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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies

I think I'm going to make it a goal this year to watch the top 100 movies, as listed by AFI.  I'm going with the 2007 list , since it has a few more recent movies.  I'm doing this for several reasons:
  1. There are a ton of movies that I've never seen, and people are always giving me crap about it.
  2. I have not seen a decent movie in a while.  I mean seriously, every movie that I've rented recently has been at best mediocre.  
  3. I have netflix at my disposal, so I can rent away!
Movies on the list that I've seen already, for the record:
  1. (3) Casablanca
  2. (6) Gone with the Wind - Well, duh.
  3. (8) Schindler's List - Dave made me watch
  4. (10) The Wizard of Oz - Disturbing.
  5. (13) Star Wars
  6. (15) 2001: A Space Odyssey - Although very long ago
  7. (17) The Graduate - Only recently, last year.
  8. (20) It's a Wonderful  Life - I saw this one for the first time a couple weeks ago.
  9. (24) E.T. 
  10. (25) To Kill a Mockingbird
  11. (26) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  12. (33) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  13. (34) Snow White
  14. (40) The Sound of Music
  15. (44) The Philadelphia Story
  16. (47) A Streetcar Named Desire, although I only vaguely remember it
  17. (50) Lord of the Rings
  18. (51) West Side Story
  19. (56) Jaws
  20. (65) The African Queen
  21. (66) Raiders of the Lost Ark
  22. (69) Tootsie
  23. (71) Saving Private Ryan
  24. (72) The Shawshank Redemption
  25. (74) The Silence of the Lambs
  26. (76) Forrest Gump
  27. (83) Titanic
  28. (89) The Sixth Sense, which frankly I'm surprised that it made the list.
  29. (94) Pulp Fiction
  30. (99) Toy Story
Now, the annoying part is that the first movie that I have to watch is Ben-Hur, which I have no desire to see.  But, then again, maybe I'll enjoy it.  Or, maybe I'll watch them out of order....  I need to discuss with Todd, as I haven't brought this up with him yet, and he's going to have to sit through these movies with me.  Maybe I'll make a separate page for this goal...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Great Article

New Years Resolutions ...

Sadly, Josh's workout program didn't work for me as written (I was bored), but I'm going to attempt mixing his theories with Cathe to get what I want this year...

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008: Fitness Year in Review



Reviewing...


It's time again for my annual fitness year in review.  The interesting thing about this year is that while I did meet a lot of goals and I was very successful at keeping weight off and getting my running done, my biggest accomplishment was to become a lot more "sane" and "normal" about fitness.  I gave up a lot of my old habits of dieting and just mostly focused on keeping everything balanced - from my food to my exercise to my frame of mind.  And this turned out to be a huge success.

Fitness Goals for 2008...

Diet - Day one of tracking foods is today. Diet is not the number one priority, but tracking foods should be good enough. Hopefully, get the workouts going and the diet will follow.
This strategy was very successful.  I tracked my foods and stayed balanced and fine, without eating tons of diet food, etc.  I joined Diettogo in March, which helped me keep balance at work.  

Weight Loss - No specific weight loss goals this year, as I am trying to take the focus off of the number on the scale. If the workouts come, the diet will follow and weight loss is surely to be the result. At a minimum, maintain around 170 pounds.
Sometime during the year, I stopped worrying about the number on the scale.  This was especially good mentally for me.  As a result, I stopped the focus on what my actual weight is, and haven't really written about it on my blog since.  Suffice it to say that right this second I'm still up a bit from my Belize trip and the holidays.  However, I reached what was my goal weight in late April / early May (in time for the Frederick Half Marathon), and maintained it all the way until December.  I need to drop about 5 pounds right now, but I know that I will.  

Running - Run the Disney Marathon in January. Run a half marathon in the fall. NO MORE FULL MARATHONS for 2008. Keep up with 2-3 runs per week, and a base of only about 6 miles through the spring. Potentially run the Jacksonville Breast Cancer half marathon in February, although that is partially up in the air.
Didn't run the Jacksonvill race.  I did run the Disney Marathon, at an incredibly slow time (but my training sucked).  The Frederick Half Marathon, not mentioned here because it became a goal post-Disney, went very well, and I did run the Baltimore Half Marathon, even if it sucked.

Workouts - Goal of 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, starting today. Focus on running and upper body weight training through the disney marathon. If we are running the Breast cancer race, keep the focus of running through then. Mix in Cathe rotations post-Disney to add variety. Any workout will do.
Cross-training continues to be a huge problem.  I cannot seem to stay into it.  I was successful in January / February of getting in several weeks of at least 4 and sometimes 5 days of workouts, and then I was successful again at doing so in April / May, and then again in November.  However, sustaining the cross-training has been very difficult for me.  This will be another goal for 2009.
Weights and Muscle Tone - Regain muscle tone in upper body. Work up to equal the weight that I was using for workouts in March 2006.
See above.  I was unable to keep up the cross-training long enough to do so :(

Lessons from 2008
  • It is SO much easier to lose weight and keep it off when training for half marathons and not full marathons.  This made me very happy.
  • As long as I'm running and working out, I do have the ability to eat sensibly and maintain my weight without keeping a food journal.  However, a journal is necessary when things start getting out of control.
  • The longer I stay with Todd, the less I want to eat bad things.  We've developed a mutual love and respect for healthy foods, and that is awesome.
  • Even with the best training, sometimes you just don't have it on race day.
  • In order to run faster, you have to run faster.
Successes for 2008


From Somewhere in the Sun
  • LOTS of running (see the chart above, which is a line graph of all of my running by weeks in 2008)
  • Sporadic success with Cathe workouts.
  • Jeff Galloway training program, including being a group leader
  • Two 5k Races (Shamrock in March, Pikesville in July), including setting a new 5k PR in March.
  • One 10k Race (Race for Our Kids in June)
  • Annapolis 10 Mile run
  • Celtic Solstice 5 Mile Run
  • Walt Disney World Marathon
  • Two half marathons - Frederick Half (May) and Baltimore Half (October) -- meaning I ran the Maryland Double!
  • More success at getting to the pool to swim laps than in 2007.
  • Advanced Open Water Diving Certification (including bouyancy, night / limited visibilty & navigation)
  • Completed 62 scuba dives, for a total of 132 since I became certified.
Goals for 2009
  • Diet and Weight Loss - continue doing what I'm going.  Track foods to get weight down, eat sensibly, and maintain.  Do I want to lose more weight?  Sure, but I'm also at a weight right now that is right for me and that I'm happy with, so this weight is fine for now.
  • Running - Complete the Disney Half Marathon in January.  Plan to run a fall Half Marathon, then ramp up to the Disney Marathon (yes, the whole 26.2) in January 2010.  I had thought about doing the Goofy Challenge, but I don't think I'm up for it this year.
  • Workouts - Find a way to get cross-training in.  Starting with post-Disney, start doing Cathe rotations combined with a very light running schedule for the off season.  Get the tone back in the upper body.
  • Diving - I'd like to get another 60 dives in during 2009.  We shall see, as travel has become very expensive.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Private: Boxing Day 2008

Boxing Day 2008

Note: This is a private post on my private blog. For access, please email me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Recipe: Oprah's Pomegranate Martini

I was assigned the task of providing the drink of the day for Christmas. That drink was a Pomegranate Martini. They were delicious and very Christmasy. Everyone had a couple, even those non drinkers in the crowd. Good times. The recipe came from Oprah.com, so I figured you can't go wrong with that - Oprah probably knows her martinis...

