31 July 2009

Running Commentary

It's Friday - woo hoo! Last Friday in July, which means NEXT Friday I get 1/2 day off. If it's moving day I might take the rest of the day, but that whole thing hasn't been completely sorted out (moving definitely, timing TBD).

Last night went to Michaels on the subway fun pass from Dale & Steve and got the most gorgeous spring green yarn for a new baby blanket pattern. I started last night and it's going so great it's all I can do to keep from picking it up and crocheting on.

Shawn told me today that NYU offers Dell discounts - including on a PLUM PURPLE laptop. Could I do that?! Also, I scheduled my last student loan payment for next payday. Hoarding savings even more ... here we come!

The plan for tonight includes Harry Potter. We'll see how it goes - it's so rainy outside. But I DO need to get out of the apartment at least once/day... For now, making hamburger patties and wishing I had a can of green beans like Gran serves.

30 July 2009

NYC Photos

Just uploaded the photos from the in-laws' visit to Flickr in the NYC July 09 album.

The Walkers and Lady Liberty

Lunch Thought: Facebook

I typically don't post anything on my Facebook account. There are people on there who I KNOW are reading ... people from my past lives, so to speak. A recent comment exchange on something I posted explains why I do not connect this blog to my Facebook page, even though it would bring in more readers.

I posted a link to a book that's being promoted by my work/in which my organization is mentioned. It's a book I have yet to read, but the premise and reviews ... all signs point to me liking it. I basically said that in the comment and the reason I mentioned it at all was that I was on a conference call with the authors.

A girl from high school, someone still back home and whom I could disparage and compare myself favorably to, wrote something like "Sounds too wordy and opinionated." At first I was peeved, then I thought meh. I wrote back "You're right - books are wordy. And opinion is often the name of the game at my job." (Or something like that - I'm not going to look it up.) She writes back something about "$5 words in four out of every five words."

I've left it at that and there's nothing else to say. But when I read it I was definitely back to the nerd, smarty pants I was in high school. And I think that was the point of her comments.

Then I remembered I'm married to a PhD, and he laughed like a maniac at my "books are wordy" comment when I told him, so who cares what some random friend from my childhood thinks... (Answer: I do.)

29 July 2009

Reservations

Booking a trip next week to DC. I was just there last week, but hopefully this will be the last trip for a while.

Option A - train directly to Alexandria ... a 4 hour ride (because of the extra wait at Union Station in DC) ... I'm let off just a few blocks from the office, so it's considerably less schlepping time

Option B - train to Washington ... a 3 hour and 20 minute ride ... I could POSSIBLY get to the office a little faster if the Metro were working in my favor, but then I'd have to schlep my bag from Amtrak to Metro, hassle with the card (somewhere between moving here and my first few trips back I lost my Smartrip card ... and I'm pretty sure I OWED money on it, so who knows) and then arrive a few blocks from the office.

Yeah, I think option A is better, although neither is super appealing.

I am staying two nights at my friend/coworker Barbara's. I would go into that more, but I won't.

Here's a picture from Times Square after the 39 Steps play:

I need to ask Dale about posting more pictures online/if she's OK with me linking them here. Not that I have stranger-danger readers (or really many readers period), but you know.

Also, I realized in addition to food there was another pattern in the inlaws' trip ... "Do you see what I've had to put up with?!" Both to me and about me! Makes me smile just thinking of it.

28 July 2009

In-Laws and Out-Laws

Shawn's parents came to visit this last weekend. We celebrated Steve's birthday and partied down. Their train arrived Friday around 2 p.m., and then:
  • Friday evening, Times Square and 39 Steps on Broadway - funny, tongue-in-cheek show w/ 4 actors, with three playing MULTIPLE roles, sometimes at the same time. Very clever and entertaining ... lots of Alfred Hitchcock references.
  • Saturday - breakfast at home, picnic lunch at Liberty Island ... Statue of Liberty provided our shade (well, the trees around her base did). We also walked all over Ellis Island, and I saw some parts of that museum that I missed the last time I was there. Dinner at Silver Spur diner - not so great.
  • Sunday - breakfast at home, train to Bronx Zoo. QUITE an ordeal to get there, of course because of the subway schedules. Jeez-a-roni. Lunch there and saw loads of animals. I think my favorite was the elephant. Pork chops at home for dinner. So yummy.
  • Monday - I stayed here and worked, Shawn and co. went to Coney Island and the aquarium. Nathan's hot dogs! We had supper at Patsy's ... authentic NYC pizza? Was pretty tasty and we had a fruit "dump" cake for dinner. (Notice the pattern of FOOD? Such is life.)
Their train left today around 2 p.m., and they will be on the train until LATE tonight. It was a great trip, and I'm so lucky to have such amazing in-laws. More photos will be uploaded to Flickr.


