Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Alien bunny slippers

Originally uploaded by j_m_k
In which aliens kidnap DH by using innocent looking bunny slippers (a la A Christmas Story but without the whole pink bunny suit)...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Alumni conference call

I went Shippensburg University, a smallish state school in Pennsylvania. While I was in school, my family relocated to North Carolina and I joined them here when I graduated. Most of the people that I graduated with went back to places like Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia or Cherry Hill, NJ. A couple of years ago, the Shippensburg alumi association contacted me and a group of us went to a Carolina Hurricanes game. Last year, there was an event and just this week, they organized a conference call with us to discuss possible events for this year. I thought that was really neat. About a half dozen of us were on the call and we've been exchanging e-mails as well. It looks like we are going to get a tent at the Great Grapes festival in April. The university president is going to try to make it to both Raleigh and Charlotte for events.

Even more exciting than that, one of the other Shippensburg graduates heard me say something about "my training will be ramping up again at that time of year." He e-mailed me seperately and said that he is
"thinking -- so far, just thinking stage -- about doing a triathlon"

Ah, I know how that goes. I trained as if I was going to ride the MS150 for month or so before I actually bit the bullet and signed up for my first one. He's a goner.

I'm very excited to have made this connection with another Shippensburg person. How cool.

Before the Break Timesink

This is the last day my office is opened this year. Things are getting pretty slow around here so I have been testing my knowledge.

Find Sonography schools near you

FWIW, I got occurrance occurrence wrong.

Then I moved on to happy Christmas quizzes and discovered that my Elf name is Happy Stocking Stuffer.

Your Elf Name Is...

Happy Stocking Stuffer

... and my reindeer name is Prancer.
You Are Prancer

You are the perfect reindeer, with perfect hooves and perfect flying form.

Why You're Naughty: Because you're Santa's pet, and you won't let anyone show you up.

Why You're Nice: You have the softest fur and the sweetest carrot breath.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday spice cookies

These are some of my favorite holiday cookies, not that I've met many home baked cookies that I didn't like. I love the combination of spices and the fact that they are not at all fussy to make. My only complaint is that they kind of need a different name since they are only balls going into the oven. I'd hate to rename them, though, since they are named for someone's grandmother.

If you've never used freshly ground nutmeg before, this should convert you! It make a real difference.

Ruth Moulton's Spice Balls

Note that these "balls" will be flat after baking.

12 Tbs ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp table salt

  • Combine the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses.
  • Sift the flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt together onto a piece of parchment. Add to the butter mixture in 2 batches, beating just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 3 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a pie plate. Shape the dough into walnut-size balls and roll in the sugar to coat. Arrange 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets (Silpat works fine) and bake until cracked and dry but still soft, about 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cool on wire racks.
Yield: about 48 cookies

Source: Sara Moulton Cooks at Home

Dealing with bureaucracy at the DMV

I went to DMV to renew my driver's license this week and was told I needed to my social security number straight -- I had a post-9/11 "SSN Mismatch" error thrown by the DMV computer. I was shocked by this because this is not my first encounter with the NC DMV since REAL ID. DMV employee handed me a paper with the directions to the Social Security office -- and the Mexican Consulate on it! Apparently this is a common double trip.

When DH and I got married nearly (gulp) fifteen years ago and I changed my name, I went through a lot of grief because I was born in outside of the United States. I gave the social security folks my birth certificate, social security card and marriage certificate and they said, "You're not American." I had to produce all sorts of other paperwork (so sorry that my dad is a US Veteran and was Serving His Country when I was born. hate to inconvenience you.) I kind of mentally freaked out for a while and went to social security and waited Over An Hour to find out that Nothing is Wrong. I went back to DMV... with additional paperwork to try to convince them that I'm not someone that Homeland Security -- motto: Preserving our Freedoms, Protecting America -- needs to worry about.

I managed to bring enough paperwork this time and they let me renew until 2015 or some such.

BTW, the DMV had a typo and that was the root cause of the mess.

Ah, the joys of dealing with bureaucracy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kitchen Cleanup

Originally uploaded by Janyne K.
We had some help cleaning up after making the filling for the buckeyes.

Making Buckeye Candy

This weekend DH and I embarked on our annual candy making extravaganza. We made two batches of buckeyes, chocolate covered orange mints, peanut butter fudge, chocolate fudge, nut brittle and peppermint bark. We like to make a variety of candies and give them to friends and neighbors. One of our favorites is buckeye candies which are a delicious combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

The candies are named for their resemblance of the the buckeye seed, described as "hard, brown, shiny, and slightly irregular." Buckeyes are inedible members of the horse-chestnut family and are actually a nutlike seed. It is said that Native Americans called the seeds the "eye of the buck" and that is the origin of the name buckeye. A lot of other folklore is associated with word buckeye as well.

We had some help cleaning up after I made the filling.


1 cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened (a half stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ to 3 cups confectioner's sugar
5 ounces dark chocolate candy coating
1 ounce baking chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla by hand or with an electric mixed. Gradually add the powdered sugar, blending until smooth and the mixture can be shaped into balls. Shape into ball ¾ to 1 inch in diameter. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet. Cover and chill or freeze for 20 minutes or longer.
  • Cover a large counter top area or a large baking sheet with waxed paper.
  • Melt the candy coating. Insert a toothpick into the top of each ball and dip the bottom two-thirds of each ball into the melted chocolate, leaving one-third uncoated. Carefully slide teh balls onto waxed paper so that the undipped portion is pointed upwards. Remove the toothpicks. Using a knife or metal spatula, smooth over the whole left by the toothpick. Let stand until chocolate is firm. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: 48 pieces

Recipe Source: Who Wants Candy? by Jane Sharrock

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Secret Santa

Every year and e-mail list that I belong to does a Secret Santa gift exchange. In an earlier article, I mentioned that Hannah offered her Quality Control assistance with our outgoing package.

Each year, I hesitate before signing up for Secret Santa. I am always so unsure about what to get for the person whose name I get. I never really feel good about what I send. What do Rottweilers and Chihuahuas play with? Feeling a good bit of angst, I sent three (size appropriate) bone shaped toys in camo fabric, a rope bone, dog treats, a kong, kong stuffing, chocolates for the humans and a book called How to Have an Ill Behaved Dog (and I kept my fingers crossed that my recipient had the sense of humor that I thought she did!). On the other hand, I like reading about the secret Santa deliveries on the list.

