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Monday, June 30, 2008

Random Updates

As an update to my niece, I had the pleasure of spending the day with my family at the June Birthday Extravaganza on Saturday.  My mom, Dad, both my sisters (since they're twins) and I all have birthdays in June.  We gathered at sister Shelly's house in Virginia.  All was well.  I did get to speak some to my niece about the alleged date.  Apparently, it was not a solo date as I was originally told.  She went with a boy (his name is Luke, she says) and his entire family.  Other kids were supposed to go, but no one showed up.  I asked if they were "going out" and she said no, they're just friends.

I give this my stamp of approval.  I told her she could go on a solo date when she is old enough to drive herself there.

This Saturday was 9 miles on the trail.  I, as usual, did a little extra and completed 10 miles.  I had wanted to do 11 miles, but a biker had fallen off of his bike right at the parking lot and I spent some time making sure everything was under control with that situation.  I missed a run this past week, which made me feel really lazy.  I'm losing interest somewhat in running, and as a result I'm considering running some this week at the store to get some motivation from my running friends.

The weight training is not going well.  Or, it's not going.  I did a full 3 weeks of the Josh Hillis workouts with moderate success, but I lost interest.  I have trouble fitting it into my schedule.  This is also further complicated by the very distinct difference of opinion between Josh Hillis and Jeff Galloway and it's hard to follow both of them and also have a life. 

Josh very specifically says that runners should be doing weight training of both upper and lower body, and that to get the best results it should be done before a cardio workout or on its own day.

Jeff very specifically says that runners should not do lower body weight training at all, and if they do, it should be after a run and not on an off day so that the legs have a chance to fully rest before the next run.

So... if I want to get the best of both, I need to follow more closely to Jeff and do my weight workouts after my runs.  Or, I don't know if Josh would approve of splitting my workouts into upper and lower and doing the upper on Monday/Wednesday/Sunday and upper/core on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday after my runs.  This would shorten my workouts even more and make me not feel like I have such a long workout to do after a run.

Plus, Josh's workouts use a lot of equipment that I don't have -  a smith machine and pull up bar as an example.  I don't have anything that reasonably substitutes as good as I would like.  I have no way of doing pull ups at this time.  It is frustrating and annoying, especially when I have hundreds of dollars in other weight equipment at my disposal.

Part of me is thinking about going back to Cathe and just trying to better structure my workouts based on goals and on what Josh has said in his articles.  I miss my girl Cathe and miss doing a workout "with" someone, if you know what I mean.  Then, another part of me wants to forgo weight training until after September since I want to make use of my pool membership and get my cross training done as swimming on most days.  It is easier to weight train in the winter.

So, I don't know what to do.  I'm just in limbo for now.

Update to my gardening adventures!  I now have healthy herbs - chamomile, rosemary and sage.  The cherry tomato plants that I planted have little baby green tomatoes on them, which is highly exciting since I figured that nothing that I planted would ever bear fruit.  The mystery seeds that I planted are coming up as well, and so I think what I've got is thyme and basil.  They need to get bigger, as they're only about a half inch high right now.

The rest of the flowers are still alive and thriving, and so as shocking as it is I seem to have made it all the way to July with living plants!  I've been watering them after my runs, which helps keep me on schedule.

We recently pulled out a bunch of bushes on the side of the house and need to put something over there too, so I'm going to have even more plants to take care of soon.
(I think those will be annuals this year, but maybe perennials -- what can you plant at this time in the season?)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Private: Turks & Caicos Underwater!

Turks and Caicos Underwater!

To access the private blog, please email me at

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary...

I'm not a "yell from the rooftops how you feel" kind of person, but I wanted to say something...

Todd and I don't really have an anniversary. We were already friends before we started dating, and at the beginning of our relationship in 2006, it was tough to say what was a real "date" and what was us just hanging out as friends. I count June 24, 2006 as the day we truly started dating, since that was when I had dropped most of the expectations of ever reconciling with Dave and decided to go ahead and give "The Todd Thing" a serious try. It was also the day that Todd escorted me to my 10 year high school reunion, and that was definitely a date...

