Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lunch with TomB, PictureShow App

I lucked out that my old college friend (who also has a political blog and a family blog) was able to meet up for lunch while I'm here in Jersey.  I feel like I spent most of the time kvetching and lamenting the necessity to monitor our health as we get older and older, no matter how we feel. But like a good friend, he patiently listened, concurred, and offered me updates on folks from school to cheer me up.  Just what I needed on this extended trip.

Another plus, I played  more with my Picture Show app ($1.99 on iTunes) and ran these pix through the Retro filter. It's one of my favorite apps in terms mixing up filters, frames, and effects really well:

Unfortunately, it can't do anything about my big potato-head.  Even switching to sitting behind my friend, my face. Is. Still. So. Huge.

Here's the original for comparison:

Picture Show is a well-loaded app. It lets you add text to pictures, it has toy camera multi-lenses (which I haven't really explored), and it also has a cool tilt-shift effect which I would like to play with more:

And if all the filters and effect don't bring the magic, maybe the free app, Happy Snapper can:

I really, really love iPhone photo apps.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Found again

While my sister was over during the weekend, we started going through some of our old stuff in the closets. She found my old enamel pins:

Man these brought me back. I'm sure for people who know me now (where I wear fairly simple, minimalist clothes), it would come as a surprise that in my teens I loved, loved vintage, retro clothes and jewelry. My favorite places to shop were rummage sales and used clothing stores.  I also loved upcycling clothes--I would take a tank shirt and sew a tiered skirt on to it.  Remember "Pretty in Pink"? I LOVED her clothes in that movie.

One of my favorite outfits I would wear to school was this red pleated sheer circle skirt (red leggings underneath) with a tuxedo jacket that had TAILS (!!!) and oxfords on my feet. And these enamel pins on the lapel. Yeesh, I wish I had pictures. Yeesh, I wish I had those clothes.

Because the pins don't quite work on the clothes I have now:

Anyhoo, these enamel floral pins are sweet remnants from that time. Sidenote: the little lion is one of my first stuffed animals I can remember having. He was in the discard pile, but I pulled him out. Shhhh, don't tell my sister...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

4 miles!

To prep for the mud run, I was pointed to some online running training programs. And the one I'm kind of using is running 2 miles a couple of times a week, with a 40 minute run once a week. And the idea is then eventually move up the mileage by week. I've been averaging a pace barely under 11 minutes per mile when I did my 2 mile runs earlier this week. With my sister and Augie keeping my mom company, I was motivated to do my 40 minute run today. I was so pleasantly surprised when my RunKeeper app announced I was at .5 miles at 5 minutes, that I decided to see if I could keep that 10 minute per mile pace for the next 5 minutes. And when I did, I pushed myself for the next 5 minutes, and before I knew it:

Between the farthest distance and the best average pace since I don't know when, I was really psyched that I did this run. It definitely got harder to keep that pace in the last half of the run and I was breathing so hard in the last 5 minutes I worried people in their houses could hear me gasping for breath. I'm sure if my hands were clutched around my heart instead of my iPhone, people would have assumed I was having a heart attack.

I probably should go up in mileage or something but I think I'm going to hang at these distance/time goals for a couple more weeks--at least until it's not nearly as painful. I get achy in my lower back and starting to feel a little shin-splinty--anybody got any tips on running form?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Take my hand, we'll make it I swear

Augie still doesn't quite get the idea of PocketBooth, but his visit this weekend still put a big smile on my face.

It hasn't been a vacation here in Jersey given the circumstances, but this little guy reminds me to cherish the joys in life.

Plus I'm addicted to smooching these sweet cheeks!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Photo shoot two years later

Two years ago, I shot some pix of this family:

And I was honored that they asked me to take some new ones.  What a photogenic family--

So I got to play in Photoshop--

I love these 70s tones:

And of course, my favorites are the unplanned pictures:

I know I've said it before--I can't believe how much these boys have grown from two years ago:

Thanks again to this beautiful family!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Decaf Almond Latte

I've been finding sweet comfort in super easy decaf almond lattes. Interested?

