Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Bit of 2009

Hi there! It's New Year's Eve already...

Steinvic is on his way to Cincinnati for the weekend. We'll likely do our usual NYE routine, which I'm very happy with. We'll go out, have some toasts with friends, then get home well before midnight. We'll nibble on appetizers, watch things on television, drink lots, smooch when the ball drops and eventually snuggle down into bed, grateful for another good year, and hopeful for the next one.

I'm pretty excited about my future. While I'm an optimist, I can't say that I've always felt like good things are coming to me. I mean, I'd hope that they would, I'd hope for mankind, I'd hope even when others had stopped hoping. Even if I had to vent or have a fit after facing some challenge, I'd always look for the bright side after. But, even with all of that, I can't say that I've ever been like, "Yeah! Things are going to be AWESOME!!" until right now.

Steinvic changed my life in so many ways. Getting engaged this year is a huge deal to me. I know, I know...people will say things like, "A ring shouldn't make a difference!" or "Getting married isn't so important." Even more, for people like us, who have both been married previously and neither union went so well, you'd think we'd be a little more than gun shy.

But I feel that this is right. Our marriage is the start of something really good, something that I know will work. I know that Steinvic feels the same way, because he is damn picky (a good thing) and if he didn't believe in us, trust me - he never would have proposed. So...I feel like our marriage will be the icing on the cake after all these years of searching for the right ingredients, carefully putting everything together, and waiting patiently while that cake bakes. Not rushing the process. Enjoying the process.

I know that in 2010 and beyond, my best friend will be right here, with me, finally in our home, making the life we deserve together. It's so good already...the concept that it will be even better is just... it's all more than I ever imagined. I am so very lucky.

My folks are in Wisconsin - my aunt and her family are there - ringing in the New Year together. My Grandma loves that, I know. Our families have plans, most similar to ours. Our friend, J, will be with her parents and children tonight, and that sounds so cozy and special to me, having all those people you love, right there with you. Our other friend, Em, will be on her couch with her two pups at midnight. While in some ways this troubles me - that she will be alone to ring in the New Year - there is another side of me that thinks this is a good thing. She's newly single and exploring her independence. She's had a half-dozen offers to spend this evening with friends and family, and this is what she chose to do instead. So...a toast to her strength and to embracing solitude....if she can enjoy being alone with herself, I believe she is on the path to being even more amazing company for the right person, maybe in the coming year, maybe next. Cheers to our friends and families!

Anyway, I hope that you have someone you love - people who are precious to you - with you this New Year's...and always. Happy New Year! See you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ode to Cornelius (aka The Walmart Dance)

I'll admit that some nights, my "To Do" list is a little ambitious. When I think of things during the day, I'll go, "Ooo! I gotta write that down..." and before I know it, the list is more than one Post-It long, and I'm a complete slave to it: I won't feel good unless I accomplish everything.

Last night's list read like this:

  • Home
  • Don't forget to pick up Walmart and Michael's gift cards from piano!
  • Check underneath sink for Allen wrench size
  • Go to Walmart for Bike
  • Go to hardware store for wrench
  • Go to Michael's for non-toxic permanent glass paint
  • Pick up compact, olives, pineapple
  • Grocery store? Sauerkraut, potatoes, pork for Steinvic, snacks

I had the first three things checked off my list in no time. The fourth was started snowing big time and our local Walmart didn't have my exercise bike. The online store locator for the bike wasn't working, so if I was going to get my bike, I was going to have to drive around from store to store looking for it. So, with crummy visibility, I drove to a second Walmart and when they didn't have it, I gave up, totally disappointed. Instead of touring all the Cincinnati Walmarts, I decided to order it online when I got home.

Go to hardware store for wrench. After walking around and around and around looking for the wrench I needed or someone to help me find it, I found a cashier and got her to radio someone to help me. He magically emerged with another worker from the aisle I'd just been in (they weren't there one second before! I swear!) found my wrench (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way back in the appliance area, next to garbage disposals...not with the plumbing tools like I thought) and promised that it would solve my garbage disposal issue.

Go to Michael's for non-toxic, permanent glass paint. They didn't have the paint I needed. Grrr...

Pick up compact, olives, pineapple... Went to Target for my compact. Decided that, at this point, I needed some wine, too. And of course the pineapple, olives...

The grocery store would have to wait.

Finally, I was home. Fixing the garbage disposal was a breeze! (I was so anxious to find out if this simple wrench would do it that I didn't even change out of my work clothes to try it out.) Relief!

Then I hopped online to order my bike. Remember how I said that Steinvic had given me many gift cards inside many sweet, heartfelt Christmas cards? Well...the Walmart online ordering system only accepts 4 gift cards per order. What. The. Heck?! Apparently, they don't appreciate cuteness or cleverness or multiple gift cards.

So, I started trying to call the 1-800 number to see what I could do about it...every number I tried took me to something automated. All I wanted to do was talk to someone. So, for the sake of my exercise bike and in the Spirit of Christmas, I did what any bike-deprived girl in my situation would do: I lied. I picked the "problem with service in store" option, waited forever, and began to tell her my woes when she kindly interrupted me transferred me to someone else "who can help with your ordeal."

Enter Cornelius. Now, given that it's Christmastime, you may immediately be thinking of this Cornelius:

But no. This Cornelius sounded more like this guy:

and as funny as he was, Cornelius couldn't help me at first. I mean, he was totally willing to help, but he said he had no idea what to do about my problem. And - this is strange - he said that and the actual stores weren't really "connected." He said there was no way to determine which store might have my exercise bike because the stores only agree to show inventory levels of certain items. My bike wasn't one of them.

He suggested that maybe I go in and see if a manager would trade four of my cards for one big $100 card and that I could use that, plus my two others, to make my online purchase. I said, "I'll tell them that Cornelius is going to beat them up if they won't agree," and he laughed at that. "Yes! Do that! They'll have to do it!"

Then he said, "Wait...maybe you can order a $100 e-card online and pay for it with your four $25 ones. Then the system will send one big gift certificate to your e-mail for $100...try that!!"

Well, Cornelius, you are a genius. Because it worked!

Bike ordered! Soon, I will be burning calories on this:
and I can't wait! Thank you Steinvic!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Was Yours Merry?

Welcome back to reality...aka The Week After Christmas. While some smart folks did that thing with their vacation time that my sister used to do with her candy at Halloween (save it to taunt me with long after mine had been devoured), I did not. That means, back to work today. Back to reality. Back to Cincinnati.

We had such a great Christmas. Time with Steinvic's son on the 23rd and 24th. Time with friends on Christmas Eve. Time together. A lovely time at Mom's on Christmas Day, and more lovely times at Steinvic's Mom's the day after.

My favorite part of the Holidays is spending time with such amazing people...why we don't insist to ourselves that we do it more all year long, I don't know.

For more than a year, I've wanted this particular exercise bike. It's recumbent and while it's not super expensive, it seems that every time I save fifty cents, something big happens to undermine my savings progress. When Steinvic wanted to know what I'd most like for Christmas, I said, "A Walmart* gift card for $25, and a mushy Christmas card." I totally meant it. I wanted him to save for his trip with his son that's coming up in a few months.

Well, he honored my wishes...but in a much bigger way than I expected. I got many, many beautiful, mushy Christmas cards and many $25 gift cards ( also from his Mom - who had my name in the family drawing - and his son, too ) and now I have enough to buy my beloved exercise bike. I plan to go tonight and I can't wait!

There were other highlights...seeing Steinvic's son's face when he opened his Reds tickets (the game is in Phoenix) from his Dad and realized that they had something big to look forward to this spring...that was awesome. Seeing Steinvic putting on his new leather jacket made me happy. I had Steinvic's 8 year old niece in the family drawing and had customized a Chipmunks painting for her and watching her walk all around, carrying that canvas because she didn't want to put it down...that is something I won't forget any time soon. Knowing that J's little ones believe that Eli the Elf really wrote those Christmas letters to them... precious.

All those little moments...all because at this time of year, we go the extra mile. We're a little more clever, a little more committed to surprising those we love, a little more elf-like or Santa-ish than usual. I love it. I live for it! But more importantly, I want that, on some smaller scale, all year long.

I hope you had a fantastic Holiday and that every time you think of it, you smile...

* For those of you who hate Walmart, I'm sorry! I do understand. I honestly don't shop there for my everyday items. If I purchase something from Walmart once a year, that's a max. However, I got a stepper there a few years ago...exact model priced elsewhere for $299 and up...Walmart's price? $80. Same with the recumbent bike I least $50 - $150 more everywhere else I've priced...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's About That Time...

Steinvic and his son are on their way down the highway, right now. They should be here any minute and this means our Christmas officially begins!

Of course, I'm not at home with them to crack open the bourbon and some Leinenkugel's. (not together, of course...) Noooooooo...I'm still at work. But just for a couple more hours.

I hope that whatever you and yours are doing for the Holidays, that your time together is merry and bright!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Christmas is coming, and this one is different from every other Christmas I've ever known.

My Grandma loved Christmas. She was the kind of hostess - all year round - who never minded the fuss and preparation that went into having a massive number of guests in her home. In fact, as my family would pile in at the Holidays, I'd hang out in the kitchen with her and help her and she just enjoyed it so much. (I love my Mother tremendosly, but she does NOT enjoy the hostessing...she gets pretty stressed!)