As I see it, there are a few problems with SS.
  • The sign up date is so darn early. The deadline for signing up this year was originally in October. I understand, in a way. People want to know who they are assigned early enough to order a special gift, receive the gift, wrap it and then send it in the mail. The other part of the deadline -- get it in the mail by December 15 -- is set by the Post Office. December 15 is the last day for mailing by parcel post with an expected delivery prior to Christmas. Unfortunately, some people on the list seem to think that the gift should have been received by December 15.
  • The rules aren't really followed which makes me feel like I'm flying without a net.
    We try to set a limit at $20-$25. It is your prerogative to go over that limit, but you do not need to.
    The thing is, no one does that. So if the limit isn't really $25, where does that leave me?
Clearly these complaints aren't too serious. I participated again this year!

On Friday, we received a box from our secret Santa -- Elf Steph (aka, She Who Should Use Her Blog More). Elf Steph and her sidekick Reilly really outdid themselves and basically over did it. The girls received a Pink Pig and a similar sheep. Both the pig and sheep make a grunting nose that fascinates Emma. Hannah has been carrying one or the other around the house with her for days. They also received a bright orange retrieval kong toy for playing with outside and treats galore. Our elf also sent the human household members a gingerbread loaf (which Hannah attempted to claim for dogdom) and chocolate chip cookies and a cycling themed shirt and a desk calendar. Basically, it was an embarrassingly large array of goodies!
I only hope that my recepients enjoyed their package as much as we've enjoyed ours!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Humane Society Traces Expensive Pups to Pet Mills - New York Times

As anyone who has ever adopted a dog from a shelter or worked with a pet rescue organization can tell you, this is very sad and, unfortunately, not very surprising. Please adopt from a shelter or rescue group or work with a reputable breeder.

Humane Society Traces Expensive Pups to Pet Mills - New York Times

P.S. Please no Christmas puppies either.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hannah is not getting old

Hannah offers Quality Control

Hannah almost got herself into really bad trouble doing an inspection of our outgoing Secret Santa gift. I think that she wanted to do some Quality Control." AH!!! As a friend said, this could have been tragic for the recipients!

Hannah gets Stuck

After Miss Hannah offered her services Secret Santa Quality Control Inspector last night, we sat down to watch a movie (Hairspray). Hannah and Emma can never make it through a movie and after some insistence on their part, we had an intermission to let the girls out. Emma came right back in and Hannah was delayed.

I went out to the deck and I could see her "stuck." She would put on foot on the bottom step and then back up and then put her foot on the bottom step and sniff the next stop and back up again. She just couldn't see well enough to confidently do the steps. All the while she was rapidly wagging her tail. I went down the half dozen or so steps to sit with her and offered to lead her up and she wagged her tail and kissed me.

I went and asked DH to provide elevator service. All the while, DH told Hannah, "It's OK to ask for help." When lift Hannah, she is uncomfortable. She much prefers DH for this.

We let the girls out the front door for Final Call. The front yard has only two steps but is unfenced.

Hannah had a regular vet appointment scheduled for this evening anyway. This situation was discussed and we all agree that it is a night vision/depth perception problem. She has seen the eye doctor and her vision problems were put down as normal aging for a Labrador retriever. This morning, she did fine getting up the steps in the dark.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Digital Grandma

On a brighter note, I've been putting together some photos for Grandma's Christmas gift. We're giving her a digital photo frame and I've been gathering some pictures to put on a memory card for her. We've noticed that she likes pictures of herself so a lot of them are of her!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Grandma's Saga continues...

When last I wrote, Grandma had eaten two servings of lasagna and feeling fine after a somewhat miraculous recovery.

Tuesday morning, however, she called 911 because The Pain was so bad. It was so bad that she did not call Mom, who is less than one mile away. Grandma was taken to the emergency room where a CT Scan revealed nothing new. Additional tests were preformed and she was referred to a surgeon after tests revealed an "abnormal bowel gas pattern" in her abdomen. She was went home with a stronger dose of the pain pills that she is taking intermittently. Tuesday afternoon, she called Mom to let her know about the eventful morning. Yesterday, Grandma was feeling fine and was in a good mood.

Grandma sees the surgeon next Tuesday.

I am wondering why she did this end run on Mom? Is she acting out or really in sick? I'd hate to think that she was really really sick and we not taking her seriously. It all reminds me a bit of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The whole situation makes me feel bad. I hate that my grandmother isn't feeling well -- whether it's a physical or emotional problem. I hate that my mother is having to deal with the fallout. I hate that the medical community sometimes confuses quantity of life with quality of life.

Hey Spot, You’ve Got Mail - New York Times

Hey Spot, You’ve Got Mail - New York Times

My dogs have e-mail accounts. Do yours?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Things that I don't like about Christmas

When I mentioned my Top Ten post to DH, he said, can I make a list of things that I don't like about Christmas? I said sure and the first thing that he said was shopping. I actually like that part so I won't list it here!

Things that I don't like about the holidays
  • Ba Humbug types
  • The commercials. Hint: You wouldn't need the milk of magnesia if you controlled your eating. Oh, and I hope that you weren't expecting a new car for Christmas either. The Lexus one is is particularly annoying. And the Zales and Jared jewelery ones. Ah well, I guess that's why we have a DVR.
  • Holiday Creep - Can you please please wait until December to send me cards! Can you please wait until at least Halloween before sending me catalogs? Please.
  • New Year's Eve - I think that New Year's Eve is a fake holiday. I've never been much into the drinking thing and the idea of a bunch of drunks celebrating midnight by watching something drop from the sky and then getting in their cars to drive home turns me off. Is it just me or is the entire purpose of the holiday to get drunk and then wear funny hats? At this point we've already given thanks and celebrated friend and family. I've tried to go out for dinner that night but that doesn't work well either. For the past several years, we've had Carolina Hurricanes tickets and that kind of works for me. New Year's Eve just seems to be a big disappointment. Maybe it's holiday letdown already.
  • Commercialism. I do think that they holidays are getting more and more commercial and becoming less and less about friends and family and traditions. People are buying holiday treats instead of baking them and so on. I know that this is not a new phenomena. Heck it's lamented in A Charlie Brown Christmas which was made before I was born.

Top Ten Things I Like about Christmas

I really like the holiday season and I have been thinking about my favorite things about it. Here I try to boil it down to the top ten things that I like about Christmas. I like that atmosphere and foods in general but it's more than that. For me, the time flies during the holiday season and I'm busy but in a good way. I try to be organized and get a lot of things things done little-by-little so that I can slow down and enjoy the time, rather than have a frenetic crunch at the end of the month.

