eating pastel tinted eggs.

Then this past weekend came time to celebrate with my grandparents. So we once again make the journey down south for some quality time with the fam. I didn’t give anything up for Lent this year, but I’ve been on a strict diet for weeks and weeks, so I decided that for just one day I was going to eat a normal sized meal… carbs and all. I just can’t resist dinner at Grandma’s house. Ohhh, but it was dreamy! I even finished it off with a slice of homemade apple pie.

However, I paid dearly for my indulgences and spent the rest of the evening in bed with a stomachache. No regrets though.

How was your Easter? Do you have any family traditions?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Disappointed

I take back what I said about Queen Bee Nails and Spa. Things have really gone downhill there. I first started going to Queen Bee about a year and a half ago, and documented my amazing experience here. The shop is right across the street from where I work, so it's very convenient. I've continued to go in for mani/pedis once every couple months since they first opened, and the service has gotten worse at every visit. Today was especially bad. A mani/pedi used to take about an hour and 15 minutes, today they rushed through both in only 40 minutes. Surprising, since the salon was not busy and several of the women who work there were sitting around painting their own nails.

During my pedicure the woman barely even bothered to scrub my heels or calluses, one of the mail reasons I go in for pedicures. She only rubbed one of my legs and sort of halfheartedly thumped on the other one for a second. I thought she was probably having an off day, and since a different woman was doing my manicure, it would be better. It was even worse. I asked her to cut my nails shorter, but she left them all different misshapen lengths. The edges were left jagged and with polish all over the surrounding skin. She didn't use any sort of cream or oil on my cuticles, which are now dry and scratchy. I'm probably going to have to take the polish off and re-file my nails when I get home.

Overall, very disappointing since I went in because I'm going to a wedding tomorrow and wanted my nails to look nice. I've been mildly disappointed the past few times I've gone in, but today was by far the worst... it's likely that I won't go back. It's sad they have let their standard of service slide so much, since I used to recommend this place to friends. I won't, anymore.

OK, I’m off to copy this review to Yelp.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What ever happened to D.A.R.E. anyway?

I really don’t know how I am ever going to be a parent. I just don’t think I am capable of handling the stress. Every time I have to deal with situations in my own life that give me a little taste of what it will be like someday, it puts me into a mild state of anxiety and panic. It’s so hard to watch someone make the same mistakes over and over again.

The great state of California has been working diligently to legalize marijuana, and my little brother seems to think this has given him the right to carry it around with him wherever he pleases. Problem being, we live in the not-necessarily-so-great state of Washington, where cannabis is 100% illegal, especially on college campuses and for underage youth.

As if it’s not enough to have to worry about getting the dreaded “minor in possession” citation… I just can’t understand why my brother needs to pile on the additional risk. He was already cited last year for possession, and now he’s in the same pickle once again. And I just don’t know what to say… I have a feeling that, “Told ya so!” isn’t going to be the best advice in this situation, but I’m just at a loss.

I am a rule follower by nature. Not to say that I didn’t indulge in my fair share of underage drinking, and even other substance abuse, in college. But I was always consumed with paranoia and guilt, and I constantly avoided any unnecessary risks… Never carried alcohol or drugs on me, would not consider driving or getting in a car with someone who was under the influence, blah blah blah. I guess D.A.R.E. taught me well.

Maybe it’s the difference between males and females. Do men feel the need to take more risks? Is it the need, the thrill of the adrenaline rush of not getting caught? Or is it a rebellion against authority… does the notion that since pot supposedly “should” be legal in my brother’s eyes give him the self-imposed right to carry it?

Who knows. But now my baby brother is fighting to not get kicked out of his university, and that scares the crap out of me. It's so hard to be the much older sister, trying to give advice to someone who is living these things for the first time. I realize that we all need to make our own mistakes to learn and grow. and hindsight is alwasy 20/20, but it’s just hard to watch someone's actions when you already know what the outcome will be.

And those are just the feelings of an older sister. I can’t imagine how much more magnified they will be when I am dealing with the inevitable mistakes of my own children. I just don’t know if I will be able to take the pressure.

Which reminds me… did I take my birth control today?