In the last two years, I've been amazingly surprised at how compatible we are. I never expected this to be more than a passing fling, but it has turned out to be so much more. I've done so much in the last 2 years. I've challenged myself to new things, and I've become a better person. I've learned to forgive and be forgiven, and to move on from the bad experiences that once defined who I am. With Todd, I get to be an adult and a kid at the same time, calm down, take life in stride and just generally have an all around great time.

We've found "our" places - Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, Paradise Pub in Key Largo, California Grill in Walt Disney World, Richard's in Bonaire... and most of all, the home that we share and we've decorated together.

There are friends that we have together, that never knew me as Mrs. H -- scuba friends, running friends, too many people to name here even though I started compiling a list.

There are other interesting transformations that have happened... I've gone from owning one bathing suit at a time to owning up to 6 and 8 bathing suits at once -- and they STILL don't seem like enough. I've learned to scuba dive and swim for real. I've challenged myself to run 4 marathons and I've had someone running right beside me and cheering me on for two of those. Todd doesn't get all the credit though, some of that is me just finally having the freedom to find myself and do what I please.

No, it's not that we haven't had our bumps in the road. Certainly there are more bumps in the future. It doesn't matter. I'm happier than ever before and I just want to say "Thank you!"


Monday, June 23, 2008

Rave: Disney Lost & Found

So, Friday (the 13th) when I was packing for Turks & Caicos I went searching all around and could not find the charger for my camera battery. I mean I searched the whole house, top to bottom. I've discussed that I have lost lots of things. This is not unusual. My camera is a Canon SD Elph, which means that it uses a proprietary Canon battery, not AAs or something. So, I couldn't just go use a different battery or charger.

Well, finally, at long last, I decided that the charger and my spare battery were exactly where I remember last seeing them - plugged into the outlet near the TV at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort in Disney World... March 23. Now, I've taken lots of photos since - at my grandmother's birthday in April and at running (I didn't take photos at the Frederick Half Marathon though). I don't specifically remember charging the battery since.

So, I went to Turks & Caicos with what was left of the charge in my battery. I was pretty conservative with the camera and didn't take many photos and it finally died the day before we went home.

So, this morning I called the Animal Kingdom Lodge's Lost and Found... and? It was turned in on March 29 (apparently it went unnoticed for a while). And they're sending it back to me via UPS free of charge!

This one was really good even for Disney standards!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Adventures in Turks & Caicos

Ah, we're home. Todd and I had an absolutely lovely week in beautiful Turks and Caicos! We were traveling on our first live aboard (a dive boat where you sleep on board... eat, sleep, dive). Our ship was the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II. What a way to spend my 30th birthday!!! After all, how many people can say they were on the ocean floor swimming with sharks as they turned 30?

The ship

Each day went something like this: wake up around 6:30am. Breakfast was at 7:00am. At 8:00am, we would have our first dive - get on the deck and put on your gear and jump in! At 10:00am, second dive at the same site as the first dive. Lunch was served at 12:30pm, and that is when the ship would move to its next location. The third dive was at 3:00pm, and the fourth was at 5:00pm (both of those at the same site). Dinner was served at 6:30pm and then there was a night dive at 8:00pm. Most days, Todd and I did 4 dives. Thursday, Todd did 5 (he did the 5:00 dive with our friend Matt) and on Thursday both of us did all 5 dives. The ship posts a captain's log each week around Tuesday or Wednesday and I'll post it once I see it.

Reading on deck (I'm actually reading the book my friend Katie wrote)

Me, as I jump off of the ship

Between dives, we rested on the ship. I read a novel and took a lot of naps. Todd also read a book and also took an Underwater Photography Workshop. His photos are looking awesome and you can really see a lot of progress during the week.

Todd photographing a Lion Fish at Le Dome

On Monday, I celebrated my 30th birthday on board the ship. Ronnie (the ship's cook) made me a lovely cake, but the candles wouldn't light because of the winds on the deck. It was a great way to turn 30 - underwater 4 times earlier in the day and then having "Happy Birthday" sung to you with a tropical sunset in the distance. :)

Me and my cake

Birthday Party

We met some awesome people on the trip. We met our friends, Matt and Ellen, down there. Also joining us were people from Arizona, Texas, Colorado, New Jersey, and Oregon (did I miss someone?). We had a great time getting to know everyone.

