Naive Tourists Beware

The fun continutes.

This morning S and I were sitting at an outside table at a cafe while the other boys went to run errands. We had all of our bags sitting next to us and we were just relaxing and chatting over the remains of our coffees. A man walked up to us and was asking us directions and while we were trying to help him, his buddy took off with CK's backpack. We didn´t even notice until the people at the next table started shouting and out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the waiters take off around the corner like a shot. Luckily the waiter (god bless him!) caught up to the guy and got the bag back because in that bag was CK's passport and everything else important. So, thank goodness a good end to a bad story, but I think from now on we are all going to be a little bit more careful about our things.

We settled into our apartment in the suburb of Belgrano, went shopping and are planning a marvelous feast and some toasting of the New Year tonight. The Argetines don´t go out until late, so we may go to another party after we ring in the New Year locally.

Now we are six. CK and I are in it for the long haul, S is here for about 2 months, KE and Rafe and Grant are here for approximately 2 weeks each. It is nice to have an apartment, although we had to have a ¨house meeiting¨today to figure out who was going to sleep where and how we were going to split up the grocery bill... it is fun though. We already kicked KE off the island.

Tomorrow we will relax and then probably go to the beach the next day for some fun in the sun. The temperature here today was about 100, so I can´t wait to hit the beach!!

More later. I will probably have limited internet connection while in Patagonia (we will be doing a lot of hiking and camping) but I will do my best to keep up the good news!


Bienvenidos A Buenos Aires

We made it!

Day one: the day of the hostel search. We arrived around 10 this morning after a nice ride in first class, complete with a seemingly 7 course meal (thanks to S's dad!). After finding our luggage and getting money, we found a cabbie who was willing to transport us and our 400 pounds of baggage (seriously, my bag weighs about 40 lbs!) to the city. We got dropped off at the Palermo district, which is supposed to be known for its good eats, night life and is quoted in Lonely Planet as a "seriously chic and hip place to shop". However, it is apparently NOT the place to find a cheap place to stay (or any place to stay!) We looked for a while, but finally bagged an overpriced place with only 3 beds for 4 of us (we will have to take turns sleeping on the floor).

Tonight's plan: experience life the Argentine way...dinner at 9, drinks at midnight and then... who knows. Luckily, we are still on California time, so with Buenos Aires being 5 hours later, that should be about right for me. If I go to bed at 2 here, that is 9 my time. Perfect. Beinvenidos A Argentina!


Let’s Make it Advent to Remember

There are only 25 days left until Christmas. Yes, I count them. It all stems from the fact that as kids, we had this great advent calendar that my Aunt Sara made. It is a big felt tree with all the days on the side and as each day goes by, you get to put an ornament on the tree. Day one was always the star and Day 25 was always a Santa Claus with a pack on his back. My brother would get the odds and I would get the evens, but we always split the star and Santa between us, because they were the coolest ones. We loved that tree! Tomorrow is the first of the month and if I was home, I would probably be fighting over the star with Matt. However, I am not home, so Mom gets to fight over the star with Dad now instead.

The advent calendar gives you a heightened sense of anticipation, which is a huge part of the fun of Christmas. If it were only about the one day, it would not be nearly as fun. It is about the frosty air, the snow, the mistletoe, the Christmas cards, the decorating, the spending money, buying gifts, imagining people loving the gifts…It is about Christmas movies and songs and general joy. I know, I sound like a giddy schoolgirl, but my mother taught me that it is not all about the presents, that it is about a feeling. And also, I am a giddy schoolgirl. That is what Christmas is!

Sometimes it is hard to remember the giddy feeling. When I worked at Nordys, we really got sick of Christmas. The decorations went up Thanksgiving Day. The cheesy Christmas music played on a continuously looped track all day every day. The shoppers were annoyed and frustrated and annoying and frustrating. The traffic was horrible. The tourists were ooohing and aahing and walking oh so slowly as they gawped at the gaily decorated Macy’s shop windows. We opened at 6. We closed at 11. We got no sleep and no time to do our own Christmas shopping, and even if we did, we couldn’t get inside any of the stores because of all the people in the way. Oh it made me want to go home and get in bed and forget it all. It made me crazy sometimes.

However, I am in a better place now; I’ve finished my Christmas shopping (a lot of it online – thank God for the internet) I have sent cards, I have decorated, I have spent money and now I am ready to put the Muppet Christmas Carol on and sing along like a giddy schoolgirl.


Gobble, Gobble.

Yes, it is that time of year again. Time to sit down with your loved ones and give thanks that we have all made it through another year and are here together once more. Thanksgiving means so many differernt things to each different person. To me it means family most of all, but Thanksgiving also wouldn't be the same without the most iconic thing of all -- the turkey.

Yes, to many of us turkey sybolizes Thanksgiving. It is a ritual. We buy it, or it some cases kill it, clean it, cook it, carve it, eat it, put it away, eat it again, strip it and then make soup out of it. A little turkey goes a long way... I realize that the turkey is important. However, having not eaten meat in about...a dozen years or so, I can personally do without the turkey. Luckily, there are a few alternatives.

1. When in Rome...When I was in Turkey (ha - no pun intended) for Thanksgiving, my friend and I searched for days for a shop with a turkey or something similar to a turkey, but to no avail. All we found was a rotiserie chicken, which I was told was quite good. But NOT turkey.

2. Can a Loaf Really Be A Good Substitute?...This year I am going to try for the first time, Tofurkey, the fake turkey. Regardless of what you may think, it is NOT shaped like a turkey (I think there was an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where they eat a turkey shaped tofu turkey). It is shaped like a meatloaf (see pic). I have never tried it, but I am sure it tastes similar to a lot of other tofu-"meat" products. NOT like turkey.

3. Or You Can Really Overdo It...Folks in Louisiana like meat. They like all meats...Beef, Pork, Crawfish, Fish, Chicken, Turkey, Duck...So why not put as many meats together as possible and enjoy them all at once. Enter the "Turducken". The Turducken is a Chicken stuffed inside a Duck which is then in turn stuffed inside the Turkey. Oh and even better...Let's fry it! Now they know how to cook...but is this really turkey? (see pic)

So, there are many ways to enjoy your holiday traditions, be it the food fight with uncle Jim or the turkey, any which way you may like it. The bottom line is that you enjoy them, no matter what they are!


Holly Jolly Christmas

I was flipping through the radio stations on my way to work this morning and as I was scanning through, I heard something that really floored me. There was Bing, singing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. Is it really? It’s not in Louisiana. Actually this morning, it was about 45 degrees in Baton Rouge, which is quite cold for this area. However, it does not look like Christmas to me! Christmas is snow and presents and family. I don’t have any of those things here.

I remember when I used to work at Nordstrom; we used to wait to put up the Christmas decorations until the night of Thanksgiving. Even my Mom, who is a Christmas fanatic, waits until after Thanksgiving to decorate. Are we pushing Christmas more and more every year? Will we soon have holiday decorations up after Labor Day?

