Friday, April 25, 2008

For all you cat people...

On a lighter note, here's something that's kept me laughing this week:

Happy Friday from my mean kitties.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Golf and Hearts

It was a beautiful weekend--perfect for walking the golf course, chatting with with my mom and aunt, watching my uncle bond with Jason, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and watching my cousin play! She was tied for fourth place after the first round on Saturday, but would have been in the lead if not for a few bad strokes on the 18th hole.

After the golf we grabbed lunch at Savoury Lane, a small café in West Acton, Mass. I had one of the specials, a Mediterranean wrap with fresh veggies, hummus, and couscous--delicious and vegan! They also had a tasty-sounding regular menu, which I'd love to try if we ever make our way back to the area. I even grabbed a few goodies from their gourmet treats display for my Pay-It-Forward contest (which I'll write about in the next few days)!

After lunch my uncle went back to their hotel to rest while my aunt, mom, cousin and I went prom dress shopping in sales tax-free Nashua, New Hampshire. We struck out at the mall, so headed to one of my favorite places: David's Bridal, where I got my wedding and maid of honor dresses. My cousin tried on a few duds, then found a strapless hot pink ball gown with a sweetheart neckline, silver embroidery on the bodice, and a big poofy tulle skirt. This was the one! It was so cute to see her sashaying around the bridal salon in her Barbie-esque dress--she pulled off the look perfectly, and I can't wait to see pictures from the big day--I'm sure she'll be awestriking. Oh, to be a teenager again! The picture on the right is from my third prom, which I went to during my freshman year of college (my boyfriend at the time was younger). Goodness, I wish I were still that thin. That night we went back to the hotel they were staying at for dinner, where we got to watch part of a Mexican wedding going on in the pool area. They apparently played odd music late into the night. Luckily it didn't seem to have an effect on my cousin's game the next morning.

She clawed her way back to the top of the leader board in Sunday's round, and ended up tied for first place--which meant she had to play in a sudden death playoff to determine the champion! We were waiting around in the clubhouse for them to add up the scores, and I had just ordered a drink from the bar when they announced the playoff. We all piled on to the waiting golf cart and zipped back to the first hole. It was all I could do to keep my drink from spilling the way my uncle was driving that thing--and it didn't help that I was perched on the back clinging to the area where the golf bags are supposed to be kept! They tied on the first playoff hole, but on the second hole the other girl hit her ball into the sand trap. My cousin made her putt, and it was over--she won the whole thing! I was so proud, and thrilled that I got to see such a victory since I don't live close enough to watch her play regularly. After the awards ceremony the whole gang came over to our place to see the digs, look at our wedding album, and meet our cats. We had a victory dinner at my favorite restaurant in Dracut, Owen and Ollie's.

All in all, a great weekend. I came away with only a slight farmer tan sunburn on my arms and down my cleavage. Ever since I got second-degree burns while sitting outside during March back in college, I've been super careful about sun exposure. This time I used Clinique Super City Block Oil-Free Daily Face Protector SPF 40 and Burt's Bees Vanishing Facial Powder (which has apparently been discontinued, boo) on my face and Burt's Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 15 on the rest of me. All cruelty-free and worked like a charm, although next time I'll go for a higher SPF than 15 for my body. My boobs itch!

I found a neat heart-shaped rock whilst traipsing around the golf course. It was a bittersweet discovery: last week I found out that my mom needs to have open heart surgery to repair a dilated aorta. Basically, one of the tubes leading into/out of her heart is stretched out too much, and if left alone, would likely tear over time--like a deflated balloon does when you stretch it. People generally don't survive that, so surgery it is. Since I live closer to her than the rest of my family does, I'm going to be very involved in all of this. On Thursday I'm spending the day with her in order to take her to a pre-surgery doctor's appointment. The surgery is tentatively scheduled for May 13--the day before my sister's birthday.