Ellen and Matt

Friday, we pulled into port in Providenciales. Todd and me, along with Bill, Gary, Terry and Georgia, went into Provo to do some shopping. Todd bought me a lovely mother of pearl necklace, which I don't have a photo of because my camera battery charger was sadly left in Orlando at Easter. We all had dinner on our own that night. We had dinner at Baci with Ellen and Matt. We met up with some of the rest of the group at the Tiki Hut later, but ended up heading back to the ship for cake (it was Greg and Charlene's anniversary).

Bill and Todd, acting goofy in Provo.

Diving Highlights!
So, you want to hear about the diving? No problem!!

We dove around Providenciales on Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon, we made our way over to West Caicos (an uninhabited island, for now), and dove there. Our first dive was at Rock Garden Interlude. This was where the crew first brought out a little pyramid that had fish heads locked in it. Sharks could smell the fish but not get to it, so right away two reef sharks were circling. The real fun with the bait pyramid was the next day (my birthday!!) at G-Spot, where as many as 5 reef sharks and 1 nurse shark were circling. They got very, very close to us, one even ran into my fin. Todd got some photos and I had an interesting encounter with a yellowtail snapper who wanted to stare at me directly into my mask and kiss me on my cheek.

Me and a Lobster in the Lobster Condo

The interesting thing with Turks and Caicos is that Lionfish are pretty prevalent. They're a Pacific fish but have been showing up in the Caribbean and Atlantic more and more (ballast water?). We saw quite a few, including a very large one at Le Dome.

On Wednesday, the shark scenter device was out again at Gullies and there were 2-3 reef sharks circling around. On our second dive there, the device was opened and the sharks were allowed to feed. There was a swim through/canyon right next to us and the Grouper would steal the fish and go into the swim through to hide from the sharks. Now, I love swim throughs. We'd been through this swim through on an earlier dive, but after the sharks had cleared the area, I decided to go down into it again and investigate the holes and tunnels in it with my flashlight. I figured I wouldn't bother anyone and the sharks were gone, so I was clear. Off I went into the swim through. Off to the right there was a large hole and I could see fish in it - grouper and snapper and wondered what was in it. I clicked on my flashlight to shine it into the hole and... SHARK. SHARK swimming quickly towards my head and into the swim through. I gasped and jumped back - or as best as you can jump in water. He passed me and left me unharmed, and swam up and out of the swim through. I looked up and there was Todd hovering above the swim through... laughing his ass off. That was a scary encounter with a shark for certain.

On a night dive, we saw a nudibranch, finally. He had been looking for once since our trip to Bonaire last year. Well, I was the one who found it, but I was assisted by advice from Captain Scott.

I was attacked by a Damsel fish and a Banded Coral Shrimp who thought I was too much into his cleaning station. Besides that and the shark encounter, no run ins with vicious fish.

A wonderful trip!! Todd has some underwater photos to show, and I'll be posting a link to them on my private blog once he's done with them and has handed them over (there is at least one great photo of me with a shark). We have a DVD of the trip as well, which we're of course happy to show off. :)

For now, here are some more of Amanda's photos (Amanda was the ship's photographer and 2nd Captain!):

Kim and Todd underwater

Topside, before a dive

Turks and Caicos 2008 - Amanda's Photos

Turks and Caicos 2008 - Topside (My photos)

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Next Thirty Years...

by Phil Vassar (Tim McGraw, too)

I think I’ll take a moment, and celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Hey my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I’m gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I’m doing here
In my next thirty years

Oh my next thirty years, I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I’ll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Goodbye to my Twenties

Well, it is my last day in my twenties. Tomorrow, I will reach the ripe old age of 30. I'm sort of indifferent about it, I haven't spent my life fearing age or feeling as if I'm getting old. I embrace getting older, because I make new memories with every day that passes and each new day is an adventure. (And yes, yes, I hear you those above 30, 30 isn't old, blah blah. I agree with you.)