I hope not. I enjoy Christmas. I like shopping for people; I like the holiday cheer; I like the frosty air, the snow, the stockings… However, like anything else, if we get too used to it, it becomes mundane. And that is the last thing I want – Christmas is meant to be special! So, Bing, go ahead and sing your song, but please, please don’t get Christmas started too early!


5K Or Bust!

Since the August Half Marathon I have not been running very much. So when my friend Bricker said he was going to sign up for a couple of 5K races, I kind of hemmed and hawed for a bit before I decided to shut up and sign up! Bricker used to be..how shall I say...not so healthy. A year ago, he weighed maybe 250, smoked, drank and ate lots of large Louisiana meals. He has since got his s**t together and I am so proud of him. It is the least I can do to support him.

Or so that is what I thought I was doing. As it turns out, he could beat me any day! Well - can, could and HAS! The first race we ran together was the Gumbo Festival 5K. We had never really run together, so I had no idea what his pace or style was. We ran for about 3/4 of a mile together and then he took off like a shot. He ended up coming in about a minute before me, which when running a 3.1 mile race is a lot.

This week we have been running together, and then today we had another 5K race (Crescent City Fall Classic) and he beat me again! He only beat me by about 15 seconds this time though... Results to follow, but we both got about 25:40.

It is great to have someone to run with and to pace yourself against. It really makes it so much easier. When I run alone I get bored and unmotivated. But thanks to Chris, I am back in the game!

Sometimes I Wonder...

...why people sit in the drive thru lane when there are about a dozen cars in line and nobody inside.

...why people don't respond to an evite. You know they looked at it. But then they don't reply. Isn't the whole point of the evite to figure out how many people are going? Why can't they just respond? There is an option for "no" and for "maybe". I don't see why it is so difficult.

...why people don't use their turn signals. What do they think they are there for, asthetics? Actually, it would seem obvious what they are for...it is right in the name - "TURN" "SIGNAL". Yes, you SIGNAL and THEN you TURN!


All Work and No Play...

...makes Jack a dull boy, right? It also makes me a sleep deprived grandmother. Yeah, I have always been kind of a grandma; I am the one who goes to bed early and gets up early, who turns down happy hour to go home and knit (no, I am NOT kidding) or read, who spends one’s free time writing Christmas cards and thank you cards and journals...boring, right? Yup. That’s me.

Anyway, if you thought I was bad before, you should see me now. I recently moved to Baton Rouge, but am still required to come to New Orleans from time to time to attend meetings or do site visits. So, I am frequently driving back and forth from one office to the other (about 70 miles one way). This, along with 10 hours of work a day, does not leave much room for anything else. My routine is becoming very tiring. I get up around 4:30 a.m. and go to bed around 9. I run approximately an hour to an hour and a half a day. I eat fruit and sandwich for lunch while in the car on the way to a meeting. Phew. I don’t see how people do it for such long periods of time.

I used to go to school and work at the same time and it was similar to this. I got up at 5:30 to make it to a 7 o’clock class on time, then went straight from school to work and worked until 10 at night, so didn’t get home until 11 p.m. However, I have definitely gotten out of the habit of doing that! I have gotten spoiled by my free time. I have started to take it for granted. I guess this is a wake up call (fitting – since it seems like I am getting less sleep). Wake up and smell the...

Luckily I only have to stay in Baton Rouge for a few more weeks. I will be so happy when I am back living in New Orleans, where it only takes me 10 minutes to get to the office, where I can walk to the restaurants and bars downtown, where I can pop home for lunch, where I can visit with my friends... I will try not to take all of that for granted the next time around.


The Days Are Grey

Now that Top Chef is over and *darn it* cocky Hung has beaten the other two worthy contestants, I have Wednesday nights free to do all the other things I was supposed to be doing instead of TV. However, my friends and I have had a long time addiction to Grey's Anatomy, which is equally as time-sucking and just an annoying as Top Chef. So now I sit around and waste time on Thursday instead of Wednesday.

On that note, a few random facts are in order.

1) Time per day that TV is on in an average US home: 7 hours, 40 minutes
2) Amount of television that the average American watches per day: over 4 hours
3) Time spent daily with screen media for U.S. children age six and under: about 2 hours
4) Percentage of US families with children age 0-6 with at least one television: 99
5) Percentage of US households with 3 or more TVs (2003): 50
6) Percentage of parents who say that if they have something important to do, it is likely that they will use the TV to occupy their child: 45
7) Percentage of Americans who always or often watch television while eating dinner: 40
8) Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49
9) Time per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5 minutes
10) Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked, would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers: 54


There is a Top Chef in All of Us

You may not think it to look at me, but I love to cook. I sometimes flip open a cook book and make whatever it is on that page. More often than not though, I just make my own stuff up. Whatever veggies or whatever I have laying around in the house get put into a pot/oven or pan and voila! In mere minutes (or hours) you have an original dish. My favorite thing to do is to bake.

Second to that is soup making...One big pot of soup is economical and easy and it will last for days... My cooking may be slightly original, but my made up names are not so exciting. I have "green soup with carrots", "green soup with beans", "brown soup with broccoli" (that one was a mistake), "yellow soup with peas", "pea soup with carrots"...you get the point.

Oh wait I almost got carried away for a moment. Today I am not here to talk about my many interesting colors of soup; I want to talk about the fact that tomorrow is the Top Chef finale. Yes, I am addicted. Luckily they have Bravo at the gym, or I may not go to the gym as often as I should. My relationship with Top Chef first started when I was temporarily unemployed and residing with my brother and his roommates in San Francisco. They (lucky them!) have TIVO, or something along the same lines. I had absolutely no interest in most reality shows until my brother's roommate, Pam, would come home from work late at night and put on a TIVOed episode of Top Chef from time to time. And, since it was TIVOed, I, who had never seen the show before, could go back in time and catch up on the whole season at the same time (I happened to be there during the middle of the season).

It is great! There is the annoying guy you have to hate, the gay guy, the good looking guy, the tough girl, the lesbian, the fat guy, the skinny guy. Of course, just as you get to know and like the character, they get kicked off...It is torture! It is great. I am hooked for good. The ironic thing is, even though I can't taste the food, which would be a good reason to base my descision on who should get kicked off, I still have an opinion about who should leave (based on...attitude, looks, absolutely nothing concrete.)

So, here is the dirt. They are down to three people. Hung, the annoyingly cocky Vietnamese guy. Casey, the Jennifer Anniston look alike, the "I never had formal training" down home chef from Texas. And Dale, who is from Chicago and has been down on his luck and it hoping this Challenge will be the boost he needs. So, who do we want to win? For me, anyone but Hung. He is so full of himself, sure of himself and it not even close to being a team player like the others.

Who is going to win? Only time will tell.

Saving My Latte For a Rainy Day

I quit going to Starbucks a while back; perhaps you remember the "Latte Factor" article that I wrote back in June. To sum it up, some guy** on TV suggested saving your $5 per day that you would normally use on coffee (or whatever your poison happens to be) and putting it into savings instead (see here for more info).