Below I've listed some of my favorite things about the Christmas, in now particular order. What are your Christmas top ten?
  1. Shopping for and giving gifts. Playing Santa. I really enjoy coming up with creative ideas for people.
  2. Gatherings. Friends and family. An excuse to get together.
  3. Happiness. People tend to be in a good mood -- except Grinches.
  4. Smells. The aroma of baking cookies. Cinnamon. Piney Christmas trees.
  5. Holiday movies: Rudolph, Elf, A Christmas Story, Scrooged (some years) and even Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation.
  6. Making cookies and candies to give. In recent years, DH and I have had a cookie and candy baking weekend. We then package up the goodies to share with friends and coworkers. I love this tradition.
  7. Stollen. OK, so this is maybe a birthday thing for me since my birthday is on the 25th. I've always had stollen for my birthday breakfast. It's the one time of year that I have it and I am smiling even as I type this.
  8. Playing dress up for holiday gatherings. It's nice to get the fancy cloths out once in a while!
  9. Photos. I love to receive new pictures from out-of-town friends
  10. Decorated houses. I like to see the holiday lights in some neighborhoods (just wait until at least Thanksgiving before putting them up and please take them down in January!)

Grandma's episodic health issues

My 87-year-old grandmother's health-related episodes have a definitely pattern. The week before Thanksgiving, my mother said that she had until about a week after Thanksgiving before my grandmother's illnesses flared up. I don't know if it's nerves or attention getting or what.

My mother's prediction was off, but not by much. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Grandma let Mom know that "the pain" was getting worse. I don't doubt that her pain is real but Grandma always refers to it as The Pain, sometimes causing DH to make Lost in Space references.
Mom: Are you taking your pain pills?

Grandma: Yes.

Mom: Are you taking them every six hours?

Grandma: I take them every morning.

Grandma wanted to go to the doctor. When asked what the doctor could do for her, Grandma indicated that pain pills was what she needed. When it was pointed out that she had pain pills, my grandmother said that she really needed some antibiotics. Grandma called for an appointment.

The situation got worse before seeing her general practitioner. The following weekend, she said that she might need to go to the emergency room. She was still not taking her medications as directed. Mom talked to her again about following the directions and said, "If you're not better in a few hours, I'll take you." Mom did some errands and came back to a blinking answering machine light and a message from Grandma saying that she was well enough to come over to my parents for Sunday dinner. Apparently about an hour after talking to Mom the pain suddenly went away. Smart money says that she finally had taken the pain medication. That evening, Grandma packed away two generous servings of lasagna. Her stomach must not have been bothering too much.

My parents had to be bad guys and explain that no one wants for her to be in pain and that she either had to take the medication prescribed in the dosage prescribed or she would have to go to a nursing home where they could help her out with this. Mom has mentioned to me that Grandma's episodes are starting sooner -- the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of the week after Thanksgiving -- and lasting longer. This is not good.

This has been an ongoing process and I've mentioned it before. We all want for it to be her decision to go to an assisted living facility on her terms. She really does need to take her medications though, especially since they seem to help. One concern that we have is that she is not putting it all together anymore.

I don't mean to belittle her problems. Grandma does have some medical issues, namely atypical tuberculous, along with a pulmonary specialist to go with it, and a small B-cell lymphoma that her oncologist is keeping an eye on. The symptoms that she complains about, though, are things that have been bothering her for twenty or thirty years. In other words, not new. It's difficult for us to know if The Pain is worse now or not. Again, I wonder if she is subconsciously going through this for attention.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Our fearless watchdogs

DH was out of town last week. This is not a regular occurrence and it pretty much rocked Hannah and Emma's world. By the end of the week, they had adjusted but the were not really happy about it.

When DH got back into town, his flight was late and I ended up going to bed. The girls came with me. All of us fell asleep.

DH came home. He pulled he car into the garage. No dogs.

He came into the house through the kitchen. No dogs.

He brought his suitcase upstairs. No dogs.

He opened the bedroom door. No dogs.

Oh, wait, dogs. Hannah got off the bed and sniffed DH. Emma gave DH a welcome home kiss without really moving.

I feel safe.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Update on The Talk

Well, I lunched with my mom on Wednesday and we did have The Talk about my birthday and my brother and it went relatively (ha ha!) well. Nothing was really decided but it was important to me to get the issue on the table. We agreed that my brother's problems are his own and my mom offered to talk to my dad about his role the situation.

We discussed a few options:
  1. Status quo. Birthday celebration on my birthday at my house. Mom talks to dad to see if that will help.
  2. Birthday celebration out at a restaurant, not on my birthday. Dog Christmas on another day.
  3. Birthday celebration at my house, not on my birthday. Dog Christmas on another day.
I don't know that it will help at all but I do feel better having had my airing of grievances, albeit not at immediately after the Festivus as tradition would dictate. (Then again, with Festivus, there are no rules!)

After sleeping on it and discussing it with DH, I suggested that we give the second option a try this year. We'll see if it sticks or not!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Emma antics

DH is out of town so our morning routine is a little bit different. I usually get up and feed and potty the girls and then head out to the gym while the girls go back to bed. Today, they hung out with me. I had my core work on the workout schedule for today so I did that before going to spin class.

Hannah is aware that when I get on the floor to play with the balance ball and do crunches, etc., I am no fun. She comes and sniffs me from time to time to make sure that I am OK but otherwise, let's me get my workout done. Emma is very much a daddy's girl and if he is around, she focuses on him. This morning Emma kind of stood and watched me. When I got my obliques -- crunches with a twist -- Emma was pretty sure that I was suggesting that we play. She started to jump up and down and play bow and kiss me and left in a huff when I did not respond appropriately!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Talk

I'm having lunch with my mom this week and I need to gather my thoughts for The Talk. I've been dreading it. My birthday is on December 25th which poses some problems challenges. My major issues have related to the guest list and menu.

The major challenge that I have is how to deal with my brother. He is about three years younger than I am, he is single. He is now in language school. He does not communicate with the family much at all. In fact, I have not heard from him since last December despite the fact that I have contacted him multiple times since then. He is coming to the area on December 24th and I strongly suspect it has more to do with school being closed than the fact that he wants to see any of us.

Last year, when he was at my house, he made faces at what I served for my birthday dinner and he sat and pouted. My father spent most of his time trying to get my brother out of his funk. My brother seemed to make it clear that he was there because he did not see not coming as an option, not because he wanted to be there or to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately, this is par for the course and I really I do not care to experience this again.

What I want to talk about with my mom is options. What are some good options that will allow me to celebrate my birthday -- preferably on my birthday -- and not have to deal with my pouting brother.