As a musician, my Grandma adored the lush, bright, sentimental and spiritual variety of songs that surround this Holiday. As a devoted Christian (no, not the fanatical, judgmental sort...more the sincere, well-versed, accepting, forgiving, unwaivering sort) she truly enjoyed celebrating the Glory of Christ's birth. And of course, any reason to gather family...she was all about Christmas.

So it only stands to reason that the giant sinking feeling - which I've really been working to keep at bay - is here, cropping up at moments when it really shouldn't. Take last night for example...folding laundry is not sad, is it? No! But there I am in the laundry room, crying so hard that I had to sit down. Sobbing instead of folding. Of course, I let it last only for a minute because I know what my Grandma would say about those tears. And I know that crying doesn't help a thing. I just wish she were here.

Amidst all of that, this Christmas is different in a GREAT way because I'm now engaged to Steinvic and while our relationship is still the same incredible, solid, fun, deep, meaningful bond we've always shared, it does feel even more exciting to know that we're officially committed to spending our lives together. It's romantic! It's reassuring. It feels extra-permanent and I haven't really had any of that in my lifetime.

Because Steinvic loves me, I have so much: a wonderful man who really wants my happiness, who makes me want to be a better version of myself, who really thinks I'm pretty cool just as I am (it's shocking!) And a young man who says he couldn't be happier about me being his Step Mom...that he wouldn't want anyone else in the world to play that role. (How amazing is it to hear someone voluntarily say that and know he means it!?) A huge family full of brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and a Mother-in-Law-to-be who is so very dear. I finally have a big, beautiful family and it's full of some of the best people I know. And to think that just maybe, next Christmas, Steinvic and I won't be doing all of our Holiday preparations in separate cities, but together! In the same home! So, it's an incredibly joyful time.

In short, I'm a mess. I am happier than I've ever been. With an undercurrent of extreme sadness as a bonus! Go figure...

All the while, I've been in full-force Elf Mode. Busy and loving it! I've made my specialty felt mice for a few fantastic folks, painted some pictures upon request, painted a lovely jewlery box for a dear friend's daughter (Hello, J!), and was even asked to write a few Christmas letters as an Elf - a major honor that I hope to repeat for those precious kids every year. I've been shopping and creating and cooking and wrapping and humming and enjoying every little detail...all the things that make this season just a little nicer.

And I think I may have just found my Grandma in this Christmas after all...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Product Endorsement For Which I Will Not Be Compensated - ULTA

Hello, Holiday Shoppers! It's been a while since I have endorsed anything - hard to believe, huh? But today, I'm going to endorse an entire me!

So, I drew Steinvic's youngest sister in the family Christmas-Gift-Drawing.* She's close to my age and she likes girly stuff, so I was happy to pop on over to the Web site of a cosmetic giant I've loyally shopped for a decade. I found the right thing, completed my transaction and then got an e-mail two days later that there was something wrong with my order. The e-mail indicated that it was a problem with my card (GULP?!), but I could call and talk to a representative. Meanwhile, they'd hold my order for five days.

When I called, the line was busy for hours. I tried again this morning and it turns out, the problem wasn't my card (of course not!) It was that they were out of the size of Prada perfume I'd ordered. But if I wanted, I could just "go ahead and order the next size up" - but I couldn't reuse my $15 discount certificate, which had expired the day I made my order.

I told her to forget it, and with heavy heart, started fretting about what to buy instead.

That is when I logged on to ULTA. And Whoa, Nelly! They have some KICK BUTT deals going on right now!

With a $35 fragrance purchase - and yes, they have lots of nice fragrances at that price and less - I could get a free luxury robe, which actually looks kind of plush and lovely. It also comes in a variety of sizes and colors, so I wasn't stuck with some ol' plain thing that doesn't fit.

THEN, I got 3 free samples...this is a staple for ULTA and it's always a nice way to dress up a package!

THEN, since I spent $35, I got to add on a free little bag with 8 more samples in it! Samples are so much fun...

THEN, since I spent $25, they offered free shipping. Now, this shipping looked to be standard ground, so if you need your gift before Christmas, it might be a good idea to upgrade. But still! If you're not in a hurry for it, free shipping!

So, for my $40 purchase, I'll receive perfume, a plushy pink robe, and a whole bunch of samples. This makes a very nice Christmas gift for my sister-in-law-to-be!

Oh, I have to add...there is an actual ULTA store about 20 minutes from me. I have been there twice, for hard-to-find items, and most recently visited to pick up my favorite LipFusion product. The cashier was extremely professional. She looked at my purchase and says, "Wait..." and turns to start going through some packages behind the counter. Seconds later, she produces a smaller version of my LipFusion. "I thought I'd seen that packaging before! Here is a smaller size for your purse!" and pops it in my bag. This stuff is kinda pricey, so I really appreciated her thoughtfulness and the free, deluxe sample. Check out ULTA and you may be pleasantly surprised, too!

*(Actually, that's not true. I didn't actually draw her name. Steinvic fixed it! He knew I'd like buying something girly for his sister, so he matched me up with her. I just had to come clean here...but thank you Steinvic!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Here We Go...Around and Around...

Shannon over at Everyday Stranger suggested a great idea...Around the World in 80 Blogs. Bloggers who read her blog could post on their blogs about the towns from which they blog. So, I signed up for the OHIO-ish part of the world, more specifically, Cincinnati. And I intended to include some photographs, and time got away from me and so I'm borrowing - and crediting - photos in this post. (I hope that is okay. I don't know what the Universal Internet Commandments are, but I think if I give credit and don't claim these photos as my own, we should be okay. I hope.)

I've lived in the Tri-State area my entire life and while I've spent a fair amount of time in Columbus these last five years, I've never lived anywhere besides Cincinnati.

What is it like?

The people. Depending on what part of town you're from, the folks here are very different. There is a bit of an East Side/West Side rivalry. From my home town, about 12 miles north of Downtown Cincinnati, there is also a little parochial/public school rivalry. As a city, we've had our share of very unfortunate (and embarrassing) racial tension. Generally, people here are morally, financially and politically conservative. However, I've met some amazingly open-minded people here and most everyone is eventually friendly, if not a little reserved at first.

(Photo from

The sights. We're a river city. The Ohio River runs right along our skyline, dividing Cincinnati from our neighbors in Kentucky. The river atmosphere makes life a little more exciting and definitely more beautiful. You can go right across the river into Newport or Covington and have a great time there, too.

The culture and events. In the downtown area, things are very different from the suburbs. Except for restaurants and bars, shops and businesses roll up their carpets really early and many are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. For a number of years, after the race riots, no one did anything in downtown Cincinnati, some due to fear, and some due to protest. Slowly, as the wounds have begun to heal, this has improved greatly and it makes Cincinnati feel like home again. When we have our big events, like the WEBN Fireworks any Bengals game, Reds game, Opening Day, Taste of Cincinnati or Oktoberfest, you'd never know what a ghost town The Queen City can be. We've got the Aronoff Center, the Taft Theater and The Cincinnati Art Museum to appeal to the artistic. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the best in the country. And if you like to ride on horrifying metal structures that can make you hurl/fear death/scream, you can't do any better than Kings Island. A few food items that come from Cincinnati have earned cult-like followings - Skyline Chili and Montgomery Inn are probably the two items we're most known for.

(photo from Wikipedia's description of Taste of Cincinnati)

If you ever visit Cincinnati,you've got to... Spend an evening in Mt. Adams. Stay somewhere downtown and take the five dollar cab ride up to to the top of this awesome Cincinnati landmark. It is one of our favorite places to go. It just feels special. Sitting on the back patio at the Blind Lemon in winter time, sipping a hot buttered rum, watching the fire, listening to music, looking up at the big, open feel small and significant at the same time. Excited and comforted at once. Like you're starring in some very cool movie. Mt. Adams is home to a lot of neat little restaurants and pubs. If you go before the "beautiful people" get there on a Saturday night (come before 9:00 p.m.) you can kind of have the whole place to yourself and you won't have to share the view tables with anyone, or wait in line to get a drink, eat or whatever you might like to do.

What do I love about Cincinnati? The diversity and the art culture. I know that is like the opposite of what anyone would expect considering how conservative this town is. However, the conservatives embrace the artistic community...they fund it, they support it...they just don't want us marrying their sons/daughters! All this squareness actually makes the arts and diversity pop! You know, kind of like how a red throw pillow can add zing to an all grey room? The arts pop against this plain background. I love that there is so much to do...sports, festivals, just a nice buzz of excitement all around.

What I don't like? It's not as friendly as I'd like it to least not at first. When I head north for Columbus on the weekends, I find that everyone there is very relaxed, down to earth and accepting. Here, it takes a little longer. I'd like people to warm up faster!

So, that's my overall take on this town. Why not mosey on over Shannon's blog and read some of the other city features that are being posted right now? If' you've stopped by here as a result of her Around the World in 80 Blogs post, welcome! I hope you'll come back. (I'm not usually so Julie-Your-Cruise-Director, but I really wanted to participate in her cool project!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Present for Myself

I've been Christmas shopping, Christmas wrapping and gift-making lately.