22 July 2009

Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday, Beth!

Bus Ride

I rode the bus back from the chiropractor today (a bus ride is a transfer, but a return trip on the subway is another $2.25). The bus was full, but there was room for me. A guy got on using the back doors, which pissed off the driver. He made him come up (through the crowd of people) and swipe his card. I was standing so that the guy reached across me. His arm started brushing across my bust and I instinctively went down, i.e. crouched, so he could reach over me. I guess the driver thought I fainted or something because he kept saying "are you OK?"

Yeah, I'm OK. But I guess I must look older than I am or something for people to think I can't just duck to avoid a pervert's arm.

18 July 2009

Review: Memory

Memory: A Novel Memory: A Novel by Philippe Grimbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A slim novel, Memory is translated from the original French. It was published first in the UK in English as "Secret." It's a novel that reads like a memoir, especially because the subject's first name is never spoken but his family name is the same as the author's. The timing/age of the author based on his jacket photo also make it confusing.

It's a novel about a family secret having to do with The Holocaust and missing family members. Some clunky writing in places, likely due to the translations, but in other places very nice. The plot itself moves quickly and is gripping. I read this book in two settings (would have been one, but hunger and dinner making triumphed).

I really liked it, and it brought back memories of my childhood reading materials, and how in about sixth grade I read everything I could get my hands on related to World War II and the Holocaust. I even had a timeline poster in my room. Probably not an unusual obsession, but still strange.

View all my reviews >>

17 July 2009

How to Make a Stove Top Espresso Latte

For my mother, who enjoyed this new trick of mine on her recent visit. I've been making these daily, and for pennies I have a latte experience. It is more work than having the barista make it for me, but no waiting in line!

Tools You Need:
  • Stove Top Espresso pot (I bought mine from Amazon: This is the one I purchased, but the photo on this page doesn't match the one I ordered or received, so not sure what's the deal.)
  • AeroLatte foamer/whipper (also from Amazon)
  • Glass measuring cup, or some other microwave-proof vessel
  • Finely ground coffee (lots of online resources recommend this from Amazon, but I get my beans from FreshDirect and ask them to grind them for a stove top espresso pot)
  • Milk (I find skim foams best)
  • Latte mug
When you get the espresso pot, you have to brew a few pots of just water before using it. There are instructions with the pot, but the procedure is basically this:

Fill the bottom part with water up to a little gold nub on the side. I use tap water instead of Brita water after reading something online that suggested the coffee oils release better. Who knows though.

Then place the mesh middle piece of the pot on top and fill it with ground coffee. I loosely pack my coffee, even though I've read not to do that; the hot water from below will pack it.

Screw the top pot-piece on and place the assembled pot on a burner. Keep it slightly away off-center to keep the handle from getting hot or melting (mine has a plastic handle).

Turn on the heat to medium-high and set a timer for 4 minutes. Watch the pot and when it boils, it's done. But 4 minutes is about right for my 3-cup model. (The water in the bottom chamber heats up, pressure builds to push it up through the coffee grounds and into the pot chamber above. The coffee will be boiling, and if you let it keep boiling I think it gets bitter. Learn how these types of coffee pots works on Wikipedia.)

While the pot is working, put 1 cup of skim milk into the measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute, or until hot.

Use the AeroLatte foamer to whip the milk. I can get 1 cup of milk to have 2 cups of volume if I spend enough time on it - just pull the foamer up to the top to build bubbles upon bubbles. It's not quite the same as a coffee house steam wand, but it mimics the final product.

Once the coffee is ready, pour the entire content of the pot, all 3 "cups," into the latte mug (it's not 3 fluid cups, but 3 "shots" - you may find you like less per latte). Add the milk on top. The foam will cling and you may have to spoon it on top and can make pretty patterns.

Enjoy!

Cleaning the pot is easy, but I think you may have to do it by hand - certainly waiting until it's cool. Don't re-assemble the pot when it's wet, but let the pieces air dry fully before storing. (Making a second pot while it's still wet hasn't been a problem for me though!)

Also, to make other drinks with your "espresso" and "steamed milk," see this illustrated coffee guide, which has been making the rounds online for more than a year, and is still a perfectly concise way to relay the recipes.

Review: You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman

You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother by Judith Newman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A $1 Housingworks Sale find. An easy read that I devoured quickly.