It would be very helpful if I could figure out what I wanted from all of this. As it stands now, I don't see a way for everyone to be happy.

Any brilliant ideas out there?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

This year my family had our regular Thanksgiving hoo-ha at my parent's place, about 30 minute's drive from my house. I was discouraged from riding my bike there, so I road in the morning and arrived by car with DH for our 2:00 summons. The usual suspects were all there -- my mom and dad, my aunt and uncle from France (OK, so they're not Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd), my grandmother, DH and me.

This year we are opted to forgo Grandma's inedible pumpkin pie in favor of pumpkin pie cheesecake provided by moi. We'll have to see if this is a new tradition or not. I do think that we've seen the last of the rock hard pie crust though!

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 4 cookie sheets)
3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325°.

Coat an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray, and sprinkle pan evenly with crumbs.

Combine sugars and cream cheeses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin and next 9 ingredients (through eggs), and beat well.

Pour cheese mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 35 minutes or until center is just set. Turn oven off, and partially open oven door. Cool cheesecake in oven 1 hour.

Remove cheesecake from oven, and cover. Chill at least 8 hours or overnight.

Source: Cooking Light, December 2005

Otherwise, we had our traditional Thanksgiving -- fresh turkey with mom's cornbread stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, black olives, homemade dinner rolls, Grandma's fruit salad, green beans...

It was a really nice visit and I think that a good time was had by all. What a nice day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Maiden Voyage

I decided to go ahead and get a mountain bike and I did settle on the Gary Fisher Caliber, a full suspension mountain bike with a nice level of components. This morning I took her out for her maiden voyage. DH introduced me to the trails at Harris Lake.

There are three trails there and we did all three -- some sections twice. The trials have very creative names: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. I "separated" from the bike twice on the advanced trail but did not fall. I skipped some "moguls" on the advance trail as well and DH advised that if it said Black Diamond, I should skip that too!

We started out with the beginner loop, of course. As we approached the intermediate loop, DH realized that he had not locked the car so he went back to do that while I continued on. We met up again where the trail crosses the road for the advanced section. DH asked if I wanted to continue and I said that I wanted to go on and if it got to be too difficult, I would turn back and meet up at the car. We each went at our own pace -- with me in the rear doing the slower, more cautious thing as I learned the bike -- and met up ever now and then. After doing the advanced loop, we went back and did more of the intermediate loop and then I played on the beginner loop a bit more. I enjoyed it and I'm glad that I got the bike and I'm also glad that I went with full suspension.

As we loaded up the bikes on the car, we were like Dr. Evil and Mini-Me -- DH with his green Caliber 29er and me with the standard 26-inch model.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crash update

The cyclist that fell on Sunday morning has broken collarbone and a very large hematoma on her hip. No cycling or running for the next six weeks. I'm very sorry to hear that her injuries will keep her from the activities that she loves for that long. I am also relieved that it was not worse after seeing the damage to her helmet.

I'm definitely sending healing thoughts her way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


DH and I went to the Poinsettia Open House yesterday. Homewood Nursery in Raleigh hosts and open house on the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year and we go there most years to see the amazing display of poinsettias in bloom. They have several greenhouses full of poinsettias and it can feel very festive. Homewood grows 96 varieties of poinsettias and claim to have 30,000 plants this year. Some families go to the open house to take photos for their Christmas cards. DH and I enjoy going and I think that it's just a fun thing to do.


This morning on the Sunday group ride that I typically join, a rider crashed. I have been on my road bike for well over 3000 mile this year and witness one accident where the rider fell down and got back on after adjusting her brakes and this accident.

A group of about twenty of us were riding down Jenks Road in a double pace line approaching an intersection about two miles into the ride. This group typically averages 18-19.5 mpg and the group was still taking it easy -- averaging 15 mph. The light was coming through the trees and we got to a small downhill section where we moved from light to shadow. Right at this point, the road had some wide cracks in in. The rider apparently lifted her hand off the handle bars to point out the hole in the road and hit the pothole just wrong. She went flying, apparently landing on her right shoulder/arm.

From where I was in the group, about two-thirds of the way back toward the center of the road, I saw riders scrambling here and there. No cars were within sight and I steered toward the yellow line. I heard someone moaning in pain behind me.

The group gathered around the downed rider. She was crumbled on the ground. It was determined that we did not have to call for an emergency vehicle and one of the group leaders went back to the start to get his car and came back for her. Two guys worked on her bike and determined that it was not very ride-able even if she wanted to get back on (she didn't). She sat up and pulled down her arm warmer and looked at her injured arm. It had scratches. Someone joked that she as a crash test dummy for Giro and mentioned the helmet company's crash replacement program. She smiled. The "support vehicle" came for her and her broken bike was loaded onto the car while she was helped inside.

We finished the ride but that was a scary start. In all of the miles that I've ridden, this is the first serious accident that I witnessed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bag lady, reuse me

I bring my own bags to the grocery store with me when I go to pick up a few things. I feel good about doing this and I would like to expand my use of byo bags but the stores themselves are holding me back. Retailers don't make it easy. If I hand them a bag, most clerks are either at a loss or they think that they need to jam everything into one bag regardless of size or weight. The cashiers seem to wonder why is this crazy person handing me a bag? You don't want this perfectly good plastic bag that I have here? Even at the Farmer's Market they want to put my produce in plastic! As a result, I tend to keep this to either small trips or self-check out trips.

The other problem that I have is me. I stopped in Staples the other day to pick up two things for DH's home office. I had a bag with me. The clerk put my purchases in a plastic bag before I had a chance to hand over my own bag. ARG!

In addition, I sometimes have a hard time remembering to bring them in, particularly when I am in a hurry. For example, today I ran an errand at lunch. The bags are in the car. I went into the store, found what I wanted, paid for it and only then, as the cashier was handing me a bag, did I recall that I should have brought a bag in with me. I need to continue to work on this even though I've beene at it for a while. In fact, it was one of my 2006 Goals (I don't do resolutions, I just set goals. My goal setting is not tied to the beginning or end of the year. It's more fluid than that.). What I wrote then:
I think that it would be good for me to start using reusable grocery and/or produce bags -- maybe not for my "big" shopping trip but for the little ones that I do between times. I think that would be something good for me to work on.

Paper versus plastic? That's a false dichotomy, the correct answer is neither! Both paper and plastic bags consume resources and will eventually end up in the landfill. Just the Thing to Carry Your Conscience In:
Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year, recycling less than 1 percent of them, according to the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research and advocacy group in Washington.