Oprah's Pomegranate Martini

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Private: Christmas 2008

Christmas 2008

This is a private post on my private blog. You must have access to view it, so email me if you want access.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

From Somewhere in the Sun

Neatorama

For those that read my RSS feeds on my left menu, check out Neatorama.  I found it the other day and it seems to be just an awesome collection of interesting things.  Some favorites:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

5-Star Light Displays

There is still time, because I will be in Annapolis tomorrow and Northern VA Thursday and Friday, but...  for now, there are only two houses in the area that have won my own personal award for Christmas decorating.  Lots of houses get 4 stars, but few get 5.  So, the two best light displays in the area, or at least on the roads that I travel regularly in the area are:
  • The Red & Green display at the corner of Falls Road and Brick Store Road.
  • The Blue display which is on Route 30, if you are traveling north from 795, it is maybe a half mile up on the left, just up from the Animal Hospital.
Also, for entertainment value, check out this Slate article on unusual light displays.  My favorite is the Flying Spaghetti Monster... why didn't I think of that one??

In other news, sorry for the lack of posting lately, I've been working at a new job and quite frankly haven't had much to say.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Celtic Solstice 5 Mile Run 2008

I must admit, this was a really nice little race. It was quite cold at the start... even though my clock at home said 35 when we left the house, making me assume that when the sun rose it would be in the 40s, when we got home, the clock said 28, so the temperatures went down during the race. I was tired and hungover from my work (yes, the new job) Holiday party Friday night. I was just planning to run casually, hang out with friends, and get some miles. I wondered why I even bothered with the chip.

There was a large group of us running - Sue, Caryn, Kristy, Misty, KathyC, and some friends and family. There were others out who weren't running with us, and we ended up seeing quite a few people during the race. I chose not to turn chrono on (on my watch), so I had no idea what my split times were per mile and just tried to keep up with the group and have a good time.

As it turned out, this was a good strategy, since when I saw the results yesterday, I maintained a 12:28 per mile pace, which is very good. I'm starting to wonder if I should turn chrono off for all of my races. I had no intention of running this race fast and didn't think that I was... yet, I ran it at race pace and still felt comfortable at the end. No chrono for Disney?? We shall see.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Private: Today At Work...

Today At Work

Note: This is a private post on my private blog. For access to my private blog, please email me.

Thanks! :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Private: Nickish Christmas 2008

Nickish Christmas 2008

Note: This is a private post on my private blog. To read it, you must have access to my private blog. To request access, please feel free to email me. :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quittin' Time

by Keith Whitley and played faithfully by WPOC at 5pm each Friday.

It's quittin' time, quittin' time.
Time to disassemble this assembly line,
Oh, I love punching out,
Like I hate punching in.
Hot damma lamma lamma it's quittin' time again.

I'm so tired of making whatever it is that we make,
With some fool tellin' me when I can take a break.
They're breaking my spirit and making my body ache,
But I'm just about to make the great Escape...

It's quittin' time, quittin' time.
Time to disassemble this assembly line,
Oh, I love punching out,
Like I hate punching in.
Hot damma lamma lamma it's quittin' time again.

I'll be leaving this factory at the speed of a neon light,
Gonna meet my lady at the say when lounge tonight.
When they cut me loose I know she's gonna hold me tight,
Everything I want gonna be all right...


It's quittin' time, quittin' time.
Time to disassemble this assembly line,
Oh, I love punching out,
Like I hate punching in.
Hot damma lamma lamma it's quittin' time again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Running, Motivation & Christmas Lights

Tuesday, I did a short run outside for the first time since returning from Belize.  It is not a joke that this is the most difficult time of year to be motivated to run.  The season is over and running friends are hard to come by.  It's cold and I am not used to it yet.  No matter what time of day I choose to run, I always seem to be running in some sort of darkness.  It is just a tough, tough time of year for a runner.

So, I've had to really force myself to get out there, reminding myself of the 5 pounds that I gained in Belize (3 of them have come off).  I have a race in a month, and I want to be ready for it.  I have to run.

What is motivating about Christmas is that people have put out their decorations.  So, I do enjoy running through the neighborhood to see what people have done with their outside lights.  (NOTE: We have not put any up yet because we are lame).  So, on Tuesday, that is what kept me occupied during the run.  I rated each house with a star rating of 1-5, 5 stars being the best.  There were no 5 star winners, but there was a 1-star (we'll discuss that later).

Things that affected the ratings:

Higher ratings:
  • Quantity of lights.  Apparently when it comes down to it, I like a lot of lights.
  • Decorating with things other than lights, such as pine garland and wreaths (Danger: you can also go tacky with this)
  • Difficulty, so you would get a higher score if you actually hung lights along the top of the house and not just throwing things out on the bushes.
  • Correct use of colors other than white.
  • Decorating a deciduous tree with lights, only if each branch is individually lit.
  • Candles in windows.
  • Spotlights on the front of the house.

Lower ratings:
  • Inflatable decorations.  Even lower ratings for more than one inflatable decoration, or inflatable decorations that are a snow globe, make noise, or animate.  In other words, the more money you spend on inflatable decorations, the lower your score will be.
  • Weird or haphazard color combination.
  • Incomplete nativity scene, with the exception of the baby Jesus, which is often missing pre-Christmas.  For example, just Mary and a donkey.
  • Pre-lit objects (non-inflatable) are OK, but less of a rating if, when lit, you cannot tell what they are and they just look like blobs of lights.
  • Anything that plays music.
  • Blinking lights.  Blinking lights can be done in a good way, but 99.9% of people can't pull it off these days.  Leave it to the experts.
  • Using blanket-style Christmas lights on bushes.  Even lower rating if the blanket-style lights are used and they don't cover the entire bush.
  • Christmas lights and decorations, but failure to get rid of the pumpkins and/or Halloween decorations.
  • Seemingly incomplete decorating - such as only putting lights on one bush out of four.
  • Running strands of lights between objects or trees.
  • A sign that says "X days until Christmas" that is obviously wrong.  Don't commit to that sign if you're not going to keep it up to date.

So, my lowest rating this year went to a house that had a TON of lights (good).  They were all white, which is also good.  They decorated nicely.  But, the lights were blinking in a weird way - the WHOLE HOUSE AND YARD would go out at once and then back on - in a random kind of way, not even blinks.  I thought they might even have an electrical short of some type.  As I got closer though, I could hear quietly played music and apparently the lights were blinking to that music.  Hopefully, the neighbors don't have epilepsy.  What a horrible idea!  One star.

Update on Calendar Sale

The calendar sale has been an overwhelming success!!  Very soon, we will know how much we have raised for the Dietz Educational Trust, I'm not sure of numbers yet (and I'm not sure if Todd will want to share them, as he gets private about things). 