I don't get wrapped up in the materialism of this time of year. Working in retail for more than a decade really opened my eyes to just how twisted some folks can get with greed and want and aquisition.

But what I like about the gift-giving part of Christmas is that it's an excuse to shower those around me with thoughtfulness. Yes, I am one of those people who like to do things for others all year 'round. I do! But at Christmas, you can get away with it a little more. I seriously want nothing more for the Holidays than for everyone around me to feel happy. No stress. Loved.

So, it takes me a little longer to find the right things sometimes, or to save for something special, or to sew or glue or paint something for someone. But it all works out. And I love that.

But this morning, I accidentally stumbled upon something for me. I saw this and instantly felt haunted by it...could see it arriving in my mailbox, knew how it would feel in my hand, and could already see it around my neck. Since it was $25, I treated myself. After all the coupons and sales I'm constantly minding, I felt I could spring for it. Isn't it pretty? I know I'll wear it often... Merry Christmas to me!

p.s. If you have time, please check out Haley Luna's Web site. I am blown away by her photography. There are some truly amazing images there (the praying mantis' face! Whoa!) and you might like a little peaceful diversion this time of year, too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back At It

While I want to spend every second I can with Steinvic, there are times - gross times - where living alone is probably best for the illusion that I am perfect. (of course I am kidding...)

Moments where your body does things you didn't know were possible...things you have not witnessed in your 38 years within that body.

Moments where you find yourself saying out loud, "Really?"

"Is that all? Are you through now?"

Or just, "Oh, hell no..."

I am finished being sick. Thank goodness. I was ready to pack my bags and leave myself.

The good news?

  • I got caught up on Season Two of Big Love.
  • I think I lost five pounds. Wow! My pants were like, so loose this morning!
  • I had crazy, effed up dreams. Steinvic and I got married at Boy George's summer home and his Mom is lovely. Her dog is toilet trained. I kept thinking about how guilty I felt having our wedding in a home where we didn't really know the host/hostess, but I was so grateful for the beautiful surroundings!
And I'm feeling better. I still look like crap but I feel pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

More later...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sickety Sick Sick...

We had a good weekend...even had the folks over last night to celebrate my Step Dad's birthday. I made a wicked vegetarian lasagne and we had a good evening.

But I woke up this morning feeling like crap. At one point, my ankles, knees and feet hurt. Ugh...

Steinvic stayed with me until 11, checking on me, getting medicine for me, and soothing me while I slept. He is so amazingly good to me.

Sore throat, achey head, stuffy nose, bad belly...the whole shebang.

I'm on the couch with juice, a blanket, watching sitcom reruns and feeling blah. I have NO energy. I can handle pain but the blah feeling is the worst.

So, until I rally...stay healthy and warm...

p.s. First snow overnight! Less than an inch, but I guess December is officially here...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Shake 'N Bake Revisited

I was cleaning out my cabinets and found a box of Shake 'N Bake. It reminded me of a somewhat humorous exchange I had with Kraft Foods, Inc. and I thought I'd share it with you:

A while back, I got on a kick where I was breading tofu with Shake 'N Bake Hot and Spicy and then baking the heck out of it. At first glance, Shake 'N Bake seemed like it was vegetarian, but I'm a label reader and I just wanted to be 100% sure I wasn't consuming beef or chicken.

So, I sent this simple comment in on Kraft's Web site, thinking I'd get my answer, and then shake 'n bake to my heart's content:

"I am a vegetarian and would like to use your Shake N'Bake products to coat tofu before I bake it. do the natural flavors include non-vegetarian components?"

And here was the response:

"Hi ________,

Thank you for visiting I'm glad to share some information with you about the "natural vegetarian flavors" used in SHAKE 'N BAKE(r) Seasoned Coating Mix.The term natural vegetarian flavors means that all flavor components are both all natural and of vegetable origin. While we are not at liberty to reveal specific details regarding product formulations, please be assured that our products are formulated to meet the specific needs of vegetarians and natural food consumers.If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

Okay...but that didn't answer my question. So, I tried to get the clarification I needed:

"Thank you for your response.

I want to clarify that the ingredients do not say "natural vegetarian flavors." They say "natural flavors." I want to make certain that "natural" does not mean meat/chicken/animal derived.

Can you please verify?

Thank you!"

And Kim cheerfully replied:

"Hi ________,

Thank you for visiting

I'd be glad to help explain the labeling of the spices and natural flavors used in our products. Spices which may be declared by name or included under the term spices on the ingredients label include the following: Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay leaves, Caraway seed, Cardamon, Celery seed, Chervil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin seed, Dill seed, Fennel Seed, Fenugreek, Ginger, Horseradish, Mace, Marjoram, Mustard flour, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper (black, white, or red), Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Star aniseed, Tarragon, Thyme and Turmeric. Garlic and onion aren't included under the term "spices" on an ingredient label.

All of our food labeling is in accordance with strict United States government regulations.

A natural flavor must come from a natural source and can't be synthetically manufactured. Examples of natural flavorings include lemon oil, almond extract and garlic extract. Because of the sensitive nature of the formulas for our products, information regarding the specific spices and/or natural flavorings is considered confidential. Of course, all of our food labeling is in accordance with strict United States government regulations.

Again, thanks for contacting us, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy our products.

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

What the heck, Kim? Are you a robot? Can't you just tell me what I'm eating?

"Dear Kim,

But you can't tell me if the natural flavor is vegetarian? With all due respect, the translation is - I want to use your product, but I don't want to consume MEAT! If it has chicken or beef or fish, then I can't buy it.

I want to recommend it to fellow vegetarians, but I can't, if it has meat in it.

I just want to know if I can use Shake N' Bake Hot and Spicy, that's all. I'm not trying to recreate your recipe.

Can you please provide me with a "YES, it's vegetarian" or "NO, it's not vegetarian" answer?

Many thanks,

And here is where Kim politely tells me "tough toenails":

"Hi ______,

Thank you for visiting

I understand that knowing what ingredients are in the food products you eat directly affect how you practice your dietary lifestyle, and Kraft Foods does all that it can to assist its consumers in making educated food decisions.

I apologize but unfortunately this ingredient information is not currently available.

As you can imagine our products change frequently, and maintaining a list of products for specific dietary practices would be virtually impossible.

If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

Do you think Kim was gritting her teeth when she thanked me for visiting their site...again?! Do you think she really wanted me to add their site to my favorites? Just sayin'...

So...are you as freaked out as I am that no one at Kraft knows what is included in their products? This scares me a little! Natural the sweepings that usually get whisked into the dust pan count as natural flavors? How about sand?

Needless to say, I haven't Shaked N' Baked since. Which is why the lone packet of S'NB was up in my cabinet when I put groceries away last night...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Wish I May...

No one knows this...

When I was little, I'd stand on my bed and look out the window at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I could feel the cool air coming through the frame of the glass - we lived in a starter house and the windows were just barely there. I would look out into the dark at the lights way far away and I'd pretend the convenience store and town lights were stars.

"Star light, star bright..."

I imagined the life I'd one day have. A life where I wouldn't be awkward, where I'd be able to drive a car, where I could put on pretty clothes and makeup and not be the scrawny class nerd. A life without an angry father. A life where I could sing and dance and be famous, like Donnie & Marie. A life where I could, I could, I could...

Fast forward to tonight. I'm wishing again.

This evening, I put up the Christmas decorations. They're simple and modest and I love that. I mean, really simple - it takes me a whole half hour to prepare for the Holidays. But Mom and my Step Dad and Steinvic will all be here this weekend and I thought, Christmas decorations would be just right, even if it's only early December.

I think Steinvic likes that I handle the decorating. I considered waiting until he got here so that we could decorate together, but I thought it would be kind of magical if everything was just so when he comes home.

So, my wishes are different now. I wish that Steinvic loves the warmth and sparkle whe he gets here tomorrow. I wish that I will be a good wife and that Steinvic always thinks I'm beautiful. I wish that I'm always the best version of myself that I can be. I wish that the things which once challenged my strength will truly make me the most stable, strong, capable person I could imagine. I wish that if I live to be 91, I look back and feel I've been half the woman my Grandma was. Oh, how I wish I could see her this Christmas...

I wish.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy December! (And can you spare $5?)

Happy December 1, Party People! I hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving...we certainly did. Almost all of Steinvic's siblings made it to our family celebration and it was great fun, as always. (How I love these people!) Most had not seen us since our engagement, so it was really fun and exciting.

I spent most of the weekend cheerfully sewing small mice for Holiday gifts, cooking and relaxing with Steinvic. And sleeping. (I have no idea what is up with the sleeps, but I can't seem to get enough of them...highly unusual for me.) I'll post some mice photos here in the next day or so. I'm considering making a bunch of them through the next year and opening up an Etsy shop...