My twenties were interesting, for sure. This day 10 years ago I certainly wouldn't have anticipated being married and divorced by age 30, and I would have expected a child or two by now. Things don't always go as planned. Instead of having kids, I've used the last ten years to find myself. I'm a different person than I was back in college. I've made health, fitness and adventure (marathons, rock climbing, scuba diving, travel...) my life now. I used my twenties to transform into what I wanted to be. And I like it.

So, there's no sadness or regrets moving into my 30s, despite not having a perfect last decade. I've got plans and things to do and see. I feel like I'm ending the decade smarter and better off than I started it. We'll see what happens when I'm posting another blog post on the eve of my 40th birthday, huh?

(Side note: supposedly, your 30s are your PRIME for running marathons -- your endurance is the best in your life. We shall see.)

... oh, and Happy 30th Birthday to Johnny, who was born the same day as me! Happy birthday to my dear sisters, who turn 40 the day after I turn 30. It's a big year for birthdays in my family.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Everybody's Talkin'

by Harry Nilsson (but Parrotheads clearly know that Buffett did a cover, too)

Everybody's talking at me
I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind

People stopping staring
I can't see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes

I'm going where the sun keeps shining
Thru' the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes
Banking off of the North East winds
Sailing on summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone

I'm going where the sun keeps shining
Thru' the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes
Banking off of the North East winds
Sailing on summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone

Everybody's talking at me
Can't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind
I won't let you leave my love behind
No, I won't let you leave...
I won't let you leave my love behind
I won't let you leave...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

It's a big month for birthdays in my family. Today, my dear father turns 70 years old. Have a good one, Dad.

Sharon, Shelly, Dad & Me at his wedding in 1994. I had a lot of hair back then.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Found on Jeanne's blog...

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

LOL. Non-existent. If we're talking 10 years ago it was 1998 and that was the year I joined Weight Watchers and started getting into fitness, but it would be another 5 years at least before I really seriously started working out. In 1998, the most that I was doing was walking to work from the light rail or bus, and walking around UMBC's campus. In fact, I never worked out or exercised extensively. I was never involved in sports, I didn't run a full mile without walking until May 2005. I did take some dance classes though, when I was a kid.

Heh, all of this coming from the person who just last night realized she couldn't fathom not being able to bang out 10 miles on a whim at any time.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

Let's see, best run or race... That's really tough... I am really proud of my first Disney Marathon (January 2007) because it was so hot (85 degrees) and yet I still finished only a minute slower than my 2006 Marine Corps time. Plus, Todd was there with me and he was awesome. Yet, I also really loved the Frederick Half Marathon this year because it was the longest race I've run where I felt really great the entire race. I don't get that out of full marathons.

3. Why do you run?

I started running to lose weight and get outside. I started racing to challenge myself and to see if I could do it, and because I needed something measurable to gauge my progress. I started marathoning to fight my demons, and for the glory (hey, who doesn't love spectators?). I couldn't sustain my interest with any of that, so honestly I continue running to see improvement in myself and quite frankly to hang out with my friends. It's become a way of life, and now I just run.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Best... Slow down so you won't get injured (or..."Slow! It's the new fast!")
Worst... Hm. "Todd, take my beer tickets and drink up!" (After the Baltimore 5k 2005)

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

This is something totally different than the other 4 questions. Is this supposed to be about running or what? Why do even the simplest online surveys have a bizarre question at the end?

Hm, something surprising. One of the things I guess is that I once played Pablo Picasso in a school play. And I can still remember most of my lines.

Jack Johnson Fans...

I need suggestions of good Jack Johnson songs that I would like.  I already enjoy "Taylor" and "Banana Pancakes," but I need more.  Beachy sounding things if possible.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Warmth, Sweet Warmth

I am always cold at work.  This has been going on for a long time.  I used to keep an ugly sweater at my desk when I worked at TRP.  Since then, I just drink hot tea when the cold becomes unbearable.  Part of the problem is that I drink large quantities of water all day long.  Icy cold and delicious water that apparently lowers my body temperature.  Usually, it can be 90-100 degrees outside, but inside at work I'm still shivering.  At Previous Employer, I often wouldn't turn the air on in my car on the way home until I'd warmed up, which was sometimes a good 15 minutes.  No kidding.