We would still love to sell calendars to anyone who wants one, however, after today we will need to start charging shipping to anyone who wants a calendar sent directly to them.  Cost of shipping will be $7 (this is what shutterfly will charge to ship).  We will be donating the money within the next week and so we are closing down orders for donations as well. 

Thank you to everyone who place an order!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Recipe: Sautéed Tilapia with Lemon-Peppercorn Pan Sauce


Another easy, delicious and healthy recipe. I used capers instead of peppercorns, because I did my grocery shopping at Miller's market this week and they have neither (but I had capers at home). I served this with one of the new Pasta Roni boxes (the Olive Oil Noodles one), and steamed broccoli. Todd seemed to really like it. I love anything that has a tangy-lemony sauce. Since I've been forbidden to cook fish in the house before because of the fishy smell, and because it was 25 degrees outside and I didn't want to go out and grill, I boiled a small pot of water mixed with vinegar while I cooked. This prevented the fish smell in the house.

Sautéed Tilapia with Lemon-Peppercorn Pan Sauce

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Recipe: Amazing Pork Tenderloin

Well, it's freezing cold and it took me until about 2pm yesterday to warm up after the 17 degree morning run, so I decided that I wasn't leaving the house today. That meant that I had to go with the ingredients in the house to make dinner (or order a pizza, but I'd rather cook). I went with the recipe that I found online for Amazing Pork Tenderloin, since I had a tenderloin in the freezer and all of the other ingredients on hand. I put the tenderloin into the crock pot frozen (note: this risks food poisoning, apparently), then poured the packet of onion soup mix on top without mixing it or anything (since the frozen-ness of the tenderloin was going to prevent it from being coated, etc). I poured the liquids around it and not over it.

It was delicious! The onion soup mix made a nice oniony type of glaze over top. I added some flour mixed with water to the au jus to thicken it up, and served it in a dish on the side. Todd loved it and we almost ate the whole thing.

Calendar Finalized...

Please go take a look!

Watching Pretty Woman

(Kim laughs)
Todd: What are you laughing at?
Kim: I like this movie.
Todd: Yes, I know. You have a vagina. You like to think there are men who want to pay you for it.


LOL

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Running, End of Year

From gallowayparty2008
This morning, we had our end of the year party for the Galloway Program. It was 17 degrees when I left the house, and I think the bank said 21 degrees when I got close to the running store. So, if we look bundled up in the photo, you know why. I was wearing 3 layers, although I only wore 2 during the actual run. Pretty cold, but not as bad as I was thinking it was going to be when I was laying in bed at 5am looking at the thermometer reading 17.

I want to say here what I said this morning for my little group leader speech...

First of all, let me tell you what it's like to finish a marathon in 6 hours or more, since a lot of people have never experienced it. When you get to mile 25, you're there with a guy with one leg, a guy in a wheelchair, somebody that had some sort of accident in their pants, someone who looks as though they should be running a 4-hour marathon, but had some sort of MAJOR issue with their legs, someone dragging their left leg behind them... maybe a guy dressed like Elvis. So, it was different for me to run the Baltimore Half Marathon this year with people who were running a 4 hour marathon. They're intense... staring straight ahead... running. Very different.

My group is the slowest, so we have older runners, first time runners, injured runners. We get the people who don't know if they can finish, the people who know they can finish, but need to slow down for a while. We're like the minor leagues. And yet, I had some of the most awesome, supportive people in my group. I had a frickin' awesome group this year! I love them and I'm so proud to have been their group leader this year.

So, thanks, girls (and John), for a great year! :)

Baby

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ElfYourself is Back!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

2009 Calendar Sale

This year, we will once again be selling calendars of Todd's award winning underwater photography.  The 2008 calendars were a huge success!  We are in the process of creating the 2009 calendars and haven't finished yet, so if you want to see what to expect please take a look at the 2008 Calendar information.

For 2009, expect photography from Belize, Bonaire and Turks & Caicos.  The price of a calendar is $20.  This year, all profits from the sale of the calendars will be donated to the Dietz Educational Trust*.  Todd will also be donating the cost of the calendars for the first 100 sold.  That means, the first 100 folks who purchase a calendar will be donating 100% to the fund!

These calendars make great stocking stuffers!  We will accept cash, check and paypal.  Please email kletcosblog@gmail.com for more information on where to send payment.

*The Dietz Educational Trust is the college fund for the two sons of our friend, Tom, who passed away suddenly on November 13, 2008.  This is an excellent cause for two great boys.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Belize 2008

We traveled to Turneffe Atoll, Belize for a week and had a lovely Thanksgiving! We stayed at Turneffe Island Lodge for a week of diving, relaxing and fun.

The Trip to Belize
For financial reasons, we departed on Friday the 21st from National Airport rather than BWI. Todd was thirsty and I was trying to stay hydrated for the flight, so we stopped at Wendy's in Owings Mills for a big soda to drink. Everything was fine with traffic. I had mapped out three different routes to get to the airport, and we ended up taking New York Avenue into the city.

When we got off of New York Avenue and on to 395, it was a different story. The road became a parking lot, and the large soda that I drank wasn't helping. It took us about an hour to get from New York Avenue across to Arlington. It was too long, I was dying. Thankfully, I'd allowed plenty of time, but I was afraid to get off the road to find a restroom, not knowing how easy one would be to find and how easy it would be to get back onto 395. I knew that even if my bladder made it to the airport, I wasn't familiar with National and how easy it would be to find a restroom there.

So... I went in a cup. We make fun of Todd for doing a similar thing back in 2005, but at least he has the proper equipment. All I can say is that I'm grateful that he has all-season floor mats in his car (although, I'm proud of the fact that there was no spillage!), and that Wendy's soda cups are so wide!!! I was much better after that and we headed off to Houston without further incident (Hooray for Continental Airlines, again!).

We spent Friday night in Houston at the Marriott at Bush International Airport. It was uneventful and we took a plane out to Belize City first thing Saturday morning.

The manager of the lodge, Paul, met us at the airport and took our bags. As we headed to the dock, he let us know that there would be only one other couple staying on the island. That is right, only four people in a resort built for forty. We were sort of flabbergasted. There would be another couple arriving on Wednesday, but for now it would just be the four of us.

The two of us at sunset:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Eva and Tom, the only other guests at the resort until Wednesday:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)



Turneffe Island Lodge
We spent a little time at the dock bar/restaurant in Belize City until the boat was ready to leave. We met the other couple (Eva and Tom) who would be at the resort during the stay, and also met Paul's wife, Kelly. Most importantly, we met Jorge, who gave us rum punches as we headed out on the boat for the hour and a half boat ride out to Turneffe Atoll.

Our Cabana:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos


The pool bar at the resort:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


As we pulled up to the resort dock, we were greeted by what must have been 20 staff members. All for us!! We also met the co-managers of the resort, Jason and Karen.

The lodge itself is located on Turneffe Atoll, which is about 30 miles offshore from Belize City. It's on a 14-acre island and has a capacity for 40 guests. We were in a private cabana, and there were lots of places to relax - by the pool, in a hammock, on our screened in porch, or in a chaise on the beach. I preferred to get my sleep on in the hanging bed (I think it is queen size?) under a palapa at the end of the dock.