I just heat up a mug of almond milk in the microwave for 60-90 seconds, add a spoonful of instant decaf and wha-la:

Creamy, delicious comfort. Plus fairly calorie-friendly--with the original (sweetened) it's 60 calories a cup or I've used the vanilla unsweetened with a little Stevia which runs 40 calories a cup.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Spending more time than I planned in my mom's technology-deficient house (though I just put in some new cordless phones--welcome to the 90s, Mom), I needed a way to log into work. And I figured I'll be visiting my mom more so I made the leap/investment into a mobile hotspot, aka, a Verizon Wireless MiFi:

I was trying to decide between an aircard and a mobile hotspot. I was attracted to the mobile hotspot for its versatility--in theory, I could hook up to 5 devices to it and it wasn't limited to just a laptop, so something like my iPad could be mobile now. But the reviews online of this MiFi were across the spectrum with the worst issue for me being connectivity inconsistency. And since I plan on using this for work, that's a huge issue and I went to VZW leaning towards an aircard (which would plug into a single laptop via USB), which seem to have consistent connectivity.

But the salesperson there suggested the MiFi. She said connectivity issues are more likely to come up for those using data streaming (e.g., videos, music, etc.) and those out of the 4G range (connectivity will bounce between 3G and 4G). Looking at the map, it seems the main areas I plan on using this had 4G coverage and streaming videos and music are not priority.

So I'm giving it a go--I've got 14 days to try it out and return it if it doesn't work. So far, after a night of voraciously checking out the craft blogs that I haven't read in nearly 2 weeks, it's been dynamite. Keeping my fingers crossed that this little guy is a keeper.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year! Year of the Dragon--a lucky year.

Hoping this is a great year for everyone!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cuteness at the Target

My weekend was made with some adorable cart-pushing:

Doesn't diaper butt look so cute in footy outfits?

Oh yes.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow day in NJ

Well, luck shone on me and I got a little snow day here in NJ.  On the plus side, it was only about 3-4 inches.  On the down side, it's enough that I had to shovel it. 

Including the initial path to the car...where I left my gloves.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Some more time in NJ

Looks like I'll be in NJ with Mom for a spell longer. Fortunately, sweet Paul sent me my DVDs. Since my mom doesn't have a DVD player (though she does have one for VHS!), I have to watch them on my laptop.

But it doesn't look like I'm suffering from the smaller screen size too much.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Amy Karol's Magic sauce

I started reading Amy Karol's blog a while before actually trying out her book, Bend the Rules Sewing.  And some of my favorites posts are her cooking and food posts.  For those that know me, I'm sure it is no surprise that I would glean the food posts from a sewing author's blog.  Anyhoo, one of my favorite posts was the one for her magic sauce.

As I was cooking for my mom trying to come up with a delicious low-sodium, low-sugar, low-carb, low-cholesterol meal, I decided to try out her magic sauce but without the added sweetener and whittled it down to just:

- a cup of no-salt added salsa (thanks Trader Joe's!)
- a fat spoonful of no-salt added peanut butter
- a little water to thin it out a bit

heated briefly in a pan to warm and blend and then spooned it over a plate of tofu, spinach and carrots, and a whole grain mix.  Sooo good, regardless of the health parameters it fulfilled!  Curious to see if the sweetener and regularly salted ingredients would make it any tastier.  Either way, it was so easy and quick.  I highly recommend this to everyone to zip up any basic, bordering on bland (yet healthy meal), though my mom did call it "that weird sauce".

Definitely a new favorite for me!

Monday, January 16, 2012

So cold

Well, I ate the cookies. And felt fairly guilty enough to run again. Also I was curious to get the distance I ran yesterday calculated correctly. It didn't warm up:

But I did find the correct distance--it was 2.42 miles! Over TWO miles! Though it did make for my worst pace average at 10:53 min/mile.