This book chronicles the struggles of a woman trying to get pregnant in her 40s. She has twins and the book continues until they're ~20 months old. She lives in Manhattan, apparently in our neighborhood.

My favorite passage is about her trying to get a key to the NYU residential playground, the one we could have access to if we had kids because we're NYU residents. She describes the real estate manager exactly as I imagine her to be when Shawn describes the woman he deals with (Shawn's pretty sure it's not the same woman):
"[The Key Park:] is controlled by a bureaucrat in one of NYU's real estate management offices who gives out keys by whim, a woman I know nothing about. But as my frustration has grown I have become fond of ascribing her new identities and new levels of insanity. Most recently I decided she was someone who owns many, many parakeets."
From earlier in the book, a thought on marriage that cracked me up: "Men look at marriages as a contract: you change, you break the contract. Women look at marriage as a screen play. You change? Call in a rewrite!"

I can't say I'd recommend going to any effort to find and read this book (unless you are struggling with infertility - I think success stories of similar problems would probably be welcome then ... and this is well written and funny and touching), but if you happen across it, definitely work a buck.

View all my reviews >>

FWD: The Power of A.C.T.S.

The Power of A.C.T.S.
This devotional was written by Robin Dugall

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." —Luke 11:1

Within the first few months after I dedicated my life to Jesus, I was told that I needed to pray. I had never been taught to pray as a younger person. I had been attending a church where all the prayers were printed in books and recited only in worship experiences by a man in the front of the church, who wore a robe. It was my impression that only trained people knew how to really pray and that if I prayed at all, I had to find a book to use.

No one had ever taken the time to explain prayer to me. That was soon to become a problem when my youth pastor asked me one night at a Bible study, “Robin, why don’t you pray for us?” I went into shock. Shock, however, is not what God has in mind for His followers when it comes to prayer!

In God’s eyes, there is no off-limits to prayer. As Christ-followers, we have been given “bold access” to God. When it comes to prayer, God has given us an open door to pray in any and all ways possible. When I was 17-years-old, I learned a great model for praying that I still find helpful today. It revolutionized my life and still guides me as I come into deeper relationship with God through prayer. It’s called A.C.T.S. and I hope you too, will find it helpful in your own prayer life.

Adoration
– All prayer should include worship. Begin with the phrase, "I love (or adore) You, God, because You are… " The goal is to focus on an attribute of God. "Praise Him for who He is, not what He does," I remind myself. We can always find words of adoration in the Psalms.

Confession
– We need to remember that we are broken and need healing. Take time in prayer to say, "Lord, please forgive me for…" or "I’m sorry I… " Be as specific as possible. Think back over the day to a time when you did wrong or were disobedient. Confession keeps us humble before God.

Thanksgiving
- Teach yourself this important aspect of prayer: thanking God. You can thank God for the good things that have happened during the day or for special people in your life.

Supplication
– This is what we most often do during prayer, asking God for “things.” Divide this category into two parts: praying for others and praying for yourself.

via Grace Notes

15 July 2009

Revolt

We just got back from a free screening of a movie coming out in October, Youth in Revolt. I'm not sure we're the target audience, but it was pretty cute and I like Michael Cera. Reminded me of Juno - teenagers using $10 vocabulary words and quirky cartoons throughout. Stuff to do like this is reason number 3 that I like New York (number 1 being that Shawn lives here and number 2 being that it's a cool enough place for people we love to want to come visit us often)... Don't get me started on the list of reasons I don't like/want out of New York.

Speaking of movie stars, I forgot to mention that when we were in Central Park walking to the bus from Turtle Pond a movie star whizzed right by us on his bike. Leonardo DiCaprio, with his beard and a hat - but definitely him. I nudged Beth and she agreed. I checked later and he was definitely in NYC, so yep, we saw him. :) Funny since Owen is in a phase of being SUPER interested in the Titanic ... we saw the star of the film Titanic!

14 July 2009

Pantene Pro V

Hey, you.

Wanna know a secret?

If you soak your shoe in Pantene Pro V shampoo, your feet won't stink after a full day of walking around New York City.

Yep, you heard me right.

How do I know, you ask?

Ah ... I know because my mom brought my husband a giant, Sam-sized bottle of Pantene shampoo that was "somehow" opened in her suitcase (aka the TSA inspectors who left the note must have been upset that she packed a suitcase inside a suitcase and gave her a surprise).

Unfortunately the scent only lasted one day and the shoes in question went back to being regular and smelly by day 2. And because they were still Pantene soaked, despite lots of rinsing, the dirt and grime of the city clung to them.