Dealing with your parents' mortality is tough. My dad is having back surgery at the end of May, and already had neck surgery in January. My stepmom is an awesome nurse who has helped my dad through multiple surgeries, so I know he is in good hands. So far I've been strong and business-like about my mom's surgery. Falling apart won't do anyone any good, and my mom is counting on me to be a big part of her support system--her rock, she said. I just don't know how long practical Heidi will stay around before emotional Heidi comes to take her place. I'm confident that my mom's surgery will go fine, and I'll be here to take care of her during her recovery, along with at least three other family members, so I know she won't lack TLC. Still, though, I never thought that at age 25 I'd be discussing my mom's will and the possibility that she might not survive. According to her cardiologist, only 2 percent of people having this surgery die, and they're usually older folks whose bodies don't work well anymore. Still, that's two people out of every hundred who go in to have (what the cardiologist says is) a relatively simple procedure who never wake up. I've always talked very frankly with my mom regarding her feelings about end-of-life plans, so this sort of talk doesn't upset me--it's just so much more difficult when it's not a hypothetical, "please remember this when I'm old" conversation.

I think I'll give my mom that heart-shaped rock. She has been my rock for 25 years, and I'm glad I can be hers now.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Picture Perfect

Today is so effing brill I hardly know what to do with myself. I stepped out at lunchtime for a post office run, and it was 78 degrees out! I'm hoping this bodes well for our weekend plans: we're attending the golf tournament my cousin, the best high school golfer in Michigan (literally, she's been state champion two years running and was named Miss Golf last year), is playing in--it just happens to be in Massachusetts! So I'll get to see my cousin and my aunt and uncle, all of whom I haven't seen since last winter when I had my bridal shower and wedding.

Speaking of which, the trip to the post office was to pick up a package--my wedding album and CD of high-resolution files of all the shots our photographers took the whole day (if you are wedding-minded, you must insist on this being part of your photo package--trust me, it is worth the extra money)! The top right picture is one of my favorite shots. That one didn't actually make it into the album, since our lead photographer liked a similar,
less-smiley one better (the bottom right one--he said it was "smoldering"). Perhaps we'll buy a print of the smiley one to put on the wall. It depends how often Jason wants to look at me.

I think I already know the answer to that, judging by last night. Some of you may know that I am a bit of a camera whore, and love having my picture taken or taking it myself (having two photographers documenting my every move on our wedding day was like heaven, let me tell you). So last night I spent probably an hour taking pictures of myself. When I loaded them into my computer, Jason watched intently as I went through one by one, meticulously deleting and resizing until every single one was flattering enough to keep around for later use. He couldn't explain why he wanted to see 75 pictures of the same pose. All he could say is "I like looking at my wife" and that he loves me for being me. I'll take it! I love him for being him, too.

Tonight we're going to one of our favorite restaurants: The Black Olive in Tewksbury. It's family owned, has live piano music, and ridiculously delicious Italian/Mediterranean food. I recommend the Mediterranean Platter appetizer: hummus, baba ganouj, lebehne, grape leaves, falafel, and kebeh (this has meat, but everything else is vegetarian and some of it's vegan), served with warm pita bread and enough for a whole table (they say it serves two, but there's enough food for six, considering that it's an appetizer). The meatless pasta dishes are all fab. I always have a hard time choosing.

Now I should stop writing about their food before I run out of time to go eat it!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Job satisfaction and quesadillas

Yesterday was gorgeous. Sunny and warm and perfectly Spring, in the high 60s with a slight breeze--one of my most favorite kinds of weather. I decided to get out my Lake Michigan chair and sit out on the balcony while I worked to get a change of scenery, and Jacob and Lola were happy to help (read: chase bugs and sniff a lot)--Jasper wasn't brave enough to venture out. I predict he'll get more adventurous within the month.

This working from home thing, it is the good life. This is my first week back to full time, and I love it already. I am so glad it all worked out this way, and I can't imagine doing anything else at this point in my life. I feel so lucky to have found a job that fits me so well by the age of 25. I don't think most other twentysomethings can say that.

Unfortunately, it isn't as warm (it feels like high 40s or low 50s) or as sunny (in fact, it's quite overcast) today, and it just started to rain, so I'm staying inside on the couch in my pajamas (another benefit of this position: not having to suffer in business casual attire all day) for now with the sliding door cracked for some fresh air. I can still hear the birds singing like crazy. Ah yes, it is that time of year. My chair has been claimed by a tiny Lola cat, so it's just as well that it's raining. I wouldn't want to disturb the princess on her throne.