In addition, it is clear that recycling alone is not the answer. Most sources agree, only 1-3% of plastic bags are recycled each year and only about half of paper bags are recycled. Seldom recycled, plastic grocery bags face bans in S.F.:
Less than 1 percent of 100 billion plastic bags tossed each year get recycled.

Up next, working on bringing my own travel mug when I go for coffee.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Resources and References:

Emma channels PW

Emma The Love Sponge had some complaints about the weather yesterday. She had been very very happy with the cooler temperatures and, in her humble opinion, 78 was just too warm. In the living room, watching the Hurricanes not do so well, she was laying on her back with her tummy exposed for maximum ventilation. When we went upstairs, though, it was another story. She got on the Big Bed and when DH ask her to get off the bed, she pulled a PW -- she scootched over.

The scene: [DH turns enters the bedroom and turns off the light. Emma is on the Big Bed and Hannah is on her dog bed.]

DH: Off

Emma: [Thinks ah ha! It's dark and he can't see me. Scootches over.]

DH: [Pushing Emma] Off

Emma: [Thinks fine. Whatever. Jumps off the Big Bed.]

Penny, aka PW, was a black lab that was in residence before Emma's time. Penny added a lot to the dogdom lore in our household. She taught many things to Hannah that will be passed down from dog-in-residence to dog-in-residence. Some of the her most important additions to the lore:
  • The don't get on the furniture rule really means don't get on the furniture when the people are around.
  • Off can sometimes mean scootch
  • Black dogs cannot be seen in the dark
Emma has recently embraced the Don't Get On the Furniture rule with PW's modification -- blond hairs have been spotted on the navy blue sofa -- and she is attempting to use a combination of Off Means Scootch and Black Dogs Can't Be Seen rules. As you can tell, though, golden retrievers aren't black. That's gonna be more difficult for her to pull off.

PW, we miss you!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dieting for Dogs

Someone recently posed a question to a a Labrador retriever related e-mail list that I follow. I'm finding the thread to be highly entertaining.

Q: My black lab male 4 yo and neutered is obese and I am searching for information how to lose weight. Any suggestions?

A: Easiest way to take weight off the dog is to feed less and give more exercise.

A2: I'd also like to add that you might consider using baby carrots as treats

A3: If you are certain there is no underlying medical issue (thyroid for instance) then simply reduce how much you are feeding.

It all sounds way too familiar to those of us who have changed our way of eating! Eighty pounds ago, that could have been me. Eat less, exercise more, have a carrot.

I wonder if the dog fixes his own meals?

Testing mountain bikes and getting a trainer

On Saturday morning, I went for a group ride. The person who leads the Wednesday night indoor cycling class encouraged (read, pressured) us to join a group ride that he leads from the store each Saturday. It was more or less the right distance for me so I went ahead and and gave it a try. The ride is nice and I'll probably go back fairly regularly until my mileage picks back up again in the spring. Since the bike shop is only two and a half miles from my house, I rode my bike there.

After the group ride, I test rode some mountain bikes. I looked at the Gary Fisher Caliber and the Trek Fuel Ex7. Both bikes were 2007 models priced significantly below MSRP. I also gave the 69er 3x9 a spin. I had expected to like the Fuel Ex7 the best but I actually thought that the 69er was just fun -- it's a hardtail with a 29-inch wheel up front and 26-inch wheel in the back but I liked the Caliber the best. I said that I wanted to seep on it and they said that it was the last 2007 Caliber that they had in stock and suggested that I put a deposit down on it. I went home and gave them a call. The orange Caliber awaits.

I feel a bit badly about the whole thing. I keep on going back and forth. I like mountain biking alright but I like road biking a whole lot more. I know that DH would like to vacation in DuPont or Tsali and that is definitely a factor but I've been feeling a bit pinched financially and we just got back from vacation which didn't help that situation any. DH is encouraging me to go ahead and get the mountain bike.

That afternoon, I was back at a bike store to get a trainer. Last week, I talked to Maya the Virtual Coach and she said to go with the fluid-type trainer. Trainers come in three basic types: wind, magnetic and fluid. Wind trainers create turning a fan thereby creating resistance while magnetic trainers use a series of magnets to create resistance and fluid trainers use liquid silicone to generate resistance. As the silicone heats, it gets more and more difficult. I solicited trainer recommendations from several sources and everyone agreed that CycleOps was the brand to get and everyone with an opinion suggested the fluid style, specifically, the Fluid2.

[Narrator: Local bike shop. A customer picks up a CycleOps Fluid2 box.]

Bike Shop Employee: Are you getting that for you?

Me: Yes

Bike Shop Employee: Well, my wife uses a trainer and she hated that one. Have you considered the Magneto?


I did go ahead and get the Fluid2.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Fig Newton Remedy

A friend of mine asked for information about the Fig Newton Remedy for her dogs. I thought that I'd post the information here for all to see.


Hannah has a very unsavory habit -- coprophagia. Yes, our lovely labrador eats poop, causing cess pool breath. Her sister picked up the habit as well and that causes toxic vomit. Lovely.

We think that it stems from her life before moving in with us. She was in a home kennel for the first 10 months of her life. It was a very nice kennel and she came into the house with her human family during the day but it was still a kennel. There is also some thought that girl dogs have some instinct to do this because dog moms clean up after their puppies that way. At any rate, over the years we have tried to solve this problem using several different recommendations: meat tenderizer on food, Tabasco sauce on poop to try to train avoidance, For-Bid, Dis-taste and other products sold for this behavior issue, etc. And yes, of course we pick up the yard on a regular basis!

Hannah and Emma have been receiving Fig Newtons with their meals since January and our results have been very good with two exceptions. After starting the Fig Newton Remedy, we have noticed a significant improvement in their yard cleaning activity.

The first time we noticed a problem was back in July. I noticed Emma was rooting around in the grass. I said to myself, "Uh oh! The treatment may have been rendered ineffective!" The next time I let her out, I followed her. She was digging and eating and digging. I thought, "Grubs?" It reminded me of when Penny had a grub eating binge. Nope, not grubs. Pellets of rabbit scat. I'm not sure about giving Fig Newtons to the neighborhood rabbits.

The second time, it was definitely my fault. Hannah and Emma normally eat Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice. In September, I was asked to test a new food on the girls. We changed
foods and continued with the Fig Newton type addition. A few days latter I thought that I smelled "badness" on Hannah's breath. A day or two after that, Hannah had an upset stomach and vomited poop all over our bedroom in the middle of the night. The next morning, I put the girls back on their regular food.

Results so far.

Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice + Fig Newton type cookies* = no poop eating

OtherBrand Lamb and Rice + Fig Newton type cookie = Badness

* We have used Kroger brand, Harris Teeter brand, Nabisco, 365 and Newman's Own . We have used regular and fat free and whole wheat. All yield similar results. I just get whatever is on sale or I have a good coupon for.


One Fig Newton type cookie per 25 pounds of dog.

Why it works

It was clear that something in the Fig Newton types treats makes the poop less appetizing. I looked into this a bit and it turns out that fig plants produce ficin, a protease enzyme that aids digestion by breaking down animo acids and works similarly to the enzymes in papayas (papain) and pineapple (bromelin). And yes, all three enzymes can be used as meat tenderizers. As it turns out, the item in the Fig Newtons that is at work is the figs themselves.

Interestingly, there are urban legends out there about feeding dogs pineapple to resolve this problem as well.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Indoor cycling

Last night I attended my first indoor cycling class and used a bicycle trainer for the first time other than for bike fitting. The class was held at Cycling Spoken Here in Apex. We moved the clothing racks out of the way and set up our trainers.

I've always thought that using a bike trainer would be pretty much the same as going to spin class at the gym. This summer, a friend of mine mentioned the indoor cycling classes to me when we were on our regular Wednesday evening group rides. Then the subject of trainers came up again during the MS150. After that I thought that I should give it a try. The trainer provided a good workout and it was definitely different than spin class at the gym. The resistance was different and some of the things that we worked on in class were quite different as well. For example, we worked on different riding positions specifically to our own road bike. After a warm up, we worked on spinups, climbing out of the saddle, one-leg training and cadence -- always cadence.

For last night's class, I asked to borrow a trainer. The next step is going to be buying one of my own. I have asked around a little bit and the consensus seems to be that CycleOps is the way to go. I used a Fluid2 model last night and I think that's probably what I'll end up getting, however, the Magneto is also a good model. It is also recommended to get a bike computer that goes on the rear wheel and has cadence.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Starbucks card update

I contacted Starbucks about the Starbucks card issues that I experienced when travelling. I pointed out that the stores in question are listed on their website and that there is no astrisk or anything indicating that they do not accept Starbucks cards. As expected, they logged my complaint and politely told me to go away.

The customer server rep. explained that the corporate stores have different machines and only those ones accept their cards. I said that everyone should have the machines. The CSR said that stores in airports, hotels and grocery stores may or may not accept the card. She also directed me to their FAQ:

Your Starbucks Card is accepted at most Starbucks locations in North America and in select countries internationally ... At this time, the Starbucks Card is not accepted at all airport, grocery, bookstore, casino, university, and hotel locations; nor at stores in Puerto Rico or Guam.

So don't ass-u-me that just because it says that it's a Starbucks that their card will work! Silly me!

I vented and although nothing was done, I feel better about letting off some steam.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I love Las Vegas at night. I think that the city is just beautiful and the neon is fun. Sometimes it's kitschy, sometimes it's gaudy, but I always think that it's fun.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bike for Beer

After getting home at 1 am this morning, I met up with the Slow Spokes for a Bike for Beer event at the Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs. I started with a group of six and ended up in a group of two but it's all good. I think that my legs were still on Las Vegas time! I rode just over 42 miles and averaged about 17.6 mph and then met up with DH who had been mountain biking at Harris Lake. He brought sandwiches and we had a bite before taking the Saturday tour and purchasing some winter porter for home consumption!

DH ran into our friend Stan out at Harris Lake. That was really unexpected since Stan is more of a road cyclist. Stan also came to the brewery for the tour. He said that he was giving mountain biking a whirl. He has a used mountain bike with no suspension at all. DH offered to meet up with Stan so he could try suspension.

In addition to meeting up with Stan, we had expected to see DH's friend Spook. He was on the Slow Spokes ride with a different pace group than I was in and we saw his car but we did not see him in the brewery. He must have skipped the tour which seems kind of silly since that was the more social part of the event. Oh well...

Viva Las Vegas - Part 5

The flight leaves at about 3 pm

I walked before breakfast again. DH suggested the buffet so we did that again. I still love those cheese blintzes!

The Plan: Park at Caesar's and us the Casino Royale $50 slots coupon. Find lunch and head to the airport.

Stupid trip to Casino Royale. No time to shop at Caesar's which is something that I kind of wanted to do. That was annoying since there I said that I wanted to (1) pastry and coffee at Bellagio, (2) browse at Caesar's and (3) chocolate banana at Mermaids. I skipped the banana which was my choice and I'm disappointed about the other two.

We had lunch at Spago. I wasn't hungry. DH apparently really wanted the pizza. He was somewhat disappointed that the four cheese pizza is no longer on the menu and that the mussels are gone too. He ordered a pepperoni pizza. Then he said that he wasn't that hungry -- which is understandable because I certainly wasn't hungry! -- and he offered to share some pizza with me. The service at Spago was very good, as was the pizza.

Final score
DH -$14.65
Me +8.50

Viva Las Vegas - Part 4

I walked from the Golden Nugget downtown to the Stratosphere before breakfast.

We passed this store several times and I kept on thinking about what an odd combo that was. Chinese food. Coffee. Donuts. Do they change the oil between the donuts and the Chinese? Inquiring minds want to know.

The Plan: Tix4Tonight and the do the Ethel M factory tour @ Mountain Vista and Sunset Way. The rest of the plan hinges on whether or not we see a show.

DH made an appointment for a massage at 4:00. That should help his shoulder. I'm going to use the gym while he's worked on.

We got tickets for Mamma Mia at Mandalay Bay. We went to Tix4Tonight on Freemont Street and got two tickets for the show in section A for half price. While we were waiting in line at Tix4Tonight, a party cut in line. We said something about the line starting back there and pointed. The party spokesperson said, rather rudely and in a snotty tone, "We're VIPs" and waived a yellow slip of paper at us. The lady in front of us was really annoyed. I asked, what is wrong with this picture? VIP? Discount tickets? If you're a VIP, shouldn't they be giving you tickets?

Well, what we we really purchased were vouchers for tickets. From there, it becomes a scavenger hunt. We had to go to the ticket office at Mandalay Bay to get the actual tickets and seats so off we went to Mandalay Bay. We secured our tickets and DH bet $20 on the Thrashers-Senators game.

After our trip to Mandalay Bay, we were off to Ethel M for the tour and gift shop. Ethel M has changed a lot and now they mostly have the new "Ethel" line -- still good, just different. They have really throttled back the tour sampling too. Bummer. Now they have the Sample of the Day and that's it.