But I somewhat improved the pace today at 10:40. In the cold! I think I earned more cookies!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Running and freezing

While at my mom's house, I partied hard with my sister last night. And by "partied hard", I mean pretty much finishing a tub of cookies and fruit jellies while watching Augie's Patriots win the playoffs. So I had caloric guilt as motivation for run #3 this year. It's freezing here in Jersey so I waited until the afternoon to hopefully let it warm up. As you can see, it was worth the balmy wait:

28 degrees.  That's like freezing, right?

What made it tough was my nose runs more in the cold. And my legs feel extra stiff and less reluctant to move--I'm pretty sure they just want to hug each other instead. Also, my lungs felt like shriveled beef jerky.

They say to run "comfortably" you should be able to have a conversation while running. Unless gasping and breathing hard punctuated by foul language is considered conversation, I've still got a long way to go. On the plus side, I went for over 26 minutes. Unfortunately the GPS on my Runkeeper was off so I don't have the distance. I'll aim to run again and the same route to see if I can get a correct reading. But come on, 26 minutes, 28 degrees--I'm giving myself some credit for this one. Or cookies.

Cuteness for the weekend

Think he sees a lot of grownups on the phone?

Only he could make pushing a walker look totally adorable.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In a Year

I hope to say I finished two Mud Runs.  I found some great encouragement from this post from Karen Russell (I took a great photography and scrapbooking class with her) when she did her first Triathlon.  Besides a wonderfully honest post, I loved this quote from it:

Time is inevitably going to pass and one year from today, you can find yourself in the exact same spot you're in now, you can find yourself further away from your goal or you can find yourself closer to your goal - so where do you want to be a year from now?

Obviously this resonates not just with running but really anything that you want to grow in. And I love that it's not necessarily about accomplishing your goal--but that there is something to be said about working toward your goal. And of course, it is always pretty awesome when you do reach your goal. But it's a reminder that sometimes taking those initial steps is worth something too.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Eat Healthy While I'm Gone

Whenever I take a trip away from home, I try to leave it "taken care of" the best I can.  That at least means that the bills are paid, the laundry done, and that groceries have been shopped.  Ideally, I wish the house was clean and stuff put away before I left but that unfortunately falls to the wayside more often than not.

Knowing that Paul and Velina pretty much don't eat vegetables unless I prepare them for them, I at least try to leave plenty of ready-to-eat fruit so they at least get some fresh vitamins in. I also leave them with easy-labor, somewhat-healthy dinner and lunch ideas but I'm pretty sure there will be pizza boxes and sandwich wrappers in the garbage when I get back.

But at least they will have eaten some fruit.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Well I was able to get a little creative on the plane on our last trip to NY with the smash book I had made with the girl. I printed out a few phone pix in wallet size and packed some other memorabilia (like restaurant business cards, labels, etc.) I brought minimal supplies--a couple pens to write with, some decorative tape and glue stick for adhesive, a pair of blunt-tip child scissors (trying my luck since it was carry-on) to trim anything if necessary, and a small pad of decorative stickers and tiny alphas.

It really brought me back to scrapbooking--which I can't even remember the last time I put a page together. It's a much more simplified version but in that regard, it put a lot less pressure on designing a nice page and it lent itself to more journaling about the pic or moment. And it went faster too--I did a half dozen pages in a two hours of plane ride versus getting only one (if I was lucky) 12x12 layout done.

I'm heading back up NY/NJ tomorrow to help my mom with some doctor appointments and other things. I've printed out some pix from the last trip and aim to smash them in my downtime. Also hope to motivate myself to do some running. I'm thinking I'll be pretty occupied between the three--

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

For the mud run

After saying I would run Monday, then flaking, then saying Tuesday, then flaking, I put my foot down this morning and said I'm going to run today, come heck or high water.  And of course it was raining.  And to make it worse, so to speak, I was determined to add some distance and run 1.5 miles.