Last night's dinner was made by special request: mushroom quesadillas and Spanish rice for my hard-working husband! I can't always get him to help plan the menu (he says he has a hard time thinking of vegetarian food other than macaroni and cheese), so when he has an idea, I run with it. The rice came from a boxed mix, and I added veggie burger crumbles to make it a little more interesting. Next time I'll add diced red bell pepper, too, and chives, if I have them, to balance out the spices in the mix. For the quesadillas, I sautéed onions and mushrooms in olive oil until the onions were translucent and the mushrooms were completely saturated with the oil (they taste so good that way, almost buttery). I toasted whole wheat tortillas in a pan lightly coated with olive oil (I cook everything with olive oil, I don't think I could cook without it), then set them aside on a baking sheet while the onions and mushrooms finished. I covered the bottom tortilla with a layer of cheese (real cheese for Jason, soy cheese for me), some thinly sliced tomatoes, and a layer of mushrooms and onions. I topped it with a second tortilla, pressed lightly with my spatula (to flatten the insides), and stuck the baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes, until the cheese melted and the tortillas looked sufficiently crispy. I sliced them into quarters and served with a scoop of rice. Olé!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Scrub your tub and your face--yes!

I'm on the rag this week. I'm tired, I'm bloated, I'm crampy, and I want to eat everything in sight, which makes me eat pile after pile of junk, which makes me even more bloated and crappy-feeling, which makes me even more lazy and more likely to continue eating junk. It is a vicious cycle.

Despite this, I found the power within me to scrub the bathtub last night. Maybe it was the Method bender I went on last week at Target, or maybe it was that my mother will be here on Saturday and I don't want her to think that we live in filth. Whatever the case, I broke out my Le Scrub Bathroom Cleaner (it's like liquid Comet but not nearly as smelly and nasty on your skin--plus Method products are cruelty-free) and conquered that soap scum. If you clicked the link, you'll have noticed that it comes with a little scrubby thing. The light blue side is like washcloth material, but the dark blue side is slightly rougher, almost like the sticky side of velcro. No way was I going to use that thing to clean up the kitty litter footprints in the tub--oh no. I held on to it to use on myself. It's the perfect size and texture for a face scrubber. I used it to exfoliate this evening, and it worked like a charm.

It just goes to show you that you can find items all around you that can be repurposed to use in better ways than they were originally intended.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Weekend adventures westward.

Since Jason got his Corvette out of storage last weekend, he's been itching to drive it on an adventure. Saturday morning he had to take it to a dealership an hour away for an oil change. That two hour trip wasn't enough, so Saturday evening we hatched a plan to take a journey to Framingham to visit Game Universe, a video game store he found online. The drive was great--I felt like we were Bonnie and Clyde on the run. We got to the shopping center where it was supposed to be and parked at a bank nearby (Jason won't park by other cars when he drives the Corvette--he's afraid people will run shopping carts into it). After wandering around like idiots for a few minutes, we finally found it in the basement of the building. We descended into a lair of geeks the likes of which I haven't seen since I saw David Prowse speak at Celebration Cinema in Lansing several years ago. Jason got a game and I got a kick out of seeing video game systems from the 1980s for sale, complete with their boxes. Jason pointed out that keeping the original packaging increases resale value because collectors covet such things. I guess now I have to let him keep all those cardboard boxes he has stashed in our walk-in closet (maybe someday the Wii box will be worth something).

Since my idea of adventure does not include shopping for video games, I made sure we looked up restaurants in the area to get a taste of something new. We settled on Minado, an upscale Japanese buffet in nearby Natick. And by upscale, I mean it cost $28 per person before beverages and had a station where a chef prepared made-to-order crepes. That's pretty ritzy compared to other Asian food buffets I've visited. The place was packed (and much of the crowd was of Asian origin--always a good sign), so we wandered around for a while at the stores next door, where Jason found a Gamestop and bought more video games (I told you they're his luxury...). When we were finally seated, we ordered Shirley Temples off the drink menu, which also came with a warning: customers eating the fish out of sushi but leaving the rice on their plates will have an extra 30% added to their bill. People do that? The food was to die for, and their vegan options were plentiful. My favorites were the seaweed salad and avocado rolls. I'll be honest, I love to eat seaweed--probably more than most white people. I've been craving it for the past few days and trying to think of reasons to go back to Natick so I can have it again, but I haven't come up with anything good. Note to self: make friends in Natick.

May your weekends be light on video games and heavy on seaweed!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Little Luxuries

Everyone has them--something unnecessary you do every once in a while to indulge yourself (I qualify it with unnecessary because, for example, eating is necessary to sustain life, but eating gourmet meals every night is not necessary). Maybe you don't realize you do it, or you hide it because it's something you'd rather not reveal--like getting your back waxed or having Botox injections. It's not necessarily something physical, either--maybe you see new movies as soon as they come out, or have season tickets to your favorite sports team's games.