I was already a penny pinching miser before seeing his little blurb on TV, but after that I became even more of one. I stopped going to Starbucks all together, which saved me about 5 dollars (or more) a day and I also stopped eating out for lunch (another 10 dollars a day), which all total saved my pocketbook about 100 dollars a week. This is 400 dollars a month, 4800 dollars a year that could be going towards something more productive.

Not only did this save me scads of money, but I have found it has helped me in many other ways as well. First of all, one grande non-fat mocha has 300 calories, about a hundred of which are from fat. This is crazy; it is about the same as a McDonalds quarter pounder with cheese or a medium side of fries! As I mentioned in my "Snack Attack" article, the average female (150 lbs) needs about 2000 calories per day (and that is IF she is semi-active). So, cutting out 300 useless calories per day is not a bad idea.

Second and probably more important for the long term is the fact that I now drink less coffee. I used to have...a cup or two at my hotel before going to work, a Starbucks around 8 and then...maybe another cup of gross office coffee later in the day. Now I make a pot in the morning and drink one cup from it while driving to work. And that is all.

So, thanks to the Latte Factor guy** for not only allowing me to "Retire Rich" but also for saving my stomach from the iron grip of caffine and for saving my ass (from widening)!!

**his name may or may not be...David Bach**


It's Wabbit Season...

Shhhh...Be vewy, vewy qwiet...We're hunting wabbit... That is what I felt like when I went up to Lower Bucks Lake and Three Lakes this weekend. It must be fall, because there were hunters everywhere.

The photo to the left is taken in the Feather River Canyon. I went home last weekend for a nice relaxing weekend and of course Dad had a barrage of things planned for us. On Friday, we went for a drive to the small town of Greenville (by neighboring, I mean 40 miles away. This is how it is) to visit with friends and scope out the changing foliage. Then on Saturday we went up to Three Lakes and did some hiking and some more foliage spotting (see photo on right - taken by Aunt S).

Being there and seeing the changing colors of the leaves and smelling that smell in the air reminded me -- even though right now in Louisiana it is in the 80s, in the rest of the world, it is fall after all.


Green Means Go

No, this time I am not going to talk about the crappiness of the drivers in Louisiana, how they run the red lights and dawdle at the green, how they don’t use their blinkers, how they either drive 40 or 90 in a 60 mph zone… Nope, today I want to talk about saving the world, one drop of water/piece of paper/plastic bottle/gallon of gas at a time.

I read an article in Runner’s World about the little things that we can do to help save the environment: turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth, flush the toilet only half the time, print of both sides of each unimportant sheet of paper, either use tap water or buy gallon jugs instead of buying individual bottles of water, and for goodness sakes – RECYCLE!

These are all very easy things to do and if each of us takes the time to do them, we will make the world a better place for everyone. I for one am trying to do these things when I can; I am trying to do my part for the sake of the greater good. However, living in Louisiana does not make it easy.

I was watching the news the other night when this came on: “Brad Pitt wants to help rebuild New Orleans one green house at a time. The actor, who has been involved with the Global Green USA project, sat down with NBC's Ann Curry to talk about his passion for the environment and his adopted hometown.” (click
here for more info) Go Brad! I applaud his willingness to protect the environment and to use his celebrity status to promote something so great.

However, and this is one of the annoying things I have noticed while in Louisiana, there is a long way to go before the people around here are going to adopt such things as a “green” house. The people of Louisiana are not the most environmentally friendly. Did you know that they don’t even recycle? And no folks, this is not because of Hurricane Katrina, although it would be easy to blame it on that. This is just the way it is. In order to make sure I was not misinformed, I checked to see what I, or the Louisiana residents could do if we wanted to recycle.

Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) site gives many tips on what you can do to start your own recycling program in your neighborhood, which are all very helpful. However, many times people will not do something unless it is very easy for them to do so. Put a bin out with sections for cans, bottles and trash, and nine times out of ten, people will throw things into the right section. Put the recycling center 3 miles away, and most people will not separate their own stuff and take it over there.

So what do we do? How do we make a difference? Well, like I said before, one by one, each of us separately can do our part and together, we can make an impact. Here are the top 10 things
www.livescience.com suggests we each do:

1. Change your light bulbs
2. Drive differently, or drive a different vehicle
3. Control your temperature
4. Tame the refrigerator monster
5. Twist some knobs
6. Plant smartly
7. Invest in green energy
8. Go organic
9. Recycle
10. Be a minimalist

P.S. On this anniversary of 9.11, I want to say thanks to the heroes.


I'm NOT a Plastic Bag

I am not usually one to covet high end crap that you have to stand for days in line to get or else buy at a ridiculously high price on Ebay. Take the Iphone for example. It is cool; don't get me wrong. However, I don't need it SO BADLY that I am willing to wait for it for hours on end and then pay 500 dollars for it and THEN pay for a 2 year contract, Internet fees etc. All in all, time is money and money is money and that item, as cool as it is, is not worth that much money.

However, when I read about the
"I'm Not a Plastic Bag" bag by Anya Hindmarch (who, by the way, I have never heard of, but apparently she makes high end designer bags) in Time Magazine, I said, "I WANT ONE OF THOSE!" The idea behind the bag is this:Too many plastic bags are being used in Grocery Stores etc around the world and not enough of them are being recycled. This bag, which retails for about 15 dollars is reusable and stylish and so would help eliminate unnecessary waste. In the US alone, an average family uses 1,460 plastic bags PER YEAR, which is about 88.5 billion bags total (in the US) and LESS THAN 1% of all plastic bags used get recycled.

So I got online to buy one. For 15 dollars you can't go wrong. Little did I know that I am not the only one who wants one of these bags. As it is a limited product, there were only a certain amount sold in the US, UK and China, and at this time, they are sold out. You can buy one on Ebay for about 40-50 dollars if you so please. In trying to find this bag, I also learned that the demand for these bags was so high that when they were launched in China, people got trampled.

So I wonder, are people buying these bags because they want to help the environment or because they are a low price point item from a normally high price point designer? I hope it is the former, but maybe it doesn't really matter. By buying the bag and wearing it, they are helping raise awareness around the world, which is equally as important.

A few stats, courtesy of Time Magazine(check out the entire article HERE): It takes up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose. 12 million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags that the U.S. consumes annually.

If you want the "I'm Not A Plastic Bag" bag, but can't get it, try one of these other charitable alternatives.
Working with the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), Presidential niece and model Lauren Bush has designed the FEED Bag — a stylish but sturdy tote bag made of brown sacking and white canvas. The proceeds from the $60 bag go to the WFP, which provided a staggering 16 million children worldwide with school meals in 2006 as part of their efforts to feed the 300 million children around the world that suffer chronic hunger. And Intuition has launched the Market Bag to help educate children in need. For each $85-$100 bag sold, Intuition will donate $35 to the International Rescue Committee. The goal is to raise $175,000 for the IRC's education programs around the world.