At work, we've adopted a large, single-parent family for the Holidays. This year, our family consists of a Mom and nine children, ages 1 through 14. (I know what some of you might think...why would someone impoverished have all these children and then have the nerve to ask for help? Well, we don't know how she happened into that situation, do we? We don't know if all the children are hers, if she is fostering, just lost her husband or partner, or

As a team, we used to buy each other ornaments or treats and found that with ten of us, we could each easily spend close to $100 on nothing. Then we realized that our accumulated funds could really help someone. So, in the Spirit of the Season, we adopt a family, we don't judge or ask questions, and we try to make sure that we provide as much food and home goods as possible, with the hope that it will last them a few months. The last few years, we've shipped off 20 boxes (the boxes are those that reams of printer paper come in) of goods to our families. I signed up for "items that can't be bought with food stamps" - cleaning, personal care items, laundry supplies and paper products.

Every year, I stay around to help number and pack the boxes, and every year, I get this big giant lump in my throat while packing up. It's not because we're doing this great's that for this one family who will receive a drop in the bucket, there are hundreds of thousands of others who don't have the resources to get help, who won't have food, new blankets or a $2 box of crayons under the tree. And it's not just for the Holidays, but for everyday...they will struggle.

I've had an interesting life, and in that life, I've gone hungry at times. There were brief periods of no heat, a box of rice to last a week, or bread and peanut butter for days (and days.) But I still can't imagine a fear that there was no end to that hunger, or the feeling of no hope, of no love, of true solitude. I always knew it would get better and with hard work, resourcefulness and luck, it did.

Maybe you can help change someone's outlook this winter. If you have an extra $5 - and I know that times are tough, trust me - would you consider purchasing and donating some food to your local food bank? Check to see if your employer sponsors a program, or your local grocery. If not, maybe you have some spare time on your hands to coordinate something?

I wish for you and your family to have all you need to eat and stay warm this winter. And I wish for you that the Spirit of the Season moves you to do something for someone random...someone who could use a little cheer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fair & Square

I redeemed myself!

Last night I beat my phone at Scrabble, fair and square.

Vanquish. That was the word that won the game for me. Ah, sweet victory...

Monday, November 23, 2009

A New Low - I Cheated at Scrabble

I downloaded the Scrabble game to my phone on Friday. I don't know just what made me feel compelled to do it but I did it. For $7.99, I have unlimited access to Phone Scrabble forever and ever. My Grandma was a HUGE, kick butt, cut throat Scrabble player and since I love word games, I thought it would be fun.

On the Easy level, I won several times. "I won! I beat the computer! Whoo hoo!" I told Steinvic.

"Great! What level is it on?" Steinvic asked.

Grrrrrrrr... "Easy," I confessed, going to the settings and upping the difficulty level.

Since then, I've played about five games, and that flipping computer beats me everytime! I mean, I get rid of all my tiles, but my words are baby talk compared with the computer's vocabulary.

So, I had this combination of letters: mgipear. And then, got an evil, wise idea to descramble them here and see if I could make one big fat word out of as many of those letters as possible! HA!

And guess what? It came back with "epigram" and there was a place for that word to butt up against an "s" and make "epigrams!" So I did. I used all my tiles and it was like a 98 point word or something ridiculous like that.

I laughed my evil, underworld laugh and then instantly felt guilty.

The computer must have felt pretty bad, too, because it started spelling easy, sucky words like, "cat," and "for."

So I won. I finally "Won on the Medium Level!" And I did it by cheating.

Who cheats on Phone Scrabble? I've never cared about winning in my life, just having fun! But there was something about being referred to as "Player 1" instead of by name. Something about the phone relentlessly winning with no apology. Something about the glare of the crimson screen...

Enough. I need to get a life. And do some word game practice thingies to build up my vocabulary. Geez...

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Friday & The Shred is Really Freaking Hard

I am always surprised at how quickly my weeks tumble by. Mondays feel like the longest day of the week. Tuesdays are non-days. Wednesdays make me realize that "Holy Crap...I have a TON of stuff to get done before tomorrow! I have slacked the last two days!" Thursdays are about finishing things and in many cases, packing for the weekend away. Fridays are...well, just perfect. And exciting. I get to see Steinvic on Fridays. I usually don't have to work on Saturdays, so Friday feels like a big sigh. I love Fridays. It's like Christmas Eve for weekends.

I wasted an hour of last evening, (half) watching the (not so) Real Housewives of Orange County. I feel bad about that, as I've said before, but at least I spent a half hour before that with Jillian Michaels', doing my second day of Shred Part One.

If you need a wake up call to just how not-in-shape you really are, do this workout. It includes jumping jacks, "jumping rope" (there is no pretend), pushups, diffent crunches, and a variety of lungey-type exercises. You also need some hand weights, because you'll do some squatty things and some lifty, arm-raisey things.

When you are finished, you will temporarily hate Jillian Michaels. But then, as you find that you really will be able to take the stairs once again (after your muscles stop protesting), you will like her again.

I learned from a colleague that Jillian apparently swears at overweight clients on The Biggest Loser. I have never seen this show (yes, I watch the Not Real Housewives, but not reality shows with actual goals or substance) but I can't imagine her screaming at someone about his or her "f***ing fat a**," which I guess was an exact quote because this colleague used it a few times in her description of Michaels' behavior. (Actually, she used it enough that I wanted her to stop, lest a passerby think she was calling me which case I would have had to slap her loudly to defend my honor...)

Anyway, I'll let you know how this 30-Day Shred program works out for me. You're supposed to do it every day, but I won't be doing it on Fridays. Fridays are mine. I love them and they don't include early wake-ups for working out or pre-Steinvic-arrival work-outs. That is just how I roll. Hopefully, the Shred will still work for me and at the end of the month I will be...shredded. (That's a good thing, right?)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A List of Things (because we love lists...)

1. I don't really know if that missing contact is still in my eye or not. It is irritated on and off, but mostly off. Like 95% of the time off. So that makes me think it dropped out and I just didn't see it.
2. The couple who owns my favorite Chinese restaurant slipped a note in my last order that said they were going to close from November 21 - November 30. What? How could they do this? No tofu or veggie lo mein for like...days. I might die. Actually, I think it's nice that they are able to take a break! We all need a break, right? But I will miss my tofu...
3. The news that women should wait to have mammograms or only have them ever so often or not do at-home-self-exams is shocking and stupid. I know three women at work who each had breast cancer before age 50 - two found during annual mammograms, one found through self exam. The one colleague ended up having a double mastectomy and she is 100% in remission now, but still under age 50, for the government's information. Tell one of these ladies that they should have waited! Now, as a result of the findings in this "study," insurance plans will probably drop this as a paid-for preventative care option. Thanks, government-task-force-loser-jack-asses...
4. If you haven't seen the new dark comedy series, Bored to Death, which is on HBO, do it. It's really good.
5. We may have found a place for our wedding reception. This weekend, we'll put together a guest list and set a date. On the 27th, we'll check out the reception place. It's coming together...

A short list today! More later...

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Contact Lens May Be Stuck In My Eye. Or Not...

So, I'm trying not to panic. It might be in there. It was visible and then it wasn't. I was crying and rubbed my eye. I didn't feel the contact fall out, but it still could have. I do feel like something is kind of up in that eye, but it could be that when I rubbed it, I also scratched it a little, and that the contact isn't in there after all. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

"Why were you crying?" you're wondering... Well, it's because I'm a baby. I get my feelings hurt from time to time. I come off to many as this indestructive ball of reasonability (those of you who know me well and know better can stop laughing now...thanks.) But the truth is, I'm sensitive...not high maintenance, but I do get my feelings hurt. It's stupid. Crying sucks. (Possibly losing your contact within your eye also sucks.)

Things will all work out fine, right? Of course.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is coming and we'll be with Steinvic's side of the family this year. We thought my sister and her family would come to Ohio the week before so that we could all celebrate together, but that isn't happening. My parents have a dinner to go to in Indianapolis, but really appreciated Steinvic's offer to join us at his Mother's. So...everyone has somewhere special to be and I like that.

I'm taking two appetizers (maybe three) to Steinvic's Mom's. Miniature twice baked potatoes (so fun to make!) and stuffed mushrooms. That should keep me busy next Wednesday night!

That's it. Just a little update today from your moody, recently sporadic poster. I hope you had a lovely weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday is a Good Day...

Hi! Yesterday sucked. I don't talk about work on this blog because...well...everything I've ever heard indicates that it isn't a good idea. But...what sucked wasn't my job at all. Love my job, love my company. I was just reminded yesterday that it only takes one person to make a day suck really, really hard. If you let them. And in one day, I devoted more energy to that situation than it deserved so today is all about wrapping that up and moving on. So...moving on!

Steinvic is HOME! Hooray! He flew in last evening, got to spend time with his son and then we got to catch up before bed. I am just glad we're in the same state again...Texas was too far away. :) He'll be here this weekend and I just can't wait!

And it's a good day because I got a letter from my pen pal. I haven't mentioned it before, but we have a pen pal program at work where we write with children at a rural elementary school about a half hour away. I've been in the program about 8 years and I love it! So fun to get to know the kids (they're in the 3rd grade) and to see how their writing improves throughout the course of the year. We get to meet them twice - once at Thanksgiving at their school, then once in the Spring at work. If you don't have a program like this at your company, suggest's a little work that means A LOT to the kids!

