Thursday, February 28, 2013

Highlights of this NJ trip so far

Gotta love a good toilet mascot:

Having coffee with a good friend:

And also enjoying a good meal:

Sweet visits from sweet babies:

Free songs from Starbucks:

This "Adorn" song has a groove reminiscent of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing", to me, at least.

And I've been able to get crafty!

Went to visit a rehab facility and I was spacing on the name of the person I spoke to and the receptionist says, "Oh, you're Mrs. So-and-So--you're here to interview for the secretary position, right?"  And I was dressed like this:

Would so love it if the job description said, "Dress code: Sporty Spice, circa 1995"

A non-highlight on this trip would be the cold weather up here:

But on the plus side, there is a Trader Joe's with these delicious beauties about 25 minutes away:

A slightly guilty pleasure here was working out at the local gym here. They have a good deal of $100 for 12 visits for an excellent facility.  I know I should be saving money and just running outside for miles but it's been so cold, I just know I would forgo exercising altogether.  Plus, I hate running.  And since it's been a bit of a sanity-saver to do something for my health, it's been kind of worth it.

And of course, it's been great to spend time with my sister up here!  Hoping to catch up with some other NYC folks while I'm here...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tired of the Complaining

And by that I mean, by me.  Currently, my family and I are dealing with a number of challenges, including the current whopper of my mom's surgery and slow recovery.  It's been discouraging and frustrating to say the least.  So it's been very, very easy to feel hopeless and sometimes paralyzed in the mire of such challenges.  But Paul recently forwarded this newsletter he got from St. George's for the Lenten season.  It was a list of things to "Fast From and Feast On".  I wasn't raised going to church but I found the list very inspiring and encouraging.  The suggestions that spoke to me were:

"Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation."
"Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light."
"Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude."
"Fast from anger; Feast on patience."

And it's helped my outlook greatly.  As frustrating as the struggles are, I'm focusing on what I can do or have any bit of control of.  It also allowed me to recognize and appreciate the good folks that we are fortunate to have in our lives, from a nursing or health aide to good friends who allow me to rant, especially over coffee and food.  Not only have such folks been a source of comfort and support, they have been role models on going onward and upward.

In case you're interested, here's the full list:

Fast From - Feast On

The Feast of the great celebration of Easter when all is made new is the comfort that allows us strength during the great 40 day Fast.

Fast From-Feast On

Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; Feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; Feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; Feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; Feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; Feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; Feast on prayer that [strengthens].

-William Arthur Ward (American author, teacher and pastor, 1921-1994.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Brooklyn Sunday

With my mom recovering from major surgery, it's been pretty busy in NJ.  I got a little reprieve and spent Sunday in Brooklyn, with my sweet-cheeked niece:

And my adorable nephew:

And we managed to squeeze in a delicious brunch out:

I LOVE these moments:

I thought Augie was going to be jealous of the attention that his new sister would get but he's been so sweet doting on her too.  Hope it stays that way!  It warms me so much when he gives her a big kiss complete with the sound effect, Mwah!

Now that my sister lives in Brooklyn, I drive over the Verrazano bridge every visit. 

Definitely better than the tunnel so far (tough to be worse than about a dozen lanes being funneled down to 2 lanes for the tunnel) and more scenic, but it kind of gives me the sads when I think of the scenes here in Saturday Night Fever.  Yeesh, anybody else remember that movie?  At least now, I have couple of sweet-cheeked reasons to attach happy memories to the Verrazano bridge now!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Off to NJ - via train!

I'm heading to see my mom who is in the hospital again, but will hopefully be transitioning to rehab soon. Fingers crossed! Because of the short notice and undefined length of stay, I'm giving traveling by a train a go. It's a decent rate (about the same as an airline ticket at a very good sale price) and by traveling out of the Charlotte station, most of the travel will be during the night and arrives around 1pm in NJ.

So we all drove up to Charlotte and treated the girl to a nice BBQ dinner together:

Unfortunately, I had a bit of downtime in the train station after being dropped off around 8:30pm:

And the train wasn't scheduled to leave until close to 2am

And didn't actually arrive until after 3am:

I'm not sure if Amtrak does this for all late night boarding, but as we boarded, a conductor gave each of us a specific seat number so we didn't have to go searching for a seat.  And once on the train, it was rather comfy. I loved the leg room and the seats reclined nicely and even had a leg support.  Only a blanket would have made it cozier.  Plus each pair of seats had an outlet by the window.  My seat partner settled in to watch "Madea Goes to Jail" on her portable DVD player while I passed out.

I woke up around 7am in Virginia:

And Manassas:

It was kind of neat passing Washington DC:

Well, I guess it was kind of a back door view of Washington DC:

I was a bit thrilled when the conductor said we weren't expecting many more passengers and we could spread out. I got a pair of seats to myself and had BOTH plugs to myself:

The only downside of the trip was going to the restroom and the lady comes out, pauses, looks me straight in the eye, and says, "It is nasty in there." 