The hanging bed under a Palapa:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


A view from the main lodge:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Meals were served family style and very tasty. I ended up finding it very necessary to buy the cookbook.

The ladies in the kitchen preparing dinner:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


The Diving
We did 2-3 dives per day. At our request, we did a third dive on Monday, when we were originally scheduled to only do two dives. Sadly, visibility was not what we would have liked, so we didn't see the "big things" (sharks, rays, schools of fish, etc) that we expected. Still, we had some excellent dives. We got to see a lot of small things, from shrimp to nudibranch to flamingo tongues, etc. Todd was specializing in macro and super macro photography, and the dive master (Marcel) and I were up to the task of finding tiny things in coral heads for him to photograph.

Todd is ready to dive:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos


Black Spotted Nudibranch:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Flamingo Tongue:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Sharp Nosed Puffer... They had just spawned and were EVERYWHERE.
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Something very interesting was the White Spotted Toadfish (photo). They are unique to Belize and stay mostly in holes. They look to me like a combination of a spotted eel and a scorpion fish. They make a noise underwater that sounds like a chainsaw, which is very strange.

We did a total of 16 dives, Todd took some wonderful photos, and I got to do a back roll off of the boat, which is unusual for me. :)

The Great Blue Hole
The big diving spectacle in Belize is the Great Blue Hole. We were about an hour and a half from the Blue Hole and took a day trip out there on Tuesday. This was by far the worst weather of the week, being cloudy and rainy most of the day. However, since we were underwater it really didn't matter all that much. Well, except on the boat ride out there, which was a little bit rough.

Kim in the Blue Hole:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Since the Blue Hole is a former cave, when we went deep enough, we could see the stalactites that had formed before it was filled with water. These were fairly deep, so for this dive we went to about 130 feet, which is the limit that we can do as recreational divers. I got to experience some nitrogen narcosis, which was weird and kind of cool. Inside the hole were some sharks and large groupers, but not the bull sharks that we were expecting (just reef sharks).



After diving the Blue Hole, we went to Half Moon Caye, where we did two more dives, had some lunch (it was raining, so lunch was on the boat), and walked around the island. There was a bird sanctuary there, so we were able to see some boobies.

Todd at Half Moon Caye:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos


Thanksgiving
Thursday was Thanksgiving. It was my first time being out of the Maryland/Virginia area, and only the second time I've been away from my family for Thanksgiving (the first being a Thanksgiving spent with Dave's family). The Lodge went above and beyond anything that I would have expected! The table was beautiful, the ladies in the kitchen did a fantastic job with the food, and everything really was perfect.

The Thanksgiving Table:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Paul shows the Thanksgiving Turkey:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Of course, Todd suggested over and over again that we start out the night with loco chicken shots - half Wild Turkey and half Tequila. As disgusting as it sounds, they all did one (I did not, since I was drinking my family's favorite drink for Thanksgiving, a cosmo... my mom says they are Thanksgiving like because they contain cranberry juice).

Jorge preparing the Loco Chickens:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Everything Else
There's really not a whole lot of other things to report. We had a wonderful time, a great Thanksgiving, and a fairly uneventful trip home.

Blue Tangs:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Sunset:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Photos below:

Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos

Coming Soon: Belize

So, last night we arrived home from a trip to Belize. Blog post and photos to come later today or tomorrow!!


From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I'm Thankful For

Whenever anyone has asked me what is the thing I fear the most, it isn't airplanes or sharks or spiders or boogeymen or what have you. The thing that I fear more than anything is losing someone that I love. I've been relatively lucky in my life, and I haven't had to face the loss of a loved one on any sort of large scale. Sure, I have had two grandparents pass away (and a third passed before I was born), but I was too young to be seriously affected and they were both old enough to have lived long, happy lives. I've also attended my fair share of funerals, but that is what happens when you have an extended family as large as mine.

In the spring of my sophomore year of college, but roommate's mother passed away. When that happened, I realized a serious fact: someday, I would be saying goodbye to my own parents, and it could happen sooner than I realized. My parents were 40 years old when I was born. They were receiving AARP magazines when I was still in elementary school. I should have known before then, but it really took seeing someone else lose a parent that really made it sink in. Since then, I have worried when my mother travels. I hate her being behind the wheel of a car for a drive as long as the one to Florida, or even Ocean City. I worry about her heart, her weight, her possibility of becoming diabetic. If I even think about the fact that I will probably attend her funeral, I get choked up.

Then, of course, there is Todd. The truly scary thing about bringing someone into your life to love is that same fear of loss. When we were first together, I worried about losing him in the normal fashion that you lose boyfriends - fighting, lack of interest, other women, whatever. Our relationship has grown past that, though, and I know that we'll be together for a long, long time. That is, of course, unless something far worse happens. And so, I breathe a sigh of relief every time I get that text message that says that he is past the finish line at a marathon. I am happy when he is safe at the end of his too-long commute (since driving is far more dangerous than any of the other "dangerous" things that we do). I am grateful for each and every night that he is safe at home and in bed beside me.

When my friend passed away a couple weeks ago at only 44 years old, you can imagine how upset his widow was. He was my soulmate, she said to us, we've been together since 1984... how am I going to make it without him? She handled herself so well, and yet it was heartwrenching to watch her living my nightmare. It only served to renew my fears.

And so, instead of the usual, "I am thankful for my iPod!" type thanksgiving messages, I would like to have a much deeper message. I am thankful for every single day that I get to spend with those people who are most dear to me.
  • I am thankful for the millions of emails I get from the UMBC folks about James Bond and writing contests.
  • I am thankful for my running friends, even when they whine about how many miles they're running and how many hills they are climbing.
  • I am thankful for Jim, and that he not mad that I said I am going to slap the chicken wings out of his hands the next time I see him with one.
  • I am thankful for my mother, and I'm thankful that she's come to understand and accept why I did some of the things that I've done recently.
  • I am thankful for my sisters and brother, who have loved and supported me for 30 years, no matter what.
  • I am thankful for The Bug, even though he somehow picked up a habit of biting my ankles while I am making dinner.
  • I am thankful for Dave, and the fact that we are still good friends.
  • And I am thankful for Todd, who never ceases to make me happy.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Please give your loved ones a hug and tell them how much they mean to you. Every single day with them is precious.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Private: News

News

Note: This is a private blog post.  To get access to my private blog, please email me.  Thanks!

It's Potluck Lunch Day!

Despite many great suggestions, I went with Hershey Kiss Cookies, which are a tradition in my family.  I made them Wednesday night and froze them.  They are currently thawing on my desk.  Making those cookies totally reminded me of my sister (the Florida one), and how she always made them when I was a kid.  My job was to unwrap the kisses.... :)

FormerRoommate, I am going to make your cake suggestion before the end of the year because it sounds really interesting.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diving Records

I was making copies of my dive log, and thought I'd look and see what my longest and deepest dives were.  Keep in mind, though, that the length of a dive is often restricted by the dive master, the daily schedule, etc.  Hence, our longest dive was a shore dive (and a good one, one of my all-time favorites).  As for depth, I don't try to dive deep, and I find that some of the best things to see are shallow.  So, when I've gone deep, it's just been because there was something to see (like Randy's Gazebo, which has a wonderful chimney that lets you out at about 95 feet).  Plus, I'm usually diving Nitrox, which limits my depth to around 110 feet (not to mention that the Cayman Islands restrict our depth to 110 as well).