Well, Current Employer is clearly taking cost-cutting measures.  They've done a bunch of stuff, but all I'd noticed until now was that they'd raised the prices in the soda machines. But today, today is awesome.  They turned the thermostats up.  AWESOME.  I had been wanting this for ages!!  The whole building is complaining.  One guy went and shut all the blinds.  People want fans or whatever.  NO!  I'm comfortable.  For the first time in my corporate life, I am sitting here at a comfortable temperature during the summer.  I even asked Todd to turn up the thermostat the other night at home.  I hate too much air conditioning. 

This is great.

Article: Hybrid Cars & Cost

Rethinking the Cost of Hybrid Cars

I found that article from Get Rich Slowly

The article says what I already knew - Hybrid cars will be cheaper long-term than non-hybrids.  Although -- I don't think the math flies quite as much if you're not comparing the cars in the example, and you're comparing a Prius with, say, a Honda Fit.  The savings in the example revolves around gas mileage, so I guess the title of the article should be more like "Rethinking the Cost of High MPG Cars."  A Honda Fit gets very high gas mileage, (although not quite as much as a Prius) and is cheaper.  A LOT cheaper.  Also, the chart has  no entries for insurance.  Does insurance differ on a hybrid at all?

All of this is kind of moot for me, as I've pretty much decided I'm getting either the Prius or the Civic Hybrid, and I am leaning closer to the Prius (comes in red, has Sirius).  So, my only question that remains is "when?"  I can say that it is unlikely that I'll be making a move to buy a Prius before the month is out, I just have too much going on.  So, I imagine that at the earliest I'm looking at early to mid July to be going to the dealership.  I have no idea how long the waiting lists are, so I'd imagine that I'm looking at end of September, maybe, to be actually driving it, but who knows. 

The 2009 Priuses are redesigned, so I'm thinking I might just wait until the new ones come out.  I'm in no hurry, after all.  That gives me a little more time to think on it and get my financing straightened out (there remains an extra item on my credit report that is Dave's and needs to go away).  If I wait for the new ones, I assume that I will STILL be on a wait list, so I'm figuring that I'd be driving the CR-V through at least November if that's the case.  I can live with that.

Or, perhaps Honda has something tricky up their sleeves for 2009 that I don't know about yet and I'll be waiting longer...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gas Prices -- What is Going to Happen?

Gas Impact Price Map

If you click the link above, you will see a map that displays gas prices as a percentage of income for the country.  Every single day I wake up to hear more news about gas prices, stock prices and oil.  It's overwhelming to think about and I wonder what the true impact of rising gas prices is going to be -- how far is this going to take us downhill?

The chicken little in me is saying that there is no way that our economy can sustain a multi-billion dollar war and inflation increases of the rate we're seeing due to the price of oil.  When you look at that map, you will see that the center of the country is being hit the hardest.  Out there, there is no other option but to drive... public transportation is not as accessible as it is on the East Coast.  As hard as it is to believe living here, we actually have it good by US standards in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area.  Not everyone can just run out and buy a new car all of the sudden, and certainly if we're talking the midwest, not everyone can feasibly drive a smaller car. 

As much as I want to point fingers at those midwest people and say that it's all their fault for electing George W Bush, it's not all his fault.   If you look at the comments on the article, a lot of people feel differently than me and blame him and the midwest folks themselves.  However, I think we've got a lot of others to point fingers at as well --
  1. Auto makers for not working harder to find an alternate form of fuel, and not making more cars fuel-efficient,
  2. Consumers, for not making fuel efficiency a priority, and buying too many gas-guzzlers,
  3. Lawmakers, for passing laws rewarding those driving low MPG cars far more than those driving cars with better gas mileage,
  4. And consumers and lawmakers all over again, for not putting more time, effort and use into carpooling programs and public transportation.
Sadly, we cannot overnight go from where we are now to something more like Europe, where the infrastructure already exists for people to take public transportation and drive smaller cars.  Making that change will require a huge change of mindset and potentially billions of dollars building train tracks, etc.  I wonder if we're just too late for that, since we certainly can't do what we need to do while also carrying on in Iraq.