Which is funny, because at first, "I'm like, whoa.  What did you do in there, lady?!"  But I realize she was trying to say it was gross to begin with and the current state is not entirely her fault.  Which I have to say in Amtrak's defense, is what I kind of expected.  I have been on enough road trips to have witnessed very, very gross bathrooms and this wasn't close.  But it's similar to going to an airplane bathroom that has hit a lot of turbulence and you're like, "Ugh, I hope this is water I'm stepping on...and I wish I didn't have a sense of smell right now."

Overall, given that I slept during half this trip and there was electricity to keep me wired (and I only had to use the bathroom once), I wouldn't be opposed to traveling like this again (well, besides my return ride).  My only wish (besides not needing to use the restroom) would be a cart of coffee and snacks that would roll down the aisle like they do on airplanes (or on that train that takes Harry Potter to Hogwarts).  Yes, they have a cafe car somewhere on this train but if we're talking about wishing I didn't need to use the restroom, I might as well wish for the cart too, right?

And here's the sign that we're pulling into the old home station, the famous "Trenton Makes The World Takes" bridge:

Home sweet home.

Monday, February 11, 2013

SC Philharmonic Youth Orchestras

The girl performed with the SC Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's String Orchestra last night. She had a nice viola solo, which was a great change-up from a violin solo. In the humble opinion of a mom of a violist.

Hope she continues playing the viola--still enjoying listening to her play.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2012 in review

Around spring of last year, I started making a list.  If you ask my daughter, she would tell you that I LOVE making lists--To Do lists are my favorite, with grocery lists coming in second.  Anyhoo, I decided to make a list of the events I partook in, including "firsts", books I read, and movies (and notable television) I saw.

I'm really glad I did it. I saw I did a lot of "firsts" as well as saw a number of movies. It kind of made me realize that I did more things than I would have thought I did if I hadn't recorded them.

Some major "firsts":
- lowered my cholesterol by over 40 points from last fall and under 200 (from 231 to 186)
- became vegan and continue to eat "plant strong"
- did my first Mud Run--the South Carolina Mud Run & my first "world famous" Camp Pendleton Mud Run
- ran my longest nonstop distance (6.5 miles) and did my first unassisted pull-up
- ate at an Iron Chef restaurant
- visited new places like Charleston, Petco Park, and the top of San Jacinto
- led a fundraising walk for NAMI
- saw Liza Minelli LIVE

I also:
- saw and held new babies, including my new niece
- saw over 40 movies for the first time, some in the theater and most on DVD.  Some were really memorable like Silver Linings Playbook, Blue Valentine, Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Departures, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and Forks Over Knives.
- read nine books (ugh, embarrassingly low number), including The Hunger Games series (the only fiction I completed) though I continually look through Edible Selby
- got sucked into Downton Abbey
- broke 150

Other highlights:

Receiving this Polaroid Z2300.  The photo quality isn't top notch but it's been really fun to print out pix right at the moment.  Plus the pictures have sticker backs!  I made impromptu cards at gatherings, like a birthday celebration, and I've loved giving a memento at the end of the night.  I made these little photo cards for all of Velina's friends when they were here for New Year's and they signed notes on it to each other.

I know we lost a lot of greats in 2012, but for some reason, this was the only eulogy I saved, Chuck D's eulogy of Adam Yauch:

My favorite food discoveries were green smoothies and No Knead bread making.  I still make and enjoy them regularly.

Though I didn't track all the new music I listened to, the songs that were memorable to me last year that I listened to a lot were: Frank Ocean's "Thinking About You", Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen's "Good Time", Calvin Harris' "Feel So Close", Benjamin Francis Leftwich's "Atlas Hand", and fun's "We are Young".

My favorite rediscovery was our library.  I loved going as a kid but libraries have modernized incredibly and the county library here ROCKS.  The DVD, music, and book collections are impressively current and diverse, and it has saved me so much money on rentals and purchases.  Though I have definitely made purchases if I have liked a book, CD, or DVD enough--sometimes as a gift, sometimes for me to keep so I can refer to it whenever I want.   On top of that, our library has Freegal service which offers 3 free (and yes, legal) song downloads a week from their Sony catalog.  I've totally built up my Glee and Calvin Harris collection from it.  They also pull requests--I can do a search online and request it and they'll e-mail me when it's ready for pick up at my local branch--so easy when I'm feeling lazy and it saves me gas from going to another branch.  And they also have e-books to borrow and e-magazines.  I don't know if it's been a while since you went to your library, but if you haven't, I highly recommend it--it's been great rediscovering my library experience.

In terms of my resolutions for 2012, the only one I accomplished was breaking 150.  But in terms of "one little word" for 2012, "open", I feel great, especially in terms of all my firsts.  I'm wrestling with continuing these same resolutions for 2013 (because of course, I'm above 150 again) but I'd like to at least update it a bit.  I know I missed making my resolutions on January 1 (thanks, Franken-flu) but I'll take the late opportunity of kicking it off with the lunar new year!