And last but not least, if you don't want to spend upwards of 30 dollars on a canvas tote, try buying one from your local grocer, which usually costs about $2-$5. You can still make a difference, one bag at a time, as long as it's "not a plastic bag"!!


Gambling My Life (Savings) Away

Most of my retirement savings is in some way involved in the stock market. So, when the market took a dive a couple weeks ago, so did my future. You are talking to a total non-gambler. I have only "gambled" a handful of times, I mean seriously, I can count on one hand. Each of those times, my budget was about 10-20 dollars. Each time, as soon as my money is gone, I walk out.

However, my retirement savings is different. I can’t just walk out; there is no point in pulling your money out when it is down. And I have a little bit more than 10 or 20 dollars involved. So I sit and watch my dollars melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West…helpless/hopeless…

Which is the problem – I am watching them melt away. It is an obsession. I can’t stop. Help me! I have to check every day to see if I am up or down…and it changes so much. For example: I bought Exxon stock for about 82.00/share. It went up to 85, it went down to 80; it went to 87, then to 79…today it is at 85 again. Go figure.

And I have no idea what I am doing. Should I buy; should I sell? “Should I stay or should I go now?” But, for all this, for the fact that I am losing money right now, it is fun. I can see how people can get hooked on gambling – “just one more game and I will win it all back”… Riiiiight… So, I will keep playing for a while, see what happens, never put all my eggs in one basket and hopefully ride the market back up someday soon.

How "Old" Are You?

When my Uncle Craig turned 30, we went to his birthday party and I remember thinking..."god, 30, that's a lot" (I was about 13 at the time)! Yeah, well. 30 isn't so much anymore. Neither is 40 or 50 or 60 or 70. I went to Indiana and visited some friends of the family. Doug, who is 84, is as fit and as quick and as intelligent as anyone that I know that is 30. Well, he is definitely MORE intelligent than most people I know.

My great-grandma Lou lived to be over a hundred. She survived not one, but TWO sons (both who died at the young age of 60ish). My uncle Jim's parent's just celebrated their SIXTIETH wedding anniversary, which surprised me becuase I didn't realize they were so "old". Tutu is 80 and Papa is 81. When did that happen? How did that happen?

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is becuase my Grandma Barbara just had her 75th birthday. We threw a big party for her and invited the whole famn damily. We ate too much and drank too much and celebrated the fact that she has been around so long and will hopefully be around for many more years to come, and that she will never get old.


11th Year is Already Here?

It seems like just yesterday I was walking down the steps at the fairgrounds in my gown, with "Pomp and Circumstance" playing regally in the background. I was so proud and so glad that high school was over with. Well, no matter what it seems, that day was eleven years ago. To help us to remember that fact, we all got together at Pangaea in Quincy (my home town) for our 11 year reunion.

Why ELEVEN years, you ask? Well, I was under the impression that the class president or vice president or someone like that would, at the appropriate time, get the ball rolling for a traditional 10 year reunion. WRONG. So, after 2006 coming and almost going, a couple of us got together and said, what the hell, we will get the ball rolling instead. I would like to say it was becuase we are the "creative" class in the bunch, but it probably is more like "lazy" or "forgetful" (or maybe "busy").

I got to Quincy in time for the County Fair and Parade, where I ran into some old school chums, who said that there was a rumor going around that certain people did not want to pay the fee to go to the party, so were instead going to meet in the back parking lot (remind anyone of HS?) of the restaurant with a cooler of beer and just hang out there instead. Basically a "tailgate" party for the reunion. You know how sometimes when you tailgate you barely make it to the actual game? Yeah. Pretty much the same. Haha. Apparently some people never change.

After a short pre-party at "The Cap" (one of the three local bars), we went to the reunion, where I was impressed by the turnout. We must have had between 40 and 50 people (out of a graduating class of about 95). Everyone pretty much looks the same, plus or minus a kid, a spouse or a few pounds.

All in all, a great time. No big surprises. We are all still alive and well and hopefully will be able to get together again in 10 years for our 21st reunion (which this time we could chalk up to creativity)!!



Rolaids don't spell relief; finishing does. Actually, after the first dreaded two miles, which are ALWAYS HELL for me (no matter how many miles I have run or am running) I was okay. Until about mile 9, when the soles of my feet (and then my ankles) started killing me! But...the crowd was a godsend, the weather was beautiful and my will was strong enough...to finish the race! I did not do as well as I would have liked, but I did finished, which was more than I really expected this time. SO...here is to the next one...

Don't forget to check out photos >>> here.

I am The Tortoise, Not The Hare

WHEW!!! Made it! That is all I could think of when I crossed the finish line. Actually that is all I could think of when I got to mile 1, and then to mile 2 and then to mile 3...and so on. I kept telling myself that I would just go ONE MORE mile and then I would just walk...

This race wasn't like the others. This time I was stupid; I didn't train. I signed up for the NYC half in April; it is a lottery draw and if you don't get drawn, you don't run. I got picked. And then I went on vacation. And then I got sick and...after that, I just COULD NOT get back into the rhythm of things. I was also missing Mira, my running buddy. I forgot that I am only so self motivated, and then it all goes downhill.

It has been in the 90s in New Orleans. And 98% humidity. Not e
xactly the best weather for training. Well, really I am just making excuses, aren't I? So, all excuses aside, I was determined to finish. We started in Central Park, which was a beautiful run, but very hard for me, as it was very hilly and I have been living in the flats for a while. The first seven miles were in the park. Each mile got harder than the last and, like I said, each time I reached a mile marker, I just kept telling myself that I would just do ONE MORE, then I would pretend my knee had given out or that I twisted my ankle (come on, you gotta have some pride!) and then I would walk (bravely) the rest of the way.

However, as we e
xited the park, we came out on 7th Ave, where there were a bunch of people there cheering us on...then we kept going and ran right through Times Square, where the Good Morning America camera was out and we were all on the big screen...it was like a shot of adrenaline. It kept me going for the next 6 miles, all the way down to the Hudson, past ground zero and into Battery Park. I did not do well; It actually took me about 10 minutes more than it did at my last race. But I finished. And with that, I learned that, no matter what, I CAN finish. But dammit, next time, I won't be so stupid. I will train. And I will hopefully beat my goal of a sub 2 hour half. Here's to running smarter and running faster!

For a few more pics, go here. For more marathon gripes, go here.


Tag. I'm It. Too.

I don't really know how this game works, but I was tagged by my cousin Erin (I think). Rather than running around and around (which, as I have said many a time, would probably be a better idea), this is a literary game of tag. So I am it. Here goes...

Four jobs I have had or currently have in my life:
When I was a kid, I worked for my parents. I was a server of gas, store clerk, housekeeper and all around gofer/errand runner. Then I graduated high school, moved to Sacramento and got a job at Nordstrom, where I worked at the Espresso Bar, serving coffee and danishes to the pre-caffeinated and over-caffeinated shoppers and employees at the Arden Fair Mall. Eventually I "graduated" to the Brass Plum Shoe department then the Ladies Shoe Department, where I sold shoes to the women of the world. I then moved to San Francisco and worked in the Salon (expensive) Shoe Department as a Manager. All in all, I worked at Nordstrom for 8 years. My last and current job started in Florida after the 4 hurricanes and ended (remains) in New Orleans - both involve grants proposals and lots and lots of paperwork...
Four countries I have been to:
Haha. Four, eh? Well I have been to about...25. But the most *recent* four were...Canada, Mexico, Borneo, Portugal...not in that particular order.