So, I am really starting to wonder if we're heading into a depression.  I'm not talking recession.  I'm talking depression.  How much higher will the price of gas rise?  How much will food costs rise?  How many people will lose their jobs as a result?  When we get back to winter, are people going to be able to afford the cost of heating their homes?  I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but I'm just not sure.  I think we have some dark days ahead.

The Heartbreaking Latest on Salmon

Sardines with Your Bagel?

This article really does break my heart.  I love Salmon.  I used to despise it, and when Dave's family would make him salmon for his birthday, I really hated it.  However, I soon learned that all I needed was to have salmon cooked in a way that I enjoy (or not cooked at all and served on rice).  Now, I eat salmon all the time and love it.

It's clear though, with all of the latest news on farmed salmon, that I can no longer eat the farmed salmon, and clearly I can't eat salmon in restaurants anymore since I never know where it came from.  I cannot swear off wild though.  I have to continue to eat salmon sometimes, or I'd go crazy.  I've learned to like it too much. 

Getting rid of it in sushi won't be difficult, as Todd and I have eaten a combined two sushi rolls since coming down with food poisoning back in November (perhaps caused by salmon? Who knows!).  However, I'll miss salmon in restaurants.  Little by little, I'm not able to eat the fishies that I enjoy anymore.

And yeah, the wild salmon from Trader Joe's is twice the cost of the farmed salmon from Weis, but I'll pay for it.  Some things are worth it.

New Blogroll!

See right navigation again for newest way of displaying the blogs I read. Yes, WN, I added The Consumerist.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Great Weekend

We got out to have some fun, including going to Dustin's 30th Birthday party, and out to the pool today to get our laps in. But, we got a lot of things done around the house, which is a relief. We'd had a lot of laundry piling up and some other things we needed to do, so it was nice to get it all taken care of this weekend. Still have lots of stuff to do, though, of course. And I need to get out to buy a new bathing suit.

Good times, although it's very hot outside.

Private: Dustin's 30th Birthday

Dustin's 30th Birthday Party

It was UMBC Gang's favorite New Yorker's surprise 30th birthday on Saturday. Good times were had by all.

For access to my private blog, please email me and I'll send you an invite. I have to have an email address to do so.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Recipe: Broiled Tilapia with Tomato-Caper Salsa

Todd gave this one very high ratings, and in fact ate a ton even though he thought he wouldn't like it. We made it together, and instead of broiling, we actually cooked the recipe on the grill (on a grill pan). This worked out well and the end result was very delicious. We served it with the new Natural Rice-a-Roni (although I question how much healthier that Rice-a-Roni is, but it was very tasty), and zucchini & onions sauteed on the grill. The zucchini recipe is Todd's.
Broiled Tilapia with Tomato-Caper Salsa

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Grocery Store Woes

So, food prices are rising. Prices are rising all around - everything is going up. So, I've been trying to cut back and make changes to how I shop in order to save some money so that I can continue to scuba dive and go to Disney World and do all of the fun things that I enjoy. The problem is, I also care about the environment, and I care about my health (and Todd's health). These three things are often at odds with each other.

I thought I'd note my strategy though, and how things are going. Tonight, for example, I saved $30 in groceries (from sales and coupons), and my total grocery bill was about 16% cheaper than what it might have been several months ago. (The percentage is an estimate, I'm just going on what a previous shopping trip was generally costing for the same type of food crisis. Note though, that I bought less meat than usual this trip, so that makes a big difference).

Strategy #1: Compromise on Brands
This is harder than it sounds. I can be picky, and so can Todd (he's pickier about brands than I am). I've been testing out some generics and sale items on Todd to see what he's willing to compromise on. Prior to this grocery experiment, I stuck mostly to name brands, and paid more attention to nutrition information than price. I'm having to find a healthy balance between these now.