One of the best part is how stinkin' cute the letters are. Total whatever-is-on-the-brain topics and crazy grammar and spelling and punctuation (hey...kind of like this blog!) and I love it. Here is the letter I just received moments ago - you should know that her dog Max just died and that I sent her a handmade witch handpuppet for Halloween:

"Dear (insert creative spelling of my somewhat difficult name here) Yay

im sad about my dog maxe it is sad and I'll was gana say I am a mickle jaskon fan too are you one well I am so I liked that pupet it is nice thank you and I have tow cats and one dog and I like Sneckers too and your my best pen pal and do you now my Mom her name is Michelle and she works at (insert our company name here) I thank my Mom sented you Webkins email I like Webkins and I like some Fear Real Firends. PS you have great colering

(My Pen Pal)"

No punctuation at all! But did you need it? No! You totally know what she is saying. Who needs punctuation and proper spelling?! :) Of course, if you read it like it's written, you might run out of breath somewhere in there, but that is the fun of it...

Now, go hug a child...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things Are Strange Today...

It's kind of warm outside instead of cold, which is great, but weird. Steinvic is in Texas for work. I'm wearing a suit today because I have to go to a swanky dinner as a thank you for being on an extra committee at work. (A suit. I don't wear suits anymore...)

Everything is fine...just off...

Last night was productive. I grocery shopped, unpacked from the weekend, cooked a little (black beans + olive oil + Rotel original + salt + pepper + crushed red pepper...simmer and stir until no liquid is left...add two tablespoons Daisy light sour cream, chill. Reheat to use on whole wheat tortillas for quick lunches), worked on our laundry, watched Scrooged, updated my music collection on my beloved Zune and power-cleaned the kitchen.

I just learned that today is bonus day at work. I know that bonuses are really, really reduced this year and we're lucky to get a bonus at all. We're not getting salary increases this year. (Please don't take that as complaining - it's more of an annoucement.) I feel lucky to have a salary - I certainly wasn't expecting an increase! (We know people who are taking decreases...) So, I'll have a meeting with my boss soon and find out what to expect, and then later, we'll meet to discuss my review. It all makes me nervous, so I'm actually glad that I just found all this out.

And that is what is going on of consciousness post. Sorry for the disorganized thoughts, but I'm feeling scattered today! Here's to it all coming together...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Veggie Dogs & Gold-Plated Cake...

It's somehow Monday again...another super fast weekend! It was a good one though, complete with checking out a new hang-out spot. We didn't eat there this time because I was jonesing for Mexican, but we will try the all vegetarian menu soon (every kind of veggie dog imaginable!) For this weekend, we just had a few drinks and talked to a very bright and charming barmaid, who was really knowledgable about all kinds of booze and beer, and who grasped customer service as she sincerely greeted and waited on every single person in the place. We'll be back to Hal & Al's soon!

We also started talking about wedding things...we've got lots of time to plan, but realize that with a lot of venues, you've got to work a year or more outside of your date, and so we're musing. I think - and we're still discussing - that we're leaning more toward a cocktail-style reception after the ceremony. This means great drinks, heavy hors devours and wedding cake, but no traditional buffet/sit down dinner. It's more because "this is who we are" versus a money-saving attempt (his sister actually always teases us because we're more likely to share tapas than to order an entree..."You never eat!!!") We checked out one venue this weekend and Steinvic is going to research it a little more.

We also looked at wedding rings for Steinvic (very exciting!) and I have looked online at dresses (non-traditional, but no photos here because it will be a surprise!) and at wedding cakes, just out of curiousity.

Now, this isn't going to become a Wedding Blog or anything, but when I'm stunned or excited about something, I'm probably gonna write about it.

And $45 per slice cake stuns me. First, I want to know what $45 per slice cake looks like. Then, I want to know what comes with, I'm thinking a foot rub, a car wash, or some other sampling of a luxury service. And finally, I want to meet the person who orders $45 per slice cake, and hear how they explained to all but 10 of their guest that unfortunately, they could only look at the cake and not eat it, because the budget wouldn't allow it.

I read Cake Wrecks and I see the cake shows on television and I know that cakes are often a work of art. I also know that I am not a big dessert person, so maybe my value-per-cake-o-meter is somewhat skewed or off and I shouldn't be permitted to comment. But wow!

At the end of the day, I want Steinvic and I to be happily married. It would be wonderful to celebrate our marriage with the entire world! But who can do that? So, it's more important that our celebration is special, and it's totally fine if our wedding day is simply us, a few friends and our families, with cheerful announcements going out to everyone else. I'm so happy that we're going to be married! Love! It's amazing that people go broke over weddings, but from this pre-shopping, it looks like that would be easy to do...

Oh! We watched Swimming with Sharks last night. Despite the utterly horrifying title, I really liked this movie. It is one of those that when it was first over, I was like, hmmm. But after sitting with it the last 12 hours, I have been thinking about it and I think it's worth a second watch. We also watched The Godfather I and II, because I was making Italian and I think Steinvic was giving me a break from football. ;)

That's it! The weekend in a nutshell. I hope your weekend was just as lovely...

Friday, November 6, 2009

I Need an Intervention...

There is something wrong with me.

I'm above average intelligence, love art, writing, books and poetry. I'm creative, fairly articulate and reasonable. I am not lazy and I'm not a couch potato. I may be momentarily distracted by sparkly things or shiny objects, but generally, it takes something really special to capture my attention (like Steinvic, for example...)

So, why in the heck to I watch those damned Real Housewives shows when they're on? Why?

Please know that when I do watch these shows, I'm not sitting there on the couch with my mouth hanging open, thinking that what I'm seeing is real.

You'll most likely find me with scissors, a paintbrush, a full laundry basket, a trash bag or some other accessory in my hand, working on something. Or passing through the room on my way to do something else.

But the show is still on...

I "watched" the stupid second half of the RHO Atlanta reunion last night. Why won't anyone say to Kim's (now mysteriously puffy probably from some kind of treatment/injection) face, "Darling, you can't sing...please stop." Why? And why do I care? That is all I got out of the whole hour-long ordeal.

And then I "watched" episode one of the new season of RHO Orange County. What I took away from it was, big surprises: Tamra's marriage has hit a bumpy spot because money isn't flowing as freely, Vicki is a douche for telling everyone that Jeana asked to borrow money, and everyone is still back-biting.

Oh, and Gretchen is in some photos that show her naked things, but she didn't know they were being taken (she was looking at the camera, so...) or didn't know they were going to be on the Internet or something. And I kind of felt a little bad for her. I always do...she is the underdog, in my opinion. While she clearly has horrible judgement and doesn't always think ahead, she doesn't seem to be malicious...just ditsy and not careful with herself. We've all done stupid stuff and thank goodness most of it doesn't turn up on national television. And I guess when you sign up for this crap, you can pretty much count on some kind of humiliation if you're human and have done human things.

During the little preview of the season blurbs at the end. Tamra is looking at herself (another surprise) in various scenes and the voice over says, "Looking like this has a price. And the price is not eating." Well, that's just great. The only plus is that I think most of the people who might be influenced by this statement wouldn't be interested in this show primarily focused on desperate, aging money-grubbers who don't realize that it looks silly to dress a certain way past a certain age.

Enough. Now you know what I did with my Thursday night. As for what I was working on during these shows...well, that's for another post...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Week Has Passed...

I've been home from vacation for a week and realize that I can't keep giving these sporadic, partial details of our trip forever, can I?

So let me sum it up by saying, I think I've hit the highlights - we got ENGAGED!!!!, we saw U2 twice, we had a blast with family, the weather was awesome and I wish we were still out there!
But we're not...we're here. Although every time I look at this ring, I feel like I'm still on vacation. I feel loved. I feel hope for the future. I'm excited about things in a way that I have never been. So...Steinvic you already knew you were the best, but thanks for this lovely treasure that has me smiling every time I look at it...I'm not worthy!

We're still telling friends as we see them and many ask about wedding plans, the big date, all that. And instead of planning wedding things, we spent last weekend looking at real estate online! First things first...I think we'd like to be in our current spot at least a little while together to save money, pay things down and build up more equity so that when we sell, we've got cash to decorate and fix up a new place.
My parents took us to Prima Vista this weekend. If you're in the Cincinnati area and you haven't been, please go. You'll be glad you did. It's a fantastic restaurant and for as fancy as it appears, it's surprisingly comfortable. The staff is knowledgable and really attentive, but not stuffy at all. The food is excellent. The view is amazing and as the sun sets and it gets dark, even better (I love the twinkling city lights!)
(Of course being downtown had Steinvic and I wondering about the real estate - we want to live there or in Mt. Adams or in Covington.)
Yesterday, Steinvic sent me an excited e-mail mid-day...he bought us tickets to see U2 in Chicago in July! So funny...people must think this is all we do! But the fact is, we love the band (LOVE!) and they always seem to go places we enjoy anyway, so why not combine the things we dig and make an adventure of it? So, something to look forward to for Summer 2010...
No idea how I missed this, but it looks like the Coens are at it again!
And.........I guess that's it! Here is to more regular updates again. I just got side tracked with all the readjusting the last week. But I promise...more regular writes! Until then...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kim Zolciak's Wasteful Ways

We interrupt this Vacation Update to say that Kim Zolciak of the "Real" Housewives of Atlanta has to be the most wasteful human on the planet.