After our mandadory Ethel M stop, it was time for lunch. We had our first In-N-Out Burger experience. In some ways, it reminded us of Char Grill in Raleigh. Your choices are single, double, cheese/no cheese, onion/no onion, soda/shake and fries/no fries.

We decided to go back to the hotel to "swim with the sharks" in The Tank and use the three story slide at the pool before DH's spa appointment.

We grabbed dinner at the hotel and then went to the show. Mamma Mia was good. I really enjoyed the show and we were very happy with the production level. The way the songs were used to weave together the story was really neat.

Score after 4 days
DH -$13.65
Me -$3.35

Viva Las Vegas - Part 3

The Plan: Badger Pass Loop at Cottonwood Canyon to Deadhorse Loop (keeping left the whole time) to the Tank -- view of Vegas and downhill back to the car at the NV 160 trailhead. May pass the turn to the car and do the beginner loop to add miles.

The MTB plan went slightly awry but turned out OK. We parked at the trailhead off NV160. The trailhead was labeled and there was a parking lot and ATV road. Based on the signage in the parking area, we thought that we were supposed to follow the road to the trail but no, apparently not. The unpaved road led to the same overlook as the mountain bike trail and we ended up taking what I will euphemistically call a road all the way to the overlook. We stopped at the overlook and took some pictures before taking Deadhorse Loop back. When we were actually on the trail, it was pretty well marked. Loose gravel in dry stream beds and loose, fist sized stones, not so nice. Good view of Vegas from the overlook.

Mileage = 10.77
Ride time = 2:40, few stops other than overlook

After the dropping off the bikes, we stopped at Hofbrahaus. DH had a half liter of the dunkle as practice for Bike for Beer on Saturday.

On our way to Las Vegas, we talked to someone who lived there and she recommended that we try the haunted themed thing at Circus Circus as a Halloween themed stop. We stopped there and it turned out that we had missed the haunted whatsit in the Adventuredome but I decided that I needed to bet on the Hurricanes (I had a bad feeling, I shouldn't have done it) so I placed a $5 bet and we decided to see the circus act while we were there. It was OK. The highlight was a woman being swung by her hair. Weird. I must say that the two women in the show had great abs. The hotel kind of smelled and DH thanked me for not having him stay there!

We cleaned up and had dinner at the Spice Market after doing reconnaissance at Mandalay Bay where Burger Bar and Border Grill looked like possibilities. The Spice Market was much more my speed that The Buffet at Wynn.

The Spice Market was good but we agreed that it was better in the past. Still, we'd go back. The Middle Eastern section of the buffet was fantastic and the bread pudding was great. My service at Spice Market was actually better than it was at the Wynn. I'm sure that if you're a big prime rib fan, Wynn would be better. The shrimp and crab legs were bigger at the Wynn and the pasta and breads were better there but I still think that I prefer Spice Market.

After eating, we did some Halloween people watching on the Strip. I don't have a "best costume" in mind but the most creative one was Dick Head. You figure it out.

DH -$22.00
Me -$3.35 (after the Hurricanes loss)

Viva Las Vegas - Part 2

The Plan: St. George, UT where we will ride Bearclaw Poppy and create a loop with some other trails.

On Tuesday morning, we drove to St. George, Utah, about two hours from Las Vegas. We rode the Bearclaw Poppy after a short detour to The Clavicles -- as, as in the bones. This section is apparently name for the bones that is has claimed. We got to this section by accident. The start of Bearclaw Poppy was not clearly marked. Another cyclist was starting and we followed him. We did a few very steep rollers and I spent a lot of time escorting my bike rather than riding this. (Please keep in mind that this is Day 2 of my mountain biking career!) I became increasingly frustrated and finally said, "I can't do this. We have to find another trail." After that, we did find a saner section and discovered that was Bearclaw Poppy, trail markings and all! We proceeded from there.

Of course, DH never said anything like, "I'm sorry that I took you on that bone breaking section on your second time out mountain biking." Nope. Nothing like that.

Anyway, we road Bearclaw Poppy out about 7.5 miles, mostly climbing. The grade wasn't that steep and the surface was good -- mostly packed gypsum. The views were very nice.

We tried to take the Bloomington Microloop back but it doesn't actually loop, from what we could tell. We ended up on a truly evil ATV access road. We went back and did some more of Bearclaw Poppy and eded up with a total of 15 miles or so. We spent about two hours and 45 minutes on the bikes with plenty of stops.

Once we got there, we found out that most of the locals start at a different trailhead and ride down Bearclaw Poppy; pedaling optional. Lazy butts. The climbing wasn't bad a tall.

After PB&J, DH wanted to look for the DQ symbol. We did and he had a Blizzard -- peanut butter cup, of course!

After heading back to the hotel and cleaning up, we elected to give Mr. Lucky's 24/7 at Hard Rock Casino a chance. I had heard that the Gambler's Special there was good as was the rest of the menu. We both ended up getting the Gambler's Special and it was good and kind of fun: salad, steak, three shrimp and mashed potatoes for $7.77.

After dinner we parked at Planet Hollywood and messed around on the Strip for while. Then we shared a hot fudge sundae at Ghiradelli's at the Harrah's Carnaval Court.

DH 1 fall -$22.00
Me 0 falls +$1.65

Viva Las Vegas - Part 1

DH and I went vacationed in Las Vegas last week. We arrived at our hotel, the Golden Nugget, on Sunday at about 10 pm Las Vegas time. Our plan was to mountain bike three days and maybe see a show. We also wanted to visit Ethel M and see some other things while in town.

On Monday morning, we wet to the hotel buffet for breakfast and discovered that the Starbucks in Las Vegas generally do not take Starbucks cards. That really sucked because I put extra money on my Starbucks card, knowing that there were tons and tons of Starbucks in Las Vegas. I really need to call them to ask about that. Yeah yeah. I understand that they coffee shop is owned by the hotel or whatever but it still posts the Starbucks logo! I mean, it's not like Barnes and Nobel when they say "serving Starbucks coffee" or whatever. To me, that's pretty clear. The are Barnes and Nobel and they are serving a certain brand of coffee at their store -- like Wendy's serves Millstone. What's worse, these locations are listed on the Starbucks website. They really should take the card! ARG!

After breakfast, we went very high class and stopped at Food4Less and picked up the makings for PB&J along with a Styrofoam cooler and some beverages. By then the bike shop was opened and we picked up our rental mountain bikes -- which were Cannondale Rushes and I think that they were 2007 Rush 6. The folks at McGhie's Bikes were really nice. They even put on a women's specific saddle without my asking.