Longest Dives
1. 74 minutes: Atlantis, Bonaire, 9/3/2008 (average depth: 34, deepest depth: 61)
2. 73 minutes: Jigsaw, Little Cayman, 7/4/2007 (average depth: 36, deepest depth: 50)
3. 71 mintes: Le Dome, Provodenciales, 6/19/2008 (average depth: 33, deepest depth: 37)
4. 69 minutes: Black Forest, Providenciales, 6/20/2008 (average depth: 47, deepest depth: 82)
5. 69 minutes: Eagle Ray Roundup, Little Cayman, 7/3/2007 (average depth: 38, deepest depth: 88)
6. 69 minutes: Great Wall East, Little Cayman, 7/2/2007 (average depth: 39, deepest depth: 75)

Deepest Dives
1. 101 feet: Randy's Gazebo, Little Cayman, 11/30/2007 (average depth: 46, bottom time: 52)
2. 101 feet: Bus Top, Little Cayman, 7/2/2007 (average depth: 43, bottom time: 55)
3. 98 feet: Blacktip Boulevard, Little Cayman, 11/29/2007 (average depth: 56, bottom time: 52)
4. 97 feet: Hands Off, Bonaire, 8/31/2008 (average depth: 43, bottom time: 64)
5. 97 feet: Mixing Bowl, Little Cayman, 7/1/2008 (average depth: 45, bottom time: 45)



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Miss My Piano

My middle and high school friends don't remember me as a runner.  If they were to pick out a hobby that they remember me really enjoying, it would have been playing the piano.  I loved playing the piano.  I would say that I spent between one and three hours a day practicing.  It was theraputic and there were few things that I loved more.

I started playing piano in the fourth grade.  I took lessons at Jordan Kitts in the Annapolis Mall and my mother would often take me to Friendly's next door for ice cream after my lesson.  I learned quickly and my teacher was impressed.  We didn't own a piano at that point, so I had to practice on a Yamaha keyboard.  It was ok, I enjoyed it, but I wasn't thrilled.  I had two piano recitals during that first year, neither spectacular, but what I got out of it was the one and only photo of me that was ever taken while I was playing the piano (I'll locate it and upload it at some point).

I switched piano teachers in the fifth grade and started taking lessons from Mrs. Moede, who lived a few miles from my house.  Mrs. Moede didn't believe in piano recitals, and thought that they stressed her students out too much.  She wanted to teach children to play the piano purely for enjoyment, and not to impress others.  So, I never had another true recital. 

Then, for my eleventh birthday, my dad bought me a piano.  It came from an auction sale (like pretty much everything did at that point of my life) and he paid $150 for it, which seemed like a lot to me back then.  Thankfully, he had a construction crew who came by and moved the piano into our basement for us.  Our basement was also our living room, my house was set up kind of strangely back then.

Well, as soon as we got that piano, I was HOOKED.  I played the piano constantly, often for hours at a time.  I was one of Mrs. Moede's best students, and I took on harder and harder pieces of music.  My favorite to this day is Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

Then came high school.  I still played and took lessons up until junior year, when I became secretary of the SGA, got a job at Sam Goody, and didn't have a lot of time to keep up with piano lessons.  I had become a little old for piano lessons anyway, so it was about time to quit.  The piano sat untouched.  I didn't have the time or the patience for it anymore, and I rarely played. 

In college, things got worse.  I lived at UMBC and when I wasn't there, my mom and I had moved to smaller house that was connected to another house rather than being isolated on four acres of woods.  I had to be more conscientious if I did play, and I almost never did.  I don't think that my college friends even think of me as a piano player.

When I got married, resources ran out to easily move the piano and I had to pay someone $500 to move the piano from Annapolis to Owings Mills.  Dave's mom played the piano and when he still lived at home he constantly complained about how he hated the sound her playing, so I was too shy to ever practice while he was home.  Again, we were connected to other houses and I didn't have privacy I once had.  I think I only played the piano once while I was married.

Then... the divorce.  The cost of moving the piano into my third story apartment would have been astronomical, and I would have had to have moved it out of there at some point as well (and by the time I was selling my house in Owings Mills, I was fairly certain I'd be moving to Manchester soon).  Todd promised we'd buy another piano some day.  I ended up giving my precious piano to the woman who bought my townhouse.  Presumably, she still has it and it still sits in the same spot in the living room, only a quarter mile from my work.  My music sits in a box in the basement, untouched for years now.

I miss that piano.  I had a dream last night about it.  I was in my house in the woods.  Todd was there, as well as some of my high school friends (Becky, Jessica, Johnny, Erin).  I was going to play for them, but then the piano wouldn't make any sound.  It was like the strings inside had been cut.  I was so sad, I wanted to play!  So, that dream prompted me to come here and tell the story of my piano and how it's gone.  I've thought about getting a new one, but they're expensive and a big commitment.  Going back to a keyboard would not be the same.  Sigh.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Goodbye, Tom

Today, very suddenly, we lost a friend. His name was Tom and he was my boss at both of my two former employers. We worked together for 6 years, and since mid-2007, he had been Todd's manager in his current job. I was shocked when I heard, not because Todd likes to joke about death, but because Tom seemed somehow... invincible. As I drove home, I knew I wanted to call my friends and give them the news, but first I had to call Todd to make sure it wasn't some sort of mistake. Maybe he'd heard wrong. Maybe Jim had been playing some sort of joke. Maybe it wasn't true. How could it be true?

So, tonight we are drinking shots of whiskey for Tom. He'd want that, he would think it was a proper send off. I didn't always see eye to eye with Tom, and he was as good at making enemies as he was friends, but he always had his employees' best interests at heart. He really wanted to make us happy, and moreso than any other manager that I have ever had. Some of my best ever days at work were at work parties that Tom organized - with chartered boats and crabs and an open bar. When he left Previousemployer, he had not just one happy hour, but two.

You will be missed, Tom. There are an awful lot of people out there who knew your name and smile when they think of you. This shot's for you...

Ideas for Potluck Lunch Day?

So, Friday the 21st is Potluck Lunch Day at work. Potluck Lunch Day is like Pretzel Day on The Office: Everyone looks forward to Potluck Lunch Day all year long.

The problem? Because I'm in IT, I'm supposed to bring a dessert. Last year, I brought cupcakes. However, I've got a lot going on and I know next week is going to be super busy, so I'm not going to have time to bake a dessert Thursday evening (trust me, there is no way). I still want to participate and I can get something from the bakery that I love in Hampstead, but I'd really rather bake something. So, can anyone think of something that I could make this weekend when I have time and either store it out or freeze or refrigerate it until Friday the 21st? Ideas?