My little luxury used to be going to coffee shops. Now that I work from home and don't know any good coffee shops in my area (which makes me miss Michigan and Virginia oh-so-much), I've outgrown that one (don't worry, I've found a new one). My husband's little luxury is video games. He has five game systems and probably around 200 games. I counted them once last year, and the total was around 150. It has only grown since then. Of course, I can't write about luxuries without mentioning Jason's big luxury: his red 1997 C5 Corvette that he got for his 26th birthday last year (the second Corvette he's owned, spoiled man--the first was a blue 1998 C5, which he decided to trade in for a new car with fewer maintenance needs after we got engaged). That's him in the picture with his car at a "Vettes for Vets" fundraiser for a nearby veterans' hospital last fall--a cause close to his heart since he's a veteran as well as a Corvette enthusiast. We got the Corvette out of winter storage over the weekend, and he's itching for nice weather so we can take the Targa top off and go for a ride. We don't need three cars, of course. But he loves this car. Not as much as he loves me, mind you, but enough that I couldn't say no to him getting it because it makes him that happy. And he did get it for a steal--it's in immaculate condition and had ridiculously low mileage for a 10-year-old car, plus he got it at a price a few thousand dollars less than you generally find.

My new little luxury is getting my nails done every few weeks. Not the fake, glued-on claws like Jerry Springer guests wear, but a technique called overlay in which they use a powder which, when combined with an activator liquid of some sort, forms into a gel to create a hard coating over the nail so it's longer and stronger. I discovered this when I was looking into options for our wedding. I've kept up going every few weeks ever since--it's addicting! My hands look better than ever and it keeps me from picking at my cuticles. Plus, it keeps my nails from bending and chipping at the ends from typing so much. Nail techs recommend that you get a fill every two weeks (to fill in the area where your nail bed has grown out), but I try to stretch it as long as I can. I usually end up waiting until they either look atrocious or are too long to type. I've tried a few different nail salons here in Dracut (a small area, admittedly), and have finally found one where they are both low-cost and do a consistently good job: MyLe's Nails. They're actually cheaper than the other places I've been--only $18 for a fill and manicure, which usually runs $24-$26 around here. I pay with a 20-dollar bill and don't worry about change, so there's no fuss. Usually I go for something pretty tame, like a French manicure or shades of pink or peach. This week, though, I felt like blue, so now my hands look like they belong to a seventh-grader. A married seventh-grader. I ruined two nails on my right hand within minutes of leaving the salon, so I'll probably change the color on my own in a few days. Note: I had serious second thoughts about posting a picture of me with no makeup on, but I decided I couldn't be bothered to retake it, so I'll leave it. Jason thought it was cute, anyway.

Growing up, I never splurged on things like manicures. I only got my hair done professionally for a dance one time (prom my sophomore year). I never went tanning (well, only once to build a base before we went on a family cruise--I burn, so my mom thought it'd be a good idea... tanning to build a base, that's so 90s!). I didn't get expensive senior pictures (we went to the local portrait studio and the results were rather awful). In college, I lived at home two and a half out of my four years because it was cheaper (and because I actually like my mom and sister and enjoy being with them). Because my parents are divorced, we always lived pretty frugally, and I still try very hard to be a smart shopper and "pay myself first" (as my mom would say). It's hard sometimes--I prefer to buy organic produce, I have a penchant for Gap clothes, and I like to go out to eat on weekends--but I think Jason and I do a much better job than a lot of twentysomethings. He doesn't think me getting my nails done once or twice a month is unreasonable, and I don't mind him buying the occasional $60 video game. I'm glad we can agree on acceptable splurges.

What are your little (or big) luxuries? Maybe it is a tiny thing, like spending an extra 50 cents for a shot of vanilla in your latte, or maybe it's something awestriking* to those of us who have student loans and starter jobs. How do you justify them--do you have to? To whom? What luxuries do you wish you could have?

* My lovely, Angela (of Angelaboration), created this word-which-is-not-a-word. For more on "awestriking" and why it should be introduced into the popular lexicon, read #5 here. We want everyone to use it so it will spread like wildfire. Try using it in a sentence today!