Any suggestions?

Friday, February 8, 2013

After the SuperBowl

I think I have to confess that I really enjoy eating for the Super Bowl--almost as much as watching the game.  Something about the big game just gives me license to eat all the treats I crave--chips (both potato and corn), guacamole, salsa, hummus, toasted start:

Man, I love guacamole so much.  I'd love to eat a bowl of it every day.

Well, it certainly turned out to be an interesting Super Bowl. Between the power failure of over half an hour, and despite a lopsided beginning, a neck and neck battle to the end. And of course, the fierce Beyonce photo controversy.  For the record, I'd be lucky to look like that at my best.

I have to say it was slim pickings this year in terms of commercials.  I felt the bulk of them were for CBS TV shows.  My favorite commercial was the Hyundai Team commercial: 

The worst was that Go Daddy spot where the model makes out with the "brains" guy.  The heightened sound effects of their kissing were excruciating.  It was like listening to someone eating a banana with his mouth open.

Sigh.  Though I am comforted that the Ravens have won and look forward to Brendon Ayanbadejo celebrating with Ellen, it's going to a while before football season starts again.  Is it time for March Madness yet?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Baby shower!

T&E had their baby shower in January, I got to experiment with some more vegan and gluten-free baking.  I made these Snickerdoodles, which were a big hit:

The vegan & gluten-free coconut cupcakes I made were well-received also, but the chocolate ones were found to be a bit "hearty":

Other friends made these delightful (non vegan/gf) boobie cupcakes!  Also a hit, ironically not a bust (haha!)

This was one of my favorite activities.  A couple of tables were set up with blank wood blocks and paint and we got to paint some very unique and personalized blocks:

I loved the creativity (and artistry) of these!

The baby shower was also a "gender reveal" party--my guess was boy.  At the end, T&E released traditionally colored balloons to reveal their baby's gender:

AHA! I was right!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Performance at the Columbia Museum of Art

The girl was invited, via her orchestra, to be a part of a performance art piece at the Columbia Museum of Art in January.  The instructions said to bring a sound, so I supplied the girl and her friend with dominoes and a jar of rice.

Apparently there was perhaps a tacit understanding that the girl was supposed to bring their instruments.  Erg.  Oops.

But it turned out to be all right.

It was a bit of a challenge as an audience member with a cough as it was a very quiet, subtle piece that lasted 75 minutes. But overall, an interesting experience.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Catch Up: Holidays in the Northeast

We spent the Christmas holidays up in NJ, CT, and NY.  We got to see my mom and of course, the girl was excited to see her sweet little cousins:

And she also got to perform a little holiday concert with her cousins-in-law in CT:

It was the first time she got to meet Josie--so any face time was precious:

After Christmas, we went back down to NY and enjoyed fabulous pizza in SoHo:

As well as delicious Salty Pimps at Big Gay Ice Cream--despite the chilly weather!

Family, New York, and Food--what makes holidays better?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl!

Really looking forward to Super Bowl because not only is it an interesting HarBowl where the two Harbaugh brothers are the head coaches of these two teams but also because I love football watching food. On the menu, plenty of chips (both potato and corn), guacamole, salsa, hummus, celery & carrots, and toasted nuts. To start.

Since I grew up in a town split between supporting the Eagles or the Giants or Jets, I didn't quite follow a home team. Instead I admire various players and will root for my family and friends teams when the opportunity arises. So who to root for today?

Given that sometimes I feel like a dreamer when it comes to ending legal discrimination of gays, I'm glad I'm not the only one when Baltimore Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo steps up and tries to promote gay rights during this Super Bowl.  (Unlike the disappointment of hearing Texas governor Rick Perry opposing the Boy Scouts desire to start ending their discrimination of gays.)  So, what can I say, let's go Ravens!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Catch-up: Cali

Also while I was in SoCal, I got to see Liza Minnelli LIVE with Men Alive!  Not only do I get to cross off seeing the legendary Liza Minnelli live off my bucket list, it was a fabulous concert!

Also crashed my friends' kid's birthday party.  The food was great, the kids were adorable, and the party got crafty (bonus: I think I got the oldest into scrapbooking--fingers crossed!):

Loved this simple holiday decoration on this house:

I went to see Silver Linings Playbook in one of these new posh movie theaters where the chairs and armrests are like the wide and roomy first class seating on an airplane.  They also offer wine, beer, champagne, and gelato at concessions as well as reserved seating.  The ticket price went up to about $18 a ticket so it'll probably be a fun indulgence now and then for me!

Also, we had an informal book club while I was out there.  We read and discussed People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry about a young woman who goes missing in Tokyo.  I wouldn't have picked up this true crime book on my own, but it was really well-written and fairly riveting.

Most of all, I just loved spending time catching up with my friends.  Time always goes by too fast when I'm out there.  Needless to say, looking forward to my next trip out there.