She wears wigs - and that's okay with me - but she wears a new one every day.

This costs approximately $12,000 per month.

You could feed a lot of people in need with that much money! Families could survive on that.

Even if the wigs looked good - and honey, they don't - that is still way too much money to spend on your hair per month. She is a fauxlebrity for Pete's sake! How can she spend that much on her fake hair?!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

Most Awesome Vacation Ever - Part Two

So, we drove across the desert on Thursday (10/22) and it was wonderful. It's a five + hour drive, but we are always well-prepared. Lots of drinks, snacks, things to listen to and read, stops when we need to. It was Steinvic's aunt, uncle, cousin and us making the trek and it was a beautiful day.
We arrived, got cleaned up and spent some time window shopping, playing a little on the slot machines, drinking, drinking and drinking, and then took Steinvic's cousin to a late Mexican dinner. (I am looking like crazy online for the name of it because I really liked it, but I can't figure out where we were?!?!?)

On Friday, Steinvic and I had a short business meeting with a property manager because we're hosting a conference out there in the spring for our professional association. It went well and then we had some time to eat at Margaritaville (thanks to a gift certificate from Em and Ay) and meet his cousin for a few drinks before we got ready for the second U2 concert.

We shared a cab to the concert with a bunch of guys from Costa Rico. The cab ride was much traffic, even before we got to the Sam Boyd Stadium. We were on the floor for this show, but that was fine with us...the view was great, there was room to dance and aside from the abundance of skunk weed (really, really strong, thick odor and I totally didn't see anyone toking so I have NO idea where it was coming from and neither did the police who made regular rounds trying to find the culprit) it was the perfect place from which to watch the show. We were up closer to the stage when we first got there, but the vibe was bad...people were pushy, very possessive of space and we just felt like it was too hostile. Believe me, moving back was a good idea!

The show was awesome. I mean, really incredible. I have some photos on my camera I'll try to post here shortly, but we had a great time and got some nice U2 swag. Bill Clinton and Chelsea were even at the show! Eventually we made our way out of the stadium to catch a cab back to the hotel.

Stop. The people at Sam Boyd apparently have never had a big event like this before because they did a sucky job of crowd control. We waited in line for a half our to get out to the cab area, and only got into that area by insisting, as a bunch of other people poured out , blurring the line and rushing the gate - essentially butting in front of about 300 of us who had been patiently waiting. Eventually, we saw that there were literally thousands of people waiting for a cab. I was like, we gotta go. We have to walk. We might not make it all the way back to the hotel, but we might catch a cab on it's way back to pick up more people. Because people were drunk and impatient and getting lippy. I felt like things could get crazy pretty quickly.

Keep in mind, it's late. It's dark. We are not familiar with Las Vegas, outside of The Strip. So we just start walking. As we walk, the crowd thins. Finally, it's just us. We're at least three miles away from the Stadium. And, knowing that Vegas cabs can't pick you up if you're not in a turn around (well, they can but they will get a hefty fine) we see what looks like a cab coming and linger around a parking lot entrance for a few minutes.

Bless the cabbie who stopped for us! Steinvic gave him a HUGE tip.

Steinvic was beat but I was famished and needed soup. We found some and by then, it was 1:00 a.m. A very long and exciting and tiring day.

There is more! But I'm trying not to make these posts too long or you might not come back! So, more soon...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We're Home!

Whew...we're back! What a long and wonderful and eventful vacation! Let me break it down for you...

Tuesday the 2oth was the first of our two U2 shows. We met up with Steinvic's brother (who was in town on business) and all went over to the Westgate Center together for some pre-show drinks and snacks. His brother didn't have seats with us, so we split up and got our seats. If you like the Black Eyed Peas, you'd be so very happy...I am not a fan but they were HOT. Lots of energy, and you could tell they were totally enjoying being on U2's big ol' fancy stage.

Fast forward to a third into the show...I was completely into "Beautiful Day." That song is my the words. I listen to it every morning when I get into the car, before anything else. It means so much to me...lifts my heart. So, all of the sudden, at the end of the song, Steinvic takes my hand. My LEFT hand.

"It's a beautiful day...I don't want you to get away..." he begins, playing off the lyrics. The look on his face...locked in my mind forever. "Will you marry me?" he asked, beginning to put the most wonderful ring on my finger.

"YES!!!! Yes, I will! Will you marry me????" I don't even know why I said that! I think I must have just been so excited and wanted him to know how much I wanted this. But he didn't hear me anyway, because he was hugging and kissing me. We were so happy.

It didn't take too long for the people behind us to figure out what was going on and pat us on the back, give the thumbs up...I showed them my ring and exclaimed, "We're engaged!!" and the joy just flowed. I will never, ever forget that moment as long as I live.

People keep asking me about that concert and I can't tell anyone anything about it after The Ring. I kept thinking about how lucky I am, how wonderful it is to have Real Love, to be able to celebrate it and talk about it and the future without hesitation... I don't remember the concert. Just calling a few of our precious people, like my Mom and Step Dad, and our friend Em, and looking through that open venue to the skies and thinking how my Grandma got to see the whole happy she must be. Blessed. I am blessed.

We met with Seinvic's brother after and the traffic was dense, so we stopped for celebratory drinks. Thanks to the lovely bartender at Shout Out's for the round of Jaeger Bombs...that was so kind.

Then home...and that is all for part one...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He Really Loves Me!

Okay, I already knew that Steinvic really loves me, but last night, he proposed.

I am still basking in the glow from all the details...we're still telling our families. So for now, I just wanted to share our good news with you and to share this photo of the gorgeous Tsavorite and diamond Celtic-style ring that Steinvic designed himself. (You can see Fred the Dog - his Aunt and Uncles's youngest pup - between my fingers.)
More later...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Arizona is Amazing...

We are here! Arizona is just as clear and hot and beautiful as it was when we left it a year ago. According to the news, it was 102 today. It didn't feel that hot, though...not at all like Ohio hot.

Look at me, resorting to talking about the weather, like we don't know each other. The real news is that I slept last night like I haven't slept in about a year. I sleep at Steinvic's aunt and uncle's like I used to sleep at my Grandma's: solid. I don't sleep this well anywhere else. I probably turned in around 9:00 p.m. Arizona time and didn't wake until 7:30 this morning. No nightmares, no dinosaurs, nothing.

We're getting ready to go out for the evening. Just to a local we're fond of. Last night was aunts and uncles and hugs and kisses and all the things we live all year for. Tonight is just being. I really thank goodness for these people. It's peaceful here. I so needed this time...

More tomorrow...or so...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Tonight, I'll finish packing, clean the house a little, load everything in the car...and then become a nervous wreck. Oh, I know...everything will be fine. I know this. Heck, I'm commuting most every other week...I'm used to packing and traveling, right?

Truth is, I don't know why I get so wiggy right before going on vacation. I will be fine once I get to Columbus and to Steinvic, but the next 24 hours is critical. I make lists. I check things off of them. I make more.

This time tomorrow, all my stuff will be packed and I'll be counting down the minutes to leaving work.

And then I'll be off for 12 days. TWELVE. I have not had this much time off since I was a 17-year old.

Twelve days with Steinvic. Twelve! In a row! Such a treat.

We'll see U2 twice while we're away. That is a luxury.

We'll return to Las Vegas for what I'm guessing is my ninth time there. (I'll have to think about that...nine?)

We'll be in Arizona for most of our time and we'll spend it with family. Precious, wonderful, real people who I absolutely love. Steinvic is not only a great person...he comes from great people. I can't wait to see them all and hug them all.

I'll get to play with two of the best dogs ever. They are so much fun!

So, I think all of this will add up to an awesome vacation. I can hardly wait!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thank You, Arnold!

If you read here you know that I don't get political. I just don't. I don't want to impose my beliefs on you and I don't want to alienate you if you don't agree with me. So...I guess...just know that if you have a belief, I'm going to respect it, (unless you believe in hurting people or violating the rights of others...those are things I'm just not okay with.) What I'm writing about today has more to do with...just doing the right thing.

I think it's a fine thing that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did in signing a bill to create a day honoring Harvey Milk.

I also think is cowardly that an individual wanting to "save" California has posted a rather hot criticism about the creation of this day on his blog, but closed comments.

It's definitely appropriate to close comments in some cases. But in this case, it seems to be the equivalent of spouting off your own, close-minded ideas, covering your ears and saying "lalalalalalalalIcan'thearyou!!!" instead of having a dialogue that might broaden the mind.

The author of that post feels that what we're teaching schoolchildren about is Milk's sexuality. My personal opinion is that if you're talking about sex (outside of the basic sex ed body stuff) in the classroom, it's out of line. No teacher in a public schoolroom is going to promote homosexuality or heterosexuality. They're not promoting sexuality. In fact, sex is the last thing that should be honored on this day, no more than someone should talk about what Martin Luther King, Jr. did in the bedroom when we honor his day. I don't want to know what any public figures are doing in the bedroom! That isn't for me to think about. When I hear rumors at work, I feel the same way - none of my business, don't want to know, thanks for the So, for this dude to think that we're going to talk about sex when we talk about Milk is ignorant.