Still, there are things that I won't compromise on. We're eliminating trans fats out of our diets, so I no longer will buy any margarine other than Smart Balance. We've quit the traditional Oreos and now eat Health Valley. I only drink Tropicana orange juice. I'm eating natural peanut butter again. Using the environmental seafood selector, I'm trying to watch what fish I buy and no longer eat farmed salmon. That one means that to get wild salmon I have to go to the only store that I know of that sells it, which is Trader Joe's. On the subject of seafood, I no longer eat grouper, squid (that one kills me) or shark.

Strategy #2: Shop with the circular
This is my biggest savings. I used to kinda-sorta do it years ago, but not as much as now. When I make my grocery list, I note the things that are on sale. If the item is a meal ingredient, I write it on the list and star it, then plan my meals around those items. If it's a perishable that I usually buy, I write it down (brand name and all) and plan to buy it. If it's a non-perishable that I usually buy, I will stock up.

What is tough about that is that the sales go in cycles, so if something is not on sale that is a non-perishable, I have to be disciplined and sometimes go without and wait for it to go on sale (depending what it is). I'm waiting patiently for my Bigelow tea to go on sale, for example. I was waiting for Cheerios to go on sale, but I missed them on sale last week, so I had to buy them this week at almost full price (I had a coupon), because Todd was suffering from Cheerio-deficiency.

Strategy #3: Coupons
Here's a funny story - my first job was a coupon clipper. No kidding. My mom never clipped coupons, but I started clipping them. Basically, I would clip the coupons and grocery shop with my mom. The rules were that I had to compare prices and I could only use a coupon if it was a brand we'd normally buy, or if the coupon brought the price of a competing brand lower than the brand we'd normally buy. When we got to the checkout, my mom would add up the value of the coupons we'd use and then pay me what our savings was. I learned math and good shopping skills and made money.

Well, we had like 8 people in our house including boyfriends (this was when my dad still lived with us). So, our shopping trips would often be $300 or more. Coupons were more plentiful back then, and I would often make as much as $25-30 per shopping trip. That's a big allowance for a 9 year old, so eventually I just became too good at my job and the deal was re-negotiated and I only got 50% of the savings. I didn't care at the time, it was like a game.

Well, I don't do that anymore. I don't get a Sunday paper and even if I do, it never seems to have the same level of couponage. I don't like having paper and crap around and fiddling with it, so for now I am just perusing and before I go shopping and printing the appropriate coupons. I have a feeling I'll get back to the coupons before too long though, because I've been getting more store coupons since starting Strategy #2.

Strategy #4: Shop with a List
Yeah, I've always shopped with a list. If you plan meals, you have to. But, the problem I have is sticking to the list. I have an impulse buy problem in the grocery store. That is why I own an avocado peeler. Today, I did everything in my power to not buy things that weren't on my list and I think that's likely how I got such a big savings, really. Plus, #2 helps with this because I'm not tempted to buy extra sale items (since I know what's on sale before I get to the store).

Strategy #5: Comparison Shop
I'm not there yet. This involves going to multiple grocery stores, or grocery stores and CVS. I go to either Weis (and I can choose from 2 in my area), Miller's Market, Safeway in Westminster (out of my way, but I really really love that store), or Giant in Owings Mills (gone way downhill since I lived there). Really, I should look at what I want to buy, and then buy the best sale items at each of these stores. I don't have the time. I try.

I will say this -- #4 is easiest at Miller's because they have the smallest selection, but I tend to over purchase meats when I'm there (Miller's is a butcher and OMG they have good meat). #4 is the most difficult at Safeway in Westminster, because that place has every single organic, healthy and fabulous product you can imagine. It's only second to Wegman's. Btw, I judge a store's whole selection on whether or not they stock polenta and cactus paddles.

So, I'm still working on these strategies and I'll report on what new things I come up with as I do.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beware of Pizza Delivery Men

Here's an interesting article: Is pizza delivery OK for sitters?

Now, to be fair, we all know I don't have kids. Ok, that is out of the way.