Four places I’d rather be right now:
I would rather be fishing. I would rather be hiking. I would rather be at the beach and...in 6 months I WILL be in South America, but I would rather be there right now!

Four foods I like to eat:
Gosh, I can barely name four that I WOULDN'T want to eat! I would really like a chocolate soufflé right now. I love salads, anything involving cheese and any and all vegetables and fruits.

Four people that I would like to tag:
Well, I have no idea if anyone even reads my blogs...and if they do, they don't necessarily have blogs of their own... So, maybe they would post it on myspace or something...Lea, My Mom, Lucy and Sara.

Four people, living or dead, real or fiction, whose blogs I’d like to read and whose answers I would love to know:
If she wrote a blog, I would love to read Bettie Smith's (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). Also, I would think that Galileo would have a good one. Or Lewis and Clark. Or anyone who had to travel in a covered wagon across the country...like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

So, I guess that is it. NOW - Tag, you are it. Will you post this somewhere? Will you tag someone else?


Snack Attack!!

There is a reason they say, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" instead of, "a bag of Cheetos a day..."

An apple only has 47 calories. A bag of chips (the 99 cent size) has about 400. Think about that the next time you feel that yearning in your belly for a snack. Now, if you only ate “one serving” of the chips, which is about a third of the bag (as if!) you would only take in about 130 calories, which is approimately the amount you should be taking in for a typical snack.

The average female (150 lbs) needs about 2000 calories per day, the average male about 2500. That is, the average semi-active male or female. If all you do is sit on the couch all day, you need to reconsider these numbers. I have probably preached about this before, but for those of you who don’t know, I will explain one more time.

There is a thing called RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate). This is what you would burn each day if you did nothing. If you just sat on the couch all day and ate potato chips and watched TV, you would still burn a certain amount of calories. There is a formula, based on your weight, height and age (for more info you can go here) which I am not going to explain. However, the average (again, 150 lb) woman’s RMR is about 1500. So, if you sit around all day (which many of us do – hello…office!) and then eat your recommended 2000 calories, you are going to have an excess of 500 calories.

The problem here is that roughly 3500 calories equals ONE pound. So, in one week, if I sat around all day in the office and then ate 2000 calories per day, I would have an excess of about 3500 calories in one week. That means I would gain about one pound per week. Scary, isn’t it? So, to avoid that from happening, one needs to either eat 500 calories per day LESS or exercise enough to burn 500 calories a day MORE.

Sounds easy, right? Well it is not easy if you are gobbling up a 400 calorie bag of chips as a snack every day! Add that you’re your normal three squares a day and you could easily go over 2000 calories a day. So, next time you are considering a bag of Cheetos out of the vending machine at work, think twice and grab an apple instead.


Southern Hemisphere is Almost Here!

The Players and The Possibilities: Me.CK.Doyle.S.M.G-man.Danielle.Pete.K

Except for Pete and K, I have met all of these folks while working around the country doing disaster assistance. First of all, do do this job you already have to be a bit of a wanderer - able to live away from home for long periods at a time, to be without your friends and family. Because of this, we make new friends and aquire a new family. The folks above are prime examples of that. In the past few years, we have all traveled together, visited each other and kept in touch, although most of us don't work together anymore (most people had to eventually go back to their "real" jobs).

The Possible Route:

Only a skeleton plan so far, the general idea is to hit up about 8-10 countries in about as many months. Leaving sometime at the end of 2007, our trip will probably begin in either Chile or Argentina and we will work our way north as the weather in the Southern Hemisphere gets colder in the south and warmer in the north.

When it all begins:

We will leave right after Christmas and probably (as we know it so far) start in Chile, going to see Patagonia in the only few months it is warm enought to bear. From there the possibilities are endless!!!

Planning is fun, right?!!!

We have been talking about this for such a long time but in all honesty, aside from a few key places, events and attractions, we really don't know what we want to do. We will rely half on the guidebook and half on the whim of the day... that is what makes it so exiciting (and scary, but in a GOOD way!) Let the plans begin!


The Anniversary of My Past Life

I opened up my AOL this morning and the first thing I noticed was “The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Starts Today!” I remember when those words used to make me cringe. I worked at Nordstrom for 8 years, and the Anniversary Sale meant…late nights spent preparing and long days spent running around and around and up and down. Granted, you could make a lot of money during the Anniversary Sale. First of all, you were allowed to “pre-sell” merchandise. Customers could come a couple of weeks beforehand to try on and pick out what they wanted and then you would charge their card on the first day of the sale (today), allowing you to rack up quite a nice amount of sales if you played your cards right.

However, by pre-selling the merchandise, you would repeatedly dig yourself into a hole because you often did not have the correct size for the customers who came in on the first day. This meant spending possibly hours on the phone with other stores, trying to find the appropriate size, not to mention having to listen to the lady bitch about how it was ridiculous that you didn’t have her size when it was only the first day of the sale. You also had many customers who would have buyer’s remorse. They came in, pre-tried and pre-bought (oftentimes several items, easily totaling upwards of a thousand dollars), you rang it up on the first day and then, two days later (after you had already had dozens of customers that had needed that missing size) they would change their mind and ask you to return it for them.

The first weekend we would work all day the first day (7 a.m. - 10 p.m.), most or all day on Saturday (at least 12 hours) and all day on Sunday. Then sometimes we would work 10-12 hours a day throughout the week as well. However, even with all the long hours and customer issues, it was the best time of year for us. With 10% commission, we could make $4,000-$10,000 in the two week period.

So today I opened up my AOL and “Anniversary Sale” jumped out at me from the page. The first thing I thought was…I should go to Nordstrom! I need something! I don’t know what it is, but I need it. And I need it today! Luckily for my pocketbook, the closest Nordstrom to me right now is in Houston, which is a 5 hour drive. Luckily I also remembered that nobody in their right mind would go to Nordstrom on the first day of the Anniversary Sale. Especially not me!

And…I really don’t need anything. When I worked at Nordys, I used to kid myself that I needed things. New shoes (hundreds of pairs), a new red suede coat (which by the way is REALLY cool – I still have it and it will last me years, especially since I never have a chance to wear it), a new dress which is “such a good deal!” because it is marked down from $400 to $200… the list goes on. Although I have retained my fetish for expensive shoes, I now diversify a little and sometimes shop at TJ Max instead. I also have absolutely no desire to go and push my way around the store with hundreds of other desperate women who will probably try on hundreds of things and then not buy anything anyway.