But I did it. 

And I even bettered my average pace up to 10.16 min/mile.  Am I dazzling you?

No, me neither, despite a congratulatory e-mail from RunKeeper saying I went my farthest distance today.

But I'm pressing on.  The mud runs consist of a 10K or approximately 6.2 miles.  I believe the conventional wisdom is to be able run half the distance comfortably (as in, on a regular basis), with a few occasions of running distances closer to the mud run distance.  So that puts me at 3 miles comfortably.  And goodness knows, I'm not comfortable now doing half that distance.  I've got quite a ways to go in my mind, but at least I've got a few months to get there.  Definitely open to the thought that I can get there.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


On this third day after rebooting--enjoying some natural peanut butter on a rice cake with a decaf coffee latte made with almond milk:

Yes it was delicious.  I'm doing okay with the decaf.  I think what I really missed about coffee in the morning was the sweet, warm ritual of it and for some reason, bitter green tea wasn't cutting it.  I know that even decaf has some caffeine in it, but hopefully not so much that it would debilitating again to be without it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

SAG Awards season

Another reminder that it's good to quit Netflix--SAG Awards are coming up!

Despite that I'm trying to cultivate an non-cluttering mindset, I kind of prefer the DVD screeners to the free rentals on iTunes because I can watch them on a TV screen, which is much bigger than my computer screen. But either way, I can't complain--really looking forward to watching (and voting on) some great movies!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I survived the reboot. The first two days were the hardest with just two shakes per day, plus water and green and herbal teas. And when I ate my first "food" of a rice cake with almond butter on the third day, I almost broke out in a sweat, like I do when I overeat. Sidenote: Paul goes, uh, you sweat when you eat sometimes? And I said, yeah, I guess when I overeat. What, you don't sweat? And he says, uhhhh...no. Yeesh I guess I should listen to my body more when it's kind of telling me it's had enough of eating.

The foods for the next 5 days are foods that discourage toxins and aid in the detox aspect. So it was mostly organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains. Foods that I was to avoid were foods that were determined to not aid detoxing (e.g., some contained common allergens), so no coffee/black tea, oranges, corn, soy, gluten, peanuts, dairy, eggs, and fish. So I had a lot of hummus and veggies, black bean soup and rice, lentil soup, etc. Another benefit after the first two days, was it kind of allowed me to reset my sense of portion control. I couldn't eat a huge meal, so it was great way for to get on track eating smaller meals.

Overall, I'm glad I did it. I will say that I felt a general drop in energy during this week, though I'm not sure if it was lack of coffee, drop in calories, or both  (which kind of got me thinking about how dependent I am on caffeine--leaning to switching to decaf).  And spending a week of not eating processed foods decreased my desire to eat them--eating whole foods felt much cleaner. And though it's not the aim of this detox to lose weight, I got on the scale this morning and it said I lost six pounds this week--down to 154.5. I do understand that it had a lot to do with the drop in calories consumed this week and that I started exercising again--including that arduous run yesterday. So I'll see how the weight levels out after I add non-detoxing foods this week.

As I start eating some of the foods that were avoided during the detox, I was advised to add them one at time to see if certain foods affect me in a negative way. And I'm aiming to stay with whole foods (i.e., not packaged, prepared, or fast foods) for as long as I can. The first food I decided to incorporate was soy, I think my body is craving some protein.

Tomorrow is coffee/tea--kind of really looking forward to that--even if it is decaf!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Running is kind of hard

I was so motivated by my decision on the Mud Runs that I decided to run this morning. A friend recommended the Runkeeper app for my iPhone so I can track my mileage, pace, time, and hopefully progress.

I ran a mile straight, no stopping or walking. Yeesh, it sucked. I kept checking the Runkeeper to see how much farther I had to go.  I felt like an asthmatic clomping horse with bricks for shoes. I'm pretty sure I could feel every step I ran in my brain.  So, it kind of made me think about running form.