Instead, this day is about honoring an American who was courageous and exercised his right to demonstrate and speak freely. It is to honor someone who was focused and who wanted to make a difference. Great things have been accomplished by people throughout history who have taken this initiative. Milk was murdered for his beliefs, but by honoring him, we communicate that killing the person doesn't kill the dream and that Milk's life's work was not all for nothing.

I'm proud of the Governor for reconsidering what he denied a year ago and making this day happen. I think it was the right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Clean House - New Season!

So, I logged in just now, planning to blog the first episode of the new season of Clean House and guess what?! This also happens to be my 100th blog entry! Whoo! Without further ado, let's watch this together...

10:00 - What a treat - new season AND we are all up in Niecy Nash's house! That's right...this episode is about moving Niecy's Mama into Niecy's place and thank goodness, the REAL cast of Clean House is here to do the job. (Can you imagine the strangers they've had doing the recent episodes invading Niecy's home? I think not...)

10:04 - Niecy's house is sweet! And big. But they are cramming Mama into a space that is much smaller than her own 3,000 square foot home. She's situated in a good-sized spot in the house, but it is a far cry from what she had and there definitely isn't enough space for her. And of course, Mama doesn't want to get rid of her "good stuff."

10:07 - Check out the Garage of Shame! It is PACKED to the hilt with Mama's crap! "You should be ashamed of yourself!" says Mark. But with no place to put her stuff, what's a woman to do? Oh...but the confession is that Niecy's overflow (clothes, celebrity gift bags, etc.) is lurking in the garage, too. Niecy wants the garage converted into a real living space.

10:10 - THE CLOSET! Mayhem and foolishness galore! There are like at least 200 pairs of shoes up in there. I now feel good about my 50-ish pairs.

10:11 - Welcome to the jungle! Miss Margaret has moved Niecy's furniture out of the living room and moved her own jungle print furniture in! And it is like the host from "How Do I Look" says, "animal toofari..."

10:13 - Tears! Niecy sits Mama down to explain her taste in decor. Mama explains that she needs her own space, her own style...and her own life. She doesn't wanna give up everything.

Commercial Break - Ad aside...Febreeze luminaries aren't affordable! At least not for me... $14 for a non-candle! I am sure they smell great, but dang.

10:18 - Good gosh...Niecy is crying hard and saying that she is trying to make Mama feel welcome, but she needs a compromise. "You and me need to be on the same page...respect all the way around." They shake on it and we're good to go. Let the rooting through the stuff begin!

10:20 - Ha! Niecy wants to KEEP her gift bags and goodies that she gets just for being Niecy. Mama's stuff can go, but Niecy wants her stuff to stay. Mark's designertude is workin' overtime.

10:22 - No surprise - the team lays it down...all the junk has gotta go. Niecy tells her Mama that they both have to give up the goods to make the money for the sale. If Mama gives up everything in the garage, Niecy will do the same. After a pause, Mama says, "Let it go...I'm not even going to look at it...let it go!"

10:23 - Niecy thought she could get away with keeping her closet stuff because she gave up the garage stuff. Um, no. Trish wants to do a "Niecy's Red Carpet Yard Sale" theme.

10:30 - Mama doesn't want to get rid of her jungle themed goods, and Niecy wants to keep her dressesdressesdresses. But, she agreed to thin out her collection...we knew she would, right? And Mama agrees to give up her "so very comfortable" junglefied furniture.

10:32 - The yard sale will be held at a church. Ooo! Look at Niecy's babies! They're so grown up from the last time we saw them! And helltotheno...the team showed up in weaves and flowers! How fun is that?! Mark's goatee is clashing with the hair-do. The yard sale is open and the celebrity gift bag giveaways are a big hit.

10:34 - It's so hot that the sales are dwindling off. Crap!

10:34 - Who is this fool customer, wanting the team to bring lamps to his truck so he doesn't have to get out and look himself? I'd have told him to keep on moving. What a loser...

10:37 - Hey! Niecy looks just like her daddy!

10:39 - They need $7500 smackeroonies. But just to make sure they get what they need, Niecy will make up the difference.

Ad aside...Again with the Febreeze ads. No wonder it costs so much...they have to pay for the advertising!

10:44 - Niecy and her Mama are off to The Luxe...nice!

10:45 - Niecy is designing the garage living space herself...a first!

10:47 - Closet build outs, new paint, all the little touches - pure awesomness as always. The ladies get blindfolds on sticks instead of the strap on kind - can't muss the hair and makeup!

10:53 - The Home Stretch! Take off your blindfolds and open your eyes! I love Niecy's Mama's reaction. She is freaking out. "I think the Holy Spirit is getting to her!" Matt says. Mama's bedroom is gorgeous. Same bed, same secretary, but different dressings and arrangement. Michael's picture, (Niecy's late brother), is featured on one of the walls, just like at her old place. Mama plans to "entertain" in the bedroom. "Awkward" is an understatement...

10:55 - WOW on the finished garage! It looks like a fabulous complete room, completely furnished..."This is a miracle!" exclaimed Niecy. But NOW...check out the amazing closet. (Okay, now I am feeling guilty about our closet.) It has a chaise lounge in it. And a champagne bucket that no one mentions. Mama is dancing! Priceless... About the full-length mirror, Mama tells Niecy, "Not for you!" and "Who is the Diva now?!"

10:57 - The living room...the formerly jungle fever space. Now it is LUSH...Niecy exclaimed, "I'm a designer!!" The ugly furniture is gone and the earth tones reign.

Well, people, that is it...the first episode of the new season, and we did exactly what we came to do. For Niecy and her Mama, we cleaned house. For this T&T blog, we have finished the 100th entry. And for me, well, I'm tired and missing Steinvic. We just spoke and I'm heading upstairs to end this evening that will put me one day closer to him coming home...and to our vacation that is quickly approaching. I hope you enjoyed watching with me! Let's do it again soon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What is Rape-Rape?

Whoopi Goldberg's comment today - in regard to the Roman Polanski ordeal - that what occurred was,"something else but I don't believe it was rape-rape," is halting.

Okay, I'm going to carefully walk away from the soap box and just say this: Whoopi Goldberg sucks. I am very surprised at her comment.

For those of us who are coherent, rational human beings, we can discuss what is going on with this case right now. (Whoopi, you are not invited.)

I am curious about the plea bargain that Roman made back in the day. What did he agree to, specifically? Unless what he agreed to was pleading guilty and only getting 40-something days in the clink, he still has time to serve, right?

Because, unless I'm reading this wrong, he plead guilty, did 40-something days in prison, where he underwent psychological testing, and then when it was time to get sentenced, he bailed, because he heard that they were going to violate his plea agreement. Which was...?

So, I need more information. Because if you plead guilty, you are going to serve some kind of time. Raping a 13-year-old child would seem to merit a longer sentence than 40 days of psychological testing in jail.

Beyond that, who I really feel for is Samantha Geimer. I know she has publicly stated that she forgives Polanski and doesn't want him to be further punished for this, but...I think that, even though it is undoubtedly painful for her and she doesn't want to be linked to and relive this for all time, Polanski must be prosecuted.

If not, it sets a precedent for all convicted felons that, if you're worried about jail time, you can just scoot off to a foreign country for 30 + years and emerge a free man. In the meantime, you can live a luxurious life, start a family, acquire wealth, exercise your talents and essentially thumb your nose at the government who justifiably pressed charges, and a victim who is left with years of torment and (hopefully) therapy.

The bottom line is that no means no. Plain and simple. It doesn't matter if Anjelica Huston thought that Geimer "appeared to be one of those kind of little chicks between — could be any age up to 25. She did not look like a 13-year-old scared little thing." It doesn't matter if, to fools like Goldberg, rape only counts as rape if someone jumps out of the bushes, beats the sh*t out of you and forces you to have sex. Date rape exists, but I can't even say that applies here because what...a 45 year-old man was on a date with a 13 year-old? And rape happens in families. We call it incest, but the act is still rape.

Stop blaming the victim, people. A girl who was too young to make good decisions on her own was groomed by a sexual predator who saw his opportunity to manipulate and impose himself on a child. And this child was unwilling and said NO many times. And even if she was willing, sex with a child is twisted and illegal. Just because he is wildly talented, has money and could afford rush airfare to London doesn't mean he isn't a perverted piece of crap. And it doesn't mean he can get away with orally, vaginally and anally raping a little girl.

And for all the people who keep coming forward, saying what a nice guy he is, what a devoted family man he is and how gifted he is - those things have nothing to do with the crime he knowingly committed. They don't know what he is like behind closed doors. Remember, that could have been your child or my child that he hurt...he'd met Geimer's parents and he certainly wasn't thinking of their feelings - or those of Geimer - when he plied her with alcohol and drugs, and raped her repeatedly.

Enough said.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Curing Myself

I love reading about health and wellness: scientific breakthroughs, super foods, organic findings...all that stuff. I know you have to be careful about some of the places you find this information, so I stay away from fanatical, faddish sites and sources that are designed purely to sell something.

I have endometriosis. I don't think I've discussed it here because...well, I'm not in the habit of discussing my innards in general! At the same time, endometriosis is a real disease that affects a lot of people. It's painful, and at the very least it is a nuisance. At the very worst, if you're trying to start a family, it can be devastating.