I wake up every morning in a bed that's too small, drive my daughter to a school that's too expensive, and then I go to work to a job for which I get paid too little, but on pretzel day? Well, I like pretzel day... --Stanley

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review: Eat Smart Veggie Crisps



Looking for a mid-morning snack, I thought I'd get some canned tropical fruit from the vending machine that I'd eyed up the other day. Sadly, someone got to them before me, so instead I decided to try out Eat Smart Veggie Crisps. The looked healthy, and listed themselves as 100 Calories on the front of the bag.

After getting the crisps from the veding machine, I noticed that the bag was not even a full ounce. The total weight of the bag was .75oz, which is less than you would get with a bag of regular potato chips. Presumably, this was done to achieve the magical "100 Calorie Pack" note on the front of the bag.

I checked out the nutritional info to see how healthy these things really are. They are "healthy," if you are looking for no trans fat or saturated fat. Otherwise, you do get 5g of fat per bag, but only 1g of dietary fiber. As for vitamins and minerals that you might expect from eating vegetables? 0% of everything.* Really, there is no benefit for these being made from vegetables, and looking at the ingredients, I am fairly certain that the spinach and tomatoes that are used in making them are only added to make the chips different colors. Otherwise, these are just Baked Potato Chips. Even the taste is about the same as Baked Lays - kind of bland potato flavor.

My Verdict? Don't waste your time. Go with Terra Chips instead, which do have some saturated fat, but contain more fiber and minerals and are far more delicious.

*The website says 2% iron, but the serving size is bigger on the website.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Think I Might Throw Out This Jar of Curry Powder

From Random Photos 2008


From Random Photos 2008


Well, this curry powder is old. It was wedding gift... for my mom and dad. They got married in 1959. They received a spice rack as a gift from somebody, and this jar of curry powder was included. It has never been refilled, that is just not a spice we use very often, I guess.

So... why do I still have it? I don't know, I mean, I guess it just got pushed around in the spice cabinet over time, and it moved a few times, and we just didn't use it very much. Then, when I moved out, I took the extras and seldom-used spices out of my mom's spice cabinet. She had multiples of spices where she'd bought spices to use in the motor home or at our beach condo, or whatever. I was used to that spice being around, and I never really contemplated how old it was. I think, too, I am not really crazy about curry, so it's not something that I really want to be especially potent. And spices kinda don't go bad (but 49 years?). So, I still have it.

This jar of curry has lived in my parents' apartment in Washington, DC, then two different houses in PG County, then our house in Riva, then our house in Annapolis, then my house in Owings Mills, then my apartment in Columbia, and now it is in Manchester. Wow, the history.

But, I guess I should throw it out. For the record, I have a ground ginger also... that one is really, really, hard, though. The curry still smells like curry and doesn't seem like it's 49 years old.

Some interesting things:
Do you know the signs of aging?
Spice Check

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lucky Old Sun

by Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson
Just how I'm feeling today...

Up in the morning,
Out on the job,
Work like the devil for my pay.
Lucky old sun,
Ain't got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Fuss with my woman,
Toil for my kids,
And sweat till I'm wrinkled and grey.
But that lucky old sun,
Ain't got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Dear Lord above,
Can't you see I'm crying,
Tears are in my eyes.
Send down a cloud with a silver lining,
Take me to paradise.

Show me that river,
Lead me across,
And take all my troubles away,
Like the lucky old sun,
I'll have nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Dear Lord above,
Can't you see I'm crying,
Tears are in my eyes.
Send down a cloud with a silver lining,
Take me to paradise.

Show me that river,
Lead me across,
And take all my troubles away.
Like the lucky old sun,
I'll have nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

But roll around heaven all day...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope

I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
-- Red, The Shawshank Redemption

You go, Barack.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Recipe: Easy Asian Beef and Noodles

Probably my all-time favorite default recipe for dinners.  I love it because it is very healthy, super easy, only uses one pan, and only makes 2 servings, so we don't have leftovers.  Dave asked me for the recipe today, so I thought I'd share here as well.

I use whatever thin-sliced beef they have in the grocery store, but sometimes I do use more expensive cuts of meat depending on what is available.  I also tend to try to use broccoli slaw or rainbow slaw instead of coleslaw, because broccoli has more vitamin C and other nutrients than cabbage and I also think it tastes better.  I've also used whole pieces of broccoli, and once I tried using chicken flavored ramen and chicken, which was not quite as good (it needed something...), but worth a try.


Easy Asian Beef and Noodles

1 (8-ounce) rib-eye steak
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, divided
1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
2 cups prepackaged coleslaw
2 (2.8-ounce) packages beef-flavor ramen noodle soup (such as Campbell's)
1-1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce


Trim fat from steak; cut diagonally across grain into thin slices. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Remove steak mixture from pan; keep warm. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil until hot. Add slaw; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove slaw from pan; keep warm.

Remove noodles from packages; reserve 1 seasoning packet for another use. Add the water and remaining seasoning packet to pan; bring to a boil. Break noodles in half; add noodles to water mixture. Cook noodles 2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in steak mixture, slaw, and soy sauce; cook until thoroughly heated. Yield: 2 servings.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: CALORIES 489 (23% from fat); FAT 12.5g (sat 3.6g, mono 5g, poly
2.5g); PROTEIN 29g; CARB 68.1g; FIBER 4.9g; CHOL 55mg; IRON 6.3mg; SODIUM 1152mg; CALC 80mg


Monday, November 3, 2008

Photos: Tower of Terror 13K 2008

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Before the race

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Running out past the Walt Disney World Entrance Sign

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Inside Hollywood Studios

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Finish line!

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

After the race, showing off medals

Friday, October 31, 2008

What would you do?

OMG, trick or treaters are out. This kid, he's like 16 or 17, comes to the door, barely wearing a costume. He was with a group of friends. He asks if he can buy a bottle of water. I was like, "kid, you're a nutcase." And he was like, "No, I'm really thirsty! I will give you 2 dollars!!"

So, I gave him a bottle of water and took his two bucks.

My question is, would you have given him the water? If so, would you have taken his money.

I figured he is too old for trick or treating, wasn't really wearing a costume, and should have had the forethought to bring a beverage along. So, I took it.

Thoughts on Halloween

  1. At Current Employer, people dress up for Halloween.  This is funny to me.  I really wanted to do it this year.  In fact, I had the idea of dressing up like Deb from Napoleon Dynamite (I would be super-comfy in stirrup pants, a big sweatshirt or sweater, and Keds), but I elected not to dress up because of stress with my family that is going on, and because IT tends to not dress up and I don't have friends in other groups.  It was a great idea, though.  
  2. In an effort to not have tempting Halloween treats around well before Halloween, I decided to wait until this week to buy candy.  However, I have been super busy at work and with my personal life, so at this time, we still do not have anything to give out to trick or treaters tonight.  I'll likely buy candy either at lunch or on my way home, but I'd love interesting ideas about other things to give out.
  3. I really have a generally 'bah humbug' feeling about Halloween these days.  It seem gluttonous and wasteful.  In a society where we can't get kids to do much, eat right or be active, the one night where we dress them up and send them out to walk and get some exercise, we have them do so in order to collect candy from strangers.  I hear everyone likely saying that I should lighten up, but I still think Trick or treating is silly.
  4. I was thinking of making teenagers that are too old to be out trick or treating do some sort of song and dance in order to get their candy.  I know Todd would be against this, but I guess he should be answering the door then, huh?
  5. What is the best Halloween song?  My vote is for "Ghostbusters," because there is never, EVER, another time of the year when I wish to hear that song.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What to do with the kid?