Poor Beth - only one of her shoes got soaked - so she had one dirty shoe (that smelled super clean for one day) and one normal shoe.

The price you pay for pleasing Shawn? Perhaps.

13 July 2009

Blood Drive, Continued

Here's my creepy blood donation bruise - photo a bit fuzzy from the webcam, so you'll have to trust me. It's probably going to get grosser. It also hurts if I move it just so. Once the woman tech saw I was going to bruise she gave me a bruising fact sheet...as if I'd never had a bruise - but failed to tell me the standard stuff (keep the bandage on for six hours, drink plenty of fluids, etc. etc.). But then maybe I didn't need to drink extra fluids since they put most of my blood back into me.

Work has been absolutely nonstop today, which is fine and makes the time fly, but I've uncovered a major failure on my part. Basically a note I took during my last in-person meeting that I didn't follow up on ... no real explanation why, other than I didn't properly process my notes once I was back here. I'm hoping it can be salvaged, and I'm pretty sure it can, but I feel frustrated when I can't be my 100% best. And I'm SURE that this mistake is not my best. Blurgh.

So now I'm doing some online grocery shopping (bad news being so hungry/late in the day) while monitoring for any last minute incoming e-mails (ideally with a decision to make my delay/mistake a moot point). I need to work on my sideline writing stuff - I've been writing how to articles that I mean to link here individually ... they're available on the links sidebar (recent articles I've written). I've made a couple hundred bucks in a couple months. Nothing earth shattering, but a way to use my spare time and earn Christmas cash or what have you. On some of the articles I'm paid per click, so I should do a better job advertising. They're a mishmash of articles and fact sheets. Anyway.

There are the end-of-work-day thoughts from me.

My Juggling Fool

A kid in the playground looked at Shawn, pointed and screamed "Deceptor-con" and ran away. Silly kids.

12 July 2009

Review: The Shack

The Shack The Shack by William P. Young

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I hadn't heard of this book until I read a review by a girl in my high school alma mater's newsletter. The review was glowing, and I told my mom (editor of the newsletter) so. She sent me a copy, and after that I heard about The Shack at church - the associate pastor recommended it from the pulpit, although it was just a passing reference. I knew from the high schooler's review what it was about, and I knew from my mom that it probably wasn't as good as advertised. Right-o.

Basically this book is one man's view on religion. And it's FICTION. It's written in a way to suggest that it is truth, but there are lots of holes in the story if you try to take it as fact, even without a strong theological background (which I clearly do not have).

At the end of the book is a section encouraging readers to recommend the book, pass along the copy and post a review online. There are lots of ideas for people to spread the message of the book (and help the book sell more copies and eventually be made into a movie). They also say "don't give away the plot." Uh, there really isn't much of a story or plot. It's one guy, he faces tragedy and then gets to physically see God to overcome his loss and sadness. I don't think that gives anything away, but just in case I checked "contains spoilers" in Good Reads.

So God in three persons is represented and sort of understandable, and the father-figure God is a black woman. No problem there EXCEPT when the author gives her black mammy dialogue in one paragraph to be followed by a PhD-level explanation of life with $10 words in the next. Yes, God can be all things, even stereotypical things, but what purpose does it serve in this book (besides annoying the crap out of me)?

In chapter 9, there's a line (spoken by the Holy Spirit character) that I dog-eared: "A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected." The author then delves into an argument about "rights," whereas my mind went directly to the first part - if love = protection, why do bad things happen? This question is part of the main thrust of the book, but I felt like this was a missed opportunity, or it just irked me. I don't know.

I also got bogged down by the expectations and responsibilities section at the end. It's almost as if the author is saying - you can be as bad as you want and there are no consequences. And maybe there aren't - that's a good message and I love it - nothing can separate us from God or his love, even our sin ... no matter how large. But I didn't find resolution in the book about what it takes to fulfill our part of a relationship with God. It's almost as if we don't have to do anything - everyone goes to heaven and to be with God, they just have a miserable time of it down here if they aren't actively in fellowship with him. And if THAT'S the point of this book, what difference does it make how we live?

I guess I would recommend it if just to get your brain thinking about some of these issues, even if the writing is a little too detailed in some parts and fantastical in others.

View all my reviews.

Donating Blood

I'm just back from donating blood - platelets this time. Basically it's a process where they pull your blood out, put it through a centrifuge to remove platelets and then put the blood back in you. freaky, right?