DH and I then went to the Blue Diamond trailhead in Cottonwood Canyon. This was my first time on a mountain bike (not counting test rides). The terrain was interesting -- some loose gravel type rocks, some fist sized rocks (also loose), some sandy surface and some hard packed. We rode twelve miles, according to DH's ancient GPS and we messed around on the bikes for a total of about three hours. We spent a lot of time figuring out where we were on the trail system.

At one point, I saw a cloud of dust ahead of me -- DH had decided to take a jump, and here I had been viewing those as obstacles to be avoided. Anyway, he fell, landing heavily on his shoulder. He was a bit sore the rest of the trip. He didn't complain but I kept on seeing him messing with his shoulder throughout the trip.

We rode for a while longer after the fall and we got to a section with a steeper incline. We got to the top and stopped and an overlook. I said, "Is that Blue Diamond."

DH replied, "No."

"So if we went down there, our car wouldn't be there?"

"No." DH pointed another direction and said, "We need to go around that hill."

See the town in these pictures? Could it be???

We followed the trail around the hill, went downhill for quite a ways and the trail started to get deep in sandy soil. DH stopped and said, "You're going to kill me. That was Blue Diamond." So we turned around and rode back up the long hill!

We had PB&J back at the trailhead and then went into town to clean up.

We headed to the Wynn for dinner. DH wanted to try the highly recommended "The Buffet." As it turns out, it wasn't all that. I mean, it was good and all but not all that fancy or anything. We were not all that impressed and agree that we won't be back. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't awesome or anything. They had seafood, sushi (DH said the sushi at Whole Foods is better), Asian (pork potstickers, stir fried octopus, baby bok choy <- quite good). There was a carving station that specified "Tom" turkey and "hand rubbed" prime rib. There was also grilled corn (not good) and grilled asparagus (good but not great). The Italian section was excellent though. The pasta station had all fresh, hand made pastas and the pizza was good. The desert station wasn't as good as I expected but I did enjoy the bread pudding. Service was only so-so. My water was empty a lot of the time. Our favorites were the bread pudding, vegetables, prime rib and shrimp cocktail. The rabbit salad and shrimp ceviche were both interesting as well.

After dinner, we did some walking, people watching and saw the water show at the Bellagio. The water show was good but I think that it used to be more than one song. We saw "Viva Las Vegas."

Score after Day 1

DH 1 fall -$5.00
Me 0 falls +$2.65

Saturday, October 27, 2007

le Tour de Femme, raising money for cancer research

Erica, low carbing it before the rideToday I participated in le Tour de Femme. This was the second year for the ride and about 130 women participated. The number of riders double from the first year to the second year and they hope to double it again for the 2008 edition. This ride is a fund raiser for Grab My Wheel, a charity supporting the Angel Fund at Rex Hospital and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The host site was Cycling Spoken Here in Cary.

Yesterday, I was really worried about the weather. It was pouring rain and while we really needed the rain, I didn't think that riding for over three hours in the pouring rain sounded like the best way to spend a Saturday morning. I was planning to do it, and gauge my level of misery when the metric and half metric rides split. Today it was overcast at the start and sunny by the time we finished.

Lisa, at the start of le Tour de Femme. This was her first metric. Go Lisa!The ride was extremely well supported. After today's ride, I certainly plan to participate in this even annually. The route was pretty nice and it was the first time I've been on a ride where the SAG was provided via motorcycle! It was really cool the way they had volunteers at all of the turns in the Preston neighborhood, making sure that no one missed a turn and having different cookies at each rest stop, well, that's just winner!

In case you are wondering, the speed was pretty good too. The group that I rode with averaged 18.5 mph for the 61+ mile route.

Ride like a girl!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dunkin Donuts takes over

Just last week I read about Dunkin Donuts opening up shop in Las Vegas and now today I just learned that the Friendly's Ice Cream in Ramsey is now a Dunkin Donuts "with drive-thru, of course."

When I was in high school, the after movie hang outs were Friendly's and local diners like Matthew's Diner. I fondly remember drowning my high school sorrows by splitting a Jim Dandy with my friend Pam.

For the uninitiated, a Jim Dandy is a five scoop sundae with a banana topped with chocolate, strawberry and marshmallow toppings along with nuts and sprinkles -- and whipped cream.

This tradition is so ingrained in me that when I go to Myrtle Beach for the MS150, I twist my husband's arm and get him to go to the Friendly's there. I've downsized though. No more Jim Dandy's. Now I share a small Reese’s sundae.

Mom's birthday festivus

Last night we met my parents at Border's for a coffee. We gave my mom an early birthday gift while we were there. I picked up a nice piece from King's Pottery in Seagrove after I finished the Rolling in Randolph ride last month. The other part of her gift, a Carolina Hurricane's game, is on Friday.

Happy birthday Mom!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oktoberfest ride

Yesterday, I participated in a group ride that celebrated Oktoberfest. Twenty-one people showed up for this informal ride. We a total of about 65 miles going from Apex around the south end of Jordan Lake to the Carolina Brewery BrewPub in Pittsboro. We stopped there for lunch and then road back through Bynum. The route was pleasant with some hilly sections. It was a great way to spend the day!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mmm. Pie!

You Are Apple Pie

You're the perfect combo of comforting and traditional
Those who like you crave security

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Christmas catalogs

Call me a Grinch if you like. I really hate receiving Christmas catalogs before Halloween. I have made it a rule to put all holiday-themed catalogs directly into the recycling bin until after Halloween. I want to at least make it until at least November before receiving holiday catalogs, seeing holiday decorations, and please, no holiday music until after Thanksgiving!

I have two main problems with Christmas Creep

  • It's annoying. I want to live my life seasonally and late September/early October is not Christmas time. Christmas creep does not make me feel festive, it makes me feel angry. I don't want to buy wrapping paper or wreathes or cards for fake trees. I'd like to enjoy October, have my Brach's Autumn Mix, move on to turkey and pumpkin pie and then focus on Christmas
  • It's wasteful. Just think of all of those catalogs going straight into the recycling bin.
In addition, there is a question about whether or not it even good for retailers. According to Christmas Creep: The Shopping Season Is Longer, but Is It Better? extending the Christmas season may increase small purchases and impulse buys. Conversely, people know that if they wait, they can probably buy things at deep discounts. Additionally, there are still only so many shopping dollars to go around. I found an article by the Associated Press: Grinch? No, but the ‘Christmas creep’ is here
Retailers haven’t reported any big jumps in sales or profits pegged to an extended Christmas shopping season.
So pretty much, they are lengthening the holiday shopping season and annoying me and generating a whole lot of waste for little or no benefit to their bottom line.