So, the words “Anniversary Sale” still make me cringe. But now I have more control over my Nordstrom experience. This year I will avoid the store; I will avoid the nasty memories; I will avoid the harried salespeople and the aggressive consumers.

This year, I will shop online.


Oh the Memories!

I'm losing my mind. 

I was talking to my cubicle-mate yesterday about another girl that we both have worked with. We chatted about this girl and where we knew her from, etc. It turns out we had both been in Florida at the same time as she had…so we started talking about things that we did while in Florida. As it turns out, a friend and I had traveled to St. Augustine, FL one weekend to meet with her friend and coworkers. My cube-mate said that he had done the same thing – traveled from Orlando with a co-worker to meet up with her friend in St. Augustine.

As I sat talking to him, all of a sudden it dawned on me – I had met this guy before! When we went to St. Augustine, there were about 6 people all together. My cube-mate was one of them! How could I have forgotten that I had already previously met him? We have been working together for about 2 months now and I never even realized. Granted, the St. Augustine trip was about 2 years ago, but how quickly we forget!

I was talking to a friend the other day and she said that she read an article which stated that the average person only remembers 20% of what they learn each day.

Music conjures up memories; smells, tastes and sights remind you of something you have experienced in the past. Memories are what keep us going from day to day. If the statistic that my friend said is true, imagine what we could be capable of. I mean, if right now I am only remembering 20% of what I learn every day, imagine me at 75% or even 100%!! I would be able to speak French fluently; I would be able to quote policy at work; I could be a Travel Guide or a Physical Therapist.

However, that is not the case. If the AVERAGE person remembers 20%, I may be lucky enough to be on the top of the average, but honestly I think I am more like a 50 percent than 80 percent. I am constantly preparing myself to say something and when I finally get the chance I have forgotten what is was I was going to say. Or the other day I was going to go to Target for something and when I got in the car I could not remember what is was to save my life.

There is also something to be said for the fact that the older you get, the less you remember. Why is that? Do we only have a certain amount of space and once it is filled, we have to push SOMETHING out in order to acquire something new? So if I want to learn Spanish I may have to forfeit my banana bread recipe? If this is so, how do we categorize what is important enough to keep and what we can throw out with today’s trash? And, if that is so, do pack rats in life have better memory capacity?

I asked my mom about it and she said that it is not that she can’t remember things as much as it is a combination of her not listening and not remembering. And as my parents get older, not hearing comes into play as well.

No wonder the average is only 20%. If you are lucky enough to be paying attention, you probably won’t be able to hear what was being said anyway, and if you were lucky enough to hear what was being said, you probably won’t remember it. 

This has been a link up with Dare to Share, where the topic was LOSS:  


Beautiful Summer

Henry James once said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were “Summer Afternoon”. Personally, I tend to agree. There is nothing better than a warm day, sitting near the water with a book in hand, watching the day go by oh so slowly.

However, in the last…almost ten years, I have really not even noticed the passing of the seasons in the least bit. First I lived in San Francisco, where there is only gray and fog with the occasional burst of sunshine. However the sunshine is not in the “summer” but instead in the strangest of times – April, May or October. After San Francisco, I lived in London and Istanbul – London was mostly rainy (I was there in the “summer”) and Istanbul was mostly hot (I was there in the “fall”). No normal seasons there! Then I spent some time in Florida and Louisiana. Again - no “summer”. There is only hot, hotter and hottest. Oh and muggy, muggier and muggiest.

I miss the time of year when winter slips into to spring, where the first buds come up and the countryside is so green and new. I miss the fall, where the trees turn fiery orange and red and you can feel that slight bit of crisp in the air. I miss the winter – the sledding, the snowball fights, the pink cheeks and hot chocolate.

But most of all, I miss the summer. I miss the cold water of the Feather River. I miss laying on a huge rock trying to get warm before jumping back into the cold water. I miss having a beer on the porch at 10 o’clock at night when it is still warm. I miss the midnight dips in the river. I miss fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, barbeques and family times.

This year I am going to “take the summer back!” I may not be in a place where I have a so-called summer, but I am going to make my own summer wherever I am. Last month I went camping and hiking in Canada. Yesterday I went fishing in my grandmother’s pond. I went swimming in the ocean. In August my grandmother turns 75 and we are going to have a big party in the park where we will hang out with family, swim and barbeque.

Perhaps if I can bring all the elements of summer together bit by bit, once again I can experience the most beautiful of the beautiful – my very own “summer afternoon”.


On Golden Pond

After spending the weekend in Beantown, I headed South toward the Cape to spend some time with grandma and the pond. The actual name of the pond is "Little Sandy Bottom Pond" (there is also Big Sandy Bottom and just plain Sandy Bottom) and it is about 3 miles around. I only know that because I tried running around it, got about 3/4 of the way around, got lost, asked directions, was told to "go through the cranberry bogs", did so, got lost again and ended up taking the "very long way" around.

Other than relaxing at the pond, or getting stuck in the bogs trying to run around it, we spent our days whale watching, eating seafood, lounging at the beach, reading, eating ice cream and chatting.
Once when I was about 10, I spent a couple of weeks of the summer with my grandma, and we must have gone to a different creamery or ice cream shop every day, sampling them all trying to figure out which one we liked the best. Although now I am older and have a much slower metabolism, it didn't stop us from once again doing the same thing (by the way, this trip's favorite was Friendly's chocolate almond crunch).
Before I knew it, the time had come to return to the city to catch my flight. I don't know where the days went... They must have gotten lost in the pond.


Do You Know the Way to Fenway?

I flew into Boston on Saturday afternoon, arriving just after lunch. I met my friend Garret downtown and we quickly set off to explore the city. I have been to Boston a few times before. I have flown in and out of the city a few times, went to visit fiends and stopped by on the way to grandma's house. However, usually someone leads me along and I follow. This time Garett and I were on our own.
We started off (of course) at the Commons, and after seeing a duck tour, decided that that is what we wanted to do. Why not be a cheesy tourist? After all, that is kind of what we were anyway (you should have seen Garett handling the map and me with my camera). So, we decided to ride the duck. However, the day's tours were already sold out, so we would have to check back the next day. We decided to stroll along Boston's "Rodeo Drive" (Newberry St.) instead. As we were walking, we noticed many, many people wearing Red Sox gear. I though, "Wow, they really do love their Red Sox here!" Personally, I am an avid Giants fan, but I rarely see this many people wandering around the city with SF gear on. After a while, we started noticing that everyone was headed the same direction and we finally came to the conclusion that there must be a game today.

So we headed that way. We thought, what the heck, maybe we can get tickets to a game. We did not realize how competitive the ticket-getting process actually was! The line for game day tickets was about 4 miles long. However, after talking to some seasoned fans at the front of the line, we decided that we may just have a chance (in hell) of getting tickets to the game. The tickets went on sale at 5. At 7 we had FINALLY gotten to the front of the line. We thought - this is it! Our chance! We are in! And then...they stopped selling tickets. There were only 4 people in front of us; we had waited for almost 3 hours! They couldn't stop now! But they did. The only way we could have gotten in is if we would have paid 150 a ticket and not been able to sit together.