I was e-chatting with a friend about running more on the fore-foot. The idea behind all those Vibram and other minimalist-type shoes, is to mimic barefoot running which is in theory how we're supposed to run. With all the cushioning in most running shoes, it's engineering us to run so that we land/slam on our heel, which creates an impact on our heel and through to the knees, hips, and spine, no matter how much cushioning there is. But according to the theory of barefoot running, we'd land more on the fore-foot and by instinct we'd control our landing on the fore-foot and therefore, it would be less of an impact on our bodies. So next time, I'll try to run more fore-foot. I'd like to feel less like a clomping horse.

Okay, I'm open to progress--here we go!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mud Run!

As I took on the resolution to break 150 this year, I didn't exactly have a plan except to do everything (exercising, eating better) more or harder. But yesterday I was given some focus, somewhat a la The Sermon. A friend at the gym where I work out was encouraging me to do the Mud Run here in Columbia in April. We had talked about it last year but at the very least I didn't think I could handle the running, much less the obstacles. She ended up joining a team that was fairly mixed and skewed towards non-hardcore athletes and she loved the experience. Somehow she thinks I'm a woman of determination and some degree of fitness and she said I would really enjoy the challenging experience as well. I was really tempted as she suggested we could be on the same low-pressure team.

Then a friend at work e-mailed me a few hours later that a group there wanted to do the Mud Run at Camp Pendleton in June and was I interested? Coincidence? Or a sign? Actually, years ago, another friend in the office and I would talk about putting together a team together for the Mud Run but it would sell out before we would actually do anything. And to a degree, I was kind of talking out of my butt because I found all the running, climbing, obstacles, and wet, wet mud, fairly intimidating at that time, too.

To be honest, I still find the mud run, wherever it is, pretty daunting, because A, I'm not a runner, B, I'm not a runner, and C, I'm not a runner.  Also the obstacles sound a bit overwhelming and I'm not inclined to expect my friends try to shove 160 pounds of Franny over a wall.  And then to do all this soaking wet in mud. 

But barring Divine providence, here is what I'm making of this:  that I should be open to getting out of my comfort zone.  That a departure from my norm may open me up to other possibilities.  That sometimes opportunities to grow present themselves and should be taken.  And that I get to cross something off the Bucket List.

So yes, I'm signing up for both Mud Runs.  Here we go, 2012!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Note to self: Cancel Netflix

When I was a kid I loved the library--I remember my parents would take me there every week. Needless to say I was a reader and the library is a great value and resource, available for free, which was pretty awesome then and still is today. In these days where the internet can be such a quick resource and you can buy books on sale and get them practically delivered to your hands, I think the library has gotten less attention.

But as I'm determined to maintain clutter-free (and remembering how many books I ended up donating), I've really fallen back in love with the library. The current system here impressively keeps up with latest titles and I can request books/CDs/DVDs online and they'll be delivered to my closest branch where I just waltz in and pick them up. I've borrowed fiction books that I wanted to read but not necessarily keep on my shelf. I've borrowed various sewing books and retained information from only a certain chapter and glad I didn't buy the book to collect dust in my bookcase. And on the flip side, I've borrowed a book or two that I want to re-read or re-reference in the future and may just end up purchasing it. So library books are great test-drives that way too.

I've also been enjoying borrowing CDs and catching up on some of the latest tunes and some of the ones I've missed. I just got a notification that Adele "19" CD is waiting for me. Hooray, new tunes!