What to do with the kid who killed his parents?

I've been trying to wrap my head around this kid since it happened.  I mean, I can't imagine killing your parents in the first place (or anyone, for that matter).  But, what do you do with a 16 year old kid with a life sentence?  There's no doubt that he did it, he admitted to the crime, he seems like a smart kid.  No one else did it.  Kid, WHY did you kill your parents?? He's going to be sitting around in jail for the rest of his life.  What a shame, but what else do you do with him?  Don't things like this give you a little less faith in the world?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Private: Goings On

Goings On

This post is only available on my private Blog.  To gain access to my private blog, please email me.

Tell Me!

So, I watch my blog stats pretty closely.  I've had some unwelcome visitors to my blog before, so I like to know who is coming.  What is see is that a lot of folks visit my blog several times a day and if I haven't posted (or if I have), they read the blog roll to keep up on the blogs that I read.  I have a few questions to keep people coming back.  Please reply in comments or email me to let me know what you think!
  1. What blogs on the blog roll do you like the best?
  2. What blogs on the blog roll do you like the least?
  3. Do you have a suggestion for a new addition to the blog roll that my readers might enjoy?
  4. What topics on my blog would you like to see more of?
  5. What topics on my blog would you like to see less of?
  6. Does my blog load too slowly for you?
  7. Other comments?
I  now get over 50 visitors a day, which I am pretty proud of.  I'm not out to make money on this, but it's nice to know people are reading.  I've reduced a lot of my personal topics and moved a lot of the more sensitive things over to my private blog as a result.  You may have noticed the shift over the past year or so, where I no longer write about every single little thing that I do.  Who wants to read that anyway?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tower of Terror 13K 2008

What a weekend.

We left Friday evening and flew down to Orlando for a quick weekend and nice little race in Florida. We had originally gotten reservations at the Boardwalk Hotel, but when I logged in on Thursday to check something on my DVC account, I saw that we'd gotten through on our wait list request to stay at Beach Club instead. Then, on our way down to Florida, it occurred to me -- my sister is in Tampa, why not invite her over to spend the day with us Saturday?

However, even after we went to packet pickup to get our glow in the dark numbers and race shirts, we hadn't heard from my sister, so we went off to Epcot for lunch and rides. Sharon called while we were there. She was sick and was thinking about coming over and would let us know.

The problem with Epcot was that the Food and Wine Festival was going on. I'd never been there for the Food & Wine Festival, so I was initially excited, then turned off by the fact that on a race day we couldn't indulge in wine, and I really wasn't that interested in the food. We had lunch in Germany and then went over to Future World to see what we could ride. The park was packed because of the food and wine festival (presumably), so we rode some of the lesser-ridden rides - The Universe of Energy and Maelstrom (which still, inexplicably, has a fastpass option) and then hung out in the Living Seas for a while.

I love the Living Seas these days. The Nemo stuff inside is awesome, and I like looking at the fishies, especially the cuttlefish. At one point, there was a scuba diver showing off his skill, and then he got out and did a question and answer / meet & greet kind of thing with guests and I had to ask Todd if he wanted to get a photo with the scuba diver. He said no, and my equipment is nicer than that guy's.

We had an early dinner at the Coral Reef restaurant and we pondered the fact that the fish in the Living Seas still look sick. They weren't that way when we dove there in January 2007, I'm wondering of something bizarre was introduced to the aquarium between January and April 2007 (April being when we first noticed it). It makes me sad, the fish in the tank do not look good at all.

We headed back to the hotel and Sharon and family met us there. It was such a pleasant surprise to see her! We hung out at the pool for a few hours, and then we got dressed for our race and Sharon dropped us off at our race transportation at Boardwalk. Sharon and family hung out in Disney for a while later for dinner and such and it sounds like they had a nice time.

It seems like the race was better than last year, just based on the reviews that I read. The runner's village was smaller than the Disney Marathon, but looked similar. They had a place for you to sign the hotel register (since we were doing the race at the Tower of Terror). They gave out temporary tattoos with the race logo on them, and had a place for us to get our photo taken (I was wearing my Minnie ears that I wore for the 2007 Marathon).

We were pretty early and sat and stood around for a long time. The race started with fireworks and was hosted by the bellhops from the Tower of Terror. There were a lot of walkers. A LOT of them. To me, being where I was, it seemed like the whole race was mid to back of the pack people and there were few people that really seemed to be running for any sort of time. Of course, there were costumes - the whole crowd from The Wizard of Oz, Forrest Gump, Tinkerbell, Minnie Mouse, Pumpkins, a roman soldier, pirates, etc. The field was smaller than I expected - 2700 finishers. This is a lot smaller than other races down there. We spent a lot of time passing walkers who were walking 2-5 abreast (for the life of me, I don't understand why walkers can't be more aware and courteous during races).

There were quite a few people out on the course to cheer us on, including a lot of cast members, disco dancers, some creepy girls dressed the same a la The Shining, and many Disney villains. There were a lot of fog machines, but it wasn't TOO heavy, as I think Disney was afraid someone would fall down. At times, there would be loudspeakers where someone would come on and say things that were weird and didn't make sense and sounded like the Twilight Zone. Nothing was especially frightening or dark, so the glow in the dark race numbers really only glowed when we tested them out in the bathroom of the hotel.

The course took us through some woods and into the Wide World of Sports Complex, between the fields and around the track there. Then, we were back on the roads, headed back to Hollywood Studios. Going through the studios was a lot of fun and we truly wound all the way through - including through the set of "Lights, Motors, Action!" The finish line was directly in front of the Tower of Terror.

As for how I did, I maintained a 13 minute pace throughout, until right at the end, but I was never above 14. Todd stayed with me the whole time, and he helped me stay on pace. I had been sick and therefore hadn't gotten a lot of running in, so I didn't do as well as I might have otherwise. I was still coughing and feeling bad during the race, but I still had a good time. Running at 10:00pm is definitely weird, and it was just before midnight when we finished. I had post-race upset stomach (I've been getting that a lot lately) and we sat for a few minutes while I tried to eat a banana. Then, it was off to the park.

We hit the Rock n' Roller Coaster first, which did not hurt my stomach at all. Next, we headed over to the new Toy Story Mania Ride. It was fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was like the Buzz Lightyear ride, only better. So much fun. We waited about 45 minutes for it, but it was worth the wait. My stomach was hurting pretty bad at that point, so we went and got some pizza, which made me feel a whole lot better.

At that point, it was 1:45am and the park was closing at 2, so we had to decide what to do next. I let Todd choose and we ended up riding the Rock n' Roller Coaster again. We tried for a third time, but it was shut down and we were done for the night. We finally made it back to the hotel to get in bed by 3:30am or so. A long day for two people who are used to going to bed by 11.