So we thought...we would try again the next day. I don't know where this obsession to get in and see a game came from. It may have been that Garret had NEVER been to a game (any game). It may have been that Fenway Park is a legend (it was opened in 1912 and was home to legendary great, Babe Ruth). It may have been that we already waited long enough and gosh darn it we were GOING to get in (we are both stubborn Taurus)!

The next day we went early and rode the duck, then went to the park, where the line was about a 10th of the size it had been the day before (we also got there 3 and a half hours early). When tickets went on sale, we were there, at the front of the line with Visa in hand. And we got in!

The Red Sox lost to Texas that day but in our minds the day as a whole was a winner!



How quickly we forget how difficult it is to go back to exercising after a break. So I am supposed to be training for the NYC Half. Ha! I went on vacation, which was luckily an “active” vacation, meaning hiking and biking. However, I did not run the whole time I was there (about 10 days). Then I got home and immediately got sick. So… a couple more weeks pass by.

We now come to last week, my first week trying to get back into the swing of things. I went to the gym on Monday and was going to run (really!) but I forgot my socks (darn it!). I had just read an article about making excuses and how we need to stop doing it, so I put my shoes on (sans socks) and made my way to the treadmill. However, after about a mile I could feel a blister forming, so I walked a little and then lifted weights instead.

Day Two of “the revival” was spent procrastinating running by doing the elliptical and then lifting weights again. On Day Three an attempt to run was made, but was ended when Top Chef started due to a conflict of interest. On Day Four I committed to running a two mile race in City Park, and almost flaked at the last moment. Instead, I dragged my lazy butt to the park and ran two miles in the 850 heat and 80% humidity (at 7:15 pm!)

I almost died.

My lungs hurt; my legs hurt; I could feel my face burning bright red like a beacon in the night. Once finished, I walked with quivering legs to the line for water and drank about one hundred and forty tiny Dixie cups full of water.

Turns out I ran my fastest mile so far – about 8 minutes. However, this is only the beginning of a very long journey which ends in New York City and lasts for 13.1 miles. So, two miles at a time, day by day, I struggle to reach that path. I have a long way to go before I am ready.

Why Weight?

I lost 4 pounds in the last two weeks and I didn’t even mean to. My diet plan: get sick, lie in bed, don’t work out and eat a lot of junk food and carbs. I should write a book, right? Seems like everyone and their mother has come out with their version of “how to lose weight”. Don’t eat carbs, eat only carbs, eat only high cholesterol foods, eat only raw vegetables, eat for your blood type, eat for your hair color, eat only in the morning, eat 10 meals a day, eat a big lunch and a small dinner, eat only cabbage soup…the list goes on.

When is the world going to realize (and it has been said over and over) that the secret to losing weight is not any of the above, but is…wait for it…EAT LESS, EAT HEALTHY and…here is the kicker...EXERCISE!!! There is no magic pill; there is no quick fix (well there are but they are dangerous to your health). There is only hard work and dedication. It is like anything else in this world – if you want it, you have to work hard to get it. You cannot just sit on the couch eating Cheetos and watching TV every day and expect to slim down to the size of Kate Moss. You have to actually turn the TV off and get out of your chair and take a spin around the block (at least a couple of times).

Unfortunately, people have become inactive over the years. We used to have to work hard for everything – if we wanted food, we had to grow it, kill it or raise it; if we wanted a house, we chopped down trees and built a house. If you would have mentioned a gym, the old settlers would have laughed in your face. Now we sit in our car, we sit in the office, we sit at home. To get any exercise, we have to force ourselves out to the gym or the park. And inactive people breed more inactive people. Our kids are following in our footsteps. Well actually, they are following in our butt prints, if you want to be literal about it.

Shape Magazine suggests getting a half an hour of “cardio-type” (walking, running, biking, etc) exercise per day. This could be done at lunch, or by walking up and down the stairs at work or home a few extra times, or by parking farther out in the parking lot. But we don’t “have time” for that. We still want a quick fix or a magic pill to make it all go away. We want someone else to take care of it for us.

Are we so busy living that we cannot even spare a half an hour a day in order to save our own lives?


A Road Less Traveled

I think it was Robert Frost who said, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled." Well I think I understand what he was talking about.

This weekend I went to New Hampshire to visit a friend who is currently living in Portsmouth. This is a very cute little New England town, complete with a central square full of people, a harbor full of boats and foilage which can only be found on the East Coast.

I arrived early Saturday and after having lunch at the Friendly Toast (good stuff!!) we went on a nice walk along Odiorne Point, stopping to pick up starfish, play with the whale bones and ogle the HUGE blue lobster at the Seacoast Science Center. Then we went kayaking along the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River, which separates Maine from New Hampshire. The weather was nice, about 70; the water was a bit choppy and not warm enough to swim in (about 45, I think), but not too cold when you got sprayed by it.
Sunday, we went to Pawtuckaway State Park (man you gotta love these names, huh?) and hiked up one of New Hampshire's high peaks (a towering 1000 feet up in the air) in order to get a "breathtaking view" (according to the website). It really was breath taking. At the top was a fire tower, and you could see for miles and miles... We got lost on the way back down the mountain...because we took the road less traveled (!!)...but were directed by a nice lady with a small horse and even smaller jockey, whose house we just happened to end up at
I made it to the airport just in time to make my flight, only to find out that the flight was going to be leaving late anyhow - damn US Air! 90% late and climbing! Overall, however, it was a very good trip!


The Latte Factor

“Save now. Fewer trips to the café now can lead to more vacations later,” says Fidelity.

“Figure out your ‘latte factor’, be it your frequent lunches out, your fetish for new shoes, or your everyday coffee, and minimize it or cut it out entirely,” says the man on CNBC.

This seems to be a common theme with the retirement gurus. Skip the coffee, save a few extra dollars for later. It makes sense, right? 5 dollars a day for coffee can lead to an extra 1500 dollars plus in your savings account. To me it does make sense, and to one friend whose dad’s motto is “save today, spend tomorrow” but not everyone agrees with us.

I spoke with one friend who when I suggested she start saving money now, said, “Why worry about later all the time when you should be thinking about having fun right now?” At first I thought, “Wow, she is so naive! She is going to be screwed later!” Then I spoke to my dad, who was the one that first taught me how to save. He said, “Sure, cut out your latte now and then, but don’t deprive yourself of all fun now by always worrying about later.”

Dad saves the day again. Leave it to him to depart some words to the wise regarding finances. Save now, sure, but have fun in the meantime. What is the point of saving all your life if you are not going to get to enjoy it? I am not saying that I am going to die tomorrow, but…what if I did? Would I be happy with my life so far? Would I wish that I had blown a little more money on shoes instead of scrimping and saving for my non-existent retirement?

No way! I am going to do it all! I am going to have fun now. AND save for later. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.