I've never been in the start-a-family-camp (though I think kids are great...just never made a place for my own in my life) so I don't have those concerns, but when my doctor found a large mass in my abdomen during my annual exam a few years back, it was startling to say the least. "It's either cancer or endometriosis," he announced, "but don't worry...we'll take care of it." He handed me a release form and told me to schedule diagnostic surgery right away.

I'd been in a lot of pain and throwing up on and off for a few months. Of course, I feared the worst. Poor Steinvic...quirky as I am, I'd been pretty normal up until that point, but the thought that - after all I'd been through to get to a happy place in my life - cancer was going to become part of my story was too much to take. I was a wreck for a month until the laparoscopy that diagnosed the endometriosis. Steinvic was supportive the whole time. He drove through an ice and snow storm for two hours to be there for that procedure.

Thank goodness it wasn't cancer, right? Right! But endo has a whole bunch of fun tricks she pulls out from her hat, and I've been trying to kick her stupid butt ever since I was diagnosed. However, there is no cure for endometriosis and you can do only so much to reduce the symptoms.

So, I'm reading Allure magazine this month and there is an article about a former model who had breast cancer. The article mentions that she'd been diagnosed with endometriosis and that no one had told her that it could be a precursor to breast cancer later in life.

No one told me that, either, though a study I once read indicated that endometriosis could be a precursor for some other female cancers.

Also, no one told me to avoid soy and processed soy, as these can make hormone levels soar, increasing the endo symptoms. But I found that information out on my own, too. As a vegetarian, I was gobbling soy like crazy and it certainly wasn't helping my cause.

So, I start thinking...the link for the model was estrogen - she started her period at an early age and had endometriosis - two indicators that she had a high level of estrogen in her body. What about foods and supplements that could control or reduce the amount of estrogen our bodies produce? I found this and thought, hmm... if the things on that checklist are really truly indicators that your body is on "estrogen overload," then I'm a candidate. There are nine - NINE - things on that list that I've been treated for. No doctor ever put those things together.

I'm not a hypochondriac. The fact is, though, that I haven't felt my best for a number of years. I am on a perpetual diet, hanging on to an extra 15 pounds even though I eat healthily and I'm energetic and fairly active. I've battled depression and been treated for migraines. I'm incredibly peppy, but I believe it's sheer will...I don't want anything to hold me back. But I would love to feel better. According to that list, a lot of the things I have experienced can be caused by an over abundance of estrogen.

So, estrogen-reducing foods have entered my life as of today. I am armed with broccoli. I ate oat bran hot cereal with dried cranberries for breakfast. I took Zinc and B6 today. I baked yams last night (and I added fresh sliced ginger, because it's so freaking good) and I have dry roasted walnuts to snack on. If there is extra estrogen in my body, I'm making it go away.

I am not fooling around.

And soy and I, for the time being, are probably going to part company, except for maybe the occasional cookout, but even then, my veggie burger could easily be replaced with an amazing marinated portobello mushroom.

Here is to being healthy! The excitement from thinking that I might be able to cure myself - to feel better through something as simple as eating a certain way - is a really good feeling!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Being Nice

Call me a dork, but if I get good service somewhere, I will hop online and comment about it.

If you managed to get through your teen/college years without working in some form of customer service, good for you! You're either independently wealthy or you discovered some other crafty way to make your bucks.

For me, I did 11 years of hard time in retail. Within the first few months at my first job, they figured out that I had a brain and that I was way too straight and narrow to even think about breaking the rules. Because of this, they gave me store keys and at 17, I was promoted to "junior assistant manager," which sounds silly, but it opened the door to retail management for me for the next decade. I was actually pretty successful.

I worked for a number of companies and eventually started "trouble shooting," which means a company would contact you to convince you to take over the crappiest store in their district, which usually meant theft (internal and/or external), bad sales, corrupt staff and inventory issues. My job was to go in, get the right staff in there, clean it up and start making money. I did that and loved it. Within 8 months, I could make even the worst hell-hole profitable, and I did it a number of times for three different companies.

In that time, I met a lot of outstanding people. Really nice students who were working hard to make money for school, moms who just wanted to get out of the house and plenty of folks who just wanted to work a few hours to get the discount. I worked hard to find the right combination of great people to better each store. And they worked hard. Magic. For not much money. I treated them like gold, though...worked around their schedules, listened, tried to make it a good, encouraging environment.

When I look back on my retail career, it's not the long hours, blisters, rude upper management, or low pay for myself that darkens my memories. It's sitting down at review time with someone - who has worked like mad to make the most of a rundown store, stood for hours ringing customers and smiling all the way, who vaccumed and Windexed obsessively to make the place presentable, who folded sweaters or hung new clothes for hours on end - and give them a fantastic evaluation, and then only be able to give them a five or ten cent raise to go with it. Darned corporate bastards! There was never any budget for rewards.

Granted, this was ten years ago, but I know that things haven't changed that much.

So! If you are in a store and the associate there is helpful and polite and smiles and does a good job...if he isn't leaning on the counter looking bored before you walk up...if she is busy doing something but not too busy to help you...get their name off that receipt and get online and take a few minutes to give them a thumbs up. Really. It can help them get a better increase or promotion, and even if it doesn't do that, at least it will make them feel better about their hard work.

After all, there is a lot to be said for putting the spring in someone's step, right? It will make you feel good, too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I've got it...Vacationitis. This may be the most serious case I've ever encountered.

I don't like to wish the days away, but I am so ready to board that plane with Steinvic in 23 days, I can hardly stand it.

To get to the airport and have a cocktail while we wait for our flight to arrive. To listen to our MP3s and feel giddy as we wait in line to board.

To snuggle up during the four-hour flight, reading and enjoying free beverages, thanks to points we've saved through Southwest.

To arrive in Phoenix, sun shining, to hug his aunt and uncle and change into summer clothes.

To visit with cousins and more aunts and uncles, sit on the patio, play with Fred and Woody (awesomest puppies), cook for the family, maybe play a little golf, read, get some sun, and just be together.

Did I mention our four days in Las Vegas? And the awesome drive across the desert that gets us there? driving on another planet. The rock formations. Joshua trees. Snow-topped mountains in the distance forever and ever and ever.

Did I mention that we'll see U2 twice on this trip? TWO TIMES! A major treat...I totally can't wait.

So, for today, I am looking at this calendar and thinking of how nice it will be to finally exhale and enjoy our little travel rituals that I've come to love and count on over the last five years. (Never really traveled much before that...I think I flew four times in my whole life prior to meeting Steinvic!)

I am so ready...what a year...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chasing Rabbits

Our weekend was sashaying along so very nicely, with lots of football-watching and family time and celebrating with out of town folks we just don't see often enough.

We decided to stay in yesterday to save pennies and also because I was cooking vegetarian lasagna - an all day affair.

And we watched Ghost Town. Have you seen it? Ghost Town is not supposed to be a sad movie. I was curled up against Steinvic, warm and comfortable, feeling content, and that is when I apparently dozed off for a few moments. When I woke up, I suddenly remembered that my Grandma was gone, the feeling of despair just overwhelmed me and I started crying.

And I couldn't stop. I made it through the movie, sniffling and eyes tearing non-stop, but then went right off to bed. Steinvic tucked me in and was completely understanding, but I felt like a fool. I cried myself to sleep and this morning, have the puffy eyes to prove it. Even through the makeup, my eyes look like someone socked me in them.

I know I may be a little preoccupied with death as it seems to be everywhere recently. Steinvic's Arizona uncles were in town this week because their sister (Steinvic's aunt) sadly passed away - I was going to write about that here and just felt that it was too private, but Steinvic's been dealing with that this week.

Also, just two months ago, one of those uncles lost his wife of 38 years. I made a point to talk with that uncle for a while on Friday night, explaining that I understood why he was so very sad, that I had just lost my Grandma, and that at times, I would look around at everyone going on about their normal lives and wonder what the hell was wrong with them...didn't they know that something horrible had happened and that nothing would ever be the same or right again? He grabbed me and hugged me and said that was exactly how he felt about his wife being gone. Exactly. And we both agreed that while we each felt this way, we were also painfully aware that we couldn't go on talking about it all the time...who wants to hear it?

I told him that I didn't know what his beliefs were about what happens when we die and how that part really didn't matter...that I knew for certain that what his wife and my Grandma wanted for us was the very thing they could no longer do - they wanted us to live, and live well and large and loud. That surely, we had their permission to grieve and cry and feel like crap...just so long as most of the time, we were focusing on living a good life. He nodded and agreed.

I thought of that conversation last night and how those words do not feel like they belong to me.

I am having some trouble taking my own advice and making sense of things. I'm struggling to keep from asking myself how I can laugh, eat or even dress and make up every day when the world is without my Grandma.

And I found myself, in my non-stop tears last night, wondering how she could be gone - how she could go and leave me here - and what am I going to do now? Sheer self-pity at it's finest...I know she would never have abandoned me.

So, I'm tip-toeing around that rabbit's hole, not even wanting to peer inside, not wanting to hear the echo of my breathing into it's vast, careening, vacant darkness...knowing that I have no business even being in the forest. I'm trying to move on as best I can, with no idea how to do it...