Aren't we being a little bit overprotective? The results of this poll show me that some parents are concerned not only about a teenager ordering a pizza and interacting with a delivery person, but are also scared that they can't even use an oven or stove? There is some serious lack of trust going on here.

Let's think about this. We're talking as old as 16 years old here. 16 year olds can drive cars, have jobs (often these jobs involve cooking or operating an oven...), and frequently interact with strangers of all types. I was a latch key kid, so I was home alone a lot, but even as young as 13 or 14 I was being left at home in the evenings without anyone watching me. I was using an oven and stove at 8 years old, although I rarely used the oven alone just because what would an 8 year old be cooking alone in an oven? A cake? No, I usually made scrambled eggs or something in the morning when I was a kid.

But a frozen pizza? I'm certain that a 16 year old can handle cooking a frozen pizza in an oven. Even if they forgot it, it would smoke and set off the smoke detector before it flamed up, and the worst result I could see would be burned pizza. Frankly, at 16 I think I would be insulted at the idea that I wouldn't be trusted with an oven. But, at 16 I wasn't babysitting anymore either.

Back to the delivery man. I did a Google search to see if there has ever been an incident where a pizza delivery man abducted or assaulted children while on his route. I found no evidence of it, although I did see an incident where a pizza delivery man was abducted, and another where a pizza delivery man called in to police that he'd delivered a pizza to a guy on a wanted poster. So, there's no history to go on. I think we're being a tad ridiculous. What, honestly, do we think is going to happen?? Seriously. Only adults should order pizzas?

If you hire a sitter that is a teenager, make sure they don't open the door for ANYONE! Don't let them use any major appliances in the house, be careful with the stove or oven, it could catch fire! Make the kid an unhealthy frozen meal in the microwave, but follow the instructions carefully!! Don't cut it for them, knives could be dangerous. Oh, maybe you should just make peanut butter & jelly. Hm, maybe I'll make the peanut butter and jelly for you. Don't rinse the dishes, the sink could over flow! No bath time either, you might drown the kid, or scald them with hot water. Keep the doors and windows locked, don't dare leave the house for anything.


Edited to add (8:22pm): The more I think about this, the more I am reminded of my poor little Sims who start cooking something, then get distracted by a kid or something else and then suddenly the whole kitchen is on fire and they're just standing there screaming and jumping up and down until the fireman can come and put the fire out and scold them. That makes me laugh.

But those are Sims. We're talking about real people.

I also once called the pizza man for my sims in the hopes that the pizza man would save the Sims' life. It didn't work, and anyway that's a story for another day.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Race for Our Kids 10K 2008

The group before the race

Here I am again, doing this race, even though I said that I was never running this race again. Even better, half marathon folks are only supposed to do the 5k, but I did the 10k. That's how it goes.

So, I had sort of wanted to PR in this race, but then I caught a cold in May, and things were busy at work and I really wasn't focused on doing any type of training in that regard (especially figuring the time between the Frederick half marathon and today was just about a month. That's not a lot of time). So, I wasn't necessarily looking to PR, just do the best I could.

Alyssa ran with me, and pretty much ran my race, which is awesome! Thanks, Alyssa! :) It was just hot and hot isn't really a weather that will allow me to run that well. I did ok, but clearly struggled as my average pace was 15 seconds per mile slower than at the Frederick half, which is more than twice as long of a race. The weather was nice, but I think I liked the rain last year better (sorry, Natalie!). The hills are another factor and while I've trained for hills, I just wasn't all in it. Part of the problem was also the Brazilian Steak House from Friday night. I know it sounds crazy, but I overate on protein and then dehydrated myself with salty food and alcohol. Yes, I had a day to recover, but I failed to drink enough water yesterday to compensate.

While I might sound like I'm beating myself up and I'm unhappy with my time, I'm not. I think it went rather well and while I did struggle some, I did fine. Final time was 1:19:03, which is about 2 minutes faster than my 2007 time and about 8 minutes slower than my 2006 time. Right in the middle, and I'm pleased with my performance



Alyssa & Jack

Natalie & Brad

Me, Kristy & Natalie

Me & Todd
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