Now I've finally checked out the library's DVDs and checked out some ones I've totally been wanting to see:

What I like about borrowing these DVDs from the library is that it also focuses my attention on movies I want to spend time watching rather than just mindlessly flipping through Netflix when I have downtime. Which I've confessed before was often spent catching up on tv shows rather than thought-provoking indie films (still haven't finished "Man on a Wire" as opposed to the episodes of "South Park" and "Family Guy") as I had initially planned. So I've decided to cancel Netflix. Besides not spending that money, it'll be focusing my downtime better. Does that count towards managing time better? I hope so.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Years Resolutions Addendum: One Little Word=Open

After some thought about how I barely achieved half of my New Year's resolutions last year, I wondered what drives me to continue with these every year. Is it because I'm a "list person"? Maybe except, that the joy of being a list person is being able to cross things off when they're done and well, I'd be missing some of the satisfaction there. I think maybe it helps me to have goals because it gives me some focus and there is a benefit to at least try. It seems opportunities are not just the ones bestowed on us but also the ones we make or plan for ourselves. And frankly, even when I'm trying and failing, at least I'm learning and growing.

So believe it or not, I'm also embracing One Little Word for this year. And my one little word is Open.

Because I realized to learn and grow I have to be open to change, surprises, and ugh, being wrong. I've witnessed a lot of stubbornness and I see that often it just doesn't pay off. And worse, there frequently is a burden one carries from that inflexibility. Yes, I recognize the productive version of this as perseverance or principled, so the hard part is recognizing when it's worth more to yield a bit. I think one mistake I've made more than once is thinking I'm done--like once I learn something then there isn't a need to learn another way to do it. Or if I reach a certain weight, will I think I'm done watching what I eat and do? I know some of the obstacles I have are due in part to stubbornly clinging to a certain way I do things or believe is the most efficient or right way to do something. I just hope I'm not too set in my ways to be open to different or new ideas and thoughts.

Okay, so here we go 2012!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Michigan State wins the Outback Bowl!

It was a busy day of Bowl games, including the Capital One Bowl where Paul was torn between rooting for South Carolina and Nebraska, though USC won out.  The Outback Bowl game was easier for me when Michigan State bested Georgia in the 3rd OT with a blocked field goal.  Michigan State was also the only Big 10 team (out of five) to win their Bowl game today so that felt pretty good too.

The hardest part of the day was being on day 2 of the reboot where I could only have 2 "shakes", which it seems there wasn't any effort to make it a nice smoothie flavor.  It sort of has this vague savory and woody flavor which really has me craving a nice fake strawberry flavor badly.  The first day (yesterday) wasn't so bad as I seriously think my body has so many excess calories stored that it didn't really register the few calories I consumed. This second day my body definitely recognized that all I was giving it was 2 more measly shakes. And it responded with a mild headache and general fatigue. And the worst bad breath. Definitely looking forward to tomorrow when I get to eat food. Rice cakes never looked so good.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

So I've been pondering last year's New Year's resolutions and my goals for 2012 the last few weeks. First, I didn't get much further on my 2011 resolutions since November. Second, at 160.5, I am over two pounds heavier than the first day of 2011--where I was about two pounds heavier than the first day of 2010. Yeesh, this better not be a trend. On that note, I've decided to start my reboot today. It'll be kind of a bummer to watch the Bowl games tomorrow without my usual fave snack foods but I'm pretty sure my body is craving a reboot more. Finally, I decided to narrow my focus on this year's resolutions.

When I reviewed what I came up short on, I was most disappointed with my pace in photography (even more so than my weight gain). I'm disappointed that I'm still stymied by a post-production workflow. So that's a priority this year.

Also, watching my mom's various diagnoses roll in was a sort of wake-up call. I will credit myself that I'm more active than I think my mom was at my age but I know my eating habits can roll into the indulgent more often than they should. So I'll keep my goal of breaking 150 because I know that exercise alone isn't going to get me there, eating healthier will and that's something I want to focus on this year.

Overall, I think managing my time and productivity will be key to everything.  It's not just about working more, but also about working more efficiently.  I feel like I've read a good bit on this and it's really about putting it into action.  Then I hope to have more time for crafting, movies, and books.

In summary, my New Year's Resolutions for 2012 is:

- Manage time better
- Getting a good post-production workflow for photos
- Break 150

I know I need to break this down to a specific plan but this is the big picture for me in 2012.  Anybody else got plans for the new year?