My Very Own Pot of Gold

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I was watching a show on CNBC on how to “Retire Rich”. There were some good tips and it got me thinking a little about whether or not I am following the correct path. Will I be able to retire rich?
According to the show, 70 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Seventy percent! That is a lot! And of the remaining 30 percent who are not living that way, are they investing and saving wisely?
So today I went to Google to find out more about the subject. According to The Motley Fool, it is simple to retire rich. You can do it in five easy steps and here they are:
1. Start now.
2. Save more.3. Take full advantage of employer contributions.4. Allocate your assets to make bank in the stock market.5. Don't rely on someone else to do it for you.
Ha! So it is easy! Then why aren’t we doing it? I think it is because many people are not being educated about this early on in our lives.
Not only did my father teach me to work hard and to put my money in the bank while I was in high school, but I also got much of the above advice when I was 18. I had just started a new job where they had pretty good benefits. At that time, they would match 50 cents to my dollar, up to 6 percent. A good family friend told me to invest 10 % of my paycheck (at this time, I was making about 5 dollars an hour). I wouldn’t miss the money in the long run, it was being taken out pre-tax and my company would match 6 percent of it. What did I have to lose? He also suggested putting part of it in high risk and part of it in low risk (at the time I had no idea what that meant). Luckily, I listened to him. Thanks Mike! Ten years later, I am still investing 10 % of my paycheck and I have built up a fairly good portfolio.
There is still a lot that I have to learn. I am still hesitant to put too much money in the stock market, I sometimes pick mutual funds with the “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” method, I haven’t rolled over my 401K, I am scared to buy property and I am quite conservative, even for my age. However, I think that, little by little, I am starting to learn what it takes to…retire rich.

Do you have what it takes?


Big Apple Be Ready!

I made it! I got into the New York City Half Marathon! Yay! They drew names on the 23rd of May and I got picked. So did my friend Seth, so...we are raring to go! We just need to continue training...

New York City, here I come...

Stay tuned...the race is Sunday, August 5th...

When "Face to Face" Does Not Compute

We had a meeting at work the other day and one thing that was discussed was the fact that too many emails are going back and forth. A suggestion was made: instead of shooting someone an email, get up out of your chair and walk over to their desk and talk to them. This made me laugh because our office is not large; when they said get up and go talk to them, they are talking about a 20-50 foot walk. The longest you may have to go is down or up two fights of stairs, or in the case of many, down two floors on the elevator.

Which brings me to something else: I was reading Shape magazine on the plane last weekend and one of the articles was about small ways to start losing weight. One suggestion was to get a pedometer and make sure to take at least 1000 steps per day. To do this, Shape Magazine suggested getting up out of your chair at work and going to talk to your coworkers rather than emailing them. It also suggested taking the stairs rather than the elevator.

Is this so hard to understand? Do we need bigwigs to explain it to us in a meeting? Do we need Shape Magazine to tell us? Are 1000 steps really that hard to do? If you have a 2 foot stride, for example, 1000 steps would only be 2000 feet. NOT EVEN A HALF A MILE!!! What is happening to us that we can’t even walk a half a mile a day?

I blame it on technology. Not only is this great world of email, text messaging and Internet robbing us of our friends and a real connection with people, but it is also robbing us of our health. Why go out and date when there is eharmony.com? Why walk over to so-and-so’s desk when you can email them to ask what they want to do for lunch? It saves time, right? If your eharmony.com match doesn’t work out, you didn’t even have to put on makeup and get all dressed up. If your friend has other plans for lunch, you saved yourself a walk. We are getting lazier physically and mentally.

I admit that I too have gotten sucked into this vortex of emails and texts. At this very moment I sit here and blog when I could be discussing this issue with a coworker or friend. I tell my problems to the faceless masses but withhold them from my friends. I send out mass emails asking coworkers what they are doing for lunch. I send texts to people instead of calling them. I too am mentally and physically lazy.

Can we avoid this downward spiral? We are in a constantly changing world and technology is getting more and more prevalent. Kids these days are much more technologically advanced than I will ever be. I just hope that we can continue to teach our technology laden children the value of a long walk on the beach rather than another episode of Friends, a face to face chat with a friend rather than a text, a thank you note rather than an email or…taking the stairs instead of the elevator!!

The O.C. Tour

And when I say O.C., I am NOT referring to the annoyingly cute teenagers, the huge houses on the hill or the gorgeous beach that is portrayed in the show of the same name. The places we went to had none of the above.

This time, instead of going to the beach, my friend Mira and I took a long awaited road trip from Washington (for those of you back East, that is "state" not "DC") to the great land in the north, Canada. I have been to Canada twice before - once to see Niagra Falls with the fam and once to Vancouver to meet up with some friends that I met in Australia. This time was a bit different than either of those. This was going to be that "active vacation" I have been so looking forward to.

And active it was.

The first day was (unfortunately) spent in the car. We drove from Seattle to Whistler, which is a gorgeous drive along the coast with the ocean to the west and the mountains to the east. However, due to the upcoming Olympics (Winter 2010: Vancouver) there is a lot of construction going on along the highway. They seemed to be widening the road and (very unfortunately) building several massive condos along its sides. After finding a campground we walked into town and scouted out possible activites for the next day. Another thing I have not done in a long time is camping. And it is not too bad... we set everything up fairly easy and then got to the fun stuff - poaching wood and making (playing with) a fire.

The next day was spent hiking and biking and bear watching. Yup, there were bears! I almost ran one over with my bike, then almost ran another over with the car. The day after that was spent hiking, bathing in freezing cold (snow run off - it must have been 30 degree) water and driving to our next destination (a small town between Salmon Arm and Shuswap). Soon, we developed a routine - get up, take a hike, coffee, eat, take a hike, eat, drive, eat, play with fire, take a hike, play with fire again, go to bed. Rinse, repeat. Man I don't think I have eaten so much in a while. The hiking really works up a huge appetite!!

Our route went to Banff National Park (first National Park in Canada), the town of Canmore (about 75 miles from Calgary), Lake Louise, Yoho National Park, Glacier National Park, the town of Kamloops (with a wine region - who would have thunk it?), the town of Banff and lastly back to Seattle, where we happily showered and did laundry. Oh and of course ATE. Again.


Miles hiked: 50+
Most miles in one day: 20+
Miles driven: 1500
Highest mountain: ~3954 meters/~12,000 ft
Highest mountain climbed: ~2200 M/~6600 ft
Number of men in the hot springs who had man boobs: 14
Number of wild animals spotted: too many to count (4 bear, 2 moose, 12 longhorn sheep, 4 mountain goats, 9 caribou, 10 deer and multiple squirrels, chipmunks and birds)
Bricks of cheese eaten: 3
Bottles of wine drank: 6 (hey we had to try the local fare!)
Cups of coffee drank: 25
Amount of wood poached: a lot
Number of scratches from poaching wood: 15
Coldest night: 2 degrees C (about 34 F)
Warmest day: about 70 degrees
Amount of time spent in freezing cold water: 2.54 seconds

Last but not least, here it is....The real reason behind the name of the tour.

O Canada!Our home and native land!True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(to listen, click here)