Today, we pretty much got up with barely any sleep, had some breakfast in the hotel and headed home. It was a great weekend and very fun race. Weather was nice - sunny and warm shorts weather all weekend. Good times.

I'd definitely do this race again. No complaints whatsoever.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finances: Money Saving Tips

I talked a while back about how I'm trying to cut costs. This originally stemmed from gas prices rising. Gas prices weren't really what was killing me, it was the fact that the price of everything was rising, too. Even though gas prices have dropped significantly, the prices of everything else seem to have stayed the same (surprise, surprise).

Here are a few articles that I've bookmarked over the last week or so that I wanted to highlight. First, How Much Money Do You Spend on Food? is a good one. I think it's true that a lot of folks really don't know how much they spend on food. Being one half of a couple, I sometimes don't pay attention to what Todd is spending on going out to eat, or if he picks up a few things at the store, or the tab in a restaurant. Even just looking at what I spend alone, I rarely add up my food expenses (this is something that Mint.com would be handy for, though!). Even if you don't plan to cut back at all, wouldn't you at least like to know what you're spending? So, I'm working on keeping better track of this and watching my grocery receipts more carefully.

Money Saving Tip #1: Don't eat out. Or eat out very infrequently. While I've never kept good track of food expenses, I do know that I used to eat out every single day for lunch when I worked at previous employer. Even with Diettogo (which amounts to $14 per day for both breakfast and lunch), I don't spend as much as I did just on lunch each day at Previous Employer. Even for dinners, I've found that I prefer eating in, knowing what is in my food and how it was prepared, and not bothering with service and waiting and driving to who knows where to eat. That doesn't mean that we eat meatloaf and boiled chicken breasts every night, either. We often stop at Wegman's to get pre-made meat entrees that are cheaper than a restaurant, but still a treat and a notch above plain dinners. An excellent example is Wegman's salmon topped with crab meat. Tastes very good, is easy to make, comes in its own baking container, and at something like $14.99 per pound, it's not a bargain, but cheaper than eating out.

Another article: Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. I have to admit that when I was a direct sales person, I wasn't necessarily good at it because I had a lot of guilt for playing little tricks to try and get people to buy things. I knew some of my customers couldn't afford what they were buying, and I felt guilty all the time (a lot of them shouldn't have been eating what I was selling either, but that is a different topic).

I think it pays to really understand the tricks that stores play on us to try to get us to buy things. My personal favorite right now is that grocery stores are giving out coupons for dollars off your next trip, which gives you an incentive to return to the store again within a certain timeframe.

Money Saving Tip #2: If you visit a store that gives you those "save x dollars on your next purchase" coupons, if you can, go through self-checkout. Then, when it gives you those coupons as you check out, you can just scan them after they come out of the coupon machine. Or, if you know you'll be getting one, save some of your groceries to ring up as a second purchase in self checkout and scan them then.

From the article:

  • Spend less time in stores. Underhill writes, “The amount of time a shopper spends in a store (assuming he or she is shopping, not waiting in line) is perhaps the single most important factor in determining how much he or she will buy.” Do not browse. Shop with a purpose.
  • Don’t use a basket. Only use a basket (or shopping cart) if it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re dashing into the supermarket to pick up milk and bread, carry things in your hands. Baskets induce people to buy more.

I think that a lot of the time, I save money naturally because of two reasons: I hate malls, and there really isn't a decent mall within 20 miles of my house (because Westminster, Owings Mills and Hunt Valley all suck, the closest is Towson Town Center). When I lived and worked in Columbia, I did go to the mall more often and spent more as a result. This also creates problems because I don't buy clothes nearly often enough and my wardrobe is suffering as a result.

Don’t examine or handle things you don’t need. The more you interact with something, the more likely you are to buy it. “Virtually all unplanned purchases — and many planned ones, too — come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment.”
This was a biggie for my direct sales parties. That is why we passed the bottles and boxes of product around. You could look at them, touch them, smell them, and then we passed around samples so that you could taste them. And, trust me, sales were higher when we did that. Don't be fooled!
Make a list and stick to it. The majority of supermarket purchases are unplanned. Underhill writes: “In one supermarket study, we counted how many shoppers came armed with lists. Almost all of the women had them. Less than a quarter of the men did. Any wife who’s watching the family budget knows better than to send her to the supermarket unchaperoned.”
As much as I love having company while listening to "What's Love Got to Do With It" at Weis, I know that if Todd comes along, the bill will be higher, grocery list or not. This is because he isn't used to shopping off a list and doesn't share my frugal mindset and willingness to comprimise on brands. Not a bad thing, just different. However, if you want to save money, make a list and no matter how much you might want to, don't buy anything not on the list (this gets me out of the store faster also, which is good when you shop in a Bad Times store).

And another article: How Low Can You Go? This one talks about just using less. For example, do you need as much shampoo and toothpaste as the packaging would have you believe? Probably not. I've also found that some products just aren't necessary at all. For example:
  • Disinfectants. I really thought about it, and I treat my bathroom counter as if it is dirty, regardless of how often I clean it, and with what. I don't eat off of my bathroom counter. I don't even sit my toothbrush on it. So, why does it need disinfecting? I found that by using two microfiber towels to clean with, I get the bathroom counters and sinks spotless without buying cleaners. One towel is damp, which I use to wipe, then I follow up with a dry one to make things shine and sparkle. Drop them in the washer when I'm done, but hang dry them because dryer sheets make them not work so well.
  • Glass cleaner. Ditto with mirrors. The microfiber actually works better than windex. I use the same ones, but start with the mirrors since they're less dirty than the counters (usually).
  • Soap Scum removers. Baking soda works better.
  • Mildew removers. I haven't tried it yet, but I have a feeling that regular bleach would work the same as Tilex.
Something else I was thinking of was the wasted energy from cable boxes, televisions, DVD players, etc, that always use a little bit of power even when they're turned off (because they're waiting to see if you use a remote control to turn them on). I've thought about putting a power strip or some sort of switch on them to turn off the power to them when we're not using them to keep this from happening - especially in our spare bedroom and workout room where those things get used the least frequently. How much would that save? Who knows.

So, since money saving has become a little game for me, see what you think of my tips and articles. More later, I am sure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Marathon Fastest Runner Not the Winner

See the article here.

The basic premise is this. A woman ran the Nike Women's Marathon in 2:55. The fastest elite runner ran it in 3:05. Yet, the elite runner won. The race organizers were apologetic, but the elite runners were given a 20 minute head start, so they are the only ones that have a chance of winning.

Sucks, yes. But, I side with the race organizers here. Honestly, in any big race, if you are going to win, you have to be in the elite group. When the gun goes off for them, that is the start of the race. Normally, that is when everyone's clock time starts, even though your chip time doesn't start until you cross the starting line. Chip times don't count in the results for the winners, although they sometimes count for age group awards, etc. Baltimore had a separate set of awards for non-elite runners, but the elite runners were the only ones with a real chance of winning the top prize.

So, if you think you're going to run that fast, run a small race (like the NCR Trail Marathon), or get yourself into the elite group. Or, just be happy with your time.

The good news is that I will never have this problem.
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