Of course they don't tell you that you have to watch this machine for the entire hour (plus) because you squeeze on the draw and release on the return. Each is about 10 seconds, although that varies and there's no way to get in a rhythm. They set the machine to the side, so I'm craning my neck to see it, plus the lady gets cranky with me because I squeezed on the return by accident when I missed the switch from draw to return. Basically you have to pay strict attention. I was hoping I could just read my book and have the process go by quickly.

The people who talked me into doing this process were overly eager. I was recruited during a whole blood donation at my church (just one month ago), and consented, giving the guy my name/contact info (even though in the course of the conversation he managed to insult me and my knowledge of social media and Facebook - so weird). Then I got a phone call to schedule an appointment - fine. That was like 15 minutes of my time because she was trying to be too chatty, as if I'd say no if she didn't flap her jaw enough. Then I got at least two follow up calls, an e-mail AND a post card. So I'm expecting the people actually performing the procedure to be equally stoked about my generous donation...

Yeah, not so much. The first clue was the "courtesy counts" campaign signs around the room/center. Are you kidding me? Because I'm guessing people who come to donate blood aren't necessarily a surly or selfish bunch. But you can guarantee those posters are meant to motivate the cranky technicians. Granted I wouldn't like a job like that either - especially since the center is in the basement of a giant building and we were having such beautiful weather, but come on.

I could only donate 4.0 whatevers, although when she'd first calibrated the machine it was at more than 7 as my goal. The needle hurt while it was in my arm. I got tingly lips and am feeling oh-so-tired. My stomach didn't feel so great on the bus ride home, but I'm better now and not sure if it had anything to do with the blood donation itself (like dehydration) or just something that happens.

I definitely like whole blood donations better.

10 July 2009

Getting the Shot: Lady Liberty

I uploaded 34 photos to a Flickr set from the trip. Some are taken by Owen, but most are taken by me. I'll link to my mom's and Beth's photos when they're up. Also, we met with Lisa one day and she took some darling shots of O eating ice cream. I'll definitely post one of those here if/when I get them.

One of my favorite things that we did was visit the statue of liberty. I was able to take a picture of all three of them taking a picture of the statue from the same angle. (Shawn was gone at his conference in Denver, so he wasn't there to take pictures.) I think it would make a cute montage in a frame or something, but I think I may have taken less-than-high resolution shots.







09 July 2009

Walking

We walked. And walked. And walked. Apt for a Walker, right? Uh...

7/3: 1.534 miles - beach day
7/4: 4.2415 miles - Coney Island, aquarium & fireworks over the Hudson
7/5: 3.8582 miles - church, street festival & natural history museum
7/6: 1.923 miles - Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
7/7: 3.8121 miles - Times Square, Pearl River/Soho & South Street Sea Port
7/8: 1.9018 miles - Century 21 & Central Park/Turtle Pond

These mileages don't include the walking and standing we did in the museums, aquariums, in the subway stations, etc. Plus my mom did some extra walking on 7/7 around the neighborhood, and Beth took Owen to a Titanic exhibit in Times Square that added some walking to her day. Owen was lucky/bratty in that he strolled most of the way.

That's a total of 17.3 miles - an average of 2.8 miles per day. OIY! Feels good to sit down.

More updates and photos to come. This is just to get my memory started.

08 July 2009

Tide


July 3, 2009: Mari's sandy toes and Owen's sandy toes as we relax at the beach. Many more photos and stories to come.

02 July 2009

August: Osage County & New Shoes

August: Osage CountyOn Saturday Shawn and I went to the Music Box Theatre for one of the last performances of August: Osage County, a play about a family's reunion one August in Osage County, Oklahoma (near Tulsa).

Phylicia Rashad starred as the matriarch, so she brought the star power.

The entire play was amazing though. I loved being surrounded by the (fake) Oklahoma accents - some were spot on, especially the Aunt Maddie Fay and Charles characters.

We had great seats because of the NYU discount - we were on the main level (we used the binoculars anyway) at the very back. Not quite as close as "reasons to be pretty," but still better than nosebleeds I guess.

Here's a picture of Shawn's new shoes (plus his old ones in the background). How cute is he?!

01 July 2009

Review: Confusion

Confusion (Cazalet Chronicle, Vol 3) Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is an apt title. Man, I was confused at the beginning of every chapter. Most would take about 3-4 paragraphs to clarify who was speaking (this is a book with MANY characters, and it goes back and forth on who's being focused on). It's a book in a series, so perhaps that would have helped things, but even using the family tree and "for people who haven't read volumes 1 and 2" section, I was still confused to the last page. I'm a sucker for a WWII story though, so that's why I picked up this book for $1 at the Housingworks thrift sale a couple weeks ago.


View all my reviews.